Saturday, 2 August 2008

#24 - Creature of Havoc

Looking at the adventure sheet, you'd think Creature of Havoc, another adventure from Steve Jackson #1, is a simple, classic romp through Allansia - you'd be quite wrong, as I was.

The first sign this isn't any ordinary FF adventure is the 20-page introduction; if you thought parts of The Phantom Menace were interminable, you ain't read nothing yet. The frustration of having to read The Hobbit before you can launch into the Lord of the Rings is capped off with the phrase, on the 20th page: 'Much of what you have read will be of little help to you...' Well, fuck you too, Steve #1. I've already used up half the time I've allocated to playing this book reading an intro which is mostly useless. Save it for the novels!

Anyway, in short you're some kind of beast, you're not really sure who or what you are, but you're probably the result of experiments that seem to have come right out of the new X Files flick (which by spooky coincendence, I saw earlier today - highly recommended). You can kill enemies with a single blow, provided you roll a double, which is pretty awesome.

So despite the long, expansive (yeah, that's what we'll call it) intro, I start the adventure wandering in some kind of dark corridoors, soon finding an injured dwarf. Trying to wake him up, I crush him to death... oops. I see. I don't know my own strength. He's carrying a piece of leather hide, with writing I can't read, which my character decides on his own is useful, and some shiny, round pieces of metal, which aren't. Apart from character development and immersion into the world of Creature of Havoc, I'm not sure why I'd find a piece of leather interesting and coins not so... but alright, I'm playing along.

But any goodwill I might have towards the book is ruined over the next quarter of an hour, during which every single move is decided either by the book or dice rolls. Not just tests of luck or or skill, which would still be random but keep the game part of the book individual to each player to a small degree, but things like 'roll 1-3, you go west; roll 4-6, you go east'. Throw in a few fights, and already we're three-quarters of an hour into starting Creature of Havoc and we've made but a single decision as to the fate of our character.

At some point, suddenly I'm able to choose where I go - but it's still all random decisions of east/west, open/don't open, etc. I look at a parchment written in what sounds like a mixture of Tolkien Elven and Welsh, get cursed by a zombie, find an orb.

Ah, the orb. It speaks to me, and I'm beginning to think I can read this: 'Did you think you could theif the orb of Zharradan Marr?' The rest of it's a little harder to decipher, so I leave... the orb seems evil.

The next place I randomly wander into burns me to death. Yep, that about sums up the book.

So, there are promising flashes in Creature of Havoc - the fact I think I could actually start to read the Elven/Welsh, the slow shift towards being able to actually choose what my character could do, and I assume that intro is useful for something. Surely!

The book also has more than the usual 400 pages, so perhaps Steve was going for something a little deeper than the usual hack-n-slash or was looking for a different way to expand an adventure than the usual extra-rules method. It seems like one with depth that perhaps I didn't get to encounter; perhaps I was a little harsh on Steve #1 earlier.

So much like the previous book I covered, if you've got the time, Creature of Havoc might just be one of the better FF gamebooks, but as a once-off, it's frustrating and random.

If you're wondering why I skipped book #23, it's because I don't have it. Anyone care to expensively lend a copy to someone (probably) on the other side of the world?


Sam said...

I clicked literally all your ads.

Dan said...

Awesome, I'm 0.10c closer to buying another book missing from my collection.

Marcus said...


You're in Hamilton aren't you Dan?

I'm also NZ based (Paraparaumu)... if you want a couple of the books you're missing drop us a line at


Mhutt said...

I guess you probably won't give the book another go, but what you played sounds remarkably like the very start.

The random choice stuff is annoying, but your creature is coming across vapours that gift reason, then language - the gibberish text gets explained so you can discypher it

Once you do, you can escape the dungeon you are in - and then, basically, the real adventure can begin!

It's an interesting start, but in a way only retroactively once you actually knwo the character you play. Then it is cool to feel helpless as that creature.

Gamebook Fanatic said...

I think most of Steve Jackson's books are not really meant to be played in a 1-time sitting. Generally, the more you play, the more information you unravel, and the more interesting it gets. :)

Creature of Havic is one of the very extreme examples. The random die-rolling at the beginning can be frustration, but once you get past that initial stage it gets more fun. Although fiendishly difficult, of course.

But this is why I think Steve Jackson is a good gamebook writer. he devises his books in such a way that the intrigue and suspence keeps me going, even after repeated failures. Another book where I had such experience was House of Hell.

I think the only Steve Jackson book in which I was thoroughly bored by my repeated failures and gave up was Starship Traveller. And completing his books always feels like a reward (not a relief) to me.

dan duran said...

True, gamebook fanatic. You're working me hard tonight, with all your comments :) Starship Traveller was one of my faves as a kid, so I was quite disappointed to fail it, yet again...

Aussiesmurf said...

This is very much a book manufactured for 'replayability'. Its a bit 'meta' as well, since the only real way to have any realistic chance of triumphing is to use the knowledge from unsuccessful attempts.

I didn't mind some 'meat on the bones' in terms of the extended introduction, and found it interesting 'world-building'.

But yes, as a 'one time play' I can appreciate how this book would be frustrating.

DrBlues said...

You have missed the whole point of this book. It is often defined as Steve Jackson's best work. You didn't even get out of the dungeson!! It is a work of art - best FF book by a country mile. Read it again......

Follow this link:

All shall be revealed........

foadiron said...

I have a bone to pick with this one. The first edition I bought contained an error in the numbering which mean that it was impossible to ever leave the dungeon. Suffice to say it didn't know this at the time and got pissed off with it and left it alone.

Now, years later, I know about the mistake and ... still can't get out of the first dungeon.

James said...

Mine has an error in the numbering as well- there's one item which you're supposed to be able to use whenever a paragraph begins with a certain phrase, but to win you have to use it on a paragraph that doesn't begin with that phrase!

It's a fun gamebook, though, and the plot is excellent. Even so, it's very heavy on the "do you want to go north, south or west" decisions, and many times the wrong decision can lead to death!

Beroli said...

By the time you get to the orb*, you must be able to understand what it's saying. Or every choice you make after that point will be "how do you want to die?"

*Actually, even before you get to the orb, but I don't know if you ever met--*claps hand over mouth and remaining words come out as incomprehensible mumbles*

strom-z said...

probably THE best FF gamebook ever (though I only played them up to 34). different, original, coherent, great.