Wednesday, 31 December 2008

#47 - The Crimson Tide

By now the writers of FF were obviously either getting a bit bored with the old formula or feeling more confident with it - either way, The Crimson Tide feels more ambitious and less down to earth than most gamebooks.

You begin the book aged 13 years old, with skill and stamina rolls found via dice rolling without modifiers; and as you age, your scores improve, but your ferocity decreases (just like any self-respecting punk rocker).

Hell, the book's trying so hard to set itself apart, two or three paragraphs in you could be facing an enemy of skill 12 with yours potentially at one.

It's a huge blunder (apparently of the editor's doing), but not surprising in a book full of random deaths and other, less bloody failed endings. 

So - you begin as an Asian (lets not kid anyone here - rice fields, monasteries, vague references to the 'east', the 'Crimson Tide' being a colour and a euphemism away from 'Golden Horde' not to mention the cover, come on) tween whose family is killed by a marauding group of bastards (whom, going by the illustration on page one commit hara-kiri by stabbing themselves in the head), and you decide to get revenge. Eventually - it's obvious with the lowest starting skill and stamina in FF gamebooks that you're not going to avenge anyone right away. Despite this, if you don't face the invincible worm, you're soon nabbed by a guy who for the next two years trains you in the art of arena fighting - muchly helfpful for the stamina and skill, of course. 

The first enemy I have to face robs me of two skill points, and realising this is no way to avenge my father's death and rescue my mother, I escape by doing a reverse streak into the crowd, eventually falling out of the stadium onto a hot dog stand and escaping by stealing a horse - luckily despite the 'eastern' setting, there's no honour score to keep track of!

Instead the author makes you take notes on certain actions you've done, which can repercussions down the track, which is pretty cool.

Anyway, I soon stumble upon the bastards' camp, and they don't recognise me at all. I find the leader, and yep, it's the guy who killed my father. Starting a fight here would be suicide, so I tell him I want to join, and he laughs at me. Damn it.

A new plan is needed, so I wander out, south, and arrive in a town where everyone treats me suspiciously. Being 15, I'm not sure how I ended up fighting a drunk in a bar, but it eventually led me to a barber who told me of a rebel group meeting that night. Again not sure what relevance this had to my mission, I decided to go anyway.

So do 50 others (so it's obviously not some half-arsed socialist club, then), and they're soon whipped into a Hammerskins-esque frenzy so I sneak out. I like The Wall movie, but nah. I'm only 15!

I wander on for weeks without an increase in stamina, carting around the same three provisions I've had since stealing a 'roasted meat stick' from the meat cart, and soon bump into a 'puzzler'. These clowns wander the countryside asking people questions, and if you can't answer their puzzle, convention dictates you owe them a feed, or something equivalent. The text describes him as barely older than I am, but the illustration puts him at about 60. He asks me a differentiation maths question that sounds hard but once I start working it out seems easy, even without my award-winning teenage maths skills (couldn't do differentiation now, mind you). 

But amusingly enough, if you turn to the page you're meant to if you know the answer, the puzzler just assumes you are right and wanders off...! You don't even have to know the answer, which is funny, cause I never did work it out - I quickly realised I could if I had to, the long way, and turned to the appropriate page. 

*Maybe Spoiler If I Did It Right*: the formula is days=(2x)-1, where x=the height.  I think. It's been a long time since I needed maths...

A year passes, and I arrive in the capital, Shoudu. This part of Allansia, or wherever it is, is obviously larger than Japan. I queue up to see the God-King, whose servant takes me aside and pretty much tortures me to death. Err, wut?

The book's premise is not entirely original, but the writing is good, the openness of the adventure feels good, and even running into the supposed lead bad dude early on is a twist I didn't expect; but the seemingly inhospitable nature of the gameplay is a turnoff. It just seems so damn hard. 

But still, one that seems like a replay would be worthwhile, and give a return perhaps even greater than the first attempt.

Happy new year!

Monday, 29 December 2008

#46 - Tower of Destruction

I remember this one from when I was a kid, but with that WTF cover, who wouldn't? The title's a little bemusing for anyone who doesn't get too far in the book, as you start with the intention of tracking down the floating sphere that destroyed your village and parents (at least this time, a rarity in FF, it's personal).

