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Literature / Blood Sword

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Blood Sword is a series of Gamebooks created by Oliver Johnson and Dave Morris and published by Knight Books in the late 1980s. It is set in the invented fantasy world of "Legend", the authors' own fantasy world, which was the setting for their Dragon Warriors role-playing game too. The storyline involves a group of adventurers who, after emerging victorious from a grueling adventure in the Battlepits of Krarth, stumble by pure chance upon the plot of the five True Magi, evil entities who were thought to have been destroyed during a catastrophic magic explosion centuries before, and are now trying to reincarnate on Earth and bring about eternal damnation. After surviving an attack from a couple of henchmen of Blue Moon (the eldest and most powerful of the Magi), the adventurers are given the scabbard of Blood Sword, the only weapon the True Magi actually fear, by an old man mortally wounded in the attack... and from thereon, begin their quest to reunite the pieces of the sacred sword and stop the True Magi before the end of the Millennium and the coming of Judgement Day.


The books are designed for multi-player, co-operative play, though there was also a single-player option, and one player could control more than one character at a time. A party could consist of up to four players, with each player being either a Sage, Enchanter, Trickster or Warrior. Each of the classes is well-balanced and offer a different playing style from the others. Characters advance in level, gaining power as the series progress, and are carried forward from book to book, giving the experience of one long story.

Each player is autonomous — often paragraphs will be for one player's eyes only, and he'll be privy to some information that he is free to withhold from the rest of his party.

The first three books were also adapted into a children's book series (also three books) called The Chronicles of the Magi in the late 1990s by Dave Morris. They feature several of the events and plot points used in the Blood Sword series, although with some change in the order they happen in. Two original characters, Altor and Caelestis (a warrior-monk and a thief), take what would be the player's role in the story.


The series has been reprinted by Fabled Lands publishing, with the first 4 having been done so far. The 5th is in Development Hell; Word of God giving permission to read pirated versions; not a good sign.

UPDATE: There is currently a Kickstarter for the reprinting and remaking of the 5th book as of mid-February 2019. As of March 16th, 2019; it met its goal. Estimated printing will be roughly October 2019.

Blood Sword provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Possibly. The gender of the adventurers is unspecified, so you can imagine some or all of them to be female. In the reprint, "he or she" is the third person.
  • Always Accurate Attack: Because the combat rules have your characters roll against their skill in attacking (a roll of equal or lower than your skill means a success), your characters (except the Sorcerer) can reach a high enough experience level that they will NEVER miss their attacks even without a magic weapon. Unfortunately there are quite a few enemies who are equally skilled and your character will be taking damage each round, unless you elect to dodge that turn.
  • Angel Unaware: An archangel and Thor are all seemingly human characters who help you out. Fatima is a very powerful sorceress who initially acts like defenseless woman.
  • Armor Is Useless: Armor may save you from the first book. After that each book has your enemies increase their hitting power tremendously to the point where the damage reduction from armour is meaningless.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: In this case, it's an arrogant samurai-wizard. Icon the Ungodly is from Yamoto, the expy Japan and he's about as arrogant as he is vengeful — which is really saying something. Your characters are astonished at the heights of his arrogance, when he pronounces that for your last duel it is appropriate that someone with the pedigree of the Angel of Death bears witness.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The True Magi; the "real" wizards who practiced a form of magic lost to the present; escaped from a botched Summoning Ritual to become Celestial Bodies, stars/comets in the sky that affect the world. They actually did it on purpose to learn The Music of the Spheres
  • Attack Backfire: In one of the gamebooks you can try dealing with a huge Djinni by blasting it with the Orb of Fire. He finds it refreshing and it doesn't end well for the character attempting it...
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The cover for each book features one or more heroes faced by huge, towering monsters. Some of them do actually appear in game. The cake goes to Snorrid from Book 5, a giant the size of a valley.
  • An Axe to Grind: In the 2nd book, if your party goes through the gate of carnage and has a Sage and a Warrior, they can find and make the most use of the legendary Axe of Heraklos. This is a magical golden axe that gives a bonus to aim in most character's hands. However if the Sage is present, he realizes that it's no standard magic axe and in the hands of a Warrior, the axe can be thrown up to 2 squares away and return to his hand.
  • Cool Sword: Most of the magic weapons you can find are a Cool Sword of some kind with a legendary background. There's an invisible, crystal sword used by Loge Skyrunner (Loki), Blutgetranker — a sword made from a sliver of the divine sword of the god Frey, a non-magical sword with a specially forged blade that's so flexible it can be worn as a belt, some generic magic swords that give decent damage bonuses and of course the Blood Sword and its twin, the Death's Claw.
