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Literature / Way of the Tiger

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The Way of the Tiger is a series of gamebooks written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson set on the fantasy world of Orb. Orb was the setting of the 11th Fighting Fantasy book, Talisman of Death; written by the same authors and having many of the same characters. The series is about a Ninja named Avenger; who is getting revenge against the killer of his mentor and father-figure. Naturally, this leads to much larger events.

The series was originally 6 books long and ended in a very large cliffhanger where Avenger fell into the bottom level of The Bowels of Orb. However, a Kickstarter campaign was recently successful; and work is being done to make hardcover versions of the books; as well as a prequel and a finale. At this time, the prequel and the six books have been done, and the finale was written in November 2014.

Way of the Tiger provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity:
    • One of the abilities you can choose at the beginning. There are two instances where one can choose a new skill. If granted by Avenger's god, Kwon, it's as if he had studied since birth. However in a book where a Ninja Master offers to teach a skill, he says they just don't have the years to build up the immunity.
    • Honoric has this as well, which is how he survived the first book. His god intervenes magically to keep him from dying.
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    • Your ninja opponent at the end of Assassin! has this ability, reacting contemptuously if you use a poison needle attack on him.
  • Arch-Enemy: Avenger grew up thinking this of Yaemon, but it's Honoric (Yaemon's ally who survives the initial Roaring Rampage of Revenge) who is in the most books.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: The ninja in Assassin!.
  • Arrow Catch: If Avenger has the skill Arrow-cutting, he can catch arrows in his barehands though he prefers to just deflect them away.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Mandrake is the Guildmaster of the Assassins and greatest killer in Orb, so naturally Avenger will curbstomp him.
  • Barefisted Monk:
    • The evil Scarlet Mantis Monks.
    • Avenger himself uses punches and kicks in melee. Part of the portfolio of his god, Kwon, is Unarmed Combat.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Averted — Avenger has thin but strong rods of iron built into his costume sleeves allowing him to block bladed weapons without injury.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: Villainous version. When you're curbstomping Honoric down to a few measly hitpoints, his elite shocktroopers will jump in and drive you off with pikes and arrows before carting him off to safety.
  • Boss Battle: Astaroth is a demon Duke of Hell and consummately far more powerful than any other opponent you face. You take damage moving to attack him, damage on hitting him and his basic endurance and damage are much higher than yours.
  • The Cavalry: In Usurper, if you were nicely social to a knight errant earlier in the book, he will suddenly appear when you most need help against a demon and his minions.
  • Cliffhanger: The end of the 6th book; written in 1987. On an Orphean Rescue mission, Avenger falls to the bottom level of the settings version of The Underworld. It has finally been resolved.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first book if you spy on the 3 greatest champions of evil in the world, you'll see some hard feelings between Honoric and Manse the Deathmage. Manse is the world's best wizard and casts a spell at Honoric, only to find out that Honoric's magical sword instantly dispels any magic being cast. This becomes important when you decide the order of who to assassinate.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: As a spymistress and worshipper of a god famous for deception, Foxglove is definitely this. A lot of her favours and aid usually has some hidden agenda attached. In the last book practically everything she does will get you killed or captured and then killed if you accept her entreaties or help.
  • Cool Sword: Honoric's sword Sorcerak. It's a black sword that has wisps of smoke coming out of it. What sets it apart from other swords is that Sorcerak can generate fear, dispel magic from even epic-level wizards and can fight on its own.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Avenger can find himself on the receiving end of these. Failing to deal with Yeamon, Honoric and Manse in the correct order means you can end up facing Honoric and Yeamon together with predictable results. During Usurper!, unless you get help you end up being being killed after Astaroth summons three other demons to help him when you try and retake the throne.
  • Dark Action Girl: Cassandra, a female warrior.
  • Do Not Attempt: At the beginning of every book. "Do not attempt any of the techniques or methods described in this book. They would result in serious injury or death to an untrained user."
  • Excited Episode Title!: Every book has an exclamation point.
  • Eye Scream: Done to Avenger by a shuriken from an evil master ninja. This will be the worst hurt anyone in the series has done to Avenger.