But in this lengthy adventure - the book only looks thinner 'cause the font, though cool, seems to have shrunk 20% since the last book - it's soon apparent the sphere is merely a practise run for what is obviously a more efficient and aerodynamic flying device, a tower.

There are a few added elements which make Tower of Destruction pretty cool - a time score, and an honour score. They're both pretty self-explanatory, and work well together, pushing and pulling you away and towards helping out your fellow sphere victims and onward to your goal(s).

So, I start by doing my best Jack Shephard to help a few victims, before heading north in pursuit of the sphere. Helpfully, it's done its best Mr Plow and melted a whole lot of snow, making the journey relatively easy. Soon enough I'm forced to divert, so choosing between the path with nothing and the path with living, breathing, and talking owls, I go that way. The owl tells me to see Tasrin the Sage, so I decide a day off the broken, beaten and scarred path is worth it to see a guy who's mates with a talking owl. 

I soon arrive at his place, avenge his death by killing the demon that killed him, and ransack his house for useful things as he tells me his dying words - find the Ice Palace, yada yada yada. The instructions kind of made it obvious I'd need to find this Ice Palace, so thanks for a day wasted, Tasrin. 

Three days into my pursuit, it's time to move on. Being snowy everywhere, I make camp one night Luke Skywalker-style in a dead snow fox, taking its carcass with me in the morning. I'm only able to carry a maximum of 10 provisions, but an entire snow fox is okay? I assume I'm wearing it Freddy Got Fingered-style.

Day four, and ToD is one of them gamebooks where you're forced to eat meals without any noticeable benefit. In fact, apart from trudging through snow, you spend more time eating than anything else bar fighting demons of different varieties.

I spend the next night in a cave, wake up in the morning, eat, leave and notice a dragon floating about - just my luck, I spent the night in a dragon's cave. Hmmm. He flies down and asks me if there is any reason he shouldn't have 'iced human' for tea. Flattery fails to calm him down, and oddly enough for someone that wants 'iced' human, he flames me - then again, I don't know of any dragons who breathe ice (damn, I was hoping to get to the end of this entry without using the word 'ice' - something the author seemed unable to do with each paragraph). 

After dispatching the dragon, I soon came across a destroyed barbarian camp, where the text informed me it was obvious the sphere had lowered itself to wreak more havoc, as the trail of burnination had widened - odd, cause in my understanding of physics and burnination, if you come closer to something, the beam should be narrowed. 

Anyway... day six, and I've reached the sphere. I'm not sure how, but post-the barbarian camp, I no longer question the rules of science in this part of Allansia. It's small, only 12 metres across,and  I find the entrance, wander in and there are passages, doors, stairs, more demons, etc etc. Turns out it's some kind of evil Tardis! Wandering through it, I eventually come its core where there's a wizard, a demon statue and a warrior orc. The wizard starts flinging magic darts as I battle the ogre, but I quickly notice that every time the wizard magics some darts, one of the statue's eye gems glows. Sacrificing a part of my body to the orc so I can ignore him and dislodge the gem, the gamble pays off when the wizard disappears. After killing the orc, I quickly scull back some brandy and a potion of stamina, hoping they mix well, and pick up the orc's sword. It's magic, but only if my skill is below 12, which mine already is. WTF? You mean I'm just as good at fighting with a normal sword as I am with a magic one? Weird, considering the enemies in this book aren't exactly a walkthrough, and any provisions you have are gobbled up with mandatory meals for the overweight snowman you play.

Anyway, onto driving this thing - it's impossible, electrocuting me as I try to, but a rumbling warns me something bad is about to happen, so I bail. There's someone crying out for help, but screw it - this thing's weird enough as it is. I escape easily, and it explodes.

The book's called Tower of Destruction though, so it's no surprise when the wizard reappears in hologram form to tell me the sphere was just a practise run - cause running a flying sphere of doom is just the same as a tower, uh huh. 

So. The talking owl then turns up and berates me for leaving the dying man behind. There wasn't an option to argue with the owl, but I would have said something along the lines of, 'You're a talking owl who can see and know things he shouldn't be able to - YOU find the freakin' tower! YOU save the man! AArhgrahharARgh. And can I please have some food, I seem to have an eating disorder."

