The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – Conclusions

Reading back through this book was a very enjoyable experience (for the most part!) and has certainly made me think that this whole idea of going back through the books was a good one. Right from just seeing the old passages and indeed passageways, it was something I looked forward to doing of an evening. It may take me a while, I’ll do my best to get through all the books in time, but how long that ends up being, I don’t know!

Firetop Mountain was an interesting quest, I feel like I missed a hell of a lot, and given the fact that I got the ‘bad ending’ supports that idea. My map has a number of unexplored avenues too, but I guess the fact that I managed to get to the end means that there are multiple, branching paths through the book. The only ‘right’ way being the one that gets you the keys you need. Speaking of the ending, I didn’t really appreciate it as a youngster, but the anti-cheat barriers like this one are a lovely touch and I had completely forgotten that they were included as early as the very first book!

Having said that though, I can tell that this is an early book comparing it to the last Fighting Fantasy I read, which was obviously Blood of the Zombies. The structure of the story seems far less ambitious and a number of mechanics don’t seem particularly well realised in this first book. Difficulty wise, it’s generally very easy indeed, I got through the whole book without a single death. Granted, I had some brilliant dice rolls in my character creation, but nothing ever seemed particularly threatening in terms of the dungeon itself, no insta-deaths. I didn’t use any potions and only consumed one of my provisions. Similarly sketchy was the gold… I ended the book with 77gp and save for the boatman, I don’t recall having any use for them.

I should also take time to give the Maze of Zagor a quick mention. Not since my early days of Dark Souls have I been quite so frustrated! Very difficult section that erred on the side of just being plain annoying, but it was cool to see a part of the book that relied on something other than random choices and dice-rolls for challenge. It could have been a little clearer on occasions though, particularly those who offered me directions that seemingly took me nowhere. But maybe that was all part of the fun? Perhaps someone who knows more can tell me if the Mazemaster or the dwarves were taking the piss or not! But as you can tell from my map, I wasn’t the best at keeping track of where I was in the maze anyway…

A quick word on one piece of art that struck me as I flicked though the book, one that I remembered from my childhood with a strange feeling of uneasiness…

Did they really need to make the arse so well defined and presented to the reader?

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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – Part 3

In our last session, we ended with my face being clawed at by a corpse. This thing was apparently a ghoul which had the power to paralyse me, but thanks to my incredible Skill, it wasn’t able to even touch me. Routing through the corpse pile further gave me a few gold pieces as well as some holy water, which restored my attributes, and a faded parchment that tipped me off about something called the ‘Maze of Zagor’. I would soon learn what that was.

Northbound, I set off up a flight of stairs only to have a heavy portcullis slam shut behind me, sealing me in the following section, the aforementioned ‘Maze of Zagor’. Now, this thing, I’m not embarrassed to say, drove me utterly mental. What I was presented with was a long series of cross-roads, secret passages, more cross-roads, random monster encounters, dead ends, loops, so many twisty turny routes that the map I was keeping ultimatley became un-usable. However, a few things of note did make an appearance within this section of the dungeon…

The first door I found took me into what initially seemed to be an empty room, but slamming the door behind me and quite intent on destroying me was a minotaur. With a skill of 9, he was actually a decent foe, so much so that he did actually manage to hit me, which I think might have been the first time a monster had landed a blow in combat on me through this whole read-through. Suffice to say, my 23 Stamina was adequate to see me through this terrible beating and the minotaur was dead. Hidden in a clay pot was a red key marked with the number 111, which came along with me.

 

Mr. Minotaur wasn’t the only encounter in the maze I had, another door led me into a room full of dwarves playing cards, drinking and smoking. They seemed jovial enough, but like the stranger walking into a bar in a Western, the piano stopped playing and they all gawped at me, not that they had a piano, but you understand. Rather than swiping off their tiny bearded heads, I attempted to join their card game and was welcomed into the game. The courteous thing to do seemed to be to cheat them out of their money, a successful Luck test later and I had an extra 11gp in my pocket. Oh yeah. A brief chat afterwards revealed that I was indeed in the Maze of Zagor and the only way out was to follow their vague directions… I did this to the best of my ability, but remained in the maze.

 

Starting to lose patience and faith in my map, I retraced my steps a little and managed to discover an unexplored route. Encouraged by this I continued and behind a door I discovered a meek looking old man who I subsequently threatened into giving me some information. As luck would have it, he claimed to be the Mazemaster. As the dwarves had done previously, he too gave me some directions, and with him not being drunk and being a mazemaster, I had more hope that his directions would help. Now I don’t know if he was full of it or I’m just and idiot, but his directions didn’t get me anywhere either! I imagine it may be the latter. Regardless, just around the time I was thinking I would be there forever, after a large amount of stumbling, fumbling, page flicking and record keeping, I was able to find my way out.

