Sunday, 8 July 2012

Temple of Terror playthrough

Written by Ian Livingstone, Artwork by Bill Houston

Sing along kids, Arabian Niiiights...
Temple of Terror is one of the FF books I didn't pick up when I was a kid. Not because I didn't have the chance to, I seen it sitting on shelves of 2nd hand bookshops or in boxes at car boot sales that my grandparents would drag me along to etc plenty of times. It's just simply that it never interested me.

I think that's probably down to the generic look of it. The cover doesn't really offer much to the imagination, and the title feels very bland. It prescribes very closely to the standard FF title scheme of "(location) of (scary word)".

I've managed to dig up a copy of it, and from first glance there's nothing too special about it in terms of rules or skillsets. The only thing that's different is that it includes a box for spells. We don't seem to start off with any spells though, so these are things I suppose we'll pick up as we go along. This copy has been written in, but only in pencil - well done, previous owner. Your lack of pens will ensure that you are permitted to live once I've taken over the universe.

This book starts with you kicking back in the dwarven village of Stonebridge, not far from Darkwood Forest where you've been having a recent adventure in the book 'Forest of Doom' (which I've yet to do a playthrough for - it's on my to-do list). Hopefully whatever I was doing there was more successful than my recent expedition into the tunnels BENEATH the forest! Our old friend, the wizard Yazdromo, barges into the house while I'm downing my third pint of ale, and tells me that the world is doomed.

Santa has a new gift for you
this christmas - lung cancer!
It seems that the evil warlock Malbordus (whose name sounds like a cheap knock-off brand of cigarettes) is plotting to recover five ancient dragon statues and bring them to life, so that he can raise an army and generally cause a whole lot of mischief. Because this is the kind of thing that evil warlocks do, you see. Makes you wonder where they get these urges from. Maybe he was spanked too much as a kid or something, I don't know. Either way, I need to go and destroy his dragons and stop him from being a bloody nuisance. Why me? Well, because I have the most well-rounded stats of anyone in the entire village of Stonebridge, with a skill and luck of 10 and stamina of 17. You don't expect a dwarf to do a man's job, do you?

Yaztromo leads me back to his tower, bragging all the way about how amazingly well-respected his magic is and generally being a right royal pain. He then tells me that he's going to teach me a few spells, for which I should be honoured. I'm strongly suspecting that Yaz is simply making up this entire quest because he's bored and wants to troll me. Nevertheless he teaches me the spell of understanding any language, creating water, leaping great distances, and making monsters fall asleep.

A common tavern in Port Blacksand
Yazzy then gives me some gold, possibly the same gold that I (or any other adventurer) already gave him back in 'Forest of Doom' in order to buy his nostril filters, and he sends his crow to guide me towards the boat to Port Blacksand. It's nice to see references to previous locations here, it really brings the Fighting Fantasy universe together.

I manage to barter my way onboard a boat to Port Blacksand, which even after my recent escapades there is still a hive of scum and villainy. I head to the local bar, where I meet the first mate of a ship that is due to head south, and for a ridiculously expensive sum of money he arranges passage for me. I then, for little more reason than to add to the distinctive colour of Port Blacksand, start a bar fight with a local drunkard.

It turns out that the drunkard was a pirate, so I feel quite pleased with myself while I loot the body. Nobody in the tavern so much as bats an eyelid, which is no surprise at all. I leave his stinking body for the barmaid to clean up and go to my room, where I sleep restlessly and get bitten by a wide variety of bedbugs. In the morning, I head to the ship that I have booked, only to find that it is in fact a pirate vessel. The first mate tells me that one of their crewmen died in a tavern brawl the night before (Gasp!) and that I will now need to take his place by manning the cannons.

Come to the beautiful Desert of Skulls. Enjoy the sights!
Which, in a lovely little twist, I am required to do almost immediately as the ship is attacked by a war vessel only a few minutes after we leave port. Ah, the joys of living an interesting life...

The pirate ship is destroyed, leaving me to float away on the wreckage. My stamina plummets to a mere 10 as a result of the attack, and as I nom on some provisions, I finally drift ashore. Following a successful luck roll, the book tells me that some of my provisions have been waterlogged in the conflict (may have wanted to tell me that before I started eating them), but I was lucky enough to find a coconut in order to help me regain my stamina. This new land is full of palm trees and sand, so I assume that I am on the right track.