Walking on, drinking brandy in place of food (so close to my student days, perhaps without brandy, but with Pushkin), I dig through the no-longer plowed snow, and crash in another cave, like I didn't learn my lesson last time. Another night or two, and three or four feeds later, I'm at the Ice Palace.

Thinking what the hell and walking up to the front door, it turns out it's not even real, and I'm soon encased in a volley of ice spears - so cold, they kill me.

Can't say I remember this part at all, but no matter. Tower of Destruction seems like a good read, it's focused and atmospheric, though I'm not sure whether that's the snowy, South Park-esque setting or the new, shrunken font. The story, being a trek in pursuit of a target which is carving out the primary path is quite linear, at least as far as I got. I read somewhere the 'true path' contains a massive 180 paragraphs, which would explain why I played for my normal length of time and only completed the apparent first third of the adventure - the sphere. There's an entire Ice Palace section and then the titular tower itself I never even made it to!

Well written though, and pretty solid. The artwork's pretty good too, if a little on the 'here's your enemy looking tough in a front-on portrait' heavy.

Happy new years. Catch you in '09!

PS: Make sure you have a Skill of at least 11.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

#45 - Spectral Stalkers

I wasn't sure what to expect from Spectral Stalkers, considering the god-awful cover and that I'd never read it as a kid. Surprisingly though, it was good, a little odd and definitely one worth replaying - I get the feeling I barely touched the surface in my playthrough, despite unwittingly making it as far as the 'final conflict'. Kind of.

You start SS as an unemployed adventurer wasting what little money he has on tarot card readings, though it's hard to tell just how poor you really are - in the introduction your purse is 'full', then when the adventure proper starts, you have 'only eight' gold pieces. Them's either some large gold pieces, or you're carrying one tiny purse.

The tarot reader gave me some unsettling news, and I was soon entrusted with the Aleph, a small globe that contains the entire universe in every dimension. There are some bad guys, the titular Spectral Stalkers, who also want it, and can detect my 'psychic energy' through a 'disturbance in the ether'. They're evidently of the Sith rather than Jedi persuasion, however, or so I'm told. 

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this globe, but the guy who left me with it said the name 'Archmage Globus' as he died, so I assume, with this thing being a globe and all, I should find him. 

Did I mention the globe thing is magic, and lets you travel through dimensions and whatnot? I'm not sure why the mission, whatever it was, didn't end right there on page one - congratulations, you got the magic ball of awesome, turn to page 400?

It transported me first to the Library in Limbo, which the dragon assistant tells me has every copy of every book ever written, kind of like Google but in real life, but in Limbo, which is apparently not a part of the universe the globe contains. Err, yeah. I ask the dragon about Globus, she tells me to find the 'Directory of Wizards' - it's a giant black book with 'Wizards' written on the spine. Hmmm. I soon find it though, it's as tall as a spear and opens to the exact page I need - I see the ether works in similar ways to the Force. Globus lives on the Ziggurat World, which sounds awesome, so I figure I'll try and find him as soon as I find a way out of this epic library.

Wandering around, I come across the 'Office of the Artefacts Specialist' - thankyou, Force - and wander in, only to be hit by a bucketfull of water, left on top of the door. 

The Office of the Classic Pranks Specialist is manned by Wayland (Smithers?), a grade-A clown. In some books a bucket of water would be 'refreshing' and accompanied by a stamina increase, not the decrease here. Ah well.

Rejecting whatever is in the drink he hands me, I ask Wayland about the Aleph. He tells me once I'm back in the real world to keep moving to avoid the Spectral Stalkers, he's no idea who Globus is, and that now I have to leave Limbo, which is odd cause here in Limbo I'm safe from the Spectral Stalkers, and yeah, I don't even know what I'm supposed to do with the Aleph and yeah. Um, why do I have to leave? 

