So while the Fighting Fantasy series is fairly well known within the whole 80s gamebook genre, there were more than a few lesser known copycats during that era. Some better than others of course. I’m going to focus on one that probably was one of the better ones, The Golden Dragon series.
This series only consisted of six books, but all of them were fairly fun to play through.
Right out the gate this series took obvious inspiration from the FF series by having the 3 “core” stats. Though instead of SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK, this series has VIGOR, AGILITY and PSI. (Vigor is actually spelled with a “u” since much like its FF counterpart it was written by the Brits, but we didn’t have a fucking revolution to keep spelling things weird.)
Speaking of the writers, the main ones were Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson. Dave is probably the more famous of the two since he also did the Fabled Lands series. He’s also done a bunch of other shit.
Anyway, stats and combat work a little differently in these books than they do in the FF series. Vigor acts as your Stamina (Or HP/Life/etc) run out and you’re dead. However there is no stat that really affects your combat directly. It is purely a roll of the dice affair.
Not that it wasn’t in FF, but in that system, your skill stat typically weighted how good you were in combat. If you were lucky enough to roll a 12 for skill, most combat situations in the books were going to be easier than Suranna’s mom on Friday night.
In these books it’s not as certain. Generally there are ranges set up and depending on what you roll, who takes damage and how much is determined. So you might get a set up like this:
DRUNK OGRE Vigor 15
2-6 - You lose 3 Vigor
7-12 Ogre loses 3 Vigor
Pretty simple. The ranges could vary though, A harder monster might be hitting you on a 2-8 for example. Sometimes you’d get something other than just two ranges. You might have four where 2-3 results in you really getting hit hard and you lose even more vigor, while an 11-12 results in the enemy losing more. In some cases, there might even be an instant death situation (Usually this involves a 2 for you and a 12 for the enemy)
The amount of vigor you started with was fairly generous, roll 2 dice and add 20 to the result, which usually gave you more than the average FF counterpart.
Now the agility and psi stats worked similar to “Skill” and “Luck” from FF series. Basically these were stats that you’d have to test from time to time. You wanted to roll under your total to succeed. Sometimes tests were harder since they told you to add a certain amount to whatever you rolled. All depended on the situation. These stats usually didn’t change as much as your vigor did.
Agility of course was used more for tests involving reflexes, while Psi was for mental tests. These stats were a little less forgiving than the FF series. Since you rolled 1 die and only added 3 to the result. Meaning 9 was the maximum you were getting which allowed for a greater room of failure than in the FF series where you’d add 6 to 1 die result for skill and luck. (Again, getting a 12 skill score meant not only was combat going to be easy, but any skill tests were an auto pass)
While this all sounds like this series was more lethal than the FF series or Lonewolf, I actually found it still pretty balanced in general. Though I might have felt that way due to your stats being less reliable in keeping you alive. In FF, high stats usually made a book easier. In Lonewolf high stats actually made the books harder at times!
In GD though the encounters seemed to be spaced out better and there usually being fairer fights. Sure there were tough fights too, but since you didn’t need some high level skill/combat ability stat, the fights were always possible to beat, but we’ll get into specifics later for each book.
I should also mention that also there were two different covers for the UK and US markets. While the UK version just have typical fantasy covers, the US versions are geared to be more “kid friendly” since they’d always have a young protagonist on the cover fighting some monster. They just look hilariously bizarre though since the kids on the cover look like they might be like 12 and they’re fighting monsters that could easily wreck their shit.
Naturally of course I have the US versions, so we’ll all have a good laugh.
Anyway let’s get on with it.
1. Crypt of the Vampire
It’s actually pretty hardcore despite the Goosebumps cover.
So this one starts off without much backstory for your character. You’re just some nameless adventurer wandering through a dark woods, because that’s just what your lot tends to do. Of course not only night falling, but it’s also starting to rain AND you hear wolves in the distance, so that’s an incentive for you to find some sort of shelter.
And like a horror movie, well there just happens to be a creepy old manor nearby to take shelter in.
Of course the manor is blocked by an iron gate, so you’ll have to get past that first. Literally, since as soon as you try to open the gate, it comes to life and fucking attacks you.
In fact if you tried to actually climb over the gate, you get the extra option of having to roll dice before combat even begins due to it grabbing you from your vulnerable position and potentially killing you instantly. Yep, entirely possible to die even before the adventure really starts, fuck you and your modern IF safe spaces. (Told you it was hardcore)
Now if you’re the suspicious sort like I am, you will have avoided this combat by looking for another way in and ultimately climbed over the wall instead.
Next encounter isn’t so avoidable. It’s some insane elf running from the manor. Now you can run from him in the middle of combat, but what sort of adventurer runs away from a fucking elf? Regardless of the outcome (save your death) you proceed further to the manor where upon you can rob the outside fountain of its coins before entering. (While sticking your hand in a pool is always a risk, again what sort of adventurer are you if you aren’t risking a body part for shiny loot?)
When you finally get into the manor, you get quite a few more options again. Namely choosing where to explore next. Heading upstairs yields nothing except the potential to die like a fucktard if you choose to fall asleep on one of the beds up there. There’s another location where you can find a lamp which you’ll actually need to explore further in.
The main bit is finding the fat monk who is actually hanging out here in his own personal room (A door with a cross on it). You can actually try to kill him at first, but despite being fat, he’s quick enough to run around his work bench so you can’t catch him until you’re tired enough that you start laughing and realize he’s not a monster in disguise. While sudden bursts of murderous behavior followed by laughter are often common personality traits of an adventurer, I’d say the bigger concern is you couldn’t catch a fat monk in such a small space. Seriously leap over the goddamn work bench or something.
Anyway this monk actually gives you all the backstory for this book. Goes into about how the manor was owned by a bunch of evil bastards until finally the most evilest of all (13th generation naturally) Lord Tenebron made a deal with a devil and became a vampire. The monk has the holy power to beat the chicken soup out of the vamp, however the monk is also a fat ass that wouldn’t stand a chance against the rest of the shit in the place, so he just hangs out here with a shitload of crosses and helps any adventurers that stumble by. You can either get a small cross from him or a potion of iron will.
(As if it needs to be said take the fucking cross)
After this, you’re on your way deeper into the dungeons of the manor. Now what’s interesting though is while its unlikely you’ll miss the fat monk since if you don’t have a lantern before entering the dungeons, you’ll automatically go and explore the room he’s in if you passed it by since the monk also gives you a lantern if you don’t have one. However, if you got the other lantern AND pass the room with the cross on the door going straight into the dungeons, you don’t get any of this backstory (or the useful cross) and you’re basically just wandering a dungeon without much purpose.
But then you’re an adventurer right? Wandering dungeons randomly is sort of what you do anyway.
Alright so we won’t do a complete play by play of everything because that would take too long and I still got five more books I need to refresh on, along with writing this shit. So we’ll just focus on the stand out encounters of which there still are quite a few that are interesting.
So one of the first interesting encounters is with a run of the mill witch. You enter her room and immediately steal her silver candle sticks (No really, grabbing them is just something you do in the text) and then she appears and tells you to get the fuck out of her room which in the scheme of things is pretty damn civil coming from a witch AND the fact that you are the one invading her home.
Of course you can ignore all this and stay which results in her summoning a smoke creature to fight you. After the battle the witch has left, but you can search her room for more shit. There’s an interesting bit where you dowse her fireplace with water and can climb up it. Climb high enough and you’ll find a very useful ring behind a loose brick. Remember you’re underground at this point so if you’re really persistent enough, you will actually climb outside back into the woods that you were in.
This is generally a bad idea though since while it isn’t raining anymore, it’s still dark and trying to escape through the woods is doomed to failure as a million wolves will descend upon you lead by the vampire himself! Hope you took the cross which will allow you to escape this instant death and climb back down the chimney. Would have been cool to have a “non-win” ending where you can actually escape the woods though.
Another encounter is a living painting that’s shooting arrows at you. There’s actually a few different ways to try to deal with it. Attacking it in the traditional way results in you breaking your sword on the back wall like a fucktard. Throwing a nearby goblet of wine fucks up the painting making the archer have a harder time hitting you. Throwing your lantern at it kills it instantly, though it also kills you instantly if you don’t have the spare lantern since you’ll be left in the dark and the grue gets you (Or vampire in this case)
Of course it’s not too surprising to have some old guy just hanging out in a place like this ready to challenge you to a game of some sort. In this case, it’s the classic chess. Accepting the offer results in the surroundings turning into a battlefield resulting you having to fight the black queen. This is actually one of the less lethal encounters with high reward chance since losing to the queen just results in a game over and you find yourself back in the room with the old guy pleased about it all. Winning results in gaining a choice of magic amulet.
Let’s see, there’s a black rope that will just outright come to life and strangle you to death if you don’t cut it or find a way to de-animate it.
Another fun one is finding a tomb of a holy soldier. If you wear his shroud, you become intangible and start sinking through the floor. You get three choices and two of them are bad. One is taking off the shroud which the book actually tells you that was the worst thing you could have done since you solidify again except you’re in the floor. Naturally this kills you.
The other one I think is actually worse though, if you try to escape the tomb and back into the corridor. You basically keep sinking into the floor until you’re completely surrounded by bedrock and earth. The book states that you just continue to drift in darkness and no one can hear you scream.
The correct choice is just standing still since you sink into a secret room right under the one you’re in which yields a magic shield and you find some stairs conveniently leading back to the level you were previously on.
You can actually encounter the witch again in another room where you can deal with her on a more permanent basis by sneaking up and knocking her into her cauldron. Of course she might get aftermath revenge if you fuck around and start drinking her potions afterwards and pick the wrong one (Yes, killing you instantly. Gruesomely too as one of the potions literally melts you into a bloody mess)
And now for my favorite encounter. which is when you hear music coming from the other side of a door, you get the option of using an object before going in. The potion of iron will works here but it would be retarded to use it (more on why later). What will also work is shoving cheese in your ears if you were lucky enough to find some like I did.
Now in a million years you’d probably wonder why the fuck should you shove strange cheese you found in a dungeon in your ears, well that’s due to the hypnotic skeleton band playing music behind the door. You’ll see them and a knight is sitting there watching them. Turns out if you try to talk to the knight he’s been dead inside his armor for who knows how long. Failing to put cheese in your ears to block out the sound means you’d be joining him.
Since the skeletons never do anything except play music, you can explore a bit and find out the music piece was written by the vampire and he just animated the skeletons to play music for him.
If this sounds slightly familiar, yes Catalina’s story took a bit of inspiration from this little encounter. Even the part mentioning how there’s no woodwind/brass section due to skeletons not exactly having lungs and all (Though in Catalina’s case she found a way around that by having banshees shriek on key to emulate it)
Anyway, you eventually get to Lord Tenebron (Who looks a a little less goofy in the page illustration than he does on the cover) and the first thing he tries to do is the hypno trick to try to make you his bitch. Obviously you shouldn’t be a beta femboy faggot who takes it up the ass. (And bending over thinking you’re going to totally own him by lulling him into a false sense of security is a losing strategy)
Of course charging in like retard gets you killed as well, so like any good adventurer you should take something out of your backpack to help you.
And THIS is where you can get majorly fucked if you didn’t meet the monk at the beginning because only the potion of iron will or the cross can allow you to face the vampire without dying (This is why using the iron will potion before meeting him is retarded) and the cross is still better since it allows you to run from battle without him hitting you. (More on why that’s important in a bit)
There is actually one other item you can use which is a golden snake idol if you found it. It also results in instant death since the vampire has a special tie to it and it comes to life to kill you immediately.
(This bit actually reminds me somewhat of the situation in FF’s House of Hell where if you have a certain ring when facing the vampire, it actually benefits the vampire and he manages to easily overpower you.)
You can make the final battle easier on yourself if you managed to find some garlic and a magic sword. The garlic weakens him a bit. The magic sword gives him a final death, but if you don’t have it he’ll start healing even if you beat him and he'll do unavoidable damage to you before you run off and find his coffin where upon you burn it with your lantern which kills him instantly.
