Sunday, March 11, 2018

Warlock Magazine #4

Editorial: The magazine opens with an editorial that names the winners of the various competitions held over the last few issues.  The most notable of these is Paul Struth, whose adventure The Dervish Stone appears later on.  Not much of interest otherwise, aside from Ian and Steve signing off with a plea for us to "keep bashing the orcs".  Will do, lads!

Out of the Pit: This entry features four new beasties created by Marc Gascoigne, who it is noted is currently editing an unnamed collection of monsters.  All of them are appearing here for the first time, and they all make it into that monster book.  I wonder what it's title will be...
  Caarth: These snake men rule the deserts south of human civilization, lording it over tribes of ape-men and neanderthals.  Intelligent, strong and merciless, the Caarth are stopped from conquering the lands around them only by their aversion to temperate and colder climates.  A few tidbits of FF lore are dropped in this short entry.  First, we learn that men descended from apes, and orcs were crossed with swine.  (Bleargh, get your pig orcs outta my fantasy, Gascoigne.)  The Snake Demon Sith is mentioned, as he is worshipped by the high priests of the Caarth.  Overall they're a cool monster, and it's a wonder that there was never a gamebook centered around them.
  Death Spider: The demonic creatures have the five-metre-wide body of a spider and the head of a human.  Their webs are their link to the Realm of the Damned, and any adventurers caught within it - or paralysed by the spider's bite and dragged into it - will be bitten until they die.  The web and the corpses within will then fade away back to the demonic plane, where their soul will be tortured for eternity.  Is this the first real notion we get that demons are a thing in Titan?  I guess there's been the Mirror Demon in Deathtrap Dungeon, and the Ice Demon from Caverns of the Snow Witch.  I'm probably forgetting others as well, but this seems to me to be the first blatant "torture your soul in hell" type of demon.
  Strangle Weed: This plant grows in Darkwood Forest, and... look, it's a plant with vines that will strangle you to death.  It's not much else to say about it, although the macabre touch of it raising dead adventurers over its head to squeeze out the juices, then leaving the skeletons hanging above is pretty great.
  Krell: These are six-armed apes that can be tamed, and taught tricks.  There are tales of the arch-wizard Belandros, who even taught his pets how to speak the language of men "though, it must be said, with a thick eastern accent!"  They supposedly dwell in jungles to the east, though I'm not sure where that would be.  There aren't really many jungles on the continent of Allansia, certainly none to the east of the area where most of the gamebooks had been set to this point.  There are some jungles to the south, past the Desert of Skulls, so maybe there.   Otherwise I guess we could place them on Khul, which is technically east of Allansia.  Shit, you can put anything in Khul and it works, that's the whole point of it.

Warlock Profile: This month's artist's profile is on Iain McCaig, and it's presented in the form of a comic strip drawn by McCaig himself.  It shows off his seldom seen flair for comedy, as a cigar-smoking dragon shows the reader around McCaig's mansion, but it doesn't really tell us anything about the man himself.  Unless you want to believe that he was born shortly after the dinosaurs, and grew up drawing on cave walls.

Tricks & Traps by Ian Livingstone: "Throw a few Skill 12 monsters at 'em, that'll get the little fuckers."  Jeez, short article, Ian.
  Haha, I kid.  This actually is a short article, in which Ian outlines some basic traps: falling stone blocks, pits, illusions, riddles, the rudimentary stuff.  Of more interest are the John Blanche illustrations that accompany them.  It ends with a competition, inviting the readers to submit their own ideas to the magazine.  They'll no doubt show more imagination than the examples Ian provided (not that he's short of imagination, but it's obvious that he's saving his best ideas for the books).

Cartoon Competition Results: The winner and runner-up of the cartoon competition are printed.  The first is a two-pager showing the adventures of Arkenor the Wizard, and the runner-up is a guide on "How to be an Adventurer".  Neither are all that funny to my humourless, jaded self.  If these are the winners, I'd actually be more interested to see the other entries.  Awfulness is far more interesting to me then mediocrity.

The Warlock's Quill: Stephen Taylor of Newport gives some general praise.  Russell Cooper of Southport wants Skill to decrease along with Stamina, because he obviously hates winning. S. Wilson of Sheerness provides a system for calculating XP and levelling up in FF.  The editor (Ian, I assume) dismisses it with some twaddle about how the books would then have to get increasingly tougher, never mind that there's already a massive discrepancy between adventurers with Skill 7 and Skill 12.  Patrick Fahy of Epping ranks the books (with Starship Traveller at the bottom and Deathtrap Dungeon at the top).  He also whines about the Maze of Zagor being impossible.  Crybaby.  Michael Waite  of Dorchester wonders why the adventure sheet for House of Hell in Warlock #3 had sections for magic spells.  Paul Cater Malden of Essex wants an FF convention.  L. Heilbronn of Malda Vale thinks it's very important to let us all know that she's a girl.  Lewis Tennant of Tregaron wants an FF version of Disneyland.  And Daniel Clayton of Salisbury is annoyed that Warlock has printed nothing but rehashes of existing adventures.

Expanding Fighting Fantasy - Experience and Character Improvement by Graeme Davis: This article provides a system for increasing a character's Skill score in the FF introductory RPG.  Basically, you earn experience points equal to the Skill score of monsters defeated.  When you have ten times your current Skill in XP, you can roll 2d6.  If you score equal to or higher than your Skill, it increases by 1 point.  It also presents a similar system for your Magic score, if you happen to be using the system from Citadel of Chaos.  Luck is included as well.  Steve Jackson chimes in at the end with his own opinions of the system, which is pretty cool.  He seems in favour of it, though he doesn't like the idea of a new character popping in with Skill 12, and instantly being as good as someone who's worked his way up from Skill 7.  He's also against the idea of Luck increasing, as you can't really train to be luckier.

Expanding Fighting Fantasy - Magic in Fighting Fantasy by Tony Smith: This article has some ideas for spell-casting characters.  The spells must be read and learned by the prospective caster, and a Skill roll will be required for the casting, which then drains Stamina points.  This sets up a red flag for me already - Skill is already paramount for warriors, and making it important for spellcasters as well just unbalances the game further in favour of those who rolled a high Skill.  It ends with some sample spells obviously cribbed from Sorcery!  It's rudimentary stuff, and unfortunately Steve doesn't share his opinion here to liven things up a bit.

Fighting Fantasy News: The production schedule is ramping up to a book a month, with the following all in the pipeline: Space Assassin, Talisman of Death, Freeway Fighter, Temple of Terror, Rings of Kether, and Seas of Blood.  The monster collection is mentioned again, this time with the working title of Out of the Pit.  Two jigsaw puzzles have also been released, and Citadel Miniatures are releasing a set of plastic minis.