    • If one was unable to kill Honoric, you'll find him as a blind beggar in the last book; his eyes torn out by Sorcerak as punishment for his failure.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Avenger is never stated to be male or female. The reprint specifically mentions that honeypot Foxglove is trained in seducing both men and women to make her actions towards Avenger more ambiguous.
  • Fighting a Shadow: Killing demons sends them home.
  • Femme Fatale: Foxglove
  • Flipping Helpless: Avenger can flip enemies on their backs with different throw techniques. Avenger then follows up with an attack that gets significant bonuses to hit and damage.
  • Forest Ranger: Glaivas the Ranger; who is in several books. This is specifically his job title.
  • Golden Ending: If you stole Thaum's pouch from the second to last book, you can save Glaivas, Doré le Juine Thybault, Vespers and Eris (Taflur cannot be saved, he has a Heroic Sacrifice at the beginning of the last book); and "get vengeance" on Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum.
  • Graceful Loser: After his defeat, with his last breath, Yaemon congratulates Avenger for his skills before dying.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Really, this is the premise of the series. In the '80s with a glut of gamebooks, the Way of the Tiger series set itself apart from the others with the main draw of being a ninja with "real" ninja skills.
  • Handicapped Bad Ass: Avenger himself. He loses an eye in a later book but gets better via magical implant. But while he's one-eyed, he takes a significant hit to his combat ability
  • To Hell and Back: It's taken 27 Real Life years, but Avenger is coming home.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Averted. Other than shuriken and poison needles, Avenger never uses a hand weapon; preferring kicks, punches, and throws. In fact, in the third book; if he uses a magical dagger that can kill demons in one hit; you have to roll a Fate roll because he's unfamiliar with the weapon.
  • Honey Trap: The Femme Fatale Foxglove has the ability to entrance men, she can make it semi-permanent if she manages to kiss them.
  • Implacable Man: Everyman, the golem that the evil gods send after you to avenge the death of Yeamon, Manse and (almost) Honoric is one — you can defeat him in combat but he will just get right back up again and will follow you no matter where you run to. It takes kicking him into the Rift (a almost bottomless chasm leading to the depths of The Underworld) to stop him.
    • And even that doesn't kill him. If you knocked Everyman down, in the last book in the Underworld; Everyman will attack a Giant Spider demi-god to get at Avenger. Presumably the spider takes the time to kill it the 100 times required to kill Everyman for good; fortunately this is a good distraction.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Averted. In fact, Katanas are almost never mentioned; the only time being in the prequel by Ronin and Samurai. The evil Ninja of the Scorpion have Ninjato Swords, but they aren't special.
  • Ninja: Good Ninjas of the Tiger follow the god Kwon; evil Ninjas of the Scorpion follow Kwon's evil brother, Vile. Avenger is certainly capable of stealth, but he can also be an Highly Visible Ninja if you choose him to be. Better do well on those rolls.
  • Ki Manipulation: One of the earliest examples in Western gaming, Avenger can tap into his "inner force", which allows him to hit for levels of damage that's on par with giants and demi-gods. He can also expend his "inner force" to endure attacks on his mind or withstand harsh environments.
  • Let's Fight Like Gentlemen: Aiguchi the weaponsmaster challenges you to a duel in one book in a special divinely sanctified duelling area. You can refuse the duel or flee the area but will suffer penalties if you do. Within the area the fight is strictly one on one and if you win, the evil priests who run the duelling area allow you to leave unmolested.
  • Living Lie Detector: If Avenger chooses to learn "Shin-ren" (Heart-Training) he becomes one of these.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: How Avenger was found. Yes, he does have Royal Blood.
  • Nintendo Hard: The series is pretty famous for this, one on one Avenger can easily kick the ass of anything that's not a high-end supernatural being or epic hero. Unfortunately, healing in the books is rare and almost all enemies have a decent chance of at least scoring some hits on Avenger. Worse yet, modifiers to combat and new skills only show up in the first two books, if you don't have these books you're stuck using a bare-bones Avenger while the enemies tend to become increasingly stronger.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Avenger may find to his cost that a demon can survive an inner force powered punch directly to the face...
  • One-Hit Kill: If Avenger knows Yubi-jutsu (Nerve-striking) and selects the correct attack option, he can do this to an otherwise very dangerous invisible demon. Manse does this to his victims with his favourite Finger of Death spell.
  • One-Man Army: In the first book, you can get the opportunity to spy on Honoric training. Using only a normal sword, Honoric has 40 of his soldiers attack him at once and he easily fends off all their attacks. It's said that this is a light warm-up for him.
  • The Paladin: Doré le Juine; a Leeroy Jenkins-type; yet friendly.
    • Also the Paladin King of Tor; who is capable of taking down a dragon in three hits.
