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Literature / Creature of Havoc

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You will certainly go through a lot of havoc before you face this guy.

Creature of Havoc is the 24th entry in the Fighting Fantasy line of Gamebooks. Written by Steve Jackson, co-founder of Fighting Fantasy with Ian Livingstone. It was his last book created for the series in its original run; his next entry in the series, Secrets of Salamonis, would be published 36 years later for the Scholastic era.

This book is unlike the others. While most of the gamebook entries have you as a regular human adventurer fighting monsters, in this story, YOU are a monster. A savage, barely-sentient monster who packs a powerful punch - he can instakill any enemy if he rolls a double - and starts without memories about who he is, what he is doing here. Stuck in a dungeon full of traps, other hostile monsters and adventurers ready to kill you without hesitation.

Creature of Havoc is known for its storyline, a deep backstory and an infamously difficult adventure.

Creature of Havoc provides examples of:

  • Artificial Insolence: The player character is a Monstrous Humanoid who's governed by instinct until the Vapour of Reason grants it control over its own actions. Several times, the player is given the illusion of a choice, only for it to be overridden by chance or by the option that's most appealing to an animalistic intelligence.
    But instead of responding to your wishes, your body has ideas of its own.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: If the Creature accepts to drink a potion from Quimmel Bone, it will make him go temporarily unconscious and the skeleton physician will cut out his heart with scalpels. The Creature will then see Quimmel drop his still-beating heart in a jar, his last vision before death.
  • Big Bad: Zarradan Marr, the Necromancer and Sorcerous Overlord who covets the Vapours to gain supreme power.
  • Big Eater:
    • The Creature sure loves to eat. Especially the flesh of the creatures it kills. Especially Hobbit meat. Happily, these meals usually restore its Stamina.
    • One dangerous item is a cursed cape that makes anybody who wears it constantly very hungry. If the Creature wears it, he will become even more ravenous.
  • Bowdlerise: The protagonist loves to kill Hobbits and eat their flesh. In the French translation, this was replaced with him killing the Hobbits for their "pâté" food that they all keep in their pockets.
  • The Brute: Thugruff, the powerful half-troll who trains Marr's soldiers and is a Genius Bruiser tactician.
  • But Thou Must!: Even after the Vapour of Reason gives you free will, the gamebook will sometimes give you "options" that are purely illusory. That's especially true if you meet Hobbits: choosing to not kill/eat them generally results in some variation of "You fail to restrain yourself" and being sent to the Fight page anyway.
  • Consummate Liar: Daga Weaseltongue "speaks lies like truth", even when he volunteers information in gratitude for saving his life. It takes an elf-crafted magic charm to force the truth out of him.
  • Cool Ship: The Galleykeep. A large flying boat that is the main base of Big Bad Zarradan Marr.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Things can go wrong against the Creature so much it can almost become funny. Or just more depressing. Lampshaded by a fortune-teller who takes one look at your cards and confirms that fate has dealt you a raw hand.
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite the title Creature of Havoc, the character shown on any of the covers is not him. The original one has Zarradan Marr sitting at his office from the Netherworld as seen through his mirror-gate, the new cover shows the Devourer, a furry albino beast met as an enemy. The actual Creature of Havoc is described as being reptilian and covered with scales in the story. A few illustrations show his shadow and give a vague indication of his appearance.
  • Creepy Good: The Daughters of Dree look threatening and wicked, but they will help you. Heavily Downplayed, since it's conditional on completing a Fetch Quest for something that they deliberately neglect to tell you what or where it is.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: At the beginning, you are at the mercy of your violent bloodthirsty impulses and will kill many sentient creatures in your path. The very first character you meet is a scared dwarf and the best option to do is... directly decide to kill him, because he will attack and wound you otherwise, and it ends with him dead anyway.
  • Crystal Weapon: The Crystal Club, naturally. It inflicts a single One-Hit Kill and shatters.
  • Cycle of Hurting: Several paths lead to recursive loops that inflict an inescapable Non Standard Game Over by slowly exhausting your Stamina. Standouts include facing an endless horde of Chaos Warriors, being cornered by a Mad Doctor skeleton with Resurrective Immortality, and beating yourself to death against a prison door if you can't bribe your way out.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Dree village is shown as being predominantly of color black, and is shown as a place of evil, despair and danger.
  • Death by Irony: After you save his life, Grog dryly says that it's foolish to get involved in another man's fight and that he would have left you to fight your own battle if your positions were reversed. Later, when you're facing certain death by a horde of frogmen, he jumps in out of nowhere and saves your life at the cost of his own.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: What would it be like to be a big monster in a dungeon? Yes, it is cool to be a powerful brute and crush Puny Humans... but it also means being at the mercy of the other savage monsters, dangerous traps and the dungeon owners who will make sure to keep you in check.