Fighting Fantasy Feedback: This is a survey for the fans to give their feedback.  I'm going to record my own answers for posterity, drawing only from those books I've covered so far in the blog.  Any other questions I'll answer as though I was at my peak FF-reading age.

1. What is the most exciting Fighting Fantasy Gamebook you have read?  Deathtrap Dungeon

2. Which Gamebook did you find the most difficult to complete?  House of Hell

3. Which Gamebook features the best cover art?  Forest of Doom

4. Which Gamebook featured the best interior black and white illustrations?  Deathtrap Dungeon

5. What is your favourite monster?  Dog-Ape. Or is it Ape-Dog?

6. Most Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks have featured a swords and sorcery theme.  Would you like some of the future books to be based on different themes?
  • Science fiction - No
  • Horror - Yes
  • Espionage - Hell no
  • Pirates - Yes
  • Wild West - All the no ever
  • War - Only if it's war with swords
  • Time-Travel - Yes
  • Samurai - Yes
  • Superheroes - No
  • Any other suggestions - More skeletons

7. Which Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks have you bought? (Please circle)  As a kid, I had bought books, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

8. Which Sorcery! Gamebooks have you bought?  I never even saw these books as a kid.

9. Which magazines do you read? G.M. and Dragon.

10. Did you enjoy the Fighting Fantasy board game 'Market Mayhem' in Warlock 3?  I'll say no, because it didn't really even have rules.

11. Would you like to see more board games in future issues of Warlock? Sure, why not.

12. Would you like to see Fighting Fantasy Role-Playing Game Scenarios in future issues of Warlock? Yes please!

13. Would you like to read fiction in Warlock? Nooooo.

14. Would you like to see a regular cartoon strip in Warlock? Yes, contingent on it actually being funny.

15. How do you rate the current features of Warlock?
  • Out of the Pit - Wizard!
  • Warlock's Quill - Average
  • News - Average
  • Crossword - Orc's Armpit
  • Warlock Profile - Orc's Armpit
  • Cartoons - Orc's Armpit
  • Fighting Fantasy Adventures - Wizard!
  • Tricks and Traps: Orc's Armpit
 Yes, those are the actual ratings in the magazine.

16. Do you think the Fighting Fantasy game system should: a) stay the same b) be made more complex? or c) be simplified?  Stay the same.

17. Do you always play through the Gamebooks strictly according to the dice rolls? Oh yeah.  Sure.

18. Do you play computer games? Yes, on Commodore 64

19. What is your favourite computer game? Bard's Tale 3.

20. How old are you?  Ten.  (I'm actually 39...)

The Dervish Stone: The remainder of the magazine is taken up by this 200 paragraph adventure.  That's for my next entry, however.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

House of Hell: Exploring the House of Drumer

Normally when I finish a gamebook, I write a post that details it's connections to the wider world of Titan,  That's not an option here, with House of Hell being set on modern day Earth (well, 1984 anyway). So instead I'm going to write about the house itself, it's inhabitants, and the clues scattered about as to its origins.  Some of it's drawn directly from the text, and some of it is conjecture, but here are my findings below.

This is the history of the house, as described by the Earl of Drumer himself: "The Earl of Drumer is the last surviving member of his family. His estate stretches for miles around the house. At one time the estate was prosperous, with many tenant farmers cultivating the land and providing a healthy income for his family. But things started to change. His sister died at the age of 32 under mysterious circumstances. She was found dead in the woods with strange markings on her neck. News travelled fast, and the ignorant peasants started muttering about witchcraft and black magic. In their eyes, the house was cursed. Gradually the farmers moved to new pastures, avoiding the estate."  Whatever happened in the house, it's clear that the true evil began around the time of his sister's murder.
  (As an aside, the house is said to be a few miles away from a town called Mingleford.  Much to my disappointment, this town seems to be entirely fictional.)

From those strange markings on the neck, we can surmise that she was killed by a vampire.  There's a painting of a young lady in the entrance hall with the following name-plate: "Lady Margaret of Danvers: 1802-1834".  Note that she died at 32, just as the Earl's sister did.  Elsewhere in the house there's a ring with the following inscription: "To dearest Margaret from George: 1834".  Again, the same date.  The ring is probably a wedding ring or an engagement ring, which would connect the lady in the painting to the ghost wearing a wedding dress who tells you about the Kris knife.  They're both the same person, the sister of the Earl of Drumer.
  As for the ring, you might remember that wearing it can bring you under the control of a vampire who's in the house.  With Lady Margaret probably having been killed by a vampire, and the vampire currently in the house having some power over her wedding ring, there's obviously a connection.  Was this vampire her husband to be?  Or perhaps he killed both the husband and Lady Margaret?  Whatever his story, he's obviously important to the origins of the curse on the house, but we frustratingly learn nothing else about him.  Unless he's the "Count Pravemi" that writes a letter to the Earl?  Pravemi is an obvious anagram, so it seems likely.  The letter doesn't tell us anything else about him, unfortunately.  If the ring was from him, his full name is George Pravemi.
  The other takeaway from this is that Kelnor, the Earl of Drumer, is around 180 years old.

Aside from Kelnor and his sister, there are two other family members shown in the paintings.  One is a lordly gentlemen with the following name-plate: "The Duke of Brewster: 1763-1828". The other is an old woman, and her name-plate reads: "The Duchess of Brewster: 1777-1845". An obvious marital pair, and their ages line up for them to be Kelnor's mother and father.  The Duke is vaguely sinister, using his gaze to direct the hero into touching an electrified doorknob. The Duchess is actually quite helpful, telling the hero to search for the man in grey.  Whatever happened to curse the house, she probably had no involvement.  The Duke, on the other hand, may have been a devil-worshipper himself.  The book doesn't give us enough information to tell.

The Earl, otherwise known as Lord Kelnor, is the son of the Duke and Duchess of Brewster and at the point of the book's publication would be about 180 years old.  He's described as a Black Priest of the Night, and leads a coven of devil worshippers who congregate at his house for ceremonies.  Presumably he bargained with a demon for some sort of prolonged lifespan, but how was he introduced to this lifestyle?  Through his father?  Through the vampire that killed (and was possibly engaged to) his sister?  Again, this is all conjecture, because the book isn't saying.
  As for his coven, they wear white robes when they congregate, as well as masks made from the severed heads of goats.  These masks are presumably worn to represent the goat-like Hell Demon who grants Kelnor his power.  The leader of the rituals (probably Kelnor?) wears a goat-head that's dyed purple.  The coven is secretive, and none of them drive to the meetings.  They all recognise each other's faces.  The Earl has made them all unspecified promises, but one can assume that power and maybe a lifespan like the Earl's would be among them.

