Run-through Recap #1
Last time out, our brave (and somewhat foolhardy) adventurer Corky [bat: RIP the Cork-ster!] delved deep within the catacombs of Firetop Mountain. He was defeated by an Orc Chieftain’s Servant, when the gruesome green galoot stoutly bopped our hero on the noggin with a bloody big stick. This time out, we’re venturing into the home of the legendary sorcerer Balthus Dire… The Citadel of Chaos!
[bat: Sounds like Loki’s summer vacation home, the chalet o’ chaos.] [Dove: Corky doesn’t really know when to quit, sounds like.] [JC: Bring on the chaos, bitches!]
For a rounded explanation of the Fighting Fantasy series and the mechanics therein, go check out the introduction for my recap of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, here. Though you’re probably better off with the Wiki, obv. For my series-specific slant, check out the Recap Crib Sheet, below…
If you know what Fighting Fantasy books are all about, you can skip down to the Initial Thoughts section below. I’m popping this Recap Crib Sheet in the first few recaps, before using a simple link sometime in the future.
Fighting Fantasy Recap Crib Sheet
What IS Fighting Fantasy?
Fighting Fantasy is a 60-odd strong series of adventure gamebooks. In each, you create a character by rolling dice for various stats. Your character then tackles a branching narrative through which the decisions are at the reader’s whim, and battles fantastical monsters with the aid of foraged equipment and the roll of a dice. It’s Choose Your Own Adventure meets Dungeons and Dragons.
How will I recap the series?
While I did read a chunk of these in the Eighties, I can’t remember ANYTHING about them other than their titles. Also, I cheated hugely every time I played. For this run, I’ll run a playthrough for each book, in original publication order (Puffin), from one to fifty-nine, then add the new non-Puffin books (I’ll likely throw in the four-book Sorcery saga at some point too). My playthroughs will be strictly No Cheating and Fair, likely seeing me killed without completing the story. Then, once the series has been completed, I’ll head back to the beginning and try them all again!
What are the character’s statistics?
Most books (if not all) have three stats: SKILL (1D6+6), STAMINA (2D6+12), and LUCK (1D6+6). Some books have more stats, or other things to administrate; these will be discussed in the various books in which it’s applicable.
How do battles work?
When you encounter an enemy, you are presented with its SKILL and STAMINA stats. Then you battle it over a series of rounds, with each round broken up as follows:
- Roll 2D6 and add your SKILL. This is your Attack Strength for the round.
- Roll 2D6 and add the enemy’s SKILL. This is the enemy’s Attack Strength for the round.
- Whoever has the higher Attack Strength has won the round. The loser subtracts 2 from their STAMINA score (this number can be affected by LUCK, as described in a section below).
- If the Attack Strengths are tied, everyone misses, and the battle continues.
- If one of the combatants is reduced to zero STAMINA, they are defeated. If both still have STAMINA, the round ends and a new round begins (go back to Point 1).
(Note: Sometimes, you are offered the chance to ESCAPE. This is basically running away, and if it’s not explicitly presented as an option then it cannot be done. As you ESCAPE, the enemy hacks at your fleeing back and you lose 2 STAMINA.)
How does LUCK work?
Occasionally, when faced with a dilemma, you’ll be asked to TEST YOUR LUCK. To do so, roll 2D6 and compare it to your LUCK score. If the number is equal to or lower than your LUCK score, you are LUCKY, and progress along that path in the story. If the roll is higher than your LUCK score, you are UNLUCKY, and you progress along that path instead. Either way, you then subtract 1 point from your LUCK score, as pushing your LUCK gets trickier over time.
In any round of a battle, after Attack Strengths are compared, you can TEST YOUR LUCK to improve your result. If your Attack Strength is the higher, a LUCKY result increases the amount of damage done to the enemy’s STAMINA to 4 (instead of 2), but an UNLUCKY result drops it from 2 down to a lowly 1. Similarly, if your Attack Strength is the lower, a LUCKY result reduces the damage you take down to 1, but an UNLUCKY result increases it up to 3.
Stats drop… can they increase?
Yes they can! Various items can increase your stats, such as potions or provisions. These can be given to you at the start of an adventure, or found along the way. Specific items will be explained in their appropriate recaps. Unless explicitly stated, however, such boons will never increase your stats above their initial level.
Anything else I need to know?
Adventurers generally start their quests with an inventory of items, again specific to the books and stories in which they appear. You can find things and lose things en route to your goal, and making maps and notes is probably a great idea. Me? I’ll be keeping notes, but I’m no cartographer. For these initial playthroughs, at least.
So! That’s all you need to know about Fighting Fantasy concepts going in. Let’s head to the The Citadel of Chaos!
First up, a word about the cover. It is, without question, pretty damn terrible.
I mean, what in the hell is that Gremlin-looking mo’fo in the foreground? It looks like a bloody Gonk. [bat: It looks like someone over-inflated a fucking Critter. But, wait, when was this book released? Is this the original cover art or is it an updated version? Unrelated but we had Gonks here, they just weren’t marketed under that name in the US.] [JC: Critters were definitely my first thought, too. I guess I’m in the minority here, but I kind of love the cover!] [Raven: It’s definitely both a Critter, and an acquired taste.] [JC: Actually, the more I look at it, the more it looks like the Tra-la-logs from The Pit.] It’s about as menacing as a Cornish Pastie. It’s the head of what appears to be a procession of gnarly enemy-types that are marching out of the Citadel’s main entrance, each of which are perilously close to the edge of a ravenous drop. I tell you, a stiff breeze and that’s half the Citadel’s defending forces splatted at the foot of a mountain like so much strawberry jam. [Dove: The cover on a whole looks like the animated Lord of the Rings, when they merged about a billion different animation styles together. It worked for LotR, but that cover’s just weird. On that note, who’s with me to recap the animated LotR? Also, back to the book, we all know what happens to towers by the sea. Sometimes it’s subsidance. Sometimes it’s a fleet of escaping unicorns. Either way, it ends with an expensive splash.]