However you can avoid all that potential death by running away as soon as battle starts which will also lead to you finding his coffin and destroying it. Hence why the cross is slightly better if you were clever enough to be a dirty coward.
So regardless of how you manage to kill him, you get the classic adventurer ending of looting his treasury, finding a secret door that just so happens to lead outside and head to the nearest town where you’ll undoubtedly spend all your loot on whores and alcohol for the next two weeks before you have to do something like this all over again because you’re a goddamn danger junkie.
And that’s the book.
It’s not a bad start for the series. Actually this one is more lethal than I remember it with a lot of instant deaths, but I'm all into that anyway.
This one is also the shortest of the lot, with it actually being just under 300 passages. (290 to be exact) The GD series in general is a bit shorter than the FF books which typically came in at 400 passages. Most GD books are in the 300-310 range. Though there’s probably less “filler” entries where you just get a bit saying “Do you have x item?” or “Do you go left or right?” For example while I didn’t go through every encounter, I went through a good portion of them. Most encounters had three choices on how to deal with something.
Honestly I appreciate a shorter book with better content anyway.
I hadn't thought of this series in ages. I have/had the middle two (Lord of Shadow Keep, Eye of the Dragon) but never found any of the others. They are a fun series, fairly well written and edited, with decent stories.
2. The Temple of Flame
It’s like the Temple of Doom, but with diaper wearing child molesters!
So this one gives a shitload of backstory. Like quite a bit. I guess they were making up for having a blank slate last book. Personally I don’t care too much either way since I rarely ever read it, in fact, I think this is the first time I bothered and I’m going to shorten it here anyway.
Starts off with a flashback of you, some dude named Valedor and a guy named Damontir the Mad. You belong to an order known as the Dragon Knights of Palados which is apparently a bunch of paladin types, but y’know without the minor magic abilities that make it worthwhile.
Apparently with flexible “morality” too since you’re looting tomb with a wizard calling himself Damontir THE MAD. As soon as things go south resulting in Valedor’s death, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that Damontir betrays you and nearly killing you in the process.
In any case you survived and are currently reflecting back on that day as you’re sailing to the next tomb to loot all the while remembering your vow of VENGEANCE for what Damontir did.
As for your current looting expedition, you’re traveling to some forsaken temple in the middle of the jungle to find the golden idol of the flame god Katak. During this part of back story it sort of tells you how much of a CHAD you are what with your steward giving you your sword that he can barely lift while you swing it around effortlessly and you generally ordering the third worlder sailors that brought you to the closest spot and tell them you’ll give them a signal when you return with the golden idol of Katak.
You certainly don’t lack for confidence.
The adventure begins with you stomping around the jungle which is like most jungles very unpleasant. First page encounter is seeing a spider monkey frightened by a deadly viper that’s ready to pounce on the little guy.
Well you get the option of either saving the monkey or ignoring it and going on your way. I think we ALL know what the correct choice is here.
Yes, save the damn monkey because you’re supposed to be a “noble” knight that protects the innocent. You also get the chance to take the monkey as a pet since he’s grateful that you saved him from becoming monkey meat. Again, I think we all know what the correct choice is here.
Yes, take the monkey as a pet especially because he tries to tell you in his monkey way that there’s deadly quicksand in the direction you were going.
And yes, if you ignored saving the monkey or didn’t take him as a pet, you step right in that quicksand and die. That’s not one but TWO instant deaths in a row. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Anyway with Minki (the monkey’s new name) now in tow you continue through the jungle. You can loot another ancient grave along the way and even go straight to the temple if you take the choice to just hack your way through the vegetation. However, going the long way around via the path, results in more interesting encounters, many of which can result in instant death mostly via hidden traps.
Stand out encounters include potentially rescuing a girl in a hanging cage who reacts strangely to your white knighting since she acts like you’re going to hurt her further, so you just leave the door open. This white knighting however does have a positive effect in that you get to avoid a combat with some savages. Turned out the girl was a were-jaguar and she wrecks the natives trying to rob and murder you for being in their hood.
Now the ONLY real good reason for fucking about in the jungle is potentially taking the path that leads to the native village where upon you get captured and have to escape. Why is this a good thing, well its mainly due to the fact that you can get a witch doctor’s wand and magic pouch from here which can come in handy much later. Of course getting said wand and pouch might vary. If you actually kill the witch doctor after he transforms into a monster, you can grab them, but you can also take him hostage before he gets the chance and take them from him that way.
However, choosing to kill the witch doctor while he’s a hostage (As opposed to just letting him go later) leads to one of the more surprising instant deaths. I think the game was trying to reinforce the idea that you’re supposed to be playing as someone with a moral compass (Who loots graves) so while killing the witch doctor in a straight up fight was fine, you get a lot of text saying how guilty you feel after just murdering the old dude when he was helpless. This is then followed by hearing eerie noises coming from the jungle and you getting attacked by a bunch of vicious shrunken heads with venomous teeth. It’s the last witch doctor’s curse and the shrunken heads eat you alive.
Anyway, eventually you’ll reach the temple where upon you discover some mercenaries standing outside. Turns out they’re some of Damontir’s men. He’s beaten you to the site, but now you get the chance for revenge AND tomb raiding!
So naturally after chopping up the mercs, you can go in the obvious way to the temple or look for a different entrance. This time however, looking for a different entrance is a lot more lethal. Like seriously. There’s a bit with five choices and four of them lead to you being smashed into paste by a crushing trap.
Honestly now that I’m going through these books, perhaps this series WAS more deadly than average.
So a lot of the encounters in this book involve death traps and various temple guardians which tend to be fire related what with this being a temple of flame and all. Undead and stone statues are a favorite as well. (No diaper wearing child molesters though)
You also bump into Damontir’s Nightmare Guards which are basically some demonic minions he’s summoned up to help him get through the temple since he’s supposed to be ahead of you this entire time. You’ll also find remnants of their dusty corpses implying that Damontir’s is sort of clearing the way of most of the monsters that are probably lurking about. In fact most of your monster encounters tend to be in side alcoves and rooms off the main corridors implying that Damontir’s not bothering to do a whole lot of exploring. It’s sort of a nice touch.
If you’re lucky you’ll manage to gather a few of the more useful items along the way. Entirely possible to miss certain objects due to the “go left, go right, open this door, climb down this, etc” type directions that occur a lot more.
Despite this one having more backstory, it definitely feels more like a run of the mill dungeon crawl since there aren’t a whole lot of encounters that stand out once you’re actually in the temple proper. Only a few stand out.
The first major one is when you first bump into Damontir. He’s got a posse of Nightmare Guards and slaves with him so you’re a tad outnumbered. Of course being the villain of the story he’s too arrogant to actually do the logical thing and just mob you right then and there. So instead he just solidifies his position as the villain of the story by zapping poor Minki from your shoulder with his evil magic ring.
He then says he’s in a hurry to get the idol so he leaves you to fight an old enemy of yours called Sulsa Doom. Sulsa Doom in addition to being an obvious reference to the bad guy in the Conan movie Thulsa Doom, this guy apparently tried to kill the king years ago and you and your knight crew saw him fall from a tower.
But Damontir apparently stole the corpse a long time ago and zombified him. Even making a one liner that “Your Doom is upon you.”
“Ha ha, I am so incredibly witty!”
Anyway Sulsa is one of the tougher battles since he’s a dual sword wielding faggot that you have to fight on a narrow walkway with no railing.
After defeating him you get some text about Minki’s death being added to your long list of grudges against Damontir (And sadly no more text about Minki that would show up from time to time)
One is a really annoying encounter is towards the end where you’re blocked by a river of copper which you can’t exactly swim across. The only sure way of getting across is if you found a black pearl to summon a Charon like figure to row you across.
The other option is if you have that witch doctor’s magic pouch and try to use something in there to help. Of course unsurprisingly you don’t know shit about it so what you can do is make the wrong choice and use an item that explodes you into a million pieces. The right choice of course gets you across.
If you don’t have either though, you get a non-standard ending where you curse Damontir in despair as he’s obviously going to get to the idol and escape since you can’t get across the river.
If you manage to get across the river there’s still the small chance of breaking your leg in a following encounter which results in another instant death since Damon finds you helpless and kills you.
Avoiding that misfortune results in the end game where you find Damontir catching his breath from what looks to be a massive battle that took place between his posse and the last of the temple’s guardians which was a six armed jade statue now in pieces. (Good thing you didn’t have to fight it)
He make a comment about figuring you’d probably get past Sulsa Doom, but he’s not so arrogant to try to cross swords with you mentioning that he’s got magic on his side.
First thing he does is summon a create a clone of you to kill you. Mirror matches always suck and this one is no exception.
If you beat that, you rush after Damontir into the room with the idol at which point he uses his magic ring against you. Hopefully you’ve got luck of the dice on your side because you need to make some tough agility tests on THREE dice. (Remember your maximum agility could only be nine if you were lucky on that!) Failing the first isn’t necessarily an instant death, but it certainly might be since the ring does a fearsome 15 vigor points of damage. He then gets one more shot before you can close the gap since the idol has an anti-magic field that’s fucking up his magic abilities.
Unsurprisingly he’s a pussy in hand to hand combat. Dice ranges suck for him and he’s got a vigor score in the single digits.
So you kill him and he falls over dead like a normal human. There were rumors that he might be supernatural, but no he was just a “twisted noxious little man” as the text says and goes on about how now it seems hardly worth the effort to have killed him.
Speaking of wasted effort, so is this trip since the idol turns out to be fucking huge and you have no real way of carrying the thing out of the temple. So you suddenly decide that perhaps the idol is best left alone since Katak is a forgotten god and looting his idol would not only dishonor his name, but also be a churlish act unworthy of a Dragon Knight.
Seriously, looting the fucking dead seems to be the main goal of this “knightly” order. Sounds to me like it’s just a sour grapes situation of “Well I didn’t really want the idol anyway!”
So apparently you speak these “noble” thoughts out loud in front of the idol and get a deus ex machina where you get teleported instantly back to your ship. Your crew makes a big fuss saying they thought you were dead and mention that a bunch of other shit teleported with you, namely a bunch of filthy lucre in the form of silver coffers overflowing with gold and gems.
Well looks like the trip was worth it after all. You order your crew to set sail for home where presumably you’ll probably spend the loot making a lot of donations to temple hookers (What? You’re telling me a knightly order that robs graves doesn’t have a holy whore sect?) after of course the king probably taxes the shit out of it.
While this one has its moments and a more “personal” villain, it isn’t as memorable as some of the other books in the series. What might have helped is Damontir having a few more named minions to bump into while you’re fumbling around the temple. Perhaps even one more encounter with Damontir before the Sulsa Doom one might have fleshed things out a bit more. Not sure if this would have been necessary for the jungle part since that bit of the book seemed better paced, but maybe it would have worked as soon as you got to the temple and he nips inside it mocking you while you have to fight his mercs or something.
Still, it wasn’t bad.
It's okay presumably he's got the fire magic of Katak to protect his dick from burning sensations.
3. The Lord of Shadow Keep
Yeah, all the iron panties in the world ain’t protecting you from this one kid.
Alright so this one also has a pretty sizable background, but once again we’ll shorten it. You’re playing as another paladin type but in this case you seem a bit more on the traditional concept of one since you’re not looting the dead. You actually get sent on a quest by your king who got all fucked up by evil magic that aged him a lot when he was on a crusade against a necromancer called Arkayn Darkrobe who has been growing in power enough to start fucking up nearby kingdoms with corruption. One of which where the king’s brother was ruling.
The king actually faced down Darkrobe in his keep, but found out he’d turned his brother into a vampire and ultimately lost the battle against Darkrobe, barely escaping with his life. (And getting aged on top of it)
This is where of course you come in to save the day since you’re the best of the paladins. Which one wonders why the king didn’t take you along on the crusade to begin with. Also, the king stormed the place with an army and still lost, I’m guessing he’s going for the assassination strategy by just sending you now. So while you’re a paladin, you’re technically acting as an assassin. Whatever gets the job done I suppose. Before you leave you get a silver ring with a blue gem which will undoubtedly come in useful at some point right?
