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Literature / Talisman of Death

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Don't fear the Reaper!

Talisman of Death is the eleventh entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of Gamebooks, written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith.

Set in the world of Orb, you have been chosen as the Champion of Fate by the deities of this world, for a great struggle is ahead: the minions of the Fleshless King, servant of Death, have fashioned a powerful Talisman, which will allow them to summon their God on earth and deprive Orb of all its life. In order to stop them, you must recover the Talisman, find a way to open a portal to your own world, Earth, and return there: in that dimension, the Talisman will be safe and beyond the boney grip of the Fleshless King. Armed with a steel sword and the help of the Gods of Orb, you must venture forth in your quest.

As you can see from the preview, Talisman of Death isn't set in Titan, but in the dimension of Orb, the same world of Way of the Tiger, so much that we could call it a crossover. It follows the same rules as the other gamebooks of the series, but is also different in the low number of game overs: as the Gods are with you, certain endings that could be considered game overs instead hit a Reset Button which allows you to restart an area from the beginning. Be careful, though, as it won't always work...

Talisman of Death provides examples of:

  • Amazon Brigade: The Always Chaotic Evil priesthood of Fell-Kyrinla are all warrior women, led by Hawkana.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: With some exceptions (mainly if you die through an envoy of some other divine force, like the followers of Death), the Gods will allow you to retry from either Greyguilds or from the beginning of the second part should you die with the Talisman still in your possession. Note that this only applies to instant death in the text, not dying in combat.
  • Arc Villain: Hawkana is this for the Greyguild half of the plot. Then, the Red Dragon becomes the villain for the latter part.
  • Artifact of Attraction: The middle of the book is mostly spent keeping the Talisman out of the hands of numerous factions who all want to exploit its power for themselves, from the monster armies out of the Rift at the beginning, the Order of Fell-Kyrinla, the thieves' guild, Tyutchev and his buddies and the Envoys of Death himself. Once you get out of town the only ones still keeping after you are the minions of Death, who obviously are the ones who want it the most.
  • Artifact of Doom: The titular MacGuffin, which will allow Death's servants to cause The End of the World as We Know It and for thus will make nearly every single evil faction out there out for your blood. Partly subverted if you spend some time in the library and find out that's possible to use the Talisman to banish Death's servants.
  • Back from the Dead: If you're killed in most situations you're allowed to come back to life and try again without re-rolling your skills. Also, Hawkana returns as a ghost later in the story, forcing you to kill her a second time.
  • Back Stab: That little shit Lord Min will stick a dagger in your kidneys for a lot of damage if you end up having to fight the Thieves.
  • Big Bad: The Fleshless King is the overarching antagonist, but he doesn't appear directly in the story, sending hordes of minions to retrieve the Talisman.
  • Body Horror: The Vivisect is a disgusting cockroach-like monster with humanoid arms in lieu of legs, the head of a crocodile protunding from the neck and an ogre's head jutting below the croc's head.
  • Brown Note: Just a glance at the Angel of Death will kill you swiftly and irremediably.
  • The Brute: Tyutchev, as expected, is a brutal blowhard brandishing a bastard sword who worships Anarchil, god of Chaos.
  • Buried Alive: If the zombies in the graveyard catch you, they will forcefully bury you in a tomb.
  • The Chosen One: You. You're chosen by the gods, and they'll even rewind time to save you from insta-death endings sometimes. Generally when they can't it's because of the machinations of another divine power, like the envoys of Death.
  • City of Adventure: Greyguilds, the setting of the first important part of the game.
  • Combat Tentacles: The monstrous Grendel has six tentacles in his real form.
  • Cool Sword:
    • You start the game with a steel broadsword which you may lose soon, and the Holy Sword you can obtain from a Paladin.
    • On the villainous side, Tyutchev has a giant sword he can use in one hand, while Cassandra wields a magic glowing blade.
  • Crossover: With Way of the Tiger. You even get to meet some of the antagonists.
  • Dem Bones: The Envoy of Death looks normal, but will turn into a ragged, rapier-wielding skeleton which can sap your Skill in combat.
  • Deus ex Machina: You're given the chance to pray a God to get out of a perilous fight against a threesome of formidable foes.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Hawkana, high priestess of Fell-Kyrina.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If you defile the Druid's holy grove with the heinous crime of... your prolonged presence, the Druid there will summon some plants to hold you still and let you become fertilizer for the plants.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: The Wraiths will hound you after leaving Greyguilds behind.
  • Enemy Civil War: Near the beginning, you can cause one between the pursuing Dark Elves and a party of Orcs.
  • Fate Worse than Death: What happens to your character if you mess up with the minions of Death.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: In an attempt to make the Hogmen friendly, you're given the option to offer them food... which is bacon... ops!
  • Final Boss: The Red Dragon, the guardian of the Gods left to watch over the gate. You must have fireproof items to face him and be aware of his beguiling tricks.
