Seven Serpents Summary

Try saying that title three times fast. Here’s the score:

Days: 12

Skill Lost: 0

Stamina Lost: 65

Luck Lost: 7

Provisions Gained: 19

Provisions Eaten: 11

Treasure Gained:

99 Gold Pieces
Golden Locket (value of 8 gold)

Gold Spent: 45

Spells Cast: 20

Dop: 2
Doz: 1
Dud: 1
Fal: 1
Far: 1
Hot: 2
How: 1
Huf: 1
Jig: 2
Mag: 1
Mud: 1
Rap: 2
Wal: 1
Wok: 2
Zap: 1

Inventory

Sword
Backpack
Glandragor’s Axe
Spellbook Page 102
Bag of Teeth
Silver Key no. 111
Borrinskin Boots
Bomba Fruit
Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery
Crystal Waterfall Pass
Spare Sword
Kharé Gate Key no. 12
Gauntlets of Weaponry
Golden Locket (worth 8 gold)
Lucky Talisman
Enchanted Compass of North Gate Spell Line Holder Finding
Large Backpack
Bow
Quiver of Silver Arrows: 11 8
Tinderbox
Snake Bite Antidote
Note from Analand
Chakram
Chainmail
Diantainta’s Vial of Stopping Some Evil Monster I Know Little About
Diantainta’s Serpent Staff (see spell components section)
Handful of Green Leaves
Yellow Feathers
Flask of Oil
Silver Whistle of Ferryman Calling
Potion of Cure Disease
Parchment of Time Serpent Stopping

Spell Components Found: 13

Flute
Goblin Teeth (4 2)
Giant Teeth (1)
Beeswax (1 Infinity)
Sand (1 Lots 0)
Bracelet of Bone
Sun Jewel
Green Wig
Gold-Backed Mirror
Galehorn
Yellow Powder (1)
Crystal Orb
Brass Pendulum
Staff of Oak Sapling (Diantainta’s Serpent Staff)
Pebbles (5)
Stone Dust (1)
Pearl Ring

The Seven Serpents

Previously in this Adventure

“Oh right, the bird has a better invisibility spell than I do.”

The Seven Serpents by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant

Illustrations: John Blanche

Sun Serpent secret spoiler!

Mel Grant puts the band back together.

Now it gets interesting, because I only owned the first two books when I was young – the second hand bookstore I got Fighting Fantasy books from sold the last two before I got copies – and thus I have only read this one once before. Oh well, let’s have a try anyway.

The plot is not just for me to cross a dangerous wilderness, but the Archmage’s seven magical flying serpents are also out there for me to take down before they warn him I’m coming. The fourth book has extra options if you kill them all, letting you avoid any trouble from the fortress inhabitants. Er, I mean avoid extra trouble.

People keep making a joke about this book but I refuse to perpetuate such terrible puns. I have terrible puns of my own!

Statistics

Skill: 8
Stamina: 18
Luck: 13

Equipment: Sword, Extra Large Backpack, 5 Provisions, 22 Gold, Bag of Miscellaneous Teeth, Silver Key no. 111, Borrinskin Boots, Bomba Fruit, Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, Gauntlets of Weaponry, Gold Locket (without picture), Lucky Talisman, Enchanted Compass (now useless), Bow, Silver Arrows (8), Tinderbox, Snake Bite Antidote, Silver Serpent Ring.

Spell Components: Flute, Goblin Teeth (4), Giant Teeth (1), Beeswax (infinite), Bone Bracelet, Green Wig, Gold-Backed Mirror.

Special: I can call on Libra again, who is apparently bound by some kind of rules about geography. I also have the power, thanks to my silver serpent ring, to command information from any Serpents (well, only those seven) I happen to meet.

Onward to Adventure!

I trudge across the Baklands. First up in this no-man’s land is the Baddu-Bak Plains, which is nothing more than a dry, desolate waste devoid of anything remotely interesting. The most dangerous feature is probably the mind-crushing boredom that awaits all who set foot in this land. But wait, a cry! What could it be? It’s some angry birds.

At least it's not harpies this time!

At least it’s not harpies this time!

The boredom has driven all knowledge of useful spells from my mind, so instead I draw my sword. I am incredibly lucky to only take one wound from the avian offensive before a magical eagle appears and mauls them. It’s carrying a message from home. The message says I have to find and kill seven magical serpents if I want to stand a chance, for they will tell the Archmage of Mampang I’m coming. Apparently a fortress of evil has no defences ready unless they know trouble is coming – though I’m not complaining! The note also says to find someone called Shadrack the Hermit, who apparently knows everything that’s going on in the Baklands. Given that he lives in this desolate and tedious place I’m guessing that’s not too hard.

The goldcrest eagle has turned invisible and left, so I’m on my own. I set off, and take some lunch under a dead tree. The tree forms a face out of its branches tells me to go east to meet Shadrack. What a helpful dead tree. I set off to Fishtail Rock and meet the old hermit, who gives me some of his food and tells me all about the Seven Serpents. Apparently they were magically created from the heads of a hydra slain by the Archmage and given the powers of the seven gods he worships. One for each element, one for the sun and moon, and of course a time serpent. Oh goody. Shadrack knows that the air serpent can leave its body for a few minutes as a cloud of gas, but the body is still vulnerable. The serpents apparently keep their own weaknesses as their closest secrets (who wouldn’t?), but my serpent ring might help me there.

The next morning I set off back to the main trail. Shadrack gives me a galehorn before I go, which might prove handy for casting spells. On the trail I encounter some centaurs…

They're kinda metal. Or punk, since this was written in the early 80's.

They’re kinda metal. Or punk, since this was written in the early 80’s.

I cut a deal with them: I’ll cast a luck spell on them if they drop me off somewhere helpful. I can’t actually cast that spell, because I’m lacking one vital spell component: it actually existing in the first place. But they don’t know that. They suggest I could visit a caravan heading to Kharé, or Manata the Snake Charmer. The latter sounds like he might have some good advice for dealing with magical serpents, so I get them to take me there. It turns out Manta lives in a pit and has quite a few scaly friends. The one thing he wants is my borrinskin boots, which is no big deal since I found them at the bottom of a mineshaft. He trades me knowledge of the whereabouts of one of the Seven Serpents, which his sisters – the snakes – have found out.