Already you start off riding your horse to the keep and there’s a black cloaked rider galloping behind you. You get the options of trying to outpace him, face him or hide in the bushes. Outpacing him doesn’t work and only gives you a chance to hit him on a dice roll, while facing him immediately kills him and you get a scroll that opens up a gate if you bother to search his body.
Even if you miss him nothing happens, he just passes you. The first time a first encounter didn’t have the potential for instant death. However hiding is actually the worst of the choices since you stumble into some old drunk who offers you some of his wine. If you decline he gets angry and turns into a werewolf. If you accept, you lose 6 vigor points since he’s drinking shit that only were-creatures can stomach. Upon seeing you get sick, he once again gets angry…
The only thing you’re getting out of this encounter is the lycanthrope wine which may or may not be useful later.
Next encounter is a river where you encounter a classic hooded ferryman who can take you across. In fact he outright says his name is Charon, though this is the River of Death not Styx, so he must have gotten a side gig. In any case he won’t take you across unless you got a scroll that opens portals. If you managed to nab one from the rider, he’ll take you across at which point when you get off the boat, you’ll also discover he’s stolen all your gold save one. He’s already gone though.
Of course if you can’t or won’t pay, you’ll have to try the bridge. This one has another tactic to try to rip you off since there’s a sign that demands that you put all your gold in a box before crossing, however whether you do or not, the hidden toll keepers (Trolls naturally) come out to murder you anyway. You can get all your gold back and then some if you actually bother to kill both.
At this point your horse is gone, so you’re stomping about on foot in the swamps now. You’ll encounter an old guy who wants you to let him by, being rude to him or hiding (Because that worked so well the last time) aren’t good outcomes, being cool with him earns you some magic acorns (Just like Willow!) and a staff that is supposed to turn a foe into a friend. He also babbles a riddle at you which presumably will be a hint to solve a later encounter.
Next up is you finally getting out of the swamp and reaching a small beacon of “civilization” in the form of an Inn called the Knight’s Rest. You can of course ignore it and continue on to Shadow Keep, but what fun would that be?
Entering the inn results in more options on who to sit and talk to. Talking to the innkeeper doesn’t yield much since he’s an asshole that just sneers at you saying you’ll probably die getting your eyes pecked out by an undead hawk in the courtyard.
Sitting with the three ruffians gambling gets you potentially roped into a gambling round until you realize they’re cheating which you can kick up a fuss about resulting in a tough combat.
Finally sitting with the armored knight reveals that he’s actually stuck in place due to the rain rusting his armor and has been for a year. Mentions that the innkeeper sees that he’s fed mainly because the innkeeper as I said is an asshole and finds it hilarious to see a knight in such a predicament. The ruffians mock him as well and he says if you help him, he’d kill them all.
While I know this is a fantasy setting where anything can happen, this is really an absurd situation. How the fuck did the armor get so badly rusted that he couldn’t take it off. I know he was caught in a storm, but presumably he would have sensed if his armor was starting to get harder to move around in. I can only imagine that he managed to get to the inn, sit down, and I guess fall asleep and woke up immobile. Even then, it seems unlikely.
And I can’t even begin to start with the bathroom situation. Even if the innkeeper thought it was hilarious to have a knight stuck in place, the joke would get old as soon as his inn started smelling like a sewer. Unless the innkeeper was a degenerate on top of being an asshole and liked the place smelling like a fucking sewer and flies all over the place. Even then that would drive away business, but then he’s set up shop on the outskirts of a cursed land where he probably doesn’t have many regular normal customers anyway.
Anyway, if you help him out by pouring some oil from your lantern on his armor, he’ll attack the ruffians and lose if you don’t assist directly (The ruffians are too fucked up from the battle though to mess with you afterwards though). Assist and you’ll get an easy battle followed by some advice of how to bypass one of the dangers of Shadow Keep from the knight since he said that’s where he was coming back from a year ago. He then says he’s got a long journey back to his own kingdom in his shitty rusty armor.
So if you’re done with the inn (or never bothered in the first place) you will have arrived at Shadow Keep. What’s interesting about this place immediately is you get the option to knock on the front door which you’ll have to do anyway if you didn’t manage to get the skeleton rider’s gate opening scroll (Or foolishly gave it to Charon) There’s no guards or anything, just a lone ghoul doorman who immediately attacks you when he sees you. I can only guess that Darkrobe might either be having a troop shortage issue (He shouldn’t though given that he’s a necromancer) or he’s just so confident that anyone that’s coming to destroy him isn’t going to be enough of a challenge to bother with heavy security.
Taking a page from the FF series, if the ghoul hits you four times, he paralyzes you which results in the same thing as him killing you proper, you get one last page to turn to about how you become a feast for the ghoul. (No mention of him starting with your rump first though)
So now you’re in the courtyard, where upon just like the innkeeper said if you talked to him, you’ll get attacked by a giant undead hawk if you fuck around in the open. Hugging the walls isn’t much better since you get attacked by a bunch of shadow demons. If you have the staff by helping the old dude in the swamp earlier, you can use it to turn the hawk into a friend and he won’t attack you.
Then you are faced with a tower and three different doors to go into. All three have some sort of challenge behind them and with lead you deeper into Darkrobe’s lair. Though the deadliest one involves a fight with a basilisk which can kill you instantly on three separate occasions. This is probably the first instance of the book having an automatic death. Failing a PSI test before combat kills you, as does rolling a 2 during actual combat with it. In fact during combat it has a second deadly ability where if you roll a 7, you hit it, but manages to inflict a poisonous bite and if it bites you a second time, you also die instantly.
The last possibility is the funniest though. After you kill the basilisk, you can actually take its head and put it on your sword and turn the next monster you encounter to stone resulting in an auto win. However, the next encounter can actually result in your own instant death if you sneak up on an unmoving figure. Turns out the figure is looking at itself in a mirror and since you have your sword drawn and ready. You see the basilisk’s gaze and get stoned. Lol
(If you didn’t fuck around with a decapitated lizard head though, you just get attacked by the living skeleton that was holding the mirror.)
Really this particular path fucks with you the most since if you just ignore the figure and move on to the next room, you get the chance to fight a small dragon which is where the basilisk head DOES come in handy. You can then take a golden egg from the dragon’s nest, but it reduces your agility stat and guess what comes next? That’s right an agility test!
The other two paths aren’t quite as deadly and are a little more pedestrian in terms of traps and such, though there is one that has an encounter with a furry. No really you get a picture of her and a description of how beautiful she is and her red hair. It also mentions how she seems to be wearing a “form fitting tiger skin” (Furry and red hair, that’s two fucking warnings right there) and that after your recent long adventures it might be nice to relax by the fire.
Enjoy, you fucking degenerates.
I want to point out that this is the second were-cat girl in these books and I can’t help notice that Oliver Johnson was the writer of both of them. Dave Morris helped with the Temple book, but this one is all Oliver, so he probably wrote the cat girl in the other one. (There was a picture of her too, but in human form in the cage)
Anyway, being part cat and were-tiger on top of it she’s in no mood for your human bullshit. Attempting to talk to her results in her attacking and she’s one of the tougher fights too. Tipping your visor and offering her something first might work. She won’t be impressed with a troll bowling ball though. Having a gold locket of hair for some reason kills her instantly if you take it out. Like disintegrates her. Women, go an figure ‘em.
Now giving her the werewolf wine has the interesting effect of distracting her allowing you to leave the room without combat, but if you stick around, no she doesn’t suddenly get horny and have filthy furry sex with you, she instead is a mean drunk and attacks you anyway.
All three paths eventually rebranch into a main one again which brings me to the odd layout of this keep. You enter the keep, which has a tower in it and that tower obviously already has some non-euclidean architecture weirdness going on because it is obviously WAY bigger on the inside than the picture you see of it from the outside when you’re before the three doors.
And then instead of going up the tower, you actually start descending downward and then upward and yeah its weird. However, I sort of look past this because you are in place of dark magic so anything fucking goes because a necromancer did it.
Going back to the FF series for a moment, this book feels inspired a bit by The Citadel of Chaos due to some of the odder encounters and such. Probably one of the reasons that this one is my favorite of the series.
But getting back to it, there are more encounters of note. There’s bit where an evil spirit masquerading as a member of your order that died here gives you a bunch of wrong information for upcoming encounters. You can call him out on his bullshit since you knew the knight he’s masquerading as and that guy was more miserable than the evil spirit is acting.
There’s another bit with a sleeping witch and you can pilfer a clay doll of a dwarf which has pins sticking in it. This series really likes adventurers to be robbing witches that are peacefully in their own dwellings. Though there’s a funny bit of if you try to look for loot on her, she grabs your hair and sleep walks to her broom and flies out the window still holding on to your hair the entire time. Waking her up results in instant death as it startles her and she drops you from a great height. You just have to endure the agony until she returns back to her bed. Her cat gives you a smug look as you leave with slightly less hair now.
Also another bit where you can fuck around with some potions in a lab room and drink the wrong shit which results in you becoming an experiment for the wizard of the lab.
One thing is apparent, that while Darkrobe is a necromancer, he’s certainly got a fair share of traditional minion creatures other than undead working for him. Ogres, orcs, and even a minotaur can all be encountered. (Another reason it reminds me a bit of Citadel of Chaos)
Towards the end, there’s a dwarf writing something in a room you want to get through. Unusual for a dwarf he’ll cast magic at you if you just enter and its possible for him to instantly kill you. However throwing the clay doll you might have gotten earlier into the nearby fireplace kills him instantly. Nothing like defeating your enemies with voodoo.
The dwarf actually was writing down the meals of the day for various monsters. It mentions two maidens for the ghoul’s dinner, two pails of peasants blood for the vampires and bat wings garnished with beetles for Darkrobe himself.
After this encounter as I said, you’ll be getting close to the end and you get another choice of three doors leading down again. More architecture weirdness, but whatever, we’re going over every encounter because they all stand out.
We’ll start with the dead end first. This one leads to a den like room with a bunch of pale dudes sitting around talking and drinking “red wine”
Yes, these men aren’t suspicious AT ALL. You can duck out of here before they notice you and choose another door, hide behind a screen and try to evesdrop or sit and talk with them. Hiding is instant death, you bump into a hanging corpse you didn’t see and scream like a bitch alerting them to your presence.
Sitting and talking however doesn’t result in instant death since for whatever reason they don’t even seem to realize you’re not a fellow vampire. Though given that they can’t sense the most basic shit AND they’re probably drinking peasant’s blood according to the menu list that the dwarf was writing, these are some lowly vamps no doubt.
Though sitting around with a bunch of vampires still isn’t the smartest thing to do. In fact if you take the offer of wine and drink it, you get an ending going into how you’re glad you’ve run into such fine gentlemen and you don’t even bat an eye when one of them refers to the “wine” as blood. (Duh) You’ve been sitting around with a bunch of vampires for the past half hour and now you’re among their ranks due to having drank the blood as well.
Just listening to the conversation results in you finally getting the hint that “Gee, maybe these guys are vampires” due to the blood/wine reference. You make an excuse to leave and one will call out to you. Listening to him is the correct choice since he merely asks you to go grab them another gallon of blood since they’re getting low. Making a run for it results in them turning into bats that you need to outpace or get turned into their next meal.
No matter how you deal with this, you’re taking one of the other doors. So let’s move on to my favorite one.
One of the other doors leads to the ghoul feast which is actually a fancier affair than the vampires. There’s even a Major Domo ghoul that offers to take your cloak. Being rude results in combat (on the tougher side) so there’s no real reason to not be civil, allow him to take your cloak and be announced by the Major Domo.
Hey gang, can you guess which one was my favorite ghoul in this picture?
The ghouls oddly have no interest in eating you. Oh sure, they make some jokes about you being the first course of their dinner and another about tinned food, but these are just jokes and they seem to be happier chowing down on the prepared maiden flesh. (Which I’m sure is much more tender)
In fact one of the ghouls starts daring you to eat. Now as if you had to wonder, if given the choice of indulging in cannibalism or not doing it, what do you think I’m going to choose?
