Run-through Recap #1
I’ve been wanting to recap this series for years.
Fighting Fantasy is a sixty-odd part series of gamebooks created by two legitimate behemoths of the gaming world, Steve Jackson (the designer and Ian Livingstone (founders of Games Workshop, and elemental forces in the computer gaming industry with Eidos and Lionhead). Each book is a self-contained branching narrative, in which the reader plays the protagonist and makes decisions on the direction of the character and the battles they must face. The series is a collection of Choose Your Own Adventure riffs, with dice and claws and death.
[Dove: I have never played or read any of these books, and Raven tells me that doesn’t matter. I did enjoy the Choose Your Own Adventure series, particularly Horror at High Ridge, which I now realise was, as well as being impossible to beat, unpleasantly racist. So, I get the idea, and Raven explains how things are different to just choosing an option, so here we go!]
[JC: I used to read a bunch of Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, but somehow the only one I ever owned is a Tales From the Crypt one. There are so many ways to die horribly in it. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a single ending that doesn’t end in dying horribly. Hmm.]
[bat: Like JC, I had maybe a dozen Choose Your Own Adventure titles growing up; book #51 “The Magic of the Unicorn” being my fucking favorite as a child. *spends 20 minutes googling things* Okay I also reread “Help You’re Shrinking!” a gazillion times – apparently it was a part of the “Young Readers” series, BUT ANYWAY. I had a weird fascination with The Incredible Shrinking Woman for a time when I was little and this probably got tied to that. BACK ON TOPIC. I have zero knowledge of this series Raven is reviewing and am honoured he thought I’d like to comment on it. So here we go.]
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain first hit the shelves in 1982. I was nine years old, a prime age to fall deep into the genre. I recall reading this book, and many more, throughout my adolescence, the most recent of which was Book 21, Trial of Champions. I remember enjoying them all, but I am hugely hazy on the specifics. This is a blessing, as it feels as though I’m coming in fresh and new.
I should explain the core conceits of this genre in general, and this series specifically. In each book, you play a character that typically consists of three statistics: SKILL (between 7 and 12), STAMINA (between 14 and 24), and LUCK (between 7 and 12). Each book is split into a series of numbered bespoke paragraphs (from 1 to 400), and each paragraph presents choices that direct you to further numbered paragraphs. At the most basic, you’ll have, say, paragraph 10 that reads thus:
“You reach a T-junction. Do you go left (TURN TO 216) or right (TURN TO 37)?”
As the reader, you make your choice, and turn to the numbered paragraph dictated by your selection.
At times, you will be asked to undergo feats of SKILL, or to test your LUCK. You roll dice, compare them to your statistics, and determine whether you succeed or fail. The story branches again, dependent on your successes. Your statistics can drop, and rise too, but they can never rise above their initial value. You’ll also meet foes, with statistics comparable to your own, and undergo dice-driven battles to the death. You can pick up weapons and items to aid your quest, and you are equipped with provisions and potions to help replenish your reserves.
If your current paragraph gives you no options to continue, or if your STAMINA reaches zero? It’s Game Over. Reroll your character, start again.
I cheated when playing, of course. Most people did, I think. I mean, who can be arsed rolling dice? So, if I faced a statistic check, I’d automatically pass. If I met a foe, from a lowly goblin to a lich-level necromancer, I’d automatically vanquish it. And when I went from paragraph to paragraph, I’d use a finger to mark my previous passage so I could turn back time in the finest Cher tradition should the story hit a brick wall. [Dove: My copy of Horror at High Ridge was absolutely stuffed with bookmarks. I was determined to get through it alive at least once. I’m still not sure that I did.] [JC: So it’s basically Dungeons & Dragons meets Choose Your Own Adventure? Got it. Also, yeah, did anyone ever not cheat at these books? “Wait, no, I totally didn’t just get eaten by zombies; my finger was still in the book!”] [bat: I don’t think I would have been allowed these books, simply because my mother doesn’t like D&D (read: thinks it’s evil) and nor would I have been the target demographic anyway. But I am still intrigued by this concept! And of course, we’d all cheat. Duh.]
As the series developed, the writers got wind of this approach and introduced counter-measures, such as picking up code numbers in one paragraph that become the destinations of other paragraphs (stuff like “Remember the note you found in the hermit’s pocket? Head to the paragraph number that was written on that note… otherwise, your adventure ends here.”). This is more advanced stuff, naturally, which we’ll encounter in the fullness of time.