  • Dem Bones: Quimmel Bone, the skeleton physician. He likes to hide in plain sight as an anatomical skeleton, and can't be defeated in combat thanks to his Resurrective Immortality.
  • The Dragon: Vallaska Roué has supervised Marr's enterprises since he first became an evil overlord, recruited the other major villains, and is absolutely loyal to his boss. Zharradan has no such loyalty towards him, and in the Bad Ending, the Creature's first task is to execute him for allowing it to reach Zharradan.
  • Early Game Hell: Just getting out of the labyrinth at the start is hard enough, especially since you're not fully in control of the Creature's actions in the beginning.
  • Embarrassing Last Name: Zarradan Marr was embarrassed about his former "Dree" last name, so he used a very specific magic spell to erase it from people's minds and replace it with "Marr" since he was so passionate about Marrangha.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Whether you're exploring a trap- and monster-infested dungeon, walking the streets of a Wretched Hive, or just traveling through an ostensibly peaceful stretch of woodland, never let your guard down.
  • Evil Genius: The undead half-elf wizard Darramous is one of Zharradan's most cunning, cruel and dangerous followers. The skeleton physician Quimmel Bone also serves this role in Zharradan's company on the Galleykeep while Darramous is overseeing the dungeons.
  • Fortune Teller: Rosina is an elderly woman of Dree who sells fortunes for a fee. She keeps a Crystal Ball, but uses a deck of cards to read the Creature's future and dispenses accurate, helpful advice. (She even throws in a free rope, since she knows you'll need it.)
  • Friendly Shopkeeper: If you pull the shopkeeper out of hiding and show him some money, he overcomes his fear of you, happily stocks you up with useful goods, and leaves you with some traveling advice.
  • Golden Ending: Most endings involve the Creature's death or enslavement, but you can also choose to join Zharradan Marr's legion or even become his Commander-in-Chief. The best ending, defeating Zharradan and regaining your humanity, requires extensive preparation, several specific items, and a lot of pure luck.
  • Grumpy Old Man:
    • The alchemist at Coven brusquely brushes you off and refuses to even look at you until he takes his time finishing a project. Abruptly zig-zagged when he does look and realizes what kind of creature he's been rude to.
    • Nimbicus the Weather Wizard is very grumpy when the Creature bursts into his room, interrupting him in his reading. At least he will let the protagonist go, though not without one last opportunity to complain at large.
  • Guide Dang It!: Two easily-overlooked items are necessary to defeat Zharradan: The elven dust and the crystal club, both of which are only found in the starting dungeon and can be missed by pure chance.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Strangely, a lot of named characters are specifically described as half-human hybrids. Darramouss is an undead Half-Elf wizard, Thugruff is a Half-Troll army commander and Grognam Clawtooth is a Half-Orc. Even Marr is a Half-Demon.
  • Hated Hometown: When Zharradan Marr struck off on his own, he came to see the Daughters of Dree as an embarrassment and their magic as primitive. He magically erased all memory and record of his original surname Dree and cut ties with the town, and they return the sentiment.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Grog will attack the Toadman leader in order to distract his soldiers from you. He gets killed in his attempt, but it gives you enough time to run away.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Eren Durdinath, known by men as Stittle Woad, is desperately searched for by the Big Bad. It is home to the White-Haired Elves, the most magically powerful and secretive of their kind. It is protected from detection and intrusion by enchantments that even the Big Bad cannot overcome, but he hopes to bypass them via an aerial attack.
  • Horrifying Hero: The Creature is a scaly, spiny Monstrous Humanoid powerhouse who enjoys a spot of casual cannibalism. He can also risk his life to protect a helpless victim from a mob and ultimately rid the world of a depraved Sorcerous Overlord.
  • Horse of a Different Color: The Ophidotaur is pretty much a reptilian horse-lizard hybrid with a stinger tail, which you can ride if you can get on it.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight:
    • Thugruff, Captain of Zharaddan Marr's forces, with an impressive SKILL of 11. And even if you manage to bring his STAMINA down to 2 points, he will summon reinforcements that will overwhelm you with a Zerg Rush.
    • The Master of Hellfire, whose SKILL stat is 14. And even if you defeat him, he will self-resurrect and kill you instantly a couple pages later.
    • Quimmel Bone might have average fighting stats, but will always reconstitute himself and attack you again, endlessly.
  • Human-Demon Hybrid: The leading theory on Zharradan Marr's paternity is that one of the Witches of Dree cavorted with one of the demons they summoned in a Black Mass. (The other is that he himself is a creation of marrangha.)