Anyway, a dwarf tells me to think about where I want to go as I step through the exit, so I think of the Ziggurat World, and and soon find myself there, just like that. I wasn't aware at this stage of the book the Ziggurat World is where the 'final conflict' takes place, but hey. A Spectral Stalker instantly appeared, but as I'd left no disturbance in the force at all by this point, it soon vanished. Why it would vanish upon finding you and not, I don't know, check to see if you had the MacGuffin, beats me. They seem to pop up regularly without even knowing I have it - is everyone else in this world similarly beseiged?

Wandering on, I meet a bunch of Mantirs, like human manticores, who are pissed I killed one of the insect-bull things. Before we can finish our rumble though, a group of 'Black Shadows' come from the sky and begin carrying away the insect-bulls. They're definitely black according to the text, but are purple on the cover - try and work that one out! Anyway, the Mantirs curse Globus for the attack, which puts a little doubt in my mind as to whether Globus' intentions with the Aleph are wholesome. 

I run away, up a cliff apparently, cause that's always the best way to avoid things that can fly (?!). I spy some towers up on thin, rocky peaks, and assume Globus is in one - they're on the cover, after all. Unfortunately the Black Shadows are back, and without a purple one to make an example of I'm soon captured and poisoned down to four points of stamina. 

I awaken in a room tied to a pillar, among others facing a similar fate. The Black Shadows poison me again, down to two stamina, and carry me away.

This time I awaken in Globus' throne room, and the book informs me this is the 'final conflict'. Err, I wasn't aware Globus was even a bad guy? Maybe those Mantir deserved it? Before I can think any more, I'm blasted by a laser of some sort and crushed to death.

So... It's all a little mysterious, to be honest, but it seems that by thinking of the Ziggurat World on exiting Limbo, I've catapulted myself to the last phase of the book. What an odd mechanic. Others say there are loads of other worlds and times to visit, and whether the book works for you or not depends on how much you like the FF books that try to push the envelope a little. I for one liked what I read, and not knowing exactly what was happening despite making it that far into the book leads me to believe it has replayability in spades.

If I hadn't read that giant Wizards book though, how would I have known to ask for the Ziggurat World in the first place? Maybe I should have taken the option to go back to Khul and live like an unemployed billionaire, or like a magic Quinn from Sliders

An oddity in the FF canon, but a good one.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

#23 - Masks of Mayhem

Yeah, it's another one from the 20s - I've had some luck filling a few gaps in my collection in the past couple of weeks. I had no idea what to expect from Masks of Mayhem, except that I'd heard it wasn't very good. 

Well, I enjoyed it enough, though it wasn't particularly memorable, at least the journey I took. Apparently there's a big twist if you make it all the way to the end, but I didn't, so nyargh.

Anyway, you play as the ruler of Arion, and for some reason you decide to wander off into the unknown in order to defeat an evil sorceress by yourself - Arion can't be much of a kingdom, if there's no one you can pay to do it on your behalf. The book says only the reader can undertake the mission because of a 'purity of purpose'. Huh?

After a little pep talk from my Welsh wizard Ifor Tynin and my armourer Truehand, who both seem to know far more about this mission than I do, I wandered north into perhaps the emptiest region of Khul (if the supplied map is anything to go by). It apparently took five days to traverse the first centimetre of green space. Hmmm. This could be a long book.

Heading west around Lake Nekros, I wandered into the forest soon found myself the target in a game of William Tell being played by some Wood Elves. They took me to meet their chief - I asked for safe passage through the forest, hoping to end up on the other side in Fallow Dale, but instead they dumped me on the complete other side of the lake. Thanks a lot, jebus. 

It's all misty and I can barely see a a few feet in front of me, but head on anyway - I grew up in Hamilton, perhaps the only city in the world with a statue of Riff Raff which is still far better known for its fog. It pays off when I come across and defeat something called a Wight, which is basically a floating, melting zombie with an open firetop skull. I got the impression if I could just tip it over, its brains would fall out and I'd get to take its ancient, skill-enhancing sword without as much of a fight as it put up.

Onward, the mist got thicker, and the book ignored my Hamilton experience and fell me down a hole, into a mine, where I found a green copper nugget. How... odd. Anyway, I soon came across a pool of water I decided to jump, and here the book fucked me off. I had to test my luck, instead of my skill, then when I was lucky, I was told to test it again - with no explanation - was unlucky, and apparently cleared the pool but landed on a slippery piece of lichen, and killed myself in the fall. Funny, cause I just fell down a freakin' mine shaft, and only lost a single stamina point. 