Committing such atrocities had an upside, in that it meant I could largely “complete” the books as I read them, reaching that mythical winning Paragraph 400 every time I played. While reading the phrase TURN TO 400 was a definite thrill (and it’s still a phrase that brings me out in goosebumps to this day), cheating like this robbed me of any feeling of real accomplishment, and it removed all sense of peril and intrigue from the game, if not the story.
So, how can I recap a book such as this? Each read is largely unique, and it’d take an age to cover every encounter, plot point and story arc. Thankfully, I can’t remember anything but the broadest strokes from my adolescent reads. In a very real sense, my re-reads of these books will feel like the first time.
At first, I imagined creating a video series that captured a run-through reading, with atmospheric music, stat graphics, and map overlays, but if I’m honest, that sounds like far too much work. I may save such intricacies for later entries in the series, should these recaps prove popular.
Eventually, I came up with the following idea. I’ll recap the series, in order. Each entry will be ONE run-through, played straight with no cheating. I’ll create a character, and play the book. I’ll share each decision on the tree, hopefully with some humorous commentary, before revealing each choice so the reader can follow the narrative. I’ll describe the battles and stat challenges I face, and catalogue my inevitable demise with carefree and jaunty vernacular. [JC: I’m hoping “jaunty vernacular” means Raven’s unique brand of cursing that generally results in these posts getting banned from Facebook.] [Raven: Bizarrely, I refrained from anything but the mildest of swears in this. Accidentally, of course. I’m sure I’ll be casually c-bombing by book five.] And, once I’ve recapped each book in the series, I’ll roll back to the beginning and recap them all again with a fresh attempt.
So! Lots to do, but hopefully fun each step of the way. To the recap!
In The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I am an adventurer seeking to amass a fortune. Rumour has it that a powerful Warlock dwells deep within the fabled Firetop Mountain, guarding a personal horde of untold wealth. Many have ventured into the dark, but only a scant few have returned, and none with anything more than scars and nightmares. Will I more successful? Or will I perish in the perilous maze, a victim of my own hubris?
My money’s on the latter.
Let’s roll a character. His name? Corky.
Initial SKILL is 1d6+6… and of course, I roll a 1. SKILL 7.
Initial STAMINA is 2d6+12… I roll 5 and 5. STAMINA 22. Nice!
Initial LUCK is 1d6+6… I roll a 2. LUCK 8.
Gotta say, I’m not feeling those stats. Big, dumb and unlucky. Not the best combination. Poor Corky.
I start my adventure with a sword, leather armour, a shield, a backpack with 10 meals (each adds 4 to my STAMINA), a lantern, and a stat Potion of my choice… I’ll choose a Potion of Luck (one measure of this two-shot potion replenishes any lost LUCK points and adds one LUCK to my initial value).
In the days leading up to my departure, I gather some interesting rumours regarding the Warlock and his treasure. Allegedly, his wealth is stored in a warded chest, locked with two keys that are guarded by a gaggle of gruesome monsters residing within the mountain’s caverns. While I appreciate the Warlock’s precautions, I do question his methods. Surely a more prudent Warlock would house his wealth off-site, perhaps earning interest in a far-off bank vault somewhere. [bat: Gringott’s?] Or maybe the truly innovative Warlock would invest his wealth into Beachfront Property or something. I mean, these gruesome monsters must be on some sort of liveable wage, even if the compensation is paid in turnips or rats’ teeth. And the Warlock’s only source of income looks like selling the stuff left behind by foolhardy adventurers. It’s not a great business model, is all I’m saying. [JC: Next up on the History Channel – Pawn Stars: Firetop Mountain edition!] [bat: I feel like there’s an underpants gnomes “= PROFIT!” joke to be made here.]
Other rumours are that the source of the Warlock’s power is found in a pair of black gloves, or an enchanted deck of cards. The mountain itself is populated by feckless Goblins, warty creatures fond of food and drink. There’s also a river to be crossed via ferry, so it behooves us to save a Gold Piece for the Ferryman.