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: The Creature can often regain Stamina by eating. It can eat many of the creatures it kills, but can also acquire travel rations.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In a way, you can call the Creature a cannibal, as he eats sentient beings. He eats a Hobbit that is later revealed to be a transformed human, just like he is.
  • I Have No Son!: The three Daughters of Dree found and raised Zharradan Marr, but disowned him after he proved far too evil, even for their tastes. They even help you take him down.
  • Implacable Man: Quimmel Bone cannot be killed. No matter how many times you destroy him in a fight, he will always put himself back together to attack you. It will continue until you die.
  • It Can Think: When you wander into Coven, the townsfolk take one look at the hulking, scaly, spiny, man-eating beast on the street and run for cover. You can then go shopping, to the utter bewilderment of the clerk who accepts your coin.
  • I Owe You My Life: Downplayed since he never outright professes loyalty to you, but after you save Grog from the mob of villagers, he becomes your steadfast companion.
  • Just Between You and Me: Zarradan Marr goes in a long monologue congratulating you for managing to find him, and explains many things. Even the narration adresses this, saying that this is like a father teaching his son.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Nimbicus might be helping Zharradan Marr's nefarious plot, but he's mostly just interested in his own studies, and is one of the very few villains who will allow the Creature to retreat from combat rather than go for the kill. Which is lucky, since he can mop the floor with it.
  • Living Shadow: One enemy met near the beginning is the Shadow Stalker. It will hurt you. A lot. And that's the best option, since it's intangible and can't be fought, but can harm you by attacking your shadow.
  • Luck Stat: "Trying your luck" is the only way to survive at several points, and can also be used to gain a second chance at a failed roll. "Trying your luck" also depletes your Luck Stat. Good luck.
  • MacGuffin: The three magical elven Vapours, which Zharradan captured the Galleykeep specifically to pursue. Specifically, the Vapour of Elven Magic; he's happy to find that the Creature has found and used the Vapours of Reason and Language instead of him, since they're of more use to the Creature.
  • Mad Doctor: Quimmel Bone. If you are stupid enough to ask for his services, you will pay the price.
  • Mad Scientist: Zarradan Marr is this combined with Evil Sorcerer, trying to create new monsters out of grafting different creature body parts, along with magic. This technique is called Marrangha.
  • The Many Deaths of You: This book has a HUGE number of instant-death sections. Get skewered by spike traps, fall and drown in toxic water, executed by tree men, poisoned by forest imps, decapitated and prepared as food, shot with arrows, stabbed by a living shadow, kidnapped by organ traffickers... the list goes on and on.
  • Mirror Monster: Zarradan Marr is one, hiding in the Netherworld from behind a mirror you need to examine correctly so to have him appear.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: The book has several bad endings of this sort:
    • In one of them, an unnamed Wizard in red robes puts a Control Creature spell on you, making you his slave for the rest of your life.
    • In another, a witch gives you the Potion of Obedience, after which you come to see her as your benevolent master, and remain with her for the rest of your life.
    • Downplayed in another ending, in which you become one of the henchmen of the evil sorcerer Zharradan Marr.
  • Mystical White Hair: The salient trait of the White-Haired Elves, who are even more divinely favoured and magically adept than other elves.
  • Nintendo Hard: One of the hardest — if not the hardest Fighting Fantasy entry, demanding extremely careful resource management, extensive use of the Luck Stat mechanic, and a hefty dose of pure chance to complete.
  • No Fair Cheating: This book is especially harsh about this: there are many paragraphs that can only be accessed with a number that you have to add/deduct from your current number and are unreachable otherwise.
  • No Ontological Inertia: If you succeed your quest and defeat the Big Bad, his magic vanishes, undoing all his spells and turning you back to the human you once were.
  • Non Standard Game Over: If you are unable to defeat Zarradan Marr, he will force you to become one of his henchmen. The description tries to make it look as not so bad, but it's obvious it's not a very good ending.
  • Plot Coupon That Does Something: The Creature needs to find the Vapours of Reason and Language in order to control its own actions and understand vital conversations. The Vapour of Reason is a bit snarky about being obligated to grant its gifts to a misbegotten monster.
  • Oh, Crap!: Downplayed, but Zharradan's sudden fear and backpedaling when he realizes you have a means of defeating him is quite satisfying, after everything he's put you through.
  • One-Hit Kill: If you roll doubles on the dice when calculating your Attack score in combat, your monstrous strength automatically kills your enemy on the spot.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Exaggerated by the White-Haired Elves, even more magically powerful than normal elves, the most magical of all races. They are outright haughty and condescending towards the other race and keep to their Hidden Elf Village, where their queens receive divine blessings to support their rule.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: The Vapours are powerful spirits birthed by the Queen of the White-Haired Elves upon divine impregnation. They serve as the McGuffin of the game, for whoever uses them can gain the power bestowed by the god who conceived them. Zharradan Marr covets the Vapour of Magic to gain supreme power. You need the Vapour of Reason to control your own actions and the Vapour of Language to become able to speak again. Zharradan Marr uses you to bring the last one to him.
