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Literature: House of Hell
House of Hell is the tenth entry in the phenonmenally popular Fighting Fantasy line of Choose Your Own Adventure Gamebooks, and notable for taking a departure from the usual formula by not only setting it on Modern-Day Earth, but having you, the protagonist, as an ordinary everyman/everywoman, and shifting the genre from Heroic Adventure to Gothic Survival Horror. Written by Steve Jackson, co-founder of Fighting Fantasy with Ian Livingstone.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night, and in spite of the pounding rain protesting on your windshield, you simply must make that important appointment tomorrow morning. Maybe you should have spent the night at that diner, where a strange old hobo with long white-and-deshivelled hair warned you to not proceed through this very night.

But too late for that, as your car just had to break down in the middle of nowhere as the storm became torrential, with not a telephone in sight.

Your frustration at losing your job tomorrow turns to hope as you spot an old and decrepid Victorian Mansion on a distant hill. Eureka! Now you can call the insurance company, have your car fixed, and make that appointment after all!! But in your entusiasm you fail to notice that not only are there no electrical lights in the windows, but no telephone line runs to this sinister mansion...

Tonight will be a night to remember.

Adapted into an atmospheric and frightening IOS and Android Game by Independent Australian Game Company Tin Man Games in Janurary 2013.

See also Blood of the Zombies, written by Ian Livingstone.


House of Hell provides examples of the following tropes:

  • And I Must Scream
    • Suffering four hits from a Ghoul will paralyze you, which allows the monster to eat you alive. Not fun.
    • Not to mention if you fail the torturer's test, you are forced to chose whether to spend the rest of your life crouching in a tiny box or standing in a thin box, eventurally dying as your muscle cramps break your spine either way.
  • Battle Butler: Franklin, though he is quite reluctant to fight. Possibly because when he takes a single hit, he turns into a giant demon.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of the original edition of House of Hell shows an evil horned monster and trees with malevolent eyes outside the mansion. In the story, there is nothing of danger outside the mansion.
  • Darker and Edgier: This book is much darker than anything else that had come before it in the Fighting Fantasy series in terms of illustrations and atmosphere.
  • Death by Irony: While many other books in the Fighting Fantasy series have disappointing endings, the ending of House of Hell is an exception and fits this Trope. When you defeat the Final Boss, the room catches on fire as he collapses, and you manage to flee the House right before it erupts in flames. Clearly, any villains who weren't already killed by now are not so lucky. The final words of the book, the hero's thoughts as the place is destroyed, are "A fitting end... for a House of Hell..."
  • Dub-Induced Plot Hole: The French version translates "Drumer" as "Brume" (fog) but the secret password, being "Murder" is literally translated as "Meurtre". It is quite a stretch to see it as an anagram, but it shares JUST enough letters to see it as the correct password...
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: One of the most satisfying and triumphant in the series.
  • The Everyman: The character you play is not a professional adventurer or even a trained combatant, just your average every-day John/Jane Doe who is rushing to an important appointment.
  • The Film of the Book: House of Hell is being developed into a movie.
  • Genre Blind / Wrong Genre Savvy: If you act like the gung-ho, fearless Fantasy Action Hero more typical of the series' other entries in this book, you will meet a quick and grisly end.
    • To give one example (this is a pretty important spoiler, so think before you read it) using muscle to intimidate the Earl's hunchbacked servant like some Cowboy Cop won't get you anywhere; even if you outfight him, he'll just lie to get you off his back, and using the information he gives you will get you killed. However, if you instead offer him brandy, he gets drunk and spills very useful information.
    • Another good example is that trying to fight more than two opponents at once will get you instantly killed, no matter how high your SKILL score is. The book states that you simply can't defend yourself from so many attackers at once.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: House of Hell was censored to House of Hades when released in the U.S. Mind you, all of the stuff about a devil-worshiping cult, human sacrifice and the infamous picture of a naked woman about to be sacrificed were untouched. Just instances of the word "hell".
  • Guide Dang It: This book is far more puzzle-orientated than any other Fighting Fantasy gamebook, requiring an exact sequence of moves to be done in a strict order.
  • Hollywood Satanism: The villains of the story, in a nutshell.
  • Human Sacrifice: Practiced by the cultists in House of Hell.
  • The Igor: Shekou, the hunchbacked servant.
  • It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: What other night is there to start a 1980's B-Grade horror film on?
  • The Many Deaths of You / Have a Nice Death: Though nowhere as nasty as books like Beneath Nightmare Castle, many of your character's bad-ends can be quite sleep-depriving...
  • Meaningful Name: The Earl of Drumer, whose name is an anagram for Murder. Do not read the spoiler if you don't want an important, game winning clue spoiled!!
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: No characters seem to qualify, oddly enough (except for the Earl, although he's sort of a subversion), but names of famous demons are common here as the names of rooms, such as Abaddon, Asmodeus, and Dispater, just to name three.
  • Nintendo Hard: The first truly hair-rippingly frustrating Fighting Fantasy Gamebook, that requires one straight and narrow path to survive to the end. To give one example of how hard it is, if you fail the torturer's test, you lose, but at least it's obvious. However, if you pass the test with flying colors, he offers to give you directions. If you accept his help... Well, you're also going to lose, because if you do that, you'll bypass the room where you can find the item you need to defeat the Final Boss. Get the mediocre score on the test or refuse his advice if you get the perfect score, and you're fine - but seeing as his advice seems like a good idea if you follow it (it takes you out of the cellar), it's hard to tell.
  • No Fair Cheating: House of Hell had two paragraphs which could not possibly be reached normally unless the reader actually knew the correct "password", which chided the player for cheating. Also, it was impossible to find the item you needed to win in the end unless you followed given instructions and read ten paragraphs backwards when you were in the place where the secret door leading to the item was. (To get those instructions, you had to access one of those two "special" paragraphs mentioned above, and ask the right question.)
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
    • There are other innocent people trapped in The house of Drumer besides you, and quite a lot of them have been driven mad with desperation to escape... Helping most of them is an invitation to be stabbed in the back, often literally, to help facilitate said escape.
    • And if you happen to forget that you are not a sword-swinging action hero in this gamebook, charging in to save a beautiful naked virgin from being sacrificed by FORTY cultists on your own ends as realistically well as you can expect.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: As per the Unwinnable trope below, you die of fright if you reach your Fear Point total, and as you will accumulate a minimum of seven Fear Points in order to complete the book, as written you cannot win if your initial Fear Point total is seven. The way round this is to fudge the rule slightly so you die only if you exceed your Fear Point total.
  • Old Dark House: The eponymous house sure looks the part.
  • One-Winged Angel: Franklin the Butler will transform into a massive Hell Demon if you wound him with the Kris Knife.
  • Sanity Meter: Your Fear Score is the amount of trauma your character's heart can take; once you accumulate the maximum amount, you are Scared to Death. The introduction at the beginning claims that you can reduce your Fear Score, but in truth, there are only two situations in the story where you can (and in one of those two cases, it's near the beginning, where you may not even have any Fear Points at all).
  • Something Completely Different: A 1980's splatterpunk-movie pastiche starring an Everyman Hero instead of a swashbuckling heroic medieval fantasy.
  • Spiritual Successor: A companion/sequel of sorts called Blood of the Zombies, written by Ian Livingstone.
  • Spoiler Opening: The front cover of the Wizard Books reprint reveals the twist regarding the Big Bad.
  • Survival Horror: Funnily enough a Trope Codifier that was written eight odd years before the game Resident Evil created the genre proper.
  • Technology Marches On: Playing this book now, you can't help but chuckle at the fact that if your character has A Fully Charged Cellphone, all this pain and horror would have been completely avoided.
  • Unwinnable: The Fear score: Put simply, it's not possible to get through the book alive with a rolled score of 7, since that's the minimum amount of Fear points you must accumulate to get to the end (three of them right at the end, no less).
  • Unwinnable by Design: Make one wrong move from the correct solution and it's most likely you won't be able to win; several areas, including the kitchen and the cells beneath the house, are completely inescapable.


Appointment with F.E.A.R.Choose Your Own AdventureBlood of the Zombies

alternative title(s): House Of Hell
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