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General Chat => Games => : Funt Solo 19 October, 2021, 02:40:32 AM

: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 19 October, 2021, 02:40:32 AM
I remember on my trip to Thailand, so many years ago now, I started noticing some place names rang a bell.  Chiang Mai. Fang.  It was Sukumvit that brought it back - Ian Livingstone had used them for Deathtrap Dungeon (the 80s role-playing book, like you didn't know).

It's just come back to me now after listening to the brilliant Hypnogoria podcast about said book.  And then I found this. http://officialfightingfantasy.blogspot.com/2017/05/who-wants-to-go-for-walk.html (http://officialfightingfantasy.blogspot.com/2017/05/who-wants-to-go-for-walk.html)  He didn't even bother to change the names.  Still a great book though.

Deathtrap Dungeon - my first Fighting Fantasy book!  My fave is the Shamutanti Hills, closely followed by City of Thieves and a few of the other early books.

My first Fighting Fantasy book was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - which I got from the school library. That being the first one, I started collecting, but never had Book 1 in my collection. Deathtrap Dungeon is a favorite, and when I ditched half my nerd clobber when emigrating, that was one of the few I had to keep.

There's a guy does brief video reviews of the books, and he's wonderfully dry-witted. At the beginning of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks Review Part 3 - Books 21 to 30 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lIl7c99FJE), he says "I'm sorta stuck wiv this lot now, I've gotta do the lot!"
: Re: Gamebooks
: Colin YNWA 19 October, 2021, 06:26:52 AM
I bought the boy a load of these recently after he liked Warlock when I played it on the Switch (really good adaptation by the way). He played a couple but then burnt out on them. I'm hoping he returns to them then in a year or two. I was well tempted to give them a go again myself.
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 19 October, 2021, 09:06:03 AM
I spent most of my pocket money on these. I was addicted as a kid. Trial of Champions was the last one I bought, at which point FF had successfully gateway'd me into D&D, and my money starting going into TSR's pocket instead. It's all still in the metaphorical loft somewhere.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 19 October, 2021, 09:33:03 AM
I used to spend all my pocket money on these too. At some point over the years I lost all of them bar Appointment with F.E.A.R - I think my brother inherited and disposed of them when I went to uni.
During the pandemic I picked up a bunch of old ones off ebay and started replaying them. Some of them are SO hard but they're really good. I'm basically addicted to them now. I met Ian Livingstone at an event this year and was totally fanboyish.

Deathtrap Dungeon is my favourite but I really love Trial of Champions and Forest of Doom, which was my first one ever. On the non-FF front I love the Way of the Tiger series.

Anyone up for a forum playthrough of one maybe? See how far we all get individually?

: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 19 October, 2021, 09:41:13 AM
Anyone up for a forum playthrough of one maybe? See how far we all get individually?
Great idea!! I'll see if I can dig mine out.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 19 October, 2021, 10:33:24 AM
Anyone up for a forum playthrough of one maybe? See how far we all get individually?
Great idea!! I'll see if I can dig mine out.

Sounds good - I know where all mine are.  Which book were you thinking of?  Start with Warlock?  I have most of them, but haven't played through the later ones.
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 19 October, 2021, 10:50:50 AM
Anyone up for a forum playthrough of one maybe? See how far we all get individually?
Great idea!! I'll see if I can dig mine out.

Sounds good - I know where all mine are.  Which book were you thinking of?  Start with Warlock?  I have most of them, but haven't played through the later ones.
Sounds logical. :) I'll post here when I've dug them out.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 19 October, 2021, 10:51:49 AM
I hadn't thought that far ahead but I think whatever the most people who are interested can get their hands on! Warlocks got a massive maze in the middle which is annoying but it's a good one to start!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sintec 19 October, 2021, 04:15:04 PM
I got given a copy of Warlock by my gran when I was 7 or 8 I think. Was the start of a path that led to D&D then Vampire: The Masqurade then goth clubs lol.

Sold most of my to buy RPG books and/or beer as I got older. Found a set of reprints of the first 8 in a charity shop a while back and bought them for old times sake. Think I played through the first 2 or 3 and then got distracted.
: Re: Gamebooks
: The Bissler 19 October, 2021, 04:25:39 PM
I have a lot of love for these as well! Forest of Doom was one of my favourites and was one I never cracked until I played the Tinman Games version a few years back (would highly recommend btw, they're very faithful and nicely realised adaptations of the books). The Fighting Fantasy series are probably the closest I came to roleplaying until I spotted GW's Judge Dredd: The Roleplaying Game in '87. Once I played that, I got the RPG and then tabletop gaming bug...and have never looked back!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 19 October, 2021, 10:35:17 PM
I got given a copy of Warlock by my gran when I was 7 or 8 I think. Was the start of a path that led to D&D then Vampire: The Masqurade then goth clubs lol.

Oo - which goth clubs?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 20 October, 2021, 03:57:38 AM
Some of my favorites:

1. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - I loved this one so much that I converted it to D&D mostly so that I could map out the exact floor-plan. Realizing that the Warlock has no easy way out that didn't involve wandering through a bunch of madly dangerous rooms, I gave him a back door, high up in the mountain, which was how he brought the monsters in. It was like a kind of zoo-arena, where he'd train them up before placement in the larger dungeon.

5. City of Thieves - the most dangerous shopping expedition in the world felt like you were in a real place.

6. Deathtrap Dungeon - having it be a competition added some amazing tension, as you were always wondering where your competitors had gotten to.

11. Talisman of Death - had such a rich world to explore, which was fully realized in standalone series Way of the Tiger.

13. Freeway Fighter - way better than Beyond Thunderdome is this Car Wars style post-apocalyptic adventure.

22. Robot Commando - every time you find a new mech you get an interesting decision, weighing up the pros and cons.
: Re: Gamebooks
: abelardsnazz 20 October, 2021, 08:09:22 AM
Away from FF, the late Joe Dever granted permission for his books to be published free online, so if you feel like taking Lone Wolf through his paces, it's all at projectaon.org.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sintec 20 October, 2021, 09:11:05 AM
I got given a copy of Warlock by my gran when I was 7 or 8 I think. Was the start of a path that led to D&D then Vampire: The Masqurade then goth clubs lol.

Oo - which goth clubs?

Mostly around Norwich and Ipswich area initially (late 90s) so things like Wraith and Chains On Velvet. Then added fairly regular trips down to Slimelight in Islington and annual excursions up to Bradford for Infest.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 20 October, 2021, 09:17:38 AM
I didn't know that about Joe Dever, I'll be all over those! Really enjoyed Lone Wolf at the time. I do have snazzy hardback versions of three of his Freeway Warrior books, although I've yet to replay them...

I've got a couple of the Duelmaster sets as well - these are essentially a set of two 'PvP' gamebooks where two players read at once and are competing against each other. Typically when you reach the end of a paragraph you're given a command to wait until the other player hits a wait command and then you both proceed. Actions give you keywords that effect what the other player encounters, with players prompted to ask the other if they have keyword in various locations, and then if they do they'll move to a different paragraph describing a monsters body or an empty chest and so on. You win if the book kills the other player, or you can meet and fight each other to the death. They're great.

If a few of us guys do want to do read through of one (Warlock?) then i've dug my books out ready.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 20 October, 2021, 09:18:20 AM
22. Robot Commando - every time you find a new mech you get an interesting decision, weighing up the pros and cons.

This book RULES.
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 20 October, 2021, 09:23:08 AM
've got a couple of the Duelmaster sets as well - these are essentially a set of two 'PvP' gamebooks where two players read at once and are competing against each other. Typically when you reach the end of a paragraph you're given a command to wait until the other player hits a wait command and then you both proceed. Actions give you keywords that effect what the other player encounters, with players prompted to ask the other if they have keyword in various locations, and then if they do they'll move to a different paragraph describing a monsters body or an empty chest and so on. You win if the book kills the other player, or you can meet and fight each other to the death. They're great.
FF also did one of those (that I know of anyway), 'Clash of the Princes'. I remember buying it in Smiths and then haring to my mate's house to play it immediately. It was exactly the same rush as buying a new 10 game for my Commodore. :)
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 20 October, 2021, 10:17:00 AM
I got given a copy of Warlock by my gran when I was 7 or 8 I think. Was the start of a path that led to D&D then Vampire: The Masqurade then goth clubs lol.

Oo - which goth clubs?

Mostly around Norwich and Ipswich area initially (late 90s) so things like Wraith and Chains On Velvet. Then added fairly regular trips down to Slimelight in Islington and annual excursions up to Bradford for Infest.


Cool - I went to Chains on Velvet the one time (around this time of year, back in 1999 I think) but mainly went to Death by Misadventure (the one in Ipswich) and Bury'd Alive (in Bury St Edmunds).  Also went to whatever the Colchester night was called - it went through a few name changes and was run by Martin, who also ran DbM.  Like you I also went down to Slimes and Infest (though mostly Whitby).
: Re: Gamebooks
: sintec 20 October, 2021, 12:32:18 PM
Death by Misadventure - that was the name of the Ipswich night. It had been lost in a fog of clove cigarettes and snakebite and black. Don't think we ever got down to Colchester

I grew up near Bury St Edmunds... we may have bumped into each other some time back around then it's not exactly a big place. Spent most of my underage drinking years at The Lucky Break and The Grapes. Left for "the big city" (Norwich lol) around 99. Ended up DJing at Chains a few years later and did that for most of the 2000s.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 20 October, 2021, 04:09:37 PM
Death by Misadventure - that was the name of the Ipswich night. It had been lost in a fog of clove cigarettes and snakebite and black. Don't think we ever got down to Colchester

I grew up near Bury St Edmunds... we may have bumped into each other some time back around then it's not exactly a big place. Spent most of my underage drinking years at The Lucky Break and The Grapes. Left for "the big city" (Norwich lol) around 99. Ended up DJing at Chains a few years later and did that for most of the 2000s.

FB friend request winging your way - though surprised we only have 5 friends in common (1 2000AD, 4 Goth-types).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 20 October, 2021, 06:38:43 PM
FF#73 - Rise of the Gothlords
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 20 October, 2021, 11:28:00 PM
FF#73 - Rise of the Gothlords


Mope of the Gothlords!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 October, 2021, 09:50:51 AM
It was exactly the same rush as buying a new 10 game for my Commodore. :)

This is such a retro statement, I know exactly what you mean.

In the spirit of contributing to the rest of the thread, I have never been to a goth club in Bury St. Edmunds.
: Re: Gamebooks
: I, Cosh 22 October, 2021, 12:38:53 AM
This thread inspired me to buy Citadel of Chaos this afternoon. They didn’t have any of the others.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 22 October, 2021, 01:47:31 AM
I like Citadel of Chaos well enough - the original cover was a bit pants compared to the first one, but the monsters you meet are well freaky. There was a sense of real threat about entering the Citadel.
: Re: Gamebooks
: abelardsnazz 22 October, 2021, 08:49:41 AM
I always found Citadel much tougher than Warlock - I could never seem to find a way past the Ganjees.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 22 October, 2021, 10:09:26 AM
I hate those bloody Ganjees.
: Re: Gamebooks
: NapalmKev 24 October, 2021, 08:52:53 AM
I still own  lot of FF books, probably around 70% (without checking) of the original run and a couple of the later ones.

One of my faves was Armies of Death which carries on directly from Trial of Champions and has you literally raising an army to fight some random evil that I cannot remember. Crypt of the Sorcerer is another one that really stuck with me. Great book.

I'm going to single out Scorpion Swamp as the utter piece of crap that it is. It's far to vague in it's setting to keep my interest and the paragraph's aren't very descriptive.

I was a never a big fan of the Lone Wolf books but Way of the Tiger is pure gold. Assassin (book 2) is the best in the series, all other viewpoints are to be considered at the very least misguided and ill-informed or at the most, just plain old wrong.

Cheers
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 24 October, 2021, 12:00:18 PM
I have emerged from the uncharted deeps of my storage bin with a slightly cobwebby box of FF books. How do we want to do this? Fixed skill scores and then everyone gets to choose their own potion? Start with Warlock and report on how far you get?
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 24 October, 2021, 02:08:14 PM
I had thought I knew where my FF books were but today I've found that I moved them, by the simple process of moving my head about two millimetres found that I'd put 'em all on the bookshelf behind my monitor (so I can see my copy of Warlock without moving).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 24 October, 2021, 04:01:01 PM
I never didn't cheat with my gamebooks, though. Like, if going left killed me, but going right got the secret key that open the wizard's safe - why play through the entire book again just to get to that decision point?

I'm assuming everyone had as many fingers as possible keeping track of the previous set of moves.

Which leads me to stats: did anyone accept a Skill of 7? I mean, it's like going into the dungeon with a rusty sword and a tap water potion. I used to do a halfway house - and only go in with above average dice rolls on the initial stats.

Are there any gamebook purists out there?

---

Lone Wolf #6 - The Kingdoms of Terror - is impossible without cheating (assuming you're on a play-through and not just running it standalone). The starting battles in The Plague Lords of Ruel (#13) have the same problem. Dever trying to maintain balance once he'd gifted us the Sommerswerd in book #2 was something to behold.

---

I like the grand battle game-books, but I've never played Armies of Death (FF #37). Other books with grand battles are Warbringer! (Way of the Tiger #5) and (to an extent) The Dungeons of Torgar (Lone Wolf #10).
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 25 October, 2021, 09:10:30 AM
Which leads me to stats: did anyone accept a Skill of 7? I mean, it's like going into the dungeon with a rusty sword and a tap water potion. I used to do a halfway house - and only go in with above average dice rolls on the initial stats.
I was very amused to open Warlock and find, in 12-year-old me's handwriting, maximum skill scores pencilled into all the boxes. :)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 25 October, 2021, 09:47:30 AM
Are there any gamebook purists out there?

When I was digging around Fighting Fantasy Reddit's and the like last year I found there were a lot of these people out there who are full of scorn for those who don't fix their stats!
As a kid I just rerolled endlessly until I had at least max skill or stamina... there really is no point having minimum stats, especially in some of the books where there's loads of tough fights.

I've never played Armies of Death and it sounds great. Agree that Scorpion Swamp is pants. Talked to a mate about this in the week and he's given me a really tatty copy of Seas of Blood, which I have never played either. Winner!

I have emerged from the uncharted deeps of my storage bin with a slightly cobwebby box of FF books. How do we want to do this? Fixed skill scores and then everyone gets to choose their own potion? Start with Warlock and report on how far you get?

This sounds like a plan, lets do it! I'll kick off my read this week. Are we maxing skill scores to stop us being killed by random goblins?
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 25 October, 2021, 09:54:38 AM
This sounds like a plan, lets do it! I'll kick off my read this week. Are we maxing skill scores to stop us being killed by random goblins?
Let's do it! We'll aim for one book a week.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 25 October, 2021, 10:08:30 AM
Cool - I'll defend Scorpion Swamp though - not only did it have one of three missions once you got to your destination, but you could revisit some areas and the setup would be different the second time around!  As an added bonus, it was written by Steve Jackson - but the other one to the Steve Jackson who co-created the series, causing no end of confusion on both sides of the Atlantic (the USA Jackson being the one behind GURPS, Munchkin and the Munchkin Apocalypse: Judge Dredd expansion set a few years back).
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 25 October, 2021, 10:09:41 AM
p.s. I'm tempted to pick the average scores - following the D&D standard array concept.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 25 October, 2021, 10:16:51 AM
p.s. found this:

recommended minimum stats (https://fightingfantazine.proboards.com/thread/276/recommended-minimum-stats-book) - small spoilers for some of the books.

: that-link-above
Some of these are more exact than others. 'Average' denotes around Skill 9, Stamina 19 etc..


Warlock of Firetop Mountain - Average should be ok, combat not too hard.

Deathtrap Dungeon - Skill 11.

Seas of Blood - You need roughly SKILL 10. The key difficulty is large-scale battles, for any chance at all to win the book you need a minimum CREW STRIKE 11 and CREW STRENGTH 15.
Caverns of the Snow Witch - maximum on everything, but even then probably impossible to complete the final section without cheating.

Citadel of Chaos - It is theoretically possible to complete with any stats. However the Balthus Dire showdown at the end is potentially difficult, depending on how you choose to play it.

Trial of Champions - Maximum on everything. Even then you will probably run out of stamina and die. This book is broken.

Scorpion Swamp - Average stats will allow about the right level of difficulty. Note the 'good' quest is the easiest.

Siege of Sardath - I recommend at least Skill 9 or 10.

Sword of the Samurai - Skill 10

Masks of Mayhem -Skill 10

Dead of Night - Almost any stat roll should be ok. Using the special skills is the key.

Howl of the Werewolf - Any

Stormslayer - Average

City of Thieves - Skill 9

Daggers of Darkness - Average

Creature of Havoc - Average

Sorcery! Series - If you play a wizard you can probably get through on SKILL7.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 28 October, 2021, 10:05:28 PM
Just had a run at Warlock and the vampire killed me. I was doing ok up till that point although I burned my stamina potion early on a poison needle trap.

The art in this book is just lovely.

Anyone else do better?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 28 October, 2021, 10:13:52 PM
(https://i.imgur.com/DUyNNxV.png)

I've been taking this opportunity to map it as a directed graph.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 28 October, 2021, 10:22:43 PM
That's the one! I have mapped it before but didn't use it this time.
I remembered certain stuff like getting the Di Maggio enchantment but not where to go, and so basically wandered about like a lost drunkard until something killed me.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 28 October, 2021, 10:55:43 PM
So far my favorite part is throwing some cheese at the portrait and it just laughs at your puny efforts.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 29 October, 2021, 08:54:33 AM
Thats class. I can't even remember what the cheese is for (I know where you get it)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 31 October, 2021, 12:24:49 AM
You use the cheese to distract some rats.

I was surprised, when finishing my map, to find only two insta-death passages - from the Vampire and Ghoul encounters. I assumed there would be more.

I'll paste in a copy of my graph (open in new tab to get it full size). Spoilers, obviously:

(https://i.imgur.com/TGsJfkq.jpg)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 31 October, 2021, 08:19:53 PM
Ah - double-checking that I had all the entries accounted for, I noticed a couple of gaps so updated:

(https://i.imgur.com/dzd4CDv.jpg)


The key combos at the end are quite well done - you get punished more for getting 1 of 3 correct than you do for getting 2 of 3 correct.

There are two entries which you shouldn't be able to achieve (because it would be impossible to pick up those combinations of keys), and also an impossible (arithmetically) key combo that leads to a win. (I read that the magazine version of Warlock had a slightly different key placement, as well.)

I'm liking that the Maze of Zagor (viewed as a directed graph) is suitably confusing.

---

Has anyone played electronic versions? Do they even use entry numbers? Does it get randomized?
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 01 November, 2021, 12:16:20 AM
Great work, Funt - though after going to imgur on your first flowchart I got caught by a Hallowe'en rabbit hole and haven't actually had time to go through the book myself! 
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 01 November, 2021, 08:55:21 AM
Likewise I haven't quite had the time this weekend, but I'll get it done this week. Great work on that graph Funt! I wonder if there's behind-the-scenes material on-line showing the original design documentation for these books?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 01 November, 2021, 11:28:04 AM
Lovely work on the graph Funt. I tried a second runthrough at the weekend but messed up the keys, I'll do another one for comepleteness using this I think. In your face, warlock!

I've played one of the gamebooks electronically - Island of the Lizard King - and I don't remember it using numbered paragraph headers. I assume for stuff like the keys here you'd just have tagged items in your inventory that allows you to proceed: that's how I'd build it.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 01 November, 2021, 04:29:32 PM
Likewise I haven't quite had the time this weekend, but I'll get it done this week. Great work on that graph Funt! I wonder if there's behind-the-scenes material on-line showing the original design documentation for these books?


Don't know if it's online anywhere, but I do recall SJ and IL appearing on a children's TV programme in the mid-1980s* and showing their working (an A2 or larger piece of paper with lots of numbers and interconnecting lines).




* I'm thinking it may have been Why Don't You?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 01 November, 2021, 05:46:38 PM
Ian Livingstone on how to write a Fighting Fantasy book. Full 2019 Fighting Fantasy event report! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNSL7zTAy44)

At 6:15 there's a shot of one of the original design maps.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 01 November, 2021, 06:09:05 PM
Lovely work on the graph Funt. I tried a second runthrough at the weekend but messed up the keys, I'll do another one for comepleteness using this I think. In your face, warlock!

SPOILERS for the keys:

You need key 99 (on the main path in the outer dungeon, near the start - in the Snake box), then in the inner dungeon, you need to stay on the east track and encounter the Iron Cyclops for key 111 (a). In the Maze of Zagor, you need to defeat the Minotaur for key 111 (b). Nothing else matters much - except don't let the Vampire kill ya!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 01 November, 2021, 10:53:01 PM
The 25th Anniversary Edition came with a fold-out map.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 02 November, 2021, 10:15:05 AM
Ian Livingstone on how to write a Fighting Fantasy book. Full 2019 Fighting Fantasy event report! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNSL7zTAy44)

At 6:15 there's a shot of one of the original design maps.

Cool video - pleased to say I've met four of those featured, and one of those was socially (i.e. not at a games convention or Forbidden Planet signing).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 02 November, 2021, 03:35:43 PM
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

The Adventure
Intrepid adventurer that I am, I take it upon myself to ransack the home of a reclusive and (for all I know) benign Warlock, who - fiendishly! - is minding his own business and posing no apparent threat to anyone. Well, that sort of behaviour obviously cannot be allowed to stand - it's like he wants to be robbed and murdered! Maybe I make a career out of this sort of thing? I'm explicitly told I'm a 'likeable sort of person'; am I a confidence trickster by trade, or just a common housebreaker?

Either way, the Gods obviously like a rogue, as I roll up a respectable Skill of 11 and Strength of 20. It's a low-key start to my home invasion, though it soon kicks into a higher gear when I slaughter five salaried orcs in the guards' mess - take that, Zagor! I hope the 'death at work' indemnities cripple you!

I find a fellow burglar languishing in a prison cell and release him back onto an unsuspecting world, though I'm too late to save a safe-cracking dwarf from dying of torture. Things are looking good by the time I reach an underground river - I've keys, gold, a shiny silver bow and spiffy new shield - but stopping for a sandwich nearly proves my undoing, as a hungry Sandworm erupts from the banks and, galvanised by the smell of my fish paste sarnie, whittles my health down by half. The meal takes me up to less health than I had when I got to the river! That was one costly lunch...

Heedless of the old advice about swimming after eating, I doggy paddle through to the next cavern. Without enough gold to pay the ferryman, I take a decidedly dodgy raft across to the far bank, and then... wham! Someone does me dirty from behind, and the lights go out. (It's fine - the occasional cosh is an occupational hazard for a housebreaker). Waking up in a room full of zombies, I heft my trusty sword and head into battle once more - and the first zombie makes absolute mincemeat of me. Recklessly knocking down doors with my shoulder earlier in the labyrinth means my Skill is now 9, which - while respectable - is obviously not enough against the undead. My supposedly magic shield doesn't save me from a single point of damage (I suspect, too late, that I've been sold a turkey) and I can only land a single, flailing hit before the cadaver ends my home invasion once and for all. The next brave burglar will be facing five, not four, zombies...

The Verdict
Not a favourite, but more fun than I remembered from my only previous playthrough (I suspect that's because I died before I got to the bloody maze). What hamstrings it for me is the total lack of narrative - it's just an opportunistic dungeon crawl, with no scene-setting or background to speak of, and not much forward impetus beyond a chance of loot - and the sheer amount of paragraphs that amount to 'You are at a crossroads, and can go east or west.' If you're a player - like me - who just likes to role play the books (What would I do in this situation?) and isn't making painstaking little maps, then those passages are an exercise in tedium. And I hadn't
 even got to the bloody labyrinth yet...!

I think you need the nostalgia factor to get the most from this one. Thanks for making me replay it, though - been meaning to stuck back into the FF books for months. What are we playing next, then - Return to Firetop Mountain...?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 02 November, 2021, 04:02:47 PM
If you're a player - like me - who just likes to role play the books (What would I do in this situation?) and isn't making painstaking little maps, then those passages are an exercise in tedium.

Just wanted to point out that wasn't a dig at anyone...! Heaven forbid. Funt, your graphs are superb.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 02 November, 2021, 05:41:15 PM
Thanks! (I also recognize that turning a 40-year old gamebook into a node map is hugely nerdy, not really worth anything in terms of financial gain and not what some people would call a fun weekend. For me, it's as close to Shangri-La as I expect I'll ever get.)

Love the role-play angle.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 02 November, 2021, 06:14:16 PM
Love the role-play angle.

It leads to some interesting choices! I had the option to try to sneak around the zombies that killed me, or simply go back the way I'd come; but (with the notable exception of the Sandworm) I'd sailed comfortably through every fight thus far. So I thought 'My guy's going to be feeling pretty cocksure at this point; I can't see why he wouldn't just get stuck in' and threw him straight into battle, even though my own natural inclination would be to explore, and avoid a fight if possible.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 02 November, 2021, 06:22:57 PM
Oh - that's really interesting. So, if I play Starship Traveller, I could roleplay like Kirk and be fairly gung-ho and aggressive - throwing away my red shirts casually, despite what my calculator brain is telling me.

