Well it’s probably about time I actually reviewed this series, especially since it’s been available for quite awhile in digital format across several platforms.
This series review will be of the original book series though which is actually quite different than the digital version. I might go into these differences in slightly more detail a little later, though Suranna claimed she was going to do a review of the digital version months ago and she still hasn’t done it yet because she’s more interested in being a lazy, degenerate, insubordinate Mormon, but enough about the lesser born.
So the background for this one is at its core it’s a Fighting Fantasy book, but mixed with the multiple book arc similar to the Lone Wolf series. There’s 4 books in all and each one actually gets a bit longer than the next. The last one having a whopping 800 paragraph entries. Technically you could start “in the middle” (Like say the second book) and still complete the series, but starting late was pushing things a bit in your chance to win the adventure. In fact if you tried to start from the last book, you were already doomed to fail since you needed some things from past books to get through it.
Steve Jackson wrote the series all by himself which makes sense since he always was the one doing a little bit more with the FF format than Ian was. The entire series takes place in the “Old World” which is a continent on the world of Titan where a lot of the FF books take place, though usually those adventures take place on Allansia (Or to a lesser extent Khul). Now I’m not entirely sure if the Sorcery setting was supposed to be separate from the FF series at the time or always part of it and they hadn’t gotten around to connecting the lore until later, but in any case it’s part of the world of Titan now. Later FF books apparently took place in the continent as well.
The Old World is supposed to be a tad more civilized than the other two continents, which isn’t saying much given all the horrors still wandering around and large areas still untamed by any nation, but they got gunpowder so there’s that. (Unfortunately you don’t get a gun)
So the premise is the Old War was a war torn land until some magic item called the Crown of Kings was created and an agreement was made between the major nations of the continent. Basically every king would get to wear the crown for 4 years bringing prosperity to their kingdom until it was time to pass it on to another king and the kings just passed this magic crown around that way.
And apparently this worked really well. Nobody was sure if it really was just that magical or if it was just the power of positivity thinking the crown did all this shit. Either way, nobody wanted to fuck up anything so presumably this is why none of the kings decided to just say “Hey, why don’t I just keep the crown FOREVER?”
Well until someone did, though it wasn’t one of the kings. Some arch mage at a fortress called Mampang had his birdmen minions steal it so he could make Kakhabad his kingdom. (Kakhabad would be that large area that isn’t civilized)
Besides having a major wizard running around with a magic ruling crown uniting all the monsters living in Kakhabad under his banner being a bad thing, the kingdom that had the crown before he stole it, Analand was starting to fall into chaos. Not to mention now all the other kings were pissed at the place for losing the fucking thing.
Naturally sending a military force to go retrieve the crown from the arch-mage wouldn’t work, no the best idea for this scenario is to send in a single adventurer type to drag his ass across hostile territory and sneak into the fortress to get it back. He’ll never expect such a plan!
Anyway, this is where you come in naturally.
So the gameplay is very much like a standard FF book. You’ve got SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK. You roll dice and add a certain amount to see what your total is. Combat works the same way it does in a FF book.
You also follow the goddess Libra who will help you out of a life or death situation ONCE per book. Usually you’ll get the option to pray to her in these cases. You can also pray to her unprompted to either restore all your stats to their maximum level or get rid of any diseases or curses you’ve picked up. You don’t get prompts for these, you can just decide to do it during a time when you’re not doing anything like fighting. Still counts towards the one time prayer per book though.
Finally you get the option to either play as a warrior or a wizard. If you play as a warrior, you pretty much can just start playing immediately, but you’re sort of losing half the fun of the books if you do. Now if you play as a wizard, you have to deduct two from your total SKILL points since you’re never going to be as good of a swordsman as a warrior, but playing as a wizard really does give you a whole lot more fun options and those options is a whole entire list of spells. 48 of them to be exact.
Might as well go over this bit in this intro since it’s sort of interesting how this was implemented from gameplay perspective.
(In an effort to create more immersion, my hamster at the time even took a few nibbles of the sides to make it look even more like an old spell book. Hammy will always be remembered)
The spell book was actually sold separately usually along side the first book. I got them both together. What you got in the book is a few rules on how to use the book along with a description of each spell and an illustration accompanying it. Cool shit really.
So how this all worked is during encounters you’d sometimes get the option of casting a spell. Spells were identified by a three letter word. So for example “HOT” was the fireball spell. ZAP was the lightning bolt spell. WAL was the invisible barrier spell and so on. You then turned to the numbered paragraph to see the results. Not all of them were quite that obvious, but then you were encouraged to actually study the book like you were an actual fucking wizard learning the spells.
Why? Because fuck you that’s why. No seriously, once you started the adventure you were NOT supposed to look at this book again! The idea was that a nation’s spell book was a closely held secret and potentially taking it with you to fall into enemy hands was a bad idea.
Which I sort of thought was retarded logic.
I’m going up against a fucking arch-mage. I’m sure he already knows hundreds of more spells than I do. And if some savage manages to smash my head in along the way to him, the book is probably going to be used as kindling at best and shitpaper at worst. And do the nations of this continent only have a SINGLE spell book in the fucking land? If so, that seems like a really bad policy.
I’m trying to save the fucking world and you’re already making shit harder for me.
Now the other rationale for this commit to memory thing is that if you were in a “real fight” you wouldn’t just be able to flip through your spell book figuring out what spell to cast at your enemies. This was a little bit more logical, but still didn’t explain why you couldn’t just take the book with you and study it on your downtime.
Anyway, fortunately I have a good memory so whatever.
Which brings me to the whole STAMINA thing. Casting spells was a tiring business and you always lost a certain amount of stamina points when doing it. How many points you lost depended on the spell. Now there were some spells that didn’t require any items to cast so these were usually on the expensive side of things costing usually about 4 STAMINA points.
Other spells requires items to cast, things from vials of glue to bee’s wax to a ring of green metal, etc. These usually were a lot less to cast (1 or 2) but of course it you didn’t have the item and were trying to cast the spell, you fail to cast shit and lose the stamina anyway. (And probably suffer some effect of the immediate danger you were trying to avoid with the spell in the first place)
Now the earlier books (1 & 2) actually have “trap” spells. Meaning they would deliberately put fake three letter names as options so if you forgot things and picked these, you ended up just losing STAMINA points (Usually 5 as it heavily penalized you for guessing) and didn’t cast shit. As I remember by book 3 they didn’t have these anymore mainly because by that time you probably collected at least a few of the needed items to cast all the spells listed in the book. In fact the spell book even says some of the spells you won’t be able to cast until later and a few you probably won’t ever cast at all.
The spells weren’t really in any sort of order other than “ease of use” I suppose. The first spells listed were mainly the ones that you typically didn’t need any items for and the ones towards the later half of the book you probably wouldn’t get around to casting until the later books and you’d need the item to cast it.
Now there was one infamous spell at the end of the book called the ZED spell. Basically nobody knew what the fuck this spell did. Even the illustration of it is a big ass question mark.
(I'm sure this spell will never come up at all in the adventure)
You get a description of the spell being a mystery and only a powerful necromancer in the past had the balls to try to cast it once and nobody knows what the hell happened to him so the effects still aren’t known. It also cost a fearsome 7 STAMINA points way more than any of the other spells.
So that’s it for how spells worked. Also by the time the third book came out a few years had passed by this point and I guess making a separate book for the spells wasn’t cost effective anymore, so the third and fourth books had a very condensed version of the spell list in the backs of those books instead. Again you weren’t supposed to look at these once you were already on the adventure, but now the temptation is even greater!
I think that’s about it for the basics, next post will actually start the first book of the series proper. Stay tuned!
Great series! I tried my hand at these when I was around 10, and unsurprisingly, did not finish all four books. I did manage to beat book 1, since if you keep plugging at that one you'll eventually get to the end, but book 2 defeated me, since you need to go around collecting these clues, and I couldn't find any of them. I should pick these up again now that I'm older and have presumably increased my INT stat a little.
I remember there was this one creature called a minping or something that followed you around for the back half of book one. His deal is he has a nullifying effect on magic, so you can't cast spells while he's around. Except, my family didn't own the spellbook (and I hadn't yet realized that book 4 had an abbreviated version in the back), so I was playing as a warrior, and instead of finding him annoying, as the book repeatedly tells you you should, didn't have a problem with him.
This must have been a formative experience of my youth because I can remember the plot and details (and ultimate grisly end) of each of my runthroughs surprisingly well. This is probably the series that got me into IF.
The Minimite. I'll be mentioning him in the book 1 write up.
1. The Shamutanti Hills
As I go through this, I might point out a few differences with the digital version here and there, though not all of them just in case Suranna actually stops being a worthless waste of space and provides a review.
Alright so it might help to get an idea of this adventure by looking at the map that gets provided, so let’s go ahead and do that.
Fuck this shit, I’m going back home.
So you start in that lower left corner with the big outpost wall and gate where it says Analand. Your first part of the journey is going to be all that hilly section going by the same name of the first book.
The second part of the journey is going to be that city Khare, the third part is going across the Baklands and across that big ass lake. Finally the last part will be the last bit to Mampang Fortress in the upper right corner and getting inside it.
The adventure starts out with you talking to a Sightmaster which are a race of creatures with huge fucking eyes. Naturally they got them on look out duty at the outpost. (And yep, I used the name of this race as the name of Warrick’s title when he’s part of the Eyes in Eternal) The Sightmaster goes on about how dangerous your journey is going to be and generally not sugar coating anything.
"Yeah, you're fucked dude."
He gives you a little advice on which direction to go and mentions how after you get past Khare, your progress is going to be WATCHED.
Well gee, so much for the stealth approach if the fucking arch mage is going to already know I’m coming. Might as well have fucking sent a military force anyway.
He also mentions that how day and night in the Baklands aren’t controlled by the sun but by supernatural forces, which is downright terrifying if one thinks about it. It’s literally an area not subject to the basic laws of fucking nature and you get to travel through it.
So the Shammy Hills aren’t completely without pockets of civilization. There’s a few villages here and there and you’ll be encountering one soon called Cantopani where you can buy some shit with the meager 20 gold pieces you start with.
One thing of note is an axe with some writing on it saying Glandragor and a number. Knowing Steve Jackson’s love of putting numbers on items to make them paragraph references later (Like adding or subtracting said number and turning to the result) it’s an item that just might come in handy later.
The rest of the items are of varying use. Like buying the bag of teeth would be retarded if you weren’t a wizard that can use the teeth to cast particular spells (GOB summons goblins and YOB summons a giant, as long as you have the appropriate teeth) There’s also a trolly item in the form of a glittering gem which is expensive but turns out completely worthless as it melts as soon as you leave the village.
There is another option of asking to buy provisions which goes on to explain that you’ve just uncovered one of the “rules of the game.” Again somewhat trolly that this isn’t explained in the actual rule section of the book since you’ll miss this rule if you didn’t decide to buy the provisions, but hey fuck you if you can’t keep up.
