Okay so for some reason I’m going to be reviewing the series of gamebooks from the Fighting Fantasy series. Why? So this section of the site gets some attention now and then. Also because its actually a form of “literature” that I have enough of an opinion on that I can be bothered to write about.
Not to mention it’s CYOA related, so it’s all a rich tapestry.
Not going to do all these in one sitting obviously since there are quite a few of them, but I’ll go through as many as I own which should still provide enough content here even if nobody else posts in the thread. After I’m done with these, who knows, might do other gamebook reviews at some point.
Some brief history first…
The Fighting Fantasy series was a group of gamebooks popular during the 80s to mid 90s. Though apparently a lot more popular in the UK than the US, but it might have helped that the main creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson were UK born so it had the home field advantage in that regard.
Even if you aren’t a living fossil, you still might have heard about these since they do get re-issued and “updated” from time to time. If you’re all into downloading games on your phone/ipad/whatever, you can probably find some of these in a spanking new digital format complete with achievements since getting trophy for just taking a shit is all the rage with this new generation.
While the traditional CYOA books were popular, I never really got into them much. They never seemed to really grab me with whatever the story was supposed to be about.
Always seemed to be “you” as some kid/teenager/young adult doing something that I never identified with and seemed retarded most of the time. Also always seemed like you could have avoided the whole problem just staying home and watching TV in most instances.
When the FF books came along though, well that was something I could get more into. Maybe it was the interesting settings with magic and monsters. Maybe it was the addition of stats that felt like I had more agency.
Or maybe it was just the power fantasy of killing things and taking their shit that appealed to my inner city youth mindset. Who knows.
In any case the FF books were probably the main CYOA style gamebook I got into. While they probably influenced me a little with writing, there was probably another series of CYOAs that was more influential in terms of how I write stuff today (A tale for another thread). I tried to write a story that was heavily influenced by these books once, and just didn’t find it fun and quite the slog.
Still, these were the ones I was always on the constant look out for back in the day to play and then demanding my parents buy me whenever I saw a new one. (Hey it was my mom’s fault for buying me the first ones to begin with)
Most of the books took place in the fantasy world of Titan, but that was sort of background lore that got built up as the series went on. Quite a few of the books reference other locations/people in other books, but very rarely are any of them direct sequels.
Occasionally the books had a scifi setting or very rarely a “real earth” modern setting.
Generally you rolled up your stats with two six sided dice and kept track of everything with pencil and paper. SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK were the main three, but occasionally different books would add other stats as well.
As a side note just to get it out of the way, I’ll be linking to the American covers of the book with these reviews as well. Why? Because ‘Murica that’s why.
I have read other reviews by UK/AU folks going on about how awful the American covers were due to their over the top style so I imagine any UK/AU members that grew up with these books prefer the original covers which tended to be a little more subdued in most cases.
In true American fashion, the covers to these books were a lot more “HEY LOOK AT ALL THIS COOL FANTASY SHIT! BUY THIS NOW!”
Hey it worked on me at least.
Eventually the US covers matched the UK versions as the series went on. I imagine the main reason was that the FF series wasn’t selling as well over here so why bother with the trouble of extra marketing over here with new cover artwork?
Anyway let’s get on with it, starting with the first book in the series.
1. Warlock of Firetop Mountain
The one that started it all wasn’t actually the first one I played, but I still got it fairly early during the collection of these.
The basic premise is you’re an adventurer type, you’re in a village that exists near this badass warlock that lives in a mountain and you decide to go kill him. While it sort of implies that you might be doing this for the greater good of ridding the world of an evil overlord, there’s nothing really saying that you aren’t just doing it for the shits and giggles of it. But more on that later.
So this book was written by Ian and Steve who worked on different parts of the book and while its still early yet, the two authors have different styles and it shows in the book.
Ian was the author that usually liked throwing a shitload of battles at you and make you collect a bunch of stuff in order to win. This typically meant you needed to take everything that wasn’t bolted down and explore everything you could. It also meant you better have rolled fairly high stats because he loved throwing monsters with skill levels of 12 at you as well.
Steve on the other hand tended more towards puzzle shit like figuring out passwords or something similar. He relied less on throwing difficult combat at you and actually provided better ways to face a situation without the need for tough fight.
What this all means is you got a bunch of tough battles mixed in with a good amount of necessary item collecting along with trying to figure out a FUCKING MAZE.
It’s the first fucking book, and they’re already playing goddamn mindgames with me. As I said though, wasn’t the first one I played though so fortunately I was already hooked on the series to not get frustrated.
Really, it’s not too bad though. The maze however is towards the end of the journey so it’s sort of frustrating or at least it was for me at the time and I still hate mazes to this day.
The vital item collection bit is mainly in the form of keys with numbers on them. You sort of don’t get any indication of what all these keys are for though except in two places. One is at the end of the book (more on that later) and another I believe is if you encounter some old prisoner that you can release who tells you about them.
The setting itself is a classic dungeon crawl. You go around encountering the various denizens of Firetop mountain who are all presumably employed or under control by Zagor the Warlock.
Some of the encounters of note that stand out where you get several options on how to deal with them include stuff like encountering an orc chieftain whipping his subordinate, another group of orcs torturing a dwarf or a group of skeletons building ships. (Telling them you’re the new overseer and they should get back to work is hilarious)
Dealing with crossing the river is sort of the turning point in the book which also sort of marks the change in the writing style of the book.
In fact I’m fairly certain that the book can result in weird looping at this point since there are a few times you can fall into a river and it’ll eventually drag you back here which means the chance to make the same encounters all over again. It’s the first book, so I guess they couldn’t figure out a good way to do revisiting areas again.
There are also a couple passages that go into minor nightmare mode.
One bit is going down a hallway and the lights go out and there suddenly is a bunch of screaming and it’s coming from the paintings that were on the walls. If you had the good sense to buy a candle (from some shopkeeper who just happened to be selling stuff a few passages before) the screaming temporarily stops, but you see that the people in the paintings now are moving and making anguished faces as they’re caught in some two dimensional hell. It’s sort of a creepy bit.
The other one is actually one of those encounters that always stood out to me. There’s this bit with a ghoul who is playing dead as you investigate corpses on the ground. The picture accompanying the encounter is appropriately disgusting looking too. (Do a google search Warlock of Firetop Mountain ghoul, you’ll see what I mean)
The best part is if he wounds you four times, it tells you to immediately turn to another page and upon doing so, it says that you suffer from the ghoul’s paralysis ability and it gleefully dances around you and then turns you over and sinks its teeth into your RUMP.
Yep, you die not only getting eaten alive, but it starts by eating your ass first. Gotta love this series.
In any case, going back to avoiding tough battles via item collection exists in a couple places here. One of them is the warlock’s pet dragon, which is either a hard battle or an instant by pass.
The other is the warlock himself. In fact there are a couple ways to deal with him and one is an instant kill with an item known as the Eye of the Cyclops. Which might seem anti-climatic, but hey whatever gets the job done. Unfortunately getting this object means you have to fight a pretty hard battle anyway. Nothing’s free.
Fighting him directly is a lot more difficult, but there’s another option where if you were paying attention to the rumors about him in the beginning, you can grab his deck of cards and throw them into the fireplace, greatly reducing his power. Apparently Zagor is a Magic the Gathering nerd.
However, killing Zagor is just the second to last step. You still have to get into his treasure chest of goodies. Hope you’ve been collecting keys, because this is where they’re going to come in handy and as an added bonus you have to figure out the combination of numbers via trial and error.
Getting the combo wrong often means a damaging shock that reduces your STAMINA and I know at least one of the combos will kill you outright. Trying to smash the lock also results in damage. So yeah, you can get killed even after defeating the main bad dude.
If you exhaust all your combos and still don’t have the right keys, a description follows saying that you sit down and weep at your failure and the adventure ends. Lol.
If you actually manage to get the right key combo, you win and it says how you have more riches here to last you a life time and that you’ll need to make several trips just to haul all the stuff out.
However, it also mentions Zagor’s book of spells, secrets and how to run the Mountaintop is also in the chest and it implies that YOU could decide to become the new master of Firetop Mountain instead.
The evil overlord is dead, long live the evil overlord.
For the first book, it’s not bad. The main problems are the fucking maze and the other “looping” weirdness with the river that can break immersion since you can go through the same encounters over and over again.
Some explanation of finding the keys might have been good too, but considering you can completely miss a vital key by taking the wrong path anyway, I suppose it doesn’t really matter if it was explained or not.
Anyway, I liked it well enough.
2. Citadel of Chaos
Now this one gives you a little more purpose than just a simple dungeon crawl. Instead of being some wandering adventurer going into the evil overlord’s lair to kill and take his shit, you’re now employed by the GOVERNMENT to go into the evil overlord’s lair and kill him. (And take his shit)
Okay it’s a little more complicated than that. You’re trying to defend your homeland from getting conquered by this wizard Balthus Dire who in later lore you find out he was evil school buddies with Zagor and another evil wizard dude who’s name escapes me at the moment.
Basically they all learned under this mentor type, and surprisingly none of them ever backstabbed each other and when they all “graduated” by killing their mentor (who realized too late that he was schooling three hellspawn) they all just went their separate ways to perform dark deeds in their own corner of the world.
I think Balthus and the other guy clashed at some point due to both trying to conquer the same territory, but Zagor seemed content just chilling in his mountain though. (Until some wandering adventurer kicked the shit out of him)
Anyway so this adventure also gives you access to spells! You’re an apprentice so you only get a limited amount and you roll to see how many you get during the stat roll. Choose your spells wisely since you don’t ever get the option to replenish them. Or at least I don’t remember any part in the book where you get that option.
So despite being a wet behind the ears apprentice they send you of all people to go assassinate Balthus Dire. Pretty sure someone in the magic school didn’t like you if they sent you on some suicidal mission like that.
Since you’re supposed to be infiltrating Balthus’ place, you’re trying to be low profile by masquerading as someone that’s just another minor of Dire’s. Since Dire is an equal opportunity evil overlord, you can sort of get away with this because he’s got a shitload of troops of all races working for him.
Though since everyone is working for a darklord anyway, they’re all inclined to kill you just for pissing them off or being suspicious. Not to mention he’s just got weird monsters running about that are probably going to attack anyone they come across.
The encounters in the citadel are pretty varied. Some of the more memorable ones include and ghostly washer woman, a campfire party with an orc, a dwarf and goblin and his girlfriend sitting on his lap, (who is giggling and slapping him occasionally from the description and accompanying picture) a leprechaun that just fucks with you for the lulz, witch cooks and their oven heated by a fire elemental, Dire’s wife and more!
Honestly there are more weirder encounters in this one than Firetop, but because I like to point out the creepier bits, let’s do that again.
At one point you can enter a larder with lots of food available. You get the choice to eat a lot of different food, some of which adds stamina, some of which turns out rotten, one will actually prevent you from casting spells for two options you get to do so due to being “Silent cheese” (or something weird like that)
The best one however is when you choose to eat the salted beef. As soon as you eat it, it says it’s not bad, but you then hear a squealing noise. You take another bite and then you figure out it’s the meat itself and it cries out even louder and jumps from your hand!
At this point the meat you’ve eaten is trying to fight its way out of your stomach and you have to make a stamina check to see if you manage to digest it before it gets the chance to do so. (You’re rolling on the floor in pain the entire time) Fail, and you die instantly. That will teach you to eat strange meat lying around in a villain lair.
Another part is where you encounter these “little humanoid” creatures. You get a picture of them and it’s obvious that they are some sort of goblin/orc type toddlers. They’re just in a room playing around surrounded by stuffed toys. They don’t do anything except give you strange looks. Apparently this is some sort of evil playroom where the rank and file who have kids can put their children while they’re working.
You can safely ignore them and just look about their room which doesn’t yield anything, however you also get the option to attack them!
They don’t even fight back. They just curl up against each other with fear in their eyes and it goes on about how you run them through as they give a weak squeal and die.
That’s right you get to kill CHILDREN in this one! (I’m sure Mizal would approve)
Though afterwards it says you feel a little strange about winning such an easy battle and you quickly leave the room. That’s it for your pangs of conscience. Lol.
The part though that’s the bitch kicking stopper for most is the encounter with the GANJEES. They’re towards the end just before you reach Dire and you can’t do shit to them (Your spells won’t work). They’re in this completely dark area where you climbing high stairs and they appear as just floating disembodied glowing heads.
They’ll mock you and you get some options on how to deal with them, but most of them will just lead to instant death. In one case, you can use this “Spider man” you can find in a jar and all that happens is the Ganjees getting excited because apparently its their pet and they release it and the little fucker attacks you. And if he bites you, its an instant death, but even if you survive, you just prolog the inevitable instant death.
There are only two ways to get past them. One of which is an item that utterly repels them and they let you go. The other is an item that they find so fascinating that they forget about you and you can pass them.
The problem though is the item that repels them can only be found on a path that doesn’t allow you to get ANOTHER vital piece of info that you need in order to open up the last locked door to Dire.
And if you don’t have it, it states that you’ll have to make your way back out the citadel and try again “tomorrow night”. Yeah right, good luck getting past the ganjees again.
I don’t understand why we couldn’t just wait for the fucker to open up and just clobber him in the head. I mean he’s probably going to leave his office eventually and it isn’t like he’s going to think anyone got past the ganjees and later on the big ass hydra he had as final guardians.
So if you finally get to Dire, it shows a picture of him and he looks almost like a fantasy version of Wez from Road Warrior. It even goes on about how he looks more like a soldier rather than a sorcerer.
The final battle with Dire is sort of cool. You can get into a whole wizard battle with him. At one point he’ll transform himself into a gorgon and turn you to stone if you didn’t get a mirror earlier. Of course if you just straight up attack him immediately without fucking with spells I think it just goes right into a fight and he’s pretty damn tough.
Since this one was a Steve Jackson written book, there is the alternative bit to killing him and after some fucking around with wizard battle, you can pull the curtains revealing sunlight which was one of the things mentioned in the beginning that Dire was severely weak to. Basically it kills him instantly.
Honestly he’s the dumb ass for not only having his important evil overlord chamber at the top of a fucking tower but also having goddamn windows, which then were only covered by fucking curtains in the first place. At least Zagor had the good sense to have his weakness embedded in living cyclopes statue you had to kill first.
So that’s basically the book. Always thought this one was better than Firetop though since it had some weird encounters and didn’t have that “loop issue” that the first one had.
I guess the main complaint that some might have is there is only one true path, but that could very be said for a lot of the books, so nothing new there. Oh and the artwork cover for the UK version is fucking awful. Seriously it’s really boring even when compared to the other UK covers, which are at least serviceable.
Anyway, I liked this one quite a bit and found the setting pretty interesting than the average dungeon crawler thanks to all the interesting encounters.
Sounds interesting! I've played Steve Jackson's Sorcery (the one on steam) and although I found it pretty cool. I felt like it could be darker. Really needed a killing young ones scene.
3. Forest of Doom
Now this was the first one I ever read. Other reviews I’ve seen have said it’s one of the weaker or even duller adventures, but again since it was the first one I ever played, I probably enjoy it a bit more than most did I guess.
This one is another where you’re a wandering adventurer and you sort of “stumble” into the quest thanks to a dying dwarf. He basically tells you that he travelled all the way from his village of Stonebridge on the other side of the Darkwood Forest to get the hammer of his people which was stolen by a death hawk which it dropped and then broken in two pieces by a pair of goblins. (Not sure HOW they know that bit though)
They need this hammer so that they can rally and go fight the trolls because apparently there morale is so shit that’s what they need in their life. Obviously surface life has made these dwarves a bunch of faggots if they can’t fight a bunch of trolls without a rallying symbol, let alone getting it stolen in the first place.
In any case you were in the neighborhood anyway, so you decide to take up the dwarf’s dying request. You also take his thirty gold pieces.
So the first stop isn’t Darkwood Forest, but instead it’s the wizard Yaztromo who lives right on the outskirts of it. The dwarf was supposed to get his help anyway, but when you arrive, the most help he’s going to give you is sell you some magic items to help you on quest. There goes your 30 gold and you can’t buy all of it either so choose wisely.
The magic items themselves usually pop up as an option to use in various later parts of the adventure. Typically they allow you to bypass combat or avoid damage.
After dealing with him, you’re on your way. One funny bit is you actually get the option to attack him and if you do so, he’ll actually warn you first not to try it. If you proceed anyway, he turns you into a toad and throws you outside. The end!
Darkwood Forest is sort of just dungeon crawl outside for the most part. I can see why its considered a bit dull since you’re just sort of wandering the forest with the occasional battle to break things up. Granted you’re supposed to be looking for two pieces of the hammer, but since you don’t even know where these are in a giant fucking forest, it’s a lot of wandering and hoping for the best. This one was written by Ian, so of course he liked more combat and item collecting.
Still there are a few bits of interest that stick out.
The places where you actually find the two pieces of the hammer I suppose qualify. The handle is still being held by one of the goblins who when you find him is imprisoned by an ogre that is presumably going to eat him soon. (You get a pic of the scene) You have to kill the ogre and the goblin who attacks you as soon as you release him, the ungrateful shithead.
The second place is really damn convoluted to find. It’s in a crypt and you can’t even get into it without some key which you find on some random hill man that you fight at some point. (Assuming you encounter him)
If you get inside you find a skeleton, which is described as vaguely goblin looking and a closed stone tomb. You can’t open the tomb and you need an item of levitation to lift the lid. And no, that’s the one item you can’t buy from Yaztromo. You have to win it in a damn arm wrestling contest with some dude who just lives in the forest being manly and shit. (Guess it’s IAP)
Anyway, you can make THAT contest easier with a magic item you can buy from the wizard. I think it’s an armband of strength.
So you get the item that can lift the tomb and that’s when you have to fight a ghoul and just like any ghoul in FF, if it hits you 4 times you’re paralyzed and you get treated to nice death ending explaining how the ghoul is happy as it isn’t often it gets to eat fresh flesh. (Doesn’t eat your ass first though)
If you kill the ghoul however you find that it was using the head of the hammer as a headrest.
The only other major bits are the magical gnome that fucks with you, though unlike the leprechaun in the last book, he really only fucks with you hard if you try to attack him. (Turns your sword into a carrot and then into a butterfly)
As far as any creepy shit? There’s only one bit that might qualify and that’s the whole section where you might go explore some underground caves.
You’ll find a bunch of these weird spindly creatures mostly ignoring you and tending to various mushroom crops. Some are blue, some are red. If you kill one of these creatures I believe they melt into the ground and purple mushrooms pop up. You get the option to chow down on any of these colored mushrooms, but it’s not really a good idea.
At some point though you encounter the master of this place which is a fire demon with sword and whip just like a balrog. If you kill him the creatures tend to seem a little lost and then they start deferring to you. If you sit in the demon’s throne, they’ll start asking questions about what you want done about the new mushroom crops.
Put on the demon’s crown, and you transform into the new demon master and you get a non-standard ending where you presumably lord it over these mushroom farmers all day and night.
The ending of this game is probably a little lack luster too when compared to the final battles with Zagor and Dire. Even if you kill them without actual combat, at least it seemed like you were defeating a powerful foe.
The last battle before getting out of Darkwood forest? It’s a group of bandits, led by a WOMAN no less. (She’s not even wearing a chainmail bikini in the pic either!)
You have to fight five of them and it’s more of a tedious battle than a difficult one since they aren’t particularly very powerful, you just have to roll the dice more since you’re defending against multiple attacks.
Interestingly though, you do get the option to by pass them if you have at least five gold or items to give them. Though I never seemed to have enough after going through the damn forest and never like giving into bandits so I always lopped their heads off.
After the bandit encounter you reach Stonebridge where you either have both pieces of the hammer or you don’t. If you do, then you get a bunch of accolades from the dwarves who are now “ready to fight the trolls” (They’d never make it as an admin here) and give you a bunch of treasure which all you ever wanted anyway.
But what happens if you don’t have the complete hammer? Do you get a fail ending?
Why no you don’t, strangely enough.
You get a message saying you have failed in your quest, but you can make your way around Darkwood forest and start all over again at Yaztromo’s tower! There is a potential instant death encounter as you’re attacked by wild hillmen raining arrows at you during your trek back, but survive that and you get to do the adventure all over again.
One problem with that though which is the “loop” problem that was similar in Warlock of Firetop Mountain, except in this case it’s the whole damn adventure. Every encounter is basically reset which makes little sense obviously.
Again, nice idea, but they still hadn’t figured out a good way to make it so you could revisit old locations without it being the same thing.
And that’s it for this book. It isn’t as deep or complex as the last two, but it’s still worth going through.
4. Starship Traveller
This was the first attempt as a scifi FF book. If you ever read most reviews about these, you’ll generally get a lot of mentions of disappointment and how the scifi setting never seems to really “work” for the gamebooks.
There does seem to be something to that theory since personally I’ve also found most of the scifi related books to be lacking a bit compared to the fantasy counterparts. Not sure why exactly. Maybe the combat system doesn’t tend to work as well, but that can’t be the case because they often tend to overhaul the simple system for such settings as I’ll go into later. (Though perhaps that's the problem, don't fix what isn't broken.)
Starship Traveller puts you in the role of a space ship captain and you get sucked into a black hole into an unknown part of the galaxy and you have to try to find another black hole to get back home.
Yeah, it’s basically “Star Trek Voyager the CYOA” except you aren’t subjected to the awful characters.