(I've started the Starship Traveller node map, because it's one of the books I never managed to solve on a straight play-through.)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 02 November, 2021, 06:49:19 PM
It's a fairly light roleplay - I've never created a name for a character or anything - but it sometimes makes me play against my instincts, which makes for a fun game!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richmond Clements 02 November, 2021, 10:05:59 PM
This thread has reminded me that I actually wrote one of these a few years ago... https://unseenshadows.com/napoleon-stone-and-the-army-of-set/
: Re: Gamebooks
: wedgeski 03 November, 2021, 08:54:06 AM
Oh - that's really interesting. So, if I play Starship Traveller, I could roleplay like Kirk and be fairly gung-ho and aggressive - throwing away my red shirts casually, despite what my calculator brain is telling me.

(I've started the Starship Traveller node map, because it's one of the books I never managed to solve on a straight play-through.)
I'll be using your map when I get to Starship Traveller. I never completed that mofo.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 03 November, 2021, 11:57:44 AM
So far it's fairly irritating - there's a luck test that you win by having a LOW luck score (with an auto-death five nodes in based on the result). Maybe this was a reaction they had to people gaming the attribute scores.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 November, 2021, 12:21:29 PM
Starship Traveller I think has a bad rep for being annoying. I've never played it, but I'm up for it.
I really think we should all play Deathtrap Dungeon soon if we can..
: Re: Gamebooks
: Leigh S 03 November, 2021, 10:02:05 PM
Doesnt Starship Traveller have a bad rep for (at least early printings) being impossible due to an error with the numbering/paragraphs?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 November, 2021, 10:57:46 PM
It may well be one of the misprint ones, yes...I know it's regarded as having too many extra rules (shooting combat, ship to ship combat, statting up redshirts) that add nothing to the book. I do have a copy so I'd definitely play it
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 04 November, 2021, 11:33:42 AM
I'd picked up the impression we were doing them all in order, at roughly one per week?  The original order of the Puffin editions, that is (not sure when Sorcery! is going to crop up though!)

There was also a Stainless Steel Rat gamebook, written by Harry Harrison - though it doesn't play like Fighting Fantasy or Choose Your Own Adventure, as you may expect from Harry!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 04 November, 2021, 11:40:26 AM
I'd picked up the impression we were doing them all in order, at roughly one per week?  The original order of the Puffin editions, that is (not sure when Sorcery! is going to crop up though!)

Oh, man! I've been wanting to talk about Sorcery! but was worried about derailing the thread!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 04 November, 2021, 11:48:47 AM
The Stainless Steel Rat gamebook was literally impossible to lose, Harry's idea of a joke. A waste of a book.

Sorcery! is simply brilliant.

I also really like Creature of Havoc and Beneath Nightmare Castle.
: Re: Gamebooks
: I, Cosh 06 November, 2021, 12:08:18 AM
I'm liking that the Maze of Zagor (viewed as a directed graph) is suitably confusing.

---

Has anyone played electronic versions? Do they even use entry numbers? Does it get randomized?
These graphs are very cool. Don’t know about others but I played the iPad version of the first Sorcery! and I think it still had paragraph numbers as a convention. It also gave you a limited number of bookmarks that you could jump back to when you realised you’d fucked up.

I enjoyed 80 Days (https://www.inklestudios.com/80days/). A more digitally native equivalent. Doesn’t have the same fighting RPG elements but there are quite a few good storylines you can uncover that allow for multiple playthroughs with different successful paths.

Think I misunderstood the communal forum play that was mentioned. There’s another forum I visit where we’ve played a couple together online. Really good fun but might not work here as the forum doesn’t support thinks like polling for choices. Also needs somebody who likes to type a lot.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 07 November, 2021, 02:24:45 PM
++SPOILERS++

So, Warlock had three insta-death nodes - encountering the Vampire, the Ghoul and if none of the keys are correct at the end.

Starship Traveller has thirteen insta-deaths, plus four death traps (passages where you can die on a random die roll).

The skills systems is horribly broken as well. Usually, a high score is always good (in either skill or luck). In this book, the Spock always needs a high skill (that's good), but the Bones character tests against a high skill twice, but when it comes to a life or death situation (*their own*), they need a low skill to survive. The Scotty only tests their skill once, and it should be low to succeed. (They all need a high skill to survive the twelve melee and seven phaser combats, though.)

Kirk's skill needs to be high half the time and low half the time, and the same for Luck (which was probably deliberate, but is also weird).

Suspicion: Steve Jackson was in a hurry, or terribly, terribly drunk.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 07 November, 2021, 04:20:31 PM
Starship Traveller is a terrible book, one of the worst in the series.

Most of the science fiction FF books were pretty bad actually. Exceptions are The Rings of Kether (by Andrew Chapman, who did Seas of Blood and Clash of the Princes) and Rebel Planet.

Beneath Nightmare Castle has (I believe) the most sudden death paragraphs, but you can still get through it with low scores if you find the best route, which is fairer to the players. The sudden deaths actually enhance the atmosphere of threat and grisliness.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 07 November, 2021, 04:42:21 PM
I've got zero interest in the sci-fi gamebooks, I must admit.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 07 November, 2021, 11:00:14 PM
The Titan gamebooks (almost all of the fantasy ones) are the best, though I have a soft spot for Freeway Fighter, but then a) I had a friend at school who loved that book b) I'd recently seen Mad Max 2 and/or 3 and c) I'd read about Steve Jackson's Car Wars in White Dwarf but never played it.  Didn't like the superhero one, despite the Brian Bolland cover.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 November, 2021, 11:55:12 AM
I'd picked up the impression we were doing them all in order, at roughly one per week?  The original order of the Puffin editions, that is (not sure when Sorcery! is going to crop up though!)

I'm up for this. Citadel of Chaos next then? I can have a go at that this weekend.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 15 November, 2021, 01:26:08 PM
Citadel of Chaos

I've played this twice before, and didn't get very far either time. I remember really liking the Doctor Moreau-stylings of Balthus Dire's haphazard army, though, so I'm looking forward to make good on past failings...

The Prep
My first roll, as always, is for skill. It's... a 1, which gives me a skill of 7. Ouch. This is going to be an uphill battle... But as if to make up for that, the Gods pretty much max out my other stats. Stamina 20, Luck 12, Magic 15 - so I've still got more than a fighting chance. I don't remember what all the spells do, but I take what feels like a broad spread, albiet skewed strongly towards making up for my low skill!

The Playthrough
To be honest, it's a...weird adventure. I sucessfully blag my way past the guards on the gate without the need for a fight, and that rather sets the tone. Keenly aware of my poor skill, I'm reluctant to get into battle, deciding to rely mainly on my natural charm to progress. I bimble about the courtyard and Citadel environs, chatting with Dire's weird cronies to little real benefit. My first encounter of note is the bloody leprauchan, O' Seamus, and it's not long before I realise why Balthus Dire had him locked away in the tower's depths. Having wasted my spell of Shielding and lost a precious skill point to his practical jokes, I'm geting seriously miffed when O' Seamus comes good, gifting me an enchanted sword for my being a good sport. Well, alright then! For the first time this adventure, I feel like I'm starting to get somewhere.

I go through a wine cellar and a room with a rock monster in it, and I'm soon back to feeling that I'm not really making the optimum choices. I'm dodging any dangerous encounters, but I'm missing treasure chests and clues, too. I then have a disastrous time on a trick staircase, of all things, and my lowly skill of 7 has plummeted to a 5. A 5...! Just as well I've done no fighting yet! I consider using a skill spell, but decide to hang on just a little longer before I do.

Eventually I enter a room that has a circular trench (a bottomless pit, or I've never seen one) and a chest sitting on a rocky island in the centre. One of the choices I'm given is to 'pick up the nearby rope and formulate a plan.' The wording of this intrigues me (and I'm getting sick of walking past treasure chests) so it's what I go for. My plan amounts to tying the rope around my waist, then lassoing the chest and trying to drag it over to me. Except the chest plunges straight into the void, and is so heavy that it takes me with it - no saving roll, no chance for a levitation spell, nothing. Splat. Somewhere, the Wizard of Yore pinches the bridge of his nose and mutters 'Star bloody pupil...'

The Verdict
I've long considered Citadel to be Firetop 2.0, and this playthrough did nothing to change that. Similar, but improved and expanded in all the right ways. I was impressed at how far I got sans combat. Beyond hacking at a troublesome tentacle around my leg, I spent my adventure chatting, bluffing and cajoling the creatures of the Citadel, which made for a nice change from my Firetop dungeon crawl. The magic mechanic mixes things up massively, too - I'm looking forward to another playthrough to really explore the spells, which I didn't get much oppurtunity to make use of. If only that first die roll had been different...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 15 November, 2021, 08:07:06 PM
Brave of you to try that with the minimum SKILL!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 15 November, 2021, 08:12:41 PM
Brave of you to try that with the minimum SKILL!

I always play the stats I roll - it's part of the fun! As it turned out, max skill still wouldn't have saved me from falling to my death.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 17 November, 2021, 04:26:43 PM
Inspired by Dark Jimbo, I played Citadel of Chaos again.

I am using a digital dice app on my phone. It gives me Skill 12, Stamina 24, and Luck 11; assuming that nobody will believe I didn't just make those up, I reluctantly roll again. This time I get Skill 11, Stamina 17 and Luck 11, which is still pretty good! I also get 13 magic spells. I choose a broad range of nearly all of them, and a couple of spare Stamina and Levitation spells (partly because I remember that I will need to have a Levitation spell left over at the very end of the adventure).

At the courtyard gate I manage to bluff my way past the GUARDS, which is easy because one of the three names I can choose to give them is "Blag." I walk around the courtyard to a group sitting by a campfire, who turn out to be three ORCS and a DWARF. I sit down with them without waiting to be asked, and they tell me the password to get into the main building. I continue to ask them questions until they get pissed off and attack me (except for the female orc). Emboldened by my high stats, I forego the opportunity to use magic and fight them with my sword instead. I kill the three combatants, taking two wounds myself. I'm allowed to keep two out of the three items they have: 8 gold coins, a copper key, and a jar of ointment. I guess that artefacts are likely to be more useful than money, so I leave the gold.

I next walk over to two people haggling over a magical dagger. I end up buying the dagger myself, using a Fool's Gold spell since I have no actual gold. (I end up never using the dagger during the adventure.) On my way across the courtyard again, I encounter some magical creature, a tornado / woman combination. Given various options, I decide to talk to her, Test my Luck, am lucky, and she leaves me alone. Arriving at the door to the citadel, I knock and give the password the orc told me.

Once inside, I walk past the steps leading down, go through a door, and at a second door I ring the bell for the butler. I follow the butler's directions, and wind up trying to tiptoe through a guardroom, where I wake up a sleeping guard -- a GARK, actually (a goblin/giant hybrid apparently). Given a range of options to deal with this situation, I imaginatively elect to fight him with my sword. I emerge unscathed from what effectively amounts to unprovoked murder, and loot the room, taking six gold pieces and a hairbrush.

Leaving, I am faced with a boring choice of directions: left or right, with no information about what may lie in either direction. Going right, I approach a door, and a voice bids me to enter. Wary of encountering the very annoying (and Skill-sapping) leprechaun tosser Dark Jimbo bumped into, I decide to avoid this and walk past the door, reaching another door with a sign that says "Players Only." Dimly recalling from a previous read of this book that going through the gambling den leads to unavoidable defeat later on, I choose the option to go back the way I came and go through the first door instead, which turns out not to be the leprechaun but the library. Phew! In the library I read a book called Secrets of the Dark Tower, which very helpfully warns me about something called the "Doompit Trap," which is what did for poor Dark Jimbo, and also tells me the number of the combination lock on the door to Balthus Dire's private quarters. Reading another book about Dire himself tells me that sunlight is harmful to him, possibly fatal. Noticing the librarian acting suspiciously, I decide not to push my luck by staying around and I leave.

I find myself in a big dining hall. Expecting everything to be a trap, I go up the right hand staircase without incident, and find myself on a balcony with three doors. Choosing the left door, I use the copper key to get in, and find MRS DIRE. Distracting her by making a gift of the poor Gark's hairbrush, I steal a Golden Fleece from her bed (Testing my Luck twice to get it, since I know I'll need it later) before leaving.

Offered yet another choice between left and right (definitely a weakness in this book I'm afraid), I arbitrarily choose left and encounter the Doompit Trap. I ignore the hell out of it and just walk around it and get out, ignoring the odour of Dark Jimbo's rotting corpse at the bottom of the pit.

Up some stairs, and in the next room I encounter the terrifying GANJEES, who are in fact so terrifying that I automatically lose 1 Skill point, 2 Stamina points and 1 Luck point. You can literally die of fright in this encounter! There is also a suitably scary illustration by Russ Nicholson (criminally replaced in the modern editions by an inferior artist, but I have a 1984 printing so all is well). I remember from previously that the Ganjees are the toughest enemy to defeat in this book, but I'm not sure I remember how, except that using my sword here is definitely a no-no. I think their magic is more powerful than mine too, so I rummage around in my backpack for something else to use. The only thing I have that I can use here is the jar of ointment which I took from the orcs, and (thank goodness!) they accept it and let me leave unmolested.

In the next room I use the Golden Fleece to get past the HYDRA, and then use the combination number from the library to get through an impenetrable metal door into BALTHUS DIRE'S chamber. He throws a trident at me, which I block with a Shielding spell, and it's on!

I take the opportunity to top up my reduced Skill with a Skill spell, before Dire conjures up a CLAWBEAST to fight me. I cast a Weakness spell on it, and then finish it off with my sword while it lies helpless on the floor.  I cast a Stamina spell, which restores my Stamina to 17 again. I cast an E.S.P. spell to try and read Dire's mind, but he partly blocks it and I don't really learn anything. Dire casts his own spell, and the room begins to shake like in an earthquake, so I use one of my Levitation spells to fly over to the window and pull down the curtains, causing the sunlight to flood into the room and kill him. Turning to 400, I am told I can use my remaining Levitation spell to escape from the citadel without having to go back inside and face the Ganjees again.

Looking at the other options I could have chosen, Dire would actually be quite a formidable opponent if it wasn't for his weakness to sunlight, which somewhat undermines what would otherwise have been a challenging final encounter. Overall, while this book is essentially just another dungeon crawl, I still quite enjoy it.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 17 November, 2021, 05:06:21 PM
Love that you role-played DJ's corpse into your go-through.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 18 November, 2021, 11:08:23 AM
We finally got around to playing Warlock the other day - I'm not sure how well the back story comes through but I think part of the dungeon complex was flooded, killing the people living there (hence all the undead after the river) and a tribe of goblinoids moved in shortly afterwards (hence the goblins and orcs before the river).  We are me reading out and Rackle making decisions.

Our play through started with Skill 9, Stamina 20 and Luck 7.  We were doing fine until we injured our hand on the wax-covered portcullis lever.  It was considerably more difficult to get out of fights unscathed with Skill 6 - four zombies did for us in the end.

We'll probably have another attempt and then move on to Citadel of Chaos.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 18 November, 2021, 11:24:43 AM
Sheridan, sorry to hear of your zombie demise. Skill 6 is a death sentence!

Loved these playthroughs of Citadel. I haven't tackled it yet due to unexpected bogosity at the weekend but I'll have a bash this weekend instead. I remember liking this one apart from the stupid Ganjees. Forest of Doom up after that?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 18 November, 2021, 11:49:48 AM
All being well, I'm going to have another bash at Citadel this weekend. I can hardly do worse!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 18 November, 2021, 12:10:49 PM
On my way across the courtyard again, I encounter some magical creature, a tornado / woman combination. Given various options, I decide to talk to her, Test my Luck, am lucky, and she leaves me alone.

You were lucky - I seem to remember she killed me horribly on my first-ever playthrough!

...ignoring the odour of Dark Jimbo's rotting corpse at the bottom of the pit.

Knowing that I sort-of saved the next adventurer from the same trap has genuinely taken some of the sting out of a very ignoble end! :lol:  I only skim-read your account, Richard, so as not to give myself too many spoilers, but it was a great read in the grand F/F roleplay tradition.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 18 November, 2021, 01:47:23 PM
Thank you!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 23 November, 2021, 01:08:46 PM
Very chuffed to find this weekend that I still had a copy of Night Dragon at my parent's. That was a real favourite back in the day - properly hard but probably the closest to a full RPG experience that the series ever got. I'm glad I'll get to play it without needing to fork out some 40 notes on Ebay.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 23 November, 2021, 03:03:44 PM
Very chuffed to find this weekend that I still had a copy of Night Dragon at my parent's. That was a real favourite back in the day - properly hard but probably the closest to a full RPG experience that the series ever got. I'm glad I'll get to play it without needing to fork out some 40 notes on Ebay.

I think I have that one - just checked my inventory and assuming it's correct then I do, but then I'm also mossing five of the other later books (which is more than I was expecting).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 27 November, 2021, 09:30:59 AM
Many are the students of the Great Wizard of Yore. After the last apprentice's ignoble end in the bowels of Craggern Rock, the estimable conjurer hurriedly sends his next greatest student off to the Citadel of Chaos, to see if he can fare any better...

The Playthrough - Attempt II
A Skill of 12 is a great start, Luck of 7 less so... But with a magic score of 16, I'm quietly confident. With this embarrassment of riches I treat myself to one of every spell, plus doubles of some of the more useful...

Following in my luckless predecessor's footsteps, I confidently bluff my way into the Citadel. This time I march up to one of the various groups in the courtyard and come away with an enchanted dagger for my troubles. The whirlwind-woman dogs my footsteps, but thankfully it doesn't come to blows (ba-dum-tish).

Emboldened by what's already a more successful playthrough, I rap smartly on the door to the Tower, confident I can bluff my way past the guard. I can't, as it turns out, but in the ensuing fight I run rings around the poor Rhino-man, dispatching him to the Great Savannah in the sky without breaking a sweat.

Forewarned of O'Seamus' tricks, I pay the leprechaun a visit. Once again a Skill point must be sacrificed, but I'm wise to his other games and illusions, and the Magic Sword and Silver Mirror are soon mine. Onward to the wine cellar, and the Black-Elf Somellier offers me a few choice vintages to sample. I pick poorly, however, as I down a truth potion and start blabbing my purpose here - the Somellier cannot leave these vaults alive!

He's dispatched easily, and I loot the corpse and the vaults at lesuire. A few rooms on, I'm still adventuring in my predecessor's footsteps, as I reach the room with the golem. Supremely confident in my swordplay, instead of running past I whittle him down to so much gravel. This is much more like it.

A later room presents a truly bizarre encounter with a flying dog's head(!) and a chair that turns into a man that turns into a snake...? Whatever these things are, they're easily distracted, so I'm through the room with no harm done. Were those the infamous Ganjees? Well, I'm not sure what the fuss is all about. My self-satisfaction lasts until the next room. Ah. These are the Ganjees... When I'm offered a chance to look for an item to use against them I take it, sure that this must be where the Silver Mirror comes into play... But it's not even an option, and I'm forced to fight them. That ends as well as you might expect. Blasted back out into the stairwell, I plummet to my death - the same death, after all that, as my luckless forebear. Splat.

The Verdict
Another fun adventure. I didn't intend to shadow my last playthrough quite as closely as I ended up doing, but for all the extra loot I picked up, it didn't really help me in the end. I did feel that I was making much better progress, though. Maybe next time I'll make it all the way to Dire...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 10 December, 2021, 11:29:15 AM
I've struggled to get time to run at Citadel of Chaos the last few weeks, and with you guys posting these epic reports I feel I may have missed my chance.
Who fancies a crack at book 3:Forest of Doom between now and Christmas then? This was my first ever FF gamebook and I played it over and over I'm confident I know this well and it's got a forgiving ending, so this could be the first one we all beat.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 10 December, 2021, 10:04:50 PM
Who fancies a crack at book 3:Forest of Doom between now and Christmas then?

Funnily enough I was thinking of going ahead and doing Forest.

I've never played that one before, so it'll be all new to me. It's another Ian Livingstone book though, isn't it? I'm expecting One True Path gameplay with lots of insta-death traps...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 11 December, 2021, 02:32:37 AM
There's some strange stuff in that book - like the mini-Balrog who rules over the subterranean mushroom people.

It's like wandering through a forest populated by the Wilderness Random Encounter Table from Basic D&D.

I liked it, and the OG cover is kick-ass:

(https://gamebooks.org/gallery/figfan03.jpg)

: Re: Gamebooks
: IAMTHESYSTEM 12 December, 2021, 11:37:15 AM
That magnificent and iconic cover is one of the best drawn ever. Fantastic cover work by Iain McCaig.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 12 December, 2021, 11:49:36 PM
We're well behind - only just 'finished' Warlock tonight and I really want to catch up as Forest is one of my favourites.

So, we'd done the first half properly, playing the stats we rolled and carrying out all the fights, one die roll at a time.  As mentioned above, we got killed by zombies, so we did it all again.  On the second stab we went a different route from the goblinoid section to the river, but still ended up getting killed by the zombies, so ditched the pure method and just read through it.  After going around and around the maze (most recently while having coffee and cake while out shopping) I decided enough was enough and I backtracked along Funt Solo's nodemap to one of the crossroads we'd visited most times and then played from there, not fighting the fights and just going through the choices.  Not that that helped us as we'd only fought the minotaur and not the cyclops so had no hope of getting to 400 either way!

I've held off reading everybody's write-ups of Citadel, so we'll have a quick stab at that (playing by the rules) and (if we don't get to the end) we'll carry on at our first death so we can get on to Forest asap...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 13 December, 2021, 12:00:43 AM
When they re-published Warlock of Firetop Mountain in Warlock magazine's first two issues, they re-wrote the key system to change the numbers and locations. I'm not sure what the correct path is in *that* version.

I suppose a perfectly pure gamebook would allow you to choose any path and still win - although that would rather deteriorate the replay value.

In some computer games (Borderlands is a good example) the developers were concerned that the player wouldn't be looking in the right direction when they'd triggered some visually astounding scene - so they occasionally grab control of the player and spin them round to the Exciting Thing Happening Right Now.

Perhaps Roguelikes are the computer game equivalent of a gamebook. Play and die, doesn't matter: play again. Eventually, you'll see all of the content.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 13 December, 2021, 09:25:25 AM
I suppose a perfectly pure gamebook would allow you to choose any path and still win - although that would rather deteriorate the replay value.

Some later FF books have a 'hub' mechanic that almost works like that. In Night of the Necromancer you play a ghost trying to avenge your own murder; as a ghost can't strictly be killed, your first four or five 'deaths' instead send you back to the hub, to keep trying - and the game actually incentivises a few deaths, with boosts to stats.

Doesn't Scorpion Swamp do something similar, too?
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 13 December, 2021, 09:47:41 AM
Scorpion Swamp had clearings that you could revisit (similar to the room in Zagor's Maze where it asks whether you've been there before).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 13 December, 2021, 10:27:20 AM
Ah, that's it. So not quite the same, then.

Charlie Higson's recent The Gates of Death definitely does; lots of 'checkpoints' you can go back to.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 13 December, 2021, 10:37:10 AM
Forest at least lets you return to the start if you reach the end without both bits of the hammer, unlike the auto-death scenarios in books like Deathtrap Dungeon or Appointment with FEAR if you get to the end without everything on the 'shopping list'.
I like the idea of a book where there is no 'true path' but I assume this is to keep you trying again and again. Interesting that newer books have checkpoints of sorts - I was just talking to someone this weekend about video games having checkpoints now whereas in the 80s you die, it's back to the start. I wonder if that's influenced this idea at all.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 13 December, 2021, 10:45:32 AM
Interesting that newer books have checkpoints of sorts - I was just talking to someone this weekend about video games having checkpoints now whereas in the 80s you die, it's back to the start. I wonder if that's influenced this idea at all.

I wonder if it was a value-for-money thing? Nobody was quite as flush back then - there was maybe an expectation that you'd be replaying the same game/gamebook A LOT, rather than buying a new one every time.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 13 December, 2021, 11:43:49 AM
Forest of Doom

Well I'm sure you all know the drill here - it's off into the Forest of Doom to find two halves of a Hammer, to save the dwarven village of Stonebridge...

The Playthrough
This book is mental. Apart from Yaztromo, I don't really meet any characters. I don't solve any puzzles. I don't follow a trail of clues. What I do is kill things. A lot of things. A Shape Changer. A Barbarian. A Hill Man. Another Hill Man. A Cat-woman. A Dwarf. A Giant. Three Death Hawks. A Wyvern represents my first serious test - having gone into the fight with 14 Stamina, I come out on a mere 4! After a rest to eat and recover, I rummage through the Wyvern's nest and discover a gold ring and an iron gauntlet. I've read Tolkien, so I leave the ring well alone, but the gauntlet gives me a permanent +1 to my Skill. Result! Climbing out of the nest, I'm set upon by a group of five bandits, demanding items from my bag. Having single-handedly killed a Wyvern, these sorry specimens hold no terrors for me - add another five souls to the death-count (16, if you're wondering).

Giddy with my own prowess I swagger out of the Forest and into Stonebridge like a Lord, trailing bloody red footprints behind me. Except that, without either part of the Hammer in my possession, the dwarfs don't want to know. And here a neat mechanic kicks in, whereby I'm given the option to go back to Yaztromo's tower and try again, items and skills intact (as opposed to 'Better luck next time!')

The Play through - Redux!

