The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Part I: Making a Murderer

Perusing the blurb of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, it occurs to me that maybe our parents were right; maybe these books really were nothing more than sets of diabolical directions for dastardly deviltry dictated by the Dark Lord himself.

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NB: If YOU haven’t already, please check out the introductory post here before continuing below so YOU’re not blundering around with no idea what’s going on like some kind of CREATURE OF HAVOC or something.

Perusing the blurb of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, it occurs to me that maybe our parents were right; maybe these books really were nothing more than sets of diabolical directions for dastardly deviltry dictated by the Dark Lord himself.

Most Fighting Fantasy gamebooks feature overarching plots that pay at least lip service to the idea that YOU, the reader, are the hero. That is the Fighting Fantasy catchphrase, after all.

Usually there is some looming threat to the land that must be vanquished, some great wrong that must be made right or at least some kind of discernible motivation for YOU, the hero, beyond the acquisition of filthy, grubby lucre.

Basically YOU’re hoping to become something like this bloke:

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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, however, is a “perilous quest to find the Warlock’s hidden treasure. The treasure is hidden deep within a dungeon which YOU must explore, populated with a multitude of underworld monsters which YOU must fight and kill – or be killed in the attempt.

Basically, YOU’re hoping to become something like this bloke:

Scroogeswim

by way of this bloke:

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Magic and Monsters are as real as life in this sword-and-sorcery treasure hunt which will keep you spellbound for hours on end!” we are told.

While I make no claim to be some kind of expert on the subject of Allansian jurisprudence, under section 421 of the Criminal Code 1899 of the State of Queensland, this “sword-and-sorcery treasure hunt” would perhaps be somewhat less euphemistically described as entering premises with intent to commit an indictable offence, which can net you up to a cool 10 years in the pokey straight out of the gate before you even start to touch on the prospective armed robbery, murder, etcetera.

As if spreading filthy, filthy lies about the adequacy of weak initial dice rolls wasn’t enough, Steve “Dillinger” Jackson and Ian “Biggsy” Livingstone have here been caught red-handed poisoning young minds – indeed, up to 10 MILLION young minds WORLDWIDE!

In the first paragraph of the book’s instructional section entitled HOW TO FIGHT THE CREATURES OF THE UNDERWORLD, I am advised of the following:

“You have been preparing for your quest by training yourself in swordplay and exercising vigorously to build up your stamina.”

Sounds promising for our aspiring young felon! Let’s take a look at what killer gains those long months of pigsticker swishing and countless hours on the ThighMaster have yielded:

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Oh, wow. Out of a potential SKILL of 7 to 12 (1d6+6), STAMINA of 14 to 24 (2d6+12) and Luck of 7 to 12 (1d6+6), our pillager in the making has come up snake eyes every time. This kind of reminds me of something.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Yeah, that’s it. And my poor inept, undernourished, accident prone murder-burglar can’t even make the claim to be “a good man” like that bloke, either. It’s just a bad situation all round.

But never fear, dear readers! As YOU are all no doubt aware, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone have provided us with the following assurance, which is featured on page 17 of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain:

“The one true way involves a minimum of risk and any player, no matter how weak on initial dice rolls should be able to get through fairly easily.”

And Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone wouldn’t lie to us, would they? It’s not like they’re bloodthirsty sadists giggling with glee at the prospects of another fine helping of the countless STAMINA points that they devour every morning for breakfast while thumbing through their respective home-delivered morning editions of Warlock Magazine.

Moving back to the ADVENTURE SHEET, I have entered in the rather verbosely dubbed ITEMS OF EQUIPMENT CARRIED my character’s sword, shield, leather armour and lantern, as prescribed by the HOW TO FIGHT THE CREATURES OF THE UNDERWORLD and EQUIPMENT AND POTIONS sections of the instructions. The latter section informs me that my character has “a rucksack (haversack, backpack)”, because nothing is more important when setting out to rob some glorified subterranean prestidigitator than a full complement of synonyms for one’s kit (tote, duffel bag, knapsack, swag, carryall, attaché case).

As the Stamina and Provisions subsection informs me that my “haversack contains enough Provisions for ten meals”, I have entered them accordingly in the PROVISIONS REMAINING box. Interestingly, Warlock is one of those books where “you may rest and eat only when allowed by the instructions on a page, and you may eat only one meal at a time”, which doesn’t bode at all well for my little mook, who I’m pretty sure is going to be in need of rather frequent nourishment.

As always, each Provision restores 4 STAMINA points when consumed. Because of course, as all Fighting Fantasy aficionados know, a can of Coke and a Chiko roll is the Newtonian equal and opposite force for a couple of 2 STAMINA point smashes upside the head with a 10 kg spiked mace swung by a GARK.

