Thursday, 13 July 2017

His Dreams of Power and Wealth

In a sense I have already explained how I got hold of my copy of Fighting Fantasy gamebook 59, Jonathan Green's Curse of the Mummy. Various earlier FF playthroughs here give all the information necessary for working it out, so I'm going to make a small contest out of it. The first person to go to the effort of deducing the circumstances under which I bought the book, and posting the correct answer here, will get to choose which gamebook I (re)play for my 300th playthrough.

My first attempt at the book was not particularly successful. At character generation I took the dice as they fell, getting a high Stamina but a poor Skill, as a result of which the unavoidable fight against the Giant Scorpion proved lethal. In subsequent attempts I've made more progress, but I think I'm still a long way from being able to win it.

And with the stats I just rolled up, victory becomes even more unlikely. Allocating dice makes for a slightly less mediocre character than taking them as they come, but I'm still not going to get far with just:

Skill 10
Stamina 17
Luck 10

The adventure also has a non-randomised stat. As a result of my history as an adventurer, I've been exposed to a wide range of toxins, and have built up more resistance than the average person has. Nevertheless, there's only so much that my system can handle, and as I'm going to be encountering an unusually high number of potentially lethal substances on this quest, I have a Poison score to keep track of just how much muck is contaminating my bloodstream. If it gets too high, that's game over.

Following a pirate attack on the ship on which I was travelling, I have wound up in the town of Rimon, at the wrong end of the Desert of Skulls, with only the clothes I wear, my sword, and a few coins. Having arrived just too late to get work and passage on a caravan heading north, I am seeking employment when I see a sign advertising for a warrior to undertake a hazardous mission. Asking around, I discover that Jerran Farr, the man who posted the ad, straddles the line between archaeologist and tomb-robber, and does not have a great reputation. Nevertheless, he's offering paid work, so I make my way to the drinking-house mentioned in the ad to meet with Farr.

Farr looks as if he's seen some trouble in his time. He tells me of the ancient desert kingdom of Djarat (essentially the FF version of ancient Egypt), and the tyrant Akharis, who ruled Djarat centuries ago, worshipped the evil goddess Sithera, and on his deathbed (at the tender age of 156) threatened to return and curse all the land. Akharis was purportedly buried with lots of treasure, inside a heavily booby-trapped tomb.

In an epic display of cluelessness, I ask Farr what any of this has to do with a dangerous mission for a warrior. He explains that, five days ago, a dying man staggered into his dig and told of having been part of an expedition that found an inscription revealing the location of Akharis' tomb. They had set off in search of the tomb, only to be ambushed by a group of men in red robes, who killed or captured the rest of the party. Farr identifies the attackers as members of the Cult of the Cobra, worshippers of Sithera and followers of Akharis, who have been seeking his tomb so that they can resurrect him, doom the world, and so on and so forth. He wants me to help him defeat the cultists and obtain Akharis' treasure, and I agree, of course.

We leave the drinking house to start preparing for the quest. Jonathan Green FF books traditionally throwing a hostile encounter into the very first section, we don't get far before a trio of red-robed villains surrounds us. They chose to waylay us in a narrow street, and while that makes it a lot easier for them to keep us from escaping, it also prevents them from ganging up on either of us. Their leader attacks me, and the one behind us takes on Jerran, but they're not great fighters, and we defeat them with ease. The third cultist runs off, and I remember from my first attempt at the book that giving chase will achieve nothing beyond getting me hurt and possibly killed by the fleeing cultist's delaying tactics.

Before we set off across the desert, we need to get equipment. Jerran gives me some extra money to spend in the market, so after getting some Provisions, a rope, a lantern, some spare oil and a telescope, I proceed to the section which sells more obscure goods, getting some oil of lotus, a quartz pyramid, and an alabaster scarab. My gamebook manager reveals that I've never gone for one of those items before, and it's one with a very useful effect. Well, even if the Scorpion gets me again, this attempt has been worth it just for revealing the capabilities of that artefact.

Jerran and I head into the desert, and he tells me of a Shaman who lives to the east and may be of some assistance. After two days we reach Jerran's camp, and that night we are attacked by a Giant Scorpion, which stings Jerran and then goes for me with its claws, and manages to kill me. If I'd been using the Wizard Books reissue of Curse, the fight would probably have gone better, as the Scorpion is one of the opponents which has had its Skill reduced to make the book slightly less harsh. Mind you, there's been some sloppiness in the editing - nothing as bad as the misplaced surrender option in the revised Spellbreaker, but a failure to acknowledge the creature's reduced Skill in the rest of the section means that one paragraph in the book can now only be reached by getting a score of 14 on two six-sided dice.

Well, I've now played the whole of the initial run of Fighting Fantasy, taking just under 5 years to do so, and only actually winning 16 of the main range (plus two of the Sorcery! series, two Warlock magazine adventures and one instalment of The Dark Usurper). It'll be a while before I start replaying the ones I failed, though, as the 21st-century revival has produced enough material to keep me occupied for a while longer.


  1. In you said that in 2001, you acquired four FF books you'd never owned before, the first of which was FF44 Legend of the Shadow Warriors. As the post-FF59 books weren't published until 2005 or later, these four must all have been in the initial run.

    In you mentioned that the second of the four books was FF46 Tower of Destruction, and in it turns out that FF47 The Crimson Tide was the third.

    For FF48 to FF58 you have described where you found them and none of them were in the batch described above, so I deduce that FF59 Curse of the Mummy is the final one found in the charity shop on the way to the post office to collect a parcel of magazines.

    1. We have a winner. Would you like to choose the book for my 300th playthrough now, or wait until nearer the time?

    2. Well, it has to be non-linear, like The Renegade Lord or Bloodfeud of Altheus or Twist of Fate, because there's not much point in a replay where you basically do the same thing as last time and hope for better rolls. I'm also going to rule out anything I own, along with books that you won last time. Finally, I'll eliminate anything where there seems to be a high likelihood of failing in the first few sections, either due to statistical difficulty (which takes out most of the Tunnels and Trolls adventures) or bad game design (so no Being Elizabeth Bennet, I'm afraid).

      So, taking all that into account, it has to be The Genesis Quest from the Lemmings Adventure Gamebooks series.

      But seriously, I've narrowed it down to Island of Secrets from Starlight Adventures or The Money Spider from Webs of Intrigue. My slight preference is for Island, because the rules for Money Spider seem to prevent the player exploring different routes, but if your experience of the former leads you to believe that a replay will be very similar to the first try then I'd be quite happy with the other.

      Or if I've formed a false impression of these books from your previous attempts and they're really quite linear, then I wouldn't mind seeing you give Herbie Brennan's Adventure Game Books Aztec Quest another go.