The Forest of Doom – Conclusions

Another bad ending then! Nevermind, we’ll chalk up a few more victories along the way I’m sure. At least I got out alive, just about anyway, that Wyvern very nearly had me in the end.

I have to say though, despite my memories of this book being fond ones, it’s probably the least enjoyable of the four I have done so far. Perhaps I just had a lot of bad luck though as it did seem that I missed an awful lot of encounters and locations. As I read through the book I noted a vast number of illustrations of events and people I never witnessed; so many items I took or found, I never discovered a situation to use them in. I seemed to be punished way more often than I was rewarded for anything, especially the Shape Changer at the start; a very tough, but pointless fight.

The whole thing felt a little diffuse, despite the attempt to lock in a more detailed backstory than the first two books, I never really felt in touch with my goal, near the end I actually forgot I was looking for a hammer at all. But perhaps the book does offer re-playability, maybe a second read-through could be done at some point. At the end of the book, this was obviously a given option as I was given the chance to return to page one. It’s an interesting way to get you to complete your map of the forest and find all the secrets within, but while it ties your adventure together as a whole it would also break immersion somewhat if you were to meet enemies you had already killed etc. Perhaps you could make up your own rules at that stage. Here’s my route through anyway, might hang onto this one in-case I go back into Darkwood Forest one day…

Before I go, I’ll also bring up my seemingly customary bitching about a piece of artwork. At the start, I mentioned the odd traits of the illustrator for this book and I have to question his familiarity with human anatomy. Perhaps someone can help me figure out exactly what sort of muscle structure this guy has, as I’m not sure it’s one that you and I share!

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The Forest of Doom – Part 3

Down a well is where we were if memory and my map serves me correct? Having just had an epic confrontation on my hands and knees with a tiny gremlin, I continued to explore the tunnels hidden in the back of the well, following a turn in the tunnel to the south. The tunnel opened up a little into a small room with scant furnishings around a wooden box. Upon opening the box, another gremlin came flying out and failed in an attempt to stab me due to a sucessful Luck roll. What the hell a gremlin was doing sitting in a box deep underground I’ll never know. Again, combat was made all the trickier as I was forced to my knees by the low ceiling and with an effective Skill of 5, I actually took a fair few hits, taking my Stamina to single figures before I killed the little sod. It wasn’t really worth the trouble either as all I could find of worth in the room was a gold ingot worth 28gp, but so heavy I had to drop an item to take it with me, so it stayed put. Moving north through the tunnels this time I was soon pulling an arrow out of my shoulder as presumably more gremlins lay in wait further down the passage. Indeed, this was the case and thankfully, they were extremely weak so even in the confined space, they were killed without taking damage myself. More curious clay hands were found in the room, so I took one along with 3gp.

 

Heading back up and out of the well, feeling very much like I’d just gone on a wild-goose chase, I heard footsteps coming from above me, coming down the ladder. Not waiting to see who it was I grabbed the leg of whoever it was and pulled them down, delighted to see that another gremlin had just gone flying past me into the water below.

After climbing all the way out I continued in a Westerly direction and discovered a small bearded man in a little red jacket, fast asleep atop a mighty toadstool. I think it was fairly safe to assume he was a gnome. I gave him a quick nudge to wake him up and he subsequently fell off his toadstool. I quickly introduced myself and my quest and at the prospect of obtaining some information, I handed over 5gp. He told me that somewhere to the north he had seen the skeleton of a Goblin in a crypt, perhaps he had part of the hammer I was looking for? I headed off, looking for a northerly turning…

 

And lo, I did find my northerly turning, but the first thing it brought me to was an empty wooden hut and on it’s porchway sat a small blue vase. Inside, it appeared inky black, nothing could be seen, but there was something in there, so I had a rummage around and despite apparent intense pain I pulled out a small handful of objects. A Phial of Strength which gave me +5 Stamina was consumed straight away, but coming with me on my journey was 5gp and a dragons tooth.

