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Literature / Master of Chaos

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I guess smoking really is bad...

Master of Chaos is the 41st entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Keith Martin.

You are a famous warrior and resourceful adventurer, hired by a council of wizards in order to undertake a dangerous mission: the Staff of Rulership they kept was stolen by a powerful sorcerer using a dreaded "Astral Slayer" to retrieve it. Furthermore, the scrying reveal that the culprit is the infamous Master of Chaos Shanzikuul, an immoral warlock aligned with the forces of evil who was gruesomely killed three hundred years ago, and yet has returned from the dead to assemble an army of chaotic mutations with the powers of the Staff of Rulership. Of course, he must be stopped at all costs. However, this will mean travel to the lost city of Kabesh, in the wildlands of Kush, and the only way to reach it is to sail to the port city of Ashkyos. You will have to travel undercover on the ship of the ferocious pirate Shagrot, escape once you arrive in Ashkyos and from there make preparations for your dangerous journey to the ruins of Kabesh, where the Master of Chaos awaits you.


Master of Chaos is slightly different from Martin's other books, featuring a pool of special, rogueish "Skills" for you to choose from, kinda like Sword of the Samurai and Dead of Night. The story is divided in several stages, some of which involves free exploration when you're in Ahskyos or in the ruins of Kabesh. For the former, you're given a score of Notoriety: if you make a ruckus with criminal acts such as fighting or theft, your Notoriety will rise. If you become too infamous you will have to leave Ashkyos and head for Kabesh, ready or not. Furthermore, you're not the only one interested in recovering the Staff of Rulership...


