Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#9 - "Caverns of the Snow Witch", by Ian Livingstone (1984)

Thaggnar's video-conference with Björk
spirals into opprobrium.  

Well, here we are knocking about in the imagination of Ian Livingstone again. Get used to it - the man was prolific. On the cover, both "caverns" and "a snow witch" are clearly depicted, but the star of the show appears to be a bumbling ORC whose boss has hit him up via crystal ball to chew his ass out for leaving the fridge door open. You can tell that he is bumbling because he has a flail stuffed into his belt such that the spiky bit is dangling in front of his crotch - if the homie makes any sudden movements then he is going to get a rude awakening, in the nuts. This might also explain why he's been standing still long enough for icicles to form on his pants.

You are an accident waiting to happen my friend.

It's a dramatic scene. Basically everyone seems to be just howling and freaking out - even the icy skulls that got stuck in the wall somehow - which led me to the alternative interpretation that they've just been told that a wandering swordsman is headed their way.

OH NO I HEARD IT IS THE SAME GUY WHO MADE A MAP OF THE SCORPIONS SWAMPS
So, you could be forgiven for thinking that the book is about a debutante ORC's struggle to make it in the high-pressure world of a modern henchman. You could also be forgiven for thinking that this book is about his boss THE SNOW WITCH, but she actually gets killed off halfway through. The book has an unusual structure, all the stuff about Caverns and a Snow Witch is just the first half, with the boss fight in the middle of the story rather than at the end. The adventure was first published in short form - just the Snow Witch bits - in the second issue of Warlock magazine, which believe it or not was an actual magazine about Fighting Fantasy that you could buy.

The Snow Witch - whom my research tells me has the lovely name of Shareella - made her debut on the cover in the contemporary haute couture of 1984, a snow-white leotard, bead belt and an early "rampant" prototype of her characteristic birdy hat.

What a feeling, bein's believin' / I can't have it all, now I'm dancing for my life
So the shorter adventure from Wizard magazine comprises the first half of the book, and it's fairly self-contained - the second half is kind of a medical drama. 


Background

Our protagonist starts out this adventure travelling with a caravan as a hired caravan guard - as far as fantasy role-playing set-ups go, this is pretty conventional. Then again, it's a damn sight better than some of his predecessors, those guys who you'll remember spent their days wandering the countryside alone, killing indiscriminately and composing erotic fan fiction about their own swords in the quiet intervals while they walk to their next massacre. In terms of characterisation, it's a big step up.

You work for Big Jim Sun, "a man to be reckoned with", who runs caravans up into the Icefinger mountains for the fur trade. At the moment the narrative picks up, our hero is walking ahead of the six carts over a frozen lake, poking the ice with a sword - from which we can see that Fighting Fantasy protagonists can apparently find ways to satisfy their death wish even when they're not in the midst of an official adventure. Suddenly the sound of a hunting horn blasts out across the ice, which is the mediaeval equivalent of yelling "OH SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT" - Big Jim thinks it might've come from the trading outpost that the caravan was heading for, and he sends you ahead to check. What you find is a "scene of ugly carnage", the bodies of six men massacred by some enormous creature. You report back to Big Jim and he asks you to hunt and kill the beast - by yourself, natch - which you agree to attempt for the sum of 50 GP.

It's actually a succinct and nicely atmospheric intro, which left me with little to make fun of. So, moving on...

Rolling Up My Dude


SKILL - 10
STAMINA - 20
LUCK - 11

Still avoiding single-digit SKILL scores, lucky me. I have my 10 PROVISIONS, hooray! I wish that they would bring back the rules from Warlock where the book would tell you that you could eat, at sensible times. I am running out of jokes about the instantaneous feeding/healing mechanic.

The Adventure


You wake up in the morning to find that the weather is shitty and fresh snow has covered the beast's tracks. You are, of course, undeterred and just start walking in a direction. Your first challenge is how to pass a crevasse in the ice. You can walk around it, or cross an "ice bridge" that has naturally formed across it, which if you think about it, would be fucking crazy. I was reminded of the first choice in Scorpion Swamp, where you could walk around the puddle or jump it. This isn't the sensible, predictable world of Scorpion Swamp though - when I decided to play it safe and walk around the crevasse, Ian hit me with a goddamn WOOLLY MAMMOTH (SKILL 10, STAMINA 11).

