Khare: Cityport of Traps (1984)

Book Two of the Steve Jackson’s Sorcery series sees our hero continuing their quest to retrieve the magical Crown of Kings by traveling to Khare: Cityport of Traps.

Sorcery is an ambitious series in that it spreads it adventure over four volumes (and, in some printings, a separate spellbook). You can play the books as stand-alone games, but they work much better in order – there are clues in each book that can help in later volumes and your character tends to accumulate a bit more power in the serial.

Another interesting mechanic is the ability to choose between two class: the warrior and the wizard. Sadly, the books are nearly impossible to play as a warrior in my experience. The wizard is interesting, though, if you don’t cheat that is – the rules state that once you’ve started your adventure, you can’t refer to the spellbook, meaning you need to devote a bit of time to memorizing spells, their components and their effects prior to playing. That’s a novel approach to balancing magic – I wonder how many folks played it honestly. (Confession: not me!)

The city-based adventure of Khare contrasts nicely with the wilderness of the previous volume. Blanche’s art seems well suited to urban environments and takes a distinctly creepy turn here. I’ve always felt that art for British RPG products in the 80s (including the Fighting Fantasy line) was much more mature than their American counterparts (or more lurid, I suppose, depending on your perspective). British artists also seem to be more accomplished and more experimental, which I chalk up to the influence of British comics like 2000 AD. For my money, Brit material just tends to be a bit more gross and weird (for a clear contrast to American D&D art, just look at the Fiend Folio, particularly the great Russ Nicholson’s art).

Khare significantly ups the difficulty level and you should expect a fair number of deaths that inspire you to throw the book across the room. Despite this, it has a solid shot of being your favorite entry in the series, thanks to its environments, clever puzzles and overall well thought out design.

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