I trek across the wastes, keeping an eye out for ophidian opponents. Instead a skeletal figure materialises. It’s a deathwraith. Except this doesn’t seem like suitably deathwraithy place for it to be hanging out, so I try to dispell it. Bingo! There’s an illusionist behind it. He’s more than relieved that I offer him a chance at not being killed, and gives me all his gold, a chakram, and some yellow powder to snort for one of my spells. I ask him if he knows anything about the Seven Serpents and he says he does, then screams out in fright at something he sees over my shoulder and keels over, dead. Gosh, I wonder what he saw behind me?

That's no moon!

That’s no moon!

Yeah, it’s the Moon Serpent.

It snuffs out all the light and tries to attack me. First I compel it to tell me some information – four guards are at the gate to the Mampang Fortress – and then I waste it with a fireball. Sucker. It dies and shrivels up into a ball, leaving behind a crystal orb, which I pocket. With nothing left to do here, I set off to the northwest, and find a caravan of dark elves who fire a few arrows at me just for effect. I tell them I’m a trader and they let me peruse their crowded shop.

Best shop in Fighting Fantasy EVER! Well, other than Yaztromo's Emporium Of Single Use Magic Items.

Best shop in Fighting Fantasy EVER! Well, other than Yaztromo’s Emporium Of Single Use Magic Items.

So much to choose from, so little gold. I grab a brass pendulum, some chain mail, and some more provisions. Then I decide to leave, since I’m not keen to spend the night in a trade caravan that fires arrows at every lone traveller they meet.

I camp out on the plains and eat cheese sandwiches. In the morning I head off to the northeast and meet a tiny little dwarf thing that zooms about very quickly. As I wonder to myself if it’s friend or foe, it tells me that’s up to me! Oh good, a mind-reading gnome. It demands a gift, so I offer it some of my bottomless supply of beeswax. The gnome turns out to be a sorceress in disguise. Diatainta, aka The Sham, is overjoyed by my gift of what amounts to industrial cement made by bees, and tells me how to take out the nearby Earth Serpent (which is no surprise because it’s obvious it’s going to be more powerful on the ground than in the air), gives me a vial of vapour to take on something called The Sleepless Ram, and gives me her serpent staff, which is made of oak and therefore a Staff of Oak Sapling. Then she turns back into a gnome and speeds off over the horizon. I can’t say I am not relieved though. Gnomes are trouble, and they’re always out there. Waiting…

Gnomes: The hidden killer.

Gnomes: The hidden killer.

I travel north and scout ahead from the top of a hill. On the way down a chunk of rock that I knocked loose comes rolling back up and hits my ankle. Um, okay, not what I expected. The top of the hill exploding is something I expected even less. I create a magical shield and hold it over my head as I run…. right into a pit that opens before me. Then a rock rises from the ground and starts to heat up. What the hell?! I jump up to get out and something bites my hand. I have a feeling I know what that was! I try again, and get bitten again, but this time I make it out of the pit.

On the surface, the ground starts to split open around the pit. A boulder up the hill is wobbling, getting ready to roll down and crush me. On top of that, a tiny little snake is coiled about my leg and is about to bite me. I think I’ll got for the tiny snake. Or not so tiny – it splits open and giant brown serpent with wings emerges. Right, then. Time to put this galehorn to use: I cast the Huf spell, which blows it into the air where it turns into a tiny green snake again. I catch it and break its neck. Job completed, I set off again.

I trek onward towards the Forest of Snatta, and camp for the night on the outskirts of this mysterious forest. Apparently there are things called snattacats living here. I don’t know much about them other than their name. What could they be? In the morning I set off, eyes peeled for these cats, gathering all kinds of things in the forest. Stone dust, sand, pebbles, yellow feathers, nuts and berries, leaves…

Now I have UNLIMITED POWER!

Now I have UNLIMITED POWER!

It’s a good thing I brought that large backpack back in Khare. Further along the trail a red snake slithers across the path. I decide to follow it, on the basis that it’s probably evil and needs to be killed with extreme prejudice. In the undergrowth I find it climbing a tree. Then it bursts into flames.

Only you can prevent forest Fire Serpents!

Only you can prevent forest Fire Serpents!

Right, it’s the fire serpent. I climb into the tree to fight it, like an idiot, and it drops to the ground. I follow (which is totally not code for “fall down”, no, absolutely not), and when it bursts into flames I chuck a handful of sand over it to put the fire out, and then kill the serpent.

This serpent killing has been pretty easy so far.

I set off further into the forest and stop for a rest on a fallen tree. It’s quite peaceful here. Except for that odd noise I just heard. What could it be? It could be the invisible thing that just bit me. I make like a tree and get out of there, and come across a door in a small hill. I know what you’re thinking: I have an important mission and shouldn’t get side tracked by underground lairs. Unfortunately, it’s too late for that, because I’ve already gone inside!

At the end of the corridor I find an elven woman staring intently at a crystal ball. I’ve had a pretty even run with witches, enchantresses, and magically inclined women on this adventure so I see no reason to not be reasonable here. I step into the room and say hello.

Sevent Serpents: Puffin Edition

Fenestra does me a huge favour since who knows how bad the Sun Serpent would have been to fight?

The occupant of this cave is Fenestra, a sorceress who is pleased to meet someone else who knows magic. I trade her a pile of teeth for a pearl ring I may find useful later for turning invisible related purposes. She then slyly tells me she’s trapped the Sun Serpent as bait for the Water Serpent, who she wants to kill in revenge for murdering her father. She even has a large supply of oil which will break its watery form up, and gives me some just on the off chance I meet it. I then demand information from the Sun Serpent and it tells me to beware the breath of the mucalytics. Um, okay, I’ll watch out for them, whatever they are. Fenestra also tells me that she gave some marsh goblins a scroll with a magic chant that can deal with the Time Serpent, and I’ll have to find them to get it. She also offers to sell me a whistle that will summon the ferryman at Lake Ilklala. Then she gives me a potion that cures disease. Then I get given the kitchen sink too.

As I set off again I consider that I might actually make it through this after all. I set off into the woods, following a stream. Then I trip over something I can’t see. Then I can see it, and so I finally get to find out what a snattacat is. Here’s what it is: A tiger that turns invisible. Damn, I didn’t see that coming!