So it's back into the trees once more to clobber things with my sword. A Hobgoblin. Another Hobgoblin. A Sting Worm. An Ogre. The Ogre has a captive Goblin in a cage, and as soon as I open it of course he attacks me (Is nobody in this Forest open to just talking it out? Or has my gory reputation preceeded me?) Anyway, he too falls, and I retrieve from his corpse... One half of the Hammer!

Except that the bloody thing is clearly cursed, for it's at this point that my good luck all deserts me. Looting the Ogre's cave, I get blasted in the face by a noxious gas, at massive cost to both Skill and Stamina points. Mazed and reeking, I stagger onward. Climbing up into a tree house is probably not the wisest idea in my current condition, but the end of the adventure is clearly within grasp and I'm desperate to find the hammer head...

I can't loot the tree house because the Ape-Man who lives here is at home, and - unsurprisingly - he'd rather fight than talk it out. On top of my already lowered Skill, I have to subtract 3 from my Attack Strength every round as the Ape-Man's too agile for me! It's... a pretty one-sided fight. As the darkness closes in and breathing becomes difficult,  I look into the Ape-Man's simple, bovine eyes, and find I can't really judge him too harshly. If you had a blood-spattered, sword-wielding maniac attempt an unprovoked home invasion, reeking of death and poison gas, wouldn't you fight back? And I think back on the bloody swathe I cut through the Forest today (21 at final count) and, like David Mitchell's Nazi, I'm finally forced to wonder... Was I the baddie, all along?

The Verdict
The stakes of Forest  are very different from the two books thus far, which is a nice change of pace. It's still a fairly basic dungeon crawl at the end of the day - in many ways it even feels like a step back from WoFM. The vast array of offerings for sale from Yaztromo initially seem like they'll almost be the equivalent of Citadel's magic spells, but in practice they don't add much to the gameplay, as you can only use them when told, and some of them don't seem to appear at all. On the plus side, I didn't encounter any insta-death paragraphs, so that was nice, and I liked the mechanic that gives you multiple chances to get your mission right. There are still plenty of redundant 'Do you go east or west?' passages, though - great for map-making, not much of fun narratively.

Fun but... forgettable. 5.5 combat dice out of 10.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 13 December, 2021, 01:49:51 PM
(Is nobody in this Forest open to just talking it out?


It's the Forest of Doom, not the Forest of - uh, something clever and witty which encapsulates communication and rhymes with doom.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 13 December, 2021, 01:50:45 PM
(Is nobody in this Forest open to just talking it out?

It's the Forest of Doom, not the Forest of - uh, something clever and witty which encapsulates communication and rhymes with doom.


Commune (icating)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 13 December, 2021, 03:15:02 PM

I like the idea of a book where there is no 'true path'

There are very few books like that, but Beneath Nightmare Castle (FF 25) is a good example. There's one path where if you can collect everything you can significantly reduce the end villain's skill and stamina and generally improve your odds, but there are alternative routes which are harder but still survivable.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 14 December, 2021, 09:41:36 AM
(Is nobody in this Forest open to just talking it out?

It's the Forest of Doom, not the Forest of - uh, something clever and witty which encapsulates communication and rhymes with doom.

 :lol: Good point!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 15 December, 2021, 12:08:07 PM
It occurs to me I haven't said much about the art in these books thus far. Malcom Barter's art in Forest of Doom is worthy of comment, if only because it's so damn fleshy and squishy and... generally weird.

Pick of the lot for me is the Catwoman I fought, who just makes me deeply uncomfortable -

(https://i.imgur.com/FoRlTkz.jpg)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 01 January, 2022, 05:18:47 PM
Arise, Sir Ian Livingstone:

https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/uk-games-industry-legend-ian-livingstone-to-be-knighted/?fbclid=IwAR3cSkXRRTsCtHEwVPN6s4QocCNp7yeWkNMM9tuNCioR4PkTSJuAy4Vqvoo
: Re: Gamebooks
: MumboJimbo 02 January, 2022, 03:00:56 PM
Sir Ian Livingstone, I presume!


Ahhh Fighting Fantasy. I had the first 6 in their original cover art (before they besmirched them with the green top border and FF crest). I remember my faves being Starship Traveller (as I was more sci-fi than fantasy back then), and Deathtrap Dungeon. In fact I played Deathtrap Dungeon with my son when he was about 7 on a long bus ride from South London, where we were staying with friends, to the centre. We were off to the Science Museum and when we got there, there was a hell of a queue so I entertained him by ad libbing my own FF-style adventure for him to play.

I never kept my FF books, which I regret. I also had the first issue of Warlock magazine, and Avenger! which is the first book of a rival series of books called Way of the Tiger with a Ninja character. Anyone remember that?
: Re: Gamebooks
: NapalmKev 02 January, 2022, 04:41:03 PM

 Avenger! which is the first book of a rival series of books called Way of the Tiger with a Ninja character. Anyone remember that?


Way of the Tiger is a great series and I still have the complete original run (books 1-7). The book '0' prequel came out much later and I've never played it.

In other gamebook news - During my Big New Years' Clean & Tidy session I dug out some of my FF books. I've decided to play through Trial of Champions* and then straight onto Armies of Death. I hope my adventures will be worthy of a tapestry or something.

Cheers

*Is ToC one of the broken books? I seem to recall a problem actually attaining enough Rings to succeed... We'll see I suppose.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 02 January, 2022, 05:48:50 PM
I was going to correct you and say there were only books 1-6 in Way of the Tiger, but then I looked it up (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_the_Tiger). There were only six in the original run, with the last one ending on a deliberately ambiguous cliffhanger - but then years later (2014-ish) a book 7 was published to tie up the series.

I haven't played book #7.

I loved that series, though - the setting was very well developed.
: Re: Gamebooks
: MumboJimbo 03 January, 2022, 10:02:55 PM
I found an archive of Warlock magazines (it was the Fighting Fantasy magazine that ran quarterly in the mid-80s in case you didn’t know). Check them out: https://annarchive.com/warlock.html (https://annarchive.com/warlock.html)
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 05 January, 2022, 12:24:01 PM
 Well, I seem to have started a thread without ever realising it existed.  And I've really enjoyed reading it - special kudos to Dark Jimbo, whose self-aware travel blogs of Firetop Mountain and Darkwood Forest are comedy gold. 

Poor old warlock - it hadn't really occurred to me till now that he hadn't actually done anything wrong, and the successful player is essentially killing Alan Moore after ransacking his home.  Sorry, Warlock.  I was just following orders.

Edit - thanks for the link, Mumbojimbo! The second issue of that magazine was my introduction to Fighting Fantasy, and I still aim towards those illustrations when trying to furnish and decorate my home.  True story
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 05 January, 2022, 01:38:07 PM
...special kudos to Dark Jimbo, whose self-aware travel blogs of Firetop Mountain and Darkwood Forest are comedy gold. 

Gosh, thanks! I wasn't sure how many people were reading them, to be honest, but they're fun to write - and keep me playing the gamebooks.

As there don't seem to be any other playthroughs of Forest of Doom on the way, any day now I'll strapping back on the leather armour and heading off to Port Blacksand...
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 05 January, 2022, 03:22:43 PM
It won't be as good as Dark Jimbo's, but we're on our second trip through the forest (well, we got killed by the demon but played on regardless, not that we had both bits of the hammer).
Next one in the pile is Starship wozzit.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 05 January, 2022, 03:31:58 PM
I'll have a Forest of Doom report up later this week!
Not looking forward to Starship Traveller tbh.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 05 January, 2022, 04:29:38 PM
I'm not looking forward to Starship Traveller either, but it's been sitting on various shelves for the last thirty years*, so about time I did something with it more than just having it there for completeness' sake.

* I'd have tried to play it a few times when a kid, but haven't revisited it since.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 05 January, 2022, 05:18:47 PM
Starship Traveller spoilers right here:

(https://i.imgur.com/jinlIsb.png)

[right-click and save as to get your own copy of the full sized image]
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 05 January, 2022, 09:00:11 PM
Fair play, keep 'em coming, all!

Partucularly looking forward to the Dark Jimbo vs Zanbar Bone smackdown 😀
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 06 January, 2022, 10:31:57 AM
Right! With a big nod to Dark Jimbo, it's time for me to venture into the FOREST OF DOOM!

PART 1

In truth Darkwood forest is a well-trodden path for me and as I pocket the dying Bigleg's loose change nostalgia and deja vu come flooding back. Feeling confident, from Yaztromo I snap up the holy water, garlic buds, nose filters, fire capsules, armband of strength and gloves of missile dexterity as I seem to recall all of these are useful and then it's excitedly off into the mulchy gloom of the forest to find the missing bits of the hammer.

Before long I've been robbed, attacked by a blood-sucking tangleweed and battled both a treeman and the iconic shape changer. Having already lost all my money to the thief I am forced to eschew an offer to be ferried across a river by a friendly centaur and stumble out of the river covered in leeches. In terrible shape I bed down for the night and am promptly attacked by a giant spider. It dawns on me that I am hopelessly lost and definitely not on the right path.

The next morning I sensibly decide not to venture down a mysterious well as I know it's full of gremlins and not much else. I also decide against harassing sleeping gnomes, but I can't stop myself venturing into a hut, picking up a vase of Gom Jabbar and stealing the contents which include a much-needed potion of healing . Continuing North I find an overgrown crypt - I think one of the bits of the hammer lies within, hooray! However I have no key - boo. With a sinking feeling I hurry north along the path. Accosted by bandits, my heart isn't really in it and I pay them off with gold from the abandoned hut before stumbling onto Stonebridge where, red faced, I have to explain to the Dwarves that I made it all the way through the forest and found exactly no bits of their hammer at all. Gloomily trudging back round the outside of the forest I get an arrow in the neck from some hillmen and my adventure is over. That's where overconfidence gets you!

PART 2

Arriving back at Yaztromo's tower, I restock on exactly the same items and once more I'm into the lethal leafy boughs of Darkwood. As a general rule in gamebooks, if given a choice, I always take the left-hand path but this time I decide to turn east. I pay the crow, take it's advice and pretty soon I'm crossing swords with a pair of Hobgoblins. This, if I remember rightly, was my first ever FF battle and I dispatch these two goofs with a big grin and help myself to their stuff. Finding a nearby slimy hole I venture in and defeat a massive slimy worm, then following the crows advice press on to the North where I flatten an ogre with a well-placed rock, free his captive only to have the ungrateful wretch turn on me. Luckily, Goblins suck and one brief fight later I am clutching one half of the fabled hammer!
Unable to stop myself I loot the cave and thank goodness I brought those nose filters. Whistling cheerfully I stroll carelessly onwards and am promptly trapped, drop my sword and end up being extorted of five gold pieces by some precocious little brat. Annoyed, I climb into some poor ape mans house, kill him and steal his stuff too, and this time it's a bracelet of skill. I'm starting to feel pretty damn invincible this time.
At this point I think continuing north will take me out of the forest too quick, so I revert to type and start heading west. Not long after I meet a hunter - what is he doing here? - and he gives me some belladonna. I can't remember this encounter from previous playthroughs, which has me a bit worried. My next stop is the Darkwood Forest arm-wrestling champion, who I guess just hangs out in his hut in this bogus forest arm-wrestling passersby. Naturally I use my armband of strength to cheat and win his dust of levitation which I know I do need to finish this book. Hooray again!
This time when I bed down for the night the encounter is with vampire bats, but I keep the little terrors at bay with my garlic buds. My new day starts with that classic pick me up of an arrow in the shoulder: I avenge my wound (and my previous iteration) on the hillmen and the silver key is mine - exactly what I needed last time out.
By now I'm lost again so I sneak a peek at the east and west options. East takes me back to the Gremlins well, so I follow that route, skip it again, and pretty soon I'm back at the crypt but this time with the key to get in. Old memories flooding back I use my ill-won dust of levitation to get into the sarcophagus, douse the monster inside in holy water and lo, the second part of the hammer is mine! Not wanting to risk anything now I once again pay off the bandits and then it's off to Stonebridge for beer and treasure. Adventure completed!

What a lovely nostalgic experience this has been. One of my favorites as a child, playing it again reminded me my I enjoyed it so much - there's very little insta-death unless you do dumb stuff like attack Yaztromo and the chance to return to the start on failure (even though I messed that up) is so welcome when the forest is basically a literal maze. There's so many things in there that I didn't run into - the giant, the mushroom guys, the werewolf, the sexy / disturbing catwoman - and stuff I skipped like the gremlin well and the wyvern - without mapping it as I went, I could have been wandering about in there for days, it feels truly massive. I'm not sure if it's nostalgia kicking in but I find Malcolm Barter’s artwork super evocative and just the right side of disturbing: his twisted Orcs, Gremlins and Hobgoblins especially. Between this and Citadel there's been some superb artwork that's not the sort of thing you'd normally see in a child's book - not gory, but so imaginative and grotesque and just downright odd - fantastic stuff.
Apparently you can win the book with just three fights so it's not one where maximum skill is required either. The nastiest monster I found was the shape changer and that was in my sub-optimal playthrough.

Anyway, if you read to the end of this, thanks / apologies! Starship Traveller awaits!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 06 January, 2022, 10:34:12 AM
Also, anyone seen these?

https://sevensqua.red/collections/fighting-fantasy

I got the Deathtrap Dungeon one for Christmas and following that I'm thinking about getting FoD as well.
: Re: Gamebooks
: MumboJimbo 06 January, 2022, 11:57:07 AM
Buoyed by the discussion here, and a nostalgic reading of the Warlock magazines, I gave Warlock of Firetop Mountain a go last night. Rather than cheat a bit, as I used to as a nipper, I thought I’d play it completely by the book (pun intended!): follow the rules to the letter and even draw a map as I went on.

RnGesus was on my side, at least at the start, as I rolled outrageously good stats: Skill 11, Stamina 23 and Luck 10. This allowed for a bold play style, as I could rifle through all the rooms early on with barely a scratch and soon had 26 pieces of gold, the bronze key, the potion of invisibility, glove, cheese etc. My luck eventually started to fail me the other side of the river though. Naively I told the man with the dog that I was raiding the place, at which point he set his dog on me, and after I killed the dog, he turned into a werewolf and came at me. I thought I’d fare pretty well in the fight, after all, I had skill 11 compared to his 8….but the rolls were bad! I defeated him, but with stamina now depleted to 9. I’m now on paragraph 122 which has the memorable picture of the four gaunt looking men in rags, so I’m still to do labyrinth part of the adventure.

It’s been quite interesting to follow the rules properly. I’ve realised how important the luck mechanic is, and how the game is set up to reward boldness by giving you luck points. But by doing that it also provides an incentive to test your luck during battles, as otherwise you won’t get the benefits of the luck points you get (as you can’t exceed your initial value). Also using provisions to give a +4 to stamina becomes important, and those paragraphs where you’re allowed to take a meal become very welcome.

I’ll continue tomorrow. I have a vague plan of replaying the first 6 books, as those were the ones I had as a kid.
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 06 January, 2022, 12:18:37 PM
Loving these adventure accounts - thanks guys! Huge nostalgia thrills all the way, with a new realisation that the player is essentially a murderous thief.  Looking forward to more.

Forest of Doom has a special place in my heart, being the first FF book I personally bought with my own money. I hadn't appreciated at the time what an amazing piece of art the original cover was.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 06 January, 2022, 08:23:12 PM
Between this and Citadel there's been some superb artwork that's not the sort of thing you'd normally see in a child's book - not gory, but so imaginative and grotesque and just downright odd - fantastic stuff.


Jackson and Livingstone fought to make sure they got to pick the artwork - resulting in it being in line with the Games Workshop / White Dwarf / Citadel style.  Compare and contrast with any other children's books of the era, or even TSR / Dungeons and Dragons / Dragon magazine of the time.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 06 January, 2022, 08:44:28 PM
One of my favorite things about the early Lone Wolf books, and the first Talisman board game, was the art of Gary Chalk. The high quality spend on the early Lone Wolf books had even the smaller illustrations unique, and not just the full page ones - something that gave way later to repetitive iconography.

Talisman's "speak softy but carry a big mace" monk, that featured on the ad for the game, and did a great job of selling the game to me:

(https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-iVjXVCvFwQs/X_MxUKGXHnI/AAAAAAAAuyw/BgfHFBbaAt0Q9-YGoHY48JcGAaTHC_BwACLcBGAsYHQ/s2048/IMG_8624.jpg)


From Lone Wolf #2, Fire on the Water:

(https://gamebooknews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/LW02_GaryChalk_04.jpg)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 07 January, 2022, 01:03:19 AM
Between this and Citadel there's been some superb artwork that's not the sort of thing you'd normally see in a child's book - not gory, but so imaginative and grotesque and just downright odd - fantastic stuff.

Jackson and Livingstone fought to make sure they got to pick the artwork - resulting in it being in line with the Games Workshop / White Dwarf / Citadel style.  Compare and contrast with any other children's books of the era, or even TSR / Dungeons and Dragons / Dragon magazine of the time.

The art in the original editions of these books is usually fantastic. Disappointingly, Scholastic Books have substituted childish cartoony illustrations by some other artist, which I think is a real shame.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 07 January, 2022, 09:08:03 AM
I've flicked through a couple of the Scholastic books and the art really is horrible and such a shame - it feels very sanitised and 'made for children' whereas the originals really made me feel like I was getting a peak at a different world where normal rules for childrens books didn't apply. The Wizard editions retain the original art thankfully.

Gary Chalk rules. I could do a Lone Wolf run-through after this (and Avenger. And we should do the Freeway Warrior series too)
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 07 January, 2022, 03:31:51 PM
The brother used to get Proteus magazine, which was pretty much Fighting Fantasy by a different name.  Unlike FF, though, each adventure had a mix of .artists, who ranged from amazing to very bad.

The link...
https://annarchive.com/proteus.html
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 07 January, 2022, 03:35:17 PM
Proteus! Feck me, Jayzus - I'd entirely forgotten that existed! Man, no wonder I failed most of my Highers ... too busy nerding.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Pyroxian 07 January, 2022, 06:28:56 PM
I also remember:
Grail Quest (Aimed at a younger age group than FF, but quite humorous and fun)
Skyfall (Very cool fantasy world that turned out to be a space colony gone wrong - it used coin flips instead of dice)
Forbidden Gateway (Cthulhu-esque gamebooks, sadly only two in the series)

Oh, and Sorcery, which was FF adjacent and set over four books.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 08 January, 2022, 01:26:51 AM
Sorcery! was fantastic. Probably the best of FF.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 08 January, 2022, 03:32:46 PM
Right! With a big nod to Dark Jimbo, it's time for me to venture into the FOREST OF DOOM!

Great stuff! And I think I'm right in saying that this is the board's first successful playthrough? [Edit - No, not quite, but we've had fewer than you'd think.]

Unable to stop myself I loot the cave and thank goodness I brought those nose filters.

Bah! I'm not bitter. Not at all...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 10 January, 2022, 09:16:23 AM
In fairness I played Forest of Doom a lot in my youth and I remembered a bunch of it (like nose filters), plus it's very forgiving. When we rock up against something like House of Hell it's going to be multiple deaths in this house.
I'll see if I can tackle Starship Traveller this week, unless anyone is still doing Forest?

Grail Quest (Aimed at a younger age group than FF, but quite humorous and fun)

I still have a couple of these. Really loved them when I was younger - I found them very immersive. I've been hesitant about rereading them just in case the magic has gone.
That reminds me of 'Wizards, Warriors & You' books - I had a couple of these, I know one of them had a Josh Kirby cover. A step up from the old choose your own adventure books with some rudimentary coin flip mechanics I think. Probably not worth revisiting.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 10 January, 2022, 09:27:37 AM
That reminds me of 'Wizards, Warriors & You' books - I had a couple of these, I know one of them had a Josh Kirby cover. A step up from the old choose your own adventure books with some rudimentary coin flip mechanics I think. Probably not worth revisiting.

Quoting myself but... here's a link I found for the WW&Y books, some great old school covers on these.
I especially like the last few. The Warrior Women of Weymouth kick ass, as do the white fire breathing tigers from the Carnival of Demons although the Conquest of Barbarians appears to be a conquest over some foxes.

https://gamebooks.org/Series/185/Show
: Re: Gamebooks
: Colin YNWA 10 January, 2022, 09:30:15 AM
I hope you'll excuse a bit of a tangent, but this thread has go me trying to hunt down the 'Lost Worlds' Fantasy combat books - if folks remember those.

Basically - and I suspect this explanation will go a bit wobbly. Each player had a book representing a character type. So Giant Goblin with Mace and Shield vs Female Warrior with Scale, sword and shield. You would give your opponent your book - which was full of pictures (and instructions) of your character in combat. So they - your opponent - would 'see' you character as they attacked you. There was a card and some elaboarate way of then having a fight.

I don't know if that makes any sense and I wish I could remember more about how the system worked. ANYWAY, I've decided to track some of those down (with any luck) to play with the kids as they were immense, quick fun as i recall.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 10 January, 2022, 12:25:37 PM
The Warrior Women of Weymouth kick ass, as do the white fire breathing tigers from the Carnival of Demons although the Conquest of Barbarians appears to be a conquest over some foxes.


Weymouth?  Always makes me laugh when US authors use real-world British locations in their fiction - Daventry is another one, appearing in the Kings Quest series of games.  I don't know if the creators were thinking they sounded romantic or old-worldy, but to us who live here they're either boring, tacky, dumps or otherwise don't have quite the connotations that ancient fantasy towns should have!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 10 January, 2022, 02:02:40 PM
I look forward The Brutal Barbarians of Bromley and the Sadistic Savages of Sidmouth coming soon....
: Re: Gamebooks
: Batman's Superior Cousin 26 January, 2022, 01:47:44 AM
Hello all, having just recently discovered this thread (on my Monday night shift to be exact), I’ve decided to finally stop lurking and make my presence known to you all with my Favourite Fighting Fantasy Titles and to tell you all the exciting news that you can now pre-order the Lone Wolf Definite Editions from Magnamund.com (https://magnamund.com/collections/definitive-editions).

Fighting Fantasy Titles
Starship Traveller
Island of the Lizard King
House of Hell
The Rings of Kether
Appointment with F.E.A.R.
Rebel Planet
Creature of Havoc
Moonrunner
Sorcery!

I also like the Lone Wolf and Give Yourself Goosebumps series as well.

Also, are there any fan blogs / sites, YouTube channels, FaceBook groups or Reddit communities dedicated to series’ such as Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, CYOA, etc or just game-books in general…?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Lorenzo 26 January, 2022, 09:18:45 AM
If you can't get enough of this stuff, I notice the latest Essential Judge Dredd: Dredd vs Death contains the short and simple, "House of Death" game, from Diceman 1 magazine. Not many decisions to be made, but it is nicely drawn by Bryan Talbot.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 26 January, 2022, 04:08:19 PM
Also, are there any fan blogs / sites, YouTube channels, FaceBook groups or Reddit communities dedicated to series’ such as Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, CYOA, etc or just game-books in general…?

I've recently discovered Malthus Dire's Fighting Fantasy Page which is excellent:
http://ffreviewermalthusd.blogspot.com/

Some great ones on your favourite list and interesting you've mentioned Starship Traveller and Rings of Kether which I don't remember fondly and I think the former generally gets bad press. We're doing Starship Traveller next, why not join us and do a playthrough? My life has gone a bit weird lately but I'm hoping to have a go this week.
I'll check out those Lone Wolf reissues shortly...
: Re: Gamebooks
: moly 26 January, 2022, 04:48:43 PM
Batman’s superior cousin - thank for the heads up with the lone wolf books, just placed an order for the first one but can see me ordering a load more soon
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 26 January, 2022, 05:11:24 PM
My Lone Wolf collection was one of the things I let go during a big move years ago - and regret quite a lot. I bought some of the re-issued hardbacks that came out a few years ago - Dever had written in a whole new sequence featuring the attack on the monastery at the beginning of Flight From the Dark. It didn't add much, really - if anything, it made you too powerful going into the rest of the book.

I wonder if these new editions will use that version or the original. Maybe Project Aon could tell me. It's interesting that they mention rebalancing some of the gameplay, because it was definitely broken in places.

I had my students code up the combat system, and we discovered that the random number table isn't balanced and neither is the combat chart. There's no algorithm that you can apply to generalize the values - you just need to hard code them all in. I loved the stories, but the system itself is not robustly developed.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 28 January, 2022, 02:49:32 PM
Just finished reading through Starship Traveller and had mixed feelings on it.

Just as background, I much prefer the fantasy and specifically Titan-based gamebooks and have re-played those ones many times over the years (though there's quite a few of the later books that I've picked up in recent decades but not played at all yet).

As further background - I like sci-fi (as you might be able to tell from my continued posting on the forum of  the world's longest-running sci-fi comic) but my style of sci-fi leans more towards Alien and Star Wars than Star Trek, and this is a very Trekkie-style adventure.  Not that I dislike ST...