  • Curse: Curses show up fairly frequently in the series. Examples include, Hungkuk the Pirate King who is doomed to forever sail across the dimensions (and you could end up sharing his fate...) and you can find a sacrificial knife on the altar of an evil god. If you decide to pick it up, then the curse on this knife will destroy all your current and future possessions except the Blood Sword parts (you can eat food and drink a potion on the spot though). To slightly make up for this major curse, the knife does give a small bonus to hit and damage.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Greek mythology; Norse mythology; Babylonian, Christianity and more. They'll have Fantasy Counterpart Culture names though. Often brought up in Contemplate Our Navels fashion. Good characters will discuss how Truth can have many forms. Evil characters will state men shape myth into what they want.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Crops up several times, and not in your favour:
    • Fighting Angvar in book four — though you get to stop before you die.
    • Fighting the hill-sized Snorrid (after he wakes up and insta-kills one of your party).
    • If you attract the attention of the prime followers of the true magi, before they start the summoning ritual that keeps them busy — they'll burn you to cinders easily.
    • And if you let the True Magi reform completely, you instantly die. Or even if you let them reform partially, but you get the chance to fight there.
  • Badass Normal: The Warrior and the Trickster.
  • Bag of Spilling: Total inventory loss between the 4th and 5th book; except for the Blood Sword. Although you keep your stats and experience.
  • Balancing Death's Books: You can't bring someone back from Sheol without leaving someone behind.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Most notably Circe, especially if you challenge her to a magic duel: since she gave her word to not cast lethal spells she'll just turn your sorcerer into a cockroach and step on him.
  • Big Bad: The True Magi, though Blue Moon is the most prominent.
  • Celestial Body: The True Magi are comets/stars whose light can influence things. And they can direct their servants personally.
  • Charm Person: The Servile Enthrallment spell. Not surprisingly, it's the hardest spell to cast.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Five Magi, whose colors are Blue, Red, Green, White and Gold. This is most prevalent in the final book, where you storm their stronghold to prevent their resurrection.
  • Combat Medic: The Sage.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The leader of the Crusader Principalities' Assassin sect (based quite blatantly on its real-life historical counterpart) is actually one of your main allies. He is a a follower of God's will, after all.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Several demons and gods in the series give special commentary on this should you beat them.
  • Deadly Game: Much of the campaign of Book 1 is this. The Magi send in various teams to the pits, but only the team holding the Emblem of Victory comes out alive.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The True Magi were humans once, but now they have become this. It was actually their plan all along.
  • Enemy Civil War: In Book 4, the best way to obtain the treasure of the two monsters near Euryale's tower consist in having the Trickster use his words to put them against each other. Quite a dick move, since they were buddies.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The end of the Millennium is coming. Somewhat played with in that you are not out to prevent it, but rather to make sure the True Magi cannot infest the world with their evil, so that when God comes to judge humanity, He will find it worthy of Heaven.
  • Evil Prince: Susurrien, a deposed prince and evil sorcerer who summons avatars of three evil gods on you after betraying you for the Sword of Death.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The True Magi and the various lesser Magi, including the ones you face in the second book. Evil Sorceresses include Psyche (who's actually Icon's sister Saiki) and Circe.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Despite having such cunning and intelligent people in your party like the Trickster and Sage, it takes the summoning of the Faltyn to find out that the sorceress Psyche is not that world's equivalent of a Greek. If you summon the Faltyn you find out that her name had been mispronounced and is actually Saiki, she's racially Yamato and she's the sister of your arch-enemy Aiken (a.k.a. Icon the Ungodly). Otherwise you never find out this information, despite her not disguising herself.
  • The Fair Folk: You can encounter Elves in the second book. You can resolve the situation by challenging them to a boardgame or you can fight them. If you have a Silver Crucifix you're advantaged, as they do not have souls and are easily repelled by it.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Necessary for the dubious honor of fighting Prince Susurrien's Avatars, as even if you somehow win, he'll have gotten away with no way to follow.
  • Fantastic Catholicism: Unlike the Fighting Fantasy series, this setting shows heavy traces of this at work. For example, in book 2 you can repeal some Elves with a silver crucifix, as they are soulless, while a later book allows you to dissolve some ogres with holy water, and you're frequently pitted against entities that could be described as heathen deities and win. The fact that some of your greatest allies are followers of the setting's Fantasy Islam and are clearly portrayed as equally in the right would push this more towards Fantastic Abrahamic Monotheism, though.