The invisible tiger, pictured in its natural habitat.

The invisible tiger, pictured in its natural habitat.

Thankfully I have some magic that will fix the Snattacat problem. I produce my crystal ball and cast a spell that will let me see them, and thus can avoid them with ease – they’re obviously not used to having their edge neutralized. I wander out of the forest and camp out near the shore of the lake.

In the morning I use the Magic Whistle of Ferryman Summoning and he wanders out of the undergrowth. It’s hard to tell though because he’s so grubby it looks like part of the undergrowth came with him. I pay the four gold pieces required to get across and he goes off to get his boat. He’s a lot more surly when he comes back, even expecting me to row the damn thing. I’m not taking that, he’s the ferryman not the boat hire man. I tell him to get stuffed. Then it turns out he was – by the Air Serpent!

I’m not entirely intimidated by an animated wisp of air, because I know it must have stowed its body here somewhere. It’s in the deflated ferryman’s disgusting and rat-dropping filled pocket. The Air Serpent freaks out and tries to cut a deal. I don’t accept that, and shred the snakeskin, killing it. Of course, now I have to row the damn boat myself. I set off on my lake crossing, resolving that if I get back to Analand I’ll be creating some kind of flying spell, or teleporting spell, or rowboat-auto-rowing spell. Anything to avoid this irritating task. Look at me, powerful sorceress, quest to save the world from the armies or evil, and I’m having to row my own damn boat.

As I row I notice there’s bubbling water up ahead. Goodness me, I wonder what could be causing that? I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing that and sigh as I head towards it. The thing, whatever could it be, tries to capsize my boat but fails to tip me into the water. Suddenly up from the lake rises – big surprise – the water serpent. I’m not very impressed and compel it to give me some advice. Then I throw some oil over it, breaking the watery form of the creature up into thousands of droplets. No problem. Time to get off this lake.

Eventually I reach the Vischlami Swamp. It’s a swamp, you know? Full of mud and slime and water. Also marsh goblins running away from what I find out, thanks to wearing a ridiculous green wig to cast the spell that lets me speak any language, is a magical serpent. They show me the magical scroll they were given and I memorize the chant and promise to take care of the winged serpent troubling them.

Wait a minute, there's no spell of Read Magic in my spellbook!

Wait a minute, there’s no spell of Read Magic in my spellbook!

As I head off in the direction they came from I hope like hell this works. The Serpent of Time is probably bad news. I run into it and find out it’s terrible news, since it can slow me down to a crawl. I compel it to advise me while I mutter the chant under my breath. The serpent slows down in mid air, its own powers turned against it! I kill it easily and then trudge out of the swamps and into the foothills of Low Xamen. I can see the Mampang Fortress on the skyline as the sun sets. Well, this last stage of my quest should be fun…

Wrapup

Well it’s a lot better than I remembered, though I question why the author even bothered putting a possible score of zero serpents at the end of the book since you have to kill at least two to make it through to the end (whatever justifications you hear for this, the real one is the obvious PEOPLE MIGHT SEE IT IN ADVANCE). The book is very linear, though there’s a nice touch in that for readers who chose to use magic there’s more than one way to approach dealing with the serpents.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: What kind of rowboat lets the rower see what is in front of them?

Ridiculous Battle: There are so many hard fights for the unprepared adventurer!

Moon Serpent: Skill 13 Stamina 10 (7/6 with fire)
Earth Serpent: sk 12 st 14
Fire Serpent: Sk 13 St 12
Air Serpent Sk 11 St 14 (You have to hit it twice in succession and that only deals 3 damage. The serpent only deals 1 damage, but for every successive round it wins the damage is doubled)
Water Serpent Sk10 St 11

Of course all of them can either be severely reduced in power or outright killed with no effort.

Victory: All stats restored, permanent bonus to maximum Skill of 2, permanent bonus to maximum Luck of 1, and a special stealth ability in the next book. Pretty good, that. Of course that’s for the perfect victory of all seven.

What Was I Thinking? If you tell some goblin jokes to the trade caravan everything becomes half price. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to buy everything I wanted anyway since that option requires dropping some gold on a meal first.

You can see a summary of the running totals here.

Khare Summary

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? I thought so. Here’s the score:

Days: 7

Skill Lost: 0

Stamina Lost: 49

Luck Lost: 1

Provisions Gained: 12

Provisions Eaten: 7

Treasure Gained:

78 Gold Pieces
Golden Locket (value of 8 gold)

Gold Spent: 40

Spells Cast: 14

Dop: 2
Doz: 1
Dud: 1
Fal: 1
Hot: 1
How: 1
Jig: 2
Mag: 1
Mud: 1
Rap: 1
Wal: 1
Zap: 1

Inventory

Sword
Backpack
Glandragor’s Axe
Spellbook Page 102
Bag of Teeth
Silver Key no. 111
Borrinskin Boots
Bomba Fruit
Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery
Crystal Waterfall Pass
Spare Sword
Kharé Gate Key no. 12
Gauntlets of Weaponry
Golden Locket
Lucky Talisman
Enchanted Compass of North Gate Spell Line Holder Finding
Large Backpack
Bow
Quiver of Silver Arrows: 11 8
Tinderbox
Snake Bite Antidote

Spell Components Found: 13

Flute
Goblin Teeth (4)
Giant Teeth (1)
Beeswax (Infinity plus one)
Sand (1)
Bracelet of Bone
Sun Jewel
Green Wig
Gold-Backed Mirror

Kharé – Cityport of Traps

Previously on this Adventure

“Coming up: one trip to a sewer…”

Kharé: Cityport of Traps by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant.

Illustrations: John Blanche

Will I meet the dreaded slime-eater? Find out in this post!

Will I meet the dreaded slime-eater? Find out in this post!

Kharé is some kind of evil city which happens to be built over the only crossing of the Jabaji River, so I have to go up and try to find my way through to the mysterious Baklands. Oh goody. Kharé is so full of criminals and lawless scum that it’s littered with traps and deadfalls to catch out unwary thieves and adventurers (there is a difference, but it’s a bit academic at this point). Why do I have to bother with this? I have to cross the city to recover the Crown of Kings, of course.

Oh and all my stats and items carry over from the first book so I have a lot of stuff. Also bonuses and things like that.

