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Literature / Sorcery!

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One crown to rule them all. It's good to be the king!

Sorcery! is a Gamebook series that is a spin-off of Fighting Fantasy, comprising four volumesnote .

  • The Shamutanti Hills
  • Kharé — Cityport of Traps
  • The Seven Serpents
  • The Crown of Kings

You have the option of playing as a wizard or a warrior; wizards are given lower initial stats than warriors but can use the spell system, which consists of three-letter codes the player has to memorise and various items involved in the casting of spells. The series was designed chiefly to be played as one epic, but each volume can be played separately. It was written by Steve Jackson (the British one).

The plot is as follows: the Kingdom of Analand is given a magical crown, the Crown of Kings, that is passed around each year to a different kingdom as it grants the power to rule wisely. But something wicked happened: one night, Birdmen stole the Crown and took it to the cursed castle of Mampang, where rules the nefarious Archmage who has decided to rule over the land of Khakabad. Analand decides to send a single warrior/wizard in order to retrieve the Crown.


All four books have now been released by Inkle as iOS, Android Applications and PC compatible games as of 2016. The video game versions start out as relatively straightforward adaptations but gradually diverge, adding much new content and changing characters or locations. See the Sorcery! video-game page.

The series has twice been adapted into a multiplayer adventure for Tabletop RPG campaigning, once for use with the d20 system and more recently for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system itself.