  • Final Boss Preview: It's implied that the sleeping Dragon in the cavern is the same Red Dragon you face later.
  • Foreshadowing: In the introduction, looking in the face of the Goddess will show you future events.
  • Fingore: This will happen to you if after putting on Hawkana's ring on yourself you decide to stay in the altar room instead of quickly getting out of there.
  • Giant Space Flea From No Where: A random encounter in Greyguilds is a fight against an Ice Demon, brought here by a failed ritual.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: It's possible to use the Talisman of Death to command the Wraiths and banish them.
  • Hungry Jungle: A thick one surrounds Mount Star-reach.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Your first encounter in the Pit is with a party of heroes who have recovered the Talisman but are cornered by the forces of darkness. Sensing that you're The Chosen One, the leader gives you the Talisman and uses the last of his power to teleport you outside the rift.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Either the Holy Sword or the Dragonsbane Spear.
  • Invisible Monster: One of Death's agents is the invisible Unseen Stalker.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The Brass Tiger head talisman compels you to be rude and insult people, which more often than not result in a fight against the offended enemy.
  • Jerkass: Surprising no-one, Tyutchev, Cassandra and their illusionist buddy Thaum.
  • Joker Immunity: Again, since they have to play the villains somewhere else, Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: If you manage to kill Hawkana and return with the thieves, they decide that they shouldn't mess with you after all.
  • Living Lie Detector: The priest with the heroic group at the beginning can tell if you're talking lies or the truth.note 
  • Lone Wolf Boss: Technically, the main villain is Death and his followers, but Hawkana and Tyutchev's gangs, while unaligned with them, are interested in the artifact.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: You need one crafted from Dragon Scales to win the game.
  • MacGuffin: The Talisman of Death, which will allow Death's takeover of Orb if left in enemy's hands. You must take it back with you on Earth.
  • Mad Scientist: The wisemen of the Guild of Learning are far too fond of making horrible chimeras for the war effort, as well as shit and giggles. They're not hostile, however. Just amoral.
  • The Many Deaths of You: And for some of them you can come back, but is still disconcerting when you're hacked to pieces by maddened amazons or burned to cinders by a trickster dragon.
  • Master of Illusion: Thaum, Cassandra's buddy, is one, but can also use other spells to harm you and support his partners.
  • Master Swordsman: As soon as you look at the sword at your hip you realize that you instinctively know how to use it well. Unfortunately, Tyutchev and Cassandra are both awesome swordsmen themselves.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: If you pass by the graveyard, a horde of zombies will attack you.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: A graffiti inside the Thieves' Guild of Greyguild, which you should definitively trust for your own good.
  • One-Hit Kill: Hawkana's fire spell, the servants of Death various death-related abilities, the Red Dragon's Breath Weapon and so on...
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Somnus, high priest of Death in Greyguild, is a vampire with wax-like skin who runs the temple.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Tyutchev can invoke his god Anarchil to cause a building-quaking shock, which allows him to escape in a pinch.
  • Pig Man: The Hogmen are a tribe of blue-skinned boar-people living in the forest near Mount Star-reach. In spite of their savage appearance, their leader will be more than willing to assist you in your quest.
  • Press X to Die: In your first encounter in game, you can assault the heroic party as they appear: it gets you fatally shot in the leg by the group's crossbow-toting Shieldmaiden.
  • Prequel: Events in this book are mentioned in the last book of Way of the Tiger.
  • Religion of Evil: The cult of Death is the worst, but the followers of the War Goddess Fell-Kyrinia and Anarchil are close behind.
  • Reset Button: Essentially what happens to you when you're killed in this book, with some exceptions if the followers of Death are involved.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: If you manage to sneak in the sanctum of Fell-Kyrinia's temple and the rogues are still with you, they'll run at the sight of Hawkana.
  • Shout-Out: One of the characters you may run into is a sage named Moreau, who specializes in vivisection.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Dark Elves wear such armor, which is also made of a dark metal.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Halfway through, you'll have to enlist the help of the local Thieves' Guild to sneak in the temple of Fell-Kyrinia and take back the Talisman from Hawkana.
  • The Undead: The countless servants of the Fleshless King, out for your blood. They also include the ghost of Hawkana, after you slay her.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: If you kill the old sentinel or let him be killed by your partner, you experience a Luck malus. Though letting the latter happen means guaranteed entry into the Altar room, plus there will be a means of restoring the lost luck points not far after defeating Hawkana.
  • Villainous Rescue: If you're ensnared by the Priests of Death and they take the Talisman, a patrol of warrior women will arrive and confiscate the Talisman from them, giving you a chance at taking it back.
  • Warrior Monk: One of the possible but optional opponents is a Monk of the Order of the Red Mantis.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: The Dragonsbane Spear is an ebony spear with an ivory tip which is enchanted to kill Dragons.