Yep, you get a non-standard ending where upon you don’t find the taste of human flesh all that bad and you join the ranks of being a greedy ghoul!
Fortunately you can avoid this by just choosing to order wine instead. (And it is actually wine, they’re ghouls not vampires) The ghouls start to get drunk and talkative mentioning Darkrobe’s personal lair is just beyond a door nearby so you can take your leave out that way while the ghouls are fat, dumb and happy.
Alright so the other door is the more direct route since it leads straight to Darkrobe’s dwelling. You even find the batwings garnished in beetles meal on a tray outside his room. You actually can go through the door that leads to the ghoul feast, but this just results in you quickly closing it as they’re already drunk on wine and maiden flesh and you go the other way. (This way isn’t as fun as going to the ghoul feast first though)
So now you’re in Darkrobe’s private chambers and the end really is in sight. Before you can go much further though some raven haired woman in a red dress suddenly calls out to you urging you to take a magic gauntlet to help in your fight against Darkrobe who is just behind the next door.
If this didn’t seem suspicious right off the bat, you must not have learned anything sitting with a bunch of vampires. Plus she’s wearing a red dress, obviously evil right there.
So you can refuse it, where upon she tries a different tactic of telling a half truth of her being the ghost of Darkrobe’s former mistress and he killed her so she wants revenge. Even if you try to play along and take the gauntlet she also wants you to give her the ring that got in the beginning. Refusing to to give up the ring or take the gauntlet results in her doing some ghost shit and you have to pass PSI test or die.
Taking the gauntlet (of weakness you fool!) and giving up the ring might actually be the less lethal option in this scenario since it just results in -1 handicap to your combat rolls (And you only have to fight Darkrobe after this)
However, giving up that ring is a death sentence and you’ll soon see why.
Anyway whether you fall for the ghost thot’s charms or send her to the streets via sword, you open the door to face Darkrobe who of course mocks you in true villain fashion.
This is the part where you better have something other than just charging at him with your sword like a retard because that’s instant death. So a few ways to deal with him. One being if you managed to turn that undead hawk into a friend earlier, it’ll fuck up Darkrobe just enough that you can actually fight him, but it’s still a tough battle where he can kill you instantly if you roll badly. Same thing happens if you use a potion of invisibility. You can fight him, but he’s still not easy.
However in both of these cases, Darkrobe does his necromancer thing of summoning a shitload of spirits after a couple rounds of battle. If you don’t have the ring, you get killed instantly. If you do have the ring, the spirits get dispelled and you resume your regular fight, though a little easier now. (No instant death results)
The best thing of course is to use the ring as soon as you face Darkrobe. The ring will weaken him enough that combat with him won’t be as difficult and in this case he won’t ever be able to just kill you instantly.
Beat him and he has a dramatic villain death resulting in his keep shaking and he opens a secret door leading to the outside and then there’s a blinding blizzard for a moment and then when you can see again he’s gone. Not sure if this means he escaped or not. It says all his minion died with him, but necromancers have a tendency to not stay dead so easy.
Anyway, it mentions that the king should be recovering now and justice and righteousness will return to your kingdom. The end. No riches (Other than what you might have gathered on your mission) in this one, you were a true paladin just doing your duty for king and country.
As you might have been able to tell, I covered A LOT of the encounters in this and that’s mainly because this book was probably my favorite out of all of them. This one is probably less lethal than the other two books, or rather it doesn’t start off killing you in the first few pages. That only starts happening when you get to the keep, so it’s probably one of the more balanced books.
I liked it a lot.
Fairly honest, since it usually wasn't the fights that killed me, it was the sudden auto kills based on choices or not having the necessary item to proceed (or clue to a puzzle).
In fact the latest book I'm still writing up is going to give a good example of random item hunt to win.
Hadnt heard of the gamebook series you mentioned.
4. The Eye of the Dragon
Might have been a better idea to have those Greek soldiers standing around to handle this guy.
And now we come to the book dedicated to the Nazis. Okay, not really, but this is a fun bit of trivia to bring up.
All of these books have “Dedicated to …” at the front of them. Presumably these are relatives, friends and loved ones. In this case Dave Morris who wrote this one dedicated it to his friend M.A.R. Barker.
If you aren’t familiar with who he is, well I’m not going to go into too much detail, but he wrote a fairly unique RPG called Empire of the Petal Throne which was sort of lauded as being a “progressive” step away from the traditional western medieval style settings. He was mostly inspired by South and Meso American, Indian and Southeast Asian mythology and he even converted to Islam and married a Paki woman.
Turned out he was also a major Holocaust denier and Nazi sympathizer (And really didn’t like Jews, but that sort of goes without saying) He apparently wrote a whole book under a white supremacist publisher with a different name and contributed to some Holocaust revisionist journal. Though he was also a Muslim so the Jew hate part was probably multiplied even more.
This bit of info was only recently discovered so all his work now is being agonized over in terms of what to do with it. Most of it is decided that all proceeds go to anti-hate shit or whatever. Even those faggots at CoG had a game based on his work and all the profits now have to go to Jews or something. Lol
In any case, Dave was major pals with this guy and was pretty much defending him during this new found info which wasn’t a good look for him, but fortunately for Dave this was mainly on his blog and he’s not quite excessively important enough to “cancel.” He sort of just comes off as an old guy who really doesn’t want to believe that his buddy of so many years turned out to be a Nazi sympathizer. But hey ride or die right?
As for Barker, he’s been dead since 2012 so it isn’t like it matters if he gets cancelled or not. He already beat the system.
Alright that’s enough of that, if you want to know more about that look it up and start a thread in the Lounge because you know we can’t get enough of talking about Nazis and other edgelord things there. Also this is going to be a LONG one so I suggest you prepare yourself.
So backstory for this one is as follows: You’re a warrior mage of the high realm and you get sent on a simple mission by your superiors to retrieve an artifact called the Eye of the Dragon from an ancient ruined city called Thalios. Everyone is creaming their undies in excitement about this due to it being thought to be just a myth. Some guy named Master Giru found it, but apparently he can’t bring it back without help due to it being too dangerous to move without help. So they’re sending you.
Yep, it’s a pretty simple mission, or is it? (No, of course it isn’t)
And yes you read that correctly, warrior mage. You get to cast some spells in this book! You get 12 different ones from summoning a fire tiger to fight for you to summoning a swarm of deadly bees, to talking with the spirit of a nearby dead body. (This spell gets a warning that this could be dangerous depending on the person’s temperament when they were still alive) You only get to cast these spells once though, so use them wisely. It also implies you’re a little more than human since you have an innate sixth sense common to “your race.” Not exactly what is meant by that since some of the pictures of your fellow countrymen you bump into look human enough, but you’re also supposed to be of noble blood, so maybe its a class thing?
Then again this WAS dedicated to M.A.R. so maybe there’s a pureblood implication somewhere. Lol
Along with getting an orb of illumination (Eliminating the need for lanterns and torches) you also get a handy map illustration of the ruined city detailing all the major locations. It’s pretty useful to refer to from time to time.
So you as soon as you get off the boat to Thalios, you’re met by some soldiers at the city’s gates stating that they’ll take you to Master Giru. However, they’re acting suspicious enough that you get the option of also not going with them or even outright attacking them. Honestly it doesn’t matter what you do because you’re in for a tough starter fight no matter what. The only way to avoid any potential damage is casting one of your combat related spells which will automatically defeat all four of them.
The dying sergeant though has some dying words that will shed some light on the situation. He mentions that there’s Kappa all over the city looking for the Dragon’s Eye too and a very powerful one hypnotized the soldiers into doing their bidding. He says Master Giru has made camp in a building called the Consul’s Palace and you need to get there. Then you get a brief description of what you know about the Kappa who are an evil underwater race that hate all other life and go around fucking up land dwellers for fun.
I should point out that this game’s version of Kappas are very different than the traditional ones that everyone likes to draw for Ford around here. In fact I’ll just show you a picture of what one looks like since it’s like the very next encounter anyway
Looks nothing like Ford. Too thin for one thing.
Kappas as you can see are coral monstrosities with pearls for eyes. Thalios isn’t quite Innsmouth, but you’ll be fighting more than a few water based abominations in this one.
Anyway you can fight the kappa or go run into a nearby temple before he sees you. Running into the temple is actually the better choice since you get the option of finding a shield that can help in battles, however in order to get it there’s a tough battle with a metal idol with four arms. Nothing’s free.
Whatever you do (and assuming you survive) you’ll get two options in directions and these will both lead to very different paths to your ultimate destination.
So to give a better idea of this, let’s look at the map.
Hopefully this showed up clear enough.
Anyway, you’re currently at “B” (“C” is the Temple of Swords where you could have found that shield)
You have to get to “G” (That building on that peninsula in the middle)
You get the choice of heading toward “M” (Or Carfax, which basically through the the “Downtown” area of the city) or heading towards “K” which is the Bridge of Blue Skulls and leads to another peninsula with only a single building on it (The Citadel of Conundrums or “L”)
Now me thinking logically, I figured I was going to have to eventually go down M anyway, since that’s the only to get to the destination on foot and I had planned on exploring the citadel first. However going over K shortens your journey quite a bit, especially if you don’t even bother to explore the citadel on the peninsula.
You can actually “speed run” your way to the Consul’s Palace since what you’ll do is get the idea of trying to find a boat allowing you to just cross the water from one peninsula to the other. So I’ll go over this path first.
“Speed run” (1st attempt)
So if you’re speed running to the Palace, you most likely will not have used many spells, if at all. Using a seance spell allows you to summon a ghost of a beggar that you met when you first went over the bridge (The kappa’s got him) and he’ll tell you where you can find some oars for the boat that you find along the shore. There’s also the option to summon a pirate’s ghost (He’s the one who owned the boat in the first place) if you found his body earlier, but that’s only if you went the other way.
I should also mention here, that even if you go the other way through the city, you get a couple options to return ALL the way back to the bridge of blue skulls, so there’s a lot of options you could have to cross the water that would be possible if you weren’t speed running. (Like a wind walking potion for example if you found it)
You can also just try to use the boat without oars, but mermaids fuck with you and drag you further out to sea where upon you have to swim for it, and potentially lose items. (Which you probably don’t have many due to speed running)
Whether you end up swimming or rowing, you end up having to still walk some of the way there when you get to shore. You will get a pretty difficult combat in the form of a couple of Death Knights. From there you’ll reach the Palace and have to find Master Giru. Unfortunately it’s labyrinthian and pitch dark so if you don’t at least have your glowing orb anymore you’re fucked and you get a non-standard fail ending.
If you still have your orb, then you can eventually find Master Giru with a few guards where upon he’ll tell you that the kappa already have the Eye or rather they’re already in the area of where the Eye is which is the Vault of Heroes (Or “J”) Giru however placed a force field around the Eye before he left it so they won’t be able to breach it for awhile so the best thing to do is get some sleep and head to the Vault in the morning.
So now you have to get all the way over to the next peninsula, well just because I said this was a “speed run” to getting to the Palace, doesn’t mean I said it would be a speed run to beat the game.
Basically you need some specific items to travel to the Vault of Heroes since the only way to get there in time is to fly. And if you speed ran like this, then you most certainly don’t have any of them. You’ll get a fail ending about the kappa getting the Eye (and probably growing in power and its all your fault)
Exploring the Citadel First (2nd attempt)
Okay so maybe you can still bypass a lot of shit if you just head over the bridge, but also explore the citadel? Well let’s go over some of those encounters.
Stepping back a bit to the bridge itself, as I mentioned earlier you’ll encounter a beggar that you can give a few gold coins to. Doing so and he’ll give some warnings about a being called Nuckelavee and even give you some hints about one of his weakness if you give him enough coins (It’s fresh water)
So this is another place where you need your illuminating orb or you won’t be able to explore, though you should still have it given that you haven’t gone anywhere else to potentially lose it. (Very few places you can lose it anyway)
Well first major bit is a door you can’t open unless you have a certain item and again, you certainly won’t have it. Moving on…
Next is a set of archways. Going into the wrong one gets you an instant death via getting mobbed by shadow monsters.
