Appointment with FEAR

“Right, fisticuffs with a shark it is.”

Appointment with F.E.A.R. by Steve Jackson

Cover: Brian Bolland

Illustrations: Declan Considine

When fighting superpowered cyborgs, beware of eye beams.

The dragon banner cover has the best colouring. Also, this guy is the baddest motherfucker in these books.

Hot damn, this is the superhero book. It’s unique for Fighting Fantasy, and it’s also huge, giving different side quests depending on the chosen superpower. The goal is to find an evil supervillain terrorist syndicate, and mess them up good and proper.

This is the first book to be reprinted with the original cover art, which has always been pretty cool. Unfortunately the shiny silver title takes away from the experience. If they were going to make a change, they should have put a proper comic book font on, sort of like the original cover had. I picked the dragon banner version because it has the most vivid colours, which seems right for a superhero story. The interior illustrations are multi-panel, like a comic book. I think that works quote well in this story.

Since it’s set in the “real” world, or at least a world without orcs and goblins, the protagonist needs a name. The main character has reasonably ambiguous moniker Jean Lafayette. The hero is called the Silver Crusader.

Oh, and I’ve never read it before. So this should be loads of fun.

Statistics

Skill: 10
Stamina: 20
Luck: 9

Hero Points: 0

This is effectively a scoring system to see how good the reader is at the book.

Superpowers, or, The Things That Make This Fun: So it’s a superhero story. The book offers a choice of four powers with different starting clues. The powers are: Superstrength, Psi-powers, Enhanced Technological Skill, and Energy Blast. Since I asked people to vote on what power I should use, I’ve been given… the techno-skills. Okay. So. If anything bad happens to me, it’s not my fault this time.

Equipment: Crimewatch. It’s a watch that has a communicator built in. So it’s sort of like… a phone I wear on my wrist. Due to the power the erstwhile readers picked, I also have an “accessory belt” because some rodent-themed superhero has copyrighted “utility belt” I presume I also have a very tight fitting costume of some sort.

Oh, and I’m not allowed to kill anyone. Instead combat ends when the villains Stamina drops to 2.

Onward to Adventure!

So I’m the perfectly ordinary result of a genetic experiment with the amazing power to make really cool gadgets. Despite the obvious true calling of supervillainy, I am instead a crime fighter, which just goes to show that it never pays to stereotype. I live in a place called Titan City and have an undercover agent who can fill me in on shady dealings. For example, I’ve heard that a gang called The Alchemists are planning on robbing some banks, and some kid called the Brain Child is having precognitive dreams. That’s not a big deal compared to the fact that the Titanium Cyborg, Vladimir Utoshski, is having a convention for the Federation of Euro-American Rebels today.

But who cares? I’m going to work. Fighting crime doesn’t pay the bills. I notice that the people in the street seem on edge, but this is a world full of superheroes and super villains, so it’s probably normal that all the everyday people are living in a state of constant paranoia, fear, and post-traumatic stress. It’s no wonder that businessman is threatening to strangle that woman’s poopy dog. This looks like a job for… Jean Lafayette, since I don’t think being the Silver Crusader is really required here. Of course the crowd of people joining in the bickering just jostle me and I fall down, hurting myself and also landing in some dog shit.

Right, since the police are breaking up the Great Dogshit Riot I decide I’m going to suit up and go investigate that bank robbery this morning. It turns out I have no devices that will open the vault the guard is sealed inside, and the bank manager is unwilling to tell me anything about the safety deposit boxes that were stolen. However, my keen crimefighter eyes spot the discarded contents of one, and apparently Silvia Frost, The Ice Queen, has just bought an abattoir. So I suppose I can always go and investigate her sometime. But right now, I’m off to confront the Alchemists at their next target.

Once I get there I decide not to leap into the bank and start punching the lab coat wearing jerk holding a vial of nerve gas, because that might possibly have unfortunate side effects. Instead I wait outside, shooing away autograph hunters. Unfortunately my only device for incapacitating villains emits a sonic shriek that will hurt everyone around, so I have to resort to more mundane methods such as punching them until the surrender. Thankfully they’re not just disguised as scientists, they are scientists, and go down easily. Next it’s off to the beach to save people from a giant shark. It turns out that despite the known threat of a giant killer shark that will eat anyone in sight, everyone is still at the beach, in the water, and not caring in the world that they can, for some reason, hear ominous music slowly building up to something. But when the shark is sighted they all scarper… except for one lone straggler.

Nothing makes a shark angrier than the phrase "jump the shark".

Sharks are our cuddly friends from the ocean.

Now, you’d think that like all super-prepared crime fighters with a belt full of gadgets, I’d have some shark repellent. But I don’t. I do have an Omnidirectional Electrifier, but there’s a slight problem with that… that one straggler in the water. I could take the shark out, but that would involve collateral damage, which always makes people complain. Er, I mean, it would be unthinkable to kill innocent bystanders while superheroing. I sigh and wade out into the water to punch the shark a few times. Unfortunately all that happens is it bites me a few times and then gets away and goes and kills the lone straggler who was for some reason still in the water. I drag my sodden spandex clad self out of the sea and head home.

The next day I get a message on the Crimewatch that there’s something going down at Radd Square. I head on over, and find that there’s a giant lizard thing in the fountain, and it’s just started to devour a bystander. Once again my array of devices is utterly useless, so I have to try and fight it the traditional superhero way. Eventually I hit it enough that it just disappears. I feel rather put out that my ultragadgets are always useless. Someone says something that suggests I should go check out that precognitive dream having brat. It turns out he not only predicts the future, but his dreams come true. Damn, that’s a problem. I tell his mother to take him to the hospital and finally go to work for the first time in two days. I promptly get told to take the afternoon off without pay and then consider a change in career if I don’t come in tomorrow.

