Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crown of the Kings Campaign Review

So I got my grubby little hands on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2 Crown of the Kings  campaign a couple of days ago and I have been unable to put it down since.  This faithful adaptation to the gamebooks will provide an excellent campaign for an RPG.

The campaign is recommended for 3-6 characters with 100-200 experience points under their belt.  Starting characters may find some areas challenging.  More experienced heroes should have their equipment and money restricted to starting equipment.

There will be more discussion on the campaign in the Arion Games forums.

The heroes can start off with some extra equipment

As mentioned above, since the book states that experienced heroes should have their starting equipment limited, it implies that less experienced heroes could have more equipment.  The book does state what equipment the heroes should have or how much money they should start with, however.  I guess that depends on abilities of the heroes (20-30gp would be a good starting sum.  Also a few provisions wouldn't go amiss.  Sorcerers could have a choice of a spell component or two and a potion that restores one stat to its initial level will be OK).

The book suggests ways of helping heroes who are struggling.  In addition to having Libra's blessing which you have in the book, you could also have agents of Analand - NPCs who pop up to offer advice or special items.

The Archmage is a badass

Check.  The Archmage's stats are now worthy of the final boss of a four book campaign - he is now a powerful fire breathing demon that magic deals limited damage to.  Interestingly, he is not the most powerful creature in the book.  The Serpent of Time can still own him, however. (He must thank his dark gods that he has control over it).

More streamlined weapon and armour rules

Check.  Now that we have the AFF system to fall back on, weapons and armour have modifiers to attack strength or damage rolls.  However, a mundane but sharp sword that you can buy for 7 gold pieces has the same effect as an enchanted sword of sharpness described in the sourcebook.  I think this is a case where the campaign is trying to stay faithful to the gamebooks rather than maintain the magic level (low) suggested in the sourcebook.

More chance to explore

Check.  The neat, well presented maps make it easy for directors and players to find their way around the various places.  It also means that they can go back the way they came which opens up some opportunities for the game (for example, not finding the four spell lines of Khare first time does not mean automatic failure and you may be able to return to a plague village if you find a way of curing the disease).

A chance to use ALL the sorcery spells

Check.  Now that the Sorcery! series is an RPG and that the AFF2 sourcebook provides more detail as to how the sorcery spells work, a director can easily work out how a particular spell

A chance to explore the lethal parts

Check.  Fewer of the areas are as lethal as they are in the gamebook, inflicting large amounts of damage rather than being deadly.  These include the poison dart in Courga's mouth and the fiery Throben doors.  Since they could be used for years, RPG heroes have more invested in them than gamebook heroes who may be used for a single book, so this is done appropriately.  Other parts are less deadly purely because there are multiple heroes now.

Other things

Art and illustrations

Many of the illustrations from the original books make a welcome comeback.  There is no original art but there are some nice maps.

Encounter strength

A lot of the opponents you face in this RPG may have a higher skill and stamina score or are present in larger numbers than in the gamebook or have some other creatures accompanying them.  This is to account for the multiple (3-6) heroes in the game and it is done very well.

Taking into account the AFF rules

Graham has done a great job to incorporate the AFF2 rules into the original gamebook scenario.
The book finds uses for many of the skills and spells found in the AFF2 sourcebook and also includes items and scenarios that takes skills and magic points into account.  The book also mentions attack modes, opposed tests, items prices, diseases, wizard spells and salvation.

Characters and NPCs

Skill and stamina scores are given for many of the creatures and NPCs who may not have had them in the gamebooks (for example, the sulphur ghost in Khare).  As mentioned above, many are different to maintain the challenge but that is understandable.

As someone who enjoys reading about characters in RPG books, I was a little disappointed to see that the NPCs are just given skill and stamina scores.  Their social scale and special skills are not listed.  I enjoy looking at the stats of NPCs in gamebooks partly so that I can get a better picture of the character and partly so that I can use them as a marker to extrapolate other characters from.  In almost all cases, however these scores would have been superfluous for the campaign.


Most of the superfluous items are removed meaning that your equipment list will not get clogged up with random junk.  Most of the items you pick up will be sorcery components or mundane equipment.  The magical items, however, remain and there are many ways to upgrade your equipment.  Also, treasure has been suitably increased to accommodate multiple players.

Dealing with my niggles from Sorcery!

I think Graham must have a good sense for what annoyed people about the original Sorcery! series.  First of all, he tells the director to be careful when introducing the annoying anti magic minimite, Jann into the Shamutanti Hills (implying that you do not need to which a lot of people would like).

He also removes things that do not make sense.  Alianna does not randomly attack players if they save her and you can't kill the Moon serpent with a tinderbox.

Hang on - we've all read Sorcery!

In that case, the director may need to put a twist on the classic encounters or move the locations around a bit.  There are some things that are different, however.  It might be interesting to watch players squirm over options that actually don't make any difference in the RPG.


I said in my wishlist that there is very little that needs to be added to Crown of the Kings to make it better.  The scenarios presented in the gamebooks are entertaining and varied.  Graham Bottley has once again granted my wishes with this faithful adaptation of the gamebooks, making changes only to provide a suitable challenge for multiple players.

You can buy it yourself from Cubicle 7 for £16.99.  So do so now :).


  1. Thanks for the review. I am obviously happy you liked it, it was a lot of hard work but people playing and enjoying the campaign makes it worthwhile.

    One of the most difficult parts was balancing between people who know and love the original gamebooks, and those who had never read them.

    Also, check out Nibdum.....information provided by Steve Jackson as it was never explaine in the gamebooks.....

    1. Once again, I think you did a great job.

      I like the Nibdum backstory (in the gamebooks he is an aggressive hairless creature in Mampang that cowers if you are aggressive and dies to a single blow.

  2. I remember reading through the originals back in the 1980's. Thanks for putting the spotlight on this, Stuart. I definitely plan on picking this up.

  3. Had hoped to pick up a copy from the FLGS on Saturday but a weekend-long dose of manflu got in it's way. Next weekend perhaps!

  4. Hi Stuart, what are the maps like in the new Crown of Kings? Computer generated or hand drawn like Steve Luxton's?

    1. Hi. The village maps are computer generated. The other maps are hand drawn but electronically collated.

  5. Thanks Stuart. I put this question to the guys on Arion last week, they still haven't got back to me. I think I'll ask for a lo res sample if they ever do.

  6. Thanks for the very helpful review! I saw this in Orc's Nest last week, thinking I'll buy it. :)

  7. I must confess, I was kind of annoyed that the Serpent Ring's effect had been removed from the book (although the Serpent Ring itself had not).