The Citadel of Chaos – Conclusions

So, I write this hoping my Macbook Air doesn’t randomly turn itself off like it did earlier, so wish me luck with that one.

The Citadel of Chaos was a much harder journey than the first book, as my abject failure on the first run showed. Having said that though, it actually felt like a very short journey, just one that sprawled out in many directions. Seemingly, there were routes which favoured different types of character, my route took me through very little combat for instance, which was great due to my poor core stat rolls. Were I a 12/24/12 type, I’d have been happier fighting the likes of the hydra, rather than relying on finding special items or picking the right spells. I was very disappointed that I didn’t find the location of one of my favourite Fighting Fantasy monsters though – the Wheelies! Just look at them!

Whilst assessing my failure, I did explore more of the book than I detailed in Part 3 and found a number of potential routes, but all led up to the encounter in the Black Tower with the Ganjees. The only possible way through here was by finding one of two special items, the ointment or an amulet.  The Ganjees were therefore the most difficult encounter to progress from, Balthus Dire could insta-kill you if you tried to fight him with magic, but you could simply draw your sword and go toe-to-toe with him if you wanted (although with stats of 12/19, he’s a major badass) – not even an option with the Ganjees.

I enjoyed this one a bit more than WoFM though, the story seemed a bit tighter, albeit with a few holes and the encounters more diverse and challenging. I enjoyed figuring out how to pass by the Ganjees a great deal more than I did finding my way through the Maze of Zagor, that’s for certain! In general, the encounters were much more fun and polished, especially the magic battle with Balthus Dire. I liked the magic aspect in general actually, there were enough instances where spells could back-fire to prevent making them over-powered.

Special note has to go to Russ Nicholson though, the illustrator. His work in Warlock of Firetop Mountain included a cyclops statue with a very well rounded, and mildly disturbing, arse. I saw this picture and well… when I get to his next book, Masks of Mayhem, I will be on arse-watch. Russ, you’ve been warned.

I shall be going away for a few days, so it might be a little while before my next read-through, but Forest of Doom & Starship Traveller are in the post! Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to raid some new charity shops whilst on my travels too. Updates on Twitter as always.

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The Citadel of Chaos – Part 3

Alright, the last run I had ended pretty badly. The Vale of Willow was utterly screwed thanks to the Ganjees. However, I’m not going to leave this unfinished, so let’s  see if we can re-work things from the courtyard at the beginning shall we?

Instead of approaching the men arguing over the price of a dagger, I went over to the group sat by the fire, which turned out to be the far superior choice. An odd bunch they were, an orc, a pair of clearly romantically involved goblins and a dwarf. Now, I’m not sure that traditional fantasy relations would permit a dwarf to be hanging out with these guys, but let us not dwell on this as I decided to sit down with the group. Acting the big man, I demanded they give me some information and surprisingly, the attitude worked and they coughed up a password to get into the citadel, ‘Scimitar’. Things took a quick turn though and soon, the fairly weak group were all dead. Taking my pick of their stuff, I walked away with 8gp, a jar of ointment and a Potion of Magic, which would allow me to take on a couple of extra spells when I needed them.

Approaching the main entrance to the citadel, I was now armed with a password, so this time, Rhino-man didn’t beat seven shades out of me and I was able to continue nice and healthy. Again taking an opposite route, I bypassed the descending staircase and opted for the door at the end of the entrance corridor. A sign indicated that I should ‘Please Ring for Butler’, so I rang the bell and a man with teeth as awful as his shoes were excellent slowly shuffled through the door to greet me.

I continued with my tact of pretending like I was supposed to be there by saying I was ‘expected’. It was fairly obvious that he didn’t expect me at all, but when I asked about the reception, he nodded towards the left turn at the T-junction that lay before me. I had to think though, do citadels run by evil black sorcerers usually have a reception? What about a gym or Wifi? Anyway, not really sure it was a good idea, I took his word and went down the left passage. Seems I was right to feel unsure as unless the reception was run by a huge, angry Goblin-Giant hybrid, he was trying to get me into bother. The Gark was a big bugger, but a quick casting of a Weakness spell reduced his Skill from 7 to 5 and he was soon cut down. His death earned me 6gp and an ornate hairbrush.

