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Literature / The Citadel of Chaos

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Now who is that black hairy monster again?

The Citadel of Chaos is the second entry in the Fighting Fantasy line of Gamebooks. Written by Steve Jackson, co-founder of Fighting Fantasy with Ian Livingstone.

You are a young wizard sent to defeat Balthus Dire, an evil warlord and sorcerer who intends to invade the Vale of Willow. You infiltrate his Citadel of Chaos atop Craggen Rock.

Although this is the second adventure of the Fighting Fantasy series, it has the notable novelty of the playing protagonist being a wizard with a number of magical spells at his command, which do not impede his fighting prowess (unlike the later series by Steve Jackson, Sorcery!).


The Citadel of Chaos provides examples of:

  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: The barrow in the courtyard houses a gigantic tentacle that emerges from underground and attacks you, trying to drag you into its lair. Even if you win the combat, you don't find out what's at the other end of the appendage.
  • Big Bad: Balthus Dire.
  • Call-Back: A recursive example, but the 2002 reprint of Citadel Of Chaos features the hydra on its cover - which resembles the hydra on the cover of Seas of Blood.
  • Covers Always Lie: The original cover art is infamous in the gamebook community. Not only is it frequently derided as the worst/ugliest one in the Fighting Fantasy series (artist "Emmanuel" had a very short-lived career afterwards, and it was one of the very few covers to be completely redone in the series' original Puffin Books run), but most of the cover is taken by a weird black-haired monster that is not easily identifiable. Many readers assume he is the Clawbeast that is summoned by Balthus in the endgame; however, Clawbeasts have been depicted a couple of times in the franchise and hardly look like this (one German edition even depicts the Clawbeast on the cover as a giant housecat!). In the newest editions, it shows the Hydra or the Ganjees.
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  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: A female air-elemental monster roams the courtyard and you have to trick your way past her (since you cannot fight a living tornado).
  • The Dreaded: The Ganjees. Their page in the library's bestiary was torn off and the Rhino-Man guard will freak out and assault you if you say that name in his presence. All of this for a good reason...
  • Gonk: The butler is drawn by Russ Nicholson to look really freaky and ugly. Given the rest of Dire's staff it's entirely likely he's not supposed to be human at all.
  • Hydra Problem: Opting to pick a fight with the hydra using only your sword will lead to this trope. You'll either get your arm chewed by the hydra, or die instantly like its many previous victims...
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: The Myriad. A small hand-held machine that can turn into anything. Like a grappling hook or a Sun Sword. And that's when it is broken.
  • In Vino Veritas: If you drink rosé wine offered by the Black Elf, it will be referred to be a Truth Serum, and so he will question you, find out about your true intentions and attack you!
  • Kryptonite Factor: If you want to kill Balthus Dire in battle, he'll always kill you instead...unless you found a special sword in a cupboard. Then he gets an Oh, Crap! moment.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: The Gark's room contains a comb you need to proceed, a Golem in the dungeons watches over three treasure chests which actually lead to nothing but trouble and the way to Balthus' quarters forces you to pass by a Hydra and the deadly Ganjees.
  • Magic Knight: This being only the second book, the idea of there being tradeoffs to a PC knowing magic hadn't entered the mechanics yet. As a result it's possible to have a character with a legendary Skill of 12 and impressive magical powers at the same time.
  • Mirror Match: Balthus will summon a double of you to fight. However, if this happens, the game is Unwinnable as he insta-kills you after.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The first enemies you meet are a Dog-Ape and an Ape-Dog, who are a gorilla with a dog's head and a dog with a gorilla's head, respectively.
  • Multiple Head Case: The Calacorm, a two-headed reptilian humanoid creature.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Most of the bad endings involve your hero dying but you can also end us as The Dragon to Balthus Dire. During your combat with him at the climax of the book, Dire is impressed by your power and asks you to join him. If you pretend to do so (intending to trick him into lowering his guard), he will use his magic to brainwash you into being genuinely loyal. If you get at this point, the game is Unwinnable anyway.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Ganjees. You never directly see them, except for a sudden wisp-like face in the dark, but their presence alone will devastate your stats and, if you're not prepared, will kill you.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: The Wheelies: a trio of humanoids with flat, circular bodies that move around by cartwheeling and can attack with throwing knives and blowguns.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": You need a secret code to enter Balthus's headquarters. Where do you find it? Why, in a library book that tells the history of the fortress. It simply states the code as if it was no big deal at all.
  • Prongs of Poseidon: When you enter Balthus's headquarters, you are immediately attacked by a trident that is thrown towards your throat.
  • Shout-Out: The Hydra and the Golden Fleece are both nods to the Jason and the Argonauts film, that Steve Jackson will also use as inspiration for Sorcery!.
  • Spiders Are Scary: The Man-Spider in a jar. It is a disgusting, human-headed spider that scares/disgusts anyone you show him to. The Ganjees and Balthus will turn it against you if you try to use it against them. And its bite is deadly.
  • Spiritual Predecessor: You can consider this book one for Sorcery!.
  • Squishy Wizard: Very averted, with both the protagonist and Balthus. The hero can roll normal stats like any other warrior hero in the series, and Balthus looks more like a barbarian fighter than a sorcerer. You can skip the magic stuff and face him directly in a sword fight.
  • Vain Sorceress: Balthus's wife. If you offer her a comb she'll be distracted, allowing you to make off with the Golden Fleece.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: You can decide to slaughter Orc children. It's not very nice.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: You can defeat Balthus easily by ripping out the curtains of his room and have him killed by sunlight.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The Calacorm is very scared of mice.


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