Statistics

Skill: 8
Stamina: 18
Luck: 13 (Yeah, really. I got a bonus at the end of the last book)

Equipment: Sword, Backpack, 13 Gold Bag of Miscellaneous Teeth, Silver Key no. 111, Borrinskin Boots, Bomba Fruit, Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, Spare Sword, Kharé Gate Key no. 12.

Spell Components: Flute, Goblin Teeth (4), Giant Teeth (1), Beeswax (1).

Special: I can call on Libra again. I didn’t do it in the first book, but it doesn’t accumulate like other items. Dammit. I also have the ability to name-drop some guy called Vik in some situations in the city. Oh and I might bump into someone who is grateful I didn’t kill him…

Onward to Adventure!

So picturesque! Until you realise those birds flying overhead are vultures.

This is going to be so awesome!

Well, there’s Kharé down the hill. A dirty nasty dump full of evil people who would kill me for my bootlaces. Well, good thing I don’t have to… wait, I do have to go in there. Dammit. At least I have the key to the city. I unlock the door and head on in. No-one is around so I stride ahead, and promptly get grabbed and thrown in the jail cell by the gate. That was fast. Most adventurers get thrown into jail after a few hours in a city. In the cell there’s a one-handed sorcerer, who tells me that I will need a spell to get out of the North Gate into the Baklands.

Why am I always being thrown into jail in these books?

Awesomeness so far: -200

“Do you know this spell?” I ask.

“No, only the First Noble of Khare knows the entire spell. But worry not, brave adventurer, for I can tell you that lines of the spell are four in number and-”

“Are each known by a prominent citizen of Khare and thus I may be able to find the spell after all though it will be a difficult task to find them in this dangerous city?” I finish for him.

“How did you guess?”

“Just a feeling.” I say as I turn to the cell door and magic it open.

Outside the old man strides away up the road to the right, while I’m left trying to decide where to go. I decide to opt for left, and carry on up the road. Unfortunately there’s some guards coming the other way so I duck into the nearest hut. It’s an opium den. I try in vain to get some information out of the elves inside but all they can do is vaguely motion me further along the road. Okay, whatever. I carry on past a fountain and a horse and find myself in midget town, where I visit the local store. I buy some gauntlets, a vial of dust, and a honeycomb with enough beeswax to last me for the whole trip to Mampang. The gauntlets are magical combat aids, and the vial actually contains sand which might come in handy later if I need to conjure up some quicksand.

Further up the road I find a grotesque statue wearing a gold locket outside a hut. The hut looks interesting, so I check inside. It’s full of bones. Probably human bones. Oh, okay, this is turning out great. I search around and turn up 15 gold pieces and a bracelet of knucklebones, which I take. As I leave I notice the statue has turned around and it’s looking at me. That’s odd. I cast a spell that lets me control creatures, and order it to give me the golden locket it’s wearing. Inside is a sun jewel, which is handy for spell casting. If this is the best this city can throw at me I’m not too worried.

As I wander the streets looking for a sign that says “NORTH GATE SPELL LINE HOLDER THIS WAY” I come across the local fairground. It’s rather noisy, full of all kind of ne’er-do-wells. For example, that assassin who tried to kill me in the Shamutanti Hills. He happens to know where someone with one of the lines for the spell lives, and takes me there before disappearing into the crowds to no doubt shank someone and take their gold. Whatever. I knock on the door of the house and am greeted by Lortag the Elder, sage, schoolteacher, and spell-line-knower. He will tell me the line if I can decipher some runes for him. It’s a trivial task. I am rewarded with the spell line and a green wig, which is rather dusty but will do for spell casting.

Further up the road I stop to look at the magical fires created by someone calling himself the Firemaster. They are boring, but he suggests I take a look at the “special” fire inside his hut. It’s a fire with no heat and also it’s totally not burning the chest in the flames. The Firemaster is outside so I cast a spell that negates magic and steal the contents of the chest and then get out of there with a quick “well it’s very nice, but I already have so many magical fires at home…”

I wander the streets. It’s very odd how everyone happens to have spell components in their houses. Maybe they are bait for spellcasters? If they are, then the traps probably shouldn’t be ones circumvented by simple magic. Maybe they’re bait for people who want to sell spell components to spellcasters? As I ponder such conundrums, I find myself back at the fair. I try out a bizarre cabinet which has random prizes and luckily win a talisman that makes me even more lucky. Score.

Cabinet of STUFF!

The booby prize is a minimite.

A few turns in the road and I’m outside a chapel. I wander in and find I’m in the chapel of the god of malice, who probably lives in an evil chasm somewhere.

This religion's golden rule says something about burning people's houses down for fun.

This religion’s golden rule says something about burning people’s houses down for fun.

Slangg’s high priest will ask anyone a question and if they can answer it correctly then they are granted one wish. By the god of malice. Okay that’s certainly shady. But simple maths puzzles are no problem, and if the malicious one wants more followers then maybe he should set calculus problems instead. I get a line of the north gate spell for my feats of amazing mathematical skill and head out into the mean streets. Outside the temple it’s getting dark, so I ask for directions to the nearest inn. When I arrive at the Wayfarer’s Rest it turns out to be a rowdy tavern and inn on the waterfront.

The innkeeper subscribes to the "pile of drunkards" school of tavern organising.

The innkeeper subscribes to the “pile of drunkards” school of tavern organising.

Inside I bump in to the assassin Flanker as he’s on his way out the door with some other shady types. He’s won big at the gambling halls and he gives me some of the winnings. Clearly he’s also drunk, but free gold is free gold and I’ll not argue when the prices here are exorbitant. Four gold for a meal? With no vegetarian option? It better be good. I give it a try… It isn’t actually too bad, come to think about it. The meat is certainly tasty. I finish up, get good and drunk, and then pay for a room for the night, which sets me back another four gold pieces.

I wake up to this:

Obvious trick number 372: When it's pull or release, pull is obviously the one people will choose.

Of all the women to wake up in bed with after a night of hard drinking, Madame Guillotine is one of the least attractive options.

The innkeeper has rigged up a deathtrap while I slept. This really is ridiculous.

“So uh, you guillotine the guests and cook them?”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“So I ate human flesh last night?”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“It wasn’t that bad, actually.”

