Saturday, 29 October 2011

#56 - Knights of Doom

No, it's not a thousand Z-grade black metal songs/bands, it's FF#56, Knights of Doom, in all its purple and turquoise glory.

The back story is set 100 years ago, a long time ago in a land far, far away called Ruddlestone, there was a king whose brother was jealous, and a bit of a dick.

Consumed by his hatred, the king's brother Belgaroth - though for the purposes of humour, I'm going to call him Anakin - turned to the dark side, worshipping the 'Dark Gods of Chaos' and generally trying to overthrow the king so he could rule the galaxy, err I mean Ruddlestone, with an iron fist.

He was defeated though, and not heard of again... until now.

A giant swirling vortex appeared in the sky, a gateway from our world to that of the spirits, allowing evil demons and ghosts and, presumably Zuul, to enter Ruddlestone.

Who they gonna call? ♫ GHOSTBUS... nope. You. Or in this case, me.

I'm a Knights Templar, somehow displaced from medieval Europe into the hilariously-named Ruddlestone, and despite a SKILL of 9, I'm somehow considered one of the best around. I have mean skills in Arcane Lore, Commune, Battle Tactics and Tracking, and a magic sword.

The fact that even with a magic sword my SKILL is only 9 kind of worries me, to be honest. I'm really the best the king has?

I'm not even on my way before a ghost demon thing appears on a horse, and tries to kill the king. I fight him off and kill him - with no help from anyone else in the room, the lazy bastards.

After dispatching the ghost, I get some weapons from the armory, jump on my horse 'Firemane' (isn't that now a nickname for Lindsay Lohan?) and make for the town of Wendeform.

On the way there, I'm accosted by an angry mob wielding pitchforks and torches, as if they're off to lynch a black man or something. They're led by a dude with a skull for a face in a black robe and carrying a scythe - Death, is that you? Leading a half-assed lynch mob, really? There's also a leper and Kate Moss ("... a gaunt woman, her almost skeletal body covered by a tattered cloak. It looks like she has not eaten for weeks." Actually, that could be Amy Winehouse, considering her company.)

They surround me, bitching about how everyone is poor and struggling, whilst us Knight Templars swan about in relative luxury - yep, I'm the 1 percent! I convince them I'm on their side, perhaps leaving out the fact I'm actually working for the king - the 0.0001 percent.

They buy it, and let me on my way. Heh, dumbass peasants.

Time to rest! But I wake up in the night, sensing "all is not well". How the book knows of my real-life insomnia escapes me.

It sure isn't well - there's a disembodied hand carrying a dagger trying to stab me! (This is where real life and the book part ways, don't worry.) I jump on my horse and ride away as fast as I can - there's only so fast a ghost hand can go, apparently.

(Quick aside - there's a fantastic new anti-drink driving advert on TV here in NZ that's gone viral online, largely thanks the to the immortal line, 'You know I can't grab your ghost chips.' Check it out here. Seriously, do. If when you think of NZ you imagine volcanoes, hobbits and rugby, this will put things right.)

The next morning I arrive in Wendeford, pay no heed to the time of day and hit the 'Bristling Bear' bar. The barlady tells me there's this crazy wizard dude Herluin who lives in the forest, so I trek off to meet him.

He's dead, but in his dying struggle he conveniently left a few books out I figure could help me in my quest. One's described as a 'bestiary', and the text only describes one entry - the cockatrice, a cockerel/snake/bat crossbreed thing that sounds perfect for a dark and gritty reboot of The Wuzzles. I wonder if there'll be one later in the adventure, hmmm? No really, I didn't make it that far, so I can only assume. It's not like the book was open to 'evil demon'.

The other book contains a spell for summoning an evil demon, but I don't know this until I've read it out loud, duh.

I hit the undo button, but it knocks the book out of my hand before I'm done, so a fight it is and I'm out of here.

On the way to Havalok, I'm accosted by a band of murderers - I'm not sure how I know they're murderers, since they've not yet murdered me. Is an apprentice, first-time would-be murderer still a murderer? Ironically I dispatch them all - putting an arrow in the back of the one who fled - and pinch the whopping three gold pieces they're carrying between them, which is strangely exactly how many I need to spend at the 'Red Herring' Inn that night in Havalok. Suspicious...

