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Literature / The Crimson Tide

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The Crimson Tide is the 47th entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Paul Mason.

Set in the Isles of Dawn, the FF-verse's Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Ming Dynasty China, your hero starts off as a young teenager who witnessed the massacre and destruction of your family and village by a band of Malevolent Masked Men. Being among a few survivors, with some of your childhood friends in tow, you must decide whether to travel to the Imperial city and seek justice, or stay behind to repair whats left of your hometown.

A unique entry in the FF-verse, this is the only book where your character starts as a mere teenager — as such, you begin with dismal SKILL and STAMINA stats, but depending on the journey you take, your stats will change based on your experiences and skills you've learned. Throughout your quest for vengeance, the book will instruct you to add a year to your age, at which point your STAMINA will be restored to the max, and your initial SKILL may or may not change, based on the path you've chosen.

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This book have nothing to do with the Denzel Washington movie, Crimson Tide.


The Crimson Tide provides examples of:

  • Bare-Fisted Monk: You can train at the monastery to become one.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: An insanely powerful Mudworm might assault you while you're searching through the ruins of your village. You might also face an oversized silkworm larvae called a Cangui.
  • Big Damn Reunion: Near the end of your quest, you are finally reunited with your mother, after years and years apart...
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Ming Dynasty-inspired setting allows for plenty of Mandarin language to be added into the text, mostly through usage of pinyin.
    • Your quest involves travelling to the capital city, or ShouduCAPITAL CITY.
    • The giant fish monster is called a Yuemo, or FISH DEMON.
    • You can fight a dream monster, called a Mengmo or DREAM DEMON.
    • Similarly, the guide of your dream is called Meng Zhidao - Dream Guide.
    • The Mercenary Leader's name is Zhanshi or BATTLER.
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    • The adviser's name is Adviser PantuPantu literally means Traitor in Chinese. No point guessing if he'd turn out to be a bad guy later on...
    • Your quest for revenge can have you honing your skills at Baochu Monastery — or Revenge Monastery.
    • You risk getting attacked by a Cangui larva — which is a silkworm species native to China.
    • You seek refuge in the home of your Uncle Zhonggao and Aunt Yubei — which respectively means ADVICE and PREPARATION.
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Covers Always Lie: See those shark-men on the front cover? At no point do they appear anywhere in the story.
  • Cool Sword: The Sacred Sword of Tsui. It provides a +2 boost to your Attack Strength, and is actually crucial to achieve the best ending.
  • Doomed Hometown: Your village, destroyed in the opening backstory.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And how! If you're pursuing the best ending in the book, you will have to travel great distances, train yourself to be stronger, work yourself into adulthood and go through lots and lots of adventures (which can take years in-game) before reaching the satisfying conclusion.
  • End of an Age:
    • The adventure starts with your days of being a child ending when you set off for your quest.
    • If you succeed in reaching the best ending, then you have put an end to an age of tyranny as you, the new God-King, work with Maior and Ambassador Keiko to rebuild trade bonds and restore a new age of peace to the Isles of Dawn.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Adviser Pantu.
  • Evil Mask: The source of the mercenaries' evilness. In a Shout-Out to the movie Onibaba.
  • Farm Boy: You start out as one.
  • Fat Bastard: The magistrate, a truly nasty piece of work.
  • Gladiator Revolt: If you chose the path to becoming a fighting slave, you can attempt to invoke one.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Many instances of Chinese Mandarin, and sometimes Japanese, are thrown around in the book.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Trying to fight the mercenary leader while a band of mercenaries are raiding a village. The leader is a SKILL 12 opponent, and even if you survive fighting him for a short while, the other mercenaries will quickly catch up on you and kill you.
  • Innocence Lost: Your days of innocence as a simple farm-boy officially ends when the mercenaries destroys your hometown and you are forced to set off on a quest that will last several years...
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: While most of the characters have Chinese-inspired names, one of your allies and childhood friends, Sunai, have a more Japanese-sounding name.
  • Made a Slave:
