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Sunday, 11 July 2010

Dinosaurs of death!

Another of our "lost" Fighting Fantasy books. Jamie and I submitted this proposal on April 13, 1988 - golly, that's a while back. I can't remember why they rejected it. Possibly not in keeping with the subtle themes and high literary standards of the FF series. We must have sat down with a copy of the FF world guide to draft the pitch, because otherwise we would never have known the names of the cities and suchlike. (I thought Vymorna was a brand of wall covering.) Anyway, without further ado:

Dinosaurs of Death

This book takes place some time after the lifting of the siege of Vymorna. Rebuilding is under way, and many who had fled to the mountains or across the sea for refuge are now flocking back with their belongings. The people of the city are looking forward to a new era of prosperity.

You are summoned to the palace. There, the Queen and her generals tell you of a merchant who has recently arrived in Vymorna. This man had been shipwrecked on the coastal flats fringing the Silur Cha swamp. By some miracle he was able to evade the retreating Lizard Men forces and make his way north - on the way gathering valuable information about the enemy's plans. It seems that the Lizard Men have been preparing an entire army of dinosaur-cavalry for a desperate, all-out assault on Vymorna. The generals' assessment is that this assault will be launched quite soon, as the Lizard Men need a breakthrough to restore the shattered morale of their troops.

As captain of one of the long-range patrols that was operating out of the mountains during the six years of the siege, you are used to sustained activity deep behind enemy lines, and have proved time and again that you can act with initiative and courage. Queen Perriel gives you a crystal talisman before personally briefing you for this new mission. You are to skirt the swamplands and penetrate the camp on the edge of the Plain of Bones, where the new army and their dinosaur-mounts are gathering. The camp covers a strip of land nearly fifty miles long - indicating a troop strength of at least twenty thousand. Vymorna's best sorcerers and sages have determined that a vast fault line runs through the rock strata below the camp. At present this fault line is dormant, showing itself only in the occasional slight tremor or hot spring. If you find no other way to disrupt the Lizard Men's plans, you must enter the volcanic caves above the fault and drop the crystal talisman into the main fissure. This talisman will act as a focus for the combined efforts of Vymorna's sorcerers, hopefully allowing them to project sufficient magical energy to break the fault line open. This will drop the entire Lizard Man army into the lava-filled pits deep in the earth's bowels - but you will die, too, if you cannot find an escape route in time!

One unique feature of this book is the aerial joust which takes place at one point between the protagonist and a Lizard Man champion. Special rules allow for a 3D battle where altitude is also a factor to consider. We will flowchart the position and possible manoeuvres of the joust and incorporate these into a sequence which loops until one combatant has been defeated or forced to crashland. The Lizard Knight's tactics are determined by a dice roll at the start of each loop sequence, so that in one case he might decide to dive straight down in attack while at a later point he might spiral upwards to get into a better position. The dice roll is modified by numbers that take account of how the battle is progressing. (In other words, rather than just acting at random, the Lizard Knight acts like an intelligent opponent.) The range of actions the Lizard Knight might take means that quite an extensive battle can be simulated using only twenty or thirty numbered paragraphs out of the whole book.

We also feel it would be interesting to refer to the various dinosaurs by their literal names: Thunder Lizard for brontosaurus, Three-Horn Mask for triceratops, and so on. This reimbues the dinosaurs with a fantasy flavour that their scientific names tend to detract from, as well as giving the reader the fun of working out which is which from the descriptions given.


  1. I wish this book would have happened! Island of the Lizard King was my first gamebook bought ever and Battleblade Warrior the last FF gamebook I ever bought until two years ago when I decided to finish my collection so i feel like I have a special history with the "Lizard-men saga" (well two books doesn't make it a saga but a third might have). I think the former is kinda boring and the latter pretty decent, but to have had a third book in the "lizard-men saga" written by you and Jamie would have been tops! I love the aerial joust idea (battleblade warrior's cover cheats us out of this one) and what a title! Well there's Jonathan Green who's still putting out FF books, you sure you don't want to give it another shot with this one? ;) (Yeah I know, from what I gathered before you don't exactly hold the FF series dear :-p. I don't either, I mean I feel it's like gamebook 101, it serves it's purpose but is not really truly satisfying for the most part.) You know if you'd submitted this in like 1993 (the year of Jurassic Park) I'm sure they'd have been all over it. Being ahead of your time never served anyone...::shakes head::

  2. Well Milk, I should say that I'm grateful to the FF series for opening the way for a lot of more interesting series.

    Steve Jackson's Death Test for The Fantasy Trip had already developed the idea of solo dungeons, and Choose Your Own Adventure had got the gamebook concept into bookstores. But FF was the first to combine hobby game mechanics with mass market focus. Yes, the FF world was a watered-down version of D&D (that's a lot of H2O!) but that's how they got 12 million books sold.

  3. I absolutely love the Crystal Palace dinosaurs. Very fond memories.

    I recently read "Portal of Evil" (FF37) by Peter Darvill-Evans published in 1989. Perhaps it is coincidence that it features giant prehistoric lizards in a fantasy setting as it's central theme...