Published on November 29th, 2012 | by PJ Montgomery1
Citadel of Chaos – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 2
Yesterday, we read about my first journey through Balthus Dire’s Black Tower atop Craggen Rock, and witnessed me get killed by a woman shooting a fireball out of her eyes at me. Oops. So, how does my second attempt go?
More magic, less skill. I’m not sure that’s a fair trade. Still, this time out, I take one of every spell available, with an extra ESP and Levitation spell. Even though I didn’t use either of these last time out. I’m a maverick, okay? Anyway, this time when I reach the entrance, I try pretending I’m a herbalist, but the crafty gorilla-dog guards are crafty, and want the name of the guard I’m there to treat. Um… Pincus? No, they’ve never heard of a Pincus. I test my luck, and somehow come up with another name which they are familiar with. Phew. In the courtyard, I decide to stride boldly across the middle. So someone shoots arrows at me. I dash for a monument in the middle of the courtyard, and find a door leading inside. Heading in, I see three chalices, and three gremlins flying around and drinking from one of them. I enter the room, and the gremlins fly away. I opt to drink the liquid the small creatures seemed to be enjoying, and gain some stamina. It also induces a giggling fit.
Okay, off to the Citadel, stopping to battle a random ground tentacle along the way. At the door, my herbalist bluff works on the Rhinoman guard this time, and I decide not to head down to O’Seamus. Instead, I reach a rope with a sign which states “Please ring for butler”. So I do. A misshapen butler arrives, and I tell him I’m expected. He tells me to head left, which I do, finding a room with a sleeping gark inside it. I enter the gark’s room, waking it as I do so. I’m forced to fight the gark, just about killing it, and find some gold and a hairbrush. I take another door out, and head down a corridor to a room where a party of people are gambling on various games, all of which are pretty dangerous. So, naturally, I decide to join in.
I win all the games, getting some gold and an enchanted breastplate which reduces my opponent’s attack strength in combat. Score! Heading down another passage, I arrive in the dining room, and this time look at the paintings. One of them’s of Balthus Dire. That’s nice. I head up the other staircase this time, but it’s a trap, and I fall down the stairs. Using a levitation spell, I manage to avoid any harm and float to the balcony. Figuring that woman in the bedroom had something I need, but lacking a key this time, I break down the door and offer her a gift again. This time, I go for the hairbrush I got from the Gark, and she likes it! While she’s distracted, I notice a golden fleece on her bed. Could be handy. A quick test of my luck, and I successfully nick it, and leave.
I take another door, which leads into a room with animal heads on the wall. A dog’s head starts barking at me, and a carpet flies passed my ear. I then see a chair turn into a man, and demand what business I have with them. I try to talk, but he’s not interested, and turns into a snake which advances towards me, as the dog head also floats through the air. With nothing else in my backpack, I end up throwing all my gold on the floor, which the creatures, who turn out to be called Miks, are grateful for. I’m suddenly welcome in their house, and they warn me to beware the Ganjees. I head through a door, and end up in a dark room. Which happens to be the home of, yes, the Ganjees. I have no useful weapons in my backpack which I can use against these malevolent spirits, which look like floating faces, so I draw my sword and prepare to fight. So the Ganjees kill me. Oops.
Lower scores all around, except Magic, which is pretty good. I’d better hope this is enough. I take one of every spell, with extra Stamina, Strength and Levitation spells this time. At the front gate, I once more try the herbalist story, this time guessing the name Kylltrog. By a wonderful quirk of fate, the guards know of a Kylltrog in the Citadel, and let me in. Remembering that I got the key to that lady’s bedroom from the group by the fire before, I head there again, and just sit down, which surprises them. In fact, they’re so surprised, they give me the password to get passed the Rhinoman guard. Score! However, I then get too inquisitive, and they attack me again. I win, and this time take the key and the ointment, leaving the gold. I also gain a potion which gives me extra magic, and opt for extra Stamina and Weakness spells.