You also don’t just roll stats for yourself either. You also roll stats for your top crew which includes your science (Spock), medical (McCoy/Crusher), engineer (Scotty/LaForge) and security (Worf) officers. You also get two security guards (Red shirts) All the crew save for the security dudes have to subtract 3 from their combat rolls since they aren’t fighters.
Whenever you beam to a planet you usually get the option to take two other members with you. These members CAN die in combat (or in other ways). If that happens you get one replacement, but you have to subtract 3 from their stat rolls because they’re a second rate replacement (Ezra Dax). Lose the replacement and you don’t get another one.
This being a scifi setting with starships and shit, there are more ways to kill people than just beating them to death with piece of shaped metal in your hand. You also have ship combat (Yeah you have to roll stats for your ship in the form of SHIELDS and FIREPOWER) Losing all your shields in ship combat and obviously you and everyone under your command explodes spectacularly.
There are also the rarer phaser combat encounters. You can get the option to Stun or Kill, but that’s one of those situational things. Typically any aliens you encounter ALWAYS have theirs set to kill. Generally these are resolved with skill roll tests and if you succeed then you hit, if not then you fail and the attackers get their chance. Since any hit means instant death (or instant stun) phaser combat is over pretty quickly.
With all that shit out of the way, we can get on with the actual adventure.
Well, there’s not much to it. As I said, you’re basically trying to locate coordinates to another black hole that can possibly take you back to your own galaxy. This means exploring planets and such.
Along the way you’ll encounter different aliens and have to deal with them.
Honestly though, despite the open space travel and planet hopping, none of the encounters are all that memorable.
There’s one planet where the aliens age in reverse (Think there actually was a Voyager episode like that) there’s another encounter with some guy called Dar Bartar (Something like that, it was very similar to Darth Vader though) and the picture of him looks similar to Vader’s helmet. Though as I remember he’s not really a rotten guy, but your mind gets switched in his body when you transport I think.
Yeah, it’s all sort of a little dull despite all the extra stuff going on in this one.
As far as “dark” or creepy stuff? Can’t really remember anything of note. I think the only thing is eventually when the book starts nearing the end and it mentions how a lot of the crew are getting “antsy” and stressed about the situation and how there have already been reports of a few suicides.
Keep in mind you haven’t even been traveling unknown space a year (probably not even close to it) and already you got folks killing themselves. Apparently you’ve got a lot of fragile folks aboard your ship.
So it is at this point if you’ve collected any info on black hole coordinates, you’re supposed to add up some numbers and turn to that page where most of the time it’ll tell you that you approach one of these black holes at a particular speed and everyone blacks out and you turn to another page.
Since this is another Steve Jackson gamebook, there’s only one correct number combo. If you didn’t get it right, then you get a failed ending of how nobody on the ship wakes up because you all died. The same thing happens if you didn’t find anything on your journey, you just get a report of a black hole and you try to go through it anyway. (And die)
If you got the right coordinates though, then you win of course.
Yeah, that’s basically it. This was probably the first FF book that I never bothered to keep playing until I won.
There were a lot of cool ideas with this one, but just never grabbed me. The book sort of feels shorter as well since it just sort of arbitrarily ends despite the fact that you’ve got literally an entire galaxy you could explore. I get book limitations, but they could have come up with something better.
They could have at least tried to have the situation that your fuel or something was running low and if you didn’t risk a black hole soon, you’d be adrift and have hostile aliens destroy the helpless ship rather than your suicidal snowflake crewmembers forcing you to risk a black hole.
Still as with most FF books it’s worth at least a play through.
5. City of Thieves
After the less than stellar adventure of the last book, we’re back on the world of Titan again and chopping things up with a sword.
The story has a typical set up. You’re an adventurer, you get hired by the town of Silverton to get help from a wizard by the name of Nicodemus to stop a evil necromancer called Zanbar Bone from terrorizing the place and such.
Nicodemus however lives in Port Blacksand which is basically the hive of scum and villainy of the land so you’ll have to brave the infamous city of thieves.
Despite how generic this all sounds, this is probably one of my favorite books. Most of the setting is entirely in Port Blacksand so it’s a “city crawl” but is pretty rich with varied encounters.
The inspiration for Holgard in Rogues? THIS book.
One thing that’s a little odd, is there are many sections of the book where you get the option to just walk into some private home to explore. While if you were playing as thief this might make a little more sense, but then again as an adventurer I suppose it isn’t too far fetched that you’re just going in places uninvited and taking shit anyway.
Still, in a place known as the city of thieves, you’d think more people would at least lock their doors, though given some of the fucked up encounters, maybe common thieves are rolling dice on survival by breaking in anyway.
Really going on about the encounters would be a section unto itself. Most of it is when you’re breaking and entering these private homes.
A funny one is somebody asking who it is and if you say “tax man” they just toss a bag of coins at you from the next room without even looking. You take them and leave.
Another one is you enter a home and some dude dressed in black robes says he’s glad you’ve arrived because he wants to play a game and offers you six pills to eat. Choose right and he gives you something. Choose wrong and you die instantly.
If we’re going with creepy encounters, the big one that stands out is entering a house where you find two old women dressed like little girls fighting over a bunch of mutilated dolls and toys. (You get a picture of it too) They demand that you give them more toys when they see you.
The adventure itself is sort of divided into three parts. The first part is trying to find Nicodemus. Eventually when you get to the middle of city divided by a bridge you find out he’s living under said bridge. So you go there to talk to him.
And in typical fashion for these wizards, he wants to do the bare minimum to actually help you. He tells you he’s old and doesn’t want to leave his house (can’t say I blame him) but he’ll tell you how to kill Zanbar Bone. You’ll need Lotus Flower, A black pearl, and hag’s hair mixed together to grind in his eyes. But first you’ll need a a silver arrow to shoot into his heart so you can paralyze him first. Plus you’ll need to get a unicorn tattooed on your head. (I swear I think Nico is fucking with you on that last one)
As you can tell Ian wrote this one seeing you now have an item hunt to do with no indication where any of this shit might be.
So begins the second part of the adventure. The black pearl is aboard a docked pirate ship, which again, you’re sort of just trespassing on if you explore it.
The lotus flower is actually in a park where a sign tells you NOT to pick the flowers. Picking the lotus results in some combat with magic guardians.
The hag’s hair is unsurprisingly found on a hag who happens to live in the sewers. I think you actually get a clue about that one if you talk to the right person.
The silver arrow is one you can directly fuck up even if you find the place. The arrow isn’t cheap and if you try to just flat out rob the silversmith he’ll swallow the key to the container holding it and drop some sort of toxic gas bomb. You won’t get the arrow unless you shell out the coin.
Speaking of shelling out coin, the goddamn MLP tattoo on your head is the most expensive of all. Though if you don’t have enough coin, the tattoo artist conveniently has a brother that runs a pawnshop next door who will buy the various items you’ve presumably “found” during your time in the city.
Eventually your time in the city will come to an end when every eventual route leads to two troll guards by the name of Fatnose and Sourbelly. They fuck with you immediately and no matter what you say or do, they WILL throw you out of the city but not before taking all your gold first.
As it turns out just complying with the fascist trolls is the easiest solution since gold doesn’t have any more use after you leave the city.
The other options are to try to escape which will result in a skill test that can possibly result in you breaking your neck because you were trying to climb over the city walls. (And leaving it anyway)
There is also fighting them. They’re a tough battle so you’re likely to get fucked up if you don’t have high skill. Killing them results in all of the Blacksand’s corrupt police force after you and a little boy and his grandfather help hide you in a bunch of hay they’re hauling in their wagon since they thought Fatnose and Sourbelly were assholes.
Whatever you do, you won’t be in Blacksand anymore and it’ll ask you if you managed to get all the needed items. If you didn’t you instantly fail since you can’t risk going back into Blacksand now. (Or at least you’re not going to risk it)
If you managed to get everything, the end game begins, but first a new wrinkle!
As you’re making your way to Zanbar’s lair, you get a message from Nico via carrier bird telling you that you only need grind up two of the three items to kill Bone.
This means now you have to play a guessing game of which three items to grind up since Nico is a senile old bastard and can’t remember. This apparently pissed a lot of people off, but given how most of these books go with their one true path mode of operation, this sort of thing is hardly surprising.
So after cursing Nico a bit you set off to Zanbar’s place. This part is pretty simple. You get into some fights with undead, before locating Zanbar, but that’s about it.
One really silly thing you can do is take a nap in one the bedrooms. Of course this results in never waking up again and the book basically calling you a dumb fuck for sleeping in the evil overlord’s lair in the first place!
Anyway so there’s the final showdown Zanbar. As I remember you need one item that Nico didn’t tell you to go find, but you need it anyway to not get instant death and that’s a ring of light I believe. You can find it in Zanbar’s place though because evil overlords always keep shit that can fuck them up close by.
In any case, if you miss with the arrow or try to rub the wrong mix of shit into his eyes, he kills you instantly with his life draining lich powers.
Kill him and you go back to Silverton and get a bunch of praise as usual.
As I said while the basic plot of saving some dumb shit little town from the local magical bully doesn’t sound like much, the adventure through Port Blacksand is where all the cool shit happens.
Zanbar seemed like a cool enough overlord (He looks a bit like a typical skeletal lich from the pic of him), but he seems a little disjointed from the rest of the adventure unlike say Zagor or Dire.
After you’re done with the city part of the adventure, going to kill ol’ Zanbar seems almost like an afterthought.
Of course as I said, I still think this one of the top FF books set in the world of Titan, so as I always say “I liked it a lot.”
The tattoo was supposed to be some sort of extra evil repellent. I know they explain it very briefly why you need it, but again it just seems like Nico added that one for the lulz.
Most of the books you mentioned I’ll be going over at some point. Just doing them in original order since I know whenever they’ve reissued them, they do it in a completely different order, most of the time skipping over the less popular books.
6. Deathtrap Dungeon
Don’t want to spoil things too much, but this entire adventure is a dungeon crawl.
DD is one of those books that tends to be one of the favorites in the FF series. It’s not bad and I certainly enjoyed it, but I never got the big deal about it.
The premise is a guy named Baron Sukumvit holds this Trial of Champions event in the city known as Fang. Because he’s a rich asshole with a lot of time and money on his hands, he’s created this insanely dangerous dungeon for this purpose. People enter and if they survive then they win 10 thousand gold. If they fail, then they die.
So far nobody has won and being the ego/greed driven adventurer you are, you decide to try your luck.
Yeah, it’s basically like a fantasy version of any of those 80s scifi movies where you got a gamshow based around trying to survive to the end. Surprised they didn’t actually put it in a scifi setting actually, but probably for the best that they didn’t.
Despite the simple premise, this is where the series started connecting other books and creating a greater world. It mentions the city of Fang being located close to Port Blacksand and few other background lore things.
Before you enter, it also mentions some of the other contestants. One of them is an armored knight, two of them are barbarians, one is an elven girl, and another is some ninja dude.
And you’ll meet most of them all again at some point.
As to be expected for a book called Deathtrap Dungeon, the book is incredibly punishing. Having high stats is sort of vital due to some tough battles, but there are a lot of instant death scenarios. Some of them can be easily avoided provided you aren’t retarded like say crawling into a hole where a giant rock grub came out of. (Yes, you can actually do that)
Most of the encounters you have are either fights or some room where you have to make a skill check due to traps.
While there are encounters that stand out, most of them involve you bumping into the other contestants.
You can find one of the barbarians skewered by a spike trap and the knight has been turned to stone by one of the many trial masters littering the dungeon.
You’ll bump into a few trial masters that are in key parts of the dungeon. Sometimes they just give you a riddle to solve, but in one instance you have to under go a series tests, which I’ll get to in a moment.
The dungeon could be said to be divided into two sections. The only real difference is the second part is a little more lethal and you might have uncovered the fact that you need 3 fucking gems to pass the final test.
Yeah, fucking Ian with his item hunt again. Might have helped had you KNOWN about collecting vital gems from the start, but then again maybe its just assumed that as a filthy adventurer you’re going to be snatching any valuables you can anyway.
So getting back to the first half of the dungeon, you’ll actually encounter one of the barbarian contestants known as Throm. The pair of you will actually agree to work together for awhile which is a bit of a first in the series to be travelling with someone.
Throm’s not too much of a talker though and it’s always mentioned how he doesn’t think you should be fucking around with various items and such that you encounter. Of course as a player character, when you get a bunch of options to fuck around with something, what are you going to do? Usually fuck around with it for good or ill.
At some point however, you and Throm encounter one of the major trial masters who happens to be a dwarf. He divides you and Throm up saying that you need to under go a series of test separately.
You get a couple of puzzles to complete which is a bit unsual for an Ian written game. Must have had Steve Jackson providing a bit of input on some level.
Anyway, pass these tests and you get one more. You have to fight Throm who apparently during one of his trials he got stung by some giant scorpion, but because he’s a bad ass barbarian it didn’t kill him and just sort of put him in a delusional state.
In any case he’s violent and doesn’t recognize you now and you have to kill him. Afterwards the dwarf reminds you that you would have had to eventually anyway since THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE to win the trial.
Still, the dwarf trial master did chuckle a bit at the fact you had to fight your temporary buddy, so you do get the option to attack and kill him if you want.
At this point you move on the second phase of the dungeon, which I said seems a bit more lethal. A lot more instant death parts and tough battles, one of which is a goddamn T-Rex, though for some reason they call it a Pit Fiend. (Because it’s in a giant pit I guess) You can avoid a direct fight with some luck and some skill checks as I remember.
It is also at this point you’ll bump into the last two contestants at some point. The first one being the elf girl who is being strangled to death but fucking giant snake of all things.
By the time you get to her, she’s dying and she mentions the gems, though she doesn’t have any herself. Hope you managed to pick up the emerald and sapphire in the FIRST half of the dungeon before meeting Throm, because you’re fucked otherwise.
The last contestant is the ninja who you meet shortly before getting to the end and he attacks you immediately. Really unless you were sort of paying attention to who was in the contest with you, you might be forgiven for just thinking the ninja was part of the dungeon dangers.
Fortunately, he’s also got the diamond on him, so that gem is sort of the gimme for surviving so long.
One encounter of note that isn’t contestant related is one where you bump into a female troll who wants payment for pulling you up on a primitive elevator. You can fight her, pay her or talk your way out of it.
Talking is amusing since you look about the room and see a picture of a male troll and make reference to it. She tells you that the picture is of her brother…Sourbelly! She then gushes about being very proud of him being a guard in Port Blacksand.
Then while she’s distracted, you can smash her in the back of the head and take off without paying or fighting.
Surprisingly there isn’t really anything really creepy in this one. Maybe a bit disgusting though when you see pics of giant worms or a room full of nasty looking insects. In both cases you have to brave through those in order to get a treasure if you want it.
Anyway getting back to it, shortly after you kill the ninja, you’ll bump into the final trial master. The gnome first asks you if you have all the gems, if you don’t then you get a fail ending saying that you’ll become the trial master’s flunky in helping with setting up the dungeon for future trial of champions.
Which couldn’t be a worse fate for an adventurer seeing as you’ll be working a regular 9 to 5 job.
If you have all the gems then you have to put them in correct order. This is sort of a call back to the Firetop key puzzle. Get them in the wrong order and you suffer damage, but if you survive it, you keep getting chances to put them in the correct order.
After you’re done fucking around with the gems and finally get them right, the gnome trial master gets all excited, throws a smoke bomb at you and immediately runs out the door. He doesn’t get far though as you soon find him skewered by a spear trap because the Baron likes putting last minute traps in his dungeons.
After this you emerge victorious to a cheering crowd and the baron has no option but to give you your prize. I can only guess that this crowd was somehow watching all this shit unfold on perhaps a giant crystal ball.
You might notice there really isn’t a “final bad guy” to fight. The ninja I suppose is the closest thing to one since he’s the last surviving contestant and he’s a pretty tough battle. There's also a tough fight with a manticore towards the end and I think you get a warning about him at some previous point.
But since it’s the dungeon that’s trying to kill you the entire story, that could be considered the “main bad guy.”
In any case, as I said, never got the hype with this one, but its still one of the better FF books.
7. Island of the Lizard King
Always seemed like 5, 6, and 7 could be linked together as the same adventurer because the intro of 6 and 7 always starts you off in the previous city. 6 mentions that you’ve travelled from Port Blacksand to Fang and this one mentions you’re travelling from Fang to visit your old adventuring buddy in Oyster Bay.
When you meet your buddy Mungo (Lol) he tells you that the people here are getting regularly horse fucked by raids. The place itself is normally safe such things because its poor as shit, but someone has just been straight up taking the people. The one behind these raids are lizard folk from the nearby island called Fire Island.
The island itself has an interesting history since it was used as a dumping ground for prisoners at one point and the native lizard folk were paid as guards. They stopped getting paid though when the ruler just abandoned the idea because most of the people he was ruling over were a bunch of assholes (I know the feeling) and it would have been easier to just send his law-abiding folk to the island instead.
Naturally the lizard folk were sort of pissed about this and they took out the anger on the prisoners left to rot there. Since they liked doing this so much they then decided to go capture more people and continue doing it. At some point one of the lizards got the bright idea to get really organized and now he’s building an army and using slave labor to work the mines on the island.
Yep, it’s back to the kill the overlord because the classics never die.
So you and Mungo take his sailboat to Fire Island to stop this shit. Mungo is generally a cool dude and is telling you about how bad ass his dad was and even drops a call back to Deathtrap Dungeon saying his dad died while attempting to compete in it years ago.
When you get to the island, you get a couple of options to start your journey. Either way, I hope you didn’t get too attached to Mungo, because he’s dying either way. Go left and he gets killed by a giant crab that crushes him. Go right and he gets killed by a group of pirates that were burying some treasure.
Both battles aren’t easy and the adventure has just begun! (Yep, it’s another Ian creation) After hacking up whatever felled poor Mungo, he tells you some dying words of getting the lizard king for him.
Well now you HAVE to complete the adventure what with it being the dying wish of your friend and all.
So now you’re generally wandering about on Fire Island, which unsurprisingly is a tropical environment for the most part. You encounter a lot hostile beasts in your travels and eventually you’ll learn that the lizard folk and the occasional escaped prisoner aren’t the only intelligent inhabitants on the island since there are groups like pygmies and headhunters living there too.
Why the lizard folk haven’t completely enslaved these other inhabitants too is a bit of a mystery since you’d think they’d start with them first, but maybe its easier to capture unsuspecting fishermen rather than other hardened natives (with a little vooddo magic too) on the island.
There are a few encounters that stand out that I guess I can mention. The most notable one is trying to cross a swampy area where you’ll encounter a creature called a marsh hopper. The creature is said to know its way around a swamp, but has a habit of luring people to their doom. There is a pic of it and it looks like “I can’t believe its not Gollum.”
Following Gollum will result in a safer route, but battle with a big ass monster. Not following him will result in something similar however. The trick is to follow him up to a certain point and then go your own way.
There are a couple of encounters with “savage women.” (With pics!) I can’t help but think that these might be references to an old pulp series called Sheena Queen of the Jungle. One of them just flat out attacks you, but the other has a pet tiger that will attack you if you attempt to approach her. No means no guys!
One other thing is that is a bit different in this game is there are a few times where something bad can actually help you. The big one is putting on a cursed ring, which fucks up your skill. However it has the side benefit of letting you see through illusions in a couple of places. Another one is getting poisoned by a snake, but thanks to the poison still being in your system there is a another part where something else bites you and it dies instantly.
So despite just wandering about, you first half of the adventure involves trying to get to the slave mines so you can at least free everyone. When you finally get there you’re having more encounters with the lizard folk and apparently they’ve got some goblinoids like hobgoblins and orcs helping them as second-class underlings. Humans, dwarves and elves of course are all slave workers. It is after freeing the slaves that you learn more about the lizard king.
Not content on just enslaving non-lizard folk and doing experiments on his own people to make them into tougher mutants, he’s also got an overgrown parasite attached to his brain. No really, there is this thing called a Gonchong attached to his head which is sort of why he’s a little more organized and intelligent than the average lizard man. The parasite is giving him the extra power boost and it’s also granting him semi-immortality since normal weapons won’t hurt him now.
So it won’t be a simple matter of just storming the prison, which he’s turned into his “palace” with your slave army. You need to find a shaman who might know how to kill the lizard king, so you now have a separate journey and tell your slave army to wait for you and you’ll see them in two days.
Finding the shaman isn’t hard since you’re told where he lives, but when you get to him, not only do you have to have a feather in your hair to display friendship, but he also puts you through a series of tests before he’ll help you. The feather thing is hinted at a few times thanks to clues the shaman leave since he knows you’re coming (Voodoo magic again I guess) though this leads to the question of well if he KNEW you were coming in the first place, then he ought to know you’re not coming to fuck with him. You haven’t even met the guy and he’s already giving you shit.
So you get six tests, but only have to do three of them. Three are simple stat tests. The other three involve different things. The fear test and revolting test both require an object you already used to pass them (That cursed ring helps with one) and the pain test despite how it sounds is pretty easy, just don’t pussy out.
Failing any of the tests and the shaman tells you to go fuck yourself and you have to face the lizard king without his help. Seems a bit short sighted really seeing he’s living right next door to the reptilian overlord.
If you pass all the shaman’s tests, then he tells you that you’ll need a fire sword to harm the lizard king and you can get those in the prison and they’re disguised as rusty daggers. Also if you want an extra advantage you need to find a monkey since lizard folk are apparently terrified of them.