    • In the opening backstory, this is the fate of captives taken away by the masked mercenaries who invaded your village.
    • This can happen to you in two bad endings, either spending the rest of your lives in a coal mine or fighting other slaves in a gladiatorial arena.
  • Martial Pacifist: The monks in the monastery upholds this value to their hearts.
  • Mercy Rewarded: Enforced trope, in order to achieve the best ending, you must choose to NOT strike down your final opponent with your sword.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: You start your quest at age 13 and progress from there.
  • Multiple Endings: While there is only one true Golden Ending, as per the norm for Fighting Fantasy, there are several Bittersweet Ending that ends with you deciding to continue living a normal life and giving up your quest.
  • Oddball in the Series: Name a second Fighting Fantasy gamebook where you start your adventure as a teenager. You can't? Of course not...
  • Only Smart People May Pass: A meditating monk will quiz you as you attempt to cross a mountain.
  • Police Are Useless: Attempting to seek help from the local magistrate will bring you nowhere.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: You come across one in an inn, and a punk you might cross paths with will attack you with a concealed knife while clad only in his undergarments. (If you left your weapon outside before entering the bathhouse, you fight him with your SKILL at a malus.)
  • Refusal of the Call: You can choose to abandon your quest for vengeance and instead settle down as a basket-weaver, farmer, labourer, merchant, gladiator, sailor or monk. At which point you will receive a Non Standard Game Over, with the narration telling you you decide to spend the rest of your life in your new career and abandoning your quest forever.
  • Regenerating Health: Your health replenishes itself to maximum level each time you went through a 1-year Time Skip.
  • Revenge: Your main goal. Ultimately, you have to get over vengeance, not give in to it.
  • Samurai: With the neighbouring kingdom of Hachiman being featured, inevitably a few samurai will show up. If you get into a fight with them you'll discover they're SKILL 11 Elite Mooks.
  • Shout-Out: To A Chinese Ghost Story, if you show up at the monastery and are possessed, the monks will come out chanting "Pao Ye Pao Lo Mi!" at you.
  • Simple Staff: You can earn this type of weapon from Abbot Dry Jade.
  • Starter Equipment: You begin your quest with a mere wooden sword.
  • Survivor's Guilt: By the middle of your quest, all your companions since your days as a teenager are dead or long gone, leaving you feeling the fruitlessness of your quest.
  • Stronger with Age: With every passing year, your initial STAMINA increases, and maybe your SKILL too, depending on the routes you take.
  • Tame His Anger: There is an extra stat in this book, called FEROCITY, which reflects your thirst for revenge, and it decreases each time you age, representing how you have gotten over your desire for vengeance. When your FEROCITY reaches 0, you reach a special paragraph that changes your SKILL stats.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: The disaster that befalls your village occurs when you are 13 years of age. Ironically, in Chinese culture (which this book is mostly based on), 13 is actually considered a lucky number.
  • Training from Hell: You are subjected to this if you choose to hone your skills in the monastery.
  • Ultimate Final Exam: In order to complete your training in the monastery...
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: You may feel this sensation taking over after spending years pursuing vengeance, until you decide to give up your quest altogether.
  • Walking the Earth: You will travel across the Isles of Dawn to cities, forests, rivers, monasteries, throughout your quest for vengeance.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sunai and Quan, your childhood friends and companions in the first arc, dissapear a few years into your adventure. Possibly justified, they could have gone off to faraway lands to lead their own lives instead of pursuing vengeance like you do.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Some enemies early on in your journey have no issues with attacking you. Keep in mind that you are a 13-year-old teenager at that point.
  • You Are in Command Now: Right in the opening paragraph, the surviving children sees you in charge because you have the distinct honor of having slain a giant mudworm in the past, earning their respect.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Regardless of the path you choose, you will no longer be able to return to your once-peaceful village.
  • You Killed My Father: You can confront the mercenary champion who killed your father when you were 13 years of age.

From your personal tragedy you have forged a new chance for the peoples of the isles. You can hold your head up high at last and call yourself heroic.

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