Next up is discovering your boots are covered in blood and you get the choice of cleaning them with your water flask (Or some other liquid you might have) Choosing not to do results in a monster called a blood fiend being drawn to your position. (Looks like a giant mutant bipedal crocodile) Worse, you lose your sword during this encounter to a nearby magnet meaning you either have to fight unarmed at reduced damage or cast a spell to help you (or use some sort of item from your pack which you probably don’t have since you went straight here)
Even if you beat the beast, you still need to get your sword back. Some sort of fire will fuck up the magnet enough to loosen it (Like the burning tiger spell) but even if you don’t get it back, you can find another sword as part of the past equipment from victims of the blood fiend. It’s not as good though so you get reduced combat rolls.
After all this happens you realize that fucking around in this citadel isn’t getting you any closer to Giru so you decide to leave. One way is blocked unless you have a certain item (Which you won’t have) the other way leads back outside.
And you’re fucked. At this point you just get the option to travel around the shore looking for a boat…and we already know how far you can get in the situation you’re in.
The fact is, you HAVE to explore the main part of the city to get anywhere. At least at first. Going straight over the bridge from the start dooms you to failure since you can’t go back to the city.
Let's try this again...
The Long Way Round (3rd attempt)
Heading to the streets of the city gets you an encounter with some voice threatening you. You get a few ways to deal with it, but in reality it’s just a mynah bird still sitting on his dead master’s shoulder. This would be the pirate I mentioned earlier. You can loot his body, hilariously including his fucking peg leg (You never know if it’ll come in handy are the exact words in the text. Lol) He’s also got a bottle of wine which has turned into vinegar.
Drinking it like a fucktard gets you killed since apparently it was poisoned and that’s how the pirate died. You can just keep it though. You can also take the mynah bird with you and be a fucktard in a whole different way since the bird is obnoxiously loud and draws the attention of more kappas immediately that you have to fight. (And the bird flaps off)
Regardless of how you deal with all this either way you end up at The Amber Petechnicon or “D”. Since there’s more kappa patrols, you can end up hiding in there or run to The Avenue of Sphinxes or “E”. And I believe this is the ONE chance you get to go down the Avenue of Sphinxes successfully, since it results in a whole different path, but we’ll do that one after the Amber one.
Exploring the Amber leads to an object of note in there. Namely a harp behind glass. Breaking the glass to get it as you might expect alerts the kappa and the glass doesn’t even break since its enchanted. You just made a bunch of noise for nothing.
There’s actually only one spell that will allow you to get the harp, Dagger of the Mind cuts through the glass and the thread holding the harp.
Once again regardless of your success or failure, the next encounter is going to be more kappas which you can fight or jump down a nearby chute in a ruined building. Honestly running right now saves you from more chances of getting hurt since you end up having to escape down the cute anyway due to even more kappa patrols showing up.
After dealing with the impact and attempting to climb out of the place, the fucking mynah bird comes back to steal your orb. Now you get the option to chase it up the stairs to get the orb back or carry on without it. Well as we already know, you need your light ball to at least find Giru in the Consul Palace, so losing it isn’t an option.
After dealing with the bird and getting your ball back, you’ll get a view of the kappa patrolling the streets still looking for you and you’ll also notice a big block of ice on the far edge of the roof you can inspect.
Now exploring the ice block is an encounter that you need to have even if it seems like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but it pays off later and it’s a pretty memorable one at least.
First bit is potentially getting yourself killed trying to walk across a decrepit crumbling roof in the first place. A least one agility test and maybe another if you failed the first time.
So you see a figure in the crystal (Looks like ice, but isn’t normal ice) and you can decide to free whatever’s in there or not. Hacking at it with your sword predictably breaks it and now you’ve got a fucked up sword like a dumbass and accomplished nothing. Playing the harp will work if you got it. So will the burning tiger spell if you want to waste a perfectly good combat spell.
So you if you manage to get it open, the figure inside is finally revealed…
Congrats you released an insectoid abomination (Cricket would be pleased)
This is Lord Mantiss (Yes with two s’. A subtle nod to Dave’s buddy Barker’s love of the SS no doubt) and he thanks you for releasing him and offers to take you to his treasure room to give you a reward. This was hidden by a massive marble block that he easily lifts with one claw.
Well now you might be asking what exactly is the problem since he seems grateful and ready to reward you. Well let’s go over this…
1. If you refuse to enter his treasure room, he gets offended by this breach of “manners” and attacks you. He’s a tough fight and rolling snake eyes in battle gets you killed instantly. Even trying to run from him isn’t possible, though you get enough distance to cast a spell before combat resumes again. (Casting Deadly Swarm hilariously backfires as he takes control of the wasps and they sting you to death.)
2. You get 3 choices of treasure and ALL of them suck big bug dick.
One is an electrum locket, and he gets pissed since he says that’s a cherished heirloom and you could have taken anything else BUT that. As punishment, he slams the marble block down, trapping you inside the treasure room to slowly starve to death.
The other choice is taking two handfuls of gold coins and once again he gets triggered saying “This is sheer greed!” and goes on about how you’re trying to take advantage of a poor trusting insect. He then says instead of killing you, he’ll let you ponder your bad decisions for a century or two and once again traps you in his treasure room to die of starvation. (Whether he actually believed you’d still be alive in a century doesn’t really matter I guess since the result is the same)
Finally the last choice is a silver figurine which is the only one that doesn’t result in Mantiss getting pissy enough to indirectly murder you immediately. However, the text says he’s visibly disappointed that you picked what you picked and is already motioning you to get the fuck out of his dwelling, which pretty much means he was fucking trolling you all along.
Honestly, the best reason to free Lord Mantiss, is to kill him and take his shit. You get a tuning fork he was wearing around his neck and his magic gauntlet that allows you add 1 to your combat rolls and in the case of a double 6, you kill an enemy instantly.
Okay so at this point you’re back on the streets and immediately get attack by the kappa’s pet giant crabs (Which do unavoidable damage to you immediately so hopefully you’ve got some vigor to spare.)
You get the option to run towards the Avenue of Sphinxes, however this time this path is not just inaccessible, but also a death sentence as you run right in the middle of the crustacean horde and they kill you. So this means you have to run back towards the Temple of Swords and then from there over the Bridge of Blue Skulls which we know what comes next…BUT!
You killed Lord Mantiss and took his shit didn’t you? If you did, then you’ve got a shot at winning. So remember that door in the Citadel I mentioned that you couldn’t get through before? (Of course you don’t because you’ve got the attention span of a goldfish and I’m surprised you’re reading this at all)
Well that tuning fork opens the door. Amusingly you can also get the option of using the silver figurine to open the door if you took the treasure instead. The figurine grows and attacks you, proving once again that Mantiss is a trolling asshole. (Plus this means you didn’t get the tuning fork, so you can’t open the door even after you win the combat)
Okay so you’ve opened up the door and in the room is some old dude with a gross spider parasite on his neck. He mentions he doesn’t get many visitor and then says you could have only gotten in with Mantiss’ tuning fork and suggests that you killed him. Now you can lie and say it was a gift, but if you decided to wear the gauntlet, the old man isn’t buying it and figures you killed him and attacks.
Once again, immediate combat is the best way to deal with this situation because the other way just leads to playing a shell game with the freak that he cheats at anyway and you either lose an item and leave (And eventually fail the mission) or have to attack him anyway.
Attacking the spider parasite rather than the old man himself is the way to go, though when it happens the old man just says “They’ll be another one soon, there always is.” but he ends up giving you all his shit including a wind walking potion, a wristband of fire AND a ship in a bottle which he mentions is the most powerful magic item he has.
And THIS is one of the items you need to give to Giru to fly to the Vault of Heroes later.
And from this point, you will go through the rest of the path as previously mentioned earlier except probably way easier due to all the extra items to help you across the water (Like the wind walking potion, knowledge of the pirate’s corpse to find the oars, etc) however there is one other encounter I should mention since it involves the harp.
Well remember how the harp was one of the ways you could free All Trolling Lord Mantiss? Well if he wasn’t bad enough, you can play the harp as you’re looking for a way across the water and summon this guy…
This is Nuckelavee, Demon Lord of the Waves and you’re probably fighting him. It doesn’t need to be said that he’s a tough fight. You can’t even use any spells against him if you have some left since he mind fucks you to prevent casting. The only upside to the fight is he doesn’t have the ability to kill you instantly, but he does a little more damage than usual when he does hit. And to top it all off, this fight gets you absolutely NOTHING. You still have to get across the water in some other way.
However, there is ONE item that will help you and it’s so mundane its hilarious. It’s the water flask you started off with. Literally the only reason why you wouldn’t have it, is if you used it to clean your boots of blood back in the Citadel to avoid the Bloodfiend encounter. And that would have been retarded, since Nuckyboy’s one weakness is fresh water and you can force him to carry you across directly over the bay (Yep, it’s the only way to avoid the tough Death Knights encounter before you get to the Palace this way)
Why Nucky doesn’t just sink back into the ocean to avoid all this shit I have no idea. Might be due to summoning him in the first place, you know how demons are. In any case, it’s an awkward situation of him being forced to carry you on his back while you hang on tight around his fleshless waist…
And to top it all off? YOU get to be the trolling asshole this time. He tells you he fulfilled his part of the deal so to release him. You outright tell him you see no need to honor deals with demons and you promptly pour ALL your water over his fucking head and he sinks back under the waves screaming in pain.
Well the joke’s on you, you STILL don’t have what you need to fly to the Vault of Heroes. The ship in the bottle is one of items, but it also needs a special piece of cloth which you don’t have. (More on that later)
The TRUE path (4th attempt)
So going ALL the way back to the choice where you get to run to the Avenue of Sphinxes the first time rather than exploring the place with the harp, leads to the option of exploring a fancy mansion or continue down the avenue. You REALLY need to explore the mansion though, otherwise at best you’ll get to the Consul Palace and fail again.
Upon entering the mansion you meet a hopeless adventurer mourning the death of his buddy Wulfric. He doesn’t really elaborate on what happened too much at first, so you’re free to explore the mansion. Okay, so you’ve got a wide variety of options here. Let’s go upstairs first since there’s a lot going on up there, plus you even get the option of exploring other parts of the mansion later.
First thing you’ll encounter is a room with three beings called Gloomvilles.
Average game night
These beings are described as being utterly evil however they do invite you to play a variety of games with them (Three different types) and while it’s entirely possible to win the jackpot prize by playing these games, what’s more than likely to happen is you’re going to get fucked up and potentially lose items and/or stats (Hell, there’s even a result that flings you back in time to the first encounter, though you restart with everything you had at the beginning of the game.) So the best thing to do is to just outright snuff out the candles which dispels the creatures and you can get the jackpot prize without playing shit (It’s an arena ticket)
From there you can explore the upstairs section which ultimately leads to the piece of cloth you need with that ship in a bottle so you can fly to the Vault of Heroes later, YAY!
Or it would be, IF you could actually do it. Y’see, what I’m about to go over is a severe fuck up of how Dave designed this fucking book.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to get both items. Once you go into this mansion, you are LOCKED into a certain path and you will not be backtracking anywhere else. So no Lord Mantiss, no Citadel, no crossing the bay. None of that shit. You can still get to the Consul Palace, but you’ll be going the overland route which all means you won’t be able to get that ship in the bottle, which y’know you NEED with the piece of magic cloth!
For more head scratching, there’s even a bit here where you can use the potion of wind walking to bypass a hazard and you can’t even get that item unless you visit the Citadel when you get it from the old guy with the spider parasite. (Along with the bottle)
So what’s the solution? Well, you could just ignore the cloth or bottle item needed and just “pretend” you have it when Giru gives that option.
Of course if you don’t want to be a dirty lousy cheater, you could head downstairs into the basement of the mansion because this is the only way to actually beat the game.
Down in the basement, there’s a treasure chest and this chest holds the other item that you can use to get to the Vault of Heroes later. But first, you’ll have to face this guy…
RELEASE THE KRAKEN!