For fuck's sake.

A MAMMOTH, featured in the popular television game, "Skyrim".

Despite being evenly matched on paper, the MAMMOTH only got one good shot in before I chopped all of its legs off and rolled it down the hill. After that the weather worsened so I "hurriedly cut blocks of ice out of the mountain-side and [built] a makeshift igloo" and sat inside scarfing PROVISIONS to keep warm - all authentic survival lore I think - only to clamber out a while later to find that I'd been a few metres away from a trapper's log cabin. Naturally I busted in and ran a Goldilocks up on that joint, eating the trapper's stew and nicking a couple of weapons that were lying under the bed, i.e. a spear and, believe it or not, a war-hammer that I guess the trapper kept handy in case he needed to fight someone in plate armour. I left, following the fresh footprints that led out from the front door (yes, it was clear that the hut was actively inhabited - I was mentally prepared to feign anger and inform the trapper that I don't see your name on it and it's a free country and he should've locked the fucking door if he should happen to recognize his war-hammer poking out of my pants later on).

Now, some readers of the blog might be intrigued as to the identity about the killer beast that I was tracking - let me inform you now that if you're actually reading the book, this mystery is almost immediately ruined in Paragraph 1 when Ian informs you that "you set off towards the mountains where you hope to find the abominable killer beast"  - any six-year old with a passing interest in cryptozoology now knows it must this guy:

Eeeeeeek!

Yes, that hairy snowman who has been single-handedly keeping the word "abominable" alive for the last five decades or more - the YETI. This picture kinds of bugs me out by the way. It's well drawn, but very awkwardly composed. The YETI is standing at the bottom of a cliff or something? It's also clear that the artist's sympathies lie with the YETI, with its innocent labrador eyes, and its posture that of a 1950s TV housewife encountering a mouse, combined with the poise and gravitas of a surprised kitten.

See what I mean. 

The YETI inadvertently eviscerates the trapper while flapping its wrists, squealing and looking away with its eyes screwed shut - "incensed by the vicious attack, you scream at the Yeti and run through the snow to attack it". Before engaging, you get to chuck the spear, if it you have it - perhaps the trapper has a moment of baffled recognition as it flickers past his dying gaze - and if you manage to skewer the YETI it turns an unavoidable SKILL 11 STAMINA 12 fight into an unavoidable SKILL 10 STAMINA 9 fight (yeah, cheers Ian). I won the fight but the YETI got a few solid hits in, amidst all the effeminate shrieking and hopping about, so I'll confess that I was already chewing on a chicken drumstick from my PROVISIONS as I knelt at the side of the dying trapper.

Guy from "Final Fight" demonstrates best practice in the healing arts.

"With great effort he reaches up and grabs you by the neck, pulling you down so that you can hear his dying words." As I did for Mungo in Lizard King, I have taken the liberty of imagining what these might have been. "In terrible pain he struggles to whisper his story..."

Trapper's Last Words
"Ahem. Stranger, as you know, the Icefinger Mountains are a cold and inhospitable land, but for most of my life I've made them my home. I've earned my living hunting and trapping beasts. I eat the meat that I kill and scrape the furs for trade. But all that's behind me now, since, as must now be quite obvious to you, I am dying in agony. Perhaps five years ago, I first heard tell of the Crystal Caves, a great warren carved into the face of glacier, so-named for its abundance of valuable water crystals.  It is home to the wicked Snow Witch, Shareella, and her cult of followers. Now, the Snow Witch, as you may have heard, is a beautiful yet evil sorceress, who is trying to use her dark powers to bring on an ice age so that she can rule supreme over the whole world - can you imagine that? Well, it's more than a right-thinking trapper like myself can stand. So, since that day five years ago--"


Hold up, hold up, hold up - actually, no. You know what? I can't be bothered. There is honestly so much exposition in this trapper's dying words. He's worse than Bigleg in Forest of Doom. Somebody needs to let these guys know that when it comes to last words, pithiness is what gets you over. You shouldn't be glancing at your wrist-watch during a guy's dying words. You shouldn't start wondering what might be for dinner. You shouldn't have to interrupt to clarify whether the man is, in fact, actually dying at all, or whether there might still be enough time to drag him down off the mountain or e.g. invent all of modern medicine.