The next day I figure I should put that 'Battle Tactics' skill to good use, and decide to hire some mercenaries. They won't join unless I can defeat their leader in battle, and for someone who's allegedly the king's best soldier, I put in a piss-poor effort. Couldn't even hit their guy once! He's not even wearing a top and I can't get in a scratch.

In fact, I'm so lame at fighting, later that day I'm killed by a group of street performers dressed in a dragon costume.

Most embarrassing. Fighting Fantasy Death. EVER.

The king's #1 dude, entrusted with saving the land of Ruddlestone, killed by goddamn mimes. Or whatever you call a bunch of hippies dressed in a homemade dragon costume made of toilet rolls and crepe paper.

'Mimes of Doom' wouldn't have made a very good book title, though. Or would it...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

#55 - Deathmoor

It hasn't got the most inspiring cover in the world, nor the most original setting, but Deathmoor was a better read than I thought it would be.

It's a classic FF start - basic rules, nothing fancy, right down the 10 sets of provisions and a potion of your choice (I rolled 12/15/11, so that would be STAMINA, then).

The only oddity anyone skipping the rules would have missed out on was your possession of a scarlet pearl, whose only plot function appears to be to start a fight, which is as good a reason as any I can think of.

So, there's this princess who's been kidnapped by some evil dude, and she needs rescuing. Except you've been on holiday, diving for pearls and generally resting it up in some exotic part of the Old World, so don't get the message in time. Instead, the king and queen get your rival Fang-zen to deliver a message to the bad dude acceding to his demands, promising him half their kingdom if they return her in one piece.

Which is odd, since all the bad dude wants is revenue from the gold mines, which according to the princess' parents isn't exactly the be-all and end-all of their kingdom's economy.

Even stranger, they say 'half our kingdom' is the 'usual fee for such work', which makes me wonder a) how many times this has happened, and b) how big their kingdom used to be.

Since I've not got the job, I decide to go drinking. Well, the book decides that, which is fine by me. 'Several bars and several hours later' whaddya know - there's Fang-zen, drunk off his ass.

I sit down and challenge him to a game of pinfinger and win, but he's broke and can't pay up.

Instead, he gives me the contract to find the princess - literally, half a kingdom.

The bar's owner isn't happy about the knife marks we've left on his precious table, so to pay up I give him a town - just kidding, he's happy as Larry with a single gold piece. I'm such a good landlord.

It's not really my kingdom until I've rescued Princess Peach though, so onto another bar it is, of course. "You may as well carry on drinking, now that you've started!" That's what the actual book says, I'm not making that up. I like this book so much already.

The night ends as badly as many have in my real life though, buying a lice-infested heather from some old crone. I don't think the book meant a heather in the sense of a stuck-up rich girl, which is what Google tells me a heather is, but the book's already sent me on a bender which without, finishing the quest would be impossible, so who knows!

I stayed up all night, and hit the markets in the morning, probably after some fried chicken or something. Instead I came across an old-timey $2 shop, except everything cost 2GP. Bought the usual FF necessities - rope, knife, etc. And some 'sallow-seed oil', since that sounded incredibly specific.

Went to the docks, and some guys down there told me to visit the Baron, who "has a finger in every evil pie". Mmmm, evil pie.

On the way there, I was set upon by a pack of wild wolf-type things, losing a STAMINA point for every attack round the fight went on - in Deathmoor, there are a lot of fights, and almost every one has some kind of quirk like this. I liked it, as it gave each fight a point of interest, though I'm sure I would have liked it a lot less had I not rolled a SKILL of 12. Didn't even find out what most most of the consequences were, as a result, but they can't have been pretty.

I bribe my way past the Baron's guard, and just wander on in to his house, and he's a bit pissed off about that, so I charge him - with my head. Seriously? I'm carrying a sword, aren't I? Why am I charging him with my head?

Anyway, I cut him down, and he tells me the princess is being held by Arachnos (Wow, I wonder if he's a spider...) beneath Deathmoor.

His dying action is to release the bats, I run, and head off out of town. Three days without drinking later, I'm accosted by a giant, who wants to see the contract - I show him, he says he'll bring the princess back in two days, I don't believe him, and sneakily follow.

Soon enough, Fang-zen appears, and if the artwork is to be trusted, he's wearing jandals, which explains how I knew he was coming, and easily fight him off. Seriously, jandals? No wonder his SKILL is said to be two less than mine. It's a fashion penalty.