“Muahahaha! Yes!”

“Are the exorbitant prices are because you don’t get a lot of repeat customers?”

“Muahahaha! Ye- wait a minute, don’t be a smartarse.”

I quickly assess the pulley system and release the rope, which makes the guillotine blade rise up.

“Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just cut people’s throats while they sleep?”

“Muahahaha, yes,” says the innkeeper dejectedly as he wanders off, leaving me free to untie myself and get the hell out of there.

On the other side of the Jabaji river I find myself in a little community full of spindly people with their eyes closed. This is probably extremely magical stuff, so I’m keen to avoid an approaching gang of surly youths. I weave through some side streets and duck into a hut. It’s full of miscellaneous stuff, and occupied by a gnome who offers to barter with me. I figure that I can offload some of my junk for some new junk, and take a seat and start rummaging in my backpack. In fact, as I rummage around I cast a spell on my spare sword to make it look like a pile of gold, and offer to exchange it for two of his items. I take a large backpack which will let me hoard more spell components with ease, and also an Enchanted Compass of North Gate Spell Line Holder Finding, which seems like it might be kind of handy if I miss the last person with the line.

Back out on the mean streets I find a fork in the road. The right way leads a short distance to the Gambling Halls of Vlada, and the left seems to lead out of town. In the middle of the road is a large bronze statue with a bucket of gold coins at its feet. Hmmm. What’s the bet that if I take the gold it will come to life?

This is one of those obvious traps that people simply cannot resist because hey, fighting a giant bronze statue! Who doesn't want to do that?

This is one of those obvious traps that people simply cannot resist because hey, fighting a giant bronze statue! Who doesn’t want to do that?

Pretty good odds, as it turns out. I’m not taking any crap from a giant statue, and throw my vial of sand at its feet and turn the ground to mud. I decide to waste a gold coin in the gambling halls and then head back outside to find a market being set up. While I have immense self control over gambling, I have none when it comes to shops selling weapons and equipment, and I walk away with a bow and silver-tipped arrows, tinderbox, some anti venom, and a pile of provisions.

Further along the road I find a cemetery. There’s a crypt which apparently holds the remains of the Fifth Noble of Kharé. Maybe there’s a spell line scribed on the wall or something. However, in front of the door is a shimmering black circle on the ground. I’ve seen a few of these, and wonder what the hell it is. I cast the handy dandy threat assessment spell and it tells me to not risk jumping over the circle, and to make sure I’ve got some gear ready before going inside. Gosh, I wonder if I’ll need this bow and arrows I bought earlier in a crypt?

Inside I head downstairs and witness a ghostly white ghost rise up from the sarcophagus.

I'm like this with Jehovah's Witnesses.

I’m like this with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Despite my cynicism I’m too scared to cast a spell, and instead resort to shooting arrows at the deathwraith. It goes down like a thing that falls down easily, and then another ghost comes out of the coffin. It’s the now un-cursed Fifth Noble of Kharé, and he gives me the third line of the spell and tells me to look for someone called The Sham in the Baklands. I thank him and head back up to daylight. I wander past a wishing well that babbles couplets at anyone passing, and give a gold piece to a blind old beggar. Immediately a pair of harpies fly down to attack him.

"If I had a gold piece for every time those harpies stole a gold piece from me then I'd... still have no gold? Um..."

“If I had a gold piece for every time those harpies stole a gold piece from me then I’d… still have no gold? Um…”

I use some magic to turn a coin into a shield and get stuck in with my sword. The beggar actually gets a lucky shot in on one of the monsters, and eventually we win. The blind man turns out to be the former Seventh Noble of Kharé, and he knows the last line I need. Or most of it. All he can remember is By Courga’s grace and someone’s pride” which is not really helpful. I can maybe find out who the missing person mentioned in the line is in the temple of Courga down the road. He gives me a silver ring that looks like a serpent to make up for not knowing the spell line.

The shrine of Courga is possibly the most ostentatious building in the history of gaudy architecture, but Courga is the god of pride, I suppose. I look around inside and notice a black circle woven into the carpet that seems to be a portal of some sort. I avoid it and then go up to the idol. It’s got some instructions for some kind of ritual involving kissing the statue. Ew. There’s probably no end to the germs on that thing, but I have no choice. I go through the ritual and ask the idol what the name of the god of pride is, get told it’s Fourga, and then I skip out to the North Gate. I trick the guard by speaking in their native tongue – they apparently think I’m from wherever that is and don’t realise I was casting a spell when I shoved the green wig on my head and babbled some magic words – and they let me up to the gate. All I have to do now is put the spell in the right order.

Oh, for pity’s sake. What the hell is the right order?

I figure the line with no numbers is last and put the rest in in the order I got them, and hope like hell I’m right as I say the spell. The gate opens! I give a quick prayer to Libra to heal me, and then set off into the Baklands…

Let's blow this popsicle stand!

Let’s blow this popsicle stand!

Wrapup

And so conclude my adventures in Khare, the only city in the world where the population heard about Port Blacksand and thought “We can do better than that!”

This is a lot easier than I remember, but then I kept getting shoved into a sewer when I was young. I always thought it was necessary for some reason. Ha ha, no sewer trip for me! This is a pretty good book for exploring a city, possibly better than City of Thieves for the non-linear nature and the multiple ways to backtrack. Kharé is perhaps better as a setting than Port Blacksand because there’s some slight background for the lawlessness and wicked ways of the citizenry, but Port Blacksand wins on style points, having more varied shops and some really crazy encounters. Kharé is more of a run-down dump though, without any real law and order so it feels like a chaotic city where everyone is out for themselves and struggling to get ahead. I think it’s great that there’s two settings that are on the surface the same but ultimately come across as so different. For both books the illustrations and writing work together to convey it.

Woe is me, I never got to show off the Vik “spell” – which goes to show that it’s more of a special option for warrior-types to get out of a jam that a wizard would cope with easily. I do mean easily: The spells are at their most useful in an environment where there’s locks and traps everywhere. There’s a lot of use for utility spells in this one, possibly more so than the first book. Well, I suppose I’ll be seeing how things go in the next adventure.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: Why do they have guards on the north gate in the first place? It’s a magically sealed gate with a ghost made out of sulphur trapped inside to attack anyone who tries to open it.

