Saturday, November 17, 2012

Massacre at Black Scythe by Mikael Bergqvist

I struggled with Massacre at Black-Scythe. I wanted to like it, but I couldn't get over the fact that I wasn't given any premise at all to work with. I don't know where the story takes place. I don't know when. For a bit there, once things got rolling, I thought we were in modern america. Then I ran into a goblin.


Goblin? Really dude? BEDSER!@!?

Okay, setting aside the fact that this story could NOT decide what genre it was, what I thought it did very well (when it decided to do it) was create the creepy sense of approaching the old abandoned town, the searching for a place from your dreams, the eerieness of that whole scene. Unfortunately, this falls down later when everything becomes so wierd that there's no longer a point of reference for "normal" to compare it to.

As I commented to a good friend after reading this, for something to remain creepy or horrifying, it needs to deviate from normal in significant ways. But if there is no longer any "normal" then you can no longer deviate from it. Oddities can only be eerie when they're presented against a predictable, normal backdrop. Once the whole world is odd, nothing is eerie any longer.

That and... I apparently "shredded" my legs badly enough to lose a whole liter of blood. Let me tell you, dude, if I shredded my legs badly enough to lose a liter of blood, I am NOT getting back up again. I am going on a stretcher. To the hospital. If I'm lucky. To the morgue if I'm not. The blood-loss as hit points thing was cool for a minute, but it quickly failed in practice. I lost my suspension of disbelief right there. Nailed to a wall and left behind. Goodbye suspension of disbelief! It was nice knowing you.

Finally, the nail in the coffin, as it were (for me at least) was all the Which Door choices I was given as the story proceeded. The worst was on section 51, where I had absolutely no basis to pick any one option over another. So I picked one at random and died--totally at random. I put the book down after that. Sorry. If you want me to make choices, give me Choices with a capital C. I'm not interested in playing, "let's roll the dice and see if I die."

Gamebooks are about choice. Hinging huge consequences on random results undermines the very appeal of interactive storytelling.

That said, there were moments when this story shone, and I really hope the author can move above some of the wierder mistakes (*cough* goblin wtf *cough*) and create something really awesome next time.


  1. Maybe when he said "goblin", he meant one of those horrifying little midgets from Phantasm?

  2. I can't but agree with your assessment on this one. I never got a handle on the setting, the blood-loss mechanic was interesting in theory but poorly executed, and some of the "choices" were die rolls rather than decisions. I also think there were some problems with the writing, but I'm betting that was due to the author rushing to finish.

    1. Glad to see I'm not the only one who had some of these reactions. I really hope the author learns from this, because he clearly has some good ideas, but the errors in this are too much to overlook. But mistakes are there to learn from. Here's hoping!

  3. I agree with the setting thing. I too thought that it was set in the modern day until some shopkeeper attacked me with a morningstar. I spent the rest of the book trying to work out the time period rather than focus on the story.

    1. YES! Such a head spin. I wonder if there's any chance that was an intentional attempt to fuck with the player? If so, well, technically it worked... but I can't help but feel that it didn't have the effect the author intended on the reader.