A Solo Adventure through the Arabian Nights


My name is Sindbad, and this is my story…
   

It may be difficult to believe at times, but I swear to you that it is true.  It is a tale filled with adventure, excitement, and fantastical beasts… but it all began with the nagging of my beloved mother.  You see, my younger cousin Kadir had gone missing, and my mother believed that it was somehow my responsibility to find him.  Kadir had always been a bit slow in the head, and mother had similarly persuaded me into cleaning up after his mistakes many times in the past.  Of course, it usually involved simple actions such as paying for fruit that he had stolen or apologizing to a family that he had offended (rather than the transcontinental journey required in this case), but at the time, my mother’s nagging was perhaps the worst thing I had experienced to that point and I eventually gave in to her.  Following a lead from my Uncle, I therefore departed from the City of Peace and set out for Europa to begin my search.

On my very first day of travel, I happened upon a merchant caravan and spent the evening with them.  They spoke of an amazing beast that had been seen in the area, and I was fascinated by their stories.  Wishing to find adventure and excitement along my travels, I spent three days looking for the fine beast in order to study it.  But alas, it would never show itself and all of time was wasted.

I soon found myself in the city of Constantinople.  Having been on the road for many days, I sought out a Barber and intended to do a bit of haggling to get my beard trimmed.  But after listening to him prattle on endlessly about all manner of annoying and offensive matters, I would have paid almost anything just to get away.  Though my journey had only begun, this encounter killed my spirit of adventure, and my grief over leaving my home and family behind consumed my thoughts so much that I was ineffective in many cases, even when my areas of study would have been useful.  Just as I was pondering the abandonment of my quest and returning home, however, I stumbled upon another clue about Kadir’s whereabouts and the echoes of mother’s nagging ringing in my mind pushed me on.

As I crossed Europa, I finally got my wish to see the fantastic beast I had heard of earlier.  As often happens, however, wishes are rarely what we expect, and when the beast turned out to be a ghostly horse, I was totally unprepared.  I tried to pray to Allah, but my terror and grief instead drove me Insane for a time.  I ate locusts, howled at the moon, and wore a duck upon my head. 

Even in my muddled and irrational mind, though, my mother’s voice pushed me on towards my goal.  On an island far away, I encountered a powerful Enchantress in a glade of beautiful trees.  In my right mind, I would never have presumed to approach her, but when the duck told me to go forward and bargain with her, I did so.  For the price of the duck and my last few pennies, the Enchantress took pity on me and offered to teach me the basics of  Magic.  Through the process, I came to my senses and even managed to divine the final location of Kadir.

I then headed south to the city of Leon, where I met a Mad Prophet.  Seeing so pious a man in the throes of madness touched my heart, and I took pity on him and offered to aid in whatever way I could.  He, however, was unable to see the motivation of my heart, and the thought that one as lowly as I would pity him spawned great anger in the Prophet.  He called down curses upon me and banished me from his sight. 
 
Finally, I came upon the city of Cordoba, where my cousin Kadir was being held captive by a Bloodthirsty Wizard.  Still accursed, grief-stricken, and powerless, I thought that my only option was to grovel at his feet for the release of Kadir.  The Wizard, however, was galled at my spineless act and released Kadir only in exchange for my own service, quickly assigning me to clean his personal privy pots.  While I now found myself enslaved to the Wizard, the quest of finding my cousin taught me many valuable lessons in surviving the wilderness, and I was Blessed by the gratitude and prayers of my aunt and uncle.

Apparently, I must have done an excellent job of cleaning my master’s commodes, because he soon “rewarded” me with another quest.  He had heard that the most beautiful slaves in the world could be found in the city of Tana, and sent me there to acquire for him a wife.  I therefore headed south across the sea to Africa.  On the way, my ship encountered a Black Whirlpool which sent all of us into a panic.  My faith was shaken, so instead of turning to prayer, I found solace in the depths of a bottle.  I don’t know whether it was the hand of Allah, the whim of fate, or the skill of our captain, but we somehow managed to survive.  At that point, I think that I hit bottom in my grief and learned to endure any hardship as a result.

