We failed last time with Turn to 400 (for now at least… go register your interest for a 2nd attempt next year!) but you maggots have a chance to redeem yourselves with You Are the Hero, a Fighting Fantasy history book project being funded by Kickstarter. Go give them some money, please!
I bloody loved this one. I’m learning that fond memories of Fighting Fantasy don’t always result in the experience matching up equally, but in this case, expectations were exceeded! As I’ve already discussed through the read-through, the atmosphere and art of the book are what make it so special, I want to carry on exploring Port Blacksand and find out all it’s filthy secrets. If only they could set a videogame in Port Blacksand with the Assassins Creed engine (but with none of that futuristic garbage)! I honestly can’t remember if any of the later books take us back there, but I would love to have another book set in Blacksand, as I told Ian Livingstone myself…
…Twitter is great. So, you know what to do, get onto @ian_livingstone and tempt him!
Mr. Livingstone also provided some feedback on an image I posted on Twitter from City of Thieves. In an area I had missed on this playthrough, I noted a piece of artwork which appeared to feature a down-on-his-luck Rod Stewart.
I don’t really have anything to criticise in the book, perhaps Zanbar Bone’s tower could have been given a little bit more page space, but the star of the show was of course Port Blacksand, so it’s understandable that the spotlight was put on that. The wonderful Ian McCaig art did bring back one horrible childhood memory though through the following image, which I managed to miss in my play-through, but I did find rather disturbing all the same. Something of a Yubaba look going on here I think.
Aside from the setting think one of the things that made the book so fun was the amount of rewards on offer. If Blizzard have taught us anything, it’s that it’s fun to get loot. Personally tailored chainmail, new boots, brooches… I was getting new stuff on a regular basis and it made progression through the port all the more pleasurable. And as a handy segue, you can see my progression in my amazing map just below.
So, there we go, a happy ending and a happy reader. And you know what? It’s only bloody Deathtrap Dungeon next!
Emerging from the sewer depths with a quite vile straggle of hag hair, possibly the worst kind of hair to take from a drain, I followed Stable Street round a sharp left turn only to find three men with red star tattoos on their foreheads blocking my path and apparently intending to rob me. Chucking a throwing knife at them I spectacularly missed and had to engage all three in battle, but at around 7/5 each, they fell easily, but only giving up a prize of 1gp. Oh well, I’ll be on my way then.
Walking through a section of street made of terraced houses, one stood out, being white in colour and having a large serpent carved into the door. Clearly nothing bad could be inside, so I opened up the door and had a look. Through silk curtains I heard a woman ask who it was, to which I replied I was delivering flowers from Lord Azzur. The woman then revealed herself to be a strange serpent/woman combo, like a horrible mermaid gone wrong, a snakes head on a womans body, but she seemed quite interested in the flowers Lord Azzur had sent her. Of course, this is where my ruse was ended as I didn’t have any flowers to give. So, she had to die. I left her abode 12gp richer for my troubles.
A little further up Stable Street, I came across the titular stable in question and went over to have a peep inside to find a large, grubby, bear-chested blacksmith beating a piece of metal. For 20gp he agreed to make me a fine chainmail suit, being rather flush at the moment, I took him up on his offer and earned myself 2 Skill points! Or I would have if I weren’t already at my initial Skill value of 11… Waste of money! Walking along the street I was rapidly approached by a desperate looking man, disheveled and in chains, he begged me to cut him loose, saying he had been imprisoned for not paying Lord Azzurs taxes as he was robbed, but had just escaped! I tried to release his chains, but couldn’t break them with my sword and before I knew it, we were surrounded by guards. I took pity on the guy and despite their warnings that he was a murderer I bribed them with my unopened Stamina potion, but they would only agree to let me go. Sucks to be you, chained-guy!
‘Public Gardens: Entry Fee 1gp’ read a nearby sign… now gardens sometimes have flowers in them… ‘perhaps this might be where I can find the lotus I need’, thought I. So I stumped up my 1gp and got all botanical. Surrounded by animal topiary in the center of the garden was a large stone plinth which had a stone bowl full of lotus flowers on top! I’m a genius. Despite the ‘Do Not Pick the Flowers’ sign, I snatched one up, which of course caused the animal topiary to come to life and attack me as a giant bunch of leaves. As difficult an opponent as that sounds, at 6/6, I killed those… leaves… without much difficulty and went on my merry way with a lovely lotus flower.