Anyway, for the actual book - there are some interesting rules regarding running a crew brought in, but for actual combat rules are not included in the intro (the reason given is "to allow you to start playing with minimal delay" - they're actually at the back of the book).  The story is not unlike Star Trek: Voyager in that you're a long way from home and the adventure is trying to get back to Alpha Quadrant our universe.  This is done by way of planet-of-the-week scenes, of variable quality.  It was 'fine' though I skip the die rolls and just going through the  motions to find out what happened next.  Which meant that by the time I got to a maze I wasn't taking time to make a map.  After spending about twenty paragraphs taking left/right turns without any descriptions on which one is best and which went round and round, revisiting the same paragraphs again and again (a bit like the Maze of Zagor but without any of the interesting bits at all).  So rather than go in to the other room to get a pen and paper to draw out the maze and try and figure out if it was just a waste of time or actually went somewhere I found an earlier paragraph from before I went to the maze and carried on from there.  I managed to find two 'keys' to get back to our universe but as I hadn't written them down I didn't know what numbers I needed to get back at the end.  I think psychologically "a key marked with the number 99" seems to require being noted on the adventure sheet while "you need to approach the black hole at warp speed three" didn't.


Think I'll dig out that flowchart from upthread to see if that maze actually went anywhere.




p.s. another - the main - reason that I skipped through this one was because I really like the next book in  the series and wanted to get on to it as soon as possible!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 28 January, 2022, 03:27:50 PM
++STARSHIP TRAVELLER SPOILERS AHOY!++

That maze is vital to solve the book, but if you take a wrong turn you get auto-killed. The stardate you need is much later. A bit like Warlock, there's no indication at any time whether a particular sector or stardate (the two numbers you need to win) is more or less likely to be successful.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 31 January, 2022, 12:42:53 AM
City of Thieves play-through

Right, people are still welcome to play Starship Traveller if they want to, but I decided to move on to City of Thieves. I started with Skill 11, Stamina 20 and Luck 9, and the Potion of Stamina.

Arriving at Port Blacksand, I bluff my way past the guard and elect not to pay him for his proffered advice, because I assume he will tell me something worthless and waste my money. With three directions to choose from, I arbitrarily head East and talk to a man who turns out to be an insane maniac, of course (where did I think I was?). I kill him with ease, smash the glass globe he had with him and it produces a magic helmet which increases my Attack Strength in fights. A good start.

I enter the next house, and try to befriend the occupant by sharing my food with him, but he's an ungrateful dick so I murder him in his own home and nick all his gold, which is obviously quite alright because I'm on the side of Good or something. (I also take his gems, but I decide to leave the silk glove behind because it's probably cursed or something -- in these gamebooks, it doesn't pay to be greedy! Or to be ungrateful to people who give you free food.)

Outside, some kid is selling a health potion, or at least that's what he says but I don't trust him and walk on by. I am, after all, in the City of Thieves. However, my caution doesn't save me from being ambushed by three dwarves who knock me out and steal all my gold. (9 Luck points weren't enough!)

Waking up, I pop into a flower shop because I forget I have no money with which to buy anything, but the nice lady accepts payment in food. I am assured that the flower petals will turn into gold coins on contact with dogs' blood. In any other place, that might seem strange, but I take her word for it and buy some.  The man in the next shop, a jeweller, is less flexible about his prices, and so I kill him and steal his gold -- huzzah!

In the market square, some old lady picks my pocket and I lose one of my newly-acquired gold pieces. I ignore a musician because he's probably another thief. A strongman challenges me to a game of "catch the cannonball until one of us drops it," and I accept, but annoyingly the outcome depends entirely on chance and has nothing to do with my decent Stamina score, which seems unfair. I lose and it costs me 5 gold pieces. I buy some useful-looking items, and now I only have one gold piece left, which it turns out is not enough to pay Madam Star the Clairvoyant for her presumably useful info. Oh well.

Leaving the market, I go into another house, which turns out to be occupied by snakes for some reason. I kill them, and then find Nicodemus, the wizard I've been sent to find, living under a bridge. He tells me about all the things I need to defeat the evil Zanbar Bone. This is the thing I dislike about all of Ian Livingstone's books -- there's always a shopping list, and you need every item on it or you automatically fail.  :(

I head East again (it seems to be my default choice in this adventure) and meet a macabre man who offers me 20 gold pieces if I'll play a sudden death game with him. The odds are good and I need the money, so I play and win. I keep going east, but it's a waste of time, I'm not interested in engaging with any of the encounters that way, so I end up re-tracing my steps and heading west towards the harbour. I give a gold piece to a beggar, not to be generous but in the hope of maybe getting something in return, and am rewarded instead with the far superior gift of knowing I have done the right thing. Well I suppose it's better than murdering people just for pissing me off.

I explore a dubious alley and am attacked by wild dogs. Their blood and the magic flowers I bought produce more gold, and I'm now quite rich. I avoid a road-rage incident, and then sneak on board a pirate ship via a rope ladder and into the hold, where I steal some black pearls from a sleeping pirate -- the first of the five items I need to defeat Zanbar Bone!

Leaving the ship and heading east again, I walk past an injured child because I assume it's a trap, then buy a candle in a candle shop and then leave without checking out the magic candles in the back room because I assume it's a trap. I do visit the silversmith though, because I need a silver arrow, so I buy that. I head east again, ignore another man because he's probably a thief, and enter the sewer, just because I vaguely remember from the last time I read this book that it has something I need. Inside I fight some giant rats and then a hag, and take the third item I need from her corpse.

Back at street level, I'm attacked by three robbers. I kill them but they only have one gold piece between them. I enter a woman's house and pretend I'm a tax collector, and she gives me 12 gold pieces. I get what I deserve in the next encounter though, when I spend 20 gold pieces on some chainmail armour which turns out to be basically useless.

I make a citizen's arrest on a fugitive and get a small reward. I enter the public gardens and pick some black lotus flowers -- another essential item -- and fight some monsters that were guarding them. I go down a narrow alley and find a tattoo artist. Nicodemus said I need to get a tattoo of a unicorn on my forehead to protect me from Zanbar Bone's magic -- maybe because it will be so distracting that he won't be able to look in my eyes while he's hypnotising me?

With my new ridiculous tattoo, I now have everything I need to fight the big boss, so it's time to leave the city. As I'm leaving, I end up in a fight with two trolls in the city guard, the toughest opponents so far, but I manage to kill them and escape the City of Thieves.

I then receive a note from Nicodemus which says that I didn't even need all of those items after all. That seems a bit silly, coming as it does immediately after a paragraph where, if you don't have every single one of them, it sends you to an abrupt "you have failed" ending.

In the woods near Zanbar Bone's tower, I fight some random creature and the two of Zanbar's "Moon Dogs." Arriving at his tower, I kill his butler, who turns out to be undead but the silver arrow does its job (and I get to retrieve it for later). Offered a choice between two ornamental shields on the wall in the hallway, I choose the one with a unicorn on it, and it's the right choice. I assume that Zanbar is at the top of the tower, so I decide to ignore all distractions and climb the stairs to the top without exploring any of the rooms along the way -- with hindsight, this was probably a very serious mistake!

Arriving on the roof, I fight a couple of "Death Hawks", get some Stamina points back, and head down to the floor below to confront Zanbar Bone. I immediately run into a sudden death paragraph because I didn't have some other magical artifact nobody even told me I needed! It was probably somewhere in the tower...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 31 January, 2022, 06:09:38 AM
Ah - one of the best books in the series - City of Thieves!

Things start well, as I roll up a Skill 10, Stamina 20, Luck 11 hero! Luck's a core trait for me in these books - it can turn the tide of battle, so I also stock up on a Potion of Fortune. Stamina is taken care of with the provisions. Armed with a fancy sword from Silverton's mayor, and on a noble quest to save the town from the rampaging (and lusty) undead evil of Zanbar Bone, I head down to Port Blacksand to seek the help of the great wizard Nicodemus.

Having bluffed my way into the city, I lay out some serious coin on a skeleton key then almost immediately get peppered with arrows when calling the bluff of some street bandits. Nearly bleeding out I get bandaged up by a healer, who magics my sword off me as payment.

I figure if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, so I wander into someone's house and steal one of their magic brooches. Turns out the owner is a fire-breathing Lizardine, who I have to fight. I stumble out of the house with my bandages smoking and run into a couple of city guards who I have to fight to the death because I haven't got the right paperwork. Limping onward, I dumpster dive a pair of Elven boots, which make up for the sword I lost earlier.

The marketplace is lively - a bard sings me a song of fortune, I win a game of toss the cannonball, buy tons of kit because I'm feeling flush, have my fortune told by Madame Star, then drift on towards where she says Nicodemus lives. On the way I pop my head into an abandoned house and fight some snakes for my troubles.

Limping slightly, singed, bandaged and bleeding, I rock up to Nicodemus's grunge pad. He's like Gandalf on PCP - but once I get him to calm down he tells me a shopping list of all the things I'll need to defeat Zanbar Bone - including a fucking ridiculous tattoo right in the middle of my forehead. I'm not sure if he's serious or just shitting me, but I go off in search of four key items and a tattoo artist.

Wandering around town I play poison pill roulette with a death cultist, wander past some serious mental health issues in the low rent part of town and end up playing in a game of Bays' Ball. Somewhere around here I end up with a Potion of Mind Control, although I'm not entirely sure where I got that. I think Nicodemus might have spiked me, if I'm honest.

I head down towards the harbor whistling to myself - it's a pretty nice day, things have been looking up for once - I toss a coin to a beggar - then two wild dogs try to tear out my throat! Jesus - this city! Up ahead there's a pub and a pirate ship - and I sneak aboard the pirate ship. Don't ask me why! It would seem way more sensible to go to the pub, but ... like I said, I've been feeling pretty strange since having tea with Nicodemus. Anyway, I sneak aboard and filch one of my shopping list items off a pirate and get some information about where to get another required item made.

After a goblin ambush I get a bit vague about what happens next - although I feel really light-headed, and some things seem to be missing out of my pack, and my coin purse. Luckily, I have enough to pay for another item from my shopping list. After that - and, again, put this down to the special tea - I decide to climb down into the sewers. Normal people don't do this, but when you're an adventurer, and you drink special tea at the wizard's hovel, suddenly pirate ships and sewers are must-see destinations.

Down in the stink-tunnels I battle a giant centipede and several sewer rats before defeating and scalping a weird hag with my Potion of Mind Control. Beating up old homeless ladies in the sewer may seem mean, but she was pretty far gone in the head, and Nic said I needed some old lady hair to defeat the death metal rock lothario Zanbar Bone. Better her then me, basically.

A quick clamber back outside, pausing to chuck a throwing knife at a vagabond and I'm picking lotus flowers in the city gardens and being attacked by vicious topiary. A crowd has gathered. They whisper to each other and give me space. Someone calls the city guard - but the tea is really kicking in now and they look like fucking trolls, man! They threaten to lock me up but I bribe them and they quietly shove me out a side-gate and tell me to sleep it off in the woods.

I wake up the next morning after some hideous dream about fighting a giant snake, and there's some instructions next to me from Wizard Nic (how did they get here?) about how to make up a recipe to defeat Zanbar - but I have to guess the ingredients. I look in the mirror I think I found in the sewers and discover that, at some point yesterday, I did get that tattoo. Fuck! Was Nic even serious about that part? A fucking unicorn on my head! Jesus.

Anyway, I hike on over to Zanbar's tower, by which time it's dark again, and I nearly get killed by his enormous guard dogs. I sneak into his tower using that expensive key I got earlier, and start snooping around. Some garlic I filched off a pirate comes in handy in dissuading one of Zanbar's groupies, and I use a lantern from the market to set fire to an animated mummy. In the sarcophagus I find a piece of merch from that classic Nintendo 64 game - the Ring of the Golden Eye - you use it to see through illusions, like magic eye books and stuff.

I'm not entirely sure whether I've actually woken up at this point because things get pretty strange - there's a cat, but it turns into Zanbar Bone, and then there are dancing skeletons and I fire an arrow at Bone and then while he's down and twitching I rub some of that old homeless lady's hair in his face, and some other stuff, and he doesn't get up. I hitch a ride over to Silverton and I'm like "I killed Zanbar Bone! You're all free now! We're all free!" and people are crowding around and talking, and I think I hear sirens...

...can you hear sirens?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 02 February, 2022, 04:15:43 PM
City of Thieves

I've played this one once before. Either the FF Gods were on my side, or it's a very well-designed adventure, as I got all the way to the final confrontation with the big baddie, Zanbar Bone. Except that after doing everything right, the whole adventure ultimately comes down to a blind choice out of three. No clues. Just eeny-meeny-miney, and needless to say, I chose poorly - but this infuriating bit of typical Ian Livingstone game design came at the end of an otherwise superb adventure, so I'm rather looking forward to going back to tackling the Night King again...

The Playthrough
...and it isn't the best start. Skill 9, Stamina 17, Luck 8. Ouch. I'm really not sure how I came to be such a famed adventurer with those stats, and can only conclude that I'm actually a bit of a shyster, overfond of telling tall tales. Incredibly, the intro actually backs this up, saying how I love nothing more than having a whole tavern of adoring fans hanging on my every word. Never mind. It's unlikely that being a bit elastic with the truth over the years is ever going to come back and bite me on the - What's that? Mighty reputation? Moon Dogs? Zanbar Bone? Er, well, the thing is... Oh, you merely want me to enlist the services of Nicodemus the wizard. Well, of course, no problem. As long as I'm not going to have to go up against the Night King myself... Ahem.

So it's off to Port Blacksand, City of Thieves, and to be honest I get the feeling my character could be right at home, here. Once I've recruited Nicodemus, maybe I'll set up shop as one of the shady NPCs, bamboozling newcomers out of their gold with my flim-flam. You know, that doesn't sound too bad at all. I meander round the market and kill a mentally ill beggar and some snakes, but my heart's not in it. The plan is to breeze through the early sections of the city and give Nicodemus his quest as quickly as possible, so that I can get on with the serious business of earmarking a suitable tavern in which to set up shop. It will come as a surprise to exactly nobody that, when I finally track him down, he dodges out of the whole thing, landing yours truly right up to my neck in the brown stuff (no, wait - the sewer section doesn't come until much later, does it?).

(https://i.imgur.com/Rfmuphg.jpg)

I choose (grudgingly) to look upon this as a chance to make good on past misdemeanours. This time I'll come good. This time I'll actually be the hero that everyone thinks I am. No tall tales will be needed ever again. This time I really will beat the baddie, get the girl, and be someone who can bear to look at themselves in the mirror. Someone with a unicorn tattoo right in the middle of their face...

I go off down Candle Street, studying my shopping list, when I bump into a high stone wall blocking off the end of the street. There are growls and cheers coming from the other side, so I climb over to investigate. I find a group of goblin-like creatures playing a game that involves a stick, a ball, and a lot of running. These are Bays, playing their favourite game - Bays' Ball. Ba-Dum Tish. I join in and strike the winning hit, netting me all sorts of things apparently collected from down the back of the sofa - 8 gold pieces, a Potion of Mind Control, a silver flute, a piece of chalk, an eye-patch, and a bunch of bananas. I don't look this gift horse in the mouth, though - you never know what will come in handy.

As I arrive at the docks, my patron deity sends me a flash of inspiration, and I feel compelled to board one of the pirate galleons moored up at the wharf, suddenly convinced that black pearls are to be found on board... (aka I vaguely remember this bit from my last playthrough.) Failing a luck roll means having to fight pretty much every pirate on board - I won't be starting a career in cat-burglary anytime soon - but I emerge with one of the needed ingredients in my possession! There's not much else to do at the docks, although gossiping with the fishwives does give me a lead on one of the next ingredients...

It's off to the Silversmith next, who fashions me a Silver Arrow, and as I set off down Stable Street I spy a manhole cover in the ground. Thanks to my earlier hot tip, I'm straight down into what I'm 'disgusted to learn' is a sewer. What I thought would be beneath a manhole cover I'm really not sure. Three giant rats accost me, but they don't prove too difficult a foe, and then, round the corner, a 'hag' approaches. I mean, maybe she really is an evil spellcaster and not just a homeless old woman who's been seriously let down by Port Blacksand's lack of social care, but I never really find out. She certainly starts to chant something horrible at me, but before the curse can take effect (or otherwise), I've used the Potion of Mind Control to knock her out and I'm sawing off a hank of her hair. I'm obviously no fan of the mentally ill - which is an... er, interesting thing to learn about your character - as rather than just, I dunno, let her go, I deliberately elect to throw her into the sewage. Wow. Port Blacksand really is the place for me to put down roots.

But first I have to finish collecting the ingredients to defeat Zanbar Bone. With Hag's Hair in the bag, I'm wending my merry way north up Stable Street when three bully boys block my path, demanding money with menaces. I fancy I'm getting quite good at this hero business, now (look, nobody ever has to know what went down in the sewer, do they?) so I tell them where to go. One of them thinks I may have a point. Unluckily for them, I also have the rest of the sword to go with it...

Bravado's all very well, but it doesn't actually win fights. These boys give me a right pasting, the first serious tussle I've had in the city, and it's a somewhat woozy and bloodied adventurer who eventually continues up Stable Street. One house stands out among the sandstone terraces - it's made of white-painted brick, and has a door with a serpent's head carved on it. The room inside is sparse, and silk curtains obscure an archway on the far wall. From behind the curtain, a woman's voice asks who it is. Perhaps suffering some blood loss, I fumble and stutter a bit, unsure why I even came in, and the woman gets increasingly annoyed until suddenly...

(https://i.imgur.com/PpyAeSE.png)

Well what the bloody hell is this, now? Apparently, she's a Serpent Queen, and she's not had her lunch. It gets worse. In my hubris, I've completely forgotten to heal myself after tangling with the vagabonds, blundering into this completely unnecessary encounter on a measly five stamina. I'm given the option to flee after four combat rounds, but I don't even make it that long.

Ah, well. With my stats, I was probably never going to get as far as Zanbar Bone, anyway. Sorry, Owen Carralif. Sorry, Silvertown. You bet on the wrong horse...

The Verdict
Huge fun, even if I made a fairly woeful showing of it. Port Blacksand is rightly trumpeted as probably the best-realised location in the whole FF series - for once it doesn't feel as though it sprang into existence purely for your adventure, but has an existence of its own, independent of the page. Little touches like all the street names really give it an aged, lived-in feel. The art, by Ian McCaig, is a huge step up from previous books - it has a real sense of humour and character to it that lifts the whole adventure.

The book has some typical Sir Ian Livingstone bad game design later on, like that final blind choice, and I seem to remember the difficulty ramps up exponentially - but as I never really got to those sections this time out, it didn't bother me too much!

Sir Ian's best yet, as well as the best FF overall (so far). 8 combat dice out of 10.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 February, 2022, 10:23:06 AM
Some great playthroughs here and look at that Ian McCaig art! The art in this book is just incredible and so evocative. That Serpent Queen picture is just mental and so full of energy with her striking out of the drapes and cushions. Also, as someone who has been bitten by snakes a lot, that's basically what you see except with less faux-sexy eyelashes.
The Lizardine and the two trolls are two images from this one I especially remember too.

I haven't really had time to play Starship Traveller, and I know I hate it, so I think I'll skip to City of Thieves too as I know it's a bona fide classic and I'm really excited to give it a play.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 03 February, 2022, 10:37:21 AM
Some great playthroughs here and look at that Ian McCaig art! The art in this book is just incredible and so evocative. That Serpent Queen picture is just mental and so full of energy with her striking out of the drapes and cushions. Also, as someone who has been bitten by snakes a lot, that's basically what you see except with less faux-sexy eyelashes.

I said that the image of the Cat-woman in Forest of Doom made me feel strangely uncomfortable; this time the text explicitly tells you that the Serpent Queen makes you feel the same way!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 February, 2022, 10:42:39 AM
Stupid sexy snake lady.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 February, 2022, 03:20:22 PM
I was all geared up for City of Thieves today, but the previous book had been sitting unread on my desk for weeks so, pricked by guilt I decided to give it a try and venture forth into the unknown as a STARSHIP TRAVELLER.

Now... I did start doing a proper write up for this, but when I read it back it was pretty boring. Negotiated with some aliens, flew off. Landed on a planet, captured by androids, escaped. Landed on another planet, cured some aliens, flew off. Landed on a planet, brought a poisonous spore aboard, purged it, flew off and so on. I went through a chunk of the book not rolling any dice at all. The maze bit is awful - I managed to get through it by remembering which paragraphs I'd already turned to, as it just goes round in circles. I had one single combat and that could have been easily avoided, but I really wanted to fight the giant robot on the cover (it battered me, until I remembered that I had a skill-boosting android helmet).

It's not a great FF book. The art is mostly flat and lifeless, especially when you compare it to the twisted stuff in Forest and Doom and the atmospheric masterworks in City of Thieves. The mutitude of NPCs you generate at the start serve little purpose, as does the various types of combat. I didn't fire my ships weapons once - although in fairness I avoided any other spaceships after my early negotiations with the reptillian Ganzigs led to them fitting my ship with some kind of gizmo that meant I'd never be able to fight them, which seemed like something that woud come up.
Ultimately it's pretty tedious - the various planets don't really have much in the way of interest, and the aliens are pretty oridnary - and very, very easy. Worst of the lot to date, sadly.

Next up - Zanbar Bone, I'm coming for you!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 16 February, 2022, 05:28:14 PM
It's time for the CITY OF THIEVES

What a book this is. Depressingly I have the Wizard version with the rubbish cover (although the original illustrations) so after I hit up Port Blacksand I'm off to ebay. But first, the Night Prince and his daughter demanding, Moon-dog unleashing antics must end.

Arriving at this wretched hive of scum and villainy I blag my way in and my first stop is a locksmith where I acquire a skeleton key - it seems apt for a city of thieves, after all. Minutes later I'm ambushed by bandits. A bloody wreck, I crawl up the street and accept the aid of a kindly healer - I'm back to my best, but in return I have to hand over my fine sword.
Continuing up the street I find a house with a welcome sign - I go in. I'm starting to think this adventurer version of me is a bit of a good natured dope, so instead of looting the contents I pop upstairs and chat to the beautifully illustrated Lizardine within who sells me a beautiful brooch with healing properties. I'm feeling badass! Off I go and here's some guards asking to see my papers. The guy on the gate told me I needed one of those didn't he? Erm....
Luckily the guards are weak, so I kill them, steal their gold, bread and keys, hide the bodies in an alleyway and head off trying not to look bloodstained. Why, here's some boots! Too naïve to fear any ill of them, I pop them on and immediately feel better for it.
Happy now I go to the market where my pocket is picked. I'm not too flush for cash now, so I decide against buying any food or paying the bard, although I linger for a while enjoying the tunes and the smells of the market. I win some gold on the cannonball game, buy some rope (because that'll never not come in handy) and a throwing knife and have my fortune read. Then I pop into an abandoned house to keep out of the rain only to find it infested with snakes.
Wiping snake blood from my (inferior) sword blade, I finally arrive at Nicodemus's bridge and get the shopping list to enable me to defeat Zanbar Bone in a complicated way (presumably when he sees me with a unicorn / sun tattoo he'll be helpless with laughter and I can finish him off)
Harbour Street seems a good bet as I know the pirates have pearls, so I head there. A narrow encounter with the carriage of Lord Azzur himself leaves me smarting, but I sneak aboard the pirate ship and a deft bit of thievery later the pearls are mine! I then surprise the captain in his bath (ooer) and he reveals where I can get a silver arrow. A bit red-faced from embarrassment, I leg it.
Heading onto Clog Street where I know I can find a silversmith, I see a child in trouble and my kindly nature leads me to stop to help him only to find this is a sour goblin thief intent on cutting my throat. Luckily goblins are still crap, so I dispatch him and find the silversmiths. The silver arrow is mine!
Heading down stable street I find a manhole cover. Something tells me Dark Jimbo passed this way and he found it worth going down into... the sewer. Nice. I dispatch some rats but next up is a hideous hag who blasts me with terrible illusions of my own death. Screaming wildy and waving my sword like a madman I'm lucky enough to clock her with the blade, breaking the spell, and soon I'm cutting the hair from her lifeless body. I don't feel too bad about this... she started it.
Relieved to be out of the sewer, I use my throwing knife to see off some vagabonds and enter a strange serpent marked house. The pleasant voice of a lady comes from within but wait... is that blood on the drapes? Do I see a bloodtained boot in the corner? Could it be... Dark Jimbo's boot..? Gorge rising, I leg it before I too meet his snakey fate.
Continuing on I'm accosted by an escaped prisoner. Obviously I agree to help, but my sword (unsurprisingly, although I am surprised) cannot cut his chains and when the guards arrive I am forced to hide in a water barrel to escape. I spend the last of my gold to get into the public gardens, fight the hedge and escape with the lotus flower. Shopping list complete! Next up is the tattooist: I'm broke, but luckily I can pawn my magic brooch for the funds to get myself tattooed up. Now I look like a proper berk.
By now I'm still broke and pretty beat up, so I decide to dodge some trolls by scaling the city walls. I drop my shield, but the guards are after me in force now. For a moment I stand on the wall, gripped with panic - that drop looks insurmountable - but wait - climbing rope! Yes! With a sigh of relief I'm over the wall and out of the city of thieves!
Now it's off to Zanbar Bone's residence. As I approach the Night Prince's stinking tower I hear howls and my blood freezes. It's the terrible Moon Dogs! I draw my sword and - well - I get torn to bits. These dogs are BRUTAL. My adventure ends there, reduced to chum by the hounds of hell...