  • Fantasy Metals: In Book 5, your party can find mithril armor. This gives the best armor rating in the game. For the Enchanter, they can get a suit of electrum alloy which has an enchantment to recover some hit point after each battle.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: In Sheol, you can encounter a village of souls who are pestered by undead called "Dead Eaters" that come each day to drag them away, presumably to such a destiny.
  • Fighting a Shadow:
    • It's mentioned in the last book that killing a demon sends it to Hell for 100 years... however, if you succeed in your quest, no demon will ever enter the physical plane again.
    • Susurrien uses Magi Babble to explain that he created avatars of evil gods that weren't really them.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Red Death's personal domain.
  • Food as Bribe: You can get past the fearsome giant Garm by offering him a honey cake.
  • Forgot About His Powers: There are times when the Enchanter apparently forgets s/he has a teleporting spell.
  • Genre Shift: The series starts as a typical Sword & Sorcery, moves into All Myths Are True, and then Messiah Creep has the last book somewhat reminiscent of The Last Battle.
  • Ghost Ship: You encounter one in book 3 and later in book 4.
  • Gotta Catch Them All!: Of the "collect the parts" style; starting in the second book you are collecting the scabbard, hilt, and blade of the Blood Sword; a.k.a. the Sword of Life.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: The assassins from Book 1 are all black body suits, throwing stars and, according to a victorious barbarian, jump kicks. Of interest is that they are likely NOT from Yamato. In the Dragon Warriors RP Gg (which Bloodsword evolved out of), yes Yamoto has the assassin class, but they stay in Yamato. Assassins encountered are either locals or from the world's expy of India or Arabia.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Warrior class is essentially a questing knight and should act accordingly. If he does something cowardly or dishonourable, then there's a chance he'll get an experience point deduction penalty.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • You cannot beat Angvar, aka Tor; a.k.a. Thor. But he will respect you if you survive his beating down on you. (and even more so if you surrender only after you fought your fullest, i.e. more than half of your HP is gone.)
    • It SAYS you can turn to the "beat him" page; but the Demon-Lord Tirikelu in Book 5 is stronger than the Avatars in book 3, immune to magic, you can only fight him one-on-one, and he hits you five times per round. Number-wise, that's not happening.
  • Hope Is Scary: In book 4, your guide describes hope as the cruelest of the evils to escape Pandora's Box since it only makes the others more painful.
  • Ignored Enemy. Sadly enough, it is possible to give the cold shoulder to both Skymir (by neglecting to pick up his body parts, though they can make the endgame safer) and even the True Magi themselves (by defending from their cultists until the time runs out and thus leaving them without the necessary mana), which sadly turns both of them into Anti-Climax Boss enemies. (Though in the latter case, Blue Moon will still try something.)
  • Immortality: The books have almost every version, including an unkillable (but defeatable) pirate called Hungkuk the Pirate King.
  • Incendiary Exponent: Icon and his ever-annoying Fire Armor that damages whoever hits him.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Blood Sword, the sword created by the Archangels to destroy the living dead. It starts off as the Sword of Plot Advancement (and just losing the pieces gives a Non Standard Game Over), but once you complete it, the game admits you are now strong enough to challenge the True Magi without it. Indeed, it is possible to beat the final book without ever using it; but only if you do everything perfectly. That said, you want to have the Blood Sword. It has the greatest bonuses out of any weapon you can find and better yet, if you are a Warrior you can have it and its twin for double the effects.
  • Jerkass: You will hate the Faltyns.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Djinn from the third book. If you help him have his revenge and then waste your wish half-way through to help an imprisoned scholar, he'll still decide to stick around and bring you back to the city on his own.
  • Keystone Army: The Gray Lady in Book 2 is protected by a small group of knights. If you manage to kill her with magic, the knights cease to move and are defeated.
  • Kick the Dog: In Book 4 the Trickster can, at one point, leave his companions to die on a hostile island and save himself, all without the smallest sliver of remorse, nor some sort of karmic retribution.
  • Kill It with Fire: An item you can find in the first book allows you to shoot a deadly fireball at the enemy. It's perfect for dispatching the Seven-In-One.
  • Light Is Not Good: One of the true Magi, White Light. Underlined by the guardian of his sanctuary, a life-consuming Humanoid Abomination.
