Well, this month I'm doing a batch of playthrough/reviews of classic gamebooks – as a part of my 'warm-up for fantasy' period – and I've decided to start with one I had really fond memories of from my childhood, that in many ways was the quintessential 'Fighting Fantasy' book for me – the 'Sorcery!' series. This consisted of four books, all of which following the adventures of a hero wandering the lands of Kakhabad in a bid to recover the Crown of Kings from the evil Archmage who has stolen it.
A few rules here – I'm going to be playing the same character all the way through in a bid to complete this adventure. Will I even get through the first book? Well, that remains to be seen. I will treat the end of each book as a 'save point', so if I die in the middle of book 3, I will only need to return to the start of that book, not the entire series. That would take years, potentially, and be somewhat repetitive.
Let's see who braves the first book, and ventures into the Shamutanti Hills. Skill...8. Oh, god. This one is going to be difficult. Stamina 19, a totally average roll. Pray for Luck. My prayers are not answered. My Luck is 7. Wow, is this guy the best they could send on this adventure? There are two options here – to play as a Warrior or a Wizard, with a wide array of spells – all the run-throughs I've seen have play as a Wizard, so I'm going to be a bit different and play as a Warrior. Libra help me. I start with two Provisions and twenty Gold Pieces; that's something I guess. So here I go. (Lots of Spoilers, BTW)
My character is given bread and goat's milk as his last meal. At this stage I'm wondering if the Archmage is recruiting. I am apparently a 'worthy champion'...they have really low standards, it seems. A short walk beyond the 'Great Wall of Analand' that defends the kingdom from raiders I find...a sleepy little village. Selling me goat's cheese. What is it with the goats? At least a wandering beggar gave me a page from a Spell Book. Pity I'm not a Wizard...
Finding a quiet spot to rest for the night, I spot some fairies dancing among the trees. Being a weakling, I opt to hide...and my Luck actually is with me! I manage to hide from them and get a good night's sleep. In the morning, I set off, heading into dense undergrowth, and ominously I have to Test my Luck again. This time I am not so lucky, falling head-first into a pit and waking to see a group of head-hunters dancing around me. I am, apparently, dinner – but I pray to Libra, and she puts their fire out with a rain storm, allowing me to escape. So far I am surviving on blind luck and divine inspiration; this does not bode well.
Fleeing into the undergrowth, I manage to stumble across a bear – and making soft, soothing noises, I try and inch my way around it, continuing my non-violent approach to heroism. This fails. It turns out to be a Skunkbear – ouch! I actually have a slight edge on it for Skill, but it's stink gives it an advantage. I'm rather badly hurt, but I win! Guess I am a champion! I've killed a large skunk. I just hope that all the other enemies I am to face are of similar calibre. Blundering into a small village, where the locals seemingly ignore my odour, I get a room for the night, and a combination of food and a soft bed brings me back up to full Stamina. I hope I was able to get a bath, as well.
Walking down the lane, heading westwards – because I momentarily forgot I was supposed to be going east – I stumble across a hut. I get the option to 'leave well alone', but despite being tempted, I entered. Inside is a pretty woman in a cage; now, I've read enough fairy stories to know that she must be an evil witch, so in the cage she stays! Heroically I loot the cabin – but get only 2 gold pieces, and am cursed for the loss of 2 Skill points. Well, I was right about her being a witch, but...crap. Good as dead in a fight with anything with arms.
On to another village. For the 'dreaded badlands filled with danger', there are a lot of sleepy villages around. I see a group of hill-folk talking in a group, and to join them, it seems I must put down my weapon. That can't go wrong, can it. As it turns out, peace is worth it! I get back two Luck points...but then I make a rude remark and have to flee the village, leaving my sword behind. I now have an effective Skill of 2! Mental note – in future, speak to no-one. I camp for the night, jumping at every animal sound and insect. Fortunately, no wandering monsters attack. Just as well, I'd only have harsh language to throw at them right now.
Another village – a leper colony! I can't afford to be choosy, and most of them could probably beat me in a fight, so I talk to them. And catch the plague. This adventure is going great. Cursed, unarmed, and now diseased. Analand really chose well when sending me out. Leaving, I manage to befriend a little sprite, and much to my surprise he doesn't mug me. Probably I don't have anything worth stealing. He takes me to yet another village, where I visit a Crystal Fountain, in the desperate hope for healing. Naturally, this tourist attraction charges; I pay and enter. It works! I am cured of the plague! Still cursed, though. And I get ripped off at the inn.
Leaving the village, this time I remember I'm supposed to be heading east. My sprite – a Minimite named Jann, assures me I am on the fastest path to the village. I trust him. That is a mistake – I am then killed by the Black Lotus. Crap.
Well, that first attempt was a disaster. Time for Take Two. My new adventurer has Skill 10, Stamina 17, and Luck 10; I conclude that the first one was a decoy, as in the film Spies Like Us. More goat's milk as I set out again, this time with a spring in my step of one who might actually have a chance at getting to Khare, the start of Book 2. Once more I set forth on the road, heading to buy more goat at the first village. Sigh. Last time I took the low road, this time I take the high road, camping on top of a ridge. My blissful nap is disturbed by a Werewolf! My last character would have died almost instantly, but this time I kill it – though it got some blows at me first.