We are told repeatedly that "the Master" is holding a ceremony in order to give Brother Isaacson his blessing.  This seemingly involves a number of ritual sacrifices.  The first of these is scheduled to be a young district nurse, who was recently assigned to the area and popped in to visit the house, only to be captured.  The second would be a man in a white gown, a former member of the coven whose conscience could no longer allow him to go along with things. It's hinted at one point that the hero of the book is intended as a sacrifice as well,  In addition to the sacrifices, there are a number of characters being held prisoner who are scheduled for "punishment", whatever that may entail.
  At one point the hero may overhear a coven member asking whether they may be "visited", which no doubt refers to a demonic visitation.  More specifically, it probably refers to the Hellfire Demon at the end of the book.  A number of ritual sacrifices, some punishments, a summoned demon, and Brother Isaacson receiving a blessing of some sort.  I wonder if he's being conferred some sort of power, or maybe a longer lifespan like Lord Kelnor?

The player is directed to the house by the ghost of an old man, whose corpse is later seen hanging by a noose from a tree outside.  The old man is portrayed as evil, but I wonder.  Was he another repentant coven member, who killed himself before seeking out someone who could destroy the Master? Or was his ghost sent out by the house or the Master to lure in another victim?  The headless ghost at one point says that the hero was drawn there by the house itself, so that their ghost might join him and his companions in the netherworld.  This, and the evil manner of the old man, would suggest the more sinister option, but I do kinda like the alternative.
  I'm also not quite sure what the Earl is planning to do with the hero.  He seems to be expecting your arrival, and makes a half-hearted attempt to drug you and leave you tied up in an empty room.  Presumably this would be a precursor to taking you below for the sacrifice, but why not just take you to the cells straight away?  Why only drug some of the food?  Why bother with drugged water when you're already asleep?  What was the plan if you avoid the drugged food and don't drink the water?  It doesn't quite make sense.

The Master can only be killed by the Kris knife in a red room (the red room symbolising the battle taking place in Hell).  There's one obvious question that comes to mind when you find this out: why would he keep the only weapon capable of killing him in his own house?  Why doesn't he just paint all of his interior walls a lovely sky blue?  The Earl is not a stupid man, and would have thought of these things himself, so there's undoubtedly a good reason.
  First, let's look at the Kris knife, and the inscription inside the box where it's found: "A blade fashioned for the glorification and pleasure of the demons of hellfire - our true Masters. To be used only by Initiates. Never to be wielded in the presence of the Masters."  That sounds like a sacrificial dagger to me, an evil item that can nevertheless be used to kill a Hell Demon.
  Now I'm going to go off into some conjecture.  If the dagger and the red room need to be in the house, they're probably a part of whatever keeps the Earl young.  Maybe he did a ritual with the Kris knife to summon a Hell Demon, who granted him immortality.  As a part of that, he needs to keep the knife close by at all times, as well as a red room symbolising hell.  It's a risk, but it's better than dying of old age, innit?

So Lord Kelnor is the Master right?  No, actually, it's Franklins, the butler.  Who is really a Hell Demon in disguise, or manifesting a Hell Demon after the sacrifices have been performed. But Kelnor sure doesn't treat Franklins like anything other than a butler.  Even at the end of the book, he berates the man for acting cowardly. What's the relationship between the two?
  My first thought is that Kelnor is in charge of everything, and Franklins is actually his butler.  A Hell Demon is manifesting through his body by the end of the book, after the sacrifices, but Kelnor doesn't know it yet, for whatever reason.
  My second thought, and the one I rather like, is that the man we are introduced to as Lord Kelnor is just a decoy, another member of the coven.  Franklins is actually Lord Kelnor, the Earl of Drumer, and his body is inhabited by a demon as part of the evil pact he made.  Using a decoy makes sense: an Earl who's been alive for 180 years is going to draw some attention, but nobody pays much attention to a butler.

Buggered if I know.  She's an old woman who recently died, and she seems to know a lot about the house.  At first I thought she might be the Duchess of Brewster, but she's more sinister than the painting was.  Then I thought she might be another sister of Kelnor, or perhaps even his wife or daughter.  But why would she have grown old then?  Unless the Earl can't actually grant immortality to anyone else?  I thought she might be a servant, but her bedroom is probably too opulent for that.  Whoever she is, she's trusted enough that she knew the password to the Earl's secret room.  She's an unsolved mystery.

That's about all I was able to tease out of the book, but it certainly brought some of the book's little touches to light for me.  I'd never made the Pravemi/Vampire connection before.  As I expected, there are no concrete answers to be had, and I wouldn't want them in a book like this.  Mystery and horror go hand in hand, after all.  The House of Hell remains a mystery, and that's the way I like it.

Next: I take a deep dive into Warlock magazine issue #4.

Friday, February 23, 2018

House of Hell: Final Thoughts

In playing through this book, I've perhaps said a little too often that I was getting sick of it.  It's true, after playing the magazine version and then the book version, I'm keen to move on to something else.  The blog has been stuck on House of Hell related material since April of last year, after all.  None of that should be taken as a slight on the book's quality, though, because House of Hell is staggeringly good.

This is one that I owned as a child, and it left a firm impression on my psyche.  I had recurring nightmares about goat-headed cultists well into my teenage years, and they still pop up in my dreams on occasion.  House of Hell scared me in a way that no other gamebook ever has, but it was so good that I kept going back to it.  Sometimes I thought that if I beat it, the nightmares would go away.  I didn't beat it for a long, long time.

It's hard to know where to begin when trying to say what's so good about House of Hell, because the temptation is there just to say "all of it" and move on.  But I'll start with the writing.  Steve Jackson is far from the best prose stylist, and he's often prone to excitable outbursts complete with italics and exclamation points.  It works very well here, though, where Jackson can revel in all of the macabre details.  The atmosphere is thick with horror, perhaps a little too thick at times: it rarely takes the subtle approach.  That's fine though.  This is a book where zombies hide behind curtains, headless ghosts fly through the walls, and corpses tumble out of cupboards on top of you.  It hits every cliche, but hits them with gusto.

Even better than the writing is the design.  A lot of FF adventures are designed like a linear path, with branches that fork off and eventually converge again.  House of Hell is far more complex.  It's very circuitous, and you can enter different areas from a number of different directions and paths.  It can get a little clumsy at times, as the book ushers you past doors you might actually want to explore, but on the whole it work very well, and goes a long way to making the house feel like it's honeycombed with secret doors and passageways.  It also introduces a level of complexity to the puzzles that is well above the books prior.  Finding the secret door and the password to get the Kris Knife is hard, and Jackson has put in a number of tricks to catch the reader unwares.  It's not a book that you can finish on your first go: it takes a lot of tries, and a slow unravelling of the path to victory.