I decided this was silly, so solved it in a matter just as silly - I pretended that after passing the first test of luck, I wolfed down my potion of luck before now successfully missing the patch of super-slippery lichen.

So, out of the mine, I arrive in Fallow Dale and immediately hit the pub. Unfortunately, Masks of Mayhem has a real obsession with food, one of the examples being the only thing I can do in the pub, if I so wish and can afford to, is eat. In the immortal words of Gob, come on! 

I meet up with the local king, Hever, who's holding some kind of banquet. I eat (for about the thirty-seventh time) and get drunk, and retire early. Somehow the feed gave me stamina, but also made me want to sleep - go figure. Now, Hever apparently has this magic horn I need, but he won't give it to me unless I track down this sabre-tooth tiger that's been harassing his peasants. 

So, I get a pack of dogs and we head into the forest - the book lays out a gameboard, and through a sequence of dice rolls your dogs pick up and lose the scent, the tiger wanders around, it's all luck though so a quick roll would have sufficed, no? Anyway, it's actually kind of fun, and I catch up to the tiger just in time.

I set my dogs on him, who apparently are invincible as they savage him without any chance of being hurt back, but strangely despite this I apparently call them off the attack so I can finish it off. Bad choice - at least it would be, if I had one! The dogs were doing a great job, I was hopeless against it. 

This time I was well and truly killed - though it only had a single stamina point left, I didn't feel another 'oh but I was so close and hard done by' reasoning was appropriate.

So, Masks of Mayhem - it didn't feel like anything special, but it certianly wasn't the disaster I was dreading. The writing was a bit flat, the journey at times even felt a little empty, but there were characters with a bit of substance, and if you avoid the odd bits (if that' possible) and eat plenty of food, it could work, yeah.

I'm not kidding about the food, by the way. I haven't mentioned it much, probably cause I'm so sick of reading about it!

Friday, 19 December 2008

#29 - Midnight Rogue

So I skipped past Midnight Rogue 15 or so books ago 'cause I didn't have a copy, and referred to it then as "fondly-remembered". It's perhaps unfortunate my copy arrived in the mail this week, coming right after the much-lauded font change and the excellent Legend of the Shadow Warriors. Why? Because from one reading, I get the impression Blacksand deserved more.

I distinctly remember the *twist* ending from childhood, and despite this found the mission a little... serious. It was great the book gave you new skills and a limited inventory for sure, but compared to the freedom to wander that has emerged in comparatively recent FF entries, Midnight Rogue feels a little forced.

So anyway, you're a prospective member of the thieves' guild, a reasonably overground-sounding operation for a relatively underground-ish trade, even recognising this is Blacksand, after all. You're assigned a mission to retrieve some kind of jewel, perhaps even the one on the cover so lusted after by inanimate stone gargoyles, but who knows.

First off I decide to hit up the Merchants' Guild, considering the intro suggests I visit the merchant Brass, who apparently has the object of desire. His symbol is a coin, so when I'm soon given the option of trying the door with the coin or that of the fish, I choose the coin. I'm here to get the prize, not find Jesus

Getting into the guild HQ is a mission in itself. There's not only a guard so corrupt I can't pay him off, but tribbles. Except here they're called jib-jibs, there's only one, and it has a skill and stamina I can count on however many fingers it is I need to insult you in whatever country you're in. 

Once into the merchants' guild, there's a beggar - further proof the credit cunt is hitting even those stuck in medieval fantasy gamebooks - he gives me a skeleton key set I don't need, and through a series of situations where I'm not given the option to leave or even knock, I get into trouble and am arrested. 

It's not written into the game script, but thinking logically, so many of these situations could have been defused by a simple knock first. I know I'm a thief and all, but hey. Common sense?

On this play through, I can't say Midnight Rogue lived up to what I'd expected, though I'm not sure that's fully down to the fact it's not that good - it could be that it's just not as good as the 40s bunch of books, or that I took the wrong routes. Wandering through Blacksand has to be one of my favourite things to do in FF, and this just didn't pull it off for me tonight.