Anyway, he does eventually die. One of the many things he tells you before doing so is that he found the entrance to the Crystal Caves and marked it with a scrap of fur (the entrance has an illusion cast on it so it looks just like a wall of ice), and he begs you to go and kill the Snow Witch, and just in case you aren't civic-minded, "legends say" that there are treasures frozen into the walls (SPOILER - this is a dirty fuckin' lie). The book then tells you that you consider going back to Big Jim Sun to collect your 50 Gold, but "the thought of an quest through the Crystal Caves beneath Icefinger Mountains excites you, and you decide to set off to find them". I would've preferred to be given a choice here actually - could've been a nice "bad ending" for the narrative, you go get your 50 GP and invest it in starting up a one-stop apothecary in Port Blacksand that sells hag's hair, black pearls and lotus flowers, then a couple of years later Shareella's Ice Age hits and you're left starving out in the tundra with nothing for breakfast but old acorns and cursed Turkish Delight. Big Jim Sun, as a fur trader, gets to retire a millionaire, but everybody else is having a rubbish time, I bet you wish you tried to stop the Snow Witch when you had the chance: Your Adventure Ends Here.

I wish it was written that way, but instead you just get herded to the Crystal Caves by your overwhelming excitement When we arrive, we get the to books first T-junction! I thought it would never come - I went left. I bumped into a MOUNTAIN ELF in the corridor but I was just like "oh hey, what's up" and he was like "you know, maintainin', tryin' to get over" and that was that. Then I fell into a pit trap, which does 1d6 damage - in my case, a full 6 STAMINA damage. I reached into my PROVISIONS for a can of corned beef even as I ruefully rubbed my bruised tail-bone. Here I was stuck in a pit, surrounded by a fortune in precious water crystals! Yet I would trade it all for a step ladder, or even a good, solid, rope.

Then looking up I saw these two goofballs:

It's the guys who really did the singing for Milli Vanilli!
These GOBLINS threw down a rope and ordered me to throw my sword up to them, which I did. They wanted to take a prisoner, which in their shoes, would not have been my strategy. If I was the GOBLIN here, I would've run and hid in a box. I may lose a lot of Fighting Fantasy books, but the day I die because something a GOBLIN did? There ain't a calendar for that. What happened next is basically my favourite option in the whole book: If you wish to pull hard on the rope in an attempt to pull them down into the pit, turn to 314

You have to Test Your Luck to make it happen - really you'd think the GOBBIES should be testing their luck though - but if you make the roll, one of them lands on his head and doesn't get up, the other is a SKILL 5 STAMINA 4 fight which is pretty dang easy even when you're penalised for having thrown your sword away like a ding-dong. You're still at the bottom of the pit afterwards, which is kind of a minus, but we already established the heroes miraculous powers of ice-working when he assembled an igloo in five minutes during a blizzard, so it's no real surprise that you're able to hack a staircase out of the wall with one of the dead GOBLIN's daggers.

So, back on track then. Next up? A PUZZLE ROOM. The situation is that there's a sword and a spear poking out of these cute little circular pools in the ground. Someone carved a poem in the ice in front of them:
Sword or spear
Strength or fear
How to choose
Win or lose

I had to look up "doggerel" in the dictionary just now because I thought it meant "poetry that a dog would write" - not really, as it turns out, but near enough.

Plus there's the frosty corpse of an ORC pointing at the sword.
He has an honest face, don't you think?
You can choose to take one of them with you or just write the whole thing off as a bad joke if you like - after all, it's hard to imagine someone setting something like this up outside of the context of a birthday party or a game show. It's not a very good trap, since there's an even chance of getting a really good weapon with zero consequence. So my working theory is that someone who lives in the Crystal Caves set this up as a fun surprise for their best friend to find, the whole set-up including the dead ORC has some kind of special in-joke meaning between these two good buddies, balloons were gonna come down from the ceiling, et cetera, but like an asshole you have just blundered in and ruined it.

