The Forest of Doom is another of my old favorites, and the first of the Fighting Fantasy books to break out of the dungeons and into a wilderness that just happened to resemble a dungeon with sky, trails through the titular ‘Forest of Doom’, where the ‘Woodland Adventure Park’ has Orcs, Demons and Goblins instead of rope swings and a nice gift shop. (Well, actually there is a gift shop, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) It serves as a sort-of-sequel to Caverns of the Snow Witch, despite being written first. I remember this one as rather more forgiving than some of the other books...though sometimes the memory can cheat…
We’ve got the usual starting set-up, no special rules again. This time, I’m lumbered with a Skill of 8, which means that I’m going to have to be careful fighting dangerous creatures such as squirrels, but I have better results with my other rolls, ending up with a Stamina of 20 and a Luck of 11. Last time, my biggest problem was health, and I am sorely tempted to take a Potion of Stamina instead of being reliant on Provisions, but that Luck can run out awfully quickly sometimes, so I stick with Potion of Fortune once again. (This also has the benefit of increasing my Initial Luck when I drink it, a very nice bonus.)
It turns out I am an adventurer, who for the last two weeks has been randomly running around the wilderness without seeing another soul, when suddenly a dwarf runs up to me, yells something about a magical hammer, and dies. Naturally, I loot the body, getting a nice pouch of gold and the most useless map in history. Thus far, this has been my most successful adventure ever, but naturally, I’m not going to leave it there, and decide to seek out the Mad Wizard Yaztromo, who runs the aforementioned gift shop. He decides that I should go on this mission, then offers me a selection of magic items. I’m beginning to think that he is the Del Boy of sorcery…
I’m going to need extra paper for all the crap I buy, but I end up with a stuffed backpack. Putting on my ‘Forest of Doom’ T-Shirt and making sure my ‘Laughing Yaztromo’ mug is well wrapped, I set off into the woods, moaning about all the rubbish I’ve been stuck with. (Really, you want to know? Potions of Healing, Plant Control, Insect Control and Anti-Poison, Boots of Leaping, Ring of Light, Nose Filters, Armband of Strength and a Rope of Climbing. Any D&D character would kill for these items at the start of an adventure...in fact, a lot of them have.)
I’ve been helpfully informed that the damn hammer is broken into two pieces, but that the previous owner stamped ‘G’ on each of them, likely reducing the value considerably. Some magic hammer. Two Goblins can break it. What’s it made of, cardboard? The first creature I stumble across is a magical, talking crow, who if captured is probably worth a damn sight more than a busted hammer. The crow is a shrewd businessman, and offers to sell me the location of the goblins for a gold piece. What the hell is it going to do with it? Could it even pick it up? With no better ideas, I give it the gold. Turns out it needs money so that it can be turned into a human again by Yaztromo, and I resolve to give him an extremely wide berth in the future.
Nevertheless, I go north as instructed, bracing myself for this to be a trap. Up ahead, I find two Hobgoblins. HOBgoblins. Not Goblins. Stupid crow. Killing them and stealing their stuff, I move on. Then, I find a hole in the path, and despite being warned about the slime and ooze, I progress on, to come against a nasty Sting Worm. Another battle, and the thing damn near kills me! The last round was the decider, I was on Stamina 2 at the end. Mental note as I eat provisions - stay away from ooze. (Yes, I sit down in the slimy battle scene and have dinner. Iron stomach, that’s me.) I find more gold, and a bottle of strange liquid. Well, bottoms up. What’s the worst that can happen. Turns out I get a bonus to fighting in my next two encounters...fantastic! Let’s go off and kill things!
I’m back in the sunlight for five minutes when I find another cave, and missing the dungeons, I decide to investigate. Inside, an Ogre is tormenting a smaller creature, and being heroic, I start lobbing rocks at it, though as I don’t have the ‘Wristband of Rock Throwing’ or something like that, I miss. Instead, I charge! He dies, and I feast on the corpse. Using it as a table to eat Provisions off, of course, what did you think I meant? Inside the cage is a Goblin, and it looks like I’ve got the first bit of the hammer! My luck fails spectacularly when I walk out of the cave, and right into a trap, but fortunately I have my sword at the ready, and quickly cut myself loose.
Up ahead, I spy a tree house, belonging to an Ape Man who seems to not be particularly happy about my presence; I opt to stay and fight rather than jump to my probable death, though it belatedly occurs to me that this is probably a time for my Boots of Leaping. Too late, though. The damn thing half kills me, and even eating all of my remaining Provisions doesn’t get me back up to full health, but at least I find he had a skill-enhancing bracelet on his wrist, rapidly claimed as my property. Just as well, as I immediately stumble into some Pygmies! Sigh. Fighting midgets, great. Unsurprisingly, I slaughter them in the following battle, and steal their cash. Then come the Killer Bees, no doubt escaped from a dodgy B-Movie, but I drink down my Potion of Insect Control, and become KING OF ALL BUGS! Bow down and worship me, puny insect minions!
Astonishingly, this works. I guess Yaztromo didn’t just sell me novelty fruit juices after all. I walk uneventfully across a rickety bridge, and proceed to settle down for a good night’s sleep. Of course, this is when the Wolves attack. No Potion of Wolf Control, so I end up with a fight. I win by the skin of my teeth, and find a gold collar on one of them, worth 15 Gold! I hurried move off in case the owner had them microchipped, now badly wounded. This is getting serious, and I still only have half a hammer!
I find a hut, the door invitingly open, and naturally, I step inside. After all, if the owner was serious about security, he would have locked the door, right! Though I would probably just have broken it down. Inside - a golden ring! More money! This is actually proving to be quite a lucrative quest so far, I am pleased to say, even if I am blazing a trail of destruction through the forest. Also, it looks like I’m almost through it, which hopefully means that I am about to find the second half of the hammer...is there actually a chance I might live through a book? Actually win?
Another building, another door, and I manage to break it down, heading down some stairs into what seems rather like an end-of-level area. Reaching the bottom, I found a sarcophagus, and decide to light up a candle to see things better, not at all hoping that this is part of some sort of evil ceremony. Nothing happens, so I commence wandering in the bushes some more, until a random fire bolt hits me. It’s a Wyvern, but fortunately, I have a flute, and it apparently likes my music. Or wants to eat it, or something. It falls asleep, I kill it, and more gold is mine! I find a gauntlet that gives me yet more Skill, so success...and then a ring that knocks me back down to where I started. Fail. Up ahead, a mob demands ‘five objects’ from my backpack, and at first this is annoying...before it is made clear that this includes every individual Gold Piece, and I’m not exactly short. With that, I am out of the forest!
Stonebridge awaits, and...wait a minute, I’m an item short. Crap. Turns out my only option is to go back to the start, and try again, though this time, I’m pretty loaded with items and gold. Or I could take my gold, and just quietly leave, loaded with loot. There must be a tavern around here somewhere. And so, putting the piece of the hammer I found by the ‘This Way to Stonebridge’ sign, I head off in the other direction with all my ill-gotten gains, vague ideas of opening a rival magic shop…
This one, while still a good book, isn’t as strong as Snow Witch. It doesn’t really feel uniform, more a collection of vignettes, and while I certainly appreciated the freedom of choice...it was quite clear that there was only one successful way through. One of the most important elements of a good book - a good gamebook, in this case - is that there is a sense of story behind everything, and that wasn’t really as present here as it might have been.
I'm not sure which I'll be doing next...any requests?