Introduction

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Back in the 80s and early 90s, there was a popular series of children’s gamebooks a-la Choose Your Own Adventure, but with dice and monsters and treasure. They were called Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. There’ve been Let’s Read threads of several of these books on these very forums! But did you know they also made an actual RPG based on it?




Check out that awesomely 80s cover!


There are actually three separate editions of the Fighting Fantasy RPG: Fighting Fantasy (1984), which I’ll be discussing in this post, Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Dungeoneer (1989), which expanded greatly on the core systems, and a second edition of the latter licensed and released by Cubicle 7 games in 2011.

Also released were several sourcebooks – Out of the Pit , a collection of monsters, Titan , a book detailing the world most of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were set in, The Riddling Reaver , an adventure/campaign for the Fighting Fantasy core system, as well as Blacksand and Allansia , presenting Advanced Fighting Fantasy-compatible rules for city and wilderness adventures respectively. I've got all of these (as well as all but one of the gamebooks) and as long as nobody tells me to shut up about it I can go through all of them. It's a somewhat interesting progression from being a terrible, nearly unplayable game into something that at least nominally works...

A Bit Of History!

The Fighting Fantasy line was created by a pair of British dudes, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson—not the GURPS guy, but a different one. These guys were also the co-founders of Games Workshop, incidentally, and were pretty huge and instrumental in the UK gaming scene back in the day.

Anyway, the gamebooks were intended to be basically a first step into the world of roleplaying games, which they did well enough at. By 1984, there were about a dozen of the books in print, and other authors had been hired to contribute as well (including the other Steve Jackson, the GURPS one.) They were quite popular, and the series continued until the mid-90s, with 59 main-series gamebooks, a 4-book miniseries as a single continuous adventure, several novels, a pair of gamebooks meant to be played together as a two-player game, and the above-mentioned RPG books.

The RPG books are…odd. They’re definitely a product of their times, with elements of adversarial GMing, arbitrary randomness, and completely uneven character generation rules. As I go through the books, you’ll see what I mean

So first, we’re treated to one of the inevitable “what is an RPG?” sections. It compares it to the gamebooks pretty heavily, which makes sense, since most readers were likely familiar with them at the time. The role of the GM is compared to a benevolent deity, and the duties of the GM are outlined. The book suggests using a d6 to arbitrarily determine things like whether a hobgoblin falls for a trick or not—“it has a 5 in 6 chance of rushing in blindly.”

We are treated to an example of play! It includes a HURR HURR YOU DIDN’T SAY YOU LIT YOUR LANTERN moment in which a character trips and takes damage. It includes a gotcha trap: a door that is locked and won’t open, a player bashes it and due to fiat fails (taking damage), then the second bash attempt the door automatically opens (gotcha!) sending the bashing character sprawling.

Also featured is a dwarf who won’t talk to the players unless and until they eat nuts he offers them, which have a 1 in 6 chance of doing damage from causing indigestion. Yay! We also learn that doors, apparently, have an arbitrary chance of being locked—guess what, another d6 check whenever they come to a door!

This is the kind of game where you are encouraged, if the players are keeping a map, to do something to take the map away in-character and steal the map from the players, as well. Some of this is a product of the time the game came out, of course, but this isn’t actually a good game—not in this version, anyway. To illustrate the point, let’s look at how to create a character!

You have three stats: SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK. To determine SKILL and LUCK you roll 1d6+6, and for STAMINA you roll 2d6+12. Then you write down your equipment, which is basically sword, backpack, leather armor, provisions, and maybe a potion. Then you’re done.

That’s it. You can make a Fighting Fantasy character now. In this version of the game, there are no classes, no magic, no races, and no customization.

Awesome! Did you roll a 1 for your SKILL? Did your buddy roll a 6? Congratulations, he is literally better at everything than you are. And there is absolutely no method for character advancement, either. You’re gimped, and you’re going to stay gimped, forever.

Some of this stuff is addressed in the later books in the line…but we’ll get there in due time.

Next time: The rest of the game mechanics!


Mechanics

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

All right, so continuing with Fighting Fantasy , here's how the game actually works. Note that I've kept the formatting as close as I can to the way it's noted in the books--SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK are always capitalized, Test for Luck is always italicized, etc.

Almost everything you do in the game is determined by rolling 2d6 and comparing it to your SKILL stat. Rolling under your SKILL means you succeed, rolling over fails.

The same mechanic is used for something called “ Test for Luck ”, only instead of SKILL you’re rolling versus LUCK, and if you roll under you’re Lucky , over is Unlucky , and either way your current LUCK goes down by 1.

These two systems are pretty much it for the game mechanics out of combat. If it’s something that has to do with skill, like leaping, searching, pickpocketing, or bashing down doors, you check SKILL. If it’s something that’s random chance, like winning at cards or a coin toss, or just to see if the universe hates you, you test luck.

Combat is simple, but operates completely differently from the rest of the game. You roll 2d6, add your SKILL, and so does your opponent. The total is called your Attack Strength. Whoever has the higher total Attack Strength wins, and the opponent loses 2 STAMINA. You can Test for Luck to do 2 additional damage, but if you’re Unlucky , you do one less damage. In this version of the rules, at least, all weapons deal the same amount of damage on a hit unless some special property of the weapon changes that.

You can fight multiple things at once, but you can only deal damage to as many creatures in one round as your ATTACKS stat, which for adventurers is always 1. However, ATTACKS can be higher for monsters. You only roll Attack Strength once per round, and compare it to everything you’re fighting. If you are fighting more creatures than you have ATTACKS, winning the roll on additional creatures just means you don’t take damage. Having more ATTACKS than targets doesn’t give you extra strikes in a turn, though—an octopus may have 8 ATTACKS, but if it’s fighting just one guy, it’s still only getting one hit per attack round. When one side hits 0 STAMINA, it’s dead and the battle ends.

Most commonly, STAMINA is reduced by combat or other things that would cause damage, and is restored through potions or provisions. Potions restore STAMINA to full, and provisions restore 4 points each. You can also get STAMINA back through random acts of GM fiat. STAMINA never goes over its maximum ( Initial ) value.

SKILL doesn’t generally go up or down very often. Most commonly SKILL penalties happen due to having no weapon, which is a -4 penalty, or GM fiat. The usual way of restoring SKILL is through potions, which restores SKILL to full. Fine weapons, or magic weapons, can offer bonuses to SKILL. Magic weapons can bring you over your Initial SKILL, but otherwise it’s a hard cap.

LUCK is all over the place. Testing LUCK changes it, and you can be called to test your luck any time the GM feels like it, or voluntarily in combat. It goes up whenever the GM feels like you’ve been particularly fortunate, and down whenever the GM feels you’ve done something particularly foolish or unlucky. Unlike the other two stats, a potion of luck doesn’t just restore it to full, but rather raises your Initial LUCK by one point and restores it to the new total.

The mechanics chapter also includes the fact that random doors are locked on a roll of 1-2 on a d6, and chests on 1-5. You’re meant to check this every single time you come to a door or a chest. You’re also advised to roll frequently, as a DM, just so that the players don’t know when you’re rolling for something important—so that you don’t give away that something important is happening when you roll. Optional making noises about the results not included, I guess.

The most bizarre bit of rules in this system is how time works. Specifically: things happen in real time. A bunch of stuff in the two included adventures triggers on timing—a certain monster comes back to life every 20 minutes, for example—and you’re advised to have a stopwatch (or two) to track that so that you can fuck with your players. This is hands down the worst fucking rule, and there’s a couple situations in the pack-in adventures that will illustrate exactly why.

Later books do include rules for more varied weapons and weapon damage, going unconscious, and additional character options, but we'll get to those when we come to them. At this point, that's it for the rules.

Next time, we'll look at the first of the two adventures that take up the bulk of the book: The Wishing Well!


The Wishing Well, Part 1

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Fighting Fantasy, part 3: The Wishing Well, Part 1



This is the first of two sample adventures in the book. It’s described as being an adventure for first-time GMs, and doesn’t really give any sort of background motivation or history or anything. Players get a sword, armor, a backpack, a lantern, and 2 provisions. The intro says something about a well where princes used to toss gold, and it dried up. Okay, fine, whatever. This adventure is full of dick GM moves—from “gotcha” traps to punishing players for failing to specify that they’re doing things that would make sense—“you didn’t say you’re lighting a torch so you stumble off into the darkness and trip and fall” is a pretty early example. I’ll be keeping track of how many times the adventure asks the GM to be a dick.

Our heroes start outside the well, and have to descend. Room 1 is the bottom of the well, and you’re meant to determine whether the heroes have left themselves a way out of the well. If they don’t, then at the end of the adventure, they’re stuck.
Dick GM move count: 1

Room 2 contains a couple of dick GM moments. Forgot to say you lit your lanterns? 1 in 6 shot at tripping and taking 1 damage. Then you come to a locked door. It’s a gotcha trap—you have to try breaking it down. The first time you try, a magic voice warns you away, and the second time you try, the door just flies open and you go sprawling and take 1 damage.
Dick GM move count: 3

Room 3 contains a dwarf and a bunch of birds. The dwarf is not immediately hostile, but he’ll only talk to the PCs if they share some of the nuts he’s eating, each of which has a 1 in 6 chance of causing indigestion (1 damage!) He doesn’t know much but can tell the group that they need a “Crystal Key” to get the treasure. He’s got stats if your players want to kill him. He’s not a particularly tough opponent, but his birds join in. The thing with the nuts is a pretty dick move, since the GM is encouraged to play up this dumbass dwarf at the bottom of a well refusing to chat until they’ve eaten them, but it’s only a 1 in 6 chance per player that it’ll result in damage, so I’ll track it as half a point.
Dick GM move count: 3.5

Room 4 :

All the rooms in the dungeon have pictures like this. They're not that interesting, nor particularly awful, so I'll mostly be skipping them.
On the wall here there’s a bunch of items hanging and a note saying that they belong to ‘Marg the Slaymaster’ and that anyone touching them will suffer. The items in the room are:

If anyone takes anything, a loud siren sounds and footsteps can be heard from all directions…but it’s an illusion and nothing actually happens. Whatever.
Dick GM move count: 7

Room 5 is empty. It’s a square room with bare walls and floor. After one minute, (real time) a wizard’s lab appears. The wizard has the key to the treasure room, and if asked will agree to give it to the players if they beat a mummy. He’ll ask if they took anything out of room 4, and if they tell the truth, and remember what’s on the wall, he’ll tell them the room is harmless and not to touch the silver necklace. He’ll also tell them to take the torch to use on the mummy. He’ll know if they lie about taking the stuff, because he can read minds. If the players attack him, he casts a freeze spell on them and they’ll have to wait ten minutes (again, real time) to thaw out.
Dick GM move count: 8, or 9 if the players have to sit through the freeze spell.

Room 6 has the mummy the wizard wants the players to kill. The mummy, who is a relatively tough combatant (though he only has 1 attack), will come back to life every 20 minutes (real time) unless he’s been put to the torch. If the players use the torch as a weapon, they take a 3 SKILL penalty, but one hit kills the mummy. There’s 12 gold and an emerald in his coffin, and a secret door on one wall.
The mummy coming back to life every 20 minutes isn’t immediately obvious unless you’ve been to the wizard’s room and actually got to talk to him, so I’m tallying it up as a dick move.
Dick GM move count: 10

Room 7 is a dead end. There’s no secret passages. Hey, remember that mummy that comes back to life every 20 minutes? Clock’s ticking.
Dick GM move count: 11

Room 8 has five skeletons shackled to the wall and three chests on the ground. It was an old prison. The skeletons are window dressing, play them up if you like. The chests contain, in order: a mouse and 4 gold, a ghost that will scare the party enough to give a 2 SKILL penalty for 30 minutes (real time), and a magic wand that’s actually a snake that will autohit whoever picked it up and then have to be fought. Hidden under a false bottom in the chest with the snake there’s an unlabelled potion of Stamina (instructions suggest not telling the players what it actually is) and 3 gold.
Dick GM move count: 13

Room 9 is painted to look like a forest grove. Every 30 seconds after entering, the party has a 2 in 6 chance of noticing the occupant, a wood pixie. If the players attack, it casts a drowse spell (2 SKILL penalty and reduce to half STAMINA for 15 minutes realtime). If the players are friendly, it creates a pile of gold that vanishes after ten minutes. If they ignore it, it gives someone warts or a big nose or something for ten minutes. Basically, no matter what, the fucking pixie is an irritating shit. There’s also the other end of the secret passage to the mummy’s lair. That’s all there is to this room.
Dick GM move count: 14

This is getting a bit long and I’ve got a nasty cold, so I’ll tackle the rest next time, with The Wishing Well – Part 2!

The Wishing Well, Part 2

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Fighting Fantasy, part 4: The Wishing Well, concluded.

Okay, I’ve taken the day off work because of this stupid cold, so I may as well get this up and finished. Picking up from last time, our party has explored about half of this terrible dungeon, but the greatest treasures are still ahead! (Hint: they’re really not that great.)

Room 10 is a passageway with an underground river. There’s a mermaid here, singing, and all male members of the party are immediately smitten. She’ll pick one, and he has to Test for Luck . If he is Lucky , he swims over to her, and unless the party interferes, the pair swim away together to start a new life together.

Yeah.

If he’s Unlucky he gets to keep playing, but he’s pretty sad about it. If the party attacks the mermaid to save a lovelorn friend, said PC will fight to defend her, returning to his senses only once she is slain.

There’s also a giant octopus in here. It has SKILL 6, STAMINA 8, and 8 ATTACKS. I’m not sure why it has 8 ATTACKS, since the only way it gets to use that is if there are a) 8 party members who b) suck really badly at life. The octopus has a 4 in 6 chance of attacking if the party crosses to the north side. The octopus isn’t so much a dick move as it is but the mermaid definitely counts, as does the first instance of being called on to Test for Luck in this whole damn dungeon—an introduction to the game, remember—being ass-backwards.
Dick GM move count: 16

Room 11 is an endless passageway. The GM is encouraged to draw this out as long as possible, changing up the description to disguise it, and let the players go as long as they want before turning back. Once they do, you’re to deduct 1 STAMINA for every minute they spent walking up the hallway and back, because it’s so exhausting. Also, remember that Mummy from room 6, and how it comes back to life?
Dick GM move count: 18 (One for the dickishness of endless passage, one for it actively damaging the party)

Room 12 is a circular room with two walkways that don’t really join up, and a large pit below.



If anyone goes onto the walkway, the door slams shut and the walkway they’re on starts retracting. If they can pass a SKILL test, they can jump to the other walkway, since only the walkway they entered on starts retracting. After a minute, the walkway finishes retracting, and takes another minute to return to its former position, at which point the doors unlock again. If you fall down, you die, the end. The doors can only be held open by a combined SKILL total of 20 or greater, and having less means a Test for Luck to avoid taking damage.

In all honesty, I’m not sure I can add to the dick move tally for this room, since the trap is pretty easy to escape and plays by the rules. Being insta-kill is bad, but it’s pretty unlikely to come up.
Dick GM move count: 18, grudgingly

Room 13 is a bedroom, and the bed is occupied. Two lizard heads can be seen on the pillows. The heads will wake up, and oh hey, it’s not a lizardman couple, it’s a Calacorm, which is a two headed lizardman. They’re frightened of mice—remember back in room 8? With the three chests? One had a mouse. If for some unknown reason the group took the mouse, and for some unknown reason they decide to release it here, the stupid Calacorm jumps on the bed and acts all sissy.

If they’re regular humans and didn’t do that, it’s a SKILL 9 STAMINA 8 opponent with 2 ATTACKS, and it can be offered surrender at 4 STAMINA if you want to use it to tell the adventurers about the crystal key if they have missed that information already. Hidden behind a painting on a wall there’s a throwing dagger, six gold, and an amulet that (unbeknownst to the players) subtracts 1 from the die roll when Testing for Luck if worn. Also four keys, which are useless. The calacorm just likes collecting keys. The calacorm might tell them what it does if it’s alive, or it might not, but otherwise they have no way of knowing.
The north door in this room is the one they need the crystal key to open, “by order of the Spider King”.

Again nothing in this room is particularly dickish. The whole mouse thing would be, if the calacorm wasn’t able to be dealt with any other way, and the treasures in this room aren’t trapped or anything, just unidentified.
Dick GM move count: 18 and holding

Room 14 is a cavernous room with a buncha little alcoves, one of which has a spider web over it. There’s three doors hidden in the alcoves. The spider web will catch anyone trying to cut through it, and to escape

Ugh, this is dumb. You have to roll 2d6 repeatedly. You’re trying to reach a total of 12 or higher. The first roll you make adds towards this total, and the second roll subtracts from it. Continue alternating like this till you’re free.

Meanwhile, in one corner of the room there’s a big bear-thing that’ll attack the party eventually. It’s SKILL 9 STAMINA 11 and gets 2 ATTACKS. If nobody goes to the corner it’s in within the first minute it starts creeping around back and forth around the edge of the room, “always without the chance of being seen”, until it can leap out at someone.

There’s no treasure in this room.
Dick GM move count: 20 (one for the stupid time wasting spiderweb and one for the bear having no chance of being spotted before it strikes)

Room 15 is under a spell of magical darkness. It contains a hellhound (SKILL 7 STAMINA 6 ATTACKS 2, every round has a 2:6 chance of breathing fire for 1 STAMINA, apparently can apply both of its ATTACKS to the same victim.) Because it’s dark, players take a -2 penalty to SKILL for this fight. In the middle of the room is a corpse with 8 gold and a magic sword (+1 to attack strength). There’s also a door in the north.

Nothing especially dickish…or maybe the rest of this fucking adventure has got me jaded.
Dick GM move count: holding at 20

Room 16 is empty except for a table upon which rests a book. As soon as anyone touches the book, a zombie appears and attacks, and every time it’s killed another one takes its place. They’re not challenging (SKILL 6 STAMINA 6) but they’re going to keep coming indefinitely. On page 11 of the book, out of twenty (and the party has to page through to get there, at one attack round per page) there is a spell that will open the treasure room. It goes like this:

fanananana cosim patana.

The GM is to write it down for the players, because it only works if it’s pronounced a specific way and if you say it you give it away. The correct pronunciation, according to the notes for the GM, is: fa-nah-na-nah-na co-sym pah-tah-na. Once the book is replaced just as it was when they entered the zombies stop coming. If, somehow, someone gets killed by the zombies, they come back as a zombie themselves.
Dick GM move count: 23 (one for the infinite undead, one for having to page through the damn book one round at a time, and one for the fucking guessing game they’re going to have to play to use that damn spell)

Room 17 is the Spider King’s throne room.



As soon as the party walks in he demands that they bow. Failure to do so results in him webbing the entire party, with the result that they have to go through, individually, the same bullshit escape system as in Room 14, with the added nonsense that any time their total drops below 0 they take 1 STAMINA damage. Once someone escapes, the Spider King attacks. He’s SKILL 10 STAMINA 16 with 2 ATTACKS, and his bite has a 2 in 6 chance of doing double damage, so he’s no slouch. If they do bow, he’ll talk to them a bit but it’s still going to come to a fight, just probably without the web. He’s got 18 gold and a note saying the treasure room can only be opened by a spell guarded by a hellhound. Why he has that note, since he presumably set that shit up himself, is anyone’s guess.
Dick GM move count: 24 for that fucking web bullshit again.

Room 18 is the treasure room. If the players can manage to do the spell bullshit correctly, it opens, otherwise they can’t get in at all. Inside the room is an unlocked, trap-free chest with the treasure…48 gold and 4 jewels worth 8 gold each.
That’s it.

Fuck this place.

Then the GM can either end it there (mercy) or have the players go back through the dungeon, with a wandering monster fight in every place they fought something on the way in. Hope they remembered to leave an escape rope at the well entrance!

Edit: All told, the worthwhile treasures in this place come to 120 gold, an amulet of fortune, a potion of stamina, a magic sword, and an emerald, plus the pouch that produces one gold piece every fifteen minutes, as long as you keep it empty. The pouch is the best thing in the whole place, and it's available in like, room 3, before you have to fight anything. The rest of the treasure is pretty shit.

All right. So that’s the first of two adventures in the Fighting Fantasy core book. The second, Shagradd’s Hives of Peril is roughly 3 times longer, but has about the same ratio of bullshit. I could tackle that next, or skip it in favor of moving on and covering The Riddling Reaver , which is a more interesting (and possibly less bullshit) adventure series, which includes a few additional rules. Alternately, I could cover highlights from Out of the Pit , which is the bestiary book, or take a look at the setting and world of Fighting Fantasy in Titan . What do people want to see?

The Riddling Reaver, Part 1

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Fighting Fantasy RPG – The Riddling Reaver, Part 1



The Riddling Reaver is the first and only supplementary book for the basic Fighting Fantasy RPG. It features a four-part adventure series to thwart the eponymous villain’s evil plan, which is varying degrees of railroad and bullshit, and a couple of additional rules to add a bit more variety to the game.

I’ll start out by going over the new rules. First, unconsciousness: in the base game, when you hit 0 STAMINA, you died. Now, if you’re at 0 STAMINA, you fall unconscious for 2d6 minutes and wake up with 1 point of STAMINA. -1 STAMINA means you’re mortally wounded, and only potions or magic can save you. -2 STAMINA and you’re dead. This amounts to about one more hit before you’re permanently out of the game, at least, but it’s not like it takes long to roll a new character, for all that.

Next, weapons. In the base game, all weapons did 2 damage on a hit. Riddling Reaver presents a table to roll on when you hit, to see how much damage you do. Roll 1d6 and check:
pre:
Weapon            1   2   3   4   5   6 
---------------------------------------
Battle Axe        1   2   2   2   2   3
Dagger            1   1   2   2   2   2
Mace              2   2   2   2   2   2
Spear             1   1   2   2   3   3
Morning Star*     1   2   2   2   3   3
Sword             2   2   2   2   2   2
2H Sword**        2   2   2   3   3   3
---------------------------------------
*Adventurer fights at -1 SKILL
**Adventurer fights at -2 SKILL
Then, there’s Mighty Strikes. When you roll double-six on your attack, you automatically reduce the enemy to -1 STAMINA. What happens if both sides roll double-six?

Finally, magic. The GM can allow one adventurer in the group to be a wizard. Wizards automatically have the minimum STAMINA of 14, roll 1d6+4 for SKILL, and get to roll an additional MAGIC stat of 2d6+6, for a range of 8-18. This stat acts as the number of spells you can choose from the list of available spells, though you can choose one spell multiple times, as well as how well you cast them. You can cast each spell on your list once per Act (chapter of the adventure).

When casting spells, you roll 3d6. If the result is less than your MAGIC score, it works. If it is equal to or greater than your MAGIC score, it either fails, or misfires. The rules suggest keeping misfires humorous, as the game is plenty deadly enough without instant-death spell failures. Failed/misfired spells still get crossed off, though. If a spell is listed as having Standard Duration, it lasts 3d6 minutes.

The Spells:

Creature Copy
Creates an exact double of any creature, complete with all powers and stats, under the caster’s control. Standard duration.

ESP
Not actual mind reading, but the Deanna Troi school of empathy. Sense emotions, and “he’s hiding something!”.

Fire
Can cause either a small blast of flames for 1d6 STAMINA damage to its targets (no word on how many creatures can be targeted), or a wall of flames that does 3 damage to any creature crossing it, for standard duration.

Fool’s Gold
Illusion that turns rock into a pile of gold for standard duration.

Illusion
Creates a convincing illusion versus one creature. Cancelled if anything happens to dispel it (an illusory bridge won’t hold someone’s weight, but then they have bigger problems if they walked on it.) Illusory weapons deal imaginary damage but can only knock someone unconscious, and don’t do actual damage.

Levitation
Cast on objects or creatures, allows them to go straight up or down under the wizard’s control. Horizontal control is not granted. Standard duration.

Luck
Restore’s target’s LUCK stat by half its Initial value, rounded down. Can never be cast in combat.

Shielding
Invisible, immobile shield around wizard and up to six companions, nothing gets in or out. Standard duration.

Skill
As Luck, but affects SKILL.

Stamina
As Luck, but affects STAMINA.

Strength
Grants the caster the strength of a Troll for heaving, bashing, throwing, for one major action. Using too much strength on something is supposedly amusing or dangerous.

Weakness
Reduces target’s SKILL and STAMINA by 1d6 each for one combat.

That’s it, that’s all the spells, and all the new rules. It’s still not a very robust system but now there’s a little more to it. Part of the reason I picked this game to start with (I definitely have some other stuff that qualifies for this thread, which I’ll hopefully be tackling once I get through this) is that I found the evolution of the system pretty interesting to observe, especially since there were never a large amount of books in the line. Next time, I’ll start in with Act 1 of the Riddling Reaver saga: The Curse of Kallamehr!

The Riddling Reaver, Part 2

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Fighting Fantasy RPG: The Riddling Reaver
Act One: The Curse of Kallamehr, Scene One

Amidst the new rules stuff at the beginning of the book, we get presented with the standard loadout for this adventure:
A sword
A backpack
A coil of rope
10 provisions

We’re also told that additional equipment will be made available.

The read-aloud text at the start of the adventure sets the scene thusly:
You have been trekking across Allansia, in search of adventure, excitement—and above all treasure! Forsaking the western shores, you headed south, and came to the land of Kallamehr, which is ruled by the noble house of Rangor. Compared to the hardships you faced on the journey, Kallamehr promises comfort and rich pickings. Judging by the rounded bellies of the traders you have passed on the road, business must be good around here.
After two months’ solid travelling, interrupted only by the occasional skirmish with beasts and bandits, you have caught the scent of the sea in the wind. The road broadens as it approaches the town of Kallamehr, and you see its famous tower looming majestically in the distance. As you draw near the town, you catch sight of the sprawling collection of buildings which huddle beneath the tower. The twisting architecture is strange to your northern eyes; it seems to have no order to it. You wonder how on earth people can live in such chaotic squalor.
An imposing pair of gates looms before you. Strangely, no guards seem to be around, and the gates are open. You can make out the faint sound of shouting from the other side of town, but the houses block your vision and you cannot see what the commotion is about.
As you stand in the gateway you hear thumping from the gatehouse to your left. Someone seems to be trying to attract your attention.
“In the name of charity, let me out!” a tiny voice implores. “Surely I, one of Baron Bluestone’s most loyal subjects, should have the right to witness his struggle? Let me out!”
Edging closer, you see a man’s gaunt face pressed against the door’s grille. Manacled hands grip the bars, and tears stain his grubby face. He does not look much like a loyal citizen to you, and he has almost certainly been locked in the gatehouse for a good reason. There are no keys near by.
Abandoning him to his fate, you hurry towards the sound of the crowd, which gets louder as you get closer. Carts sit unattended, stalls unguarded, and livestock runs free. Minutes after leaving the gate, you arrive at the central square – the scene of the commotion. Packed into the square is a vast crowd (surely the entire population of Kallamehr, apart from the wretch in the gatehouse!). Each pair of eyes is fixed on the top of the tower, where a spindly figure is struggling to free himself from the clutches of a short robed man, who in turn is trying to force the other off the edge of the balcony. The spindly man is teetering on the edge. With every twist and turn the onlookers gasp ever louder. The tension is unbearable


So that’s a lot of words to establish the scene. I’m going to interrupt to give a bit of background detail here, since we skipped the book describing the Fighting Fantasy setting, Titan.

Kallamehr is, as mentioned in that wall of words above, in the southern part of Allansia. Allansia is the conintent that the early gamebooks in the series are set in— Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Citadel of Chaos, Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon, Island of the Lizard King, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Temple of Terror, and Creature of Havoc are all books set in Allansia that had been released prior to the Riddling Reaver. The front inside cover of Reaver graces us with a map…(forgive the quality, I haven’t got a better version handy and my scanner is packed up for a move)



So you can see the…well…the…hey, where’s Firetop Mountain? Where’s Fang, home to the legendary Deathtrap Dungeon? What about Port Blacksand, the aforementioned City of Thieves?

Well…they’re all in THIS part of Allansia:



Which is…pretty far from Kallamehr:



Kallamehr does end up making appearances later--at least by name--in a couple of the gamebooks proper, specifically Slaves of the Abyss and Magehunter , both by Paul Mason, one of the authors of this book. (Slaves is coauthored by Steve Williams, the other half of the pair who wrote this book.) As it stood at this point, it was basically a blank spot on a map. ( Titan has a lot of these, places that are briefly mentioned or named on maps but that had not appeared in the gamebooks. Some of them get expanded on later by the gamebook writers, some don’t; I’ll probably go over that in more detail when I get to that book.)

Okay. Digression into imaginary geography over: The gist of the flavor text, then, is that we’re in a place that is pointable to on a map, but has no pre-established history or expectations of the sorts of things one finds there. The ruler of this place is up on a tower, fighting for his very life against some sinister figure—WHAT DO YOU DO?

If you answered, “go back and steal some of the shit from those unguarded carts and stalls” you might not have what it takes to be a proper hero. The writers assume, at any rate, that the players will be dashing to the rescue heroically.

The door to the tower is locked, of course. The tower itself is covered in thick (climbable) ivy, and there are windows along the way. Wizards may have levitate spells (this kind of outright breaks the fun of this setup, though) or could use a Strength spell to smash the door in.

We’ll assume the heroes smash the door in, because we’re going to have to cover every floor in the tower to proceed anyway, and this way it’s at least linear.

Inside the door, they find a bound woman with the latest fashion in Kallamehrian headgear



As they enter, she loses control and the jar of tarantulas falls off her head. They’re a swarm treated as a single creature: SKILL 7 STAMINA 15 ATTACKS 4. They do no damage on a successful hit, instead injecting a venom that causes the victim to grow itchy hair all over that’s so itchy it causes a SKILL 2 penalty till the hair is removed, either through daily full body shaving or application of a healing potion for permanent removal.

Way to start things out on a dick move, Paul Mason and Steve Williams.

The bound lady is Lady Carolina, the wife of the dude fighting for his life up there. She’ll babble about a traitorous soothsayer, and then faint if anyone tells her what’s going on upstairs.

Moving along, the next room contains…a dead dude holding a box.
Though the players have no way of knowing this at this point, the book tells the GM that the dead dude is Hammet the Dash, the court wizard, and he was killed by the Riddling Reaver after he figured out that Cona Nundrum ( ugh ,) the soothsayer the Baron had hired, was the cause of the Baron’s recent decline into madness, having been bombarded by riddle after riddle. Nundrum revealed his true identity to Dash then slit his throat, and left the box in his hands.

On the box is a riddle:

If you would see what I contain
and maybe learn some news of gain,
solve this riddle, drop me in it,
wait for the click, then pull me from it.
I will be open, then you’ll see
The reason for this riddle-me-ree:

‘It trembles at each breath of air
and yet can heaviest burdens bear,
it shows no mark when it is hit
And more – you’re mostly made of it!’


The answer is pretty obvious, but the box isn’t meant to be opened just yet—and certainly isn’t helping save the poor Baron, struggling for his life above!

The next room up has a caged fire-elemental type thing called a Devlin. It has SKILL 10, STAMINA 0 (special) and 1 attack. Around the caged Devlin are half a dozen pails of water. Oops…someone left the cage door open!

The solution here is exactly the same as the solution to the riddle on the box, only this time you have to figure it out to proceed. Chucking water on the fire thing requires a successful Test for Luck , otherwise the thing is immune to any weapons. This is not meant to be hard and only the dumbest players won’t be able to figure it out.

Finally, once that’s taken care of, we make it to the roof.



Too late to save the Baron, of course, and the Reaver gets to tease the heroes, scooting up the flagpole like some sort of cartoon character. He completes his unlikely escape via an airship, but not before turning the flagpole into a giant snake (SKILL 7 STAMINA 11, two successive hits on the same target causes the snake to swallow them whole, instantly killing them) for the heroes to fight.

Afterwards, the heroes can go figure out that they need to drop the magical box into water. If they have trouble with the riddle, the book suggests having Lady Carolina figure it out, if need be. When they get the box open, there’s a parchment inside

I always believe in giving people a chance. After all, without Chance there is no Luck, and without either where would I be? You can try to follow me, if you want to avenge Bluestone’s death. And I won’t stop you. In fact, I’ll provide the transport. But to pay your fare, you’ll have to gather three trinkets and feed them to the God of the Sea at Brion’s Bluff. What’s more, the trinkets aren’t even hidden. All you have to do is solve my riddles to find where in Kallamehr they are. I hope you’re lucky. Then again, I hope you’re unlucky. It’s all the same to me.

What am I?
A white-winged fish that parts the waves,
I ply the sparkling waste.
I’m bound by ropes, and pulled by cloth,
Lest merchants lose their haste.


Where am I?
My first is in south but not in north;
My second is in picture but not in play;
My third is in fourth and also in worth;
My fourth is in book and also in cook;
My fifth is in toe but not in sew;
My sixth is in life but not in death;
And together I’m found where children abound.


What am I?
My belly is round
And bound with iron bonds;
What I carry always raises a cheer.
Murder have I not done;
Stolen not; cheated not;
Yet a peg is beaten into my head.


Where am I
My coat is green and I can speak
Of several things, but mostly cheek.
In such a prison am I set
That has more loopholes than a net.


What am I
I’ve neither top nor bottom,
Yet I hold bone and skin;
I hardly ever make a noise,
And yet my name’s a din.


Where am I?
Ill-matched is my visage to my frame-
Horns are on my head, the rest a hideous man;
By fame well known through all the Allansian lands;
From man and beast together is my name.


Yours,
The Riddling Reaver


The answers are:
Pair 1: The item is a ship and is found in a school
Pair 2: The item is a cask or keg found in the Parrot in a Cage inn
Pair 3: The item is a ring which is found in a Minotaur’s nose.

Getting a bit lengthy, so I’ll cover the actual retrieval of all the items in the next post.

Edit: I always seem to feel like my posts are longer than they actually are, comparing to some of the others in the thread. Anyone want me to make longer posts? Anyone want more background digressions? Fewer? I can save all the Titan related stuff for when I cover it, or give relevant bits and pieces when they come up ahead of time, or whatever people would prefer seeing.

Further edit: oh yeah. Remember how I said you can climb the tower or levitate, if you're a wizard? If you try to climb, you need to pass a SKILL test a few times to get up, and you can get off at any floor above the first and go up the stairs from inside. If a wizard levitates himself up, not only does he have to deal with the Reaver escaping and the giant snake on his own, he then has to go all the way down through the tower solo if his friends aren't getting in some other way and let them in through the front door himself. It's acknowledged as a possibility, but it's really not a very good one.

The Riddling Reaver, Part 3

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Fighting Fantasy RPG: The Riddling Reaver
Act 1 – The Curse of Kallamehr, Scene 2

So, when last we left our heroes, they had failed spectacularly to rescue the Baron of Kallamehr from his untimely death at the hands of a cartoonish villain, and had been left with nothing but a mocking note containing several riddles and a promise that if they could solve the riddles and bring the stuff described therein to a specific spot, the Riddling Reaver would provide the transportation needed to track him down and make him pay.

No mention of why the heroes should continue to care at this point is given—there’s no hint of a grander plan and certainly no offer of fabulous treasures from the Reaver if they beat him. Lady Carolina, the Baron’s new widow, offers to provide any weapons the players need, as well as a guide around town so they can more readily be on their way after the cheeky bastard of a villain, but she also doesn’t provide any real incentive.

Not that this is a big issue for any GM worthy of the title, of course, but it would be nice if the writers of the book had thought that far ahead.

The guide/assistant is a GMPC named Dappa, a fourteen-year-old apprentice wizard who used to work for the dead guy who they found holding the box with the clues. He is a smartass and the GM is advised to be infuriating with him; if the PCs need help with the riddles he can provide condescending clues. He’s shit in a fight (SKILL 4, STAMINA 8) but can cast Invisibility on himself…(MAGIC 8, so if you’re rolling for him the little bugger may not even manage that much, since it’s 3d6 and you have to get lower than your magic stat.)



