Sunday, 27 May 2012

Crypt of the Sorcerer Playthrough

Written by Ian Livingstone, Artwork by John Sibbick

Both covers for this book. Why does he remind
me of the puppet from Tales from the Crypt?
So yeah, when I first had these Fighting Fantasy books as a kid, one of the ones I never got around to playing was Crypt of the Sorcerer.

I'm not sure why, but I suspect that the cover may have something to do with it. It had a fine enough cover back in the day, but something about the original's image of a hunched and decrepit old man that looked as if he was about to fall over and break his hip, just didn't really inspire you to grab a copy in the same way that a vicious dragon or a bloodthirsty vampire would. The modern version is certainly more energetic. Although, when I look at them as an adult, I really do appreciate the original's atmospheric colouring and moody shadows.

First up, I'll mention the rules I'm playing these books by. No turning back to a previous page if I don't like the decision I chose. Play through all combat sequences and required tests by rolling dice, rather than just pretending victory. Basically 'play it fair and as it's meant to be played, no cheating'.

The powerful mage Yaztromo
No, really. He's powerful.
The story begins with your character being given a fairly hefty monologue from your wizardly buddy Yaztromo, who I pretty much imagine looks a bit like Dumbledore. He tells you that long ago, an evil sorcerer was slain by a heroic adventurer. It seems that now the sorcerer has got bored sitting around in his tomb... I kinda imagine being dead as a large waiting room for these wizards, where you sit and read magazines until you're called back to bring havoc on the living. Maybe they even have a little ticket machine that reads out your number. "Now resurrecting ticket number 7." Curiously, I imagine that this waiting room is also used by superheroes in comic books when they 'die'.

Either way, to kill the sorcerer again, I need to pick up the sword from the adventurer who slew the sorcerer in the first place, who is living up at a local lake, and is a skeleton now for some reason. Right. Well, no point sitting around, off I went.

I'd rolled up some fairly decent stats - not 'Conan the Barbarian' good, but not 'keel over and die if a goblin sneezes on me' poor either. Dumbledore gave me a healing potion with enough for five solid gulps, and the advice that I should look for magical amulets. In FF games, that's always a clue. "Look for keys", "Look for dragon's teeth", "Look for magic amulets". It basically translates into "If you don't find these items, you may as well just start over again, because you're screwed if you don't find them."

This adventure didn't seem especially punishing or unfair, but a lot of the encounters I stumbled across felt rather disjointed. I'll explain this as I go. The first problem I came up against was a swarm of tracker-jackers that assaulted me near a river. Much like Katness in The Hunger Games, I was very lucky with my dice and managed to only suffer a few small scratches that were of no huge concern.

I hurried along past the next potential distraction, and came across a dying dwarf, whose hut had been attacked by generic wandering monsters. Like a noble warrior, I gave him my remaining health potion and nursed him back to health... nah, just kidding, I robbed him. The only noteworthy possessions he had were a knife, and a pendant of sanity. Remembering what Dumbledore told me, I figured that this pendant would be very important later, so I felt proud of myself. Yay.

Also, pendant of sanity. Best item over. One of these days, I'll set up a stall on the seafront and sell pendants of sanity to tourists.

I killed a few chameleons, and painted myself with their blood. The book told me that it had magical powers, but when I tried it, I found that I was immune to their blood. For some reason. Either way, I was now a man running around with chameleon blood on my face, waving a pendant of sanity around. For some reason I don't think the pendant is working.

I feel a little
uncomfortable with this...
In a boneyard, which I imagine looking something like the bone ship from the movie 'Alien', I met the Bonekeeper, who I imagine looking something like John Cleese (I don't know why, I suspect my brain just made a Monty Python reference that I didn't quite consciously grasp). I gave him my knife, and he gave me a ring that kept werewolves away. I did not encounter any werewolves for the rest of the time I possessed the ring, so I can only assume it worked.

I killed a few goblins, found a rhyme carved on a rock, and things were looking very positive for a while until I came to a forest. I followed another figure I seen in the forest, hoping it was the fabled adventurer skeleton dude, only to find that he was a 'black faerie'.

A black faerie. I checked the illustration, and sure enough, he had dark skin. Black faeries are, according to the book, "the most evil of all faeries". He also had a gang. Who mugged me. Yeah....

Racial overtones aside, they stole everything I had, including my pendant of sanity. Although as it turned out, it was the healing potion I would soon need most of all. I escaped, set up camp, and was attacked by fire beetles.

Now seriously wounded, I staggered onwards towards my goal, when suddenly a woman riding a gryphon flew down and killed me.

You can see where I had to scrub out
ALL my inventory items. Ouch!
This confused me, because this encounter felt so unexpected and random that I first assumed I'd turned to a different page by mistake. This was a rather difficult fight, and without the healing potion to recover from the fire beetles the night before, I knew I wouldn't make it. Sure enough, I died.

I don't understand who the woman is, or why she attacked me. She literally just flew down and started thumping me with her gryphon. Was she a bandit of the skies? A local mad woman who'd stolen some poor gryphon, tamed it and took it for a joyride? If she was a mad woman, would my pendant of sanity have helped at all? We may never know...

Overall this is a pretty solid book and I definitely enjoyed trying it out. I'd like to give it another shot at some point. The environments feel suitably wide and descriptive, and the combat is paced well (not too much, not too little), although losing all your items is always a beast when playing these games. I can't believe that nobody took the chance to modify the 'black faeries' description though...


