The Forest of Doom, written by Ian Livingstone and illustrated by Malcolm Barter, is the third book in the Fighting Fantasy series, and something of a return to the basics. The magic system introduced in book two is no longer in evidence, and once more the protagonist is a roaming warrior with nothing more to his name than a sword, leather armour and a backpack. This suits me; there's less effort involved in creating my character, and no new rules to trip me up. I do like a good, bare-bones Fighting Fantasy.
My character began the game with a Skill score of 12, a Stamina of 19 and a Luck of 8. He's a down-on-his-luck killing machine, basically. I was relieved to see that I would begin the game with ten provisions, each one worth 4 points of healing. I also could choose one potion that could restore one of my stats to its initial level; I chose the Potion of Fortune, partly because Luck is my lowest score, and partly for that sweet boost to my initial score that only this potion provides.
The background of this adventure is a departure from the two previous books; there's not an evil wizard to be killed. Instead, I have to venture deep into Darkwood Forest and find the hammer of the Dwarf King Gillibran, so that he can lead his people to war against the trolls. All of this was told to me by a dying dwarf named Bigleg (and no, I seriously don't want to know where a Dwarf gets that name), who stumbled into my camp with a belly full of arrows. Bigleg stayed alive just long enough to provide the requisite amount of exposition, and also to hand me a map and a bag of 30 gold pieces. He also told me to visit the wizard Yaztromo before I enter Darkwood, and thus my quest began.
At this point, I've just got to reiterate something that a number of other gamebook bloggers have pointed out: the protagonist of this book is a blatant sociopath. Read about it here, it's very funny, and completely accurate.
Bigleg's map kind of sucks, but nevertheless I followed it to Yaztromo's tower at the southern edge of Darkwood Forest. The grumpy wizard conformed to all of the usual beard-and-staff cliches, and seemed none-too-pleased at my visit. But when I informed him that I wanted to buy some magical items he invited me upstairs. I had the option here to draw my sword and attack him, and being a proper sociopath I did so. Yaztromo very calmly told me to back off, so I meekly sheathed my sword and followed him upstairs. I just wanted to flex my muscles, you know, let him know who's in charge around here. I think he got the message.
Once inside his Ever-So-Wizardy Tower, we got down to the proper business of buying magical items. Ancient relics of power and mystery? None of that here! Just good old capitalism at work. I forked over 27 gold pieces and walked away with an Armband of Strength, Gloves of Missile Dexterity, Boots of Leaping, a Rope of Climbing, Garlic Buds, Nose Filters, and Fire Capsules. All of these items are good for one use (a very specific and singular use, I am certain) and they pretty much do what it says on the tin. Yaztromo also gave me a little background on Gillibran's Hammer, which amounted to "Some goblins unscrewed the handle and each took half of the hammer." Good to know, but not actually helpful in any concrete sense. And can you really unscrew the head of a warhammer? I know zip about forging hammers, but it doesn't seem likely. Especially so for a mythical hammer wielded by a dwarf king.
With all transactions sorted I left Yaztromo and ventured into Darkwood Forest. And lest I begin to think that the forest might present me with a new and different kind of adventure, I came upon that most ubiquitous of Fighting Fantasy features, a T-junction. With the entire fate of my quest possibly hinging on this decision, I went east.
I quickly came to another junction, where a crow was perched atop a signpost. A talking crow, naturally, the kind who offers advice for gold. I forked over a coin and received the sage wisdom "go north". Then I found out that he was really a man who had been turned into a bird by Yaztromo, and he needed 30 gold pieces before the wizard would turn him back. Sorry pal, if you'd met me a few entries ago I could've helped you.
Following the man/crow's advice (because what else did I have to go on?) I went north, and soon heard footsteps and voices. I opted to stand fast, and encountered these fine fellows.
What a friendly smile! Unfortunately I must have been radiating sociopathic vibes, because the Hobgoblins attacked me. It was a short and bloody affair, leaving me unscathed and in top looting form. And what a haul! 3 gold pieces, a brass flute, two maggot-ridden biscuits and a necklace of skulls. Into my clutches they go!
Further down the trail I saw a slimy hole (oo-er!) and could not resist entering it. Inside the hole was a five-metre worm (I repeat, oo-er), that I proceeded to engage in deadly combat.
The stingworm actually hit me a couple of times before I killed it, but it was totally worth it for the 4 gold pieces I found, and the mysterious vial of liquid. I quaffed it (because adventurers never drink when they can quaff) and discovered that it was a Potion of Weapon Skill, effectively giving me a Skill of 13 for the next two battles. Bad. Ass.
What was this further down the path? A cave? Of course I entered, and was startled by this sordid scene.
It was an Ogre, with a goblin in a cage for reasons that are best left unexplored. Not wishing to waste my newfound Weapon Skill unnecessarily, I decided to bung a rock at the ogre with the aid of my Glove of Missile Dexterity. One concussed Ogre later I was standing in front of the cage and opening the door, arms outstretched to receive the goblin's grateful hugs, with absolutely no thoughts of murdering him for the shiny black rod hanging around his neck. (Honestly, if I really wanted to murder him I would have poked my sword through the bars of the cage.)
Of course the little bastard had a go at me, and I was forced to Weapon Skill him to death most adroitly. And lo and behold, the black rod turned out to be the handle of a warhammer, complete with screw-thread and inscribed with the letter 'G'. Did it stand for Goblin? Gimp? Or possibly... Gillibran?
Yes, I had found the first part of Gillibran's hammer, and it was dead easy. The rest of this mission was going to be a walk in the park