Friday 17 November 2017

The Second Swordsman - 'Keep Your Blade Ready and Luke Sharp!'

This Gamebook Friday it's time for the eleventh entry in Malcolm Garcia's ongoing Second Swordsman series of posts, in which he undertakes classic Fighting Fantasy adventures by only ever selecting the second choice of any list of options.

This week, how will he get on using this process with the works of FF author Luke Sharp?

The Second Swordsman - 'Keep Your Blade Ready and Luke Sharp!'

By Malcolm Garcia

Although his first FIGHTING FANTASY adventure was the sci-fi themed Star Strider, for his other three books Luke Sharp would exclusively explore the southwestern corner of Khul. In both Chasms of Malice and Daggers of Darkness YOU are an heir to a kingdom, but to claim what is yours YOU must confront the foul forces that would take over. While in Fangs of Fury YOU are a soldier who is sent on a mission to reignite the magical flames that defend your kingdom and prevent the evil enchanter Jaxartes from taking over southern Khul. In all three YOU are sent on your way by the wizard Astragal and your last view of him in both Chasms and Fangs is him sending YOU down a hole in the ground.

In all three of these adventures following the Second Swordsman process (of arbitrarily choosing every second option) resulted in universal failure. I variously suffered an instant death due a poor choice, had another instant death from a roll of the dice, and was killed in combat.

I started each adventure with fairly good SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK scores; however, I found that I only tested my LUCK twice – once in both Chasms and Daggers. Each adventure also provided me with a good supply of provisions and two had the return of the magical potion (which I haven’t seen since trying Phantoms of Fear). I chose the STAMINA potion (the second option) in both Fangs and Daggers. While Chasms had no such potion option, it did give me a magical cat that could restore my LUCK and assist me a total of nine times.

Both Fangs and Daggers had some additional game dynamics that added a layer of complexity. In Fangs YOU are racing the clock with an instant death promised if the 14 walls of the Citadel are breached. And in Daggers YOU are racing the clock with an instant death promised if poison from a wound inflicted by an enchanted dagger spreads throughout your body. Daggers also adds to your quest the possibility of collecting a half dozen medallions that will allow YOU to cheat a death-in-combat (for a price).

All three of Sharp’s adventures had me being overpowered by various gangs of locals. In both Chasms and Fangs the Second Swordsman process resulted in me being captured within a few choices of starting. Sharp could have used these occasions to instantly kill me, but he didn’t. In Chasms I manage to escape my jailers, thanks to a sympathetic blacksmith. And in Fangs I was on the brink of being executed when I was rescued by a mysterious stranger who butchered my captors and probably would have been better suited to completing the adventure. In Daggers I wasn’t imprisoned until later in the adventure, but what this story had in abundance was the opportunity to be surrounded and automatically surrender. This happened four times which would have been annoying, but it never led to something bad happening straight away.

Unlike the last episode of the Second Swordsman, in all three of Sharp’s Titan-based adventures, I was able to test my blade. In Chasms my first enemy was one of the seven Khuddam, the ‘big bads’ of the book. With a SKILL of 10 she was one of the toughest first encounters I’ve ever had (only the Fog Wyvern from Legend of Zagor and the Mammoth from Caverns of the Snow Witch had the same SKILL) and she took off nearly two thirds of my STAMINA before I beat her. In Daggers I fought a total of eight creatures, all of whom were mercifully weaker, and in half of the battles I lost no STAMINA at all. In Fangs I only fought six enemies, three of which died without inflicting a scratch on me, but the last, the Bodyguard Knight, killed me. She only had a SKILL of 8, which is the equal-lowest skilled creature to defeat me (the other being the Fighting Slave from Trial of Champions), but I had poorly managed my STAMINA in the lead up to this fight and I died for want of eating just one more meal.

My death in Chasms was much more anti-climactic. After defeating Khuddam Friankara, I fled and paused for a moment, only to be surrounded by a gang of orcs who weren’t as understanding as the groups who caught me in Daggers. And in Daggers I finally fell victim to a random roll of the dice and was killed by a spike trap. If I have one issue with Daggers, it is that there are too many of these ‘tests’ where the outcome is not influenced by your LUCK or SKILL. Not only did one of these kill me, but I lost several STAMINA points from similar, earlier, trials.

Overall I enjoyed Sharp’s world of southwestern Khul, especially in Fangs and Daggers as the books gave the sense of moving through a world inhabited by a large number of NPCs who have their own missions and motivations. I would have liked to have eaten more in Fangs (so I would have survived that particular fight) and to have had the opportunity to use the magical cat in Chasms. It’s not every FIGHTING FANTASY adventure where YOU get to bring along a pet!

Thank you once again to Malcolm, for his latest Second Swordsman blog post. If you have any suggestions for items for the official Fighting Fantasy blog don't forget to get in touch via

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