A little further north, I thought I had found my crypt, a stone building which had a locked door requiring a silver key, which I predictably didn’t have. I did however have a shoulder though and a lucky dice roll later, the soor was smashed open. Descending some gloomy stairs I realised that I had in-fact discovered the crypt that the gnome spoke of. I lit a candle for a better look and there lay the skeleton of a goblin next to a huge stone box. However, my attempts to open the box were thwarted, the lid was a huge stone slab and without a supply of ‘Dust of Levitation’, I couldn’t shift it and so had to leave the crypt empty handed. Bugger.

 

Somewhat resigned to failure, I trudged onward through to the north. A sparkling in the trees caught my eye, but moving closer to investigate, I was surrounded by a large shadow. A dragon shaped shadow at that. Apparently I had disturbed a Wyvern, a Wyvern who had just spat a giant fireball at me, which thankfully missed. As I didn’t possess a flute, I had to indulge the thing in combat… Enya fan I guess. Bloody hard battle it was too, my Skill of 8 was a real crutch against the Wyverns 10/11 stats, but a load of Luck rolls got me through the fight by the skin of my teeth.

 

And now onto my treasure! At the lower end was a 10gp stash and a throwing knife, but more interesting was a gauntlet and a gold ring. I put on the gauntlet and was delighted to find that it was a Gauntlet of Weapon Skill and would give me +1 to my attack rolls! Gleefully I tried on the ring… which turned out to be a Ring of Slowness, forcing me to deduct 2 from my attack rolls. DAMN YOUR EYES, LIVINGSTONE!!!

After this latest disappointment, I continued north only to hear voices and cracking of dry twigs. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by bandits. Given my post-wyvern weariness and the way I’d just been screwed by Livingstone, I elected to just do whatever they wanted. Five objects from me was what they required to allow me past, each gold piece was considered a single item, so I gave them 5gp and bid them good day. I did mention a while ago about the illustrator seemingly not being able to draw a convincingly solid weapon grip, well, the bandit leader is a prime example.

 

Anyway, it seemed as though the bandits were the last challenge I would face in Darkwood Forest as the trees cleared and I stepped out into Stonebridge!

 

Rather embarrassingly though, I’d shown my face without the hammer I had set off to find. A rather unspectacular end to the journey, I was informed simply that I had failed in my quest, I was unable to face Gilibran, the dwarf king of Stonebridge, and set off to the east to rest. Curiously, I was given the option to search the forest further, returning to Yaz at the start and effectively starting the adventure again with my current character. New Game + wasn’t something I was looking for now though and so I settled for the bad ending again. My adventure was over.

The Forest of Doom – Part 2

Out onto the grassy plains I stepped, we were now free from the forested area that the adventure began in and the well trodden pathways through the vegetation were now guiding me forwards. Heading past a few northerly paths, I progressed in an easterly direction before eventually being forced to take a northern route. My initial purchases from Yaz came up good for me here though as the vegetation I was walking through started to wrap around me and pull me down, but thankfully my Plant Control potion was able to convince the Tangleweed to release me before it could suck all the juices out of me, or so I presume.

Through this encounter I made my way further north to find myself at the bank of a flowing river where I met a centaur. My pacifist leanings led me into conversation with him and I soon found him to be a quite pleasant chap who was glad to meet someone who wasn’t trying to kill him. Regardless, the cheeky swine still wanted 3gp to carry me across the river. I didn’t have 3gp, being nice gets you nowhere it seems, should have ended him. So, I was left to cross the river myself, which inevitably resulted in bad things, but not as bad as it could have been. I was subjected to a violent leech attack, which cost me one of my Provisions as I had to tip salt on the thing to get it off. Something which suggests to me that my meals consist entirely of salt. Interesting.

After this, I decided to set up camp for the night and was woken in the dead of night by howling sound that only served to draw my attention to the entirely unrelated giant spider that was crawling through the trees towards me. No problem to me though, the thing was slain without landing a single blow on me, and I’d just woken up and everything.