Dappa is supposed to be useful as a guide, though, and ultimately is there to make sure the game doesn’t get bogged down by players not being able to solve the riddles or not knowing where to go next. It’s not an ideal solution, but a good GM will be able to tone him down.

Then again, I’m not sure a good GM would be running The Riddling Reaver.

Then we are given a map to show the players:



And the instruction that between destinations they will have to pass through the residential area, which amounts to a random encounter table. The encounters range from a merchant offering the characters new clothes for 1 GP, to a bunch of kids wanting their autograph for their heroics with the tower so far, to a press gang (which will put them on a ship if they can’t win the fight, and basically skip the rest of this act and all of the next, though you can still play out the last half of the campaign). There’s more random encounters, but they’re not really noteworthy. Even the one with the six-armed monkey pickpocket is only amusing for the fact that it’s about a six-armed monkey pickpocket.

Anyway. Each of the locations on the map there is important and relevant or at least a place where the writers have put a scene to run. What a fucking surprise. We’ll start with the market square.

The first thing that happens in the market square is a thief knocks over a merchant. There’s no time to draw a weapon, do you want to get out of his way or fight him (at a -4 SKILL for being unarmed?) The book assumes the PCs will fist-fuck this sorry ruffian, so whatever. The rich merchant will thank them (presumably) and introduce himself as a trader dealing exclusively in “exotic livestock for discerning customers”, saying he supplied the monsters for Baron Sukumvit’s Trial of Champions (that’s Deathtrap Dungeon for those of you ho remember the gamebooks.) Apparently, though, he’s had a spate of bad luck since arriving in Kallamehr; aside from being robbed just now, the dock workers who were unloading his cargo made off with his prized Minotaur!

That’s all there is to see or do here. Moving on.

(One of the random encounters I mentioned above is this guy again, and he’ll remember he didn’t give the PCs a reward and hand over 5 gp each.)

Okay, so let’s go check out the docks. It takes literally no time at all to find the minotaur, since when the heroes arrive at the docks they see a couple of shady figures dumping a body they’re pulling from inside a warehouse, which has cheering and yelling inside. Nobody notices the PCs go in. There’s a makeshift arena, and oh hey, a minotaur! The ridiculously-attired dude in charge is shouting out a challenge—anyone who can go against the minotaur till the sand-glass runs out and still be alive gets 100gp!

The sand-glass is 7 attack rounds. The minotaur is SKILL 9 STAMINA 9 ATTACKS 2, so conceivably may die before the 7 rounds are up, but it’s got decent enough SKILL for that not to be a given. Every 4 attack rounds, the magic brass ring (the objective of this whole exercise) in the Minotaur’s nose allows it to breathe poison gas. Anyone caught in the gas fumes must Test for Luck , losing 4 STAMINA for being Unlucky , otherwise losing 1 STAMINA.

If they go 7 rounds and both the PC and minotaur are still up, a rope is let down for the hero, and they hand him a purse of winnings (which secretly only contains 74 gold, not the promised 100) and tell him he can’t fight again. As soon as the minotaur goes down, though, 3 thugs (SKILL6 STAMINA 5) jump down to fight the PC while everyone else gets the hell out of dodge. After that, oh hey, one of three items down.

Next stop: the Nautical Academy of Kallamehr. There’s a weathervane in the shape of a ship on the roof of this place, and that’s one of the three items our heroes need.
Getting to the roof by climbing involves a SKILL check, and a second to get up to the top. If he fails, he has to Test for Luck to avoid falling and taking 1d6 damage. There’s a little shit up on the roof who’s throwing things at the PCs while they do this, but he fucks right off by the time anyone can get up there.

The book suggests that clever players may bribe or talk the kids into helping them get the thing down, but no real guidance is provided for adjudicating this beyond reinforcing that these kids are little shits.

Inside the school (just in case someone falls through the roof or checks inside for a way up) the kids are wreaking havoc , having drugged their teacher into unconsciousness—or death, he’s caked in dust per the read-aloud text. Little shits indeed, either way.

Eventually, by whatever means, the PCs engage in petty vandalism to get the ship-shaped weathervane, and should now have two of the three items required for passage.

The Parrot in the Cage inn is an unsavory place. There’s a shell game going on, which Dappa will urgently explain to the PCs is being manipulated by a rat-faced former apprentice of his master, and is thus a con—up to the PCs what to do about it, though Rat-face has a magic necklace that gives +1 initial LUCK to anyone who wears it, or +2 if they’re a wizard.

The cask of ale can be bought for a paltry sum.

That’s 3 for 3! That was easy enough—but wait, there’s two more locations on our map! What are they?

The first is the Flesh and Pen Emporium, which is a tattoo shop. Normal tattoos are a gold or two, but the Dwarven proprietor knows the secrets of inking magical tattoos, for 25 gold each. The available magic tattoos are:

Rising Sun – bearer can endure cold temperatures, wind, and rain with no effect.
Leaping Tiger - When this tattoo is visible, add 1 to SKILL and can fight on for one round after STAMINA hits 0.
Eagle - Improves distance and acuity of vision.
Cobra – When revealed in combat, the opponent must make a SKILL check or be hypnotized for one attack round, allowing an automatic hit from the bearer of the tattoo. Works only once per opponent.

These tattoos can never be removed, and only one per character can be inked.

The other location on the map is a bathhouse. This place is 100% dickery. The attendant will insult the PCs, then say that non-members normally can’t use the baths, but for a nominal fee of 5 gold each he will make an exception in their case. Dappa points out how rare this sort of thing is, because this location is about being a dick to your players, and suggests that the influential members of the Bathhouse Club may be able to help them.

Upon spending the 5 gold each to get in, characters are told to strip and divest themselves of weapons and gear, receiving only a towel to wear into the bathhouse. They are then directed to a pool. Nobody else is apparently present, until they enter the bath, at which point the doors swing shut and some fat guys up on a balcony will start laughing and dump six electric eels into the water. The eels are SKILL 6 STAMINA 4 and each round one of the six eels does 4 damage automatically by electric charge. (Each eel can do that twice, total). The doors have been locked and the smooth, sheer walls can’t be scaled, meaning the only way out is another set of doors at the far end of the baths. Defeating the eels only causes another six to be sent down. The doors lead out to an alleyway behind the bathhouse. The PC’s clothes and gear have been scattered around in front of the bathhouse causing them to be laughed at by passers-by.

That entire encounter does exist 100% for dickishness. There is no reason to go there, there is no reward for doing so, and it’s a red herring at best.

Anyway, what happens next should be that the PCs, having collected the three trinkets described by the Reaver’s riddles, head to Brion’s Bluff and dump them into the sea. At that point a magical ship shows up to carry them to their unknown destination. Dappa will (apparently) want to continue adventuring with the group, but he’s kind of a useless handholding device, so if you or your PCs think they need a babysitter, he’s great, otherwise he “sadly” returns to Kallamehr.

Next time we’ll see ACT TWO: VOYAGE OF ENIGMA. It’s…special.

Voyage of Engima, Part 1

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Ooh, Paranoia. That ought to be good fun! Too bad I'm stuck doing...

Fighting Fantasy RPG: The Riddling Reaver
Act Two: Voyage of Engima

When we left our heroes they were in lukewarm pursuit of a villain who’d done them no personal wrongdoing, on the promise of no reward, on the basis of he’d teased them and then offered to give them a ride on his magic boat if they went through some bullshit. This they have accomplished, because heroes are nothing if not ridiculously fucking stupid.

We rejoin our fucking stupid, yet intrepid heroes as they come aboard the Twice Shy , personal sea-going vessel of the Riddlng Reaver, a man who murdered a couple people and made them solve some ridiculous riddles in the last scene/adventure.

Because this is as good a time as any to get a bit more information on our antagonist, here is what Titan , the sourcebook detailing the world of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and RPG setting, has to say about the Riddling Reaver (emphasis mine):

“The Riddling Reaver is another unusual servant of the Tricksters. Legend says that he dwells somewhere amid the jungles of southern Allansia, in a place where all the normal rules have been disregarded – where water no longer flows downwards, where trees seem not to need soil, but float free in the air, and so on. Wherever he actually has his residence, however, he is most often seen aboard his enormous ship, in which he sails around the world to carry out his tasks.”

“The Reaver is said to be a master of disguise, able to transform himself into just about anyone or anything in a matter of minutes; he often uses such disguises to get close to his ‘victims’. He is also a very puzzling being, for he delights in leaving enigmatic rhymes behind him wherever he goes – hence his name. He seems to have almost limitless powers to draw on in his tasks of bringing confusion and balance to the world . Where he actually originates from is anyone’s guess. He may be a human being blessed with peculiar powers by his equally peculiar gods, or he may be a supernatural being sent by the Tricksters to work special missions on the Earthly Plane, perhaps where a Genie – the usual Trickster emissary – would not be subtle enough .”

The idea is supposed to be that the Reaver is a servant of the Trickster gods of neutrality, and is to be working to maintain the balance between good and evil. Particularly good beings—like heroes or whatever—may find him acting like a villain just to offset their goodness. Alignment is fucking dumb, I guess? The problem is, of course, that as you will see, the Riddling Reaver is doing exactly the opposite of this, and his goals are explicitly to create chaos and destroy the balance. This isn’t actually revealed until the next chapter of the adventure, but it’s no big deal to reveal it now, especially since this particular act of the adventure is so blatantly full of bullshit, dick moves, and time-wasting and I really want to put off writing about it as long as possible.

Sadly, I’m out of good, informative filler, so I’m going to blast through this motherfucker. First, let me get this out of the way: there’s a bit in the first adventure, as a random encounter, where the group can be press ganged and dragged off to work as oarsmen on a ship. The book suggests that if this happens, skip the remainder of act 1 and all of this act and start them getting shipwrecked at the start of act 3. They would lose nothing of value or interest by this shortcut. There is no information, insight, or treasure gained by playing through this part of the Riddling Reaver scenario; it exists explicitly to kill time.

To that end, it tells the GM to set a timer for how long he wants to waste, and end this act once the time is up. A good GM would set the timer to about as long as it takes to say “Your journey aboard the strange magical vessel is uneventful, and after a few hours you arrive at your apparent destination”. This is not what the book tells you to do.

So, since our hypothetical GM is as stupid as his hypothetical players at this point, we dutifully set the timer and begin the adventure. Onward, to tedium.


The good ship Twice Shy

The first place our stalwart adventurers find themselves is on deck. There is a random encounter table here, meant to be used to keep the PCs from just waiting out the voyage. Each of the six encounters is to be used only once, though, so a sufficiently determined group could, if they survive all six, lean back, fold their arms across their chests defiantly, stare at the GM in silence and wait for the clock to wind down.

The encounters aren’t necessarily easy, though.

1) A plesiosaurus (SKILL 9 STAMINA 22) swims up looking for food. There’s food in the hold if the adventurers want to leave the deck, otherwise it’s fighty time.
2) A massive storm hits, complete with 1-6 storm spirits (each SKILL 10 STAMINA 6). On top of their not insignificant SKILL score, these fuckers can shoot lighting up to twice each, hitting on a 1-4 for 2 damage, and anyone using a metal weapon takes a point of damage every time they hit the spirits, due to electrical feedback.
3) Another ship crosses the path of the Twice Shy and it turns out it’s a plague ship. 1-6 plague zombies (SKILL 5 STAMINA 7) leap across, another 1-6 try and fail, falling in the water. Anyone sufficiently awful at life to let one of these fuckers reduce him to 0 STAMINA becomes a plague zombie himself after 5 minutes. This would be more threatening if SKILL 5 had any real chance of hitting. On the other hand, if you’re doing this adventure by staring down the GM, you may have already taken enough damage that they can win by attrition
4) Another ship crosses the path of the Twice Shy , this time it’s an old merchant ship and it gets smashed to driftwood, dumping all hands into the sea. The PCs have no control over the ship, so they can do nothing but watch.
5) A giant squid attacks. SKILL 9 STAMANA 12 ATTACKS 2. If it wins two successive attack rounds on a single adventurer it’ll squeeze for an extra damage and will continue to do so each round until the target wins a round.
6) A Sea Giant pops up and demands to know which is more powerful, wind or sea? If the heroes aren’t smart enough to give the obvious answer and come up with a marginally convincing reason, they’re gonna fight the thing. SKILL 10, STAMINA 17, ATTACKS 3. If they convince it they actually do believe the sea is stronger, it splashes them and fucks off.

Like I said, if you really wanted to, you could conceivably deal with all of the above and then stare down the GM until he ends this adventure, but chances are you’re playing in good faith. Maybe the GM didn’t put you through The Wishing Well or Shagradd’s Hives of Peril, and you managed to skip the bathhouse shit in the last act by being focused on the task at hand. I don’t know.

Location 2 is the hold. There are four barrels of salted fish, one of which contains a vicious rat that’ll jump out and bite whoever opened the barrel for 1 damage, because this adventure is a dick. The fish tastes terrible but eating as much as you can stomach restores 2 STAMINA. There’s also six small packing cases nearby and one large one at the far end of the hold. The six small ones each contain a glass body part, which combine to form a Mannikin that will obey any order or statement that could be interpreted as an order. It has SKILL 8 and STAMINA 3 and can be used as an ally if the PCs order it around clearly, but it’s fucking dumb and doesn’t give a shit who gives the orders, so any intelligent enemy can order it to do something else.

The packing crate in the far end has a riddle on it: What has the head of a jungle king, the body of a hill climber, the tail of a legless lizard and the breath of a winged hoarder? The answer’s in the box!” Stupid adventurers who open it anyway get to fight a chimera. SKILL 12, STAMINA 20, ATTACKS 3, this fucker could kill someone even without breathing fire every 3 rounds for 2 damage on a 1-4. Running away is a very viable tactic, but if you’re dumbshit enough to open that box you probably aren’t going to enumerate that among the available options.

Location 3 is a small cabin. Aside from a bunch of stuffed fish and a hammock, there’s a box with a pair of eyeholes in the side, secured to the floor by some iron bolts. Each person looking inside sees something different, from treasure to a bound maiden to a swarm of insects to another box. If the players decide to pry the box open, a giant fucking jack in the box springs out and towers over them for a couple minutes before saying “Gluttony has proved the downfall of many a brave adventurer.”

This is supposed to be a hint or some shit, but whatever. If the PCs hack it to bits as soon as it appears, they don’t get this tidbit of “wisdom”. I’ve read more useful information on fortune cookie slips.

Location 4 : A big “portal” with no door and only blackness visible. Going inside leads to a giant-sized room—actually, the heroes have been shrunk to the size of an insect. If they want to hack through the purple underbrush (plush carpet) and explore, they will find a mouse (SKILL 10 STAMINA 16 ATTACKS 2) and if they kill it, they may spot a treasure if they are Lucky on a Test for Luck or if anyone bought the eagle tattoo in act 1. A giant ingot of gold, a meter long! (well, to the tiny heroes, anyway.) Making the effort to get it out of this fucking room returns the heroes to their former size, revealing their grand treasure to be a sliver of gold worth 2 gp.

Location 5 features a table upon which is laid out a sumptuous feast, complete with a domed silver platter as the centerpiece. The food on the table counts as the equivalent of three sets of Provisions. Under the platter are a fuckton of FLESH GRUBS, which will immediately assault whoever opens the platter. 2-12 damage, instant, unavoidable. They’re easy to get off once they’ve done their damage, but sticking around the table once the grubs are released will only get you covered in more of the fucking things.

Meanwhile, the door got replaced by an Imitator. Which is like a mimic, but instead of being a chest, it’s a door, with glue, and a fucking fist to punch you with. SKILL 9 STAMINA 8 and the first person to touch it fights at -2 SKILL thanks to the glue. Meanwhile, if the fight goes on more than 4 rounds, the flesh grubs get there too!

Location 6 is the cabin of an unfortunate sage the Reaver made the acquaintance of. Once the poor sap stumbled on a perfect system of government that would revolutionize the way people think and make everyone all nice, the Reaver killed him to maintain balance, apparently, but probably more accurately to shut him up because that kind of shit is really insufferable. His ghost will appear and mumble incomprehensible “intellectual gibberish” and the only useful information he has is that the answer to the riddle on a door we haven’t got to yet is “the answer is a riddle”. He’s got a Scroll of Fortune that behaves like a potion of luck somewhere in this mess of a room, and 10 gold.

We’re halfway through this fucking time-waster. I’ll pick up with the rest of it next post, because there’s only so much of this bullshit I feel like dealing with at once. If you like, imagine this being the interlude where the GM halts the timer, says “okay guys I’m sorry” and goes out to buy everyone snacks as an act of contrition for this fucking adventure.

Next time: Voyage of Engima, my ass.


Voyage of Enigma, Part 2

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Fighting Fantasy RPG: The Riddling Reaver
Voyage of Enigma, Part 2

Y’know, back when I was about ten years old I actually ran this shit for a couple friends? I remembered The Riddling Reaver as a whole being fairly entertaining. I mean, even at ten I could tell that the shit in Fighting Fantasy core was a load of fuck-you bullshit. But somehow I read through this and decided it was something that I could run.

I flipped ahead a bit, and it turns out that Acts 3 and 4 actually look somewhat decent. I mean, it’s a bit on rails, it’s still got bullshit going on, but it’s actually not zero-stakes zero-reward the way these first two chapters have been. The shame of it is, that shit’s hidden behind two full acts of aggressive bullshit. Honestly, a campaign where you start off having the PCs press ganged onto a ship and subsequently shipwrecked at the opening of the third act would probably be moderately fun. Not great, but not…this.

Sadly, we’ve got six more rooms of …this… left to cover before we can start looking at that stuff.

Location 7 is the cabin belonging to the ex-Captain of the Twice Shy , and is now inhabited by his poltergeist. Words in the grime on the mirror say “Lay my bones to rest”, and there’s some creepy supernatural shit, but basically if the players bring the bones that are on the bed up to the deck and give him a burial at sea, his ghost will thank them. If they leave the room without disturbing anything, nothing really happens.

Otherwise the poltergeist has SKILL 9 and can’t be harmed at all. He’ll continue attacking till the PCs leave the room or start bringing his bones up on deck to toss overboard. Under the pillow there’s a magic eyepatch; the eye it covers can see perfectly in the dark and mysteriously isn’t impeded in normal light. In the drawer, there are 20gp.

Location 8 is the map room.


There’s a miniature model of the ship moving along the map. Poking or prodding it sets the real ship to lurching violently, probably causing damage to everyone in the party. Doing anything more energetic…well, let’s hope the players aren’t that stupid. Or that they’re not just trying to get out of it.

That big furball on the map is a sleeping creature called a Jib-jib. It’s basically a ball of fuzz with a big mouth and a pair of feet, and it’s sleeping lightly. Players who want to investigate the room further can find some maps that could be sold to a merchant, but to avoid waking the jib-jib they’re going to have to tiptoe.

If the thing wakes up, it starts screaming, which is really absurdly loud, and running around on the map, coming “dangerously close” to the model of the ship. Players who leave the room hoping it will calm down (the best choice under the circumstances) hear the yowling continue for about a minute before it quiets down and falls back to sleep. Otherwise, they can try and catch it ( Test for Luck ) or kill it (with SKILL 1 and STAMINA 2, it’s almost guaranteed to be a one-shot for whichever PC wants to take the swing.)

If the thing is grabbed or killed, though, the ship’s controller, a genie, appears, screams invective at the PC responsible, and turns him or her into a monkey, with SKILL 6 STAMINA 4. If they killed the Jib-jib, it’s permanent, barring another genie undoing it (there is a convenient genie in another room that can possibly do so,) otherwise it wears off half an hour later.

Location 9 is the ship’s art gallery. I’m not even fucking kidding.
There’s six paintings on the wall and they’re all of some bad shit about to happen. And there’s a portrait of the Riddling Reaver himself, which is covered. If someone pulls the cover off, it animates, makes fun of everyone, and then teleports each pc into one of the paintings on the wall.

OH MY SHIT. I’m not even going to bother describing each of the paintings or what needs to be done specifically, because this shit is so fucking dumb.

To escape the PCs have to stop the bad shit from happening. So like a guy about to be poisoned, the PC has to knock the vial of poison out of the poisoner’s hand before he can pour it in the wine.

Whatever. To do this, or any of the things they have to do to stop the bad shit, requires a SKILL test. If you pass, you’re free, and gain 3 points of . Otherwise, you’re trapped, and the painting you’re in shows you and the bad shit having happened. You’re stuck until someone who doesn’t suck turns the portrait of the Reaver to face the wall. Attacking the now-inanimate portrait does fuck-all. If everyone fails, hey, game over I guess?

Just in case anyone’s keeping track: Every single one of these rooms so far has been best handled by touching nothing and quietly leaving without disturbing the occupants. There’s been a bit of treasure to be had, but way more dangerous or obnoxious shit.

Does that hold up for the last 3 rooms?

Location 10! Another big black portal of darkness. Above it is written “only those who lie may enter safely”. If someone pokes a pole or some shit in, it emerges safely. But, a meter inside the portal of darkness is a swinging pendulum which will cause 1d6 damage to anyone not crawling or lying down as they pass through. See, you’re supposed to lie down to enter safely.

Beyond that portal there’s a room full of taxidermy shit, including a bunch of lifelike animals. None of them animate or anything. There’s also two vials, one labeled Balm for Sealing, which acts as a STAMINA potion and contains enough for two doses, and one labeled Balm for Curing, which increases initial STAMINA by 3 and decreases initial SKILL by 2 as your skin toughens up and hardens. Curing that takes either a proper Potion of Strength or a Potion of Fortune, which will not grant the normal effect.

No touch rule? In place.

Location 11 is the crew quarters. Since the ship’s magic, the crew have it easy. They sit around, playing cards all day.

Just messing, the Reaver killed them all, stuffed them, and animated them to sit around playing cards all day. Isn’t he jolly ? They don’t give a shit (no touch rule!) about the PCs unless someone tries to take their gold, in which case they attack. SKILL 6 STAMINA 10 for each of the six stuffed sailors. At least this fight has a decent reward, with 80 gold on the table and a jug of grog. The grog restores 2 STAMINA off the first swig and for each swig after reduces SKILL by 1 until the end of the adventure (Which is thankfully any minute now.)

Location 12 lies behind a sealed door. A riddle marks the entrance:

When I appear I seem mysterious,
But when explained, I’m nothing serious.
When I’m unknown to you, I’m something
But when I’m known to you I’m nothing.
In Master’s name you’ll me espy,
So tell me, then, please: What am I?


Anyone saying the word “riddle” will have solved this one. The door will open even if they were just saying “I guess we have to solve the riddle to get inside”. Some security system, Reaver.

Inside there’s a fuckton of scrolls, and a large wardrobe. The scrolls are arguably the only thing in this entire adventure that’s worth fucking around with; each one contains a riddle. If, within one minute of opening the scroll, the PC can solve the riddle, the text of the riddle vanishes and the scroll becomes a magical Scroll of Fortune, Strength, or Skill, which behaves exactly like a Potion thereof—so the Scrolls of Fortune increase Initial LUCK by 1 and restore to that, the other two types restore SKILL or STAMINA to their Initial values. The type of scroll is determined randomly: 1-2 gets Skill, 3-4 Strength, and 5-6 Fortune. PCs can make as many guesses as they like within a minute. If they fail to get it right within that time, though, the scroll explodes. Everyone in the room must Test for Luck , taking 1 damage if they’re Lucky or 3 damage otherwise.

There are a dozen riddles provided, but the description of the room implies that the whole room is overflowing with the scrolls, so in theory, PCs could stumble across this room early on and spend the whole voyage stocking up on healing items. The authors didn’t seem to think this would be something the PCs would do, though, since they neither limit the number of scrolls that can be opened before they all start exploding, nor do they suggest finding/inventing other riddles in case your players feel like this is the best treasure ever.

I'm not going to list all the provided riddles and answers, unless someone really wants me to post them; they're pretty generic and none of them is particularly unique or fantasy-themed.

There’s still the wardrobe to cover. Inside, there’s a genie. He claims to be able to clean and press clothes in less time than it takes to solve one of the riddle scrolls, and if someone gives him their clothes to test this…he laughs at them and fucks off.

If they don’t do that, he can bring someone back to life or restore a simianized adventurer to normal. That’s about the extent of his willingness/ability to assist.

After he does any of the above, he goes back into the wardrobe. Further pestering of the genie will receive irritable responses, and insisting on pestering the omnipotent being results in whatever penalty the GM feels like inflicting, including “putting their heads on backward”, changing them into animals, or otherwise making it clear the genie wants to be left the fuck alone.

And that’s it.

Whenever the timer runs out fully on the adventure, the book advises letting the pcs finish whatever fight or exploration they’re currently on, then describing the ship lurching to a halt, and noxious gas forcing them abovedecks. There is a landing craft, and it will bring the players ashore unless they prefer swimming through shark infested waters. Stats for the sharks are provided, because if nothing else, the writers know that players can be stubborn and fucking stupid on occasion.

Lord knows anyone who’s sat through the first two acts of this falls into at least one of those categories

Next time: looking up from here? The Riddling Reaver, Act 3: The Pendulum of Fate

Pendulum of Fate, Part 1

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Oh shit, I’m not dead. Back to this, then:

The Riddling Reaver, Act 3: Pendulum of Fate

I’ve been putting this off, partly due to getting extremely sick for awhile and having a ton of other stuff to catch up on, partly because this book is nowhere near as fun as I remembered.

Since it’s been awhile, let’s start with a refresher:

For reasons of on account of it’s where the story started, our heroes had travelled to Kallamehr, where they arrived just in time to involve themselves in the murder of the Baron by the infamous villain the Riddling Reaver, for reasons unknown and unknowable. The Reaver left a clue to his whereabouts in the form of a box that said “solve these riddles and I’ll send a ship to bring you to my whereabouts”, so the heroes did that. Then they got on the ship and faffed around for awhile being tortured by stupid pointless events for little to no reward. At the end of that “adventure” they ended up being put ashore somewhere new…which is where this picks up.

I’m going to try and blast through this in less detail than I have been, if only because I’d like to move on from it as quickly as possible.

So the first thing that happens here is that from within the jungle they hear a scream, moving towards them rapidly, and then an adventurer sails overhead as though catapulted, landing in the water and being torn apart by sharks or something. Another soon follows, and another, as the heroes rush towards the source. By the time they get there, they find a group of mutant lizard men preparing to launch their final prisoner, and presumably they rush to the rescue.

See, this? This is way better as an opening for an adventure than the actual opening. You could easily skip the first two acts of this damn thing and start the players off here, and lose little to nothing in the process, since Fighting Fantasy RPG has no rules for character advancement and there’s been fuckall really worthwhile treasure. It gets the characters right into the middle of things and as you’ll see, it actually would set them up with a more personal reason to be pissed off at the Reaver. Just start them off saying they got shipwrecked on their way somewhere else or something. It may not actually be a better adventure…but it cuts half of the bullshit by skipping the first two acts entirely.

Anyway. The lizard men have randomly determined mutations, which include spitting, multiple heads, barbed tails, or the ability to cause mutations in creatures they attack. It’s kind of neat. Once they have finished rescuing the prisoner, he will introduce himself as Waxley Speed, explorer. He’s searching for a legendary treasure hidden in a shrine in the jungle, and spent years putting together a team and suchlike. They got ambushed by lizardmen shortly after a flying vessel passed overhead and a robed figure stole the map. Fortunately, Waxley has a good memory and knows the way through the jungle as well as anyone who hasn’t already been there, and proposes the heroes team up with him for a share of the treasure. Supposedly, the legendary Pendulum of Fate lies in the shrine he seeks.

Secretly, Waxley Speed is the Riddling Reaver. He can’t get into the shrine himself, so he’s using the players to get the Pendulum so he can use it to disrupt the balance between good and evil. This doesn’t actually make sense as a plan given that he’s supposed to be a servant of neutrality, not chaos, but whatever. He is immune to the E.S.P. spell and will appear genuine if it is cast on him. He will offer the characters hundreds of gold upon returning to civilization if they help him, plus a share of the treasure…in short, he’s got a good cover here. If the players still don’t buy it, he’ll cast a spell to stun the heroes and make his escape, reappearing at the end of the act. Otherwise, he keeps up the charade.

What follows is a series of jungle scenes. There are random encounters, plus encounters with quicksand, mud-men, head-hunters and pygmies, a log bridge with a giant spider, a giant carnivorous plant, a crazy carved cave with a shaman and bats and stuff inside…the usual Indiana Jones style stuff. A couple of these have dickish elements, but it’s nothing on the level of some of the crap in the previous act. The giant carnivorous plant encounter seriously injures Waxley Speed, if he hasn’t been forced to reveal his true nature.

Once they finally reach the shrine, they discover it is surrounded by a deep chasm, only passable via an invisible bridge. Waxley basically collapses here, saying he’s too exhausted to continue and will keep a lookout for the Reaver. Truth is, the invisible bridge won’t support him, and there’s magical Flying Guardians that keep anyone from climbing the walls of the shrine or flying out to it.

The Shrine of Destiny itself is pretty sizable and sort of interesting, so I’ll cover it in another post.


Pendulum of Fate, Part 2

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

The Riddling Reaver, Act Three: Pendulum of Fate
Part Two: The Shrine of Destiny



Having left behind Waxley Speed, their guide through the jungle to the Shrine of Destiny (and secretly their nemesis, the titular Riddling Reaver), the heroes must now brave the depths of the Shrine of Destiny to claim the Pendulum of Fate, a treasure of great value and presumably not something that messing around with could possibly produce any negative consequences. As you might have guessed from the map above, the shrine isn't exactly a building, but rather a living creature.

The inside of the creature is lit by phosphorescence. Using fire inside the Shrine for any reason will cause convulsions, costing 1 point of STAMINA every minute that the fire remains. Also, the Shrine is secretly a place of sacrifice, and anyone inside is being slowly digested, losing 1 STAMINA for every half hour within. The Pendulum is located at the heart of the beast.

Room 1 The entrance chamber has...uh. I'll just show you.



So, upon walking in and seeing that, pulsating? A voice speaks in the minds of the heroes, urging them to "make the sacrifice and join us" . Oh, and once everyone is inside? The "mouth" closes, constricting the tunnel behind them.

Guhhhhhhh.


The next location is Room 2 the central cavern, which is full of slime and occasionally drops gunk on the characters. They enter via a hole in the ceiling, and are dropped to the ground, which is ankle-deep in slime. If they spend time searching, among the partially-digested human remains, they will find a strangely undamaged sword with the word "Timakron" carved in runes on the blade. It's a magic weapon; if the sword's name is shouted before a battle, the sword will alter time for the user, granting a +3 bonus to SKILL for the combat. It will, however, never, ever harm a human, preventing all blows from landing when fighting a human opponent.

While they're in this room for the first time, a small golden sphere floats out of one of their backpacks (determined randomly which, of course), which can be noticed on a successful test of SKILL, otherwise they'll just realize it's hanging around them after a bit without knowing where it came from. It's a watcher that the Reaver has planted on the party. It is too fast for even Timakron to hit, but it's there to keep an eye on the proceedings, not interfere directly. If things get too dire, though, there's a genie inside the thing that can revive one fallen hero or interfere with one creature long enough to let the PCs escape safely.

Each of the six exits to the room has audible clues provided about what lies down the passage. Exit A leads to the lungs, and has an audible draught. Exit B leads to, I shit you not, the iron digesting chamber. Silent, but for the occasional slapping sound. Exit C has a Mucalytic living inside, somehow.

Wait, what's that? What's a Mucalytic?

Let's consult Out of the Pit, shall we?


I'm cheating a little by including the Out of the Pit entry; the Riddling Reaver does have an illustration of the slimy fucker...kind of. It's a trunk rising from a pool of slime. OotP gives a much better impression of what the thing is.

Out of the Pit posted:

SKILL :8 2 Attacks
STAMINA: 9
HABITAT: Dungeons, Towns (sewers)
NUMBER ENCOUNTERED: 1-2
TYPE: Monster
REACTION: Unfriendly-Hostile
INTELLIGENCE: Average


Well known in folk-tales for their disgusting habits, MUCALYTICS are vile, slime-loving things. Vaguely humanoid in shape, but about the size of a bear, they are lumpy, ugly beasts. Most of their features are hidden under the filth and much they plaster over themselves, but the trunk-like snouts that poke from the front of their faces will be visible, snorting the air or rooting in the slime. They are revolting beasts, and anyone encountering them in their cesspool of a lair will immediately lose 2 points of STAMINA as a result of the stench.

In a fight, a Mucalytic will flail about with its huge arms, but when it has softened up its opponent, it will resort to other tactics. After landing three successful blows, the Mucalytic will grab hold of the opponent, draw him near to its mouth, and breathe on him. A Mucalytic can exhale highly poisonous fumes at will, of which even a short sniff is enough to kill!

No one is sure where the disgusting beasts came from, but it is well known that the Archmage of Mampang hired some to guard his dungeons. It is said that they still lurk beneath the citadel, wallowing in their slime and filth.

So there's one of these fuckers dwelling inside this Creature, not being digested...somehow. Listening at the entrance to tunnel C will let the heroes hear it snorting around. Tunnel D is the "grinding chamber" and has rumbling and hollow knocking echoing from it. Tunnel E is the Wrapper's chamber. What's the Wrapper?

Out of the Pit is sure glad you asked that question! (Since I still have the book out right now, anyway)

Sadly there's not a really good picture of this fucker anywhere online, and the one in the copy I have of Out of the Pit isn't really worth scanning to share. Imagine the stupidest looking serious attempt at illustrating the thing described below possible and you'll probably be pretty fucking close

Out of the Pit posted:

SKILL :12
STAMINA: 9
HABITAT: Dungeons, Caves
NUMBER ENCOUNTERED: 1
TYPE: Monster
REACTION: Hostile
INTELLIGENCE: Average


The WRAPPER is a strange, dungeon-welling monster that lurks in the shadows of the underworld waiting for foolhardy adventurers to stumble into its lair for dinner. It is large and black and resembles a cross between a cloak and a thick blanket. Its body is wide and leathery; its head hangs between its shoulders, down inside the span of its wings, and it has evil red eyes, a wide, fang-filled mouth and skeletal claws.

Wrappers ca fly, gliding almost silently through the darkness, guided by echoes from the walls picked up by two sensitive pits above their eyes, and balanced by their long, thin tails. They can also crawl along floors and across walls using their claws, but only very slowly. Wrappers have an incredible sense of hearing, which picks up vibrations in the ground and walls as well as audible sound. They wait motionless for their prey, often flattening themselves against the ceiling or wall, so as to be all but undetectable. The wrapper then launches itself at its victim, enfolds it in its cloak-like wings, and bites deeply into its back.

To avoid the initial attack, an adventurer must Test for Luck twice (once to notice the Wrapper and the second time to avoid it). If he fails, the Wrapper will gain one automatic hit (taking the usual 2 STAMINA points). Once lodged on a victim's back, the Wrapper is much harder to hit -- reduce SKILL by 3 for the duration of the fight. However, hitting the beast with fire, such as a burning torch, will cause it to relinquish its hold and fall to the floor, where it can be dispatched by a single successful hit.

A Wrapper's lair will contain the skeletons of many of its previous vicitms, together with many fine items of treasure, looted from the adventurers who have previously served as dinner

Are you shitting me, Out of the Pit? This fucker's got effective SKILL 15 against whoever it strikes at first, assuming he doesn't pass TWO Luck checks (which is -2 LUCK just for encountering such a fucking stupid thing) and the easy-way-out to killing it is, in this particular instance, not really an option?

Well, let's see how much of this shit Riddling Reaver remembers to include in the appropriate encounters, anyway--for now, we're just listening at the tunnel entrance and can hear it occasionally flapping around in there like leathery wings. Even though OotP calls it almost silent. Whatever.

Finally, Tunnel F is the blood canal and leads to the heart, and the thumping can be heard from the passage.

