|Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday Fighting Fantasy (and me!) happy birthday to you!|
|My, is that a dagger in your hand|
or are you just happy to see me?
Every journey starts with a name. A person. This person is Robin Turpin, an infamous thief who robs from the rich and sometimes gives his spoils to the poor. Robin is trekking about looking for an adventure of some sort to flex his thieving might with when he stumbles across the reasonably wealthy town of Silverton. The people seem nervous about something though and the iron grates over windows suggest that something is up. Deciding to investigate, I promptly find myself in The Old Toad. This is not a nickname for a local prostitute but rather more pleasingly a local Tavern. Robin's appearance causes quite a stir too; there are whisperings afoot as I make my way to the bar to inquire about a room for the night. Curiously before taking my money the innkeeper proceeds to iron bolt the door to his inn shut. Apparently nightfall in Silverton brings all sorts of terror; maybe The Old Toad is a murderous prostitute! Suddenly a thunderous knocking on the door of the inn sounds, with a voice shouting 'Open up! Open up!' Fearing for the survival of my lower regions, I am quite relieved to find the voice belongs to Owen Carralif, mayor of Silverton. It appears old Owen has put his town in a spot of bother; Night Prince not-so-charming, Zanbar Bone sent a request that Owen's daughter, Mirelle, go "stay" with him. Like any self-respecting father would, Owen rejects the Undead Prince's request. Every night since, Zanbar has sent his bloodthirsty Moon Dogs to kill anyone and everyone within Silverton. With rumours circulating of the people handing Mirelle over to Zanbar to stave off any further bloodshed, poor Owen is on the brink of collapse. To that end, he hands me 30 gold pieces, tells me to get a move on to Port Blacksand, find there a Wizard by the name of Nicodemus, a man powerful enough to slay Zanbar Bone single-handed. So, Robin Turpin has a quest. Guess I better get a move on then...
|Far more intimidating than a Police helmet|
|The favourite pastime the world forgot.|
|Nicodemus' body double.|
|Warning: This may not be an entirely|
accurate depiction of real events.
|It's alright; he's actually quite tame.|
|A pair of shears and you'll be safe.|
|Sums up how I now feel.|
On my way out of the city, I am approached by Sourbelly and Fatnose. No, these aren't the nicknames of the kids everybody hated at school. These are two Troll guards who decide to pick on me. I show them my merchant's pass so they don't arrest me and am instead offered to be thrown out of the city. Checking I have everything I need, I gleefully oblige to the idiots. On my way to the Night Prince's tower, I am greeted by a messenger bird sent by Nicodemus. Apparently he screwed up; only 2 of the ingredients mixed together will kill Zanbar, not all 3. He can't remember which two, so it's time for random luck to intervene. Trying to think logically, it seems that a Lotus flower is a reasonable candidate for one of the ingredients. My coin lands on tails this time, meaning that clump of Hag's hair forms the other one. Time to cross my fingers. Apparently my mashing up of flower and greasy hair has attracted a wandering creature, specifically an Orc. A mere Orc is no match for the refined swordplay of Robin Turpin though and I am soon on my way once more. The moment I approach the tower of Zanbar Bone, however, two of those dreaded Moon Dogs set upon me. Man, these guys are nasty. As killer hounds go, Moon Dogs are better skilled in combat then most assassins. This could prove a problem. Fortunately, the odds are in my favour and I survive with only even a few scratches! I now feel invincible. Better yet, my skeleton key I bought aeons ago unlocks the door at the base of the tower. Things improve further still when I get inside; taking a shield with a Unicorn on it (Fuck it, I have a Unicorn on my head already) I get a skill boost. Well, I will when/if I lose a skill point. My next option is to get in this bed in the next room and get some sleep. Ian, Ian. You may be a crafty so-and-so but do you really expect me to be so stupid as to fall asleep in this monstrous place?!?! I ignore the next couple of rooms on the way up; all evil people make their base at the top of their tower, don't they? The fourth floor appears to be my stop; Zanbar Bone starts calling out, claiming he can see my every move. Gulp.
|The joys of paranoia when you know something is there.|
|Ridicule is nothing to be scared of.|
This is a very good moment. Success in a Fighting Fantasy book is extremely rare. To succeed in a second one as I have just done leaves me feeling all sorts of fantastical superlatives you normally only see in a children's book that involves Caterpillars of some sort. Suffice to say I'm happy. My rather long journey was as follows:
That was me visiting 122 paragraphs; well over 25% of the lot. That's quite an achievement in itself, I feel. It took me half of that before I even came across a single combat, but then they came reasonably steadily:
Giant Centipede - Skill: 10 Stamina: 5
First Rat - Skill: 4 Stamina: 4
Second Rat - Skill: 5 Stamina: 4
Third Rat - Skill: 5 Stamina: 5
Leaf Beasts - Skill: 6 Stamina: 6
Orc - Skill: 5 Stamina: 4
First Moon Dog - Skill: 9 Stamina: 10
Second Moon Dog - Skill: 11 Stamina: 9
First Skeleton - Skill: 6 Stamina: 7
Second Skeleton - Skill: 8 Stamina: 6
Third Skeleton - Skill: 7 Stamina: 7
The Giant Centipede was not necessary to reach the end of the book, yet all the others are. Looking at it, a warrior with weak initial stats would have a good chance. Well. They would, if only those pesky Moon Dogs weren't there. They, my friends, are horrible. It's time again for the analysis part. Get ready.