My next discovery was a cave which emitted a snoring sound. A little tippy-toeing helped me discover a sleeping cave troll, complete with obligatory giant club. The guy was sleeping close to a big leather bag though, which I intended to take. Again, my astute purchases did me proud here as the Net of Entanglement proved its quality by gracefully flying through the air and encompassing the cave troll into an angry, struggling ball. I ran from the cave, giggling like a school-girl, to investigate my booty. A slightly disappointing 5gp and a brass bell were in there, but hopefully that bell will save my ass at some point.

Wandering through the pathways to the west, I arrived at a well. Investigation led me to find a ladder running down, which duly went to climb and then fell down, cutting my head in the process. A torchlit passage ran off to the side however and following this brought me to a T-junction at which I took a right turn. A curtain hung across the tiny passage, which revealed a small gremlin when pulled back. The little fellow was examining a red clay figure of a human hand, which he strangely smashed as soon as he spotted my entrance. A difficult fight ensued as I had to knock 3 Attack Point off every round due to the cramped conditions, but given the fact he was a tiny gremlin and I a mighty hero, I destroyed him. My reward came in the form of a medallion which I took from his neck, apparently worth 9gp. Woo.

I climbed back into the tiny passageways and began to crawl back down to the T-junction where I would explore  the other end of this small underground network… In part three I will anyway…

The Forest of Doom – Part 1

#3

The Forest of Doom

Only the foolhardy would risk an encounter with the unknown perils that lurk in the murky depths of Darkwood Forest. Yet there is no alternative, for your quest is a desperate race against time to find the missing pieces of the legendary Hammer of Stonebridge — fashioned by Dwarfs to protect the villagers of Stonebridge against their ancient doom.

As I write, I’m trying to get the stink of this new Muse album out of the room, I’ve got the windows open, but it just won’t go. I’ll have to put some Hawkwind on to get this first entry to Forest of Doom off to a good start. We’ve had good (ish) dice rolls this time too, Skill 10/Stamina 19/Luck 9.

We begin our journey as a wandering adventurer, a swordsman looking for something to go on a quest for, and as luck would have it, in the middle of the night our would-be adventurer is woken by a dwarf crashing through the trees. The little guy had been punctured by two poisoned cross-bow bolts and in his last breaths managed to convey the bare bones of his story as well as his name, Bigleg. His town of Stonebridge was having problems with trolls, but without ‘the hammer’, Gillibran, the Lord of Stonebridge, could not unite the people to fight back. Bigleg had been on his way to find the hammer in Darkwood Forest, but had been ambushed by ‘little people’, which coming from a dwarf indicates that these were very little people. Still, he gave me a map and some gold and sent me to Yaztromos Tower on the southern edge of the forest. Oh, and then he died.

A half a days walk later and I found my way to the tower, sat at the very edge of Darkwood Forest and enticing me in with a big brass bell to ring.

Yaztromo himself answered the door, and only revealed his identity once he knew I was going to buy some of his stuff. I was expecting a master wizard, I got a salesman. Despite this though, I turned down the option to attack the guy – seriously Ian, I know better than that by now. Exciting times followed as I got to do what we all like to do in RPGs: spend gold. A bag of 30gp had been given to me by Bigleg and with it, Yaztromo had a list of items for me to peruse.

I tried to resist and lingering memories I had of items I had used in the past, and indeed, in my intro I remembered having the fire capsules… although I remembered them as acorns for some reason. Regardless, I spent every penny I had on Potion of Plant Control, Potion of Anti-Poison, Potion of Insect Control, Holy Water (we know they love their vampires), Ring of Light, Nose Filters, Rope of Climbing, Net of Entanglement, Headband of Concentration, Glove of Missile Dexterity, Garlic Buds (just to be doubly sure) and the Rod of Water Finding. Ol’ Yaz then discussed my adventure with me a little and shed some light on the areas neglected by Bigleg before he so selfishly went and died. It seemed the fabled hammer of Stonebridge had been the target of an envious dwarf king in another village and an attempt was made to steal it. The eagle he sent to steal the hammer was initially successful, but was then ripped apart by Death Hawks flying over Darkwood Forest and the hammer was lost. Supposedly, two goblins found the hammer and unable to decide who would take the treasure, the head and handle were separated so that each could take a prize. Great, that’s two things to find then. I bid Yaz farewell and descended the spiral staircase and headed out into the forest.