  1. Great post. You seemed to be doing really well until those fairies nicked your stuff. The bonekeeper is an interesting encounter. Strangely enough being friendly to him is a bad thing (for a random reason. As you have rightly pointed out, this book is a bit random).

    When I read this rule:

    'Play through all combat sequences and required tests by rolling dice, rather than just pretending victory.'

    I knew you were screwed with Crypt of the Sorcerer.

    Keep them coming!

  2. This might be the first time I actually laughed at something like this. Great job! "She literally just flew down and started thumping me with her gryphon." good god, you're a genius :)

    1. She was definitely driving the gryphon so it was the barbarian who attacked me, but the text clearly said I was fighting the gryphon. The only way I can figure that out is that she was using the gryphon as the weapon, in lieu of a sword of her own. I literally couldn't think of any other way to phrase it.

  3. This was an enjoyable read :) You picked a hell of a book to start off with, though - Crypt of the Sorcerer is possibly the most difficult, downright evil gamebook I remember playing (in terms of combat numbers at least). I'm currently blogging my own playthroughs and although my memories of most of the FF books are still hazy, I remember this one as a book that will kill an honest player 99% of the time even if they roll maximum stats and make every correct decision.

    Keep them coming!

  4. This was the last book I successfully finished before following a path as a Kai Lord subject to the whims of Joe Dever. It felt like an FA Cup final or a Superbowl that you narrowly win, and know you should get out on a high.

    I did enjoy it though, and the introduction of characters who don't die and stay with you is awesome. Also you have to make a choice between fighting Godzilla with a horn, or copping a serious curse. Nice.

    The half elf Jella is hot too. Still prefer the poor elf in Deathtrap Dungeon though.

  5. The book is most unfair in how it treats the fights with the gargantis and Razaak too. The book should give the option of which ring you want to buy from the bonekeeper and Razaak has top stats and wins automatically if he wins two consecutive attack rounds. There are as always, Livingstone's confusion with replacing skill and attack strength bonuses.

  6. I play this book as a GM with my dad and mates and the only way to do it is mix up the die numbers. It IS absurd, you DO need excellent TOP scores max on SKILL and STAMINA, but LUCK is used a lot less in this once you know the right way to go. So I always (and let whoever I'm using the book against) roll 5 dice at the start-so if a 1 or 2 is rolled it's saved for the Harpoon Flies.

    Justin, there's almost always a Werewolf with Livingstone-like Zombies (that DON'T eat or bite Hollywood!) and Shapechangers, he can barely do a book without them! You should never have gone up the hill, always the wood instead, you don't have to meet the Black Fairies-funny how the "most evil little people" should be in THIS book of all of them. It's crap, Spriggans are the bad fairies and they were in the almost equally cheeky 'Masks Of Mayhem'.

    'Crypt' is a great book, but it is cheeky beyond belief, but you wouldn't have been allowed to get much past the Griffin. you would easily have died soon after, having already missed several important items. It actually DOES say in the text why the Griffin attacks. Griffins eat horses, and a feral Barbarian hag utterly free of scruples has no prblem with letting it attack the rider and horse of the hero trying to save a world that would doom her too if Razaak gets hiw way the stupid bitch. Well ignorance kills.

    In the Monster Manual of D&D, Griffins do try to ignore riders on horses but respond if the rider attacks it fairly enough to save his horse! But Livingstone HAS to throw everything at you in this-he HAS to have a Centaur serving the jerk Razaak right after the Griffin! AND include the worst ever Dragon later, yet avoiding dying by it is amazingly easy.

    But the nastiest move the book makes is to make you evil-someone sweet HAS to be attacked and killed and a certain item they have taken, which, should you be wearing it at a desired place to be, gives you a truly necessary item of brilliancce-well one half as long as you have the other. Yet even here Livingstone makes a mistake. Had you killed the rough old Barbie on the Griffin-by killing the Griffin, you could have got her shield-which is supposed to protect against lightning bolts, yet is not mentioned to do so here. Bloody cheek! AND he always forgets about Skeletons going down by only 1 STAM as an edged weapon not useful. He also forgot about the Crystal of Sanity being used against the Hellcat later, not that you have to meet that-one of the very few encounters you don't need to have to do.

    The other amazingly cheeky thing is that of all the defences you need once you meet Razaak (should you EVER get to him), 2 of them are in the last place anyone could expect! And why that being with them has kept them and not even broke the obvious, considering their nature, I'll never know. Bloody clever though, but daftly insane. But interesting how all this stuff is within paragraphs of each other of the Lost Lake and getting his Sword to kill him. Deliberate I think. And well protected for a reason.

    Just tweek a few dice rolls by swapping them with each other or win just one fight without fighting and do the rest of book properly and it'll work, but you'll need many attempts, especially as, even though it's a book where your trail covers almost every area, several things are hidden in suprising places, and a few at first ans second glance, you'd not even think would be needed.

  7. As for that Moon Ring, what about protection from other werebeasts-Werebears, Wereboard, Wererats, Werebadgers, Werebats and Wereravens? Nothing of course, because a Werewolf is all he can be bothered with. Though it's lovely to know that at least having to fight it, it doesn't matter if it wounds you at all if you have that Crystal of Sanity. I think the reader needs it just ofr complying to do the book to be honest!