As tough as Lord Mantiss and Nuckers are, the Kraken is the toughest necessary battle in the game and you have to fight it because using a spell just results in you getting to escape rather than getting the chest. The Kraken can kill you instantly on a 2 or 3 and even his normal hit range can do massive damage to you.
If you beat him you get the contents of the chest! Inside are a snuff box, a pomegranate and the all important GOLDEN APPLE. This is the other item you can use to get to the end game.
However, you can also fuck up severely right here. Eating the golden apple right now, expends all its power making it useless (and you throw it away) creating a “walking dead” state as it were.
Eating the pomegranate straight up kills you. Interestingly it has a bit of a unique death ending as you get a passage saying a wave of darkness comes over you and then the disorientation fades and you find yourself standing before a wizard. You demand to know what’s going on, to which he replies that he summoned you to have his questions answered not the other way around since he used a Seance spell as you died hundreds of years ago from eating poisoned fruit.
As for the snuff box, it contains an unending loud shriek until you closes it. As useless as this sounds, you’ll need it later. You can also collect some of the dead Kraken’s ink before you leave.
Anyway back to the ground floor where the adventurer is moaning doom and gloom about his dead friend and how you’re both doomed too. (You can actually find his headless friend in the next room if you explored the ground floor) You tell this whining faggot to shut the hell up because you got shit to do and leave the mansion.
And now you get to experience the thing that the adventurer was crying about. A living statue outside nearly kills you as soon as you step out the door. In fact, if it wasn’t for the adventurer suddenly finding his courage to try to help you, the statue would have stomped your head like a ripe melon.
Instead it crushes the adventurer’s head like a ripe melon and states how it now turns its attention to you as its fists are wet with blood and brains. This thing is like the terminator, you can’t outrun it or at least not without a distraction and the ONLY thing that will save you is the burning tiger spell so hopefully you didn’t cast it already.
From here, it’s a little easier running assuming you looted everything from the mansion. You’ll end up running through the Arena ruins (or “F”), so hopefully you’ve got that ticket from the Glooms otherwise you’ll be needing to pass agility tests to avoid getting fucked up by flying reptile.
After this, you get one more encounter. This time with Ligea, the demigoddess of fucking despair. Demon lords, insect lords, terminator statues and now just outright fucking gods. The book is trying to kill you.
Well since you aren’t Kratos, you can’t fight her and she just starts singing a hope crushing song which will result in an instant game over unless you can block her out and unfortunately you don’t have any moldy cheese to shove into your ears this time. You can cast a mind shield spell, but you might have cast that earlier. You should have the snuff box that screams which will drown her out. In either case she gets pissy and disappears.
(Amusingly you can eat the pomegranate here too and just die. I can only imagine the confused look on her face when you do this.)
Get past her and its on to Palatine Bridge (or “H”) and have one more fight with some kappas and at last you’re at the Consul Palace with the Golden Apple which you haven’t eaten and can give to Giru. Or rather you both take a bite of it since the apple has transformation powers which will allow you to fly to the Vault of Heroes for the final showdown. So let’s get to that shit finally.
Vault of Heroes (It’s about fucking time)
So this part is really meh actually. Seriously, you get a lot of color commentary about the surroundings, you fight some more kappas and that’s about it. The kappa leader is the big threat with his mind fuck abilities, so you’ll need to cast that mind shield spell (Assuming you didn’t waste it on Ligea) but cool thing to do to deal with the kappa leader though, is smash that vinegar/wine bottle into his head and the vinegar eats his eyes like acid.
Anyway, you now have possession of the Eye of the Dragon and you have to attune your mind to it. You get three choices of frequency and only picking the lowest allows you gain control over it and send the kappas running back to the sea. (The other two choices get you killed naturally)
The final bit is you teleporting back home with Master Giru with the Eye where upon he asks if you would relinquish the Eye so that it may be placed in the halls of learning or some shit where it can be studied and safely guarded. And because you’re a fucktard, you go along with this and Master Giru congratulates you on your “wisdom” since such an item of power could corrupt even one as noble as yourself.
And then like a faggot you say something like you also gave it away since it would take the fun out of adventuring!
*Cue 80s laugh track and applause*
Anyway that’s the book.
Despite the ending and the whole item problem of getting to the Vault of Heroes I mentioned, this is probably my second favorite book of the series. If it hadn’t had the fuck up with the ship in a bottle thing, it might have been number one since it technically has two completely separate paths to go down to beat it which is a bit of a rarity in these old gamebooks.
Lot of varied and memorable encounters as well. It’s interesting that the main villain in this one are more of a collective rather than a single overlord, but you sure do face a lot of “Overlord” types along the way.
Well this was a long one, I don’t think the next one should be quite this long, but it’s been awhile since I looked at it. We’ll see.
Interesting, this is the first cover I think where the kid isn't obviously left-handed. Is the protagonist a southpaw in the books or is this more up to interpretation?
As far as I know there's never any reference to being left or right handed in any of the books. In fact most of the books in the intro go on about "personalizing" your adventurers by giving them a name and thinking up all the different kinds of background like being a crafty rogue or a noble knight or even a Viking!
The fact is though, none of that shit matters since the background is really set in stone for you most of the time anyway and there's no need for all that extra role playing faggotry.
5. Curse of the Pharaoh
Oh come on it’s a mummy and you have torch, just set it on fire and be done with it.
Alright so this one starts off explaining how you’ve been dragging your ass through the hot desert with half broken tablet that you bought from some merchant because you’re desperate enough to believe that it’s a clue to where a lost tomb is. Currently, you’ve survived the desert and are now in a beacon of civilization which predictably mirrors an Arabian atmosphere.
That’s pretty much all your backstory with this one. They went with the quick wandering adventurer background. You got your hunk of rock, a torch, a sword and 30 gold pieces. Or actually 29 pieces if you actually read the prologue since you apparently give one to an old man that directs you to where Gabbad the dealer who might be able to elaborate on the tablet piece you got. It’s also close to the bazaar where you can buy shit.
Which brings me to something I’ve been meaning to mention in these books, your gold supply.
In most of these books, you’re usually starting out with a small amount of gold. Usually about 10 pieces and typically you never spend it. Oh you might come across a few places where you give a coin or two to someone and you might even get the opportunity to nab some more gold, but honestly, you’re never really bumping into wandering merchants or stumbling upon pockets of civilization (That inn in Shadow Keep is the closest) where you might be spending this gold.
On one hand this really sort of makes sense given that you’re typically in places where it’s just lairs of lurking monsters. Not really much trade going on, but one sort of wonders why bother to include gold at all, though I suppose every adventurer probably still has a few coins jingling about even if he’s mostly spent it on alcohol and whores.
Well anyway, this opening encounter changes all that, because you get to buy shit right from the start with your phat loot. Yep, no possibilities for instant death or even tough battles. Just prepping yourself for the journey ahead.
Now usually in these situations you never have enough money to buy everything, so it’s a bit of a guessing game on what you might possibly need. However perhaps to make up for all the times you couldn’t buy shit in the other books, you can literally buy ALL the available items and still have a few gold left over. Items include or sorts of useful shit like a potion of levitation, gloves to protect against snake bites, a flying carpet, a water flask that always contains water and if wanted you could buy TWO potions of swiftness.
Seriously buy it all because you’ll need it at some point if only to make some of the later encounters easier. Even if you bought everything you’ll still have a few pieces of gold to gamble with at the inn where you can make it all back and then some. You can also get accused of cheating and get into a fight, but these things happen.
After you’re done with your shopping spree, you now have to figure out where exactly this Gabbad is and you get a few choices. Talking to a group of children like a creeper or watching a fire eater are two of them. Assuming you didn’t already go into the inn to gamble, going there will also be one of the choices.
Now this bit is where you can get multiple different paths to wind up at the pyramid. We’ll actually start with the quickest desert path first.
So if you go and watch a fire eater, you’ll get your coin bag stolen but some white dude called Leon will help you out since you’re a fellow white man and offers to help you out with this tomb finding business. However, he’s just setting you up for the long con. You actually get a few times to avoid his offer, like right from the beginning or even tipping the tavern’s belly dancer who gives you something to put into his drink indicating that he’s up to no good.
Of course you could ignore all that and try to deliberately fail your test of not passing out from your own drink. Doing so gets you thrown before the local assassin’s guild/club/whatever who have been going around looking for the tomb as well. If you retiredly give them the tablet rather than hiding it, they just straight up kill you. If you hide it and then sneakily retrieve it later, they get angry but figure you must know the way to the tomb so they make you lead them to it the next day (You also don’t have anything except the tablet that you managed to hide)
This actually allows you to bypass most of the desert dangers since you’re walking with a group of armed assassins. In fact you get to the pyramid rather quickly, though this doesn’t make much sense since YOU didn’t know where the fuck it was in the first place so how the hell did you lead them to it? I suppose it’s a case of just stumbling upon the shit, but it’s a bit nonsensical.
At this point you’ll probably have at least one fight with an assassin before you manage to ditch the rest of them and enter the tomb via a small building separate from the pyramid itself.
Alright so that’s really the path if you fuck up though since all the shit you might have bought is gone. Might be why the path eliminates all the desert encounters because you already got it bad enough.
So asking someone at the inn predictably leads to one of the locals claiming they can take you there and then trying to murder you when you actually get into the desert. Even if you successfully kill these thugs, now you’re lost in the desert. However from here you CAN take a path that soon presents itself in the form of some creepy old man who suddenly pops up.
In fact he’s so creepy, you can avoid him as soon as you see him (Where upon the text says he’ll start calling out to you by name), this will result in more wandering though where upon you’ll probably get fucked up in another encounter, suffer damage if you didn’t buy the water flask and eventually find your way back to the city where upon you might run into a weird loop potential, because while you get the option to talk to the group of children (Which is the “correct” option) but you can also go watch the fire eater (for the fucktard path) or return right back to the inn and hire thugs to try to rob you in the desert AGAIN.
Yeah, it’s sort of an oversight, but then Oliver might have just thought you wouldn’t actually pick the obvious wrong choice over and over.
Well before we get to the correct option, I’ll go over the creepy old man path since this is just one of the ways he pops up.
Yeah, this guy totally doesn’t have a sinister agenda
So basically he’ll pop up whenever you’re lost in the desert. This usually happens with the path I’ve just mentioned, however this can even occur on the “correct” path. Anyway he’ll offer to lead you to the tomb, but you need to carry an urn for him. (Which mysteriously appears in the sand nearby and the text saying you didn’t see it there before) Already you can start backing out and run off, in fact you will get MANY chances to just ditch the creepy old dude if you travel with him. The game couldn’t make it much clearer that you shouldn’t be hanging out with this guy.
However sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. He actually won’t do anything harmful to you along the journey, but he certainly won’t help you either like when you get into a fight with a couple of jaguars. (Jags? In the desert?) It should also be mentioned that whenever you get the chance to try to ditch the old man, you’ll always get the option of dropping the urn to make running easier.
Yeah, this is an ongoing trolling instant kill choice, because if you ever drop it, a fucking demon materializes and eats you. Yes, you’re carrying around a demon the whole time you’re traveling with the old guy. Of course you never know this until the urn breaks. Though I always wondered why the urn breaks so easily if you’re just dropping it in the sandy desert. Or hell, couldn’t you just gently put it down and then run? Oh well there’s only so many passages that can fit in the book I guess.
In any case, as you get closer to the pyramid, you’ll come across an Avenue of Sphinxes (No relation to the one in the Thalios ruins of the last book) You can pop a coin in one of their mouths and the sphinx will answer one question for you that might be useful, such as what you’ll need to prevent getting cursed, what equipment you’ll need on your mission, etc. You can ask as many question as you still have gold. You can even ask about the creepy old dude you’re traveling with and get an answer (The old guy is out of ear shot naturally)
This is about the only time you learn exactly what the old man is. He’s not even human. He’s a ghost of a high priest of the demon Bos (In the urn) and every year he finds someone make the yearly sacrifice. And it looks like that’s you this year.
As I mentioned, you get the option to ditch the old man a lot of times and you’re close enough to the tomb at this point that you don’t need him anymore, so now is a time to also do it. (Just don’t drop the urn.)