I chose to pick up the sword, because they rhymed spear with fear in the poem, plus the ORC was pointing to it. I had to make some assumptions about what the ORC was thinking when he died, I mean if it had been a SKELETON instead then the pointing would definitely mean "I'm going come back to life and get you if you even touch that sword" but since it was an ORC I thought he probably just meant "oh wow, look at that brilliant sword". This proved to be a sound line of reasoning as it was a Sword of Speed, giving +1 SKILL. I then had the option to rifle through the ORC's belongings - and since no Livingstone adventure would be complete without the opportunity to eat something nasty, you find a moldy loaf of bread - eat, Y/N? "What the hell, I could use the penicillin", I thought and tucked in - when you break it open you find a key inside, "oh great a key", and then you just throw the bread away like you were never seriously going to eat it in the first place. (This bothered me and I also never found out what the key was for).

Further up the tunnel you come across an incongruous sight at a side-entrance:

Your view into the cave is partially blocked by an old tattered animal skin hanging down over the entrance, but you can see the lower torso of a man wearing green and purple hose, and pointed red slippers. [emphases mine]

"Oh shit" I thought, "we got us a HARLEQUIN".

"Mother and Child with HARLEQUIN", 18th Century (artist unknown)
There is so much to make fun of in this painting that I actually better not even start.
Despite their garish clothes and fabulous manner, HARLEQUINS cannot be trusted as is clear from the evident cuckoldry in the historically accurate painting above.

That HARLEQUIN's been doing more than just helping out in the kitchen!
(Though it also explains why hubby was acting like he'd never seen a tit before)

A HARLEQUIN can also get you by doing some unexpected flamboyant shit that you can't even decipher but then a long time afterwards you realise he was dissing you and it was so deadly.

Days later, I knew I had been dissed so hard.
Finally, one can never underestimate the sexy allure of an accomplished HARLEQUIN and their expertise in deploying those wicked wiles to sow confusion and discord among their foes.

I should mention that doing a Google Image Search for the word
HARLEQUIN will net you 50% fan-art of the Harley Quinn character
from Batman, and 50% medical photos of harlequin ichthyosis.

I don't recommend it. 
With all this very much in mind I steeled myself for the deadliest encounter yet as I flung aside the gross ratty old animal skin curtain, ready to confront my chequy fate. But fortunately I was spared - before me stood nothing more fearsome than a MINSTREL (yes "MINSTREL" is capitalized in the book). You have the option of attacking him - but you can also "ask him about his music". If you've spent much time hanging out with musicians then like me you'll know that's it's not always clear which is the more dangerous course of action. I asked him about his music and steeled myself.

The MINSTREL is pathetically grateful for your acknowledgement and has a quick gripe about how under-appreciated he is before playing a magic song which gives you 4 STAMINA points (putting it on par with a bowl of cornflakes in the Fighting Fantasy system). Then he sends you on your way, though I would've liked an extra paragraph where the reader could give him carefully worded feedback.

The MINSTREL strums the last chord and looks at you expectantly in the ensuing silence. What do you say?
    "I liked the loud parts." - turn to 83
    "You looked like you were having fun." - turn to 177
    "Wow, you are fully, like, the male Jewel!" - turn to 204


I daresay any of those answers would net you an encore of his other song - it's the one he plays if you attack him, it paralyses you and then he slaps a slave collar around your neck. I haven't mentioned it previously but basically everyone you meet in the Crystal Caves is wearing these iron collars (like the ORC on the cover) which will give the wearer a gentle throttling if they disparage the management, try to escape or worse yet, unionize. It says little for the Snow Witch's leadership qualities that she is unable to inspire a genuine cult of personality among the various GOBLINS and TROGLODYTES in her employ. It's also worth noting that the MINSTREL is the only guy we've seen so far who isn't wearing a slave collar, roped in instead by the merest sniff of patronage from the Snow Witch (or "beloved Snow Queen" as he enthuses) - because, hey, forgetting the megalomania, and the eternal Ice Age thing - a gig's a gig, right? It kind of reminds me of the New Zealand marching band that was commissioned to play at Colonel Qadaffi's birthday party some years back, but that's another story (it was in Wikileaks).