Eventually, I embark on a two-day hike to the foot of Firetop Mountain. It’s a menacing edifice that looms large, its copper-coloured peak cutting through the gloom. At its base, an ominous cave, which I gingerly enter, sword drawn, my lantern lighting the way.
Soon, I reach a junction, and my first decision.
Should I go west (TURN TO 71) or east (TURN TO 278)?
Gotta say, that’s a pretty crappy decision for my first entry into the format. It feels like a coin flip. I’m plumping for Going West, just as the Pet Shop Boys suggest. [Dove: Welp. This is a good news/bad news situation. Good news: I’ve finally got Tarzan Boy out of my head. The bad news? It’s been replaced with Go West (and, admittedly, some of the bitchier lines in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert).] [JC: Meanwhile, “West End Girls” just started playing on a loop in my head, so thanks for that, I guess.] [bat: They finally stopped playing that damn commercial with “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)” here… only for the goddamn radio station to play the song yesterday. I don’t even like Pet Shop Boys. Westward, ho, as they used to say.]
The westward passage takes a northern turn, and finally trundles up to an occupied sentry post! As I cautiously approach, I see a sleeping Goblin-looking guard, armed and armoured but hardly ready for action. I’m told to TEST MY LUCK.
If I’m LUCKY, he does not wake and I sneak past (TURN TO 301). If I’m UNLUCKY, I step on some gravel with a crunch and his eyes flick open (TURN TO 248).
So… Testing Your Luck.
To Test Your Luck, I roll 2d6. If I roll EQUAL or LESS than my LUCK stat, I’m LUCKY. If I roll HIGHER than my LUCK stat, I’m UNLUCKY. Either way, I then subtract one point from my LUCK stat, as it’s risky to push your luck too far.
Let’s see what I get… Obviously I roll 9. I’m UNLUCKY, and my LUCK stat drops to 7.
I fear my initial stats of SKILL 7, STAMINA 22 and LUCK 8 will make this a short and stark recap. I’m sure to be walloped into oblivion by any adversary with a modicum of strength.
To be honest, what the blue hell is my character thinking? Why on earth does he think he’s in any way equipped to tackle the rigours of Firetop Mountain?! He seems more equipped for mindless manual labour. Then again, a gamebook called Toiling in the Fields doesn’t have much pizzazz. [Dove: Maybe this is the downside of having parents that said, “Corky, my boy, you can do anything you put your mind to.”] [JC: Somewhere, someone is grumbling about participation trophies.] [bat: Sorry, Corky, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.]
Ah well. So be it. The mop flops where it may. To Firetop!
The sentry springs to his feet and reaches for the alarm rope. He’s an ORC, and he needs dispatching quickly!
ORC – SKILL 6, STAMINA 5.
Right… here’s how battles work.
When encountering a creature, it must be battled. Each battle is broken into rounds. Each round, I roll 2d6 and add my SKILL. That’s my Attack Strength. Then I roll 2d6 and add the creature’s SKILL. That’s the creature’s Attack Strength.
If my Attack Strength is the highest, I’ve wounded the creature. If the creature’s Attack Strength is highest, he’s wounded me. If the scores are tied, everyone misses. Either way, we head to the next round and begin again.
Each wound subtracts 2 points of STAMINA from the wounded party. Additionally, I can modify this by using LUCK if I wish. If I’m wounding a creature, I can TEST MY LUCK, with a LUCKY result letting me subtract an extra 2 points of STAMINA from the wounded creature, but an UNLUCKY result meaning my hit only reduced STAMINA by 1 instead of 2. If I’m being wounded, when I TEST MY LUCK I can reduce my STAMINA loss to 1 point on a LUCKY result, but if I’m UNLUCKY I lose 3 points of STAMINA instead of 2). With a LUCK of 8, I doubt I’ll be using this in a battle unless things are very dire indeed.
The rounds roll by, with one party wounding the other, back and forth, until someone is reduced to zero STAMINA and dies. If that’s me, it’s game over.
(One additional note- Sometimes, there’s an option to ESCAPE from a battle. Basically, you can run away. If you do this, the creature gets a free hit to your fleeing back, resulting in the loss of 2 STAMINA. The ESCAPE option can only be used when the paragraph specifically mentions it.)
I won’t be cataloguing every dice roll for every battle. I’m not Arnold Rimmer, and this isn’t Risk. I will, however, share the ebbs and flows, and the number of rounds, and the eventual winner.