Master of Chaos provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: For a ruthless, Chaos-worshipping redivive warlock Shanzikuul is very friendly and polite, welcoming you with a big smile and offering you dinner.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: Near the beginning, a Kraken will attack the Diablo and you're given the chance to attack one of its tentacles.
  • Back from the Dead: Shanzikuul, executed three-hundred years ago, now back in action.
  • Bad Boss: Captain Shagrot and his second mate are really scourge-happy with their crew.
  • Big Bad: Shanzikuul the Immortal, the titular Master of Chaos who has stolen the Staff of Power.
  • Body Horror: The Chaos magic employed by Shanzikuul warps the creatures under his service into grotesque abominations, sporting tentacles and/or pincers in lieu of limbs, scaly skins and other deformities. The same applies for the inhabitants of Rahasta, a village not too far from Kabesh.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Shanzikuul offers you dinner in order to talk to you about joining his service... giving you a shot at stealing either his Staff or his Ring.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: In the Chaos Pits you can meet a berserker warrior possessed by the tentacle-tipped helmet he's wearing.
  • Breath Weapon: The Zoalinth can attack with a splash of corrosive liquid from its mouth.
  • Combat Tentacles: Many of the Chaos monsters have tentacles in place of limbs.
  • Crossing the Desert: The part from Ashkyos to Kabesh involves crossing a monster-infested desert under the scorching sun, all while dealing with thirst, hunger, heat and dangerous enemies.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons guards a mausoleum and attacks you as you try to enter.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: After killing Shanzikuul, Naas will appear with his magical rope and challenge you to a duel for the Staff of Leadership.
  • Eldritch Abomination: In the middle of the Chaos Pits there's a large pit containing a monstrous, unearthly "Thing" seemingly composed of nothing but writhing tentacles and mandibles, which is costantly being tended to by Shanzikuul's minions. If you're spotted, you're fed to this monster.
  • Enemy Mine: Naas the Dark Elf can help you fighting the Necromancer of Ahskyos if you undergo this particular sidequest.
  • Face–Heel Turn: You're given a chance of submitting to Shanzikuul and become his thrall. The description mentions that you will be eventually be killed by your successor.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The hillmen dealt with Shanzikuul by flaying him alive, tearing his body into pieces and feed them to the vultures.
  • Final Boss: Naas the Dark Elf jumps into action right after you dealt with Shanzikuul.
  • Gag Dub: The French translation includes a lot of silly puns in the character names that make it distracting for many readers.
  • Gamebook Cruelty Potential: Perhaps it's the harsh conditions you have to endure, but your character gets the opportunity to take some actions that are downright barbaric by Fighting Fantasy standards. You can spare an orc's life in combat, only to tie it up and watch it slowly starve, whimpering, to death in the desert. Or you can wring the neck of a particularly annoying ship's parrot, tear it limb from limb and eat it raw in front of the crew. Just don't let the captain catch you.
  • Gladiator Games: One of the activities you can partake in Ashkyos. It's mentioned that its regent is a sadistic brute who enjoys these shows.
  • Guile Hero: Your skillsets are more befitting a rogue or a ranger than a brave warrior, and you can trick Shanzikuul into lowering his
  • Helpful Mook: If you defeat and then feed the Mutant Orc you encounter after leaving Ashkyos he will tell you everything he knows about Shanzikuul.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: It's possible to steal Shanzikuul's ring and wear it in combat against him, gaining a generous SKILL bonus.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In Ashkyos, visiting the port leads to a meeting with Captain Shagrot, which lets you fight and kill him for his magical sword.
  • Kill It with Fire: If you're carrying a torch in the Chaos Pits when you open the snake swarm trap you can use it to burn them.
  • Improvised Weapon: You can fight the Kraken's tentacle using your own ball and chain like an improvised Epic Flail.
  • MacGuffin: The Staff of Rulership, a precious Staff of Power stolen by Shanzikuul to unite the forces of Chaos under his banner.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: The ruins of Kabesh include a Fire Demon in a temple and the gigantic Mutated Scorpion guarding the sacred Orb the nomads are looking for.
  • Magic Staff: Shanzikuul can use the Staff of Rulership to blast you with his arsenal of spells.
  • Multiple Head Case: The mutant Troll and the Zoalinth have both two heads.
  • Mutant: The forces of Shanzikuul, as well as the grotesque inhabitants of Rahasta.
  • The Necromancer: There's one living in Ashkyos who you may encounter. You can either sell him a corpse obtained through Grave Robbing or kill him. He can fight you barehanded, oddly enough.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The Zoalinth resembles a large, bipedal crocodile with two heads and a furry, bear-like body.
  • No-Gear Level: You start the game unarmed and equipped only with a pair of tricked-out boots hiding a few precious gold pieces. You can buy yourself some equipment in Ashkyos.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Helping your flogged comrade on the ship will result in you getting flogged instead.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: In Ashkyos you can buy a talking mongoose named Jesper, which proves invaluable for your quest.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Visiting Kabesh but failing to find the entrance to the Chaos Pits.
  • Noodle Incident: In the background it is mentioned that you did something that made the giants afraid of you and once dealt with a fire-breathing Wyrm.
  • Our Manticores Are Spinier: You can encounter and fight a Chaos Manticore in the desert, whose tail resembles and oversized rat's tail with spikes jutting out.
  • Pet the Dog: If you let Jesper go and get some company in Ashkyos he will allow you to gain some money before leaving.
  • Sinister Scimitar: Captain Shagrot's weapon of choice is a magical one. If you help Baalberith and his nomads in Kabesh, they will reward you with a better one.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: After defeating Shanzikuul, the Big Bad, the adventure somehow continues for a short while, where you can pick up Shanzikuul's artifacts for a SKILL boost, besides helping yourself to some leftover food on Shanzikuul's banquet table to restore some additional STAMINA points. The reason being that you still have one last Boss Battle, Naas the Dark Elf, to complete before succeeding in your quest.
  • Talking Animal: Jesper, the talking mongoose.
  • Too Dumb to Live: If you just walk in plain sight towards the Thing in the Chaos Pits, you're immediately captured and fed to it.
  • Worthy Opponent: If you save Naas from the kidnapper or help him fighting the Necromancer, he will grow to respect you. But this won't stop him from becoming the Final Boss anyway.
  • Wretched Hive: Ashkyos is not on the level of Port Blacksand, but it's still filled with rogues and illegal activities.


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