Through a secret door I leaped and I was shortly in a huge cavern which was partly lit by natural light, the rest of the light was provided by the huge streak of fire that shot through the air towards me. The source of this fire was a massive dragon. Those who remember back to part one may remember me finding a book containing a spell called Dragonfire, well this was the moment you were waiting for as the spell gave me the power I needed to take the dragon down. A rather cruel bastard of a spell it was too as on uttering the magical words, the next fireball the dragon spat did not hit me, nor did it even leave the dragons mouth, it simply stayed there setting the dragon ablaze. I sat there and watched the thing burn to death, screeching in agony. Not bad for an item I nicked off some drunk orcs.

 

Without a moments rest, I moved on and was thrust into a room where and old man sat playing with some cards at a table. Ignoring the bizarre option to sneak in on all fours, I walked in and greeted him. Apparently, he had been expecting me, this was Zagor!

 

Experimenting a little, I looked to my collection of items before combat could begin. The bow & silver arrow I found was my first option, but the warlock stopped the arrow dead just in front of his chest; the Y-shaped stick I found lay broken in my pack, I don’t really know what I was thinking it would do anyway. So, with none of the other options available to me, I drew my sword and went into combat. With a Skill of 11 and Stamina 18, he was actually a pretty tough opponent and took me down to about half of my health, but a few good Luck rolls tipped things in my favour and he was slain.

My initial reward was a door, a door with two locks, which the two keys I had found opened up nicely. Unfortunatley though, what was waiting for me was a chest containing all of the warlocks riches, held shut by a lock which required three different keys to open. The numbered keys hidden in the dungeon were to be added together to give me the magic page number for victory… but only having two keys left me with nowhere to go. I had reached the bad ending. All I could do was sit upon the chest and weep. According to the text anyway.

My adventure was over…

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – Part 2

After the portcullis rose and the rumbling of its mechanism ceased, I stepped forwards into something ghastly. Boredom. A very dull section of corridors comprising a series of about five different junctions that didn’t lead me anywhere other than to another junction. A small respite was offered by a corridor that got smaller and smaller as I walked along it until it was so small I could go no further and had to double back, kinda like that bit in The Simpsons when Flanders investigates his re-build home after the hurricane. As I left I could hear the sound of faceless laughter ringing in the air, I can only assume the warlock is watching me. He has a weak sense of humour it seems.

Finally though, things picked up and I found something other than a corridor. A room was found behind a door, empty but for an elaborately tiled floor and a door on the opposite side. The floor tiles were made up of hands and stars, I elected to step only on the star tiles on my way across the room to the door. Nothing happened, so I assume I avoided something nasty by making this choice! The following corridor bent round until I reached a cavern in which an underground river flowed to the east. I took the opportunity to sit on the banks of the river, enjoy the cool, fresh air and enjoy some provisions. A giant sandworm had other ideas though, erupting from the earth like something out of a cracking 1990 B-movie.

Little of interest remained after it fell, so I took the only logical option and followed the river into the darkness. The cavern delivered me to a point I had been warned about twice now, a small dock on the south bank of the river where a boatman would not be out of place. Indeed, a bell hung from a wooden stand, a sign attached read ‘Ferry Service 2 Gold Pieces – Please Ring‘.

Given that I had previously been advised to ‘respect the boatman’, I decided not to steal the raft and rang the bell, although I only had 1gp at this time. Across from the north bank, a boat came out of the blackness, captained by a withered old man. Floating up to the dock, he informed me that due to inflation, the price would now be 3gp. Not having even the original fee, I had no option but to threaten the guy. Inexplicably, he then turned into a wererat. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see that coming. Regardless, I cut him down, took the 2gp he had in his pocket and stole his boat. How’s that for respect, Mr. Boatman? Curiously, the body of the boatman vanished as I reached the other side of the river…

On the north bank, three possible route opened up to me, but I went for the one heading north which took me through a door only for me to be clubbed over the head by an unseen assailant, knocking me out cold. What awaited me was a group of human corpses standing motionless in front of me, carrying a number of rudimentary weapons. An image which sticks with me from my original reading of the book, definitely another one that freaked me out a bit!

Attempts to talk to them were replied by moans, turns out that they were in-fact zombies. I thought I was done with those things? Still, the blood of these zombies (*puts on shades*) was soon flowing as they were easily killed by my immense skill score. Nothing of use was found in the room, but searching the body of what was presumably a previous adventurer gave me a small stash of gold and a silver crucifix. The latter of these two seemed to be a good find as moving on through the door heading north, I found myself in what appeared to be a crypt. Coffins lay around an altar, with what appeared to be blood spilled across it.

