Friday 17 April 2020

Blast from the Past! Crypt of the Sorcerer

Originally pitched as Crypt of the Necromancer - until someone at Puffin decided that you couldn’t have the word ‘Necromancer’ in the title of a book aimed at children - Ian Livingstone’s tenth Fighting Fantasy adventure (published in 1987) saw the return of some familiar FF faces and places, whilst also introducing readers to a whole new region of Allansia and some new allies in the hero’s quest to defeat Razaak, the undead sorcerer of the title.

So in Crypt of the Sorcerer we have a return to Darkwood Forest and an appearance by the Wizard Yaztromo (both originally from The Forest of Doom) whilst the hero is transported aboard a hot air balloon to not only the Moonstone Hills but also the baking Plain of Bronze. The adventure is incredibly hard, but full of wonderfully evocative encounters, backed up by the talented fossil-reconstructor John Sibbick’s captivating artwork.

“I found it quite easy to create a style for the interior drawings – more than I expected really," says Sibbick, "although it could be pretty relentless churning out the drawings – and I had no time for any ‘rough’ sketches. Now and again I look at the originals and am amazed at the work and detail involved.”

Demonspawn, by John Sibbick.

“My favourite artist is John Sibbick,” says FF enthusiast Thomas Nielsen. “I think his illustrations hit a nice balance between being realistic, stylised and dirty, and he knows how to make a monstrous creature really monstrous.”

The adventure had a second alternative working title, The Howling Tunnels, which is the place you have to visit to find the fabled Gargantis horn.

Gargantis, by John Sibbick.

Crypt of the Sorcerer was the third FF adventure to feature an original Les Edwards cover, showing the deformed Razaak preparing to cast a spell upon the hero. The painting now resides within Ian Livingstone's personal collection of Fighting Fantasy art.

When the gamebook was reissued by Wizard Books in 2002, Les Edwards produced a new composition for the cover.

As well as being the first gamebook to feature internal black and white art by John Sibbick, Crypt of the Sorcerer is also notable for being the first book to feature a colour map by Leo Hartas, centred upon the Moonstone Hills of central Allansia.

Crypt of the Sorcerer remains one of the hardest Fighting Fantasy adventures to complete, but maybe it's time it was released again to challenge a new generation of brave adventurers.

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