At this point, I was on the look out for one last piece of my Zanbar Bone killing kit, the tattoo. And so, on leaving Stable Street and walking onto Mill Street, I happened upon an side alley. Being a man with a few tattoos, this sounded like a good place for a tattoo parlour to be found, and my god, you know I was right? ‘Jimmy Quicktint: The best tattooist in town’ stated the sign hanging outside the shop, a fat, tattooed man answered the door and for a bargain 10gp, gave me my glorious forehead tattoo. This had better be worth it.
Not quite believing it, I had managed to accumulate all the items I needed to kill Zanbar Bone! Quite genuinely excited that I might be onto a good ending here, I headed back down Mill Street only to be accosted again about a bloody merchant pass by two of Lord Azzurs guards. Still not having obtained one, I drew my sword and fought them one by one. Sourbelly and Fatnose were their names and bloody tough they were too, being 10/11 and 9/10 respectfully, and they managed to get me down to 7 Stamina before they fell.
By now, I’d managed to gain quite a crowd of on-lookers and having just killed what were apparently two well-known guards, I got the hell out of there before more could show up. Despite this, the sound of shouting and footsteps came from behind me as town guards gave chase. To my aid came a young boy who told me to follow him, we ran towards a man on a horse and cart. ‘Uncle! This brave person killed Sourbelly!’ the boy shouted, his uncle urged me to hide under the hay in the cart. Giving it a bit of Ezio, I dived into the hay and stayed there until the guards were long gone. In fact, by the time I left the cart, so was Port Blacksand as I emerged from the hay to find we’d left town and were on the edge of a nearby wood.
Following Nicodemus’s map, I made my way into the woods toward the guarded tower of Zanbar Bone. As light faded, I spent the night under an elm tree, my belly full of stewed rabbit and mushrooms, equating to 2 Stamina restored. When morning came, a nearby yew tree provided the wood I needed to make a bow for my silver arrow, but my practice with the bow was interrupted by a dove carrying a note from Nicodemus.
Oh, you tit.
I had to make my decision here and now while I was undisturbed, so my basic logic was that black pearls are black and the night is also black and so the NIGHT Prince might be ok with having them rubbed into his eyes? So, lotus flower and hags hair it was. Suddenly, a random encounter appeared and a D6 roll dictated that I must kill a Giant Snake.
Marching north towards the tower, night began to fall and before I could open the doors to Zanbar Bones lair, I was set upon by two of his fabled Moon Dogs, which were damn hard at 9/10 and 11/9, but my immense Skill of 11 saw me through. Oddly, no illustration of these beasts was in the book given that they’re pretty central to the plot and just about everything else has an illustration! Predictably though, the front door to the tower was locked, but those with a keen memory will remember my astute purchase of a Skeleton key back at the very start of my adventure and that bad-boy let me right in, no fuss. The first thing I found in the entrance way were two shields, one featuring a unicorn crest, one with a tower crest. Given my unicorn tattoo, I figured that would be a good choice and so it was too, a shield once owned by ‘goodly knight’ was now mine and earned me +1 Skill, or it would if I wasn’t already at my Skill cap!
Ascending a staircase I found a pleasant looking bedroom and was given the option to have a rest. Sounding like an absurdly bad idea, I declined the option and plowed on up to the second floor. Another door presented itself and behind it was what was clearly a vampire chick, an inevitable eventuality given that I picked up a clove of garlic in part two of this read-through! Recoiling in horror at the tasty ingredient to any meal, the vampire chick lost her chance and I snatched the key and locked the door from the outside.
Up to the next floor and another door led me to a pitch black room… unable to light it, I knew better than to try and explore it and again climbed the stairs to the next floor. Here things got interesting, ‘Oh foolish adventurer!’ cried a hidden Zanbar Bone, ‘I am following your every move, but you do not know where I am!’. Indeed I didn’t, Zanbar, but I had three options, a black door, a white door and yet more stairs. I took to the idea of the white door and inside found a very cold room containing a sarcophagus. Zanbar Bone seemingly trying to collect all the big movie monsters under one roof, a mummy came wandering out once I opened the sarcophagus and it was soon staggering around in flames as I had a lantern in my pack I could throw at the creature. Inside the sarcophagus lay the Ring of the Golden Eye, which supposedly allows its wearer to see through illusions and have excellent four-player death matches on Temple with grenade-launchers.