I’m up against…
ORC – SKILL 6, STAMINA 5.
This is the first bloody monster, and my SKILL only bests his by a single point. Sure, I can take a pummeling with my superior STAMINA, but I’m pretty screwed in this book.
The battle goes long, nine rounds in total, with a full five of those being a tie. The ORC strikes first, dropping my STAMINA to 20, before a flurry of steel takes the Orc down in three straight rounds.
SKILL 7, STAMINA 20, LUCK 7.
I continue up the passage, and happen upon a door in the west wall. Pressing my ear to it, I hear a rasping sound within, possibly more snoring.
Should I open the door (TURN TO 82) or press on northwards (TURN TO 208)?
I open the door, right? Surely? I’m still pretty buff with STAMINA should a pagger arise, and I’m here to amass untold wealth. I’ll amass the square root of sod all if I just wander past every snoring door. Through the door I go!
The resultant room is cramped and smelly. There’s a table in the centre, upon which sits a lit candle. On a mattress in the corner lies another Orc, sleeping soundly. More interestingly, there’s a small wooden box under the table. I have options here.
Leave the room and continue onwards (TURN TO 208)? Or…
Creep into the room and steal the box? To do this, I must TEST MY LUCK. If I’m LUCKY, the Orc does not wake up (TURN TO 147). If I’m UNLUCKY… (TURN TO 33).
I’ve opened the door. Am I really going to shut it and walk away? When there’s a SMALL WOODEN BOX up for grabs? No sir! The Orc I faced last round wasn’t too hard to defeat, and I’m sure this one won’t be different. Let’s go for it. [Dove: I’m exactly the kind of person who would just scurry by. Having adventures gets you killed.] [JC: On my dad’s side of the family, there’s a saying – “The [redacted surname]s don’t get lost; we go on adventures!” Can confirm, we are all dead.]
Testing my luck… I roll a 2! I’m LUCKY. Go me! My LUCK stat drops to 6.
Without disturbing the slumbering Orc, I sneak out with the box, and crack it open in the solitude of the corridor. Inside, I find a Gold Piece and a pet mouse. I pocket the gold (good for the rumoured Ferryman!), and release the mouse, which scurries off. [Dove: Was there an option to keep the mouse? Asking for Zuu (Raven’s cat. Has toy mice. Loves one in particular, named imaginatively: Mouse).] [Raven: Sadly not. The mouse is released regardless. Such a shame, a pet mouse would be cool, although if I DID get to keep it I’d suspect it’d be used as a plot point later, where I’d have to send it to its doom as a distracting snack so I could sneak past an angry puma.] [bat: And thus, if it were a rat, I’d make a Peter Pettigrew joke. Alas.] Also, I gain 2 LUCK points!
SKILL 7, STAMINA 20, LUCK 8.
Further along the passage, I happen upon a second, silent door, on the west wall.
Should I open the door (TURN TO 397), or continue northwards (TURN TO 363)?
I’ll level with you. At this point in an adventure, I’m going to open all the damn doors, and fight all the damn Orcs. I’m pretty sure the authors realise this. Maybe when my STAMINA is critically low, I’ll change my tune and become more cautious, but in the Here and Now? I’m kicking ass and taking names. [bat: Do you have the requisite bubblegum or are you all out, Raven?]
I’m opening the door.
I’m met with another cramped and smelly room, again with a table and candle combo at the centre. There’s an unoccupied bed in the corner, and another wooden box under the table. It looks like this is the bedroom of the Orc Guard I dispatched at his post.
I can open the box (TURN TO 240) or leave the room (TURN TO 363).
I should open the box… shouldn’t I?
Here’s where some metagaming kicks in. This encounter is a mirror of the previous one, which ended well when I opened the box and found a gold piece (and freed a mouse to boot). I find it hard to imagine the authors writing an identical encounter so soon after the first, which has me suspect that this box contains, I dunno, killer bees or an irritated wolf. So I think that perhaps I should back away.
And yet, the magpie in me can’t leave it alone. I’m pretty sure this is a trap, but there’s a non-zero chance that it’s not, and either way, I think I have to know for sure, one way or the other. So, gingerly, I open the box… [JC: . . . to find a naked Mr. Nydick! Oh, wait, wrong set of recaps.] [Raven: Actual lol.]