If I have one criticism of the book, it's the use of the Fear statistic.  I have no problem with having a Fear score that increases as you explore, and kills you once it gets to a certain point, but there are some ridiculous deaths that can result.  Dying because you heard a sinister voice, or saw some curtains open, is more comedic that horrifying.  And then there's the fact that you can't win with a score of 7 or 8.  It's a good idea, but it's not perfectly executed.

I haven't mentioned the art, but I talked a bit about Tim Sell's work when I covered the magazine version.  It's a strange blend of cartoony and horrific, but it works.

On the whole, House of Hell is a stone-cold classic.  It might be the best book in the series to this point, and it's absolutely the best one in the series that's not set on Titan.  It will be interesting to see if it unseats Citadel of Chaos from the top spot on my STAMINA ratings.


With only six attempts at this book, I missed a lot.  Most of the rooms that I missed were in the cellars.  There's a torture chamber with a fun minigame where you have to quickly write down words relating to the house while you're being stretched on the rack, in order to prove that you're a friend of the Master.  There's also a prison cell, where a man in grey lays out pretty much everything you need to do to beat the game.  A lot of the rooms I didn't find were in the preview version, in vastly different locations.  Part of the fun of this book is that, no matter how many times you go through it, there's always something new to discover.


I couldn't find any errors.  The only item I found that serves no purpose at all is an antique book of medieval portraits, which you can take from the library.


This book has 16 instant death paragraphs.  This seems a bit low, but there are quite a few of them that you can reach from multiple directions.  My favourite is still the one where you try to attack forty cultists, and Steve Jackson tells you straight up that you deserved to die.  But I used that one for the magazine version, so here's a solid back-up.


Because there are so many comical ways of dying, I'm listing them all below.  (Note that the first seven or so on the list happen early in the adventure, and aren't likely to kill you.)  Behold, the things that can scare you to death inside the House of Drumer:

  • Listening to a talking painting
  • Seeing the eyes move on a portrait
  • Getting nervous after hesitating to ask the earl about his telephone
  • Waiting in your bedroom
  • Seeing the ghost of a bride
  • Standing close to an invisible creature
  • Finding some corpses in a cupboard
  • Being punched by a zombie who is hiding behind a curtain
  • Discovering that a door has locked behind you
  • Seeing a decapitated ghost carrying its severed head
  • Hearing that ghost tell you you'll be trapped in the house forever
  • Seeing some curtains open and close
  • Trying to sit on a bed that moves from under you
  • Having a chair thrown at you by a poltergeist
  • Hearing a polite, sinister voice
  • Having said voice mock you for trying to escape through a locked door
  • Encountering a ghoul
  • Having a corpse fall out of a closet on top of you
  • Being ambushed by a white-haired man
  • Finding a butchered goat in a crate
  • Being swarmed by bats
  • Seeing an old man hanging from a tree by a noose
  • Being smothered by animated bedsheets
  • Seeing a sheet pulled up by a rope
  • Being attacked by cupboard-dwelling skeletons
  • Seeing a dead lady open her eyes
  • Touching a dead old lady
  • Opening the front door to see a goat-headed cultist
  • Seeing writing mysteriously appear on a piece of paper
  • Seeing the writhing souls trapped in the eye on the front of an evil book
  • Falling down a trap door
  • Looking in a mirror with no reflection
  • Hearing some cultists discuss a ritual sacrifice
  • Being attacked by a knife-wielding cultist
  • Witnessing the HELL DEMON


Story and Setting: The story-telling in this book is more sophisticated than anything seen in the series before, with events progressing in certain areas depending on how far you've made it through the adventure.  It all runs on a cliched haunted house/Satanic cult plot, but the directness with which it tackles that stuff is frankly shocking for a children's book.  And then there's the house of Drumer, with its circuitous paths and secret passages.  It's all good stuff, despite a few bits here and there where the story doesn't quite make sense.  Rating: 6 out of 7.

Toughness: This book is very hard, but the majority of that difficulty comes from puzzles, finding the right password and the clues that will get you to the Kris Knife.  I'd give this one a perfect score if it was possible to beat the book with a minimum Fear score, but as it is I have to mark it down slightly.  Rating: 6 out of 7.

Aesthetics: House of Hell drips with atmosphere, despite a few comical moments of excitable prose from Steve Jackson.  (Someone has brought you a bedtime drink!)  The art is cartoony yet horrifying, in a weird blend that somehow works in its favour.  And it's got a great cover by Ian Miller.  Rating: 6 out of 7.

Mechanics: The Fighting Fantasy system is serviceable as usual, and for the most part it's well-used.  The Fear score doesn't quite work, though, resulting in some very unsatisfying deaths, and stopping anyone with a score less than 9 from winning.  I'm also not the biggest fan of the 50/50 choice at the end when fighting the Earl of Drumer and Franklins.  Are there any clues that tell you which is the correct one to attack?  That said, I'm going to bump this one up a little for the loads of little design tricks it has. Rating: 5 out of 7.

Innovation and Influence: The Fear score is new, and the horror genre is a first for Fighting Fantasy.  Most of the innovation this book shows is in its design, though, with the intertwining pathways and the tricks used to disguise the path to success.  Ultimately, those are the things that will carry forward from House of Hell into the rest of the series.  Rating: 5 out of 7.

NPCs and Monsters: There are a sizable number of monsters in this book, many of them horror staples: skeletons, zombies, ghosts, a ghoul, a vampire etc.  Where the book excels, though is with its human characters and enemies.  I think a large part of the horror of House of Hell is that your antagonists are just people.  Yes, they're wearing freaky goat masks, but underneath they're regular folks, characters more so than monsters.  The book is full of people, some of them on your side but most of them definitely not, and they all have their own little stories.  Some of them blend together (there are a few too many former cultists who've been locked up by the Master), but on the whole the book has distinctive characters and memorable encounters.  Rating: 6 out of 7.

Amusement: I know I said I was sick of this book, but there's a very short list of gamebooks that I could enjoy playing for as long as I did this one.  It's great, and the multitude of pathways through it (albeit only one of which will take you to victory) means that there's always something new to find.  It's one of the all-time greats.  Rating: 7 out of 7.

House of Hell gets the bonus point for being super-rad and scarring me mentally.  The above scores total 42, which doubled gives a final STAMINA Rating of 84.  That puts it second on the list, just above The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and six points below The Citadel of Chaos.  Sometimes I think Citadel has too high a score, but then I take a look and I can't see which categories I'd mark down.  It's going to stay at the top at least until we hit Creature of Havoc, I'd say.