Now let's bear in mind that while we, the readers (and the GM) know the Pendulum is in the heart chamber, the player characters at this point have no indication of this fact and are left with nothing beyond the noises to go on. They don't know about the two creatures that we've just looked at the Out of the Pit entries for, either.

And what a dickish pair of creatures they are! Remember how the trek across the jungle seemed like a relatively reasonable adventure? It was getting you to let your guard down. It wanted you to be complacent, so that it could get you thinking we were past this kind of shit, then spring the Shrine on you.

Okay. Right. So, lungs room, Room 3 . There's a draught in here, yay, you can ride it up to the ceiling but why would you want to, it's covered in motherfucking spikes . But wait--there's something glittering up there! If anyone has the Eagle tattoo from Act 1, they can see it's a golden chalice, wedged between some stalactites (aka motherfucking spikes ) Let's pretend you're fucking stupid and haven't been paying attention to anything so far in this entire damn book, and try to go after the golden chalice. First, you Test for Luck to avoid getting impaled for 3 STAMINA against a motherfucking spike . Then, you touch the chalice, and it turns into a Golden Sentinel (SKILL 12 STAMINA 10). It drops to the ground, and oh hey, it can't be harmed by non-magical weapons unless you're touching some gold. A gold piece works for that condition, but how quickly will our valiant heroes be able to figure that out with the information void likely to be provided by the GM in this style of game? (Unless they've read Out of the Pit themselves and have a good memory; the entry for SENTINELS uses the specific example of a gold piece being used for a Golden Sentinel. Back in The Day, when this game was likely to have been played, and with the audience who were likely to be playing it? All of us had copies of OotP to refer to, and none of us was all that savvy to the difference between player knowledge and character knowledge.)

Once it's beat, it turns back into the chalice, and is worth 20 gold. Meh?

That's the lungs chamber down. Dick moves total so far for this dungeon is at 2, one for slowly digesting alive and one for the bastard golden sentinel.

Next, the iron digesting chamber in Room 4 .

The iron digesting --yeah, okay, fine, I'm not even going to question it. Purple hairs line the floor. Get too close, they attack. SKILL 7, no STAMINA. If the hairs win, an Iron Eater drops from the ceiling. SKILL 5, no STAMINA. (this version is special.) They land on the grabbed adventurer and start trying to eat their armor, costing 1 SKILL per successful attack. If they're hit, they fall to the ground and are swept away by the hairs. There's twelve of the damn things on the ceiling but they only drop if the hairs have grabbed whoever they're falling on.

That's it for the--I refuse to type that again. Add another two dick moves, one for the room's contents, and one for how completely stupid and useless it is. I'm not feeling charitable.

Room 5
- The Mucalytic's lair is next up. Everything in the Out of the Pit entry is true! Lose 2 STAMINA for even entering! 3 hits from that fucker, and you're dead! Plus, the entrance is slippery as hell, so a SKILL check is required not to go slip-sliding down directly into the damn thing's lap! To add insult to injury, if a character is killed by the Mucalytic:

The Riddling Reaver posted:

Later, if the Mucalytic is not killed, the adventurer will be slowly transformed into slime!

Thanks for that, Riddling Reaver .
Dick moves +2, one for Mucalytic and half a point each for the slip-slide and for the above quote. Totally unnecessary information, just shared to be a dick to the poor bastard who just lost his character. I think we're at a total of six, which rhymes with dicks, and I'm going to leave the count right there for the rest of the adventure.

Dick move count: Dicks.

Next up, Room 6 : the grinding chamber. It's full of fifteen huge spheres, which are occupied by centipedes skittering endlessly around inside them, causing them to roll around and pulverize whatever's on the floor, eventually. Not sure I buy it any more than the Room Which Shall Not Be Named, between the questions about how such a species of insect would evolve or procreate and the likelihood of them doing so simply to fill a niche inside another creature's digestive tract. Whatever. They're a trivial challenge to fight and smash apart, and the only reason you might want to do so is that the balls, when split open, form nice little half-shells that make convenient boats for sailing down the creature's bloodstream. Which is kinda metal, put that way. There's nothing else in here, 'cause the nonsensical occupants of the room have ground it to dust.

Room 7: The Wrapper. The book doesn't even try to justify why this damn thing is here. The Mucalytic apparently helps it digest things by breaking it down, the grinding centipedes reduce hard objects to dust, and the Room Which Shall Not Be Named provides iron for the blood, somehow, but the Wrapper? It's just a Wrapper that lives here to be a dick.

In an oddly merciful turn, only one Test for Luck is called for to avoid the Wrapper. On the other hand, if the Wrapper is missed by fellows of an enveloped victim, the poor sod inside gets hit for 1 STAMINA instead. No mention is made of the Wrapper's fire vulnerability, at all. If it misses its first attack, it flies back to its perch to wait for them to leave, at which point it attacks the last person out. Doesn't say what happens if it misses that one; presumably the idea is to maximize the chance of the PCs having to hit their buddy by giving it two shots instead of one. Dunno why they allowed the single Luck test if that was the idea, though...who knows. There's 3d6 gold and 1d6 jewels to be found in here, each jewel worth 10 gold.

Room 8 is the blood stream. It's going fast, and can't be successfully navigated except by using the broken spheres from Room 6 as coracles. Anyone trying to swim is swept away and drowns. No rolls or anything. Once they try the coracle trick, they just have to hold on and they'll end up in room 9. The book suggests that the players may need some hints to figure this out, and offers that if for some reason Dappa is still along--remember Dappa? the annoying tagalong kid back in act 1 who's there to handhold and provide clues in the most irritating way possible?--he can offer a hint here, too. I've no more idea than you why they'd have let him tag along or how he'd survive this long, but hey, this adventure assumes a lot of things.

Like that the players won't have pummeled the GM to insensitivity by now for expecting them to put up with this shit.

At the end of the RIVER OF BLOOD there's a LAKE OF BLOOD. At the center of the LAKE OF BLOOD there's an island. On the island is a small pedestal. At either side of the pedestal, posed in what appears to be an endless grappling struggle, are two powerfully muscled, featureless figures; one pure white, the other pure black. From the white figure emanates a sense of powerful Good, from the black, a sense of malign Evil. It's all symbolic and shit. On the pedestal itself is a short tube of unbreakable glass containing a small (ten centimeters or so) pedestal which swings slowly back and forth. Otherwise, everything on the island is perfectly still.

The moment anyone touches the pedestal or the pendulum, the two figures animate and begin fighting each other actively. They are perfectly matched and neither side has the advantage, each blow is met with an equal defense. If, however, the players decide to intervene, whichever side they help very quickly overwhelms the other. It then turns to the adventurers, tells them it is the Icon of Good (or Evil) and that it senses Evil (or Good) within them and that they must be purified. Then it attacks them. SKILL 12 STAMINA 20. Silly heroes, you should know better than to meddle in fucking ANYTHING that's not directly related to your quest by now.

The pendulum itself is basically powering the creature's heart, and if it's removed, the creature dies quite quickly. The lake of blood drains, the river of blood dries, the walls of the central chamber sag and the ceiling becomes low enough to climb back out, and the mouth is hanging slack. All the candles have been snuffed out.

Then--and I'm not going to bother typing the gloating speech, but hey, guess what? The Riddling Reaver reveals his true identity, the little golden sphere that's been following the heroes around pulls a magic yoink and steals the pendulum, and then the Reaver fucks off with the hard earned macguffin that's the only truly valuable thing the heroes have earned this ENTIRE ADVENTURE, earning their eternal ire and finally, finally justifying their quest for vengeance against him properly.

Not because he's a villain. Not because he murdered an innocent man. Not because he's a threat to the balance of Good and Evil.

Because he took their stuff.

I mean, let's be honest...that's about the only thing that's going to really light a fire under their behinds to get that fucker.

NEXT TIME: THE RIDDLING REAVER: ACT FOUR - THE REALM OF ENTROPY
or: Die, Reaver, Die

I...may have got a bit carried away with my tone in this one. Let me know if I need to dial back on the "humor".

The Realm of Entropy, Part 1

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

The Riddling Reaver, Act Four - The Realm of Entropy
Part One: The Reaver's Roost

We're almost done this...lovely campaign, at this point. Our heroes have witnessed a murder by the Riddling Reaver, jumped through various unreasonable hoops to summon a ship said Reaver left for them to catch a ride to chase him down on for reasons unknown, and spent several hours on said ship suffering through ridiculous and absolutely dickish torment. It dropped them off on a beach by a jungle, where they rescued an adventurer named Waxley Speed who was in search of a valuable artifact, the Pendulum of Fate, and also happened to be the disguised Reaver. They travelled through the jungle with Speed as their guide, in a segment that almost resembled a good adventure, and then entered the Shrine of Fate, to be reminded that it was not in fact a good adventure, not at all. Upon leaving, the Reaver triumphantly steals the Pendulum from the heroes, and takes off in his airship again, very slowly traveling to his secret lair.

The Reaver's plan in all this is to use the Pendulum to disrupt the balance of Good and Evil so that chaos and chance will reign supreme, which is, I guess, in service of his gods? The problem is that he's managed to obtain the Pendulum by actively pissing off the heroes, and now they want his blood. It seems to me that he has the resources and the ability to pretend to be Waxley Speed successfully, and he could just as easily have hired the heroes nicely to accompany him to the shrine, paid them lots of money for their hard work, and walked off with the Pendulum and no one the wiser to his larger goals, which he would have been able to carry out without interruption. But alas, he is not remotely competent as a villain or a planner, and has instead chosen to follow the HEE HEE HEE HEEEEE school of scheming, and as such our heroes are able to follow, on foot, his slow-moving airship to his hidden lair.



A map of the lair in question.

The act is split into two chunks, the first being the Roost, followed by the Lab.
The heroes begin on the approach to the roost. Here, in the Reaver's personal domain, the laws of nature are superceded by the laws of Chance, meaning basically that ha weird shit. Ultimately at Location 1 the heroes witness a group of humanoid figures carrying sacks jumping into a waterfall, which is flowing up! How random! The figures are described as seeming "strangely insubstantial" and that they each seem to be a different color. The GM notes indicate that these are REPLICANTHS and we'll find out more about them later.

Fuck that. They're basically skeletons that the Reaver magically reanimated in bulk using a process that makes it easier, involving coating them in multicolored jelly. I always kind of liked the idea as a kid, but clearly I was a stupid kid, because I always kind of liked this whole campaign, and we've seen just how fucking awful it is, so I'm not sure how cool they actually are.

Anyway, the only way to proceed is to jump into the waterfall. What's that? You have to roll four dice and compare it to your STAMINA, and if you roll equal to or greater than your STAMINA you take damage from swallowing water on the way up?

Fuck you, The Riddling Reaver .

Okay, Location 2 is all about setting the scene, and I'm going to just quote it here for simplicity's sake. Because otherwise I wouldn't do it justice.

"The Riddling Reaver posted:

Travelling the falls is an exhilerating experience. You fly upwards, your limbs flailing, and water lashes your faces. You shoot over the top of the falls, and drop with a splash into the water. The mighty current drags you along for a little way, then washes you up on the shore. Before you is a magnificent building. It is built of white marble blocks with multicolored veins. Above it floats the huge airship, moored to a tall pine tree which rises from the roof. The palace has no windows, but ahead of you a flight of marble steps lead up to a very impressive pillared entrance. On the grass near by, a large butterfly is chasing a tiny yellow Tyrannosaurus, and above you a blackbird flies past upside down.
As soon as you place a foot on the marble steps, a small, childlike figure materializes in a puff of sparkling colour. He is wearing a tall hat, a smart green suit and shiny shoes with large buckles. He ignores you, and concentrates on juggling three exquisite green glass bottles.

Hey guys, are we feeling the wacky yet? The little juggling leprechaun's name is Finnegan O'Dinnegan and he's in charge of keeping out intruders. He's also bored. If an adventurer will take over juggling for a bit, he'll go see what he can do to get them inside. He'll chuck the bottles to a hapless volunteer and run inside the building.

The little fucker's juggling bottles with angry genies inside. Three SKILL tests, and he'll come back and take the bottles back, thanking the adventurer and indicating the now open doors. Otherwise, if one of the skill tests fails, a bottle falls, breaks, and an angry Genie comes out, looking very dizzy and demanding to know where Finnegan is. The Genie will, if pointed to the building, go smash the door open and chase the leprechaun bastard down. If, out of some misguided sense of loyalty to the little green shit, they refuse to help the Genie, he'll turn them into jellyfish.

Basically, succeed or fail on the juggling thing, you get the doors opened.

If nobody takes up the leprechaun on his "generous" offer, though, or if they don't actually juggle the whole time they're waiting, then there's no way to force the doors. After ten minutes (real-time, remember) of waiting without doing anything, though, a group of five Replicanths will come out, and if the party can defeat these dangerous SKILL 6 STAMINA 4 murderbeasts, they can proceed inside.

Location 3 is the interior of the building. If the heroes didn't have to wait around for the Replicanths to fight outside, they fight them here instead. Inside the hall, there's a grassy floor and a well in the center of the room, and several doors. The one at the far end of the hall is large and metallic, with a large eye in the center. Below is a sign that will change every time the heroes look at it, all with variants of "Go away, I'm working." The eye scrutinizes everyone who approaches, and will only open the door if it sees the Reaver's face. Anyone else, the door will tell "You're not my master and you aren't coming through." The eye is dumb and the Reaver isn't much brighter, and sufficiently vain that he leaves stuffed copies of himself lying around his lair.

The other six doors are easily opened.

Finally, there's a hatch labelled "Bones", which the Replicanths out on scavenging missions dump bones into to make more Replicanths with. It has a chute leading to a bit in the Labs part of the adventure, which can be accessed here but since the door to that room is barred from the outside, anyone going down the chute has to climb back up it to get out. For now we'll assume nobody's stupid enough to do that, and cover that part when we come to it in act 2.

The well in the center of the room is an obvious point of interest. Throwing something down it will reveal it to be seemingly bottomless...but after fifteen seconds a small hole appears on the ceiling above the well and whatever was thrown down drops down from it. If anyone is leaning over the well, peering down, it's going to hit them in the head. A coin will do 1 damage. Larger objects will knock the poor sod into the well, and they will fall indefinitely, every 15 seconds coming back into the room, till someone interrupts it.

The Riddling Reaver posted:

Players may wish for whatever they like after throwing something down the well. Whatever it is, they will not get it!

Thanks, The Riddling Reaver. Theaver.

There's also a random encounter table here. Mostly it's wacky silliness, but Finnegan the Leprechaun can show up again. If a bottle got dropped, he'll be pissed off at the juggling hero, show off his bruises, and curse the failed juggler, reducing his SKILL by 3 for half an hour. If he juggled successfully, though, Finnegan will hand over a five leafed clover, granting a bonus of 4 LUCK as long as the character has it. If they ignored him, he floats by still juggling one-handed, haughtily ignoring them back. Once he's out of sight, the sound of glass shattering is heard and then they can hear him getting beat up.

Location 4 is...actually a teleporting door you get to by passing through Location 5. If you go through it it teleports you to room 1d6+4. You can't go back through it, unless someone is actively holding it open.

Location 5 has, partway through, a group of stuffed figures who seem oddly familiar. Because they're stuffed versions of whoever enters the room. They'll do that weird thing where they seem to be walking towards you if you're not looking at them, but you'll never actually catch them moving. And they don't do anything else.

Location 6 is a library. There's a stuffed Reaver doll in a chair, apparently reading a book. It doesn't animate or anything, and the heroes can do with it what they will--though it's been stuffed with live flies that will, if the doll is attacked, swarm out and cause 1 point of STAMINA damage every 30 seconds unless someone uses fire to fight them. The book on the table is blank, as are all the books on the shelves, though if any of the books is opened, it will start talking, reading itself aloud, either until someone says STOP or shuts the book. A STOPPED book can be resumed by saying START, and will pick up where it left off, as long as it hasn't been shut. One of the titles is "Teach yourself demon summoning" and if anyone's dumb enough to let it read itself all the way through it will summon a SKILL 10 STAMINA 10 3 Attacks Fire Demon, which also shoots fire for 2 damage on a 1-4 on one die every round, whether it wins or loses the Attack Round. Conceivably this book could be used to disruptive ends elsewhere; nothing says that opening it again won't have the same result, and if the players are clever enough they could let it get almost the whole way through the ritual, STOP it, and bring it along, somehow held open, to use as a sort of grenade. They'd just have to be very careful never to say "Start" again where the book can "hear".

Location 7 is the Reaver's dining room. A scowling stuffed Reaver sits at the head of the table, and guests--former enemies of the Reaver, now residing in large pickling jars--line the sides. The food is excellent but the stuffed Reaver will animate and attack if anyone touches it, all with the same scowl on its face. This one's stuffed with magically expanding gluey paste.
The food is, apparently, excellent.

Location 8 is where the Reaver goes to relax. There's a rack of bottles on the wall, a bunch of carpets, tapestries, and couches, and a chillin' stuffed Reaver lounging on the couch. This one's full of feathers, and cutting it open will cause sneezing for ten minutes on a failed Test for Luck , costing a point of STAMINA and reducing SKILL by 2 for the duration.

There's a tapping coming from one of the bottles. Turns out only two bottles are filled with wine; the Reaver uses the rest as a prison. Inside the bottle the characters can make out a tiny woman. If they open it, she is restored to her normal size, introduces herself as Baba Lai, an adventurer, and thanks them, asking them to free her friends as well. If they do, her friends and her attack, since they're looters and bandits and jerks. There's six of her cutthroats, so they'll almost certainly outnumber the heroes, but they kind of suck, having SKILL 6 each. Baba Lai has SKILL 8. On the other hand, they've got STAMINA 12 (or 15 in Lai's case) so there's a good chance they'll get enough attacks off to do some damage just by attrition. They won't all fight to the death--three of them dying or Baba Lai herself going down causes them to break and run. They don't have anything of value, at least not mentioned by the book.

Location 9 is the riddle room. There are cupboards lining the walls, each with a riddle on the outside describing the contents. These range from various monsters to five hundred pairs of trousers ( what has a thousand legs and can't walk? ). Only two of the cupboards feature anything useful, one being a Yokka Egg (which I skipped talking about during the Pendulum of Fate jungle section; it basically acts as a nice warming thing until it's chucked, at which point it behaves like a grenade) and the other being the Dice of Logaan.

The Dice are a powerful artifact and have two uses. The first evidently has no limitations on how often it can be used. Take 2d6, designate 1 as plus and the other as minus. Throw them, total the results, and apply to the LUCK score of the adventurer. i.e. if the minus die is 4 and the plus die 3, lose 1 LUCK. Again, the book sets no limitations on this use of the Dice.
The second use is during combat, and can only be done once. Designate one die SKILL and the other STAMINA, throw them, and subtract the results from the target's stats. If there are multiple creatures, choose how to split the drain.

Location 10 has a group of three WHEELIES gambling using a prisoner. Wheelies are...stupid. They're disc-shaped beings, flat, with four hands at equal intervals around their bodies.


I'm not joking, these are fucking ridiculous.

They're gambling by chucking a prisoner in the air, yelling "HEADS" or "TAILS" and seeing how he lands. They'll invite the heroes to join the game, which they can absolutely do and there are rules presented for adjudicating this. Otherwise they'll have to fight. The wheelies get to chuck daggers before the fight begins, hitting for 2 damage on a 1-3, otherwise they're a pretty simple combat. The prisoner has been driven mad and doesn't do anything but gibber and drool if rescued. The Wheelies have about 63 gold in various coins.

And that's it for the Roost. Once the players figure out that the eye-door will open if it sees the Reaver, and either use an Illusion spell or drag one of the stuffed Reavers to the door, they can proceed onto the final part of this damn adventure, the Reaver's Lab. And then once I finish covering that, I can finally get onto Advanced Fighting Fantasy...after taking a breather to cover some of the stupider or more interesting creatures to be found in Out of the Pit.

Next time: The Riddling Reaver: Conclusion! ( Finally )

The Realm of Entropy, Part 2

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Let's get this sucker finished.

The Riddling Reaver - Act Four: The Realm of Entropy
Scene Two: The Reaver's Lab

Okay, the Reaver's Lab? This is absolutely the best part of this entire campaign. There's not anything here that goes out of its way to be dickish or gotcha, and everything in this area makes sense thematically and feels like it belongs in the laboratory of a powerful madman. There's definitely dangerous, fatal shit in here, but it's stuff that anyone with the sense to realize that in the lair of the dangerous archvillain, you don't just prod things willy-nilly should be able to come through intact. This is the part of this book that I remember as being really fucking cool, and it's almost--almost--worth the price of admission.



The action picks up directly from the previous section. After opening the eye-door, the heroes trudge down the stairs. The light coming from the ceiling changes color down here to an eerie shade of blue, and they find themselves in a room filled with...

Nothing. Room 1 is completely empty. The door isn't locked.

The corridor it opens up into has doors on either side, as shown by the map. Every five minutes, a Replicanth comes out of Room 3 and heads to Room 9, unless it spots adventurers, in which case they have to fight it. Like all Replicanths it's SKILL 6 STAMINA 4. This one will try to flee, either to Room 9 or Room 3, depending on where the party is in the hall. If it makes it to Room 3, it returns with 5 of the 8 Replicanths from within. If it makes it to Room 9, on the other hand, it comes back with 2-12 more Replicanths.

Room 2 was always one of the cooler conceptual rooms to me in this entire place. It's lined with test tubes, filled with powders of different colors, each labelled and stoppered. There's also a trough of water. On entering the room, the heroes create a draught or something by opening the door, which somehow manages to cause a stack of papers to knock down one of the racks of tubes. One tube, filled with icy blue powder, shatters, and a bit of the powder falls into the water, where it becomes a tiny Silver Dragon.

The Reaver's got a room full of powdered creatures. The Silver Dragon is tiny because most of the powder didn't get in the water. It has no idea it's tiny and thinks it's more than a match for the puny humans. It's SKILL 6 STAMINA 8 with 4 attacks, and it has a breath attack. Most of the other tubes contain normal things like dogs or cats-apparently the Silver Dragon was the pride of the Reaver's collection. There are a couple of powdered monsters the heroes can take if they want, though. The book doesn't say whether or not the released monsters will fight for the heroes, or just attack whatever's nearby; use with caution, brave adventurers, for if you are playing this your GM is probably a dick.

Room 3 is where the new Replicanths are made. 8 Replicanths are currently working on making more, unless they've been used as reinforcements. Every 5 minutes, a new one is completed. The process goes like this: they collect bones from Room 4 (which connects both to this room, through a door barred from this side, and contains nothing but bones and the chute to the upper level that we skipped before), glue the bones together using paste, then hang the completed skeleton from a hook. The hook moves along a rail, dipping the skeleton into three vats of jelly, then letting the completed replicanth off at the end of the assembly line, where it goes out into the hall and makes for Room 9.

To shut this down, there's a lever at the end of the room. The Replicanths occupying the room--3 or 5, depending--will fight to prevent this from being switched off. That's it for this room and Room 4.

Room 5 is small and contains two two-meter square plates of metal, between which there is a glowing, pulsing light. It does nothing to nonliving matter. A living creature that walks through the magical field, though, will be mutated--this is how the mutant lizard men in the jungle were created. There's a table of mutations back where those mutants were first encountered that can be applied to whoever is stupid enough to walk into a glowing energy field in an empty room.

Room 6 has a big weird looking machine inside, and nothing else. The machine has two hoppers or chutes, and if something is dumped into one of these chutes, it will be spat out of a hole at the bottom of the machine a few moments later, undamaged and slightly cleaner. If two things at once are dropped in, though, the machine combines them into something new. A sword and a shield would become a shield with a sword blade coming out of it, to take the example in the book. It's noted that only a very thin adventurer could go into one of the chutes, but that it would be inadvisable to do so, since the process is fatal.

Why anyone would want to...

Anyway. Nothing else here, moving along.

Room 7 is the Reaver's workshop, with benches of tools and suchlike. The dominating sight in here is a tall suit of plate armor, with no obvious weaknesses. As it turns out, the Reaver is slightly sensitive about his lack of physical prowess in combat, so he decided to build a suit of armor that would protect him from harm and fight his battles for him. He could never get it to work right, though, and eventually he abandoned it to work on other projects.

There's a hatch on the back into which someone can climb. If someone does so, they'll discover several levers. Pulling the larger one causes the armor to step forward. Pulling it again causes it to step back and slump inert. Touching any of the others causes the armor to go berserk with them inside. The armor is...beastly. It has SKILL 14 STAMINA 20, takes -1 damage when it's hit, and when it's below 5 STAMINA whoever's inside gets damaged as well.

The poor sap inside the armor can deactivate it, though, by fiddling with the levers. This requires a successful test against SKILL on 2d6+4. Once he passes that, the armor turns off and he can get out of it.

There's other bits and pieces of machinery and scraps in this room, but none of it does anything.

Room 8 contains a doorway to blackness. Above the door there are several iron rings, one of which has a scrap of rope above it. This leads to the Void, and is where the Reaver disposes of dangerous enemies or experiments. Going in without a rope is a very bad idea. You will never be found. Ever. Even the Gods can't bring you back.

Finally, Room 9 is where the Reaver is performing his ritual to destroy the Pendulum of Fate. The players can slip into the room without being noticed, at least for the time being--if they left the Replicanth assembly line online they'll get spotted when the next Replicanth comes in, though. The Reaver is standing on a raised area, where there's a pool of water above which floats the Pendulum, and it is crackling with arcane energies--it's clear the thing is going to be destroyed, anyway. Between the adventurers and the Reaver are 132 Replicanths. (This is the number in the book. It's very specific.) Behind the Reaver is a flow of lava...presumably to add to the drama of the whole thing, and give a convenient out.

The suggested method of dealing with the Reaver is to throw shit over the crowd of Replicanths. Powdered creatures, Yokka eggs, or the Dice of Logaan all provide good options. It's the climax of the adventure, though, so the GM is advised to play it up for drama, and let whatever feels appropriate happen. The book also advises trying to let the Reaver get stopped in a way that either allows him to escape or at least doesn't leave a body, so that you can use him again later if you like. Maybe it was another stuffed Reaver that fell into the lava, etc.

And then...that's it. That's the finale. There are no stats given for the Reaver, there's no definitive "this is the way to defeat him", and ultimately it leaves the end up to whatever suits you and your group. Which is actually a good thing and a pretty decent way to handle it, provided the GM isn't an utter dick. Which, of course, if he's learned from the way the Fighting Fantasy and Riddling Reaver adventures have taught so far...

So, I figure from here I'll do a light post about Out of the Pit next, covering some of the more interesting, cool, or stupid entries. I mean, yeah, there's the usual lions and bears and shit, but then you have things like the Wheelies. And while the Riddling Reaver has given an opportunity to cover some of the stupidest critters already (the Jib-Jib, the Mucalytic, the Wrapper, and the Wheelies are all among the most idiotic WTF creatures) there's some others that are pretty out there.

After that I'll do a crash post on Titan , the setting of the Fighting Fantasy RPG and the majority of the gamebooks, before diving back into the second version of the RPG rules with Dungeoneer and its expansions...


Out of the Pit

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Fighting Fantasy: Out of the Pit

Okay, I'm not as fast as some but I'm gonna keep on trucking. This time I'm going to be tackling Out of the Pit , the bestiary for the Fighting Fantasy world.

And to be honest, there's not that much here that's of incredible interest to actually go over in detail. I've shown off the format of the monster entries in previous posts, so we're all at least nominally familiar with how the book is set up. The content...well, I'll get to that in a few moments.

First, some real-world context for those who have any interest. Out of the Pit was published in 1985 in a roughly 8.5x11 format, and later reprinted in a roughly 6x9 format. The original printing had a few full-page color illustrations, not associated with any particular creature, and really didn't fit well with the format of the rest of the Fighting Fantasy line; the subsequent reprinting is still a bit larger than the gamebooks were but fits on a shelf next to them much better. The world book, Titan , shares a similar printing history--the latter printing of these two was timed to match the release and form factor of Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Dungeoneer , which I'll be covering after this and Titan.

I actually have both of those editions in my collection. A more recent reprint was released alongside the new version of Advanced Fighting Fantasy by Cubicle 7 games, which is also in the queue to be covered, but I have not yet shelled out the money for a third copy of the same material with nothing to differentiate it but the cover. (Possibly a fourth copy, I probably have two copies of the smaller edition of Out of the Pit floating around, at least--I definitely do for Titan and at least one or two of the AFF lineup. I'm not one of those uber-serious collectors who goes for every single printing or release of these things, I just happen to have lost track of the books during the various times I've moved house and they're easy enough to find at used bookstores...)


The date of publication limits the existing gamebooks at the time to at most the first 18 in the series and the four book Sorcery series; further eliminating the science fiction titles means they had 15 gamebooks from which to pull creatures. As a result, the book has somewhat less variety than it may have if written towards the end of the line, and many of the creatures listed are either unique and unlikely to be encountered in anything not specifically aimed at recreating the book in which they appear, or had not appeared in any books at all. For the most part, each creature has an illustration, taken from one of the books the creature appeared in when possible, otherwise drawn specifically for Out of the Pit. For the most part this latter category are obvious, for two reasons: the gamebook illustrations were all full-page images, where the OotP-commissioned ones are formatted completely differently, and the OotP-commissioned illustrations are pretty much shit, as a general rule.

A few of the creatures that make their first appearance in OotP went on to appear in later books; examples definitely include the Wrapper that we saw in Act 3 of Riddling Reaver. Others--to the best of my recollection--never appeared in any books, existing as oddities in a bestiary created before the majority of the game line was written and had yet to find its real voice.

(Remember how I said above that roughly a third of the original 22 books were science fiction? There are about seventy books in the game line, and of the remaining fifty, only three more science fiction titles were released. The early books were very much an exploration of what the gamebook market wanted, and as it turned out, the answer was pretty resoundingly "Fantasy." But, I digress.)

What's somewhat irritating about Out of the Pit is that it claims to have 250 monsters, but really, there's a lot of carbon copies--there's separate entries for Ape Man, Cave Man, Wild Hill Man, and Neanderthal, for example, or Wolf (with three subheadings), Dog (also with three subheadings), and Giant Aardwolf, none of which has any meaningful difference from the other in overall appearance or mechanics. (Doglike creatures that do have mechanical differences include Hellhounds and Firefoxes.) There's two stylings of T-rex--the one that's listed as Tyrannosaurus Rex under Dinosaur, and the one that's drawn as a T-rex but labelled Pit Fiend. (The Pit Fiend is a slightly tougher Young Tyrannosaurus Rex, for reference.)

There's also a number of creatures that are absolutely wastes of ink. The Jib-Jib--which we discussed in Act Two of Riddling Reaver --has SKILL 1 STAMINA 2. The only circumstances under which it is possible to fail to hit this thing in combat are if you're an unarmed paraplegic, at which point you might fail to hit it. Might. And with STAMINA 2, if you hit it, you kill it. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Gold Dragon: SKILL 18, STAMINA 40, 4 Attacks takes only 1 damage per hit due to its tough hide, and every other round breathes for 4 STAMINA damage that hits unless you Test for Luck successfully; only slightly less dangerous is the Earth Elemental--SKILL 18, STAMINA 22, 2 Attacks, only takes 1 damage from a successful hit and deals 4 STAMINA when its blows land. The Gold Dragon is at least unlikely to attack on sight. These guys would swat your average adventurer with about as much difficulty as the adventurer would swat a Jib-Jib.

There's also several varieties of beast-men, including cat-men, rat-men, several types of lizard- and snake-men, and rhino-men, and some crazy fish-men besides. And then lycanthrope versions. There's the gamut of giant rats, frogs, scorpions, centipedes, dragonflies and, well, giants. There's dragons, dinosaurs, and the usual suspects from mythology--basilisks, cockatrices, gorgons, pegasi, centaurs (and centaur-alikes the Felinaurs and Xoroa, which are ant centaurs), and so on and so forth.

Having said all that, there are a couple of entries that do stand out in my mind for whatever reason. One of these are the Red-Eyes, who are humanoid creatures who walk around with their eyes closed. They can see vague outlines through their eyelids, as it turns out, and if they open their eyes fully they blast energy out of them like some kind of race of fantasy Scott Summers knock-offs. Two hits of this will outright kill anyone, but they're dodgable until they get a couple shots off to refine their aim. They're basically forced to live as refugees because people are afraid of them, and because they're forced to live as refugees, they're basically dicks and make people hate them more in some kind of vicious circle. I always liked the idea of these guys for some reason.

Another interesting one is the Gonchong. I may have a fondness for it because it featured in the first of the gamebooks I ever played: Island of the Lizard King. It's pictured on the cover, actually:


This cover is literally the reason I got into Fighting Fantasy and as such is directly responsible for my introduction to roleplaying games.

See the bony crown-thing on the lizard-man's head? That's the Gonchong. It's a parasitic being that affixes itself to the body of a powerful leader and, penetrating the skull with its proboscis, takes control of the brain and uses the host to commit atrocities. These things can only be killed after first killing the host, but they grant an additional 5 SKILL and STAMINA to the host, in addition to making the host invulnerable to anything but a magical Fire Sword. Even if someone manages to successfully slay the host, the Gonchong will detach itself and scuttle off, or leap at the vanquisher, trying to make them a new host. Without a body, it's only SKILL 5 STAMINA 5 though, so it's relatively easily dispatched if it tries that...but don't miss.

The last of the cool entries I really want to draw any sort of attention to is under the entry on Elves. Much like many Tolkien-influenced fantasy worlds, Titan has a couple of different varieties of elves. Four are listed under Elf in Out of the Pit--wood elves, mountain elves, dark elves, and black elves. It's this last group I want to comment on.

See, the usual shit with Dark Elves and normal elves happened on Titan, for the usual reasons, but in this case, the whole full on depraved demon-worship didn't start until after the exodus from the mainstream Elven society. And as it happened, some of the proto-Dark Elves didn't actually think demons were the bees knees, they just happened to think that the mainstream Elves were kind of nancy nambypamby goodie-goodies and were more into looking out for number one and so on. These elves weren't evil so much as they were just dickheads. So when the sacrificial altars and temples to Ishtra, Myurr, and the other demon-princes and dark gods of the Titan setting started showing up, they got the fuck out. These guys ended up becoming the Black Elves. Their coloration is very similar to the Dark Elves, though where Dark Elf eyes are red, Black Elf eyes are yellow and described as being serpentlike. They're generally unfriendly to humans, hostile to any other type of elf, and I have always, always loved that Titan has a sect of elves who weren't outright stupid evil demon worshipping backstabbers because they saw that as being really detrimental to one's continued safety.

That's not the only fantasy race that gets an interesting take on Titan, mind you. But I'll come back later to talk about that when I cover Titan, next time.

If anyone was hoping to see crazy ass bestiary entries for stupid shit like the Wheelies or the literal dozen varieties of weird monkey-things, too bad--though if people actually do want that, I can always come back and share a couple more highlights...

TITAN: the Fighting Fantasy World

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

TITAN: the Fighting Fantasy World - Introduction


I have a nice mounted poster of this cover art, by Christos Achilleos, on my wall.

While I was talking about Out of the Pit in my last poorly organized and rambling post, I missed an important detail. Fortunately, it's still relevant and I can bring it up again now! Out of the Pit , Titan , and the books in the original run of Advanced Fighting Fantasy were all written or co-written by Marc Gascoigne (who in the case of Out of the Pit or Titan gets credited as an editor, though most of the prose is his; presumably this is because a lot of the content in these books is based off the works of other writers.) Gascoigne had also worked on the gamebooks as an editor. Gascoigne's tone in Titan and the AFF books is very friendly and conversational, with a particular sense of humor that was largely absent from the original Fighting Fantasy and Riddling Reaver.