Carefully exploring the room, it didn’t take long for one of the larger coffins to open. Out walked a white-skinned man with wolf-like teeth, his face bristling with hate, he beckoned me over. Now, I’m no Einstein, I’m gonna stick my neck out here and take a chance, but I reckoned this guy was probably a vampire. My crucifix would have bought me time to escape, but killing him outright would have required a wooden stake, which I didn’t have. So, I drew my sword and took him down – old-school. The body aged before my eyes, turning into a shriveled old man before a small black shape burst through his chest, which turned out not to be a xenomorph, but a bat, which flew off into the dark. Searching the crypt gave me a stash of gold, a book and a Y-shaped stick; I had to leave one item behind for some reason, so I chucked the cheese I found on the dwarf in the torture chamber and ploughed on through a door to the west.

A few dead ends and some amusing Fantasia-style animated tools digging a tunnel later and I descended a staircase. I was greeted by a hideous, putrid stench emanating from a pile of corpses. I kicked one of them over and managed to loot 5gp from its pockets, the 2nd however, wasn’t quite dead yet…

And that is where we leave part two; a decaying human corpse, slashing at my role-playing face with its claws. Lovely stuff.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain – Part 1

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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Your quest is to find the Warlock’s treasure, hidden deep within a dungeon populated with a multitude of terrifying monsters. You will need courage, determination and a fair amount of luck if you are to survive all the traps and battles, and reach your goal – the innermost chambers of the Warlock’s domain.

After acquiring a copy of book 1 at the end of last week, I’ve finally managed to dip into the book and explored the initial stages of Fighting Fantasy’s debut voyage. I have to admit to remembering next to nothing regarding the content of the book, only selective pieces of art ring a bell, but so far, things have been very simplistic, especially when I look at the map I have drawn so far. Understandable though given that it’s the first one, but there is still plenty of time for it to get more complex.

Things kicked off pretty positively with me genuinely rolling a 12/23/12 character, not a single moment of cheating required, the dice did it all for me. Setting the scene is a fairly basic task as there is relatively little information given, with the background section being a mere one and a half pages long. A warlock at the top of a mountain has some treasure and you’re an adventurer heading off to steal it. Base-camp for the adventure ahead is a nameless village where a few rumours are put forward, goblins are suggested as the initial line of defense employed by the warlock, but with much tougher adversaries found deeper within the mountain. I could have told them that. A two-day hike from the village and it’s well-wishing inhabitants and I was at the foot of the mountain, a cave across a clearing being my entrance to the warlock’s lair.

A quick word about the art; something I appreciate an infinite amount more now than I did back in the 80’s is the artwork of these books, they used to be just pretty pictures, now I notice the different styles I see in each book and realise how much my feeling and interpretation of the book was influenced by the style of art. I still have my favourites, and infact I have recently ordered a print of a very famous piece of Fighting Fantasy art that I will discuss when it arrives! Some of the work in Warlock of Firetop Mountain is very nice, the detail is so fine thanks to the line shaded style, but on a lot of the illustrations there is far too much plain white and it makes them look half finished and stark, but I’ll comment as I go if necessary. Now, back to the ’82 dungeon crawl…

My first choice was to make a total fool of myself. The dungeon opened up into a T-junction, at which point I took a right turn, heading east towards a locked door. No problem though, my Skill of 12 meant shoulder-charging the thing down was a formality and as I smashed through the wood I found myself flying through the air and landing at the bottom of the two meter deep pit that lay on the other side. Livingstone & Jackson must have been pissing themselves laughing, the Warlock too I imagine. What a start. Still, only lost 1 Stamina, plenty more where that came from.

Furthering what felt like a tutorial section, I rounded a corner to find a sleeping goblin sentry that I had to sneak past with a Luck test, which with my super lucky stat rolling, was impossible to fail. In hindsight though, I probably should have just killed the lazy good-for-nothing on the off-chance that he might have something useful to steal.

Following the path to the north, a door which emitted a lot of snoring presented itself along the left side of the wall, inside was yet another guard, fast asleep. Although this one appeared to be in a filthy barracks area, so could kinda get away with it I guess. A small box was pilfered with a luck roll with a gold piece and a mouse inside, kept the gold and sadly let the mouse go. The corridor continued north through the barracks area past another two rooms on the left wall of the passage. The first door revealed an unoccupied room, although investigating a small box revealed my first conscious opponent, a snake! The thing had 2 Stamina, so was chopped in half without missing a beat. The little guy was apparently guarding a key, which I took with me. The final barracks door was not emitting any snoring, but hideous singing. Naturally, I wandered in.