It feels a bit like I've reached the end of an era with House of Hell.  Before this, the series was, with one exception, solely populated by the works of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.  From this point on, the work of those two men gets a little more scarce, and we start getting a greater variety of authors.  I like the variety, but for me there's something special about those first ten books, the first era of FF.  House of Hell is an outstanding capstone on that era.

NEXT:  I'm going to look through all the backstory peppered throughout this book and try and piece it together.  After that, it's on to Warlock #4 and Talisman of Death.

Monday, February 19, 2018

House of Hell - Attempt 6

Last time, I was close enough to beating House of Hell that I was legitimately shocked when I didn't win.  It's all down to that brilliant, devious bastard Steve Jackson; why require a hidden key for the final room when you can make it two hidden keys?  So now I'm back at it, and on the look-out for the cast-iron key that will hopefully lead me on to victory.

For this attempt, I rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 19, a Luck of 9 and a maximum Fear of 9.  That Fear score is the only worry: it's the minimum amount you can beat the book with, so I can't afford to take any chances.  One errant scare and it's all over, so I'm sticking to all the familiar pathways.  That means that this attempt is going to look very similar to my last couple, so I'm just going to run it down in point form without the usual flourishes (such as they are).

  • You know the drill by now: rainy night, crashed car, spooky house, looking for a phone.  Lovely dinner with the Earl of Drumer where I avoid eating cheese or white wine.  (It's so hard.  I bloody love cheese.)
  • Woken up in the night by the hunchback Shekou bringing me a drink.  We fight, and despite our equal Skill scores he pummels me down to 11 Stamina before I wallop him with a Luck-enhanced blow.
  • Out on the landing I turn right (avoiding the encounter with the ghost bride and its attendant Fear increase), and head to the rain-soaked window where I find the following message: "Mordana in Abaddon".
  • Back to the landing, I enter a storeroom where I take a meat-knife that I plan to do murders with.  Good murders, on bad people.
  • Further around the landing, I enter the Abaddon Room and touch the gross dead old lady in the bed (raising my Fear to 2).  I have to fight her dogs with my knife, which further reduces my Stamina to 9.  Afterwards I question her about secret doors, and learn about the one under the cellar stairs.
  • I head down to the ground floor and enter the drawing room.  I drink some brandy, which restores my Stamina to 12, and take some in a flask.  Investigating the fireplace I am attacked by Fire Sprites, which I smother with a curtain.
  • I find a button on the fireplace, and pressing it sends me down a chute to the cellar.  The fall raises my Fear to 3.  In the cellar I meet Shekou again, and ply him with brandy to learn that the secret door password is like the name of the house - Drumer - but mixed up.
  • I am set upon by bats (raising my Fear score to 4), and hide under the cellar.  There I find a secret door, speak the password - murder - and find the Kris Knife.  My Luck is restored back to 9.
  • I head upstairs and enter a room with a table and six chairs.  There's a mirror that casts no reflection, which raises my Fear score to 5.  (Somewhere, there's an FF player whose character died because of this.)  The mirror is a portal into another room.  I find a golden key in a secret drawer under the table.  I hear voices coming, so I jump through the portal to escape.

The room beyond the mirror has two rooms, but in my last game I ignored them and went back through the portal to meet my eventual demise in the dreaded kitchen.  This time I tried the door on the right.  It was locked, but I was able to open it with my golden key.  The room beyond was empty, but I could see recent footprints on the dusty floor.  They led to a corner of the room, where I found a loose stone, and behind the stone there was a cast-iron key, with the number 27 on it.

I headed back through the mirror and out into the hallway, where I continued until I was faced with the choice of two doors.  The one on the right led to the Kitchen of Inescapable Doom, so I chose the one on the left.  I was able to open it with the cast-iron key (by subtracting the number 27 from my current paragraph), and enter the dining-room where I had previously taken supper with the Earl of Drumer.

I rang the bell to summon Franklins the butler, who in turn fetched Lord Kelnor, the Earl of Drumer.  Neither were happy at being summoned like this, and their mood didn't improve when I told them that I was here to put a stop to their Satanic goat-hatted shenanigans.

What is up with Franklins' forehead?

They advanced upon me, and I had to choose which of the two to attack first.  Remembering the First Law of Villain Identification - the butler did it - I jumped Franklins.  He tried to flee but I pressed the attack, stabbing him with the Kris Knife.  At that wound he shrieked, and underwent a hellish, hideous transformation...

His forehead is probably less freaky than Franklins'.

He was a Hell Demon, and the sight of him raised my Fear score to 8.  Bolstered by the Kris Knife, however, I leapt into the fray.

(At this point, I had to make a rules judgement.  The book says that, in this battle, the Kris Knife boosts my Skill by 6 points.  I had to decide whether this was added to my initial Skill of 10, or my unarmed Skill of 7.  Reading the rules and looking at some previous weapon-related paragraphs, I regretfully concluded that I should add it to my unarmed Skill.  This gave me a Skill total of 13, one point lower than the Demon's whopping 14.  We both had 12 Stamina.)

We went blow for blow, quite literally, with the Demon wounding me twice, and me wounding him twice.  I had the advantage, though, as I was able to successfully test my Luck to double the damage dealt.  With my Stamina at 8 and his at 4, I struck again.  Once more my Luck was with me, and I dealt the Hell Demon a killing blow.

The Earl of Drumer burst into tears, cradling the Hell Demon's body, but I had more immediate concerns: a chandelier had set some curtains on fire and the house was about to go up.  I raced outside (not through the kitchen I assume), and watched the House of Drumer burn to the ground.  A fitting end, for a house of hell!

Huzzah!  No more House of Hell!  Well, except for the wrap-up posts.  But as far as playing it goes, I'm done.  I was a bit concerned at the end, due to the extremely high Skill of the Hell Demon.  I made it harder for myself by going with the more difficult rules interpretation, but I'll stand by it as the correct one.  Karma was on my side anyway, as the dice were very kind.

So what's next?  I have to do a Final Thoughts post, and rate the book.  (Spoiler: it's going to do very well.)  Following that, I might do an "Exploring Titan" of sorts where I dig into the various clues around the house and try and piece together some sort of history of the place.  From there it's on to Warlock Magazine #4 (featuring the short adventure The Dervish Stone), and then to Talisman of Death.  We're getting into the books I don't remember so well, and I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

House of Hell - Attempts 4 & 5

Once again, it's time for me to have another crack at House of Hell.  With the location of the Kris Knife firmly ensconced in my brain, I should have little trouble getting to the end of the book and dealing with Master.  Right?