Heading in a westerly direction, it wasn’t long before I had my first encounter. A yelling voice caught my attention and following the noise, I discovered a robed man caught up in a rabbit snare beneath a tree. Despite his sneaky looking eyes, I decided to help free him and together we pulled apart the snare, freeing his leg. He explained that he had been searching for his lost brother in the forest before falling foul of the trap. We shook hands and he went on his way. Soon after, I decided that maybe my initial instinct was correct and on checking my belongings I had of course got some stuff missing as the utter cad had been a thief! I was told to either lose any remaining gold I had or two of the items I’d bought from Yaz. Having no cash, I ditched the Garlic Buds and the Rod of Water Finding. Utterly miffed, I continued north.

On my way forward, I spotted a goblin sat holding what looked like the handle for our hammer. I approached the little guy and tried to speak to him, but what I was actually talking to was the Shape Changer, the green spiney thing on the cover of the book! He suddenly took on his real form and I found myself in combat. A tough one he was too, with stats of 10/10 leaving me munching on a few packs of provisions when the battle was won. Slightly disappointed in how unspectacular the incident was though, not even a picture or a reward to accompany the fight! I did however discover some interesting looking mushrooms growing nearby and of course felt that the correct course of action would be to eat them. I guess it could have worked out ok, but these things were ‘Mix-up Mushrooms’ and I had to switch my Skill and Luck scores. As I’d used a bit of Luck to kill the Shape Changer, I was now down to a Skill of 8. Brilliant.

Going a bit east and then a bit north, I was knocked to the ground by Treeman! Yes, Treeman! The forest was alive and trying to kill me too, but nature was once again tamed by man as I kicked that trees arse. Not an easy task mind as he had stats of 8/8 and I had to beat him twice so as to destroy his main two branches. Provisions were required and again, no reward was obtained for such a tough fight. I must draw attention to the artwork for Treeman though as let’s be honest, it’s bloody awful.

The trees began to thin out and become less violent after here and soon I found myself surveying an area of plains grassland. The hills marked on the easterly section of the map maybe? I will leave that for next time in Part Two…

Only the foolhardy or the very brave would willingly risk a journey into Darkwood Forest…

I write to you this brief introduction, mildly annoyed with Windows Update as it fiendishly took the decision to reboot my PC overnight when it was supposed to be downloading Guild Wars 2. I guess my day off will be spent in Darkwood Forest instead then, not too bad a trade-off really as this was one of my favourites as a child. I’m fairly sure I had the ‘zig-zag’ edition of The Forest of Doom back then, which indicates to me that I had found it in a charity shop, as was an easier task back then. Being from Yorkshire, I appreciate the great outdoors and the setting, exploring deep in an eerie forest, was perfect for me. A nice change from the previous two books as well which were claustrophobic dungeon crawls.

I actually don’t remember much about the specific content of the book, but I do remember Yaztromo’s Tower though as the guy has such a bad-ass name. Fairly sure I had some sort of acorns that set fire to people too… or was that Phantoms of Fear? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Special note has to go to the cover artwork as the image of the Shape Changer always stuck with me and was one I would just sit looking at, absorbing all the details like the strange tail-tip or the way the spines ripped through his little hoodie.

Ian McCaig is the man responsible, as he was for some other iconic pieces of Fighting Fantasy art, but we will get onto those all in good time. It’s just another reason why I’m not interested in collecting the Wizard editions of these books. To me, I think of The Forest of Doom, I instantly think of this artwork. Why replace it?

Having praised Mr. McCaig though, I’m not too sure about the main illustrator of the book though, Malcolm Barter. Along with inclusions in Out of the Pit, this was his only Fighting Fantasy book. The images in this book are a very different style to the previous two, nowhere near as dark, and while not exactly poor, the guy doesn’t seem to be able to draw a hand holding a weapon properly! I’m sure you will see plenty of examples as I scan the images for the read-through, but there are some very dainty grips out there in Darkwood Forest! A small thing, but one which leaped out to me as I scanned through before writing this.

Now then, where’s my pencil?