Also, that’s a precarious place to build a Citadel. Getting industrial diggers and masonry deliveries down that narrow path would be a nightmare. It’d make a cracking episode of Grand Designs, for sure, although Kevin would be very critical at the dearth of windows… maybe Balthus Dire is a vampire, and thus shuns any sources of natural light?
Digging into the backstory, Today I’m employed as a noble defender of the lawful goodfolk of the Vale of Willow, who have been living in the fearful shadow of the Demi-Sorcerer Balthus Dire for eight full years. [Dove: Eight years is nothing. We’ve had a lockdown overseen by (respectively) Boris fucking Johnson and the Orange Twat. Tell ’em I’ll care more when they’ve been through that.] [Raven: Yeah, ‘eight years’ doesn’t seem particularly threatening.] Rumour has it that Dire has designs on conquest, and the Vale’s spies tell us he plans to send his army of Chaotics to overpower the area within the week.
The king, Salamon, has set many defences, and sent word to the nearby Half-Elves in search of allies. Word has also come to the Grand Wizard of Yore, who has sent me, his headstrong yet most promising student, to the king’s aide. The plan, designed to disrupt the oncoming storm? I venture into the Citadel itself, the infamous Black Tower, and look to assassinate Balthus Dire before his forces are dispatched. [JC: You’re a student? Just a lowly student?! I feel if the Grand Wizard were serious about defeating Mr. Dire, he would have gone himself. The fact that he’s sending expendable cannon fodder doesn’t bode well for the lovely people of the Vale.] [Raven: To be fair, the book does mention that the Grand Wizard is an old fogey, and that the coming storm will require a modicum of swordplay.]
Piece of piss, mate. Let’s get on it.
Time to make an Adventurer! Let’s call him… Corky.
SKILL (1D6+6): I roll… a 1. OF COURSE I DO. My SKILL is 7.
STAMINA (2D6+12): I roll… a 7. My STAMINA is 19.
LUCK: (1D6+6): I roll… a 4. My LUCK is 10.
For The Citadel of Chaos, another stat is required…
MAGIC (2D6+6): I roll… a 5. My MAGIC is 11.
SKILL 7, STAMINA 19, LUCK 10, MAGIC 11.
Corky the Adventurer… as lucky as a leprechaun, and skillful as a sponge cake. [JC: Is that an insult to sponge cake?]
Right, let’s tackle MAGIC.
The MAGIC stat is the number of pre-learnt SPELLS I can take into the adventure. My anaemic roll of 5 means I have 11 spells in total. If I’m the Grand Wizard of Yore’s most promising student, the rest of the class must be paste-eating Wiggums through and through.
Each spell is one use only, and I can take multiples. Here’s the list from which I can choose, before setting off.
Creature Copy – Conjure an exact copy of a creature you’re fighting, and get it to fight the battle. [Dove: THIS! THIS ONE! I WANT THIS ONE!]
ESP – Tune into psychic wavelengths (read a creature’s mind, “listen” behind a door, etc). Can be confusing if there’s more than one source nearby.
Fire – Create fire (small fires, walls of fire, etc).
Fool’s Gold – A reliable illusion spell that turns rock into gold.
Illusion – Create a powerful illusion to fool a creature. Effective against intelligent foes. Illusions dispelled easily, and are unreliable in general.
Levitation – Frees the target (object, opponent, yourself) from the effects of gravity, to float freely in the air under the caster’s control.
Luck – Restores half of your initial LUCK, rounded down. May be cast at any time, except in battle, and cannot increase the stat over the initial value.
Shielding – Creates an invisible shield to protect from physical objects. Does not work on magic, and is two-way: you can’t hit your opponent through it either.
Skill – Restores half of your initial SKILL, rounded down. May be cast at any time, except in battle, and cannot increase the stat over the initial value.
Stamina – Restores half of your initial STAMINA, rounded down. May be cast at any time, except in battle, and cannot increase the stat over the initial value.
Strength – Increases the caster’s strength greatly. Excellent for battling incredibly strong creatures.
Weakness – Reduces the strength of a strong creature, to make it easier to battle. Does not work on every creature.
Twelve spells, eleven slots. Some seem redundant (Strength AND Weakness?), while some seem more powerful than others.
First, it seems like there are no potions or provisions in this book (check out my first playthrough for info on those), so boosting your stats once they are depleted is done entirely through MAGIC. The last playthrough taught me that I need STAMINA options, so I’m going to go with 3 copies of the Stamina spell. I’ll also take 1 copy of the Luck spell, which leaves me with 7 slots remaining.
Creature Copy sounds like a good way to retain that precious STAMINA stat, so I’ll grab one of those. [Dove: Just one?] [Raven: I’d rather spread my choices thin so I have many options.] ESP, I’m not sold on. It says it’s a bit flaky on the label, so that can stay on the shelf. Fire? Sign me up for sure, I’ll bag one of those. Fool’s Gold seems niche, but I reckon bribing my way past a guard is something that’s likely to occur, so I’ll pocket a copy.
Illusion… this is a tough one. Like ESP, the label warns that the Contents Might Have Settled In Transit. However, this spell has a much wider application, and seems very powerful. I’ll take one.
That leaves me with three more spells to grab. Levitation seems an adaptable spell, so I’ll learn a copy. Shielding sounds like it could hinder as well as help, so I’ll pass, and Skill doesn’t deliver much if your SKILL stat is as low as poor Corky’s is today. This leaves Strength and Weakness… I think I’ll take one of each, although this could be a mistake as they both seem like they’re attacking the same problem from a different angle.
Yeah, I’m happy with that eleven. I’m very one-and-done, but I hope my spellbook will be a swiss army knife, and ready for anything that the Citadel throws at me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present… Corky the Adventurer. [bat: Oh boy, apparently Raven is a necromancer in his spare time? I honestly do love the idea that every adventure, Corky is raised from the dead to TRY ALL OVER AGAIN. I am now wholly invested in this series.] [JC: I would be taking multiples of Stamina, Skill, Strength, and Creature Copy. And poor Corky, thinking he’s taken his well-earned place in Valhalla, only to be ripped away and crammed back into the adventurer life.]
