Blood of the Zombies

“A pulley? Where the hell was a pulley?”

Blood of the Zombies by Ian Livingstone

Well, isn’t this a treat? To celebrate 30 years of Fighting Fantasy, Ian Livingstone wrote a new book. Sadly Steve Jackson wasn’t involved, but Livingstone is going to try and drag him back to the big flowchart for the 40th anniversary of everyone’s favourite (shut up, Lone Wolf fans, let us have our moment) single player RPG series.

The plot is… uh… I’ve been kidnapped and thrown in the dungeon of a Romanian castle while on a tour of Europe looking for evidence that any mythical creatures are real (mythology being my field of study, according to the intro). I don’t know more than that. The plot is revealed slowly through the course of the book. So I have NO IDEA what is going on.

Zombies vs. door: The door always loses in the end.

Now this is exciting! Also terrifying. Where is my shotgun? Aaaaah!

Actually, now that I think about it… there might just possibly be some zombies involved.

Statistics

Skill: No skill score?!?!
Stamina: 16 (screw you, dice)
Luck: No luck score?!?!

The book is streamlined to make it more exciting for the modern reader. Fie on that, I prefer rolling dice and adding a skill score. Hmph. There’s one boon here: Stamina has no maximum. You can scoff all the food in the castle to become indestructible. Yes!

Equipment: I start with nothing. I have my fists, which deal 1d6-3 damage.

From the adventure sheet it appears I will be able to find med-kits, grenades, dollars (unified world currency of fictional books, sort of like the gold piece), and ammunition (unlimited once you have some).

Combat is handled by rolling for damage and that many zombies die. Then I take 1 damage for each surviving zombie (so I’m going to die). This is apparently a first-person shooter in book form. There’s even a space on the adventure sheet for a frag count.

Onward to Adventure!

So, I’m locked up in a cell, and chained to the wall. Not ideal, but whatever. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding, and eventually I’ll be set free by whoever owns this castle. It’s nice to see old traditions of brutal feudal rule carried on in this modern era, but I’m sure it’s not good for tourism. It’s also probably not so good for maintaining European Union membership. Otto, the rather nasty jailer, told me I’m in Goraya Castle, owned by one Gingrich Yurr. I’m sure things will be sorted out soon enough. Any minute now…

Any hour now…

Any day now…

Okay, enough waiting. Five days of cold stew has hinted that I’m not the victim of a misunderstanding, so I kick the crap out of Otto and free myself. I introduce him to the other side of the jailer/prisoner equation, and then go and loot the room he lives in. All I find is a pocket knife, some money, and some string. Also a bag that has some junk which I tip out, but I keep the accordion magazine since it might come in handy if I need to bribe an accordion player. On my way out of the dungeon I also find a key with a number stamped in it. As I stow it in my pocket I am suddenly overcome with an urge to hoard anything with a three-digit number on it.

The dungeon exits into a storeroom where I bribe some workers for information (the pay is good, the perks are lousy, and they never get time off). It turns out Gingrich Yurr is turning people into zombies with some diabolical concoction. It only works on people who are physically weak, which explains the starvation. Stopping this insane plan for world domination via zombie apocalypse would require killing all the zombies and… yeah, I’m the only thing standing between a crazed necrophiliac and the rest of the human race. Great.

These clowns also charge me for any supplies. I get some gloves, a hacksaw, and a pulley. I have no idea what good any of this stuff will be, but I feel a compulsion to hoard random items all of a sudden. I wander off, turning left without thinking about it and finding a laundry room, which has a change of clothes and also a baseball bat. Plus two zombies in a cupboard guarding some bullets. On the way back I find a narrow passageway, which leads to an old workshop full of zombies.

A small horde of zombies attacking the reader because this is what zombies do.

These books really make you appreciate black and white art. There should be an exhibition.

I kill them and then find my way into a coal store, and suddenly feel a compulsion to dig through the coal. This turns up a grappling hook and rope. I continue onward, and find a boiler room. Some zombies fall out of a vent in the ceiling and I kill them too, and make off with a crowbar. Back in the main corridor I kill some zombies, one of which is holding a pistol. A nearby crate reveals a couple of grenades. Right, all set except for a shotgun and chainsaw. Emboldened by my arsenal, I open a nearby manhole and despite the stench, climb down into the sewer. It’s mainly stinky… well, stinky and full of giant mutant zombie rats. I decide the prudent course of action is to lob a grenade at them, and then realise that throwing a grenade in a sewer is going to result in a short, sharp shower of shit.

Yuck.

