Sorcery! is a series of four single-player role-playing gamebooks written by Steve Jackson and illustrated by John Blanche, published initially by Penguin Books and then its children's imprint Puffin Books between 1983 and 1985 as an adjunct to the Fighting Fantasy series. The Sorcery! gamebooks departed from the standard Fighting Fantasy line in a number of ways, most notably their comparative length and complexity. In addition to allowing players to "carry over" a character from one book to the next, Sorcery! also features the most verbose writing style of any entry in the Fighting Fantasy canon. Since these deviations were accompanied by an advertising campaign asking "Why should kids have all the fun?", it seems that the intention was to appeal to a more adult age range than the teenage market targeted by the main Fighting Fantasy series. Publication ceased when Puffin ended the Fighting Fantasy range in 1995. The Sorcery! series has since been reprinted in 2003 by Wizard Books, as part of a series of selected Fighting Fantasy gamebook reprints and new titles.
Steve Jackson conceived the Sorcery! epic after a trip to Nepal. Several of the village names encountered in the first volume (The Shamutanti Hills) are named after villages he came across on a 5 day trek from Pokhara.
“ Steve Jackson's Sorcery!
Sorcery is the tale of a hero's quest ... But it is no ordinary tale because the hero is YOU!
You stand before the Cantopani Gate, the last barrier between the civilized kingdom and the chaos that is Kakhabad, the dark land at the end of the earth. You are about to embark on a perilous journey — for your mission is to retrieve the Crown of Kings, stolen by an evil war-wizard.
You may choose to face your foes using the magical art of sorcery (The Sorcery Spell Book will assist you) or wielding the power of the sword, but whether it is as a wizard or warrior you will need to keep all your wits about you as you set out on the most fantastic adventure of your life!
Sorcery! is set in the fictional world of Titan, on the continent known only as the Old World. A powerful artifact known as the Crown of Kings, which bestows magical powers of leadership upon its owner, has been stolen from the land of Analand by the cruel Archmage of Mampang Fortress; with it he will be able to gain leadership of the lawless and brutal region of Kakhabad and begin an invasion of surrounding kingdoms. The player takes on the role of the lone hero who has been dispatched to retrieve the Crown, averting the invasion and saving Analand from terrible disgrace.
The Sorcery! series gives the player the choice of playing as either a fighter or a mage. If the player chooses to be a fighter then gameplay follows the established trends of Fighting Fantasy, while selection of the mage opens up a whole new field of play. The player begins with lower statistics, but has access to a wide variety of spells. The spell-casting system, based around memorization of combinations of three letters, was unique among the Fighting Fantasy series — though gamebooks such as The Citadel of Chaos (Jackson, 1983) and Temple of Terror (Livingstone, 1985) featured magic-using protagonists, the scale employed here was completely new: Sorcery! has 48 separate spells with three-letter codes such as "zap", "six" or "zed", with many of them requiring the use of an item and all of them costing stamina to cast. In 1983 a deluxe Sorcery! spellbook was released, featuring an illustration by John Blanche for every spell.
Sorcery! also had a unique feature designed to let readers play the game even when they did not have access to a pair of dice. Printed at the bottom of every page is a pair of die faces; instead of physically rolling dice the player could simply flip the pages and stop at a random location, accepting the image on the page as the result of the roll. The new Wizard Books editions of other Fighting Fantasy titles now also include this printed dice face system.
The journey undertaken in Sorcery! is nothing short of epic. The story covers four volumes, and though they can be played individually, many challenges in the gamebooks are made easier by items or information which can only be found by playing through and completing the previous books. Each book is far longer than the average Fighting Fantasy volume, the standard length for which is 400 sections: The Shamutanti Hills is the shortest, at 456 sections, while The Crown of Kings has 800.
Libra, the Goddess of JusticeEdit
The player is able, once per book, to call upon the goddess Libra, the Titan goddess of Justice, Truth and patron goddess to Analand. This can be done at any time to restore the characters skill, stamina or luck statistics to their maximum, or to remove all curses and diseases with which the player has become afflicted. In addition to this, there are several points in the adventure at which the player is given the opportunity to call upon Libra to release them from imprisonment, or more importantly, instant death.
Books in the SeriesEdit
- Main article: The Shamutanti Hills (book)
The first book in the series details the beginning of the player's journey to Mampang Fortress, covering the distance from Analand to Kharé through the Shamutanti Hills, a dangerous region occupied by a wide variety of nomads and monsters. As the first in the series this book is the easiest to complete, apart from a trap-filled Manticore lair at the very end.
- Main article: Kharé - Cityport of Traps (book)
The second book of Sorcery! begins with the player standing outside the gate of the city of Kharé, a fortified city and the only way to cross the Jabaji River. While passing through this dangerous city, the player must locate the four lines of the spell which will open the Northern Gate and allow passage out of the city and into the Baklands. There are several routes through the city and a wide variety of locations to visit and situations in which one may become entangled. The opponents that the player character have to fight are fairly few, including a powerful Deathwraith that requires all the reserves of strength and luck of the player to beat.