Taking the right of two doors, I found myself in a library where I was able to ask the irritable librarian for books on specific topics. As I’d had trouble there before, my first selection was for ‘Secrets of the Black Tower’. The tower had been built by Balthus Dire’s grandfather as a sanctuary for the forces of evil and he turned it into a fortress to hide away in; the good bit was a combination to the inner sanctum of the Black Tower, ‘217’.  Next, I looked up a book on Balthus Dire himself and learned that due to his focus on black magic, his power comes from the night and sunlight is poison to him. Before I could research the creatures of the citadel though, a noise alerted the attention of the librarian, refusing to run, I waited to see what the noise was. A group of orc guards came storming in, damn that Butler, and one knocked me out cold with a mere puff of breath in my face. Nice.

I awoke in prison, a scene that I actually did remember from my childhood and thought for some reason was where the book began. Well, I was back there again and was waiting for a Calacorm, a two-headed lizard-man, to bring me a bowl of soup. Aw.

After gulping down my delicious (I imagine) soup, it was time to get me the hell out of there with some magic. An illusion spell would do, make the guard think he was being attacked… yeeessss…. My illusion conjured up a mouse. Brilliant. And I say that without sarcasm as apparently Calacorms are scared to death of mice and the thing ended up standing on a table, shrieking like a girl. If it were wearing a skirt I’d imagine it would be daintily pulled up to its knees. Throwing me the keys, the Calacorm begged me to get rid of the mouse, so I let myself out, got to a safe distance and broke the spell.

We can skip forward a little here as I had managed to find my way back to O’Seamus, but took another door this time which led into a wine cellar. A black elf was running things down here and a quick chat resulted in a time out for some wine tasting. Because I’m a learned gentleman, I selected to sample some red and my word, I regained 2 Stamina and 3 Luck! How cultured. Now, excuse me good sire, I have a warlord to murder.

We take a path through and past the golem, back through the dining room, and this time, instead of taking the path via the orc babies, I opted for the left door. What I found was a beautiful, dark-haired woman laid in a luxurious four-poster bed who shot fire out of her eyes at me. Tsk.. women. I told her I had a gift for her and handed over the ornate hairbrush I took from the Gark’s room. Suitably impressed, she started brushing her hair with her new toy, distracting her long enough for me to steal the golden fleece that covered her bed and run off out the door. Looking at the size of the thing, that hairbrush must have been utterly amazing.

So, now we close in on my beloved Ganjees again. Climbing the tower, I bypassed the chest trap this time and climbed to the Black Tower and met up with my old foes. This time though, I had a powerful artifact… a jar of ointment! The voices of the Ganjees were taken aback, ‘What is that?’ they asked, another voice identified the jar as containing ointment of healing. Apparently these guys were in real need of some healing ointment as their ‘bwa-ha-ha-you-will-die-here’ act was soon dropped and they accepted my offer and let me pass. Fairly amazed that such a paltry item was the solution to a situation where powerful magic and violence had failed me, I proceeded on.

Straight from one awful encounter to the next, I climbed another set of spiral stairs and was thrust straight into the body-strewn lair of a hydra. Using a fairly tenuous piece of mythological logic, I chose to brandish my brand-new golden fleece at the thing. Hissing in retreat, the hydra wasn’t too keen on the fleece, giving me the time to run across the room and through the next door.

Reaching the apex of the citadel, a sign warned me ‘HALT. None may pass by order of Balthus Dire’, I figured this was it now. A solid metal door blocked my route onward, but the combination I had earlier learned from the library (which come to think of it, why on earth would you publish the lock combination to your inner lair in a book?) allowed me to pass through unhindered. On the other side however, a trident inexplicably came flying out of the dark towards my neck, which had to be quickly blocked with a shielding spell. Composing myself, I found I was in a military room, maps and plans littered the area with the mighty Balthus Dire leaning against a table, waiting for me in the middle.