So the “rule” is basically this, you NEED to at least eat at some point once per day or you’re going to lose STAMINA points the next day (Usually 3). Now typically you’ll get a prompt to eat before you go to sleep so you if you haven’t at that point, that’s the time to do so. Unless of course you don’t go to sleep. Yeah, there’s a few places where you get the option of instead of bedding down for the night, you can just walk through the night.
This usually allows you to avoid a potential wandering monster attacking you in the middle of the night, but it also results in a loss of stamina. (Usually 2) So if you don’t rest and don’t eat on top of it, you’ll be losing a lot of stamina and potentially dying from it. Yep, Steve implemented a basic “survival mode” into the game.
Anyway after leaving the village, you’re off to stumble through the wilderness. There’s generally two ways to go, one goes through the low valleys while the other is going up higher through the hills. Been awhile since I went through, but as I remember going up through the hills is generally the better idea since it avoids the potential encounters with elvins which are these small fey like creatures that tend to fuck with you.
In fact just before this path choice, you’ll come across an unavoidable encounter with an old man stuck in a tree due to getting robbed by elvins. He’ll hand you a spell book page after you help him out and give you some traveling advice.
Going through the hills of course has its own dangers, like a headhunter/cannibal village if you go the wrong way. You can actually get captured by them and it’ll be instant death unless you pray to Libra to bail your ass out.
One major bit is stumbling upon a mine that some goblins have been working. You can get some loot here if you explore the place. You can also stumble blindly through a dangerous part of the mine that can crash down around your head.
One item that you can find in the wilderness is a locket with a picture of a woman on it. There’s no indication of who it is or who it belonged to, but like any good adventurer you can snatch it up and keep it. This is one major example of how a simple item will come in handy WAY later down the line assuming you found it and kept it that long. (I’ll bring it up again in one of the later books)
Now you can tell everyone you have a girlfriend and have the picture to prove it!
Eventually you’ll get to another village called Kristatanti, where you might find out about the witch Alianna and how to get to her home if you find that to be a productive use of your time for some reason. Actually it sort of is if you’re a wizard, so you might as well head there.
So if you do decide to go to the witch’s place, you’ll find a HAWT young woman locked in a cage when entering her home (which was left unlocked). She says those elvin assholes locked her in it and if you let her out she’ll assist you on your journey. If you’re a warrior, she’ll give you a cool sword. If you’re a wizard, she’ll give you some spell components. (Useful stuff for multiple spells too)
Of course if you want to be a ruthless bastard, you can just steal shit from her house while she’s trapped in the cage. This doesn’t stop her from cursing you though which will fuck up your skill score.
No good deed goes unpunished though and even if you help her, she’ll remark that she can’t just give up her possessions without a fight and she turns her chair into a wooden golem. This isn’t a particularly difficult battle. In fact casting a HOT spell at it not only kills it, but hilariously causes her log cabin to catch fire too and she’ll run out of the house to get water to put it out.
That’s what you get for simping.
Regardless of how you beat the golem, Alianna won’t do anything else and you can leave.
DIGITAL DIFFERENCE: Interestingly this will play out a little differently depending on how much you help her since she asks for food too if you release her. Refusing to give her food will result in the wooden golem when you try to leave with your reward. If you give her the food too she actually won’t summon the wooden golem. (She still doesn’t put out after providing dinner though. Women, go an figure ‘em)
So next stop is another village amusingly called Dhumpus. That’s a terrible name for a village. In any case you can buy some more useful stuff here and sleep at a proper inn rather than camping outside like a murder hobo.
After leaving this place, you get a few more path choices leading to different encounters. One of note is yet another village which is a complete shithole.
Hey look it's Cel!
Now even just going by that picture alone, you should know this is a fucking PLAGUE VILLAGE. Hell even the description text of them being a sorry looking lot tells you as much. Passing through it will incur no penalty and you’ll just move on to the next stage of the journey. Of course fucking about and trying to talk to these lepers is almost certainly dooming you to catching the plague as well which is a loss of 3 stamina points per day until you cure it (Better pray to Libra) or die. The only potential positive is if you cast a spell on one of these plague families that actually heals them (DOC) and they give you some stuff.
If you’re done fucking around with plague bearers (Or managed to avoid this encounter altogether) you’ll move on to the next unavoidable encounter.
This is Jann the minimite and he’ll be traveling with you
So Jann is a talkative little pixie creature that will absolutely refuse to leave even if you want him to. Now if you’re a warrior, Jann traveling with you won’t make much difference, in fact you may like the idea of someone traveling with you and providing some background lore input every now and then.
If you’re a wizard however, it’s a whole other story. You will not be able to cast spells with him around. In fact if you ever try, he’ll even laugh saying you’re wasting your time (and stamina) as they won’t work. The little guy has a natural anti-magic field and apparently he’s quick enough that you can’t just swat him away either.
With this new companion in tow you’ll soon move on to the next village Birritanti which Jann has a lot of knowledge on and will mention the reason why all the children are acting like lawless ragamuffins is because the Festival of the Young is going on and for a day the children get to do what they want like drinking ale, tripping up old people, etc.
So you get a few options on what to do here. One is heading to the waterfall which has healing properties, including the plague if you were a retard earlier. The main place is Glandragor’s tavern. Does that name sound familiar? It should if you bought that axe way back in the beginning of the game. Giving Glandragor his axe back provides you with a contact in Khare by the name of Vik. “Vik” will actually show up as a spell option that you can pick regardless of if you’re a wizard or not. His name carries a lot of clout in the city and can get you out of trouble most of the time.
After you’re done with this village you’ll move on and get the opportunity to die instantly if you insist on going a particular path. One path will lead to the field of black lotus flowers which poison you and kill you (And Jann) if you try to pass through it. (And remember no spells can help you)
The other path leads to this fellow…
This is Flanker the assassin and he’ll be trying to kill you
Now this is an unavoidable fight, though not an excessively difficult one. In fact you’ll get the rare option of sparing his life once you hack his stamina points down to near death. He’ll beg for mercy saying he picks on people he thinks aren’t going to be a match for him and states he was clearly wrong this time.
Normally showing no mercy is the standard operating procedure, however sparing his life is sort of beneficial as you can make yet another Khare contact and you get a reference number for the next book of where you might bump into him again. You’ll part ways at this point and continue your journey.
DIGITAL DIFFERENCE: They REALLY expanded Flanker’s character in the digital version. He’ll only pop up once or even twice in the second book and then you’ll never see him again, but in the digital version you can bump into him even in book 3 and 4. Apparently they even added potentially romance faggotry with him since every fucking IF feels the need to do that for some horrible reason.
Alright now that you’re done making friends with murdering scumbags, you continue on your journey which is getting more narrow with unavoidable encounters. It also mentions how Jann is starting to get on your nerves with his constant talking.
Basically the next bit involves an old woman waving you over. Ignoring her is doomed to failure in more ways than one. You get one chance to ignore her, at which point she’ll warn you not to ignore her and even Jann suggests that you go see what she wants.
Ignoring her the second time results in her bringing down a tree in an attempt to kill you instantly. Failing your luck roll results in instant death, however even avoiding getting crushed just prolongs the inevitable since she’ll appear right in front of you and throw a lightning bolt at you. You can’t prevent this if you’re a warrior, and you can’t cast any spells due to Jann if you’re a wizard, so it’s instant death. Interestingly this is the only way you learn her real name as she states “Not to ignore Gaza Moon!”
So what all this means is you have to go find out what this old bitch wants.
Gaza will play the old poison cup game by offering you tea and leaving her cup on the table while she nips off to get something. You get the option of switching the cups. Fortunately for you she’s not Dread Pirate Roberts and hasn’t poisoned both, however she HAS poisoned her own so drinking the tea she gave you is the correct choice. In fact doing so has her nip off once again to take an antidote.
So what all this is about is she wants to know if you’ve encountered an old man with a spell page. Honestly its impossible to miss him though you could just lie or maybe you’ve lost the page since then.
Not having (or lying) the spell page just results in her getting bored with you and you leave. If you have the spell page though she’ll gleefully rip it off your hands and state that it’s a page from her own spell book. And that old man wasn’t actually old when he stole it before, she had cast an aging spell on him.
Now that she has the spell she will offer to get rid of Jann for you since the spell gets rid of pests anyway, (Gaza actually mentions that she dislikes minimites before you even sit to drink tea with her) If you’re a wizard, this is where you’ll probably want to part ways with Jann who will get teleported away. If you’re a warrior, well it doesn’t matter too much.
If you’re wondering if you switched out the tea, her poisoned tea you just drank paralyzes you and she’ll rifle through your backpack and take two items before teleporting you and Jann out of her house. Unless you have the spell page, at which point she’ll give you an antidote and give you the offer of getting rid of Jann again.
Alright so the next encounter is the next village called Torrepani which is inhabited by Svinn who are basically orc like folk. You may have even heard about how the chieftain’s daughter got captured recently if you spoke with Glandragor.
And guess who is about to get press ganged into rescuing her?
Yeah so regardless of what you do in the village, the pig people are going to capture you and the chieftain will insist that you MUST be their champion since his heir got taken by marauders so that they could sacrifice her to a demon in a deep pit/cave.
And this is the last leg of the journey. If Jann is still with you, you won’t be using any spells to help you in this endeavor. Which will definitely make things harder due to this place being a death trap AND a fucking mini-maze on top of it. There are a lot of traps in this cave that will kill you instantly or trap you in a deep pit which is basically the same thing as killing you. Usually only a call to Libra will bail you out these situations.
If you manage to successfully navigate the maze and avoid the traps, you’ll eventually find the svinn girl and the demon that she’s supposed to be sacrificed to, though it’s not actually a demon, it’s merely a manticore. (Front cover spoiler!)
The manticore is a very tough fight with 12 skill and 18 stamina. It’s even got a special attack where it might get the chance to do six extra points of damage to you if it hits. Even a warrior with maximum skill himself is going to have a hard time with it. A wizard who can’t cast spell is even worse off.
Of course if you can cast spells, you can potentially avoid a straight up fight altogether, might have to use a combo of slowing it down and then a more offensive spell first though.
In any case if you manage to the beat the spikey tailed kitty, you get out of the cave and be rewarded by the svinn village who will give you some gold, heal all your stats to their original levels, give you a key that can unlock the gates to Khare and get rid of Jann if he’s still flapping about with you. Honestly this last one is pretty much assumed automatically since Jann does not show up in the second book.
At least you didn’t have to marry his daughter.
And that’s it for this part of the journey.
It’s a cool opening for the overall journey. The digital version adds a bit more in paths. I remember another mine area you can explore. There’s also a subplot you can uncover about a goblin invasion of Khare. The whole reason the goblins are fucking around with the mines is to dug under the city and let in an even greater horde that’s in the Baklands. You can expose this plot but not much happens or at least not in the first book.
