Literature / Sorcery!
is a gamebook
series that is a spinoff of Fighting Fantasy
, comprising four volumesnote
- The Shamutanti Hills
- Kharé — Cityport of Traps
- The Seven Serpents
- The Crown of Kings
You have the option of playing as a wizard or a warrior; wizards are given lower initial stats
than warriors but can use the spell system, which consists of three-letter codes the player has to memorise and various items involved in the casting of spells. The series was designed chiefly to be played as one epic, but each volume can be played separately. It was written by Steve Jackson (the British one).
The plot is as follows: the Kingdom of Analand is given a magical crown, the Crown of Kings, that is passed around each year to a different kingdom as it grants the power to rule wisely. But something wicked happened: one night, Birdmen stole the Crown and took it to the cursed castle of Mampang, where rules the nefarious Archmage who has decided to rule over the land of Khakabad. Analand decides to send a single warrior/wizard in order to retrieve the Crown.The first three books have now been released by Inkle as an iOS Application
, with the rest due to be relased throughout 2013 onwards.
The series has twice been adapted into a multiplayer adventure for Tabletop RPG
campaigning, once for use with the d20 system and more recently for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system itself.
Sorcery! provides examples of the following tropes:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Present in Kharé. If you're not careful, you can end up in them.
- Adaptational Villainy: Vik in the book was an enigmatic but upstanding Nice Guy. In the iOS version, he's a slaver and trying to take over Kharé.
- Adaptation Expansion: The iOS versions add new areas, items, and even subplots, such as a goblin uprising that you can thwart.
- All There in the Manual: As noted above, the spellbook was originally printed separately from the gamebook itselfnote . Ultimately the books were reprinted with the spellbook included in the back.
- Always Chaotic Evil:
- The Red Eyes. Nasty little Jerkasses.
- Subverted with the Birdmen. They are introduced as a race of servants of the Archmage, but in the last book, you join forces with a group of rebels who oppose him.
- Anti-Frustration Features:
- If you miss any of the spell lines in Kharé, then the game provides an opportunity to go back to before you went down the wrong Story Branch on occasion (there is a character who will direct you to a different spell line depending on how many you already have, and there is an item that will take you directly to the location of the fourth line at any given time).
- All over the place in the iOS version; you can, at any point, rewind your progress back to any point on your journey or even pick a different path altogether, and you can retry any battle for a better outcome, even the ones you win.
- Anti-Magic: The Minimites are small sprites with an aura that prevents the use of magic at short range. It is quite problematic in the first book where one such creature, Jann, takes a liking to the protagonist and follow him around, refusing to leave even when asked to. Worst, the aura doesn't protect against hostile magic cast from outside it, only preventing spellcasting. Plus, since spells are Cast from Hit Points, you don't find out about the aura until the first try, costing you STAMINA, as the little twit never bothered to warn you.
- Bait-and-Switch Boss: Subverted: in The Crown of Kings, you reach the top of the Fortress only to find that it is a prison cell for Farren Whyde, who directs you to another fortress. If you reach this second fortress you meet an unnamed wizard who turns out not to be the Archmage; Farren Whyde was the Archmage in disguise, and you have to time travel back to your first meeting to fight him.
- Body Horror: Most of the effects of the Mutant Meatballs.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: The Archmage tricks you into entering his prison tower of your own accord. When you run into his badass wizard form, he locks you up without killing you or even taking your belongings, giving you the opportunity to escape. Then, when you confront him for the second time, he's stuck in the weak form of Farren Whyde and is forced to assume his demonic form to fight you, enabling you to kill him while he's still extremely vulnerable.
- Cast from Hit Points:
- How your magic works.
- The only other enemy who does this is a fox who can set itself on fire.
- Chekhov's Gun: Several times, making for nice continuity between the books.
- In book 1 you fight a highwayman; if you spare his life, he will meet you as an ally in the second book.
- There are a number of items that you can obtain in one book that won't have any purpose in that adventure, but will in subsequent books. Most notably, the locket you can find in The Shamutanti Hills won't have any obvious purpose at all until very late in The Crown of Kings if you remember the portrait within.
- Continuity Nod: One of the items you can use in spellcasting is a ring of green stone mined from Craggen Rock, the setting of The Citadel of Chaos
- Curb-Stomp Battle: When you encounter the wizard that appears to be the Archmage, he will do this to you regardless of whether you attack him with sword or spell.
- Darker and Edgier: The books were aimed at older readers than Fighting Fantasy, and the writing and illustrations reflected this.
- Demonic Possession: Although it's not specifically stated, it's heavily implied that the Archmage is actually a demon who possesses humans as People Puppets and gets them to do his bidding. You can raise Farren Whyde from the dead after the Archmage leaves his body, and he'll help you escape Mampang. Similarly, when you meet the wizard who you suspect of being the Archmage, he is never referred to as the Archmage, but rather the "spiky-haired fellow" or "the Sorcerer". When you confront him as Farren Whyde, he also refers to the Analander "knowing our secret", and being "more clever than any of us had imagined.".