So you travel a bit more to meet with your slave army. Along the way you can conveniently find and free a monkey which will unobtrusively travel somewhere on you.
With your slave army you finally attack the lizard king’s place and you have combat with something. After killing whatever it was, you find your “army” isn’t doing so good, well no shit because you’ve got a bunch of malnourished slaves going up against a bunch of savage lizard people and their goblinoid lackies.
There’s some magic horn you could find earlier in the game which will rally your troops and put the fear in the other side, but I never found it so I had to do a one on one combat with the other side’s general which is a big ass armored cyclops. You get a pic of him, he’s fairly bad ass looking.
After surviving all that mess you finally get inside and there are a few more encounters and a chance to find one of those fire swords that the shaman mentioned.
Then at last you get to the lizard king. First thing he does is sic his pet lion at you. Then you fight him proper. How easy this last battle is depends on what you have.
If you don’t have the fire sword or the monkey, you’re fucked and he kills you after a bit of description of him kicking the shit out of you.
Having the monkey or the fire sword makes the battle a little easier, though he’s still pretty tough.
Having both and he’s a big pussy. It’s only thanks to the Gonchong thing on his head that urges him to fight.
So after you kill him, you can either salute your troops from the battlements, search the lizard king’s body or kill the gonchong.
If you chose any other choice that didn’t involve killing the gonchong, you’re a fucktard. The parasite will immediately jump on YOUR head while you’re distracted and you just take over as the new evil overlord except it isn’t even like the situation with Firetop Mountain, you’re just a dumb ass meat puppet.
So yes, kill the headcrab first (Which is just a description, no combat involved) THEN celebrate you bloody idiot.
After doing the right thing, you get cheers and praising and a comment saying that Mungo would have been proud of you. (And you presumably pour a 40 on the curb for your lost homie)
And that’s it for this book. Lot of difficult combat in this one as to be expected from Ian, though less item hunting. Hell, you only ever need the monkey OR the firesword to win the game. The rest of the items in the book are very useful, but you can win without them.
This one probably doesn’t get mentioned as much as some of the others, but I always found it to be an all right book in the series and worth playing.
I have one of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, but I haven't gotten around to playing it. Basically, I find all these paperbacks of gamebooks and Choose Your Own Adventure books and snatch them up. I did always like CYOA when I was a teenager back in the 80's, but I got really happy when I discovered TSR Hobbies Endless Quest books, since most of them were based on the Dungeons and Dragons game. One of my favorite series, though, were Joe Deavers' Lonewolf gamebooks. I was mostly happy about those because I could never organize a D&D game with my siblings, even though I'd shelled out the money for a D&D basic set around 1984. The lack of control in the gamebooks always annoyed me. I thought the best of all worlds would be a gamebook with the flexibility of the CYOA and Endless Quest books, but with the hit points, ability to collect items, and the random element of the Steve Jackson and Joe Deaver stuff.
8. Scorpion Swamp
Hoo boy, this is going to be a long one.
This one was worked on by Steve Jackson, BUT not THAT Steve Jackson! There is ANOTHER Steve Jackson that is an American that runs a game company called Steve Jackson games. The most famous thing they’re known for nowadays is Munchkin, but in the past they did a lot of other games like Car Wars, Ogre, and others.
In any case for the longest time both of these Steves were confused with one another thanks to their name and both being in the fantasy game industry. As far as I know US Steve only worked on two other books, one of which I’ll get to eventually as I continue my march through these reviews.
Okay so premise of Scorpion Swamp, you’re an adventurer (Yes, big surprise) but you’ve never explored the swamp because it’s just considered way too dangerous.
However after helping an old lady in the intro, she gives you a magic ring that not only warns you of evil, but also gives you the ability to know which way is north. Well gee, now you’re completely prepared to face the dangers of the swamp!
But before you begin, you’re at a tavern located in a village close to the swamp. While you’re bragging about your exploits the villagers are less than convinced you’ll survive and actually try to stop you. You of course are determined, but one of them will speak up and reason that maybe you should at least have a goal in mind rather than just wandering about.
Disagreeing with him and going anyway leads to an interesting little side bit where you trounce about in the swamp and more or less get the chicken soup beat out of you as the creatures are just wearing you down. You have to test your luck to get out of there, failing leads to death. Succeeding lets you get back to the village and rethinking your strategy and going back to the original villager who suggested having a mission first.
Okay so he explains that you might want to go to one of the three wizards in the nearby area, Selator, Poomchukker (Lol) and Grimslade. Picking one will give you the mission that you are to accomplish this adventure making this the first “open world” book in the series and as far as I know the only one.
Before I go into the wizards, I should mention a bit more about the open world bit since it isn’t just the variety of quests that you can choose. This book forces you to make a map because you WILL be going back and forth over the same paths quite a bit as you explore the swamp.
The simplest way is how the book tells you to do it in the beginning, which is to draw a circle with the page number, with a brief description of what you found there and draw a line to the other sections as needed.
You will always get a question if you visited the location before. Usually visiting old locations results in them just being empty since you presumably already resolved the original encounter, but there are always exceptions. In fact a few of the dangers never really go away.
You can also exit the swamp (if you’re at the exit) and finish the game at any time whether you succeeded in your assigned mission or not which is a bit different too.
Okay with all that out of the way, let’s get on with the wizard portion. The three wizards are good, neutral and evil and they’ll give you some spell gems to help you on your mission. Even though YOU can use any spell gem, you’re unlikely to have access to the good spells if you work for the evil wizard for example.
Selator is the good wizard and a fat funny looking dude (You get a pic of him) and if you go work for him he tell you to go find some near extinct plant in the swamp and gather the berries so he can start growing the plant and provide more berries to other wizards so they can grow them as well to provide for the masses. The berries have healing powers so essentially you’re trying to provide free health care for all like a socialist loving faggot. You’ll get good and neutral spell gems to choose from him.
One bonus of working for Selator is if you immediately say you’ll only work for the forces of good, you’ll get labeled as a “paladin” by the guy who first suggested working for a wizard in the first place and you get this weird vision of him being more than he appears and you get a blessing which boosts your stats a bit.
Poomchukker (Lol) is this REALLY fat funny looking dude (You get a pic of him too) who apparently isn’t even a wizard, he’s a merchant who just has a shitload of spell gems and carries himself in a mysterious way that the ignorant peasants THINK he’s a wizard. He basically wants you to find a way through the swamp so he can get his caravans to places quicker. There’s a town called Willowbend on the other side, so you need to reach it and come back to complete your mission. You’ll only get neutral spell gems from him.
One premature endings you can get working for Poom is he’ll offer to buy your magic ring for 100 gold at the beginning. If you take the offer, you’ll be richer, but no longer confident about going into Scorpion Swamp without your advantage so the game ends.
Finally there’s Grimslade the evil wizard. Strangely you don’t get a picture of him though I always believed that might be him on the cover of the book. (If it is, he’s not a fat bastard like the other two)
If you work for Grim, you get a shitload more encounter options when meeting him. Some of which can result in pissing him off immediately sending a minion at you to prove your worth and even direct combat with him causing you to have to go work for Selator or Poom anyway.
There are also a couple instant kills too. One of which he turns you into a spider and after laughing and unsuccessfully trying to step on you, you scurry away into a hole and soon forget about your human life as you spin a web in the hopes of gaining a tasty fly to eat. (Yikes!)
Yep, working for an evil asshole is a roll of the dice literally. However, if you manage to kill his minion and don’t take it to the also killing him level, he’ll hire you to basically be an assassin. There are a bunch of wizard types that have recently moved into the swamp calling themselves “the masters” and he doesn’t know much about them except that they all wear these amulets that give them power over certain things. Like wolves, spiders, etc.
He’ll pay you 500 gold for each amulet you bring back and you get the choice of evil or neutral spell gems to help you.
Okay so got all that? Good, now to the adventure itself.
Well depending on who you’re working for, the difficulty varies a bit, though given that you’re literally wandering around, you might be stumbling into the more difficult areas anyway.
Assuming you get lucky with your path finding, Selator and Poom’s quests are a little easier since they’re just seek and find missions. Though Selator’s can be failed through stupidity if you EAT the fucking berries instead of collecting them.
Finding Willowbend gives you a brief respite from the swamp, though interestingly if you ever return there again, you’ll get attacked by the locals who will try to rob you since they think you must be loaded with treasure from all your swamp adventures. Fairly stupid of them if they think they’re going to kill someone who has been surviving this infamously dangerous swamp.
(Speaking of loot, there isn’t really much in the way of it though there are a few valuable items here and there. )
Grimslade’s quest is the one that’s going to take you all over the fucking swamp since the masters are all over the place. As I remember there are five of them, Master of Wolves, Frogs, Gardens, Spiders and a Mistress of Birds.
You can get the amulets from all of them though the Frog and Bird ones are a little trickier. The Frog master will hop away before you can attack him and the Bird mistress will do something similar. So you have to use an illusion on the frog guy to steal his amulet.
As for the Bird Mistress, well you have to treat her like a lady and ASK her for it. She naturally doesn’t like what you’re doing and she’s not giving it up, however she’s willing to give you a pity blowjob fake amulet, which will convince everyone it’s real. She does tell you that you should kill the Spider Master if you run into him because he’s an evil asshole.
I should mention one of the fun evil spells you can use on encounters is the curse spell. It’ll usually do something really horrible to someone at the cost of some of you stamina. Cast it on the bird mistress and it turns her evil and she’ll sic her birds on you for an instant kill!
Okay let’s get on with the endings. Assuming you haven’t died in the swamp, as I said, you can end the adventure at anytime by leaving the swamp and returning to the one you’re working for.
Returning to Selator empty handed is just sort of “Oh well. You tried.” sort of ending. While bringing back the berries causes him to be really happy and you have dinner with the dude and talk about a bunch of shit. You don’t really get anything though except maybe Selator’s dick since the ending is pretty fucking gay.
Returning to Poomchukker (Lol) empty handed is a bit more interesting. He’ll offer to take any remaining spell gems off your hands in exchange for a few healing potions. Whether you have them or not, your adventure just ends with you no richer save for knowledge of the swamp.
You also get the option to attack Poom which ends one of the two ways. Either he’s kicking your ass so hard that you have to escape at which point some guards catch you and throw you in the dungeons for a long time.
Or you’re kicking his ass and his serving gobling girl screams for help and his personal guards come running in and shoot you full of bolts, killing you.
Of course if you got the map of Willowbend he’ll pay you a good sum of coin and says you’ll get half of his earnings for a year thanks to finding this short cut.
Poomchukker might be a grossly fat berk with a silly name, but he’s a pretty cool guy.
Finally there’s ol’ evil Grimslade. As you might expect if you come to him empty handed he’ll be pissed at you and possibly even attack you if you fail a luck check.
Even if you bring him several amulets he’ll try to cheat you either by demanding you give him the amulets before he pays you (and then not give you shit) or trying to only pay you 250 gold per amulet. (I like his style)
You can call him out on his bullshit however and he’ll grudgingly pay you 500 per amulet as promised.
Afterwards you’ll get some “moral lesson” of wondering if you did the right thing and worrying if the gold is tainted and how you’ll think twice about working for the side of evil again.
I remember when I originally read about the gold being “tainted” as a young EndMaster, I thought there was something actually wrong with the gold like it might be fake. When I asked my dad about it, he explained there wasn’t anything actually wrong with the gold itself, just perhaps how I got it.
“Oh! That’s a relief then!”
One last bit about Grimslade, if you kill him either in the beginning OR the end of the game, you’ll get the option to search his tower. Unfortunately doing so results in a demon popping up to claim his soul (He thanks you though) and the whole tower explodes with you in it.
And that’s a wrap for this book and I have to say this one doesn’t get near enough praise. In fact it’s considered one of the weaker ones (Never seems to get a reissue) in the series presumably because it lacks a world shattering quest line, but I think that’s what’s cool about it.
Despite any backstory they might provide, the FF books are very basic in their plots anyway and Scorpion Swamp still gives you those basics along with a limited open world. Hell, it also gives you three fucking main quests to choose from. I think the book is one of the best in the series for what it did.
Yeah, I liked it a lot and definitely worth playing.
For the first time ever I regret never having a kid. I would've loved to saddle another human being with the name Poomchukker, damn.
My favorite so far. Makes me wish my book had more true branching right at the beginning (like yours do). Well, there's always next time!
9. Caverns of the Snow Witch
This one goes all over the fucking place. It probably also has the most callbacks to previous game books.
The book can be divided into several parts making it feel more like multiple mini-adventures rather than one big one. Some of the reason for that is the fact that part of this adventure was published in a gaming magazine and so for this book they added a lot more to extend it quite a bit.
Despite the title, the story doesn’t even start you off seeking out the snow witch, you’re actually hunting a Yeti for a guy named Big Jim Sun since he wants his caravans protected. He’s offered 50 gold for killing the beast so you set out to do just that.
The hunt for the Yeti doesn’t take too long. If you’re lucky though you’ll come across a trapper’s cabin and loot all his important shit first. Eventually you’ll encounter that same trapper in the process of being killing by the yeti (The yeti is a bit nasty looking by the pic)
The yeti is a very tough battle, but since Ian wrote this one, you knew what you were getting into from the start.
If you kill the yeti, the dying trapper tells you of how he found the entrance to the snow witch’s lair in a mountain says she’s enslaving a bunch of people and planning to bring about an ice age across the world. He was going to try to stop her, but he obviously wasn’t even good enough to take out a yeti and got wrecked like a scrub.
You don’t even get the option for a premature ending and go return to Big Jim with the yeti’s hide to get your 50 gold, you just excitedly go pants on head retarded to explore the snow witch’s lair now that you know the entrance he told you about.
The snow witch has a lot of her folks wearing obedience collars so they have to serve her whether they like it or not. In fact you can have a conversation with one speaking very frankly about how he hates it. Still she’s got plenty of more willing servants as well. The encounters on your way to the snow witch are generally challenging fights for the most part. There’s an ice demon being worshipped by a bunch of cultists, a crystal statue which you need a warhammer for to even kill (hope you looted the trapper’s place) a white mouse that turns into a white dragon. Yeah, it’s pretty brutal.
When you finally get to the snow witch herself, you find out she’s not just a witch, but also a damn vampire. If you didn’t pick up any garlic or a wooden stick earlier, you die.
Ian does that A LOT in this one.
Okay so if you did pick up those items at some point and pass a tough skill test, you’ll kill her. And that’s it?
Well no, not quite. You then have to kill some magical sentinel to get her loot. While you filling your pockets a dwarf and elf pop in thanking you profusely for freeing them from the snow witch’s enslavement. Redswift (elf) and Stubb (dwarf) decide to join you in escaping from the snow witch’s mountain, which apparently is now the third part of the adventure.
The journey out of the mountain isn’t much easier. At one point you’ll encounter a creature called a brain slayer (Obviously a knock off of a mind flayer) who is pretty difficult. Can’t remember why you can’t just go back the way you came, but it certain would make things a hell of a lot easier.
Along the way you’re probably going to find at least one of the odd shaped metal discs. Better keep your klepto adventurer ways because who knows when something as unimportant like that might come in handy.
Your buddies occasionally provide a bit of dialogue in your escape, though at one point you find some sort of scroll, but you can’t make out the writing so you ask Redswift since you assume being an elf, he might know this shit.
All he does though is make a scared face and says you have to leave quickly. Doesn’t explain to you what it was because apparently there is just no time!
So eventually you start getting closer to the exit and who should pop up, but the snow witch again except now she’s a ghost. Apparently striking her down made her more powerful than you could ever imagine.
She fucks with and your new buddies. She tries to electrocute you with some magic globe thing and then while she’s thinking up a game to play she forces you to fight zombie versions of Red and Stubb. Red and Stuff themselves are out of commission to help you because they stupidly didn’t take off their obedience collars and she still has some control over those.
So after all that, the ghost witch says you’re going to play discs and if you win, she’ll give you a chance to escape. Discs is basically a deadly version of rock, paper, scissors. Square, circle and star discs all beat each other in some way.
Hope you not only collected these while you bumbling about in the caverns earlier, but also the right ones, because if you don’t have any she kills you instantly.
Select the wrong disc and she kills you instantly,
Select the same disc and she changes the rules so if you do it again she kills you fucking INSTANTLY.
Personally, I managed to get lucky the second time.
So naturally being a sore loser, the snow witch will cause an avalanche and bring the whole place down on your head and you have to pass a luck test to get out of there unscathed.
So now you’ve escaped with Red and Stubb and beaten the snow witch a second time. That’s it right?
Well no, apparently enough time has passed that you figure Big Jim has already declared you dead and moved on, and since you don’t feel like chasing him down you decide to travel with Red and Stubb who is on his way back to his home of Stonebridge (Call back!).
So begins the fourth part of this adventure despite the fact that the snow witch has already been taken care of. But hey whatever.
The journey to Stonebridge is where most of the callbacks take place. At one point it says you travel through Fang, which is, boring right now since the only thing of note that ever goes on there is when the Baron is holding his deathtrap dungeon event.
As you get closer to Stonebridge you pass close enough to catch the sight of Firetop Mountain in the distance, the dwarf asks you if you know if the old warlock still lives there but before you can answer you get interrupted by something.
You also stumble on to one of Stubb’s dwarf buddies who is dead at the hands of hill trolls and soon you also bump into a troll war party which you have to fight. When you finally get to Stonebridge the dwarves there are all downtrodden and depressed because their war hammer got stolen.
Now with this is bit of info, it can be assumed that the events in this book come chronologically before those in the Forest of Doom. However, you could also imagine that these pathetic dwarves allowed yet another eagle steal their fucking warhammer again.
So with Stubb and his people being all emo, they aren’t much fun to hang around, so you and Red leave.
So you killed a yeti (which you didn’t get paid for) you killed the snow witch (Which nobody told you do) you survived escaping from her lair and outsmarted her ghost and then you got back to civilization with your two new friends. That’s it right?
Well no, shortly after leaving Stonebridge, Red starts not feeling too well and you’re not feeling to hot yourself. Red finally tells you about that scroll he read and you didn’t know what it was. He tells you there was a death spell on it and now the pair of you have to find some guy called the Healer to get cured, but Red is far too weak to continue because he’s an elf with a fragile constitution.
So he dies and you waste valuable strength and time burying his ass. Motherfucker could have at least told you as soon as you got out of the snow witch’s place. At least then you could have been making your way directly to the Healer and not fucking about travelling with Stubb.
Oh and hope you had some seemingly unimportant encounter with a dark elf while you were stealing his boat at one point and found his healing potion, because if you didn’t do that, you don’t have the strength to carry on either and you die.
Fucking Ian and his unknown item hunt.
So assuming you did that, you now start the fifth part of your adventure. Seeking out the Healer which as usual a near impossible task since you only have a vague idea of where he’s supposed to live.
In the meantime, you’ll be progressively losing stamina AND skill points as the death spell does its work. You’ll also be trying every odd looking place you can think of believing that maybe the Healer lives there. Treehouses, dark caves, etc. Naturally the denizens of these places won’t be happy about you intruding in on their homes. (The Night Stalker in the cave is especially nasty looking, you get pic of his ugly mug up close)
At one point you can even come across some dude living in a remote hut and if you knock on the door asking if he’s the healer he’ll say yes and tell you that death spells are easy to fix. He’ll ask you for some gold and give you some medicine and tell you to go lie down for a few hours.
Naturally this doesn’t work and you start feel worse. Going back and confronting him leads to him saying he’s just a broke herbalist down on his luck and figured since you were dying anyway, you wouldn’t need your gold anymore. He tries to make amends by giving you some stronger meds which will slow the death spell affects.
Eventually you’ll encounter an elf who looks similar to Redswift (because all elves look alike) and if you talk to him, you’ll find out that he’s Redswift’s brother. Nice coincidence that you just happen to bump into the one that’s related to him.
Anyway if you’re having problems finding the Healer, he’ll soon set you on the right path and travel with you a bit until you nearly get there. Though you can still fuck that up, by ignoring the phoenix design outside the Healer’s place and walking past it and eventually you’ll die.
Okay so you get to the Healer and he’s said to be hideous looking because he’s taken in all the diseases he’s cured or something like that.
And of course no it’s not over yet, because it would be way too fucking easy if he just said presto you’re cured. As usual, the Healer says death spells are difficult to break and he’s only done it successfully once.
So begins the sixth and final part of your adventure. Passing all the fucking Healer tests to cure yourself.
This bit is relatively short, but the main thing that stand out is having to go through a room with a banshee in it and you get a picture of her and she’s fairly disgusting looking. The test is you’re supposed to pass through without giving into fear or something. If you manage to ignore her, you move on to the last test.
If you don’t pass, you end up attacking her because she’s been taunting you the entire time saying how you’re going to die a horrible death. She could be right if you attack her since she’s got a very high skill of 12 and by this point even if you rolled good stats, you probably don’t have those anymore thanks to the death spell kicking your ass.
So the final bit is weird since you have to have to go to top of Firetop Mountain and sit cross legged and envision the bird that the Healer likes the most (Hint, it’s a Phoenix) and when the first light of the sun hits you, you’ll be cured.
If you have a silver object, you get the opportunity to summon a Pegasus with it, because apparently that totally works. The Pegasus will then fly you to top.