Next up, Khare, the cityport of traps.
Well Steve Jackson did get some of the idea for this book series after his trip to Nepal and India so the names make perfect sense.
2. Khare - Cityport of Traps
The trap you wake up to the next morning when you’re sober. Ohhhhh!
Alright the second leg of the journey and you get a short background lore of the city itself first. It goes on about how Khare was most likely started as a bandit/pirate encampment that robbed ships passing along the river back in the old days before it became a proper settlement. Then as decades passed the place grew into the city it is today.
Given however that it started out as a criminal encampment, it’s not really surprising that the city even today is practically lawless. There’s some guards on the city nobles payroll but they’re pretty much just there to track who’s coming in and out the place and to protect the important areas. The citizens generally don’t rely on official city authorities and form their own personal defense in their neighborhood or set up LOTS of traps to deter would be criminals that might have ill intent. Hence the nickname cityport of traps.
So yes, you’re traveling through fantasy Detroit.
It also says you MUST travel through Khare since trying to cross the river any other way is impossible. I find that somewhat hard to believe if you look at the map, but “thou must” and all that.
Let’s get some general gameplay stuff out of the way first.
This book is probably more difficult than the third book thanks to how it is set up. It probably would even beat out the fourth book in difficulty if that one wasn’t set up in such a way that you need shit from past books to get through it. I’d also say this is the “latest” you can start the series and still beat the entire adventure.
There are a lot of opportunities to go the wrong way and miss out on vital information needed to beat the book (More on that later) The entire book of course takes place in the city of Khare and it feels almost like walking through a giant maze even though you’re pretty much always going forward like you normally do in these gamebooks.
Now if you spared Flanker the assassin you can turn to the page reference in this book to see how that works. Basically you’re given a couple of paragraph numbers of where you can bump into him and if you’re at those numbers, you then turn to another number to see what he has to say. Once again in an effort to provide IMMERSION, you’re not supposed to write any of these numbers down and are supposed to memorize this shit as it symbolizes whether you two will actually recognize each other or not.
Gotta love all this old school shit.
Next thing is that key the Svinn chieftain gave you. It can get you in the front gate of Khare, but it doesn’t really matter, you’ll get nabbed by the guards no matter what and shoved in a holding cell for the night with an old man who has one arm. He mentions he lost it to an ogre in the mines which is a minor call back to the last book since you can bump into (and fight) said ogre if you were fucking about in the goblin mines.
Anyway, he also tells you that if you’re planning on leaving the city through the north gate to the Baklands, you’re going to need to know the spell that opens it because it’s magically locked so the REALLY bad folks from the Baklands don’t just burn and loot the city to the ground. This is all news to you because this whole plan of sending you to retrieve the crown of kings was put together at the last minute.
So this is where you find out that in order to beat this book, not only do you have to survive the city, but you also have to learn the four lines of the spell that opens the North Gate which means finding four of the leading citizens of Khare since they only give a piece of the line to each one. The first noble of Khare apparently knows the entire thing, but you’re not getting to him and he’s not in town currently anyway.
And it’s this task that makes the book more difficult than it would normally be.
“Yeah dude you’re fucked.”
So you can sit around and wait until morning at which point the guards let you out after making sure you’re not an enemy of the cityport or you can sneak out in the middle of the night by picking the lock or using magic on the door. Either way, you’ll be on your journey proper.
Alright there’s a lot of twists and turns through the city. I won’t go through everything here because this shit would be long as hell, so I’ll just pick a few highlights, especially since Suranna is now actually doing her review. Not to mention Sent is currently playing the book and is going on about his adventures on the Discord, so we got like 3 fucking reviews going on.
I’ll go over the leading citizens eventually, but first let’s start off though with an example of just how fucked up this city actually is with a potential early encounter.
So at one point you’re walking through a neighborhood and you see some dude laying in the street looking like a bum. You get the option to speak with him since potentially speaking to the local drunks is a good use of your time for some reason and doing so results in you finding out he’s a fucking living corpse and attacks you immediately.
Having actual zombies just hanging out on the streets is one thing, but even worse is when you land your first hit on him
Well that’s an interesting effect.
So now this results in you having to fight 6 different opponents (Yep, even the torso is trying to necro-hump you) at the same time. It’s not a hard fight (though a time consuming one) since one hit kills a body part and the skill level of all of them is laughably low, but like I said it’s a good example of how fucked the city is that you got magical undead abominations just wandering the streets.
One of the funnier encounters is stumbling into a drug den that has Black Elves just sitting around smoking weed. And yep, they are called BLACK Elves, not dark elves, not Drow, BLACK elves. Because fuck your racial sensitivity.
In any other setting these lot would either be vicious backstabbing killers or emo brooding rebels from their evil society. Here? They’re the average stoner.
You can leave or try to talk to them which doesn’t result in much info. The more interesting thing to do is to just start smoking along with them. They won’t stop you, in fact they just sort of lazily smile at you with their rotten teeth.
Getting high as in real life can result in a hilarious random effect depending on what you roll. Everything from feeling relaxed and restoring some stamina, to falling asleep for a little while, to giving them some gold, to getting paranoid to the point where you draw your sword and attack them.
Honestly though this isn’t even the first drug reference in the books. There’s a spell called NIP which requires the caster to sniff yellow powder before it speeds him up. Guessing Steve Jackson made the powder yellow so it wouldn’t be a too direct reference to fucking cocaine. Not that it mattered since it was the 80s and everyone was doing cocaine.
The city has a few major areas that you’ll probably stumble upon during play. One of these is a carnival that’s going on. You can meet Flanker here who’ll direct you to one of the leading citizens that knows a spell line if you haven’t found any at that point. You can actually meet Vik himself here too if you managed to make that contact. He’ll also give you directions to a leading citizen if you speak with him. So the carnival is one of the few locations where if you missed one of the citizens, you get a second chance to meet one again.
Speaking of Vik, you can also encounter his brother Vangorn the Murderer. (He actually will call himself that) Vangorn will try to poison you at first and then if that doesn’t work he’ll try to shoot you with an arrow before engaging in melee combat. You usually won’t find out he’s related to Vik unless you call out Vik while dying of poison at which point he’ll immediately give you an antidote and apologize for trying to kill you. He’ll even give you some items for your journey and useful info, because hey it was just random attempted murder right, no hard feelings!
Gold as you might expect plays a more important role in the city than it did in the Shammy Hills. There’s a lot of places to spend it, but not too many places to get a lot of it unless you’re fighting a lot, which you may very well be. Lots of opportunities to gamble which of course is literally a roll of the dice if that route is going to be successful in gaining riches.
Of course if you’re like me, you can just fucking steal the offerings to the statue outside the gambling hall and fight the giant statue when you do so.
That’s supposed to be a club in the statue’s hand, but the picture makes it looks like statue is just holding its massive dick.
Another example of Khare just giving zero fucks about everything. Keep in mind you are fighting this huge statue in the middle of a fairly active center of the city. Nobody gives a shit. Fighting it is a bit unconventional since you have to find its weak point before it smashes you to death with its dick club.
Now if you’re a scholar in old Greek myths (or even just old movies based on Greek myths) you can kill it Jason and the Argonaut’s style by ripping open a plug on his heel and letting out his life force. (And this is just one reference to that myth in this book.) Interestingly Vangorn will actually give you a hint on how to kill it if you bumped into him earlier.
Nobody tries to stop you or anything after beating the thing. Then again, you just destroyed a giant bronze golem, probably makes sense not to fuck with you. Probably better to just scavenge the statue and sell its bronze dick at the local pawn shop.
What else? Well there’s tons of locations in the city where you definitely don’t want to end up. One is the Red Eye district. Red Eyes are a race of creatures who literally will open their eyes and fucking fireballs shoot out of them. They’re basically all like that mutant Cyclops from the X-Men except every single one of them is an asshole that will try to kill you.
You in wrong hood white boy.
At best they might knock you unconscious and throw you into their local jail which can lead to a premature game over if you haven’t stumbled on a key that can let you out (You can actually find this on a goblin in the mines in the Shammy Hills) or pray to your goddess to bail you out.
Speaking of premature game overs, there’s a lot of them in this book. Getting thrown in the local jail FOREVER is just one them. A worse one is getting knocked out and thrown into the hold of a slave ship, though casting spell might help you in this instance or even calling on old VIK if you know him.
One involves staying at a particular inn that you’ll usually come across midway through the book and waking up to discover that the fucking innkeeper is Jigsaw and tied your hand to a rope with a guillotine over your neck. He laughs saying that he needs meat for the soup of day and you’ll do just nicely. So he’s actually Leatherface mixed with Jigsaw.
You have to figure out how to move the rope without releasing the guillotine which will kill you instantly. Weirdly you just leave if you escape, you don’t actually get revenge on the insane innkeeper and it’s not like you couldn’t have caught him since he’s in the same room laughing the entire time. Though you’re probably just shrugging this shit off as just the most normal thing ever here by now.
In fact that whole inn is a place where bad shit can happen, since its also where you can get throw into the slave ship if you drink too much. You can bump into Flanker here though and he’ll actually warn you about drinking too much at the place. (He also gives you 5 gold)
The other major location that you don’t want to end up in is the Khare sewer system. I mean it’s a sewer so being there is generally a bad idea anyway, but Khare’s sewer is especially bad because its a mini-maze and you’ll end up potentially skipping past more vital encounters to win the book. There’s actually a few ways you can stumble into this bad place, one of them being the Red Eyes shoving you in unsurprisingly.
In fact the moment you arrive there you’ll come across a catch 22 choice where you either have to duck into the filth you’re already neck deep in to avoid the torrent of new shit coming down the pipe OR just take the face full of new shit. Either way you’re covered in shit and barfing your guts out losing stamina.
And chances are, you’ll probably run into that thing that’s on the cover of the book (A Slime Eater) before escaping. Even when you do escape, you lose more stamina from all your exhaustion meaning you could very well die just leaving the place.
I probably covered the major bits, but I’ll just add one more creepy one before moving on to the leading citizens.
So Khare has its traps, has hostile inhabitants and has the occasion abomination just chilling in the city. Well time to combine all three of those in the form of the Mantis Man.
So you’ll encounter this one in a quieter more isolated part of the city. It appears to be another fucked up statue, but it isn’t. In fact if you go up and try to inspect it, this thing comes to “life” and kills you instantly with its super reflexes.
You can actually fight it and take some loot from around its neck, but it requires exploring the abandoned hut first where you can find more loot. At that point when you leave the hut, you’ll notice that the “statue” has actually moved and it’ll attack. The mantis man surprisingly doesn’t have a high skill score, however he’s got an instal-kill attack so if he hits you once, you’re dead automatically.
Always found this encounter creepy but fascinating. Just the idea that this is some apex predator presumably only motivated by food that’s managed to blend into the city to make it its own personal hunting ground is interesting. Are there more like it somewhere or is it just some anomaly, etc.