However, if you want you can follow the ghost cultist all the way to the appointed destination. Actually you don’t even enter the tomb the normal way, you go in through a hidden entrance that you can only do so with the ghost. It’s actually a short cut to the sacrificial room, where upon the old man will seal you in which even if you don’t break that urn, you’re going to be trapped and slowly die of starvation/thirst. (Naturally breaking the urn will kill you quicker)
Of course you get one last chance to ditch the old man here before and this is the ONLY time you can drop the urn and not get insta-killed probably because you’re attempting to dive and roll under a block trying to seal you in, so by the time Big Bos materializes you’ve either succeeded and on the other side of the wall or you failed and you’re crushed into goo by the wall.
Anyway no matter when or how you ditch the ghost priest, when you finally do you’re in the tomb proper and the second part of the adventure begins.
So the “correct” path to the pyramid involves actually talking Gabbad. Talking to the kid leads to his nephew taking you to see him and you’ll be dealing with a few assassin attacks, but Gabbad is willing to take you to the tomb since he’s old, his brother is going to take over his shop and his wife is dead anyway.
Traveling with Gabbad probably has the potential for the most desert fights. There’s another assassin attack, you’ll have to face those jaguars AND there’s a possible abomination posing as an oasis. Ditching Gabbad instead of fighting is generally a bad idea since it typically leads to “whoops, you bump into something that kills you!” however you can ditch Gabbad with the oasis monster, though this leads to you getting lost and since you’re lost, well there’s an old man that suddenly appears willing to help you…
This also involves a bit of a “time loop” since it sort of assumes you’re meeting the old man at the beginning of your journey, meaning you’ll get another battle with the jaguars that you should’ve killed already when you were with Gabbad. I dunno, chalk all this loop weirdness up to ancient curses fucking up the time continuum in the area I guess.
You can bypass some of the fighting and potential dehydration with the flying carpet. You can even ask the sphinx some questions with gold when you reach him this path. However, no matter what Gabbad succumbs to the journey and the heat shortly before you can enter the tomb. You bury him and you’re on your way.
Alright so no matter how you got in here, you’re in the tomb and all the dangers that entails. Honestly, this part is much like the temple part in the Temple of Flame book, meaning it isn’t as interesting. There are some difficult encounters and a lot of traps that you have to get by, but nothing that excessively stands out like in the last two books that I went over. Maybe exploring musty old triangle shaped dungeons just doesn’t lend for a whole lot of “personality.”
Still there are a few bits I suppose I can mention. First encounter is potentially against some tomb robbers that you overhear killed the one they were supposedly guiding. I suppose finding this place isn’t really the hard part so much as it is actually entering it. (In the two non-ghost priest paths, you DO have to figure out that you’re supposed to enter the tomb at a certain time of day or get killed by a trap) You can pick up a magic rope from them which you’ll actually need in some later encounters. (You’ll need to find the very important magic flute to get it to work deeper in the tomb)
In another turn of bad editing, there’s a trap with some food and wine, however you can’t get killed by this choice. Why? Because there’s no fucking number beside it so you wouldn’t know what to turn to! You only know its trapped due to picking one of the other choices that expose the illusion.
Getting a crystal eye from a mechanical scorpion is sort of useful even if the combat could be an instant kill if you roll wrong. (Though in a rarity you can insta-kill the scorpion too if you roll well) The crystal eye acts as a “third eye” so fastening it to the back of your cloak so you can’t get surprised is the order of the day here.
There’s a bit where you can fuck about with demons if you’re into that sort of thing. Basically you’ll come across a row of statues though two are empty. One is dedicated to Ipo the coiled serpent and the other is dedicated to… Bos the bone cracker (Well you know his whole name now) Stepping on either of these is hilariously dangerous, though surprisingly not necessarily a death sentence. If you step on Ipo, you’ll get teleported and have to not only deal with Ipo, but also a shitload of snake dangers in general. Lots of chances to roll wrong and get yourself insta-killed, but Ipo is at least beatable.
If you’re insane enough to want to step on Bos, well there’s a few things that can happen. You’ll get teleported back to his sacrificial room for one thing. Now if you didn’t encounter the old man at all, you’ll just make the assumption that you have to sacrifice something here in order to get out. If you found any useful item like the crystal eye for example you can place it on the altar and get teleported out. Otherwise you’re starving to death.
Now if you did the path with the old guy and dropped the urn just before you escaped from this room before, well you win a Darwin award because Bos was unleashed and still lurking about in here and also pissed about you just dropping him earlier. Predictably he eats you.
If you never actually dropped the urn well here’s the only time it actually comes in handy. You place the urn on the altar and uncork it to release Bos.
Big Bad Bonecrackin’ Bos
Amusingly he’s fairly calm when released properly though he’s wondering that if it’s sacrifice time again then where is his sacrifice? You need to give him one of your magic items like the magic rope or eye, etc in order to prevent becoming the sacrifice. Upon getting his sacrifice he’ll teleport you out.
Both of these sort of allow you to bypass some of the other dangers in the pyramid, however skipping around like this doesn’t really help since there’s items you potentially miss out on. As always, it’s better to just not fuck with demons. Especially because you’re most likely going to bump into them later even if you don’t mess with them, however, you’ll probably be better equipped because you didn’t teleport all over the place.
Though even if you avoid those two, you still might run into this minor one called the Eater of Hearts
This is a meaner furry than the catgirls Oliver put in the last two times
The Eater of Hearts will Kali-Ma you instantly if you roll badly in combat, so he’s not an easy battle, but having that crystal eye attached to the back of your cloak at least prevents him from ambushing you.
What else…well I mean that’s about it for anything excessively memorable. Most of the tomb is very much like the Temple of Flame, with left/right choices, needing a particular item to make things easier, etc.
Oh you also need to find the other have of the stone tablet you have so you can avoid the curse when you finally get to the tomb of the Pharaoh itself. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon where it is during the maze like bit towards the end (Ugh mazes, always a bad idea, though this one is tolerably short) you can nab it and a scepter which makes getting to the end a lot quicker.
Anyway reach the tomb, insert the tablet halves where they need to be and that’s it. You basically lifted the curse and manage to grab a valuable staff before you have to run out the place like Indy since its now collapsing on itself.
Fortunately like in most of these things, you run out of a secret passage that opens up leading outside and you find yourself surrounded by a bunch of desert nomads who bow before you because you’re now their white savior.
Yeah this one is probably the worst of the 6 books with the errors and loops going on. It also doesn’t have much going on after you get to the tomb. Even the Temple of Flame had a pet monkey and had a rival that you were trying to get revenge on. I think that’s what this one needed. Maybe an enemy like the assassin’s guild or the other white dude in the beginning could have popped up once or twice during the dungeon crawl like Damontir did. The evil ghost priest probably would have been even better as a reoccurring enemy.
Oddly, you never fight one mummy in this game. Add false advertising to the list as well.
One last fun bit of trivia though, the cover of the book was also re-used on the cover an old Games Workshop game box called Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. Actually owned that one at one time.
Alright, well on to the last of the six.
6. Castle of Lost Souls
Well, at least this one looks like he has the right attitude even if he is dressed like some prep-school faggot.
Alright 6th book and they’re already recycling material. Well not entirely, but it still happened.
So there was a shorter and different version of this game published in an old copy of White Dwarf when that magazine was still cool. This isn’t the first time this has been done since there’s at least two Fighting Fantasy books that did something similar this and in both cases the attempt to extend them into a proper stand alone book didn’t work out so well. I suppose we’ll see if Dave managed to overcome the problem that Ian had with his two attempts.
Right off the bat this one starts you off like you’re an actual adventurer, since you got a sword, a dagger, a tinder box, a lantern and even a fucking bow with 7 arrows. This is in addition to 30 gold pieces again.
The back story even starts off with how you’re finishing up an expensive meal (with your loot from the last adventure no doubt) and you’re getting ready to leave town because quite frankly it’s too fucking peaceful and nobody’s even hiring.
That is until this guy named Jasper Faze comes running to you exclaiming that he and his family need your help. There’s some text about how you easily pass all the little challenges he has to see if you got what it takes for this mission. Even more than the Temple of Flame intro, this REALLY goes into how much of an Alpha Chad you are, splitting arrows with other arrows, beating up bodyguards, lightning reflexes by dodging…skittles? (Seriously it says you dodge a bunch of skittles Jasper throws at you). Afterwards, you get the full story.
Their father Luther made a deal with a demon called Slank, that in exchange for lots of wealth to leave to his children, Slank would get his soul. Six months later Luther died as his children stood by his deathbed. Luther told Jasper what he’d done in his last words. His daughter cried and a tear drop of hers landed on Luther’s face.
While all this was going on, Slank entered the room and took Luther’s soul and whisked it away to the Castle of Lost Souls. While Slank was chortling evilly and locking up the castle doors behind him, Luther took the tear drop from his cheek and cast it into Slank’s eye, permanently blinding it. While Slank was in pain, Luther ran off to the castle’s library and barricaded himself in there and studied up on how to destroy Slank. He then contacted his children via a book of necromancy to appear to them through their dreams.
Okay, well that’s a fun set up and all. But it really does raise a lot of questions. First, even if Luther’s daughter cried a tear on his face, how the fuck did his SOUL get it? Presumably the tear and his dead body would be in the physical realm right? I mean, MAYBE his soul took the tear off his own corpse before Slank showed up, but that’s really stretching it. I’m already stretching the idea that a tear would maintain its “wetness” long enough for Luther to half blind Slank with after holding it in his ghost hand for so long. But who knows, magic, whatever the fuck I guess.
The second question is, how much of a loser is Slank that he’s got a “rogue” soul that’s barricaded up in his own fucking castle? You’re telling me, he couldn’t figure out a way to get him out of there? I mean I get the idea that maybe Slank figures Luther is trapped in the castle no matter where he is and that’s good enough, but Slank just comes off looking very incompetent at best and an outright pussy at worst if he doesn’t want to even try to get to Luther. The dude fucking took out his eye after all.
Well anyway to defeat Slank, you need a crystal ball, a four leaf clover, ashes of a saint, hair of a nun, armor of a chivalrous knight and finally another tear from Jasper’s sister, which he’s got in a vial that he gives you. It’s up to you to go find the other items. Kill Slank and Jasper will pay you a shitload of riches and that’s really all the motivation you need as an adventurer.
So you decide to find the crystal ball and the four leaf clover first. Your first move is to head to the tavern in town called the “Four Leaf Clover”. From there, you got a lot of options, from stealing a piece of horse brass in the shape of a four leaf clover, to talking to the various patrons, and finally talking to the innkeeper.
Okay so if you didn’t learn anything from the last book, asking random bar people ultimately is a waste of money at best and at worst you get yourself robbed and/or murdered. The group of failed adventurers (Didn’t complete Jasper’s mission) in particular are enthusiastic to waste you, but then c’mon they’re adventurers, would you really expect any different?
The gypsies predictably try to get you drunk to rob you, which again you really should know better.
The farmers just let you buy them more drinks and aren’t even that helpful.
Now being an adventurer yourself, I know that stealing everything that isn’t nailed down (And even stuff that is) is the standard operating procedure, but the problem is that can lead to a pretty tough battle with four enemies if you get caught.
Honestly the easiest thing to do is just ask the innkeeper who says there’s a shitload of clover that grows in the back of the inn, hence why he called it that. Go look for the clover and you got it.
So on to the crystal ball. There’s some encounters though only one of note is rolling well so a fat cutpurse doesn’t steal all your gold. Eventually you’ll stumble upon more gypsies since apparently they’ve infested this town. One of them directs you to a fortune teller who is a nearby caravan, “Gypsy Gayl”
Gayl though isn’t some old crone that you were expecting. She’s one of those hawt temptress gypsies, though the text also goes on about her having red hair as if being a filthy gypsy didn’t make her untrustworthy enough.
Well at least she’s not a furry.
Anyway, once again you get a wide variety of options and once again ONE of the options makes this really easy without any cost to you.