Behind the black door lay a black room, full of macabre objects and paintings, a black cat, a black cloth, black candles, it was all really black is what I’m saying. On a table sat a chest, but as I approached it, my brand new Ring of the Golden Eye kicked in and told me it was all an illusion! In-fact, the black cat I walked past was in-fact Zanbar Bone! Before I could notch my bow, he pulled three of his teeth and cast them to the floor, creating three skeletons for me to do battle with and of course, utterly destroy.
Zanbar Bone walked towards me, reaching out in an attempt to touch me and kill me with his outstretched hand, I rolled a Luck test and let fly my silver arrow!
Boom! A successful hit to the chest paralysed Mr. Bone and so came my chance to rub my hag hair and lotus flower concoction into his eyes… ‘Congratulations – you have killed Zanbar Bone’, read the text and I was instructed to Turn to 400! Oh yes, I’m brilliant at Fighting Fantasy.
A hero’s welcome was awaiting me back in Silverton; battle weary and hungry, a feast was arranged with music and drinking in the streets. Owen Carralif made a speech, which I assume was about me and how I’m great, and then gave me a gold orb worth hundreds of gold pieces. The people of Silverton are joyous once again. Now, how do I get this bloody stupid tattoo off my forehead?
My adventure was over.
Back on the bridge we find ourselves, armed with the knowledge that the wizard, Nicodemus, resides below it. Before I could descend the stairs to find him, I decided to speak to the old man crossing the river. After promising I wasn’t going to rob him, the passage in the book informed me that I was asking where to find Nicodemus. Ok. Then I had to give the guy 2gp for the information that I already had… great! So, after this brief deviation from my goal, I went down to find Nicodemus’ hut hidden behind curtains and a ‘KEEP OUT’ sign.
Initially roaring at me with displeasure, Nicodemus soon calmed at the mention of his friend, Owen Carralif, who had sent me from Silverton to kill Zanbar Bone. Nico then broke down the rules of Zanbar Bone, almost like Gremlins. Now we can feed Zanbar Bone after midnight without concern, but we can only kill him at night as during the day he exists on another plane. I was then presented with a shopping list of items; a white unicorn in a yellow sun tattoo on my forehead to protect me from his enchanting stare, a silver arrow to paralyse him and a compound made of black pearl, lotus petals and Hag’s hair which should be rubbed into his eyes. That’s a lot of encounters I’m gonna need to stumble across to find all those! Nico drew me a map of how to find Zanbar’s tower and I left him to his hut.
On crossing the bridge, I could head East down Candle Street or West down Harbour Street, opting for the former I entered a nearby building which housed a creepy looking man in a black robe and skull-cap who was seemingly running some kind of Russian Roulette style pill-popping game. Of the six pills presented, one was poisoned, the rest were not and if I wanted to play, I had to choose one to take. If I survived, he’d give me 20gp, otherwise I die and he gets my stuff. Electing to play, I had to avoid rolling a 1 on a D6, a ‘close enough’ moment followed as I rolled a 2 and walked away with 20 luxurious gold pieces.
Here I decided to double-back and head west down Harbour Street, tossing 1gp into the cup of a beggar as I passed, gaining 1 Luck for sharing the wealth. Despite my good will, two wild dogs decided to try and tear my head off as I explored a nearby alley, and so they had to die. Back on the main route of Harbour Street, a thundering horse and carriage was charging down the street. ‘Make way for Lord Azzur!’ shouted the driver, cracking his whip. I’ve no idea who Lord Azzur is, but I’m sure he is some kind of gigantic bastard. Boldly stepping out in front of the carriage I was promptly feeling the thrash of the drivers whip as he flew past me, making me lose 1 Stamina. I’m not sure what I expected to happen.