Anyway on to how to win this book.
So potentially the first leading citizen and easiest one to encounter is Lorag the scholar. Apparently he’s lived in the Khare for quite awhile and stays in the city willingly in an attempt to make things more civil here. (He’s basically Gower) You can potentially find him on your own while exploring the city or Vik, Flanker or even some nameless NPCs can show you the way to his house. Knocking on his door and explaining your situation actually leads him to potentially helping you, but he wants some help too since he’s been trying to decipher some runes and thinks a fresh set of eyes might help.
“Oh sure they call everyone bundles of sticks all the time, but really that’s just their way.”
So from the pic you can see the runes Gower’s looking at, you have to figure out the sequence of them and you get a separate pic of four different runes and a choice number to turn to. So it’s an actual visual puzzle, though Steve Jackson has always been fond of putting puzzles in his work.
Picking the wrong one basically fucks you permanently since you won’t get the spell line and you’re in that “walking dead” state. He’ll actually give you a bit of help anyway, but it won’t allow you to win the book. Pick the right one and you’ll get the spell line, along with some items to help with magic spells.
Moving on to the next one.
The second leading citizen might be the trickiest to actually find since you can skip over him just exploring the city in a direction that doesn’t take you to him. Plus even if you do go in the right direction, you might pass him by. I believe there’s some NPC that does direct you to him and Vik might give you a vague direction on how to find him. So where’s he located? Some random church that you might decide to enter and he’s a priest of Slangg who is the God of Malice.
Well at least it’s organized douchebaggery rather than the random kind you’ve probably been encountering.
So the priest is in the middle of going on about how awesome Slangg is and how everyone should worship him if you really want to be metal. First thing he does is offer you to take Slangg’s challenge which turns out to be a math story problem. Refusing the challenge leads to you leaving and once again losing out on learning a spell line.
He’ll also ask what god you follow and then mentions he knows nothing of Libra stating that if you fail the challenge you have to renounce her and follow Slangg instead.
You have to solve this puzzle by figuring out the correct number and turning to that page. Get it wrong (The reference won’t make sense) or just admit defeat and you not only lose out on learning the spell line, but you also renounce Libra and can’t call on her for help anymore. Not that it’s going to matter since you’ve effectively just lost the game anyway.
Solve the puzzle and you can learn a spell line from him.
So the next citizen you can miss if you’re not into exploring crypts (What sort of adventurer are you?) You don’t really get too many clues about this one other than a NPC saying how he died years ago. At first this might make you think getting the line is now impossible, but this is a fantasy setting where the undead are a real thing!
The good news is he’s still “alive”, the bad news is he’s not very friendly and turned into a Death Wraith
Even in death, the rich have cushy homes and don’t have the wander the streets and explode into multiple pieces like the poor.
This is a situation that can lead to instant death if you didn’t pick up a bow with silver arrows at some point during your adventure. Even armed with these you’re going to need to make every shot count since you only have a limited amount. The only other way to beat him is to call on Libra to help since you don’t get the option to cast a spell which is BULLSHIT.
Anyway kill the death wraith version of him and he’ll then pop up again but this time as a kindly soul that can now rest in peace. He’ll give you the final line spell. He’ll also give you some advice of finding someone called “The Sham” who in turn can give you something that can defeat the Sleepless Ram.
This is all very cryptic which even he admits that it is, but you already know how this series works, you’ll probably encounter all this shit in the later two books.
Moving on to the last one.
So the last noble is the one you’ll always bump into due to it being an unavoidable encounter towards the last stages of the book.
The problem with this noble is you have no idea that he is one unless you play the good Samaritan when you encounter him which is giving him a gold piece when he’s begging, and then helping him since he’s attacked soon after.
Old man tormented by harpies…Steve Jackson really liked Jason and the Argonauts.
So failing to assist this blind old beggar (or giving him a gold piece) once again results in a walking dead state. Helping him kill the harpies however might still result in a fail since the battle will directly involve him and it is entirely possible due to bad dice rolls the harpies will kill him making the book unwinnable.
If you manage to save the beggar, he’ll go on about how he used to be an important person in the city before he went blind stating he was a noble of Khare. This of course is your cue to start grilling him about spell lines. He’ll give you one because they never bother taking away the keys from ex-employees in this cursed city. However, you’ll only get part of it because he can’t fucking remember the name of one of the gods mentioned in the spell line.
Which means you have to learn it from Courga (The other god mentioned in the spell line he tells you) fortunately there’s a temple to Courga not that far up the road.
Alright so now you have to figure out how to talk to Courga which means making out with his idol. No, seriously you have to fucking kiss the idol of Courga. But you can’t just kiss Courga any old way, you have to give some proper foreplay first. Fortunately this doesn’t involve working a giant bronze shaft. You just have to kiss Courage’s face in a certain way and end with his lips.
(Yeah it’s really fucking gay)
Anyway, kiss Courga the wrong way and it’ll be instant death via poison dart shot into your mouth when you end with his lips. Kiss Courga the right way and you’ll manage to wake him up and he’ll answer ONE question. You can fuck this up too if you don’t ask the right question. You need to ask who the god of pride is and you’ll get the answer Fourga who is Courga’s brother that isn’t worshipped anymore presumably because he had too much pride of letting mortals slobber all over him.
Yeah, this is one of the more convoluted spell lines you have to learn due to it being in two parts. The old blind guy also gives you a ring that helps against serpents which will definitely come in handy for the next book.
Alright so with all that out of the way, you’ll be pretty close the North Gate where you’ll have to get past the guards who can end your whole adventure if you can’t bribe them with gold or use a spell that might help. Get past them and now you’re faced with the North Gate where a voice demands that you provide the spell lines to open it.
The spell lines might be in text, but there are number reference in them (Like “Fourga” for one) so basically you have to arrange the lines you learned and then turn to the paragraph based on the order of the numbers. If you got the order wrong, you get an instant death via a SULFUR GHOST.
This shouldn’t be an issue though since all you have to do is use common sense of how logical the order of the spell lines would be based on the rhyme.
Anyway get it right and you open the gate to the Baklands
Congrats, your problems only continue from here.
And that’s the book.
Okay so like I said, this is one of the harder books, but it's probably the most interesting setting. This is also where the digital version really starts to differ a lot from the original. While the basic set up is the same, there are A LOT of differences. Suranna will undoubtedly touch upon a lot of these if she actually is motivated to get that far, however I’ll point out some major ones.
Some mini-gambling games have been added.
The ones who know the spell lines are more or less the same, but there are some slight differences in how you get them. Also you can sort of bounce around the city a little more than you can in the book. The whole carnival section for example is very “open world”. This freedom is still curbed a bit of course. The whole Courga thing is even harder and the priest bit is also more difficult. Even Lorag is more of an asshole in this version.
There is the continuing subplot of the invasion of Khare by goblins. This also includes a hidden army of werewolves you’ll bump into towards the end. In fact there is an odd time travel bit (Not the regular rewind you get) where if you didn’t get all the spell lines you can make another attempt to find the lines.
If you fail or don’t want to be bothered, you can still continue through the North Gate, but this will result in Khare being destroyed by the invasion and Lorag’s ghost will replace your spirit animal guide from the digital version (And he’ll be an asshole to you for letting Khare fall). Hell, Slangg might even become your new god in the digital version if you fail the priest’s test.
Well that’s just some of the changes at any rate.
Next up The Seven Serpents.
These would look nice in another DnD sort of thing.
3. The Seven Serpents
Enemy? Ally? Random encounter that means nothing? Or y’know you might just miss it entirely.
Alright the third step of the journey and it plays out more like a harder version of the Shammy Hills. There definitely is less civilization here so gold won’t really come into play as much except in a few key locations.
You won’t have any allies like Flanker or Vik to bump into this time around, but there was the serpent ring you got from the old blind guy in the last book. There’s a numbered reference you turn to, to see how this works exactly (Usual Steve Jackson subtract “x” number from a particular paragraph and turn to the result sort of thing)
This will allow you get some vital info from any serpent before you fight it assuming you survive of course.
So what are these seven serpents exactly and why are they in the subtitle of the book. Well before we get into that, let’s just deal with the first encounter as soon as you’ve exited Khare.
You get attacked by some vicious birds called nighthawks and you don’t even really get the chance to use a proper spell on them making the melee battle sort of a chore since you’re having to defend against 4 of them. Fortunately midway through a golden eagle comes in and starts ripping the remaining ones apart before dropping off a letter to you and then taking off.
TL;DR “Yeah dude, you’re fucked.”
So back when you were still in Analand the sightmaster sergeant specifically told you that your progress would be watched as soon as you entered the Baklands. This sounded like the archmage had some sort of major scrying powers to just spy on you at any time, turns out however he’s just got these monster flying serpents spying on you instead.
Why they don’t just all mob you immediately I guess we’ll just chalk up to the arch mage holding the villain ball. This also brings up the question of how the hell the sightmaster knew you were going to be watched since from the message it sounds like you being spied upon comes as a big surprise to the high ups in Analand. In any case, besides just making your way through the Baklands, you now have a side quest of trying to find all the serpents and killing them before they can return to Mampang and snitch on you.
Anyway so you’re supposed to seek out this hermit Shadrack who can provide some help. You get directions to him almost immediately as he appears in a tree via magic. (Or rather magically manipulated branches to form a face that talks to you) He mentions that he’s been aware of your journey as well. The arch mage should have hired this guy to spy on you.
Now he gives you directions on how to get to him, but you do get the option to just avoid this whole encounter. However, it’s probably better if you do go see him, if only to get free food and a safe place to sleep (You’re still under those survival rules of eating and sleeping after all and you’ll come across them a lot more here than you did in Khare where it was more non-existent)
It's not much, but it's home.
He also provides a little info on the serpents who are supposed to be the cut off heads of a grand hydra the arch mage defeated at some point and he turned them into his minions. He goes on to state that they all have specialize powers. The four elements of air, water, earth and fire are obvious. The sun and moon are two more, but the most powerful one is the time serpent. You get one hint on the weakness of the air serpent who apparently leaves his physical form as air, but has to return to it. Destroy his husk and you’ll kill him. It’s up to you to figure out the weaknesses of the rest.
It’s also up to you to find these overgrown snakes and you don’t get much in the way of directions of where they are. Every once in awhile you might come across someone not trying to kill you that might help, but it’s pretty rare. More than likely you’ll bump into these guys called Klattamen instead.
YOU GONNA GET RAEPED
The Klattamen are basically the Bakland hillbillies that tend to be perpetually hostile whenever you encounter them. Still nowhere near as bad as the Red Eyes though since you can at least fight these guys. The Red Eyes just insta burned your own eyes out of your skull most of the time.
The first part of the Baklands journey is through the plains and general wasteland. Besides some of the serpents, there is at least one key encounter you need to have before you reach the forest of Snatta.
