Monday, January 10, 2011

Your adventure ends here - my favourite fiascoes

I wanted to write a post about failure endings in gamebooks, but so many of them were good for several reasons that I imagined having to write a huge post.  However, I didn't.  I'm going to write posts with one good failure ending and say why I like it.  This also solves the problem of lack of updates as I start out with a big idea I can never complete.  However, this way, there will be lots of updates. 

To me, failure endings in gamebooks have less impact on my enjoyment than success endings.  I think this is because when I see the fateful phrase 'Your adventure ends here.' I would rather go back to the beginning (OK, he previous page that I had my finger on) and get on with it. 

However, good failure endings can have a positive impact on your experience for many reasons which I will cover in this post and others. 

So here is the first of my favourites, from Beneath Nightmare Castle (Fighting Fantasy 25) by Peter Darvill-Evans.


You open the door and find the blade of a curved sword inches from your nose.  You duck and crouch instinctively, ready to fight, but the hiss of many swords leaving their scabbards deters you.  You have no choice but to surrender.  You have walked into the section of the outer bailey that houses the hordes of southern warriors.  They remove all your possessions and clothes , lock you into an iron cell and provide you with decent rations.  Each evenig, they bring you out to play a game called 'Stone-drop':  you are pegged spreadeagled on the ground at the foot of one of the towers and two swordsmen, chosen by lot, have one chance each to drop a boulder from the top of the tower on to your head.  All the soldiers in the barracks come to watch and much excitement is generated.  Gold pieces change hands at furious rates as wagers are laid on which man will drop a boulder nearer to your head and on how many days it will be before one of the drops is accurate enough to crush your skull.  Eventually one of them is, and does. 

Why I like this death ending.

I love the old 'you open the door and there's a sword (or gun) pointing in your face' image.  The only image better than that is the image of several people holding guns or swords to your face.

Sing your way out of this one.

The only thing that would have made that entrance more awsome is if you had gotten out of it somehow, but then the paragraph wouldn't be in this blog. 

This could have so easily been a 'You get cornered by hordes of mooks; they kill you.' ending, but Peter Darvill-Evans made it a lot lot more.  Instead of just being sliced up on the spot, you are captured (fair enough) but then well fed (what's going on here?).

You then realise that instead of being quickly executed, you are actually the main entertainment for the southern soldiers for the next few days.  Peter Darvill-Evans goes into great detail about how much excitement, joy and profit your enemies get from making you the object of some sick game.  There is a very slow build up as you imagine boulders crashing nearer and nearer to your head before you are finally killed.

In fact, the author has a knack for writing detailed and brilliantly gruesome endings for you in this book.  I will be posting more failure endings from Beneath Nightmare Castle on this blog in future. 

Bonus points to the author for using the word spreadeagled.  I don't see that word enough in books.

How did I get into this mess?

You can end up on this paragraph while wandering around Neuberg Keep.  You are given the option of going to the outer bailey or the keep.  This is what happens if you go to the outer bailey.  I think the author wants you to head inside the keep and towards the main action rather than hang around with the mooks on the outside, not getting anything productive done. 

What have I learnt from this disaster?

The good thing about death in gamebooks is that you can learn from it after you start again. 

Next time, I would head for the keep.  Or, even better, I would find a more discrete entrance and not wander around a dangerous castle full of swordsmen and strange monsters in the middle of the day.  In fact, I would try to get under the castle as fast as possible.  The title of the book is quite a hefty clue.


  1. Excellent choice of book, Stu! Some awesome endings there, although I'm not giving any of them away - that's your job!



  2. Thanks for the comment, Andy.

    Yes, Beneath Nightmare Castle has some great death endings. It has a real Lovecraftian horror feel.

  3. Per Jorner's review on it is well worth reading:

    "There are plenty of ways to die horribly, reach dead ends, or arrive in the right spot with the wrong resources, but it's all right."