Sorcery! provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Present in Kharé. If you're not careful, you can end up in them.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • As noted above, the spellbook was originally printed separately from the gamebook itselfnote . Ultimately the books were reprinted with the spellbook included in the back.
    • In Sorcery! 4: The Crown of Kings, there is a creature encounter who is aggressive if you act meek but is submissive instead if you act aggressive, with no further background detail provided. According to Steve Jackson (author for the original gamebook), the creature's name was apparently Nibdum, a mutant from the results of the experiments in Mampang. These unmentioned details were written into the adaptations by Arion Games' Advanced Fighting Fantasy as well as that of Inkle.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • The Red-Eyes. Nasty little Jerkasses. Whenever you meet Red-Eyes, you are always in deadly danger. And even running away from them is not the best option.
    • Subverted with the Birdmen. They are introduced as a race of servants of the Archmage, but in the last book, you join forces with a group of rebels who oppose him.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: If you miss any of the spell lines in Kharé, then the game provides an opportunity to go back to before you went down the wrong Story Branch on occasion (there is a character who will direct you to a different spell line depending on how many you already have, and there is an item that will take you directly to the location of the fourth line at any given time).
  • Anti-Magic: The Minimites are small sprites with an aura that prevents the use of magic at short range. It is quite problematic in the first book where one such creature, Jann, takes a liking to the protagonist and follow him around, refusing to leave even when asked to. Worst, the aura doesn't protect against hostile magic cast from outside it, only preventing spellcasting. Plus, since spells are Cast from Hit Points, you don't find out about the aura until the first try, costing you STAMINA, as the little twit never bothers to warn you.
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss: Subverted: in The Crown of Kings, you reach the top of the Fortress only to find that it is a prison cell for Farren Whyde, who directs you to another fortress. If you reach this second fortress you meet an unnamed wizard who turns out not to be the Archmage; Farren Whyde was the Archmage in disguise, and you have to time travel back to your first meeting to fight him.
  • Big First Choice: Whether to be a wizard or a warrior when starting the first book.
  • Body Horror: Most of the effects of the Mutant Meatballs.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Archmage tricks you into entering his prison tower of your own accord. When you run into his badass wizard form, he locks you up without killing you or even taking your belongings, giving you the opportunity to escape. Then, when you confront him for the second time, he's stuck in the weak form of Farren Whyde and is forced to assume his demonic form to fight you, enabling you to kill him while he's still extremely vulnerable.
  • But Thou Must!: The Svinn chief tasks you with saving his daughter, and there's no way around it.
  • Cast from Hit Points:
    • How your magic works.
    • The only other enemy who does this is a fox who can set itself on fire.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several times, making for nice continuity between the books.
    • In book 1 you fight a highwayman; if you spare his life, he will meet you as an ally in the second book. And the other installments as well in the app versions.
    • There are a number of items that you can obtain in one book that won't have any purpose in that adventure, but will in subsequent books. Most notably, the locket you can find in The Shamutanti Hills won't have any obvious purpose at all until very late in The Crown of Kings if you remember the portrait within.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the items you can use in spellcasting is a ring of green stone mined from Craggen Rock, the setting of The Citadel of Chaos.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When you encounter the wizard that appears to be the Archmage, he will do this to you regardless of whether you attack him with sword or spell.
  • Darker and Edgier: The books were aimed at older readers than Fighting Fantasy, and the writing and illustrations reflected this.
  • Deadly Dodging: In The Crown of Kings, you can get confronted by three hostile Red-Eyes (humanoids with deadly Eye Beams). They're usually very dangerous, but the option to use the TEL spell (to read their minds) leads to a Curb-Stomp Battle. By allowing the protagonist to anticipate when they unleash the fiery gaze attack, he can maneuver one into missing him and instead killing his two companions. The last one is then an easy pick as he's paralyzed by the horror of what he'd done.
  • Demonic Possession: Although it's not specifically stated, it's heavily implied that the Archmage is actually a demon who possesses humans as People Puppets and gets them to do his bidding. You can raise Farren Whyde from the dead after the Archmage leaves his body, and he'll help you escape Mampang. Similarly, when you meet the wizard who you suspect of being the Archmage, he is never referred to as the Archmage, but rather the "spiky-haired fellow" or "the Sorcerer". When you confront him as Farren Whyde, he also refers to the Analander "knowing our secret", and being "more clever than any of us had imagined.".