There’s a lot going on in the Baklands so I’ll just focus on some highlights as usual, might as well mention the first serpent you can encounter around this time which is the Moon Serpent.
You can actually come across a few people who’ll give you directions to the Moon Serpent. The seven serpents are sort of infamous around the place not many like them, well except for a weird snake charmer guy who you find sitting in a giant hole with his snakes.
And yet you might have decided it was a good idea to climb down there to say hello to him.
Besides the snake charmer, there’s also a ruined temple with the priest captive in the cellar if you stumble upon him. He mentions klattamen fucked up the place awhile back and left him chained up here. (He doesn’t mention the obvious anal rape). He can also direct you towards the moon serpent, however this guy also has been in a dirty old basement for awhile and caught a nasty disease which then YOU will catch too making you lose stamina per day unless you heal it. A call to Libra might be in order.
Speaking of Libra, you can actually lose her at this ruined temple too. If you end up reading the hieroglyphics rather than fucking about in the basement, you’ll trigger a trap and have what’s left of the temple coming crashing down on your head. There’s magic spells that can help you and even lucky dice rolls, but if you really fuck up you’ll get trapped and be given the option of either calling for Libra for help OR the goddess of this temple Throff.
Calling for Libra won’t help you, she’ll actually tell you it’s against divine law for one god to assist their followers in a different god’s temple, which honestly makes perfect sense. Calling on Throff will have more results but she’s not exactly thrilled about it since you’re not a follower of hers. However, if you renounce Libra and follow her, she’ll help you out. You don’t get any new rules with Throff though. She won’t heed your prayers at all besides this one time.
So however you manage to learn about the moon serpent’s location (Or just stumble on him) before you actually face it, you’ll get attacked by a death wraith, however you’ll soon learn that this is some crazy old guy dressing up like one rather than it actually being some undead horror. (The Baklands is just filled with weird loners) He’ll beg for mercy and give you his stuff when you’ve hacked some of his stamina off, but it doesn’t matter since the moon serpent shows up about that time and he dies of a heart attack.
The moon serpent’s weakness is fire for some reason, maybe it has something to do with fire warding off the darkness or something, I don’t fucking know. Fighting the moon serpent without a source of fire (Like a tinderbox or just casting a HOT spell at it) means a tough fight at full strength. And of course don’t forget to wave your serpent ring at him before the fight so you get a clue on dangers in the next book.
While there are a few places your gold will be of use, there’s really only one encounter where you need a lot of it and that’s the black elf caravan you might come across.
By the looks of it, some of these lot were smoking weed as well.
So they’ll tell you right away that unless you’re interested in trading, they’re not providing food or shelter. However you can get around this by stating you’re willing to pay for such things. Money talks, however these are black elves you’re dealing with so they’re untrustworthy by nature.
Claiming you’re going to buy their food or their wares and then not doing so is a sure way of getting yourself fucked up. They’ll get pissed at you for wasting their time and call you a nigg…ardly creature.
No shit, they actually call you this. Look.
I am almost certain these black elves do not do this in the updated digital version. Maybe Suranna or Sent can confirm when they get to this part though.
In any case they’ll string you up and put you on a cross like the niggardly creature you are and leave you in the wasteland to die unless you pray to Libra to help you. Otherwise it’s a game over. This fate will also befall you if you start asking them about the seven serpents since apparently they’re connected with the arch mage or at least on his side in some way.
So if you want to avoid getting nailed to a cross like a profligate, you’ll need to buy some shit and they got A LOT of items all useful for magic spells, though there’s some other items of note too like a parchment saying “Secrets of the Baklands” and an actual magic book. If you tell some goblin jokes they’ll actually give you a place to sleep for free.
The secret of the Baklands doesn’t actually provide much in the way of secrets, though it does tell you the direction you should head towards if you want to meet The Sham. Remember the dead Khare noble who told you about that? Well you’d probably do well to seek this person out, though it says The Sham does not appear as they seem.
If you bought the magic book, you might be expecting to get access to a whole new set of spells, however to your horror you find out that this is a magic book from Analand. Somehow it wound up in the Baklands meaning someone fucking stole this thing and it’s been who knows where before it found its way on a random Black elf caravan.
So what do you do? Why you decide the only thing to do is to destroy it so it can’t be in danger of falling into enemy hands again.
Lol wut? Seriously?
What the fuck kind of retarded logic is that? It’s already outside Analand and you just rescued it from enemy hands. You might as well fucking keep it at this point! But no, you have to destroy it, but before you do, you get the chance to look at the spell book again for five minutes to refresh your memory. Whoopee.
Alright let’s move on from that potential bit of retardation and head towards The Sham since apparently you need their help against the Sleepless Ram.
Won’t take long when you set off in that direction you’ll bump into this thing
It’s a transman
This little ugly grub is as unfriendly as he looks. He’s also magical since he reads your mind on if you’re wondering if he’s friend or foe. If foe then “Get out of the way!” if friend then “Give me a gift!” Yeah he’s pretty obnoxious, however it’s in your best interest to treat him like a friend because this is The Sham. You don’t get to see his…or rather her true form (Told you it was a transman) unless you give an item she likes. (Could be any magic item) at which point she’ll reveal who she’s the Sham and give you a vial of liquid that you’re supposed to throw at this Sleepless Ram that’s guarding some important doors in the Mampang Fortress.
And no, treating the tranny Sham like a foe won’t result in a fight where you can get the vial off her dead corpse since she’s a super powerful sorceress and will just fuck you up until you apologize. And you’ll lose the opportunity to get the vial.
With that important side quest out of the way, you’ll be getting close to the Forest of Snatta, but you’ll encounter one of the serpents first in an unavoidable encounter. This one will be the earth serpent. You may have learned his weakness along the way which is if he’s not touching the earth in any way his powerless.
This requires you to lift the fucking serpent in the air with your bare hands, which is easier said than done due to it starting an earthquake and large rocks flying everywhere. But if you manage to do this, it shrinks into a little snake and you break its little neck. Of course you can fight it the old fashioned way, but its a tough fight as usual. (Wave your ring for free info first!)
Just one more encounter you might have before the forest I’ll mention is this one since this book doesn’t have as many cool creepy pics as the last one.
Average gamer night
These are the seven spirits, so it’s already suspect even without them wanting you to recite a chant with them. Reciting the chant will result in an instant death and rightfully so because you’d be a fucktard to even entertain this idea.
When you get to the Forest of Snatta there will be a whole new ecosystem of creatures will be attacking you, most notably Snatta Cats
Snatta Cats (That’s such an amusing name) are basically giant predatory cats that can turn fucking invisible, because just a regular tiger like animal wasn’t bad enough.
So the main thing you need to do in this forest is get through to the large lake on the other side. Of course that doesn’t solve the problem of how to get past the lake, which is why one need to wander into another sorceress named Fenestra who has a place in this forest. You see the person on the cover? That’s her. Judging by her coloring, she’s another “black elf” but when you meet her it just says “some sort of elf” (The wiki says she’s a black elf though)
And nope, you don’t really get any indication that she lives here or that you even have to meet her, but she’s sort of necessary as she has info and an item you need.
But before you meet her, there is a serpent lurking about in the edges of the forest that you can miss as well if you don’t go the right way. Strangely this will be the fire serpent who you’d think would be burning down the entire fucking forest. Anyway wave your ring at him for free info and his weakness isn’t actually water like you’d assume, it’s sand. So hopefully you’ve got some to make the combat easier.
So anyway if you manage to find Fenestra you’ll find her exactly how you see her on the cover. Looking into an orb with some lizard thing in it. This is actually one of the seven serpents, specifically the Sun Serpent (You can still wave your ring at the orb and get some info). She’s an enemy of the seven due to the water one killing her dad. Apparently the sun serpent and the water serpent are friends with benefits. No really, extended wiki lore says they’re lovers which is weird since the Sun serpent’s weakness is water. Guessing its a sub-dom relationship. Fenestra captured the sun serpent by casting a rain spell causing it to seek shelter at which point she captured it to lure the water serpent who will inevitably come looking for its mate.
Well that’s the plan anyway.
In any case, you have to get a MAGIC WHISTLE from her in order to summon the boatman that can take you across the lake, otherwise you won’t get any further when you get to the lake. She can also give you some oil in case you encounter the water serpent since its weakness is oil. She will also mention the serpent of time is lurking about and how you’ll need a spell to deal with him, but she gave this spell to some marsh goblins that went to hunt the damn thing. You’ll have to find them to get the spell.
So now armed with all this knowledge and vital items, you can finish your bloody trek through the forest and finally get to the lake. Like I said though, if you get to this lake without getting the whistle, you won’t get any further. In fact you can go through a hilariously loop of calling for attention, seeking someone or just waiting around before the book will tell you that you need the fucking whistle or it’s game over.
So using the magic whistle makes no sound. It’s like a dog whistle, meaning the ferryman is probably a white supremacist. He’ll suddenly just sort of appear and start talking in a friendly manner.
Wait, that’s not a white supremacist, that’s just Ace.
So the ferryman like most ferrymen wants some coin for taking you across first. If you don’t have it though, you can use magic to make him take you across or even just start kicking the shit out of him until he capitulates and agrees to take you for free.
Regardless, he’ll disappear into the undergrowth and return with a large boat and start being an asshole to you (even if you paid him his money!) He’ll demand that you help him with the boat and then also demand that YOU row it!
You can obey him like a cuck or point out that Ace’s fat ass needs to do his fucking job and row you across. Again, it won’t matter either way since at this point Ace begins to show a vacant expression (even more than usual) and then he start deflating like a big fat balloon. You’ll then see the air serpent coming out of him. Apparently he possessed him within the time he went to get the boat and came back with it. Anyway wave your pink ring to get free info.
So the air serpent can be defeated really easily if instead of fighting it (A tough battle) you investigate the ferryman’s corpse, where you’ll find the air serpent’s skin that he needs to get back into eventually. He’ll plead with you to leave it alone and if you do so, you’re a fucktard that gets killed instantly. The correct thing to do is remembering what that hermit told you in the beginning of the book which is rip it up which kills it instantly.
With the air serpent down, now you have to row across and now you’ll get the immediate opportunity to face the water serpent, though he is missable if you avoid the bubbling in the lake rather than going towards it.
The water serpent (Wave your ring!) will attack at full strength but hopefully you’ve got that oil to fuck it up which will result in an insta-kill.
After this, you’ll get across the lake and into the swamps where you’ll have one more major unavoidable encounter which will be the Time Serpent since he’s sort of the “final boss” of the book.
However, before this bit, you’ll bump into those marsh goblins Fenestra told you about, they’re actually running from the serpent when you encounter them. Now there’s a few ways this can play out. If you hide or let them pass without incident then you’ve already failed. You need to confront them.