You'll never make General now, Colonel Qadaffi. 
So anyway, next stop down the hallway was a room with ten guys it (an assortment of GOBLINS, ORCS, and NEANDERTHALS, if you must know). Since I've never seen a Fighting Fantasy paragraph that bothers to give you rules for fighting ten guys, I decided to sprint past them. One of them hiffed a dart at me and another tried to smack me with a whip, but once I got to the other side of the room they didn't bother to give chase. That's what you get if you put slave collars on your staff - they were just doing enough to be able to say they'd tried.

They could've got the better of me too, since I ran straight down a dead-end. There was a pit at the end with a dwarf trapped in it, having large water crystals dropped down on him from a shaft in the ceiling by giggling school-goblins. I helped him out despite the fact that he pretty much dared me to walk away ("Curse you, stranger, if you do not aid me!")  In his gratitude he gifted me a sling with three bullets and yelled "Beware the White Rat!" as he ran away. There's a white rat later in the book that turns into a SKILL 12 WHITE DRAGON - which this dwarf must've known, but apparently couldn't spare the breath to add "...cos it turns into a Dragon!" as he took to his heels. It's one of those useless hints, like the Delphic prophecies, where you get to think "oh so that's what he was talking about" later on - i.e. when you're relaxing in the DRAGON's belly. I just saved this miserable dwarf's life, I don't want the spoiler-free version of the goddamn hints. So we can agree that this guy was a bit of a tool.

Then while I was on my way to the next T-junction I came to a spot where the tunnel split into three instead, which almost never happens. And out from one of the tunnels comes my high school physics teacher in his dressing gown.

When did you get your ears pierced, sir?
It's a hot look for you. 
Turns out this maroon is an evil ILLUSIONIST - the prism is not actually a prop for an optics lesson, it's magic. He pulled out that old classic of creating illusionary copies of himself. "Oh no, which one is real, and which is but an illusion" I said in a bored voice as I expertly skewered the real ILLUSIONIST (it was  just a lucky guess but you have to back yourself in these situations). I smashed his prism and a genie came out, the ILLUSIONIST went running back up the tunnel shrieking, and the genie said 'Boy do I owe you a favour! Get at me later and I'll do you a solid! Invisibility, baby! Ciao 4 now!'

Then he vanished. I shrugged and went right.

As soon as you enter the tunnel, an iron grille drops behind you, barring your retreat. It is impossible to lift and there is nothing you can do but find out what lies at the end of the tunnel. You soon arrive at another iron grille which blocks your way forward.

There's a lever on the other side of the grill (grille?) which you can't reach but could maybe throw something at, like, I dunno, a dagger. So the book asks you if you have any daggers. If you don't, you lose.

This "U GOT DEATHTRAPP'd" message is brought to you by Ian Livingstone,
and Ian Livingstone's cameo as a novelty rubber mask.

At this point I pretty near flew into a rage, since I'd just been given a sling and three bullets, which would be an equivalent, if not better, method of hitting the lever from the wrong side of the grill.

Uh-uh, no.


Failure, and Death

About a day and a half later I suddenly remembered that I had used one of the GOBLIN's dagger to climb out of that pit trap earlier. I checked, and the book doesn't say that you throw it away, so presumably I still had it. Though I was still pretty pissed at Ian for not letting me use my sling bullets, I decided that my duty to this blog must come first, so I picked the book up again and Tested My Luck to see if I could hit the lever with my one dagger.

I made the shot and immediately after escaping ran into this hombre:

CRYSTAL WARRIOR - SKILL 11, STAMINA 13, GLEAMINESS 178 thousand million
He is "made of quartz" and is the first and only actually crystal thing in the Crystal Caves (putting aside my snarky references to water crystals) - perhaps there were once crystals lying all over the place but someone gathered them up and stuck them all together to make this guy. He's invulnerable to edged weapons so the book asks if you might've perhaps stolen a war-hammer from under someone's bed earlier, and if so you can fight him. I had the hammer on my side but not the dice - he killed me, the end.


Monsters, Combat, Noteworthy Encounters

Somehow in the course of writing up this post I've ended up describing every encounter I experienced in my adventure, in the order they happened. Not usually my modus operandi - I feel bewildered, like a man waking up on the floor with gaps in his memory and blood on his hands. Most times I have more to talk about in this section, but I guess I can comment on a couple of the other encounters I noticed when glancing at paragraphs I wasn't supposed to.