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Magic scrolls and other magical items tend to be single use, often involving a special decision point prompt for when you can try to use an item.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: The massive, self-reviving Gristun guards the access to the castle of the Big Bad in Book 2. In Book 5 the sanctuary of the True Magi, safe for two of them, are guarded by some monsters to protect the MacGuffin inside.
  • Master of Illusion: Blue Moon. Also Circe, from the 4rth book.
  • Matryoshka Object: The final boss of the 3rd book is a semi-divine statue called the Seven-in-One. It lives up to its name as each time you kill it, it breaks apart to reveal a smaller but much quicker statue inside. If you still have the fire-throwing item though you can kill it before it can split apart.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The finale of Book 2 pits you against the horde of servants of the Big Bad. If you don't have a series of (missable) items that allows you to summon warriors to your aid, you and your party will die in the ensuing battle.
  • Nintendo Hard: These gamebooks are hard. They become really hard when you don't have a Sage.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: In Book 4, your characters can imitate Achilles and take a dip in the river Styx. This has a chance of killing you instantly, but if you are lucky (roll a 5 or a 6 on one die, otherwise you're dead.) then you have a 1 in 6 chance of taking no damage from an attack when you are hit in battle. You then have the option of bathing in the Styx again. Your chance of dying goes up (you must roll a 6 on one die), but if you succeed then you get a 2 in 6 chance of being immune to a strike. If you are still greedy for more invulnerability, well 3rd time in the Styx is automatic death. As well, unfortunately you will lose your invulnerability at the end of the book when you receive a brand new body.
  • Non Standard Game Over: The majority of "game over" endings are the result of all the player characters dying by running out of Endurance points or due to a catastrophic decision point. However, it is entirely possible early on in Book 1 to miss out on selecting any pennants and simply be forced to seek adventure elsewhere.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: In the remake of the first book, Sages can now Levitate away if they Exorcise the spirit of The Man Behind the Man instead of being trapped forever. But only the Sage, Immediate Deliverance, a.k.a. Teleport, can't go far enough.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • If you can get the Charm Person spell, Servile Enthrallment, to work; unless you command that character to attack its friends (which requires another roll), it will not attack you anymore and you can kill it at your leisure. Latter book "boss" enemies are explicitly immune.
    • One should note, the fight against three avatars of evil gods summoned by Susurrien is possible when you consider two of them are not immune; but it would take rolls higher than 9 or 10 to succeed.
    • Some enemies can do the same on you, including Nasu, an avatar of a disease god. His touch can instantly kill you by infecting you with an insta-kill disease, unless you resist it.
    • Snorrid will instantly squash the player who walked on his body with the shiny new boots, and likely will do the same in the following combat to the rest of the party.
  • Only Mostly Dead: There are very few one-use items that can being someone back from the dead; if their body isn't destroyed; and they're all gotten (and can be missed) in the first 2 books. One can also reverse a ritual to turn a party member into a zombie in the second book; resulting in a resurrection, this makes that party member stronger because they "no longer fear death."
  • Orcus on His Throne: The True Magi, being Celestial Bodies and all. In fact, the main objective of the final book is preventing them from leaving said throne. The most direct action they ever took was to send a powerful thrall to recover the Blood Sword fragment from you in Book 2.
  • Orphean Rescue: In the 4th book; you have to go to Sheol to get the Blood Sword back. The only person who can send you there in a way that allows you to return wants you to bring back a loved one of his.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: There's at least one opponent of this type in every book: Skrymir in Book 1, Thanatos in 2, the female cyclops in 3, Typhon and Garm in 4, Snorrid in 5. The latter greatly outsizes the former giants mentioned, being the size of a valley.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The first fight of the final book is with a small patrol of classic, ordinary Tolkienian orcs... but with the amusing twist that, although they're meant to be mooks, since they've been scaled to still be a bit of a challenge at this point, they would wipe the floor with any character or group from the beginning of the series.
  • Plaguemaster: Plague Star. Also Nasu, on a smaller scale...
  • Recurring Boss: Icon will make your life hell in both Books 1 and 3. And even Book 4, while he's at it.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Icon lives and breathes this trope...
  • Salt Solution: The purifying powers of salt are mentioned. In the final book, you can partly disrupt the ritual to summon the Magi by spilling holy salt on the circle.
  • Scars Are Forever: In the 3rd book, if you are still on the djinn when the cult uses powerful fire-based magic on it, your party will be badly burnt and scarred leading to a permanent reduction in your hit points. Permanent until you are brought back from the land of the dead with completely new bodies.