Like my fellow adventurers say, this was brilliant. The city setting is incredibly well realised - it feels more lived in than the mazes, forests and dungeons we've had before, and so well rendered by the illustrations - it's my favourite location so far in FF. I'm a fan of the intro, too - there's a nice bit of background there that gets you into the story straight away.
Definitely the best book yet in my opinion and one I'd like to give another go at - although the switch from three reagents to two sounds like an unsatisfyingly arbitrary way to kill off players at the end, unless there's a clue I missed to that or something later in the tower. I seem to remember the tower is pretty hard, although the city section didn't feel too bad for auto-deaths, although I did nearly cop it at the hag where a failed luck roll would have done for me.
Great book though, best one yet.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 18 February, 2022, 12:27:54 AM
Great write-up!

So are we going to try and win this book, or move on to Deathtrap Dungeon?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 18 February, 2022, 12:14:48 PM
Cheers, it was a bit of an essay, but fun!
I'd really like to win this one and I'm going to give it another go, but with maxed stats this time. However I also cannot wait to get onto Deathtrap Dungeon.
Can't imagine any of us is winning that on a first attempt..
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 18 February, 2022, 07:58:38 PM
This is the one (non-Sorcery!) book that I've been looking forward to most, so I definitely want a good go at winning it. 

First attempt we got killed by the lizardy personage upstairs, so didn't even get to the market place, so here's hoping luck (or Luck) is on our side for future attempts.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 18 February, 2022, 08:15:56 PM
My scariest fight was with the Moon Dogs - it was a close run thing.
: Re: Gamebooks
: MumboJimbo 19 February, 2022, 09:01:50 AM
I had a spooky Fighting Fantasy moment a few weeks ago.

I happened to mention to my son as we were watching TV that I’d been watching a few YouTube video on Fighting Fantasy books (when he was a nipper 10 years ago we used to play Deathtrap Dungeon together). He replied, that’s weird as he also had been watching videos on it too! Then we got reminiscing about Deathtrap Dungeon. At the time we were watching The Apprentice, and it showed a preview of next week’s episode, and who should be on it, but Sir Ian Livingstone himself!

Spooky!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 19 February, 2022, 11:49:32 AM
Wait til you find Steve Jackson hiding under your bed.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 20 February, 2022, 07:33:58 PM
Okay, so I decided not to wait and moved on to play Deathtrap Dungeon.

I remember this being a particularly hard adventure, since it's one of Ian Livingstone's "find the exact route or fail" books, and a particularly hard example at that. But I still didn't expect to get killed quite so quickly! This must have been my briefest ever play through of any book.

I started with reasonable scores, and opened the mystery box inside the entrance no I'm not going to tell you what is inside. At the first junction I followed three sets of footsteps, and at the next junction I followed the majority again. I ignored a bell, figuring it must be a trap. I killed two hobgoblins (what is the difference between hobgoblins and regular goblins anyway?) and won a vial of acid. I was then injured by a lame trap involving some wooden poles (boring!).

Then I discovered a room with a Bhudda-type idol in it, with emeralds for eyes. I definitely need those! As I climbed it, I was asked if I had any rope, and of course I didn't, which implies that I had already gone the wrong way, since I'm presumably supposed to have some! I successfully tested my luck and made it to the top, where I was asked to choose which eye to prise out first. My choice triggered a trap, and I had to fight two flying monsters, with a severe skill penalty because I was clinging to the idol. Winning the fight, I collected an emerald, and then I assumed that it must be safe to get the other emerald eye since I had already triggered a trap, so this one must be fine...

Nope! I turned to a sudden death paragraph in which a jet of poisonous gas hit me full in the face and killed me, with no opportunity to test my luck or anything! Damn!

: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 February, 2022, 09:45:03 AM
Well that's brutal. The Dungeon claims it's first victim... We should keep a tally of these and see how many times we collectively die before one of us cracks it.
I'm going to have another crack at CoT and then I'll give DD a try.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 23 February, 2022, 05:20:34 PM
Finally wrapped up City of Thieves but only after I basically skipped the Moon Dog fight. It's horrible!

Zanbar Bone's tower is a bit of a change of pace, being full of vampires and stuff, and the confrontation with the Night Prince himself involves a good dose of luck. It plays heavily into his supernatural powers and almost feels like another book, but not in a bad way.
Awesome gamebook. I'll be tackling Deathtrap Dungeon tomorrow!
: Re: Gamebooks
: SmallBlueThing(Reborn) 23 February, 2022, 06:04:15 PM
All this talk of gamebooks has led to me ordering a copy of House of Hell, as well as two modern 'choose your own adventure' books by Victoria Hancox: Nightshirt and The Alchemist's Folly. Looking forward to them, and once again you bastards are responsible for me spending too much money.

SBT
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 23 February, 2022, 06:56:33 PM
Attempted Deathtrap Dungeon this weekend gone. My playthrough turned out to be almost exactly the same as Richard's, except that the stuffed flamingoes killed me before the poison gas could. Hardly the stuff great travelogues are made of... I'll try again soon.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 24 February, 2022, 10:28:34 AM
I've had my first crack at Deathtrap Dungeon and was killed by the same poisonous gas as Richard. That's all three of us so far killed in the same room. Not sure there's any way to know about the gas without making that mistake.
I took a slightly different route to get there, following the single set of footprints. That turned out to be the first of the other entrants, who I found dead.. I'm sure I remember reading that the true path requires passing all the other trialists so I'll take the same route next time, but watch what I stick my sword in as I had an unpleasant encounter with a big puffball. I did however have the rope, which enabled me to dodge the stuffed flamingo things.

How good is the Ian McCaig art is this book?

All this talk of gamebooks has led to me ordering a copy of House of Hell, as well as two modern 'choose your own adventure' books by Victoria Hancox: Nightshirt and The Alchemist's Folly. Looking forward to them, and once again you bastards are responsible for me spending too much money.

Nice to see you chose an easy FF book!
Not heard of those Hancox books but they look interesting, please let us know what they're like!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 24 February, 2022, 02:50:20 PM
Second attempt: took the same route, got about 3 paragraphs on from the idol and ended up drowning in a trapped room. I was very unlucky here with the dice, but wow, Baron Sukumvit is a dick!
For my third attempt, same route, I acquired some treasures (a ring, jewelled dagger) and defeated some insect-themed monsters but was killed again this time by a trapped mirror.
Neither of these warranted a cool writeup really. Score is now Dungeon 3, Boots 0.

This book is brutal. Both the idol trap and the mirror have no real warning or hint to help you avoid them - it's basically trial and error and neither were traps I remembered to avoid from my previous youthful playthroughs. A quick examination of an alternate path after i died also lead to an auto-death paragraph, so I basically hit a point where going West was death regardless.
I realise this makes a lot of sense for a place called 'Deathtrap Dungeon' where the bulk of entrants are not expected to survive, but what a step up in difficulty!
I've started mapping the place out for another run.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 24 February, 2022, 02:56:04 PM
Yeah, the game design on CoT is so good it felt like Sir Ian was really learning from past efforts (if you ignore Zanbar Bone's tower); but DTD suddenly takes us back to Firetop Mountain-levels of dickery (except that it's even worse!)

I really, really hate 'One True Path' game design - but I suppose that, back in the 80s, without internet and with only four channels on telly, this kind of value-for-money was what you wanted from a book you'd spent all your pocket money on.

: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 24 February, 2022, 07:16:35 PM
I completely agree; I especially dislike the ones where you don't find out you have followed the wrong path until you get to almost the very end (which is most or all of them). I much prefer a more flexible approach. But at least there is a plot-based reason for the one true path in this book.

And this book is also redeemed by some of the great monsters it has, like the Bloodbeast on the original cover.
: Re: Gamebooks
: SmallBlueThing(Reborn) 24 February, 2022, 09:15:23 PM
Well, I've been playing Nightshift for an hour and have died three times. It's very good- surprisingly atmospheric, and unreliant on dice or magic wands/ complicated combat maneuvers. Very enjoyable so far, but that's enough for tonight.

SBT
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 25 February, 2022, 10:24:10 AM
I will check out Nightshift, cheers SBT!

On Deathtrap Dungeon / 'one true path' - I agree, yet I'm finding DD to be a lot of fun. I'm not sure how much of this is nostalgia - I suspect if I picked up a new book written in this way I'd get frustrated pretty quick - but because it's so horrifically unfair in places it feels like the only correct way to play this game is to play it over and over, dying again and again and fully exploring the place until you know all it's perils and pitfalls and can find the way through. It helps that the setting and the art are really good.

It'll be interesting to see how I feel about books like House of Hell which I recall being excruciatingly difficult but I didn't own as a kid so have less nostalgic affection for. For now I'm doing a composite playthrough writeup of DD.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 25 February, 2022, 12:22:22 PM
All this talk of gamebooks has led to me ordering a copy of House of Hell, as well as two modern 'choose your own adventure' books by Victoria Hancox: Nightshirt and The Alchemist's Folly. Looking forward to them, and once again you bastards are responsible for me spending too much money.

SBT


I think that's Nightshift, not Nightshirt - a google search led me to an amazon ladies nightwear page :-)


So it looks like Nightshift is a gamebook aimed at adults?  There was a spate of them a few years back, but they were pretty primitive - they were books that children wouldn't have found challenging, but with a few swear words or drink and drug references.  Thankfully that trend appears to have died.
: Re: Gamebooks
: SmallBlueThing(Reborn) 25 February, 2022, 04:53:35 PM
Yes, that was my phone playing silly buggers and I didn't realise til much later. And yeah, very much adult-oriented, but so far without any of the knuckle-biting embarrassment that might be feared. No "if you choose to squeeze her bum go to 234, otherwise caress her boobies first on page 45". I'm finding it quite difficult but I like the general idea- there is a plot to uncover and a number of things to learn in order to succeed. As one of the creatures says "you can't just guess here, you have to learn". Though I have now walked past my own skeleton on a staircase three times, which is annoying.

Fun though.

SBT
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 27 February, 2022, 06:58:43 PM
Deathtrap Dungeon (again)

This time I followed Barrington Boots and went east. This is definitely the right way to go, because you can collect the rope, which makes it easier to climb up the idol and get the emerald.

My opening scores were 10 Skill, 16 Stamina and 9 Luck. I was killed by the flying monsters that protect the idol, so that is the second time I have died in that room, and four deaths of forum members in that room in this thread!

So for my third attempt I cheated a little and awarded myself maximum scores: 12, 24 and 12. This turned out to be a wise move, because towards the end of the book you have to face a succession of opponents with Skills of 11 or 12, which makes winning with a lower Skill practically impossible. Unless you are very lucky with your opening rolls, you have to cheat!

I take the same route as before, easily kill the flying thingies, and get the emerald. After a couple of bits not really worth describing, I come to a junction where I can turn east or west, with absolutely no information about these options at all. This is very irritating, as I presumably now have a 50% chance of failing based on a random guess. FFS!

I choose East as that was the right choice last time, and shortly afterwards I lose my shield, incurring the loss of 1 Skill point. I meet a mad bloke who turns people into stone, including one of my rival contestants. However I survive that encounter and get my lost Skill point back.

Later on I avoid a sudden death paragraph by choosing not to eat some wild mushrooms, kill a couple of goblins,, and come across another unfair junction like the last one. This book is just evil! I head north, enter an iron pipe, and find a sapphire and an iron key. I must be on the right path, as you need the sapphire!

I catch up with another contestant, one of the barbarians (I found the corpse of the other barbarian on the way to the room with the emerald, so that's half of my opponents accounted for). We team up, climb down a pit to a lower level, and I find a book with some important information about the Bloodbeast which will come in handy later. I also find a magic potion which will help me detect traps. Because of these lucky finds, I decide to ignore the next magical artifact I find on a troll I have just slain, as it's bound to be some sort of cursed item or something.

We hurry through a sinister cavern without waiting to find out what is in there, and meet a dick of a dwarf. I mean, what this dwarf lacks in stature he more than makes up for in dickishness. But the book makes it pretty obvious that there will be some penalty for trying to kill him, so I play along with his stupid antics, solve his puzzles, and end up having to fight the barbarian to the death. He's a tough opponent.

Leaving the dwarf, I come to another unfair junction. I head West and find a diamond -- which turns out to be fake, after I have been stung by some giants insects that were guarding it. I go back to the junction and head North, find a pearl (which I know will be of no use, so I now suspect that I'm going the wrong way), and after some bits I will skip I finally meet the Bloodbeast. It's easy enough to get past it, thanks to the book I read earlier, but next I have to fight a Manticore with Skill 11. I recently took the potion of fortune, so I use several of my 13 Luck points to get through this battle.

This gets me to the final encounter: a door which can only be unlocked with three jewels: an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. But I only have two of these, so I spend the rest of my life enslaved in Deathtrap Dungeon...

Third playthrough

Rather than start again, I just go back to the stingy insects (easy to find since there is an illustration of them) and carry on from there, this time continuing West instead of North, since I'm sure that's where I went wrong last time. But I can't remember what my scores were at that point, so now I'm full-on cheating and just reading the book without troubling with dice rolls.

I meet a friendly prisoner of the dungeon Trialmasters, who tells me where I can find a magic doppelganger potion, which I pick up not long later. I also find another contestant, the elf girl, who I try to rescue from a big snake but she dies anyway. I avoid a trap, thanks to that magic potion I drank earlier, and then find the troglodyte colony. I get past them by drinking the Doppelganger potion, escape over a bridge, and use the iron key to open a door and get away.

The next person I meet is a rather suspicious guy who offers to raise me to the level above in a basket on a rope. I don't trust him, so I walk on and reach the room with the Bloodbeast. I still haven't found the diamond, so I've failed again!

Fourth playthrough

I must have been supposed to trust the guy with the basket. I re-start from that point, go up in the basket, and it looks like I was right not to trust him -- it's a trap, but I have to go that way to complete the adventure, so I am rewarded for having poor judgement -- thanks Ian Livingstone! I talk to my captor until I get a chance to knock her over the head when she's distracted. (She's a troll and the sister of Sourbelly the city guard in City of Thieves, possibly the first time an FF book has referenced a character from an earlier book.)

The next encounter is a giant Satanus-like dinosaur with a Skill of 12! After that is the Ninja, the last of my rivals in the Trial of Champions. He has a Skill of 11. He has the diamond! So now I have finally found the correct route through the dungeon, and as I said earlier, it's hardly fair on players with low Initial scores. After the dinosaur and the ninja are the Bloodbeast and the Manticore, and so the survival prospects for a player who is not cheating are frankly very slim indeed.

Back at the exit with the three jewels, I luckily guess the combination on the first try and turn to 400. Looking back at the alternative combinations I could have chosen, they all have severe penalties in lost Stamina points. Livingstone really went out of his way to be a fucker with this one! It must be one of the hardest books in the entire series.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 28 February, 2022, 01:21:32 PM
Awesome writeup Richard, very much enjoyed reading it!

Here's my composite playthrough.

Like I said before I think the book is designed to be played dozens of times to learn the various dos and don'ts of the place. Because I wanted to wrap up the book in one sitting, I also cheated here and gave myself maximum stats and mapped as I went along, meaning I didn't skip any doors or otherwise and took more chances than I might with a 'legit' attempt. If I died, I noted it and continued as though I was trapped in some kind of horrible Groundhog Day scenario.


Following my previous journey I take the east path initially, following the footprints of who I now know to be my fellow contestant the Barbarian. I note again his sad fate, collect the emerald, a ring, the dagger and the rope. At the next junction, with west bringing death, I set off east.
My first action on that path is to fall into a pit, where despite my injuries I recover a ruby, no doubt dropped by some other unfortunate. Continuing east, I discover the room of statues where the fate of the knight is evident: turned to stone. The curator of the statue garden will doom me to the same fate should I fail to answer his riddle, but luckily this is an easy one (although I remember it catching me out as a kid) and the reward is a boost to all three of my stats which is fairly irrelevant and I've maxed them out -  which is good as I am soon locked in battle with an animated skeleton and shortly after some goblins, all of which fall quickly to my blade. In between this combats I suffer my first auto-death paragraph deaths of the weekend, firstly by eating some mushrooms and secondly by knocking politely on a door.
After dispatching the goblins and stealing their climbing equipment I choose to go north - west has consistently led to death - and free a poor soul from his prison: he reveals he is a former contestant who was condemed to servitude down here. I'm not really sure what this guy is going to do once I let him go - the place is riddled with traps and he only has one hand on weapons, so I'm pretty sure he isn't getting out - but it's a small, good deed in a place of horror. Not long after I recover the sapphire from a manky pipe. I'm on the same (correct) track as Richard, so I was right to avoid the western path earlier.
Steeping over some fallen orcs I come face to face with the third of the other contestants - the second barbarian, Throm. I've decided I'm playing the same helpful character as I did in CoT (I'm pretty sure CoT, DD and Lizard King are a loose a trilogy) so her and I decide to join forces and work together against to survive the dungeon. In all honesty we'd be mad not to - the chances of getting to the end are infinitesimal given the number of traps here. I like Throm - he's a quiet, confident sort, superstitious, doesn't like books but doesn't abandon me when I pass out using a magic ring (against his advice, I might add), and his reaction to a mouse is lovely.
The two of us triumph in an extremely vicious battle against some trolls and survive a falling ceiling before we encounter the Trialmaster. As Richard says, this guy is a dick. I don't want to leave Throm, so we rush him, which obviously doesn't work, and I end up having to do his poxy trials anyway, most of which are very unfair. I gamble that a minotaur will be a tougher opponent than a scorpion which is a huge error, so on my respawn I defeat the minotaur and obviously wind up fighting my friend Throm. He is a tough opponent and weeping, I am forced to kill him. I take my revenge on the dwarf, but my heart is heavy as I push on alone. By my count fully half of the contestants are now dead.

North has served me well so far so I avoid the west path, acquire the pearl, get punched by a door, drink some cursed water and buy some stilts. I dodge a couple of traps and before long I am facing the iconic, repulsive Bloodbeast. Having swotted up on the Bloodbeast before I only need to win two rounds of combat - hurray! But it's got SKILL 12 - wtf. I'm knackered from fighting Throm, and it finishes me off. This is my second combat death and 9th death so far. I beat at second attempt and have to fight the manticore - this is another horrific battle, but I get through it on luck alone only to find I don't have a diamond and its game over for me, sentenced to the same fate as the guy I rescued earlier, which is a nice touch.

Restarting, I can see from my map I've missed a few portions of the dungeon but I suspect I should have turned West after the dwarf. I do that, get badly stung for a fake diamond and help another poor soul in the dungeon who gives me a hint about a room to the north. This is followed by another north / west junction and based on the hint I go north.
At this point the info I've gathered starts to pay off as I acquire the doppelganger potion and, remembering the spirit girls poem, forge the submerged tunnel before finding my 4th rival - the elf - battling a giant snake. It's too late for her sadly, and she gives me some useless advice, but I do take her stuff. Further on I find evidence that one of my competitors is still ahead of me - and they may have the diamond I'm searching for.
Dodging Troglodytes I encounter a suspicious man: not trusting him puts me back onto the wrong path so I swap him some of the elf's stuff to lower me down, blag Ivy, fight some dogs and ext up is the pit fiend, another vile battle which I'm able to circumvent by using a rope, grapple and the charm from the fallen elf.
The best trap ever is up next - a sign saying no weapons and armour beyond this point. I ignore it and before long I'm locked in combat with the final remaining contestant: the ninja. So 80s! He's another absolutely horrible battle, and he beats me. By this point I'm tired, so I 'win' the fight. The diamond (and his healing salve and rice) are mine!
The path is now linear: I 'win the Bloodbeast and Manticore battles only to find there's a final challenge from the trialmaster: I have to set the gems in the correct order. It's almost totally random, and the first time I try this it actually kills me despite my not doing the last three fights. A second time around I nail it. Even then the trailmaster tries to finish me off and there's a final trap waiting, but I stagger free into the sunlight to be crowned the champion.

Death tally:

Gassed at poison idol and fell to own death
Drowned in trapped room
Killed by mirror trap
Eaten by rock grub in tunnel
Exploded by mushrooms
Speared by Goblins
Fell to death from slimy pipe
Poisoned by giant scorpion
Killed by Bloodbeast
Enslaved by the trialmaster (no diamond)
Shot by Troglodytes (an error, I did have the key after all!)
Killed by ninja
Blown up by gem door puzzle

Final score: DUNGEON 13 BOOTS 1

What to say about this book? First off it's hugely enjoyable: atmospheric, beautifully illustrated and I'm a big fan of the evidence of the previous contestants - bodies, the missing diamond - and other little nods to continuity. On the negative side it is SO HARD. Although there's a couple of Skill boosts, the book does state that you can't go over your initial values so to complete this without maximum skill would mean defeating the Bloodbeast, the Ninja and the Manticore in quick succession - to say nothing of the Throm and troll fights earlier, and potentially the pit fiend too (getting the grapple requires a big stamina loss, and it's possible to lose the rope at the idol) - which is very unlikely. Even then I'm not sure I could have won all three fights on random dice rolls and also completed the door puzzle without prior knowledge. There's also a LOT of auto deaths and, having mapped it, several dead ends and incorrect paths that can leave you missing crucial items.
It's been a lot of fun, but it feels like the book really isn't one to beat without a lot of trial and error. That said I've had loads of fun playing it. Thankfully the next book up I seem to remember being an easy one but this has been the toughest to date and it really does feel like being trapped in an unfair contest rigged to kill you rather than telling a story.
A last note on the art - it's fantastic. I especially like the shots of the other contestants - the moody image of Throm, the desperate image of the elf and the boa - but his environments are incredible and really set the scene. A quick internet skim tells me this is the last book Iain McCaig did interior illustrations for which is a huge shame as the last two books have been a real highlight.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 01 March, 2022, 02:15:48 PM
That's a great summary, I agree with all of that.
I wonder why Ian McCaig didn't do any more?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 07 March, 2022, 03:32:37 PM
Thanks Richard. I'm not sure about Iain McCaig but it's a real shame. I think the last thing he did for the regular FF series was the cover for Lizard King (which is way better than the interior image of the Lizard King!)

Speaking of Island of the Lizard King, I'll probably have a crack at it this week but I don't want to get ahead of everyone.
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 07 March, 2022, 03:36:35 PM
I had a dream I was in Trial of Champions last night, though it was quite different from the book - kind of like that old Gladiators TV show but with mythical beasts to fight on the way, a baying crowd and lots of Roman-style pomp and splendour.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 07 March, 2022, 03:38:18 PM
I had a dream I was in Trial of Champions last night, though it was quite different from the book - kind of like that old Gladiators TV show but with mythical beasts to fight on the way, a baying crowd and lots of Roman-style pomp and splendour.

Did you win?
And was Jet in it?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 07 March, 2022, 03:42:42 PM
Whilst looking for info on Iain McCaig I discovered that Deathtrap Dungeon has 31 'instant death' paragraphs.
By comparison (from a list compiled by someone who isn't me):

Warlock has 6, 3 of which are incorrect combinations of keys to the chest.
Citadel of Chaos has 19
Forest of Doom 3
Starship Traveller 13
City of Thieves 10
Lizard King 10
Scorpion Swamp 20
Caverns of the Snow Witch 24.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 07 March, 2022, 04:50:17 PM
Beneath Nightmare Castle has about 50!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 07 March, 2022, 06:16:46 PM
47, apparently: http://ffreviewermalthusd.blogspot.com/2014/07/25-beneath-nightmare-castle.html
: Re: Gamebooks
: JayzusB.Christ 08 March, 2022, 04:21:53 PM
I had a dream I was in Trial of Champions last night, though it was quite different from the book - kind of like that old Gladiators TV show but with mythical beasts to fight on the way, a baying crowd and lots of Roman-style pomp and splendour.

Did you win?
And was Jet in it?

I woke up before I had a proper run at it, but I was feeling proper heroic while I was getting ready and the crowd were going mental.   

Jet. My grud, she was the only reason my teenage self watched Gladiators.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 March, 2022, 10:22:37 AM
47, apparently: http://ffreviewermalthusd.blogspot.com/2014/07/25-beneath-nightmare-castle.html

I've never played BNC but I really want to. I've picked up a copy for this very thread, I hope we get to it.

Jet. My grud, she was the only reason my teenage self watched Gladiators.
You are not the only one this applies to, JBC!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 14 March, 2022, 07:44:15 PM
caching problem, move along, move along
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 15 March, 2022, 11:27:48 AM
Whilst waiting to start Island of the Lizard King I've been playing Nightshift (not Nightshirt) as recommended by SBT upthread. It's quite a different experience to FF and a lot trickier - I like the emphasis on puzzles rather than combat / shopping lists of items, and it's an atmospheric experience. It is bloody hard though. I've been getting lost a lot, so I've ended up downloading the map from the authors website and I'm going to start using that to take notes.

I'm excited to get onto IotLK though as it's another one I could actually complete as a kid - I think it's fairly linear and whilst you need some items to win it, they make the final fight easier rather than kill you outright if you don't have them. I may be misremembering.
One thing I'm not misremembering is the Lizard King himself looking badass on the cover looking what can best be described as 'thicc' in the interior art..
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 16 March, 2022, 04:05:45 PM
I'm excited to get onto IotLK though as it's another one I could actually complete as a kid - I think it's fairly linear and whilst you need some items to win it, they make the final fight easier rather than kill you outright if you don't have them. I may be misremembering.