If you don’t have any silver, you’ve got a long journey of not only travelling to Firetop, but also CLIMBING the fucking thing. What the fuck? Granted the Healer temporarily stopped the spell, but are you seriously telling me you’ve got the strength to do such a feat? Honestly, I would have understood it more if Ian just passed out an instant death passage and called it a day.
Ignoring whether you get there by Pegasus or climb (Which only requires a single luck test lol) I can only guess that Zagor is either chronologically dead at this point or he was just having a personal day off, because I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t know about some dickhead sitting near the top of his home, let alone climbing all over it. Then again he always did seem a bit laid back when compared to the other evil wizards so maybe he knew and didn’t give a shit.
So you get one final test of envisioning a phoenix or a griffin. With as many hints you’ve already gotten, if you fail this, well it’s amazing you even survived past the fucking yeti.
Pass this test and you’re cured! It goes into an ending about you recollecting your thoughts of all the shit you experienced while you’re climbing down the mountain. It says you plan on going back to Stonebridge to see Stubb again, though I’m not sure why you’d want to revisit a place full of emo midgets.
So that’s it for this book. It’s interesting I suppose since it doesn’t just stick to one thing, but this one really wears out its welcome. Honestly the last bit with the death spell is completely appropriate since you’ll probably be feeling the same way with ending fatigue. The fact that it was a much shorter adventure at one time and they just shoved more shit on to it to pad it out really shows.
Why this one gets more attention than say Scorpion Swamp, I don’t know. It’s still good enough for a playthrough, but it’s one of the more mediocre entries I think.
10. House of Hades HELL
Yeah, using the original UK spelling rather than the sanitized US title for this one.
I imagine the reason for the mild sanitation of the title was partly due to the D&D “satanic scare” during the 80s. And given the theme of this book, that would play right into it. Somebody think of the children indeed.
The funny thing is the US version didn’t sanitize any of the gruesome content inside (more on that later).
Anyway when my mom got this book for me I was pretty excited about it.
Until they came out with the new digital FF book “Blood of the Zombies” this was the ONLY book that was a “modern era” (at the time) real world setting. It was dedicated to a pure horror experience and I think it did pretty well in that regard.
This one was Steve Jackson (UK) one and as can be expected it relied on finding a lot of passwords rather than combat. In fact, you should try to avoid combat as much as possible in this game since you’re generally shit at it anyway.
You’re a “real person” not some ubermensch adventurer this time. Your stat rolls will reflect this. Your skill roll is reflected on when you have a weapon in hand. You don’t start out with one, so you subtract 3 from it until you have one.
So even if you get lucky and roll a 12 for skill, you’ll only be running about with a 9 until you can get a letter opener at least.
There is also a new stat called FEAR. Since again you’re just some hapless citizen you aren’t hardened to the terrors of unnatural things. At various points in the game (usually when fighting some supernatural horror) you’ll add fear points. If your fear points ever exceed the limit that you’ve rolled, then you die of fright instantly, making the book even harder.
As I remember, the main winning path basically requires you to have at least a limit of 9 fear. Anything less than that and you might as well reroll since you aren’t making it through even if you’re doing everything right.
Yeah, the book is one of the more difficult ones. There are a lot of instant death passages.
Okay getting on with the basic premise. You’re a normal guy who’s supposed to start a new job, but your car broke down in the storm on your way there during the night. There is only one house around and there’s a small light you can see so you go to see if they have a phone because this is 1985 and you aren’t rich enough to have a big ass cell phone and it probably would be useless in this situation anyway since you’re out in the boonies.
As befitting of any traditional horror movie, this place isn’t just a normal house and it’s possible to get your head bashed in, tied up and thrown in an empty room like as soon as you enter the place if you aren’t careful.
This is generally a bad thing, since while you don’t die immediately, you’ll end up missing out on some vital info that can only be gotten near the beginning of the game and won’t win anyway.
Even if you do things right and knock on the door rather than creeping about first, you can inspect the painting on the wall while you’re waiting for the Earl of Drumer to come meet you. Most of them of course will freak you the fuck out because they’ll start talking and generally warning you to get the hell out the house. (Keep in mind it’s little shit like talking paintings that will also increase your fear level)
Attempting to leave however, only results in an electric shock to your arm when you try the handle.
Eventually the earl shows up with his butler Franklins, and you get offered a meal and says they can get you help in the morning. In the meantime you can stay the night.
Another danger is drinking white wine and eating the cheese in the house, because for some reason all of that shit is poisoned or at least drugged. Seems a bit overkill to poison ALL the fucking cheese and white wine in the house though.
So assuming you avoid getting drugged, you be given a room proper by Franklins and expected to go to sleep. Trying to leave your room results in finding out its locked. You can wait around in the dark or just go to sleep. Either way a hunchback will come by with a drink. (If you’re asleep, you’ll just wake up in the middle of the night and find it) Drinking the drink, results in getting drugged. Attacking the hunchback or even just sneaking out when he comes back again is a better option.
So now you’re free to roam about the house. Honestly I never did get the lay out of this place. I’m crap with maps anyway, but the way the house feels designed it doesn’t seem like it would work. (Citadel of Chaos felt like that too) though perhaps that adds to the creepiness since it implies normal time a space doesn’t work here.
Wandering about on the second floor lets you come across several doors with various names on them like “Abaddon” or “Mammon”. They’re all demon names in some way but there’s no real indication of what lies behind them until you open them up to explore.
Some of pics accompanying the encounters are sufficiently creepy looking. Opening the door to a corpse just falling on you or looking out a window to see the old man who gave you directions back in town at the intro hanging from a tree are some pretty nasty sights.
You can encounter skeletons, zombies, ghosts, etc. and they’re all hostile of course. One major encounter of note upstairs is the vampire who if you bump into him, you’re pretty much dead unless you managed to get some garlic to temporarily hold him back while you escape out another door.
Fun trivia, you can find an ornate ring at one point and if you have it in your possession when you meet the vampire he thanks you for making his job easier and immediately takes control of your mind and instant death following.
Sound familiar? It should, I was inspired to do something similar when the Ghoul King tries to give the Necromancer a magic ring claiming that it will shield his mind from Rostov when in fact it does the opposite.
Exploring upstairs gives you a feel for the house and what’s going on but not much else. The most important encounter is with Morganna who can give you some secrets to the house. The minor problem is when stubmle upon her, she’s dead and trying to rest peacefully in her bed, but if you know her name she’ll have to help you.
Honestly though, you don’t get too much help on how to escape the house. The obvious seems clear, but most of the doors are locked tight and the windows have bars on them.
Oddly when you eventually get back down to the ground level you can actually try the front door again and it’ll open. However you get stopped by something that doesn’t look quite human and you get a pic accompanying this encounter.
It’s one of the more fucked up pics, it’s this bloody goat headed creature just approaching you and while it COULD be a human just wearing a goat head, the clawed hands make it look like some weird demon horror lurking about outside. So yeah, you slam the door shut because you’re not getting out that way.
So you can bumble about main floor for a while, but you really need to get access to the basement since if you’ve managed to learn the vital info, you’ll need the Kris knife to kill the MASTER of the house. You’ll also need the password.
Heading down into the basement opens up more possibilities to get yourself instakilled. One of which is a torture chamber where they’ll play a little game with you to see if you’re really a “friend” of the master’s. This involves trying to remember as many names as you can connected to the house. (Hope you remembered all those named doors upstairs)
Losing this game provides one last choice where you either take the tall cage or small cage and that’s how your adventure will end implying a long slow death via starvation and cramps setting in your body.
You can also bump into the majority of cultists down here preparing for their nightly sacrifice. At one point you’ll actually come across a sacrifice in progress and you even get a pic of a young naked girl (Though her tits are actually blocked so you don’t see any nudity in the pic) on an altar with goat head wearing cultists getting ready to stab her.
Interestingly this picture was censored in later editions of the UK version of the book, but the US versions always have it. Murder the shit out of all the young naked girls you want, but god forbid you use the word “Hell.”
Amusingly, you can try to save her, which unsurprisingly results in you getting mobbed and killed. The book even calls you stupid and that you deserved to die! Lol.
There are also a lot of places where you get stuck in a “no win” branch. Like the infamous kitchen. Once you enter, you’re pretty much doomed. Picking up the keys on the stove to unlock the back door results in you screaming loudly because apparently your dumb ass didn’t realize the stove was ON and you make so much noise cultists come running and kill you.
Ignoring the keys and backdoor and instead opening up the pantry reveals a ghoul inside. The ghoul can kill you the usual way or you can kill it. Where upon it falls into a bunch of pots and pans causing a loud noise for cultists to come running and…well you get the idea.
In any case, assuming you’ve figured out the password and managed to find the Kris knife, and haven’t got caught in a dead man’s branch. You’ll eventually reach a red room where you can summon the Earl and Franklins and tell them that you intend on destroying the evil in this house.
They will both attack you at which point you can either try to kill the Earl or Franklins first. While some probably believe it’s the Earl that’s the master of the house, it’s actually Franklins and as soon as you land a wound on him, he’ll transform into a big ass demon. (Attacking and killing the Earl first results in Franklins killing you while you’re distracted)
If you don’t have the Kris knife, he’ll kill you instantly. Even if you do have it, he’s still a very tough fight at 14 skill, but you get to add six to your skill while using the knife.
Defeat this final opponent and you’ll escape the house as it burns to the ground due to some of the lamps getting conveniently knocked over during the fight.
And that’s that for this book.
This book gets a lot of praise I think due to it being unique compared to many of the other ones in the series. However, it does get a lot of criticism since it’s pretty damn difficult because it requires almost no straying from the “one true path.”
Though I can’t really say that’s any worse or better than when Ian is throwing monsters with 11 and 12 skill at you constantly. It’s just different.
Personally I also like the book because the setting and even though I’ve never really been into the whole “find this password” thing in gamebooks, it didn’t bother me too much here, but it took me a long time to figure out how to exactly beat the thing.
Anyway, I liked it and it's worth playing multiple times just to see all the different encounters in the house.
11. Talisman of Death
Back to a fantasy setting, however this isn’t set in Titan. It’s set on a world called Orb and despite what it says on the cover, this wasn’t written by Ian or Steve.
This is about when the books started expanding a bit with different authors, but since Ian and Steve were the founders of the series they still got their names on the covers most of the time. Ian more so probably since he was more active in writing FF. Steve Jackson was sort of preoccupied with writing his Sorcery! series which was basically still FF and set on Titan but on a different continent. (Later on they would just incorporate the Sorcery series in the FF reissues)
Anyway, this one was written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith. These guys didn’t do too many FF books, however they did write other books in this style. The most notable one being the Way of the Tiger series where you play as a ninja which I believe is also set in the world of Orb.
Jamie moved on to write the Fabled Lands series too which Mizal linked to above.
Okay so enough of the industry talk, to the book.
This one begins in a bad B-movie way where you’re just some random dude from Earth that gets transported by some powerful gods that wants you to be that “champion” from another world to save the world of Orb because apparently the forces of good are so desperate that they need some basement dwelling nerd to save them (Okay to be fair, we don’t know if that was the case)
Fortunately the gods have seen fit to give you the knowledge of how to use a sword and all those sorts of close combat skills that you’re going to need to survive. What they don’t see fit to do however is tell you what exactly you’re supposed to be doing, instead they teleport you in the heart of some forsaken cavern where you encounter four crusader types who are utterly confused by your sudden presence. Especially since they’re currently running from an angry horde chasing them.
After a bit explanation, they decide that you must complete their mission since you were obviously sent by the gods. They were part of a much larger group that was sent to stop the death god from destroying Orb by seizing this talisman from his minions that can summon him to the world.
Anyway, the talisman can’t be destroyed, but if you can get back to earth, you will have effectively saved Orb since it will be beyond the clutches of death’s minions at that point. They tell you, you need to go seek out a city known as the Greyguilds where you should find some folks that can tell you how to get back home.
Now having some sort of knowledge of what you’re supposed to be doing, they teleport you (The wizard only had enough power to teleport one person) out of the cavern which then gets overrun by a horde of trolls and dark elves.
One thing I should mention about this book and that’s the difficulty level is a roller coaster. There are a lot of places with unavoidable difficult battles along with instant death encounters.
However, the book does something odd at times and it will give you multiple chances at life again. This usually happens due to instant death encounters and even then not all the time. You’ll turn to a page where one of the gods rescues your spirit and you’ll get sent back to an early part of the book. (With a resetting of your equipment and stats) I remember two main places where this happens.
At the very start where you meet the crusaders. (This one happens anytime before or during your adventures in Greyguilds. This one is a complete reset.)
Or just after you leave Greyguilds. (This one only occurs after you’ve left the city or are very close to leaving it. In this instance it’ll tell you what items you can keep.)
Another thing that stands out in this book are the gods of Orb seem to be a lot more active in general and people tend to be a bit more into their deities. Which makes sense since these are gods that actually DO something. Besides the death god’s minions, you’ll be encountering a lot more religious nuts that will fuck with you because you have the talisman. But more on that later.
The trip to Greyguilds is sort of a big game of hide and seek at time mainly because there are hordes of orcs and dark elves roaming about looking for folks to chop up. (And each other) I felt the safer path was to wander through the forest.
Regardless of what path you choose, eventually you’ll encounter a bunch of warrior womyn. (The pic with them even has the female symbol on their shield. Lol) They’re generally dicks to you and whether you like it or not they will take you the remainder of the way to Greyguilds since they’re patrolling the area outside the city.
However, unless you come up with something clever, they will also take you to their immediate superior Hawkana who is a high priestess of the warrior goddess Fell Kyrinla and apparently in charge of some of the security of Greyguilds.
Hawkana is a complete bitch to you (There’s a pic of her laughing at you) and will take the talisman from you, which will then lead to the next part of the adventure, which is getting it back.
Losing the talisman is sort of unavoidable, but you can prolong this fate a bit. Playing deaf and dumb as soon as you meet them actually works. They write you off as an idiot and drop you to the gates of the city. You can also try to fight them at some point before you get to Hawkana, but the captain has the ability to instant kill you if you roll wrong.
So whether you have the talisman or not, you’re now free to explore the city a bit. If you’re lucky, you’ll bump into a priestess of the All Mother who are in conflict with the warrior goddess because they’re obviously a group that believe in traditional gender roles.
She’ll help you out and give you some info on her goddess and how she can even help an infidel like you out if you call upon her at the right time.
Eventually night starts approaching and you’ll encounter one of the death’s supernatural minions. This varies based on which direction you chose. One of them is sort of a neat description with the accompanying the pic. He drives up in a carriage with a coffin in the back of it with the description that the coffin has your initials on it.
Then he demands the talisman and you see him transform into a grinning rotting skeleton, (Which is the pic you see) though nobody else can see this transformation. He attacks you whether you have it or not and giving it to him obviously results in a fail ending.
You explore a bit more and then night falls proper and you get fucked up by some more of death’s cultists who catch you in some bear trap. If you still have the talisman, they’ll take it from you, but then they’ll get ridden down by some patrolling warrior womyns and then THEY will take the talisman.
If you don’t have the talisman, they just run off when Hawkana’s folks come by. Then the Feminazis laugh and do absolutely shit to help you out of the trap.
While you’re trying to get out of the trap, some old sage helps you out and asks you to come home with him. This is a good idea since being on the streets leads to worse shit happening at night. Plus he didn’t ask you to blow him for helping you or anything like that.
He’ll continue to ask you questions after you wake up, because he’s desperately hoping this relationship will lead to something more. Being cool with him leads to more helpful info. He’ll tell you you’ll need the help of the thieves’ guild to steal the talisman from Hawkana and you need to find the contacts at the Red Dragon Inn
Just as an aside, I didn’t realize it before but I think this book had a bigger influence on some of the shit I’ve written in Rogues and Necromancer. Death gods killing the world, warring cults in a city full of thieves, etc. I always though City of Thieves was a big influence, but it would seem this one did the job subconsciously.
In any case you explore the city a bit more and eventually you’ll get to the inn where you can contact the thieves. This can go well or not. Whether you’re a smooth talker or you just beat the shit out of enough of them that they tell you where their hideout is.
Before you leave however, you’ll bump into some poncy fucker by the name of Tyutchev and his tranny companion Cassandra. The pair of them worship some chaos god because that’s what degenerates do. They also got a bit of a reputation of just murdering the shit out of people they don’t like and it is very likely that they’ll try to start a fight with you before you can leave.
They’re very tough if you do combat with them. You can’t actually kill them though, because Tyutchev has a direct line to his chaos god and he’ll cry to him to save him which will cause a minor earthquake in order to create a diversion so he and his bitch can get the hell out of there.
There’s a bit more city exploration. One more thing of note is you can get roped into testing the combat abilities of some wizard experiment, which is a grotesque creation, made up several stitched together creatures. (You get a pic of it) The wizard’s name is even Moreau.
So eventually you’ll get to the thieves guild. Your welcome there will depend on if you dealt with the thieves in a business like manner or you acted like a fucktard. Either way you can convince them to get an audience with the leader and speaking the truth of what you want exactly is ironically the best policy. Trying to withhold info or being vague will result in them figuring you’re fucking around and they’ll either dismiss you or just kill you outright.
And you need their help too. If you try to assault Hawkana’s temple yourself, you’ll get killed.
After some stealthy sneaking about, you and the three thieves will reach Hawkana’s inner sanctum where the talisman is. As soon as you take it however, Hawkana is alerted to your prescence, and is pissed that you interrupted her while talking to her goddess (Now you get a pic of her yelling) which presumably was about how to best overthrow the patriarchy.
Hawkana is pretty tough and if you kill her, you might need to kill her AGAIN if you don’t take the ring of regeneration off of her right away. Meanwhile the thieves claimed they couldn’t get in the temple to help you because the door was magically locked. (Sure they couldn’t) In any case with the murder of their leader, the feminazis are eager to cut your dick off and you all scurry out of there.
One of the thieves will try to kill you during the escape, but he catches bolts by the ladies during the attempt. The other two thieves aren’t eager to fight someone who just killed Hawkana, so they run off.
So now you need to get out of the city that has feminazis crawling all over the place looking for blood. But before you can do that, you bump into that faggot Tyutchev and his tranny again except now they’ve brought along Cassandra’s wizard cuck for help.
He demands the talisman for his chaos god since one of the snitch bitch thieves that ran off told him you have it. After the wizard fucks about with some illusions with you, he’ll cast some sort of invisibility spell on Ty and Cass who WILL kill you unless you call upon the All Mother goddess for help. She’ll send a giant eagle to snatch you up and drop you in another part of the city. Why it couldn’t transport you OUT of the city is a mystery, but I guess they didn’t want to make it too easy.
So now you still have to get out. Trying to leave out the gates is death via feminazis. The less lethal way is through the graveyard though given how death’s minions are just stalking the world right now expect to fight undead on their home turf. You can get mobbed by zombies there if you aren’t careful.
Of course you could just wait for All Mother’s folks to take over the day patrol shift (They got a weird balance of security in the city with the cults) and they’ll let you right out.
Okay so now you’re out of Greyguilds, you’ve survived feminazis, degenerates, thieves and death cultists. Now what? Well now you have find the portal to your home world. Though you’re sort of just wandering a bit since it isn’t really clear where you should be heading.
While you’re wandering you’ll probably have a few more encounters with fending off the minions of death. One encounter of note that can occur is while you’re asleep you’ll have a dream of Hawkana (and get another pic of her)
This is the last potential encounter you’ll have with her and you’ll have to fight her spirit, which is trying to lure you to the Valley of Death. Lose the battle and you die for realsies.
I almost get the impression that Hawkana was based on either the artist’s or the writer’s crazy ex-girlfriend. Lol.
Still, out of several FF books I’ve played, Hawkana is one of the few major villains that pops up several times in a book rather than say just the end of it. Would have been nice if they had expanded on her just a little bit more than she is.
So getting back to your wandering. You won’t really get anywhere until you run into some furries.
No really, the correct path eventually leads to a tribe of hog folk who explain what you need to survive your final encounter and where you need to go. Apparently the dragon that guards the portal to your home world preys upon the hog folk because bacon tastes good.
Anyway you’ll need to fashion a shield made of the dragon’s scales in order to survive its breath. The hog leader will give you some magic super glue and you can find some loose scales in a cave in the mountain where the dragon is since reptiles shed.
So after some climbing and last minute shit, you’ll eventually get to the dragon who doesn’t give a shit about your mission since his job is to guard portal as assigned by the gods. So as far as he’s concerned death can kill the world because it won’t affect him.
Trying to reason with him is likely to get you killed since he’s got smooth pimp daddy dragon skills and will charm you into lowering your guard. Better to just attack him. Unsurprisingly he’s pretty tough.
After you manage to hack off nearly all his life points, he’ll turn into an old man and thank you for releasing him from his curse and tells you to enter the portal.
It’s a hilarious troll though because if you do so, he’ll turn back into a dragon and bite your head off. Lol.
Yeah, the correct choice is to kill the old man which again will result in him turning back into a dead dragon at which point you enter the portal and save Orb since we all know magic is completely useless on Earth and loses all its power.
You get last congratulations from the gods that teleported you in the first place and tell you they might call upon you again some day. At which point you’re probably cursing the fact that you’ve just been on an adventure that nobody on earth is ever going to believe and despite the empty promises of the gods calling upon you again you’ll most likely live the rest of your life like a schnook.