Titan was first printed in 1986. This gives it the first 19 main series gamebooks (and Sorcery) to draw from--though the acknowledgements specifically mention Sword of the Samurai , which came out in 1987. Presumably they had access to the manuscript before release. While the book got a rerelease, as I mentioned in my post on Out of the Pit , in 1989, the contents were not updated to include any of the details of the setting revealed in subsequent books--the line had been doubled in number by that time. It was reprinted again, along with Out of the Pit, to accompany the new version of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, though the terms of the license granted to Cubicle 7 were such that they would have to reprint it untouched or completely rewrite it, so it remains woefully out of date as a true setting guidebook, as far as the gamebooks are concerned.

(As an aside...I feel like I may be spending more time on the history and shit of Fighting Fantasy than people's interest warrants, especially since the gamebooks are probably beyond the scope of this thread. I can tone it back...or, frankly, if people want, I can continue this Mors Rattus style to include summaries of all the gamebooks as well. My collection lacks but one book, after all, and I've been looking for an excuse to drop the money on it...)

Anyway. Titan opens up with a couple of acknowledgements--first it names off a couple of the authors who'd written parts of the setting other than Jackson and Livingstone, including the other Steve Jackson--the GURPS one. The foreword, by Jackson and Livingstone, then looks back over the history of the gamebooks and the setting.

Welcome, Brave Adventurers!

After that, it moves on to an in-character introduction. I'll quote a small portion of it to give a sense of the tone that the book is written in--it's representative of the style as a whole.

Titan posted:

From where has all this information come, you ask? Well, warrior, it has been compiled over many, many years by a great number of sages and scholars from all corners of the world. We have wandered far and wide, poking our collective noses in everywhere we could, in search of new and revealing information about this complex world of ours. And now, after twelve years' compiling all our notes into one volume in the Halls of Learning in Salamonis, we present our masterpiece to you.

For any stay-at-home types, it will perhaps offer a glimpse of something different, and show this world of ours in all its glory and mystery. You will learn many things from the pages which follow, both useful and trivial. Who knows, it may even persuade you that there are more things to life than ploughing fields or selling your wares in the market-place.

For you adventurers, however, we can guarantee that it will prove an invaluable guide throughout your travels, no matter how far they may take you.

It continues in that vein for a bit. The next chapter is geography, and they promise that over the page will be found the first widely released map of the entire world of Titan, and a chapter on the geography of the land.

Which I'll tackle next time, since I don't have a good scan of the map as a single piece on hand, and it's probably going to be the largest single portion of the writeup of this book. I plan to expand a bit on the difference between Titan in the book and Titan as it unfolded with the later gamebooks. It's the kind of thing where I want to be sure to take my time and get my facts straight.

The World of Titan

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Fighting Fantasy RPG - TITAN: The Fighting Fantasy World

Chapter One: The World of Titan

Chapter one is an examination of the geography of Titan. As I alluded to last time (but repeat here because it's been so long) the book was written when only the first 20 or so main series books had been released, along with Steve Jackson's Sorcery! miniseries. The first thing the chapter does is present us with a map of the world as a whole:



So, right away, some notes on book locations. First of all, out of the 20 main series books, we eliminate eight for being set in Space, on Earth (either alternate present or future Earth) or an identified not-Titan fantasy world (Talisman of Death, book 11, was set on the fantasy world of Orb, which was later revisited in an entirely different set of adventure gamebooks by the same writers.) That leaves 12 main series books and the Sorcery! series as the sum total of the pre-existing source material for Titan. Of those ten, all but three (Scorpion Swamp, Seas of Blood, and Sword of the Samurai) are set in north-western Allansia. The three main-series titles I mentioned are located throughout Khul, and the Sorcery! series is set exclusively in the north-easternmost portion of the Old World, and at this point in the setting represents the only real source of information on that continent.

(The most up to date lists, by the way--since there are still occasional new books being published under a different publisher--brings the total up to 26 gamebooks and three novels in Allansia, plus the bulk of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy content, 14 in Khul, and 15 in the Old World, most heavily leaning towards the final releases of the series.)

What I'm getting at with all this is that right now the most accurate information in Titan is covering Allansia, since about a third of the total books set in Allansia have already been released by this point. Close to that number on the Old World were teeeeechnically out, but the region of the Old World that Sorcery! represents is really not very close to how the rest of it is portrayed. The later writers definitely used this as a resource, but there's a disconnect in places that longtime fans of the gamebooks can pick up on.

Moving along, though...let's zoom in first on Allansia .



When Titan was written, literally everything other than Riddling Reaver that had been placed on Allansia had been placed in north-western Allansia. You can spot Stonebridge, Fang and Port Blacksand on the map fairly easily, along with Fire Island--these locations are important in books 3-7. The big Desert of Skulls is where book 14, Temple of Terror runs, and Caverns of the Snow Witch is up in the northern bit. Later books in Allansia include Battleblade Warrior, set down around Vymorna, Siege of Sardath, which is located around the city of the same name, and of course Creature of Havoc, largely in the Moonstone Hills area. Mage Hunter and Slaves of the Abyss both visit Kallamehr, which we last saw in Riddling Reaver, and Trial of Champions and Armies of Darkness make up a pair of sequels to Deathtrap Dungeon. Notably, the city of Arantis and its environs were never to my recollection explored, nor were the areas to the immmediate north of Kallamehr.

My commentary aside...Titan tells us that Allansia was originally a word referring only to the north-western portion of the continent, and that it's from a corrupted Elven word meaning "the teeming plains." It is, we are told, dominated by Port Blacksand, which is a hive of scum and villainy. Blacksand was built on the ruins of an older city, one destroyed and abandoned after the War of the Wizards (more on that later of course.) Unlike the original settlement, Port Blacksand is not spacious and geometric, but a ramshackle collection of chaotic buildings and winding alleys, full of pirates and cutthroats, and ruled over by the enigmatic and ruthless Lord Azzur, who we are told we'll come back to revisit later.

A lot of this chapter contains verbal descriptions of the maps. Since you have eyes and a copy of the map, I'll skip those. We get Fang pointed at us, home of the Trial of Champions, run by Baron Sukumvit every year. Basically, to compete for a prize of 10,000 gold, foolhardy adventurers make their way into what is fondly known as Deathtrap Dungeon, a fiendish collection of beasts, puzzles, and labyrinthine passages with only one way through to success. Most years, nobody wins but the locals, who get lots of tourism out of it (presumably there are magical means of viewing the trials of those who enter, otherwise there'd be no real point.) This guy did X-crawl before X-crawl was even thought up, basically.

South of that is the Pagan Plains, at the northeastern corner of which lies Firetop Mountain. It's named this not because it's an active volcano or anything, but because of the red-hued plants that grow on the summit. (People once thought it was a volcano till they got close enough to see the plants, though.) Inside the mountain there's a dungeon complex housing/belonging to a warlock named Zagor, who is evil and stuff, but he may be dead. Nobody's quite sure if he's been killed, which implies that he can't have been up to TOO much evil, otherwise his death would have been noticed.

Zagor's one of three evil wizards of significance in Allansia, and we'll come back to this later, but I want to spare a few moments now to go over it. The other two evil wizards of significance are Balthus Dire, star villain of book 2, Citadel of Chaos, and Zharradan Marr, star villain of Creature of Havoc. The three of them were trained by the same master, conspired to kill him, and then went off to pursue their separate evil plots. While Dire raises an army and Marr raises an army and experiments with horrible flesh-crafting magics, Zagor...heads off to a mountain and chills. The first Fighting Fantasy novel, The Trolltooth Wars, covers a conflict between Dire and Marr that threatens the peaceful and good city of Salamonis, and the hero of the book goes to Zagor for information on the other two, and Zagor's portrayal doesn't involve him raising any sort of army of his own. He's basically just a dark wizard asshole who hangs out in a cave fortress.

Anyway. There's Darkwood Forest, which is every evil forest ever known to fantasy, and not much to be said about it beyond that it's supposedly above a Dark Elf city. Then there's Salamonis and the Forest of Yore, which are both good, friendly places. The current ruler is King Salamon LXII, and he's renowned for his library and for letting Trolltooth Pass and the Craggen Heights get overrun by orcs and stuff.

Remember I mentioned Balthus Dire? He lives in the Craggen Heights, and he's boss of the orcs there.

Then, beyond the Trolltooth Pass, there's the flatlands, largely populated by nomadic tribes.

Somehow now we pop over to Sardath, which is a city built on stilts in the middle of a lake, built by men and dwarves long ago to house them while they went mining and trapping in the northlands. There's a bit of a mention of Fangthane, the Dwarven home city/holy land, to the north, then it jumps back south.

There's nothing known about Shabak. Titan takes longer to tell us this than I have, though. There's dinosaurs on the Plain of Bones, and lizard men in Silur Cha. Silur Cha is a lizard-man term meaning roughly, "Home to the Supreme Majesties of All Lizards," and nobody not a lizard-man gets through alive. At the north end of the lizard-man empire is the city of Vymorna, which is under constant siege, and was almost certainly invented for Titan by Gascoigne because he later wrote the gamebook featuring it, Battleblade Warrior. It sure isn't mentioned anywhere else before Titan.

Then we get a mention of how the Desert of Skulls has the snake men known as the Caarth residing there, and they're just as big dicks as the lizard-men. Yay!

Then we get a big chunk of info on Arantis and its capital Kaynlesh-Ma, which are ruled by an Overpriest and are very religious and strange. More deserts, a couple of cities that are all piratical and much like Arantis and Kaynlesh-Ma, never appear in novel or gamebook, and we're back up to where we started. (Actually, Halak and Rimon MAY appear in Bloodbones, which was one of the more recent gamebook releases--after the series relaunched--and I haven't really read it more than just once so I may be wrong there.)

There's even a sidebar about a pirate named Garius of Halak, who is never mentioned outside of Titan, and how awesome he is. Yay.

Next: the Old World .



This continent is easily the least detailed of the three at the time of Titan's writing, but by the end of the series I'd call it the most consistent and distinctive in terms of tone and atmosphere of the three. Sorcery!, as I mentioned, takes place exclusively in the little chunk of the map north of the wall of Analand, where it's labelled Kakhabad, up to where Mampang is. Anything outside of that, and outside of Analand, is completely different in tone. Starting with book 38, Vault of the Vampire, we get a picture of a very different kind of setting from Allansia and what we'll see in Khul, and with Revenge of the Vampire, Howl of the Wereowlf, Night of the Necromancer, Spellbreaker, Dead of Night Legend of the Shadow Warriors, and Moonrunner setting up a very moody and distinct tone for the Old World, one much less about elves, dwarves, and orcs than the other continents, it's easily my favorite continent on Titan. Most of the books are either in Mauristatia and environs or Gallantaria, as I recall.

As the fiction of Titan is that it's being presented by scholars from Salamonis on Allansia, we're treated to a little story about how the first sailors from Allansia to go exploring made their way over to the Old World by sailing west, and reaching Arkleton in Analand. They were then escorted around the continent, and in Pollua on the eastern coast, met another group of sailors from Khul, and thus all three continents became aware of each other. How amusing: they called the newly discovered continent The New World until someone from the Old World got uppity and told them otherwise. Not sure why a continent that thought it was the only continent around would call itself that, but hey, whatever, maybe they were trolling.

Either way, these days travel between the continents is semi-regular--a couple of ships a year make the voyage.

The look at the Old World starts with Femphrey, and discusses how it was a nation in decline until King Chalanna found the Crown of Kings, a wonderful magical artifact that makes the wearer a magnificent and wise ruler, able to be awesome at like, uniting people and generally making good decisions. He brought Femphrey into prosperity, had the capital city torn down and rebuilt as Chalannabrad, and so on. There's a lot of Old World history gonna talk about that Crown, and that's because it's the macguffin of the Sorcery! series, literally the only books on the continent at this point. (Technically there was Tasks of Tantalon, but that's really...not.)

There is apparently a Crystal City that's made of crystals, dredged from a hotspring/boiling lake. This place is never in any of the gamebooks and seems to be a detail made up to fill wordcount and make there be more going on.

Then there's Lendleland, Femphrey's neighbor. They were all jealous and shit of Femphrey's sudden good fortune. A lot of Lendleland is infertile plains, suitable only for breeding horses--which are supposedly the best mounts in the world, but waah waah they're more richer than us. Also there are barbarian tribes in Lendleland who raid neighboring countries, causing diplomatic problems.

There was a territorial dispute between Femphrey and Lendleland that was looking to spill into all out war, until Chalanna just ceded over the territory and at the same time lent Femphrey the Crown of Kings for a four year period. The Lendlelanders were all impressed and shit till the Crown went on to its next destination (Gallantaria, which is where that other book I mentioned, Tasks of Tantalon, is set) and then the people realized that the river is polluted by runoff from the boiling crystal lake and kind of shitty all around. Now they're kind of pissed off at having been swindled.

Analand has as its most notable feature the Great Wall, which is...not so great. It was mismanaged as hell, doesn't really meet up with itself, and ultimately bankrupted the kingdom and saw the ruling line deposed. These days Analand is a nice place with hard-working citizens and the fact that they allowed the Crown of Kings to be stolen by the Archmage of Mampang, a powerful evil wizard out in the worst shithole of the continent--the bit where all the real asshole monsters live--is really just not that big a deal. They sent out a guy to get it back. No, just one. It'll totally work.

(It totally works, unless you fall into one of the many many deaths in the Sorcery! series. Like many of the early gamebooks, there's one ideal path that you pretty much have to follow if you want to finish, and since stuff carries over between books in the Sorcery! series, you better hope you hit the right stuff up in book one or you might be in trouble come book four. It's not quite that bad, but it's got some real dickish shit going on for sure.)

Next up, Kakhabad. I've just been talking about this place! The most interesting and important place out there is Kharé, Cityport of Traps, which is like Blacksand only without an interesting despot in charge, and arguably deadlier. Supposedly a lot of the "traps" in the cityport are there set by innocent citizens to keep the nasty assholes out, but they never tell each other where the traps are, and thus the whole place is dangerous as hell.

Up further north, there's Ruddlestone, which is not home to much interesting to relate, and the kingdom of Brice is mentioned--they're warlike bastards and the gamebooks often use Brice as useful foils for "there was a war," if I recall correctly. The war? it was with Brice. There's a City of Mazes in Brice, which sounds neat but we spend about as much time on it as it takes to say "the City of Mazes in Brice", which is unfortunate since it would probably be as cool a setting for Doing Stuff as Kharé.

Finally, there's Gallantaria, which gets a single paragraph talking about how educated they are and how nice a place it is.

(Some of the books detail more in Mauristatia, which is the little kingdom where there's vampires and stuff, and there's also the kingdom of Lupravia invented for Howl of the Werewolf. They're basically Transylvania analogues, and it works well.) The big thing about the Old World compared to Allansia or Khul is that it really is broken down into nations, rather than individual city-states that have no really well defined borders. It completely changes the tone. It's also mentioned somewhere in here that the Old World was, of all the continents, the least touched by the Wizard Wars. In contrast, of course, there's...

Khul , the Dark Continent!



Khul is kind of my least favorite continent of the three. It feels like it's where they shoved all the stuff that didn't quite fit in Allansia's geography and wasn't specifically called out to be in the Old World. It's a mishmash of stuff, between Beneath Nightmare Castle's horror/sanity checks and Master of Chaos just being all about smashing badstuff; then there's the not-Japan in Sword of the Samurai and the general Asian mishmash of the Isles of Dawn covered in Black Vein Prophecy and Crimson Tide--the latter notoriously difficult due to an editing error on Gascoigne's part raising the SKILL of an early fight to a level that made it unreasonably deadly given the special rules of that book. Otherwise there's just various weird shit, like Portal of Evil, which had people being turned into dinosaurs or other weird shit, Scorpion Swamp, which is the single easiest Fighting Fantasy book to map, or so on. I actively don't know where most of the books that take place in Khul are set within the continent. Seas of Blood is the inland sea next to Hachiman, which is where Sword of the Samurai goes, Master of Chaos starts in Ashkyos and heads to Kabesh, Beneath Nightmare Castle is in Neuberg but somehow involves Lake Mlubz and Zagoula in ways I don't get, and Masks of Mayhem, Chasms of Malice, Phantoms of Fear, Fangs of Fury and Deathmoor are all out there somewhere.

Getting to Khul isn't easy. Crossing from Allansia involves a stormy, dangerous sea that has all sorts of sea monsters, including giant ship-eating manta rays, sea giants, and other dangers. Crossing from the Old World doesn't have as much danger, but the Old World (as you may have picked up on) isn't that keen on sending out ships--the other continents came to them, not vice versa. On the other hand, once you've made the crossing, you have to sail around the continent for a bit to find a good port. No, I don't know what's wrong with Ariona or Corda, but apparently they don't count.

Khul was hardest hit by the Wizard Wars, and the Wastes of Chaos are the proof. They dominate the central part of the continent and things that go there mutate and change. Surrounding the Wastes of Chaos are more mundane wastelands, deserts or rocky plains. Kabesh--which I mentioned as the destination of Master of Chaos--was the capital of the area before the war, and was literally pulled apart stone by stone.

Most of the civilization on Khul is around the edges. There's a highway built by the people of Ximoran, which swings around Scorpion Swamp north of Kelther. Ximoran is administrated by a Council of Seven, since the last king died without issue centuries ago. It's supposedly a kingdom, but yeah, not much going there.

More nomadic tribes, goblins at Lake Mlubz, another destroyed awesome city at Zagoula, and then some details about the Scythera desert--the cold wastes (?) are home to lizard men and shaggy desert goblins.

The cities on the coast of the Inland Sea are vibrant and like competing with each other. There's lots of piracy. Kish is allied with Mapash against Shurrupak, and that's never, ever, ever going to be brought up in any gamebooks, it's just there.

(Admittedly, it's useful for a game master who wants a setting detail to throw his game into, but it's also not a set of locations the fans of the gamebooks will really be familiar with.)

Then there's Hachiman. Feudal Japan, only on a mainland surrounded by mountains.

Finally, there's a sidebar about Shakuru, City of Beggars, which is pretty literally a dungheap shithole of a ramshackle city inhabited only by the filth of Titan, who go there to worship disease and decay and be disgusting filthy beggar shit. Once again, never a setting visited in a gamebook, but potentially useful as a hook for a DM.

Anyway. Next up there's a bit on the skies, which I think I'll wrap up into the next chapter, History and Legend. Which is far, far less dry than the geographical overview. Hooray!

History and Legend, Part 1

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World
History and Legend - Part 1: The Creation of Titan

Being on vacation is a wonderful thing for finally having enough time to get through this!

So I said I'd cover the Skies of Titan this post. The thing is...
The copy I have been working with of Titan is the one I've had for 22 years now, and it's beat up beyond belief. At some point I took to it and annotated it all up in pencil for reasons known only to my nine-year-old self. The cover's long gone, the pages are beyond yellowed, and frankly it's amazing it's still together. Long story short: It's completely unsuitable for scanning. I have a second copy that's in decent condition, but to scan the starmap image in any kind of quality would damage it, too, defeating the whole purpose. I was lucky to find decent quality scans of the maps for the last post, but there really aren't any good ones of the star maps.

And honestly, looking at the star maps more closely, they're really not that worthwhile to share. About all that section covers is that there's constellations, mostly figures from history and myth, and that there're places where the skies are different or wackycrazy from chaos effects.

So, History and Legend it is.

In the beginning, there was no Time, and the hundreds of Gods and their demigod servants and hosts just sort of ended up hanging around a lot. And because they had nothing to do, they were pretty bored. Sure, Death and his buddies would occasionally go dismember one of the other gods and leave the bits around for their friends to reassemble, but that's only fun so many times, you know?

That all changed when Throff (goddess of Earth) was digging in her garden one day with her sister Galana (goddess of growing things, and patron of the Elves.) Throff was going to plant a nice blue crystal in her garden--it's a god-garden, they can grow what they want--when she found a large lump of magical clay. They went to show it to all the other gods. Death and his buddies didn't bother showing up, since they were feeling particularly smug that day, but the rest of the gods gathered round. Titan, father of the gods, took half of the clay and fashioned it into a sphere, and placed it in the heavens for all to see. Hydana (god of water, husband of Throff) drew patterns on it that became the seas. Throff added some clay to it to become the land. Galana made plants, flowers, and trees, and placed them on the world. And all the other gods got a bit of clay to make something with, too.

Glantanka (the sun goddess) started dancing around the sphere, and became the sun, and her brother (whose name isn't mentioned at this point in the narrative) followed her and became the moon. And while everyone was partying, Death snuck in and stole some of the clay. Because he was a dick. Seriously, dude snubs the party and then comes along and steals some of the party favors anyway? Total asshole.

So then the god Logaan shows up. Death and his pals had dismembered him while everyone else was having fun, so he hadn't been given any clay to play with. Titan (the god, not the world) wasn't an idiot, though, so he'd held back some of the clay, and he gave some of the remaining clay to Logaan. Logaan went down, checked out all the stuff that had already been made, then decided none of it was his style. He took a piece of himself and put it inside the head of his creation, and called it Man.

Man was unlike the other creations on Titan so far, because he had a divine spark--he began using tools and reasoning and creating, which nothing else could do. The other gods laughed at Man at first, until they saw this--then they asked Logaan what he'd done, and he explained. Most of them were horrified that he had mutilated himself, and went away, but a few stayed behind--Throff, Galana, and Titan. They asked Logaan to show them how he had done it. Since he'd already used the part of himself he placed in Man's head, though, he used a different part and placed it in the second creation's heart, and called her Woman.

The other three gods thought this was cool as shit, so they each took some more clay and made their own creatures. Titan used part of his strength and size to make Giants, Throff used some of her rocky skin to make Dwarves, and Galana took some of her grace and knowledge to make Elves. They placed their creations on Titan and then went to hang out.

(There's a sidebar about where the gods came from; it mentions that some ancient cultures believed in a trio of primordial deities named Elim, Ashrah, and Vuh (Dark, Light, and Life) who created all the others. Another sidebar mentions that Logaan is often a figure of ridicule, and some cultures claim that it was Sukh, god of Storms, or some other badass god, who made humans. There's also a mention that different cultures or scholars argue that Logaan placed the head-bit in woman and the heart-bit in man, or that both were created together and shared both head and heart. A nice nod, that.)

At this point, I'm going to take a moment and jump waaaay ahead in the book, to another chapter, because it fits the timeline here and gets kind of mentioned in passing. One of Throff's servants, a bit of a dim bulb named Hashak, secreted away some of the clay himself, and he made some little creatures of his own. Being sort of a clumsy oaf, he wasn't able to make them as well as Logaan or the others. His first attempts were really ugly and misshapen, and he called them Trolls, but he wasn't satisfied with them. He put them on Titan anyway, hiding them in the mountains so nobody would see them and how ugly they were. The next attempt was still clumsy, but he liked them all the same and played with them, and named them "Urks" after the sounds they made. Throff came upon him playing with his new little friends, though, and scolded him for having taken her clay without permission, and making such horrible little creatures. Because Throff wasn't a total bitch, though, she allowed Hashak some time in private to say goodbye to his little Urk buddies before he mashed them back into the clay and put it back where he got it.

Hashak, tearful, didn't want to kill his little dudes, so he snuck into the room where Titan was stored that night and secretly hid most of them in the dark places of the world. He mashed a few of them up and mixed some ordinary clay in to make up for the few that he'd hid, and returned that to Throff. That's where the Orcs came from! Only...

The same night as Hashak was hiding his little critters on Titan, Death and his buddies snuck in, too. They grabbed the moon and stuck a sack over his head so nobody would know what they were doing--presumably while they were dragging him off, Hashak showed up and did his thing--then they walked on Titan, releasing their own dark creations, like Xarga the horned snake, Arhallogen the spider king, Basilisk the lizard, Gargoyle, the Behemoth, and more. They also took the opportunity to breathe corruption onto all of Hashak's little Urks. The next morning, the skies of Titan were covered with black clouds, hiding from the sight of the gods what happened below, and Death and his supporters, Disease, Decay, and minor gods like Slangg and Tanit filed into the Celestial Court, with a large sack filled with something wriggling. Death spoke, mocking the assembled gods for their creations, then transported them all to the surface, revealing the carnage and destruction his creations had unleashed.

From the sack, Death dumped Logaan. He called the foolish god out for his frequent stupidity, but revealed that Logaan's wanderings had found something interesting. Upending the sack again, the dark gods revealed a new deity, one who had never been seen before--as the assembled gods watched, the newcomer grew old and then young again. Death introduced him as Time, and issued an ultimatum: give Titan and everything on it to him, or he would release Time into the universe, making everything mortal, even the gods.

Thus began the First Battle.

Death and his forces--names include Death, Decay, Despair, Sith, Ishtra, Myurr, Relem, Vradna, Slangg, Tanit--arrayed against the forces of the gods of Good, including all the gods I've named who weren't on Death's side, plus a couple of others like Kilanirax (who was a demigod in service of Glantanka, but had been given the title of Dragon King), and between the two divine forces arrayed the creatures of Titan. The orcs had been corrupted by Death and his brothers, and stood on the side of darkness.

The battle raged for some time, before Death and his brothers fired off a thunderbolt which struck Throff and burned her. The bolt was answered by a bolt from Glantanka, Galana, and Kilanirax, which struck a direct hit on Time and blew him to atoms.

Death's forces were forced to surrender, now that they no longer had their ace in the hole, but the destruction of Time on Titan's surface had released his power there, causing all the creatures of Titan to be mortal. The gods, however, were not affected, and ultimately decided to banish Death and his brothers and followers into the Void--Titan wanted to kill them but Throff pleaded in their favor, saying that to kill them would be an act of evil.

And that's the story of the creation of Titan. Next time, we'll be looking at the Time of Heroes up until the Spawning of Chaos, at least.

Time of Heroes

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The World of Fighting Fantasy

Part Four - Time of Heroes

Okay basically at this point we're into the sort of post-mythic age, where the gods have been and done their whole creationary hocus-pocus and fucked back off to do god things. The mortal races largely ended up returning to their ancestral homes, and the former grandeur they'd enjoyed under the aegis of the gods declined sharply now that there were, y'know, big swathes of orcs and trolls and stuff.

We get told that there's some interesting and cool stories about a pair of brothers called the Halfhands who drove back orcs and did all sorts of heroic shit, but we don't get told any of the details of what those stories are. Thanks!

We're also told that this all took place on a single combined continent. Eventually cities rose again, and the chief one, Atlantis, came to decadence, blah blah, destroyed by the gods for their hubris, sundered the land, raised the seas, split the world, you've heard this one before. Rumor has it the king of Atlantis was actually the demon prince Myurr at the time of the splitting. Dunno how rumor has it that, though, since the book claims that nearly everything from this period has been wiped from history books and blotted from memory.

So it took almost another 400 years after that for civilization to rebuild (again), and this time it did so on three continents rather than just one. We get a story about a dude named Bjorngrim from a place called Vynheim in Allansia. Seems the people of Vynheim were having problems with ships vanishing, so Bjorngrim, their leader, hopped into a boat and went on a trip to prove he was a badass and they were all just being sissies.

As it turns out, they weren't being sissies--there was a massive Sea Giant out there who was fucking their shit up. As it turns out, though, Bjorngrim was a badass, so he jumped out of his boat, climbed up the giant while it tried to grab him, and hacked its jugular open with a massive axeblow. Couple days later he sailed back home with the giant's corpse in tow, and they named the fuckin' sea after him.

Because who is going to argue with a dude can do that?

So jump ahead a couple hundred more years, it's 1650 now, we get a rundown of the geography of the time, which notably figures a city named Carsepolis which isn't there any more. (There's definitely more to come on that, but for now, I'll just mention that Port Blacksand is built on its ruins.) Allansia ends up getting a tradition of wizards and scholars set up, including a school in the Forest of Yore near Salamonis (which is still there.)

We go through some history of the Old World. The central mountains of Mauristatia are kinda impassible, so the majority of settlements are on the coastal plains. Gallantaria gets founded and expanded into a city-state, then a nation. They expand for awhile, running into a group of sorcerers who turn the sons of the king into rocks and trees for not leaving them alone at first. So they went the other way, after that, and encountered people who belonged to another nation, called Brice. Beyond Brice lay Ruddlestone, and Femphrey to the south, as well as Analand. Over the next hundred years trade routes sprang up and the nations grew, until Brice decided to expand their borders and attacked Gallantaria. Eventually they had to give up and a treaty was signed, but their ruler, a priest-king, wasn't done with attempting conquest, and at this point Brice has a reputation for being a bunch of warlike bastards. (Seriously, a bunch of the gamebooks mention wars with Brice, and Brice is never not the aggressor.)

Way down south in Analand, meanwhile, constant raids from barbarians and bandits led to the king deciding to build a wall around the entire nation. 125 years and a ton of mismanagement later, the wall was still incomplete in gaping swathes, several bits didn't meet up properly, the nation was nearly bankrupt, and the project was declared finished and they got on with their lives. The wall isn't completely ineffective, since, y'know, big wall does block off a lot of avenues of approach, even if some of it was already crumbling when it was declared done.

So that's the Old World and Allansia. What about Khul?

Turns out Khul used to be the most fertile of the three continents. (If that doesn't trigger an "oh shit" somewhere from people who've been paying attention I don't know what will.) Buncha cities started growing up, including Ashkyos, Kabesh, Shakista, and Klarash, and a bunch of other places that may or may not still be there. The King's Highway was built from Djiretta to Kelther to unify the kingdom of Klarash, Zagoula was built to keep the goblins who lived nearby at bay, and then...

A group of explorers from Zagoula found a place called the Dead City, beyond the River of Decay. Strange shaped buildings of ancient construction, built for creatures three meters tall, decorated with images of fish and things with tentacles...in a desert city. Nothing at all lived in the city, not plant nor bird nor insect, and an aura of stillness prevailed. Deep in the city, they found what seemed to be a tomb, and inside the tomb, among statues of tentacled horrors and bizarre creatures, they found a sarcophagus.

And because they were fucking stupid they opened it. I really shouldn't need to tell you what happened next.

Next time:
The Rise of Chaos and the War of the Wizards.

The War of the Wizards

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World

Part 5 - The War of the Wizards

So when I left off with this, a bunch of dumb-shit explorers from Zagoula on the continent of Khul had travelled beyond the River of Decay into the Dead City and awakened some horrible nameless thing inside a tomb that they opened because they were fucking stupid. (They also, I neglected to add, were hearing voices telling them to open it, a sure sign that it would be a terrible damn plan to do so.)

So after this, a big fuck-off sandstorm rages for three weeks or so, bringing with it a plague of locusts and other awful shit, and then a host of chaos and evil comes and levels Zagoula stone by stone. Khul is basically the center and origin of the forces of chaos in this, and was the hardest hit of the three continents, with massive areas being rendered completely uninhabitable and full of horrible mutant creatures. Allansia started getting attacked as well, tearing down the city of Gar-Goldoran (which we have never heard of before, and will never hear of again, though it's near where Zengis now stands on the map if you're curious) giving only barely enough time to for the wizards there to magically warn Carsepolis (Remember I mentioned this place is where Port Blacksand is now?) before the city fell.

Up at Fangthane, the Dwarven capital, the outer city was abandoned and the Dwarves just holed up in the mountain, since every Dwarf culture worth mentioning is better prepared for just about anything than the ur-Boy Scout, and they'd long been expecting SOME kind of horrible chaos outbreak. (Awareness of inevitable genre conventions doesn't count as paranoia. Neither does being right.) When the invading force arrived, the Dwarves were actually disappointed that it was mostly orcs and trolls, and they swarmed out and just slaughtered the lot of them, then went looking for the main force so they could have a half-decent fight.

At Salamonis the forces of Chaos were met by an army and the grandest wizards of the Forest of Yore, who managed to repel them with some epic spellcasting, but not defeat them outright. Regrouping, the Dark Elf commanders of the evil forces decided that Carsepolis was a much juicier target, and went there.

Back in Khul, a combined army under the command of Brendan Bloodaxe, some hero dude, defeated a small army of the chaos dudes, then met up with an army from Arion to slaughter the rest after like 20 days of battle. They were too late to save Kabesh, and a lot of Shakista was gone too, apparently. They were so thorough that orcs and goblins and such were very rarely seen in Khul for a long time, though the blasted wasteland thing did kinda suck.

Meanwhile, Carsepolis was under siege by basically the last major army of Team Evil, but after a two-week holdout battle, the dwarves from Fangthane finally showed up, along with some elves they'd run into along the way who figured slaughtering the evil forces of evil rampaging across the civilized world sounded like a pretty good idea. Evil's armies were routed.

They started a new calendar after this, because holy crap was it bad news. It's been two hundred and fifty years. Allansia rebuilt a lot, including founding Port Blacksand on the ruins of Carsepolis. The founder was Prince Olaf Two-Horse, who started a prison colony on Fire Island before eventually (I think it's said here somewhere) realizing he'd have less work shipping the honest citizens out there instead.

Khul had more intact kingdoms than Allansia, apparently, but there's a huge area that's just uninhabitable and unlike Allansia, the ruins of Zagoula and Kabesh weren't really recoverable and have been abandoned.

If you've been paying attention you'll notice that the Old World was not even mentioned during the discussion of the war. It barely saw any fighting, with a bit of increased activity out in Kakhabad being the only thing that happened. In the years since, though, the king of Femphrey discovered the Crown of Kings--did I already cover this?

The royal line of Gallantaria was wiped out at one point, but the wise court wizard Tantalon set up a series of tasks and the one who solved them became the new king.

Note: There was a book about this, and I remember getting it from the library, and being really disappointed that it was some kind of completely different experience from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks--it was a picture gamebook, sort of a series of puzzles and really didn't provide the answers or solutions. My ten year old self was unimpressed.

Anyway, the Crown of Kings made whoever wore it charismatic and a great leader, and it was being passed around from kingdom to kingdom until it ended up in Analand, where it was stolen by the Archmage of Mampang, a crazy evil dude who lives out in Kakhabad and dreams of conquest. Titan claims that Analand is seeking an adventurer capable of venturing across the land to reclaim it; in fact the Sorcery mini-series of gamebooks covers exactly that, and there's a Crown of Kings campaign book for the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy ruleset...which I just ordered, even though I still haven't even got through the original AFF rules.

Because I'm committed to this and I love you all. Even when you make me read about Cthulhu-tech.

Edit: Oh yeah. Next time: A run-down of the forces of good on Titan.

The Forces of Good, Part 1

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The World of Fighting Fantasy

Part Six - The Forces of Good

At this point in the book we start getting a sort of who's who of the movers and the shakers of Titan. It covers Good, Neutrality, and Evil, and basically breaks down further into sections on the gods, the major races that largely follow each philosophy, and then specific powerful individuals and agents aligned with each.


Gods of Good

So, we start by looking at the gods of good. It mentions that the Celestial Court has been split up, with some gods like Sukh (storms) and Pangara (wind) going to reside in the elemental planes, or Hydana (oceans, water) living on the bottom of the seas.

There's a faction of younger gods known as the Hall of Mind . It's lead by Sindla , goddess of Luck and sister of Titan. One thing I have really always loved about this setting is that it acknowledges that the different gods have different names and aspects in different regions of the world. Sindla is also known as Cheelah, Gredd, Avana, Lady Luck or Mistress Fate (or two separate entities), Zaragillia, Castis, Bismen, or Juvenar. Most (but not all) of those names have specific regions listed for where they're used, but they end up feeling arbitrary as there's no real discussion of the differences in how she is worshipped.

Her daughter, Libra , is goddess of justice and truth. She is also called Sicalla, Bersten, or Macalla in "various lands" (see what I mean about not being clear?) and she is the patron goddess of Analand, among others. She's usually portrayed as a beautiful woman holding a set of balances in one hand and her other hand being raised in either blessing or admonition.

Asrel (alias Culacara, Jerez, Ooraseel) is goddess of beauty and love, sister to Libra, Usrel (goddess of Peace) and is related to Galana (plants, growing things, elves) but is rarely worshiped outside of getting love potions made. Everyone knows who she is though.

Usrel (aka Liriel, Enkala, Ageral, Westrëa), as mentioned, is goddess of peace, and aside from the other relations already mentioned, is mother to Courga (god of Grace) and Fourga (god of Pride.) Most often portrayed as a motherly figure with widespread arms.