Bar his huge armour, an intimidating character he is not. Look at his silly hair. Look how close his eyes are together. Now look at his hair again. You’d laugh at this man, not fear him. ‘Why, I’ll wager you’re not even a match for a Clawbeast!’, he ended up yelling at me as he summoned said beast to come and get me. A quick spell of my own reduced it to a corpse on the floor. My turn now. I used a Creature Copy spell to give me my own Balthus Dire to launch an offensive with, Dire sent it back to attack me though before I turned it again back on him. This power struggle continued until the spell faded and my Balthus Dire left my side. Damn. What was now turning into a battle of magic, not unlike the end of Willow, saw Dire turning himself into a Gorgon, complete with snarling hair of snakes!

Retreating quickly and luckily avoiding its petrifying gaze, I turned its gaze upon itself with O’Seamus’ mirror which broke the spell and left me face to face with Dire once more. Using the pause in the action to my advantage, I remembered the words I read in the library (knowledge is power, kids) and tore down the curtains by the window, streaming sunlight into the room. A blood-curling scream and a cry of ‘The curtain! You fool’ accompanied the final moments of Dire as he collapsed to the ground and crawled to his death. Setting fire to his war-plans, a levitation spell floated me down to the ground from atop the citadel where I could return to a Vale of Willow with a peaceful future.

My adventure was over.

The Citadel of Chaos – Part 2

After spending time with the walking stereotype that was O’Seamus the Leprechaun, the next thing I discovered was an awful stink. Balthus Dire’s minions need the same facilities we all do and so the citadel was equipped with a sewer system, a sewer system that I had just found after walking down a slope into the actual bowels of the place.

It seemed the only way to cross the sewer was an over-hanging rope. Considering I was currently staggering along with 4 Stamina, I should have known better than to try the rope. On trying to swing across, the rope shifted and attacked me, it was of course not a rope at all, but a sewer snake. I got through the combat without taking a hit though and in victory, waded through the flowing faeces.

Following the corridor onward, I entered a room which posed a potential problem. A large golem. Be it The Witcher, Baldurs Gate, whatever game it is, these guys generally hit you hard and I couldn’t really afford to be hit at all, let alone hard. It seemed he was guarding a number of chests, but for now didn’t appear to be interested in me. An attempt at conversation with the creature resulted in no response, but as I crossed the room, it moved towards me. Moving quickly, I tried for the chests, but found them all locked, the golem was now breathing down my neck so avoiding any combat, I made a sharp exit out of the other side of the room.

 

A flight of stairs took me back up into the main levels of the citadel and brought me to a large, well-lit dining hall, lined by paintings and suits of armour. I investigated the paintings and found one of my target, Dire himself. I was to add 1 Luck for discovering what he looked like, but lost 1 Stamina due to the fear his image instilled in me. This I did not need, but it did occur to me that I came fairly close to dieing by looking at a painting.

 

I climbed the right-hand staircase and up on the balcony found three doors. Choosing the central door, I encountered something very odd indeed. What appeared to be three baby orcs sat playing on the floor of some sort of nursery, complete with unpleasant looking dolls and a three-tiered bunk bed. Unsure what to do with them, I just walked through the room as its inhabitants sat silently, watching. The book insisted to me that ‘something is not quite right here’, well whatever it is, the consequences were yet to make themselves apparent as I continued my progress unhindered.

 

Ascending a spiral staircase into the citadels tower, I took a left-hand turn at a T-junction through a door into a circular room containing a wooden chest protected by a circular trench. A nearby rope seemed to be the answer as I attempted to get a hold on the chest by looping the rope around, the chest then slid into the trench, pulling me down with it. What I had found was in-fact a trap, a weighted chest designed to catch greedy adventurers like a  wasp in a honey trap. Finally, I was forced into using a spell as I Levitated out of the trench so I could continue through the door on the opposite side of the room.

