Masks of Mayhem

The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were blockbusters of the era. Let’s venture into the far-off world of Titan and fight the golems in our newest book Masks of Mayhem!

In 1982, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, founders of Games Workshop, released the book ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’. Intended as an introduction to tabletop role-playing games of the era, the book’s choose-your-own-adventure format mixed with simple dice-based combat proved massively successful, giving rise to a full series of books – Fighting Fantasy. With over 65 books in the series by a legion of authors and illustrators, the series’ legacy continues to this day. Come along with us as Cybe and co play through each one – with no prior knowledge, no hints or walkthroughs and no cheating!

So far I’ve been rather down on Mr Waterfield’s work. I was, as I’m sure you’ll remember, fairly unimpressed with Rebel Planet and Deathmoor. But I do have stronger memories about this book, because this is the ones that I actually owned as a kid. Specifically, this is one that I got at Hamleys on a holiday to London. That, and a very nice comic version of The Hobbit, which I still own to this day, and which is far far far superior to the recent film version. Having said that, so was the Rankin Bass animated film version. But I digress.

I also remember that I’d specifically been keeping an eye open for this book, and that it was either meant to be very difficult or very important, I’m not sure. Either way, it was one that I had been looking for, and I was glad to have found a copy of it. Nowadays though, I’m not so sure. All I know is that it has a very basic system (which I like) and a quest involving preventing an evil sorceress creating an army of golems. Or something.

So, as the ruler of the local kingdom, I’m asked to set my armies to defend the… oh no, of course not. No, I need to go off alone on yet another dangerous quest. Why am I doing this? Actually, the book does explain this. I’ve been advised to go off on my own with just a pointy sword and shiny hat, on the suggestion of my court mage, Ifor Tynin. Remember that name, I’ll be discussing it later.

Our first obstacle is Lake Necros, which has possibly the friendliest name of any lake ever, except perhaps Lake Painful Death. The first thing I do is put together a raft and sail out into the river, only to be immediately eaten by a giant monster. Re-rolling my character (who turns out slightly stronger this time), I instead opt to ride around the edge of the river. While camping on the shore overnight, the giant kraken drags itself to the shore and tries to eat me, which necessitates much chopping of tentacles in order to get rid of the damn thing.

Y’know, you’d think that if the lake had a kraken in it, people wouldn’t only notice it, but would do something about it. Even if that something was to just set it up as a tourist attraction. Anyway, slaying the kraken is such an impressive feat that the spirits of all the stupid sods he’s killed rise from the dead to thank me and offer me assistance later on in the adventure. I wonder if my first character is among the group. Anyway, as much as I want an army of the undead to command, they insist on waiting until just the right section in the book before they’ll do anything.

A few years ago I was on holiday to Dartmoor. At one point, while out in the moors exploring the tors, a vast shroud of mist fell all around us. We could barely see a few feet in front of us. I loved it, because I’m a gothy bastard, and proceeded to stagger around the place shouting “Heathcliff!” for about ten minutes. Anyway, the same thing happens in the book at this point. Although in the book, when my character explores one of the tors, he encounters an angry wraith who attacks him. Upon killing it, he leaves behind a rather nice sword.

As the mist lifts, I find my way to an old abandoned house. At least, I think it’s abandoned, but while I sniff around the place, search through all the boxes and eat their dinner and generally do my best three bears impression, the inhabitant of the house finds me. Rather than being upset, he explains that he knew that I was coming because the voices in his head warned him about me. He then gives me a royal scepter which he seems to have been keeping hidden in the house. It’s all quite confusing, and I back away out of the house very discreetly before turning away and running like all hell.

Past the ruined hut, and we enter a small region known as Fallow Dell, which is a group of small settlements overseen by a lord. I’m on my way to visit the lord of the Dell, when I’m beset by a group of drunks from the local pub. The book tells me that I deal with them using the ‘art of fisticuffs’, a term which I’ve only ever seen used by people who get beaten up by any fight they ever pick.

By the time I get to the lord’s keep, it’s quite late in the evening and he invites me to join him in the banquet hall, where I have some dinner. Meanwhile, the guards inform me that the belongings that they were storing in my room have been stolen by orcs. Wow, what a safe and reputable keep this lord manages! I head off alone to follow the thieves, following their trail, only to soon be surrounded by them and chopped apart. In retrospect, I should probably have waited for the lord to give me a guard or two.

I’d normally be happy to do a quick replay of this book, and continue from where I was, but I’m a little bit rushed at the moment and just don’t have the time. This book is much better than some of Waterfield’s other works, and I rather enjoyed it. There’s nothing really special about it, but it’s a solid enough piece. Except for one thing…

Remember the character I mentioned earlier, Ifor Tynin? Well, it turns out that later in the book, you’re supposed to identify the person who has betrayed you, or something. I dunno, I’m working from memory here. Anyway, you’re told that if you know who has betrayed you, you should know what paragraph to turn to. Turning there means that you’re able to slay the traitor before he can assassinate you. There’s no clues given as to who the traitor is, and even if you’re able to deduce that it’s Ifor, the book doesn’t tell you the paragraph to turn to.

Of course, it’s fairly infamous in Fighting Fantasy knowledge that you need to turn to paragraph forty, because you run the first and surname together to create I-forty-nin. Which seems so simple and easy, except… that because, when I was a kid and actually did get to that part, the ‘nin’ part of the name completely threw me off, and left me turning to paragraph 49.

Yes, I was that stupid.

Cause of death: Meat platter for orcs.

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