Sunday 6 March 2011

Your adventure ends here

I have a lot of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I have had some of them since the early 1980s. I have had some for a few days. And I am now married, have a PhD, and am a father. So, I decided that I finally have the maturity to obey all the rolls of the dice and to hold myself to the decisions that I have made.

However, playing one book over and over until it has been completed is boring. If you are not going to cheat the books become a mechanical problem. Who wants to read the same passages over and over again, or worse, to not read passages at all, simply making a series of paragraph number choices? I want to enjoy a fantasy adventure.

I have decided to play each book in my collection in turn. When that adventure ends, I will move on to the next book in the series, with nary a backward glance at the dice rolls that I should have fudged or the places where I should have changed my mind. Well, apart from a brief recap, listing the doom of my adventurer.

#1 The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – A very good start, but a little bit of a cheat before I have properly begun. My adventurer killed his way through the mountain to reach the Warlock, defeated him, and had the keys needed to open his treasure chest. The cheat I relied on was the help of the internet to get through the Maze of Zagor, but otherwise everything else was by the book. Putting the cheat in context, I completed this book before I had settled on this programme of gamebook adventuring. Firetop Mountain has a new master.

#2 The Citadel of Chaos – My adventurer, avoiding combat more or less entirely – only fighting a GOLEM that had been weakened by a fight with a CREATURE COPY – very quickly got to the room with the GANJEES in it. Though my adventure ended here in the majority of my previous plays of this book, and I will not resort to an internet walkthrough. It is not quite the same scale of frustration as the Maze of Zagor. Death by falling.

#3 The Forest of Doom – my adventurer survived a series of nasty combats with high SKILL opponents, didn’t find either of the parts of the warhammer, and then died in a fight against a fire-breathing WYVERN. He had equal SKILL, and nearly twice as much STAMINA, but rolled badly, and even a last ditch TEST OF LUCK didn’t come off. The first time so far that the dice have failed me, but it will not be the last. Rare, or well done?

Turn to 400 has a much funnier take on working through the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in order. All I'm doing is listing the fate of my characters - death, more often than not - and waiting for Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e.


  1. I have to admit that these days with all the adult calls upon time I have, my good intentions to play them all "straight" has pretty much been abandoned. Along with the "must get around to it someday" that it is straight playthrough of Lone Wolf 1-12 campaign-style that I've been meaning to do since university.

    Instead I tend to cheat in the interests of mapping out everything and seeing how the game was structured, looking for the perfect path that in theory at least can be done with the weakest character possible with minimal risk. Reverse engineering if you will. I used to love mapping out the big text adventure games on the Spectrum as well.

    It's then a question of attempting it with no dice cheating once the perfect path is known.

  2. AFF#2 sounds potentially interesting, if it's not dicked about with too much. I confess that 'bringing [x dead system] up to date' gives me the twitches on principle, but reading through interviews settles them back down again to an extent.

    Thanks for linking to Turn to 400, too, that stuff looks fun. I like your take on playing them straight and seeing how long you last for - really highlights how inconsistent the design of the books could be!

  3. Oh, I'm not expecting to finish any of these books with this strategy. But with a dice roller on my phone and a little pad of scrap paper, I've managed to off an adventurer in time I'd ordinarily read a chapter or two of a novel in bed. Getting killed by the Wyvern took just 53 sections, the Ganjees 78. That's not a hell of a lot of reading. It would be, though, if I simply returned to section 1, of course.

    And I will, one day, do a Lone Wolf (and Sorcery!) gamebook campaign. But I'll treat the successful completion of each book as a 'save point'.

    Next up, though, Starship Traveller.

  4. Hi DrBargle, I found your blog from your Turn to 400 post.

    Don't worry about cheating your way through the Maze of Zagor - it has three encounters in it and the rest is flipping from page to page to work out the correct route. You don't actually take any penalties (apart from fighting underpowered wandering monsters who won't touch you) so its best to just skip to the encounters and then skip to the dragon in order to save wasting your life.

    The trouble with some FF books is that there are a few that are impossible to beat fairly (Crypt of the Sorcerer being one). Good luck though!

  5. Hi Lloyd. I've just read your post about Fabled Lands. They do sound very interesting, if perhaps a little open-ended looking ahead on my dying by FF schedule, I have to say that I've always enjoyed the gamebooks where you could 'achieve' a unsatisfactory ending that was not 'death by lack of item X'. I always seemed to get through to the 'treasure count' in Seas of Blood (a gamebook which tends to get little love, it seems), even if I didn't always win the contest. Creature of Havoc tended to frustrate me, even if the opening scene was a brilliant idea.

    Nevertheless, not worrying about 'beating' the gamebook, but enjoying the adventure, I think I'll get much more from the 'one true path' books this time around. I'll still die/stall in familiar places, but I'll enjoy the trip.

  6. Title of this post sets me to thinking that might've been a better choice for me than turnto400, given the vanishing likelihood that I'll ever win any of these books at one knock.

    I should point out that I in turn was inspired to play through the books via - looks like dude has worked though all bar 6 of the books! Of course it takes me much longer to write up each one because I tend to have difficulty stopping once I get started (and am a huge procrastinator besides :P)

  7. I got mad love for "Seas of Blood" BTW and I would say if there is any one book that I want to win as part of the turnto400 project it is that one, 'cos you get to yell "I am the greatest rascal!" at the sky.

  8. Hi DrBargle,

    Fabled Lands is much better for just enjoying the adventure as you can do what you like with no pressure. I have also said that just having 1 winning ending with the rest of them being death is a bit narrow. Hope you enjoy Starship Traveller. :)

  9. Hey, nice work - look forward to more in the series! I've posted a bit about AFF and the impending Arion release here:



  10. You should do the Caverns of the Snow Witch-Forest of Doom-Temple of Terror-Deathtrap Dungeon-Trial of Champions-Armies of Death campaign too.

  11. If I complete Caverns... I'll go back and try Forest... again.

    Isn't Temple of Terror nearly impossible without SKILL 12?

  12. Apparently so, if you run into the sandworm, but it'll be a challenge!