Sea of Mystery (1981)

Sea of Mystery (1981) is an interesting Tunnels & Trolls solo. The concept is pretty straightforward: you get on a boat, looking for adventure and, generally, it finds you. In practice, this is essentially another teleport dungeon like Deathtrap Equalizer, its just that the meandering whims of the seabound life obscure the mechanisms a little better.

As I said, you get on a boat. From port there are a number of short adventure paths to follow, some silly, most extremely deadly, one surprisingly horny (I did not realize until this batch of T&T solos how horny this game is, generally). The Sea has some strangely convenient magical properties that mess with your equipment, essentially acting as the rules equalizers in the Deathtrap encounters. Finally, you can exit the solo whenever you hit port, which is a little more plausible than teleporting out with a frog-shaped ring.

Does it work? I think so. The variety in the threads is good. For the most part, you’re kind of stuck in the flow of events, which makes sense being one person on a boat. I like that. It often feels like you’re being pulled to a foretold destiny. Some folks will hate that, but here it feels novel. Most of the variance is down to saving throws. What choices you do have tend to be moral choices on the good/evil binary that remind me an awful lot of a BioWare game, except a little cruder. It’s not bad, though, and definitely interesting.

Ken Macklin’s cover seems a little underwhelming in the context of the whole line, but I really rather like it. It sets a strong tone and gives me Elric, sailor on the seas of fate vibes that feel real good. Interiors are by John Barnes and I love them. Boldly graphical, reminding me of some CYOA illustrations, actually. Good, clean stuff.

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