Ridiculous Battle: Nothing ridiculous in terms of sheer overpowered opponents, but more in fairness. It’s a toss up between two scenarios. The deathwraith is ridiculously dangerous: You either have to win a couple of attack rounds to get the option to pray to Libra to kill the monster, or you have to have the bow and silver arrows, which involved winning an attack round and then testing your skill each time to see if you can hit with an arrow. Cruel! It’s only Skill 9 and Stamina 8, but imagine being a wizard in that fight. I used luck in that particular battle, since a luck of 13 makes me guaranteed to get four damage on the first two hits. Remember that wizards have an initial Skill score between 5 and 10, so basically this is game over if you don’t have some good bonuses.

On the other hand, the beggar only gives you the line if you give him some gold and then kill the harpies before they kill him. This means that once again a wizard is in deep trouble, unless you’ve got a super-high luck score: casting the Dum spell is the best bet, it takes out one of the harpies and then you can decide the other doesn’t attack him. But it requires a luck test! If he dies, no north gate spell for you… unless you backtrack and let him magically come back to life through the miracle of gamebooks not dealing with loops very well.

Victory: You get to feel smugly satisfied that you didn’t get killed by a Sulphur Ghost. And then realise you’re only halfway through the books and you’re going to have to take out seven super-powered opponents before you’re at the fortress.

What Was I Thinking? Getting that compass from the gnome. It’s mostly for people who don’t know what to do to get to the end of the book safely. As in, if you get to the gate guards without the last line of the spell you just turn to the right page and there you go.

If you want you can read the running tally of ADVENTURE.

The adventure continues in The Seven Serpents.

Night Creatures

Night Creatures: Creatures of the Night.

Here come the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight creaaaaaaaaaaaaaatures!

Here come the niiiiiiiight creaaaaaatures!
Creatures of the niiiiiiiiiiight!
They’re coming to get you!
You can’t run or fight!
Against the creatures of the night!

One of them is an angry wolf
An angry wolf hungry for human flesh!
It’s got an insatiable hunger to devour
It’s getting hungrier by the hour
It’s too late now, you can’t escape because

Here come the niiiiiiiight creaaaaaatures!
Creatures of the niiiiiiiiiiight!
They’re coming to get you!
You can’t run or fight!
Against the creatures of the night!

Another one is a werewolf
A funny looking werewolf
It’s stuck halfway and that makes it so mad
Mad enough to kill!
It doesn’t care about your secret mission!
It just wants you deaaaaad!

Here come the niiiiiiiight creaaaaaatures!
Creatures of the niiiiiiiiiiight!
They’re coming to get you!
You can’t run or fight!
Against the creatures of the night!

Maybe one is a vampiiiiiiire!
How do you fight a vampire?
Did you get the garlic?
I bet you didn’t get the garlic!

But it’s okay
It’s just a big bat
A bat with a horn on it’s head
A horn to impale you
Right through the heart
THE WAY YOU IMPALED MY HEAAAAART
When you left me there
Standing
In the rain

IN THE RAIN

Guitar Solo

Here come the niiiiiiiight creaaaaaatures!
Creatures of the niiiiiiiiiiight!
They’re coming to get you!
You can’t run or fight!
Against the creatures of the night!

Repeat chorus, fade out

Shamutanti Hills Summary

Here’s the running total so far after my thrilling journey through the picturesque, quaint, and relatively harmless Shamutanti Hills.

Days: 6

Skill Lost: 0

Stamina Lost: 28

Luck Lost: 0

Provisions Gained: 6

Provisions Eaten: 6

Treasure Gained: 30

Gold Spent: 17

Spells Cast: 8

Dop: 1
Doz: 1
Fal: 1
Hot: 1
Jig: 2
Wal: 1
Zap: 1

Inventory

Sword
Backpack
Glandragor’s Axe
Spellbook Page 102
Bag of Teeth
Silver Key 111
Borrinskin Boots
Bomba Fruit
Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery
Crystal Waterfall Pass
Spare Sword
Kharé Gate Key 12

Spell Components Found: 8

Flute
Goblin Teeth (4)
Giant Teeth (1)
Beeswax (1)

The Shamutanti Hills

“What do you mean, go and save the gi- huh? Kill the cave demo- Wait, what’s that ho- oh shi-“

The Shamutanti Hills by Steve Jackson

Covers: John Blanche, Mel Grant.

Illustrations: John Blanche

Now that is a fantasy landscape. Get out of the way, Manticore, you're blocking the view!

Now that is a fantasy landscape. Get out of the way, Manticore, you’re blocking the view!

This is the first book in the epic saga by Steve Jackson which makes for a serious and hardcore adventure. The goal is to recover a magic crown that gives people who wear it leadership powers. The evil Archmage of Mampang is going to use it to unite the lawless land of Kakhabad and invade all the other kingdoms, who will be powerless to defeat an army of evil from the Verminpit at Earth End. This is a bit of an embarrassment for the people of Analand, whose ruler had the Crown of Kings at the time. The other good nations of the Old World were a bit pissed that the artefact they’d been passing around was stolen. Well, I guess someone better trek across Kakhabad and get it back…

Wait, hang on, there’s a gimmick isn’t there? Yes, in this one there is: Magic. None of that Citadel of Chaos stuff where there’s a bunch of spells and you use them up and it’s mostly an exercise in having the right one. Here, if you choose to play a wizard, you get to cast spells from a list and often there’s more than one right answer. They cost stamina so it’s easy to overreach and die later because you tripped on a rock or something. This is supposed to be the “advanced” game but I think the warrior option – standard Fighting Fantasy rules – is a lot harder since as a wizard you only need to fight a couple of opponents. Oh I guess if you roll low for Skill you’re dead meat: Wizards only get 1d6+4 so it is apparently possible to roll so low that you have to take a narrow path picking up combat aid items for the few times you have to fight.

All right, enough mucking about. Time to trek across an entire country, save the world, and get some neat souvenirs!

Statistics

Skill: 8 (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!)
Stamina: 18 (AAAAAAAAAAAAH!)
Luck: 12 (That’s more like it!)

Equipment: Sword, leather armour, backpack, 2 provisions, 20 gold.

Special: I can call on Libra, the goddess of justice, for aid. She can restore all my stats, cure curses and diseases, or help me escape from deadly peril. But I can only do so once between Analand and Kharé.

