Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Port of Peril

The _____ of _____. It's a classic Fighting Fantasy trope, and Ian Livingstone goes all-in on emulating the classic gamebook experience in The Port of Peril.

The rules are basically the same as those laid down in the series' original run, nothing fancy, although the font and artwork are distinctly more modern.

But something else Livingstone appears to have resurrected for this entry is the fetch-quest nature of his gamebook writing. In the first paragraph - the very first, before you've had a chance to make a single decision - in addition to the classic sword/backpack/provisions combo, you're saddled with... [deep breath] a roll of twine, a candle, a brass bell, an oil lantern, a knife, some chalk, a brass owl, a rope, some copper nails, a water flask and a unicorn head goblet.

Anyway. In The Port of Peril you play an adventurer/sword for hire, who's a bit down on his luck until he stumbles across an idiot called Gregor who's come into the possession of a treasure map.

And so is 'Dantasy' but at least I have an excuse.
Switching to the first person, I decide before heading off in search of fame and fortune, it would be good to eat. Funnily enough, the book lets me eat - and gain 1 stamina point - on the very first page.
Err, what? A quick rescan of the introduction doesn't say anything about losing stamina or starting on less than usual. As I mentioned, it's a classic FF by-the-numbers setup.

And it gets worse. Before long, I'm buying a 'demon dagger' with gold I didn't even know I had, giving me skill points I can't even use. I'm beginning to wonder if Ian Livingstone's staff are too in awe of the master to tell him when he's failed a skill roll.

So. Heading out of the rule-breaking town of Chalice, which I thought was the 'port of peril' in the title but clearly isn't, it's soon night and I need somewhere to crash. I find a cottage - abandoned - and decide it's better than the woods.

Something is clanking around in the cellar though, and there's a gross smell of rotting meat, so I figure I'd better check it out. It's a zombie! Soon it's a dead zombie.

Someone is upstairs though. I wait to see what they're going to do... bad idea. The man-orc (the implications are... unsettling) quickly drags an iron stove over the trapdoor, locking me in the concrete cellar with the zombie corpse, forever.


I did a stocktake today.

I know I borrowed some of them for this blog a few years back, but the books I'm missing from my own collection are the final five of the original Puffin run back in the '90s.

If you have doubles, or see them cheap online anywhere, let me know!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Howl of the Werewolf

One of the very late entries in the Fighting Fantasy canon, Howl of the Werewolf begins with a CCR song.

Because when I think of werewolves, I think of John Fogerty.
Why couldn't it be 'Fortunate Son'? There's nothing fortunate about the protagonist in this book: me. You. Whatever. You know how it works.

It starts with a fight against an alpha wolf and his pack. But it turns out the alpha isn't any ordinary wolf. It's of wolf and man (trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.)

Bitten by a werewolf, I'm not off to a good start. But luckily I'm saved by a woodsman named Ulrich. His first name isn't mentioned, but let's call him Lars (told you I was going somewhere with this).

Something tells me 'Creeping Death' is going to be an appropriate caption for this image, and this book.
Ulrich gives me this withered man-paw thing,he chopped off the swearwolf. Sorry, werewolf.

Let's hope vampires aren't next.
I throw it in the fire and curse my bad luck. Lars tells me to settle down, there are three options: find a cure, kill Rhys Darby the alpha werewolf or go see what 'wisewoman Grandmother Zekova' recommends. I opt for the latter, 'cause I don't really want to try fighting again. Didn't go so well last time.

Zekova makes a potion of herbs and my own blood, drawn with a knife, which slows the lycanthropic infection (but probably gives me tetanus. Win some, lose some).

We're soon attacked by another group of wolves - strangely chanting the 'little pig, little pig' refrain of nursery rhyme fame - whom Lars, Zekova and I dispatch with the efficiency of a pig armed with a brick house and a cauldron.

Zekova tells us we need to find the wolf that bit me, which we do promptly, and kill it. Which we also do. Then Lars turns into a bear ( ♪ SHAPE CHAAAANGE ♪) and I have to kill him, which makes me the new drummer for Metallica. But I'm still a werewolf for some reason, my quest incomplete. I think I might not have been listening to Zekova properly. Or Metallica.

After a sleep and eating three breakfasts to heal my wounds, I'm heading northbound. Long story short, I end up staying at an inn with possessed furniture and tenants conducting black magic rituals. One star, do not stay at The Gibbet Tree.

Onwards, I'm at some kind of carnival, checking out the freaks when I come across a 'snake-woman'. Before I get a chance to decide how to react, the book sums it for me.