  • Poison Is Evil: Averted, this is a perfectly acceptable way of killing enemies. Specifically, Avenger has poisoned needles with Spiderfish Toxin, and the much rarer Black Blood of Nil.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The world of Orb and the characters Cassandra, Tyutchev and Thaum appear in the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Talisman of Death. (Especially obvious since most of the 'fantasy' books in Fighting Fantasy take place on a planet called Titan.)
  • Press X to Not Die: The fights between you and Yaemon, then in a later novel Honoric, is kinda like this. No dice rolls, instead you choose which attacks you wish to use against them. If you picked a good choice, then the enemy takes a set amount of damage that can be doubled by using Inner Force. Otherwise you take a set amount of damage and in some cases can wind up getting crippled in the fight. This can lead to a dissonance in play, where you can come out scoring a Flawless Victory against epic villains like Yaemon and wind up getting carved by an orc mook.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: In Usurper!, you are attacked by Ringwraith expies, the only way to kill one happens to be scrolls of raise dead. Holy water and other attacks merely drive them off.
  • Scenery Porn: Assassin has a sequence when you are at a Lord's estate and you can't sleep one particular night and so you walk around. What follows is an evocative sequence of a palatial residence in the dead of night that creates a beautiful atmosphere while still giving off the feeling that something is wrong. Then you find a dead guard and you're suddenly being garroted and the book's climatic action sequence begins.
  • Shoot the Mage First: Discussed in the Prequel; Avenger can walk into some kind of Summoning Ritual in a ship. If you attack the mage first, they will flashback to their Mentor saying "Yes, always attack the magic user first." This is also good advice any time you fight Tyutchev, Cassandra, and Thaum. Thaum will always have something nasty about to be cast, so you want to interrupt him first.
  • Squishy Wizard: Manse the Deathmage is the most powerful wizard in the world. Unfortunately for him, he's also an Evil Albino weakling. He'll die in either one of two ways. Avenger can steal the artifact sword, Sorcerak and uses its antimagic to keep Manse from casting. Avenger will then walk up to him and snap his neck like a twig. The other way is if Avenger has a protective amulet, this gives him a one-time deflection of Manse's death spell and then Avenger gives him a punch so hard that it almost decapitates him.
  • Story-Driven Invulnerability: Though you can fight many of the major villains in earlier books, you simply cannot kill them outright as they have to escape alive to appear in later books to avoid continuity errors.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Played with — Honoric can throw his sword "Sorcerak" at you in one fight, but the magical blade has the specific magical ability to fly making this a viable tactic rather than a desperation move and rather than throwing it directly he commands the sword to fly at you.
  • Villainous Valour: In Book 3 and in Book 5, Honoric insists on fighting Avenger in a duel.
  • Wutai: The hidden bases of the Tiger and Scorpion Ninjas as well as the Isle of Plenty. But for the most part; the setting is roughly traditional Heroic Fantasy.
  • Worf Effect: Depending on your choices in a fight, this could happen to you. For example in the final book Inferno, if you fight a half-troll mook and use a throw that involves jumping at a foe and grabbing them with your legs, you'll die! The mook turns out to be part dwarf, making him a natural master of the axe and so he slams it into your crotch before you can land the throw on him. This despite you having earlier killed guys that are way, way, way above the half-troll's fighting ability.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Manse the Deathmage who sacrifices children to his dark god.
    • In Book 4, if you go through the Valley of Undead Kings and try to rescue a child, the Ringwraith expies will kill her.
  • Unwinnable: If you manage to capture Cassandra at the beginning of Book 6, do not take her magic sword away, or you will die at the end of the book. (This was avoidable in the original, it is not in the reprint.)
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In Book 6, Avenger will get one from his god Kwon if he decides not to go rescue Glaivas. Kwon's so pissed that he takes a large chunk of Inner Force away from Avenger.
  • World's Best Warrior: Yaemon and Honoric are explicitly said to be this. Honoric is the greatest swordsman in the world, while Yaemon is greatest hand-to-hand warrior. The Forces of Evil get the best of everything, because Manse the Deathmage is best wizard in the world while Mandrake is the best assassin. No wonder the gods of evil get pissed when Avenger massacres their best toys.
  • You Have Failed Me: If you don't manage to kill Honoric in Warlord!, you'll find Honoric in the last book as a wreck of a beggar whose eyes were gouged out. This was punishment from his sword.
  • You Killed My Father: Twice. Yaemon killed Avenger's adopted father and upon confronting Yaemon, Avenger learns he killed his blood father as well.

Alternative Title(s): The Way Of The Tiger


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