For attempt 4, I rolled a Skill of 7, a Stamina of 17, a Luck of 12, and a Fear of 11.  Not bad, although that Skill score was a definite worry.

I didn't take any detours this time, dining with the Earl of Drumer, avoiding the poisoned wine and cheese, and being shown to bed.  After going to sleep I was awakened by someone bringing me a glass of water.  Somehow this shocking turn of events led to me trying to bust my way out of the room, which attracted the attention of the hunchback, Shekou.  I beat up Shekou with no trouble, and after he surrendered I asked him how I might escape from the house.

This was a huge mistake.  Shekou showed me around the landing outside my bedroom, and said that I should go downstairs and out the front door.  He then disappeared, and I was left standing at the top of the stairs.  Unfortunately, this meant that I had missed looking at a certain window, one that provides a vital clue.  With my chances of success in a shambles, I entered the storeroom at the top of the stairs and drank a bottle of white wine, which was poisoned.  My adventure was over!

So yeah, I committed suicide on that one.  It's a shame that asking Shekou a perfectly valid question can make the book unwinnable, but that's Fighting Fantasy for you.  Maybe I could have used this go to explore some different rooms, but I'm honestly pretty keen to finish House of Hell as quickly as I can, so I chose a quick death in order to squeeze in another attempt.

(Also, I completely forgot to subtract 3 from my Skill for being unarmed when I fought Shekou.  Not that it matters now, but I would have felt pretty bad if I'd actually beaten the book on this go after that bit of accidental cheatery.)


For my fifth attempt, I rolled Skill 9, Stamina 20, Luck 7 and Fear 12.  That's a pretty good character, aside from the Luck score.  I can't remember any instances of Luck being vital to success in this book, so I was feeling pretty confident.

I followed a path very similar to the one I took in Attempt 2, so I'm going to summarise things in point form until it deviates.

  • I knocked on the door, summoned the butler and dined with the Earl of Drumer.
  • I went to bed, only to be woken by Shekou.  After a scuffle with him I was left with 14 Stamina.  I asked him about the people in the house, not how to escape.
  • Out on the landing I turned left, and ignored a couple of rooms until I found the one leading to a short passage and the window with the secret message: "Mordana in Abaddon'.
  • I entered the storeroom at the top of the stairs, pocketing a meat-knife and some garlic.
  • Following the landing around, I entered the Abaddon room and tried to wake up the dead old lady (raising my Fear to 2).  I had to fight her Great Danes, which absolutely mauled me despite my Skill being higher than theirs.  They left me with 4 Stamina, but after killing them I was able to question Mordana, and learn about the secret room under the cellar stairs.
  • Heading downstairs, I entered a drawing-room, where I drank some brandy (restoring my Stamina to 7) and took some for later in a hip flask.  I also read some letters on the mantelpiece, which said that the password to the Master's secret room used to be Goatshead, and implied that it might now be Pravemi.
  • The fireplace sprang to life, and I was attacked by Fire Sprites.  Rather than foolishly dousing them with alcohol, I grabbed a potted plant and smothered the flames with the soil.
  • I discovered a secret button on the mantelpiece, which opened a trapdoor that dumped me in the cellar (raising my Fear to 3).  In the cellar I met Shekou once again, and plied him with brandy until he revealed that the password was the name of the house mixed up.
  • I remained in the cellar, ignoring several rooms until I came to a larger chamber where I was swarmed by bats (raising my Fear to 4).  I hid under the stairs, where I found a secret room and opened it with the password MURDER.
  • Inside the room I found the Kris Knife.  I also found another secret door, which I ignored completely (because I'd died there during Attempt 2).

Armed with the Kris Knife, I headed upstairs to seek out the Master of the house.  The stairs emerged in a hallway that continued to the left, with a door opposite, and another door to the right.  I tried the door to the right, but it was locked (with no way to open it, unless Steve is being sneaky).  The other door opened into a room with a long table and six chairs.  There was also a large mural of a country scene, a wall covered in curtains, and a full-length mirror.  I was shocked to see that the mirror cast no reflection of me (raising my Fear to 5).  My curiosity piqued, I placed my hand on the glass, and was surprised that it passed right through.

I wanted to investigate the mirror further, but first I searched the room, and found a box hidden in a drawer on the underside of the table.  Before I could open it, though, I heard the sound of men approaching.  I grabbed the box and, ignoring the too-obvious hiding place behind the curtains, jumped through the mirror.  I emerged into a small room, and now that I was safe I opened the box.  It contained a golden key, which I took with me.

There were two doors leading out of this room, but I decided not to bother with them.  Instead I waited until the other room was silent, and stepped back through the mirror.  My only option now was to step out of the room and follow the passage around to my right.  This passage crossed a hallway (which the book forced me to ignore), and I found myself at the end of another passage with a door on either side.

I tried the door to the left, but it was locked, and my golden key would not open it.  I had no other option but to enter the other door, which led into a kitchen.  I could see some keys on top of the stove, but when I tried to grab them I found that they were hot, and my hand was burned terribly (reducing my Skill to 7, and my Stamina to 4).  I let out a scream, which attracted the attention of four white-robed cultists wearing severed goat heads like hoods.  They took me away and locked me in a cell, where I would await the Master's pleasure.  My adventure was over!

Well, I have to say that that failure was definitely unexpected.  I'd found the Kris Knife, I'd found a key, and I really thought I had it in the bag.  But no, that Steve Jackson is a devious sod, and there's another key hidden somewhere.  I have no memory of this whatsoever.  I suspect it's in one of the rooms past the mirror, but I don't know for sure.  It's honestly refreshing to find a big hole in my memory of a book I've played dozens of times, but it's also frustrating when I'm more than ready to move on.  Next time House of Hell!  Next time for certain!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

House of Hell - Attempt 3

Last time around I discovered the Kris Knife, then almost immediately took a wrong turn and entered a room from which there was no escape.  Still, finding the Kris Knife in this book is no mean feat, so I had pretty good reason to believe that I could win if the dice were kind.

For my third attempt, I rolled Skill 11 (excellent), Stamina 21 (also great), Luck 7 (not so good) aaannnnndddddd......  Fear 7.  Okay, so the dice were not kind.  I know from experience that, unless you cheat by skipping vital clues, you can't finish this book with a Fear of 7.  I think you need a minimum of 9, but I could be wrong there.  (Actually, I could be wrong about all of this, and House of Hell might be doable with Fear 7.  If so, please enlighten me with a minimum of spoilers.) So, with no hope of success, this attempt would be all about exploring options that I never would otherwise.

