Chasms of Malice

The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were blockbusters of the era. Now let’s venture down deep into the Chasms of Malice!

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!

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Never played this adventure before, so let’s dive right in. Are you ready?

One little trick when you’re writing fantasy – throw letters together and hope for the best.

Fer instance, Chasms of Malice takes place in the lands of Hgsetegs (or something similar). The evil Guiegew has stolen the powerful Shield of Tsgseggt, and as the Heir of Fgjrgnsgs you need to go and save the world by slaying the seven demons of Iseghsurw. But fear not, for the Goddess Igseugsejiise watches over you and guides your path, as you confront the foul minions of Cjrnhjisdih, Jvrguiwe and Rvnjsrnhso.

Make sensible names for things, damn it!!

Right, so this adventure starts off with you as a third-assistant rabbit skinner in the king’s kitchen. One morning, you’re yanked by the ear to the throne room, where the King tells you that some nasty buggers tunneled into his vaults and his magic shield has been nicked. So now you need to go save the universe. He gives you a pointy stick and has you shoved into the tunnel.

I kinda wish I was exaggerating there. In fact, I am. He gives you a cat, too. I’m not sure why, maybe the dark lord is allergic to kittens. Throughout the adventure, it serves to occasionally meow at me, claw at my coat, sometimes go off and catch fish, and generally be the object of my prayers.

I stumble through the tunnel for a while until I find a dead rabbit and some bits of wood. Eventually I come to a small bridge over a chasm, which is guarded by an especially unpleasant elf. I kill it, set up camp for lunch, and am soon attacked by a ground-hawk. Which is like a hawk, except it digs through the ground. I don’t know what that is, or why such a thing even has wings in the first place, but I’m sure it will be featuring in a pokemon game at some point.

Soon, we find our way into a large cavern which contains a ‘famous’ tavern. Famous, no doubt, for being the only tavern set into the wall of a large cavern. A figure stumbles out of the door and falls over, I try to help him, but he tries to kill me instead so I have no option but to chop his arms and legs off. The tavern is full of orcs and trolls, but the barmaid asks me to go upstairs to meet her dad, who tells me that the Dark Lord knows of my quest and that the tunnels are full of his servants. He tells me that if I want to get out intact, I should meet one of his friends in the nearby caves.

I slip out a side entrance to the tavern and head down some tunnels, dodging falling stalactites as I go. After saving some weird tunnel-dwelling git from a giant spider, I eventually find what I presume to be the barmaid’s friend. He’s in a small hovel full of books, and he tells me that there are many coded signs that have been left throughout the dungeon. I note down the code for the glyphs that he’s kind enough to explain to me, and he also tells me that I’ll need to find the ancient place of Gusegsghfewu so that I can temper my magic sword and so on.

Those glyphs in turn tell me the safe direction to travel in the next tunnel, so after a quick rest for dinner I encounter a group of dwarves. Their leader casts a sleeping spell on me, and I wake up in their hovel sometime later. The dwarf gives me my sword back, tells me that they are my friends. Thanks for the sleeping spell, friend. Anyway, he doesn’t linger on the subject because immediately afterwards their home is attacked by orcs. I fight off three of them, one of which is hit by one of the dwarves poison spray arrows (the book doesn’t indicate what the result of this happens to be, though, so I assume it just dies).

I follow the dwarf captain, a lady called Aspra, as she and her group flee into the tunnels. It starts to get hotter and soon we encounter a river of lava, requiring us to jump from stone to stone in order to cross. I’m pretty sure that if you’re close enough to lava to be able to jump across it like this, you’re probably already dying from sulphurous fumes and the heat, but I’m a hearty and powerful adventurer so… oh wait, no, kitchen hand. Right. Nevermind. Later we set up camp near a river (of water, not lava) and Aspra tries to bore me to death by telling me her life story. I get so bored that I decide to go fishing. I don’t have a fishing rod, so I try to catch one by hand, resulting in my thumb being bitten off by a fish. If I survive this, I’ll tell people I lost it in battle with a rock troll.

Aspra decides to raid one of the dark lord’s provision caravans. I decide that it’s a good time to pray to the goddess Etuegtasg to regain my luck points, which are quite low at this point. I’m glad of this, because during the raid I leap onto a caravan and am almost chopped up by an elf. Barely surviving, we return to camp and I decide that it’s time to venture into the dark lord’s lands via hiding in a cart full of foul-smelling leather skins. By a process of sheer luck, I manage to only get stabbed by the dark lord’s guards once while they check the cart, instead of a full possible three times. What.

Given that I’ve spent my whole life skinning rabbits in the kitchen, I decide that I really don’t want to sneak into the orc’s kitchen, and instead work my way through some tunnels until I get to a room full of orcs who are having fun torturing a dwarf that’s chained to a table. I free the dwarf. By a process of sheer luck, I manage to only get stabbed by the orcs seven times while I fight them off, instead of dying horribly right there and… this isn’t so lucky after all, I realise. I hope that the dwarf I’ve rescued will be of some use, but he instead opts to sit in a corner and not move.

I stumble through a nearby set of tunnels for a while until I find a bottomless pit, which I attempt to jump over. By a process of sheer luck, I manage to only tumble and fall into the bottomless pit… Fine, fine, whatever.

This book is largely forgettable. I didn’t play it as a kid, so I don’t have any fond memories associated with it, and it’s not left a huge impression on me as an adult. It’s alright, there’s nothing bad about it, but there’s nothing that really stands out about it. You spend most of your time moving through tunnels and tunnels, and more tunnels, and a few more tunnels. If it wants to give you a really big surprise with some new landscape, it might give you a cavern.

Cause of death: Falling into a bottomless pit. Wait, so if I don’t hit the bottom, does that actually kill me? I guess I don’t die at all then.