Saturday, April 15, 2017
Warlock Magazine #3
Before I tackle the adventure in this issue (a preview of Steve Jackson's House of Hell), there's the rest of the magazine to cover. Here goes!
Fighting Fantasy News: This news round-up reaffirms that Caverns of the Snow Witch and House of Hell were intended as books first, and adapted for the magazine as a secondary concern. It also says that Caverns was published "last month", which reassures me that I've got things in the right order.
Talisman of Death is mentioned as the next book in the series after House of Hell, which it was. The next book after that was supposed to be The Rings of Kether, but that's not the case; obviously it got delayed somewhere along the line. Freeway Fighter, Temple of Terror and Assassin are all mentioned as upcoming. No, not Space Assassin, just plain old Assassin. I would have been super-excited as a kid by the first title: I get to play an assassin! Cool! Space Assassin? Not so much. I never did like the sci-fi books all that much.
In other news, the third Sorcery! book gets a plug, there are computer games coming out based on The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom, and the Warlock of Firetop Mountain boardgame is in the works. There are also mentions of plans for Out of the Pit (which isn't named yet), as well as the PuzzleQuest books The Tasks of Tantalon and Casket of Souls. With the amount of material being produced, we're probably looking at the peak of Fighting Fantasy's popularity at this point.
Dungeons & Dragons: This article, written by Mike Brunton, is a very bare-bones explanation of what D&D is, aimed at people who would only be familiar with gamebooks. It also briefly mentions Runequest and Traveller. There's nothing too in-depth here, but it does a decent job of outlining the game and pointing readers in the right direction to get started.
Out of the Pit: This month, the three monsters featured are the winners of the Create-a-Monster competition from Warlock magazine #1.
Doom Demon (by Andrew Mayo): The Doom Demon is a "Prince of the Undead", who rides a flaming chariot pulled by a two-headed Devil Dog. Flames also stream from his hair, and clothes, and it's been speculated that he may have links to the "element of fire" (perhaps a reference to the plane?).
He is found in the Desert of Skulls, but is only ever seen at night. During the day he resides in his Castle of Black Steel, at the fiery edge of Hell. Many believe that he's tied to the desert somehow. (There's a passage that says he "rides out and roams the Desert of Skulls, southwards from Oyster Bay to the Whitewater River, where his domain ends". I hate to break it to the author, but the Whitewater River is north and east of Oyster Bay. What he wrote makes no sense, but I'll let it slide because the rest is metal as fuck.)
The Doom Demon draws his power from a chain of skulls around his neck; the skulls are the remains of "the twelve mages of Ciarensia", whose souls the Demon trapped within. He also wields a whip made from the hair of a Hag who once tried to curse him, and wears a flaming black cape that sustains his incorporeal form.
The Demon has hollow eyes that can hypnotise its foes, which can only be stopped by reflecting its gaze with a mirror. The Demon can then be destroyed by tearing away its cape, and casting holy water into its eyes to bring it back to life, after which it can be killed in regular combat.
The only three people known to have seen the Doom Demon and lived are a trio of Dwarven fishermen who spied it from the northern bank of the Whitewater River.
(Wow, there's a lot to unpack here. Yes, there are a lot of cool ideas, but there are almost too many; you could probably get three viable, interesting monsters out of what's here, rather than one that's loaded with clutter. As for lore, the biggest thing here is "the twelve mages of Ciarensia". There's no mention of what Ciarensia is, but it's been theorised on the Rebuilding Titan Yahoo group that it was an ancient province where the Desert of Skulls now lies. It's as good an idea as any, and there's nothing to dispute it as far as I'm aware.)
Shadow Monster by Simon Wood: The Shadow Monster is created by dark magic (with Zanbar Bone called out as a practitioner). The sorcerer inscribes a sun-lit wall with invisible runes, and whenever a passerby casts a shadow on that wall, said shadow will take material form and try to kill the one who cast it. See Andrew Mayo, you only need one good idea to make a good monster!
Cave Vampire by Bruce Newson: This monster is basically a huge vampire bat, found only in the deepest, darkest caverns. It likes to feed on blood (naturally), but it's sensitive to light and can't bear to see its own reflection.
The Warlock's Quill: This is the letters page. Two people ask whether there will be an FF fan club. Another gets some rules clarifications, and is told that you can't raise your stats above your initial level unless specifically instructed. Another reader complains about being lost in the Maze of Zagor, and is told by the editor that "I hope you stay there till you rot". That's pretty much how I always imagined Ian and Steve felt about their readers.
Market Mayhem by Ian Livingstone: This is a board game created by your friend and mine, Ian Livingstone. Set in the market-place of Port Blacksand, it uses the standard FF rules and involves players each controlling a character and pursuing their various agendas until things devolve into a brawl.
It's not entirely clear how the game is played. Players move about the board, interacting with each other and having conversations and possibly fighting each other. I suppose that the players are expected to play their character's personality as outlined on their card, which should result in conflict, but it's all a bit vague to make for a good board game.
The NPCs are all various types of traders, guards and performers, with one escaped slave and a beggar. The most notable thing here is that one trader deals in "beautiful young girls", which is an area that Fighting Fantasy doesn't normally get into. Extreme violence, yes. Sex slavery, not so much.
There are 14 player characters: Bruno, an alchemist who hates dwarves; Denzil, an assassin disguised as a minstrel; Deraco, a drunk pirate; Keesh, a dwarf looking for a present for his wife; Meriella, an elf searching for her lost sister; Misk, a treasure-hunter looking for the assassin who stole from him; Ragnar, a half-elf who loves to kick dogs; Vartan, a short-tempered warrior; Yam-Yi, a priest looking for a statuette stolen from his shrine; Dorig, a half-orc who enjoys the suffering of humans; Karlos, who is looking for a girl who was take from his master's harem; Kazanelle, who has a load of stolen statuettes; Pollius, a priest looking for donations for his dilapidated temple; and Zeno, an elf here to pick holly who hates the abuse of animals.
There are a number of things to take from this. First, Dorig is a Half-Orc, which is not the usual term used in FF; he should be a Man-Orc (although I won't be surprised if both are used in future FF books). Second, Ragnar is a Half-Elf, which I believe is the first time we've seen one of those in an FF product. (EDIT: No wait, there were some in the Introduction of Citadel of Chaos, spying for the Grand Wizard of Yore.) Third, we have Karlos, who has been paid by an "eastern noble" to retrieve a girl who was stolen from his harem. This is all very Arabian-flavoured, and it's the first hint we get that such cultures exist on Titan. (The only such culture on Allansia that I can think of is Kallamehr from Slaves of the Abyss, which is not east but rather far to the south-east. It might be the best option, though.)
The only other thing in the magazine is a crossword puzzle, which is has a lot of clues based on Fighting Fantasy things, some that would be common knowledge for British people but might stump foreigners, and some other general knowledge stuff. It wasn't that hard.
Next: House of Hell! Not the book, though, the magazine preview. I'm really interested (and a little nervous) to see how this differs from the version I'm familiar with.