Courga and Fourga don't get any assumed names. Pride is rarely viewed as a virtue any more, and Fourga is often portrayed as being vengeful these days. These two have a lot of stories about them fighting each other, none of which make a lot of sense.

Apparently, they have a son, somehow. That's...a thing. Gods, I guess. His name is Telak , god of courage, often associated with Rogaar the lord of lions, usually portrayed as a burly warrior, a dragon, or a lion. His symbol is a golden sword and many warriors and professional mercenaries have it tattooed on the back of their sword hand. He's also called Shieldbearer, Swordbearer, or simply the Warrior.

Finally, there's Hamaskis (also Serion, Tyralar), who, like Sindla, is a member of the Celestial Court proper as well, and he's in charge of scholars and learning. He is portrayed as either a young man or an old man preaching wisdom from an open book. Only lands where knowledge is a virtue worship Hamaskis.

Other gods in the main Celestial Court include:

Titan , ruler of the gods, Father of the World, always represented as a very old man with a smile on his lips and a stern look in his eyes. Rarely directly worshipped.

Galana is his daughter, goddess of plants and fertility, also known as Erillia, Kachasta, Zaran, or the Gardener. Also associated with Varantar, patron of shepherds, and the Ploughman, both of whom are either her children or minor gods under her aegis.

Throff (or Alishanka, Kerellim, among other names) is her sister, goddess of earth and rocks and Dwarves, wife of Filash , god of fire, who is brother to Glantanka , the sun godess. Throff and Filash's kids include Verlang, patron of smelters and metalworkers, and Lorodil , the god of volcanoes. The latter is often seen as being a servant of chaos, but it turns out he's just kind of a dick about his "sacred lava."

Glantanka is weird, since some people believe the sun to be male and worship a feminine moon-goddess (i.e. Analand worships Lunara.) She's also called Assamura, Herel, Numara, Sevena, and Ariella.

Also mentioned are Solinthar patron of mariners, Fulkra , patron of travellers, Sukh , Pangala and Hydana were named above, Aqualis god of rivers and Farigiss god of ice and cold were not. Sukh is violent-tempered and is often worshipped by evil creatures.

Next up is a section on...

Dwarfs

Titan (unlike me) is consistent in spelling the name of the race with an f (Dwarfs) and not with the Tolkien-esque ve (Dwarves), so when you see the word Dwarves in my posts, kindly consider it a piece of personal bad grammar or the like and mentally correct it to what's in the books.

Or don't, I don't think it matters.

We get another set of names for the Throff family, which I'm skipping for fear of fantasy-name overload (probably already too late.) They're pretty much the patrons of the Dwarves.

The book talks about Hangahar Goldseeker, a legendary dwarf who had the special ability to sniff out gold. One day he was out exploring and mapping (three months into a journey, actually) and he and the few remaining dwarves in his group (seven if you must know) were basically laying low and trying to avoid any more run-ins with the orcs that had already depleted their numbers. They got cornered by some orcs, and Hangahar--against all dwarven training and breeding--ordered them to run. As they dashed down a gully, they caught sight of a mountain capped in pure gold. The orcs rounded the bend and fell to their knees, since they viewed the mountain as a deity.

So they weren't happy when Hangahar, who used the opportunity to get his fellows out of there, came back with a huge force of dwarves to carve a fortress city into their mountain-god. Thus was founded Fangthane, spiritual home of all Dwarves.

The Dwarves of Titan are...basically like every other group of typical dwarves in fantasy. They love gold, they distrust magic, they use hammers and axes, they write in runes...



...which we are given. I don't think these are yanked from anywhere else--I had some half-remembered thought they might be related to or lifted from Tolkien, but a quick google comparison proved otherwise. There's little else of note in this section, aside from a callout to the dwarven village of Stonebridge near Darkwood Forest, whose leader, Gillibran, has a magic returning hammer--locations and plot devices from the third gamebook, Forest of Doom.

Post is getting longish (or longish for me, anyway), I'll continue next time with the Elves and lesser races and maybe the specific cooldudes of Good.

The Forces of Good, Part 2

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World
Part 7: Forces of Good, Continued

We left off just about to cover Elves .


Elves...are the epitome of beauty and grace and intelligence.

Remember how I said that on Titan the Dwarfs (fine, I'll spell it their way) were pretty much the same as any generic fantasy dwarves anywhere? That goes double for the elves. In the first paragraph, it mentions Wood Elves and Mountain Elves, as well as Dark Elves, so of course we know we're in for all sorts of different elven subraces. I've also already mentioned Black Elves in a previous post, since I think they're one of the best elf-subrace-things ever to grace a fantasy setting--to recap on them briefly, they were the elves who got kicked out of main elf-dom at the same time as the dark elves, but didn't go in for full-on demon worship and all that really evil shit.

The elves worship Galana , who they call Erillia, with a very fervent faith. They never depict her, as no statue or painting would be able to truly capture her beauty. They describe her as being fairer than anything on Titan, with silvery skin, long, flowing white hair, and the deep-green eyes and pointed ears of the elves. Any elf-woman who shares these characteristics is given high praise for her beauty. They also follow a few minor gods of trees and stuff, as well as Hamaskis , god of Learning, who they call Livurien the Sorcerer.

Because elves live so long, they do all sorts of things that shorter lived races find silly, like talk to forest animals or watch plants. They watch plants. What the fuck is a plant gonna do? Apparently, the elves figure they have enough time to wait and see if the answer is anything other than "nothing."



Elves love every living thing and value life highly. Even orcs, apparently--they basically figure that an orc's entire natural lifespan is shorter than the time an elf takes to reach adulthood, and do their best to overlook the lesser transgressions. They don't just let orcs be destructive assholes, though, and they will fight back if their homes or forests are threatened.

They do hate dark elves, though. If they're captured by dark elves, which happens only rarely, they pretty much go catatonic to spare themselves the torture and pain they are subjected to before being sacrificed to the dark elves' demonic masters.

Elves go out adventuring on occasion, generally motivated by nothing more than a desire for something interesting to do. Their skill with bows is legendary, and aided only partly by the enchanted bows they use. They also use long, thin swords, that often feel lighter than they should. Sometimes these swords are carved with magical inscriptions for sharpness and such, and glow in the presence of enemies.


I cropped this picture a bit. You're not missing that much.

One magic sword in particular, the Sword of Prince Jeren (also known as the Sword of Friendship) was given to a human royal family for helping clear out some dark elves from the area. The dark elves cursed the blade, though, and all who saw it coveted it enough to try to steal it, or kill for it. The prince who it had been given to had to slay his own brother in self defense with the blade, which gradually turned from bright gold to dull black, and the runes changed from protection against evil to encouragement of evil. The prince brought it back to the elves in alarm, and they told him they would have none of it, so he chucked it into the ocean to get rid of the damned thing. Someday, knowing how magic items like that work, it may well come back...

Elven villages? Pretty much generic stuff. Tree houses, magic protection, you'll never find them unless they want you to, etcetera. Nothing to see here. There's a map of a small elven village, but it's literally a bunch of houses of specific elves.

Sidebar on elf language--there's high elvish, which is spoken by elven nobles and stuff, and is the language of sorcery. Common or low elvish is the day to day language of most elves, as well as sprites, pixies, woodlings, and other forest dwellers.

Earlier sidebar on elven names: there's three names. Common names, like Ash, Hazel, Willow, Redswift, Hawkeye, etc. Second name is their Elven name, which is first name family name, the example given is that Redswift was also known as Larel Anorien. The third name is their true name, and they never share these.

As a note, Redswift appeared in Caverns of the Snow Witch, where he's a fellow adventurer who is affected with a death-spell along with the player; sadly he succumbs before reaching the mystical Healer.


Lesser Races of Good

Gnomes - predating the idea of tinker gnomes, these guys are the old fashioned garden gnome variety. They know a bit of magic, live close to the earth, don't much like other races, who they see as noisy and troublesome, even the elves. Suggestion that they were originally a group of dwarves less interested in gold than in magical learning, and they were changed by their time among the elves. They do find the elves patronizing, so they went off on their own instead.

Woodlings and Pixies - both supposedly descended from some kind of interbreeding between humans and elves in the distant past. Woodlings are kind of like foresty halflings, pixies are pretty much the same as ever. Pixies dislike Sprites, and some cruel humans have used this to create a sport, where they capture a pixie and a sprite and chuck them into a ring, taking bets on who'll live.

Sprites and Minimites - Sprites get along well with elves, and can cast a whole bunch of different cantrips, a fact about which they are generally extremely smug. Minimites, (who dwell largely in the Old World, going by the text here) however, are far more sophisticated, and have a long history. They were once equal to the greatest sorcerers and scholars of humankind. When the forces of Chaos rose in Kakhabad, though, the minimites gathered to seek a solution; news of the wars in Allansia and Khul had been intermittent but terrifying.

The minimites found a spell in a treatise written by a madman named Aughm Lightseeker that would unleash basically a nuclear blast of pure Goodness. They gathered on a peak in Mauristatia, with a couple of the most powerful human wizards, and enacted the ritual, instantly vaporizing the majority of the forces of Chaos. However, some of those minimites who had taken part in the spell began to feel that they were so powerful that they should be the benevolent rulers of all creation. Others saw this as a dream of tyranny, and the only solution was to weave spells to keep the minimites from ever working together again; now they are nomadic and solitary, and no one minimite has enough power to do any kind of conquest.

Allies

This section discusses several powerful NPC type characters, though--as with the book as a whole--no stats are provided.

Colletus the Holy Man was once an idealistic young adventurer of the Old World who saw trouble brewing in Kakhabad with the rise of the Archmage of Mampang. Travelling to Mampang and offering his sword in service of the Archmage, he infiltrated the fortress and made his way up through the ranks, waiting for his chance. After only a few months (Colletus was apparently excellent at what he did) he saw his chance to strike, and attacked. The Archmage's demonic patrons intervened, though, and sent a blast of dark fire, which knocked the Archmage away and blinded Colletus. He staggered out into the wilds and wandered, until he was found by the elven sorceress Fenestra and nursed back to health. Shortly after he became an initiate of Throff and gained the power to heal by laying on hands. Now he wanders the wastes, healing those in need and countering the Archmage's evil through acts of good rather than of sabotage.

Fenestra the Sorceress is a renegade Black Elf, who has pledged herself to the service of good. Her father was also a sorcerer, who was killed by the Serpent of Water, one of the Seven Serpents which serve the Archmage of Mampang. Fenestra has sworn vengeance, and seeks any information she can find on the Seven Serpents.

The Star Pupils of Yore - The Grand Wizard of Yore taught three great pupils. Nicodemus , Yaztromo , and Pen Ty Kora--now known simply as the Healer were their names, and each of them is now a powerful force in his own right.

There's a sidebar about the southern mask magic that Pen Ty Kora uses, but it doesn't provide much information at all.

Anyway. The narrative goes that after they had learned everything they could from their masters, the three star pupils--who were fast friends--were sent out into the world. Pen Ty Kora went south and studied the magics of the lands of his birth. Nicodemus went out into the Flatlands. After a few years of wandering he encountered a village that was suffering under a curse from a local shaman who was trying to drive them from their homes. Nicodemus used an illusion spell, snuck into the shaman's camp disguised as a man-orc, and discovered why the shaman wanted the village so badly--it was there that several powerful servants of Chaos had fallen and been sealed away during the war. Bloodshed would ruin the ashes and make resurrection impossible, which is why he had resorted to more subtle methods.

The villagers had had enough, though, and shortly they moved on. The shaman's forces (including the disguised Nicodemus) moved in. As the shaman came to the climax of his resurrection spell, Nicodemus, in true sorcerer's style...charged him with a big fuckoff sword and hacked him in two.

Blood wrecked the spell, Nicodemus cast a quick purification, and then used fireballs to keep the gathered orcs and goblins away long enough to flee.

A year and a day later, he was exploring elsewhere, and found a big black chest in the nave of an abandoned evil temple, radiating magic. With all the consistency of any explorer in such situations, Nicodemus opened the fucking thing.

Like a retard.

And then three shadowy figures appeared, laughed at him, and told him he was now under their death spell, haha vengeance is ours at last, why do you fucks always open the chests, seriously?

Anyway, Nicodemus rode hard and rode fast to find the Healer, who he'd last heard was in Stonebridge. Turned out that Pen Ty Kora had already left when he got there, but the good dwarves were able to point him in the right direction. Finally he found his buddy, who took one look at Nicodemus and swore, then brought him to the peak of Firetop Mountain, where Pen Ty Kora put a sun mask on Nicodemus and began his ritual, which would take until dawn.

Nicodemus survived the death spell thanks to the Healer, but the Healer was struck down by a disabling, disfiguring illness in return, making all of his movements an agony. The Healer retreated from civilization and became a hermit, only seeing visitors who truly need his assistance.

(As an aside: in Caverns of the Snow Witch, mentioned above? You and your friends get hit by a death spell, and visit this guy, and do the thing that was just described. He doesn't get sicker after it, to the best of my knowledge, though.)

Nicodemus kept on adventuring for awhile before he got sick of every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a problem coming to him to solve it, and moved into seclusion in Port Blacksand, where he lives under a bridge confident in the knowledge that unless it's really serious most people aren't going to risk coming to pester him about their problems. Maybe he's keeping an eye on Lord Azzur, too. Who knows?

Meanwhile, Yaztromo went home to Salamonis for awhile before being struck by wanderlust. Everywhere he went he saw signs of evil, and knew that he'd been given his power to do something about it, but wasn't sure what. Eventually he found himself in Darkwood Forest, and there he aided the local elves in driving back an assault by dark elves. He decided to hang around there for a little while, but after about a year he realized that he didn't want to leave, went to the nearby dwarf town of Stonebridge, and asked them to build him a tower. They complied, only too happy to have a powerful wizard nearby, and he's lived there ever since. He has a side business selling magic items, mostly to fund his addiction to sugar cakes. He is brought news by the birds and forest animals, and exchanges correspondence with Nicodemus regularly, and both he and Nicodemus have visited the Healer at least once to offer him aid, which has been refused.

Of the three Yaztromo is probably the most approachable, though both Nicodemus and the Healer will offer aid to any who truly need it.

To wrap up this section--Colletus and Fenestra both make appearances in the Sorcery! miniseries. I believe Colletus is in book 4, Crown of Kings, with Fenestra appearing in the third book, Seven Serpents. Yaztromo appears in more of the gamebooks than any of the other characters mentioned here, as well as being the first to make an appearance, in Forest of Doom, the third book to be released. He also appears prominently in Temple of Terror and Return to Firetop Mountain, and has major roles in the Fighting Fantasy novels. Nicodemus appears next, in City of Thieves, and figures into the adventures in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, as we'll see, but he's generally limited to Blacksand and only a couple of gamebooks are set there. The Healer appears in only one book, which has been discussed already. There's also passing mention of a Selator in this section of the book, who appears in Scorpion Swamp. Later books in the series would introduce the wizard Astragal, who is pretty much another generic Good Wizard type, notable only because he appears in at least two titles. He's not mentioned at all in Titan though.

Next up, a look at the forces of Neutrality. Because Neutrality is traditionally something that gets forces.

Yeah.

The Forces of Neutrality

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World
Part 9? Whatever. The Forces of Neutrality

This is a really short section. Neutrality doesn't really have forces, as such. They prefer to balance good and evil against one another, and sort of act more like a fulcrum than a lever. The other type of neutral being are the ones who have turned their back on good and evil and withdrawn from the world. Either way, neutral creatures may help you and may hinder you, and they're not to be trusted--pretty much because they're obligated to be dicks by their philosophies.

Basically they believe that too great a shift towards either evil or good will destroy the universe, so they fight to keep it from happening. This means sometimes they're gonna behave as though they're evil, and sometimes, good. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be dealing with one of these jerks being in my adventuring party.

There's really only one god listed as neutral, and that's Logaan, the one who created humanity in the first place. He's also called Ranjan and Akolyra in some places, represented sometimes as a woman or a cat, but mostly he's a strange wild-haired man, being pulled on by two different robed figures representing good and evil.

Logaan gets some very silly stories told about him, unlike the other gods. Usually he plays tricks on someone during the story, and many end up with Logaan being both the hero and looking foolish. We get one of these!

Titan posted:

Logaan is wandering through the countryside when he comes to a village, where everyone is very sad. when he asks why, they tell him that a big, evil Troll comes down into the village every night and carries some of them off to eat. The Troll lives in a cave in the hills, where he hides during the day, because Trolls don't like the sun, which blinds them with its brilliance. Logaan climbs up into the hills, and finds the Troll's cave, which smells a great deal and is quite repulsive. Then he takes a rope, makes a lasso, and throws it into the air several times until it catches hold of Glantanka, the sun goddess, as she circles the sky. He pulls and pulls with all his might, until she is down on the ground, protesting like anything about being dragged out of the sky and threatening all kinds of punishments when she gets free. Logaan ignores her, and sticks a large sack over her head. Immediately it is night time.

In his cave, the Troll stands up with a yawn, muttering to himself about how quickly the day went by. Gathering up his club, the Troll sets off for the village, but no sooner is he out of his cave than Logaan opens the sack and releases the rope from Glantanka. The sun goddess shoots up into the sky again, and the Troll howls in pain and drops his club as he slams his hands over his eyes. Logaan picks up his club, and bashes the Troll's head in, before dragging its carcass down to the village and its cheering inhabitants.

As he walks away from the village early the next morning, however, after a night of celebration, Glantanka the sun goddess looks down on him from the sky and hurls a fireball at him, which singes him all over, causing the villagers endless amusement...

Also discussed are the Netherworld Sorcerers, who are as helpful as they are dangerous--they summoned a Demon Fish once, and it terrorized the coast for years before being put down by the hero who solved the Tasks of Tantalon. They also gave the magical Ting Ring to the nobles of Gallantaria. This ring had numerous magical properties, such as conferring expert tracking skills, protecting from blows, discerning if there is poison in food and water, protecting the wearer from the effects of undead creatures...but the ring also has a habit of changing colors to match its surroundings on occasion, causing several panics when nobles have thought it lost.

Then there's the Riddling Reaver, who we discussed in detail back when we were looking at the book that bears his name.

Races of the trickster neutral gods include leprechauns and Elvins, and technically there's an entire Animal Court of animal deities and spirits, which is laid out in a heirarchy table that I'm not going to bother reproducing here. The Animal Court isn't the same kind of neutral as the Tricksters, but a more "True Neutral" according to the book, which is to say, unaligned. There are cases of other races worshiping the animal gods--neanderthals or swamp goblins because they're big and scary, horse nomads because the importance of horses to their culture, etc. There's also mention of a particular wizard who decided to study moles, and became so obsessed that ultimately he moved underground to live with the subjects of his study.

And that's it for the forces of Neutrality. Four pages. Evil gets forty or so. We'll start in on that next time...

The Forces of Evil/Chaos

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World
The Forces of Evil and Chaos

So, the gods of Darkness--Death, Decay, Disease, etc, and all the other gods who sided with them during the original war in the heavens? They're still sitting in the void, where they were exiled. Some of them are worshiped on Titan still--Slangg and Tanit, god of malice and goddess of envy, are followed in Kharé in Kakhabad, for example, and Disease is worshipped in Shakuru, City of Beggars. They can manifest outside the void, but it takes a lot of energy to do so so they very rarely show up on Titan directly and never show their full power.

They've got servants, though! Demon Princes , to be specific. Also the king of the spiders, Arhallogen, and the queen of the flies, Hmurresh.

There are seven Demon Princes, and they reside in the outer planes, collectively known as The Pit. There are two groups, the Snake Demons: Ishtra, Myurr, and Sith; and the Night Demons: Relem, Vradna, Kalin, and Shakor. The second four are less powerful and serve the first three, with Relem and Vradna both being subservient to Sith at the moment. There's a lot of bickering and backstabbing between the Snake Demons, and the Night Demons under Sith's control spend more time fighting each other than they do the other two Night Demons.

Sith doesn't really notice, though, since she's busy watching the Caarth snake-men on Titan, her chosen people. They're losing ground to the lizard-men who serve Ishtra and Myurr, though. Still, Sith is dominant among the Demon Princes...for now.

In her native form, Sith has the body of a giant snake, topped by a giant female torso with six arms, claws, and a head that's a nightmarish hybrid between woman and viper. This isn't how she appears on Titan--any of the Snake Demons manifesting on Titan appear as a four-armed snake-headed bat-winged three meter tall demon. Ishtra and Myurr aren't quite as cruel as Sith, though among demon princes that's a really insignificant difference. Ishtra prefers the form of a goat headed humanoid crocodile, though he'll become a hissing ball of lightning when he wants to prove a point. Myurr prefers to appear as either a monstrous giant toad or an innocent-looking little boy with old eyes. Of the three, Myurr spends the most time on Titan, plotting and scheming.

There's some descriptions of how hellish Hell is. It's pretty hellish. Torture music, demonic juggling, feasts of flesh and entrails where excited guests may devour their neighbors, etc. Very unpleasant, but I guess when you're comparing it to the bar set by say, Cthulhutech or Exalted, not all that horrific. On the other hand, these gamebooks were aimed at eight year olds, rather than people with the emotional maturity of an eight year old.

Demons are behind a lot of the current major conflicts on Titan, including the siege on Vymorna by the lizard-men. The generals often view the battlefields through scrying pools.

There's a chart of the heirarchy of demons! I'd provide a scan, but the scan I have is shitty and my own scanner's janked up right now. So I'll just type it out.

pre:
              Primus - The Demon Princes
The Rulers    Ishtra     Myurr         Sith                 
The Generals  Shakor     Kalin     Relem  Vradna             
---           Secundus - Greater Demons - Captains and Commanders
              Gtr Fire Demons      Iron Demons       Slime Demons
The           Lightning Demons     Rust Demons       Shadow Demons
              Storm Demons         Plague Demons     Venom Demons
              Tertius - The Lesser Demons - Shock Troops and Slayers
Legion        Lssr Fire Demons     Horned Demons     Hell Demons
              Lava Demons          Sand Demons       Mirror Demons
of the                   Nanka                Ice Demons
              Quartus - The Great Undead - Haunters and Killers
              Messengers of Death
              Vampires
Damned        Spirit Stalkers
              Phantoms
              Demonic Servants 
              Quintus - The Lesser Undead - Guardians and Keepers
              Ghouls
              Skeletons
              Zombies
---           Sextus - The Brainless Ones
              Clones
              Clone Warriors
              Septimus - The Formless
              Demonspawn
That's pretty much it for demons, so let's look at...

Orcs, the Warriors of Evil

This section opens up with the story about Hashak the Creator that I related earlier. This is where it actually appears in the book, but I skipped ahead back when we were looking at the creation myth, because it fit pretty well there.

Orcs, we are told, are pretty much dominated by their shamans! They're the ones who consult the demonic masters, not so much the ones who decide if an orc was wrong to eat his brother in law, no matter how hungry he was, or whether a captured dwarf should be eaten immediately or fattened up first. That's the chief's job. The shamans are busy divining messages. One technique is to let a caged rat run around with a bunch of runes representing the fourteen letter orc alphabet; another favorite technique is divination using the entrails of an elf. (elfomancy!)

Ordinary orcs really don't pay much attention to that, though. They mostly just like day to day existence. They like to eat, drink, and fight. They can (and will) eat anything. They have special digestive tracts or something that allow them to consume literally any kind of material, and orcs have been known to literally eat their way free of captivity in a dungeon. They do have taste, though, and prefer delicacies like "Elf intestine in Gnome's blood sauce" when they can get it.

After eating, they get sleepy, though. It also points out that orcs are not cannibals...but they don't consider their dead to be orcs any longer, meaning they're fair game. Indeed, orc funerals involve the loved ones taking a bite or two of the departed as a sign of respect and reverence. Also not to let that food go to waste. Orcs won't eat undead, though, even cooked: they're just not very filling.

Orcs consider themselves to be magnificent brewers, and orc ale (called Guursh, or Hweagh, most likely after the noises one makes after drinking it) is infamous for how utterly foul it is. It's kept in lead-lined barrels to keep it from eating through, it's typically greenish pink or pinkish green in color, and to be considered truly vintage, it must have lumps. Lumps of what? The scholars who wrote the book aren't sure, and I'm not sure anyone wanted to ask.

Orcs get drunk easily (no shock, really) and are known to do stupid things when they're drunk. One orc chief bought a puddle off a passing goblin after seeing the moon reflected in it and mistaking it for a silver plate. Another orc once ate a camel whole on a bet, while drunk, and then burst. Orcs love hearing tales of stupid orcs doing stupid things, because they completely fail to understand the depths of their own stupidity.

There's a map of a typical orc warren. It's not particularly exciting, and there's nothing funny on it, so I'm skipping it.

Orcs love fighting. When there's nobody to fight, they play games. One game is "orc knees", which involves passing a ball back and forth between two teams of four using only knees and head. If the ball goes out of bounds, the side that didn't hit it last gets a point; if it touches ground in bounds, the side that hit it last gets the point. Every seven points, the winning team gets to eat one of the members of the losing team. Orc Knees players are typically highly paid, though short lived.

Another popular game is "pass the slave", which seems like a general game of scoring goals on a field, with roughly the following rules: the slave has to be alive when he passes the goal post for it to count as a point, and the players have to stay on the field if they can. The game can involve a large number of teams, upwards of eight or ten in some cases. Predictably, this often leads to bloodbaths, which is fine with the orcs.

In real war, orcs are tough, durable, and driven. They like to take slaves, because they hate physical work that's not fighting. Orc armies are pretty much bad news all around.

Anyway, next time we'll be looking at goblins, and other nasty evil shits! Hooray!

We're still talking about evil stuff!

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World
We're still talking about evil stuff!

So this section is pretty much the biggest in the book, since, well, who doesn't love reading about all the crazy monsters and shit you can go fight? There's seriously next to no information about how the civilized lands are governed, outside of the Old World, but we get like, full on breakdowns of a lizard man military structure.

Anyway.

Goblins - The Children of Evil

Goblins are small compared to orcs and other races, and they're less inclined to be always in armies. Some goblins live as farmers, or hunter/scavengers, though any chance they get to rob someone or take advantage of someone, they will. If they do serve in Orc armies, it's as separate regiments, like Skallagrim's Lifestealing Crusade or the Blood of Heaven's Deliverers. They like grandiose names.

Nobody knows where they come from, not even them. One theory is that the goblins were the final, refined creation of Hashak. Another theory has them related to woodlings or gnomes, but nobody really believes it; the goblins because ugh, those guys, and everyone else because ugh, goblins. They may also be the result of interbreeding of orcs and some other race. Nobody knows.

They're pretty much everywhere. Even in swamps, deserts, and isolated islands. They're like rats that way I guess. They live in tribes, and they really only care about their own tribe. The goblin tribes elect their chief as being the strongest and most heroic. All goblins worship Hashak, as well as past goblin heroes. Goblin shamans are weird and run around naked and painted with runes and decorated with bones. They have totems and trophies on poles, and do ritual dances, etc.

There's a sidebar about misconceptions about goblins. One, they don't eat rocks and dirt, that's orcs. Two, they're not stupid. Maybe not scholars, but they're cunning as hell. Three, they don't worship trees and boulders, some idiot saw a shaman bowing before a rock carved with goblin legends and a totem pole. Four, they don't accidentally eat their own children. They have to be very hungry, and it's quite deliberate when it happens. Five, they aren't afraid of the sky falling.

They like making traps, the more cunning the better. There's a section on marsh goblins, but they're basically just damper and meaner than regular goblins.

Troglodytes

Titan's troglodytes resemble short, big-eared goblins, and may have evolved from the. They live deep in caves. Mostly they eat beetles, moss, and fungus. Sometimes they manage to catch something tastier, like an elf. They too like to set up traps, though they're not as sophisticated as the goblins. Some tribes ride giant beetles. They're really good with their bows and flint-tipped arrows. They like to play a game with captured humans or dwarves (but never elves, because why waste all that food?) where they shoot an arrow into the distance and allow the captive to walk safely to where it landed before they begin pursuit. They always fire short with the first arrow, though, just in case. Sometimes they'll have a hole in the ground just beyond the arrow that they say leads to freedom; it doesn't. It leads to spikes.

Troglodytes worship anything and everything. Hashak, the sun, a giant mythical centipede, a rat king, or even adventurers of suitably impressive stature (possibly only post-mortem.)

Trolls and Ogres

Big, nasty, and stupid. They were probably made by Hashak--and when a troll wants to pick a fight with an orc, they'll point out that the orcs were made second. Like the other evil races, they're everywhere, but not in the numbers that goblins and orcs are, due to low breeding rates. This may be because of how ugly female trolls are. Their hideousness is also used to explain why so many male trolls become soldiers.

Nobody good likes trolls, but dwarves especially loathe them, due to an incident where a great dwarf hero was raised as a zombie under the command of a troll shaman.

Trolls don't organize well; only hill trolls even bother with tribes. Only in the armies of evil can trolls be found working together, but they end up fighting each other as often as not. They're the shock troops, and they're stupid enough to think it's an honor.

There's a sidebar on Troll humor. The greatest troll comedian of all time was Zark the Violent, whose career was brought to an early end after playing for an audience of dwarves while drunk on Orc ale. Fortunately, we get some of his best jokes that were recorded for posterity:

Titan posted:

Why did the Dwarf coss the road? because I said if he didn't I'd cut off his feet and stick them up his nose! Ugh! Ugh!

What do you get if you hit a Dwarf with a very large rock? A big laugh! Ugh! Ugh!

What would you say to a Dwarf with twelve helmets on? Nothin', you just hit him in the stomach instead! Ugh! Ugh!

How do you get six Dwarfs into an ox-cart? Well first you take a big axe and you cut them up into little pieces, then you eat them, and then you get in the ox cart! Ugh! Ugh!

Awesome.

Ogres were originally orcs who were more touched by evil and chaos than any of the others, and mutated and changed as a result. They were a major part of the armies of Chaos during the War of the Wizards, and these days they live pretty miserable, solitary existences. There are rumors of three ogres near Lendleland who have become powerful magic-users, though nobody knows how. They're starting to find service with deranged or evil leaders, where they make good torturers or shock troops. One ogre, Naggamenteh, even became an artisan among torturers, and wrote a book, Naggamanteh's Book of Tortures. He was good at torture, not titles.

Or spelling.

Next time: snake people, lizard men, and maybe even dark elves!

Still talking about evil!

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World

Still talking about evil!

Right. So, orcs and goblins and trolls on Titan are pretty bog-standard stuff. Not really any surprises to be found there. It was the 80s, though, and I'm not sure anyone was looking for surprises or deeper orcs. So a few more evil races up today...

Snake People are desert-dwelling, are very smart, especially compared to orcs and the like, and dwell in the hottest parts of Allansia and Khul. They are called the Caarth, and they hate everyone who's not one of them. Basically everything we know about them comes from a travelling merchant who was captured by them and lived for years among them before escaping back to civilization.

When the dark gods were banished to the Void, their generals escaped to the outer planes. Sith established herself as the top demon. She likes snakes, and wanted to use them to carry out her revenge. She captured a bunch of humans and a bunch of snakes and blended them together, creating a couple of crazy demon-snake things that became the parents of a new race.

There are other breeds of snake people than Caarth, too. There's serpent-tailed dudes called Justrali, at least, who dwell a lot in Allansia. They use giant mirrors to reflect sun between their cities and communicate quickly. They have a few major cities in Allansia and live as nomads in Khul for the most part.

There's a description of the cities. They're carved out of mesas. And there's a map...of the desert, with the Caarth cities on it. However...it's a map of a featureless desert, with three Caarth cities on it, and a few watchtowers around them...and that's really all that's on it. So I'm really not going to bother reproducing that. At the tops of the mesas they have huge towers and observatories. Mostly they like to study forbidden knowledge. Their astronomers are the greatest on Titan. They're good with poisons, too. They also like to experiment in combining humans and snakes in various ways, which is how the Justrali came to being. (There's a particular character, the Serpent Queen, who dwells in Port Blacksand, who was the result of one of these experiments.)

They're sort of running up against the lizard men in the south...which is a segue in the book as well as here.

Lizard Men are more successful by far than the Caarth snake people, and they're easily the largest threat to peace on Allansia right now. Their empire currently covers a larger area than all of the civilized areas of Allansia put together. Most of what is known about the lizard men is gleaned from a captured lizard man whose mind was basically telepathically scoured.

During the Godtime, there was a very minor, very ambitious god named Suthis Cha. He was very jealous of all the other gods making human-shaped creatures, since he figured the lizards were way better shaped. He was not present during the great war of the gods, 'cause he saw it coming and slipped off to use the time to make lizard men and hide them in the swamps. Then he fucked off back to the Celestial Court, where he spotted the tiny mouse-god Karreep, who was hiding. Since there was nobody else around, Suthis Cha decided he was going to do what he'd wanted to do for ages, and ate Karreep.

Karreep was, however, also a god, and so Suthis Cha ended up sorta choking to death before Karreep hopped out of his mouth and scurried off.

The lizard men, in the meantime, had no deific guidance, and just sort of spent their days hanging out and hunting. Then the dark gods noticed them, sent Ishtra out, and Ishtra appeared before them and became their new god.

He also introduced chaos and mutation to them! Yay!

Apparently not all two-headed lizard men are priests, but all lizard man priests have two heads. They're the only ones who can wear the color red. They're also the only ones who can write. They have a temple in the Silur Cha swamplands, near the capital city of Silur Cha. They are, like the Caarth, collectors of dark and forbidden knowledges, and are logical and unemotional, and cruel.

The Lizard Men believe that they are the purest form of creation, and especially hate the mutant Lizard Men as deviations from that form. They like to sacrifice them to their dark gods. The Lizard Kings rule the non-religious side of lizard man culture, and they're actually distinct subspecies. They have an empathic hold over their subjects and are thought to be telepathic as well. The highest among them, the Luk Ten Cha, is said to be instantly reborn whenever he dies.

Silur Cha is their capital city, a maze of temples, dwellings, wooden walkways both on the ground and in the sky, towers, etcetera.

An army is described--the one laying siege to Vymorna. It has some pretty grandiose unit titles, like The Divine Slaughterers, or the Divine Gougers Who Shall Bring Death to All. A notable thing is that they have tame dinosaurs, which they ride into battle and stuff.

I wanna go on to talk about the dark elves but I'm tired, so I'm going to leave this post short.

Dark Elves

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Argh.

I'm not dead, and I'm not abandoned this writeup! Yar! Things just...kinda suck here right now.

But enough whining, it's time for...

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World
Part Whatever - Dark Elves

So Elves, right? Peaceful, long-lived, prone to taking the long view and letting things happen and resolve themselves with the younger races. Only there was a bunch, shortly after the big wars, who felt that since the Elves were clearly smarter, wiser, and more skillful than anyone else they should be in charge of fuckin' everything. The guys in charge of the Elves thought this was a bad idea, though, and figured hey, we'll still be around long after all of those other races die off, why bother getting involved in the petty skirmishes?

Elves in general can be kinda dicks, I guess.

Anyway, this faction of more active elves was led by Prince Viridel Kerithrion, secretly a follower of Slangg, who you possibly remember as the God of Malice. Kerithrion had been one of the most eager to fight in the war against Evil, though, so he had respect and the ear of the Council. Since they didn't listen, though, he decided to take matters into his own hands; he marched on the council with like-minded elves, slaughtered dozens of other clan leaders, and declared himself in charge.

Fortunately (or unfortunately for Kerithrion, at least) the elven Queen, Ariel Aurlindol, had the power of prophecy and she'd seen this shit coming, and her husband the King had enough warning to get their whole family out of there ahead of time, though the dream came the night before and there wasn't time to warn anyone else. Within three days, they'd raised a massive Elven army to take back the palace of the Council, and for nineteen more days, they laid siege to it. On the twentieth day, three of Kerithrion's captains marched out under a banner of parlay, and while the peace talks were going on, the rest of the rebel elves snuck out through tunnels they'd spent the entire siege desperately building--they weren't stupid and knew there was no way they could hold out. The captains dragged out their talks till well after dark, then promised to bring the demand for surrender back to their own side and lead out all the rebels, at which point they, too, got the hell out of elf-Dodge.