- Disgusting Public Toilet: The Crown of Kings has one in the guard barracks, complete with illustration. You can search it if you want. There's nothing useful or interesting at all there, and you risk catching a disease by searching it.
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: In The Seven Serpents, you meet a tiny tornado. Guess what happens if you touch it? That's right, you get sucked into it.
- Door Stopper: The Crown of Kings, which contains 800 freaking references. It is close to being the thickest gamebook ever. In terms of the number of encounters and areas, the book isn't actually much bigger than your typical Fighting Fantasy gamebook. What makes it so large is the sheer number of times you have the opportunity to cast a spell. Each opportunity has five separate spell choices, and many of those require specific spell components to work. Numerous references are nothing more than instructions to deduct STAMINA and then being asked if you have the spell component you need.
- Elemental Powers: The Seven Serpents, namely there are the Earth Serpent, Fire Serpent, Water Serpent, Moon Serpent, Air Serpent, Sun Serpent and the Time Serpent.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: And you know what makes it even cooler? Having the zombie explode and each of his body parts attacks you separately!
- Expy: Not a character, but Kharé is clearly a stand-in for Port Blacksand.
- The Fair Folk: The Elvins in the first book. They are quite a nuisance, to say the least.
- Gotta Catch 'Em All: In Book 3, The Seven Serpents. Guess what you need to find and kill. You actually have to slay only six of them, as the Sun Serpent is Already Done for You.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: In the fourth book, you meet a freaking huge Hydra with the heads of GODS in a cave. It has huge stats and if you manage to hit it, it will automatically strike back and cause injury to you. What you're supposed to do is lose a round and the Hydra will be revealed to be an illusion.
- Informed Attribute: Kharé is painted by the narrative as a den of absolute depravity and evil. There are plenty of evildoers in the city, including the aforementioned Red Eyes, but there are also merchants and ordinary citizens who seem to just be living their lives, or are even benign. Even the priest of the God of Malice seems Affably Evil at absolute worst.
- Inn of No Return: One in Kharé, which serves up its customers in the stew.
- Involuntary Dance: The JIG spell, by playing a bamboo flute, allows you to give enemies the uncontrollable urge to dance a merry jig. It is easy to exhaust a creature or provide time to escape this way.
- Last Disc Magic: The ZED spell is described as possibly the most powerful spell in existence, although nobody knows its purpose as the only person in history to cast it disappeared without trace, and removes almost twice as much Stamina as any other spell. The game gives you the opportunity to cast it only once, near the end of the fourth book (it is possible to find out what it does before that).
Which you better — turns out that ZED is a spell for traveling through time. If you learn before what it does, you are specifically instructed to concentrate very hard on exactly what you want to achieve, and will do just that. If not... well, you get a completely random rolls whose results range from 2 different fates worse than death ( Either becoming stuck in the prehistoric past or in the distant future millions of years after life on the planet... with a bone-chilling note that "without control of the spell, you will eventually deplete your STAMINA trying to recast it, and have no hope of ever returning to your own time."), and several that players would probably consider that anyway (the cruelest probably being to return to paragraph 1 of the Shamutanti Hills! From the very end of the last book!).
Also notable for being so powerful that minimite antimagic auras can't stand it. You use it to escape from a prison cell in which you're trapped alongside the one from the first book, who is crippled and dying, and the final sight you see before being transported through time is his body convulsing in agony as his aura overloads with your magic.
- Lethal Chef: A literal one. You will meet a female Goblin cook in the Mampang fort who will prove to be quite dangerous.
- Magic Knight: You, if you play as a wizard.
- McGuffin: The Crown of Kings itself.
- The Millstone: Jann the Minimite. This little twerp will hang with you in the latter part of book 1. Why is it a problem? He has an aura that prevents you from using magic! Oh, and even though you eventually get rid of him at the end, he will return in book 4, preventing you from escaping from jail...
- Nintendo Hard: Certainly not a pushover. This series was meant for an older audience than the regular Fighting Fantasy readersnote . The fourth book pushes this trope Up to Eleven. As a group LP demonstrates, even a cautious player will likely rack up more deaths in that alone than in the rest of the series combined.
- No Fair Cheating: A crucial point of The Crown of Kings requires use of an item obtained in the previous book. To ensure honesty as much as possible, the book asks you how you obtained the item in question.
- Not Completely Useless: As mentioned above, the locket you find midway through the first book has no function at all except in one of the final encounters in the last book. In addition, every spell that is not the main six seems like it would be extremely situational, but they all have their uses.
- Not So Different: Several characters in the iOS versions of the first three books imply that the Crown of Kings is more than it seems, and the King of Analand is not the benevolent ruler he appears to be. Some explicitly say that the Archmage is not worse than the King.
- Old Save Bonus: Playing the previous books usually gives a huge advantage for the later ones (as you are allowed to carry over items and other benefits such as recognising characters from previous volumes), especially in the last book.