  • Schmuck Bait: Subverted in the final book: while you're riding a boat down an underground river you stumble into an island, containing the altar of the Sea God Kraken with some loot. Genre Savvy players would expect a swift, tentacley retribution if they serve themselves, but it turns out that pillaging the altar is the right choice, as you show no fear for a long-forgotten heathen god. If you leave the altar untouched, Kraken will show up in the following segment.
  • Shock and Awe: The Enchanter's most powerful spells, Sheet Lightning and Nemesis Bolt, are all electricity-based.
  • Shout-Out: In the first book; you encounter a group of Barbarians who comment that the Battlepits aren't as hard as Deathtr..., he doesn't finish; but it's likely Deathtrap Dungeon.
  • Simple Staff: The Sage has a staff as his weapon of choice. Apparently you can use it to paralyze your opponent for a turn. All the other characters are armed with swords instead.
  • Sinister Scimitar: Averted, the Death's Claw is described and illustrated as a scimitar but is one of the weapons capable of saving the world. According to the mention that it's the twin of the Blood Sword, that'll mean that the Blood Sword as well is a scimitar.
  • So Last Season: Your enemies will really scale up each book — this means someone like Skyrmir, the legendary chief of the frost giants and deadliest opponent in the 1st book (to the point where you get bonus experience if you kill him), is about equal to a Selentine Knight, a respectable but not especially dangerous potential foe in the 3rd book.RPG books, with a few changes and more fleshing out.
  • Staying Alive: Icon just won't die. He'll animate his body/turn to mist if you "kill" him; then regenerate. Not even directly getting thrown into the Gate of Death killed him. It's implied that his final defeat he lets you kill him permanently since he thought it was poetic.
  • Take a Third Option: Every book has a final boss (1 - Skyrmir [though he's an optional opponent], 2 - Witch King, 3 - Seven-in-One, 4 - Icon the Ungodly, and 5 - The True Magi). With the exception of Icon the Ungodly, every final boss can be instantly defeated without swinging a sword at them. The True Magi and Skyrmir can even be defeated without entering combat at all.
  • Taking You with Me: In the 2nd book, your party may find itself at the mercy of a powerful wizard on a flying carpet who's delivering them to his fortress. If a Warrior is present he can threaten to cut the carpet with his sword, which scares the Magi into carrying them where they want to.
  • Threatening Shark: In Book 4 you can encounter a great white shark while at sea, and each character has a different way to get rid of him.
  • Took a Level in Badass: At the end of Book 4, your characters have been changed by their return from the Land of the Dead. Each one of them gets a new ability. The Sage has improved skill in healing, the Trickster gets a greatly improved dodge, the Enchanter has an easier chance of casting a spell, and the Warrior gets a major upgrade. He no longer gets a skill penalty when unarmed and can use a weapon in each hand for dual attacks (including having two of the Infinity +1 Sword).
  • Thanatos Gambit: One of the possible endings of the series. Remember, the final judgement is minutes away so if the last of the True Magi currently exists only as an illusion in your mind, dying before he can become physical can win you the game.
  • Troll Bridge: One of the trials of the first game forces you to choose between two bridges: the shortest one pits you against an easier guardian but will remove all your items, while the longer bridge forces you to duel a more dangerous guardian, but won't touch your stuff.
  • The Undead: The Blood Sword is particularly effective against them... and the True Magi are among their number!
  • The Underworld: Sheol, the setting of half of the fourth book. It is surprisingly safe if you know what to do, featuring at most a couple of battles (one of which against the Final Boss).
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In Book 5, there's a winged monster that can take you to the city of the Magi, but tries to attack you first. If you choose to spare him upon landing, the bastard will attack you when you're trying to cross a narrow bridge.
  • Updated Re-release: The Fabled Lands Publishing reprint has a few corrections made. One of the reasons the 5th book is taking longer is that it will have the most updates.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: The Blood Sword and Demon's Claw can both destroy an undead with a single blow if you're lucky. Is the only way to put down the continuously-regenerating True Magi in the final battle.
  • Worthy Opponent: Icon seems to consider you this after you defeat him for the final time in Book 4.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Multiple Adjust scrolls (found early in the first dungeon) can make the Enchanter able to keep in mind and cast the best spell in the game in both the first 2 rounds of a combat with negligible chance of failure. One shot will kill almost anything, 2 will kill everything except Angvar.


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