  • Developers' Foresight: If you kill six Serpents in The Seven Serpents, but the only undefeated one is the Sun Serpent (which is Already Done for You) and you're unaware it has been trapped, then the game allows you to claim the same bonus for defeating all seven Serpents.
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: The Crown of Kings has one in the guard barracks, complete with illustration. You can search it if you want. There's nothing useful or interesting at all there, and you risk catching a disease by searching it.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The four spell lines in Kharé.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: In The Seven Serpents, you meet a tiny tornado. Guess what happens if you touch it? That's right, you get sucked into it.
  • Door Stopper: The Crown of Kings, which contains 800 freaking references. It is close to being the thickest gamebook ever. In terms of the number of encounters and areas, the book isn't actually much bigger than your typical Fighting Fantasy gamebook. What makes it so large is the sheer number of times you have the opportunity to cast a spell. Each opportunity has five separate spell choices, and many of those require specific spell components to work. Numerous references are nothing more than instructions to deduct STAMINA and then being asked if you have the spell component you need, and there are alternative versions of some encounters if you killed all of the Seven Serpents in the previous book.
  • The Dreaded: The Archmage, to the civilized world.
  • Elemental Powers: The Seven Serpents, namely there are the Earth Serpent, Fire Serpent, Water Serpent, Moon Serpent, Air Serpent, Sun Serpent and the Time Serpent.
  • Everything's Deader with Zombies: And you know what makes it even cooler? Having the zombie explode and each of his body parts attacks you separately!
  • Eye of Newt: The magic system in the Sorcery! series has some interesting examples, but the one that takes the cake is probably the one where you have to have a green wig for the spell to work. Makes you wonder just what the process is for finding out the material component...
  • The Fair Folk: The Elvins in the first book. They are quite a nuisance, to say the least.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: In Book 3, The Seven Serpents. Guess what you need to find and kill. You actually have to slay only six of them, as the Sun Serpent is Already Done for You. Note that it's not actually necessary to kill all the Serpents; the primary mission is to successfully cross the Baklands. However, there is a penalty for doing really badly and only killing one or two Serpents, and two special bonuses for managing to kill them all.
  • Guide Dang It!: In The Crown of Kings, you can get stuck in a hallway with nowhere to go but a flaming inferno that kills you instantly. Good thing you've probably learned a password for a hidden door. Too bad you were supposed to use it earlier, with no hint that it was relevant.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Svinns and Elvins are of Orc/Human and Elf/human descent respectively. Both types seem to have been around long enough to be self-sustaining communities, having their own villages in the Shamutanti Hills and also living in Kharé.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: In the fourth book, you meet a freaking huge Hydra with the heads of gods in a cave. It has huge stats and if you manage to hit it, it will automatically strike back and cause injury to you. What you're supposed to do is lose a round and the Hydra will be revealed to be an illusion.
  • Horned Humanoid: The Archmage has some strange horns that look metallic. However, nothing confirms they might be another crown.
  • Hot Witch: Alianna is described so.
  • Informed Attribute: Kharé is painted by the narrative as a den of absolute depravity and evil. There are plenty of evildoers in the city, including the aforementioned Red-Eyes, but there are also merchants and ordinary citizens who seem to just be living their lives, or are even benign. Even the priest of the God of Malice seems Affably Evil at absolute worst.
  • Inn of No Return: One in Kharé, which serves up its customers in the stew.
  • Invisible Monsters: The Snattacats from the Forest of Snatta are big cats which become invisible when they close their eyes.
  • Involuntary Dance: The JIG spell, by playing a bamboo flute, allows you to give enemies the uncontrollable urge to dance a merry jig. It is easy to exhaust a creature or provide time to escape this way.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: At the end of Crown of Kings, the Analander is stuck in a jail cell with Jann the Minimite, whose Anti-Magic aura prevents him from casting any spell except ZED, which kills the Minimite. There are windows that open to a huge height, causing death to anyone who falls from them (as you will find out if you try using an inoperant FAL spell). Jann tells you he refuses to jump outside the window to enable your spells. But you are not given the opportunity to pick up Jann — who, remember, was originally described as being finger-sized — and throw him outside the window. Yes, it would be an awful and evil thing to do, but wouldn't desperate times call for desperate measures?
  • Last Disc Magic: The ZED spell is described as possibly the most powerful spell in existence, although nobody knows its purpose as the only person in history to cast it disappeared without trace, and removes almost twice as much Stamina as any other spell. The game gives you the opportunity to cast it only once, near the end of the fourth book (it is possible to find out what it does before that).

