Sunday, December 4, 2011

Forest of Doom

This gamebook is the third one in the series and the first one not set entirely in a dungeon (unless you count the "you're at the front gate" beginning of Citadel of Chaos as meaning it's not set entirely in a dungeon, which I don't). It is unique in that, if you reach the village of Stonebridge without finding both halves of the hammer, you Test your Luck. Failure means automatic death, but success means you, in your current condition and with your current equipment, get transported back to the beginning of the forest. This, combined with the gamebook's lack of any acknowledgement that you might have been in an area before, could lead to a number of ridiculous results, including:

1) You can arrive at Stonebridge the second time with two copies of the hammer handle.

2) Mysteriously, every enemy you've fought has come back to life and forgotten all about you on your second trip through the forest. Even more mysteriously, you've forgotten all about them. The Shape Changer's revelation that it is a Shape Changer, not a goblin, will take you completely by surprise--twice. (Or as many times as your Luck holds out...)

Annoyingly many of the choices in this gamebook consist of choosing between compass points, with no hint of which way you should go. Insta-death conditions are rare and generally mean you've made a serious and at least somewhat forseeable mistake, but this gamebook is widely considered poor quality.

You begin with a Potion of Skill, Strength, or Fortune, one dose only, and ten Meals, which you can eat any time you're not actually in combat. You are armed with a sword, dressed in leather armor, and have a backpack. Before the first entry has concluded, you have 30 Gold Pieces and a map, which informs you that you are going from the south edge of the map to the north edge of the map over the course of the gamebook, and in between there is a forest. Also a river, at the midpoint of the forest. Very helpful, I'm sure.

Like some gamebooks I've written walkthroughs for previously, this book makes certain assumptions about the protagonist's personality. Unlike, say, Vault of the Vampire or City of Thieves, your character is presented as both antisocial and mercenary.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beneath Nightmare Castle

Beneath Nightmare Castle is #25 in the series. It has four stats: Skill, Stamina, and Luck function like in the other books, and a Willpower stat is added. You generate Initial Willpower the same way as Skill or Luck.

Food exists in this gamebook, but you start with none; the book implies but does not clearly state that you can eat only when specifically permitted to by the text. You do not start with a potion. Your starting equipment is "your armour, your sword and your backpack." You explicitly have no food and "very little" money. (The book clarifies exactly what "very little" means before you have a chance to spend any.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

City of Thieves

City of Thieves is #5 in the series. It's more forgiving than Return to Firetop Mountain, but less so than Vault of the Vampire; you have less than a one-in-three chance of surviving the final encounter if you reach it your first playthrough and don't look up a solution online.

One feature of a number of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, including this one, is that taking a suboptimal path through the adventure can result in you having items that are, not vital, but useful enough to make you think that the path that involves getting them must be the correct path. "Here's a key that opens the villain's tower. Surely I need that. Surely it was just bad luck that I also lost all my money before I reached Nicodemus, and so I couldn't finish the adventure. I'd better go the same way again."

This Gamebook also features some seriously nasty fights, some more avoidable than others. It's not quite as bad in that regard as Return to Firetop Mountain, but you'd better have rolled a high Skill--or have very lucky dice.

You begin play with ten Meals and a Potion of Skill, Strength, or Fortune. The Potion, again, contains two doses. The Provisions are technically useless, since this book, like some earlier gamebooks (Warlock of Firetop Mountain), only allows you to eat when an entry specifically permits you to, but, like most later gamebooks, no entry actually says you can eat--they appear to have eliminated the need for the gamebook to specifically say you can eat for the numbered entries, but not for the rules section on Provisions. At the conclusion of the Background section, you'll also have 30 Gold Pieces and a beautiful broadsword which serves to tempt a more mercenary character into accepting the quest.

When following this walkthrough, don't Escape from any fights unless it's specifically called out in the walkthrough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Return to Firetop Mountain

Compared to Vault of the Vampire and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, this book is extremely unforgiving. For starters, you begin with neither Provisions nor potions. An exhaustive list of your starting equipment is: Sword, lantern, empty backpack. Oh, and clothes. The book explicitly specifies that you have clothes.

Then, this book has a number of instant-death choices and nastily tough fights. In fairness, however, compared to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, this book has much fewer "choose a direction to go, no you don't have any hint which you should pick, if you pick the wrong one here you'll get all the way to the end and be unable to win" sections, instead favoring, "Choose a direction to go, no you don't have any hint which you should pick, if you pick the wrong one you'll die quickly," "You reach the end and die because you didn't memorize a stranger's home address" and, "You reach the end and die because you didn't enter the sheeps-eye eating contest and beat the Barbarian."

You think I'm joking? You'll see.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

This was the first Fighting Fantasy Gamebook ever published. It establishes the Skill, Stamina, and Luck system, and the traditions, kept through many though not all of the following Gamebooks, of starting with 10 Provisions and your choice of one of three stat potions (however, unlike in most Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, you can only eat Provisions when specifically allowed to in the text and only one meal at a time). Your potion choices are a Potion of Skill, a Potion of Strength, or a Potion of Fortune. The Potion of Skill restores your Skill to its Initial value when drunk. The Potion of Strength restores your Stamina to its Initial value when drunk. The Potion of Fortune raises your Initial Luck by one point, and then restores your current Luck to its new Initial value when drunk. Whichever potion you choose, you have two doses of it.

It also introduces a warning, in a section headed HINTS ON PLAY, which shows up in most Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. "There is one true way through [this gamebook] and it will take you several attempts to find it.[...]The one true way involves a minimum of risk and any player, no matter how weak on initial dice rolls, should be able to get through fairly easily [as long as they don't make even a single wrong decision]."

Like many subsequent Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is partly a memory game. Roleplaying is permitted to some extent, though certainly not encouraged; trying to "avoid metagaming" by not treating your character as knowing everything that had been discovered by the last dozen chumps who died the last dozen times you attempted the gamebook, on the other hand, would have meant crippling yourself as badly as if you decided it was cheating to use your feet in football.

Unlike many of them, the HINTS ON PLAY warning is largely accurate in this book. Even on the ideal path, you run some risk of dying to the Iron Cyclops or the Minotaur, but, that's an exhaustive list of the tough and unavoidable fights you run into on the ideal path, whereas in some Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, the way of telling you're on the ideal path is that you just fought three Skill 12 enemies without a break.

Walkthrough behind the cut. As with the Vault of the Vampire walkthrough, this one will not list every entry, only the ones where you have a choice to make.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Vault of the Vampire

There's no particular reason to start with this one. It's #38 in the series, popular but not widely considered the best, and far from the most in need of a walkthrough/solution. However, I'm not sure where my copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain is at the moment; hopefully I'll get to it soon. In the meantime.

This book is highly atmospheric. While a number of other Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks either strongly encourage ignoring roleplaying elements (Appointment With F.E.A.R., where you can easily die for not choosing to have your superhero character deliberately let a supervillain get away) or presume your character is highly mercenary (Forest of Doom, which phrases your motivation for going on the quest entirely in terms of the reward you expect on successful completion of your self-assigned task), in Vault of the Vampire, your character is presented as, effectively, a paladin. You have the option, during the book, to be ruthless or cowardly, but either is likely to cost you dearly. This book is also among the most forgiving of the Fighting Fantasy series, which is what leads me to say it doesn't really need a walkthrough. However, I wrote one anyway.

(Walkthrough behind the cut.)