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Literature / Crypt of the Sorcerer

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You're going to hate this guy.

Crypt of the Sorcerer is the 26th entry of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, written by Ian Livingstone.

Everything seems to be going well in Allansia, when your home village of Chalice hears of dreadful news from the far east: tales of invasions, plagues, blight and terror are creeping westward. Worried, you decide to consult your old friend, Yaztromo the Wizard, who tells you that the dreaded Chaos Sorcerer Razaak was freed from his tomb, and now he's free to unleash hell on Allansia just like he tried to do when he was alive. There's only one way to oppose him, and that would be finding the legendary Sword of Razaak, which was used once to kill him and then was lost somewhere in the east. Of course, it's up to you to start an extremely dangerous quest: you must travel east, unearth the Sword, find a way to pierce through Razaak's magical defenses and then destroy the evil Sorcerer once and for all, saving Allansia from his grasp.

On paper, it sounds like your standard Fighting Fantasy gamebook, right? Well, not quite. This book is infamous for being probably the most frustating ever written by Livingstone: the linearity of the path which is Livingstone's Signature Style is taken up to eleven, forcing you to walk a very narrow path to victory, collect a specific series of clues and items without knowing what they're going to do which will allow you to survive the series of gruesome deaths waiting for you behind each corner. Last but not least, the Final Boss is probably the hardest one ever put in a gamebook, and not in a good way.

In short, it's Livingstone's take on Tomb of Horrors.

Crypt of the Sorcerer provides examples of:

  • Aim for the Horn: The mighty Gargantis will die once its horn is severed. The difficult part comes from trying to reach its horn because of the monster's size — a Rod of Paralysis should do the trick.
  • And I Must Scream: Kull, the hero who defeated the still living Razaak with his own sword, has been doomed to a lonely, undead existence for his troubles. A major part of the quest involves you finding him and retrieving the cursed weapon which still remains in his possession. His soul is finally released to the hereafter when you take the sword from him. Thankfully, Yaztromo can prevent the curse from affecting you.
  • Badass in Distress: Halfway through, you run into Yaztromo tied to the ground and threatened by demons summoned by Razaak.
  • Bad with the Bone: The Keeper of the Valley of Bones attacks you with, you guessed, femurs used as cudgels.
  • Big Bad: Razaak the undead Sorcerer willing to conquer Allansia again.
  • Bluff the Impostor: Ungoth the Skeleton Lord poses you some questions to see if you really are a servant of Razaak.
  • Came Back Strong: Razaak as a Lich is even harder to kill than before, and this without going into his spell and fighting prowess.
  • Collapsing Lair: Sure enough, Razaak's lair will start to collapse after you kill him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Well, pretty much three-quarters of the items you run across (the remaining quarter are traps); special mention goes to the easily missable information about the Troll's current record of eaten Hobbit Ears and the number tattooed on Razaak's zombie miners, which are both essential to enter the Crypt. Even more special mention goes to Razaak's guardian asking you the price of a warhammer in Port Blacksand. The answer is something a companion just tells you in conversation at one point. Not something he found out that you need to know to get past the wizard's defenses, just a random factoid he tosses out when talking on the way to the next objective.
  • Climax Boss: The Gargantis is encountered half-way through, is extremely powerful and you need his horn to defeat Razaak. It's also revealed that it was reared by Razaak to be his secret weapon for the invasion.
  • Cool Sword: Razaak's own sword, despite formerly belonging to a sorcerer, makes the joy of any warrior, as it never dulls and can cut through demons like a hot knife through butter. It's also the only weapon capable of killing him. Unfortunately, it also comes in with a Curse on the wielder.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: After you kill Razaak, but only have a little Stamina left, you will die as his lair collapses on top of you. It's still technically a win, though.
  • Dark Action Girl: There's an hostile barbarian girl riding a Gryphon and near the end you can fight three wild Elf women who are busy clubbing a man to death.
  • Dem Bones: Both skeletons and the recurring Demonic Servants, demons so weak you can instantly kill them if you land as much as two consecutive hits on them.
  • Deus ex Machina:
    • On the way home from the Gargantis' pit, your hot balloon is attacked by a Red Dragon, and the only way to make it through is to invoke Suma. Of course, you must know how to invoke the help in the first place...
    • In the very end, Yaztromo uses his magic to break the curse of Razaak's Sword, which means that you won't have to become its latest skeletal guardian on the bottom of a lake.
  • Elite Mook: The Doragar from Razaak's mines are hybrids of Orcs and Trolls, resulting in efficient, powerful opponents.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Probably meant to be the result of the advancing forces of Chaos, but this can get ridiculous as you pretty much run into a hostile creature every two or three paragraphs while on your way to the sword.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: Razaak's descent into Chaos and evil left him with a hideously misshapen, hunch-backed body with deformed limbs and an eye nearly bulging out of the skull.
  • Faceā€“Heel Turn: Yaztromo explains that Razaak used to be a Lawful wizard before deciding to dabble with all kinds of Magic, including forbidden evil magic.
  • Fantastic Racism: A minor example, Ungoth express disdain for the Trolls and their crude lifestyle and habits, admitting that their only task is to attend to the Gargantis.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: To the point that when Razaak finally sent words to the rulers of Allansia to surrender to his armies, he wasn't taken seriously because no-one ever heard of him. After, his onslaught though...
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Starting with Razaak's Sword and passing via a ridiculous amount of items that will save your hide later on, or that will allow you to proceed on the right path. (The one where you stay alive.)
  • Guest-Star Party Member: You get two of them, a ranger named Symm and Borri, a dwarf. They wait for you outside for the final dungeon.
  • Guide Dang It!: As usual, you have no way to know (immediately) which item will be useful or which way to go without skipping important items for later in the gameplay, which leads to a frustrating Trial-and-Error Gameplay. A big iconic example include a vital clue written on a boulder in the middle of nowhere which you can ignore.
  • Kick the Dog: You're given the chance of killing the harmless Bonekeeper to loot his magical ring. You lose 3 Luck Points if you do.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The fact that Razaak can be killed with the very sword he owned long ago. And he must be finished off with the Horn of the Gargantis, a beast he wanted to use in combat.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: You can obtain a shield half-way through, And use it to deflect one of Razaak's spells.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: Ungoth the Skeleton Lord guards the entrance to the Crypt. Also a couple of Rad-Hulks guarding a chest with a useful item inside.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Plenty of opportunities to bite the dust in creative ways if you neglected that one item.
  • Mugged for Disguise: You do this to a Demonic Servant to steal his robe and disguise yourself.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: If you have one of the Bonekeeper's rings when you enter the cemetery, you will attract a gang of living Skeletons, but also unearth an item useful to your quest.
  • Nintendo Hard: Infamously so, kinda like Creature of Havoc. At least there the Final Boss wasn't that difficult... Someone apparently ran the numbers and determined that a player with maximum stats has a 5.5% chance of victory in the final battle. And even before the final battle, your chances of failure are determined with random dice rolls independent of your stats. As with most Ian Livingstone gamebooks, cheating by fudging most of your dice rolls is the only recommended way to win without frustration, and much more so for this gamebook.
  • Oh, Crap!: Downplayed, Razaak becomes slightly worried if you manage to survive all of his spells. Given how tough he is, this is probably the biggest reaction you can get out of him.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Yaztromo popping out in the crypt with good manners and a helpful smile? Razaak, you're not fooling anyone, and you still need an item to see his real form and avoid another stupid death.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The unique encounter with the three Wild Elf women: they're primitive, tattooed savages with fur clothes and flint weapons and have filed teeth.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: If you chose the wrong path, you can run into the hostile Black Fairies, who will rob you of your belonging and leave you to die in the wilderness.
  • Our Liches Are Different: Razaak is an incredibly ugly and deformed Lich with a mortal touch attack and lacks a Soul Jar, though there's only one weapon capable of harming him.
  • Panthera Awesome: Razaak's pet and last line of defense is a ferocious Hell Cat.
  • Playing with Fire: Razaak can conjure magic fireballs at you; you'll need to have breathed in a puff of magic smoke to prevent those attacks from killing you outright.
  • Schmuck Bait: Plenty of opportunities, the most blatant is the chance of lowering yourself in a dark pit in the Gargantis' nest: Good news, you found the Gargantis! Bad news: you need to find a new lower abdomen and pair of legs.
  • Shock and Awe: Razaak can conjure thunderbolts at you; you'll need to have obtained a magic shield to prevent those attacks from killing you outright.
  • Taken for Granite: Ungoth has the power of turning people to stone with a gesture.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Razaak decided to keep a Gargantis as a future living weapon for his armies, in spite of the fact that its horn is the only thing capable of putting him down forever. While acquiring the horn, taking it to Razaak and put him in the condition of staking his heart with said horn is a long, arduous and difficult process, killing the Gargantis off would have made him truly unstoppable, or at least gave him a chance of reviving again in the future to start his plans again.
  • Touch of Death: What makes Razaak so cheap: not only he has a Skill score of 12 and Stamina of 20, but if he lands two hits in a row on you, you're dead. The chances of winning this battle fair and square are really low.
  • Undead Laborers: Razaak employs zombies as miners in his underground tunnels. With one of the many plot coupons being observing a hidden number on the zombies.
  • Unwilling Suspension: You can meet an half-elf maiden trapped in such a fashion. She's not hostile and will heal you if you free her.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: Razaak can only be slain by his own magically cursed sword, and even this doesn't completely finish the job.
  • Villain Team-Up: Invoked, your cover story for Ungoth is that you were sent to Port Blacksand to persuade Lord Azzur to ally himself with Razaak and send weaponry to his armies.