It's the tongue. Very few human women have a forked tongue.
Later that night we get into a fight after she wraps herself around me, and not in that way. After a day spent playing XCOM 2 and having my soldiers constantly getting constricted by vipers, it's enough to add PTSD to my lycanthropy.

Holy shit, do not google 'XCOM 2 vipers'.
And yeah, close-up she's definitely unnatural.

Windows 10's built-in editing tools has a 'burlesque' filter, but it doesn't do much for the 'unnatural' snake-woman. Again, do NOT google 'XCOM 2 vipers'.
But I win, take my prize of a silver dagger, and flee. Ironically enough, on presenting this silver dagger as an offer of peace to a group of angry she-wolf ladies later in the book is what leads to my ultimate death in battle.


I'm not sure what to make of this book. Off the top of my head, it's the last one that was published before the long-awaited return of O.G. Ian Livingstone with Blood of the Zombies, it's a massive 500-something pages and every paragraph is longer than an episode of Game of Thrones.

Despite this, it didn't take me long to make it to Lupravia, where the final boss is supposedly located, and some of the encounters in-between contracting a clichéd race-against-time disease and the endgame were woefully clichéd. I literally stumbled into the creation of Frankenstein's monster, not to re-mention the 'three little pigs' encounter. Bit of a scattershot, everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach. Maybe I just went the wrong way?


In better news, my 8yo son - who wasn't even alive when I started this blog - was intrigued enough by what I was doing with a book and dice, that he asked if he could have a go. So I gave him the FF gamebook with the cover no eight-year-old kid could ever resist.

More people would read The Bible if this was the cover.
He proceeded to cheat his way through it and still die a "fiery death", which he thought was awesome.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


Thursday, 23 March 2017


I made a dumb new thing called GamebookBot400.


It makes up random names for gamebooks. Mostly FF in style, but with some curveballs thrown in there. If you're luck score is high, maybe you'll see some funny ones.

Find it on Twitter here: @GamebookBot400.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Tin Man Games: Slaves of Rema

Hi! Long time no... see? Blog? Write?

How are you? I'm living in a hotel because my real house got flooded, and since a) I don't have my music gear here and b) it's strangely depressing having people randomly show up at your 'home' and  to make your bed while you sit there playing XCOM 2 and try your best to pretend not to be a slob, I've decided - at least for tonight - to seek refuge in a fantasy world where I'll probably die an awful, humiliating and painful death. For fun.

Slaves of Rema! It's one of the Tin Man range of gamebooks. Going by the splash screen (cover?), it's some kind of Gladiator-themed romp through Classical Rome, but with lizards big enough for Obi-Wan to ride.

"Millions of voices suddenly cried out, 'Weeeee!'"
So, I'm a dude still living at home with his elderly parents and three sisters (so, a Millennial). I'm apparently pro-slavery (okay, definitely a Trump voter), so it shouldn't come as any surprise when one day my platoon is ambushed by some slavers and made to walk a mile in slave shoes. Sad!

I'm quickly enlisted to fight in the gladiatorial arena, assigned to the Red team. Our opponents are the Blues, which I guess makes this some kind of analogy for the Bloods and Crips? I might be reading too much into this. Are Bloods and Crips still a thing? Or is it Democrips and Rebloodicans?

Gang handshakes are getting a bit odd

After easily bringing my first opponent (the 'desert-man', 'cause desert men need only hyphens, not names) to the brink of death, I do as the Emperor - sorry, the Princeps - asks, and decapitate him.

This apparently makes me sick, 'cause while I'm all for lifetimes spent in bondage and torture, a quick and painless end to the misery of eternal servitude is apparently a step too far (Rebloodicans clearly the right choice).

This act however is sufficiently despicable enough to attract the attention of a gang of other slaves - not sure if East or West Coast - who want out. I'm offered my choice of role in the elaborate escape plot. I choose to be on weapons duty, so if it all goes horribly wrong at least I'll have some way to put a cap in the ass of anyone in my way.

Not all of it goes to plan - for the others. I, on the other hand, somehow end up with a sapphire which I use to blag my way into first class on a boat home. Gangsta.

Then pirates attack, and I'm dead. Which sucks, 'cause before getting on that boat I totally bought a Monkey Skull, assuming an item so specifically useless would save me when I most needed it.

Kali maaaaaaaa!
At least, it would if this was a collect-all-the-weird-shit Ian Livingstone book. But it's not.


Anyway... I've got this app with all the Lone Wolf books on it. I never read those as a kid. Worth doing? Or is it time to run through Sorcery, the apps?

PS. Between the last entry and now, I played the Tin Man version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain a thousand times, so that's probably off the table...