So that’s the book. It’s a bit of a usual one when compared to the fantasy settings in Titan. It doesn’t get as much attention as a lot of the other books, and I wonder if its due to the author’s not being Steve or Ian, though I think it did get a reissue once.
This one is another one without a main villain to actually fight since that would technically be death itself. Still, it feels like you get enough “mini-bosses” (Hawkana, Tyutchev, the Red Dragon, etc) to give you more than enough challenge.
Sort of not a fan of the “restart” bits mainly because I prefer death to be final, but also because if the death god has his foot half way in the world already then it should actually be harder for the other gods to just pull you back from the spirit realm (or whatever).
I mean that’s directly fucking with his portfolio; they’re the ones actually in the wrong here by doing that shit.
Also there’s the fact that it’s pretty damn random on when the gods can do that. Would have been nice if there was some consistency on what results in real death and when you’re just taking a temporary dirt nap. Sure it’s obvious when death’s minions do the deed, but there are still other places where you’re dead with no resurrection.
Still, despite playing a protagonist defying a death god I liked it and thought it was worth playing.
12. Space Assassin
The second attempt at a scifi setting and once again despite what it says on the cover, this one was actually written by Andrew Chapman.
Andrew’s books tend to get a lot of crap for whatever reason. Apparently he was an ascended FF “fanboy” who REALLY liked Firetop Mountain and got inspired to write this one.
It sort of shows because despite the scifi setting, all it is, is a really big dungeon crawl just inside a space ship. (Shipcrawl) Granted it’s a REALLY fucking huge space ship though. Must like one of those titan class vessels or at least battleship.
Anyway the stat rolls for this one are a little different thanks to the scifi setting. In addition to the normal stats you also get another stat called ARMOR. Which gives you a bit of extra protection against gunfire so your armor might take damage before your stamina. (Good idea when you think about it)
You also roll a die to see how much equipment you get to take with you. Now you have to take a gun with you so the “electric lash” is the cheapest at 1 point meaning even if you got a shit roll you’ll at least get that.
However, if you’re like me and just assume you rolled a 6, you’ll get more shit to carry and you can take the Assault Blaster instead at 3 points and still have some points left over for 1 point grenades or a single gravity bomb for another 3.
What’s the difference? Well the lash is a little pistol, which does about the same damage as you normally do in these books whenever you score a hit on someone with a sword (2).
The blaster on the other hand allows you to roll the dice to see how much damaged you cause. True you could roll a 1, but the potential of doing much more damage (or even the norm) is a lot greater so it’s clearly superior.
And of course you can get into plain ol’ fisticuffs with aliens, but since you’re a super assassin you don’t get any penalties for being unarmed.
Speaking of which let’s get into the premise of the story.
This crazed scientist type by the name of Cyrus is infamous for kidnapping folks from planets and doing experiments on them. Turning them into mutants and such. Well this time he’s decided to just dispense with the nickel and dime shit, and plans on bio bombing your entire home planet and use it as a giant experiment testing ground.
Apparently only YOU can stop him because you’re this super badass space assassin. Which is interesting because assassins usually aren’t considered “good guys.” I mean it doesn’t even say you’re even an “agent” like say James Bond or Jack Bauer. Nope, you’re a fucking assassin, which probably means you’re not exactly morally good, but hey you’re trying to save your home world from space Mengele so you’re the good guy for this mission.
So you sneak aboard his ship (Vandervecken) and set out to find him and having a lot of random encounters along the way. These can range from Cyrus’ guards, his robots, his mutants or even his ship’s cleaning crew that are so bored with their jobs they attack you just to break up the boredom.
No, seriously they shout out “At last some excitement!” and viciously attack you with industrial vacuum cleaners. (You get a pic of them too, two are short fat furry cat aliens and the tall one looks like some sort of carrot alien. Lol)
One of the big criticism of this book is Andrew is pretty sparse on the description a lot of times. I suppose when I read this back in the day, I didn’t really notice because I was too busy enjoying being a space assassin, but yeah it is pretty brief upon another look. In fact, it could almost be said that it’s so brief it’s not even boring most of the time since it’s such a quick read you’ve already breezed through several sections!
Still there are a few bits that stick out which deviate from the spaceship crawl.
There is one section, which is sort of like a mini-game. You’re in this tank and have to kill this other tank. You even get a short list of rules and have to make a map. Move about and hit the other tank enough times and you win, if not well you’re dead.
Shortly after the tank battle, there’s a part where Andrew took a bit of inspiration from Steve Jackson and included a puzzle in his story. You get a picture with numbers and you have to step on right squares in order to get to the door on the other side. You add up the numbers and then turn to that section. If the section you read doesn’t make any sense then presumably you’ve stepped on the wrong squares and blown yourself up.
There’s another bit with a word riddle too, though you can get around that by having fed a space squirrel some fruit earlier. (I could explain, but it’s funnier without the context. Lol)
Another part is so strange, I actually thought I got kicked off the ship somehow and landed on the planet below the first time played. That’s not actually the case though. Cyrus’ ship actually has a big ass self-contained habitat section where you’ll find a whole host of dangerous alien creatures living in. There’s even a village of furry little alien fuckers. (Lot of little furry aliens in this book really, guess Andrew liked the Ewoks)
You can do a lot of wandering about trying to look for the exit and getting back to the ship proper.
One of the hilarious things you can do is actually blow the ship up because apparently the self-destruct mechanism is just left unsecure and not even near the pilot area of the ship. Whether you escape in the nearby pod or blow up with the ship, it’s considered a failed ending because apparently the viruses and plagues aboard the ship are so hard-core, the ship’s explosion spread them across the galaxy.
What?! Cyrus bio-engineered shit that can not only survive the void of space but actually travel through it to infect planets? (Super lethal Water Bears I guess)
In any case, you’ll eventually approach the front of the ship where you’ll discover a very inquisitive robotic pilot who apparently is the only one flying the thing and he’s been waiting for you to arrive.
He’ll seriously ask you a bunch of philosophical questions of whether or not you’re a figment of his imagination because apparently he’s in the mid-stages of achieving AI “sentience” AKA going through puberty and spouting Ayn Rand.
In any case entertaining his questions, gets him all excited and he tells you which door to go through next. Of course you could just shoot him immediately which just results in him remarking that you’re a strange person and shuts down.
After the philosophy session with the robot pilot you’ll encounter a few doors. One of the doors leads to instant death as you stumble into a particle accelerator.
One will lead to the ship’s computer where upon you laugh at the fact that for all the advanced scifi tech aboard, the ship is run by the equivalent of a Commodore 64. You can shoot it a bit, but then you realize that’s retarded since you don’t want the ship blowing up or something.
Finally the correct door (Which the pilot will tell to go in) leads to Cyrus! He’s surprised as hell to see you.
Talking to Cyrus first results in a conversation where you tell him if he’s lucky he might only get life in prison rather than the death penalty.
Wait, what? You’re taking this guy alive? I thought the whole point of being a space assassin is to you know fucking kill your target!
Well in any case, talking to the main villain first is always a bad idea and he tries to get away, granted he tries to get away if you don’t talk to him anyway.
The final showdown is Cyrus managing to get into a Waldo, which is some sort of personal battle suit armed with an industrial laser. It’s more impressive than it sounds and he’s only got a skill of fucking 9 even in the damn thing. Cyrus has got to be one of the more pathetic main villains in an FF book, but then again he is a scientist rather than a warrior.
If you beat him, you win.
And that line above? That’s only about half as long as the REAL ending. The only thing that you might add to that line is it saying how you drag Cyrus out of the Waldo. Andrew stayed consistently brief from beginning to end!
And that wraps up this book. I actually didn’t think I’d have that much to say about it, due to it being a very barebones book, but I guess I focused on the highlights since everything else isn’t notable.
Not surprisingly this book isn’t very well liked as far as FFs go. It’s got a lot of problems with the writing, lame villain, uninspired series of fights, etc. Doesn’t help that it’s a scifi setting which always tend to not go over as well.
However, I still liked it better than Starship Traveller.
You have an incredible work ethic. I'm curious. Are you doing most of these from memory?
Mostly memory. I'm sort of only bothering to glance through the books to double check some names of locations and characters since its easier if I use names rather than describing major characters constantly as "That wizard guy with the staff" or something similar.
13. Freeway Fighter
In continuing with the recent non-fantasy/non-Titan world books, we have another one set on earth, though it’s a post apocalyptic theme this time.
Now given that this came out during the 80s it’s no surprise that this was heavily inspired by Road Warrior (As all good post apocalyptic media is).
Despite the setting or perhaps because of it (It’s the only FF book set in a PA world as far as I know) this one isn’t usually brought up as one of the “greats” and I don’t think it’s ever been reissued.
While it isn’t technically a scifi setting it does have a lot of the extra “rules” that tend to come with such settings.
Besides your normal stats, you’ll also be rolling for your car’s stats (The Interceptor of course) FIREPOWER and ARMOR. This is similar to your ship back in Starship Traveller. Lose all your armor in combat and it’s the same as losing all your stamina, except you blow up in your car.
There are also slightly different rules if you get in a gunfight. Unlike Starship Traveller though getting shot isn’t instant death, but it’s still more lethal than regular melee combat since you roll the dice to see how much damage is caused rather than a flat “2” (Similar to the assault blaster in Space Assassin)
Your car also gets some spare tires, rockets, oil, and spikes. These are all very limited, so if you use them up, you don’t get any more. (And I don’t remember any encounter that allows a replenish) You also get some “credits” which is basically the money of the wasteland.
All in all you’re pretty well equipped from the start though. In fact, I’m not even sure how the hell you’re carrying any sort of grain given how the vehicle is over stuffed with weapons. Creative packing I suppose. (It works!)
Story premise is the world went to shit thanks to an unknown plague wiping most of civilization out.
You’re from a small town called New Hope (Gee, that name sounds very familiar…) and you’re supposed to get an gas tanker from San Anglo who are willing to trade all this gas for some sacks of seeds and grain because they’re obviously swimming in so much gasoline that they can afford to just trade a shitload of it for only a few sacks of seeds and are poor negotiators on top of being shitty farmers.
Still this is survival so if you’re taking advantage of a bunch of dumbasses that’s what it takes.
One oddity that stands out is the book always calls gas “petrol” which is more commonly used in the UK, however the book clearly takes place in post apocalyptic US. I can only guess Ian didn’t bother taking that into consideration when he wrote it, but fuck it, it’s all the same thing.
And since I mentioned Ian wrote this one, you know what that means, a shitload of combat with an item hunt.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s more bearable than it usually is, but still more annoying than it needs to be.
First off, the combat is actually pretty balanced in this book thanks to how powerful your car is and how you’re usually doing a lot of the fighting in it. There are a few tough vehicle battles (One being a tank and another being a fucking helicopter).
However if you think something is really going to be too tough for you, you always got the rockets that win give you an instant kill before combat. Granted those are limited, they’re a good way to easily get past some of the tougher battles if you use them sparingly.
The item hunt is once again something that gets sprung on you not long after you leave New Hope. The good news it’s just one item. The bad news you have to keep finding it over and over.
You basically have to keep finding cans of gasoline on your trip to San Anglo and it’s a pain in the balls. If you ever get a passage saying you need to refill and you don’t have a gas can, then you get a failed ending.
Yeah it sucks a lot of the fun out of this book. I mean I could see even doing this once during the journey, but you have to do this like five or six times and its fucking horrible.
Not much else for it except to deal with it and keep an eye out for the precious juice though.
So the encounters in the book are sort of what you’d expect in a mad max world. Lot of bandit/raider types attacking you. Nothing too usual. You get pics of some of them dressed a bit outlandishly as is fitting for crazed raiders for this sort of setting (A gladiator, a cowboy, etc.)
Encounters that stand out on your way to San Anglo include finding out the mayor of New Hope got captured in a raid shortly after you left and you can actually stumble upon him while searching a seemingly abandoned town not all that far from New Hope.
If you rescue him, he drives back to New Hope on one of the bandit’s motorcycles.
Two other major bits involve races which you sort of need to do to get more gas. (Yes, waste gas to get more of it, makes perfect sense)
One of these is a short drag race against some arrogant ex-baseball player who has a super fast car. It’s basically just a dice roll. As I remember, you can’t beat him unless you got your car upgraded before hand (Or its very difficult to beat him).
The second one is a bit more involved since there’s a track involved. You have to go up against the local champion who also has a souped up vehicle with extra armor and heavy-duty tires. It might be a race, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of ramming involved. (You can’t use your rockets unfortunately)
The last important encounter before you get to San Anglo is picking up a girl called Amber on the road since her own vehicle is in flames when you find her.
You get a pic of her and she’s HAWT. She’s a blonde dressed in the usual post apocalyptic S&M bondage gear. No, actually she’s sensibly dressed in overalls and no you don’t get to make her your waifu.
She explains that she’s from San Anglo and they’ve been expecting you, however a gang called the DOOM DOGS has been attacking the place Lord Humungus style. They sort of even have a Lord Humungus wannabe by the name of Animal.
So in order to get in San Anglo, you’ll have to fight the Doom Dogs first. This involves some sneaking about and then some combat which can be a free for all gun battle or you can challenge Animal directly in hand to hand combat. He’s so tough that unless you picked up some brass knuckles somewhere, you’ll only do one point of damage when you hit him.
However you do it, Animal gets knocked out during the fight and you get in San Anglo. However, the Doom Dogs aren’t done yet and they just directly attack the place crashing an exploding truck into the front gates and then trying to steal the tanker.
After stopping them again, they finally give up and drive away and you get some cheers from the citizens of San Anglo and you’re on your way back to New Hope in the tanker. (Leaving the Interceptor behind unfortunately)
Okay so here’s another weak bit of the game. The return home.
Given ALL the shit you had to deal with on your way to San Anglo, the trip back is remarkably uneventful. There is one incident with hijackers who are piss easy to kill and another potential encounter, which is more like last minute trolling on Ian’s part. (Though I didn’t encounter it until after I won the book and was looking through the other sections anyway)
I guess this short trip can be chalked up to running out of pages, but this book isn’t even the traditional 400 passages, it’s 380. So they could have shoved a few more dangers, like at least maybe a final showdown with Animal who is the closest thing to a “main villain” in this book.
Anyway after you deal with the faggot hijackers, you’re within sight of New Hope and then you’ll win, but remember that trolling encounter I mentioned? Well it comes into play here.
You see, before the hijackers, you get the option to sleep in the tanker or sleep in an abandoned motel on the side of the road. Going into the motel gets you bitten by a rat, which was thrown by some crazy old man living there. You lose a couple stamina points, but that’s all.
However, if you got bit, before you drive to New Hope, you notice you’re feeling like shit and you got swellings all over your body. The rat gave you the plague. Not wishing to infect New Hope, you write a note and leave it in the tanker and go off to die. It says you get a statue erected in your honor, so presumably someone from New Hope scouted the nearby area and found the tanker, but hardly matters since you’re dead.
Assuming you didn’t get bit, you reach New Hope to a hero’s welcome and also mentions if you managed to save the mayor, you get even more warm and fuzzies.
That’s the book.
This one could have been much better given the setting, but Ian got really lazy (He didn’t even write 400 passages!) Hell, at times the descriptions are so brief, it felt like Andrew wrote it. Actually it's a pity that Steve Jackson (US) didn't write this one since his game company at the time was making a lot of stuff for his Car Wars setting and a FF based on that probably would have been better.
However I still liked it since I’m always a bit more forgiving with post apocalyptic settings unless they’re complete shit and this is far from being that bad. It’s just not as good as it should have been.
14. Temple of Terror
As an unimportant bit of trivia, this is the first book where the US started using the same covers as their UK versions, though the lay out was still a bit different.
Back to the fantasy world of Titan and this one could be considered a semi-sequel to Forest of Doom from a certain perspective.
Starts out with you hanging out in Stonebridge with those sorry ass dwarves when Yaztromo has deemed to grace everyone with his presence by actually leaving his tower for a change.
In any case, he explains that some guy called Malbordus is planning to TAKE OVER THE WORLD with his evil magic shit because his momma abandoned him in Darkwood forest a long time ago and he was raised by dark elves that found him and he didn’t get breast fed as a child.
Well actually we don’t know last bit, for all we know some maternal dark elf might have taken care of that bit. (Hell maybe dark elf milk made him even MORE evil!)
Speaking of which, awfully nice of the dark elves in general to take care of an abandoned human child rather than sacrificing it to some spider goddess or throwing it up against the wall.
In any case, Mal’s planning this scheme by gathering up some dragon artifacts in some lost city called Vatos and Yaz says there needs to be an adventurer to reach the lost city before Mal does.
Unsurprising all of the dwarves are fucking pussies and you volunteer because you’re all into this sort of shit due to being addicted to danger. Yaz thinks you look familiar and so takes you back to his tower where he teaches you some spells. Yep, you get some spells to fuck around with. You only get four out of a long list, so choose wisely.
One spell that I soon learned I should have taken during my original playthrough was the “Create water” spell. It seems sort of useless when compared to the other spells, but considering I ended up wandering about in the desert for several passages I would have saved on stamina points with easy water access and not dragging my ass through the sand like a dead man.
So given that Ian wrote this one, it doesn’t need to be said that you’ve got an item hunt. Now granted you at least know about the dragon artifacts that you need to get before Mal does, but you’ll soon learn that there are some other items that you’re going to need to get through this adventure as well. One of which requires you to disregard common sense to get it. (More on that later)
So immediately you get a couple options on how to travel to the lost city of Vatos located in the Desert of Skulls) You can go to Port Blacksand and book passage on a ship or you can just journey over land.
While it seems out of the way and a waste of time, you need to go to Port Blacksand since there will be an item you have to get to win the fucking game. And that item can only be gotten by willingly believing some old guy in Port Blacksand, city of fucking THIEVES who leads you into an ambush. (Told you, you’d have to abandon common sense)
Anyway, you get passage on a pirate ship which after a bit of travel they mistakenly attack a Man O war ship rather than a merchant ship (Apparently these fuckers haven’t been at the whole pirating thing long if they made that mistake). Naturally the pirate ship gets blown to shit and you can either swim to the Man O War and try to convince their captain that you weren’t really with these assholes or just swim away to the shore.
Whether you swim to shore, convince the captain OR you decided to walk overland to begin with, you’ll soon get to the Desert of Skulls where I hope you got that create water spell because you’ll be losing a lot of stamina otherwise.
The desert is pretty brutal with encounters, ranging from unkillable shell demons to basilisks that can both instant kill you, along with just regular tough battles like giant sand worms. You’ll actually need to kill a sand worm to get a tooth from it since it’s the only thing that will harm a later enemy.
Eventually you’ll stop wandering the desert and reach Vatos. For a “lost city” it’s got a lot of activity going on. Granted it’s not that surprising it’s going to have beasties and such taking up residence long after its been abandoned.
While it’s mostly lawless, technically it has a “ruler” a priestess called Leesha as you later find out and her guards of all kinds patrolling the place. A lot of these are of the undead variety, but there are some run of the mill cultists and similar evil types. She’s pretty much the one that organizes the motley lot to raid desert caravans for supplies and slaves.
Leesha even invites skilled artist from all over the world to impress her with their creations in yearly contests. The winner gets a shitload of riches, the losers get sacrificed. You’ll even bump into a few of these artists.
The topside of the city is pretty much abandoned and you end up descending under the city where all the action is and your search for dragon statues. However you soon get targeted by one of Mal’s assassins known as the Messenger of Death. He’s fairly nasty looking from the pic and whispers “death” in your ear before disappearing.
Basically he’s a big trolling asshole. While you’re doing your usual item hunt of exploring every nook and cranny, you run the risk of seeing one of the letters in the word “death” at which point you’ll lose a few stamina points.
If during your adventure you see EVERY letter, he pops up and kills you instantly because a regular annoying item hunt just isn’t hard enough.
So the search is basically a dungeon crawl at this point. Along the way you’ll mostly encounter a lot of Leesha’s minions. The only notable encounter is you can meet a gnome who basically survives as a scavenger and that item you found ALL the way back in Port Blacksand? Yeah, you need it here to trade since it turns out he’s got one of the dragon statues.
After awhile you’ll hit a point where you have no choice but to walk through this magical golden shower. (LOL. Still, I should point out Ian actually calls it golden “rain” since he must have realized the implications while he was writing it)
In any case, this magic piss takes away your spell abilities. You won’t actually know it does until you attempt to cast a spell the next time you get the option. Presumably, this much like the Messenger of Death was just to make the final bits more difficult.
So after walking through this part you’ll be getting closer to Leesha’s inner sanctum and eventually you’ll bump into her being fanned by some slave. Since you never get the chance to ever sex up any of the ladies you meet in FF books, she immediately tries to kill you. Hope you have that sandworm tooth since it’s the only way to avoid instant death.
Unleash your worm tooth and Leesha will run from the sight of your massive weapon and you start chasing her.
Ian apparently took this opportunity to shove in shit he forgot at the last minute since there are two vital things you have to stop and fuck around with during the chase.
One is an idol which will dispense one of the needed dragon statues. Okay, I sort of accept that one.
The second is a lot harder to believe even in the terms of a fantasy setting.
During the chase, you’ll bump into a dwarf with a severe case of heat stroke and a warhammer. How the fuck he even got into the bowels of the city and past Leesha’s inner sanctum AND past you is a fucking mystery. Nevermind the fact that he’s one of those pussies from Stonebridge and he was sent to hand you their warhammer since it’s necessary to destroy the dragon statues.
