The Kai Monastery -- Vault of the Sun
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The Kai Monastery


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Kai Masters' Hall

Joe Dever
Paul Barnett
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Vault of the Sun

The Books

"The gold and gems that are mined at Ruanon yield an important source of revenue to your homeland. The heavily-guarded convoy of wagons that leave the province and journey to the capital has become a regular monthly routine that had never been broken until one month ago when, suddenly, all contact with Ruanon ceased. A troop of one hundred cavalry from the King's Guard were immediately dispatched . . . . they too have disappeared without a trace.

The King has summoned you, Lone Wolf, last of the Kai Lords, to his citadel at Holmgard. Your quest is to find Captain D'Val and his men, discover what has happened to the missing convoy, and to uncover the veil of mystery that now hangs over Ruanon."

The mission seems simple enough, in The Chasm of Doom. But almost as soon as Lone Wolf and the fifty rangers under his command reach the Ruanon Pike all is not what it seems. Not only does Lone Wolf discover what has happened in Ruanon, but he must act quickly to prevent a far worse fate from befalling the entire Lastlands.

The adventure has a fun mixture of settings, over land to Ruanon, underground in the mines and the heat of battle later on. The pace of the story is quick. Captain D'Val makes an extended appearance and a mysterious character who appears in later books, notably number 6, is waiting in a hut near the beginning of the adventure. Timewise, the book has no particular date, but as near as I can tell from counting backwards from later Magnakai adventures, it takes place in the year MS 5054, half a year before Shadow on the Sand.

The book was first published in 1985. A Sparrow Books edition did exist but it was quickly replaced by the Beaver edition. The current edition is printed by Red Fox.

The Chasm of Doom is one of the most well rounded Lone Wolf books. It offers a good balance of choices and storyline. It also solidifies the direction the previous books had been going, in terms of rules and playing style.

The story in The Chasm of Doom is one of the best in the Lone Wolf series, because it is very well balanced. It passes through many phases, each of which reveals a little bit more of the truth about Ruanon's fate. This is a unique mode for Lone Wolf books, since most other adventures start with a specific objective and then present one or two environments in which to reach that goal. The Chasm of Doom presents half a dozen environments and the objective is a little unclear until near the end of the book. The uncertainty and the change of scenes add excitement to the adventure. It draws the reader into the experience.

Another strength of the book is its variety of paths. There is always an option available to the reader, a different way to do something. In this respect, The Chasm of Doom is the most similar to Flight from the Dark of all the first five adventures. However, because there is the continually unfolding mystery of Ruanon in the background, the plot moves along inevitably even while the reader is exploring the nooks and crannies of the book. Often, as in the case of the carrion crows on Raider's Road or the strange silence in the village of Eshnar, the nooks and crannies add to the plot.

The most apparent feature of the book, from a gaming point of view, is the way the playing features introduced in The Caverns of Kalte are continued and advanced upon. Random number choices are used to determine the outcome of events and there are a few references to Kai Rank as well. The game play in book 4 is interesting and exciting with a variety of possible actions in the battle sequence and much exploration in the mines. Many of the touches which make this book fun are unsurpassed in future Lone Wolf books. The Chasm of Doom presents dice rolling at its finest.

Perhaps the only distracting feature of book 4 is the abruptness of the ending. So much time and space in the book is spent getting to Ruanon that there simply aren't enough passages left to really make the final sequences as enjoyable or rich as they could be. The options are limited and the final battle is over far, far too quickly. This is a repetition of the sins of book 2.

Still, there is much to admire about The Chasm of Doom. It is the prototypical Lone Wolf adventure. It has story, detail, action, suspense and choice. All those features are presented in a manner which becomes comfortably familiar in the later books. The next book, Shadow on the Sand, brings those strengths to a higher plane, but they are undoubtedly set up by book 4 of the Lone Wolf series.

If there are any lapses or oversights in The Chasm of Doom, I've forgotten what they are. The story seems free of contradictions. The passages are all numbered correctly, as far as I know. It seems fairly cheap the way you can die simply for going one way in the temple and not the other, but that's not really an error. Gwynian's appearance at the beginning of the book (who is not presented as Gwynian at the time) seems in hindsight to be a little odd. I don't know if Joe planned to bring the character back in The Kingdoms of Terror but from the anonymous way he appears in book 4, I'll bet the character was never envisioned as the sage of Varetta. He always seems out of place to me since I know now who the man in the hut really is. Write it off as an astral projection.

© Julian Egelstaff 1997-2000
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-2000