    Which you better — turns out that ZED is a spell for traveling through time. If you learn before what it does, you are specifically instructed to concentrate very hard on exactly what you want to achieve, and will do just that. If not... well, you get a completely random rolls whose results range from 2 different fates worse than death ( Either becoming stuck in the prehistoric past or in the distant future millions of years after life on the planet... with a bone-chilling note that "without control of the spell, you will eventually deplete your STAMINA trying to recast it, and have no hope of ever returning to your own time."), and several that players would probably consider that anyway (the cruelest probably being to return to paragraph 1 of the Shamutanti Hills! From the very end of the last book!).

    Also notable for being so powerful that minimite antimagic auras can't stand it. You use it to escape from a prison cell in which you're trapped alongside the one from the first book, who is crippled and dying, and the final sight you see before being transported through time is his body convulsing in agony as his aura overloads with your magic.
  • Lethal Chef: A literal one. You will meet a female Goblin cook in the Mampang fort who will prove to be quite dangerous.
  • Lucky Translation: While the Hebrew translations of most Fighting Fantasy books were bad to the point of sometimes rendering them unplayable, the Sorcery! series made the transition incredibly well (perhaps not incidentally, the Hebrew title of the entire series is "Sorcery!", with the other FF books being presented as sequels of the "first" four). Of particular note is the Grimoire of Analand: in English, the three letter codewords which stood for each spell often sounded goofy or awkward. Hebrew, however, has its entire grammar based around three letter root words which can be read in a number of ways, many of them with connotations to the bible and Kabbalah mysticism. The Hebrew version of the spellbook, therefore, is an absolute treat: ZAP, for example, became ברק ("Barak" - "Lightning"), FOF became מגן ("Magen" - "Shield"), RAZ became חוד ("Hod" - "Edge") and the ominous, godlike ZED spell became סוד ("Sod" - "Divine Mystery"). As a bonus, whereas the English language doesn't have the right letters to accurately transcribe the names of several of the creatures, persons and locations of the exotic Kakhabad (inspired by Nepalese and Tibetan), Hebrew just so happens to do!
  • Magic Knight: You, if you play as a wizard. You get a penalty for SKILL, but are still functional in sword combat.
  • McGuffin: The Crown of Kings itself.
  • The Millstone: Jann the Minimite. This little twerp will hang with you in the latter part of book 1. Why is it a problem? He has an aura that prevents you from using magic! Oh, and even though you eventually get rid of him at the end, he will return in book 4, preventing you from escaping from jail....
  • Nintendo Hard: Certainly not a pushover. This series was meant for an older audience than the regular Fighting Fantasy readersnote . The fourth book pushes this trope Up to Eleven. As a group LP demonstrates, even a cautious player will likely rack up more deaths in that alone than in the rest of the series combined.
  • No Fair Cheating: A crucial point of The Crown of Kings requires use of an item obtained in the previous book. To ensure honesty as much as possible, the book asks you how you obtained the item in question.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Getting trapped in the past or the future by incorrect use of the ZED spell, or getting stranded in Kharé because you don't know all four of the spell lines.
  • Not Completely Useless:
    • As mentioned above, the locket you find midway through the first book has no function at all except in one of the final encounters in the last book.
    • In addition, every spell that is not the main six seems like it would be extremely situational, but they all have their uses.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Spiny Ones' lair is completely pitch-black, meaning the Analander can never see the exact nature of the threat, only that there's something very big in the room.
  • Not So Different: Several characters in the iOS versions of the first three books imply that the Crown of Kings is more than it seems, and the King of Analand is not the benevolent ruler he appears to be. Some explicitly say that the Archmage is not worse than the King.
  • Old Save Bonus:
    • Playing the previous books usually gives a huge advantage for the later ones (as you are allowed to carry over items and other benefits such as recognizing characters from previous volumes), especially in the last book.
    • Successfully killing all seven serpents stops you from being recognized when you reach the fortress in The Crown of Kings (by means of turning to a new reference any time you are referred to as "the Analander").
  • One-Winged Angel: The Archmage attempts one at the very end. It is not so cool.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Vancass, a hunchbacked sorcerer, prevents the Analander from crossing a bridge unless he can answer several questions relating to names in Shamutanti. It's less "smart" rather than "knowledgeable".
  • Our Elves Are Better: Black Elves. They certainly think they are, and don't take kindly to being made fools of, despite how easy it is. They're also usually antagonists.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: You meet a big unfriendly giant in the Shamutanti Hills. And a spell lets you summon a Giant from a severed tooth!
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Not so much... except that by collecting their severed teeth, you can summon a Goblin from each one of them! Problem is, they're, ahem, quite weak fighters. Plus, you need to spend a STAMINA point for each one summoned. This is more trouble than it is worth if you want to use them in regular combat.
  • Playing with Fire: One of the most powerful spells lets you cast a fireball.
  • Plot Hole:
    • Incorrect use of the ZED spell in The Crown of Kings can send you as far back as the beginning of The Shamutanti Hills... with all your inventory, including several spell-casting items that you shouldn't be able to acquire for several books, intact. This problem was caused by the series not written as a whole, but one book at a time. It was thankfully corrected in the 20th Anniversary reprint Wherein you have ALL your items reset to the beginning specifications, money included, but you get to keep the ability scores at their new maximum.
    • If you eat Mutant Meatballs and transform to look like the same race/species as Mampang's guards, you will gain the same advantage as if you killed the Seven Serpents. However, if you meet Cartoum and use this special advantage, he will be described as being surprised to see a human just like him. Which doesn't make sense if you have been transformed.
    • One of the secrets of the Throben Doors is held by Naggamanteh the torturer. If he doesn't recognize you (because you killed all of the Seven Serpents), then the encounter makes sense. If he does recognize you, then he will happily give you the secret of the Throben Door if you compliment his torture chamber and lets you go despite knowing full well who you are and what your mission is, which makes rather less sense. Unless, of course, taking good care of his torture chamber really means that much to him.