The box contains… a bloody SNAKE. Because why the hell not. To battle!
[Dove: ♫ Once Hissing Sid, an evil snake, kept the woodland folk awake // In fear and trembling every night // In case he gave someone a bite ♫ … Tread carefully husband. Do not hop into a hollow stick.]
SNAKE – SKILL 5, STAMINA 2
Two STAMINA? That’s one hit! Poor Snake, weakened from being locked in a bloody box for so long. I should dispatch this enemy quickly.
The dice, of course, have different ideas.
For four rounds, the deft and dextrous snake slithers hither and thither, avoiding my lunges and plunges with consummate ease. [bat: Roll for Parseltongue! Oh wait, damn.] It darts at my exposed flesh, causing wound after wound, until I finally crush its skull with the pommel of my sword in round five. Snakes, it seems, are FOUR TIMES more effective than Orcs. Maybe the Warlock should use them to guard the whole mountain? [Dove: There’s a reason Keith Mitchell did a song about the triumph over a snake and not an orc.] [JC: For the first sentence and a half of this paragraph, I was convinced Raven had taken up writing erotica.] [Raven: A boy needs a hobby…]
I guess my trepidation here was half right. It was indeed a trap, of sorts, but it did uncover a key that will, hopefully, prove to be important later on. Although if the Warlock has tasked a crappy Orc Guard with the onerous job of safeguarding one of the two keys to his warded chest, then he needs to take a long hard look at himself.
SKILL 7, STAMINA 12, LUCK 8.
During the fight, the Snake’s box tumbled to the ground, revealing a bronze key with the number 99 on it. I snaffle it up and put it in my pouch. I also gain 1 LUCK point, but as I’m at my initial LUCK value I can’t raise it any more at this time.
Continuing along the passage, I happen across another door on the west wall. However, this time there’s no need to crook an ear and listen intently. The door is masking some of the worst singing ever heard by man or beast! My choices?
Should I enter the room and investigate the hideous din (TURN TO 370)? Or should I walk on by (TURN TO 42)?
I feel like I’ve not got the full picture here. How many voices can I hear? Does the voice (or voices) sound drunk? Or angry / passionate? Basically, am I rushing into a room filled with football fans looking for a pre-match fight, or is it a lone drunkard nursing a pint and singing about his long-lost love? It’s vital information such as this that could prove the difference between life or death. [JC: How does it affect your decision if this is simply the audition room for American Idol?]
Reading between the lines, I’m imagining one voice, singing badly, not drunk. I’m definitely investigating, although I’d feel much better if I had a chance to eat a meal before I ventured inside. Sadly, I can only imbibe my provisions when the paragraph says it’s appropriate.
This room is small, and furnished identically to all the others thus far (table, candle, bed, box). [Dove: The Barratts house of the fantasy genre.] However, this room is not empty, nor does it house a slumbering guard. Upon opening the door, I’m greeted by [JC: William Hung singing “She Bangs”!] two small, warty goblinoid creatures, both deep in their cups and compromised by drink, each singing loudly. As they see me and stumble to their feet, I’m given a choice.
Do I draw my sword and rush them (TURN TO 116) or do I slam the door and run away (TURN TO 42).
Interesting conundrum. It should be noted that running away here, to paragraph 42, sends me to the same destination as if I’d never opened the door in the first place. I’m thinking this means It’d be safe to do this. Of course, it’s much more fun to attack, and I’m feeling Corky’s Big Sword Energy here. It’s time to fight!
It looks like I’m up against two drunken Orcs. I must fight them one at a time, as they stumble and fumble in their alcoholic fugue. During this fight, their drunkenness allows my to add 1 to my dice roll when determining my attack strength, and I can choose to ESCAPE the fight at any time, which is a bonus.
FIRST ORC – SKILL 5, STAMINA 4
SECOND ORC – SKILL 5, STAMINA 5
This fight establishes one thing: Orcs are not Snakes.
The first Orc is dispatched in two swift rounds, with each swing of my sword finding Orc flesh and digging deep. The second Orc puts up more of a fight, catching me once with a wild lunge, but such token resistance proves futile as his single hit is no match for my three powerful thrusts. Don’t get drunk, kids. It dulls your senses and makes you susceptible to ambush.