Ungrateful wretches! After everything I’ve done for this cit- no, no. I mustn’t start ranting. That way supervillainy lies. Such an easy path for one with my skills. I must fight my natural inclination to turn to invention-fuelled evil and keep working to better the world.

The next day nothing exciting happens, which is a change. But I do hear about a mysterious attack in the park, and a death at the museum. I go to the museum and on a hunch check out the stuffed mammals. One of the tigers has blood on its claws. That’s suspicious. So is an alert about another museum that hold Egyptian antiquities. But nothing is going on there. Clearly I’m not good at crimefighting. I go and shake down my informant, and head home. The next day there’s an alert at a nuclear laboratory and I take out the mutated psychic power having jerk who is destroying stuff, getting a toy called a Circuit Jammer for my trouble.

Then I’m called to a swimming pool, where the water has turned to ice and a couple of women are trapped. Finally! A problem I have a gadget for! I unfreeze the pool and then think for a minute… Let’s see, a frozen swimming pool, and the other day I heard about someone who just possibly might have ice powers. Time to pay that abattoir a visit. The Ice Queen is there, and she tries to brain me with a carcass.

“Look,” I say, “I’m sorry I made fun of your crown the first time we met.”

“You must pay for daring to mock my royal attire!”

“Oh please, can’t we just sit down and talk?”

“No teamups, superhero!” and with that she takes aim to unleash a ray of cold, so I pull out a suitable device. My portable heat ray. It’s time for the usual showdown: Like all rays and beams and energy bolts, they clash and then veer back and forth until one wins. That one is mine. The ordinarily harmless heat ray causes her extreme pain due to her much colder body temperature. I tie up the Ice Queen, while she insists a little too much that she doesn’t like it, and get some information out of her about the F.E.A.R. meeting.

I actually have very little information about F.E.A.R. so I decide to go and talk to the general who runs the local military base. He doesn’t know anything either. But maybe whoever is heading up the twenty helicopter assault on the base does. It’s a very stealthy raid, what with the F.E.A.R. logos on the side of the helicopters. The F.E.A.R. troops are led by the evil genius known as the Macro Brain.

I still have no idea why they attacked the military base.

More like macho brain.

He’s obviously not that much of a genius because he’s not realised his overgrown brain would be subceptible to an Alpha Wave Emitter. Muhahahahahahaha! I mean… Take that, evildoer! In exchange for my turning off the incredibly painful device – it just sort of turned out that way by accident, honest – he gives me the location of the F.E.A.R. meeting: a Chinese laundry. How wonderfully clichéd.

Unfortunately I don’t actually know the street address, so I catch a taxi and hear on the radio that the nefarious villains have taken over a weapons satellite and will be holding the world hostage. To prove their power they’re going to blow up… Titan City? But they’re in Titan City! Typical supervillains, give them a laser satellite and they blow up the very city they’re in. I would be so much better at the villainy thing than the rest of those clowns… Except I’m about to die in an explosion.

Wrapup

Well I am clearly the most rubbish crimefighter ever. I scored 26 Hero Points but failed to save the city and the world. But that’s okay, this book is tremendous fun, and it’s probably the one that’s most fair since a low Skill score can be negated by taking Super Strength, which gives a Skill of 13 in combat.

It’s very silver age of comics, but that’s okay because it’s more about capturing the feel of comics and being a trip through some generic scenarios. It’s not meant to be more than a fun story, so the villainy of the criminals is kept in the background. They murder, perform bizarre medical experiments, but so far as I saw, it’s all off to the side. I also found it astonishingly easy to not mess up terribly, common sense decisions ruling the day most of the time.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: They want to blow up the city their secret meeting is in? I mean, okay, the Titanium Cyborg will probably survive, but still…

Ridiculous Battle: I didn’t reach him, and had the item that lets you avoid the combat, but Vladimir Utoshski, the Titanium Cyborg, has a Skill score of EIGHTEEN. I think he has a Stamina score, but who cares what it is? It’s not like you stand a shit show in hell of damaging him… and after three rounds he kills you with his eye lasers. He’s actually the toughest villain in these books, though he’s a lot weaker if you have the circuit jammer.

Victory: The Titanium Cyborg and his minions get taken away to prison, well done Silver Crusader, pity you lost your job. At least with the ETS skill you can make a fortune in the electronics industry.

What Was I Thinking? Letting the readers decide my superpower. No, only joking! I think my biggest mistake was… well… Check this out: There’s so many gadgets! Basically, I missed most of the fun by employing my real life superpower of Missing All The Good Bits In This Book.

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5 Responses to Appointment with FEAR

  1. Stuart Lloyd says:

    Great playthrough. I loved Appointment with F.E.A.R. although my one bugbear was that I always thought it reasonable to have a circuit jammer if you had ETS. Turns out it isn’t…

    • Thanks! I suppose the circuit jammer disparity is one of those comic book things where the Silver Crusader is smart, but not as smart as the scientists who work at The Laboratory.

  2. Ed Jolley says:

    One of my favourite parts of this book is the bit where using your Decoding Computer on a cryptic piece of paper reveals that it could be a clue to the location of the F.E.A.R. meeting, or it might just mean ‘My newspaper is covered in plastic nodules.’

  3. Rob Lee says:

    Ehh, I remember this one!!! Super Strength makes you a flying tank, which is easily the best power ever.

    And then there’s Psy-Powers; one of the suckiest superpowers that leads you to death half of the time. The perfect power for players who wanted a real challenge :P

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