Thursday, August 01, 2013
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - Attempt 1, Part 1
As this is the first book of the series, it has a suitably basic premise. There is a Warlock. He lives in a mountain, and he has a lot of treasure. You want to kill him and take it for yourself. It doesn't really get much more primal than that as far as adventuring motivations go, and we're certainly not mucking about with any moral quandaries. So into Firetop Mountain I go, sword in hand, and woe betide anything that stands between me and that shiny pile of gold.
But first, the rules. Fighting Fantasy characters typically have three scores: Skill, Stamina and Luck. Skill determines how good they are in a fight, and is also used for physical feats and the like. Stamina is like health, and works pretty much like hit points in D&D. Luck is exactly what it says on the tin. It gets used for all sorts of situations in which very bad things might happen. Skill and Luck are determined by rolling a six-sided die and adding 6 to the roll, Stamina by rolling 2d6 and adding 12. I rolled an 11 for Skill, 18 for Stamina and 12 for Luck, making for an extremely viable character. In the early books there's a decent chance of success with low scores, but rolling high makes it a hell of a lot easier.
As for equipment, Fighting Fantasy adventurers travel light: I have a sword, leather armour, a shield, a lantern and a backpack. I also have ten Provisions, a sort of super-food that restores 4 Stamina points when eaten. In addition I get to choose one of the following potions: a Potion of Skill, a Potion of Strength, and a Potion of Fortune. Each of these potions has two doses, and corresponds to one of the three stats. When used they restore that score to its initial level. The Potion of Fortune has the added benefit of adding 1 to your initial level as well, which is pretty nifty. I opted for the Potion of Strength, which restores Stamina. I don't really know why, because those Provisions are mightily curative all on their own. I probably ought to have gone with the Potion of Fortune, but what man can explain a decision he made two weeks ago, back in the mists of the past?
After the rules there is a short introduction, in which my character stopped in a village near Firetop Mountain to gather rumours about the Warlock. Apparently he gets his powers from an enchanted deck of cards, or possibly a black silk glove. This could be relevant, but of more interest is the fact that after a stay of only a few days, the girls of the village weep when I leave on my mission. Don't worry ladies, I'll be passin' this way again, oh yeah...
The quest begins!
After entering a cave mouth at the base of Firetop Mountain, I was presented with that most ubiquitous of Fighting Fantasy dilemmas: a t-junction! Should I turn east or west? You may scoff, but whole adventures can hinge on this choice. Fighting Fantasy adventurers do not retrace their steps unless there is no other path forward. I turned east and came to a door at the end of the corridor, which I promptly charged with my shoulder. Cue a Skill test, which is done by rolling two dice and trying to get a score equal to or lower than my Skill score. I did so, and smashed through the door, falling headlong into a shallow pit for my trouble. The pit isn't described all that vividly, but I imagine it as a rubbish dump for the denizens of the mountain, and also a means by which author Ian Livingstone gets his jollies. Picking myself up, and cursing the loss of 1 Stamina point, I walked back to the junction and headed west.
The tunnel turned north, but there was someone asleep at a guard post there: a warty-faced ORC! (Yes, the book capitalises every monster or potential foe you meet. It's terribly dramatic.)
This is the first Orc I ever encountered in any form of gaming or fiction, so he holds an extra-special place in my heart. The good vibrations must have extended to my character as well, because I tried to sneak past the Orc instead of just running him through. This required me to Test My Luck, which is done by rolling two dice and trying to get equal or lower than my Luck score. Every time you Test Your Luck your Luck score drops by one point, which means that eventually your good fortune is going to run out. Anyway, I succeeded, and managed to sneak past without waking him up.
Further up the passage there was a door on the west wall, and inside was a sleeping quarters where another Orc lay asleep. I sneaked into his room and managed to steal a box containing a single gold piece and the Orc's pet mouse. Or snack mouse, depending upon your view of Orcs. I let the mouse go, which really does go to show that this is Book 1 of the series; if this were a later Ian Livingstone book this mouse would have been vital to my success.
I continued north and found another door on the west wall. This one was unoccupied, and I assume belonged to the first Orc sentry I had encountered, but there was another box. Which I opened, of course, only to reveal a SNAKE!
This was my first fight of the book, so I'll explain how dead simple the combat rules are. The enemy's Attack Strength is determined by rolling two dice and adding its Skill score. I do the same with my own Skill score. Whoever gets the highest score wins that round, and the loser must subtract 2 Stamina points. Repeat until someone's Stamina reaches zero, which means they are dead. Luck can be used to make a hit deal more damage to your foe, or to reduce any damage done to you, but I don't need that here because this Snake only has 2 Stamina points. I throw the box in the air and chop the Snake in half with a single blow before claiming the key that is hidden in the box. This key has the number '99' stamped on it, which is a pretty common thing in the Fighting Fantasy world. Keys, jewelry, dragon teeth, they all have numbers stamped on them for no readily apparent reason other than making it harder for cheating bastards to get to the end of the book.
Further north was yet another door on the west wall, from which I could hear drunken singing. I burst in to find the following sordid display.
I killed them, because Orcs, and discovered that they had a book called 'The Making and Casting of Dragonfire' by a dude named Farrigo di Maggio. It contained a spell for defeating dragons, which may or may not come in handy later on I'm sure. Why do Orcs have a book like this? This is exactly the sort of thing the Warlock needs to crack down on.