SKILL 7, STAMINA 10, LUCK 8.
After wiping my metaphorical penis on the curtains, [JC: Dove, come get your man. And then buy new curtains.] I turn my attention to the box beneath the table. This one has crude hinges, and is labelled with the name Farrigo Di Maggio on a brass plate embossed in the lid.
Should I open the box (TURN TO 296), or should I drop the box and leave the room (TURN TO 42)?
I’m opening the box, naturally. I’ve just killed two Orcs for this. Although I concede that killing everyone in the room before shrugging and walking away empty handed is by far the more Baller move. Talk about your power play. [Dove: Or you’re Begbie from Trainspotting.] [bat: I thought the c-bombs wouldn’t happen until the fifth recap!] Still, I’m greedy, and curious, and if this box contains another snake I’m going to flip the bloody be-candled table.
This box contains something very precious: a small, leather-bound book called The Making and Casting of Dragonfire. It’s written in my native tongue, which explains why it was likely overlooked by the Orcs. I read the book and devour the knowledge within, the most pertinent of which is an actual Dragonfire spell itself. Apparently, the spell should be cast when a Dragon breathes its fire, at which point I should raise my arms and chant:
So, for the cheap seats, that’s “Like Fire, Make Fire, Fire Fire” backwards, followed by “Di Maggio”. Standard spellcasting nonsense. And I suppose this means that, at some point in this book, I’ll be meeting a dragon, although that much is evident because there’s a dragon on the cover of every single edition of the book. [JC: This spell is glorious. Does it work for everything? Like, if I wanted to conjure a doughnut, could I just yell “Ekil tunod, ekam tunod, tunod tunod”? (Normally, the spelling of “doughnut” is a hill I’m willing to die on, but I don’t feel like attempting to pronounce “tunhguod.”)] [bat: …what does Joe Di Maggio have to do with fire?]
I learn the spell, leave the room, and finally TURN TO 42.
The northern passage eventually ends at a t-junction. Here, I can head west (TURN TO 257) or east (TURN TO 113).
As I’m still under the thrall of the Pet Shop Boys / Village People, I choose to Go West once more. I suspect, when given this choice at any time in any of the forthcoming books, I’d always head the wiki-wiki wild wild way.
The westward passage runs straight for several metres before ending at a wooden door. There’s angry shouting from within.
My choices? Investigate (TURN TO 168) or head back (TURN TO 293).
With my STAMINA at a lowly 10, I’m sorely tempted to head back here. However, if I did that, and headed east, I’m sure I’d be faced with a similar dilemma. The thing that gives me pause is the anger in the voices. But who knows, perhaps I’ll take Shouty McShouterson by surprise and dispatch him like so many drunk Orcs before him. I feel emboldened by the previous combat, and surely I’ll be given a chance to rest and eat some provisions soon. Corky has Tiger Blood… I’m going in. [Dove: *hides under desk*]
This room is larger than the previous dwellings, befitted with a large chair and solid-looking table that’s obviously used by a creature with some rank. There’s a chest in the centre of the room, and a warty, man-sized creature, armed with a whip, beating on a smaller creature of a similar race. [bat: I HOPE IT’S DOBBY. Fucking Dobby.] It’s an Orc Chieftain, wailing on his servant. [bat: DAMN IT.]
My choices are… attack them both (TURN TO 372), spring at the Chieftain in the hope that his servant will aid my attack (TURN TO 65), or leave the room and head back to the junction (TURN TO 293).
Let’s dissect the options. First, we could run away. I’m sorely tempted to do so, as SKILL 7 and STAMINA 10 is not exactly a Terminator-level killing machine. [bat: Happy Skynet Self-Awareness Anniversary! Which will be long over by the time this recap goes live.] This Orc is a Chieftain, which may place him as being as skilled, or more skilled, than me. However, I still feel in decent-enough shape to dispatch this fella, so I’m loathe to retreat at this stage.
That leaves us with Attack Them Both, or Attack The Chieftain And Hope The Servant Helps. I think I side with Attack The Chieftain, as while I’ve seen nothing thus far to suggest that Orcs are capable of changing their allegiance and joining the Good Guys, I’d rather live in a world where that is at least a possibility. Besides, wading in and stabbing both sides of this fight indiscriminately seems rather uncouth. [Dove: I’d run away. Although even if I turn out to be right, my cautious way of playing is awful and tends to end with me falling off a cliff because the book gets pissed off with my lack of action.] [JC: Go big or go home has met its third option: fall off a cliff.]