I continue through the sewer and out again, and eventually I find a room which contains a whole lot of gaming paraphernalia, including a collection of books with garish green spines and titles like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I grab the last nine and continue onwards, raiding libraries, killing zombie drummers, finding machine guns, generally looting and pillaging, and all the while trying to think up good one-liners. Eventually I realise that even though I can’t think of any the castle is full of zombies. Anything I do say will only be heard by me so it doesn’t matter how crap my puns are.

I end up in a clock tower. It’s a nice enough view, and the clock seems to be defunct so I’m not going to be deafened by the bell any time soon. But the dynamite-toting zombie on the stairs might be a problem. I’m not entirely sure how this particular zombie understands concepts like lighting a fuse, but it certainly doesn’t understand that when using dynamite as a weapon, one has to throw it. I shoot the zombie and then leap away from the explosion. The clock tower remains standing, but the stairs are gone. I will have to rappel down the outside. On the roof of the castle I get to see Gingrich Yurr drive into his garage, and I leap through a skylight onto a bed before I’m seen. It’s quite a nice bedroom with en-suite, apart from the garish yellow decoration everywhere. Thankfully some zombies come in and I splatter their blood around to make the place look a little more interesting. On my way out of the bedroom I meet Boris the storeroom worker, who unfortunately gets killed by the zombies he’s running from. I continue to explore, finding the diary of the castle cook/intern/damsel in distress, who is apparently called Amy. Judging from the ranting she’s had a fun time, slowly going mad from the realisation that she’s an intern cook in a castle full of mad scientists and zombies. Also, she knows how to work the lift. That’s handy. I head for the basement to look from her. I know she’s still alive because there’s no final entry that frantically mentions zombies about to break through the door before being cut off in mid-sentence.

In the basement I’m attacked by a group of zombies led by a zombified Boris – I knew I forgot to do something upstairs – and then I find a freezer room. Inside is a zombie woman with a chainsaw, who I kill. This, I feel, is a turning point in my zombie slaying quest, since now I have a shotgun and a chainsaw, and thus am invincible. I pass through the basement and into the north wing of the castle, only to see a young woman run by and lock herself behind a door. I’m the lucky bitch who gets to fight the horde of zombies that was chasing her. Zombies killed, I proceed into the room.

Attractive young blonde woman, holding revolver, looking panicked. Because of Zombies. Or maybe Jehova's Witnesses.

Don’t worry pretty young intern, I’m here to save you!

Amy is having a bad day, but seems to be cheered up no end by the sight of me, which suggests that she’s got a thing for badass zombie-killing women. Of which there’s exactly one in the world. HAH. We decide to check out the private study behind the office, and I spend some time gawping at the pictures of mythological beasts on the walls, until Amy clips me around the ears and tells me to get on with searching. The laptop has some information about a secret exit from the castle, while the phone… well, all I can do is call the extension for Yurr’s private quarters. He’s not very happy. Apparently he’s sending someone to kill us. Amy panics a bit, but I’m not worried.

“One zombie? How bad can one zombie be?”

Suddenly a loud smashing noise can be heard from the office outside. We run from the study and find that the one zombie is a two-metre tall gorilla mutant zombie.

Zombie Kong goes down in a hail of bullets, which just goes to show you shouldn’t mix genres like that. I then hustle Amy to the secret exit and let her out, and then go back inside to finish off the last of the zombies. I find a telescope and use it to scope out the zombies outside. There’s also a Browning machine gun mounted on the balcony opposite. Also on the balcony opposite is Gingrich Yurr, who injects himself with a syringe full of blood and then drinks some more blood out of a wine glass. Mixing genres is going to be very bad for his health. Of course, turning himself into a zombie is probably also bad for his health. I run back through the basement, and see through some doors the mad scientists Yurr hired having an argument. I feel unable to just gun them down, due to some kind of crisis of conscience. I bluff them instead, using a lab coat I found in the castle. Scientists gone, I destroy the laboratory, wipe out some more zombies, and then head up a fire escape to the roof. The only way onward is to use a pulley to get across a cable to the balcony with the heavy machine gun. Thankfully I really do have a steel pulley. Yes. Absolutely knew that would be useful later. I zip over, grab hold of the Browning and turn the zombies in the courtyard to mincemeat. Unfortunately there’s waves of them. Also a couple of the scientists from downstairs have become zombies, and they’re now attacking me with axes. This is insane.

Wait, no… Being shot at with a rocket launcher… That’s insane. I’m amazed Zombie Yurr is smart enough to know what it is, aim it, and fire it. I am forced to leap to safety. I charge into the other wing of the castle, find a shotgun, and charge back out only to find another horde of zombies which I kill. Then Yurr tries to run me over in his car. Except he can’t remember how to change gears. I take the time to draw a bead on him and as he gets the car started, I put a bullet in his head. He spins out of control and cause a huge explosion, which is fine by me. I walk off, my job done.