This book is once again full of tough combat which seems to give the lie to Fighting Fantasy adage that the "one true path" can be walked by even a useless old SKILL 7 knucklehead. The YETI is an unavoidable SKILL 10 fight at minimum - other fights are merely hard to avoid, such as the CRYSTAL WARRIOR who did for me.

Probably the most outrageous of all though is this ludicrous-looking inbred who has, can you believe this, SKILL of 12:

BIRDMAN, motherfucker!
And reminiscent of the IMITATOR in Deathtrap Dungeon, we meet another hastily re-branded refugee from the D-and-D Monster Manual, the "BRAIN SLAYER":

Unfortunately, "mind flaying" is a licensed process under patent held by TSR, Inc.
But if you'll bear with me a moment I believe I achieve comparable effects by slaying your brain
without incurring additional delays or license fees.

The SKELETON Count


Again! By this time I'm sure the pressure all the SKELETONS pent up in Ian's psyche must've been growing to astronomical levels. Certainly the artist was feeling the strain, the suppressed desires for loads more skellies worked its way onto the page in the form of dozens of skulls doodled into the detail of the artwork.

For example if you scroll back up to the picture of the ILLUSIONIST you should be able to count nine skulls in his dressing gown plus the massive one in the background - at a total of 10 skulls, it's the most thoroughly skull-saturated drawing in the book, but it's not alone.

More typical is this drawing of a barbarous MAN-ORC with just 3 skulls.

"Get out of here! This tree-house is for MEN-ORCS only!"
In total...


...and that includes the FIVE on the cover - though I won't guarantee that I found all of them.

Final Thoughts

Well, the good thing about this book is probably the story, though I only survived through the shitty parts of it. The boss fight with the SNOW WITCH takes place halfway through the book as I noted earlier, it involves playing a literal guessing game with her and looks like it would be a pretty horrible experience. But after that you are left suffering the effects of a curse, you have to escape the caves and then you go on a cross-country journey with two companions, trying to find someone to lift the curse as your life slowly drains away - along the way you get embroiled in events that reveal this book is actually a prequel to Forest of Doom, and paragraph 400 ends with you watching the sunrise from the summit of Firetop Mountain and reflecting on how good it is to be alive. It's all quite different from the run-of-the-mill and looked pretty fun as I skimmed it.

I praised the plot of Lizard King too (inasmuch as I praise anything I guess) and it seems like the story aspects in Ian Livingstone's books seem to improve very quickly after the first couple.  From a design point of view though, there's a lot of technical sloppiness here - I already expressed myself regarding the iron grill trap, but I'll point out that I do recognise that, very obviously, a gamebook author can't allow for every idea a reader would have about how to deal with a situation. However if you set up a situation where one essential item could very easily be substituted for another, but that isn't allowed? You will provoke frustration.

Another gripe relates to that GENIE that suddenly burst out of the prism and said he could turn me invisible if I wanted - pretty handy, but the only way you can ever invoke this is if you encounter the CRYSTAL WARRIOR and you don't have the war-hammer - only in this case can you ask the Genie to turn you invisible and you can sneak past. Your third option is to sit on the floor and weep as the CRYSTAL WARRIOR laminates himself in your pulverised viscera.

Again in this book we have the situation where each item has only one correct use and only one opportunity to use it. There are cases where an essential item crops up only one or two encounters before you have to use it (e.g. an item that lets you deal with the White Rat/Dragon is an example), which feels contrived. I get the sense that there wasn't much going on in the way of play-testing and review at this stage (in 1984 I still imagine Jackson and Livingstone as emaciated youths clad in flour-sacks, furiously typing away in a garage somewhere, that first cheque for one hundred million pounds still in the post).

So, thanks for reading. Next time we will be back in the ever-sadistic clutches of Steve - the real Steve, not that American guy who makes his books too easy - with the first book in the series which I have never previously played: House of Hell.



18 comments:

  1. House of Hell is a good one- genuinely creepy, and difficult too.

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  2. Yep, House of Hell is one of the better ones, and quite creepy and difficult, as Neil says.