They retreated back to Kerithrion's lands, where they declared themselves an independent nation. That didn't go over any better, and they very quickly found themselves facing down the very same army as before. The rebels were driven into the mountains and finally into an abandoned dwarf city, and further underground. The Elves struck all the names of the rebels from their histories, pulled down any building that they'd been in, including the Council palace (which was rebuilt way far away) and basically did their damnedest to pretend the rebels had never existed at all.

The rebels got used to life underground, found a series of natural caverns beneath Darkwood Forest, and started worshiping demons openly (though as I mentioned previously, some of the rebel elves who didn't hold with that part split off and became Black Elves, who don't get along well with either the ordinary elves on the surface or the Dark Elves. The Dark Elves send raiding parties against the wood elves of Darkwood regularly, and live in a city known as Tiranduil Kelthas (or Darkside), in an enormous natural vavern.

Darkside started with traditional Elven style buildings but soon became twisted and bizarre, carved with frescoes of demons and filled with winding, twisting alleys, and all that good stuff. All Dark Elves belong to clans, and each has their own heirarchy. It's basically what you'd expect from any typical fantasy Dark Elf thing, no surprises there.

Dark Elves like to wear silver, which all but the poorest have tons of. Every Dark Elf is related to the nobility, and it's stated that the Dark Elf women are especially beautiful.

Lots of slavery down there. Most common are human slaves, Dwarves are most popular because they don't die as fast. Orcs, trolls, and goblins get relegated to shit duty and are often killed out of sheer frustration.

Elves, on the other hand, are never kept as slaves, either being killed outright or used as sacrifices in dark rites.

There's a section on the rulers of the city, including the feeble and paranoid King Eilden Kerithrion, on the brink of madness, or the High Priestess Velicoma, his sister--who loves him so much she's planning to end him any day now to take over. Prince Astrëa and Princess Leya Garathrim are their cousins and a balancing force in the council, working together to bring stability and keep things running smoothly. These two will be most likely to take power if Eilden and Velicoma get in a power struggle, since Leya is married to the prince of the clan Camcarneyar, who handle day to day security and military operations. The final member is Prince Menel Ithilkir, a hothead who spends most of his time on surface raids. When he's in town he sides with the Garathrim, but mostly he only bothers to show up if there's military matters on the table or a particularly bloody sacrifice is planned. He's only on the council because he's heir to the Ithilkir, following the death of his much stronger mother to poison. Mostly people think that was Velicoma's work, but it was actually Astrëa and Leya, presumably to give them a malleable ally.

If the Dark Elf leadership DID ever unite, they'd be more than powerful enough to take the fight back to the surface, but they're way too scheming and manipulative to get there.

Next up, the list of notable evil figures on Titan.

There are really not a lot of good images in this section...sorry.


Faces of Evil & Chaos

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

It's Saturday night and I'm livin' the nerd life, bringing to you some more of Fighting Fantasy.

Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World
Faces of Evil and Chaos

So here we have another list of powerful figures of the appropriate alignment in the Titan setting. Unlike the list for the Neutral forces, there's actually more than one character to put here. On the other hand, most of them are less immediately useful than the Good characters as NPCs, since any player already familiar with these guys isn't going to remember "hey, I remember Yaztromo, he totally helped out my dude in Temple of Terror " so much as it would be "Hey I remember Zharradan Marr, he was a cock in Creature of Havoc ." Failing that little twinge of recognition, really all this list is good for is a catalog of example villains to throw out there, unless you really fancy reviving the classics. As a note...several of the gamebook villains have exactly that happen. At least once.

It's not even a full listing, either, even for the abbreviated selection of gamebooks that had been released by the time Titan saw print. No mention is made of Zanbar Bone, ultimate foozle of City of Thieves , nor is the evil wizard of Scorpion Swamp listed here.

On the other hand,Baron Sukumvit of Fang and Lord Azzur of Port Blacksand are both technically villainous rulers who could be interesting even while not directly confronted. (Although in Sukumvit's case, since Deathtrap Dungeon is a completely voluntary challenge with a very generous prize as a reward, and not actually there to be malicious so much as bring business to Fang, the villain label may be misapplied.)

I've added notes on each one of these villains with regards to their current "canonical" status assuming a timeline where all the gamebooks have already happened with the victorious endings; this information is not present in Titan and is based on both my own assessment and the gamebooks in question.

Anyway, the list:

Razaak, the Undying One
Once an apprentice to a great Lawful wizard, he was fascinated by what his master told him of dark magic, and realized he had the potential to be a great necromancer, plus that using magic to help people was for sissies. He fucked off, spent forty years mastering the dark arts, and finally, when he'd managed to sufficiently learn necromancy to his own satisfaction, sent messages off to the nobles of Allansia, demanding to be acknowledged as their ruler.

Of course, when you spend forty years off in the fucking desert practicing raising dead things in a cave, nobody has ever fucking heard of you back in civilization, so they ignored the shit out of his messages. In turn, Razaak sent a plague of insects across the land, and then they took him seriously...enough so to send out assassins after him. Sorry, he's evil, they were brave warriors. All of them got killed. Finally, a dude named Kull showed up, with a sword he'd found gripped in a skeletal hand in a misty lake up in the Moonstone Hills while he was crossing on a raft. It was enchanted and could cut through plate mail without effort or dulling. This was, of course, Razaak's own former sword, and the only weapon that could kill him. As part of his final pacts with his demonic masters, Razaak had been forced to give up all weapons other than the sacrificial knives used in the evil rituals; however, his sword couldn't be destroyed, so he chucked it in a lake, and of course, it rose in the hands of a skeleton.

Well, Kull sure as hell didn't know that, but it didn't really matter, since when he hacked Razaak with the damn thing, Razaak died, and as far as Kull knew that was supposed to happen. Sadly, Razaak cast a curse on poor Kull and his flesh turned to dust, and he became a skeleton himself, cursed to forever carry the sword that had slain Razaak. Kull's skeleton returned to the lake where he found the sword in the first place and he has been hanging around there waiting for someone to claim it from him and grant him rest. Meanwhile, Razaak was buried in a sarcophagus and placed in a deep fissure in the hills...and forgotten, until recently.

Current Status : Dead again, as of Crypt of the Sorcerer . The player of the book locates Kull, kills Razaak, and avoids being cursed like the previous bearer of the magical blade, thanks to Yaztromo's help. Of course, the blade itself is now buried under tons and tons of rubble at the bottom of a fissure, so if the fucker comes back again that could be trouble...

Malbordus, the Storm Child
A human sorcerer raised by dark elves, who found him abandoned in the woods during a raid. He was a magical prodigy, torched an elven village in Darkwood Forest before puberty, a test of magic that was the first step towards becoming a master of dark magics. His second test saw him travel to the Temple of Terror in the midst of the desert...

Current Status ...where he had to find five Dragon Artefacts and revive them, using them to raze the civilized world. Sadly for poor Malbordus, the player of Temple of Terror managed to find the five dragon artefacts before him, and, using the oft-stolen hammer of Gillibran of Stonebridge, destroy them, before slaying Malbordus himself in single combat. Again, Yaztromo's help was instrumental to the hero, who learned a few invaluable spells from the old wizard before his journey. The book's more fun than its villain.

Shareela, the Snow Witch
Once a human sorceress from Zengis, she was sent into the frosty northlands on a test of her skills, where she was to survive for five weeks. Four weeks into the test she encountered an ice demon, who promised her vast powers and rulership in his service, and she decided that was way cooler than being nice and friendly. She decided to go along with the demon, became a vampire and a powerful necromancer, and sits in her caverns, gathering slaves and preparing to cast powerful ice magic to create a new ice age.

Current Status Killing Shareela doesn't remotely end Caverns of the Snow Witch , with something like a third of the book being after her demise. She does, however, cast a death spell on the hero, but it's not a very good one, since he (or she) has enough time to travel south to find Pen Ty Kora the Healer (remember him? He's the one who's not Nicodemus and not Yaztromo) and reach the summit of Firetop Mountain for a healing ritual. As a vampire, though, there's always the potential that she'll return again...

The Demonic Three
This is kinda cheating as a section. It's actually talking about Balthus Dire, Zagor, and Zharradan Marr. So take Yaztromo, Nicodemus, and Pen Ty Kora, and imagine evil versions, and that's what you have here. They studied under a master of dark magics, then killed him and went their separate ways.

Balthus Dire went off to Craggen Rock, his ancestral home, murdered his own father, and started raising an army.

Current Status: Dead, killed in Citadel of Chaos without any special bullshit.

Zagor and Zharradan Marr went the other way, and while Zharradan wandered off into the Moonstone Hills, Zagor continued on to Firetop Mountain, where he took over the Dwarven settlement there and stole all their treasure, then sat around chillin'.

Current Status: Anyone's guess, probably dead. He was slain in Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first of the gamebook line. And again in Return to Firetop Mountain, the fiftieth (and at the time, planned to be the last.) And again in Legend of Zagor. And apparently there was a series of novels about the guy, so he's really the energizer bunny of villains. Kiiiiinda not likely to be a favorite among players to have to kill again and again and again, though.

Zharradan Marr, for his part, vanished in the Moonstone Hills. What is he up to? Nobody knows.

Current Status: Kinda trapped in limbo. In Creature of Havoc Marr's whereabouts and activities are somewhat explored; he's been experimenting with a "science" called marrangha, which can be used to basically mutate and modify creatures, and created the titular Creature from the captain of a Sky Galleon out of Salamonis. Marr was hunted down by his own creation, who found his way back to his airship and used a crystal club to shatter the mirror Marr was residing within, returning himself to his former human self.

Real World Note: Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr appeared only in titles by Steve Jackson (the UK one, not the US one) who really didn't like covering the same ground, and tended to be the one of the original pair of creators to push the envelope and try more experimental things. After Creature of Havoc he stopped writing gamebooks. Ian Livingstone, on the other hand had no qualms about revisiting the same villain or writing fairly standard fantasy gamebooks, and was the more traditional of the pair, and he wrote all of the Zagor sequels solo, even though the Warlock himself was Jackson's creation in the original gamebook.

Back to the villains...

Sukumvit and Carnuss

Sukumvit's the baron of Fang, and Carnuss is his try-hard younger brother. Carnuss felt neglected and was pissed off that his brother inherited the title of Baron when their father died. He started hanging out with scum, and a group of the scum, hearing him mutter about how much he wanted to kill his brother, offered to assassinate Sukumvit for only a thousand gold...and Carnuss paid.

The "scum" went to Sukumvit and told the Baron what happened, since they were actually members of the palace guard Sukumvit had ordered to watch his idiot younger brother. Humiliated and exposed, Carnuss fucked off and plotted his revenge.

Sukumvit built Deathtrap Dungeon, a...well, it's what it sounds like. It's a sadistic labyrinth, with a prize of 10, 000 gold to anyone who comes out alive. For years, nobody did, but finally someone managed, and Sukumvit immediately started renovating.

Carnuss saw how Sukumvit's reputation suffered when he had to pay out to the victorious adventurer, and set up his own training program--he began capturing people and putting them through strenuous, murderous tests, which none have yet survived, but he plans to send the first one who does to compete in the Trial of Champions and humiliate Sukumvit in his name.

Current Status Sukumvit's stil alive after two successful adventurers have completed his trial, though several thousand gold poorer, and popular with his subjects, since his violent tendencies are channeled into the dungeon, which brings a lot of tourists and adventurers who spend money like it's going out of style. Carnuss, on the other hand, got his sorry ass killed by the same adventurer he sent to participate in the Trial of Champions, who was also granted the right to duel Carnuss by the Baron after he'd successfully emerged from the Trial. The hero then went on to raise an army and fight off some dark force in Armies of Darkness, the exact plot of which I can't remember beyond that it's a direct sequel to Trial of Champions. Not how I'd personally spend 10,000 gold but as it happens, probably good that he did.

The Archmage
None know where he came from, nor any name for him beyond the cryptic title by which he is known. He built the fortress of Mampang, in Kakhabad, and started organizing the forces there. At some point, he battled a hydra, which was probably fairly epic, and when he had slain it, he used his dark magic to turn its heads into the Seven Serpents, each corresponding to one of the Gods he had once followed, and who serve him still. He stole the Crown of Kings from Analand.

He's not a very interesting character...

Current Status : ..and he is very dead, after the Analander sent to retrieve the Crown got finished with him. There's a Let's Play of the Sorcery series ongoing that I'm not going to spoil further, just in case.

Finally...
Lord Azzur, the Tyrant of Blacksand

For a guy who never directly appears in any of the gamebooks, Azzur's backstory is actually pretty damn cool. He's been in charge of Port Blacksand for the past thirty years, is a deadly pirate, a cruel and sadistic ruler, has a girl with a snake head for a girlfriend, and a fondness for carnivorous topiary.

Azzur was born not on Allansia, but in Arion, on Khul, where he was fascinated by the cult of Kukulak, Khulian god of storms. He snuck into the temple during a ritual to find out why the acolytes of Kukulak always went about swathed in black clothes that hid their faces, and was caught...and found out firsthand why they did so--as a part of their initiation into the temple, they were branded. If the scars formed themselves into the runes of Kukulak, they were accepted into the church, otherwise, they were...disposed of. The young Azzur was offered the choice of taking the test of flames himself or dying there and then. Like anyone not an idiot, he took the test, and to the disappointment of the administering priest, the burns formed the necessary runes.

Fearing what his parents would do to punish him, the new acolyte of Kukulak fled Arion aboard a ship, which was soon taken by pirates; the captain was fascinated by the scarred, black-clad boy and took him on as a cabin boy. From there, Azzur learned the arts of piracy...and eventually, he had a fleet of his own and enough gold to buy half a continent.

Instead, he conquered Port Blacksand, which has become a wretched hive of scum and villainy under his rule. Neat place if you want adventure, though...

Current Status: He's not going anywhere any time soon. He's got a veritable army of fanatically loyal guards, and he's pretty likely to be terrifyingly deadly in personal combat himself. He's probably in his 50s, but that's not that old when you're that rich. He occasionally still sails off on raids. What'll happen to Blacksand when he does finally die is anyone's guess.

The book's got a map of Blacksand here, but that'll come up several more times in the course of the examination of further material and it's not really elaborated on at this time. There's a buncha other illustrations from various gamebooks of the villains throughout this section but I don't have a scanner that works and the pdf I've found of the book that I used for earlier image-fetching is really kind of shitty in this segment, so I can't really readily share them. Sorry. If anyone is terribly put out by the lack of art, I can always go digging, but I don't figure it's THAT big an issue...

anyway. Next time, mermaids.

I wish I was shitting you.


Mermaids

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Titan - the Fighting Fantasy World
As promised...mermaids.

So back before the big war with Death, Hydana (god of water, if you recall) was chillin' in the oceans. Being kinda dopey and kinda lonely, he grabbed a shipful of humans and pulled them under the water so he could have some friends. This was how the first--hahaha no.

See, Hydana wasn't very quick-witted, so he didn't do anything about the fact that the humans needed to breathe. So they drowned pretty quick, and he was sad. So the next time he grabbed a shipful of humans he...also failed to do shit about the breathing problem. Took another three or four ships full of dead humans before he realized what the hell the air bubbles were.

Gods.

Once he did realize, he gave gills to the next batch of humans he captured, and once they got over their initial terror (and once Hydana started bringing more humans to join them, along with elves, trolls, and even occasional giants) they started liking it down there. Everyone was totally chill, all the different races got along, and things were peaceful.

Then the big war happened on land, Hydana was severely wounded and retreated to the deepest parts of the ocean, and the trolls and giants realized they probably shouldn't hang out with the pretty people, and fucked off to their own settlements, where they hung out with sharks and started attacking their former friends.

We all know how mermen and mermaids look. Sea Trolls have been dubbed "Deep Ones" by the other undersea races and live up to the Lovecraftian associations with the name. Barring the sex with land dwellers, I guess. Sea Elves have twin tails and can change colors, chameleon-like, to blend with their surroundings. Sea Giants are...giant. They like sea elves and mermen, hate sea trolls, and tend to annoy their allies by being pretty damn stupid and accidentally wrecking shit, but they're a huge help against the Deep Ones.

No pun intended.

Atlantis!

Back when the three continents were one, Atlantis was on an island in the middle of the ocean. Turns out it was named after Atlan, messenger of the gods, who has never before and will never again be mentioned in this book. Nice save on that, Gascoigne, way to make it not be just Earth's city.

Atlantis was really really rich, really really wise, and then one day the king died after an 81-year reign without leaving an heir. Eventually a successor was found, a sixteen-year old distant cousin (actually the demon prince Myurr) who took the name Faramos XVIwhatever in honor of his predecessor, then set about conquering everywhere with Atlantis's money and superior knowledge/wisdom/etc.

The gods went "nope" and sank it.

The city's still down there, apparently, but nothing lives there or something. Well, whatever.

The Titan Calendar

Titan's got a fairly detailed calendar system. First, there's actual year numbers, in which (at the time of writing, anyway) the current year is 284 A.C. (After Chaos). Next, there's 20 year cycles called "Turns", with a different animal associated with each year in the turn. 284 is the Year of the Fox, for example. The full list goes:

pre:
1.  Dragon
2.  Lion
3.  Snake
4.  Ox
5.  Tiger
6.  Goat
7.  Mouse
8.  Deer
9.  Bat
10. Wolf
11. Eagle
12. Dog
13. Spider
14. Rabbit
15. Fox
16. Crocodile
17. Owl
18. Cat
19. Shark
20. Horse
A man might say he was born in the year of the Spider, three Turns ago. (This would put his birth year at 222 AC, according to the book, I don't care enough to check the math myself.)

In other areas, as always with Titan, other systems are used. Kakhabad uses years "away" from the present, so Spider-dude there would be born in Sixty-Two Away. Hachiman uses an eight year cycle--Tree, Fish, Stone, Sun, First Moon, Second Moon, Sword, and Arrow--and by reign of the ruler. Spider-dude in Hachiman was born in the Year of he Fish in the fourth year of Shogun Aykira.

I've always loved the calendar section of Titan and I've never been able to explain why.

Months! There's two systems of months used, one for Allansia and the Old World, the other for Khul. Allansian months vary in length, Khulian months are all exactly 30 days.

[Pre]
Allansian System Khulian System
1. Freeze (31) Snow's Cloak
2. Dark (28) Skies in Darkness
3. Unlocking (31) Land's Awakening
4. Sowing (30) Heaven's Weeping
5. Winds (31) Birds Chatter
6. Warming (30) Days Lengthen
7. Fire (31) Corn Ripening
8. Watching (31) Man's Harvesting
9. Reaping (30) Forests Golden
10. Hiding (31) Nature's Curling
11. Close (30) Sun's Hiding
12. Locking (28) Land's Sleeping
[pre]

At the end of the year, Allansia and the Old World celebrate New Years with three unmarked calendar days, and Khul spends five days doing the same.

Weeks! The Allansian calendar has seven day weeks, the Khulian has six day weeks, five to a month.

Allansia: Stormsday, Moonsday, Fireday, Earthday, Windsday, Seaday, Highday
Khul: Rageday, Freezeday, Fearday, Lifeday, Wildday, Spiritday

Highday and Spiritday are holy days of religious worship or rest for those less inclined to fervent belief.

Holidays!

Night of the Ancestors (First day of Hiding) In Kaypong, the lands around the Glimmering Sea, and in other more isolated areas, this celebration takes place. Mostly it's singing and dancing and honoring the spirits of the ancestors and being all Halloweeny. As dawn breaks everyone runs yelling through the strets and out the gates of the settlement to symbolize the departure of the spirits. Every ten years or so, the ghosts actually show up in person and everyone gets an even bigger party on with the whole family reunion thing.

Children's Festival (First Highday of Warming) In Kakhabad and Ruddlestone, on this festival, children get to be in charge for a day. Everyone over the age of 16 has to do what the kids say for the entire day, often putting up with beatings or thorough humiliation. The one rule is the adults aren't allowed to do anything to get revenge after the festival ends.

Feast of the Waters (Various days in Unlocking) In riverlands in Khul, life depends on regular floodings to bring in fertile soil. At the first sign of it, Khulian villagers bring symbolic carved boats, wheat and rice stalks, and in some areas even sacrifice animals or children--though nobody has confirmed the latter.

New Years Pretty much everywhere in human lands celebrates this. As stated above, Allansia and the Old World do a three-day celebration, while Khul spends five. Nobody knows if Elves do this, but Dwarves definitely do, entirely with a drunken revel. Orcs and other non-humans do so occasionally, when they remember, usually with the kind of celebration you'd expect. Humans have tons of different ways to celebrate. in Ximoran, for example, it's five solid days of prayer. Fun! Analand and Lendleland celebrate with hunting and fairs. Lord Azzur of Blacksand usually celebrates by executing several prominent citizens and donating their belongings to the poor. Nice guy. (Note: That little "nice guy" isn't me commenting personally, it's me paraphrasing the book, which actually does the little sarcastic bit there itself.)

Annnd...that's pretty much it for interesting topics in Titan. There's a chapter on the adventuring life, mostly taken up by price lists and explanations that in the desert, use a camel not a horse, type thing. There's some examples of what different coins look like, but alas, shitty pdf and no scanner.

There's a chapter on inns, which has a layout of an example inn, what one might find in an inn or tavern, and most notably, a couple gambling games using daggers. Pinfinger is basically betting on that thing Bishop does in Aliens with the knife--how long can you go without stabbing yourself in the finger? The other game is Kharéan Roulette or Knifey-Knifey, which is five fake daggers and a real one, and players go around the table taking turns stabbing themselves with them. Not a game for casual party play.

Then there's Ten-Ten, which is a darts-game played on a 64-square board. Each square has a number between -9 and 9, and players throw darts at the board. White squares subtract from the total, black squares add to the total, and the objective is to get your score to exactly 10 or -10, at which point you take the pot.

And there are a couple of famous drinks listed, which is really the only other thing of much note in the book. Examples are:

Quillian Water, which is found only in Quill, in Brice. It looks like water, tastes like water, and three shots will kill a man.

Buruna Catsblood: a light, sweet ale from Khul, thought to be brewed using water from the Catsblood river and dyed red for effect, it's actually made by taking two dozen cats and slowly...

(that's seriously what the book does.)

And of course, no list of famous drinks is complete without Guursh. Orc ale. Don't drink. Very dangerous. Also known as Hweagh! or other similar onomatopeia for vomiting...for probably obvious reasons.

Anyway. That's it for Titan. Finally. At last. Next up, I get to start poking at rules again, with Dungeoneer! Yay!

DUNGEONEER: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

And now...


DUNGEONEER: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

But First, A Bit of Overview and History

Finally we hit the point where Fighting Fantasy has something that's got actual character customization and advancement! Dungeoneer was published in 1989, along with reprints of Titan and Out of the Pit in a new size format, larger than the existing gamebooks but not the same size as the previous coffee-table format that the two sourcebooks had taken. (When I have some time I'll get my camera and take some photos of the different versions side by side.) By the end of 1989, the series had hit its 40th gamebook in the main line, plus the four book Sorcery! mini-series, the two-book two-player experiment, and even a novel (featuring the Demonic Three, Zagor, Balthus Dire, and Zharradan Marr, in a storyline unrelated to the gamebooks they star in but involving their defeat at the hands of some guy nobody should care about, Chadda Darkmane.)

In short, there was lots of material to go by, and the series was actually heading towards a slump in popularity. The 50th gamebook, Return to Firetop Mountain, was actually planned to be the final one in the series, but it sold well enough to give the series another 9 books thereafter--but that's all in the future, as far as Dungeoneer is concerned.

Like Titan and Out of the Pit, Dungeoneer was helmed by Marc Gascoigne, with the aid of Pete Tamlyn, despite the Jackson and Livingstone billing on the cover. As I've mentioned before, Gascoigne was responsible for Out of the Pit and Titan, and much of the friendly, eminently readable tone of the latter has carried over here. Despite the rules being flawed in some pretty key ways, this is absolutely the best presented of the different versions of the Fighting Fantasy roleplaying games, and the two books that follow ( Blacksand and Allansia , in order of release) are similarly well presented. These books also feature a set of sample adventures that--while very much on rails--actually seems like it would be really quite fun to play through, especially with a little bit of expansion to make them less linear.

So, without further ado...

Dungeoneer opens up with the now-traditional introduction to roleplaying, with the twist that it's presented as making imaginary movies set on Titan with your friends. This metaphor carries through the entire edition, with the GM referred to as the Director, the adventures being broken down into Scenes, and NPCs called Extras, etcetera. It's a bit goofy but it's not actually the worst presentation of the concept for an introductory roleplaying game, and at least it makes sense.

The book goes over game prep in a physical sense in some detail. You need dice, pencils and paper, somewhere to play, snacks, etc. They do suggest the option of miniatures to represent who is standing where, along with some examples of how to make cheap scenery (hills represented by books under a tablecloth, blue ribbon for a river, etc.) but stress that it's optional. They also suggest optional use of props, feelies to give the players to bring them into the scene. Throughout the sample adventures ideas are given for these, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek. I admit it's something I've always liked the idea of and that neither myself nor any DM I've ever played with has had the time or initiative to actually do. Maybe I should sit down and prep more...

It also provides a quick run-down of the other books, which we're familiar with on account of I've covered them in some detail already. Then, it advises jumping right in, providing sample heroes at the back of the book to be copied and shared with the players for the introductory session, and a straightforward, ready to play sample adventure ready to run at once, plus some quick-start rules. The full rules and how to create your own characters are found after the adventure, giving a hands-on play experience before you have to actually build something to go forward. It's a very simple adventure, and could probably be run in an hour or two at most--but we'll get to that.

There are six sample characters at the back of the book--an elf, a dwarf, a barbarian, a mercenary fighter, a sneaky rogue, and a bookish nerdy wizard. It's suggested to allow the players to pick which ones they want to play. I'm not reproducing all of them here, because we don't need to see that to understand the basic rules, but having one to refer to makes it easier, so...



Meet Aspen Darkfire. Aspen is an elf, which doesn't come with any special advantages or disadvantages. As you can see, she has the familiar SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK stats, along with some Special Skills and Spells . (They've chosen to use one of the characters with the Magic skill as the example in the book, and it's as good an example as any, so I used her too.) There's also a page to fill in with personality, background, and quotes, etcetera, which in the case of the sample characters gives something to go by for the players. This is pretty obviously intended to be very newbie-friendly.

So, I'm not going to bother refreshing on SKILL, STAMINA or LUCK because they are identical to their previous incarnations, and even generated the same way, though at this point we aren't told how that works. Special Skills work just like SKILL, though they replace it in any instance when they could apply. (Alternately phrased, you roll SKILL only when you do not have an applicable Special Skill.) Again, at this point we don't have any idea how Special Skills are calculated. Aspen's Special Skills are pretty self explanatory. Notice that while she carries a sword, she has no Sword Special Skill--she will use her SKILL of 8 in combat while wielding a sword. Bows work slightly differently, as I recall, and in a bit of oversight the rules for them are not actually presented in the sample adventure, so it's just as well she isn't carrying any arrows!

Then there's Spells, which come hand in hand with the Magic skill. At this point we are only given a list of the spells that the sample characters know--three of the six have some magic ability--Aspen, obviously, the wizard, and the barbarian character has a few non-flashy spells like Strength or Luck.)

Each spell has a cost listed, which is how many STAMINA points you lose for attempting to cast it (successful or not.) Though we're not told this now, starting characters can take Spells with a maximum STAMINA cost of 4, with spells costing 6, 8, or 10 STAMINA being only for NPCs or advanced heroes. Again, we'll come back to that later.

Aspen's spells are Fire Bolt, Illusion, Stamina, Darkness, and Mirror Selves. For now we get a quick rundown only--I believe the spells are revisited later with more detail, as well. The book really, really wants us to get a play experience before anything else.

Darkness puts out all artificial light (and counters Dark Seeing ) in a circular area up to 5 meters around the caster for 3 minutes.

oh yeah the real-time clock thing is still in here but it's not really used to dick the players around like it was in the earlier editions, to my recollection

Fire Bolt does 1d6 damage to one target.

Illusion creates an illusion that will fool one target for up to three minutes, unless something happens to reveal that it doesn't exist or isn't what it appears to be. (The example then says something about wounds from imaginary swords only vanishing after the illusion runs out, though, so ???)

Mirror Selves is an illusion spell that creates two duplicates of the caster for three minutes, fooling one person. The target has only a one in three chance of choosing the right caster to fight back against, but all three mirrors can fight and wound the victim.

Stamina restores up to 6 points of STAMINA, not to surpass the Initial value. This isn't presented as a roll--"up to" seems to simply mean that it won't go over. If the caster uses it on themselves, the spell cost is subtracted after the restoration happens, and it can't be cast while the caster is in combat--though the latter two limitations aren't presented in the quick-list of spells.

There's also a Luck spell which restores up to 4 luck, a Levitation spell that allows breif levitation, a Weakness spell to reduce the target's SKILL by 1d6 for 5 minutes, a Sleep spell that targets one creature for 5 minutes, an ESP spell that allows general emotions and feelings to be read for one minute on one target, and a fear spell that causes the single target to flee for two minutes. Those are what the other two guys have.

So far, so good, right? Nothing at this point is really overtly broken...but we'll come back to that once we have the actual character generation rules at hand and look at it again in more detail.

Next time, though, we'll look through the first sample adventure, Tower of the Sorcerer !


Tower of the Sorcerer

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

PurpleXVI posted:

I don't know, this seems pretty powerful. Cuts your chances of being hurt by any attack from a given target down to 1/3rd of what it originally was, and by the description sounds like it triples your potential damage output. That sounds pretty kickass to me, especially against single, tough/boss enemies.

Okay, true, that's one glaring bit of brokenness. It gets worse, though. Waaaay worse.

Let's blaze through and find out how, shall we?


Part Two: Tower of the Sorcerer!

As I was saying in the previous post, the whole first part of Dungeoneer feels like it's really designed for people completely new to roleplaying games and intended to be run as an introduction before the rules are explained. As such, it opens up with a pretty simple plot, and a chunk of read-aloud text--again sticking to the "you're making a movie" comparison, including camera pans in the descriptive text. I'll paraphrase, unless something really fantastic stands out.



It opens up by setting the scene as a forlorn road going through a forest. Along the road a group of soldiers are travelling; at the back there's a richly dressed young man, a grizzled veteran, and a group of people who look like adventurers. In true 80s fantasy movie tradition, some text appears or is narrated to tell us what's going on. It seems that Princess Sarissa of Salamonis (if you recall, a major city-state on Allansia) had been promised in an arranged marriage to prince Barinjhar of Chalice (A not so major city-state) but while she was en route to her wedding she was kidnapped by a sorcerer named Xortan Throg, who dwells within these woods. Desperate to avoid confrontation between Salamonis and Chalice, King Pindar hired some adventurers to go in and rescue the girl.

Then we get a cast list. The rich young man is the aforementioned prince, the grizzled dude is Morval, captain of his guard, and the rest are royal bodyguard, who will be standing around looking worried.

The first scene is largely there for exposition and character setup. Barinjhar and Morval discuss a bit of what happened, mentioning that Throg rode down on a griffin to capture the princess, and that he's been a generally quiet fellow until now, so they're not sure why he's doing this. That information is conveyed in about as chatty a manner as you could imagine, though. It also suggests inviting the players to join the conversation by having the prince ask them questions to get their personalities on display. Eventually, the group pulls up, and they're hushed, and advised of a secret entrance the priests of Chalice were able to divine. They must find the cave entrance, which is simple enough, and then they're sent in alone--the rest of the group is to wait outside and escort the princess home once they've safely rescued her.

Then we get to scene two. The heroes travel into the cave, encounter a cavern that's swarming with goblins, and fight their way through. Here's where the first sign of the really big problems with the system comes up...the monster stats remain unchanged from their Out of the Pit versions. Goblins have SKILL 5 STAMINA 5. This isn't a big deal for the most part with the pregenerated characters, but we'll definitely be coming back to that.

The heroes fight one goblin each at a time, and once they've killed two or three apiece, the goblins fuck off. The rules for combat are pretty much the same as before, with a few important changes: if you have a weapon Special Skill, like Sword or Axe or whatever, you use that in the place of SKILL when rolling Attack Strength, and there's a damage chart similar to what we saw in Riddling Reaver.

(Does anyone want me to go over how the combat works again in full detail, as a refresher?)

In this particular combat, bows can't be used, because of the close quarters.

Anyway, once the goblins fuck off back down their little holes, we proceed onward.

The next scene takes place as the heroes navigate their way up through the traps and such in the tower. I say navigate, but it's really one passageway that they just follow along from encounter to encounter.

First, there's a portcullis that drops down, which handily kills any goblin prisoner that the heroes may have taken to guide them. Otherwise, it requires a Strength check or combining several heroes to lift it enough to get through for those who are caught on the wrong side. It can be avoided by a successful Trap Lore roll, but only the dwarf hero has that.

Next, there's a small flight of stairs, and a turn, and a passage with wooden doors on either side. In each room is a poor, pathetic prisoner whom the wizard Xortan Throg has been experimenting on. They're there to set the scene for how much of a dick the wizard is, and are otherwise just very grateful to be set free, etcetera.

More steps, another corner, another corridor, and there's a hallway dominated by two huge stone hands swinging massive scimitars back and forth in deadly arcs. Getting by this one can be done in a number of ways--the hands drop the scimitars if they're hit by arrows or spells, heroes could try climbing over them, knocking a blade out of the hand while above, or dodging, and the wizard could just levitate over and knock them out of the hands. Getting hit is a 4 STAMINA loss.

Steps, corner, corridor. A door on the side of the corridor is locked and barred from the outside, listeners at the door can hear noises of a large clawed beast, smell the scent of a large animal, and feel a draught from under the door. Inside this room is the Griffin, which has SKILL 12 STAMINA 15, 2 Attacks, and is completely avoidable. It doesn't block their way, and quick-thinking heroes can simply close and re-bar the door if they don't want to fight it. It will, however, fight to the death if they do decide to attack it, and it's tough enough that it could conceivably kill a hero. It has no treasure (would you give YOUR pet jewelry and gold to play with?) and really is just there because we were told that Throg had a Griffin. My verisimilitude?

Steps, corner, corridor, fireball. Massive, slow-moving, illusionary fireball. Shouldn't take too long to figure it out, since it doesn't emit heat and resets its position every time someone pokes their head back around the corner and never actually makes it down the corridor. If that doesn't do it, the wizard character can be told that upkeeping a real fireball like that would be incredibly draining over any amount of time. It's there to keep the goblins from coming further up the tower and irritating Throg.

Stairs, corner, corridor. Another door, same general set up as the Griffin, though no draft. Inside is a Giant Lizard, which has saddle and tack for it on the wall. If they want to avoid a fight they can shut and bar the door again, or treat it like any other trained animal--calm and firm--and it'll respond well an even let them ride it, if they wish. Fighting it is easier than the Griffin, with SKILL 8 STAMINA 9, but again, there's no reward for doing so, and the most profitable solution is to treat it as a mount and then leave it be for now, coming back for it later to ride off with into the sunset.

Stairs, door, scene 4.

Scene four is the tower guardroom. It's inhabited by one orc for every hero, and a slovenly ogre captain. When the heroes arrive, the orcs jeer, and the ogre (Grudthak) complains that they took their time, commenting that if they hurt the Master's pets there'll be hell to pay. The implication that they're expected is meant to be picked up on, and if pressed Grudthak will mockingly confirm that they've been waiting for ages, though doesn't know any more about it. During the first part of the fight, the orcs will attack the group while Grudthak sits at the back, chewing on a leg of goblin, and commentating on the fight, punctuating it by occasionally hurling food at the heroes. (The Props section suggests week old chicken bones if you want to do this to your friends, but adds that there's no reason for you to be as disgusting as the ogre.)