SKILL 7, STAMINA 19, LUCK 10, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Fool’s Gold, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength, Weakness.
Equipment: Sword, Leather Armour, Lantern, Backpack.
Good luck, brave Corky!
I start my adventure at the foot of Craggan Rock, with the Black Tower an hour’s climb above me. As I climb, I muse about how I can pass by the inevitable guards ahead. Should I pretend to be a travelling herbalist, an artisan, a carpenter? Let’s face it, with a SKILL of 7 I’ll be hard-pressed to pass myself off as a bloody fighter.
As I approach the portcullised entrance, I can make out two misshapen guards. One has the head of a dog and the body of an ape, while the other is the complete opposite. It’s the ape-faced dog that makes the first move, trotting up and inquiring about my business at the Citadel
Do I pose as a herbalist (TURN TO 261), a tradesman (TURN TO 230) or someone seeking shelter (TURN TO 20)?
Hmmm… no option to hoof the ape-faced dog off the path and into the Jam Ravine. Shame. Then again, I think Corky the Adventurer will be a lot more circumspect on this quest. [bat: Place your bets now!]
Begging for shelter doesn’t seem the play, as that would require a modicum of empathy from my dual-animal (dualimal) guards. Posing as a herbalist also seems weak, as the obvious follow-up demand of “show us your damn herbs” would leave me wanting. I’ll pretend to be a tradesman, as I can mime using a hacksaw if pressed. [JC: When in doubt, entertain the guards with a rousing game of Charades!]
The Ape-Dog is intrigued, and declares that if I’m there to make money, I can share the profits with him! As I’ve no cash on me, I have the following options:
I can pull a rock from my pouch and cast a Fool’s Gold spell on it (TURN TO 96), or I can prepare for battle (TURN TO 288).
Why have I got a rock in my pouch? I suppose it’s a component for my spellcasting. Fair enough. And it’s a shame I can’t haggle with the guard and offer him a cut of my proceeds upon my exit, as I’m here to make the money with which I can pay him.
Even though it’s early in the adventure, I have to use my Fool’s Gold spell here. It’s exactly the use I selected it for. I think that if I were more SKILLed, I’d happily take my chances, but Corky needs to rely on his cunning and guile to succeed. [bat: So Corky reanimated as a Slytherin this round.] [Raven: Always.]
The spell works, and the dualimals summon a gatekeeper to grant me ingress. Result! Let’s hope I don’t need that spell later.
The gate opens into a large open courtyard, lit from lanterns on the walls. At the centre stands an imposing monument, and groups of figures creep and shuffle in the shadows. The main entrance to the tower is opposite the gate.
I can creep around the walls toward the tower (TURN TO 222), or stride boldly across the courtyard (TURN TO 179). Alternately, I can tiptoe through the shadows towards one of the groups (TURN TO 321).
My head says hug the walls and make no sound, and creep towards the tower unseen. My heart, however, tells me to get my dick out and stride through the courtyard with pride. The third option is unobtrusive, but also might gain me some info for later if I can interrogate the figures in the shadows somehow.
Man, I really should just keep my head down here. But if I spend the whole book doing that, I won’t learn anything. [Dove: And in this adventure, it is actually possible you’ll fall off a cliff as punishment for making Dove-like choices.] I’m not going balls-out jazz-hands “here I am, bitches”, but the cautious approach of tiptoe-and-investigate seems a fine compromise. Who knows, they might be friendly. Option 3 it is!
I cautiously check the lay of the land, and ascertain two groups of interest. Which should I approach?
Two human-like creatures talking by a torch (TURN TO 269) or four creatures of varying shapes and sizes eating by a fire (TURN TO 339)?
The scoffing weridos by the fire do sound the more interesting. They’re eating, and I guess would be caught unawares should battle commence. But there’s four of them, and unless the varying sizes range from miniscule to below average I don’t fancy my chances. I’ll head towards the two stood talking by the torch. Maybe I can eavesdrop.
The two men are dirty and unkempt, and are haggling over the price of a dagger. The seller, the taller of the two, insists that the weapon is enchanted and is worth more than the other is offering to pay. As I approach, he grabs me and asks how I would value the weapon.
Do I say 5 Gold (TURN TO 205), 8 Gold (TURN TO 186) or 10 Gold (TURN TO 225)?
That’s a lot of money for a crappy-looking dagger. [JC: But love is a dagger, Raven. Obviously that is priceless.] [bat: Love is also a battlefield, JC. A battlefield on which to use that dagger made of love.] [Raven: Love is also a fist, but the less said about that the better.] Obviously, the pragmatist in me says I should sit on the fence and declare an 8 Gold interest here, but that’s so wishy-washy it might as well be a Tide Pod. Nah, I’m going to take a chance and say the higher price, as at least if the shortarse kicks off I’m on the side of the tall bloke with the supposedly magic knife.
Tall-Boy agrees, but Short-Boy declares he just doesn’t have that kind of money, and wanders off. Tall-Boy then offers to sell me the dagger for the low low price of 9 Gold. I’m then offered the chance to use a Fool’s Gold spell to buy the dagger, or to simply apologise and walk away (TURN TO 245). As I don’t have a Fool’s Gold spell to use, it’s a not really a choice.
Well, that’s annoyed me. I should have just kicked the Ape-Dog and Dog-Ape into the fucking sea.
I set off across the courtyard toward the Citadel. Suddenly, a blustering wind arises and buffets me back, stopping all progress. As I fight against it, it takes a vague human form, and sprouts a female face! I watch, incredulous, as this Whirlwind Woman mouths a message. Apparently, she thinks I’m butt-face ugly and challenges me with words of abuse. My options?
Ignore her and continue (TURN TO 161), talk to her (TURN TO 390), or use magic to see her off (TURN TO 47)? [JC: Give it right back to her! Tell her that her mother was a hamster and her father smelt of elderberries! You fart in her general direction! (TURN TO OH FUCK NEVER MIND YOU’RE DEAD NOW)]
Ignoring her seems ridiculous, if she’s made of wind. She’s stopped my progress already, I’m pretty sure she will do so again. Talking to her sounds the play, but let’s see what spells I could use.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength, Weakness.
