Friday 12 January 2018

Blast from the Past! Caverns of the Snow Witch

At this time of year Northern Allansia finds itself in the grip of winter. (Not for nothing is the first month of the Allansian Calendar known as Freeze!) With that in mind it seemed timely to revisit a classic Fighting Fantasy Gamebook. There are several set within the northern climes of Allansia - including Tower of Destruction for one - but the book we are concerning ourselves with today is Ian Livingstone's Caverns of the Snow Witch...

Caverns of the Snow Witch (FF9, first published by Puffin Books in 1984) sent the hero into the freezing depths of the Icefinger Mountains.

Having initially been hired to hunt down and slay the Yeti that has been attacking trade caravans in northern Allansia, the hero hears from a dying trapper of the great riches to be found in the Crystal Caves, home of the evil enchantress the Snow Witch. And so he sets off to make his fortune, but in time he learns the true cost of his greed.

“I’d written FF books set in dungeons, forests and islands,” says Livingstone, “and decided it was time for some freezing mountain snow for adventurers to survive. I thought about the irony of Caverns of the Snow Witch during a charity climb of Kilimanjaro years later. It had been snowing the whole day. At such altitude it was miserable.”

WARNING! If you've not played Caverns of the Snow Witch before, there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

The fact that the adventure was first published in a shortened 190-paragraph form in Warlock magazine goes some way to explain the adventure’s unusual structure. Having defeated the vampiric Snow Witch, the hero escapes the Crystal Caves in the company of Redswift the Elf and Stubb the Dwarf, only for the three companions to discover that the witch has cast a Death Spell upon them. The adventure then turns into a race against time as the hero struggles to find a way of counteracting the effects of the spell.

Having been illustrated by Duncan Smith for the Warlock version, for the extended paperback edition, two artists, Gary Ward and Edward Crosby, worked together to provide the interior illustrations, the only time this has happened in the entire history of Fighting Fantasy.

“We worked out roughs for each illustration, had someone pose for photo reference (that locked the overall pose and angle of the figures in place), then Edward and I worked on the agreed illustrations at separate locations,” explains Ward. “Edward then delivered the final pencil drawings once a week or so. I tended to work on the more human characters. Edward’s style suited the goblins and monsters more. I inked them all to keep a constant style.”

Yeti, by Gary Ward and Edward Crosby.
(©Gary Ward and Edward Crosby, 1984 and 2018)

Do you have a favourite encounter from this particular icy adventure? Or do you have fond (or otherwise) memories of another snowbound encounter in a different Fighting Fantasy Gamebook? Let us know in the comments below.

You can read more about the creation of Caverns of the Snow Witch in Jonathan Green's YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, available now from Snowbooks.

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