Friday 24 November 2023

The Shamutanti Hills - published 40 years ago!

Regular visitors to this blog will have noticed that this year that images from four classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks appear in the banner at the top of the page. These are all books that were first published 40 years ago this year, but they are not the only one.

The first book in the Sorcery! series, aimed squarely at adult gamers, was released in late 1983. The Shamutanti Hills by Steve Jackson, saw the commencement of an epic quest to recover the Crown of Kings from the evil Archmage of Kakhabad. In the adventure, the hero has to make his way through the hills of the title; “alive with evil creatures, lawless wanderers and bloodthirsty monsters, the land is riddled with tricks and traps waiting for the unwary traveller.”

Despite being for adults, the game still used the usual Fighting Fantasy gaming mechanics, the cover proudly stating the mantra familiar to Fighting Fantasy fans that, “Two dice, a pencil and an eraser are all you need for this adventure – YOU decide which paths to take, which dangers to risk and which monsters to fight.” The big difference came from what gave the series its name. As well as being a mighty warrior, the hero of the Sorcery! series could also be played as a powerful magic-user.

The ‘simple’ version of the adventure involved the use of no magic whatsoever, as with most FF adventures up until this point (with the notable exception of Jackson’s The Citadel of Chaos). However, there was also the option whereby the reader could opt for the ‘advanced’ version of the game, which relied heavily on magic, with the hero being able to cast a wide range of spells. Each spell cost between 1 and 4 STAMINA points to cast, and each was denoted by a three letter word (following the pattern consonant-vowel-consonant), and often required very specific ingredients to be cast successfully at all.

There was also the option to call on Libra, the Goddess of Justice, once during the course of the adventure, either to enable the hero to escape a tricky battle, to be cleansed of curses or diseases, or to have his starting attributes restored to their Initial level.

The Sorcery Spell Book was, to begin with, just that – a separate book, detailing the spells used in the Sorcery! series, that came packaged with The Shamutanti Hills in a special slipcase edition. It featured a number of illustrations, which were cut when the Spell Book was later incorporated into the Sorcery! gamebooks themselves, when they were republished under the Adventure Gamebooks banner.

Original slipcase editions of The Shamutanti Hills and The Sorcery Spell Book are now veritable collector’s items!

The Shamutanti Hills is now available again from Scholastic Books.

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