Strength and Weakness seem pointless, as I’ve no idea if she’s strong. Levitation? Probably not, she’s made of wind, and can likely float anyway. Fire also sounds silly, as she could just blow it out. Creature Copy, maybe?
Nah. Think I’ll just talk to her.
As I talk, she just starts being an arse, blowing me off my feet every time I rise. Perhaps Levitation on myself was the play? Either way, I must TEST MY LUCK.
I roll… a 6. I’m LUCKY!
I do the old “who’s that behind you” trick, and she spins round to look. As she does so, I run off toward the Citadel. As my old nan used to say, “there’s nowt quite as stupid as a sentient whirlwind.”
[Dove: *blinks* Well, that was feeble of her. I’d have probably wasted a copy spell in the hope it’s like when my friend set off about fifteen Furbies. They were in a continuous noise feedback loop. Funny, for about two minutes. Then creepy. Then annoying as fuck.]
SKILL 7, STAMINA 19, LUCK 9, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength, Weakness.
The door to the Citadel is wooden. It is also locked. I can…
Knock three times [bat: On the ceiling?] to summon the guard (TURN TO 118) or use a Strength spell to try to open in (TURN TO 94). [Dove: USE A FIRE SPELL! … sorry, not sure where that aggression came from.]
Do I want to “waste” my Strength spell here? It seems suboptimal. I’d rather use that to fight a possible unassailable foe later in the game. Then again, summoning the guard could see me fighting someone unnecessary.
I think I’ll knock and summon the guard. Using a Strength spell to break down a door will likely get the guards running anyway.
The guard, it seems, is an armoured Rhinoceros stood on his hind legs. [JC: Judoon platoon upon the moon?!] [Raven: I mean, of course. How did I miss this connection?] He gruffly demands the password to enter. If I know the password, I can TURN TO 273. If not, I must try to bluff (TURN TO 198).
I guess the weirdos eating by the fire would have mentioned the password. Ah well, it’s time to pull on my bluffin’ britches.
Using every ounce of guile I possess, I pull some weeds from my pouch and declare I’m a herbalist come to treat the Lord’s librarian, and no-one mentioned any password. So it seems as though I could have used the herbalist story earlier, and produced herbs if required. Good to know. It’s time to TEST MY LUCK to see if the Rhino believes me.
I roll… a 7. I’m LUCKY!
The Rhino believe me, and lets me in. As my old nan used to say, “there’s nowt quite as gullible as an armoured rhinoceros.” My old nan, it seems, was a veritable font of wisdom. [bat: Pretty sure they’re the same armoured rhinos from Disney’s Robin Hood, they’re just a S-M-R-T as this one.] [JC: Nope. Judoon.] [Dove: Have I met your nan? I’ve definitely met an older lady of nan age and I don’t remember her talking this much scribble.] [Raven: You may have met one of my nans. They’re both dead now (one died when I was very young). But this nan is a fictional nan, so no, you’ve not met her.]
SKILL 7, STAMINA 19, LUCK 8, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength, Weakness.
The entrance to the Citadel houses a passage that ends in a door. Halfway along the passage, there’s an archway leading to some steps that snake downwards.
So… Door (TURN TO 5) or Steps (TURN TO 344).
Pros and Cons: Steps versus Doors.
While Steps are nice, it’s gloomy down there, and Corky is Scared of the Dark. You have to be careful with Steps, watching your feet, taking them slowly, 5, 6, 7, 8. And of course, falling down them can be a Tragedy. [Dove: Yep, that plan is probably Better Best Forgotten. And the door is only a Heartbeat away. Unless that’s the Last Thing On Your Mind?] [Raven: Heart.]
On the other hand, Doors really do Light My Fire. Even if they are locked, with an application of strength it’s easy enough to Break On Through. … … Something something Riders on the Storm. [bat: So we’re all gonna do peyote in the desert next round? Last one on the Crystal Ship is a lizard king!] [Raven: I think Book 7 covers this: Island of the Lizard King.] [JC: Proceed with caution, adventurer, else this may be The End.] [bat: Oh, moon of Alabama, we now must say goodbye.]
This seems a coinflip, so I’ll go down the steps as I’d have to walk past the arch to get to the door.
The stairs lead down through the cool and stagnant air. They lead to a second door, which I can try (TURN TO 7), or I can head back to the other door upstairs (TURN TO 5). I’ll stick with this door for now, thanks.
In the last book, and in this, there’s been a few times when the text has been “Do you want Option A?” followed immediately with “Do you REALLY want Option A?”
I’m not sure what to think about this.
Would these be warnings from the writer? Or would they be simple padding to ensure the books has exactly 400 paragraphs? Enquiring minds want to know!
I’ll make a mental note of the outcomes of these things going forward, see if we can draw a more researched conclusion down the line.
The door is locked.
I can charge it with my shoulder (TURN TO 268) or I can wrench it off its hinges with a Strength spell (TURN TO 116).
Well, if I’m unwilling to waste a spell on an earlier door, then I shouldn’t waste it on this one. I reckon I’ll put my shoulder to it, although with a SKILL of 7 I don’t fancy my chances.
Sweet! I break my way in after a couple of beefy slams. Beefy Slams, incidentally, is my Poker Pro name. [bat: I think mine is Scary Rock, according to Dove.] [Dove: Mine is Twinkle Lights.] [JC: Princess Fluffybutt checking in here. Hi, Borderlands 2 fans.]
The room within is large and round, lit with a single torch on one wall. The only furniture is a wooden table and single chair, sat in the centre. However, the thing of note in this room is not the furniture… it’s the small, cross-legged humanoid floating above the table, dressed in a green shirt and pantaloons, fast asleep despite the cacophonous entrance. [bat …the Great Gazoo?]