…and then he attacks me. God damn it, I forgot this is a zombie movie! I fend off Zombie Yurr, kick the zombie some more, and then shoot him. A lot. Then I go and get into the van nearby, counting down from five… I start the engine on one, and on zero a zombie lands on the roof and leans down in front of the windscreen. I shoot it through the roof and then jump out and shoot it some more. Then I drive out of the castle courtyard. I’ve had enough zombies for one day.

I pick up Amy on the way to the village, and we drive down to report the fun times in castle Goraya. The police are, for some reason, not receptive to our tales of zombie infestations, and tell us to go and spend the night in the local inn while they check out the castle tomorrow. While the night is pleasant, the morning brings a zombie horde. I probably should have locked the gates of the castle after I left…

Wrapup

I missed 22 zombies. So everyone dies, zombie apocalypse, end of the human race, all that sort of thing. But the correct ending suggests that there might have been some zombies hiding in a skip and implies the reader talks themselves out of the possibility – Sequel hook! Hopefully a sequel with a skill score…

Some people complained about the body count thing, but having to kill all the zombies is an open invitation to look behind every door, squeeze into every filthy hole, and generally explore like mad. Unfortunately rolling a single damage die is a pain, since you can get unlucky more than once and take some scathing injuries from even small groups of zombies. Thus weapons with positive modifiers and multiple dice are the point where things start to get easier.

Sadly a few bad damage rolls means certain doom. This book is hard. Really hard. It’s all down to getting lucky with the dice (and the absence of Luck and Skill means a 50-50 chance for risky situations). I gave myself three extra lives and only just made it through the book… and then I was still a handful of zombies short.

It’s still a fun book to read. There’s a lot to be said for trying to get an FPS and a zombie film into a gamebook and to some extent succeeding, as well as making it atmospheric enough that it’s a fun read. But the book is very linear, with the only branching section that doesn’t lead to a dead-end causing failure since you miss an item. Amazingly I went the right way every time.

Yes, I really did find a room with a collection of Fighting Fantasy books inside. There wasn’t a copy of this book where you could read through it and find a copy of this book and… I’ll just stop there, shall I? Gingrich Yurr’s office also has a postcard with “Happy 30th Zagor” on the back, which is probably a double reference.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: When I was told “But even though these are the evil scientists responsible for creating Yurr’s Zombies, you know you can’t just run in and shoot them.” – Fuck that!

Ridiculous Battle: Tough choice here, but I’d have to say the fight with Zombie Kong, where you have to deal 20 damage in one round to kill him, or he gets to deal 6 in return. And then you try again. At best you’ve got a 25.9% chance of winning in a given round.

Victory: You wake up the next morning, after a restless night worrying that you missed some of the zombies. Maybe they were hiding in that skip in the courtyard? The local police don’t care. Investigating the events at the castle might be bad for tourism. Amy goes back to New York, you do extraordinarily well at university, and that’s it.

What Was I Thinking? In my first attempt I yelled out for the jailer and got severely injured as a result. So I started again. The fact is there’s no room for mistakes in this book, since the combats are so lethal.

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4 Responses to Blood of the Zombies

  1. Just found this blog and having a great time reading through all the playthroughs so far. I’ve been doing the same thing over at http://torallion.blogspot.co.uk (seems I started around the same time you did) and there are a few others actively taking up the challenge too. Not sure how connected you are on Twitter but I’ll be tweeting about this blog to my nerdy gamebook friends and will link to your posts from my own playthroughs.

    Haven’t attempted Blood of the Zombies yet, but I suspect I won’t be getting as close to victory as you did!

    • Hi there, glad you like the blog! I’m @nicemazeshark on twitter, if you want the tweet version of finding out when a new post is up. We all seem to be on the unofficial forum, maybe there should be a thread there too.

      Don’t worry about Blood of the Zombies. I did blatantly cheat from the outset after hearing it was too hard and like a computer game. I gave myself three lives, and after dying got to reset my Stamina to the starting amount. I’ve played it twice like that and both times my first death was on the staircase with the armed zombies. So if you get past there you’re winning.

  2. Rob Lee says:

    What I would’ve done after getting stuck in a madman’s castle full of zombies, would be to find an empty room with windows and a sturdy door, set the whole damn place on fire and hide in the room!!! That ought to do it XD

  3. cityman1984 says:

    I’d say giving yourself a starting stamina of 70 makes the book winnable, but still with a reasonable level of risk and challenge. As it is, the book is broken and unwinnable when playing by the rules.

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