- Main article: The Seven Serpents (book)
Upon completion of the second book in the Sorcery! series, the player finds themselves standing at the beginning of the Baklands, a bleak and empty wasteland which must be crossed in order to reach Mampang Fortress. While travelling the player must locate the titular Seven Serpents, messengers of the Archmage travelling to Mampang to warn him of the player's presence. The degree of success achieved by the player in this will have a direct impact upon the challenges faced in the final book. This is the most linear entry in the series and the most challenging so far, if the player must kill all the seven serpents.
- Main article: The Crown of Kings (book)
The fourth book chronicles the player's passage through Mampang fortress and final confrontation with the Archmage. The Crown of Kings most closely adheres to the traditional Fighting Fantasy formula established by early books like The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Jackson and Livingstone, 1982), though it is longer and more difficult than any previously published gamebook in the series.
Wraparound Cover FormatEdit
Coloured Number FormatEdit
In the main Fighting Fantasy series, when the only book published with a Wraparound Cover Format was republished in the Coloured Number Format, it gained a coloured number on its cover, but lost the cover illustration on the spine and back cover. This was not the case in Sorcery!. When The Shamutanti Hills, and Kharé - Cityport of Traps were published with coloured numbers, they both also had the cover illustration wrap all the way round the book. Hence, although placed under the title of Coloured Number Format here, they are also Wraparound Cover Format books as well.
- Although this image does not demonstrate, this cover actually wraps around the spine and back as well.
US Coloured Number FormatEdit
The original UK prints of the first two Sorcery! books were by Penguin Books. When Puffin Books was given the series in the UK, it opted to have Sorcery! within its new Adventure Gamebooks banner style. This happened between book 2 (Kharé - Cityport of Traps) and book 3 (The Seven Serpents). Thus the first UK version of The Seven Serpents was in the "Adventure Gamebooks" banner style, and was not a "Coloured Number Format"-type book. This applied to The Crown of Kings (book 4) as well.
However, in the USA, Penguin continued to publish the books. Books 1 and 2 had been published in almost an identical cover to their UK counterparts, with wraparound covers and coloured numbers. The only real difference being the inclusion of the words, "The exciting new fantasy adventure in which you become the hero". The US editions of books 3 and 4 did not adopt the new style of their UK counterparts (although in a similar way to the UK they did no longer have wraparound covers) and maintained the coloured number in the top right hand corner. For this reason, the full set of Sorcery! exists with the coloured numbers, but only in the US versions. This has been known to have caused some confusion amongst collectors in the UK searching for books 3 and 4 with the coloured numbers, because UK versions do not exist.
On a separate note, The Sorcery! Spell Book also exists in the US prints, but with red metallic foil writing.
Adventure Gamebooks BannerEdit
Wizard Standard EditionEdit
- Steve Jackson's favourite book from the Fighting Fantasy books is the complete Sorcery! epic.
- Taken as a single epic quest the total references in Sorcery! amount to 2,265.
- A number of features of the Sorcery! series appear to have their inspiration in Classical mythology, for example the Harpies and the blind Seventh Noble of Kharé, the God-headed Hydra, the Bronze Statue, and the divine aid offered by the goddess Libra. In fact, many of these characters are found in the story of Jason and, more specifically, they are particularly similar to events and characters in the stop motion film, Jason and the Argonauts. Note, for example, the following parallels:
- The Bronze Statue can be destroyed by removing a plate on its knee in much the same way as the giant bronze warrior Talos is stopped in the film. In the Greek Myth, it is a nail which must be removed or a vein which must be cut.
- Libra can only be called on once per book in Sorcery! (i.e. four times in all). In the film, Jason can only call on the aid of Hera four times, an element which is absent in the Greek myth.
- There is no Hydra in the Greek myth (it was slain by Heracles for his second labour), but there is one in the film.
- ↑ Copy of advert at Gamebooks.org
- ↑ 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 220
- ↑ Sorcery! Boxset - Back Cover
- ↑ In Warlock Issue 1 there is an image of a cover versionof Kharé - Cityport of Traps that was never released. The back cover of this issue of Warlock was an advert for the Sorcery! series of gamebooks. It showed the cover of Khare - Cityport of Traps with no number on it at all. It is shown along with The Sorcery Spell Book and The Shamutanti Hills and it is prior to the advent of the Adventure Gamebooks banner. Although the first book, The Shamutanti Hills was first published with a wrap around cover and had no number on its front, the first edition of Khare - Cityport of Traps did have the number 2 in a corner triangle. Therefore the advert has a cover that was never released.
- ↑ 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 220
- ↑ 25th Anniversary Edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - 223