- Successfully killing all seven serpents stops you from being recognised when you reach the fortress in The Crown of Kings (by means of turning to a new reference any time you are referred to as "the Analander").
- Tracked automatically in the iOS version; playthroughs from the previous books are saved to Cloud and you can choose to load them when starting the next book. They also helpfully list all your possessions and any special knowledge you've gained.
- One-Winged Angel: The Archmage attempts one at the very end. It is not so cool.
- Our Elves Are Better: Black Elves. They certainly think they are, and don't take kindly to being made fools of, despite how easy it is. They're also usually antagonists.
- Our Giants Are Bigger: You meet a big unfriendly giant in the Shamutanti Hills. And a spell lets you summon a Giant from a severed tooth!
- Our Goblins Are Different: Not so much... except that by collecting their severed teeth, you can summon a Goblin from each one of them! Problem is, they're, ahem, quite weak fighters.
- Playing with Fire: One of the most powerfull spells lets you cast a fireball.
- Plot Hole: Incorrect use of the ZED spell in The Crown of Kings can send you as far back as the beginning of The Shamutanti Hills... with all your inventory, including several spell-casting items that you shouldn't be able to acquire for several books, intact. This problem was caused by the series not written as a whole, but one book at a time. It was thankfully corrected in the 20th Anniversary reprint Wherein you have ALL your items reset to the begining specificiations, money included, but you get to keep the ability scores at their new maximum.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: You will meet a witch (who does not take no for an answer when she will invite you for a drink) who'll serve you a drink... and will test your trust by poisoning her own mug.
- Portal Pool: In Kharé. They lead to the sewers.
- Quicksand Sucks: One spell allows you to create quick-sucking quicksand.
- Red Herring: Two in Kharé, with one involving an actual fish. At one point you see a fish in Kharé that seems to speak to you. If you try to listen to it, you'll hear something, but not enough to make out what it's saying. In another encounter, a voice from a well promises to share secrets if you throw gold coins down the well. Think you'll learn anything useful in either encounter? No, you won't. You'll just get laughed at by a fish in the former and waste your money in the latter.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: You are definitely not going to meet friendly reptiles here. Especially in the third book, where snakes will be part of your many problems.
- Series Continuity Error: The bottle of gas you get given in The Seven Serpents has become a bottle of liquid by the time you use it in The Crown of Kings.
- Serious Business: A puzzle in The Seven Serpents that requires you to remember the name of the god whose temple you're in says that you are "on your honour" not to check the reference that names them until you've guessed.
- Something Completely Different: These differ in several respects Fighting Fantasy, covering a multi-book adventure with a unique magic system. Even the setting and opponents are noticably different with a focus on non-standard monsters like Birdmen and Kakhabad in general having less of a "European" feel (Word of God has it Steve Jackson got the idea for the series after a trip to Nepal).
- Squishy Wizard: More or less averted. Playing as a warrior will give you higher Skill points, but not that much higher than the wizard's.note
- Time Travel: With the ZED spell. Also in the iOS adaptation of the second book, you're given an option to go back in time if you don't have all the spell lines, and in the third you bounce between the thriving past and the barren present frequently.
- Updated Re-release: The iOS versions.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Subverted in the first book. You can free a witch from being imprisoned by bandits; she will reward you with giving you a few items... and then summons a wooden golem to fight you just for the fun of it. Thanks a lot. On the other hand the golem is not too hard to beat and the items are very useful.
- Unwinnable by Design:
- Don't you dare let go of your beloved goddess. You will suffer the consequences.
- Or fail any of the tasks to find the spell lines in Kharé.
- Or follow the wrong way in the Mampang Fortress.
- Or fail to get the secret of opening any of the Throben Doors.
- If you're playing The Crown of Kings as a warrior instead of a wizard, it is still possible to win provided you don't miss the She-Satyrs right at the beginning of the book.
- Useless Useful Spell: So many cool spells! So little that you are given the option to use!
- Violation of Common Sense:
- In the first book's encounter with headhunters, if you succeed in testing your Luck you die no matter what (you jump over a pit only to be caught by another obstacle). You need to be Unlucky to stand any chance of surviving.
- The Archmage offers you the Crown of Kings in return for your sword and the condition that you leave at once. Does this work if you take him up on it? Of course not, but somehow it doesn't get you killed and is in fact the most direct and harmless way to finish the encounter.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Each one of the serpents has a weakness: the Fire Serpent's is sand, the Water Serpent's is oil, the Moon Serpent's is fire, the Sun Serpent's is rain, the Air Serpent's is having its empty body destroyed, the Earth Serpent's is losing contact with the ground, and the Time Serpent's only weakness is a special spell owned by the Swamp Goblins.
- Winged Humanoid: The Birdmen.
- Wretched Hive: Kharé. It's a toss up as to whether here or Port Blacksand from the mainstream FF continuity is a worse hellhole.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: In the Mampang castle, you will be stopped by a double-door engulfed in flames. It is an illusion that will only burn you if you believe it is real.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Subverted — it turns out you were in the right castle in the first place.