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Literature / City of Thieves (1983)

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What happens in the City of Thieves stays in the City of Thieves.
City of Thieves is the fifth entry of the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone.

You are a traveler who entered the city of Silverton, where at night the terrified inhabitants gather together in the barricated Inn. You're soon told that the reason are the terrible minions of the demonic Zanbar Bone, a terryfing undead sorcerer who has set his sights on Mirelle Carralif, daughter of the wealthy Owen Carralif, merchant and mayor of Silverton. The people are quacking in fear, and some even suggests to give Zanbar the girl, and that's where you come into play: Owen begs you to travel to the infamous town of Port Blacksand, the most wretched and corrupted town of Allansia, to seek the advice of Nicodemus, a reclusive sage who may know a way to permanently destroy the undead warlock. And thus, you'll face a perilous journey through the fetid streets of Port Blacksand, gathering items that will allow you to face the perils of the tower of Zanbar Bone and end its reign of terror once and for all.

City of Thieves follows the traditional Livingstone pattern, having the player looking for several MacGuffin as he navigates through the city, often facing dangerous and powerful enemies on his way through. This book also introduces for the first time the city of Port Blacksand, which will be used again in many other books, sometimes as a minor background.

Would later receive a Spiritual Successor in Midnight Rogue, another adventure set in Port Blacksand, as well as a sequel, The Port of Perils. Do not confuse with the novel City of Thieves.

City of Thieves (the gamebook) contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Then one under Port Blacksand is no exception, and houses nasty critters looking for their next meal.
  • All There in the Manual: The guide Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World states that the Serpent Queen was cursed into the current form by the Snake People.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Nicodemus' preferred way to deal with pesky or hostile adventurers.
  • Big Bad: Zanbar Bone, Night Prince and threat to Silverton.
  • Bow and Sword, in Accord: As usual you're armed with a sword and you will need a bow with silver arrows.
  • Butterface: The Serpent Queen has a gorgeous, scantly-clad body tipped with the head and long neck of a massive, venomous snake.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Nicodemus is a hermit mage like Yaztromo, but more absent-minded than him, to the point that he forgot to tell you which two of the three ingredients you looked for are required to kill Zanbar Bone, much to the player's frustration.
  • The Dead Have Eyes: Zanbar Bone, despite being a skeleton, still has green eyeballs in his skull. Good thing too, since there's where you're going to rub the ingredients to kill him.
  • Dem Bones: Zanbar Bone is, as the name implies, a living skeleton wizard, and loves to summon even more skeletons in combat.
  • Draconic Humanoid: The Lizardine is a humanoid dragon (who can even breath fire) you can run afoul of, especially if you stole one of his brooches.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Who needs Darkwood or a monster-infested dungeon to fight when a simple walk across Port Blacksand can provide you all the fighting you're looking for? Even shopkeepers are ready to fight you to death if you mess with them.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The one where Zanbar Bone resides, though north of Port Blacksand. Surprisingly, his quarters aren't even at the top, but rather halfway through.
  • Fake Difficulty: The fact that only two ingredients out of the three you have collected are required to defeate Bone and that you have to choose at random without any clue which of the two you will use is one of the most well-known instances of this trope in the Fighting Fantasy series.
  • The Ghost: Lord Azzur, dreaded master of Port Blacksand, doesn't directly makes an appearence, though it's mentioned and his personal carriage can nearly run you over at one point.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: You will need a bow with relative Silver Arrow, the three ingrediends needed to kill Zanbar (a black pearl, hag's hair and a lotus flower) and a special unicorn tattoo. Out of the three ingredients though, one is superfluous.
  • Hellhound: Zanbar's ferocious Moondogs, which guards his tower and are sent each night to torment Silverton. You fight a couple of them outside Zanbar's tower in a rather cheap and difficult boss battle.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: The Hag will make a stew out of you if you're killed by her.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: You can find and equip a shield, which grants you a SKILL bonus.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: One of the rooms of Zanbar's tower is filled with exquisite paintings and artistic works. Oh, and a drop-dead gorgeous vampire lady...
  • Nintendo Hard: As noted in many reviews, the fights in Port Blacksand can be rather difficult, finding the ingredients isn't a walk in the park and the final section of the game opens with a rather difficult fight and forces the player to guess which of the three possible combination is correct.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Zanbar Bone is an undead sorcerer who's Nigh Invulnerable, commands undeads and other monsters and even lacks a Soul Jar. Furthermore, the method for destroying him is complicated and obscure.
  • Planimal: One of the enemies in town is a massive beast made of leaves.
  • Pun: You can run into a group of small, goblin-like creatures called Bays playing a sport with a leather ball and a stick. They call it Bays-Ball.
  • Power Tattoo: In order to win against Zanbar, you must wear a tattoo of a unicorn on your forehead. Quite embarassing...
  • Random Encounters: On your way to Zanbar's tower, you must roll a dice to see which creature stumbles into you on the way.
  • Shrunken Head: Zanbar Bone wears one like a talisman around his neck, presumambly tied to his sorcery.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: Zanbar Bone's Stalkers can be permanently killed with a Silver Arrow to the heart, and the same thing can paralyze (for a while) Zanbar himself.
  • Snake People: The Serpent Queen has a human body with a massive snake head and neck on the top.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Zanbar kicks the plot by lusting after Mirelle Carralif from Silverton, and will send his Moon Dogs to kill the citizens unless his request is granted.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: The two Troll guards met near the exit of the town, Sourbelly and Fatnose.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: At one point, a sorcerer floors you with a lightning bolt. You're given the chance to throw the sword at him from the floor, though you'll miss if you fail a Luck roll.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: You have absolutely 0 clues on how to combine the three ingredients to kill Zanbar Bone, forcing you to guess at random.
  • Touch of Death: Zanbar's touch will kill you and turn you into a skeletal minion on the spot.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: The one in Zanbar's tower can be repelled with garlic.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Zanbar Bone has probably the oddest one yet: first, you must shoot him with a silver arrow to paralyze him, then you have to rub a special compount in his open eyes to permanently kill him. Except that Nicodemus forgot to tell you which two elements out of three must be combined to do so. Namely, Hag's Hair and Lotus Flower.
  • Wretched Hive: This novel introduces Port Blacksand as the greatest one in Titan, with other cities such as Kharé and Tak coming second.