A little disappointing considering how much I was looking forward to it, but worth a shot definitely.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

#44 - Legend of the Shadow Warriors

I've mentioned it once or twice, but finally, it came - the font change! My memories suggest from here on in the books were of consistently high quality, but we'll see about that, eh?

But I have to say the new font certainly got off to a good start with Legend of the Shadow Warriors. It's always difficult to get a handle on gamebooks with the depth of LOTSW with a single read through I know, but unlike some earlier examples in the FF canon, here it works, no matter how far you get. The writing is good, the world feels alive and truly dynamic, your options match the map well so it never feels like you're randomly wandering, your character's motivations feel natural, and the book's rule innovations work, damnit! A rarity, I know!

You can only carry/wear one weapon/set of armour at a time, and they actually make a difference, for one.

Anyway, onto the story. There's a massive load of background that has no real bearing on the story at hand, but you're quickly on your mission regardless. Some farmers have been having trouble with a bunch of 'Shadow Warriors', who were previously thought to be a kind of myth. After trying everyone else and being laughed at, they approach you with the mission, and not being picky, you accept.

So first things, I figure if I'm in this for the money, yeah I should do some gambling. A clown (he's dressed like one) called Bartolph (and has the name of one) offers me a round of 'roll the dice' that sounds deceptively simple, and is. I roll a winning number, and it flips over to a losing one. Bastard! I call him on his tricks, and promptly get thrown out of the bar. Hmmm. 

Feeling like I'm missing out on some kind of cosmic joke here (the cover has a dude in a kung-fu pose carrying a sword with a pumpkin for a head, for crying out loud), I wander over the markets, and decide to check out the gears. Lanterns are always useful in FF gamebooks, and if there's a grappling hook and rope on offer, you know there's going to be a cliff at some point (and on typing this, I just flicked the TV over and there's 'Cliff' Burton playing a bass solo, freaky). 

Heading to the 'exotic' stalls, I'm interrupted by some fat bastard telling me I owe the city nearly 600GP in taxes. Err, what? Another freakin' trickster, but I can't afford to pay, and probably can't get away, so I let them arrest me. 

They take my weapon, and throw me in jail. This mission is going from bad to worse. Anyway, despite having a luck score I could count on one hand, I try my luck tricking the jailer into opening the door, and it works. 

Escaping the jail, I decided to high-tail it out of the city before I was captured again. Something LOTSW does really well is make it feel like you are in total control of your actions - whether that's a testament to the writing or the structure of the game, I'll leave up to you. I think it's both.

Anyway, I came across a rubbish cart, decided against hiding in it, and headed on to the town gates where, goddamnit, the tax collector and his goons were waiting. I've had enough unwarranted harassment from the tax guys in reality, so thought fuck 'em, I'm running - and ran right through without so much as a scratch. If only it was as easy as rolling a four in real life.

So although I'd made it out in one piece, I quickly realised I was not only pretty much exiled from the town, without a weapon, food or any useful gears. Hmm.

An encounter with one of the so-called Shadow Warriors and a load of lucky rolls later, it was on to visit the hermit Hammicus. On the way there a 'highwayman' (it didn't say which one, though I like to think it was Johnny Cash) told me the hermit was dead and I would be too if I didn't pay him. I figured hey, I'm almost dead, broke and struggling anyway, I'd might as well pay him off what little money I did have. Turns out he was lying, as Hammicus was alive and well and willing to give me the background the actual background didn't.

Turns out these Shadow Warriors are not only real, but nigh on invincible and magically attached to Vovoid, some kind of... it doesn't really say. Evil, no doubt, and perhaps a metal band on the side. Wow, this entry is fast turning into some kind of metal tribute post. Even more so when as I'm reading the passage where tells me how to kill the Shadow Warriors individually, or at least render them impotent, is to rip off their masks, a video by Slipknot comes on the tele. 

Woah. This book is hardcore.