My adventure began with the usual "heavy rain, broken-down car, spooky mansion" set-up, but instead of opening the front door I sneaked around the back.  I considered climbing through a window and entering the house unseen, but it was covered with iron bars.  There was a light on in the kitchen at the back of the house, and two robed men were talking about their "Master", and wondering excitedly if they would be visited.  One of them was having doubts about whatever was going on, particularly regarding the involvement of a young girl.  My reaction to this obviously Satanic conversation was, naturally, to knock on the door and ask if they'd let me in.  They asked if I was one of the "brethren".  My advice to most people would be to avoid anyone who ever calls anyone brethren, but in this case I nodded my head and pretended I was one of them.  Mentioning by broken-down car was a mistake though, as it seemed that none of the others had arrived in that manner, and the two got suspicious.  Before I could react, one of the men had crept around behind me, and he knocked me unconscious with a blow to the head (reducing my Stamina to 17).

I woke up in an empty room, with my hands and feet bound.  I was capable of some movement, though, so I hopped over to the window, broke it with my hands, and used the glass to cut the ropes.  My wrist was injured as well (reducing my Stamina to 15).  (I had the option here of using my Luck to avoid being injured, but with such a low initial score I didn't want to bother.  I wish more FF books gave you the option of taking the bad path without losing a Luck point.)

With my hands free, I left the room and stepped out onto a landing inside the mansion.  Heading right, I entered the Azazel Room, and found a laboratory.  Aside from some cupboards and drawers, there were a number of coloured liquids in vials: green, red, clear and yellow.  I drank the green liquid, but nothing happened.  Then, after waiting for some men to pass by outside the room, I returned to the landing and headed left.

I passed by the Mephisto Room (where I'd been tied up before) and came to two doors at the corner of the landing.  I ignored the Balthus Room and entered the nameless one in front of me, which opened into a short corridor with one door and a window at the end.  The door was marked as the Diabolus Room, and I went in, finding it to be empty except for a bed.  I decided to rest in here for a while, and gather my strength (restoring my Stamina to 17), but soon something at the window caught my attention.  Someone was calling my name, and before long a ghostly shape came floating through the room: a bloody apparition that carried its own severed head in its hand.

Striking fear into ten-pins everywhere.

The sight of this was horrible (raising my Fear to 2), but I decided to stay and hear what the ghost had to say.  I was hoping for a friendly clue, but instead I got a lot of threats about being cursed to haunt the House of Drumer for eternity (which further raised my Fear to 4).

I ran out of the room, ignored the window and returned to the landing.  I soon came to some stairs leading down, with a door opposite, and I chose to enter the door.  It led into a storeroom, where I found a meat-knife (good for stabbjn') and some garlic (good for cookin').  There was another door at the back of the room, which led to a short passage and three doors: Shaitan, Mammon and one that was nameless.

I entered the Shaitan Room, which was elegantly furnished, with a smouldering fire.  When I stepped inside I was welcomed by a sinister voice (which raised my Fear to 5, because little is scarier than sinister politeness).  A pale man stood up from his chair, but I was onto this guy with his white skin and black cape.  Dude was a vampire, so I got out my garlic and waved it in his face.

Count Jimmy Smits

The vampire tried to flee through one of two exits.  I made for the other, but was shocked to see that it opened into a cupboard.  Not just any cupboard, but a cupboard for storing Zombies.  I had no choice but to fight them, but was able to carve them up with my meat-knife without taking a scratch.  Still holding the Vampire at bay with my garlic (why didn't he fang me while I was busy fighting Zombies?) I took the other exit.

It opened into another cupboard, but this one had a secret door at the back.  This led to some stairs heading down.  At a landing I came to a door, which opened into a room with a strange shimmering in the corner, like a curtain of sparkling water.  There was another door as well, but instead I stepped through the curtain, and found that I had passed through a magic mirror into a room with a mural of a country scene, and a table surrounded by six chairs.

Leaving the room, I found myself in a hallway with a door to my left.  The door was locked, so I had to follow the hallway.  I passed across another hallway (the book didn't give me the option of following it), and kept walking until I reached a dead end with two doors.  I chose the one on the right.

It was a kitchen, the very same one where the two cultists had knocked me out earlier.  There was door leading outside, as well as a pantry door.  I tried the back door, thinking of making my escape, but it was locked.  I could see some keys on top of the cooker, but I figured they might be too hot to hold, so I opened the pantry door instead to look for something I could pick them up with.

Inside the pantry I saw a figure in tattered clothes, heavy with the stench of death.  I had awakened a Ghoul, but I never had a chance to fight it: the sight of the creature was so frightening that I had a heart attack and died on the spot.  (My Fear had, of course, been raised to 7.)

Either it's dark in here, or that Ghoul has amazing hair.

I had, alas, made my way into the dreaded kitchen, from which there is no possible escape.  It's a genuine dead-end loop, and even if you beat the Ghoul you get killed by cultists.  I didn't mind though, because I was dead before the game even began, and was just messing about and trying things.  I was honestly surprised at how little I learned about the house.  I didn't meet anyone important, or learn much about what was going on.   It would have been a pretty disastrous game, had I been genuinely trying to win.  In retrospect, I probably should have used this go to at least try to figure out the path from the Kris Knife to the Master.  Ah well, there's always next time.

Friday, January 26, 2018

House of Hell - Attempt 2

I never thought I'd say this at any point in my short span of existence on this mudball planet we call Earth, but I'm kind of sick of House of Hell.  Yes, it's great, maybe one of the greatest gamebooks ever written.  It's been clogging up my blog in one form or another for too long though, and I would really like with this attempt to put it behind me.

My stats for this go around were Skill 7, Stamina 21, Luck 12 and Fear 11.  Those are some respectable scores, but starting weaponless with an effective Skill of 4 is a worry.  Still, with numbers like that I have no excuse for losing.

I've covered it numerous times already, so I'll skim over the opening of the book very quickly: I walked up to the house, knocked on the door, was ushered inside by the butler and enjoyed a lovely meal with the Earl of Drumer before being shown to bed.  In the middle of the night a hunchback brought me some water, so I beat him up and asked him a few questions.  (Last time I had been concerned that I hadn't learned the hunchback's name.  I didn't learn it this time either, despite asking some different questions, so I had that anxiety hanging over me for the whole game.)

I locked the hunchback in the bedroom and set about exploring, and had an encounter with a ghostly bride, who warned me about the evils of the house, and that I'd need the Kris Knife to defeat the Master.  Look, I've described this encounter like a hundred times already.  She gets eaten by ghost dogs.  It's very sad.

(By this point, my Fear was 1, and my Stamina had been reduced to 13 after my fight with the hunchback.)