If you’re playing as a wizard (Which you definitely should be) you need to use the RAP spell and talk to them, where upon they’ll give you that spell page that can help you defeat the time serpent. It’s a minor number puzzle courtesy of Steve Jackson. (The goblins were too stupid to figure it out)
If you’re a warrior, the only option that will allow you to win is murdering the shit out of them all. At which point you will get an special choice of “Are you a warrior that’s never used spells at all?” Picking this correct assessment will result in Fenestra contacting you via telepathy stating that you need to take that magic page from the dead goblins in order to defeat the time serpent.
And yes, you need this spell because when you do encounter the Time Serpent (Wave your ring!) he’s impossible to fight and will kill you instantly due to his time flux abilities. Casting the spell will slow his ass down greatly, allowing you to chop his head off.
And with that, you’ve essentially won the book, though you do get a few more bits before the end. The main one being a question on how many serpents you killed. Now you get choices from zero all the way to seven. The less you kill, the more “morale” you lose which takes the form of losing skill, luck and stamina (Which could very well kill you). The more of them you killed, you get bonuses to your stats like replenishing them or even gaining above your original level.
Now the option of how many you killed are a bit silly in some cases due to the fact that some of these serpents are unavoidable. If you managed to get to the end in the first place and even if you fucked up in finding them, the minimal amount you will always beat is 4. Earth, air and time you always fight. And the sun serpent is trapped so he’s a freebie. The water serpent is pretty hard to miss and even the moon one can reasonably be found. About the only one you might miss is the fire one. Sort of wonder if originally there might have been plans for you to miss out on most (or all) of them during the book development.
Anyway, the major advantage of killing all seven serpents is so they can’t snitch on you to the arch mage. As a result, you’ll get the option in the next book to check a reference which will tell you that whenever someone refers to you as “Analander” you subtract a certain number from the paragraph reference and go to that one instead as this represents that nobody in the Mampang Fortress recognizes you.
And in the distance you finally see the last step of your adventure.
Don't worry, your punishment will soon come to an end.
So despite a few bottlenecks of needed items here and there, this one really is easier to beat than the Khare one. Even if you don’t kill all seven serpents you can still get through it.
So digital difference? Holy shit there are too many to list really. If the second book made a few major differences, this one completely changed how its played. First of all, this one is completely open world for the most part and you definitely will be bouncing back and forth to locations especially since there is a time travel element added in this one as well and it plays a MAJOR role since you will be traveling back to the Baklands when it was actually civilized and not a lawless wasteland (for the most part anyway)
I will leave most of this for Suranna (or Sent) to go over if she actually gets around to that part of the book.
One thing I will mention is you probably can get to the Mampang Fortress without killing any of the serpents in the digital version due to how its set up. By the same token, you can also make sure you kill them all due to being able to travel back to locations.
Final book up next The Crown of Kings.
4. The Crown of Kings
This is it
Alright so this is final book so let’s get to it. As I said in the last post, if you managed to beat the chicken soup out of all the serpents in the third book, you won’t be recognized at the fortress and can avoid the encounters whenever you specifically get called “The Analander” or at least avoid immediate danger with said encounters, no guarantee they won’t still be assholes to you independent of recognizing you.
Starts out with you climbing up the foothills leading to Mampang Fortress and you needing to find a place to camp for the night. Fortunately for you, there’s not one but three caves nearby.
So there’s only one of these caves that’s safe to actually be in. One of them has a skunk bear in it which you’ll have to fight. Never addressed the infamous skunk bear you could encounter in the Shammy Hills, but they’re a pretty nasty animal. Generally crossing a bear with another animal that can add its already formidable abilities makes them worse. Seriously owls, skunks, even Wizard of Oz had fucking tiger-bear crossbreeds (They were called Kalidahs)
Since you’ll probably want to avoid that hassle there’s another large cave with hoof prints going to which already is bad news. When you get inside you’ll see a saytr like creature with its back to you, however if you mess about with it, you’ll soon learn that it’s already dead and you can sleep here “safely” (More on that later)
Finally there’s a really small cave you can crawl into. As soon as you get in though, you’ll hear a really horrible noise which can lead you to run out of the cave, but if you insist on facing what it is, you’ll soon learn it’s only one of these guys, a Jib-Jib!
I always thought he was hilarious though still cool looking
After scaring the tribble with feet out of his own home (You asshole) you can safely sleep in the cave. You can also find a few items in the cave, one of which is a parchment that will come in handy soon.
So there’s a couple ways you can travel, but there’s only one correct path which will lead to this important encounter.
It’s alright, the kids nowadays see way worse on social media.
So these She-Saytrs first treat you like a potential foe, but you the correct approach here is to not fight them and actually tell them everything about your mission. They’re very willing to help you in exchange for a tale about your entire journey so far. In fact they get a little sad when you tell them about the death of the Bakland’s ferryman since apparently he was quite the well known character.
They will also help you out in a few ways. Especially if you give them that parchment which was apparently written by one of their people who disappeared from the village, and yep, that would be the dead one in the cave. She left the village to die because she had the dreaded trembling disease. And this is why staying in that cave is a bad idea as you’ll learn that you’ve caught the disease if you slept the night there.
They’ll also give you a hardwood spear and tell you to seek out this holy man called Colletus nearby who can not only bless the spear but also tell you how to get past the Groaning Bridge. If and ONLY if you’re a warrior, you’ll also receive a bottle that apparently has a genie in it. The book then tells you gameplaywise of when you can actually use it. It’s obviously very important if only the warrior can get it, so you’ll want to hang on to it.
Failing all this with the she-saytrs is going to lead to a walking dead scenario because at some point you’ll need the items/info they gave you.
The next major event is getting close to the Groaning Bridge and calling for Colletus like the She-Saytrs told you. When he shows up, he will be doing his fanatical preacher routine of warning people not to go to the fortress as it’s a place of great evil. Telling him you’re going there to destroy the evil convinces him to help you out even if he thinks you’re going to fail. The blessed spear will actually kill a lot of the Mampang guards in one hit so it’s pretty useful especially since you’re usually fighting them in groups, if you run afoul of them.
He’ll tell you how to get past the Groaning Bridge too, which you definitely need some help with, because it’s one of those illusion things where if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, you’ll die instantly. Now you CAN still get to Mampang by going a long way around (and over a rock slide) but if you did that, then that means you probably didn’t meet Colletus and it’ll make things a lot harder.
So the night before you actually reach Mampang, you’ll get one last visit from your goddess Libra who will give you some last minute info to help you in the fortress since once you’re inside you will not be able to call upon her since the place has some sort of anti-diety shield on. Of course this is assuming you didn’t lose your faith to her by following Throff or something at which point you’re in a walking dead scenario since Libra gives you a much needed clue on how to open up a secret door later down the adventure.
The next day you’ll get to the fortress proper, but getting inside is a another issue. The easiest way is to simply knock. This will either lead to combat or if you were clever enough to climb on the ledge above, you can watch a guard come out and wonder who the hell knocked. However, you need to wait a bit before dropping down, because not one, not two, not three, but four guards eventually come out to look. Dropping down before then results in a fight rather than stealthily sneaking in.
So now you’re inside the fortress, congrats, now you have a shitload of things to do inside. The main obstacle that you’ve probably heard about at least once if you’ve been playing correctly are the Throben Doors which are a series of magically sealed doors with all sorts of traps accompanied with them.
You’ll have to scrounge around in the first bit of the fortress for a key to the first door, this search can lead to this place.
Now just picture Malk’s hand fishing out a huge turd from that hole and the immersion is complete!
If you’re really determined, you can search the latrine despite the text going on about how vile it is (To say nothing of the actual picture)
This is a horrible idea. You might think “Hey, there’s probably something hidden in here!” but this would be a retarded assumption. The funny thing is you have to pass a luck role to even muster up the endurance to search it without puking. Failing the luck roll actually saves you since you’re puking and running out the bathroom before you can linger too long in there (And losing stamina in the process). Passing the luck test on the other hand leads to you not finding shit except shit and disease thanks to the flies in the place and probably biting you.
This disease has an ongoing effect of you losing stats with every battle. The text is even grim about your situation since it says you MIGHT survive long enough to complete your mission, but even if you do, you probably won’t live too much longer afterwards.
And you don’t even have access to Libra now to cure you of your disease either. Nice going shitboy.
Searching elsewhere you’ll bump into something just as bad as a latrine.
Again with the black elves. They certainly weren’t niggardly with their representation
Now these black elves are slightly more along the lines of how they’re usually portrayed as villains, though even by the pic, these guys are just low class minions. in usual fashion with these guys they’re immediately RACIST towards you saying how ugly the color of your skin is and how they couldn’t imagine having skin like that.
Now you actually can talk shit back at them saying at least you don’t lose yourself in the dark and how the hell they don’t bump into each other during the night. This of course doesn’t go over too well, or at least they’re fine with ONE joke, but you took it a bit too far with them.
Alright so eventually (or hopefully you’ll find a key to open up the first set of doors and now you’ll be in a big ass courtyard with a lot of potential encounters. Let’s go with a simple one first.
“I didn’t know she was 14, she looked mature for a goblin.”
This lowlife will beg you for some food, which you can provide if you find wasting your provisions to be a good use of your time. You can even set him free (He might ask you to do so after being fed) however this is a case of no good deed goes unpunished since as soon as you do set him free, he’ll pull the old “Hey look over there!” trick and smash you in the back of the head before putting YOU in the pillory. He explains he needs time to escape so the pillory can’t be found empty and your supplies will help him in his escape. What he doesn’t tell you is that he was going to be executed in three days, so it’s an instant death situation.
So what’s the best choice with this guy? Well there IS an option that allows you to flat out mock him. You get text saying a “Sadistic urge seizes you” (I know the feeling) and you just mercilessly insult the hell out of him even saying he deserves a fate worse than being drowned skunk bear dung. (Which might very well be how they’re planning to execute him)
There is no downside to this option and what the hell this guy would have fucking sacrificed you to save himself, so he fucking gets what he deserves.
So besides taunting the prisoners, there are a lot of guards around engaging in a lot of idle downtime such as playing games or just hanging around not doing shit. However, purposely walking any of these groups is likely to draw unwanted attention. Like you definitely don’t want to stumble into these guys.
Red Eyes. Great it’s a whole reunion of past assholes.
Funny enough these Red Eyes are slightly more social than the ones you ran into in Khare. They don’t immediately recognize you either thanks to their “unique” form of sight. They’ll get a little inquisitive about where you’re from though. Telling them you’re from Analand is obviously retarded though unlike in the second book, you CAN actually fight these Red Eyes, but it’s pretty deadly to do so since they got those fireball casting eyes.
Telling them you’re from Khare has a more interesting effect of them being even more talkative since that’s where they’re originally from. Of course since this is the case, they’ll start questioning you about shit there. Namely the name of the priest of Slangg. He never actually gave it out though, so telling the truth that you don’t know is the correct answer since he never gives his name to anyone.
