Well, that’s what I’m blaming my two latest Fighting Fantasy adventures on.
Book 13, Freeway Fighter, introduces whole new systems. Rules for vehicle combat, of course, and firearm combat – which are not the same as the rules in Space Assassin – but also new rules for hand-to-hand combat. First to lose 6 STAMINA is knocked unconscious, basically. And, with 2d6+24 STAMINA, this game should be far less lethal.
Well, what doesn't kill you... still ends your adventure. Three paragraphs into the book I pull my Dodge Interceptor up at a gas station, understanding that the general complaint about this book was the number of endings that involved running out of fuel. A woman comes out of a building. Do I want to speak to her, the book asks. Yes, what harm can calling through the window of my armoured Dodge Inceptor do. So I turn the page… and I find myself getting out of my car in the middle of the post-apocalyptic wasteland! D'oh! Naturally, there is a THUG, or a BANDIT, or somesuch, who I have to fight in hand-to-hand combat. I have a knife, he has a crowbar, but it is still a 'first to lose 6 points of STAMINA is unconscious' fight. Which makes having nigh on 30 STAMINA irrelevant, and even diminishes the effect of SKILL differences – over a long fight, the character with the higher SKILL score will win with crushing regularity, but over a short fight, you just need 3 (un)lucky rolls and, BAM! you’ve been knocked out, lost your Dodge Interceptor, and your adventure ends here.
This actually highlights the problem that a lot of RPGs have with unarmed combat. Most provide opportunities to knock a character out well before his Hit Points or STAMINA has been whittled away. Cool? But, that means that it takes longer to incapacitate an opponent when you are hitting him with a sword than when you are hitting him with your fists!
So, on to Book 14, Temple of Terror. Is this the first book in the series in which it is clear that YOU are a professional adventurer? A meeting with Yaztromo clearly ties this character with the YOU of the Forest of Doom (and, less explicitly, Caverns of the Snow Witch). 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?' he asks. 'Nope, must have been some other sucker,' I’d have said, given the option. And I would have been that arrogant, as this YOU had SKILL 12. SKILL 12 is a licence to walk across Allansia killing anything and grabbing the loot, on the way to foiling Malbordus' evil plan. So, that's what I did – I began to walk to the Vatos in the Desert of Skulls, confident that my superheroic SKILL 12 and my Create Water spell would turn the trip into a delightful stroll. And so it was, I chopped down DARK ELVES like they were daisies in a meadow, and then that bastard Yaztromo decided to send me some 'help'. A GIANT EAGLE. A SKILL 6 GIANT EAGLE. A flying pansy. And we ran into a PTERANODON. A SKILL 7 PTERANODON. Even with the arrows I looted from the DARK ELVES, this is a fight that, the majority of the time, is going to end in defeat for the GIANT EAGLE. So my superhero clung to the back of the bird as she fought gamely, but lost. Given that this fight is one you can only be expected to lose, my adventure wouldn't end here, would it? I'd fall, lose a few points of STAMINA, and continue on foot. Right? Of course not. To be fair that is quite a long way to fall.