I fled back around the landing, and opened a door marked 'Azazel'.  It was an old laboratory.  I decided to examine the cupboards, and was shocked to see two fresh corpses hanging from hooks (which raised my Fear to 3).  While I was composing myself two men walked past the room in conversation.  I let them pass by before leaving and heading in the opposite direction.

I passed by a room labelled 'Mephisto', and another named 'Balthus', before opening an unmarked door.  It opened into a short passage with a window at the end.  There was a message written in condensation on the window: 'Mordana in Abaddon'.  I made a mental note of it before returning to the landing.  (The 'Mephisto' room is mostly empty as I recall, and 'Balthus' has a fight with a zombie that I'm definitely too weak to be tackling.)

Further along the landing I came to some stairs leading down, and another unmarked door.  The door opened into a storeroom, where I found a meat-knife and some garlic.  I poked my head through a door at the back of the storeroom, and saw a passage with doors marked 'Mammon' and 'Shaitan'.  Neither of those sounded all that enticing, so I headed back to the landing and continued around.

I walked past an unmarked door, ignored a branching passage, and didn't bother to open the 'Tuttivilus' room (even though it sounded much more fun than any of the other rooms in the house).  Eventually the passage ended at a choice of three doors: 'Belial', 'Abaddon', and another that was unmarked.  I chose the 'Abaddon' room.

Inside was an old lady in a bed, surrounded by plants.  I tried to shake her awake, but she was dead (a revelation that raised my Fear to 5).  The old lady demanded that I leave, but I insisted on asking her some questions.  Instead, she summoned her ghost dogs, which I was forced to fend off with my meat-knife.  Scooby 1 and 2 had a real run of luck with the dice, and by the time I defeated them I was left with a mere 3 Stamina.

After my battle I continued searching the room, and the old lady grew frantic whenever I got near her plants.  With threats to destroy them I continued my questioning, but she refused to answer unless I knew her name.  "Aha!" I shouted.  "It's Mordana!  I saw it written on a window by someone for reasons!"  The old lady begrudgingly answered my questions about secret doors, telling me that the Master's most trusted hiding place was under the cellar stairs.  I would need a password, though, and apparently only someone named Shekou knew the current one.  I took my leave, determined to hunt down this Shekou.  (For plot reasons, it probably makes sense to have talked to the Man in Grey before this, because he's the one who first mentions that the Kris Knife is hidden in a secret room.  It's not strictly necessary though, and was another fight I didn't need to tackle with my Skill so low.)

At this point I decided (or more accurately, the book decided) to head downstairs to the entrance hallway.  There was a door on either side of the hall, as well as the front entrance.  The door on the right was locked, so I opened the one on the left.  It opened into a cosy drawing-room, with a fireplace and a decanter of brandy on the table.  (I'm pretty sure this is where I had some drinks with the Earl of Drumer.)

Being a bit low on health, I decided to self-medicate with some brandy (restoring my Stamina to 6), and also to fill a nearby flask and take it with me.  Following that I went to check out some letters on the mantelpiece, but my sleeve caught in a wooden carving and exposed a secret button.  Before I could decide whether to press it or not, the fireplace sprang to life, and two Fire Sprites floated out to try to burn me alive.  (No Fear points here.  All sorts of things can scare the hero of this book to death, but he has no reaction to a pair of demonic fire entities coming out of the fireplace.  Perhaps he's just desensitized by this point.)

My instinctive reaction was to douse these sprites with the nearest liquid to hand, but pouring brandy on the fire just strengthened them.  I resorted to my meat-knife, which was inexplicably effective despite the Fire Sprites having no solid bodies to speak of.  (The Fire Sprites deal 3 Stamina damage per hit, but a successful Luck test reduces that to 0.  I burned a lot of Luck points ensuring that I took minimal damage in this fight, and by the time it was done I had a Luck of 5 and a Stamina of 3.)

Now I was free to press the button, which I promptly did.  It opened a panel in the corner of the room, but the panel turned out to be false, and I had stumbled into a trap.  The floor collapsed under me, and I tumbled down to land on a pile of hay in an underground cellar.  (This raised my Fear to 6.  I also had to test my Luck to avoid a wrist injury, which I successfully did.)

Someone was coming, so I hid behind the door and waited.  It was my old friend the hunchback, so I stepped out hoping he would remember that I beat the hell out of him when last we met.  He didn't seem to recognise me, and insisted on showing me the way back upstairs.  I decided to jog his memory, with the aid of a little brandy, and he told me that his name was Shekou.  Pretty soon he was well and truly hammered, and I got him blathering about secret doors.  Most importantly, I learned that the password to the secret doors was the name of the house (Drumer), but mixed up.  After that he wised up, and quickly fled, but I had gotten what I was after.

I decided to stay downstairs and explore, but with stealth in mind I ignored a number of doors as I made my way along the passage.  Eventually I came to a larger chamber, with a staircase leading up.  As I crossed the room I was attacked by a swarm of bats (raising my Fear to 7), and took refuge under the stairs, where they were unable to get at me and my precious blood.

Remembering the various clues I had gathered, I searched around for a secret door.  (There's nothing to prompt this choice, but when you learn about the Master's hiding place under the stairs you're told to subtract 10 from your current paragraph when you want to search.  It's one of the trickier puzzles of the Fighting Fantasy series thus far.)  I found the door, and decided to try a password: MURDER.  (The book provides four options here, so it would be possible to stumble on the answer without finding the relevant clues.)

The door opened into a room with a box on a table.  Inside the box, resting on red velvet, was a wavy silver-bladed dagger with a pearl handle: the Kris Knife!  A note informed me that it had been "fashioned for the glorification and pleasure of the Demons of Hellfire", and that it was never to be wielded in their presence.  I took it (restoring my Luck to 7), and searched the room further.

I found another secret door, which also opened with the "Murder" password.  It opened into a room that was an exact mirror of my present location, with a box on a table.  I stepped inside, and opened the box to find another knife much like the Kris Knife, and a flask of black liquid.  What I also discovered was that I had been trapped, as the only door leading out slammed shut.  With no other means of escape, I opened the flask.  Immediately the liquid swirled out in a black cloud, filling the room before retreating back into the flask - taking me with it!  I had been taken by an evil spirit called a Nanka, and was imprisoned forever.


Well, my memory served me well and then it prove to be my downfall.  Finding the Kris Knife was a definite achievement, one of the trickiest things to get to in this book, and that was aided by my memory from the numerous times I've finished the book before.  What I also remembered is that somewhere, at some point, I need to step through a mirror.  I thought that final room was that mirror, but obviously it wasn't, and I paid the price.  At least I know that next time I have a very decent shot at winning, provided my Fear score is high enough, and getting House of Hell off my schedule for a good long while.