Any other name you give out is leading to a fight. For lols, say his name is Vangorn (the murderer) and they’ll be super offended you called a leading citizen and high priest a murderer.
The most important encounter around here involves a blind beggar though. She’s asking for money as beggar’s do and you get the option doing so. You need to be the charitable one here since the beggar has something you need and you actually get a foreshadowing hint about something due to the text saying “Sometimes a blind beggar can see better than a hawk eyed sight master.”
Whatever you do though, keep your distance since she’s also crawling with disease. Tossing her a coin is enough for her to tell her her name is Javinne. Continuing to ask her questions is a good idea since you’ll get one story about her tormentors that bully her for the lols. Calls them “sight monsters” and says they’re super loyal to the archmage in exchange for a large stretch of territory in Analand when he eventually takes over.
And this is where you get the option to help her by offering to fuck up said tormentors. They’re not far away in this courtyard and you can go to them immediately (You get instructions to subtract a number from a paragraph reference to return to Javinne when you’ve done the deed)
Well if you haven’t guessed who her tormentors are yet (or have a bad memory) here they are.
Treachery! You can’t trust folks with anime eyes.
Yep, turns out the Sightmasters have been traitors all along and were probably instrumental in the theft of the Crown of Kings. Also explains how the Sightmaster sergeant knew your progress would be “watched” in the Baklands before even the high ups in Analand knew it would be. Now it’s not exactly clear if the entire sight master race has thrown in their lot with the archmage, but the ones in front of you certainly have.
If they recognize you (The Analander), they’ll try to pretend they’re actually infiltrating the fortress and offer to help you by giving you a cloak to put on. Trusting these anime eyed assholes will get you an instant game over as the cloak will tighten around you.
Regardless of whether they recognize you or not, you need to just kill them as traitors deserve. Using the spear on them works best. Nobody gives a shit when you kill them since hey it’s a evil lair, fights break out all the time.
Better yet you’ll get rewards from Javinne after doing so. She’ll give you some holy water, a lucky pendant and give you info on who knows the password for the Throben Doors, some guy named Valignya. She warns you that you have to get past the Mucalytics first who were sort of the reason why she lost her sight. They’re a miserable race created by the arch mage as soldiers for his army. They had some defects though and Javinne was charged with “fixing” them, but she couldn’t so the arch-mage blinded her for his own fuck up (Like any good overlord)
Anyway this is all very interesting but you need to be getting on with it.
So now your next step is finding Valignya to get the password for the Throben Doors, since if you try to open them without the password, you’ll get another insta-game over due to the door magically wiping out your memory.
He’s around in this section, but like the beggar said, you have to get past the mucalytics first. The mucalytics must be the fat miserable lol cows of the army because you’ll bump into a gnome that asks if you’re here to “torment” the mucalytics. Saying that you aren’t makes him give you a strange look and then following up with how you can’t be wanting to meet the Spiny Ones.
So here you get two paths, though one of them is just a way for you to get fucked up by the Spiny Ones. The Spiney Ones are in a pitch black room and they shoot quills at you in the fucking dark with great accuracy. You can survive this and go the other way, but the better plan was not to go meeting the Spiny Ones at all. I can only assume the Spiny Ones are another “super soldier” for the arch mages army.
Go in the right direction and you’ll finally meet the infamous mucalytics or at least one of them.
More like MUCUS-lytic
Now looking at this thing, I’m not sure why it’s considered a great idea to torment it and if you’re unfortunate enough to learn of its powers it’s even less of a good idea, but then the minions of the archmage don’t seem to be the brightest.
What powers does it exactly have? Well it’s breath is just pure poison. If it lands three hits on you, it gets close enough to just kill you instantly. In fact you can die like this if you try to talk to it. The creatures are pretty much deaf and they can barely speak above a whisper, so you get close (Which is retarded anyway, I mean LOOK at it!) and then it unleashes its Zyklon Breath. (The beggar woman was supposed to be trying to fix the whole deaf/mute issue)
So around this point it’s possible to get a call from your old hermit pal Shradrack from the Baklands. He mentions some of the archmage’s boys came by his cave not too long ago and tortured information out of him about you and he’s currently staked up on a cross as you speak. In fact, he’s fucking dead and you’re talking to his spirit which managed to travel all the way here to help you out one last time.
I like how your goddess Libra can’t contact you in the place, but this simple old hermit who just died had the power to do so.
He mentions Valignya again, but that you also need to find another guy named Naggamanteh who is the torturer since he knows how to get past the next set of Throben doors. Also mentions you need to find some guys known as the Samaritans of Schinn since they’re trying to stop the arch mage as well.
After vowing revenge for Shradrack’s death, you’re getting close to finding Val, so another door to go through and you’re there.
More evil dark skinned people. Even his kitty is black.
So the first thing this fat asshole does is demand gold from you since he’s the tax collector of this place. You can play along and give him gold, talk with him, etc. but most of the shit is going to result in him siccing his jaguar on you or lying to you at best. The only reliable way of dealing with him is to immediately launch yourself at the fat man with your sword at his throat demanding he tell you the password. The REAL password.
At which point he’ll go into a drawer and give you the real password, then you can finally go open those mind wiping doors safely.
Well that’s two major sets of doors you’ve gotten through and now you’re in the inner keep of the place. The first thing you’ll notice is the increase in birdmen guards now. The birdmen were of course the main minions who stole the crown in the first place (Probably with the help of the sightmasters no doubt)
Now a lot of this book in general (like most of these books really) requires a trial and error approach of “winning” mainly due to some of the random/chaotic nature of finding necessary shit. The Sorcery series semi-does an alright job of at least providing some places where you might learn vital info about where you should go.
However the next bit is not one of them or at least not an obvious one.
So there are some birdmen who are actually friendly or at least they hate the archmage and really don’t want to follow him, but most of their race has thrown their lot in with him not to mention they sort of live in the neighborhood so its a case of “follow or die” thing.
These birdmen would be the Samaritans of Schinn which to be fair, you can learn about from Shrad’s spirit, but he didn’t really mention them being birdmen, and you don’t really have any way of knowing since it isn’t obvious and most of the birdmen will actually be hostile to you. There’s even two types of birdmen, those that honor their fathers and those who honor their mothers. You can learn this info at some earlier point, but going around randomly asking birdmen how their mothers or fathers are gets some strange looks and potentially will offend them if you ask the wrong type of bird man.
So the Samaritans you’re looking for are the birdmen honor their mothers (Who birth them and take care of them as babies), while the other ones honor their fathers (Who teach them how to hunt for prey). While nowadays this would probably cause some sort of retarded debate about “wokism” and how the good ones are feminists and the evil ones are part of the patriarchy, this was the fucking 80s and it was just a simple way to confuse the shit out of you. Nothing more to it.
How the fuck are you supposed to know which is which? They’re all fucking furries.
So the ones in the pic ARE the Samaritans but unless you decide to not only risk talking with them but also confessing who you actually are, you will not get the needed item from them which is another MAGIC WHISTLE! They’ll tell you to use the whistle as soon as you get the crown and they’ll come get you to take you back to Analand. A free flight home, can’t beat that.
So besides the birdmen, other places of note are the basically the kitchen run by a hobgoblin chick. She won’t appreciate you coming into her kitchen when she’s still working on dinner for the troops, but she’ll just hand you a jar of ant meatballs and have at it if you’re hungry. This is a terrible event. Not because you’re eating bugs (The meatballs are actually quite tasty and you heal at bit) but actually because you’ll soon learn that you AREN’T eating bugs.
The hobgoblin chick comes by to check on you and to her horror she realizes you aren’t eating ant meatballs. The original label under the ant one says MUTANT MEATBALLS, of which you’ve just eaten a handful. Prepare to mutate.
You roll the dice on this one and can grow mutations everything from a horn on your head to an extra arm, your leg turning into a tail, etc. All of these will affect your stats in some way. Not all negative either, the extra arm or horn actually aid in combat for example. Your skin turning black makes you look more like one of the many niggardly guards and they won’t recognize you assuming you didn’t already have this advantage by killing the seven serpents. However, there are many more that are negative and fuck up your stats.
In fact rolling snakes eyes will result in a rearrangement of your internal organs causing you to die instantly. While rolling a twelve will result in your brains growing bigger and exploding out your skull. Two of the more METAL ways to die.
Rolling a seven results in you being immune and you walk away without any issues.
You can also stumble into a room which has a good example of what the meatballs do.
You ever see that movie Freaks?
It’s not really clear if these goblins are all failed experiments of eating the meatballs or they just accidentally ate them like you did, but either way you don’t want to hang around in this room.
Alright, birdmen feminists, mutant goblins, what else? Well there’s one place you really need to find in this section and that’s the torturer, the Ogre named Nag-whatever it’s too fucking long let’s just call him Nagga, since it fits with the ongoing racial jokes on the review.
Anyway here he is, a true Nagga.
Nagga isn’t immediately hostile, but he definitely sees you as the next victim of his S&M Dungeon. Especially if he knows if you’re the Analander. You can bribe him though. He’ll do the whole ask a question or face the consequences thing if he doesn’t recognize you, but you get to ask him a question too. Now you can just kill him, but you need the info to get past the next set of Throben Doors, so playing his game it is.
It’s actually easy, just compliment him on his torture chamber. This simple act of respecting his profession catching him completely by surprise since nobody in this den of evil actually says anything nice to anyone. He’ll be so overcome with emotion he’ll assist you in getting past the next set of door which actually aren’t locked, but they do have one those “real” illusions that you have to focus on not believing to get past. he won’t even ask his question and just allow you to leave.
The only other encounter that’s sort of necessary is a merchant who has a shop set up in the fortress. A couple of his items are straight up rip offs. The only thing you really need from him are some self-lighting candles. One of them is a blood candle which lasts longer, but you might have gotten a warning not to use it.
So at this point you’ll have reached the next set of Throben Doors. As soon as you open them you’ll see a huge inferno. Entering it is an instant death unless you talked to Nagga about it and you’ll dispel the illusion. Your troubles of course aren’t over as now your next step is into place called “Chamber of the Night” which is where the candles come in.
So you can fumble through dark without the candles, but you’re most likely going to die in this dark maze loaded with spikes. Same is true if you use the blood candle since that particular candle has a way of leading you INTO the spikey areas and falling to your death.
Navigate your way through this horrible maze and you’ll walk right into the Captain of the Guard’s office. Why the fuck he’s got an office leading right into the Chamber of Night is anyone’s guess. Like does he and whoever else have to maneuver through the death maze every fucking time? Mampang’s layout is really odd from a logical perspective, but hey it’s an evil wizard’s lair, doesn’t have to make sense I guess.
So the captain of the guards isn’t a darkie, he’s no white man though and it’s presumed he’s probably some renegade from the Baklands. Obviously mixed with mongrel Asiatic blood. Now regardless of whether he recognizes you as the Analander, you’re still pretty fucked since you’re deep in the heart of darkness by this point and Captain Cartoum wants to know what the hell you’re doing barging into his office in the first place.
