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, http://turnto400.blogspot.com/. 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 http://vom-krieg.blogspot.com. 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.