There's a lot of extra junk for this fight, including movement and sneak attacks and throwing props and such at other combatants. Bows, once again, cannot be used--poor Aspen has been fairly gimped for this adventure! The Orcs are SKILL 5 STAMINA 6, Grudthak is SKILL 8 STAMINA 10 2 Attacks and does an extra point of damage with his club (which rolls on the sword table), along with knocking heroes back when they take a hit.

Grudthak only stands up to fight once all the orcs are dead, unless someone finishes their orc early and moves to enter the wizard's chamber. There's also an entrance to the main courtyard of the tower here, but it's empty and the drawbridge is up. The idea is that they're supposed to go back to the fight instead of fucking around with that.

Once the ogre is felled, the wizard's chamber door swings open on its own and a commanding male voice says "Welcome!"

Scene 5 - the Wizard's Chamber

Throg sits on a throne immediately opposite the door, flanked by incense burners. There are doors to either side, and a fireplace on one wall. Throg is an old, nearly bald man in toga-like robes and a skullcap, and speaks quietly but with an air of command. He knows a bunch of spells, but only casts a few during this encounter. He has SKILL 2 STAMINA 6, a Magic skill of 20, and doesn't follow the regular rules for spells costing stamina due to the magic incense burners.

Also, it turns out in this scene that Prince Barinjhar has been working with Throg all along. He has SKILL 11 STAMINA 14 and uses a sword.

So the scene opens with a monologue. Throg does a bit of scenery-munching before-I-kill you, then lets Barinjhar actually do the meat of explaining things. The prince for his part basically explains that he has no interest in Chalice becoming a puppet state of Salamonis, but that they had to make a show of at least trying to rescue the Princess. He also alludes to Throg having reason to hate Salamonis, but doesn't elaborate.

Then there's a fight. The Prince is straightforward and goes towards the toughest looking fight, because he's a dumbass who thinks he's better than everyone. Throg will focus first on deflecting arrows or spells fired at him, which he just fiat-does. If nobody's doing that, he'll fire a forcebolt at any hero who is advancing towards him, which can be dodged with a Test for Luck or Dodge skill roll, otherwise it deals 4 damage and knocks back. He starts out by targeting one hero, and focusing on them, but if anyone else hits him or knocks over one of the incense burners, he changes targets until distracted again. He will otherwise never change targets. Every time he casts a spell, the incense burners flare up on either side of him. He can't deflect missiles or spells aimed at them. If one is knocked over, he loses his deflection of spells and his force bolts don't do any damage, though they still knock back. If both burners are knocked over, he's stuck fighting with his fingernails, which theoretically do damage as a dagger but he will, with SKILL 2, never, ever, ever land a blow.

If somehow there's only one hero left at this point, the book says to have Princess Sarissa slip her bonds, sneak out behind Throg--who will sit and watch while Barinjhar fights the hero--and drop a heavy vase on Throg's head to end the fight without killing the entire party. Otherwise, she's found tied up.

The two doors lead to Throg's study and the bedroom where Princess Sarissa has been bound. She'll point out the obvious (they can't go back to Chalice after killing the prince) and note that Salamonis is richer and likely to be even more grateful that she's alive, so they'll still get paid. She also overheard Barinjhar telling Throg that his men were waiting outside in the event of the heroes escaping, and that they'll have to make their way out the same way they came in. She'll refuse any advances of a romantic or otherwise improper nature, though she is grateful for the rescue. She'll also refuse to ride the giant lizard. The only thing of note in the study are a collection of ancient vases, which Sarissa (should she be free at this point) will observe are from a place called Carsepolis, though she didn't pay enough attention to her history tutors to know much more. There's no treasure.

Once everyone goes back into the main room, Throg's face appears in the fire, the body of the wizard vanishes, and Throg gloats that he's alive and that was a simulacrum the heroes just beat, and that he will be planning his revenge.

And that's the first sample adventure. The second follows the rules, is much more in depth, and continues the story. It's a reasonably simple adventure, with a half-decent hook to get the players ready to go after the wizard again, and a pretty good introduction to the game.

Now, though, let's look at...

The Rules

Okay. SKILL, STAMINA, and LUCK, generated the same way as before. 1d6+6, 2d6+12, 1d6+6. They do the same things as they did previously.

As we've now seen, there are now Special Skills, as well, which replace SKILL in any case where they're applicable. Starting heroes get a number of points to spend on Special Skills equal to their Initial SKILL, which they can assign to any skill they like, between 1 and 4 points to start. They then add their current SKILL to their Special Skill score to calculate the total. The Magic Special Skill works slightly differently, in that each point of Magic taken reduces Initial SKILL by one (though for the purposes of Special Skill assignment this doesn't reduce the total available points.)

So, let's get some sample characters rolled up.

First, let's start with Dopey. Dopey rolled a SKILL of 8, a STAMINA of 17, and a LUCK of 8. Not a very good set of rolls, but whatever. Dopey has 8 points to spend on Special Skills. We COULD make him a wizard, but that would cost him a bit much into his already low SKILL score. Instead, we'll call him a bit of a cowardly thief type, since his SKILL's not really super high.

Let's look at the available Special Skills:

pre:
COMBAT
Axe    Dagger    Pole Arm     Spear     Sword     Two-Handed Sword 
Other Weapon     Bow          Crossbow  Javelin   Throwing Dagger
Strength         Unarmed Combat

MOVEMENT
Climb  Dodge     Jump         Ride      Swim

STEALTH
Awareness        Dark Seeing  Hide      Lock Picking
Sleight of Hand  Sneak        Trap Knowledge

LEARNING
Con    Etiquette Languages    Magic     Sea Lore   Underground Lore
Wood Lore        World Lore
Most of the skills are pretty self-explanatory. Dark-Seeing cannot be purchased after character creation, but can be increased.

So with only 8 points to spend for Dopey, we need to prioritize. We'll call Dopey a sneaky pickpocket rather than a second-story man--a thug at best. We can spend 2 points each on Dagger, Sleight of Hand, Con, and Sneak , giving him the following rundown:
Dopey
SKILL 8 STAMINA 17 LUCK 8
Special Skills
Dagger 10
Sleight of Hand 10
Con 10
Sneak 10

Okay, so he's got a decent chance of surviving if he actually does get in a fight, with a weapon skill of 10, and he can pick a pocket with a reasonable chance, and talk his way out of a tough situation with his Con skill. Not bad, right?

So let's look at Dopey's buddy Lucky, who rolls a bit better:

SKILL 12 STAMINA 18 LUCK 10

Lucky didn't do great on the STAMINA or LUCk, but his SKILL stat is great. He gets 12 points to spend, so let's go all out and make him a bold hero, spending a full 4 points on his Sword skill. We'll also make him a bit of a jack of all trades, with 1 point each in Strength, Awareness, Ride, Climb, Languages, World Lore, Etiquette, and Bow to represent a well-spoken and well-travelled hero. His final rundown looks like this:

SKILL 12 STAMINA 18 LUCK 10
Sword 16
Bow 13
Strength 13
Awareness 13
Ride 13
Climb 13
Languages 13
World Lore 13
Etiquette 13

So not only does Lucky have a fantastic Sword skill of 16, he's got a much broader base of skills which he can have trained than poor Dopey. Furthermore, he's inherently better at literally everything than Dopey is--Dopey's maximum starting value in a Special Skill would put him on par with Lucky's worst day. Hell, Lucky could have dipped into Magic for a couple of points, getting 6 points worth of starting spells without making him worse than Dopey at anything, as currently built--remember, if you don't have the Special Skill, you just use your base SKILL score.

Making matters worse is the fact that the monsters are all assuming a hero skill range of 7-12. A goblin with SKILL 5 is literally incapable of hitting Lucky if he's using a sword, barring Lucky fumbling--and that would still need the goblin to land a critical hit. Even Dopey could be a pretty deadly beast, if he spent four points in his weapon skill and only one point in each other--he'd get a better variety of skills, to boot.

The sample characters aren't built with these sorts of numbers. The highest total weapon skill any of them has is a 13, with most being between 10 and 12 for their primary weapons. I wonder sometimes whether Gascoigne and Tamlyn actually played with characters who did maximize their combat stats, but certain comments in the text make me believe otherwise--I'll highlight these when we come to them.

Anyway, that's the primary way the system is broken, and that's without even starting to look at spells. I'll go into more detail on that and the rest of the rules next time, since this post feels long enough as it is.

Character-Men

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Vampire periods aren't something I want to think about, so I'm going to talk about

instead.

Okay. Last time I talked a bit about the basics of character creation. Quick recap, roll 1d6+6 for SKILL, 2d6+12 for STAMINA, and 1d6+6 for LUCK. Your SKILL stat is your base stat to check for doing anything you don't have a Special Skill in, as well as being your base to which you add your Special Skill points and the number of Special Skill points you get to spend. You can take up to 4 points in any Special Skill at character creation. A character who rolls a 7 SKILL can be not-useless in combat, which is good, but will still not be as good at anything, ever, as a guy with 12 SKILL is at everything, even before training, so it's kind of a shitty imbalanced system that way.

Taking Magic drops your initial SKILL by 1 per point, except you don't lose any of your starting Special Skill point allotment by doing this. Each point of Magic you take gets you spells of 3 STAMINA cost. You can't take spells with a STAMINA cost higher than 4 as a starting hero.

Stuff I didn't get to last time: Playing an elf! Take at least one point of Magic , Wood Lore , and Bow . Poof, you're an elf. If you want.

Playing a dwarf! Underground Lore, Dark Seeing, and Axe .

Special Skills are mostly self-explanatory. A few have special rules. Dark Seeing can only be added to a character at creation, but can be improved with experience. Strength automatically adds one damage to non-ranged combat regardless of how high your skill in it is. And then, Magic.

Magic is weird. As long as you or someone in the party has access to the Stamina spell, you can pretty much expect to continue being able to cast indefinitely in a given day, with a certain caveat that I'll come to in a bit. Most of the basic spells, I've either gone over previously or are self explanatory, but...

pre:
Spell       Cost              Effect     
Darkness     1     Creates 5 meter circle of magical darkness for 3 min.
Fear         1     Causes target to flee for 2 min.
Fire Bolt    1     1d6 damage unless target passes Dodge/Luck test
Illusion     1     Fools one target for 3 min or till disproven.
Light        1     Light as torch, 15 min or till cancelled/Darkness
Lock         1     Magically locks chest/door tillOpen or Lock
                          spell cast on it.
Luck         1     Restores 4 LUCK, up to Initial.  Not in combat.
Open         1     Opens lock, counters Lock
Skill        1     Restores 4 SKILL, as Luck spell.
Stamina      1     Restores 6 STAMINA, as Luck spell. Cost 
                          deducted after.
Strength     1     Grants Troll's strength for 1 task/1 minute.
Ward         1     Deflects one arrow/spear/thrown weapon aimed at caster.
Weakness     1     Reduce target's SKILL by 1d6 for 5 minutes.

Counterspell 2*    Counters target spell. Cost= 1+[Cost of Countered Spell]
                          Magic skill reduced by cost of incoming spell.
ESP          2     Read feelings, emotions, be Troi for 1 min.
Farseeing    2     See as through binoculars, up to 5km, 10 min or cancelled
Force Bolt   2     1d6 damage, only stopped by Counterspell or 
                          Wall
Languages    2     Grants temporary skill of 12 in Languages for  
                          speaking only.  No duration listed.
Levitate     2     Levitates target (or self) up and down only, 5 min.  
                          After 5 min target falls slowly to ground.
Mirror Selves 2    1 target thinks caster 3 people, 3 min.  All 3 can attack
Sleep        2     KOs one target, 5 min.  Wakes immediately on injury.

All Heal     4     Completely restores target's SKILL, STAMINA, LUCK.
                           Cost deducted after if cast on self.
Arrow-Snake  4     Turns one notched arrow into a snake, does 4 damage.
Find         4     Finds direction towards any physical object.
                          Does not specify distance, can be general.
Fly          4     Fly for 5 min.
Grand Illusion 4   As Illusion, affects number of targets up to  
                          Magic score.
Grow         4     Enlarges target to 150% normal size, 3 min.  Doesn't
                          affect target's gear.  No stat changes listed.
Invisibility 4     One target invisible, 3 minutes.  Doesn't affect gear.
Restrain     4     Holds target in spot, able to breathe and move eyes, 
                          nothing more.  3 minutes.  Objects up to 3m^3 can be 
                          affected.
Shrink       4     Exact opposite of Grow spell.
Speak to Animals 4  Speak to animals.  They're not smart.  10 minutes.
Wall         4     Creates wall 5m around target 5 min, completely 
                          impenetrable from outside.  Fails if touched within.
Banish Undead 6    Destroys one undead.  Can be used on corpse to prevent
                           being raised. Costs as per Raise Skeleton for
                           different undead types.
Cockroach     6    Polymorph one target on failed Test for Luck.
Petrify       6    Turns one target to stone on failed Luck test.
                          Target loses 1 STAMINA every 2 rounds till fully stone,
                          starting at feet.  Reversed by Counterspell or
                          killing caster before victim dies.
Raise Skeleton 6   Raises 1 corpse as skeleton.  Other undead cost more.
Teleport      6    Teleport caster + contents of hands (can include person)
                          up to 10km radius.  
Death         10   Kills one target.  Caster ages 1 year.
So that's spells.

Combat?

Same as in the original Fighting Fantasy, mostly.

Double-ones are a Fumble.
-If the attack would have hit anyway, it draws
-If the attack would have been a draw, it misses
-If the attack would have hit, damage roll increased by 1 on the table.

The damage table shows results for rolls of 2-7+, and has a bunch more weapons, the nastiest of which is the two-handed sword, which is 2 2 2 3 3 3 4, or for creatures, the very large claw/bite, which is 2 2 3 3 4 5 6. I'll not reproduce the table in its totality here, mostly because it's not that interesting.

Double-six automatically hits, and if would have hit normally, counts as Mighty Blow. Mighty Blow = instant reduction to -1 STAMINA (mortally wounded for Heroes, dead for monsters/NPCs.) If both combatants get double-six, they break each other's weapons.

Ranged combat is done as though making non-combat skill tests, with heavy penalties applied for firing into melee. Hooray for consistent resolution mechanics! For non-combat checks, you roll 2d6 and try to get under your appropriate Special Skill or SKILL if you don't have one. Double 1 always succeeds, double 6 always fails--in some cases spectacularly. Let's have a look at the Oops! table for rolling double-6 on a Magic roll, shall we?

Normally when you fail a spell check, the spell either fails to go off or affects you instead, whichever is funnier. When you roll a double 6 on a Magic check, though, you roll 3d6 and check the Oops! table.

Oops!
3 - Caster becomes a toad. Ribbit.
4 - Caster de-ages by 25 years. This could result in infancy, or just being a very small child.
5 - A small shoal of herring materialize over the caster's head and for five meters around him.
6 - Suddenly the caster can only communicate in a bizarre and incomprehensible gibberish language that not even the Languages skill can make sense of.
7 - Permanent hiccups (-4 to further spellcasting)
8 - Caster grows a "not unattractive" tail.
9 - Every gold piece the caster owns turns into a butterfly and flies away.
10 - A surprised Orc (SKILL 7 STAMINA 8) appears beside the caster.
11 - Caster's hair turns bright blue.
12 - Casters footwear catches fire.
13 - Caster grows goat horns
14 - Dead Giant Squid materializes in the air over another party member.
15 - Caster's hair grows quickly, uncontrollably, and won't stop.
16 - All weapons of everyone in the room turn into flowers.
17 - Caster genderswaps.
18 - A puff of smoke, and a pair of smoking boots, is all that remains of the caster.

The book suggests that depending on the result, some of these results could be countered with a very powerful counterspell or some other divine intervention. Some of them are goofy fun, some of them can be debilitating or concept-shattering, and at least three are likely to remove the character from play entirely. Yay?

Oh, also: learning new spells is up to the Director alone, as for availability and how it works.

Most of the rest of the rules chapter is just modifiers for various circumstances and various rolls, and really uninteresting.

So next time we'll check out the other adventure in the book!

Adventures

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post



Oh hey I wasn't finished this stuff yet, was I.

Ahem.

I had a bunch of stuff typed up and then A Thing happened and I had to reboot my computer and when I reopened it the stuff I'd typed up had been replaced by puppies and rainbows or something I don't even know.

Anyway, we're getting into the second pre-gen adventure. The book's got advice for players and GMs before we get into it, which amounts to "have fun, don't be adversarial, don't try to avoid adventure, and have fun."

Then there's a big section about prep and starting up. The adventure assumes a direct followup from the Tower of the Sorcerer adventure, but hey, we can just assume that the characters the players have now rolled up on their own are the same guys who went in to rescue Princess Sarissa, instead of the pregens. There's also a crossover possibility with one of the game books, City of Thieves , which saw a hero going to Port Blacksand to find out how to slay the evil wizard Zanbar Bone, which involved Hags Hair, Lotus Flower, Black Pearl, a ridiculous forehead tattoo, and a silver arrow, I believe. Well, two of the three components above, anyway--I wouldn't want to spoil. If someone wants to play as the dude from that book, he (or she) still has the ridiculous forehead tattoo, but knows his way around Blacksand already and has met Nicodemus.

In case it's not obvious, we're going to Blacksand.

So the scene opens up in the court of King Salamon. The heroes (and the Princess) are explaining what happened at Xortan Throg's tower, with the Princess there to tone down any overt exaggerations about how heroic anyone was. The King decides, hey this Throg guy clearly has a hate-on for us, evil wizards are bad mojo. Don't suppose you folks are willing to go after him for us? Also, here's five hundred gold each for the last job, oho I'll send the bill to the King of Chalice whose son you murdered for being an evil shithead. Go talk to Nicodemus in Blacksand, he's a wizard but a good one and maybe he can help us find this Throg guy and stop him. And by us I mean you.

So our heroes agree to this, and if one of them for some reason has a ridiculous forehead tattoo and raises the point that he (or she) is known in Blacksand and possibly wanted for slaughtering a guard, and realizes that a ridiculous forehead tattoo (it's of a unicorn's head on a golden sun, for the record) is going to make them incredibly recognizable, and thinks to ask if there's anything they can do to remove it, then the priest of Asrel (or Usrel, I forget which of them) lays on hands and removes the stupid thing. Otherwise, the hero is stuck with their questionable facial decoration, and all the problems it brings down the line.

And that's the only chance they get to remove it. After that, we're on the road! Which is dull, so they get to Blacksand and there's a scene with a couple of troll guards.

The scene with the troll guards is repeated every time these prewritten adventures bring us to Blacksand. It's not really all that variable, nor is it all that interesting, but Gascoigne seemed to enjoy getting a chance to rile his players up by having the trolls be ridiculous dicks and demanding arbitrary made up passes that cost extra gold or singling out dwarves to cause problems (or doing both at once by demanding that a "short tax" be paid before entry.) They have stats for if you want to fight them, but if you do that you end up losing more money and getting the attention of the captain of the guard, who's not very nice. Then the trolls eventually let the heroes through.

For all that I enjoy this adventure, by the way, it is very much an on-rails experience. There's a very clear progression from scene to scene, and the heroes really only get to choose how they're acting in any given situation, rather than directing the path they'll ultimately take. Each scene has a lot of things that the players can do or fool around with, but ultimately the only place that the adventure is going to head is onto the next scene in the sequence. I'm not sure if I like this or hate it--you don't have any real freedom in where you're going, but what you do on the way and how you get there is pretty open.

Anyway, the next stop is an inn off the main market square, where the heroes are to meet their contact Halim Thrumbar, ditch the wagons they've been using to pose as merchants, and get info on where exactly to find Nicodemus. (Assuming the hero from City of Thieves doesn't already know, but in either case, still the wagons need to be ditched.) While in the inn, have some drinks, play some gambling games, cheat at gambling, maybe engage in a bit of brawling or other such lollygagging, it's all good. I mean, there's no point in being a tourist in Port Blacksand if you don't go on all the rides, right?

Whenever the party gets bored of the inn (or gets thrown out or chased out just ahead of the guards) they can head to visit Nicodemus. Nicodemus lives under a bridge, and isn't generally thrilled about visitors wasting his time on inconsequential nonsense. Fortunately they're there on royal business and have like, all sorts of consequential nonsense to waste his time with, so he doesn't turn anyone into anything permanent. He doesn't know of any special way to kill Throg or any special nonsense, unlike with Zanbar Bone--Throg's clever enough to realize that when you make yourself vulnerable only to a hero with a silver arrow coated in ground up Black Pearl, Lotus Flower, and Hag's Hair, who has a tattoo of a silver unicorn against a golden sun prominently displayed on their forehead, a series of heroes so arrayed is going to show up at your damn door and you'll be not long for this world.

Nicodemus DOES know where Throg can be found, though. Conveniently, it's right there in Blacksand! As it turns out, the guy's got a boner for Carsepolian history. Remember when we were flipping through Titan and I mentioned that Blacksand is built on the ruins of Carsepolis? Nicodemus does! So does Throg! What this means is that good old Throggypants is living in the sewers of Port Blacksand, because they are the streets of Carsepolis. Yay!

Nicodemus doesn't have any potions or magic items to hand out--too tempting for his neighbors to try to rob him if he did. He will heal up anyone who's polite, but at this point there's not a lot of chances having happened for serious injury, especially if the PCs kept their heads down at the gates. He knows about the history of Carsepolis, that Throg isn't especially invulnerable, and where (roughly) to find the man, and a lot of stuff that's really not relevant. He won't teach anyone any spells, either. He also encourages the PCs to get a move on, since the longer they're dawdling around town the more likely Throg is to learn that they're there and prepare for their arrival.

Of course, entry into the sewers is illegal, so have a bunch of encounters in town until the evening, if the heroes don't want to hang around with Nicodemus until dusk. Random arbitrary passes costing random amounts of gold demanded by guards, short jokes about dwarven party members by passing trolls, pickpockets, shady merchants, and the like. Whatever floats your boat.

Speaking of floating boats, it's the harbor where the easiest entrance into the sewers can be found, and while there our glorious heroes spot a group of pirates lugging a couple of chests being led into the sewers by some fishmen. They then spot another similar group of pirates coming up the way. There's a few ways this can play out--the heroes could kill the pirates and impersonate them, or they could kill the pirates and go it alone, or they could sneak in behind the whole bunch. Whatever works.

The sewers stink. Anyone inside them gets a -1 to their SKILL and all special skills. One of the possible streets of Blacksand encounters, though, is GARDY-LOO! which ends up getting one of the PCs soaked in shit for the same effect earlier on, which negates the penalty in the sewers for that hero on account of he's used to it by then. There's an encounter with a giant centipede, which again has different possibilities depending on how the heroes handled the pirates--if they're being escorted by fishmen while impersonating pirates, the fishmen get them through. If they're not, they have to fight it or use the same trick the fishmen used to get through (which they may have seen if they're sneaking in.) It's not interesting.

Here's where it gets especially railroady--if the group isn't being escorted by fishmen, they get captured by fishmen in an unavoidable ambush. "There is no chance of detecting it in advance or avoiding it", the book tells us about the net that falls on the group. It doesn't matter much, though, because aside from the fishmen telling the group they're being brought to "the wizard", they don't do much to hurt them, and they fuck off in the next scene anyway.

Because there's a ghost, you see. One way or another, the fishmen--captors or guides--panic and run off, and the heroes get to talk to the ghost, a friendly sort of fellow who is a former Carsepolian high priest of a god named Elim, who wants something from the heroes.

Elim got brought up in passing in a sidebar in Titan. His name means "Dark." It takes a World Lore special skill check at -5 to remember that, for the heroes, though. Sargon refuses to talk about it.

What Sargon WILL talk about, though, is how he can be freed from his eternal torment as a ghost. Turns out there was a Crystal of Power that can be used to break his curse, that resided in ancient Carsepolis. It was thrown into the sea, but the Fishmen recovered it and brought it to their temple. Sargon wants the heroes to bring it to him. He also knows about Throg, who he is unimpressed by, but promises that the crystal will be of great use in defeating. He can also explain what Throg's problem with Salamonis is and why the obsession with Carsepolis--Throg believes himself to be a descendant of the Carsepolan royal family. (He is, but only because a prince dallied with a serving girl.) As such, he views Salamonis' power on the continent a usurpation of the former kingdom of Carsepolis, and yearns to crush them beneath his wizardly boot.

Sargon will direct the party to the Temple of Hydana where the fishmen have the crystal. If they want to wander around or ignore him, there's a maze-like sewer map they can explore, but haha good luck. Throg's lair lies past a section of sewer with no walkway, and the muck is shoulder-high (or forehead-high for a dwarf.) They might stumble on the temple on their own. There's a bunch of random encounters listed too. Nothing exciting.

The temple has a bunch of fishmen, who keep it clean using seawater they bring in from outside Blacksand, and on the altar there's the Crystal of Power, an old magic sword (that will give +2 to Sword or SKILL while using it in combat, but unless it's somehow restored, will break from being rusty the first time it's used) and some goblets and other holy treasures. There's also a secret door that leads up to the cellars of the Mermaid tavern in the temple. Heroes can kill the fishmen, take the crystal, and the sword, with no trouble. If they take any of the other treasure, Hydana gets pissed off and starts flooding the temple (the doors jam) until they put it down, and more fishmen appear. Easy enough to deal with. If they find the secret door to the Mermaid tavern, and go upstairs, they find themselves in a cellar with pub noises above--which is to say, there's a brawl going on. If they want they can join in, but there's the City Guards coming too, and after that they still have Throg to deal with, so it's back into the sewers anyway.

Yay.

So Sargon, once they bring the crystal back, touches it, returns to life, gives them directions to Throg's lair and explains that it can be used to reflect a spell back on its caster. All they need to do, he explains, is talk Throg into casting the Death spell, reflect it with the crystal, and Bob's their uncle. He warns them that if they do this, they should get out of there with the crystal, too, because Throg will be turned into a spirit doomed to haunt the sewers of Carsepolis, unless he touches the crystal at which point he'll come back to life. Sargon will also, if people have been polite, restore the magic sword from the temple.

With that, Sargon, high priest of Elim, god of the Dark, wanders off whistling a merry tune. Unless someone points out that hey, does that mean YOU cast a Death spell at someone carrying this thing? At which point he looks annoyed, admits that yes, that's what happened, but hey, let's let bygones be bygones, shall we? (Actually he uses a magic darkness spell and vanishes, rather than sauntering off.)

On to Throg's lair! Good old Throggy's been busy raising an army of skeletal warriors. These bad boys are Skill 9, Stamina 10, there's one shy of double the number of heroes, and they only take one point of damage from edged weapons unless the heroes specifically use the flat of the blade. They're immune to spells like Weakness or Sleep or Fear. They attack in organized ranks, single-file, though, so it's not a total brawl--one hero fights one skeleton at a time. When they finish these guys off, they may be relieved...but side doors open, and a new batch of skeletons starts marching in to meet them. Onward it is, through the double doors ahead...

To meet the Skeletal T-Rex. This fucker's a mean fighting machine. SKILL 12 STAMINA 25 3 attacks very large bite and all the same special rules apply from the skeleton guards outside. This is gonna be the fight of the campaign, right here. The adventure suggests the very real possibility that this is going to wipe the party, especially if there's only one or two heroes left alive by now.

Bear in mind, though...even moderately skilled heroes, built well, have a decent chance of having 12 in their given weapon skill. Having already handled skeletons outside, they know full well the tricks they need to do to inflict normal damage against this thing. Loss of the Weakness spell is probably the meanest part of this fight, since it would otherwise trivialize it. As a T-rex, the thing is bigger than the Restrain spell can handle, too.

(As an experiment, I rolled up party of five characters on break at work, built to take more advantage of the system than the pregenerated ones did. If anyone's interested, I can use this encounter with those heroes as a demonstration of just how broken the system is overall, but I'm not sure how interested anyone is in seeing that.)


When the monstrosity finally falls, the battered survivors can head onward to Throg himself. If they've been paying attention and follow instructions, they get to listen to him gloat a bit then watch him die horribly to his own spell.

Otherwise, he's SKILL 10, STAMINA 28, and three rounds advance away. He has to use his STAMINA for spells this time, though. Anyone using a bow, he'll Arrow-Snake. Anyone throwing stuff at him he reflects it back. If anyone advances, he casts Petrify on them. Those who get within one round of him, he casts Death on. Doing this the hard way (without the Crystal) is possible simply through attrition, but you're likely to lose two or three heroes in the process, and while we've discovered that reviving the dead is a possibility in this setting, it's really not that common a thing that it should be relied on. With three rounds of advancement, he'll Petrify two heroes, and then Death a third, and still have 6 STAMINA remaining to go against the fourth in melee. He'll die, sure, but...well, since the choo choo nature of the adventure makes it really, really difficult to get this far without having the crystal and the explanation of how to use it to Win The Game, I'm not sure why anyone would choose to waste lives doing it Hard Mode.

And then...that's it. The end. The heroes get 500 gold reward from the king, there's about 300 gold worth of treasure in Throg's coffers per hero, and so on.
As for the Crystal of Power, either Nicodemus or King Salamon can suggest the heroes hand it over for safekeeping, leading to possible further adventures...

There's several suggestions for followup adventure possibilities, including a romance with Princess Sarissa (hey we can become knights and press suit!) or yet another encounter with Xortan Throg's angry ghost, or clearing out the sewers, or hey remember that Zanbar Bone guy I mentioned well maybe HE'S back. And what about that Sargon guy, what's his story...?

Actually that last one, we get more info on in the next two books of Advanced Fighting Fantasy. When we get to them. Which will be soon, because beyond this the only stuff left in Dungeoneer is advancement rules and bookkeeping stuff, which I'll cover next time. Which won't be as long a delay as it was to get around to this adventure...Probably.

Experience Points

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post


The last post about this book!

Since there were no requests or comments about seeing how an optimized party handles the ridiculous skeletal t-rex encounter, I'll just move along with the remainder of the Dungeoneer contents.

Experience! The DM--sorry, Director--is told to give a rating of 1-3 to each of the following categories at the end of each adventure (not session):
Mission Success - Did the heroes succeed?
Casualties - How many of the heroes died? Score low if it's high numbers of deaths.
Heroism - Were the characters heroic?
Role-playing - Did the player role-play well?

Then divide the total by four for an average, and that's how many experience points the player gets. 1-3 per adventure concluded. Not a brilliantly quick rate of acquisition, let's see how it gets applied...

Increasing initial SKILL costs 10 experience and a full month of training.
Increasing Special Skills is a bit more complicated. Increasing a known Special Skill (from above 4 points) is 1 point of experience and a week of practice. Learning a new Special Skill (up to four points) costs 2 experience and 250 gold per point to pay for someone to teach you. After the first 4 points, the hero has to have an adventure before increasing the Special Skill further.

Certain skills can't be learned or improved by experience. Dark Seeing is the example they give.

Spells! Spells cost one experience and 250 gold per point of STAMINA they cost. Learning a spell that costs six or more STAMINA is difficult, as qualified teachers are few and far between. The first time casting a new spell is done at -1 Magic skill.

After this section, the book discusses running campaigns and costs of normal goods etc. It also discusses how to keep advanced players in the game, such as inflicting a crippling disease on their character to bring them down to lower skill levels AND act as a story hook!
Right, that's going to go over well.

Some simple rules for crafting items, and some simple rules for if a PC wants to be a skill trainer...then DM advice. Running an adventure, nothing special here, a very truncated bestiary in case you don't have Out of the Pit for some reason, and a treasure table.

And then the pregenerated sample characters, who already got discussed, kinda. And that's it. That's Dungeoneer . Next book in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system is Blacksand, which is a smattering of new rules and a sequel adventure! Who's excited?

Blacksand!

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

I don't feel nearly ambitious enough to get an image of the title off the book's cover for this one so it's back to bold-face titles with

Blacksand!
Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Book 2

This book is a mixed bag. It's divided into four sections: New rules, guidelines for creating and running urban environments and adventures, a street-by-street detail on Port Blackand, and an adventure sequel to the ones in Dungeoneer that takes up at least a third of the book.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be skipping the street-by-street rundown of Port Blacksand, or at least skimming it for highlights at most.

First, new Special Skills! I'm just going to list these, with comments only where

Animal Lore
Bargain Can be used with Con , but represents honest barter
Bird Lore
Battle Tactics For use in mass battles--more on this to come in Book 3.
City Lore
Disguise
Law Now you can play your courtroom scenes!
Minor Magic More on this in a few moments
Pacify Calm that raging bull!
Secret Signs Taken by organization, can learn multiple groups. Limited in scope depending on the purpose of the organization.
(Subject) Lore Literally covers any subject. There's an NPC in the third book with Fish Lore at 16 or something.

Magic gets expanded, with reversing spells (costs 1 extra STAMINA at 4 or less, 2 extra at 6 or more.) Can be used as a specific counter, or to produce the opposite effect--you can now use Light spells to create darkness, or vice versa, though they have the duration and limitations of the original spell, so Darkness cast reversed only lasts 3 minutes, as opposed to 15. There's a bunch of spells, including Skill, Stamina, Luck, Force Bolt, Fire Bolt, Levitate, All Heal and a few others, that simply can't be cast for reverse effect, though they will counter someone else casting them. A couple of spells (like Light) that have existing counterparts have special notes (Light only works for 3 minutes in reverse, like the normal Darkness spell.) Reversing the Death spell ages the caster a full year, just as the normal version does, costs 12 STAMINA, and the subject may still be so badly wounded as to immediately die again, but it does put ressing on the table as an option, if someone can be found to cast it.

Also new to magic are several new spells, along with Priestly Magic, an option selected at character creation to allow access to a different spell list.

New wizard spells:

1 STAMINA Spells

Flash! - Yes the exclamation point is part of the name. It causes a blinding flash of light. Test for Luck to avoid being blinded for 1-6 minutes, if you're not expecting the spell.

Peace calms down two targets, can be resisted with Test for Luck and strongly aggressive action breaks it. Two additional targets can be added for each 1 STAMINA added to the spell cost.

Personalize Spell Technically a +1 STAMINA spell, this lets you modify what your stock spells look like. Want your Fire Bolt to look like a flaming golden dagger striking the foe? Spend an extra STAMINA to get the effect. Major effects can add more STAMINA to the cost of the spell, up to 6 points. I love and hate this spell--it's an awesome touch to have it in the game, but the added cost makes it pretty dumb to actually use.

Thunder is like Flash! but with noise, down to resisting with Luck tests to avoid being deafened. They can be cast together as a single spell requiring a single roll for 2 STAMINA, to make an impressive entrance.

2 STAMINA Spells

Fog is like Darkness, but covers a larger area, lasts longer, and creates fog instead of darkness. Thus the name.

Starry Orb creates a glowing ball that hypnotizes animals and things with up to Average intelligence (humans and most humanoids have High intelligence) 4 times in 6. High intelligence creatures get to test either LUCK or SKILL (target's choice) to avoid it. Lasts 3 minutes, can be recast.

Strong Arm is Sure Shot but for melee--raises the appropriate Skill by 2 for ten minutes.

Sure Shot is listed after Strong Arm, which references it. Guess what it does?

4 STAMINA Spells

Poison turns a small amount of food or liquid into deadly poison. Can be used with the Fog spell to create poison gas. If the caster is touching a target's bare flesh, he can deliver the poison directly, resisted with a Luck test. The poison does (2+STAMINA spent casting the spell) damage.

6 STAMINA Spells

Enchant Item allows spells to be cast into an item and stored there. It actually costs a lot of money, plus it takes 6 STAMINA plus the cost of the spell being cast three times into the item, over a period of days equal to the total STAMINA cost of the operation. Furthermore, there's no actual explanation on how such enchanted items work, what this allows them to do, or how the spell selection matters, nor on how many charges they would get...this spell is butts and meant for NPCs. Probably listed with such a ridiculously unwieldy cost to head off PC questions about "Can I make an enchanted sword?"