Before I have a chance to investigate, there’s a creak to my left. Spinning, I see a small catapult firing a missile at me. If I have a Shielding spell I can stop it (TURN TO 359), but if I do not (or am unwilling to use it)… (TURN TO 359).
For the record, if I had one, I would totes use it here.
And… it would have been a total waste! It’s an over-ripe tomato, and it splats on my face. Nothing hurt bar my pride, thank the maker. That’s why I wear red, like Deadpool. [bat: I wish to know who thought this was a good idea, but I’m laughing too hard.]
I approach the tiny, sleeping man, and this reveals that… the author is culturally insensitive! Because the man opens one eye with a jaunty swagger, disappears and reappears behind me, and introduces himself as O’Seamus the Leprechaun. He offers his hand with a chuckle. [Dove: He’s called O‘Seamus? Seems a smidge obvious.] [JC: . . . were you expecting subtlety and nuance?]
Do I shake his hand and try to befriend him (TURN TO 271) or draw my sword and try to behead him (TURN TO 131)?
I’m not attacking a Leprechaun, thank you very much. Even if I kill him, he’ll haunt me forevermore, demanding my metaphorical Lucky Charms from beyond the veil. He’s obviously playful, as the tomato will attest. [bat: Will he sing us a song of the Emerald Isles?]
I take his hand, and immediately feel a numbing pain… and lose one of my precious SKILL points. This incenses both Corky the Adventurer and Raven the Reader. Suddenly, he’s behind me, and I’m shaking hands with a ragdoll replica of the total fucking bellend. “Just a joke!” he declares, disappearing the dummy as my anger intensifies. He asks what he can do for me. Do I…
Ask him the way onwards (TURN TO 348) or draw my sword (TURN TO 131)?
Right now, I really really want to kick his fucking head in. I’m on SKILL 6. [Dove: Pretty much every Point Horror murder was because the murderer was the butt of “just a joke”. GET KILLING!]
Sadly, if I go that route, I don’t think I’d be able to beat him.
Can I believe any directional advice he may impart? I doubt it. But I think that if he can take my SKILL away, he can also replenish it, so I guess I remain friendly for now and restrain the Fist of Rage. I’ll ask for help. [bat: See, I would have just Jack Bauer’d his arse with my concealed weapon but… Still trying to understand why 24 was so huge in the U.K. after all these years.] [Dove: Michael Wincott. We had to wait nine seasons, but it was worth it.] [bat: Those two need to do more movies and/or television together.]
O’Seamus declares that this way is not the way to go, and suddenly there are three doors. They weren’t in the room description earlier, but the current paragraph makes no mention of them being conjured or suddenly appearing. The Leprechaun tells us that two of the doors lead to danger, and one is very smelly. Which to choose?
The brass-handled door (TURN TO 207)? The copper-handled door (TURN TO 22)? The bronze-handled door (TURN TO 354)? Or I can ask his advice (TURN TO 68).
I’m going to ask his advice, but before that, I’m declaring that if he’s useless I’m going for the brass-handled door. Why? Copper is a slang word for Police, and dealing with the police can be dangerous. Bronze is the name of the teen club in Buffy, and it’s periodically invaded by Vampires, which is also dangerous. And brass contains “ass”, which is smelly. Bosh.
Let’s see what the SKILL-draining prick has to say.
He gives his answer in a riddle of sorts:
“I would not take the one that’s two doors to the left of the copper-handled one, nor the door to the right of the bronze-handled one.”
The room is circular, so the doors to the left and the right of any given door “wrap around” in a sense. As for their initial order? There’s nothing that explicitly states this, so we have to assume that it’s left-to-right as written. So… Brass, Copper, Bronze.
Two doors to the left of Copper… first is Brass, second wraps around to BRONZE. So, not Bronze.
One door to the right of Bronze… wraps around to BRASS. So, not Brass.
The door he suggests is COPPER.
Do we believe him? I guess we have to, as he made us work for an answer. Let’s go with Copper, and let’s stab the prick as we leave the room if we can.
The door leads into a long dark corridor, and offers us no chance to kill O’Seamus. Suddenly, there’s a flash of light, and I’m rendered blind. I hear a low, ominous growl, and in my panic I feel a pad-footed creature sink its teeth into my leg! [JC: KITTY! . . . kitty?] The Leprechaun has fucked me over once again!
I now have a fucking NEMESIS. [bat: YAY!!! I can’t wait to see how this plays out.] [Dove: And another Point Horror book is born. This one I’d want to read.]
Should I cast a Strength spell (TURN TO 301), cast a Weakness spell (TURN TO 159), or slash out with my sword (TURN TO 51)?
It’s definitely Spell Time, that’s for damn sure. I don’t fancy my chances with a SKILL 6 sword-swing when blind. I think Strength has more uses as a spell, so I’m going with Weakness.
I fire off the Weakness spell, praying that the creature’s strength will dwindle and fade. To my dismay, this does not happen. If anything, the ferocity intensifies, and the teeth dig deeper into my leg. The pain climbs, my panic rises, and I slip into unconsciousness as the jaws clamp around my throat…
I’m hoping this is one huge fake-out. O’Seamus, don’t let me down!
Suddenly, I’m awake! And uninjured! And not blind! Above me, O’Seamus hovers, roaring with laughter. It was all a big practical joke! [bat: O’Seamus is a right arsehole.] [Dove: Hoof that prick into the fucking sea.] [JC: I like him!]
Apparently, soon Corky can see the funny side, and starts laughing along with the avuncular sociopath. Raven? No. Raven doesn’t forget. [bat: bat doesn’t forget, either.]
Eventually, the Leprechaun ponies up two pieces of legitimate worth: a magical Battlesword that adds +1 when determining Attack Strength, and finely worked Silver Mirror that’s obviously a Plotty McGuffin. I take them both, leaving my old sword behind. My exit options?
The brass-handled door (TURN TO 386), or the copper-handled door (TURN TO 144) or the bronze-handled door (TURN TO 338)?
Those paragraph numbers are all different to the first, joke-ridden options. Nevertheless, I’m still wondering if his advice is actually correct in the bigger picture. I think I’ll go Copper again.