Oh, and if I don’t eat and sleep each day I suffer penalties. This is a serious adventure, people!

Onward to Adventure!

I stay up late the night before my journey, studying my spellbook. I’m not going to be allowed to take it, so of course I’m paranoid I’ll forget all the spells about thirty seconds after stepping through the Great Wall of Analand and into the Shamutanti Hills. I tried to convince the local wizards to give up their spell components for the cause but they refused, the selfish gits. “Sorry, we don’t have any goblin teeth to spare,” said one, trying to prevent me seeing past him into the room where I could hear a groaning goblin. I think he was hiding some pliers behind his back, too. Oh well. I eventually go to bed, but have nightmares about my magical powers being drained away and having to survive by the sword. In the morning I think that was a foolish dream. I’ll be fine, really. I pack my supplies and get ready to head out. On this mission I have got the backing of all of Analand. That means two cheese sandwiches, and 20 gold pieces. It’s sort of like they think I’m going on a field trip. In a way I am going on a field trip…. TO CERTAIN DOOM!

My, what big eyes you ha- Yeah, okay, that's a tired joke.

My, what big eyes you ha- Yeah, okay, that’s a tired joke.

The guards at the wall – they have magical vision, which seems kind of handy – tells me that the whole region I’m going into is a lawless and evil place, which seems a bit redundant. But he does manage to tell me that there’s three routes from the nearest village to Kharé, and from the city I get to travel across the Baklands, which is a place where the lawlessness of the land even extends to the cycle of day and night.

This is going to be awesome.

I set off, still wondering why no-one would give me more than a couple of meal’s worth of provisions, a measly 20 gold, and no armour. The populace of Analand must really trust in my skills. I wish I could. I soon come to the village of Cantopani, where someone asks me my business there. I tell him I’m a trader and I get pointed towards the local merchant. There’s some interesting stuff there. I buy a bag of teeth, a musical pipe, and a battle axe. The bag of teeth has some goblin and giant teeth, and with the musical pipe I’m kitted out for some handy spells now. The axe used to belong to someone called Glandragor and has a number carved into it, so maybe I’ll find him and give it back. What are the odds of that, though? Next to nothing, I’ll bet.

On my way out of the village some bandits attack me. Or they try to. I just whip out my new flute and pied piper them back to the village with a spell and then carry on my merry way until I reach the fork in the road outside the village. As I stand there dithering I realise there an old man in a tree, apparently placed there by some Elvins. I help him down and am given a page from a spellbook for my trouble. As he hobbles off I notice there’s a beehive in the tree. I’m feeling brave, so I climb up and grab it. The bees somehow fail to sting me, and I make off uphill with some honey and the beeswax. It’s a lovely walk in the hills, not nearly so dangerous as I expected. As the sun sets I make camp and go to sleep…

Night Creatures: Creatures of the Night.

Here come the niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight creaaaaaaaaaaaaaatures!

…and am rudely woken by a werewolf which I see off with a costly spell. Clearly Night Creatures are going to be an ongoing problem when camping out in the Shamutanti Hills. In the morning I trek onward only to find a crossroads with a lot of heads on poles, and a big X on a tree. There’s a path downhill to the left or uphill to the right. I suppose uphill is better since if I have to flee it will be easier to do so running downhill. This is called tactics. I travel upwards only to find a clearing full of goblins, who are hauling rocks out of a cave. I sneak into the mine to see what can be found. What can be found is an angry goblin. Who doesn’t respond well to lightning. I grab a silver key from the goblin and head onwards through another door, only to have the roof cave in. I run ahead and fall into a pit, but my magic saves me from hitting the ground. At the bottom of the pit I find some boots, which are always handy. There’s also a way out.

I wander down the hillside and eventually find a small village called Kristatanti. The local alehouse seems like a good stop after my adventures in the mines.

Trick question coming up!

Trick question coming up!

I buy a drink and the barkeep asks me where I’m from.

“I’m from Analand,” I reply.

“And what?” he says with a smirk, and everyone in the tavern laughs. I hate my country sometimes.

I do manage to get some information from a local about the way onward, as well as a magic fruit. Then I head off to the inn, which is exorbitantly expensive for an establishment in the hills of almost certain doom, but certainly provides a good night’s rest. The next day I have to pick my way onwards, and I head westward, eventually coming to a junction which will take me straight on to Dhumpus, or west to Alianna. I heard about her, and think paying a visit might be interesting.

Her cottage is very picturesque. I knock on the door and get no reply, so I go in and find she’s locked in a cage. Apparently the Elvins did this. I don’t really think too hard about why she had the cage in the first place, but magic the door open for her. She offers me a choice of magical items or an aid in combat. I opt for the latter and get something called Ragnar’s Armband of Swordmastery, which might come in handy if I ever have to get into a proper battle. Unfortunately Alianna is bonkers, and she turns a chair into a wood golem to attack me.

I see you wish to play musical chairs! I will oblige you! Ha ha!

I see you wish to play musical chairs! I will oblige you! Ha ha!

I respond by producing my flute and casting the Jig spell, making the golem dance to my tune instead of Alianna’s. With the chair monster occupied, I back out the door and head for the town of Dhumpus. Thanks to my buying everything I found on the way into the hills I’m too poor to stay at the inn, so I camp outside the village and then make my way onward at dawn. The next town is… well… they have a crow tied to an overhang and everyone looks like they’re about to drop dead. I think this place might not be the best to hang out in, so I hurry onward. Further on, in the late afternoon, I come across a large village. Plus some pixie thing which wants to have a chat. The creature is a minimite called Jann, who thinks I’m going to be pleased with his company.

For pity's sake, put some pants on.

For pity’s sake, put some pants on.

The village is called Birritanti, and is in the throes of one of those irritating festivals where the underdogs get to behave like idiots for a day. In this case it’s the local children. I decide to go and have a drink at… Glandragor’s Tavern. Hey, what are the odds of that? He’s rather pleased to get his old axe back, and gives me a free pass for the local attraction, the Crystal Waterfall. I also get a spare sword, a free mug of ale, and told to look up someone called Vik in Kharé, who is apparently an old friend of the Glangrador’s and has some influence in the city. Though from what I’ve heard how anyone can have influence in a city like Kharé is beyond me.