Fortunately, the book doesn't give me the option of taking the jandals, 'cause being a Kiwi, I'd probably put them on.

That night, I come across a small village, and no one really wants me to stay the night. There's a recently-burned cottage with warm blood all over it, which doesn't appeal, so I pay off a villager who watches over me all night carrying a poker - and I don't think he was carrying a hand of cards.

Despite this, I apparently sleep well, and the next day, reach Deathmoor. The first fight there is against a couple of Blackhearts - no, not Joan Jett's band - a Dark Elf/Orc cross. I didn't even know they could breed.

Heading south, I find a sign with letters missing - it reads 'P___OUS WELL'. Ooh, a pious well! Err, probably not. The book then has me heading west, through the fog and up a hill, telling me, 'If you carry on climbing, in as (sic) straight as line as possible, you can't go wrong, can you?'

Well, from real life experience, no, you can go wrong. Very, very wrong.

Next I find the pious well, assume it's another form of piousness - poison - and leave it well alone (see what I did there?).

The next encounter was with a bird of some kind, not very interesting, found its nest, blew a whistle, ran away into a cave, fought a spider, went further into the cave, found a pool of lava, and fell in and died.

Killed by a bad dice roll.

I know it all sounds very random, but it was an enjoyable book to read. I had an impression I was actually doing quite well until I rolled a bad number too, which is a little disappointing - hence the rushed end, since I'm a little pissed off - but them's the breaks.

The writing had a dry kind of humour to it you don't often find in FF gamebooks, and despite its cliched yet nonsensical plot, the writing and variation in encounters made it a page-turner.

Now, I've read a bit about the ending of the book being very disappointing - as in you have to solve a fiendishly difficult maths problem, then get all of a few lines describing your victory - and it's not even on page 400!

One of the writers on that link in the previous paragraph even said he passed "all my maths exams at school with flying colours", which I find a little hard to believe. I skimmed the paragraphs until I found the problem, and it took me only a few minutes to work out in my head - and I'm 14 years out of school!

*semi-spoiler* Most of the numbers are red herrings; I assumed the lowest amount of time he'd divide his life into is a year, then multiplied the highest numbers he gave - 12 and seven. This gave 84. I'm not even sure if this was the correct method to be honest, nor can I recall the proper names of any mathematical process involved, but it just seemed right... and it was!***

Then again, I was the captain of a region-wide maths competition-winning team... when I was 11. That 11-year-old could have solved it in 30 seconds, and told you how he did it, and then described how when he was older he was going to be an astronaut and captain of the All Whites football team. I think in solving Deathmoor's puzzle I just got lucky, the more I think about it...


I came across this blog the other day, I've only had a quick glance, but it seems to be pretty much the same premise as this one - guy gets a batch of old FF gamebooks, plays 'em through, makes jokes, achieves everlasting internet fame.

The catch is it seems he spends a lot more time than I do writing his entries, so they're much funnier than mine in a lot of ways. Lucky I only have a few books left to do, huh? I spend about an hour doing mine, max. It probably shows! Anyway, check it out.

(His FF gamebook collection came in "two wine boxes". I think mine came in a single, large banana box, so he's already off to a better start.)


My friend Jarrod who's lending me the last few FF gamebooks I need to complete this blog has his own blog you can find at He describes it as "a blog about boardgaming, wargaming, painting and modeling" and that's pretty spot on. Check it out if that kind of thing tickles your fancy, floats your boat, tests your luck, and all that.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

#59 - Curse of the Mummy

Curse of the Mummy is ridiculous. It's the only gamebook I've written about so far (and I've written about almost all of them now) which I had to play three times (in less than 45 minutes) in order to get enough material.

After rolling SKILL 7, STAMINA 19 and LUCK 7, if I'd known any better (perhaps by reading past reviews) I wouldn't have bothered leaving the tavern the book begins in. Apparently it's impossible without maximum stats, maximum luck with the dice and a minimum of playing by the rules.

Anyway, you start the adventure as a broke mercenary who's just washed up in the town of Rimon after your ship was suck by pirates. To earn a bit of cash, you meet a dodgy guy with a moustache and sign up for a mission which is literally to save the world from the resurrection of some ancient Egyptian (but not Egyptian, this is Titan after all) pharoah.