WFH today and playing it in quiet moments. This book is very combat heavy and there's a lot of nasty (Skill 9+) fights - I got killed by the very first one I had in the book. Skill to maximum for this one, I think!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 18 March, 2022, 12:06:08 PM
I've finished Lizard King now. I did write it up but I won't post it here yet in case people are still playing Deathtrap Dungeon / don't want spoilers on IotLK / don't want to read another wall of FF-gamebook text.

It's a really hard book, and not in the way DD is where the place is full of lethal traps and then if you don't have all the stuff at the end you die: it's stuffed full of unrelentingly tough fights with Skill 10 or above. Skill 10 or more is pretty essential and even then I was killed a few times just through attrition until I learned how to avoid a couple of them. The path through the book is actually reasonably straightforward and if you can handle the fights then you can probably finish the book.
The final fight can be made significantly easier to the point of pushover with a couple of items, one of which I think is impossible to miss (although you can just not pick it up) and whilst anticlimatic is quite a nice touch although it does lead to the Lizard King himself being a bit of a joke, especially given how derpy he looks in the picture.

I really liked the feel of the book though with the environments changing as you navigate the island and the various hazards feel thematic to each environment. I also liked the story it tells - rather than just being a random thug out killing and looting in the hope of a prize like Warlock and FoD, here you are on a proper errand of mercy to free the prisoners and avenge poor old Mungo (I don't think this is a spoiler given how any adventuring buddies usually wind up in FF books)
The interior art is from Alan Langford who I feel is one of the 'classic' FF artists and draws some lovely creatures although as mentioned his Lizard King is unfortunately not scary or cool at all especially when compared with the one on the cover.
Probably the third best one I've played so far (after CoT and DD).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 30 March, 2022, 03:49:31 PM
Whilst waiting to start Island of the Lizard King I've been playing Nightshift (not Nightshirt) as recommended by SBT upthread. It's quite a different experience to FF and a lot trickier - I like the emphasis on puzzles rather than combat / shopping lists of items, and it's an atmospheric experience. It is bloody hard though. I've been getting lost a lot, so I've ended up downloading the map from the authors website and I'm going to start using that to take notes.

Much easier with a map and notes - I'm in the victorian hospital now but this place is huge. It's definitely a book with a lot of puzzles and I like that. It's also very much a horror work - some pretty grotesque stuff in here. The cat is useful though!

I'm going to finish this and then play Scorpion Swamp.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 31 March, 2022, 10:14:43 AM
I finished Nightshift yesterday. Would recommend to anyone who likes horror and puzzles and I'd definitely read another book by the author.
: Re: Gamebooks
: SmallBlueThing(Reborn) 31 March, 2022, 02:51:12 PM
I finished Nightshift yesterday. Would recommend to anyone who likes horror and puzzles and I'd definitely read another book by the author.

Haha! You've had more luck than me! I've not had much time to go through it, but after six attempts I was prepared to throw it against the wall and shoot it. But yes, highly recommended if you have patience. I've got the next one as well- I expect I will get to it in 2025 at this rate.

SBT
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 01 April, 2022, 03:56:47 PM
Ha! I did it over a couple of days home working during quiet moments. Definitely map it as it makes it loads easier - I downloaded the maps from the authors website and made notes on it: puzzle and item locations and where to definitely avoid as there's a couple of insta-death rooms. Thanks for posting about it here as I'd never have heard of it otherwise!

I'd like to play the next one, but I have about 18 more FF books to go through first. I might pick it up when I've done another 4 or 5.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 05 April, 2022, 05:20:38 PM
Scorpion Swamp

Again haven't done a detailed writeup on this one as I'm not sure if anyone else is still playing and I don't want to spoil things too much.

I found this one pretty easy, in that I completed it at first try. It's pretty unique (I think) in FF in that it has three seperate missions you can undertake, giving you three possible ways to tackle it. I chose to do the mission for the good wizard and after I used both my spells of friendship early, charming a hunky wolf-themed wizard and an angry unicorn, my plan of taking the left hand path where able backfired nastily by forcing me into three horrible fights - the third of which was a repeat of the first - which would have almost certainly killed me had I not been rocking maximum stats.
After that I got a lift with an eagle, chatted with more friendly wizards, friendly bandits, friendly rangers and friendly giants before picking up the magic berry I had been sent to find and making my way back via a different route (avoiding an enemy that battered me earlier). My only real issue was the combat - after my bad start I had a number of fights with low skill high stamina things, and then a surprisingly tough encounter with an evil bloke eating cheese.

Given I'd mapped out a good chunk of the place I went back and tried the evil mission, which essentially involves killing a load of wizards, but it was less fun and the ending kind of chastises you for being a dick.

Overall - I remember not being too into this book and it was better than I remembered, but it's not a classic. Having three choices of mission is a good one, meaning you can play it three times: it actively encourages you to map the swamp and it's the first book to give you the option of going back to areas you've already been to, with a mechanic in place to stop you encountering things twice like you do in Forest of Doom. This means you can wander around to your hearts content, and most hazards don't respawn and you can't ever end up down the wrong path. It makes it all much closer to a classic RPG and that's all a very good thing, and it allows you to explore the setting thoroughly.

On the downside, and this might seem petty, it's kind of lacking in atmosphere. The prelude bigs up the swamp as some kind of awful place where none come out alive but it never really comes across as this, especially as a lot of the encounters I met were pretty friendly, chatty types. I think the modular nature of the map and the varaible quests - being able to wander about at will - also removes some of the story aspects from the book: a lot of the encounters felt rather self contained.

Art is by Duncan Smith and it's really good, mainly monsters and characters, although it's more generic in tone than some of the quite twisted and interesting images from the earlier books.

Not a bad one but ranks low when compared to most of the first seven. Next up is Caverns of the Snow Witch which I have never, ever played so looking forward to that.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 05 April, 2022, 11:56:41 PM
You'll like Caverns!
I still intend to do Lizard King soon.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 06 April, 2022, 08:07:54 AM
You'll like Caverns!
I still intend to do Lizard King soon.

Me too. Deathtrap Dungeon broke me for a while, but I'll be back...!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 06 April, 2022, 09:09:47 AM
Hurray!
Idly reading about Scorpion Swamp this morning and it's written by a Steve Jackson but not the Steve Jackson...
I also found the art from the book on sale here, along with the art from the Fighting Fantasy roleplaying book: https://duncan183.wixsite.com/fantasy-art
Bit dear for me, but I must admit I was tempted.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Batman's Superior Cousin 09 April, 2022, 05:28:15 PM
https://www.facebook.com/groups/fightingfantasy/permalink/10160098378536407/

(https://i.imgur.com/oJjemRF.png)
(https://i.imgur.com/PmZsYWZ.png)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 11 April, 2022, 11:28:28 AM
These would have been great. I have hardback versions of Joe Dever's Freeway Warrior and they're ace.

I have Covid, so I'm going to do a run through Way of the Tiger: Avenger and then have a bash at Snow Witch.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 11 April, 2022, 12:10:28 PM
What a cruel April Fool!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Batman's Superior Cousin 11 April, 2022, 01:19:20 PM
For those who want to know why I posted those two images, it’s because Ian says that they may be planning something like this for ALL 59 original books for it’s 45th Anniversary.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 11 April, 2022, 01:41:57 PM
For those who want to know why I posted those two images, it’s because Ian says that they may be planning something like this for ALL 59 original books for it’s 45th Anniversary.

He doesn't quite say all 59 - and honestly, a lot of those really aren't deserving of it. Whereas some of the best books in the series - Howl of the Werewolf, for instance - weren't published as part of the original run.

Massively exciting news, (potentially) though!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Batman's Superior Cousin 11 April, 2022, 02:42:10 PM
For those who want to know why I posted those two images, it’s because Ian says that they may be planning something like this for ALL 59 original books for it’s 45th Anniversary.

He doesn't quite say all 59 - and honestly, a lot of those really aren't deserving of it. Whereas some of the best books in the series - Howl of the Werewolf, for instance - weren't published as part of the original run.

Massively exciting news, (potentially) though!
(https://i.imgur.com/gWZ1Wwj.png)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 11 April, 2022, 05:23:57 PM
Isn't that claim of 59 part of the April Fools bit?

Regardless I'm not sure hardback versions of all 59 is viable - or affordable - although it would be pretty awesome. I'd settle for reprints of the whole set - I only own about half the series and whilst I haven't looked in detail beyond a quick 'can I buy a job lot for the purposes of this thread' query, some of the latter ones look to be pretty hard to obtain now I think. I'd definitely splash out for nicer editions of the best ones though and I do have Assassins of Allansia in hardback (and signed by the man himself!)

Speaking of assassins....
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 11 April, 2022, 05:25:22 PM
In the first of what might be a few 'I have Covid' playthroughs I revisited one of my favourite gamebooks of youth, Avenger!, from The Way of the Tiger series today.

The worldbuilding in this book is glorious - it's stuffed with detail that you don't get in the early FF books, enough to make you really feel like you've stepped into a fully realised world. It's helped tremendously by there being a solid plot: you play a character with a defined background and motivation rather than 'generic sellsword'.

It's also got a nifty little combat system that gives you a choice of various fighting techniques - generally you can use punches or kicks, which are riskier but do more damage, or throws that do no damage but may give you a huge advantage on a follow up attack. Because the damage is calculated via dice roll the fights are much quicker and feel more brutal, and because the enemy's attacks can vary as you do they feel a lot less abstract.
As a ninja you can also pick 3 of 8 special ninja skills which can alter your route through the tale. (I can't stress this enough: always take poison needles and climbing. A couple of the others, like feign death, didn't even crop up in my playthrough)

Plotwise it's a revenge story / assassination role into one as you set off to kill the evocatively named trio of Manse the Deathmage, Honoric, Marshal of the Legion of the Sword of Doom and Yaemon, grandmaster of the monks of the Scarlet Mantis and the man who murdered your adoptive father. It encompasses a battle on a pirate ship, a visit to the famed Arena of Mortavalon (later seen in the Arena of Death duelmasters series), a trip overland and finally breaking into Quench-Heart Keep. The latter part is excellent, as with the smart choices it's possible to assassinate two of your targets without restoring to combat before a final epic showdown on the top of the keep itself.

I did get auto-killed by some lions at one point but being fairly familiar with the book I was able to otherwise finish it without much difficulty.  It's very different to a FF book - there's no need to map it, no 'shopping list' of items needed at the end, and no dead ends, only paths that make your journey easier or harder. Most of the choices you make can be made based on the lore or things you've observed or been told in the text which makes you feel a little more in control of the story. I know I've a lot of nostalgia for it, but the differences, combined with the lore and writing making it so immersive, meant I really really enjoyed this. If I were to critique it I might say that, outside of combat, it may be a bit easy, but that might be because I've played it many times before (many years ago)

I never played another WotT book - back in 1986 I only read gamebooks that were either in the library or on sale at the big Martins on Rayleigh high-street - but I'm tempted to look these out. It looks like there were new editions funded on Kickstarter, but the older ones hold the charm for me!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Batman's Superior Cousin 11 April, 2022, 05:42:33 PM
Isn't that claim of 59 part of the April Fools bit?

Regardless I'm not sure hardback versions of all 59 is viable - or affordable - although it would be pretty awesome. I'd settle for reprints of the whole set - I only own about half the series and whilst I haven't looked in detail beyond a quick 'can I buy a job lot for the purposes of this thread' query, some of the latter ones look to be pretty hard to obtain now I think. I'd definitely splash out for nicer editions of the best ones though and I do have Assassins of Allansia in hardback (and signed by the man himself!)

Speaking of assassins....

Yet Ian still responded to the April’s Fool stating that they’re hoping for it to happen in time for the 45 Anniversary…
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 11 April, 2022, 07:34:20 PM
I'd settle for reprints of the whole set - I only own about half the series and whilst I haven't looked in detail beyond a quick 'can I buy a job lot for the purposes of this thread' query, some of the latter ones look to be pretty hard to obtain now I think.

And then some...! I did cave and buy a long-coveted copy of Moonrunner because of this thread. Thankfully I already/still have all the other FFs I have any intetest in.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 11 April, 2022, 08:09:57 PM
Moonrunner is one of the best! Let us know what you think.

Yet Ian still responded to the April’s Fool stating that they’re hoping for it to happen in time for the 45 Anniversary…
"Hoping..." It's the 40th anniversary this year and they haven't managed to do it, so don't hold your breath.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 11 April, 2022, 08:20:58 PM
Moonrunner is one I'd love to get my hands on.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 11 April, 2022, 09:09:19 PM
Moonrunner is one of the best! Let us know what you think.

I will - eventually! Trying not to skip ahead too far. Finally managed to eke out time for a playthrough of Island of the Lizard King, so I'll post that this week.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 12 April, 2022, 04:25:12 AM
I never played another WotT book - back in 1986 I only read gamebooks that were either in the library or on sale at the big Martins on Rayleigh high-street - but I'm tempted to look these out. It looks like there were new editions funded on Kickstarter, but the older ones hold the charm for me!

I highly recommend playing the other books in the series - I played the original six book series on publication, and have fond memories. Without giving too much away, they stretch the story out in interesting ways so that you're not just a wandering warrior for the entire series.

You probably already know, but Book Six notoriously ended on an ambiguous cliffhanger - although a seventh book was published in 2014 to tie things up. I haven't played that one yet.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 14 April, 2022, 09:35:50 AM
Been a while since I did one of these. For such a supposed classic and a book that so many were looking forward to playing, it’s interesting that Deathtrap Dungeon nearly killed the momentum of the whole thread stone dead! Anyway, we’re back with…

Island of the Lizard King

A beloved childhood memory, this one. Played it many times, but it's a mark of the book that I can't wait to dive in again…

The Playthrough
I roll up a very respectable adventurer of Skill 11, Stamina 19 and Luck 10, who in turn rolls up to the idyllic little fishing village of Oyster Bay. My old buddy Mungo's in a bind; Oyster Bay's being plagued by Lizard Men from the nearby Fire Island. Well, I'm not having that! He doesn't even have to ask. I've got your back, brother from another mother. Out to sea we go, and it's just like old times.

When we land, we happen upon some PIRATES in the adjoining cove. Nothing needs to be said between us, no questions asked or plans made; we're totally sympatico, an alliance honed by years of journeying together. One soul in two bodies. Swords drawn, we rush down the beach and take out two of the six before they even know we're on them. Two of the remaining buccaneers head for Mungo, two for me. I'm not worried about my pal - ha, they're the ones who need to be worried! I soon finish off my pair, and turn to see how my best pal is getting- Noooooo! Mungooooooooo-! I don't remember much about what happens next. I emerge from a black haze of grief to find the PIRATE CAPTAIN dead at my feet, but there's a tight, hollow place in my chest that stops me from feeling any satisfaction about it.  All the deaths in the world won't bring Mungo back now. A light went out in Allansia today. A light called Mungo.

*       *       *

After laying my friend to rest, I trudge into the jungle. Three HEADHUNTERS waylay me, but their mistake's in trying to take me on one at a time, and it's me who adds to my kill-count. Heading west, I'm soon wading knee-deep through the brackish waters of a vast mire. It seems to stretch as far before me as the eye can see. Just as I'm considering turning back, a gangly amphibian skips nimbly past - it's a MARSH HOPPER, said to know the swamps better than anyone or anything. I persuade it to let me follow in its wake, and away we go. I'm reminded several times that Marsh Hoppers are notoriously untrustworthy, and repeatedly asked if I want to continue following it. Methinks the gamebook doth protest too much - I know a double-bluff when I see one.

(https://i.imgur.com/31FIcQz.png)

Is it you, Mungo, old friend...? Have you come back to guide me on my quest? Is it you who looks out at me from those mournful yellow orbs, you whose - Oh, Shitsticks! The little fucker's led me right into the den of a HYDRA! It's a sticky fight - the first head in particular is blessed with some really lucky rolls, but by the time I turn my attention to the second the Hydra's getting sluggish and mazed, and I emerge the victor. The Marsh Hopper's already off on his getaway sticks - good thing for him, too - so there's nothing to do but sheath my sword and continue my wearyOHMYGOD! I don't even get a single paragraph's grace before a giant WATER SNAKE's attacking me. I survive the encounter, but my stamina's now into single digits. This book is BRUTAL.

Up into the hills I go, munching furiously on my provisions to claw back some health. I have a feeling this is going to be one of those adventures where I'd be better off fighting with a sword in one hand and a sandwich in the other...! I find a dropped snuffbox with a message from one of the prisoners inside, and fight a GIANT LIZARD that's a Harryhausen wet dream. That's right, more combat - so when I find a peaceful pool in a wooded glade, I’m only too glad to pause for a drink. But this is The Island of the Lizard King, so of course I’m immediately attacked by a SPIT TOAD. He doesn’t prove much of a foe, though, and once he’s dispatched I find an intriguing wooden box sitting at the base of the pool…

The box is a veritable bonanza of goodies! A leather pouch, a glass phial, a gold ring and a pair of red leather boots await me. The boots don’t seem to do much except make me look fabulous (I’m thinking Lola in Kinky Boots?); the pouch turns out to be a handy Pouch of Unlimited Contents; but the ring is a Ring of Confusion, and I lose two Skill points for putting it on. Ouch. Thus chastened, I leave the phial well alone, and continue wending my way through the hills. At a river delta I find the hidden raft mentioned in the note from the snuffbox, and clamber eagerly aboard (admittedly struggling to balance a little in my new stilettoes). I have to fight off a CROCODILE and a CRAZED PRISONER – who, in a startling moment of mercy for an Ian Livingstone book, I’m allowed to let live, merely punching him into the river when we reach the last attack round. Sir Ian, you’re going soft!

I hop off the raft when I reach a village guarded by two LIZARDMEN! Aha! It feels like I’ve finally stumbled onto the main plot. I take one out from behind, before they even know I’m there, and cross swords with the second. It feels mighty good to finally get some Lizardman blood on my blade – if only Mungo was here to share this moment. Behind the village is the entrance to the slave mines, and after a bit of mucking about in the tunnels I soon happen upon this unhappy scene…

(https://i.imgur.com/AZBsS82.png)

The LIZARDMAN looks tough, but you know what they say – ‘The bigger they are…’ It helps that the dwarf prisoners are pretty quick in helping me out, once they master their initial surprise. We’re soon on a rampage of retribution through the tunnels, striking chains and collecting lizard heads, and once the dust settles I find I’m the head of a slave army numbering 63 followers! A bit of a party ensues back at the village, and why not? This feels like a big deal. An elf takes it upon himself to burst the party bubble, though, as he takes me aside and explains all about the Gonchong – a nasty parasite grafted to the head of the Lizard King in a symbiotic relationship that makes the two of them nigh unkillable. For us to have any chance of victory, we’re going to need to know how to defeat them – and the only person who knows how to do this, apparently, is a shaman who lives ‘somewhere’ on the island…

Ho-hum. An adventurer’s work is never done. This feels like a bit of a wild goose chase – I have literally no clues to help me know where to look – so I have to trust in Sir Ian’s game design as I climb towards the slumbering volcano in the west. I slay a wandering HILL TROLL, and then, espying a brightly painted cave entrance up on the bluffs, I know I’ve found my shaman at last. As I start climbing upward, a spear comes sailing merrily through the air and spears me through the leg! I wonder how many others have fallen for this sneaky little bit of game design? Well played, Sir Ian. It’s actually the home of a CAVE WOMAN, and she’s not in the mood for making friends. I kill her – albeit reluctantly – and continue up to ransack her cave. There’s not much of interest; the exception is some strange red powder, which I decide to spread on my face. Well, I don’t feel that I’m too far away from the Lizard King, now – why not indulge in a little war paint for the occasion? Besides, the shade matches my boots.

This turns out to be a good move – I’m now treated to the (faintly ludicrous) potted backstory of the powder, and, honestly, the phrase deus ex machina has never been so apt. The upshot, though, is that wearing the powder will put a stop to any mind control attempts. So let’s call it… the Rouge of Resistance. I leave the cave and continue toward the volcano, making a mental note to myself to look out for the Eyeliner of Enchantment and Lipstick of Luck.
Once at the volcano, the shaman’s not too hard to find. However, he tells me that it’s not for just anyone to take on the likes of the Lizard King, and before he tells me the secret to defeat him, I must pass three tests of skill to prove myself. The wizard’s enchanted Rouge gets me through one test, and the cursed Ring (still stuck on my finger) actually comes good and gets me through another. The third I pass by the oh-so cunning method of… not choosing the paragraph where I scream for the shaman to stop. Having thus proven myself, he agrees to tell me how to best the Lizard King and Gonchong. Forearmed with this knowledge, we’re surely now entering the endgame…

(https://i.imgur.com/h0qxMUj.png)

Enroute to rendezvous with my army, a HOBGOBLIN guards a bridge across a gully, and I seize gratefully on the book's offer to bribe him to let me pass. I could probably take him in combat, but in all honestly my Stamina's not too good just now, and I've already used most of my provisions up - at this late stage in the game, I can't be taking any more unnecessary risks. Not when I'm so close to taking on the Lizard King... So imagine how my heart sinks when I walk IMMEDIATELY into a LIZARDMAN riding a STYRACOSAURUS, who urges his mount into a killing trot. I go into combat evenly matched with the Styracosaurus for Skill, but on only 7 Stamina; and whatever foul deity the Lizardmen pray to blesses the monstrous steed with all the good dice rolls. Some increasingly desperate Luck rolls can't stave off the inevitable, and it's soon lights out. Get the drinks in, Mungo - I'm on my way, old friend.

The Verdict
Yup, this one's great. I love the little touches of worldbuilding emerging by this point in the series - Mungo talking about how his father died in Deathtrap Dungeon, and Oyster Bay being down the coast from Port Blacksand. It's really starting to feel like a cohesive world. And while he doesn't last long, I love briefly having a buddy to adventure with - more of that sort of thing, please!

While it's hard, that doesn't annoy me the way it did with Deathtrap Dungeon. Perhaps it's that Lizard King doesn't feel as 'on rails' - unlike in the Dungeon, there's a sense that I can take multiple ways to progress. I think that's just an illusion – it’s actually quite a linear adventure – but it goes a long way to my enjoyment. And Fire Island is certainly a more evocative setting than those bloody underground tunnels - positively Harryhausian with its tropical island, smouldering volcano and festering swamps. It's hard because there's a LOT of combat - not because of any One True Path nonsense.

To sum up - it's not an adventure that's especially innovative, but it does virtually everything right. Alan Langford’s art is solid if unspectacular, and the setting really sings. 7.5 combat dice out of 10.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 14 April, 2022, 02:00:05 PM
Great writeup Jimbo!

From the start of my (unposted writeup):

After being guilt-tripped by Mungo into joining him in sailing to the terrifying Fire Island, we make land full of hope but before we even get off the beach we've both been killed by a giant crab. Worst rescue party ever.
Second attempt and this time I'm just maxing my stats out. I slay the crab, but.. Mungo... nooooo!


I too had a noooooo moment over brave Mungo: the poor chap gets it regardless and although he's barely mentioned again in the text, I very much enjoyed your holding him close to your heart in your tale.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 14 April, 2022, 02:20:56 PM
Two new FF books from the creators coming this year:

https://officialfightingfantasy.blogspot.com/2022/04/fighting-fantasy-co-creators-pen-two.html
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 14 April, 2022, 04:04:40 PM
Great writeup Jimbo!

From the start of my (unposted writeup):

After being guilt-tripped by Mungo into joining him in sailing to the terrifying Fire Island, we make land full of hope but before we even get off the beach we've both been killed by a giant crab.

Thanks BB! This was a fun one - although the crossdressing was a surprise to me!

In the interests of full disclosure, this was my third playthrough. The first one never made it off the beach, either (killed by the pirates) and the second got only slightly further (the headhunters). You really need Skill of 10 or above for this one!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 20 April, 2022, 01:17:22 PM
Was on a trip to and from a wedding in Yorkshire this week, so managed to have a good run through Port Blacksand.  Won't say too much because it's been covered already in this thread, and we're way behind everyone else, but we did manage to survive up to the tower of Zanbar Bone.  Then got killed pretty promptly.  As we'd gotten so far through we decided to head on but not play through the combats.  Then we got killed immediately in the next room.  Oh well!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 20 April, 2022, 01:30:32 PM
Was on a trip to and from a wedding in Yorkshire this week, so managed to have a good run through [City of Thieves]... we did manage to survive up to the tower of Zanbar Bone.  Then got killed pretty promptly.

I seem to be playing worse now (or having worse luck) than when I used to play these way-back-when. I'd gotten to Zagor, Zanbar Bone and the Lizard King in previous playthroughs (even if I didn't necessarily beat them). I've yet to see a single final boss in this thread...!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 20 April, 2022, 06:43:35 PM
I must pass three tests of skill to prove myself. The wizard’s enchanted Rouge gets me through one test, and the cursed Ring (still stuck on my finger) actually comes good and gets me through another.

Y'know, I've encounted so many people on facebook saying how they used to like Rouge Trooper (and inevitably haven't read 2000AD in thirty years) that my mind automatically turns the word 'rouge' into 'rogue these days.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 20 April, 2022, 09:08:35 PM
Rouge Trooper:

(https://i.postimg.cc/dQbT1FyW/rouge.png)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 April, 2022, 10:19:04 AM
My first ever attempt at the Caverns of the Snow Witch!!