SKILL 6, STAMINA 19, LUCK 8, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength.
Equipment: Battlesword +1, Leather Armour, Lantern, Backpack, Silver Mirror
The door opens to a narrow corridor which leads to a wide carved door that’s signed ‘Wine Cellar’. I enter, to find what does indeed look like a cellar full of wine. Bottles and bottles of the stuff. As I enter, a shopkeeping bell rings to summon a limping figure.
Do I draw my sword in defence (TURN TO 154) or wait and see what the figure as to say (TURN TO 56)?
I’m getting a lot of “looks weak but is actually a brick shithouse” vibes from this guy, like the old lady apparition in the library at the start of Ghostbusters. I’m not being the aggressor. Let’s see what he’s got to say for himself.
It’s revealed that the limper is a Black Elf in charge of the Wine Cellar. He asks if I’m an adventurer or a guest. I say I’m a guest, looking to sample his famous wares. With a sense of pride, and a boast that they contain magical powers, he offers a sample. Will I drink:
The Red Wine (TURN TO 120)? The White Wine (TURN TO 163)? The Rose Wine (TURN TO 334)? Or will I decline politely and leave (TURN TO 95)?
I’ve just told him I’m there to sample his wine, it’d look sus if I turned him down and ran away. So the question becomes… Red, White or Rose? If I were designing this, I’d make the Red Wine evil, the White Wine good, and the Rose Wine neutral, so I’m going for the White Wine today. Although I’d choose Red in real life. [bat: Because everyone knows the offered Red wine is actually blood and you become a hot teenage half-vamp when you drink it.] [Dove: I genuinely had no idea that 1) my husband drank wine; or 2) preferred red. Not sure what that says about us as a couple.] [JC: IRL I would take the white or the rose. In-game, I’d probably go for the rose.] [Raven: I’ve not had a glass of wine in years. But yeah. Red.]
I quaff the White Wine, and it’s hideous. The Black Elf looks on expectantly as I falsely praise his wares before hiding in the corner of the room and projectile vomiting on the floor. The rancid brew costs me one SKILL and two STAMINA.
I’m really regretting not taking a Skill spell now.
SKILL 5, STAMINA 17, LUCK 8, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Creature Copy, Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength.
Equipment: Battlesword +1, Leather Armour, Lantern, Backpack, Silver Mirror
I leave the Wine Cellar by the far door, and follow a passage north past a four-way junction. This ends at a large wooden door. I hear nothing when listening at the keyhole.
Should I open the door slowly and quietly (TURN TO 308), or charge it down (TURN TO 121)?
I mean, what a ludicrous question! Who just randomly charges down doors? I reckon that the only reason this question is being asked is because charging the door is the correct choice. However, I can’t do that in good conscience, so I’ll act gingerly and keep creeping. Slow and steady wins the race.
The door opens, and I step into a dark room. The interior is roughly hewn, and the table / chair combo is solid rock. There are three wooden chests in one corner, supported on a plinth of rock and mud. More ominously, the corner near the exit door houses a large creature made of solid rock, with wide eyes staring straight at me. It seems lifeless, but I doubt that’s permanent. [bat: Is it a bloody Rockbiter?] [Dove: They look like big strong hands, don’t they?]
Do I run for the exit (TURN TO 237), attempt to speak to the creature (TURN TO 357), or move slowly toward the boxes (TURN TO 200)? [Dove: Speak! If it gets angry, make a copy of it! (I really want to see that spell.)] [JC: No option to steal the scroll with the animating spell on it out of its mouth? Hrumph, this book does not golem properly.]
Running for the exit seems a decent option, but unless the only thing I need to defeat Balthus Dire is a Silver Mirror, that will get us nowhere. So the question is do I think attempting to steal the boxes will wake the slumbering golem, or will speaking to him achieve that end? I think sneaky sneaky is the way, so I’ll move slowly to the chests and take my chances.
I take one step, and the monster springs to life, taking a step toward me. I can make a dash for the exit door (TURN TO 237) or dash for the boxes and risk taking on the lumbering giant (TURN TO 98).
I’m 5500 words in, and I’ve not had one battle yet.
I’m glad of it. My SKILL level prompts me to caution.
Nevertheless, I feel that if I don’t take a few risks, and look for items to boost my stats or gain me an edge against the promised endboss, all I’m doing is delaying my inevitable defeat.
My SKILL is 5. I’ll likely die.
But I think I have to fight.
I dash for the boxes.
I make it to the boxes as the Golem lumbers closer. Unfortunately, they are locked. I fumble with the clasps until I can’t put it off any longer. Time to tackle the Big Boy. Options:
Draw my sword and fight (TURN TO 303)?
Cast a Fire spell (TURN TO 4)?
Cast a Creature Copy spell (TURN TO 190)?
Scream “fuck this noise” and run away (TURN TO 237)?
I’ve established that I’m not fleeing. I’m certainly not fighting. So that leaves Fire or Creature Copy.
There’s only one real choice, right? Creature Copy. A bloke made of rock will likely walk through a wall of flame regardless. [Dove: *PARTY CANNON*] [JC: Insert “your own worst enemy” and “beating yourself up” jokes here.]
I cast Creature Copy.
I conjure up an identical copy of the Golem, and command it to fight its mirrored brother. Let the battle of Golem vs Golem commence!
GOLEM(S) – SKILL 8 STAMINA 10
Things start out rough. The OG (Original Golem) clubs his fists into the New Golem’s shoulder, taking out two granite grapefruits. This serves little but to anger the New Golem, although you’d hardly know it from its stony features. In a relative flurry of feet and elbows, the OG is dispatched a straight five rounds later, reduced to a pile of pebbles in short order.
My attention turns to the boxes, of which there are three. Where should I look?
The first box (TURN TO 260)? The second box (TURN TO 129)? Or the third box (TURN TO 370).
Iddle Diddle, let’s pick the middle. Second box please, Bob.
The box doesn’t open. In irritation, I hit it with my sword, blunting it and causing the loss of a further point of SKILL. The box remains closed.