Wait a fucking minute.
You mean to say you set off on this quest braving sinking ships, hostile desert, a city filled with horrors and you’re only just NOW learning that you could have failed it because someone didn’t think to inform you of this very important bit of info, let alone give you the goddamn hammer from the start?
Fuck Yaztromo, fuck the Stonebridge dwarves, and just fuck everyone in general.
Eventually you get to a room with no other exit and also no sign of Leesha, just a pit in the middle of the room. It is at this point you have to have all the statues AND the warhammer so you can start smashing them up.
If you don’t have the warhammer and try to destroy them with your sword, you’ll turn to stone.
If you don’t have all the statues, it says you look out a nearby window and see Mal riding a big ass black dragon in the distance and that he’s going to take over the world.
I mean granted he can do a lot of damage, but unless you totally fucked up and didn’t get ANY of the statues, presumably he didn’t get the ultimate power source. I mean there could have at least been a passage that made more sense like him popping up, instant killing you and taking your remaining dragons.
And that’s just it, he WILL pop up from the pit if you have all the artifacts. By the time that happens though, you sort of have already thwarted his quest because you destroy a dragon before he shows up, thus depriving him of total power.
Still, even if that’s the case, you’d want to kill him anyway because he’s the evil overlord in this book and killing them is what you do.
Malbordus is a tough battle though if you have some ring you found, he’s a little easier. After beating the chicken soup out of him, you win and it talks about how you’ll be making your way back to Stonebridge to hand the dwarves back their hammer and learn some more stuff from Yaztromo.
Personally, I’d throw the fucking hammer back into Darkwood Forest and let those assholes get horse fucked by the trolls when they get emo over losing their symbol again.
So that’s the book.
I found this one to be rather meh. I mean there were a few things of interest going on, but ultimately it’s just sort of bland and has some plot holes in terms of the time frame.
At one point it implies that Mal is ahead of you, but somehow you wind up ahead of him. I suppose maybe he got held up doing some other shit, but that combined with some of the other stuff going on in the book that I already mentioned and it felt like a mess as far as the story and gameplay was concerned.
Not to mention Mal just doesn’t seem all that threatening, especially based on the pic you eventually see of him. He’s no Dire or Zagor. Hell, he’s not even Hawkana.
Probably would have been better to not even have Mal in there at all and instead focused on travelling to Vatos to stop Leesha from summoning a world destroying demon or something. She seemed more interesting and you never do resolve your encounter with her. (Or the Messenger of Death assassin either)
While I didn’t dislike it enough to not play enough to beat it, out of all the books I own set in the world of Titan, this is probably one my least favorite.
15. The Rings of Kether
As a general rule I tended to always be pretty positive when going into a FF book. Even if it turned out to be not so great, I usually found something to enjoy on some level.
Not so much with Rings.
In fact when I got this book, I didn’t even play it right away. The name and some fat ugly bastard on the cover didn’t exactly motivate me. Not to mention it was obviously a scifi setting and we all know how those go.
I remember when I did finally get around to playing it, I sort of just went through the motions. I never really got excited about this one, in fact despite that the book is in front of me, I barely feel motivated to even look through the damn thing to jog my memory of shit I forgot about it and I’ve forgotten nearly everything about this one.
It’s just THAT fucking boring to me.
However, much like how I slogged through the book, I’ll slog through a review.
Alright first off, this was an Andrew Chapman book which might explain why it was so goddamn boring as far as the writing was concerned. Oddly enough, this one is usually considered his BEST book by other reviews and has gotten some praise from what I’ve seen. I really disagree though. In fact I’d call it the worst FF book I own.
Second, much like most scifi settings, you get a bunch of extra rules on combat. So you get to roll stats for your ship similar to Starship Traveller and gun battles are a little more lethal (Though still not the instant kills like in ST)
You play as a undercover narcotics agent sent by the Galatic Federation to bring down the powerful drug ring on Kether. Yeah, this is probably another reason why I didn’t like this one, I’m playing as a fucking glorified space COP.
Yeah so, you do some investigating and find out some guy called “Blaster” Babbet is the kingpin and you need to take him out. There are a lot of his drug buddies trying to stop you along the way. One in particular is some disgusting looking fat chick who even has the last name “Gross.” If that’s supposed to be her on the cover (and I don’t think it is) the pic of her in the book is a lot worse. If anyone is familiar with the old 80s Dune movie, she looks like Baron Harkkonian.
I think the book has a few password puzzles and even another mini game like he did in Space Assassin, but it wasn’t nearly as memorable.
The only other encounter I remember of note is some creepy pic of this giant centipede creature with a woman’s face. Seriously, the pic is creepy looking. But that’s one of the few things I remember because it at least stood out.
The book has the usual chances of instant death endings, but it also has at least two winning endings which is mildly different from the usual single ending.
The main winning ending is doing battle with Babbet (who isn’t all that impressive) and capturing him saying by wiping out the leadership you have smashed the drug ring and your mission is a success.
That’s not how that fucking works.
You know what’s going to happen, whatever underlings that you didn’t manage to murder the shit out of on your way to Babbet are going to just fill the power vacuum. That’s ALWAYS how it works.
The second way to win is considered a “lesser win” and it’s fucking retarded why that’s the case.
In that one you blow up the whole fucking asteroid where they’re running their drug operation from and everyone inside it, including Babbet.
Now THAT is going to actually have a fucking effect. It destroys all the equipment, presumably most of the important folks and an entire base of operations. More importantly it send the message that the Federation isn’t fucking around with criminal shitheads.
So um, yeah that’s it. Seriously, that’s about all I can remember about this book and as I said, I can’t even be bothered to glance through it to add any more content.
I mean in retrospect, it’s amazing I even completed this one, but I don’t remember it being too difficult so there’s that I guess.
Anyway, ready to move on with the next book.
16. Seas of Blood
Generally speaking, you’re always playing as a hero in these books.
Space Assassin? As I said in that review not really since you’re trying to stop Space Mengele in that one and you’re never killing anyone innocent in it. (Which is more that can be said for the hero murdering goblin children in the Citadel of Chaos. Lol)
There’s another book called Creature of Havoc that I’ll talk about later that sort of lets you play on the darkside for a little while, but again not really since you’re technically not “yourself.”
Various other arguments can be made like the above Citadel of Chaos thing, but any “bad thing” you ever do in these books is either punished right away, or says you made a mistake and feel bad about it or it can be hand waved that you’re doing something WAY more important for the cause of good for you to get labeled as an “evil person.”
So far the closest you get to being a “bad guy” is if you work for Grimslade in Scorpion Swamp, but even then you’ll get a few people saying “you’re not a bad person, you just serve a very bad master” and you’ll feel some pangs of guilt like a faggot.
Well drown the kids and shoot the neighbors, because if you wanted to play as a complete unrepentant villain protagonist in one of these books, this is the one for you because you play as a blood thirsty, raping and pillaging PIRATE!
Though I’m sadly exaggerating just a bit, because it was written by Andrew fucking Chapman, so you’re not going to get long bloody passages of you pillaging in graphic detail, let alone any raping. You do get to take slaves, so maybe tasteful rape is implied. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This book takes place on the world of Titan, but it’s in one of the lesser-used areas. In fact, unless you sort of go and look up the lore in other sources, I don’t think this book even mentions any of the usual known call backs to the world of Titan. I’ll talk more about this with a different book though because it delves more into such things in that one.
The premise of this book is you and a rival pirate by the name Abdul the Butcher are having a gentlemanly debate over who is the king of the pirates. The pair of you come up with a wager of sailing from the city of Tak to the island of Nippur and whoever manages to have the greatest amount of treasure within the 50 day time limit will get the title of King of the Pirates.
But this isn’t some weeb shit and your name isn’t Monkey D. so you’re going to have to put in a lot of work actually sacking cities, pillaging merchant ships and taking slaves.
Seeing as you’re in charge of a group pirates you have to roll up stats for them. (CREW STRIKE and CREW STRENGTH) This is for all the large scale battles you’re going to fight. Lose all your Crew Strength and it can safely be assumed you were also cut down in the battle and you’ve failed.
You also roll up your stats as normal and have to keep track of a log book with how many days have passed as well as how much booty you’re racking up. (Titter!) You also get a pretty useful map of the area you’ll be travelling and all the important cities and locations. Probably one of the few FF books where you get a useful map. (Forest of Doom’s map was pretty vague)
Okay so right from the start you get a lot of options of where to set sail. You can go try to find some fat merchant ships, head towards a city to sack or go find some caravans to harass.
The encounters in this book are pretty varied. You go up against ship crews, town militias, cultists and even a few sea monsters. There will also be times where you’ll be fighting some tough personal battles as well.
There are more than a few encounters that are instant death. One of which is a direct mimic to Circe and Odysseus. (Beware of isolated women living on islands surrounded by lots of animals.) Another way is being an idiot and actually accepting to wrestle a fucking giant. (It says he smacks you so hard you go flying into the next world. Years before Skyrim! Lol)
A few other encounters that stick out include taking a break from traditional “pirating” and visiting some gambling dens to make some coin, possibly running into someone you know. Speaking of which there is another aspect I enjoyed with this book.
There are at least three places you can bump into old rivals or someone you owe money to. One of them is in the gambling dens. This addition of running into such folks made the adventure feel a little more immersive since it’s giving a bit of background of other events that have occurred in your past.
One of them you owe a shitload of coin to and you have to do a winner takes all dice gamble. If you win, he’ll honor the agreement and your debt will be cleared. If he wins, he takes your ship as payment. You even get the option to honor this agreement at which point the game ends since you can’t be much of a pirate without a ship anymore. Sort of an interesting ending, though you’ll probably want to just go back on the deal and kill your creditor. (Like a true villain)
The other encounter is bumping into some friendly rival who is involved in a war between two city-states and you foolishly got in the middle of it when you started sailing in their waters. You’ll lose a shitload of coin this way and possible the game if you don’t pay up since he’s only willing to except a bribe for old time’s sake.
The last one is really random. You’re just sort of exploring one of the pirate friendly ports and suddenly this beggar attacks you exclaiming he lost everything because of you. Turns out he’s another rival from your past that obviously fell on hard times.
In any case it was little thing like that, that made me like the book even more.
While you can take slaves in the book and they technically count as booty, they’re sort of useless unless you sell them and you only get a chance to do that towards the end of your journey at one particular city. If you don’t stop at that city, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of worthless slaves at the end of your journey and the whole point is to have REAL coin on hand, not some bullshit commodities.
Selling the slaves is sort of a simple affair, since based on your luck and dice rolls, you’ll sell all your slaves for the same price.
Really the only weak point of the book is the final combat just before you reach Abdul. You have to have a mini-game fight with a big cyclops. (Fucking Andrew and his mini-game shit)
It’s not a traditional roll the dice fight either. You’ll get a selection of moves to choose from and then turn to that page, then you see who got hurt and get another selection of moves. You keep doing this until one of you runs out of stamina points.
Amusingly attempting to kick the cyclops in the groin results in YOU taking damage rather than him because he’s obviously got balls of steel.
While the mini-game fight isn’t bad (better than Andrew’s other past mini-games) but it just sort takes up space for what could have been used for more story related passages.
Anyway after your fight with the cyclops you’ll meet with Abdul and you’ll compare how much treasure you have. How this is done is rounding down to the nearest hundred and dividing by two and then turning to the number you got.
Going by this simple formula and given how the highest these books typically go is 400 passages, one can see that you need at least 800 gold to beat Abdul. No small feat.
Failing results in Abdul mocking you and you having to admit defeat. Winning of course means you mock Abdul and you’ll get a pic of Abdul bowing his head in defeat and accepting that you are KING OF THE PIRATES.
And that’s the book.
As if it needs to be said, I really enjoyed this one and while I’ve never written too much pirate related stuff, the whole villain protagonist theme of this book probably influenced me greatly.
For whatever reason, this book doesn’t get a lot of praise and I don’t think it’s ever been reissued.
This one was also Andrew’s last FF book and as far as I’m concerned he redeemed himself with this one and went out on a high note. He probably should have been writing fantasy rather than scifi since he did a better job at it.
I REALLY liked this one a lot.
17. Appointment with F.E.A.R.
What are the usual settings that most nerds are into?
Fantasy? Obviously. Scifi? Of course. Horror? For sure. Post Apocalyptic? Definitely.
Well what’s the obvious one we missed?
If you said super heroes, then congrats, you are a true nerd.
Once again the FF series tries to step out of its comfort zone and do something other than fantasy. Heavy hitter Steve Jackson (UK) wrote this one, which isn’t too surprising since he always did the more experimental stuff.
Anyway, you get to be a super hero in a “modern earth” setting. You sort of get a name in this one too since you’re known as the Silver Crusader.
Basic premise is you’re the defender of Titan City (Oh ho ho ho, a reference to the fantasy world) and you find out that F.E.A.R. (Federation of Euro-American Rebels) lead by Vladimir Utoshski AKA the Titanium Cyborg are having some secret meeting and you have to discover where and when its taking place.
Okay the set up for this one is a little different already. You do the usual stat rolls, but you also pick what powers you have from a list of four. Super strength, Enhanced Technological Skill (ETS), Energy Blast and Psi Powers.
Okay first off Super strength and ETS are basically playing as Superman or Batman respectively. These are really “easy mode” With super strength you even get an automatic skill of 13 and can fucking fly. And with ETS there just about isn’t a single encounter that you won’t have a device on you that can give an alternate solution to resolving it.
Hell there is at least one villain you can encounter in the book that will kill EVERY other super hero instantly except the ETS one. (Just like the real Batman!)
Energy blast and psi powers are more difficult mainly because anytime you use those powers you subtract some of your stamina!
The psi powers are the worst one since I know there are a few places they won’t even work and/or can result in instant death. I mean what sort of lame shit is that? Oh well at least you aren’t confined to a wheel chair I guess.
No matter what power you pick, you’ll get a crime watch which will be informing you of the nearest crime taking place.
Another different thing is, combat stops when you reduce the villains to 1 or 2 stamina. You’re a real hero in this one, as opposed to some dirty opportunistic adventurer so you aren’t supposed to be killing people no matter how evil they are. (And them trying to kill you) In fact if you accidently kill a villain, you lose a hero point, which is another stat you keep track of in this book. Hero points don’t really mean much though; they’re just sort of a way to keep “score” of how well you’re doing.
Depending on which power you picked, you’ll get different clues from the start about various agents of F.E.A.R. The location and times of the meeting also change depending on the powers you picked, so there’s already some replayability here.
With all that out of the way, we’ll get to the meat of the book.
Well the book is essentially one long string of comic book references. Almost every villain is a FF knock off of a Marvel or DC villain. Names are dropped constantly like some multi-millionaire called “Wayne Bruce”, or Banner Street and Parker Airport.
It actually isn’t just comic books either, they also got knock off references to other real world things like the “Wisneyland theme park” or instead of a musical called Cats it’s called Rats. Things like that.
Most of the time, the encounters don’t really stand out unless you fail them. Like there’s one where a suicidal villain is holding a plane of passengers hostage. If you have psi powers, you try to send a message to a passenger on the plane to get a better assessment of the situation from the ground. The passenger turns out to be a religious nut and he thinks you’re God and he tries to stop the villain himself which results in the villain crashing the plane. Lol.
(See if you’d picked super strength, you wouldn’t have had that problem.)
Another one is failing to save the president visiting Titan city and he gets shot Kennedy style.
Even kids aren’t safe in this one. (And from Citadel of Chaos we should know Steve Jackson won’t shy away from some child death) At one point a kid can die at Wisneyland on the bumper cars and even YOU can zap a kid with an electric blast accidently! (He doesn’t die though)
One cool one though is one of the villains is threatening to poison the water supply and you can’t stop him in time. Just when you think you’re going to get an instant fail game state, a gunshot rings out and the villain dies from some security guard that pops a cap in his head while he was distracted with you.
Speaking instant fails, a shitty one is while you’re on your way to visit your aunt (Obviously an expy of Aunt May) and you can get mugged. You can either let them or resist.
Unfortunately if you resist, one of the muggers rips your civilian clothing to reveal your costume underneath. They give up immediately, but it goes on to say that these two will undoubtedly talk while incarcerated and then everyone will know who you are and that you will have to retire. And nope, you don’t get the option to kill them to shut them up.
In any case, the day will arrive that F.E.A.R. has its meeting and at that point you need the location and time and add up some numbers or something and turn to that page. Obviously if you get it wrong or didn’t get the info, you’ll get a failed ending where Vlad makes an announcement over the radio to all over the world saying F.E.A.R. has taken over the Star Wars program satellites and as a demonstration of their power, they’re going to use their super weapon to blow up Titan City.
Even if you get the location correct, you still have to face Vlad and he has a fearsome skill score of 17 making it virtually impossible to even fight him even if you have super strength. In fact, combat will end after the third round at which point you turn to another page which results in an instant death description.
So how do you beat him? Well you had to pick up one of the few items you can collect in this game and you can’t get it until about the day before the meeting anyway. It’s called the Circuit Jammer and it fucks up all his cyber shit making the combat a lot easier.
After you beat the chicken soup out of the Titanium Cyborg, you’ll get a pic of him and his cronies being hauled off the jail and going on about how you’ve saved the city and the world from F.E.A.R. itself. Ha ha.
Might as well admit this now. Much like Starship Traveller, I never did finish this book proper because I never could find the get the time and location numbers right. I get that Steve Jackson loves his puzzles, passwords, codes and add up these numbers and go here shit, and I get that makes the game aspect more enjoyable for some, but I fucking hate it. Always have.
I’ve also probably mentioned before that I’ve never really been into super hero stuff, so I was never really wowed by the fact that you play as one.
Still despite everything I just said, I did replay this one a few times. Not sure why given how it has things I’m just not that into in it, but that might be due to a testament to Jackson’s writing and the flow of the book which kept me more interested than I would normally have been.
The digital remake of this overhauls a few things a bit. In fact I’m pretty sure you get the option of making a female super hero and what your hero looks like. I believe hero points even play more of a role in it. (I forget the last bit because again, I never really was into the book even with the overhaul)
So while this FF book isn’t on my list of favorites (Still way better than Rings of Kether) if you’re into the whole super hero genre then yeah this book would be a pretty good one to play.
18. Rebel Planet
Oh great another scifi book, let’s see how badly this one fucks everything up.
This one was another case of I got it and didn’t play it right away. The cover didn’t look as bad as Rings of Kether this time, but after all the other disappointing scifi books, just couldn’t be bothered to get excited about this one.
Eventually I got around to playing it and to my surprise it was okay.
This one was written by Robin Waterfield and while he did write a few other FF books, I don’t own any of them (more on that in another section). From what I can tell on other book reviews he was sort of a mixed bag. I think this one is generally considered one of his better books presumably because it’s a scifi setting that doesn’t suck.
This book has quite a bit of back-story to it. It goes on about how human started colonizing other planets and when they eventually encountered another alien species called the Arcadians.
The Arcadians are a unified race that had more primitive technology than humans. They didn’t have nearly the same sort of space travel we did, so when the first human scout ships landed planet, they did what any sensible race would; they killed all the explorers, took their shit, dissected everything to learn how it worked and then built up a fleet based on the technology while humans were sitting on their asses not checking out why the fuck their ships hadn’t returned.
So the Arcadians overran the first planet, Halmuris pretty quickly since that one was the closest and practically just a science colony run by nerds anyway. The next one, Radix gave up immediately because they’re all a bunch of decadent degenerates there and eager to get ass fucked by alien dick.
Tropos is the only one that put up any sort of resistance and then soon after that one fell, it was on to conquer Earth and the other colonies in the solar system, which it eventually did. Meanwhile the “Terra Prime” party was busy telling everyone “I told you this would happen” for leaving earth in the first place.
Of course conquering and holding are two different things so the Arcadians at first had a hard time of keeping the humans in line. That all changed however when they created a super computer that would make this whole space empire thing a lot more efficient.
While the entire Arcadian race was unified already, they needed that extra edge so the entire race put a chip inside their own head to get this weird cybernetic hive mind thing going.
With the Arcadians going full space China now they could run the empire without as much hassle thanks to them all being mind linked.
Of course this now caused the amusing situation that the Arcadians had basically enslaved themselves to a fucking computer while at the same time enslaving the humans. (They did try to put the chip in human heads, but after many failed attempts, human brains just don’t accept the chip and die during the process) Things have been this way for over a century now.
What this all means is the underground resistance has built up and prepared the cunning plan of destroying the Arcadian super computer because it that goes down, that’s going to completely turn the Arcadians into turnips.
Great plan, of course you’ll need to get to Arcadion first and that’s where the difficulties lie because human space travel is severely restricted unless you’re an authorized merchant and the further out from earth you go, the more restricted it is.
So naturally as a member of the resistance you’ve got the necessary fake merchant identification, but it’s still not going to be easy as you have to make contact with other resistance cells on other planets to get the necessary codes you’ll need to get access to the next planet.
And yeah, these codes already involve some Steve Jackson like number crunching.
Also despite this being a scifi setting, the combat is more like a traditional FF book. Humans aren’t supposed to have weapons so your ship is unarmed and no fancy ray guns for you. And the Arcadians are so paranoid they don’t even carry such things anymore, they just give their people laser whips and lightsabers laser swords to keep humans in line, which is a lot easier nowadays. (Naturally you’ve managed to acquire one of these laser swords and they’re fairly easy to smuggle in security checks apparently as long as nobody is looking too closely)
Though you do get a “sudden death” option where if you’re ever in unarmed combat, you can roll an extra die and if you get a six, you kill the person outright mainly because most Arcadians are a little less combat skilled and you’ve been studying their weak points for years.