 

Climbing further up another spiral staircase, I was informed by the text that I was now in the Black Tower.. ooo! All was quiet and dark, my torch had been blown out. But then I heard mocking laughter… ‘foolish adventurer!’ Evil spirit creatures called Ganjees were all around me, I couldn’t see them, but could hear them telling me that this was the last room I would ever see. Things weren’t looking good. Suddenly, one of the beings flew out of the darkness into my face and scared the hell out of me to the extent that I lost 1 Skill, 1 Luck and 2 Stamina.

 

Those keeping track will realise that this took me down to 1 Stamina. Yikes.

Having no viable option other than to draw my sword, my aggression was instantly rebutted by a blood-curdling scream and another of the things flew at my face. Making a run through the door I forgot that I was currently up a very tall tower and promptly plummeted over the edge of the balcony. I was given the option of using a Levitate spell, so feeling all clever for having a chosen to take a second one along with me, I turned the page… Only to find that these things had robbed me of my magical abilities and all I could do was crash into the floor far below.

I had failed my mission.

So yeah, I really did stuff this one up didn’t I? A little flicking around at my options showed me that I really had hit a dead end, only a selection of items I hadn’t found could have granted me progress and so that is where I will end this one for the moment. Not wanting to re-start completely, I will back-track a little in the next part and follow a different route. ‘Til next time…

 

The Citadel of Chaos – Part 1

#2

The Citadel of Chaos

Who knows what monstrous creatures lie in wait in the Citadel of Chaos? The Citadel holds a dark and dangerous peril for anyone foolhardy enough to venture through its gruesome gates. And yet venture you must, for your mission lies at the heart of the Citadel, with the dread sorceror, Balthus Dire!

Blimey, I’ll say now that this was the most fun I’ve had with the books so far! Before I get carried away though, let’s anchor things with a little background. Our good-guys are the residents of the Vale of Willow a peaceful, lawful folk who spend most of their time drinking mead and herding pigs, I imagine. They live in the shadow of demi-sorcerer, Balthus Dire, who has recently been to have been massing his forces in preparation for an attack on the Vale. As a student of the Grand Wizard of Yore, my character has been welcomed by King Salamon to attempt to assassinate Dire within his citadel (of chaos) before the attack can even take place.

Taking a magical slant on the rules, this second book introduces a spell system, where 2D6+6 gives you a Magic score, the score dictating how many spells you may take with you from the initial twelve; Creature Copy, E.S.P, Fire, Fool’s Gold, Illusion, Levitation, Luck, Shielding, Skill, Stamina, Strength and Weakness. Fortunately, I managed a Magic score of 14. Less fortunately, I managed a Skill of 8 and a Luck of 7. But hey, my Stamina was 22, so I’ll just absorb the hits, right? I took one of every spell, except for Stamina and Skill, the leftover points I used to take second E.S.P, Fire, Illusion and Levitation spells.

My assassination plot took an unexpected initial step in that my entrance to the citadel (of chaos) was going to be straight through the front door. Also unexpected was the nature of the guards waiting for me there, a dog with a gorilla head and a gorilla with a dog head.

My cunning plan was to pretend to be a herbalist, sent to treat an injured guard by the name of Blag, my cleverly detailed bullshit left the dogrilla in a state of ‘I can’t be bothered with this…‘ and I was let in as dogrilla was left to presumably wonder what he was doing with his life.

A populated courtyard opened up in front of me and I had to make a decision on how to get across. Ignoring a crowd of people around a campfire, I approached a pair of men talking under a flaming torch. They were having an argument over the price of a supposedly enchanted dagger that one wanted to sell to the other. Grabbing me, the seller demanded to know what I thought was a fair price, I suggested 10g and the buyer instantly turned his nose up and left. If I had been willing to use up a Fool’s Gold spell, I could have bought it myself, but as will prove to be a theme, I was very stingy with my spell use and declined the offer to buy it myself.