Hurricane creates a hurricane. Lasts 5 minutes, covers up to 30 meters around the caster, smashes shit, throws people off their feet on a failed SKILL or LUCK test, does 1-3 damage if it does, and generally makes a mess. Not a very damage-y spell, and since it targets allies and everything else in the area, not all that useful for your average adventuring wizard, but you never know?

See Future lets you catch a glimpse of the future, and is supposed to be vague and/or disallowed entirely.

Web is a 5 meter area Restrain that can be recast before it runs out and broken with Strength special skill.

8 STAMINA Spells

Assassin's Dagger creates a floating magical hand holding a dagger that slowly but inevitably seeks out its target. It has SKILL 10, cannot be destroyed, can be held only temporarily, and can never be escaped short of someone managing a banishing spell on it for 9 STAMINA. Otherwise, it's Death but without the instantaneousness and without the sacrifice. Also, pretty much never going to be a heroic spell to cast.

Earthquake creates an earthquake. Actually causes fissures to open up--anyone in the area except the caster has to pass a SKILL check and a LUCK test or fall into a crack in the ground. Nasty shit. Wrecks buildings. Range can be extended for extra STAMINA.

Okay, so next, it's Minor Magic. Minor Magic doesn't affect your Initial SKILL to take, grants a number of spells equal to your LUCK score, and only costs STAMINA when you fail to cast. There's no Oops! table, a double-six just gives a dramatic misfire. The spells are pretty simple:

Attraction - Burn - Cool - Enhance - Extinguish - Glimmer - Hear - Heat - Hold - Honesty - Instil - Jab - Mend - Mistake - Pied Piper - Pucker - Push - Repulsion - Slip - Sour - Spark - Weather Improver

Attraction is your average love spell, Repulsion its opposite. Lasts about an hour.
Burn acts like a candleflame being held under something.
Cool and Heat are personal climate control, or can be used to reheat food and cool your ale.
Enhance makes something look better than it is--a rotten apple looks shiny and succulent, a battered lamp looks brand new, etc.
Extinguish puts out fires.
Glimmer creates a dim glow, like a nightlight.
Hear is for eavesdropping.
Instil allows you to cast another Minor Magic spell into a drink or food. Hey hey, instant love potions...or instant chill potions for those hot days. Lasts 1-3 days.
Hold acts like superglue for 30 seconds.
Honesty makes a liar own up to a single lie or cheat.
Mend patches cloaks and other simple holes, but nothing major.
Mistake causes the victim to make a single small mistake.
Pied Piper summons a small swarm of vermin.
Pucker causes someone's face to pucker uncontrollably.
Push is what it sounds like, dangerous near piles of compost, riverbanks, or cliffs.
Slip merely causes someone to banana-peel slip.
Sour ruins a single container of food or drink. Stomach-aches, nothing serious.
Jab pokes someone sharply.
Spark creates a small spark. Both of these are good for surprising someone, or getting their attention, but not much damage.
Weather Improver is actually a spell that allows the caster to converse with passing bonobos. It's named Weather Improver just to fuck with people.

I made that last bit up. It improves the weather.

I'm really bored of listing spells right now, so I'll take up again in another post, where I'll run through Priestly Magic.


Priest Magic

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Blacksand!
Advanced Fighting Fantasy Book 2

Priest Magic

So last time I promised a look at priestly magic. Here's how priestly magic differs from non-priestly, non-minor magic:

Priests have a different spell list, and anyone who has priestly magic is a priest.

That's it. Otherwise, it's identical, down to the Oops! table.
Okay, so there's a slight difference in that you have to pick a god, and the god you pick determines some of your available spells, but really that's just spell list again.

Some of the spells are even identical to the wizardly counterparts. You have things like Skill, Stamina, Luck, and All-Heal, for example, that are duplicated.

There's a list of gods, and what they do and don't teach. Because this is applicable to both heroes and villains (or Bad Guys as the book terms them) they include such gods as Death and Decay alongside the expected ones like Courga, Glantanka, and Throff. Ultimately these are the same gods I went over when I covered Titan , so I'm not going over them again in detail here. Each god has an entry like the following:

Blacksand! posted:

Hamaskis -- Also called: Serion, Tyralar. Appearance: Old man or fresh-faced youth with huge open book. Special concern: Learning and Sorcery. Side: Good. Symbol: Staff. Sacred colour: Purple. Temple: Library. Adventuring priests?: Yes.

Adventuring Priests is always either "Rarely" or "Yes", sometimes with notes (Throff's says Yes: Dwarves.) Some entries list spells they don't teach, or have notes about the deity and their relation to other deities.

A priest spell list! Spells in italics are identical to their wizard counterparts.

1 STAMINA Spells

Bless - +2 to Luck or a single Special Skill , for one roll.
Bravery - +2 to SKILL (and all Special Skills ) for one battle/five min.
Darkness
Detect Supernatural Being - Reveals creatures of supernatural origin in 20 meters. If a Demon or other greater supernatural creature is aware of this, it can engage in a mental combat (SKILL vs SKILL) to dominate the mind of the caster. No STAMINA loss, just whoever wins two rounds in a row. Don't fuck with demons.
Fear
Holy Command - Aim your holy symbol at someone and give them a single-word command. Must be obeyed, but must be something they would normally be able to do--Die! would only work on someone in their last breaths anyway. Can possibly be resisted by Luck test, at Director's discretion.
Light
Luck
Peace
Personalize Spell
Silence - Silence for 2-12 minutes over 5 meter diameter.
Skill
Stamina
Ward

2 STAMINA Spells

Blind - One target blinded for 1-6 minutes, Test for Luck to resist.
Counter-Spell - Priest magic only counters priest magic, wizard magic likewise.
Farseeing
Fog
Languages
Levitate

4 STAMINA Spells

All Heal
Most Blessed - Automatic success on any one roll. Reversed version allowed Luck test to avoid.
Poison
Purify - Like opposite of Poison spell, plus can be used against evil or undead to cause them to recoil.
Restrain
Speak with the Dead - Takes minimum an hour to cast, question a spirit or whatever. Director decides who shows up to the seance, possibly even a Demon, who could possess the priest.
Speak to Animals
Spirit Wall - Keeps out spirits or undead for five minutes, basically otherwise like Wall.
Wall

6 STAMINA Spells


Banish Spirit - Banishes a ghost, poltergeist, or other undead. Takes at least 15 minutes.
Banish Undead
Consecrate - Purifies an area 5 meters in diameter of evil influence, permanently, and keeps evil from entering. Area can be increased 5 meters per STAMINA spent, and the spell takes 10 minutes per STAMINA in the cost, so at least an hour. Can be counteracted with the reversed version, and the reversed version can be used to keep out Good creatures.
Raise Skeleton
Speak to Supernatural Being - Like Speak with the Dead, but more powerful supernatural shit is questioned. Don't just ask "is anybody out there" if you don't want to get your shit fucked.
Web

8 STAMINA Spells

Assassin's Dagger
Spirit Journey - Go on a journey to the demonic plane or the heavens, using silver twine. Takes a day, can only be cast in an area already purified by Consecrate (or Desecrate), and traveler can stay for one hour, losing 1 STAMINA for every hour after. The silver twine must remain unbroken between the traveler and someone back at the starting point, and if it is broken, traveler may be lost forever. Also, something could use the doorway to go out into the Earthly plane...
Summon Supernatural Being - Guess. This is kinda aimed at NPCs.

10 STAMINA Spells

Death

So that's Priest magic.

Aside from that, the New Rules section has only one more thing of note: Social Scale. This is a ladder of 0-10 that designates how well respected and shit you are. Starting heroes roll 1d6. The scale looks like this:

0 - Beggar or despised criminal
1 - Peasant
2 - Farmer
3 - Worker
4 - Craftsman
5 - Craft Master
6 - Leader
7 - Knight
8 - Lord or High Priest
9 - Prince
10 - King

I'm not sure what the real difference is between a peasant and a farmer or a farmer and a worker, but I didn't write the chart. It's only really used to modify certain types of social rolls, like bargaining or whatever. For example, if a mere peasant is trying to bargain with a farmer for his wares, the peasant would receive a -1 to his roll. If a prince, on the other hand, were bargaining with the same farmer, he'd be operating at a +7 to his Bargain check.

City and Town Adventures

So the next chunk of the book is dedicated to how to create and run city and town adventures. This section is full of...tables.

There's a bit at the start where it's actually less tabletastic, in which it suggests figuring out what you need for the adventure, then detailing it. It also goes into suggestions on how to design your own town or city, with different scales. It suggests starting with the rough outline of why the town exists where it does, adding in notable features and specific important locations, then fleshing it out with as much or as little detail as necessary for the remainder of the buildings and their occupants. The tables cover things from what each building might be to what type of business, inn, temple, or what have you is at each one, or even some random features and personalities for the NPCs who live there. It's not a spectacularly useful chapter nor does it really provide much more than a jumping off point, but one could probably write an entire RPG supplement exclusively on how to generate and populate a city--instead of just a 28 page chapter (and these pages are really not that dense.)

Then there's a selection of "new creatures" which are really only new to people who don't have Out of the Pit; none of them are interesting enough to take the time to discuss.

And then there's a very, very detailed run-through of Port Blacksand, which I don't think we'll go into, followed by a large adventure, which we will, but not just now.

Next time.

A Shadow Over Blacksand

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Okay I was...Right.

Blacksand!
Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Book 2

Okay so I said I wasn't going to go over the chapter on Port Blacksand. I stand by that decision, and here's why: it's presented in a format that basically covers the main points of interest district by district in point form. Name of building, prominent occupant, adventure hook.

I can't summarize that any more than it already is, and I'm not going to reproduce it in its entirety.

To be frank, most of it is uninspiring anyway.

SO...

A Shadow Over Blacksand!

This is the sequel to the adventures in Dungeoneer. It's not a direct followup--at least, in the sense that it pretty much expects time to have passed since the end of the previous prewritten offering. It is designed for 3-6 heroes.

The option is given to create brand new heroes, though, and in truth it would probably work pretty well without having played the Dungeoneer pre-written adventure. The identity of a certain character will not have the same resonance as it otherwise might have. New players will also certainly not have access to magical weapons, which is gonna be a problem when they have to fight certain demon enemies that can only be harmed by magic weapons. Only one magic weapon was handed out in the original, though, so...yeah.

Could also have a City of Thieves adventurer, just like the last Dungeoneer! quest, but also a hero from Midnight Rogue, FF29. Someone did a let's read of that one, but for them as never saw it, the idea of Midnight Rogue is that you're a native of Blacksand and a thief, taking your graduation exam. Whichever player chooses to be this guy gets a special introduction basically saying they were exiled from Blacksand after knifing a rival gang member in a brawl--not realizing he was a fellow guild member. You also get a background connection to a character of some importance to the plot, a merchant named Brass.

The adventure begins with the adventurers being hired by a merchant named Waldo, who is terrified of Port Blacksand but is doing business with another merchant who lives there, a man named Brass. He's so terrified of Blacksand that he's hiring ridiculous amounts of muscle to guard him even though Brass is meeting him in a town 35 km away from Blacksand. The idiot is paying well, though.

Waldo is a coward, and an idiot, and is along for the ride to cause trouble for the heroes, mostly, more than anything else. He stammers, very badly, which is about the only way the heroes can avoid him blithely chattering every bit of dangerous detail to authorities in terror or complete lack of guile.

He is useless in a fight (SKILL 3, STAMINA 8) but he has Bargain at 15 and Etiquette at 10, meaning that he's not necessarily entirely useless. Just mostly.
He's basically only risking this deal because he's had a series of disasters and he's down to his last bit of money, and Brass is giving him a great deal as a favor to help him recover.

Brass has a bunch of guards himself, including a bodyguard named Veldik who has a sword that's enchanted if none of the PCs do, so that the demon that's going to be the centerpiece of the first scene.

Waldo and Brass meet, Brass goes into his tent saying he has a few letters to write and tells Waldo to set up his stuff then join him in the tent to discuss, and then the heroes get to interact or whatever. They don't have to do any of the tent setup or anything, though, because Waldo has servants. They get to chat with Veldik a bit, because he's going to be important later, and then Waldo goes to meet with Brass, emerging a few minutes later to declare that Brass is dead. Veldik immediately assumes that Waldo did it, but what's meant to happen is that the entire group immediately realizes that Waldo couldn't possibly have done, and investigate. Nobody entered or left the tent, aside from Brass and Waldo, so...

Inside the tent there's basically the body, a big chest of gold, some letters and a candle and sealing wax. Brass was strangled, completely ruling out Waldo--the dude's fingers wouldn't even have fit around Brass's neck. No sound was heard...and it's because basically there's a Silent Death demon sealed into the candle, which radiates a silence field for five meters. It can only be harmed by magic weapons, surprise surprise, and has SKILL 10 STAMINA 20 2 attacks with Large Claws, and it also has both Strength and Unarmed Combat, the latter at 14. That makes it a serious threat, especially since spellcasting is ruled out by the silence field. This is a very significant threat, especially compared to the stuff in the previous Dungeoneer adventures--it's definitely been ramped up. Obviously it's been sent by someone with a grudge who doesn't want their identity known.

The letters are the biggest clue to who might have done that--Brass lit the candle to use the sealing wax there, incidentally--and there are three. One is a red herring, to a merchant in Salamonis, the other two are Clues. The first is to his wife, mentioning that a fellow named Dvorgar will be getting a letter demanding the money owed, and sending love to the wife and kids. The second is the aforementioned demand of repayment to this Dvorgar fellow.

So assuming the fight is actually survived, which is not a given with starting characters, it's obvious that whoever is behind it had access to a wizard or some other kind of magic. Fortunately our PCs are accredited wizard slayers, right? Also, Waldo, being unable to conclude his deal with Brass, now has no choice but to travel to Blacksand to finish it up with Brass's son instead, and he sure as hell isn't going without his bodyguards.

Then we get treated to the novelty of a scene with some trolls at the gates of Blacksand. Guess what? Waldo's going to do the talking if none of the heroes shut him up. Guess what else? The trolls want a bribe. Guess what else? They'll pick a fight with dwarves or elves, or otherwise make up fees or taxes to demand. This is the same scene as we had the last time we came to Blacksand with the added complication of Waldo being around. Veldik, for his part, just quietly pays the trolls a small fee and enters the city without incident, which should be what our heroes do here. Just in case, the adventure has a bit of a convoluted path to allow the heroes entry without doing that, or if they decide to kill the trolls, or whatever, but we'll assume they did the smart thing instead. (For the record, it offers two alternatives: one, pay a 2000 gold fine to the captain of the guard, forfeiting all possible reward from Waldo as it cleans him out, or two, follow a beggar boy and be wanted by the guards for the remainder of their time here. Neither is great.)

Moving right along, whatever they end up doing, they have a couple of leads. Brass's house, obviously, is a good starting point, to find out if he had any other enemies. Dvorgar's house is known to Veldik, as well as basically anyone else they may contact. If the heroes are the same ones from the Dungeoneer adventures, they know Nicodemus and also Halim Thrumbar, their contact from that adventure.

The basic gist of the gathering information bit is as follows: Dvorgar is a bit of scum who has a bad reputation around town for being a cheat and a liar, but he's got nowhere near the resources to hire the kind of magical muscle needed. A visit to his residence can confirm that.

Halim Thrumbar doesn't work for free--last time he was on the payroll of the King of Salamonis, this time he wants cash for info. He doesn't know jack shit about what happened here, but points out that any magic user would charge thousands for the kind of spell that took Brass out, and if Dvorgar owed less than that it rules him out. He also knows where to find Dvorgar's house, Brass's house, or, for a bit of an extra fee, the wizard Nicodemus, assuming someone knows Nicodemus is in Blacksand but doesn't know where, somehow. Probably player knowledge.

Nicodemus also doesn't know, and moved to Blacksand specifically to avoid getting pestered by everyone with a minor problem to solve, so he's not really that keen on being bothered. Again, last time he had the King of Salamonis involved, plus Throg was a known evil wizard raising an army of the dead. IF someone mentions the demon, Nicodemus comments that he had wondered what that was about, but that he has no idea who was behind it or he'd have already dealt with it. He's pretty disinterested in having his time wasted and will not sell potions, spells, or anything else, and anyone who asks risks being turned into something small and squirmy.

Dvorgar owed Brass a few hundred gold. He has a few thugs as hired muscle, unpaid (though they don't know that yet) and he'll give in to a bit of intimidation once they're removed from the equation. He knows nothing, and can be intimidated further by being dragged to the public gardens, where Lord Azzur has some animated plants that he uses for executions, and threatened to be fed to them. It's unproductive.

There's also a scene where the desperate heroes can visit a clairvoyant. She's actually got the ability to see the future, but it's a future that's beyond the point where the heroes have found the info they need, not a future where they're in the act of finding it, and thus isn't much use except to foreshadow.

Brass was in thick with the Thieves' Guild, and anyone asking questions about the man will pick up a guild tail. They want to know who dunnit, too. This can go to the guild proper, and eventually will need to to get the information that's required to finish...but not without a visit to Brass's house first.

Brass had a wife, who knows about his dealings with the Guild and thinks they did it. Not Rannik, the usual contact, but a rival gang, which--if anyone's the hero from Midnight Rogue--is the same rival gang they knifed someone from.

Brass also had a daughter, who is a sobbing wreck and knew nothing. She's a pretty 18 year old and there is a suggestion that marriage is a possibility for a successful group of heroes, but she wouldn't be a good wife for an adventurer. I dunno what kind of group thinks about marrying the distraught daughter of a murdered merchant, but oh well.

Finally...Brass had a son, who is the only source of the critical bit of information that moves the plot along. He knows Dvorgar isn't in sufficient debt to make it worth the magic. He knows for a fact that the thieves guild wasn't in on it, since Brass was carrying wares from the rival gang when he was murdered, and it set them back. He is afflicted with sleepwalking, which is dangerous, and nobody seems to be able to cure it. Brass had found a new religious group worshiping some god Brass never heard of before, and Brass gave them some money at first hoping to get their help, but cut ties after a few weeks figuring they were swindling him. All he knows is that the deity was named Elim. (Bells ringing now for anyone with a good memory who played the original Dungeoneer adventures.) He directs the group to speak with Rannik the master thief for further information, as Rannik ought to be able to help them track down the cult.

So after the tense visit to the guild to talk to Rannik, who will generously loan a magic sword to the heroes if they don't have one, there's a trip to the local cult of Elim! Yay! They have a small basement temple, and there's a fight with some terrible useless cultists there, along with the magically capable High Priest, who is not Sargon. He knows several spells, including the ones to summon the Silent Death demon, on account of he dunnit. Once they kill those guys, they find a letter from Sargon to the high priest, informing him that he's doing well, temples are being established elsewhere, and instructing him to kill Brass and summon the spirit of Elim as he was instructed to inhabit the brass golem with the sacrifices as planned.

Wait, what?

The cultists have a giant goddamn brass golem that they were planning to unleash on the city, funded by Brass's contributions. Now it's going wild. It takes a bit to get it out of the temple, but it's cramped in there...then it goes goddamn wild on the city.

It has SKILL 10 STAMINA 30, 2 attacks with very large claws (the most damaging weapon type) and it absorbs 2 damage from every hit it takes, making it nearly invulnerable to normal weapons. There's 2 ways to hit it, hinted at in Sargon's letter--one is to destroy its heart, which can be hit only by missile weapons or if the golem is bending down, since the golem is so huge. The first hit takes a Test for Luck to dislodge the protective plate, and then another is required to destroy the heart.

The second option for taking the thing down is to drain it of Oil of Life, its blood. The stopper is in the golem's navel, also too high to reach normally, and takes a LUCK test to hit, but after it's hit the golem loses 4 STAMINA per round till dead. Slightly easier to achieve, slower to finish it off.

And then...

Torbul (Brass's son) and Waldo pay up any outstanding debts to the heroes, assuming Waldo still has the funds to do so. Rannik's magic sword, if not returned, vanishes mysteriously. If the golem made it into the city proper before being shut down, Lord Azzur puts a 500 gold reward on the heads of those responsible, at least until it becomes clear they actually saved the day. Rannik can get them out of town safely, though.

Nicodemus, if anyone feels like pestering him, will actually be happy to discuss things at this point, since it's clearly a matter of national security. He doesn't have much to say of any real import, though--report this to the authorities, go after Sargon, etc.

There was a spellbook of dark magics in the church, which just about everyone will tell the heroes it's a bad idea to hang onto. It's a bad idea to hang onto it, and anyone of the contacts can dispose of it properly. If Nicodemus is consulted, he knows they have it and will deal with it one way or another, whether the PCs agree or not.

Ultimately, this adventure was still fairly railsy, but the investigation section makes it feel somewhat more open. A clever group can bypass a lot of the red herrings, though--no need to talk to the clairvoyant, no need to get tangled up with beggars or guards, no need to waste time in taverns or under bridges, and definitely no time wasted shaking down small-time debtors. Straight to Brass's house, talk to Torbul, talk to Rannik at the Thieves' Guild, raid the temple, Bob's your uncle. Short and direct.

And that's it for Blacksand!. Next, the final volume of the original edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Allansia . Then it'll be on to the modern edition, and after that...after that, who knows? I sure as hell have a lot of options, now that the end of this is in sight...


Book 3: Allansia

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

I'm not dead! I'm just very lazy when it comes to posting.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy
Book 3: Allansia

So, this is the third and final book in the original Advanced Fighting Fantasy system. It primarily presents rules for outdoor adventures, in the same way that Blacksand covered rules for urban adventures. It presents a number of new Special Skills, most of which are either pretty specialized or pretty self explanatory. It has new spells, too, of course, for Priest, Wizard, and Minor Magic. There's rules for Mass Battles, which I'm not sure I can comment on effectively, and finally, the (de facto) final chapter in the set of adventures begun in Dungeoneer !, which doesn't exactly conclude the tale of Sargon the Dark, but ends up being a capstone by default since the line was abandoned after Allansia came out.

See, in 1994, the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were pretty much tapering off. The publisher had intended to kill the line entirely two years earlier, in fact, with the publication of Return to Firetop Mountain, the fiftieth gamebook, featuring a return to the site and villain of the first, Zagor the Warlock. There had been a decline in sales of the gamebooks in the preceding years, attributed to the dominance of video games. I'm not sure I buy that explanation, personally. However, RtFM sold well enough to see an additional ten game books commissioned, only nine of which were published before the plug was finally pulled. During that time, Allansia was released. There were only 3 or 4 books released after this one in the original Fighting Fantasy series, which I suppose makes it fairly rare--given that the last two or three gamebooks have been known to fetch an asking price of almost $100 or more on the secondary market. I've never really tried pricing Allansia until now, but quick searches establish it at around $150 or so on amazon.com and alibris, though there's an ebay auction at $25 or so.

Huh. Go figure, I guess I should be taking better care of my copy.

Anyway. There are also rules for playing nonhuman characters, with expanded sections for Elves and Dwarves, plus Goblins, Centaurs, Orcs, and Trolls. I think by now I've clearly established that these guys weren't that great at game balance, and these races definitely don't show off any new insights in that arena.

Rather than go through the whole list of spells and skills and such, I'm going to just cover the interesting bits this time around.

New Special Skills.

There's a couple of Dark-Seeing like skills, in that you can take them at the start of your career but not after the fact, that have to do with perception, like Excellent Hearing There are also a couple of skills, like Battle Combat, intended for use with the new mass battles system. There's Fishing and Hunting skills, and a couple of other primarily outdoorsy types, and a Disarm skill...

One really gets the sense that they just added skills for whatever their players were trying to do that hadn't already got a set of rules to adjudicate in previous books. By the time this book came out, my group had largely discarded the list of special skills as a reference and we just wrote down whatever seemed about right for our skills, since it's pretty clear the designers of the system were doing roughly the same thing.

New Spells

There's a few new cosmetic spells that are there for NPC effect more than player utility, like Glowing Eyes, which...gives you glowing red eyes. There's a couple of new debuffs, too, like Befuddle, a spell that costs 1 STAMINA and gives a -6 penalty to making skill checks or attacks to one target for one minute (plus one per extra STAMINA spent while casting the spell.) Bearing in mind that the average Goblin has a SKILL of 6 and the average weapon-using adventurer can be expected to have a weapon Special Skill in the range of 12-16 as a starting character, this is kind of a killer spell. Admittedly, the spell requires touching the target, but there are tons of ways to accomplish that, as well, really...and they don't get a check to avoid it.

Other spells include buffs, utility stuff for camping and travel, utility spells that allow multiple spells to be cast as a single spell check or grant protection against the dreaded Oops! table, or a complicated Element Control spell that basically lets you determine whatever effect you want to achieve with the element you have learned the spell for and cast it at a Director-determined STAMINA cost for the effect. There's also the great villain spell Exchange Shape, which lets you swap forms with someone--either by trading bodies or transmogrifying, each of which has ups and downs. (Doing a mind-swap causes you to trade STAMINA stats, where changing both bodies around leaves both people dressed in their original clothes, which can be awkward.) Also works on animals...

New Minor Magic spells are the same general type of minor tricks and pranks and practical but not powerful magics. You can make someone drunk or sober, etc. Again, one gets the sense that the designers just threw in a bunch of other minor magic effects that they came up with at the game table...though I suppose that may just be me thinking about how simple it would be to design new effects with the type of tricks they already have.

Priest spells? Priests get analogs to most of the main Wizard attack spells like Fire Bolt, Force Bolt, Lightning Blast, etc. They also get a bunch more direct copies of the Wizard spell list, and a couple of spells like Locate Sacred Place or Commune With Element, which are pretty explanatory. They also get the same kind of special effects spells the Wizards do, too. Nothing stands out as exciting or unique here, more than what was already discussed.

New Races

There's expanded bits on roleplaying dwarves and elves, but no new rules for those races.

Centaurs get an extra 2 to STAMINA, can't really take skills like Ride or whatever. They move faster than humans, jump farther, but take penalties to sneaking and climbing. They can speak horse!

Goblins are kind of dicks, and rarely adventurers for obvious reasons (they don't get along with humans, etc.) They get modified stats, which suck. SKILL D6+4, STAMINA 2D6+6, and LUCK D6+8. Given that SKILL affects your starting outlay of Special Skills and access to everything else, taking a hit to it is kind of shitty, and losing out on STAMINA adds insult to injury. Or vice versa. I don't know. They also can't take a few Special Skills, most notably Strength, which is the go-to for adding extra damage. They get a limited spell list drawing from both Wizard and Priest spells, outside of which they can't expand. On the plus side, the individual restoration spells for the three stats, plus a couple of debuffs like Fear and Befuddle, are part of the list, so they're at least capable of doing something useful there...except for the further reduction of their SKILL total to get Magic in the first place.

Orcs are similar to Gobins, rule-wise. SKILL is D6+4, STAMINA 2D6+9 and LUCK D6+6, but they can choose from a few more spells if they wanna be wizards. They MUST take at least one point in Dark Seeing and a hand to hand weapon.

Trolls get human SKILL, an extra 3 STAMINA, and only D6+4 for LUCK. Everyone hates them, especially dwarves. They must take at least 1 point in Dark Seeing, Strength, and the use of a very large weapon. Most Lore skills can't be taken unless it's specifically in their background, and they can't take any magic but Minor Magic. Hill Trolls are an optional subrace that get a further +3 STAMINA and can pick Magic from the same list as an Orc shaman.

And then...
Mass Battles

There are two Mass Battle systems presented. The first is the Quick Battle system.

First, total up the number of soldiers present on both sides. Divide this by 100, that's how many Battle Rounds will be fought. Next, there's a set of modifiers for battle conditions that are applied. Each side's commander rolls two dice and adds to their Battle Tactics skill (or SKILL if they don't have it.) The loser of this contested roll subtracts their roll from the winner's total, multiplies by 20, and loses that many men from his side. This continues for the number of Battle Rounds determined by the number of combatants at the beginning, or until one side is out of men (or capitulates.) After the first round and every 3 rounds after that, every player has to fight a Heroic Combat, a one-on-one duel with a champion from the other side. This is meant to be set up so that the opponents are roughly equal in strength and abilities. Whichever side won the last Battle Round gets a +1 to their Attack Strength throughout the duel. Whichever side wins the majority of these duels in a round gets a +1 on their next Battle Round.

The other system is far more involved, and actually involves playing out the battles. Units of 10 combatants per token are set up, there's move speeds and stuff, and they get Battle Skill, Battle Stamina, Move, and Attacks stats. Then you basically play out the battle on the tabletop.

(The measurements they use are centimeters--a 1x1 centimeter square is a unit of 10 men. I've no idea what scale that comes to for miniatures.)

Things alternate. Step one is that first one side then the other can have their units move or fire. Step two, they engage in combat--basically the same rules as regular AFF combat, using Battle Skill etc. Units of creatures are advised to use all the same weapon type to simplify calculating damage. Step 3 involves a morale check.

There are of course modifiers for terrain. Firing is like regular ranged combat, and actual combat is, as mentioned, the standard rules, except that unlike standard fights, the Attacks stat is used as a damage multiplier, not to determine how many targets can be attacked.

Morale is determined by rolling a check against Battle Skill. If the check is a failure, the unit breaks and flees if possible. They get to check on the next Morale Check to see if they rally--a second failed Morale Check results in the unit fleeing the battle entirely.

Heroes in units take damage proportionally to their unit, and are only killed if the unit is wiped out entirely. If a unit has a Battle Stamina of 6, and takes 4 damage, a hero with 18 STAMINA will only have 6 remaining, for example.

Spells are cast during the Fire phase, one per Battle Round, instead of moving or firing. They have special (different) rules for how they work under the circumstances of battle. There are also special Battle specific spells, like Arrow Storm or Heal, that are not exactly equivalent to normal adventuring spells. Every 10 men in a unit, rounded up, adds 1 to the STAMINA cost of spells. This includes the first 10 men. If there are more than one spellcaster, the cost can be split--so casting Heal (2 STAMINA base) on a unit of 35 men (+4) would be a total cost of 6 STAMINA, but if there were 2 casters, each could take 3 of the cost.

There's also stats for fortifications, in case you want to run a siege.

Outdoor Adventure Rules

These mostly include environmental modifiers, discussions of what might be found in different types of terrain, and random encounter tables for different areas of Allansia. Boring!

Also, a second (Outdoor) Oops! table, with even more random and hee-larious ways to have your character removed from play. Amazing!

Right. So that's the crunchy bits of Allansia. Next time, I'll cover the adventure in the book, and then at long last I'll be ready to go over the new edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy in all its obscure and mockable glory.


A Darkness Over Kaad

posted by Zero Suit Ridley Original SA post

Several weeks and a username change later...

Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Book 3: Allansia
I forget how I formatted this shit.

Part the final: A Darkness over Kaad

I don't know why but writing this adventure up has just really been intensely unappealing to me for some reason. It's not especially bad...but neither is it especially great. Mostly it's a passable conclusion to the Sargon trilogy and an excuse to use the new mechanics introduced by the book.

The adventure immediately recognizes the problem inherent there: The characters made back in Dungeoneer who brought Sargon back, and who played through the adventure in Blacksand! won't have the new mechanics introduced in Allansia . (Unless you waited till after all three books had been printed before you got your group to play it.) They pretty much get around this by providing a guide NPC who can cover this, or suggesting that some players could roll new characters, though they do hope that at least one or two characters have the whole back story. Alternately, a short interim adventure to get them the skills they'll need is suggested.

The gamebook shout-out in this adventure is Return to Firetop Mountain, but there's really no benefit to this one. The character will have passed through the town that this adventure is set around one time, but doesn't know any of the main NPCs and didn't do anything meaningful there. He met Yaztromo, though? Which doesn't matter. So hey, be that dude or whatever, it really isn't A Thing the way the last two were.

The setup for this adventure is that Sargon, from his mountain lair in the Icefinger Mountains, has been gathering an army to destroy the really unimportant town of Kaad. Kaad is the site of a couple of old, ruined temples once dedicated to Ashra and Vuh, the deities of light and life that countered Sargon's god, Elim, the deity of darkness. Nobody in Kaad has the first fucking clue about this, and Yaztromo had to do some digging to figure it out. He and Nicodemus have been watching for Sargon, see.

So hey, you fuckers brought him back, you deal with him, is basically what Yaztromo tells the party during the intro. Gives 'em a map to the secret lair, which they follow to Sargon's monastery of Elim. The monastery is empty, except for two things: a manticore in the courtyard, which can be fought (there's rules about a bunch of doors that lead to passages around the courtyard and involve a yakkety-sax worthy chase sequence with the manticore) or set loose by opening the main gate to the courtyard and letting it go. (It'd rather hunt goats than deal with heavily armed adventurers.)

The only remaining occupant of the monastery is the goblin Giblet, a prisoner who happens to be able to be a guide to the party. He's a goblin scout who got captured by the elimites, and an exposition dump. Sargon's taken his army and headed to wipe Kaad off the map. He can help the party get to Kaad before the army, and hopefully shore up the defenses...by recruiting Giblet's tribe.

There's a few scenes of travel through hostile terrain--an ice wall and a swamp, including encounters with some nasty denizens of each. Then, in the middle of the swamp near Kaad, the heroes find a tribe of primitive folk who coincidentally worship Ashra and Vuh! And they're from a tribe called Ekaad! Yay! Coincidences abound! They recruit these guys to help, then keep moving. (There's a lot more actual roleplaying stuff here that I'm skimming over, obviously, but that's the end result)

Next it's a deep, dark, dangerous forest. Hey, so far: mountains, tundra, swamp, forest. Rushing through all the new outdoor terrain rules, are we? Carnivorous plants and wolves and bridge trolls, oh my! And then the goblin tribe. Giblet only now bothers to explain that to recruit the goblins, someone's gonna need to become the new goblin king, usurping the position from a dude named Bonebreaker. Sounds easy, right?

There's a ceremony which is pretty silly to issue the challenge, then a single combat with a goblin (SKILL 7 STAMINA 15, but he has the Sword Special Skill at 10, making him actually a reasonable challenge.)

There's literally a page and a half about jokingly harassing the player who's supposed to be becoming king by supposedly forcing him to memorize a lengthy challenge speech that must be got exactly right, but whatever.

Then, finally, the heroes head to Kaad, where they're quite probably arrested on sight.

The captain of the Kaad guard, see? He's secretly a member of Sargon's cult. He can be talked out of arresting them with sufficient rolls and paperwork and delaying long enough for someone else to arrive to check their story out and find it all reasonable, but if they just submit...

Anyway, once they're arrested, they end up getting released pretty quick as the guard captain is an idiot and openly discusses his plan to murder the heroes before Sargon gets there within hearing of said heroes, who are locked in a rickety, easily escaped cell at the time.

Anyway, next, they make battle plans, with a group of people whose pertinent Special Skills include Fish Lore 12 and Useless Facts 14. The plan is basically, the good guy armies of goblins, swampmen, and citizens of Kaad fight a battle to defend the town. The heroes distract Sargon long enough for the High Priest of Ashra and Vuh to sneak up and thwack him with a magic staff dedicated to those gods, which should knock Sargon straight back into spirit form, and hopefully the afterlife.

If they didn't get themselves arrested, the guard captain tries to sabotage the gates. He's as miserable at that task as anything else.

Finally, there's a battle. Things go according to plan with the whole Sargon distraction--the heroes mostly do their distraction thing by getting Sargon to cast Petrify spells at them and such. Once he's whacked by the staff, there's a big flash of light and there's no sign of Sargon at all...but the petrify spells keep going, implying that he may still be out there. We'll just have to wait for the next book to find out, right?

Except that as I said when I started this book, it was pretty close to the end of the line for Fighting Fantasy, and for a long time, it was the end of the AFF system. Then some enterprising young fellow got his hands on the rights and made a new edition...which I'll start on the next time I feel up to this.

Next: Dungeoneer, 2nd Edition: Advanced Fighting Fantasy returns!