The lair of the Demons is guarded by a terrible device: a large swinging pendulum blade, which even now plunges deep into your forehead. Your adventure is over.
(Bambra and Hand, Fighting Fantasy #40, Dead of Night)
Okay, I've skipped on a few books since I last recorded my 'choose your own death by misadventures'. I'd dutifully recorded the demise of my various characters until I kind of ran out of steam last summer with #18 Rebel Planet. I was never much of a fan of the non-fantasy FF books - they just didn't have the verve or inventiveness - the character - of those set on Titan. Shortly after that we began playing The Crown of Kings for Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e, so I got my fill of Jacksonian trickery by inflicting it on my players. I did play the *other* Steve Jackson's Demons of the Deep (#19). Unfortunately, one year on from my sub-marine adventure the best I can remember of that was that it had an interestingly 'sandboxy' structure (as does 'not the real' Steve Jackson's Scorpion Swamp), but that, despite the fact that a Merman spa had raised my SKILL to superhuman levels - allowing me to defeat a Kraken in single combat(!!) - I failed in my mission. For some reason, I had set myself the task of killing Captain Bloodaxe by the end of the day. Ambitious. So that the adventure ended in unsatisfying non-death defeat. 'Oh, woe is me', my character wailed, before realising that he was nigh-on the incarnation of Courga, and that he could always kill Captain Bloodaxe tomorrow. And cut a bloody swathe across Titan; and unto this, YOU, destined to wear the jewelled crown of Salamonis upon a troubled brow.
But back to Dead of Night, a very good gamebook set in Gallantria, a northern kingdom of the Old World. I had never played this before, as 'back-in-the-day' my Fighting Fantasy collection only ran to the mid-thirties. I know that I owned #35 Daggers of Darkness. No-one forgets that cover. In Dead of Night YOU play a renowned Demon-Stalker, a Templar from the Sacred Citadel in Royal Lendle. Demon-Stalkers make enemies, and YOU have made an enemy of Myurr, the loathsome Frog Demon. He has done... something to your parents, and YOU are off to find out what.
I played this gamebook twice. The first time through I had a SKILL 11 Templar as my hero, but managed just 25 sections before meeting my doom, as above. A failed Test of Luck, of course. I thwarted no major evils, though I did manage to defeat a Vampire with a bit of holy symbol action.
In my second attempt I rolled a SKILL 9, STAMINA 15 and LUCK 8 hero. Not a character likely to see section 400, for sure, but this time I got much further. After defeating Calbert the Vampire once again, this time I read the map correcting and found my old ally Sharleena (whose name sounds a bit too much like Shareella, the Snow Witch, for my liking). Unfortunately, while I was sipping hot wine in an anteroom, she accidentally summoned a Spirit Demon. Luckily, this isn't a book full of Livingstonian SKILL 12 monsters, and even with modest attributes I had the edge on the horror. With her last ounce of life, the dying seer scrawled 'N' on the floor in her own blood. North it is then.
I survived being drugged and taken captive in the Hanged Man Inn, run by Kremper the Half-Orc. Now, I wanted to see the best in people, to give even Half-Orcs a chance, but...
But they shouldn't have messed with me. Even at SKILL 9, I escaped the slave cart, found my way to Colton-on-the-Marsh, and cut my way through zombies to defeat bone-crowned Magrand the Necromancer, who was collecting the patrons of the Inn for his 'experiments'. Leaving the Colton a hero and continuing north, I almost immediately came across a Moon Demon reincarnating Magrand. They wouldn't let him lie, would they? Despite the undead Magrand having SKILL 10, I killed them both. I then saved friendly old Tom Hickson and his family from Skeletons, before accepting a ride on a barge up river to Axmoor.
Axmoor, scene of Geiger-esque nightmares, where human sacrifices were fed into the furnaces of a 'pyramid of bone' [edit: the 'pyramid of bone' is something else - the visions of the fortune teller on the barge misled me - this atrocity is known as a 'Land-Blight'] a factory that belched poison gas, terraforming Titan for Myurr's demonic armies. This was a great encounter, one that I did not expect in the slightest, full of biomechanical weirdness that I'll have to add to the ingredients of my next RPG session set in Titan.
Well, who can blame me for assuming that this was the final battle, and I threw everything into destroying the Death-Stone, the 'seed' from which this canker had grown. All my Holy Water, all my magics, but it was enough. Oh, but that's *not* the end? No turn to 400? Bugger. But I did 'level up', gaining a SKILL and two LUCK points. On to the final battle(?) then, at Dunningham, where an agent of Logaan, the Trickster (everyone's favourite God) helped me see through the illusions of Myurr and offered me some advice. But it was all for nought, as I was caught in the gaze of the Baleful Eye.
If the tower is not on fire, you are set upon by hundreds of Orcs. Although you sell your life dearly, you are bound to succumb to the attacking hordes. The forces of Evil have triumphed.
Rule one of fantasy adventuring; When someone asks you if you want to set something on fire, you say, 'Yes!'