Unlike the previous 8 we've played, this is an entirely new book to me so I'm excited to see what it has in store. The title is impressively lurid although the cover is not the most dynamic - I assume this orc dude is being frozen by said Snow Witch rather than hulking up, but this is one of the rare occasions where I think the reprint cover is a little better.

It's an interesting setup which has nothing to do with the Snow Witch at all: I believe the previous books have had a clearly established villain in the Warlock / Lizard King / Zanbar Bone right from the start so this is a different tack straight away. I'm basically playing a hired thug and am sent to do some hired thug stuff, hunting down a monster that threatens my boss's business. I set off through the snow, literally wandering about without any kind of direction, battling wolves and sheltering from blizzards and presumably hoping this monster will just jump out on me. Upon finding an abandoned hut, with signs of a struggle, I eat the previous occupants stew and steal their weapons, which as a hired goon seems like the sort of thing I'd do, pepping me up after a wound received fighting the wolves previously.
Stomach full of warming stew I press on through the snow, eventually coming upon the purpose of my hunt - a fearsome yeti mauling a trapper, presumably the guy whose house I was just in? The Yeti is a fearsome opponent and I am badly mauled in the fight but emerge victorious. It's too late for the trapper: as he bleeds out on the snow he tells me all about the CAVERNS OF THE SNOW WITCH on a nearby glacier and how they're stuffed with treasure (and monsters). Now on one hand I could at this point return to the caravan and collect my 50GP bounty for killing the yeti, but being a greedy mercenary thug with a high opinion of myself I of course decide to head off to said caverns and see what awaits me.
At this point I'm insta-killed by an avalanche, but fuck that. I re-roll my luck, pass, and press on into the Snow Witch's lair via its hidden glacier entrance.

My first encounter is with an elf - I try to blag him but he reveals he is in thrall to the witch by some kind of magical collar. The next guy I encounter gives me some free cake. These caverns are pretty friendly so far! I decide to return the favour and help out a dwarf, who gives me a sling and a cryptic warning about a rat.

Before long I'm through the glacier and at the entrance to the Snow Witches chambers, where I'm accosted by a wizardly gatekeeper. The book asks me if I have a magic flute, which of course I do not, and I have to battle him. He uses Mirror Image and again I fare badly but eventually get the upper hand, driving him off and earning the favor of a genie who promises to make me invisible should I ever need it. This is a bit random but bound to come in useful.
I decide to enter the skull tunnel, following the fleeing wizard. The cavern within contains a frost giant, who I niftily assassinate with my sling and steal his stuff. There is a conundrum here: three rings, and previous FF-readings suggest to me at least one will be bad. I stick on all three, and of course one reduces my skill by 2d6, leaving me with a pathetic skill of 1. This is basically game over for me especially as the very next paragraph is a skill 11 battle. It's not even worth me attempting this and the Crystal Warrior cuts me down. Could have done with a genie's help here, to be honest!

Really enjoyed this so far, although my two deaths sucked - stuff like the rings I wish there was at least some kind of clue which might be the bad one, rather than learning through bitter experience. The frozen north setting is different to what we've seen before, although it has turned into another go-left-or-go-right dungeon crawl, and I liked the plot evolving from hunt the yeti to kill the Snow Witch. I really like the art - it's almost woodcut-like, very different in style to anything I've seen before, and whilst some of the monsters have a look I can only describe as derpy (that yeti!) it's totally unique and I really dig it.

I will have another try later.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 21 April, 2022, 10:41:35 AM
I really like the art - it's almost woodcut-like, very different in style to anything I've seen before, and whilst some of the monsters have a look I can only describe as derpy (that yeti!) it's totally unique and I really dig it.

Yeah, it's gorgeous. Such a shame he didn't do any more books. I'm really looking forward to replaying CotSW.

I've nearly caught you up - had two abortive playthroughs of Scorpion Swamp already. Hopefully I'll manage one this weekend where I last long enough to bother writing it up!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 April, 2022, 11:51:19 AM
That's excellent - I've been on a bit of a go slow / not posting in depth writeups in case I spoiled things for others. I found SS quite easy, but that might just be because I was so familiar with it. Look forward to reading your experience!

CotSW is excellent so far if bloody tough: I've had three fights and two have been with Skill 10+ enemies.. it's actually pretty cool to be playing a new (to me) book. I have a few more of these coming up too, although mainly sci-fi ones.

I'm going to have another crack at Caverns on my lunchbreak I think.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 21 April, 2022, 12:06:47 PM
That's excellent - I've been on a bit of a go slow / not posting in depth writeups in case I spoiled things for others. I found SS quite easy, but that might just be because I was so familiar with it. Look forward to reading your experience!

Both deaths basically due to trying to talk to evil sorcerers, rather than killing them on sight; first Grimslade, who summoned a demon to take my Brass Ring from me, then an insta-death at the hands of the Master of Spiders. I tried to fight the Skill 16(!) demon with a Skill of 8, which I thought was quite heroic... you can guess how long I lasted, though!

: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 21 April, 2022, 03:47:41 PM
Caverns of the Snow Witch was an interesting one on publication. The Fighting Fantasy magazine, Warlock, had run a cut-down version (190 entries) that was basically the opening mission & cavern part - so it was a standard dungeon crawl with your key enemy waiting at the end.

I don't know if they wrote the book first, then cut it down for the magazine, or vice versa - but it explains the chapter-like structure.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 April, 2022, 04:02:07 PM
I think, from reading around, it was magazine first and then expanded for the book.

I'm had another couple of deaths on it this afternoon. Moaned about it on FB and was told that when you face the Crystal Warrior, the key is NOT to have the Warhammer as then the genie can make you invisible and you can dodge the fight altogether. This of course also means leaving the spear, which makes the yeti fight considerably harder.
That's annoying, and also a bit rubbish as imo you should get the genie option regardless. Ian Livingstone is a monster!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 21 April, 2022, 04:29:45 PM
Fifth attempt! I fast forward to where I was before, and with the aid of the genie, I'm able to bypass the Crystal Warrior and head deeper into the mountain. Taking the left hand fork, I encounter a sarcophagus guarded by a white rat... could this be what the dwarf warned me of earlier? Without spoiling things, yep, and I'm dead again.
Next go: I follow the same path, but this time go right. Dispatching a zombie I stock up on reagents, double back, get past the menace of the white rat to encounter the Snow Witch herself! Do I have any garlic? Nope! Do I have a stake? Nope! And thus I meet my doom again, a servant of the Snow Witch for all eternity.

This felt like it escalated fast! If this was the original end for the adventure in Warlock, it makes sense that things would wrap up here with a selection of 'do you have essential item x' paragraphs. I really want to see how this one progresses, especially as I've run into the Snow Witch herself so early in the quest, so I'm going to start this one again, probably with max stats (Skill 10 seems the minimum you need for this book) and possibly a map... 
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 22 April, 2022, 09:31:24 AM
I don't think we've actually included a list of all the books on this thread yet, so here goes:

This is the original Puffin run.

1   The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
2   The Citadel of Chaos
3   The Forest of Doom
4   Starship Traveller
5   City of Thieves
6   Deathtrap Dungeon
7   Island of the Lizard King
8   Scorpion Swamp
9   Caverns of the Snow Witch[3]
10   House of Hell
11   Talisman of Death
12   Space Assassin
13   Freeway Fighter
14   Temple of Terror
15   The Rings of Kether
16   Seas of Blood
17   Appointment with F.E.A.R.
18   Rebel Planet
19   Demons of the Deep
20   Sword of the Samurai
21   Trial of Champions
22   Robot Commando
23   Masks of Mayhem
24   Creature of Havoc
25   Beneath Nightmare Castle
26   Crypt of the Sorcerer
27   Star Strider
28   Phantoms of Fear
29   Midnight Rogue
30   Chasms of Malice
31   Battleblade Warrior
32   Slaves of the Abyss
33   Sky Lord
34   Stealer of Souls
35   Daggers of Darkness
36   Armies of Death
37   Portal of Evil
38   Vault of the Vampire
39   Fangs of Fury
40   Dead of Night
41   Master of Chaos
42   Black Vein Prophecy
43   The Keep of the Lich Lord
44   Legend of the Shadow Warriors
45   Spectral Stalkers
46   Tower of Destruction
47   The Crimson Tide
48   Moonrunner
49   Siege of Sardath
50   Return to Firetop Mountain
51   Island of the Undead
52   Night Dragon
53   Spellbreaker
54   Legend of Zagor
55   Deathmoor
56   Knights of Doom
57   Magehunter
58   Revenge of the Vampire
59   Curse of the Mummy

plus the Sorcery! saga:
1   The Shamutanti Hills
2   Kharé - Cityport of Traps
3   The Seven Serpents
4   The Crown of Kings

Things were made more confusing by the various runs of reprints, which put them in a different order, missed some out and added in new ones...


4   Stormslayer
6   The Port of Peril
8   Night of the Necromancer
12   The Gates of Death
15   Assassins of Allansia
17   Crystal of Storms
20   Shadow of the Giants
21   Eye of the Dragon
21   Secrets of Salamonis
26   Bloodbones
29   Howl of the Werewolf
Blood of the Zombies

: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 22 April, 2022, 10:13:15 AM
Continuing publication order from the original run, the later books would run like this:

Eye of the Dragon
Bloodbones
Howl of the Werewolf
Stormslayer
Night of the Necromancer
Blood of the Zombies
Port of Peril
The Gates of Death
Crystal of Storms
Asassins of Allansia
Shadow of the Giants
Secrets of Salamonis
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 22 April, 2022, 12:03:33 PM
p.s. for those trying to fill in gaps in their collections - the last two on the list are by Ian Livingstone (Shadow of the Giants) and Steve Jackson (Secrets of Salamonis) and are due to be released in September this year, to celebrate the anniversary of Fighting Fantasy.

No doubt there'll be signings at Forbidden Planet, as there was for Ian's Blood of the Zombies ten years ago.  Was it really that long ago?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 25 April, 2022, 10:09:03 AM
It's a serious list. I've got about half the original Puffin run and a handful of others, but I'm not crazy enough to attempt to collect them all. If this thread is still going and I'm still interested in about 15 books time I might buy some more!
I've not played any of the newer ones I've got - Assassins, Blood of the Zombies etc. I am quite tempted by Bloodbones, because I like pirates. Any strongly recommended ones (besides Moonrunner) from book 29 onwards?

CotSW has defeated me over and over btw, but I'm thinking of doing a cheat playthrough where I max out my stats or even just skip the fights, just to see where it goes.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 25 April, 2022, 11:15:39 AM
Of the later books, Master of Chaos, Spectral Stalkers, Slaves of the Abyss, Siege of Sardath, and Stealer of Souls stand out.

I would also recommend the novel The Trolltooth Wars.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 25 April, 2022, 03:40:42 PM
On the original publication run, the last one I got was Midnight Rogue, which was enjoyable.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 25 April, 2022, 05:40:24 PM
I had a local bookshop which had a lot of FF books about five years ago.  I probably had just over half the books before that and all but four or five afterwards.  Though looking online those four or five reach very high prices.

I've also not played any of the latter books, as I was going to do what we're all doing now, but didn't get around to it (so thank you, this thread).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 26 April, 2022, 02:41:38 PM
Scorpion Swamp

I’ve played this one before, somewhere back in the mists of time (I know because I found two old maps of the swamp in my handwriting tucked inside the front cover) but I honestly don’t remember anything much about the book, or how I did; except that when you make your choice of which three wizards to serve, I always went with Poomchukker (because his name made me laugh). So I’m essentially embarking on a new adventure, with two of three wizards unplayed and no idea of the ending…

Playthroughs 1, 2 & 3
Well, these go laughably badly. My first adventurer is Skill 8, Stamina 19 and Luck 11. That’s right – Skill 8. Sigh. Anyway, my first decision is which of the three characters – good wizard Selator, evil sorcerer Grimslade and neutral trader Poomchukker - I’m going to serve on my meanderings through the swamp. I’ve been serving the forces of good for six gamebooks now, and I’m not going to lie – the idea of cutting loose and being evil massively appeals. So it’s off to the Spooky Castle™ of Grimslade I go. My magic Ring immediately warns me that he’s evil. Well, yes. That’s why I’m here. He enquires how I plan to get through the swamp, and as soon as I mention the Ring he starts an incantation. In retrospect, I was clearly meant to stop him, but I naively assume he’s weaving a protection spell for himself, standing idly by and watching as he summons a Skill 16 DEMON. Skill 16! Against Skill 8! It goes as well as you might expect – although I amaze myself by getting two hits in before I go down.

(https://i.imgur.com/ERL2vBP.png?1)

I won’t lie, that left a bad taste in the mouth, so I choose to serve, respectively, Selator and Poomchukker for my next few attempts. Both abortive playthroughs follow the same path – in my fourth clearing I meet evil sorcerer THE MASTER OF SPIDERS. First I try to talk to him. He has a spider bite me. I die. Next I cast a friendship spell. It doesn’t work, but he fakes friendship long enough to have a spider bite me. I die.

Playthrough 4
Right. I am done, done, done with evil wizards. From now on, I’m just going to kill on sight anyone who looks even the tiniest bit like Ming the Merciless. This time I roll up my first halfway decent adventurer of Skill 10, Stamina 24(!) and Luck 8. No deliberations this time, I choose good wizard Selator immediately. I’m instantly rewarded for my good judgement (this time, anyway. Ahem…) with an increase of +2 to my initial Luck score. Selator wants a berry from Titan’s last remaining Antherica bush, rumoured to grow deep in Scorpion Swamp. Seems simple enough.

The first encounter of note (I meet the MASTER OF WOLVES, but exactly nothing happens) is a gaggle of SWORD TREES. They’re a Ronseal enemy if ever there was one – a whole bunch of trees, waving swords. Huh. The natural thing to do seems to be to let a Fire spell take care of them, but it’s totally ineffective, so I wade in with my own sword. They aren’t as fearsome as they look, but… they are already starting to grow back. So I have it away on my toes, and flee West. In the next clearing is a DIRE BEAST – an enemy so fearsome, so foulsome, that artist Duncan Smith was forbidden from depicting it, lest he warp a generation of impressionable minds. (He would take his revenge years later, after adding an Iain to his name, when he ushered in sweeping cuts to disability benefits and Universal Credit). The beast proves less fearsome than the erstwhile Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, though, and eventually I manage to slay it without much trouble. The only exit is East, so I head back into the Sword Tree clearing and – oh, fiddlesticks. The bastards have already grown back. I hack them to matchwood for a second time and flee North, hoping not to have to come back this way again.

(https://i.imgur.com/njAydVb.png?1)

I use my Friendship spell to placate a wounded UNICORN, and to be honest I’m expecting a reward, a clue or perhaps an ally for a future battle. Nothing happens, and I suspect that’s yet another spell wasted. Further North still, and I find myself overlooking the mighty Foulblood River (great name, Steve!) This stymies further progress, and in looking for a way across I run into a THIEF. He seems an affable sort, but my Ring says otherwise – so I’ve no compunction in cutting him down. His corpse has curiously little to loot – just a red cloak – but I take it anyway. Fording the Foulblood soon afterward, I plunge straight into some quicksand. I survive, but only by shrugging out of my trusty leather armour and abandoning it to the swamp – lowering my respectable Skill of 10 to a lowly 8! This could be the worst thing that’s happened to me since entering the Swamp, particularly as in the next clearing a GIANT looms above the treeline.

(https://i.imgur.com/uvqA2u8.png?1)

My ring isn’t warning me of danger, so I swallow down my trepidation and hail him in a friendly fashion. Surprisingly, he bursts into tears. Erm… The giant’s upset because he’s lost his prized red handkerchief (you’d think he’d keep crying to a minimum, then…) ‘Does it look something like this?’ I ask, whipping out the red cloak I took from the thief. He’s overjoyed; I think I’ve made a friend for life, here. Perhaps I should find this all a bit silly, but it’s actually a curiously sweet encounter in a series known for a ‘chop heads off, ask questions later’ mentality. If this was an Ian Livingstone book I’d already be bathing in his blood! He says he thinks he saw an Antherica bush due North of here, so I duly head off to investigate. And sure enough, there it is – guarded by a brace of WOLVES. Unusually, I kill one of them during the initial text preamble, without having to roll for Luck or Skill or anything, leaving me only one to deal with – and even with my lowered Skill of 8 he doesn’t present a challenge. And then there’s nothing to do here but walk over to the Antherica bush and pluck a berry. Nothing happens. Was that it? Was a single wolf really my final boss?

The thing is, of course, that I’ve now got to get back out of the swamp in one piece… But having killed or befriended everyone I met on the way here, it’s a fairly easy stroll back, with only a bite by some leeches and a third encounter with the bloody Sword Trees to speak of. And then… that’s it. Selator thanks me, we have a cup of tea and… the end. It’s all curiously subdued, but then, I suppose I wasn’t trying to save Titan from destruction or anything this time. To be honest, it’s just nice to still be on my feet for once. I need to take the wins as they come. Pass the sugar, would you, Selator, old chap?

The Verdict
Seventh gamebook’s a charm – finally I get a win! The series has gotten comfy lately, so it’s nice to have a book which tries to innovate and shake things up a bit, but not everything works the way I suspect it was supposed to.
The three wizards/missions is a great idea, and rewards replayability; but to say Selator’s mission fizzles out at the end is an understatement, and Poomchukker’s (mapping the Swamp) is something you’ll end up doing whoever you serve. I should give Grimslade’s mission another go and see how that plays. It’s great to have the spells back (last seen in Citadel of Chaos), but they seem a bit of an afterthought, not hugely affecting the gameplay (or at least not on this playthrough).
Scorpion Swamp itself, as noted earlier by Barrington, is hardly the no-go zone that it’s made out to be in the blurb. Lots of the encounters seem a bit safe, a bit tame. And I don’t think the art helps here – it’s perfectly good, occasionally more than that, but something about it’s a bit… I don’t know, twee?

Enjoyable, and high replay value, but after four attempts to get to the end, it didn’t really feel worth the effort once I got there. 6.5 combat dice out of 10
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 27 April, 2022, 10:59:26 AM
Great writeup as ever DJ!
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 27 April, 2022, 01:52:00 PM
Interesting fact about Scorpion Swamp.  It's written by Steve Jackson.  Big deal* you may think, don't all the Fighting Fantasy books have Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson's names on the covers?  Well, yes, but no.  This one was written by Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games (from the US of A), not Steve Jackson of Games Workshop, Citadel Miniatures, White Dwarf and Fighting Fantasy fame....


* chop party?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 27 April, 2022, 03:23:07 PM
I've finally finished Snow Witch. In order to do so I had to cheat and skip all the fights - even with max stats I was unable to get through to the end. I won't spoil it here for others as there's a nice twist to the tale about halfway through.

This book is insanely hard: it feels tougher than DD although that may be due to familiarity with the latter. Some of it is very cool - I love the artwork, the split into 3 seperate little quests - but some of it is a bit lacking. The second encounter with the Snow Witch herself is pretty rubbish, and the final quest segment does feel a bit tacked on, even if the concept is quite unique: I think it might have even worked better as two seperate volumes. I did really like the nods to continuity with other books - Bigleg and Stonebridge, Firetop Mountain, Fang and so on - you can see the world of FF starting to take shape over the last couple of books.

House of Hell up next. I know this is a well-regarded book, but I when I played it as a kid I really didn't like it: the art, the theme, and the difficulty level all put me right off. I feel a little trepidation about revisiting it. 
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 27 April, 2022, 03:24:46 PM
House of Hell up next. I know this is a well-regarded book, but I when I played it as a kid I really didn't like it: the art, the theme, and the difficulty level all put me right off. I feel a little trepidation about revisiting it.

It's not just me, then.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 27 April, 2022, 03:58:41 PM
Good write-up, Jimbo.

BB, you can always use spoiler tags!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 28 April, 2022, 11:31:20 AM
House of Hell up next. I know this is a well-regarded book, but I when I played it as a kid I really didn't like it: the art, the theme, and the difficulty level all put me right off. I feel a little trepidation about revisiting it.

It's not just me, then.

Nope, me three. I'm tempted to skip it.

I've not played any of the newer ones I've got - Assassins, Blood of the Zombies etc. I am quite tempted by Bloodbones, because I like pirates. Any strongly recommended ones (besides Moonrunner) from book 29 onwards?

You can't really go wrong with anything by Jonathan Green (Spellbreaker, Knights of Doom, Bloodbones, Curse of the Mummy, Howl of the Werewolf, Stormslayer, Night of the Necromancer). Those latter three in particular are just superb - some of the best FFs full stop.

The Stephen Hand trilogy is also highly recommended - Dead of Night, Legend of the Shadow Warriors, and Moonrunner.

And Vault of the Vampire might just be my favourite-ever FF.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 28 April, 2022, 01:16:21 PM
Night of the Necromancer is brilliant!

(I've also heard that Howl of the Werewolf was voted best FF book by fans, although I've not read it myself.)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 03 May, 2022, 09:49:09 AM
Started this purely for my own amusement as I play through the books I own, but thought it'd be of interest for some here:


(https://i.imgur.com/gEyGsd1.jpg)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 May, 2022, 10:36:25 AM
That is awesome. I also have a FF spreadsheet but this puts mine to shame: I'm tracking what I own per edition and if I've beaten it, tracking what actually killed you is some next level stuff. I'd be interested to see if you have a nemesis across all books.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 May, 2022, 10:41:41 AM
So this September it's Fighting Fantasy Fest 4, which is also the 40th anniversary celebration thing.

I've never been to once of these before - it's being held in Ealing and tickets are not cheap, but you get a load of gubbins with entry (programme, dice), it sounds fun and I'm really into the books at the moment so I've got myself a ticket. Right now it looks like I'm forcing my wife to tag along, but it'd be great to meet up with some of you guys there if you fancy it!

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fighting-fantasy-fest-4-tickets-331387457807
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 03 May, 2022, 11:35:48 AM
...tracking what actually killed you is some next level stuff. I'd be interested to see if you have a nemesis across all books.

Me too! That's basically why I started the spreadsheet. 😆

If you PM your email address I'll send you my template (and that goes for anyone else who fancies it).
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 May, 2022, 11:47:50 AM
Incoming in a sec!
I'm been impressed with your restraint on giving up after death - I've finished all of mine so far, even if I've had to skip fights to do it (Snow Witch) or die over and over again until I have a good map (Dungeon)...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 03 May, 2022, 12:38:02 PM
Incoming in a sec!
I'm been impressed with your restraint on giving up after death - I've finished all of mine so far, even if I've had to skip fights to do it (Snow Witch) or die over and over again until I have a good map (Dungeon)...

The thought of maxing stats or skipping fights causes me physical pain! I'm determined to do it all as God Ian and Steve intended, which means admitting I might not complete some in a hurry (if ever - like the imminent House of Hell!)

And I own so many gamebooks I've never yet played, I want to make sure I get to have a go at all of them before my enthusiasm wanes.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 03 May, 2022, 02:41:39 PM
You shame me.

I kind of figure that this might be my last serious run at these books (not for any sinister reason - just that my enthusiasm will definitely wane at some point also) and therefore I'd like to see the end of as many of them as possible.
I think of the nine I've played here, the only ones I've done first time have been Scorpion Swamp and Starship Traveller. I'm not sure many of them can be done without max stats, but skipping the battles in CotSW did make me feel a bit dirty...
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 03 May, 2022, 03:12:30 PM
Enthusiasm wanes, but it also waxes. I thought I had played my last gamebook years ago, but I still kept about half of them, and this thread has got me back into them again. It's not even the first time that I've got back into them after a lengthy break. I gravitate back to them every few years. Something to consider before you flog them all on eBay.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 03 May, 2022, 05:36:01 PM
I'm not sure I'm actually capable of playing the books without finger-cheating. Hrmn ... maybe I'll try it.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 03 May, 2022, 05:59:16 PM
You should be flogged or made to wear a hair shirt or something.
: Re: Gamebooks
: sheridan 03 May, 2022, 07:00:04 PM
Enthusiasm wanes, but it also waxes. I thought I had played my last gamebook years ago, but I still kept about half of them, and this thread has got me back into them again. It's not even the first time that I've got back into them after a lengthy break. I gravitate back to them every few years. Something to consider before you flog them all on eBay.


This is about my fourth time of interest - first was during the original era - not sure of the exact date but the copyright info in my copy of Deathtrap Dungeon suggests the seventh printing in 1984.  Second was about five years later when i found somebody at school who really liked them (their favourite was Freeway Warrior), third was some time this century and fourth is now.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 04 May, 2022, 10:34:39 AM
Dare you enter the HOUSE OF HELL? I did, and it didn't end well! Read on!

My starting stats:

Skill 12 (yes!)
Stamina 20
Luck 10
Fear 8

The adventure begins with me stranded in the rain and looking for shelter in the titular hellhouse. Approaching the house, sodden and miserable, I see a light on at the rear of the property and squelch round to see if I can alert anyone there instead of ringing the main doorbell and waking the house up. There are two men in the kitchen, but their conversation is decidedly odd and a little sinister. To be honest it's at this point I should resign myself to a night in the car, but instead I decide against trying to enter here and go back round to the front where the butler coolly invites me in. As I wait in the hall I pass the time by examining the portraits only to get a horrible shock when one speaks to me! Dire warnings are imparted - not least against wine...