Okay on with the actual meat of the book.
Basically it’s just going to one planet, meeting with resistance members, getting the codes and then moving on to the next. As if it needs to be said, failing to get the codes will result in failure of the game,. You start immediately on your way to Tropos.
Tropos and Radix are easily the more detailed parts of the journey and as I remember there’s a bit more exploration in general. The codes are easier to get there as well.
It goes on a bit about the cultures of Tropos and Radix and even tries to say how you come to understand the Radix “way of life” better and all the perceptions of them being a bunch of corrupt degenerates isn’t entirely true. I don’t really buy it though. They’re a bunch of traitorous decadent assholes who gave up easily to preserve their relatively undisturbed way of life (Which was fairly easy to begin with since it’s abundant with resources)
Sure there are students protesting things at the colleges, but its such a piss poor showing that even the Arcadians don’t do too much about it. Lol.
By the time you get to Halmuris, things start getting a little harder and it starts getting more barebones of getting the codes and getting the fuck off the planet. If you’re going to get “stuck” it’s probably going to be on this planet since I remember the codes being a lot harder to access here.
The final stage of the journey is going to Arcadion and I’m pretty sure you had to get captured and then steal an Arcadian ship to get there or something similar. I do remember there being an Arcadian who isn’t “quite right in the head” probably due to chip malfunction and you take advantage of that.
If it seems like I described more of the back-story than the actual adventure, well that’s because I did, because despite it being one of the better scifi settings, most of the encounters aren’t exactly the most memorable. The book isn’t boring, but it just doesn’t have much that stands out or at least it didn’t for me. Not even much in the way of creepy pics.
So when you get to Arcadion, the first thing you do is need to use the last code to enter the building with the super computer. If you don’t have that, you’ve failed. You also go raid an armory and you’ll get a choice on stuff to get, but you only get two things out of several of the options and there is only ONE choice that will allow you to blow up the super computer when you get to it.
The item in question is some sort of powerful explosive called Elmonite, which you need to break up into three pieces to destroy all the parts of the computer. Only concentrating it on one part or attempting to use a weapon like a phaser or grenade and you don’t do enough damage in time for the Arcadians to catch up to you and fuck your shit up.
Blow up the super computer and even the Arcadians that are just about to fuck your shit up, crumple into a useless ball. Meaning you’ve won and probably just single handedly committed genocide on a massive scale since you’ve effectively melted all their brains, but hey better you than them right?
Not much else to say about it really. For some reason I didn’t mind the code hunting as much in this one. Probably because of the way the story was set up of having to make contact with resistance leaders and sneak your way to the Arcadian homeworld, needing important shit like that felt more “natural” as opposed to whenever a puzzle just pops up out of the blue in the middle of a dungeon.
It’s an okay book and if you’re into scifi settings you’ll probably like it even more.
19. Demons of the Deep
Going back to Titan again, for this outing, American Steve Jackson is back to write it.
Last time US Steve wrote an FF book he provided A LOT of different ways to end the adventure that weren’t necessarily failures, even if they weren’t complete successes. This one is no different.
In fact this probably has several “non-win but survived” endings as Scorpion Swamp did. There are also degrees of “winning” too. So while this one doesn’t have the sandbox feel that Scorpion Swamp did, (It always marches forward like any FF does) if has a lot of different paths to success as well as failure.
This one starts out with you as a sailor traveling out from Port Blacksand and then the merchant ship you’re on gets attacked by Captain Bloodaxe and his crew.
The pirates kick the shit out of everyone though you’re putting up the best fight since you’re the last one standing. However, being greatly outnumbered, they knock you out and then after Bloodaxe taunts you a bit, he throws you overboard, telling you to swim home. Of course your hands are still bound at the time.
While the pirates are having a good laugh (Even shows a pic of this) you’re falling to the bottom the ocean, but fortunately for you, you’ve landed in a seemingly magical place and land on a pentagram in some sunken courtyard. This has allowed you to grow gills and not only breathe underwater but generally protect your stuff from the water.
Now you get the option to immediately swim back to the water’s surface, but that’s instant death since your gills disappear and the pirates who are still in the area see you and boat a small boat after you to finish you off.
Exploring your underwater surroundings is the correct choice and its at this point you can bump into a beautiful mermaid who gives you some of that sweet mermaid puss tells you exactly why you’re still alive and where you are.
She says you’ve landed in Atlantis (original name!) but that the magic giving you gills is only going to last until nightfall. At which point you’ll lose the gills anyway.
Since you’re pretty bent on revenge against the pirate at this point, she gives you some advice to seek out black pearls as they have a magic about them, which might help you in your revenge mission.
After this encounter you’re basically roaming about Atlantis, which is a mix of buildings along with ocean landscape. You’ll be fighting shit like giant sea spiders, giant sea crabs, hostile fish, that bone demon you see on the cover of the book (Strangely there isn’t a pic of him in the book) and even a fucking KRAKEN if you’re really feeling strong.
It’s like any FF book except everything is mostly water based. Still, there are a lot notable encounters in this book despite it just sounding like a glorified “dungeon crawl” in the water.
First off there seem to be two rival species living in Atlantis. The mer-folk and the Deep Ones. You’ll bump into the deep one community first and unlike their Cthulhu origins suggest, they’re actually pretty helpful if you’re not fucking with them.
At one point they tell you the deep one princess has been under some curse causing her to sleep and only an outsider can wake her up with a kiss! If you kiss frog face, she’ll wake up and scream at the sight of your ugly human mug, but then after calming down she thanks you and you get a reward. (No, not sweet deep one puss either. A fine lady like that, you’d have to romance first!)
The merfolk are benign with you too, as long as you aren’t fucking with them. The two races are apparently more at war with each other rather than with any wandering land dwellers who are passing through.
One amusing encounter is if you get captured by a sea ogre, he’s holding you in a cage and throwing fish at you, saying “Eat. Get fat. You be dinner soon.”
Failing to escape the cage results in your drowning when night falls and it says the ogre seems surprised to find you dead the next morning, but he eats you anyway.
The midway point is when you pass by an old human wizard by the name of Greylock waving at you from his underwater home. Ignoring him is a bad idea since he ends up being the person you need to meet to unlock the magic of those black pearls that a few people have probably been telling you to collect at this point.
He’ll give the magic word (Which is really just a backwards “code” for a numbered passage) that you need to say when the time comes to confront the pirates.
After you meet him, you’ll start heading towards the end game which has a few more dangerous monsters like that kraken I mentioned but also the sea dragon that lives in the area. There’s also a bit where you can potentially bump into a swordfish sword expert (With the name Cyrano and dressed like a nobleman) who can increase your skill if you train with him.
Soon after passing the last few encounters, you’ll get to the passage telling you that night will be falling soon, so you need to get ready.
Now how this all goes down depends on a lot of things. While everyone has been going on about the black pearls, you actually need a couple of other things that are arguably more important since you don’t necessarily need the black pearls to win.
First off, you have to have a way to get to the pirates in a hurry. This means you either needed to befriend a dolphin or a water elemental, both of which were found near the beginning of the game. The dolphin required you to steal crown off a living statue in order to communicate like Aquaman with it in the first place and THEN help it kill a shark. After all this, the dolphin tells you its name so you can call on it.
The elemental is a little less convoluted, but as I remember he’s a little harder to bump into. You have to free him from his confinement with a black pearl and if you don’t he’ll be an asshole and attack you for it. Freeing him however gives you an unmelting crystal which you can call him with.
Failing to have either results in you swimming to the surface and floating on a piece of driftwood in the middle of the ocean. Other than a death ending, this is probably one of the worst ones.
If you managed to get either of them to help you, now you need to know the location of Bloodaxe. Now this can be a guessing game since you get a list of four options to tell them where to take you. However, there are a couple hints you can stumble upon during your adventure as far as where you should go.
One of the options leads to being trapped on a desolate island, another leads to a island full of pirates, but the wrong ones and they murder the shit out of you. The third one doesn’t exist and your watery assistant offers to take you to Port Blacksand instead which is one of the better “survived” endings.
Okay so you get the island correct and the dolphin or elemental drop you off near the bottom of the ship (Which is appropriately called the Troll), here you get a shitload more options.
Stupidly boarding the ship yourself results in Bloodaxe’s crew killing you, so that’s not an option.
If you failed to meet Greylock and learn the magic word or you don’t have enough black pearls (Greylock hints that you’ll need at 8) you can still defeat the pirates in two other ways.
One is a rather mundane way. If you spent time with the merfolk, you might have encountered a craftsman using all sorts of “tool fish” to do his work. You can buy some of these from him. The borer fish is the only useful one though and will put holes in the hull and sink the ship. You then go cut one of the lifeboats free from the wreck and use it to row back to Port Blacksand. (Sticking around to explore the treasure hold results in drowning as your gills disappear)
Not a spectacular way to win, but it does the job.
The second one is calling the Sea Dragon. Earlier you could come to an agreement with the Sea Dragon and convince him that the ship has a bunch of treasure for him to take. He’ll tell you how to call him (You’ll need two gold coins to clink together or else you won’t be able to) and if you do, he’ll completely destroy the ship and the pirates while you stay hidden near the bottom of the ocean and watch.
Of course dragons can’t be trusted and he’ll try to call out to you to revieve “his thanks.” Doing so means a final battle because he tries to eat you. Whether you kill the dragon or just wait for him to get bored and leave the end is similar to the tool fish one. (And again, don’t be greedy and try to explore the treasure hold)
Finally, there’s the black pearl ending. Okay, so what’s all the fuss about them? Well for every two black pearls you have you can create a skeleton with them (With black pearls for eyes) provided you know the magic word.
If you only have two, you might as well have not bothered with this option since while it frightens a few of the pirates, it’s not enough and they cut you down.
Having four or six results in enough to give you a chance. You’ll have a last tough fight though especially with only four since you’ll have to fight Bloodaxe AND four other pirates. Six pearls means you only have to fight Bloodaxe.
Assuming you survive this last battle, you get a better ending since you loot some of the treasure hold and take one of the small boats to head to Port Blacksand.
Now if you have eight or ten (like I did) it says you create a skeleton horde so frightening to the pirates, most of them either give up immediately or jump overboard. Only Bloodaxe has any balls and tries to attack you, but he’s cut down by his own men!
One of the pirates starts calling you captain and pledging his allegiance to you, but you tell him you have no wish to be a pirate, but you want them to train your skeletons how to sail the ship to Port Blacksand at which point if you’re feeling generous, you MIGHT let the pirates live.
They agree to your offer and you wind up with the ship, all the treasure on it and a literal skeleton crew. And presumably you probably killed the pirates after they outlived their usefulness. Now time to go back and get some of that sweet mermaid puss!
In any case this is the best ending and that’s the book.
Much like Scorpion Swamp, this one doesn’t get nearly enough praise. I don’t know why because it’s a lot less linear than most FF books. I know US Steve made one other book in a scifi setting. I don’t own that one though so I’m curious if he managed to break the scifi problems. I like to think I would enjoy that book though seeing as he tends to always create multiple winning endings.
This is another one that has not seen a reissue. Guess there is only room for one Steve Jackson to get all the acclaim. I think US Jackson’s style probably influenced me more though, which makes sense I guess.
I liked this one a lot and this one ranks up there as one of best FF books as far as I’m concerned.
20. Sword of the Samurai
It was only a matter of time before we got to a weeb adventure. There is a lot going on in this book. To be honest I think the first time I played through I forgot what I was even supposed to be doing at one point.
This one is another team effort by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith. Seeing as they eventually went on to do the Way of the Tiger ninja series I mentioned in Talisman of Death, it makes sense that they did the Asian inspired FF adventure.
While this is still set on Titan, it’s not set in the traditional area of it obviously. This is the one where they expand a little more about the world in the lore. Basically there are three continents on the world. There is Allansia, which is where most of the FF books on Titan take place. This is basically the western euro fantasy setting.
There is Khakabad, which is a reference to UK Steve Jackson’s Sorcery series which completely takes place there. This one a mix of stuff going on if you’re familiar with the series and it would take its own entry to explain everything going on in it.
Finally there is Khul also known as the “dark continent” and this is basically where they shove all the less traditional euro fantasy stuff (AKA the non-white folks) Like Seas of Blood took place there since that was more of a Arabian setting.
However there’s one part of Khul that’s isolated from the rest of the area and that land is known as Hachiman and as you can guess already, it’s basically fantasy Japan.
Because you’re not playing as a round-eyed devil this time, the rules are a bit different. For one you’re a samurai and as such you get the option of picking an extra skill. All these skills go by some Japanese name, but, I’ll be using the English terms like a round eyed devil.
You can get archery with a lot of different types of arrows for all sorts of occasions. There’s quick draw, which usually gives you a free first hit in combat. There’s dual welding so you can get an extra attack with your short sword. Finally there’s a super jump skill so you can prance about like a lady boy faggot.
Also you have an HONOR score to keep track of. Honorable actions make it go up, dishonorable make it go down. So if you start doing shit like running away, ignoring insults and such, expect to lose some.
This isn’t like the Hero Points that are just for show like in the super hero book either. Honor has real consequence and if it ever goes down to zero or less, you have to turn to a specific passage immediately where it will tell you that you reflect on your actions through this adventure and realize that you’ve behaved dishonorably at every turn.
As a result, you commit seppuku and you fail. Hardcore man.
Okay so the premise is Hachiman is going to shit because the Shogun’s sword Singing Death got and now he’s losing control over the land. Barbarians are fucking shit up, other lords are breaking away and lovely fascist order is being ruined.
Even worse, the guy who currently has it is someone called Ikiru, Master of Shadows who has ties to demons, ghosts and all that other cool shit. If he learns the secret of the sword then it’s all over.
What’s funny is the shogun tells you that Ikiru is a soulless dog that cowers in his mountain fortress. Well what the fuck are you doing “fearless” leader? You’re not exactly leading by example.
So it’s up to you as a samurai to go serve your shogun by putting an end to all this shit by getting the sword back and preserving the status quo.
As I remember there are a couple paths you can take to get to Ikiru, one of the paths is more of a backwoods path and the other goes through another feudal lord’s territory.
Walking through Lord Tsietsin’s territory can result in a side quest of eliminating him since it turns out he’s in open rebellion and judging by the monsters in his ranks, he’s thrown his lot in with Ikiru. (And he’s a grossly fat bastard from the pic you’ll get of him)
You can also temporarily get the assistance of another samurai called Mochi who didn’t really want to follow Tsietsin anyway.
Whether you take out Tsietsin or ignore this side quest (which you probably shouldn’t since you can get some useful stuff and rack up on honor) Mochi won’t be with you for the rest of the journey since he either dies while taking out the traitor or he runs off if you ignore the side quest since he’s not brave enough to face Ikiru.
Not long after dealing with Tsi (or not dealing with him) you’ll have a few more encounters with stuff like a dragon and a horde of undead blocking a river crossing.
Going the other way leads to a more wilderness adventure. The first thing you’ll encounter is a fair disobedient backwater village. Ignoring the peasants rather than whipping them for their disrespect is a loss of honor.
However as you come to find out when you stay there to discipline the village, when night falls they all turn into undead monsters with heads that fly off and attack you. Yeah it’s as creepy (or silly if you prefer) as it sounds and you get a pic of them transforming.
Other encounters of note this way are a bunch of kappa blocking the river on this end. You have to knock them over to get the water out of their heads so they start suffocating and crawl back into the water. You could just fight enough to get past them (Or jump over them with that faggot super leap skill) but that doesn’t resolve the monster plague does it? Lose some honor, dishonorable scum.
Finally there’s an odd little bit where you can explore a scarlet pagoda and you get transported into some pocket dimension where you have to face some challenges in correct order. There’s a statue of a silver samurai, a demon holding a young priestess hostage, a gross giant fly and a sea dragon.
Doing them in the wrong order will result in death ranging from getting eaten by flies to getting turned to stone. Correct order is pick the Samurai, beat him in battle, take him with you to kill the demon, then take the girl to charm the fly god. (The sea dragon is instant death no matter what)
From there you have to drink from a fountain of knowledge, but you need to collect it in a nearby jug first. Just drinking straight from the fountain like a dog results in you becoming so flush with knowledge you become addicted to it immediately to the point where you keep drinking until you end up drowning yourself like a retard. (If you’re so smart, why ain’t you alive? Lol.)
And both of those paths will eventually lead to a major battle with a Dai-Oni which is sort of Ikiru’s right hand demon. From here you’ll get wrapped up into a deadly game of Pokemon.
No, I’m not kidding.
You get transported a pocket dimension (for the second time perhaps) with several portals. The Dai-Oni tells you that you’ll be facing three demons and himself at one of them, but before you go striding forth to do battle, the other portals can lead to places where you might be able to get some help.
In every case, you need to have an item of some sort of get the help so, hope you managed to pick a few special items up on your way here regardless of what path you chose to get here. (Almost as bad as Ian with the surprise item hunt)
So you can get allies ranging from stuff like a giant tiger, an enchantress, an army of knights (the only white dudes in the story!) and some others. Unlike pokemon, you can’t catch them all because the items to recruit some of them can only be gotten in different paths. Also a few opportunities to get instant killed here.
When you think you’re ready you can go into the portal to the arena and face the Dai-Oni along with his toad demon, his mantis demon, and his giant bronze goat man that can shoot magic bolts from his eyes demon. You’ll also get an undead ghostly crowd to watch this spectacular battle.
Now you have to choose your pokemon ally wisely because if one ally isn’t suited to kill one of the demons and gets instakilled, you don’t get to use them again.
Okay so if you fucked up and didn’t get any allies, you’ll get instant killed. It’ll tell of your heroic attempt, but ultimately goat boy kills you. Also if you don’t choose at least the right ally to kill the toad demon the same thing happens because you’ll have to fight them all and we know what happens when you try that.
So the bare minimum you need is one ally that can kill the toad demon. Even don’t have any others, you’ll be able to fight the rest on your own, but be prepared for a series of tough fights.
Of course if you were living life right and chose wisely, then the only one you’ll end up having to fight is the Dai-Oni and even a certain ally can weaken him a bit before that combat.
So after beating the Dai-Oni he’ll answer one question from you before dying since that’s how these things work I guess. Your best bet is to ask the secret of Singing Death at which point he’ll be pissed that he has to answer you and tell you the word Harmony will allow you to use the sword, but only the noble of heart can use it which is why a rotten dick like Ikiru hasn’t been able to.
No matter what you do, the Dai-Oni has one last trick and a avenging warrior spirit will attack you after he dies unless you have another item which will avoid that combat.
After becoming a Pokemon Master, you’ll at last meet the Shadow Master Ikiru in all his dark glory.
You’ll get a pic of him and he’s a faceless hooded figure in a dark robe sitting on a throne.
Why by just that brief description alone, you’re obviously dealing with a superior being in every way!
So Ikiru will fuck with you a bit by summoning shadow demons and messing with your mind. A lot of this can be overcome if you have high honor. If you’ve been a dishonorable asshole the whole game, it’s going to be a tougher challenge; you might even get an instant death in one case.
If you know the secret of Singing Death, you’ll get a good advantage by having the sword. So don’t try to throw it at him like a fucktard.
And for fuck’s sake do NOT throw it into the demon pit. Yeah the pit is a source of power for Ikiru and throwing a strong force of good and right in it will destroy him, but it doesn’t save Hachiman.
You’ll get an ending saying that without the sword, Hachiman continues to fall to chaos, just by traditional means. And while you’re trying to help hold the empire together you get cut down in battle and Hachiman enters a dark age. You failed!
In any case, you’ll eventually have to do battle with Ikiru and he’s a tough battle no matter what. As I said, the more honor you have the easier time you have of it. There’s a chance you can instant kill him if you’re welding the Singing Death. (And if you don’t have it, there’s a chance he can instant kill you in battle)
Defeat Ikiru and typical of overlord minions when their boss is killed, they will run off in fear and you’ll get out of there with no problems, return the sword and restore order to petty feuding lords who will then unite to repel the barbarian hordes.
Peace reigns in Hachiman again and you’re now free to go kick a few peasants around for not bowing properly in your presence.
Like I said, this one had a lot going on in it. There were a couple places I believe with word puzzles, but I think those were mostly with the dragon you can meet. It wasn’t too bad.
Lots of cool pics of the various demons and undead foes you’ll be facing too. Many of them are pretty nasty looking. Ikiru was a pretty badass main villain as well. I think he was up there with Zagor and Dire at least.
I think this one was a better book than their other FF book, Talisman of Death and a very good FF book overall. I liked it a lot and I rank it pretty highly.
21. Trial of Champions
Back on the western euro side of Titan with Deathtrap Dungeon 2: The Dungeoning.
Well maybe not, but this is a sequel of sorts since you’ll be participating in an all new dungeon created by Baron Sukumvit who has raised the reward because he’s just that confident that nobody is going to beat it this time.
But none of this really matters to you right now, because you’re a slave.
That’s right, while you were sailing from Port Blacksand to Oyster Bay (Presumably to visit Mungo’s memorial) you get captured by slavers.
People really need to learn that sailing from Port Blacksand never results in good things.