I would recommend that the warlocks security be upgraded. Presumably he’s paying these orcs to act as guards and they are completely drunk. Getting a +1 to my combat rolls because of their intoxication, I killed the two of them and a quick search of their den gave me a box inscribed ‘Farrigo Di Maggio’. Inside was a small book called ‘The Making and Casting of Dragonfire’, a book apparently written by Di Maggio which contained a spell called Dragonfire, used in combat with dragons. On reading the words aloud, they glowed and vanished from the page… I can only assume this will be pretty useful later, possibly if I encounter a certain type of enemy… hmm.

Again, walking north, a T-junction was reached and I took a right turn, heading towards a door taking me into a dining room. The warlock takes good care of his orcs. Sadly, I did not, as I killed all five of them. For my troubles, I found a large flat case which contained a bow with a single silver arrow, the case bearing the words ‘The giver of sleep to those who never can’. I’m sure that will make sense at the appropriate time. Continuing north, another door on the right emitted a large amount of screaming from what seemed to be a human, smashing the door open, I went to the mans aid.

I remember this image freaking me out a bit when I first read the book, but I can kinda understand why! Something rather unsettling about this guy. I’m fairly sure I instantly cut him down as he charged at me on opening the door as well, but this time I calmed him and told him he was free. Apparently the orcs had been keeping him as a ‘pet’ in his own filth, he had once been an adventurer just like myself and had been captured. He gave me some information (to give respect to the boatman and pull the right-lever at the end of the corridor) and I sent him on his way. I hope he didn’t wake the guards I left alive…

Again, a door on the right welcomed me as I headed further north, forcing the door open gave me access to a glittering armory. A crescent shield, allowing me to decrease damage taken by one on rolling a 6 on a D6, was my reward.

Surprise, surprise… heading north, yet another door was on the right side of the corridor. See what I mean about simple beginnings? Through the door, tortured screams could be heard, I entered what was indeed a torture chamber and discovered a dwarf, strung up, being stabbed and sliced by two goblins. The dwarf died just after I entered, much to the disappointment of the goblins. Fairly grim stuff for a 7 year-old to have been reading! Of course, I did the same to the goblins, but this time all I came away with was a lump of cheese. At the end of the corridor though was a large metal portcullis with two large levers to the side of it. Remembering the advice of the mad old man I freed, I pulled the right lever which caused a rumbling and set the portcullis rising…

The rest of the mountain awaits! See you in part two…

At the foot of Firetop Mountain

Didn’t really want to waste any time, so here we are with the good shit. Not to discredit Blood of the Zombies, but we’re here for the golden oldies aren’t we? So lets turn off Chinese Democracy and put Appetite for Destruction on.

My memories of this one are actually a bit sketchy, I honestly can’t place where I was when I first read it, but I think it was one of the earlier ones I read. As I’ve already covered, it wasn’t my first Fighting Fantasy book but it was one of the first ones I heard about when my friend first introduced the books to me back at school. Although I didn’t have a clue what a ‘warlock’ was at the time, now I know they are the ones that make Soul Stones, but as a kid discovering fantasy for the first time, I hadn’t a clue. It was a foreign language. In-fact, my lack of comprehension of the material combined with my friends thick northern accent resulted me in thinking the book was called ‘Warlocker Firetop Mountain’ for a while. Still sounded cool I guess, I ended up reading it after-all.

My copy came from eBay, which is going to be the likely source of these books as we go on, but I will be keeping my eyes peeled to try and get books from 2nd hand shops or other more interesting means. I was genuinely very excited to have this book back in my possession, looking through the artwork, seeing things I hadn’t seen in about 20 years was a strange feeling. Given the age of the book, I was very impressed by the condition of this one though, practically mint. No scribbling on the adventure sheet either, although to be honest, I hope to discover some books that have been ‘well-loved’ as we march on through the series. I know I was terrible at first in terms of writing in my books, even using ball-point pen at times, I had a habit of ticking off all the books I owned on the catalogue lists that were at the start of Fighting Fantasy books as well. My original collection was based around the editions with the ‘dragon cover’, but a few of the older versions made an appearance too if I’d been lucky in a charity shop with my parents. As a general rule of what I’m going to be looking for in this blog, I have produced this handy infographic –

Old is good, new is bad.

That’s all there is for now, but I will be posting news of updates on Twitter (@ff_project) to my 9 followers, one of which is me. Start small, eh?