Before long Christopher Lee arrives with his butler and offers me dinner and a glass of brandy, which I drink, restoring my shaken FEAR score to its maximum. I'm offered a choice of wines, but I heed the portraits warning. Oddly the Earl joins me for a midnight roast dinner and tells me about his family history. I choose to follow my meal with cheese and coffee, which is the wrong choice as next thing I know I'm waking up bound in a strange room. HELP!

I'm soon free, but not without cutting myself badly on the broken windowpane. Thankfully the Earl has forgotten to lock the door, so I slip out onto the landing and head left. The Balthus room sounds unpleasant, as does the Diabolus room, so I avoid them. Looking out the window I receive a mysterious message. It seems that some - force - here in the house is trying to aid me? Returning to the landing I secure a sharp kitchen knife and some garlic, which comes in handy when I encounter a VAMPIRE. Luckily, I just chuck the garlic at him and escape via a scooby doo style revolving wall door and then a magic mirror, eventually ending up in the kitchen. Someone has left keys on the stove but when I grab them it turns out the stove is on - I burn my hand on red hot keys, my scream attracts the house residents who pile onto me. I am captured and meet an undefined but certainly sticky end.

For my second attempt I decide to restart after I picked up the knife. This time instead of going to face the vampire I return to the landing and continue creeping about: trying doors at random I getting a horrible shock when I open a door and a body falls out on me. When I've calmed down, I find another sinister barred bedroom where I look out the window, only to get an even nastier shock when I see a familiar face on a hanging corpse outside the window! By now my heart is pounding in my chest and my fear score at dangerous levels. I decide against going to bed (why would I even do this?) and instead return to prowling the corridors where I discover the Abbadon room. Remembering the clue I had earlier I enter and try to wake its sleeping occupant only to discover this is another corpse: the shock brings my Fear total to 8 and I die on the spot. My adventure ends here.



It's been a long time since I've had a bash at House of Hell. As a kid I really did NOT like this book: whilst not scary per se, I found the theme and art unpleasant and the book frustratingly hard. In particular I seem to recall there's no way to save the innocent district nurse, despite a friendly ghost telling you that you should, and if you try you get a slightly sneering 'you deserved that' paragraph before insta-death which rather stung.

Playing it now, I'm more into the theme - I prefer a fantastical one, but I'm more into the horror concept now than I was back then and approached it thinking I might appreciate it more. I'm not sure it's especially well executed however: looking at it critically it's a bit of a mishmash of Hammer Horror tropes all kind of stuck together and I think it would work better if it stuck to one concept - eg. the Satanists and / or the haunted house- and didn't bother with stuff like zombies or the vampire who seems very out of place. It reminded me of the first Resident Evil game where the plot is zombies and experiments but also there's stuff like a giant snake because we need to get more monsters in.
I really don't like the FEAR mechanic at all.

I still don't like the art: I've got more time for Ian Miller's cover but I find the interior art both grotesque and unevocative.

Mechanically it's definitely a book that needs mapping as I was quickly lost in the maze of rooms upstairs. It did seem quite fitting and interesting that up to both deaths I didn't face a single combat and in a way that's quite nice after the very hard fights in IotLK and CotSW. I seem to remember however that this book is amazingly difficult to complete.

Having gone to the trouble of completing every other book so far via multiple playthroughs and maps I should do the same here but it's the first book where I find myself not really interested in doing so. Having recently played the Night Shift gamebook I have to say that did the whole concept a lot better, both thematically and mechanically, (in fairness HoH was published 35 years prior to Night Shift). Will I return to the house? Probably. Perhaps mapping it out will reveal it's secrets and it's charm to me.

I always thought this was one of the most highly regarded FF books so it's interesting to see a few other guys here come out and say they don't like it either: I'd be interested to know why.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 04 May, 2022, 10:37:58 AM
Also this really bugged me: why is one type of wine drugged and not the other? And the same for only one of the post-dinner digestifs?
Given the implication is that I've been manipulated into the house (wrong directions / ghostly car crash) and that the evil Earl is going to use me as a sacrifice, you'd think it'd be easier to just drug everything on my plate and knock me right out rather than see which I take and risk me wandering about opening doors at random.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 04 May, 2022, 11:00:44 AM
Playing it now, I'm more into the theme - I prefer a fantastical one, but I'm more into the horror concept now than I was back then and approached it thinking I might appreciate it more. I'm not sure it's especially well executed however: looking at it critically it's a bit of a mishmash of Hammer Horror tropes all kind of stuck together...

The series dabbles a lot more with gothic horror as it goes on, but marries it very successfully with the fantasy theme (most of Stephen Hand and Jonathan Green's books, plus a lot of Keith Martin's.)

As a kid the horror ones were by far my favourite - but even then I didn't really like House of Hell. I'll try and pinpoint why in a few playthrough's time. Maybe the modern-day setting? Maybe because it was too damn hard to be any fun?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 04 May, 2022, 11:18:26 AM
A great write up as usual!

As a kid, I found the modern day setting very off-putting, although once you enter the house it stops being relevant. I hardly remember this book at all now, so reading it again should be interesting. I might still give book 9 a try first.

Interesting point about the randomly drugged wine. I'm going to assume that's down to the theme of giving the reader choices taking priority over plot or common sense. (But in the spirit of finding in-plot explanations for apparent errors, maybe a feature of the Satanists' evil religion is you have to give your victims a sporting chance?)
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 04 May, 2022, 11:31:30 AM
I hardly remember this book at all now, so reading it again should be interesting. I might still give book 9 a try first.

Don't worry, you've not fallen behind. CotSW next for me, too.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Krakajac 08 May, 2022, 10:46:35 AM
Thought I might make a small contribution to the thread.

My daughter is 2 - going on 3, so I figured I’d track down some game-books for when she gets older (I’m 51 and enjoyed them as a kid).  Yeah, an old Dad!

Thought I’d start with a gateway drug and track down the first 10 CYOA titles - all vintage.  Some very spooky-style illustrations by Paul Granger.  Should get her on the right path…

(https://i.imgur.com/kOurvK7m.jpg)

Once she’s had her fill of CYOA - she can graduate to the first 5 of the Fighting Fantasy books - again all early editions.  Even obtained some nice fantasy-style D6’s to pair with the books.

(https://i.imgur.com/yDTJiZ6m.jpg)

That should keep her out of trouble - and I can relive my youth at the same time.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Colin YNWA 08 May, 2022, 10:53:17 AM
Ohhh we had 'The Cave of Time'. Am I right in thinking these didn't have a combat system? If so I think that's why we never (we being my brother and I) never got into them.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Krakajac 08 May, 2022, 11:03:45 AM
Correct - no combat system.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 08 May, 2022, 03:47:52 PM
The other main difference is that CYOA books tend to be multiple linear branches and have lots of different endings, whereas FF books tend towards the complexity of side quests, but with a common core thread that leads towards a shared finale.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 May, 2022, 08:52:07 AM
I cut my gamebook teeth on those CYOA books, lovely to see them again. But look at those FF books - first editions? Glorious. Ace dice too!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Krakajac 09 May, 2022, 09:36:24 AM
Thanks!

The FF’s aren’t 1st editions (although I think there might be one in there) - but they are the first versions published (no zig-zag line along the top, star-burst number on the front cover, etc.).

Interestingly, my edition of Warlock has a purple spine - as it was printed in Australia (where I live).

The dice - I sourced from AliExpress for a handful of dollars.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 May, 2022, 12:37:17 PM
They're beauties. I hope we're still on this board in a few years time so we can hear how they go down with your daughter.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 May, 2022, 12:37:58 PM
So, a quick diversion - being too scared to once again cross the Threshold of the Earl of Drumer, I instead returned to the Way of the Tiger to play the second book in the series, ASSASSIN!. This was another brand new read for me: I must have played the first book in the WotT series, Avenger, dozens of times and always loved it.

The books join together to form a coherent story: I'm the totally cool Ninja known as Avenger and in the last book I lived up to this moniker by avenging my father by killing off the villainous trio of Manse the Deathmage, Honoric, Marshal of the Legion of the Sword of Doom and Yaemon, grandmaster of the monks of the Scarlet Mantis, thus preventing a plot to bind my god, Kwon the Redeemer, in Inferno. There are no stats in this book but, as it follows on directly from my playthrough of Avenger, I begin with Kwon's Blessing, giving me slightly better fighting skills and an extra Ninja discipline. I am skilled in the deadly disciplines of Poison Needles, Arrow Cutting and Climbing, and my bonus skill (new for this book) is Acrobatics.

The tale opens evocatively as the previous one ended, with my standing over the fallen body of Yaemon on the rainswept rooftop of Quench-Heart keep. I have recovered the sacred scrolls of Kettsuin and am charged by Kwon to return them to the Temple of the Rock on the Island of Tranquil Dreams. And then immediately the adventure starts, with soldiers charging up the stairs and an immediate need to get out of dodge.
Fighting this many guys would be suicide, so using my ninja skills I flip over the wall and begin scaling the sheer surface. This may not have been the smartest move as the soldiers below pepper me with arrows: I am skilled enough to avoid them but have to duck in through a window. This is where the first callback to the previous book happens: I've been here previously, killing the denizens and freeing prisoners, so I know the terrain and am able to rush down the stairs and towards an escape route and exit the keep.
Free, I decide to push on to the city of Druath Glennan to take an opportunity to rest, but after stopping at an inn (presumably out of my ninja garb) for breakfast I am ambushed by a force the Monks of the Scarlet Mantis. Using my acrobatics I escape but by now it seems I am hunted at all turns, leading me to attempt to lose pursuit in the forbidding Goblins Teeth Mountains.

Turns out the Goblins Teeth Mountains are infested with none other than Goblins: foul creatures who, it seems, worship some kind of Lovecraftian horror. I soon find myself in their tunnels, slinking about, but before long I am spotted by a sharp-eyed little Goblin nipper and once again the pursuit is on. This is where it all starts going wrong for me: I duck into a doorway but end up being trapped by the Goblins in a tunnel swiftly filling with water. With no escape I am forced to call upon Kwon for aid (this is a one-use reward for beating the previous book), enabling me to escape this fate only to find myself facing something far worse: an appalling Shoggoth-like entity, all eyes and tentacles, dwelling deep beneath the mountain on Goblin sacrifices - evocatively shown by a half-digested Goblin hanging from a rope above it, missing legs like something from Deep Star Six. Remembering my training I am able to resist the horrible lure of the primordial thing - my poison needles buy me a second and I am able to use my acrobatics to escape, fleeing up the rope the Goblins used to deliver their own sacrifices to the creature.

This is my final encounter in the mountains: I break free of their oppressive embrace and strike out towards the Sea of the Star. My pursuers do not seem to be close, but I have a new problem to consider: a terrible black rash spreading across my chest and arms. I encounter a hapless group of crusaders battling an undead warlord: this is my first dice-fuelled fight of the book and a very nasty one, but I prevail and in return they assist with both the wounds I have suffered and the plague I picked up in the Goblin tunnels, although it looks like I miss out on a powerful artifact. I take my leave of the adventurers and head East towards the port, sticking to the woodlands in case I am still pursued where I battle and slay members of the Legion of the Sword of Doom, carrying orders to kill me, and reach the port of Harith and am immediately waylaid by three infamous killers - a friend of whom I killed in the previous book. I swiftly down two of them (non-fatally) without dice rolls, which is  lucky as a poor defense roll sees the third stick his sword into my lung for a massive 8 damage and before the fight can continue a new challenger approaches in the form of some hideous cross between Mortal Kombat Goro and a centipede. Although this fight looks horrific on paper, which the enemy rocking a huge number of hit points and technically able to kill me with one hit, I use a technique learned in the previous book to down it in reasonably short order, leaving me battered and bleeding but triumphant - or am I? Defeating this horror has, it seems, opened a portal between my world of Orb and THE VOID. Oops...

My next stop is the port of Wargrave Abbas where I am able to stop over at a temple of Kwon and learn of the city and it's guilds of swordmasters and assassins - but these are evil assassins, who kill for money and not to rid the world of evil (unlike me). Here I am given the opportunity to head over to the assassins guild to learn some new techniques but this seems a daft move: I am proved right when an assassin attempts to take my life within the walls of the temple itself but I deflect their blade with my arrow cutting skills. The killer escapes, and I make my way by boat to the Island of Plenty, meeting friendly faces along the way. Here I agree to assist the Daiymo in battle: I am delayed by a recue sidequest, but when I arrive he has won his battle anyway and we have a lovely dinner together - all looks well for my journey home, but my sense of hope is misplaced. I awake at night with a terrible feeling of wrongness. Silently I slip of my room, checking in with the guards and all seems well... but is it? I cannot shake the feeling of wrongness and retracing my steps I find the guards murdered by methods not unlike my own. A dangerous game of cat and mouse ensues, one I sadly lose as the rival ninja, a follower of the deadly Way of Scorpion, steals up behind me and slips a garotte over my neck, ending me the ay I have ended so many others.

This book absolutely ruled. It's packed with world building detail - I probably said this when discussing Avenger! but with these early FF books we're just starting to get hints of a coherent world, but here the world of Orb feels fully formed and the writing is peppered with detail irrelevant to the adventure itself but really bringing the surroundings to life. The writing is really strong throughout. There's plenty of callbacks to the previous book - not just the plot but other nice little nods and returning characters, both major and minor. The concept of legging it back home is totally different to the first books quest for revenge, and in the early chapters I really did feel under pressure to escape. I'm a huge fan of the fight mechanic, and the book is also very generous with its Endurance (Stamina) recovery which means it can have a number of small set pieces where your life feels seriously in danger before topping your health up again and moving on, avoiding the slow stamina drain of FF. In short it all feels rather epic and I can't wait to have another crack.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 09 May, 2022, 01:37:25 PM
That actually sounds really good, I might have to try these books!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 May, 2022, 02:11:05 PM
I hope I haven't bigged it up too much! But I am really enjoying them.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 09 May, 2022, 02:51:47 PM
You know FF 11 is by the same authors and set in the same world?
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 09 May, 2022, 04:05:06 PM
I do, although that's another I haven't played yet. Google tells me they also did Sword of the Samurai.

I have played a few of their Duelmaster books, which are set on the world of Orb and I really liked. I've still got a couple of sets, but finding someone to play with nowdays isn't easy  :(
: Re: Gamebooks
: Funt Solo 09 May, 2022, 04:09:20 PM
I hope I haven't bigged it up too much! But I am really enjoying them.

Love those books.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 10 May, 2022, 09:38:09 AM
Assassin! Redux

I enjoyed my run at Assassin so much I had another couple of goes at it late yesterday.

I didn't keep as good a set of notes but I did get killed twice more (by the Goblin King and by a disguised assassin) and nearly blew myself up with a magic ring before finishing.

The biggest change from my previous attempt that I decide not to do the rescue quest, which waylaid me from aiding the Daimyo on the Isle of Plenty. This is a bit of switch as previously in the book the better paths tend to reward being helpful, as benefits my status as a good-aligned monk. Instead the Daimyo sends soldiers to help the villagers and I head off for a neat little double assassination mission. This was a lot of fun as I had to sneak into the camp and murder the enemy army leader and his lieutenant, and was probably the better route as I was in better health (and indeed was able to receive healing after the mission) which I needed for the absolutely excellent cinematic fight with the Way of the Scorpion ninja that more or less wraps up the book.

I've enjoyed these so much, I'm not sure why they never reached a larger audience. From the art there seems to be another undersea segment that I haven't seen, possibly accessible by not going through the mountains? Speaking of art this is probably the weakest thing in the book, but it's consistent across the two I've played which is cool.
One thing I really like is that there's no 'do you have item x, if not game over' moment. Having certain items or skills makes your life a lot easier, and you can definitely box yourself into a point where a lack of a certain skill means death, but there seems to be a lot more freedom of choice and build.
A note on skills - Poison Needles is much less useful in this book than in book 1, but I did still get to use it for a key assassination. In book 1 it seemed I was constantly being asked if I had Acrobatics, hence choosing it here: this time Feign Death, Immunity to Poison and Lockpicking all seemed to crop up a few times, whereas climbing was mainly useless.
Also 'Eyes glistening with unshed tears' is one of my favourite bits of description from the book.

I am going to try and pick up a copy of Usurper. Because I had an original of book 1 I bought an old version of book 2, but I kind of wish I'd gone for the reprints as the older ones look to start getting expensive around this point in the series. The hardback versions look glorious, but also unobtainable without a second mortgage...

In the meantime, it's back to the House of Hell I think.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 18 May, 2022, 11:16:01 AM
Caverns of the Snow Witch

Well, this book is WILD! I knew it had a reputation as a difficult one, and I would need a decent Skill to get me through – and I roll up 11. Nice! That’ll do it. Stamina 14 is not so nice. Luck 7 is truly abysmal. Truly, what the FF Gods give with one hand they take away with the other. As usual, SPOILERS follow…

The Playthrough

So this time I’m a troubleshooter and sword-for-hire escorting a caravan through the frozen far north of Allansia. It doesn’t sound much, but this is a veritable bonanza of character development compared to the likes of the protagonist from say, Forest of Doom, who aimlessly wander Titan composing erotic poetry about their own sword. Very soon, I get given a mini-mission all my own – track and kill the yeti who slaughtered an outpost garrison. My character demands a purse of 50 gold if he’s successful – I like that he knows his worth! Suddenly it clicks – this is the same guy who just survived Scorpion Swamp, of course, trading on his new celebrity. Well, fair play; it took me enough attempts to get a win on that one!

A brace of SNOW WOLVES are the first enemy to test me, hurling themselves out of the snows in a flurry of teeth and claws just after I’ve used some Luck rolls to cross an ice bridge. The last enemy I killed in Scorpion Swamp was a wolf, so it seems fitting that it’s the first I encounter here. They only get a couple of hits in, but this means I’m only on 10 Stamina, so I munch some provisions to take me back up to 14. A blizzard descends on me not long after. Opting to take shelter in an igloo, I’m told I have to eat another two lots of provisions to keep warm (with no health gain!) A pattern is already emerging that I’m none too keen on…

Soon after I find a trapper’s hut and help myself to a Warhammer and a spear. Which is just as well, because the trapper himself is a little further up the slopes, and he’s found… the YETI. I’m too late to stop him being cut down (which will surprise nobody who’s ever read a gamebook), so I hurl the spear and get stuck in. I’ve fought mightier foes, but the dice rolls don’t entirely go my way, and I’m forced to use Luck to stave off death in the final few rounds; I’m barely on my feet by the time the mighty beast rolls over into the snow – a mere 1 Stamina, in fact! Boy, do I feel that I’ve earned every one of those 50 gold pieces…

(https://i.imgur.com/iDcEf54.jpg?1)

The mauled trapper is breathing his last – I know exactly how he feels – but in best narrative tradition he has just enough strength to monologue about the nearby Caverns, home to a Snow Witch marshalling an army and apparently planning to bring a new Ice Age down on Allansia. During his dying exposition, I wolf down another few provisions to take my stamina up to a still-measly 9, meaning I’ve already used half my rations up – and I haven’t even gotten to the Caverns! One avalanche later, I do – but I’ve had to take another Luck roll to survive it unscathed. So here I am about to start the adventure proper, and I’m down to 5 rations, 6 Luck and 9 Stamina. Even for an Ian Livingstone book, this seems… excessive.

The first encounter I have within the Caverns is a Wood Elf, who asks why I’m not wearing my ‘obedience collar,’ pointing to the collar around his own neck. One of the options I’m given is to say that I’m having my collar widened because I’ve put on weight recently. This makes me laugh so much that I have to choose it as my option, just to see what the reaction is! Astoundingly, he believes me – but our conversation leads him to curse his own collar and the Snow Witch herself. I’m forced to watch helplessly as the collar cripples him with pain, for which I lose another Luck point [I’m not sure why – it isn’t as though this was my fault. Perhaps because the Snow Witch now knows I’m coming…?]

And so of course, in the next corridor I start falling into a pit in the floor. I can hardly even see the point of rolling to see if I’m Lucky or Unlucky at this point, but I duly do so, and – oh what a surprise, I failed it, and now I have to lose another Luck point for my efforts. I’ve never played a gamebook where I burnt through my Luck so damn quickly. This could easily be the end of the adventure – waiting around in the pit indefinitely for the Snow Witch’s minions to come and finish me off. Instead, two GOBLINS are sent to fetch me, gloating from the pit edge and demanding I throw my sword to them before they let me up. (I can’t lie; it is a tad insulting that a pair of bloody gobbos are apparently all that the force the Snow Witch thinks I merit – but then I am half-dead on my feet, covered in blood and gore – some mine, some not – gobbling sandwiches hand over fist just to stay alive. Perhaps you can’t blame her.) I reluctantly throw them my sword, and they let down a rope. I am apparently so underwhelming a foe, so supremely lacking in menace, that they don’t even bother to tie my hands or anything on the march through the caverns – so I take the opportunity to kick one in the unmentionables, and fight the other. [Here’s a rare error in the gamebook. As the goblins now have my sword, the book tells me I have to fight with a -3 handicap for being weaponless – but I’m not, because I’ve still got the trapper’s Warhammer].

I end up in a vast cavern full of hooded henchmen praying to some almighty, hellish ice sculpture. I attempt to tiptoe past them all and out of a side door – with one Luck point left and two die to roll, you can imagine how well that goes. The alarm is raised, and the statue begins to creak to life – I knew I was going to end up fighting that bloody thing the moment I saw it… I go into the fight against the ICE DEMON on 12 stamina, and come out on 4. Yup, that’s about par for the course for this day. Come back Scorpion Swamp, all is forgiven.

(https://i.imgur.com/w36GE2i.png?1)

Quite a lot now happens in short succession, [building, I think, to the end of the original magazine version  of the story which the gamebook was later extended from]. I rescue a dwarf, who gives me a sling and an ominous warning to ‘beware the white rat.’ An Illusionist tries to bamboozle me with the old ‘Which is the real me’ mirage, but I make a lucky stab at exactly the right one. Smashing the crystal that was obviously the source of his power, I’m rather baffled to find that a Genie, of all things, emerges from it. He seems weirdly out of place here in the ice caves, but sod it – he offers to come to my aid and get me past one enemy when I most need it. There’s a FROST GIANT in the next room. Thankfully I avoid fisticuffs, as the dwarf’s sling places a lead ball straight between his eyes and takes him out bloodlessly. For my troubles I pick up a magic ring that will summon a warrior to fight in my stead! In the next room I have to fight a CRYSTAL WARRIOR, [at which point the gamebook remembers that I have the Warhammer]. It’s been a rough start, and I’m still not in a good way, but the Snow Queen’s minions are now falling like ninepins before me. Maybe I do have the ghost of a chance here…

In the room beyond that is a creepy stone sarcophogaus, and perched upon it, the white rat I was told to beware of – although what help the warning was supposed to be, I don’t know. I’m not even given an opportunity to avoid it. The rat immediately runs over, and transforms before my bewildered eyes into… a WHITE DRAGON. A freakin’ dragon. I have no time to think about how little sense this makes before I’m in the fight of my life. I use the magic ring to summon a Dwarf warrior, but as he’s only Skill 7 (against the dragon’s 12) he does exactly no damage before the lizard’s blasted him to a greasy spot on the floor. Then it’s my turn. I last a little longer, but not long enough.

Lights out. Where was my bloody genie when I needed him?!

(https://i.imgur.com/9ltaBMq.jpg?1)

The Verdict
After all of Scorpion Swamp’s laudable attempts to innovate, we’re firmly back in familiar territory here. Even more so, in fact – once the titular caverns are reached early on, CotSW is essentially another of Sir Ian’s beloved dungeon crawls, complete with plenty of uninteresting ‘will you go left-or-right’ paragraphs. That said, it’s packed full of incident and rarely fails to be exciting, and the unique setting (as with Island of the Lizard King) really makes this one sing. It feels like a more successful redux of Firetop Mountain, in many ways.

It has two main faults. The first doesn’t especially matter – it’s that there’s a little too much that doesn’t really make sense (the misplaced genie, the dragon that for some reason turns into a rat, the sorceress who is also a vampire…). The other does, and given that this is a Sir Ian book, it’ll be of no surprise to learn that it’s just too bloody hard! It’s a fairly relentless barrage of Luck rolls and Skill +10 enemies. Shame, because this one could have been a contender.

A unique setting, an unusual structure and superbly individual artwork lifting another often unfair dungeon crawl – 8 combat dice out of 10.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Richard 18 May, 2022, 01:54:04 PM
Great write up as usual! That art really is spectacular! (Although the Yeti does look a bit silly.) I really must start this book this week.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 18 May, 2022, 02:47:47 PM
Superb stuff Jimbo!
That genie is totally useless.
: Re: Gamebooks
: Dark Jimbo 18 May, 2022, 02:51:30 PM
Right? If a Skill 12 dragon doesn't warrant his intervention, what on earth is the point?

Still tempted to take another run or two at it - I'm aware it's very much a gamebook of two halves, and I've never yet made it to the second!
: Re: Gamebooks
: Barrington Boots 18 May, 2022, 04:00:25 PM
By the time you get to the rat-dragon the genie is superfluous sadly. He really hacks me off because he basically says 'if you're in trouble, I'll help!' when he should actually say 'if you're in trouble in a very, very specific manner and circumstance, I'll help!' because that's what he's actually all about. Grr!

You should totally have another run at it dude!