Heading back to the arguing men, I this time suggest the dagger is worth ten gold, then use a Fool’s Gold spell to buy it for myself. Nice. I’m approached by the whirlwind lady, and this time attempt the tactic of just ignoring her. Apparently she likes that, and wanders some of the way across the courtyard with me before leaving. At the door, I knock and give the password, getting in with the minimum of fuss. Remembering I need the hairbrush to get the golden fleece, I head to the butler and the sleeping Gark again. This time, remembering how tough the fight was last time, I cast a weakness spell on him, then kill him with ease and nick the hairbrush.
I take a different door this time, and find myself in a library. Looking at the books, I find I can read Biographies of Balthus Dire, Secrets of the Black Tower, or The Creatures of Craggen Rock. Figuring that Secrets of the Black Tower could be useful, I read it, and find it contains the combination for the lock on Balthus Dire’s own room. Handy. Opting to next check out the biographies of Balthus Dire, I learn that he is apparently vulnerable to sunlight. Interesting… The librarian, at this point, is giving me a funny look, but these books have contained quite useful information so far, so I opt to continue reading. However, a bunch of Orcs arrive and knock me unconscious. I wake up in prison to find a Calacorm (a two-headed, lizardman type creature) coming to give me some food. Asking where I am, he informs me I’m still in the Citadel, just in the dungeon bit of the Citadel. I cast an illusion spell on him, making him think he’s being attacked by a mouse. This panics him, the big wuss, and I offer to help if he lets me free, and he gives me the keys to my cell. Once I’m a safe distance away, I dispel the mouse. I soon come across a locked door, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m in O’Seamus’s room again.
We go through all of his hilarious japes once again, before I leave with the magic sword and the mirror. I go through the same door as last time, into the wine cellar, and ask to try the red wine this time, which adds stamina and luck! Yay! I then follow the same route as on my first play through, killing the golem and getting a spider with a man’s face in a jar, and arrive at the bedroom. As with the last attempt, I give the lady (who, it turns out, is Balthus Dire’s wife) the hairbrush, then nick the golden fleece. Instead of heading through the home of the Miks this time, I take the other door, and find a chest surrounded by a pit. Casting a strength spell, I leap over to the chest, only to find it empty. I have to test my luck while jumping back, and am fortunately lucky. I cast my Luck spell to restore some luck, then head onwards. Finding myself back in the room of the ganjees.
This time I can either offer them the Spider-dude, or the ointment. Figuring the spider-guy may not be entirely benevolent, I try the ointment. The Ganjees are fascinated by the stuff, and I offer to trade it to them in exchange for being able to pass by safely. The next room contains a large Hydra, but the golden fleece in my possession distracts it long enough for me to get by.
The next room seems to have a combination lock on it. Wait a second… I read a book about this! I enter the room, and a trident flies at my throat. I quickly cast a Shielding spell, which does the job, and find myself confronted by Balthus Dire himself. Dire summons a Clawbeast to attack me, but a Weakness spell soon deals with that. I then cast an ESP spell to try and read Dire’s mind, but he’s pretty powerful, and it doesn’t go well. Dire then hits me with an earthquake, but a Levitation spell means it can’t hit me. I head to the window, at which point Dire tries to hypnotise me. I figure covering his head with the drapes will stop that, so pull them down, which lets in sunlight. The sunlight strikes Dire, and kills him. Victory!
Citadel of Chaos is a strong follow up to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. The story is slightly stronger, and the added ability to cast spells brings a new dynamic to the formula. The denizens of the Citadel are a strange bunch, but this makes the trip through Balthus Dire’s domain somehow more fun. However, the real highlight of the book is the final battle with Balthus Dire, with you and Dire both casting spells at each other. Apparently, this part of the book took Steve Jackson several days to work out, but the extra effort shines through. Citadel is very much worth your time, and it’s quite easy to trace a line from some of the rules Jackson introduces here to his epic Sorcery! saga. This book also formed the basis of Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy novel, The Trolltooth Wars, with Balthus Dire’s planned invasion of the Vale of Willow being a key plot point in the novel.
Coming soon: The Forest of Doom