HOW MUCH FIGHT WAS IN THIS FANTASY?
|I've only just noticed the 3 ingredients in the|
top left of this; a wonderfully detailed image.
Monsters/other NPC encounters: There are plenty of interesting characters in City of Thieves. Nicodemus may not be as interesting as Yaztromo but he works well as a grumpy wizard who is still good-natured deep down. Those of you with Dungeoneer or Blacksand! will have access to more fleshing out of Nicodemus too, adding to the grumpy old git persona! The City Guard work well as a symbol of the corrupt nature of Port Blacksand as you can bribe your way out of any trouble you get into with them. There's not that many combats in this book on the whole, this being a book that focuses more on the personalities of the various inhabitants than actually thrusting you into combat against everybody you meet, a move that works well. The Leaf Beasts are an interesting creation; they may not be very strong but they are an interesting enemy concept. A nice collection of characters in this one. 8/10.
Storyline/Plot: The plot itself is basic enough with no real additions to it as you go on; the backstory is told completely in the introduction. Barring the untimely arrival of Nicodemus' messenger bird, there are no twists or major developments to the plot. However, the setting is crucial to the success of any story. Port Blacksand as a setting happens to be one of the most vibrant and truly alive settings in any FF book. You can really place yourself in this city, imagine the sights, sounds and smells described to you as you wander around searching for the most obscure items ever needed to fell an Undead horror. For that reason, I'd say the Plot works rather well. 6/10.
Difficulty: I may have completed this but that does in no way make it easy. Whilst the combat for the best part is never too challenging, the essential and unavoidable Moon Dog battle is evil, with only lucky dice or a high skill score getting you through it. I was fortunate to have both! Up to that point it is reasonably difficult to actually die, so this is a rather gentle Ian Livingstone book in that respect. However, the one true path aspect is certainly true in the second half of the book, as you can only find that manhole to get into the sewers if you choose to go down Stable Street. For that reason, this one is reasonably challenging to complete. 7/10
Seal of Approval?: City of Thieves is one of the true classics. Port Blacksand may just about be one of the greatest cities in fantasy writing, although I can't say I'd fancy a trip there! I really, really enjoyed playing this one. To me an FF book is simply a personal duel between the player and the author; the author being the dungeon master with his monsters and traps, leaving the player to use their cunning and lucky dice to outwit them. To best Ian Livingstone in mortal combat such as this once in Forest of Doom felt nice. To beat him once more here is enough to make me feel immortal. This is, of course, highly foolish. Heck, Crypt of the Sorcerer will likely bring me back down to earth with a bone-crunching bang. For now, though, I shall revel in the glory of sweet success. Read this one, it's a delight.
|The sweet feeling of beating an OBE in combat for the second time.|
Sorry this blog post took so long guys. I actually started it a month ago, with my opening gambit being done straight away. I then hit holidays, illness and mental block preventing me from completing it for ages, which was highly frustrating. To tell the truth, this has been ready to go up for nearly a week now, but I thought I'd hold back to coincide with Fighting Fantasy's 30th Birthday, in an effort to hopefully get more views. The fact I actually won again made the decision to release it today make even more sense; this post proves the evil minds of Fighting Fantasy authors do not always prevail! I shall try not to take a month for the next playthrough, although I shall no longer make any promises as I seem to always fail miserably in keeping them. So, a very happy 30th birthday to FF, a happy 19th to myself (This makes me feel horribly young!) and a thank you to anyone reading this. The moral of this one is not based on the experience of the book but the legacy of FF itself:
Some books will become famous for a short while, but as they age lose their lustre, moving into obscurity never to be heard of again. Some are more like a fine wine; They draw you in with an interesting flavour, but if you leave them for years and then come back to them they can taste even better and be enjoyed all the more for it. They may change their appearance slightly as they age, even adapt to their surroundings to keep themselves relevant, but they will still have that appeal that made them famous back when they were a brand new wine. These are the books that become legendary.
I'd like to think Fighting Fantasy's legacy is similar to that of that fine Wine, don't you?
NEXT TIME ON
May Your Stamina Never Fail...
I make an important announcement and reveal all...