Anyway, the book tells me if I defeat a Shadow Warrior in combat, to turn to a different page than the one specifies - and it specifies the the particular incorrect page. This is a technique I don't think I've seen before in FF in this specific way, and is quite clever - I'm not sure if it's a gamebreaker, so not sure if it's an anti-cheat device, but if it is it's ingeniously simple and clever. There are loads of other situations which aren't so much 'if you have this, turn to X, if you don't then Y happens', but several option-trees, which makes me, and anyone else playing I suppose, think gees, there's so much I've missed - and I've only been playing for half an hour!

It's impressive, and shows how well put together the book is, even if you haven't played it a thousand times.

So, I move onto Hustings, where I pretty much bail on the poor villagers - they're preparing for the arrival of the pumpkin-headed ninjas, but I have two stamina points and no desire to lose any more. Funnily enough, on leaving town the book tells me 'though [I] feel that [I] have done [my] best to help' - yeah, I totally did my best. Actually, I think I put more effort into replacing the pronouns in the text for that last quote than I did helping the people of Hustings. 

Karma gets me though when on leaving I'm ambushed by a Shadow Warrior and run to the safety of a nearby tower. Some hot girl (this time there's nothing in the text nor images to suggest she is, I'm just going to pretend for the purposes of this sentence) takes me upstairs and feeds me food laced with sleeping drugs - which I initially think is great, 'cause I have only two stamina points still, and could do with the extra two or four a good sleep brings, depending on the book.

I woke tied to a table in some kind of laboratory, the next victim of a mad woman who wants to transfer my brain to a Frankenstein zombie ogre thing. D'oh.

LOTSW being the book it is, still provides me with several options, or possible options at least, of escape. I have none, so die, but don't feel so bad! The book gave me options, I blew it, it's my own fault! 

At least that's how it comes across, which is a testament to how good this book should rank amongst the 59 others, at least from a single reading. I don't think I was swayed by the fancy new font, noooo... 

Absolutely recommended, and bodes well for the rest of the series.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Keep of the Lich-Lord

The Keep of the Lich-Lord is by far and away the easiest FF gamebook to date, surely. It doesn't sound that way from the synopsis though - a decades-dead evil guy has come back to life because some Indiana Jones-wannabe removed the magic spear, the one that was keeping him dead, from his chest, and now he's built an army of the undead and is generally causing trouble. 

You on the other hand, are in it for the money, which is rarely a good enough reason to err, save the world - even Han Solo had to eventually admit he cared. 

The bad guy is Lord Mortis, and even after finishing the book I still have no idea what a 'lich' is. Some kind of Mason Viking, based on the illustrations and very Stonecutters-esque scene I stumbled on in his keep.

Differences the book tries, and largely fails, to implement are two scores - resolve, which measures how large your testicles are in the face of zombies, and alarm, which measures how clumsily you wield those balls. I say fail, 'cause the resolve score goes up every time you successfully test it, meaning eventually it's impossible to fail; and lets just say I managed to get to the lord of the lichs himself without a single person realising I'd even infiltrated his building. No one that stayed alive, of course. His jester doesn't count.

So on arrival in Siltport, a formerly bustling town feeling the effects of the credit crunch, I immediately hit the local bar, Sword of the Samurai. Wait, what? Having a little chuckle at the club Obi Wan-style joke, I chatted to some of the locals, and before you know it we were slammed. Fortunately for me, this is one of them gamebooks where nothing the night before affects you the next day, cause it wouldn't be the last time on my journey across Stayng Island I'd make a night of it.

Wandered to the vilage of Menela, and was immediately taken to the 'headman', Belar. He tells me there's some creature causing a bit of trouble locally, so I agree for the hefty sum (by FF standards) to kill it. Even better, the local blacksmith sharpens my sword for me, giving it three stamina damage instead of two in fights. To think, I'm on a mission to save the world, and they sent me to do it with a blunt weapon. 

Anyway, I kill it, and head up the hills to Mortis' tomb. The skull on the door to the tomb glows, but it doesn't scare me, presumably  'cause as a kid my mum once put this glow-in-the-dark Jesus in my bedroom, and when she turned the light off it was the only thing I could see, and it freaked me out. I must've had a strong resolve score as a kid not to fall for that garbage early on.