And instead of hiring Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger, he gets me, a guy with so little skill and luck, I'd probably be likely to kill myself refilling my jug at the bar.

(The book's intro throws in a reference to Atlantis for some reason, which would be baffling if Titan didn't already have a Japanese region that isn't Japan and an area suspiciously like the Middle East. This mummy apparently dates from before the sinking of Atlantis, when the three continents of Khul were one - hundreds of millions of years I assume - which means this book really should have been called Curse of the Long Buried Fossil.)

So just hired, my boss Jerran and I leave the bar, and are set on immediately by a few of the fossil Akharis' followers. I take the leader, that being a thing a guy with a skill of 7 does, and he takes one of the others. I stumble, and he puts his hands around my throat, but I manage to shake him off thanks to my dice, who've decided to be nice - for now.

We kill two of them, and a third flees into the crowd. We give chase, but there's some clown down the road who decides to release his fucking black lion just as we're passing by, and it kills me.

Long-time readers of this blog will know by now if I'm killed before I've even finished my first drink, I start again. This time, I roll SKILL 7, LUCK 7... oh fuck. FFFFFUUUU... what are the chances of that happening twice? 0.07 percent, that's what. (incidentally, (1/36)x(1/36) is 0.000771604938, which is the conversion rate for square inches into square yards. Coincedence? Yes.)

Play #2: We let the cult members run away, and Jerran gives me 30 gold - so instead of quitting while I'm ahead, we go shopping.

I buy some rope and grapple (always comes in handy), lantern (yep), a healing potion (my SKILL is 7), poison antidote (obvious), a torch (bound to rummaging around in dark tombs) and of course, a crystal pyramid (rarely a gamebook goes past without me needing a crystal pyramid).

And lots of food. At one point in the book I'm told to eat two meals or lose 2 STAMINA for each meal. How about I skip two meals, then eat one to offset the hunger? Author wasn't thinking.

Heading out of town, we make camp, and are attacked by a giant scorpion which has either a SKILL of 8 or 10 - the text has both - and has two attacks per attack round, and the ability to administer poison. WTF? Already? So I roll over and die again.

I'd only been reading the book about 15 minutes at this point, so let's pretend I won that battle with a flawless victory, and keep on going, eh?

Jerran can't do the same though, he's dead, no second - or third - chances. The book tells me I bury him the next morning, which I can only assume means I needed someone to spoon that night. Why else would I sleep with a corpse?

Heading towards the Shaman of the Spirit Rock ('cause pseudo-American Indian characters belong in a Titan-based gamebook about Egyptian mummies and Greek mythology) I eventually come across some roadside succulents. Forgetting for a second the book keeps a poison rating, I eat some, and it's poison. Of course. It's called 'barbthorn' I'm told, which would have been a good thing to know BEFORE I ate it.

My next obstacle is a group of rock-throwing bloody baboons. I fight a couple of them, then the leader (whom I called 'Caesar', of course) and the dice are especially kind, scaring the crap out of the others who flee.

With a whopping 3 STAMINA, I climb up the Spirit Rock (yay, rope and grapple) and meet Lopar, the Shaman - whom of course has a dog's head. He asks me a riddle I get on the first try (hint: ♫ Ticking away, the moments that make up a dull day... ♫) and he tells me I'll need lots of magic shit to beat Akharis. No shit, sherlock. I gain a solitary LUCK point for this wondrous insight, and head on.

(He did say something about a 'Demon Prince Sith' though, just to throw another culture from a long time ago into the mix).

The next day, I find a ruined temple type thing which reminds me less of ancient Egypt and more of the one from Lost where Ben's "judged" by ***spoiler*** the Man in Black. Anyway.

There's a map there I'm meant to understand, and I don't, so it's game over. Not sure if there's a key, or a clue from a previous paragraph or what, but I have no idea what the answer is. Sure, I found it within 10 seconds by flicking through the book, but I've already died twice and thrice is pushing the rules of the blog a bit far, so I call it a night.

It was only then I read those previous reviews and realised I was probably lucky to get as far as I did with SKILL and LUCK of 7! Twice.


My friend Jarrod who's lending me the last few FF gamebooks I need to complete this blog has his own blog you can find at He describes it as "a blog about boardgaming, wargaming, painting and modeling" and that's pretty spot on. Check it out if that kind of thing tickles your fancy, floats your boat, tests your luck, and all that.