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Literature / The Forest of Doom

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Only YOU can prevent shapeshifters from disrupting your quest.

The Forest of Doom is the third entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone.

You are a sword for hire, owning nothing but your weapon, a leather armor and a rucksack for your possessions. You're travelling north, looking for a job, when you stumble into a wounded Dwarf, delirious from the poisonous arrows in his body. In his final moments, the Dwarf mentions a precious Hammer he must find in the dreaded Forest of Doom and deliver to someone named Gillibran in Stonebridge, as well as a sorcerer, Yaztromo, living in a tower south of the Forest. After burying the Dwarf and taking his money pouch, you head south towards Yaztromo's tower to begin a dangerous task: recover the Hammer of Stonebridge, split in half and lost in the depths of the Forest of Doom, and take it to Stonebridge, currently besieged by Trolls, in order to save the Dwarves from destruction.

The Forest of Doom is the standard Livingstonian adventure: a dungeon crawl where the dungeon's walls and ceiling are made of trunks and branches. While there are multiple paths across the Forest, only a specific one will allow you to find both parts of the Hammer and bring them to Stonebridge. Should you fail to find one of the two Plot Coupon pieces (or any at all) you're given the chance to restart from the beginning... if you can survive a certain life-or-death roll.

It also contains the first appearance of Yaztromo the Wizard, an important background character of the series, as well as the locations of Darkwood and Stonebridge. Has a sequel in Temple of Terror and the battle for Stonebridge is mentioned and seen in Caverns of the Snow Witch.

Has a Videogame adaptation available on Steam.

The Forest of Doom provides examples of:

  • Antidote Effect: Most of the items Yaztromo has to sell. While they do have a purpose inside the forest against specific obstacles, the presence of a single path to victory makes the majority of them redundant, since you won't meet the obstacles they were meant for. There's even one (the Rod of Water-Finding) that is never actually used no matter what route you take, and apparently is only there as a red herring.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: At the beginning of the adventure, if you choose to attack Yaztromo instead of seeking his assistance, he turns you into a frog and throws you into the grass at the edge of the forest.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: What happens if you have to return to Yaztromo's tower passing through the hills. There's a chance you won't be able to outrun them, resulting in your death. This is also what ultimately killed Bigleg, the Dwarf you meet in the introduction.
  • Dungeon Crawling: As said above, this adventure is essentially an open-air dungeon crawl, with trees acting as walls and paths acting as corridors.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Being Ian's first solo gamebook, this book notably lacks Ian's trademark "Gotta Catch Them All" elements where missing an item or two would render the book unwinnable, with players allowed repeated chances to collect the two essential MacGuffin items (the hammer's head and handle) - bypass the forest without it, they can simply backtrack, pass a LUCK test, and try again. Difficult, compulsory bosses are also absent, with most enemies' skills being in single-digits (there's three SKILL 10 opponents in the forest - the shapechanger, wyvern and the Fire Demon, but they can be avoided) and one of Ian's few books where one can actually finish the adventure with a skill of 9 or below. Also, your character can be downright sociopathic in a few instances if you want to (see Sociopathic Hero).
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Darkwood Forest really deserves its reputation as the Forest of Doom, given the sheer number of hostile animals and humanoids dwelling in it.
  • Evil Counterpart: Bigleg, Gillibran and the rest of the Dwarfs of Stonebridge are good-natured sorts, but you can meet another Dwarf named Trumble. He hails from the town of Mirewater, which is inhabited by evil-inclined Dwarfs who hate their rivals in Stonebridge. In fact, Trumble is the one who started the whole quest by sending his trained eagle to steal Gillibran's Hammer.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Subverted with Arragon, who's dressed and acts like a stereotypical evil wizard, but in reality he's a harmless charlatan who loves to scare people into giving him their belongings.
  • Expy: The Fire Demon looks nearly identical to the Balrog (except maybe smaller).
  • Forced Transformation: Yaztromo's favourite method of dealing with hostile adventurers. The crow you encounter early on in the forest is a transformed human, and Yaztromo has promised to turn them back if they can bring him 30 gold coins. It's quite possible he's the one who turned them into a crow to begin with. Yaztromo can also turn you into a frog if you're foolhardy enough to attack him.
  • Gonk: The strongman who owns the levitation dust needed for the second hammer piece doesn't wear a shirt and the way his muscles and body are depicted makes him look hideous.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Yaztromo says that without his hammer, Gillibran is unable to "arouse his people".
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Bigleg tells your character to take the Hammer of Stonebridge to Gillibran before dying from arrow wounds.
  • Inescapable Net: One of the purchasable items Yaztromo can sell you, which you use to trap a sleeping troll.
  • Lizard Folk: The book introduces the reptilian-like Shapechanger, as seen on the cover, this time disguised as a goblin.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Getting back alive in one piece from Stonebridge through the hills is a matter of a dice roll.
  • Magic Potion: Early on, the wizard Yaztromo can sell you a variety of magic items before you explore the dreaded forest, including potions that cure poison, potions that help you keep still during an earthquake, and two flavors of potions that respectively control plants and insects.
  • Our Clones Are Different: You can explore an underground cave full of green-skinned, mindless clones resembling hairless goblins, bred from mushroom spores and meant for cultivating a field of mushrooms. At one point you're given an option to attack an unarmed clone worker — do that, the clone dies and immediately melts into a puddle, and from the puddle a giant mushroom instantly grows from it. If you venture deep enough into the cave, you found out the clones are created and controlled by a Fire Demon via the demon's crown.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: A small, green and fire-breathing wyvern is encountered near the end of the forest.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: A Ghoul sealed in a casket inside a crypt in the middle of the forest holds one half of the Hammer of Stonebridge. Like the one from previous books, it can paralyze you with three strikes, but can be killed with Holy Water.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: In the first half of the forest lies the cavern of an ogre who has captured one of the two Goblins who split and stole the hammer. He's about to cook the still-living goblin when you stumble upon his lair.
  • Plot Coupon: The two halves of the Hammer of Stonebridge, which was dropped in the forest, split in half by two passing Goblins who then went separate ways. You have to recover both the handle and the head and bring them back to Stonebridge.
  • Press X to Die: One of the first options given by the book is to either attack Yaztromo, or follow him into his tower. If you choose the first option, Yaztromo will turn you into a frog and end your adventure right away.
  • Riddle for the Ages: It's implied that the Ghoul in the crypt killed and ate the Goblin thief and then took the hammer head... but it's not made clear how it could have left the stone casket, whose lid is so heavy you'll need magic dust just to open it, in the first place. Maybe ghouls are really strong?
  • Schmuck Bait: Your quest is to help the Dwarves of Stonebridge, so you might be tempted to think that any Dwarf you run into would want to help you. The only Dwarf you can meet in the Forest, however, is from a rival city and is looking for the Hammer for his own plans.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Maybe it is a slight case of Early-Installment Weirdness, but in this book you're given a chance to start a fight with almost everyone you meet, regardless if they're hostile or not, such as the man with hunting dogs, the centaur at the riverside, and a random dwarf. In fact, one of the first choices offered by this book is whether you'd like to attack Yaztromo or not!
  • Take Your Time: Despite the impending Troll invasion, the fact that you're free to return to Yaztromo's tower to search the forest again if you fail on your first try suggests that you can travel for days and days up and down Darkwood Forest and Stonebridge won't fall.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Attacking Yaztromo, even after he warns you that his power is great, is the fastest and dumbest way to end the game.
  • Truth Serums: The Eye of Amber, when worn around your neck, can force people to tell you the truth. It's used to unmask Arragon the Magician.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Several.
    • When you release the Goblin from the Ogre's cage, the little bastard will still attack you.
    • Helping a stranger out of a trap results in getting some of your items stolen.
    • The tied-up barbarian isn't the least bit grateful for being set free.
  • Useless Item:
    • One of the items Yaztromo sells (Rod of Water-Finding) isn't used anywhere in the book.
    • Similarly, some items found in the forest seem like they'd serve a purpose later on (e.g. the wooden whistle and the throwing knife) but never do.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: If you destroy the Fire Demon and decide to wear his crown, you will become the next Fire Demon, in a Non-Standard Game Over.