So you get transported to place called Blood Island that’s run by some fucker called Lord Carnuss who is making all his slaves fight for his amusement, but also to see which one is the toughest so he can send them through his brother’s dungeon because he wants to show him up.
Yeah the baron apparently has an even more fucked up brother also with too much money and time on his hands.
Since he wrote the first one, it’s not surprising that Ian wrote this one too. It also shouldn’t be surprising that you’re in for a series of tough battles right from the start. The item hunting won’t begin until a little later though.
So the first part of the adventure is basically being a gladiator. Here you’ll encounter a few instant deaths while you’re going through all the tests. These include a race and jumping over burning coals while wear heavy sacks on your back. Timed jumping and ducking some blade machine. A blindfolded gladiator match involving several contestants. A regular gladiator match with some big ass monster.
And a final gladiator match with the only other guy that’s survived as long as you have and he’s black! Not that it’s very important what race he is since you’ll be killing him soon, but he’s one of the few black dudes pictured in an FF book.
There are only two others I can think of. One is a pimp called Daddy Rich in Appointment with FEAR and the other is one of the Doom Dogs pointing a pistol at you in Freeway Fighter.
So a pimp, a raider and a slave. Lol.
I mean from the picture you see of Mungo in the lizard king book, he MIGHT be black, but even if that’s the case, then he’s the “black guy who dies first.” Double Lol.
So after you beat the Mandingo warrior he dies wishing you luck in the Baron’s dungeon and if you survive, not to forget all the other slaves that died for Carnuss’ amusement and get revenge. Already pissed at Carnuss anyway you agree to this dying man’s request.
But first you enjoy a bunch of his food and such for winning and being his chosen champion to represent him in the dungeon. Now it doesn’t outright say it, but it says that you “indulge your fill” implying that you probably weren’t above fucking some of Carnuss’ slave girls. Or slave boys if you’re into that sort of thing I guess. Hell it’s a fantasy world, maybe you fucked his prized centaur in the ass, I dunno.
So Carnuss and crew transports you to Fang where his brother is getting the dungeon festival started. The other contestants are a dwarf noble, a elf prince, a eastern warlord (From Hachiman no doubt) and a chaos champion. Apparently this contest attracted a higher class of participants.
You’re thrown in the dungeon with nothing but a sword which is pretty short sighted of Carnuss if he wants you to win all for the purpose of showing up his brother. He could have given you a few extra things to help you out, but he doesn’t believe in playing as a filthy casual I guess.
From here on as you might expect, it’s a dungeon crawl. Start item hunting because the main thing you have to collect are these little gold rings. You don’t get told you need to do it either, because Ian wrote this and fuck you if you can’t keep up. There are a few riddle bits too.
Much like the first dungeon, the encounters aren’t exactly the most memorable. I mean there are a shitload of tough battles and instant death paths, but its just so common and expected here, that’s its hardly worth dwelling on.
The baron must have gotten a deal with a necromancer’s guild or something this time because it seems like there are a lot more undead running about. A tougher battle is with a skeleton king on a horse where you need a blunt weapon to do the normal amount of damage to him. Another encounter is with a Lich Queen. Again even the monsters are royalty this time around.
You’ll also have some encounters with the other contestants, but unlike the first dungeon you don’t get to interact with any of them like you did with Throm.
You can find the dwarf in a room trapped in some sort of soul box with the likeness of his face embedded on it. Of course you don’t know that unless you foolishly open it up, at which point YOU get trapped in the box and you have to pass a luck test in the hopes some other idiot comes by and opens it up. While it isn’t important in the scheme of things, this probably should have been an instant death because it doesn’t make sense “storywise.”
Why? Because you’ll end up meeting the rest of the contestants at some point (Well if you end up on the winning path anyway) so none of the others could have come by to curiously open it. I suppose maybe some wandering monster/dungeon worker could have done it, but that would be highly unlikely.
And in any case, you’ll never bump into the dwarf for realsies, but I guess you could still chalk that up to him getting killed by something else soon after he got released. (Assuming you did it in the first place)
In any case, the elven prince you find getting killed by a tongue. No seriously, he’s in an entryway that looks like a mouth and he’s getting crushed to death by a giant tongue coming out of it. Much like the elven princess from the first dungeon was by the giant snake. And also much like that encounter, the elven prince will give you some info before dying.
The other two, the chaos champion and eastern warlord will just flat out attack you. You get a few useless options with the chaos champion like trying to talk to him (Lol) first, but as you might expect, that doesn’t go anywhere. The pair of them are pretty tough.
As I remember shortly after the battle with the warlord, you need some sort of item to get through an invisible barrier and if you don’t have it, it results in imprisonment or something similar resulting in failure. So it’s not just rings you’ll need to find.
Other notable encounters I guess are with the trial masters. One of which is some fat blind Buddha looking dude who gives you some tests. First you have to play tug of war with a caveman. Failing means you fall in the pit between you and die.
The other two involve a riddle and then a mini-game involving combat with the trial master. Failing either of them results in you failing the contest immediately and you have to work as the tug of war replacement. Which means you just traded one form of slavery for another.
The other trial master is a wizard who asks you how many rings you’ve collected. This part is really longer than it needs to be.
First he asks if you have an even or odd amount of rings. If you have even, he calls you a loser and kills you. (He really does call you a loser)
Second he asks if you have 1 or 3, 5 or 7, or 9 or 11. Any answer other than 9 or 11 results in him killing you again.
Third he asks if you have 9 or 11. Seeing as this is a fantasy setting correct answer is 9 rings (Hell there’s even an encounter with a Halfling trapped in a giant spider’s web).
If you said 11, he calls you a liar and kills you. I suppose that was the book’s way of dealing with “cheaters” since there are only 9 rings to find.
If you got that far, now you have to do some sort of number puzzle with them and turn to the correct number. Fail and you die.
Fucking hell, what fuck is up with all this goddamn puzzle and riddle shit in this book, I thought I was playing an Ian written story not a UK Steve one.
Assuming you pass THAT, you’re almost out. Honestly though that whole bit could have been cut down by the wizard asking you if you had nine rings from the start and then killing you if you didn’t.
Soon after that you’ll get to a passage with a hunchback who says he didn’t expect anyone to get this far and tells you to just go down the passage on his left and you’ll be out.
Following his advice gets you instant killed like a fucktard, especially since you get a pic of him and he just looks like a creepy liar to begin with. Not to mention the baron loves trolling people at the last moment.
So ignoring the hunchback and going right leads to the exit where you get a bunch of cheers and the usual Baron Sukumvit wasn’t expecting anyone to win again.
When Sukumvit is about to hand you the prize, his brother Carnuss steps up and claims that because you’re his slave that he represented him and as such HE gets the 20 thousand gold.
Nobody is exactly thrilled with this using a ringer bullshit even if there isn’t any specific rule against it. However since Sukumvit doesn’t like his brother anyway, he changes the rules by giving an additional to the reward to the winner by granting a wish.
Naturally you say your wish is to avenge all the dead slaves and fight Lord Carnuss.
Carnuss of course protests, but he’s shouted down by the crowd and they won’t let him off the stage when he tries to leave. Since he runs the risk of getting lynched he draws his weapon saying “So be it!”
Despite everything, he’s actually no push over in combat. Just had a strong sense of self-preservation and not wanting to be bothered to dirty his own hands.
So if you kill Lord Carnuss you get your revenge, your prize money and a lot of warm and fuzzies for winning in the first place. It then mentions that it’s more gold than you could ever live on by yourself, so you get the idea to hire an army to conquer the unknown lands past the Moonstone Hills since you’ve got the coin to do it.
Now, think about the wording. It didn’t say explore. It clearly said fucking conquer with a goddamn army.
Apparently you were a villain protagonist all along.
Well this one was another one I didn’t really “properly” finish. Just sort of by passed some of the shit I needed and didn’t have most of the time.
I can’t say this is one I was really into all that much. I was never big on the first deathtrap dungeon so I wasn’t big on this one either. Really I found the more interesting part of this book was the beginning where you’re doing gladiator shit. Probably should have just focus a whole book on that instead.
As for Lord Carnuss as the main villain? I feel like he was one of the better ones. At least you have a personal reason to hate him since he enslaved you whereas in other books you’re often just being told “Hey this guy is an evil overlord, you need to go kill him.” (Or in Zagor’s case, he’s minding his own business and you just invade his home and murder the shit out of him.)
It’s an okay book, but it’s nothing too special.
The End or is it?
Going to take a small break from this for awhile since this is a good point to do so.
One reason is I’ve been droning on long enough about these books and I need the break anyway.
Second of all because I don’t own all these books so I wouldn’t be able to do a review on all of them anyway even if I was insane enough to bother doing such a thing. (And I probably would be if I did actually own them)
There were originally 59 of these books published. But I only have the first original 21. Why? Well because they stopped selling them in the US since they weren’t doing as well. That’s how capitalism works.
For months and even a couple years I continued my search for these books in bookstores, but alas I never found any more and eventually concluded that the series just abruptly ended.
Wasn’t until years later with the invention of the internet that one day when I was feeling nostalgic, I looked up the old books while looking up CYOA stuff in general. To my surprise that’s when I found out they had still been selling these things for YEARS after I thought they had stopped!
All those adventures I missed out on!
Well there wasn’t too much to do about it except silently rage about it, but I also found out they were starting to reissue them to at the time I discovered all this information.
Most of the reissues I already had. I did acquire a couple of them that I never had though. (And I got an original FF book I didn’t have as a gift at one point)
Later on, they started doing the digital versions of the books and I got most of those. Two of which had never been released before since one was a brand new adventure and the other was the infamous “Book 60” that had been on the drawing board, but never actually released.
Not sure if I could do proper reviews on all of them though since I didn’t even complete most of the newer ones I got. Like I mentioned Creature of Havoc, which I do own, but I never did really beat it because reasons. (Mostly distraction with other things though)
Still, I’ll probably at least give some mentions a little later in this thread about the following FF books.
Creature of Havoc -Reissue
Crypt of the Sorcerer -Reissue
Return to Firetop Mountain - Original
Bloodbones - Digital
Blood of the Zombies - Digital
Eye of the Dragon - Original…well mine is anyway. Actually I should just talk about this one now.
Eye of the Dragon (And Dicing with Dragons)
This is an odd one or rather has some odd history. Also not to be confused with “The Eye of the Dragon” which is a book in the Golden Dragon series and perhaps it’s own thread review for another time.
Okay so there was a book called Dicing with Dragons which came out in the early 80s and it was written by Ian Livingstone, but I’m pretty sure Steve Jackson had some input as well.
Basically it was all about RPGs and what they were exactly, how to get started, and what was popular at the time. (Interesting little look at the past when glancing through it today)
As usual, the UK and US had different covers. The US version was better because it had a black background, was bigger in size and had naked tits on the front cover.
No seriously, there were a bunch of painted minis on the front cover and one of those was a big bare breasted blonde barbarian babe holding a sword. Probably wouldn’t be able to sell stuff like that in the children’s section nowadays.
(Later on there was a different US cover that was more family friendly. Boo!)
Anyway within this book there was also a mini-solo adventure called Eye of the Dragon.
The adventure is pretty short. It’s not even 150 passages long.
The premise of this one is you’re a down on your luck adventurer that’s been wrestling bears for enough coin just to pay for a spot on a floor in the flop room at some shitty inn. Lol.
Anyway a sketchy dude comes wandering in the room and tells you about a great treasure of a golden dragon statue worth a shitload of coin located in an underground labyrinth under a seemingly mundane looking woodcutter’s hut.
The dragon also can’t be taken unless you have its gem eyes to insert into it, but he only managed to get one of them. He was getting the shit kicked out of him so bad that he decided to get the hell out before he got killed.
He says that he’ll give you the gem he has and tell you where to find the hut to get the statue under one condition, you have to drink this slow acting poison he has. When you get the statue bring it back to him and he’ll give you the antidote and split the coin to be made on the dragon.
Okay there’s already a problem with this adventure right here.
Down on my luck or not, I’d be wrestling fucking werebears before I trust some asshole I’ve never met with some story about fabled treasure and then asking me to drink slow acting poison on top of it.
But since “thou must” like a desperate fucktard you drink the poison and accept the quest.
He tells you that you’ve got two weeks to get back and no more. Next passage you read is how it’s taken you SIX fucking days to reach your destination. That doesn’t exactly give you much fucking time to search a goddamn labyrinth that you’ve never been in before and assuming you survive, travel back to the tavern.
So begins the adventure proper. It’s more of a collection of encounters and “Do you want to go left? Do you want to go right?” type passages. Lot of opportunities for getting instakilled or going down a doomed path that is going to eventually lead to instadeath.
Despite this being really short, there are some things that stand out.
First, the pics accompanying some of the passages are more like from the first three books. Honestly, I still think the artwork from those is some of the better ones but that’s probably a personal taste due to enjoying old fantasy style artwork that has that “rough” look.
Second, when I said this is a collection of encounters I mean it. Like there is no rhyme or reason for any of these monsters or locations to be where they are. It’s not like this is the complex of some eccentric millionaire like Baron Sukumvit who built it like that on purpose. Or some powerful wizard’s home like Zagor’s that’s going to have a mix of weird shit in it because he’s united creatures for some purpose.
The topper is there is a guy SELLING fucking equipment IN the damn labyrinth! Lol.
Like who the fuck is buying his shit? Do adventurers often come around enough for him to make a living? Are the monsters wandering the place just leaving him alone for some reason? A lot of questions here and I’m sure because it’s a fantasy setting hoops can be jumped through to explain it, but it’s still pretty damn silly.
However it should be mentioned that early RPG stuff was sort of like that back then, and nobody thought as much about it.
Another memorable encounter is when you open up a chest, it has a message in it from a wizard that says he created a time accelerating chest and how it speeds up time as soon as you open it. He also says he wasted a lot of his life trying to figure out a good use for it, but if you can find a use for it you can take it as a gift.
Of course you react in horror since it’s been open the whole time you’ve read this note so now several days have passed and then you die of the poison. Lol.
As I remember you have to get the second gem from this vampire chick who is trapped in a cage with silver bars. As soon as you let her out she tries to kill you and then you kill her and find the gem.
The dragon itself is guarded by a black knight with a big ass sword and after killing him you need both gems since taking the statue without placing the gems in the sockets first results in poison gas filling the room and instantly killing you.
If you do have the gems, you take the dragon and a passage opens up leading to a short cut back to the surface (Just like Skyrim) and then it says you succeeded in your quest.
Yeah that’s great and all, so how do we know that asshole is going to give you antidote?
And that’s the adventure. And despite everything I said about it. I probably played it quite a bit back in the day trying to explore every single thing.
When you had nothing but sticks and rocks, you played with them and thought they were greatest things in the world, because that’s just what you did back in those days since there weren’t any other options.
However, apparently they reissued a greatly expanded version of this book (407 passages!) and from reviews I’ve read, it sounds fucking horrible. Ian didn't even give it at least the Caverns of the Snow Witch treatment with the padding, apparently he phoned this one in and collected that phat loot.
First off, he didn’t change much of the premise, except that the woodcutter’s hut is now somewhere in Darkwood Forest and this labyrinth is under it, which ties it to the world of Titan now. The dude that sends you on the quest still makes you drink poison so that’s still retarded.
Also times have changed a bit and while you could get away with shoving pawnbrokers selling shit in the middle of a dungeon with no good reason for it back in the day, that doesn’t fly quite as much now. Having random monsters in random rooms doesn’t work as well either. Again, there has to at least be a minimal reason for things.
In any case the expanded version also continued to have a lot of “Do you go left? Do you go right?” passages, which another thing you can’t get away with as much nowadays. It’s lazy and worse, it’s really boring.
I don’t know exactly how much the new version really sucks though since I haven’t played it. Just going by other reviews I’ve seen.
I guess one more thing I should add, the stat system for this adventure was much more complex than the standard FF book. You had Combat Factor, Strength Factor, Fortune Factor which were all basically Skill, Stamina and Luck respectively, but you rolled these on 3 six sided dice for the total rather than the traditional roll 2 and add “x number” to the score. (Usually 6 for skill and luck and 12 for stamina)
Also there was a Wound Factor, which determined how much damage you did in combat. The normal sword you started out with did 1 six sided die of damage. I think they should have kept something like this in the FF books since it would have speeded up combat a bit rather than just doing 2 stamina damage with every hit most of the time.
I’m guessing the reissue probably streamlined all this stuff to the usual FF book system.
Well anyway this turned out longer than I expected. So here’s a good stopping point. (I said that before)
I'm not sure I was even aware of these books. The books I read were primarily the actual CYOA series (Edward Packard, R. A. Montgomery, Jay Leibold, etc.) and some of the Time Machine books. But yeah, there were a lot of different options back then.
The mall book stores I used to hit up (in the days before Borders and Barnes & Noble) tended to be relatively small and didn't tend to carry every gamebook series known to man. There was a new CYOA book published every month, and I usually knew exactly which shelf to go to on each monthly visit, and they only cost like two bucks.
This guy has done some interesting reviews on the books I used to read (and still own, all these years later): https://seanmunger.com/tag/choose-your-own-adventure/
There were other series, like Twist-a-Plot and Which Way books that I only ever saw at the school book fairs. There was one sci-fi book called "Journey to Vernico 5" that End might have found amusing.
I guess since this has been necroed, might as well briefly go over the books I mentioned in my last post. And I do mean very briefly since they weren’t very memorable unfortunately.
Okay I’ll first mention Creature of Havoc which again as I said, I never really finished properly since puzzles, distractions and reasons. Despite all this, it seemed like it had a neat premise, but I think I would have preferred a whole book where you were more or less a monster eating halflings.
The book is very difficult and relies very much on luck in the beginning since you’re not even in control of where you wander at first and if you roll wrong, you’ll wander in the wrong direction and lose.
One no win scenario is a bit where you can get trapped fighting a chaos warrior. He’s a tough battle anyway, but the catch is, every time you kill him, another one immediately forms again and you have to fight again. This is a continual loop cycle and you might as well just start over, because you’ll never win.
If you got more patience than I have for puzzle stuff, I guess it’s worth playing through. Mizal said she listened to a play through of it, so I guess you could just ask her for a link.
Crypt of the Sorcerer
I wasn’t too wowed by this one and I barely remember much other than having to kill some lich lord, which I’m already not fond of doing for obvious reasons.
Anyway it’s an Ian Livingstone one and it shows, since as usual he loads it up with a lot of difficult combat and item hunting. You aren’t winning this one with low stats and you need to take everything not nailed down. I think Yaztromo shows up in this one to help you out a few times, but that's about the only memorable thing.
Return to Firetop Mountain
This one is about the same as the Crypt one. Just didn’t grab me. Felt more like another Deathtrap Dungeon except with Zagor coming back. Seems like this one should have been more than it was considering it was Zagor returning. They probably should have brought back Balthus Dire instead.
This one was a digital only book. There was always rumors that this one actually existed in a proper book form, but it was just a rumor since the series got cancelled and this one never left the drawing board.
But better late than never as they say and when these reissues started getting published again, they finally returned to this one.
I don’t remember much about it though it was a bit more pirate based and your main enemy is an undead pirate captain. You’ll need to do more than your fair share of item collection and tough battles, but it isn’t overboard with them.
Probably was about average, still worth a playthrough if you like the series in general.
Blood of the Zombies
This one was the major return of the FF series as far as their digital books go. It was a brand new adventure and like House of Hell, it was set in the “modern world” rather than fantasy or (thankfully) scifi.
For some reason they severely streamlined the combat in this one. Not sure if that’s because they were trying something new for their return or figured that everyone has ADD nowadays. You don’t even have many stats. You just use the STAMINA one and you just sort of need to roll over a certain number during combat.
Basic premise is you’re captured and sold to some mad scientist who is trying to make an army of zombies. You have to not only escape his castle, but you have to kill him AND EVERY ZOMBIE (The description of the book even makes a big deal of this).
Despite it being streamlined, its still an Ian book, so be prepared for a lot of hard battles in places. In fact, it might even be worse since now you don’t even have a SKILL stat to give you an edge. Hope you roll a lot of 12s.
The mad scientist (Gingrich) himself is a mixture of creepy and goofy looking when they show pics of him. He’s fond of white rabbits so you see him holding a fluffy bunny in the pic. Lol. Along with zombies, you’ll also encounter some battles with dogs and few human henchmen. The zombies sometime vary from the “normal” ones. More than a few opportunities for instant death as well.
It wouldn’t be a bad B-movie rip off, if there wasn’t a girl to save. So you’ll run into one of those who will help you in the book.
Final showdown is with Ging and of course he’s transformed himself into some super zombie and as I remember you have to take him out with some Rambo style machine gun.
Now when it says you must kill ALL the zombies, that wasn’t just some passing line, it REALLY means it. Because if you haven’t killed a certain number of zombies to determine if you got them all, then you get a “bad ending” where you and the girl you saved see on TV months later about a zombie outbreak overrunning various parts of the world.
This is probably the more difficult part of the game since this IS a CYOA and if you didn’t choose a certain route then yeah you’re probably going to miss a few. Ian as usual, making things harder than they need to be.
Of course if you killed them all, you get the good ending.
Anyway despite the streamlined system, I didn’t mind the book. They did a good job on this horror outing, though again it definitely was more B-movie style than the House of Hell one.
The pics that they had were pretty cool too. It’s worth playing through.
At some point I should do a review of another collection of gamebooks I have. Not sure if I should just use this thread or start a new one though.