Any Port in a Storm by Robert Douglas
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Any Port in a Storm is a nicely written pursuit adventure entered for the Windhammer Prize 2013. In the story, we’re shipwrecked and washed aground on an island with a couple of friends. We’re alright, but it turns out we’re not alone. The locals are a little…odd. It all goes a bit WickerMan and we end up fleeing for our lives…
But before all this, it’s character creation time. The book presents a rather eclectic mix of professions to pick from – Drama student, boxer and wrestler. The drama student stands out as being a bit out of place and has poor starting stats. I imagine it’s something like picking “hard mode”. I was tempted but I’m not really allowed to wear tights and leotards in public anymore, and with that also crossing out wrestler, I go for boxer. Combat is played out using dice and a lookup table, Lonewolf style. It’s a good mechanic and hopefully there won’t be a Sommerswerd to unbalance it.
So we’re ready and we’re off, with friends Nick and Tess, off on our fateful journey. One storm later and we’re soon sat drinking with the local Roy and staring at illegible dialect:
“Yer knor,” he says, “oor once jorlly place ‘as fallen on hard times, laddie. The fork ‘ere
I have no idea what this means but it doesn’t sound like thrilling news. I imagine it will all make sense after some whiskey – I usually start talking like that myself after some whiskey – so I drink the alcohol on offer to me.
I wake up on the stone cold floor of the cellar. Yep, whiskey usually does this to me as well. But it turns out we’d been captured. What struck me most at this point is how quickly my character’s thoughts turned to murder. Perhaps he is holding a dark and secret past that may be explained later.
Tess and I manage to escape our captors using extreme violence and I should warn you about that now. This story is quite brutal and graphic. Luckily we have no problems bludgeoning and garrotting our path to freedom.
What follows is a really nice sequence which has echoes of Lonewolf’s Flight from the dark. You’re afraid and vulnerable, running for your survival. Danger and your pursuers never seem so far away. As in all true adventures, you still somehow have the time to explore every nook and cranny and pick up everything that isn’t nailed down. The choice of pickupables is slightly strange – I found an empty box and a cassette. This wouldn’t normally be my first choice of salvage but you get what you’re given. The items also seem to contain a number somehow, which the author later uses to upset cheaters – when presented with an opportunity to use an item you are instructed to perform a calculation with this number and turn to a certain section.
Make sure you have a ton of dice. You get asked to roll 5 or 6 dice on some occasions. Luckily there’s lot of online dice rollers to be found. As for game balance, none of the rolls were that challenging to my character (I think 5 or 6 dice is too random). The drama student may have struggled a lot more.
And as for our adventure? Well, we ended up being recaptured by a battleship full of liches and then dying in some terrible way. There’s very few clues about what you’re supposed to do or where is safe to go, so my luck just ran out. Finding the true path and winning feels like it would be quite difficult. Overall though, a very solid entry with some excellent writing.