    • The encounter with the Sleepless Ram gives you the option to use an item which can never be obtained in any of the books, although this may have been a cunning plan to catch cheaters out.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: You will meet a witch (who does not take no for an answer when she will invite you for a drink) who'll serve you a drink... and will test your trust by poisoning her own mug.
  • Portal Pool: In Kharé. They lead to the sewers.
  • Quicksand Sucks: One spell allows you to create quick-sucking quicksand.
  • Red Herring: Two in Kharé, with one involving an actual fish. At one point you see a fish in Kharé that seems to speak to you. If you try to listen to it, you'll hear something, but not enough to make out what it's saying. In another encounter, a voice from a well promises to share secrets if you throw gold coins down the well. Think you'll learn anything useful in either encounter? No, you won't. You'll just get laughed at by a fish in the former and waste your money in the latter.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: You are definitely not going to meet friendly reptiles here. Especially in the third book, where snakes will be part of your many problems.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Vancass, the hunchbacked guardian of a bridge, speaks this way.
  • Scary Scorpions: You find a scorpion in a box that also contains gold coins and a key. If you get stung, you lose half your Stamina points. Each time.
  • Series Continuity Error: The bottle of gas you get given in The Seven Serpents has become a bottle of liquid by the time you use it in The Crown of Kings. And the only way you can differentiate from others if you specify it was given to you by a woman (considering its description is very generic).
  • Serious Business: A puzzle in The Seven Serpents that requires you to remember the name of the god whose temple you're in says that you are "on your honour" not to check the reference that names them until you've guessed.
  • Shock and Awe: One of the most powerful spells lets you cast a lightning bolt out of your hand.
  • Sliding Scale of Gameplay and Story Integration: The spellbook was originally a separate entity to the gamebooks themselves, sold in a boxset with The Shamutanti Hills. This was because in-game, you weren't allowed to take the spellbook out of Analand and had to rely on memory alone. However, the need to make the volumes work as standalones and the unpopularity of boxsets with retailers at the time meant that this was quickly abandoned; by the time The Seven Serpents was first released the spellbook was now printed in the back of the gamebook, even though this made it easier to cheat.
  • Something Completely Different: These differ in several respects Fighting Fantasy, covering a multi-book adventure with a unique magic system. Even the setting and opponents are noticeably different with a focus on non-standard monsters like Birdmen and Kakhabad in general having less of a "European" feelinvoked (Word of God has it Steve Jackson got the idea for the series after a trip to Nepal).
  • Squishy Wizard: More or less averted. Playing as a warrior will give you higher Skill points, but not that much higher than the wizard's. You get a -2 penalty to Skill, which you can easily offset by obtaining a magic item from a witch in the first book that gives +2 attack strength when wielding a sword.
  • Summon Magic: Two spells allow you to summon allies when needed, as long as you have teeth of the adequate creatures in your possession. "GOB" summons goblins, who are rather weak fighters. "YOB" summons a giant, who can give a better fight, as long as it has enough room to appear in the first place.
  • Time Travel: With the ZED spell. Also in the iOS adaptation of the second book, you're given an option to go back in time if you don't have all the spell lines, and in the third you bounce between the thriving past and the barren present frequently.
  • Too Many Mouths: The Slime Eater, as illustrated on the original cover for Kharé — Cityport of Traps, is a Cephalothorax monster with a huge maw, and smaller mouths on the tip of each finger.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Subverted in the first book. You can free Alianna the witch from being imprisoned by bandits; she will reward you with giving you a few items... and then summons a wooden golem to fight you just for the fun of it. Thanks a lot. On the other hand the golem is not too hard to beat and the items are very useful.
  • Unreliable Illustrator: When you get inside Kharé's Wayfafer's Rest inn, the text claims that nobody looks at you when you enter, but in the illustration, many characters are staring into your direction.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • If you renounce your goddess Libra in The Seven Serpentsnote , then The Crown of Kings is unwinnable right from section 1, although you'll only find out right at the end.
    • Failing to find all four spell lines in Kharé, going the wrong way in the Mampang Fortress, or failing to get the secret of any of the Throben Doors also isn't really advised.
    • If you're playing The Crown of Kings as a warrior instead of a wizard, it is still possible to win provided you don't miss the She-Satyrs right at the beginning of the book.
  • Useless Useful Spell: So many cool spells! So little that you are given the option to use! You could spam destructive spells so many times on enemies, but are too often given useless spells, spells that can't function or even spells that don't exist as options.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • In the first book's encounter with headhunters, if you succeed in testing your Luck you die no matter what (you jump over a pit only to be caught by another obstacle). You need to be Unlucky to stand any chance of surviving.
    • The Archmage offers you the Crown of Kings in return for your sword and the condition that you leave at once. Does this work if you take him up on it? Of course not, but somehow it doesn't get you killed and is in fact the most direct and harmless way to finish the encounter.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Each one of the serpents has a weakness: the Fire Serpent's is sand, the Water Serpent's is oil, the Moon Serpent's is fire, the Sun Serpent's is rain, the Air Serpent's is having its empty body destroyed, the Earth Serpent's is losing contact with the ground, and the Time Serpent's only weakness is a special spell owned by the Swamp Goblins.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Birdmen.
  • Wretched Hive: Kharé. It's a toss up as to whether here or Port Blacksand from the mainstream FF continuity is a worse hellhole.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: In the Mampang castle, you will be stopped by a double-door engulfed in flames. It is an illusion that will only burn you if you believe it is real.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Subverted — it turns out you were in the right castle in the first place.


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