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Author Topic: Gamebooks  (Read 9412 times)

Krakajac

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #255 on: 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.

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #256 on: 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.
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #257 on: 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.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #258 on: 09 May, 2022, 01:37:25 PM »
That actually sounds really good, I might have to try these books!

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #259 on: 09 May, 2022, 02:11:05 PM »
I hope I haven't bigged it up too much! But I am really enjoying them.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #260 on: 09 May, 2022, 02:51:47 PM »
You know FF 11 is by the same authors and set in the same world?

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #261 on: 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  :(
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Funt Solo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #262 on: 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.
++ map ++ thrills ++ coma ++

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #263 on: 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.
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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #264 on: 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…



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.



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?!



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.
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #265 on: 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.

Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #266 on: 18 May, 2022, 02:47:47 PM »
Superb stuff Jimbo!
That genie is totally useless.
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Dark Jimbo

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #267 on: 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!
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Barrington Boots

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #268 on: 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!
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Richard

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Re: Gamebooks
« Reply #269 on: 23 May, 2022, 09:16:17 PM »
Caverns of the Snow Witch

Well, I got precisely one encounter further than Dark Jimbo before perishing! Here's how it went.

I start with Skill 12, suprisingly, and Stamina 19. Unfortunately I only get 7 Luck points, so I choose the Potion of Luck.

Setting off after the Yeti, I avoid the ice bridge over the crevasse because I just assume nothing good will come of crossing it. I encounter a woolly mammoth with 10 skill points, which at the start of the adventure feels a little harsh, but with my own amazing stats I make short work of him. I then trudge through a blizzard, losing two stamina points before I take the hint and stop to build an igloo for shelter. After the blizzard subsides, I enter a cabin and basically treat it like it's my own place, like one of the bears in the Goldilocks tale. I eat someone's food and steal his weapons, a spear and a warhammer. But he won't be needing all that stuff anyway, because I find him just in time to witness him being killed by the Yeti.

I attack the Yeti with the spear, which reduces its skill from 11 to 10 (as I learn later by looking to see what would have happened if I hadn't -- it's not really cheating if I've already made my choice!), and then kill it in a fight, by the end of which my Stamina has been reduced to 12. (Foolishly, I forget to eat anything after the fight, for which I will kick myself later on when it is suddenly reduced to 6.) I avoid an avalanche by successfully testing my Luck, and find the entrance to the Caverns of the title. I am immediately asked to choose between turning left or right, with no information about either option. Fuck you, Sir Ian! I go left.

I meet the Elf with the obedience collar, and basically make the exact same choices as Jimbo because I forgot what he told us about this bit. So in the course of this encounter I lose 2 Luck points, and I now have a Luck score of 4! I drink the Potion of Luck, which increases my Luck score to a massively underwhelming 8.

This time, the next choice of direction tells me that there are footsteps running towards me from one way, so I cautiously head the other way and fall into a pit. Losing half my Stamina, I regret my failure to eat any provisions since fighting the Yeti. I manage to escape from the Goblins who pull me out of the pit at a cost of 2 more Stamina points, so I decide to investigate the kitchen, where a friendly gnome gives me some cake. That only restores one Stamina point, so I eat my own provisions as well, restoring my Stamina to a still pretty nerve-wracking 9, just in time to meet an enormous Ice Demon. I assume I'm about to get absolutely clobbered by it, but luckily it's just a statue, and I only have to deal with the weirdos who are worshipping it. I just run away from them.

At the next junction, I head in the direction some cries for help are coming from, and I rescue the Dwarf. He gives me a sling and some iron balls, and then we part ways. I eat some more provisions, and then head off to meet my next encounter, some dipshit illusionist. I fuck his shit up, meet the pointless Genie, and leave via the door in the shape of a skull.

I am now in a room occupied by a Frost Giant who, as far as I can tell, hasn't seen me and who has done me no wrong. I could just sneak past him. But as this is an Ian Livingstone book, I assume I will probably need to steal his stuff, so I unethically knock him out with the sling and an iron ball and search his gaff. I find three rings. The first one I choose gives me the power to resist the freezing cold, which is obviously quite handy in the ice caverns. I assume that at least one of the other two rings must be a booby prize, so I decide not to push my luck any further and I leave them.

The next encounter is with the Crystal Warrior, who is invulnerable to edged weapons. That's fine, I think, as I wield my trusty warhammer. But I am actually penalized for having the hammer, because now I have to fight it, and it has 11 Skill points and more Stamina than I do -- whereas if I didn't have a hammer (or if I was given the option of doing something else), the Genie would have come along and made me invisible and I wouldn't have had to fight it at all! Fucking Genie! Fucking Ian!

The fight is quite brutal, and I only just survive. I stagger, bleeding and concussed, to a junction where I have to choose again between left and right with no information about either. Left went badly for me last time (the goblins' pit), so I go right. I meet a zombie with Skill 6, Stamina 6, the easiest fight in the whole book so far, and I am given the option to Escape, also for the first time. This seems suspicious to me, as whenever a gamebook is this keen to give you every opportunity to leave, it usually means you are in the right place. The illustration of the zombie also shows lots of stuff behind him. So I fight him, win easily, and come across an absolute goldmine of wicked stuff! I'm only allowed to take three things with me. Do the four dragons' eggs count as one item or four? To be on the safe side I write "Dragon egg(s)" on my Equipment List. I also take some garlic, because I remember from my original playthrough that the Snow Witch is a vampire, and a jar containing some ground minotaur horn, because it sounds like the kind of thing that might be an ingredient of some healing potion or something, and I remember that there's a guy called "the Healer" later on in the book so it might come in useful?

I eat some more provisions, so I now have 9 Stamina points. In the next room I encounter the White Rat the Dwarf warned me to watch out for, and I am asked if I have any ground minotaur horn! I do! I sprinkle some over the rat as it is beginning to transform into something else (the dragon that did for Jimbo, although the text doesn't tell me that), and it stops the transformation and forces the rat back into its original shape. We've made progress guys!

In the very next paragraph I encounter the Snow Witch! She's a vampire, and I have some garlic to ward her off, but I don't have any vampire-killing weapons to fight her with. She overcomes her fear of garlic, and it's an instant death paragraph for me!

This is quite a fun book, and it has some really good illustrations, the wood-cut effect is pretty cool. I'll give it another go soon.