As I arrived in Bantus, I thought that my fortunes had turned when I happened upon a beautiful gem, but a minor treasure to one of means, hidden in the trunk of a tree.  Looking around carefully, I attempted to take the jewel for myself, only to be confronted by an angry ‘Efreeteh who had set it as a trap.  For my greed, he punished me by changing my form into that of a Beast.  While in Bantus, I had other business to attend to, and doing so with my new appearance made for some interesting stories that many shopkeepers will certainly tell to their grandchildren.  I also used this time to gain some proficiency in Weapon Use, although my grief continued to ruin the concentration I needed to actually use it.

As I moved through Zaila and beyond, I then had two conversations.  The first was with a Garrulous Prince, of whom I initially had much respect and hope of acquiring aid for my poor condition.  But he was shallow and self-absorbed, and my time with him was a waste.  I then met another ‘Efreeteh, from whom I expected only the worst.  But in our conversation, he proved to be of quite Noble character.  Being still embarrassed by my new shape up to this point, I gained valuable Wisdom from these encounters about the difference between appearances and character, and made an important decision to no longer allow my circumstances and setbacks to define who I was or how I reacted to the world around me.  And this was an important turning point in my story.

Arriving then in Tana, I again faced the ghostly horse which had followed me on my trek.  Being no longer afraid, I instead attempted to capture the beast.  Unfortunately, I was again too distracted to apply my new magical powers to the situation, and my mundane rope proved insufficient to tame the spectral nature of the horse.  I then went to the slave market and found what is perhaps the most beautiful woman in the known world.  I purchased her with my master’s money, and for a momen
t, I considered taking her for myself and attempting to escape.  But no longer would I allow myself to be ruled by lust, greed, or fear.  I presented the slave to my master as was my duty, and he was so pleased that he showered me with wealth and even allowed me to purchase my freedom.  I felt pangs of grief over the lost opportunity to be with her, but I knew that my choice was right.

With my newfound freedom, I decided to continue my journey for the time being in search of the Story of Stories.  My next stop was a return to Zaila, where I stayed with an Egyptian family.  Unfortunately, the children were playing a game with some wooden figurines, and others nearby accused them of idolatry.  While the game may have been a bit of a strange custom to others of my faith, I prayed vigorously about the situation, and cooler heads prevailed.  Instead of being faced with execution, the family was simply asked to move on to another city.  Whether through seeing the need for tolerance or through the reawakening of my faith, I felt my burden of grief lift from me after this encounter.

I then discovered that one of the friends in Zaila had been framed for stealing treasure from a Powerful Sultan by a Wicked Vizier who was himself responsible for the theft.  Perhaps it was a little foolish, but I snuck into the Vizier’s home to try and find some evidence to clear my friend.  I was caught in the act, however, and had to stand trial.  I attempted to convince the judge of the Vizier’s guilt, but I was not believed.  Despite having the stolen goods in his possession, the wily Vizier convinced the Judge and Sultan that he had managed to get them back from the real thieves.  So while my friend and I were set free, the evil Vizier escaped justice as well.

In traveling to Bantus, I was welcomed into the home of a mild-mannered merchant.  During the night, I heard strange sounds and discovered a Secret Trapdoor while investigating them.  In a hidden chamber, I found evidence that my host was actually an evil Magian fire-worshiper, so I decided to flee quickly carrying as much of his wealth and paraphernalia as I could.  On the way out of the chamber, I found that he somehow managed to trap an ‘Efreeteh for unknown nefarious purposes.  Taking charge of the situation, I decided to deal harshly with the ‘Efreeteh unless he helped me.  While he was very old and weak, through my own knowledge and use of Magic, we worked together to discern the location of the Dusky Land (the home of the ‘Efreeti) before I set him free.       

I then had a choice to make.  I could either choose the path of continued adventure and fame in the Dusky Land, or I could return home to my family and a more normal life.  Somehow, after all that I had been through, I felt more comfortable with my beastly form than I ever had in my “normal” body.  And I no longer had any desire to pursue more riches or notoriety, so the choice to go home was obvious. 

On the way back, I happened upon an ancient stone temple where I found a glittering statue of a coiled serpent, which I chose to carefully examine before taking.  Feeling that something wasn’t right about it, I struck at it with my scimitar.  The animated statue bled forth purple gore and then transformed into a pile of jewels, which I thought would be an excellent gift to bring to my mother. 