Anyway, I wander into Mortis' tomb and pinch the magic spear from the aforementioned Indiana Jones-wannabe, which happens to do double damage to all undead creatures! Sweet, 'cause almost everything in this book is undead. Often I'll walk into a room and there'll be an awkward moment while everyone tries to work out if I'm undead, it's that bad. The upside is once they realise I'm not, we all get sloshed. If for no other reason, I like this book.

Anyway again, moving on the a pirate from the first night of drinking ambushes me with some of his mates, I dispatch them easily and find they're loaded with gold too. For once, I'm thinking where the hell is Yaztromo? I could totally clean him out of stock right now. 

Skipping the abandoned quarry - I've already got the magic spear which has killed Mortis once - I crashed for the night, and woke up apparently with a hankering for more booze - so much that I'm apparently heading for an inn which is definitely not marked on the map on the inside cover of the book, in spite of what my character thinks. I get there somehow, and meet a merchant who sells me some body armour that reduces any damage I take by one point - meaning later on when I'm peppered with arrows by undead archers, it doesn't hurt. I'm feeling pretty damn invincible by now.

I also meet a soldier called Kandogor, who tells me Braxis (oh yeah, Braxis is the dude who used to run Bloodrise Keep - oh yeah, Bloodrise Keep is where Mortis is holed up) is still alive. We decided to team up, and get a room together (no, this isn't where the romantic subplot begins). Pretty soon a woman enters the room - Kandogor almost kills her, but it turns out she's some kind of uber-Elf babe. The book describes her as having skin like moonlight, eyes like liquid emeralds, and so on. I think the author might have been up late, alone when he wrote this part of the book. It's perhaps the most Mills and Boon passage I've ever come across in a FF gamebook.

Anyway, instead of getting hammered this night now there's some female company, we all crash out. The next day we're off hunting Lady Lotmora, a vampire holed up in the local cemetary. 

We dispatch her, stuff happens, and I'm soon at Bloodrise Keep. I wander on in, feeling pretty good about my chances, especially so when within minutes I'm at the Chapel of the White Queen. She teaches me a cool trick, which is the last I hear of it, and I move on. 

Wandering through the keep, I'm asked to test my alarm value a few times - which is odd, considering I've accrued but a single point of alarm, and the book is asking me to roll several dice and add amounts that are higher than my total. I've literally tip-toed my way through an evil army's headquarters, right to the Lich-Lord's door. 

On opening it, I threw the magic spear at him, and ta-dah, the book was over and I'd won. WTF?

That was quite easy. I drank more ales than I ate meals, I didn't have to use the key I found or the magic 'Ring of Communication' once, and I didn't have spectacular rolls. On the plus side... wait, it's about time there was an easy FF book! That is the book's major plus, in a way. But it's also entertainingly written with nice attention to detail like overheard conversations and amusing graffiti ('Bloodfang rules OK!').

But on the downside, yeah, it was too easy. Fun though, and apparently there are several ways to win it, which I know adds to its ease but means you won't mind reading it again if you don't complete it first time through, which makes it a good recommendation.

And yeah, I know I said I'd be out this weekend, but hey, I decided to skip the work party :)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Weekend off...

EDIT: Looks like I can't be arsed going to the Xmas party, so will be posting as usual. Woo.

It's my work Christmas party this weekend - yes, I do have a day job, Fighting Dantasy doesn't pay all... or any of my bills, unfortunately - so I probably won't be posting.

In other news, I've managed to place bids on online auctions for a few of the books I'm missing, including the entire Sorcery! series, so fingers crossed for those.

I recently joined a couple of Fighting Fantasy groups on Facebook, and posted the blog address. Some guy on one had the gall to suggest, "So if we are a community now and everything, I just thought I would bring it up. is a retarded name for a website. No offense."

I replied, as politely as at the same time as snarky as I could, "Well, it's a pun, isn't it? The books are called Fighting Fantasy, and my name is Dan. Hence, Fighting Dantasy. If that's a little too silly for you, perhaps you shouldn't be reading books which picture mustache-wearing men skiing the backs of sabre-toothed tigers on water."

Booyah. Drink up, I'll catch you later on next week. Unless I chicken out of the work party and stay home rolling dice and drinking at home as I usually do.