I mean, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. I think I’ve picked the literal worst option for every single branching choice.
So now there’s the first (TURN TO 260), the third (TURN TO 370), or I can lick my wounds and journey on (TURN TO 237).
Fuck it, I’m opening all three. First box please, Bob.
The box opens after a struggle. Inside, a key. Do I…
… Use the key to open the second box (TURN TO 34)?
… Use the key to open the third box (TURN TO 299)?
… Take the key and leave (TURN TO 237)?
I’m opening the second box, for sure. Maybe it’ll contain a sword-sharpening kit.
THIS box contains another key. This time it’s glowing green with Plot Significance. [bat: Does it BRING YOU PEACE?] I can use it to open box number three (TURN TO 89) or leave the room with both keys (TURN TO 237).
This choice gives me pause. Narratively, this green key will snap or crumble or something in the lock of box three. Nevertheless, I’m going for it. What’s it the box, John?
… … … …
Okay, that’s fucking weird.
The third box contains a jar. The jar contains a spider. The spider has the face of an old man. The old man is trying to say something, but I can’t make out what.
The entrance door creaks open, and I place the spider-jar in my backpack and head out the exit.
I’m presuming the spider is some benevolent ruler that Balthus Dire has bewitched into an arachnid. Either that or some magic-embued cosplaying riff that I’m too uncool to understand. Time will tell, I guess. [bat: At least it’s not a mechanical spider body with a brain in a jar aka the B’omarr monks wandering round Jabba’s (stolen) palace LET YOU SHOW YOU MY NERD CRED WITH THIS DEEP CUT.] [Raven: *blinks*]
SKILL 4, STAMINA 17, LUCK 8, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Fire, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength.
Equipment: Battlesword +1, Leather Armour, Lantern, Backpack, Silver Mirror, Spider-Jar.
It doesn’t explicitly say I have the two keys. Then again, the original room description didn’t say there were three doors either. If I’m asked about keys later, I’ll wrestle with my conscience then. But face facts, on FOUR SKILL I’m supremely boned either way.
The passage runs east before ending at the foot of a staircase. I climb the stairs into another passageway that leads to a large, well-lit room. It seems to be an ornate Dining Hall, with a large multi-chaired table running its length. Suits of armour stand on each side, and paintings adorn the walls. The far end of the hall sees two wide staircases, one to the left and one to the right, both rising to a balcony / mezzanine level that overlooks the room.
My choices are:
Head up the left-hand staircase (TURN TO 19), or head up the right-hand staircase (TURN TO 197). Or I can investigate the suits of armour (TURN TO 151) or the paintings (TURN TO 317).
I’ll do some investigating before venturing upstairs. Maybe I’ll get a clue as to which path to take. Although I wager either staircase will drop my SKILL down to 3.
The question is… Armour or Paintings? Suits of armour are ripe for animation, so I guess it’s down to whether they are triggered by my investigation or they are triggered by me ignoring them to look at paintings. I’m going to investigate the suits first, I think, as then at least ‘m facing them when they spring to life. [bat: Do they totally know how to swordfight?] [Raven: DUDE!] Of course, in doing so I’m bound to be ambushed by a host of Samara’s voodoo-crawling out of the paintings.
The armour is built in a variety of shapes and sizes, as befits an invasion force assembled in a safari park. As I examine them for clues, one raises a plated hand and cuffs me squarely on the chops. This costs 2 STAMINA, and frankly I’m just grateful that it isn’t SKILL points. Dazed, I decide to forgo the paintings and head to the balcony level. So…
Left (TURN TO 19) or Right (TURN TO 197)?
It’s a coinflip, but as I’m predominately left-leaning, it’s up the left staircase I go!
As I climb the creaking left-hand staircase, my foot activates a hidden pressure pad. Suddenly, the stairs give way to form a slide, in the finest of cliché traditions. I lose my footing and begin to slide down, tumbling head over heels.
Should I use a Levitation spell to raise me to the balcony (TURN TO 363) or not (TURN TO 254)?
My first instinct is to use the spell. While it doesn’t explicitly say so, I picture the slide opening a hole in the floor to have me disappear below the Dining Hall into a room of spikes, or scorpions, or scorpions with spikes. [bat: Or alligators with scorpions on their backs, the scorpions wearing spikes.] [JC: Be optimistic, guys. It might just be the Bog of Eternal Stench.] If the sliding stairs just dropped me from the balcony to the Dining Hall floor, there’d be little need to float up to safety. The very fact that I’m tumbling head over feet makes me suspect this is more serious and deadly than it reads.
Okay, Levitation it is.
The spell works, and I float to the safety of the balcony. There, I’m faced with three doors.
Do I use the left door (TURN TO 228), the middle door (TURN TO 67), or the right door (TURN TO 304)?
I chose the middle box, and it fucked me. I chose the left staircase, and it fucked me too. This time, I’m going for the right door. I’m sure it’ll be fine. It’s actually called the right door, after all. [Dove: *braces* See, adventures get you killed.]
The door opens into what appears to be an artist’s studio. Unfinished statues line the walls, and in the centre squats a large stone Gargoyle atop a stone box. As I approach, it creaks to life, turning a gimlet eye in my direction before hopping off the box and heading my way.
Should I draw my sword and advance (TURN TO 172), ready a pertinent spell (TURN TO 26), look in my bag for something useful (TURN TO 289), or retreat and try the middle door (TURN TO 64)?
Attacking is not on the cards, that’s for sure. Retreating? Maybe. As for spells, there’s only Illusion, Fire or Strength which would have any practical application. And items in the backpack? I doubt a Spider-Jar would be of use, but I suppose a mirror might, if the Gargoyle was like a Medusa or something. Yeah, that sounds plausible, let’s go with the backpack.
I’m prompted to take one of the following three items, if I have them:
A Silver Mirror (TURN TO 340), a Vial of Hogweed Essence (TURN TO 214), or a Jar of Ointment (TURN TO 305). The only thing I own is the Silver Mirror, so the choice is made for me.