Moving further across the courtyard, a weird thing approached me. A gust of wind and a whispering female voice drifted over in the form of a living whirlwind. I tried to talk to her, but she began to taunt me, saying my appearence offended her and tried to blow me off my feet. Despite my terrible Luck score though, I won a roll and somehow managed to convince her that I’d just seen another creature of my ilk in the shadows. The text informed me that she ‘nips off to investigate’. Incredibly, I had managed to avoid the wrath of a malevolent spirit with the equivalent of saying ‘hey what’s that over there?’ and then running away.

Having finally reached the other side of the courtyard where the entrance proper to the citadel (of chaos) was located, one more barrier lay in wait; Rhino-man.

Sadly, my herbalist story didn’t work a second time, nor did I want to use a spell on the guy. This proved to be a mistake though as in the subsequent fight, a series of awful dice rolls meant that Rhino-man, with his Skill of 8, kicked the living crap out of me. I staggered through the door of the citadel (of chaos) with 4 Stamina remaining. Oh lord.

The opening corridor offered up a door, but instead I opted to go down a small flight of stairs down the side of the corridor. Another doorway presented itself and I smashed it down with my shoulder, ignoring the option of using a Strength spell. Inside was a small round room where a small man in green clothing sat hovering above a table and chair.

Again, I refused the option to use a spell, this time a Shielding spell, as a small catapult fired a missile at me. Given my 4 Stamina, I have no idea why I thought this was a good plan. Fortunately though, the missile turned out to be a big juicy tomato. The little man then woke with a big smile on his face, said ‘Good mornin’ to yer!’ and revealed himself to be called O’Seamus the Leprechaun. O’Seamus shook my hand but the little swine gave me some sort of shock, numbing my sword arm and taking off 1 Skill! As if I wasn’t crippled enough as it was by my dice rolls! He of course found it hilarious and bearing in mind my physical condition, I chose not to attack and asked for information. He gave me a puzzle of a clue as to which of the three doors before me to try, a puzzle which didn’t appear to give the information necessary to solve it, so at random I selected a door. Attacked by an unseen assailant, I felt jaws close around my neck only to be whisked back into the presence of O’Seamus who had been playing another joke on me. Apparently my character managed to find the funny side of O’Seamus’ antics and had a jolly good laugh with him. Personally, I was ready to run him through. But he shortly produced a couple of prizes for me, an enchanted sword that gave me +1 to attack rolls and a silver mirror.

I bid him farewell and descended further into the depths of the citadel (of chaos)…

Who knows what monstrous creatures lie in wait?

Here we go then, round 2. Today’s eBay package was one I was very happy to receive, after finishing the first book, I was chomping at the bit to get going with the 2nd. I’ve recently splurged a load of cash on some guitar pedals from eBay, but this £1 package was the one I wanted to arrive first! And in lovely condition it is too, some people kept very good care of their books, not so much as a crease down the spine, let alone scribbles on the adventure sheet.

I have to be honest, until this one arrived, I couldn’t remember a single thing about it. The only thing that did stick in my head was a memory similar to one I had of Warlock of Firetop Mountain. My friend who introduced me to the books told me about the early titles and again, his thick northern accent led me to believe book two was called ‘Citadella Chaos‘. I just accpeted that ‘citadella’ was a word and moved on.

It actually only just struck me how many of the Fighting Fantasy books followed the same naming structure –

‘The x of y

Amazing.

Having looked through the book, a lot of the pictures again strike a chord and bring back certain events of the story, but I feel that will be a running theme as we go on. I’ll save the best ones for the read-through, which I intend to start on later this evening! Touching on the art is something I wanted to delve into a little here though as I elected to get the ‘dragon’ cover over the original because, despite my ‘old is good‘ statement, the original 1983 cover was pretty awful…

I mean… what is that black thing exactly? Looking on the Fighting Fantasy Wiki, the artist in question ‘Emmanuel‘ only did one Fighting Fantasy cover. I’m not bloody surprised.

If you’re reading, Emmanuel, no hard feelings, eh? 😉