Time to give those Harpoon Flies another shot… 5. Dead again. Okaaaaay, roll again… 2. There. Now we may proceed. If we had rolled a 3 or a 4 we would have survived as well, although with a loss of 6 Stamina and 2 to our Skill (!) AND we would be forced to drink one of our doses of healing potion (and be denied it’s Stamina restoring effects). As it stands, we only lose 4 Stamina and the dose of potion.
I think of these kind of encounters as Gatekeepers. They lie along the One True Path and must be negotiated. The Harpoon Flies are a particularly egregious example. They present a significant chance at instant death (if we were playing fairly we would have had to roll three new characters in the space of about ten minutes), they hit our stats by a not insignificant amount even when the roll goes our way, and worst of all is that we have no agency when dealing with them. It’s entirely up to the luck of the roll. No choice or item or character stats has any bearing on the encounter. We’re not even given the satisfaction of resolving combat. If choice is the heart and soul of the gamebook experience then the Harpoon Flies are the ultimate sin. They disregard the core of the format in favor of a bit of randomness.
Of course we could chose to avoid the flies altogether (and considering that even the best outcome of the encounter results in a penalty, a ignorant player might deduce that doing so is the correct course of action), but that would just doom us later on. As we replayed and learned the shape of the book we would find that a meeting with the flies is inevitable.
Oh well, we’re past them now. Let’s continue.