The Citadel of Chaos by Steve Jackson was published 40 years ago today on 31 March 1983.
Work started immediately on another two titles, with the authors of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain now working on one new book each.
Jackson did not stray that far from the familiar format of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Although it was set within a castle, The Citadel of Chaos was effectively another dungeon bash, but with the addition of rules for using magic.
Atop his sinister Black Tower, the dread sorcerer Balthus Dire is making plans of conquest. The hero of the adventure is a student of the Grand Wizard of Yore, charged by King Salamon with penetrating the stronghold of the fell magic-user, and stopping the fiend before he can unleash his army upon the peaceful Vale of Willow.
Before beginning the adventure, the hero has to determine his MAGIC score and then choose a corresponding number of spells from a pool of twelve that includes such enchantments as Creature Copy, Fool’s Gold and Levitation. But where did the inspiration for Balthus Dire and the lethal Ganjees come from?
Jackson: “Creating names for new characters monsters and places was always a brainstorming exercise. I’d write lots of contenders on a sheet of paper and eventually pick one which to my mind sounded evocative... ‘Balthus’ was the name of a French painter. At the time I was constantly on the lookout for inspiration for names for characters, places and creatures. I came across Balthus the artist – his name, not his art, which I have never seen! I thought: ‘Yes. That’s a cool name. Sounds kind of demonic, or like a dark religious pontiff.’ I used to use a thesaurus a lot for inspiration. ‘Dire’ sounded particularly bad. And thus Balthus Dire became the boss of the adventure.”
Internal art was by Russ Nicholson, while the cover was produced by the enigmatically-named Emmanuel.
“The only art I really didn’t like was the cover of the original Citadel of Chaos,” reveals Jackson. “As this was the second book in the series, it could have been interpreted as a significant statement of art intent. But it was followed by Iain McCaig’s cover of The Forest of Doom which set a new standard. I asked Penguin many times to have the Citadel cover recommissioned. Eventually they gave in and Ian Miller did a fine job.”