    The Snow Witch had another makeover in time for the more recent releases of the books; now she looks like Rachel Weisz in a red evening dress and a fur coat.

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  3. MAN THERE'S ABOUT A MILLION MORE SKULLS ON THAT NEW COVER TOO

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  4. Brilliant as always. Snow Witch is full of strange options. You mentioned the mouldy bread and the spear and hammer problem. It will be most beneficial to take just the spear as then you can weaken the yeti and then use the genie to avoid the crystal warrior. However, you have to take either both or neither and also you don't have the option of using the genie before you check to see if you have the hammer. Boo.

    Looking forward to House of Hell. However, I think it's unwinnable if your fear score is 9 or below, so you may need to fix that score.

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  5. Great review, I always enjoy these! The jazz hands yeti is one of my favourite Fighting Fantasy pictures. May I do a bit of blogspam while we're on the subject of Caverns Of The Snow Witch? In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon 1986 annual the cheapo artist attempts a valiant copy of the pit goblins in the Mine Of Terror CYOA.

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  6. As a doctor, i have now stopped treating seriously injured patients with the Advanced Trauma Life Support algorithm. Instead, i crack out the PROVISIONS and get a full English fried breakfast plus four slices of buttered toast down their throats as soon as they're wheeled into the resus room. I then use an algorithm of my own devising: e.g. liver laceration: chicken vindaloo, closed head injury with a GCS of less than 8: steak and kidney pie. Of course patients in cardiac arrest get the big guns: some fungus scraped off a log.

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  7. @ Greg - LOL!

    for real though - LOL

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  8. Stumbled upon this after reminiscing a couple nights ago about FF. Funny stuff here and nice that the pictures looks fresh as ever even though 25 years have passed. After devouring 1-9 I'm already jonesing for HoH. That is a hard motherfucker for sure.
    In case anyone cares I'd rank 1-9 in terms of overall awesome as: 1.DD (saddened you didn't include a picture of that hot, sadly dead, Elf 2. Lizard 3. Chaos 4. Thieves 5. Doom 6. Cavern 7. Warlock 8. Swamp 9. the space one

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  9. ABOUT BLOODY BLEEDING SKELETONING GOBLINTROLLING TIME THERE MURRAY.

    While I stupidly wait slackjawed and daft for your NEXT TT400 post, think I'll master the japanese language, transcendental meditation and the piccolo to keep myself busy!!

    Love your series anyway and fondly remember these books, cheers.

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    1. Yes, welcome back there old sod.

      This one looks like it'd make a halfway decent tabletop module. Nothing fantastically complicated but enough to occupy an afternoon?

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  10. Hey, good things take time! And so does ephemeral trash, when it's produced by an extremely lazy man.

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    1. I loved reading this, and am looking forward to your take on my first and favorite gamebook, House of Hell. I linked to your blog (and quoted you) in a post I did today about Fighting Fantasy.

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  11. Absolutely stonkingly amazing stuff as usual! Yes, civilisations may rise and fall between your posts but it's always worth it when they arrive! I am once again in awe at your wit, sir. Keep em coming please. Cannot wait to see what you make of the 1980's Satanic panic-inspired mess that is House of Hell. I recall many evenings spent wandering aimlessly through the corridors of the House, looking for the Asmodious room (or some such thing), literally dying of fear lest some GHOUL or GOAT-HEADED FREAK jump out at me and eat up my stamina like skittles.

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  12. "Me know this is a generalization, but why is all skeletons involved with evil stuff?" - Ali G

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    1. ha ha i didn't know that quote so i had to hunt it down

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeUtCxe-xDg#t=2m26s

      brilliant

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  13. Hi Murray. I would like to include you on my April A to Z - could you email me on sl1605@gmail.com so I can send you some interview questions?

    Many thanks,

    Stuart

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  14. I've enjoyed this post so much that I've read it three or four times now. When is your 'House of Hell' walkthrough coming out? If you'd gone into a real haunted house and taken this long to return, I'd probably be phoning the police about now. Or maybe I'd give you another week. It's not as if I'm sat near the phone.

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  15. The first caption in this blog entry still cracks me up.

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