Hey wait, something looks very familiar…
Hopefully you still got that locket of the girl on his wall ALL the way back from the first book. This is the easiest way to get past him. You make up a story about how a beautiful woman in Khare told you to give him the locket. He’s a big simp for this girl so he’ll not only believe everything you say, he’ll also outright help you by giving you a key to unlock the last set of Throben Doors. (Throben made a killing on the door sales for this place)
You can fight him and get the key that way (You have to spare his life though otherwise you won’t find the key), but it’s more fun to leave him crying over his lost girlfriend.
Moving on to one of the encounters you were warned about even all the way back in book two by a dead Khare noble.
The Sleepless Ram, its own bad self.
As you can probably guess, it’s going to come to life try to smash you into bits. And it will succeed if you don’t have the key as you’ll get an ongoing loop of running around as it just barely doesn’t kill you. Even passing the luck tests will often result in some damage, so it’s really just a matter of time before your stamina (and luck) run out.
However, even having the key isn’t really enough since it could very well kill you before you can even get to the door. This is where that vial of liquid that the Sham gave you comes in. Throw it at the ram and it’ll partially fall apart and not be able to chase you down. However, this effect lasts only long enough to get to the doors where you can use the key without getting hurt in the process. If you still don’t have the key, you’re fucked.
So throw the vial, use the key and get the hell out of there. You’re now in the REALLY inner sanctum.
However after climbing some stairs, it’s not quite what you expected.
What the fuck?
So this guy who was about to bash your head in with his chamber pot is Farren Whyde. (He couldn’t do it because he’s sick of all the violence in the fortress) he mentions he was captured by the archmage thanks to his vast knowledge on science and weapons development. So now he’s working here against his will.
He also mentions that the archmage is in ANOTHER TOWER.
No shit, he actually says this. He’ll point to some mountain peaks in the distance where the other tower is supposed to be located outside the fortress, stating that the archmage doesn’t even hang out at the fortress since it’s a den backstabbing assholes who might kill him. (Well there is some logic to that)
So now Farren undoes the magic that’s hiding this invisible tower from the public and says there is a secret door around that will get you quickly out of the fortress, however he doesn’t know the password. Otherwise you’ll have to leave the fortress the hard way.
Your enthusiasm for this mission is at an all time low at this point. It will only improve if you go through the secret door and use the password clue that Libra gave you since that will lead you outside the fortress and you can make your way to the tower. Attempting to leave the fortress the way you came is doomed to failure since you get captured not long after you leave Farren Whyde. Even if you got the spear it mentions you just can’t kill enough guards before they overwhelm you.
So you get inside the tower and there’s a couple ways you can go and while both will lead to the same result eventually, one of them is slightly easier as it only leads to a trapped room attempting to crush you, but you can escape using your spear as a wedge (say goodbye to the spear though).
The other one however is a little more interesting so we’ll go over that one instead (or in addition to since I actually did mention the other way) So you’ll come across a room with some rotting carcass in it that looks reptilian (Hope you didn’t get the mutant meatball mutation that makes you extremely allergic to reptiles causing you to die instantly). However, this corpse starts moving which should be a clue to just leave. You also get a voice warning you not to leave, but again getting the hell out is the better idea, before this thing forms…
This book really delivers on the creepy illustrations
So this hydra starts sprouting the heads of the Mampang Gods which is a really bad thing. However as I said, the best thing you could have done is just run away immediately. By the time you’ve gotten to this point you’re in for an extremely tough fight which ironically is better if you lose immediately OR cast a spell like HOT at it to kill it immediately. Fighting it and somehow winning combat rounds against it results in more damage than you would take if you lost a combat round since it turns out this is all an illusion. As soon as you lose it disappears and you don’t take damage. If you keep winning however, you’ll usually get hit by another attack and lose stamina. After three rounds it’ll disappear anyway, but yeah it’s another case of “losing is better.”
Regardless of how you get past this bit, your next encounter is the one you’ve probably been waiting for this whole adventure.
The Arch Mage at last?
So as soon as you enter, he’ll call you the Analander and this time your little trick of not being recognized won’t work, at this point your identity is known. He will however actually offer to just give you the crown of kings as he’s eager to be rid of the cursed thing.
Taking him up on this surprising offer of course comes with the catch of giving up your sword first. Doing so results in being captured and thrown into a cell. In fact refusing or casting a spell will ultimately still result in being captured. You can’t really avoid it. So it’s off to prison for you.
At this point you’re locked in a cell at the top of the tower, but you aren’t alone, to your surprise you find Jann the minimite there! Even though he’s a troublesome little pest if you’re a wizard, you’re still interested in how the hell he got here. He mentions he was saddened when you parted ways (regardless of how it happened) He’ll mention that he didn’t follow you into Khare because he won’t enter the city port (Which can explain why even if you didn’t get rid of him, he doesn’t follow you there) He mentions nearly catching up to you in the Baklands, asking Fenestra about your movements. He couldn’t fly the entire length of the lake though so he had to skirt it. You then notice his wings are gone saying that the red eyes captured him and cut them off.
He’ll also go on to say you are not actually in the arch mage’s tower at all, you’re in his special prison tower where he keeps prized prisoners. If you tell Jann about Farren Whyde, Jann will tell you that you’ve been horribly tricked and that Farren is actually the archmage!
Seriously? This is getting fucking unecessarily convoluted. In any case, you get another one of those “subtract this number from this reference” if you encounter Farren again since you know his true identity now.
So now you’re stuck in this tower with Jann, meaning that even if you are a wizard you can’t do shit because spells won’t work around him. Attempting to escape by bashing the guard’s head in when he brings food is doomed to failure. (As is jumping out the window casting the FAL spell, since y’know it won’t work) Unfortunately you don’t get the option to kill Jann by throwing him out the window so your choices are limited.
So if you’re a wizard you can talk to Jann about spells his little anti-magic field can’t stop, he won’t react until you get to the ZED spell though at which point he’ll go into some lore about the spell if you press further for info. (You really should do this)
The ZED spell basically controls time. In fact the minimites abandoned magic thanks to all the trouble it caused their race, so now they’re a bunch of littler anti-magic nomads. He goes on to tell you they stole the secrets of the ZED spell a long time ago from the wizards who developed it right here in Mampang. They then traded it to the infamous necromancer who cast it and nobody knows what happened to him. Well he transported himself either back or forward in time hence why nobody knows what the fuck happened to him or saw him again.
(I didn’t really consciously plan or even think about this book at the time, but I’m wondering if sub-consciously the time fuckery in Necromancer was mildly influenced by this)
Anyway that’s it about it for the ZED spell and Jann has no intention of having anything to do with such a dangerous spell, but that doesn’t mean you won’t!
So there’s a couple ways this can go, if you were smart and pressed Jann for further info on the spell, his info allows you to control the spell so when you cast it, you’ll get the right result.
If you didn’t press him for info, well you’re most likely fucked even if you got the stamina to cast the spell (It still costs 7 stamina points to cast!) because you have to roll the dice to see where in time (and space!) you actually transport yourself. This can very well lead to transporting yourself ALL the way back to the beginning of book 1! It’ll even tell you which paragraph in which book to turn to. (If you don’t have those books, well I guess you just got lost to a time warp or something)
As usual rolling a 2 or a 12 leads to some insta-lose endings. Rolling 2 results in you seeing some very ancient flying reptiles that have been extinct for thousands of years, meaning your ass warped to the prehistoric age.
Rolling 12 places you in the same location but the entire fortress is GONE. this one is a little more ambiguous in that you may have still travelled so far in the past before it was actually built OR the warped so far into the future when it’s been destroyed.
In both cases it says since you can’t control the ZED spell, you’ll never manage to make it back home. Though I don’t exactly agree with this. Theoretically you’ve got all the time in the world to try to get it right eventually. You might have to rest up a bit in-between castings, but presumably you’d probably get it right or at least close to it. Hell, better yet, warp back to BEFORE the crown even got stolen.
Well that’s the downsides of fucking around with writing time travel shit. Moving on…
Only one result leads to transporting you where you want to be is just before meeting Farren Whyde and as I said, you’ll get this automatically if you talked with Jann. Speaking of Jann, he dies when you cast the spell. The spell is just too powerful for his little anti-magic shell. Or at least it does if you don’t know how to control it, not sure if you do since you don’t get the same paragraph about him dying.
Oh so what happens if you’re a warrior? Well hope you got that bottle from the she-saytrs, because this is where you get the option of using it. Uncork the genie and tell him you want to go to where the arch mage is, and presto, he’ll transport you to the moment before you met Farren Whyde. Sometime being a warrior is a lot easier. It’s unknown what happens to Jann in this case. Presumably he’s still in the prison tower though.
Alright so you’re back to the point where ol’ Farren is going to molest you, no wait wrong Farren, he’s just struggling with the morality of bashing your skull in with a chamber pot instead. This time however you get to turn to a different paragraph after the math equation and discover Farren’s true form which is actually worse than just an archmage.
This book had more twists than it really needed to
So Farren’s body is now dead and the demon that was in possession of it starts forming before you. What might seem like a potentially epic battle, is the exact opposite since the Netherworld Demon doesn’t have many skill or stamina points. However, you have to make every hit count because if you don’t beat it within a certain amount of rounds it fully forms and kills you instantly.
Of course you can also just cast a powerful spell like HOT or ZAP and kill it immediately.
Alright so you killed the demon and got the crown, now you have to get the fuck out of the fortress…again. Unfortunately you can’t use the secret door trick again for some reason and once again attempting to leave the way you came means you get overwhelmed by guards and lose despite getting the crown.
So you either need that magic whistle you got from the birdmen OR you can use the holy water you got from the beggar to bring Farren back to life at which point he’ll give you a magic whistle to call the birdmen if you somehow missed it (It’s actually pretty likely)
Use the whistle and the birdmen show up to fly you back home and you get some text about how your name will go down in history as the greatest heroic legend of all time. And ends with these words…
Your journey is over. You have earned your rest.
So it’s generally agreed upon that the ending of the book could have been better with the whole Farren Whyde/Demon/Archmage thing. Seemed like Steve Jackson was either running out of time or ideas on wrapping things up. Or he might have just been sick of writing and haphazardly put the ending together at the last moment. It happens.
Changes in the digital version? Well there’s plenty. Probably just as many changes as there were in the third book, maybe more since apparently you can get a few different endings. (Like taking the crown for yourself!) They actually eliminated the whole Farren Whyde really being the archmage thing too. In the digital version he’s the long haired guy with the glasses who apparently was just one of his court wizards in the book. Farren himself is a minor character in the digital version.
There’s a lot more time travel shit in the fourth book and so many changes in general. Suranna if she gets to the books can do the review of it.
And that is it for another gamebook series review.