I head south for a while, until I find a collection of shells on the beach and decide instead to head inland, where I am then attacked by giant flying insects. I dispatch them easily enough with only a few scratches as a result, and press on. I find a dead old man laying in the sand, and heartlessly take the gold key that the man's corpse was clutching, for no other reason than that I'm a heartless bastard who robs from the dead. Also, that gold keys are the most valuable thing in any FF books aside from silver swords.

The Spice Must Flow.....
I meet a friendly chap on a camel who offers to sell me some water in exchange for the pearl I recovered from the pirate I killed back in Port Blacksand. I'm tempted to take this offer, until I remember that Yazzy has given me the power to create water from thin air. I expect this will be a rather useful spell. In the depths of the desert, I encounter the most dangerous of all desert-dwelling entities... SANDWORMS.

No, not really. Just a sandstorm. I'm lucky enough to get through it without too much damage, and even manage to find a brass bell while I'm stumbling around. Ooh, lucky. Even more lucky when I next get to put my create water spell into practice. Now all I need are some friends who can summon fire, water, wind and heart, and we can call upon Allansia's greatest champion, Captain Planet... sorry.

I stumble upon a nomad's tent, and he offers to sell me a whole load of otherwise useless rubbish. Eager to fill my backpack with complete tat, I choose to buy a silver mirror, an onyx egg and a bone flute. Why? Whyever not! Why, an onyx egg has a million uses! If it throw it into the fire, a dragon might hatch out of it, maybe. But probably not. I think I need to be a descendant of House Targayren in order to get that to work... I've not even read 'Game of Thrones', you know. Only seen the tv series. I'm actually reading 'Dracula the Un-Dead' at the moment on my Kindle. It's an interesting book, written by Dacre Stoker, one of Bram Stoker's legitimate heirs, so it's a legitimate and official sequel. It also includes one of my favourite 'vampires' from history, Elizabeth Bathory. I have no idea why I'm talking about this now. Hey, it's my blog, I reserve the right to ramble about things!

Okay, if you don't think it's so tough, YOU fight it!
I leave the tent and.. remember what I said earlier about the sandworms? And that I was joking? Well, I'm not joking. A giant sandworm suddenly attacks. I'm rather confused as to how a giant sandworm with 20 stamina points can suddenly attack, much less do anything suddenly, given that it's the size of one of king kong's droppings, but I've no choice to fight it. Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll be able to harvest some spice from it.

I barely survive this insanely difficult encounter. From my full stamina score, the sandworm knocks me down to only 5. We are pretty much even throughout the battle, as we both have a skill rating of 10, and right until the very end our stamina scores stay pretty much even, but I'm able to scrape through. It looks like this is the player-killer combat encounter of the book, because that was just nasty! Either way, I was able to recover a tooth from it - which surely must have been the biggest tooth in the known universe!

I wolf down three meals over the course of the next three segments, all the while surviving the cold of the desert's night. I then catch sight of a small group of trees, with birds circling overhead. In a wonderful display of good luck, I find a cool refreshing oasis full of lovely delicious water. Which I swallow eagerly.

Aww, look at the pretty birdy who
was waiting for me at the oasis....
The water is poisoned, and I die.

Not the most of noble deaths, and it's sad to know that the world will now be assailed by the villainy of Malbordus and his dragons.

I think I got fairly far in this book, although that could be an illusion as the book's narrative covered a lot of land. Starting from the forest of doom and heading to Port Blacksand, over the seas and into the desert, it's a long way to travel and really captures the 'long epic quest' feel that a lot of the later FF books capture. I much prefer those books to the dungeon crawl variety, even though the only difference is aesthetics.

It's a shame to have died by that point, because all logic dictated that the oasis should have been a safe haven to rest up after the sandworm attack. I guess that's the lesson in a lot of FF books, not to take things at face value.

Overalll it's a shame I didn't play this book when I was a kid, because it had a lot of things that I'd have rather enjoyed. I'll group this as a 'quite a bit of good fun' category and would encourage people who've dismissed it in the past to give it another shot. Although the title is definitely a real weak point, 'Temple of Terror' simply doesn't evoke the feel of the book at all. There was, for a start, no temple. At least none that I could find.

Maybe 'Desert of Giant Killer Sandworms' would have been better.