As in most of the earlier books, I am presented with the option of taking a Potion of Skill, which restores all SKILL points when consumed, a Potion of Strength, which restores all STAMINA, and a Potion of Fortune, which restores all LUCK and adds 1 to Initial LUCK into the bargain. Normally a Potion of Fortune would be hard to beat, but given my meek little mook’s obscenely low SKILL and STAMINA and Warlock’s rather restrictive rules on Provisions, I have decided a Potion of Strength will be stashed away in my felonious footpad’s pouch (hip sack, bum bag).

A Potion of Strength is not exactly the Super Soldier Serum my prime candidate for Charles Atlas’s Dynamic Tension™ method so sorely needs, but it might be enough to help my poor sorry sod suffer that little bit longer before succumbing to the inevitable, especially given the fact that Warlock is to my recollection the only book that gives you an absurdly generous two doses of your selected potion and allows you to swig down that precious, precious juice “at any time during your adventure“, including in the midst of combat. Those sadistic bastards Jackson and Livingstone dropped those two rules faster than that a certain eagle dropped the two halves of the Hammer of Gillibran after being ambushed by DEATH HAWKS over Darkwood Forest, can I tell you.

And so, with the preliminaries out of the way, I find myself at the RUMOURS section, which informs me that my, *ahem*, dashing young adventurer has been hanging out for several days in an unnamed village just up the road from Firetop Mountain. The village locals are apparently not adverse to aiding and abetting a little murderous misappropriation and let slip a little hearsay regarding the characteristics and proclivities of my aspiring assassin’s intended target, including the following:

“Some said his power came from an enchanted deck of cards, others from the silky black gloves that he wore.”

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Steeling himself for the impending magic spectacular of artistry and illusion that will leave the audience unabashedly amazed, and taking in a few more tidbits about the importance of tracking down and pilfering the Warlock’s treasure chest keys in the dungeon (because Ian Livingstone was beatified by the Vatican in 1986 as the actual Patron Saint of Contrived Scavenger Hunts), our hero prepares to set out for storied Firetop Mountain.

The whole village turns out to see him off, with “many of the women, young and old alike” apparently bawling their eyes out at my character’s imminent dismemberment. These lasses clearly know Jackson and Livingstone well. I’m surprised the blokes weren’t crying as well, but perhaps they don’t read Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.  Or perhaps they do and they were too busy laughing their bloody guts out.

Now turn over” – foreboding words indeed.  A two day march is all that divides my unfortunate clumsy asthmatic brigand from his undeniably well deserved fate.

Will the luck of the gods go with him on his adventure ahead, or will this be a case of more blood for those bloodiest of blood gods, Ian and Steve? Will the act of parsing these paragraphs of pernicious propaganda for the Prince of Darkness turn me to a life of murder, theft and Satan worship, just as our parents predicted and Jackson and Livingstone no doubt intended?

Find out when YOU join us our next exciting installment (portion, segment), The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Part II: Hangin’ with Mr Zagor! And be sure to leave your comments below.

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13 thoughts on “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Part I: Making a Murderer”

    1. I thankfully still have all my copies from the late ’80s/early ’90s, and I shall be photographing them in all their dog eared, faded, coffee-stained glory for each blog entry as per the picture above! I have all the originals except Curse of the Mummy, which is almost impossible to find. There are a few newies in the newer Wizard Books editions (which includes a reprint of Curse of the Mummy), but I haven’t managed to bag any of them yet, other than Ian Livingstone’s Blood of the Zombies which turned up at Angus & Robertson Ipswich of all places.

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    1. “Because everyone cheats when they play Fighting Fantasy! The five-finger bookmark – I used to laugh when I saw it everywhere.” – Ian Livingstone.

      =)

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  1. I can’t wait to see if your little murder-burglar makes if further then a few pages. I’ll laugh my guts out if he somehow manages to stumble through the book – flailing and reeling from one disaster to the next without ever actually dying. 😉

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  2. This is very cool and bringing back all kinds of memories. As a kid I wouldn’t go into any of these dungeons or towers or what have yous with a SKILL of less than 9, probably because I didn’t like being ripped to pieces over and over again even back then.

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  3. Marvellous. Will be following along avidly.

    Hopefully at some point we’ll also get an answer to the most urgent question: what’s that brown stain on the cover?

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    1. Haha. I did notice that when I pulled it out of the book shelf, and I originally planned to make some kind of joke about it being the blood of a former adventurer or some such, but I promptly forgot when writing the first Warlock post. Given my age at the time when this book saw the most use, I’d say it’s much more likely to be coffee than red wine or beer, but who knows?

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