Getting your fortune told results in her knowing why you’re there and permanently drains a single vigor point in exchange for a spare crystal ball she has. While this doesn’t sound bad, as I said it’s permanent. You can’t heal this loss and you’re going to be going up against a fucking demon and who knows what else, you need all the life points you can get.
Suggesting that she tell her own fortune once again exposes your intensions and she calls in a couple of her gypsies buddies to come hack you up. If you win, you can take the crystal ball, but this really was avoidable since it was a retarded choice in the first place.
You can outright just steal the crystal ball, which is always a time honored adventurer tradition. This could get your cursed though if you fail a PSI test and that will fuck up your future combat rolls.
Finally the last choice is the best one. Just ask the lady out for a drink. Seriously, it’s already established that you’re a Chad and she’s a gypsy, when she isn’t thieving in her spare time, she’s going to be drinking and whoring. In any case, she accepts your offer and as you get her more drunk, some of her fellow gypsies and the townies start egging her on to dance for them and like any drunk attention whore she does just that.
And while she’s getting publicly spit roasted, you smartly nip off back to her wagon and get her crystal ball.
You’re half way there already.
So the next item you decide to get is the armor piece. Two ways you can get this one, but once again one of the choices is a whole lot easier. You can either go get a piece from the jousting tournament the next day or go visit some scholar who collects sets of armor. Go see the scholar and you’ll tell him a story about being something of an armor collector yourself. You talk with him a bit and when he isn’t looking you shave a piece of a knight’s armor off with your dagger and soon leave.
Now if you went with the jousting tournament, once again it’s really easy if you just choose to ASK the fucking knight for a piece of his armor because of your demon killing mission. He’ll completely understand and just give you a piece. Attempting to trick him or once again STEAL the piece will just make the shit harder than it needs to be.
It is amusing to think though that so far your character could have just stolen all these items like a fucking klepto.
In any case, when you got this last item you return to the Faze mansion where upon Jasper tells you that the ashes and the nun hair probably won’t be found in town since it isn’t a particularly holy place. (Obviously with the gypsy infestation) So he says you’ll have better luck finding those last two items on your way to the Castle of Lost Souls.
You get to heal up and the next day Jasper gives you a talisman so his father will recognize you when you find him in the castle. He also gives you some healing salves for your journey. I should point out that this is one of the very rare times you get any substantial healing items at all in these books, let alone more than one. At best you might find a single healing potion in a book which of course added to the notion that these books were hardcore.
Finally he gives some warning about two tribes of goblins that live in the swamps you’re going to be going through at some point. One tribe always lies and one always tells the truth. (Ah yes that old one) Also there’s some phantasms that you need to ignore.
So the first encounter out of town is a toll collector at the bridge. Now you should have some gold to pay the toll since it’s only 4 and you typically never spend that much in town (Especially if you were just going around stealing shit) If you don’t pay the toll, he’ll jack up the price to 7, and if you don’t pay that you’ll have to kill the collector. He’s got a lot of gold and a speed potion. He’s also got a jade horn shaped amulet that you can take.
I know it sounds odd, but being a civilized person works to your advantage here because if you pay the toll, you can also ask the toll collector where the other items might be, and he’ll direct you to a shrine where you can get the ashes since it is entirely possible to miss the shrine otherwise.
So at the shrine you can get the ashes, however you can’t just grab them. The gods will judge if you’re worthy or not and if you’ve been going around killing people thanks to your less than reputable actions (Probably trying to steal shit) you’ll have to face an angelic executioner (Tough battle) before getting the ashes. The only exception is the fat cutpurse since he was an asshole and gods are okay with you killing him.
If you haven’t been a murderer, then you get the ashes without any combat at all.
Alright so the next encounter involves a broken coach getting attacked by bandits. The people that were riding in it are helpless and the remaining guard is losing. So you can help them out or avoid the encounter. Avoiding the encounter is a bad idea since you miss your chance at getting the nun’s hair.
You can wade into the fight pants on head retarded and have a very tough fight against four enemies or you can save yourself a bit of potential grief by using that bow you have. Hit enough of them and you won’t have to fight shit.
Afterwards, you’ll meet the survivors, one of which is a woman who is going to a nearby convent to take her nun vows, so you escort them there. At the convent you’ll spend the night healing up and the next morning you’ll bump into a group of soldiers, who have also stopped there. The captain starts talking to you and you find that he’s a bit too fanatical on the whole law and order thing.
In fact, I hope you didn’t decide to take that jade amulet from the toll keeper if you killed him. If you did, the captain recognizes it right away and immediately has you seized for murdering one of the king’s toll collectors. It mentions that while he acts in the name of justice, his evil is worse than yours could ever be and that your end isn’t a pleasant one.
Of course if you avoided all that, you just take your leave of the fanatical soldier and then grab a piece of nun hair from the woman who just shaved her head after taking her vows.
Congrats, you got ‘em all, now to get to the castle.
So the next encounter is a big burly man fishing, if you help him out he’ll give you his ring of light and mention that as an extra favor he’ll dine on fish tonight. There is a bit more of a sinister reason for this comment. The man is actually an ogre. How you can’t tell this I have no idea, maybe he’s half human and you’re just chalking him up as a big ugly human. You can encounter this ogre in the path where you avoided the helping fight off the bandits. You’ll stumble upon his hut and he’ll be friendly and then promptly try to eat you later.
Next encounter is a mountain lion. By now I hope you’ve noticed a theme with this game. Don’t be an aggressive asshole. Choosing to wait a moment to see what the lion will do gives the surprise that the lion actually can talk and has a thorn in his paw. Helping him out results in gaining more info on the goblin tribes. The Drans always tell the truth and the Kabbagoos always lie.
Speaking of them, the next encounter involves the said goblins. There’s two of them and naturally one tells the truth and the other lies. Or really, the one that lies does all the talking. When you ask one if he’s a Dran or Kabbagoo, he says it so quietly that you can’t hear, causing the other one to say “He said he’s a Kabbagoo, are you deaf?” (That right there should tip you off that the one currently talking is a Kabbagoo since if the other one was actually a Kabbagoo, he wouldn’t have said he was, he would have said he was a Dran)
So then you ask the talkative one which way to the swamp and he tells you to take a left. Which of course is the wrong way and you end up heading to Dragonbreath Canyon and fall down a sudden crack in the ground and the steam burns you alive.
Heading to the swamp leads to the phantasms portion. Twice you’ll see an item needed in your quest to defeat Slank. Going up to the items will just cause it to disappear and you’ll move on. Ignoring them completely is the most ideal. However, choosing to check your backpack will result in ALL your items being stolen by the mist. At this point you can either continue your quest anyway, or return to Jasper and get your ass chewed out and your reputation destroyed as you slink out of town with a non-death fail ending.
This in itself is a bit of trolling because if you continue with your mission anyway, you’ll eventually find all your items just a few more feet ahead and get them all back. Lol.
After that, you camp down for the night only to be surrounded by…Marshons. And yes they have big heads and big eyes just like their similar sounding space alien counterparts. In any case, you’ll be trampled by them if you don’t do something. The best solution is to use the ring of light you got from the ogre which drives them off immediately. Throwing your sword so they go chase the shiny object sucks, but its the only other option that doesn’t result in getting trampled to death. (You have to use your dagger at a minus one to your combat)
The next morning you soon have your sights set upon the Castle of Lost Souls. However, it’s sort of guarded by illusions and you can’t keep your focus on it to tell which direction its actually in. This is when you should just use the crystal ball since it shows you immediately where to walk. Now you can still get there without it, but you’ll end up losing at least one of your items needed to fight Slank, potentially more than one. So don’t fuck around and just whip out your ball.
Alright, so now you’re at the castle. The thing to do now is find Jasper’s dad Luther.
So the Castle unfortunately is a bit of a maze with “go left, go right” type thing, though in some cases the paths eventually reroute to the main one. It’s actually possible to miss finding Luther, on the other hand it is entirely possible to bump into Slank on several different occasions and most of the time interacting with him will NOT go well (AKA instant death) It’s actually easy to spot him though since he always appears with a fucked up right eye no matter what human form he takes (Usually he’ll be wearing an eye patch)
This was sort of a nice touch that Slank doesn’t just sit around waiting for you to find him, he’ll actually try to fuck you up at various points while you’re bumbling around his home. There’s actually not as many fights in the castle as you’d think. It’s mostly just Slank either fucking with you or some death trap encounter.
But let’s say you actually find Luther since while it’s possible to miss him, it’s not hard to find him either.
Luther will answer the door you knock on and bring you in to discuss in greater detail what you need to do. (With a book called “Dealing with Demons”) He mentions the four leaf clover acts like a crucifix to him and if possible you need to throw that other tear drop into his other eye to blind him completely.
He’ll then ask if you have the nun hair and armor piece, if you do he’ll affix the armor piece to one of your arrows and restring your bow with the nun hair. He’ll then tell you to shoot Slank in the heart with it which will kill him instantly. He’ll then ask if you have the ashes and if you do, he’ll tell you to scatter them on Slank’s body.
If you don’t have some of the items, he’ll just say hopefully you’ll be able to kill Slank anyway, but you’ll have to be more careful.
After you leave the library, it’s more wandering in the castle trying not to get killed by any of Slank’s tricks. Assuming you manage to go the correct way. You’ll come across a cozy room with a bearskin rug…which will promptly attack you if you stick around. Killing it is sort of important though since you need to take it with you on the very next encounter from that which is a room filled with bitter cold and ice. The bear skin will prevent damage.
Within the ice though is a mask of some sort. This is actually Slank’s mask he wears to protect his other eye. It’s hard to dig it out of the ice, so hopefully you found a jar of salt during your wanderings, otherwise heating up your dagger and digging with it, allows for the chance of failing and breaking your dagger.
If you manage to dig out the mask, you won’t be able to take it with you due to an unnatural chill that saps your strength to even pick it up. What you can do is make it inaccessible to Slank too, by leaving the four leaf clover in it. You can also use the tear drop, but that’s a waste since you need that to throw into Slank’s other eye.
Speaking of Slank, he’ll be coming up next, so let’s get on with this final encounter already.
This makes it look like Slank bit through previous page to get to you. Not sure if that was the intention, but it’s a cool effect.
So it is entirely possible to beat Slank even if you don’t have ANY of the shit to hurt him. It just makes the battle a whole lot harder. Like depriving him of his mask is actually the most important thing because if you don’t, you’ll have to fight him at full strength since you won’t be able to cast the tear in his eye (Mask protects his eye) and you won’t have time to shoot the arrow either.
To top it off, if you don’t have the ashes, you’ll have to fight him one more time after you kill him. (Though he’ll be in a weaker state)
There can be a mix and match of these things of course. Like blinding him but not having the arrow to kill him, makes the battle a little easier, but still not the best efficiency.
So for a maximum win: Put the clover in the mask, blind him with the tear, shoot him with the arrow then dump the ashes on his dead body. You don’t have to fight him at all in this way.
Anyway, you killed Slank. Congrats. You get to see all the souls that Slank captured in his castle fly away free, including Luther Faze. You then leave the empty castle (which then disappears when you look back at it outside) and return to Jasper. Jasper rewards you with a party and a bunch of riches. Already people are making songs in your honor and all that other good shit.
It then says you look forward to living in peace and quiet with all your new wealth.
Which probably only lasts a year tops because you will have spent it all on alcohol and gypsy whores.
So I’d say this one did a good job of expanding whatever the shorter version of it was. I can’t quite tell what was added since I never read the original, plus it said it was changed too. There are times where some parts felt a little short and the more maze bits of the castle felt like filler, but enough interesting encounters were in the book to make up for this.
While it’s not the best of the series, it’s an acceptable book to end the series on. (At least better than the last book)
These past two books have clearly been a different kid, it's possible he's merely pretending to be left-handed so nobody notices.
Thanks for reviewing this series! haven't heard about game books until now so I ordered the two you recommended as the best in the series to try them out myself.
Thanks, while I do think 3 and 4 are the best, 1 is cool too. Just a little shorter than the others.
I'd say 6 and 2 would be next then the last one being 5.