Harbour Street began to descend and soon lived up to its name as an area around a stone jelly boasted a large galleon pirate ship moored close to the Black Lobster tavern. Another wonderful illustration, bursting with life and hints at little stories, the couple outside the door, the little guy with the bag of swag on the roof… love this art! Anyway, I decided to take a little look at the ship…
Having been playing a lot of Hitman over the past week, I snuck aboard, climbing up the ropes at the side and then taking the guard out silently with a successful Luck roll. Waste of time though as this appeared to be a slave-trading ship and all the boxes and containers on the deck had for me was rotten food and manacles. Descending to the lower decks, a corridor led down to two doors, one silent, the other was snoring. Trying the silent door first, I found myself in a bathroom featuring a steaming hot-tub. Being aware of the plots of some pornographic movies, I loitered in the background, waiting to see who was going to take a bath. Unfortunately a large fat man entered, dropped his towel and plonked himself down into the water. Uttering a loud ‘Ahem!’ I approached from the shadows and held my sword to his neck. The petrified man had little for me other than information and on pressing him over items on my shopping list I found that a silversmith operated off Clog Street and may be able to help get this arrow made. Back into the corridor and through the snoring door, I found some rather sleepy pirates.
A pack of cards and a bottle of rum made me think these guys probably weren’t gonna be waking up any time soon, so the pouch you see hanging from the top guys neck was a very tantalising proposition. Another successful Luck test let me cut it loose and I was very happy to find 6 black pears inside! Check one off my shopping list and give me 2 Luck!
Fat bathing mans information came into play next as I had the option to turn east onto Clog Street. The first thing I saw though was a small hooded child, groaning on the floor. Stooping down to help the kid, the little swine leaped up, flashing a dagger in my face and revealing himself to actually a small goblin. At 5/4 he was pretty feeble though and I was soon looting his corpse for 2gp, some knucklebones and a clove of garlic (vampire encounter at some point?).
A candle makers shop was the next point of interest I discovered and inside an elf was putting across how wonderful his coloured candles were, at 1gp a pop I decided to take three of them. He then asked if I would like to see his magic candle in the back room. Ignoring the plot to another pornographic movie that popped into my head, I followed him to see what was a magic candle, a number of purples ones in-fact. Sapped into a trance by their wonder, the elf proceeded to steal 5gp from me and two items of my choice. I decided to give up my stale bread and guards keys. My chump of a character snapped out of it, remembering nothing, thanked the elf and waved him goodbye with a smile.
At last, I found it. A sign reading ‘Ben Borryman, Silversmith’ hung abover a shop entrance and so I hurried inside. After a quick chat I hurled 10gp his way and a fine silver arrow was constructed for me right there and then. Make that two items off my list and I’m heading east down Stable Street.
Running from a nearby house was a small old man who approached me, displaying a prominent, fluffy wart on the end of his nose. He was offering me a swig of his drink for 2gp, a dirty bottle was presented to me inside a canvas bag. Now something similar once happened to me at Glastonbury and I declined, but this time I accepted and was able to add a refreshing 3 Stamina points and 1 Luck. Mmm, old man drink…
Further along Stable Street, I spotted a manhole cover. Now we know in Fighting Fantasy books these things are just begging to be pulled up and explored, so before you could blink I was climbing down into the sewer. I have to admit though that a vague memory from my childhood had come to me at this point, I was sure I would find another useful item down here… Reaching the bottom of the ladder I was in a North-South passageway and took the southern route first only to find myself getting attacked by a giant centipede, a slightly tougher than normal opponent at 10/5, but still one which was soon dead. Behind him I found a metal grill, and behind that I found a dark hole begging to have a hand inserted into it… out from which I pulled a mirror. Not bad, but not what I was looking for. Turning around and taking the northern portion of the passage, frantic squealing and splashing soon became three weak-as-hell rats, all of which I took out without sustaining any damage.
Something was skulking in the shadows ahead… investigating further revealed what I half expected to find down here – the Hag! Coming straight at me, uttering demon magic, I was taken over by an illusion, terrifying skeletal faces tormenting me. A successful Luck test had me strike her with my sword by accident, breaking her spell and allowing me to fight her straight and without her magic, she wasn’t much of an opponent at 7/7 and within moments I was cutting a lock of Hag hair from her head. The items are piling up now… only a few more to find and Zanbar Bone is gonna be in trouble. Oh yes.