The waterfall is sort of like the local therapeutic spring, which doesn’t do me much good since I’m not in need of healing but at least I am getting to take my mind off the mission. Then I camp down outside the town, and in the morning move on westward. I’m immediately attacked by an assassin looking to practice his swordplay. Well, that’s fine, I want to practice my magic…

It's not really assassinating someone to kill random travellers and take their money, is it?!?!

It’s not really assassinating someone to kill random travellers and take their money, is it?!?!

…but it doesn’t work. Jann yells at me that minimites are protected by an aura of anti-magic. THE HELL? He didn’t mention that before now? I draw my sword for the first time on this journey and get to it. The black clad bandit assassin psychopath puts up a good fight but I get in a couple of blows and then he surrenders. He’s called Flanker and is a bit embarrassed by all this, and says that he will remain a friend to me when I get to Kharé. I suppose the more allies I have in that city, the better. Flanker disappears into the undergrowth and I carry on, asking Jann if all minimites are bastards or if he’s just special like that.

Further up the trail an old woman sitting outside her cottage calls me over. Now, I don’t know about you but this seems slightly suspicious to me. An old woman, living in the dangerous and lawless Shamutanti Hills, happens to live on the trail and wants to have a chat to any passing sword-wielding ne’er-do-well? Probably a witch or sorceress or enchantress or something like that. Which means she’s got magic stuff! She claims she’s lonely living in the hills and offers me some tea.

I totally don't see a problem here...

I totally don’t see a problem here…

She bustles back to the kitchen for the teapot and I glance down at the cups. If she’s a shady character she’s drugged my tea, but would also expect me to be suspicious and give me the safe cup because a shady person would assume everyone else is like them. But what if she’s expecting this and it’s the other way around? Argh, ouch, my brain hurts… Whatever, I’ll just drink the tea. It’s pretty good. Hers seems to be kind of bad because she’s shaking and becoming sleepy. Haha, hahahaha. HAH. She bustles off to the kitchen and drinks the antidote, and then asks if I’ve met an old man with a spellbook page. I have, in fact, and offer it to her. She’s ecstatic, and offers to cast the spell. It’s a pest removal spell and even works on minimites. Oh, yes bloody please! Goodbye, annoying little sprite, hello magic powers! Gaza Moon is a nice enough old bat when you get to know her, and when she’s not trying to poison you.

I carry on, free of the annoying Jann, and finally reach Torrepani, which is a village of orc people called the Svinn. They’re a bit gloomy due to some kind of ancient curse that says if the chieftain’s line ever ends their village will be destroyed, and the only heir has been taken away and chucked in a cave with a manticore. Which I’d heard from Glandragor, but it’s always good to get the news from the source. Then they realise I’m a badass adventurer and throw me in a locked hut. The next day they tell me I’m being thrown down a cave to rescue the comely lass who was kidnapped. I am so surprised by this I will probably die from being surprised and the doctors of Analand will have to make up a new listing in the Big Book of Ways Adventurers Can Die.

Once in the cave I go left and left again, and find the Svinn woman who was kidnapped. Okay, so far so simple. The hard part is the manticore just showed up.

"Can you add more gore, and a dismembered torso?" "I thought you'd never ask!"

“Can you add more gore, and a dismembered torso?” “I thought you’d never ask!”

I immediately cast a spell to slow it down to a more manageable pace, and then hurl a fireball at it. It’s not very happy, so I summon a magical wall and run out of there (so heroic!) dragging the girl with me. Back at Torrepani everyone is happy and I get given some gold and a key to the city of Kharé. I also get magically healed and sent on my way the next day with the feeling that I’ve probably had it easy so far…

Usually I get given gold for killing orcs.

Usually I get given gold for killing orcs.

Wrapup

Summary!

The trick in this book isn’t really a trick for the book so much as an accumulation of bonuses for the next book (and others if you’re kind of lucky). It’s a good read though, and the lightweight adventuring means it’s a walk in the park for the experienced reader, but it’s a whole lot fairer than some of the later books. The truth is I love this book for the way it’s just an exploration exercise. Sort of like an Elder Scrolls game but with that Fighting Fantasy style which seems quite unique these days.

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: In a world of magic, why haven’t the wizards gone and stomped all the minimites into a smear on the pavement yet?

Ridiculous Battle: The manticore is Skill 12 Stamina 18, but of course only a warrior has to fight it (and can potentially have a pretty good set of bonuses to make this fair). A wizard can totally mess it up with magic… providing she’s got enough stamina to survive casting the spells.

Victory: Fully healed and cured of curses and diseases, 10 gold, a key to the city of Khare, and a one-point increase to the initial luck score. Oh, and if you still have Jann he gets banished. I hate minimites.

What Was I Thinking? FLAWLESS VICTORY! Well, almost. There’s an item that makes one of the later books a lot easier that I didn’t get. I suppose we’ll see how that turns out later…

Check it out: Books!

I know, I haven’t been posting. It’s a crying shame and all that. But what’s this? There’s news in gamebook land. Big news! Way of the Tiger is coming back with a shiny new seventh book promised, meaning the coolest cliffhanger ending in gamebooks will get resolved after almost thirty years (no pressure on them to come up with something good, right?). But on the other hand, a seventh Way of the Tiger book is a seventh Way of the Tiger book meaning ninja kicks to the head and shuriken akimbo and spitting poison darts at everyone in sight. It’s going to be great, and I’ll have an excuse to finally read them all. You can keep up with the latest news about that and some other gamebook fare over at the Fabled Lands blog (clearly I’ll have to try out Fabled Lands sometime).

But what of Fighting Fantasy? Well I went into the library, and behold:

Reading them one at a time wasn't an option.

Awwww yeah! I’m so going to… die in a really embarrassing way, come to think of it.

They were all there at the same time! I guess this is a sign,* so I’m off on a journey through Khakabad to find a crown which has magical leadership powers. Which you’ll have to wait hear about until I’m done. I’d put up a reader poll about which character to be, but the options are standard Fighting Fantasy hero, or a wizard. I think we all know what a book series called Sorcery demands from the reader.

*Whether this sign says “You’re going to miss one of the keys in Khare” or “You’re going to get killed by that one serpent you forgot how to fight” is anyone’s guess.

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