This comic begins with Captain Omen and the crew of the Realms Master going to visit Gondal the Sage in hopes of locating the Hand of Vaprak again. The Ogre Mage who has been spying on them since issue one reveals that he has assumed Gondal’s identity. The original Gondal is long dead, being nothing more than a skeleton with a sword through his chest.
Outside of the Tower of Gondal, Priam Agrivar asks an eminently sensible question, “Why [do] we need a sage, Captain Omen. I mean you tracked the hand when I carried it.” Captain Omen gives a half-hearted excuse before demanding they all walk into the
Well, almost all of them. Foxilion is told to stay outside and watch their backs. Foxy isn’t very happy with the arrangement, even less so when he is startled by Alias and Dragonbait.
I suppose one of the perks of working for the most powerful wizard in the Forgotten Realms is that you can literally be transported halfway across the continent in a blink of an eye. Maybe I should try working for an ancient wizard. That would do wonders for my commute!
Anyway, the Realms Master crew makes it into the tower, where they meet the (fake) Gondal. After some banter he challenges them to a Halruaaian ritual called “The Great Game” for the answers. The Great Game basically seems to be a battle of wits… to the death! Perhaps even more accurately, it appears to be a game of Dungeon Keeper.
Well, I suppose there has to be some reason all those dungeons litter the Forgotten Realms.
The crew proceeds to make their way through a number of standard dungeon traps. An illusionary pit, collapsing stairs, and an invisible staircase up to the next level all ineffectually bar their way. When Captain Omen declares there are no magical traps in the hallway ahead, they send Minder the iron golem. She promptly falls through the weakened floor into a foundry furnace.
Walls come down from the ceiling trapping the crew. Well, all of them except Ishi Barasume who tumbles under wall before it fully closes. “Gondal” appears before her, before revealing himself to be an Ogre Mage. She puts up a fight, but quickly falls prey to a Charm Person.
Ishi’s save vs Spell is obviously not her best trait.
Back to the crew, it is now Vartan’s turn to state the obvious, “Gondal the Sage knows about the Hand. What if he wants it for himself. Wouldn’t this game be sufficient guise to lead us all to our deaths?” This time Captain Omen decides to take the advice and try to find an exit. Instead, they find a room full of skeletons.
Meanwhile, Alias, Dragonbait, and Foxilion break into the tower using a window. They are attacked by a big axe wielding skeleton, which Alias and Dragonbait quickly dispatch. Foxilion doesn’t help with the battle, but he does get a chance to crack on the fact that Alias’ chainmail armor is, er, somewhat drafty.
The remaining Realm Master crew fights their way through the skeletons, assisted by a timely lighting bolt cast by a pissed off Captain Omen.
They ultimately encounter the fake Gondal, Ishi Barasume, and “Minder”. Captain Omen begins berating Gondal for playing dirty in “The Great Game”. Vartan doesn’t buy it though. After he detects strong magic he decides to cast a dispel magic spell to figure out what is going on.
Unfortunately for him, “Minder” was a basilisk and he is quickly turned to stone. Captain Omen seems pretty useless against the Ogre Mage in this fight, being continuously disrupted before he can cast a spell. Agrivar fairs better, taking down the basilisk despite having to fight him blind. Unfortunately, this allows the charmed Ishi an opportunity to take him down. A final blast from the Ogre Mage takes out Captain Omen, leaving the Realms Master crew defeated.
Alias, Dragonbait, and Foxilion come across a red-hot Minder, who warns them not to touch her. As soon as Minder lets the others in on the obvious, that the crew is in grave danger, Foxilion exclaims that “the cavalry is on its way”.
- I felt the “we need to visit Gondal the Sage” MacGuffin was a bit muddled. Why they really needed to visit him, why he was dead, and the amazing coincidence that the Ogre Mage who has apparently been apparently been impersonating him for some time just happens to be after the hand was a bit hard to swallow.
- I liked that Ishi Barasume called the Ogre Mage an Oni. I am less enthused that he corrected her.
- Rag Morales continued to impress this issue. I especially enjoyed the cut-away when the walls closed. The panel layout was very non-standard, but the eye followed it easily.
- The Azure Bonds fanboy in me liked that Jeff Grubb went out of his way to explain why Alias is wearing the “extra-cleavage” armor. In the book, she wore normal armor throughout, and was only dressed in the “extra-cleavage” armor from the cover near the end. It wasn’t intended to be practical, it was ceremonial armor because she was being dressed as a sacrifice! So why is she still wearing it? Because it is magic armor!
- The basilisk covered by an illusion was a nice trick. I believe I may have used that one in my game shortly after reading this.