Back in Baghdad, my last encounter was with a Sage who had been falsely imprisoned.  While I had no power to free him, I honored him through conversation and prayer.  The story of my trials and how I had endured them lifted his spirits and made his imprisonment more tolerable.  He introduced me to his brother, who was a Friendly Prince, and I became respected throughout the city for my wisdom.

In the end, mother was pleased with her gift and was proud of the respect and wealth that I had accumulated through my journeys.  And while all of my family, friends, and acquaintances have come to accept my new form, I just can’t stand it when my mother nags me about keeping my fur better groomed! 

 

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 Above is the narrative created from a solo session of Tales of the Arabian Nights


My initial objective was to gain 6 Destiny and 14 Story points.  In general, the manipulation of both the reaction matrices and Book of Tales was a little cumbersome for one person to do alone, but it was still an entertaining process.  Of course, I was also keeping very detailed notes so as to write this report, so just playing it for fun would be a little less laborious than my experience.  I did have to improvise a little with some of the statuses which required allowing another player to choose something for me.  In most cases (the Quests and being Accursed), I simply made choices that I though would make a good story.  For being Insane, I used a d8 to choose my reaction (which thankfully only lasted one turn).  

In all, it took me 15 turns to complete my objective and return to Baghdad.  I completed 2 Quests (Seek Lost Relative and Purchase Slave) and was nearly finished with a third (Story of Stories).  I had 8 skills at talent level, but being Grief-Stricken for most of the game made them pretty useless.  By the end of the game, I only had the Respected and Beast Form statuses (and without another player in the game, there was no way to remove Beast Form).  My final tally was 8 Destiny and 15 Story points. 

After reflecting on the “solo-ability” of Tales of the Arabian Nights, I don’t know that I’ll make this a regular habit.  While I like being able to focus a little more on my character’s story, the encounters are designed more as unrelated, one-shot things which may or may not tie together well.  And with the added hassle of managing everything yourself, I don’t know that the payout is worth the effort.  I’d probably rather play Ghost Stories, Pandemic, or Le Havre if I want to do something solo.     



My ending skills, Statuses, and current Quest

 




4 Comments

  1. Chris Ingersoll

    Man, multiply that tale by five and I see why that last game took us three hours.

    Awesome write-up, though. Were you taking notes along the way (T1: Beast, Wait)?

  2. Chris Norwood

    Yeah, I took notes on paper then used it to write the report.  Here’s an example from the encounter with the Magian fire-worshiper in Bantus:

    E13 – @Bantus: Islands of Camphor, Secret Trapdoor (E) – Open (-) = 1142; Rob an evil Magian fire-worshiper (D1,S1,W+2[max Rich])
    * Bantus card -> encounter Trapped ‘Efreeteh (M) – Trick = 398; [Magic] He’s weak and old, but I use my Magic skill along with his knowledge to find a way into the Dusky Land (D2,S2) – 2nd Quest Marker Claimed – Objective Met

    This was my 13th turn (E13) and I drew the Islands of Camphor card.  I got Secret Trapdoor from the first matrix, which used Reaction Matrix E.  I chose to Open it, and rolled a (-) on the destiny die, which led me to paragraph 1142.  I also had the Bantus card from a previous encounter, and used it at this point, rolling to get an encounter with a Trapped ‘Efreeteh.  I chose to Trick him and rolled a blank side on the destiny die.  It pointed me to paragraph 398, and I was able to use my Magic skill.  Getting 2 Story points from this encounter gave me my 2nd Quest marker for Story of Stories, and I also met my overall objective (of at least 6 Destiny and 14 Story points) as well.

  3. Chris Ingersoll

    Yikes! What was your total playtime, bell to bell? Was it the ~30ish we expected, plus note-taking time?

  4. Chris Norwood

    It’s really hard to tell exactly how long it took me.  I didn’t try to time it very carefully, and between taking the notes and getting interrupted by Gwen and Samantha, I really don’t have any clue.  I’d guess, though, that with the extra time in picking up, putting down, and manipulating both the Book of Tales and the Reaction Matrices, along with all the normal stuff you do on your turn, it’d probably take around 45 minutes or so to play a solo game under more usual circumstances. 

    Still, it looks like 2-3 players is the sweet spot. 

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