  1. The sandworm is the most difficult bit, as I recall; after that it's quite easy.

    Makes you wonder where they get these urges from. Maybe he was spanked too much as a kid or something, I don't know.

    There's a section in Titan that goes into detail about why Malbordus is such a git, but it's more or less to do with spanking.

    1. Both Titan and Out Of The Pit were some of my prized ones as a kid, they gave the entire history and lore of FF books so much depth. Can't remember much about them though. I know they've been reprinted recently as well, but finding the classic ones is a bit of a challenge, I may need to fall back on ebay to find them.

    2. How do you get through these so fast?! I try my hardest to get two done a week and fail miserably! My classic copies of Titan and OOTP both came from Amazon, worth a look there too. Also, I seem to remember this one ending in a similar vein to CIty Of Thieves where you're forced to choose an item to destroy without being given an inkling as to which one it is.

  2. This was never one of my favourites. Arbitrary item search, lacklustre illustration, disappointing final encounter....however after reading the entertaining playthrough I realise I've forgotten much of the backstory in Port Blacksand, worth another look? Anyway the fight with the Sandworm is important because you need its tooth at some point (I forget where and when).
    Let's hope you keep this rate of playthroughs going!

    1. I should be fine for 2 updates a week which is what I've been doing, but once I reach the point where I haven't been able to find enough books to fill that, I'm sure it'll slow down a little ;)

  3. This book was okay, but could have been better.

    I did enjoy the diversity of settings - the wilderness, Port Blacksand (boy, I hope the guards don't remember me. But hang on, I meet a guard in COT, but no one comes to check on me getting off a boat when I come into a PORT!!), the open sea, the desert and then the dungeon. You also see a lot of Allansia.

    The Messenger of Death subplot is genius, and the first time I played TOT he got me. Curiosity killed the cat.

    And you have to finish with no magic to work with. Oh well. Easy come, easy go.

    But the problems are many. The worst one is that the first major decision is really really important. The wrong decision dooms you.

    The spells are inconsistent with their usefulness (I think Jump had one use of limited importance. Maybe David Lee Roth should have coauthored). Maybe this is to encourage players to think before choosing. After all, everyone should realise that a Create Water spell would help heaps when you know you are going to cross a desert.

    But the worst part is that you need to get all five dragon artifacts (which is consistent with the One True Path dynamic that appears all too often). Come on. Surely being able to smash four of them after Malbordus has left on his ONE should seriously dent his ambitions????

    Finally, the inclusion of the hammer you recovered in Forest of Doom is a cute but weird inclusion. I busted my hump getting it for you dwarves, then you give it to one poor soul (did he volunteer or was he picked, I wonder) who somehow makes a pretty much identical trip to me in about the same time (possibly less time - depends on long after you left that they realise "hey, we better get this to that mug that just left!").

    In retropect, this would have have probably been better as a Seven Serpents type introduction to a quest to find good dragon artifacts, and then an epic Dragonlance battle, the outcome of which is strongly influenced by how many artifacts you destroy/find.

  4. As it turns out, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Forest of Doom and Temple of Terror forms one continuous story where the adventurer ("YOU") is actually the same guy.

    Kinda ironic how easy and simple Forest of Doom is, because Caverns and Temple are BOTH teeth-grindingly difficult ><

    1. You mean, after getting cured of the death spell, you head over to Darkwood Forest, maybe to catch up with Stubb(who also died from the death spell?) and Bigleg? Obviously Forest of Doom was written first, which is why YOU don't recognize Bigleg and don't appear to have been to Stonebridge before. I do think Temple of Terror hints that YOU are resting in Stonebridge having recovered the dwarves' warhammer and been rewarded. Is there also a clue in Temple of Terror that YOU are the hero from Caverns of the Snow Witch?

  5. Among the books many faults, the worst is forcing you to fight the Giant Sandworm (SKILL 10 STAMINA 20) about midway through with no option to use spells or items to swing the outcome. This is like saying: "Didn't you give yourself high initial scores at the beginning? Fuck you, then!"

  6. I liked that Ian did a sequel to Forest of Doom, involving Yaztromo, the Stonebridge dwarves, Gillibran's hammer etc. not to mention his other ideas from previous FFs, like Port Blacksand. I also liked that you had to venture through a desert, a first for FF I think.

    I think that as a dungeon, the city of Vatos and the temple were inferior to previous FF dungeons though, just as Malbordus and Leesha were inferior villains.