Mind made up. I’m attacking the Chieftain, and hoping the Servant helps.
I move to engage the Chieftain, and the Servant takes up a wooden stick. Unfortunately, he decides to side with his damn boss at this time, so my choices are now ESCAPE (TURN TO 293) or fight them both (TURN TO 372).
Escaping, here, seems a viable option, but if I’m honest I want to kick the bloody Servant’s head in. Ungrateful bellend. I’m attacking them both. [Dove: *sigh* He’s like this when we go shopping. He loathes other beings. Except cats. Well, all animals, but cats are his favourite.] [JC: Person: *takes the parking spot Raven was aiming for* Raven: *sighs* And now we must fight to the death, you inconsiderate cockgoblin!] [bat: Oh my god, forever on I will now sing this when I think of Raven.]
ORC CHIEFTAIN – SKILL 7, STAMINA 6
SERVANT – SKILL 5, STAMINA 3
I’m fighting them one at a time, and there’s no escape option. The Chieftain has the same SKILL as me, so this could go either way. Wish me luck!
First up, I face the Orc Chieftain, with his whip. He successfully keeps me at bay, scoring one wound, two wounds, three wounds uncontested, his stinging leather finding gaps in my armours, rapping and rasping against my skin. [JC: Look, this is how Daddy Dom Orc shows his love, okay?] Things are looking bleak. I manage to sidestep a whipcrack and arc my sword towards his head. I close my eyes and test my luck… and I’m successful! My wound strikes home and causes four STAMINA damage. One more hit, and he’s history!
The Chieftain redoubles his efforts, and his next hit takes me one wound, a mere two STAMINA, from death. And when the tip of his whip gouges at my eyes, I test my luck once more… and pass! I twist my face away at the last second, and the whip merely catches my cheek for one point of STAMINA damage.
In desperation, I make my next attack in the dark, blood in my eyes, swinging blind. My sword hits! I cleave the Chieftain from neck to sternum, and he crumples to the floor in a bloodied mess.
SKILL 7, STAMINA 1, LUCK 6
Still groggy from the previous fight, I steel myself for the snarling Servant. He raises his wooden club, and approaches. He’s not as skillful as me, but he’s fresher despite the beating from his vanquished master. I control my attack and move forward with a snarl, while he roundhouses his club in a lazy swat.
I feel my skull crack, and my senses are dulled to black. I stagger, drop to a knee, and fall, face first, to the floor. I am defeated. The Servant pauses for breath, before rifling through my pockets, as my light flickers and finally dies. [JC: Do not go gentle into that good night! Rage, rage, against the dying of the light! . . . . That’s right, I can make stupid innuendoes and quote Dylan Thomas. I’m multifaceted!]
All hail Corky the Adventurer, bested by an Orc Servant in the bowels of Firetop Mountain.
I hope you enjoyed my playthrough of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Before I go, here are some learnings.
- Starting off with the lowest SKILL score possible is hard. Even the early-level creatures can pose serious threats, as the Box Snake can attest. [Dove: His name is Hissing Sid.]
- With this in mind, perhaps I should have been more cagy and picked my battles carefully. Then again, all the battles I successfully completed yielded things that seemed important to the plot, like mysterious keys and spellbooks. Who knows? [Dove: You played like a nineteen year old after being kicked out of Wetherspoons.]
- I should have started with the Potion of Strength, which restores STAMINA, as even though my STAMINA was high, my low SKILL meant that it dropped at an alarming rate. It can also be used at any time, meaning I could have necked it before the Chieftain fight and likely survived.
- Provisions seem useless, as I didn’t get a single chance to rest and eat. Although I also feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book. Maybe if I’d defeated the Servant, I’d have found a picnic blanket in the next room.
In my next recap, I tackle Book 2 in the series, The Citadel of Chaos. The owners need to rethink their property listing if they are truly serious about selling; chaos is hardly a desirable factor in a family home. [JC: Ooh, speak for yourself. I am an agent of chaos, and would like my citadel to reflect that.]
Until next time, may your dice always roll sixes.
(TURN TO 400)