I hold up the Silver Mirror, but the Gargoyle makes like a Honey Badger and doesn’t give a fuck. He swats it aside, and it smashes on the floor. [JC: Seven years of bad luck for you, Gargoyle!] I retreat to the balcony, swear like a docker, then try the middle door of the trio.
SKILL 4, STAMINA 15, LUCK 8, MAGIC 11.
Spells: Fire, Illusion, Luck, Stamina (x3), Strength.
Equipment: Battlesword +1, Leather Armour, Lantern, Backpack, Spider-Jar.
Listening at the door, I hear squeaky voices laughing and arguing. I enter, to find a brightly-coloured room with small beds in one corner, a floor littered with mannequin dolls of various monstrous shapes, and an exit door in the wall opposite. In the centre of the room sit three green-faced and pointy-eared babies, looking at me quizzically. Bless! I’m in a Goblin Nursery. [Dove: The next big trend when #CottageCore dies off?]
Do I draw my sword and prepare to fight them (TURN TO 286)? Or should I look in my pack for something to offer them (TURN TO 3)? The other choice is to simply stride across the room with purpose and confidence (TURN TO 366).
I’m not hacking up kids, no matter how green they are. I’m not Anakin Skywalker. [JC: I’m sure they would attempt to massacre you, like the minor miners in Galaxy Quest.] A trinket from my pack would be appealing, but I’ve got fuck all to offer them apart from a spider with an old man’s face. Doing the Stride of Pride across the room, without a care in the world? Well, they say you can go anywhere when carrying a clipboard and a smile, so bring it on. Oh, and while I’m averse to killing a kid, I’m not afraid of kicking one in the fucking face if it becomes all ankle-chompy. It’s likely the only enemy I could reliably defeat with my current stats.
As I walk past the cute little apricots, they watch me with interest. Something feels off.
I exit the room and make my way down a passage that leads to the foot of a spiral staircase. These stairs head up into the central tower of the Citadel. I climb until I reach a small landing with two doors, which posit the age-old coin-flip question…
Left (TURN TO 25) or right (TURN TO 104)?
I’m picking the right door, as it’s the right door. The left door, as we all know, is not the right door. It’s the wrong door.
The door is stiff, but it opens with a shove. Inside is an abode of sorts, with tables, chairs and shelves, a host of animal heads lining the walls, and a thick carpet. As I enter, a wall-mounted dog head turns and spots me, barking an alarm to any passing ear. An unseen carpet rises from the floor and whizzes past my head, catching my ear, and I spin to see one of the chair morphing into a tall man with a booming voice, who demands to know the reason for my intrusion. [JC: . . . Professor Slughorn?]
I could try to talk with him (TURN TO 266), use a spell (TURN TO 310), search my backpack for something of use (TURN TO 54), or retreat to the other door on the balcony (TURN TO 25).
Again, retreat is an option, as is talking (although he doesn’t sound very friendly). My backpack contains zip-diddly-fuck, but I reckon something like an Illusion spell may have a chance to befuddle him. I’m going with the spell option.
I’m prompted to use one of the following three: Creature Copy (TURN TO 181), Illusion (TURN TO 250) or ESP (TURN TO 393). Nice, my original choice is one of the multiples. Time to go all Doctor Strange on his chairy ass.
With a burst of concentration, I conjure up a devastating whirlwind. It swirls around the room, flinging illusionary books and carpets and shelves, clattering and battering the senses with full-on fake sounds and images. At the heart of the storm, I step forward, looking to pass through the room… Only to hear a barrage of mocking, cruel laughter.
The spell is broken.
The Dog Head and the Flying Carpet have transformed into statues. They introduce themselves as Miks, self-proclaimed masters of illusion, beings of such intelligence they would never fall for mediocre parlour tricks as the spellcraft I posses.
The chair-man, now transformed into a snake, [JC: NOT Slughorn! Abort, abort!] has slithered around my leg. He sinks his poisonous fangs into my rump, and I slide into an eternal sleep, an image of a ravaged and burning Vale of Willows dancing across my dying eyes as I go.
All hail Corky the Adventurer, bested by the Miks in the tower of The Citadel of Chaos. [bat: Second of his name.] [Dove: How many books are there? How many Corkys do we need?] [Raven: Always more Corkys.]
Well, that was a wild ride. It was a Citadel, and it was definitely Chaotic.
- This felt very different to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. For a start, there was so little combat, it was almost scary. I have the total of one fight, and in that I conjured a monster to do it for me. I wasted three magic slots on Stamina spells!
- Talking of spells, I really like the addition of Magic, even if it led to my demise. I think I chose my spells well, but likely used them badly. Next time, I take a Skill spell for sure, and maybe ditch the Illusion. Food for thought. [JC: Take ALL the Creature Copies!]
- Even though I had a lot of fun with this, I do feel unsatisfied now I’m done. I suspect that’s inevitable, given the medium. I died before I learned why the Goblin Babies were so ominous, before I discovered the significance of the Spider-Jar, and so on. It’ll take a number of playthroughs, with an ultimate success, to get the full story.
- SKILL 7… Again. Two for two. Weak. That said, it did lead me to chose the more prudent direction of play most of the time. But I swear I’m playing it gung-ho super-marine if I ever roll a six for my SKILL stat.
[bat: Just once, I would like you to Jack Bauer one of these books, just to see how quickly it’s over. Or maybe it’ll work, I mean, it worked for Jack throughout 24 episodes. That would amuse me to no end. I am glad Corky, second of this name, got so much farther this time. This is a fun series!]
In my next recap, I bring you a day trip into The Forest of Doom, which promises a thrill-a-minute romp for all fans of extreme tourism. If you’re interested in a more sedate nature ramble, direct yourself to The Forest of Doom’s little brother, The Copse of Ennui. [Dove: I’m looking forward to the next adventure. I think it’ll end up like Blair Witch. Only much quicker.] [JC: I’ll see myself off to the Woods of Ill-Advised Recklessness.]
Until next time, may your wine not cause you to vomit.
(TURN TO 400)