  • Protective Charm: The Elven Dust bestows resistance to Black Magic to the Creature if it becomes coated in it. This is the only way to No-Sell Zharradan's attack.
  • Red Herring: From what you saw in the intro, you would think the Creature would eventually go to the Ponds of Stittle Woad to become a human using their magic, the culmination of a quest for humanity. Turns out he doesn't need that, since he was originally a human who is maintained in a monster form by Marr's magic.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: You are a scale-covered reptilian monster with violent impulses and a thirst for blood. Zig-zagged when you receive the gift of Reason and can choose to act more benevolently.
  • Required Party Member: You will not be able to make it to the endgame without Grog the Half-Orc at your side. He will save your life from the Toadmen and have a Vapour with him, that you eventually carry.
  • Sealed Evil in Another World: You defeat Zharradan by destroying the portal to the netherworld where he built his private study, stranding him there forever.
  • Shoot the Mage First: Necessary to survive one encounter, since the Squishy Wizard goes down in one hit but can Mind Control you into submission if you don't. Unfortunately, it comes down to pure chance whether you're able to get that one hit in.
  • The Speechless: The Creature can't speak, though it can (eventually) understand language perfectly well. Grog makes a game of asking yes-or-no questions to tease information out of you.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Possibly justified because the Creature is a low-intelligence monster, but at too many times, the protagonist can easily be trapped in a deadly situation without an option to do something as simple as turning away. When in Dree, the Creature will not be able to just ignore a suspicious man who drags him in a dark alleyway and trap him in a net to kill him and cut off his organs.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The protagonist is not just a regular monster, he was the captain of the Galleykeep that Marr took over. He would either serve him, or be subject to his experiments. Since he rebelled, he was turned into a monster.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The crystal club is a one-use item that guarantees a One-Hit Kill. It's also the only thing that lets you defeat Zharradan in the finale.
  • The Unfought: You never get to face and fight Vallaska Roué despite him being teased as one of Marr's main henchmen.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: Escape from the starting dungeon relies on a magical amulet that detects secret doors, which has the reader skip a specific number of paragraphs ahead from any entry that includes a specific sentence, allowing access to a more helpful version of the entry. That sentence was omitted from one of the paragraphs, although the alternate version is there for anyone who guesses to look. This error was finally fixed in Wizard Books' 2002 reprint, although their later 2010 reprint and Scholastic's 2018 edition both had the wrong text again.
  • Unwinnable by Design: This game follows a very narrow winning path and you can very easily screw up your game. Examples are:
    • If you fail to pick up the pendant, the ring of holy blessing, or the ring of truth, you will be stuck eventually.
    • If you fail to pick up the parchment clue, you won't be able to enter Marr's secret realm.
    • If you fail to get the Orc on your side, you will fall into an inescapable trap and die.
    • If you don't bath in elven dust, Marr will put a spell on you when you find him.
    • One very cruel one: to defeat the final boss, you must find a crystal orb. Problem is: the game gives you the option to use it well before that and it will be destroyed after one use, so you can't defeat the final boss and lose!
  • Was Once a Man: You, as well as quite a few of the monsters and hapless hobbits that you face in the starting dungeon, courtesy of Zharradan's penchant for using Forced Transformation as a form of Cruel Mercy.
  • Weak-Willed: The few occasions that the Creature is targeted with a Mind Control or Charm Person effect make for an immediate Non Standard Game Over. Since it was created by the Big Bad via Forced Transformation as a Super-Soldier prototype, the susceptibility to mind-control might be a deliberate feature.
  • We Can Rule Together: When the Creature threatens to destroy Marr's mirror-gate with a crystal club — the only object that can harm it — Marr is obviously worried and tells the protagonist that, if he joins him, he will be allowed to rule over a large part of the land he will conquer. Of course, he only says it to try to gain enough time to teleport away.
  • The Weird Sisters: The Daughters of Dree, a trio of old wicked-looking witches, go all-out on the Wicked Witch aesthetic and assign quests in the name of mysterious higher powers. However, they are on your side.
  • When Trees Attack: The Creature will get killed by the Tree Spirits, a race of sentient trees, if he gets in their territory.
  • White Sheep: The Daughters Of Dree are much less malevolent than the others populating their village.
  • Wicked Witch: Dree is a village solely populated by evil witches, who use travellers for their foul experiments.
  • Witch Classic: The Daughters of Dree only need a pointy hat and broom to look like fairytale witches.