A T-junction! I turned left, and entered a room where an Orc Chieftain with two left hands was whipping his servant.
Thinking that I might obtain an Orc sidekick who I could push into traps and the like, I attacked the Chieftain, only for the ungrateful bastard I was trying to save to leap to his defence. Regardless of the odds I carved said Orcs to pieces, and set about opening their treasure chest. It was trapped, of course, and the poisoned darts knocked off a whole 6 Stamina points. I fixed this by bandaging my stomach and scoffing some Provisions, which leads me to believe that medical practice in the Fighting Fantasy world is less than ideal. But it was worth it, because inside the chest were a whole load of gold pieces, a black glove, and a potion of invisibility. Score!
I headed back to the junction and went east, then east again at the next junction, and came to a kitchen wherein five Orcs were cooking up a storm. I was feeling pretty cocky by this point, so I calmly strode in and took them on. Much to my delight they lined up conga-style and fought me one by one, like thugs in a Bruce Lee movie. I slaughtered them, which brought my Orc tally to a respectable nine so far, and in the kitchen I found a bow and silver arrow with a rad mysterious inscription.
A vital utensil for every kitchen. I turned back to the junction and went north. A door in the east wall opened into a small cell, with the following dapper gentleman there to greet me:
I let Mad Johnny Chairleg know that I was there to free him, and he calmed down right quick. It turned out that he was an adventurer who got captured by the Orcs, and he even had some good info for me: I should pull the right lever when I get to the portcullis, and I should pay my respects to the boatman. At that point I had the temerity to ask Mad Johnny to come with me further into Firetop Mountain, which is seriously bad form. Dude is traumatised! Not surprisingly he opts to leave, and I bid him farewell, not bothering to mention that there are still two Orcs loitering around near the entrance.
Further north there was another door in the east wall, this one leading to an armoury. I took a shield, which makes it harder for foes to damage me, but it was so heavy I had to leave another item behind. I chose my original, inferior shield; it was an agonising choice.
Further north there was yet another door in the east wall (this is not a dungeon design classic, let's just say that). Inside was a torture chamber, wherein two GOBLINS were torturing a Dwarf. At this point the book gave me the option to walk in, poke the Dwarf with my sword and laugh evilly. I was so tempted, but instead I leaped in and killed the Goblins with gusto. Sadly, the Dwarf was already dead, but I was rewarded with a lovely piece of delicious cheese. Delicious, delicious goblin cheese.
I soon came to the portcullis that Mad Johnny Chairleg had told me about, and I pulled the right lever like he told me to. The portcullis opened, and I went on my way unharmed. I remember this trap well. The other lever is a fake, a sword blade covered in wax that will cut your hand if you try to pull it. Forewarned is fore-armed!
Past the portcullis was a t-junction. I headed east, and soon came to an inviting chair.
This set-up screamed trap to me, but I sat down anyway and ate some Provisions. Against all odds the chair was magical, and restored more Stamina than usual to me. I never would have guessed.
The passage turned north, then I headed east at a junction and east again at yet another junction. This led to a lovely marble room containing an iron statue of a cyclops, with a bloody great gem set in its eye.
Even as a nine-year-old boy I knew the set-up here, but what self-respecting adventurer could leave that gem behind? I set to prying that baby out with my sword, and tried to stifle a yawn as the IRON CYCLOPS came predictably to life.
This guy is actually pretty tough, with a Skill of 10, but I still hacked him and his incredibly well-defined buttocks to death. Again I was well rewarded: the gem was worth 50 gold pieces, and there was another key inside the Cyclops, this one numbered '111'.
I walked back to the junction and went north, only to be attacked by a random BARBARIAN. No warning, no options, just a fight. I could have run away, but this guy wasn't so tough. For reasons unknown he was carrying a wooden mallet and some sharpened stakes. Camping supplies salesman? If so, his sales technique was lacking. Still, what we really have here is Chekhov's Wooden Stake: there be Vampires in this mountain somewhere.
The next room had paintings on the wall, one of which was of the Warlock.
I took a look and learned that his name was Zagor, but I also lost a Stamina point due to fear. Somewhere in the world, there is a Fighting Fantasy reader who died by looking at that painting. It's not so embarrassing, though, because there is obviously some magical shenanigans going on, and I was under mental attack. I looked through my pack for an item to use, and opted for the Eye of the Cyclops over my moldy goblin cheese. Lo and behold the gem thwarted the Warlock's power, and I was able to continue.
The next room was just full of some random junk, like a rope and some y-shaped sticks. I checked out the rope, kind of mystified that I wasn't already carrying some, only for it to try and strangle me. I chopped it in half, understanding now why I didnt have any. The y-shaped sticks were bulky, and I would have had to leave something behind to carry one, so I left them behind. What could they possibly be for? Finding water? Making a slingshot? Trapping a snake's head? The possibilities are endless.
Further north I came to an underground river, which I remember as kind of the half-way point of the adventure. As I understand it, Ian Livingstone wrote everything up to this point, and Steve Jackson did everything after the river. This feels like a good place to take a break, so I'll tackle the rest of my quest in the next post.