Walking on into the hills, I find some Goblin heads on a stick. Lovely. This is a warning to go no further down a path – but there two paths, and I have no idea which one I shouldn't travel down. Sigh. If I knew, I'd avoid it. I go right, hoping I've made the right call. I probably haven't; there are a load of Goblins working a mine up here, and I seem to have walked into them. I can slip into the cave to see if there is anything worth taking – I think it is probably worth a try. Inside I find a Goblin sitting behind a desk. A desk. What, he's doing his taxes?
The resultant fight is over quickly; my LibreOffice outdoes his Excel. He had a Key around his neck with a number on it – resisting the temptation to go to that paragraph, I press on into the dungeon. Typically shoddy Goblin craftsmanship – the damn roof falls on me, and then I stumble into a pit. Finally I get some treasure – fur-lined boots. What the hell are they mining here? Still, the road goes ever onward, and I find somewhere to spend the night.
The next morning, I head out again, and have to choose whether to get a lift from a cart or give alms to a beggar. No choice – I pay the beggar. The driver would have probably got lost, or tried to feed me more goat, or something. My reward for this generosity is a key, with a strong hint that it will be needed in the next book – and I have two of these keys now! Success for me! My head held high, I walk on, heading for some woods. I have a feeling I know what is coming. I am mildly curious what will happen if I help the witch...maybe the Goblin's key will help. It doesn't, so I use brute force. It opens with the first smash, but I blunt my sword in the process.
She wants to help me? I can get help in combat or a magical item. Tough call, but I go with the help in combat – and get Ragnar's Armband of Swordmastery! A bonus to my attacks when using a Sword – brilliant! Suddenly I feel as if I really have a chance this time. Then she gives me gold...and summons a Wood Golem to attack me. What the hell? You just gave me a weapon bonus, then unless evil monsters on me. Sigh. To be fair, the resultant combat is quick enough that I suspect she just wanted some firewood. She could have asked.
I spend the night in another village, and set off early in the morning. This time I avoid getting the plague, and walk onwards, finding the same bloody sprite that led me to my death last time. I don't get the option to swat him, and put up with him on my shoulder. I get ripped off at the inn again, and this time avoid the Black Lotus, instead being challenged on the road by a tall guy. I just hope he doesn't have a flesh wound. Talking fails, so I fight him instead. Apparently, beating him to a pulp earned his friendship – now a guy named 'Flanker' will help me in Khare. I seem to be warming up nicely for Book 2. I must almost be at the city by now...
I see an old woman who invites me in, offering some tea. Naturally, I switch my mug for hers when she isn't looking. This was, however, what she was expecting. Fortunately, I have the missing page from her Spellbook, and I don't get turned into a newt. I get the opportunity to ditch Jann...but he might be useful, and I don't cast spells anyway – which he would prevent, so I keep him. The road leads me to a man-orc village, where everyone seems distressed. Maybe a sing-song? Apparently the chief's daughter needs to get married...oh, God. I've seen this episode of Red Dwarf. Too late...
Accepting my fate, I get a good night's sleep, and am woken with bread and milk brought in by the chief – who seems a nice guy for a prospective father-in-law. Breakfast in bed – even if it is in a cell! Apparently he wants me to fight a demon. Well, why not. What's the worst that can happen, huh? I get dumped into a dungeon, and start looking around. And fall into a snake pit, and have to call for help from Libra; fortunately this character hasn't burned that option. The snakes form a ladder, and I climb it to safety! Taking the other path, I find the lost girl! Woot! Now I just need to escape.
And there is a Manticore in the way. This looks bad. It's tougher than me with a nasty sting attack – but with a single Stamina point remaining, I win. I just hope there are no more problems waiting for me, or I am dead. A sharp stone could do it at this point, but this has all the hallmarks of 'end of level boss'. It is! I have saved the girl, and don't have to marry her – and get yet another key, as well as another point of Initial Luck! With a fatter pouch of gold and three keys rattling from chains around my neck – and that git of a Minimite swatted by a local priest, I make my way to the gates of the Cityport of Traps, Khare...but that's another story.
That was great. An excellent romp, and I loved it. These Sorcery books really had everything that made Fighting Fantasy great, with the extra additions of a wonderful adventure to boot. I'm already looking forward to Book 2 – but while I completed this one back in the day, I never got through Khare, so trepidation awaits....
Gold and Treasure
Equipment (Provisions: 0)
Sword (Dented, -1 to Skill)
Key, Numbered 111
Key, Numbered 206
Key, Numbered 12
Fur Skin Boots (Borrinskin)
Ragnar's Armband of Swordmastery (+2 to Attack Strength using a Sword)
Bonuses, Penalties, Curses
Friendship of Flanker (79 in Book 2)
Clues and Notes