Sunday 13 October 2019

Battle Quest Book Playthrough – Caves of Fury

Battle Quest Book Playthrough – Caves of Fury

By Casey Douglass

Caves of Fury

More than six years ago, I did a little playthrough of one of the Battle Quest books that I happened to come across while having a sort out. Sadly, I didn’t make it out of the Tunnels of Fear with the three diamonds I’d managed to liberate, but it was a fun way to spend some time. I’ve decided that I’m going to go through the process again, but with Caves of Fury this time around. I will inject my own, probably warped, sense of humour into the perils that are inflicted on my character. I will be letting the events play out as the book dictates however.

Caves of Fury is a choose-your-own-path type of book by Stephen Thraves. It was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1992, with illustrations by Terry Oakes. It comes with two wooden battle dice, two counters to keep track of your character’s Strength and Treasure levels, and a variety of cards and see-thru plastic things to decode cryptic clues, if your character is lucky enough to find the item ahead of the time it is needed. All for the very reasonable price of £5.99.

The lead-up into the action describes you, a famed barbarian warrior, being summoned by an old lord. This old lord immediately got on my nerves, making me follow him up a steep cliff moments after arriving on shore after an arduous journey by sea. I’d go so far as to call him a pompous prick, but there was treasure to be found so I kept my mouth shut.

At the top of the cliff, the old man points at a sheer-sided island in the distance, telling me that it is the Island of Fury. This island, apparently, is owned by one Cragcliff, a ruler who delights in filling its dangerous caverns with treasure to lure in the foolish and the greedy. I was about to suggest that this place sounded like it was performing a valuable service by weeding out the idiots who lived nearby, when the old man says it has claimed four of his sons. Foot in mouth avoided. Technically, the youngest did come back but he was mute and maddened by the experience, so I wasn’t really going to quibble about his “Loss Count” either.

The wind is really howling up on the cliff and I’m starting to wish I wasn’t standing there wearing only a loin-cloth. You’d be amazed at how little protection a sword strapped to your back offers against the elements. Nevertheless, I turn my back to the distant island and give it a try. Nope, still fucking freezing. The old chap is babbling about how he wants someone to go to the island and steal as much treasure as possible. He admits it won’t bring his sons back but thinks that the feeling of having deprived Cragcliff of his treasure will give him some kind of bitter joy.

He sniffs and looks at me silently for a moment before asking if I’ll do it. He tells me that I can keep any treasure that I’m able to bring back with me. I look over my shoulder at the island, trying not to focus on how far the goosebumps are rippling down by body. It looks stormy out there, moody my old Mum would say. I turn back to him and nod. I could do with a good adventure. I lost a month to trying to get an Adventuring Permit a short while ago, and it has played merry hell with my income for the year to date.

Caves of Fury

The next few pages of the book yank me out of the story and explain how to play, telling me to set the Strength Counter to 6 and that when it gets to 0, my character is dead. It then warns me to set my Treasure Counter to 0, half implying that I’m the sort of cheeky chap who might set it to 2 and give myself a head start. I’m almost offended. I’m told about how the dice work, how the blue one represents me and the red one the monster. It then explains how the battles work, how all monsters fight to the death but if my character gets wounded, he loses one strength and has to flee. Doesn’t sound very heroic to me but okay. I just want to get started.

So I get started. I row away from the shore in a little row-boat, bumping along on the waves. It’s still bloody cold, and now I’m getting wet too. Joy. As I near the island, I see a number of chasms looming in its side that I can choose to enter. This is the first decision that the book has given me, wanting me to flip to a certain page depending on the choice that I want to make. I opt for the middle chasm, as I’ve always been a fan of taking the middle way, the path between extremes.

As I near my chasm of choice, much howling and screeching arises from deep inside, as if the creatures on the island have sensed that I am here. Well, scream and howl all you want beasties! It’s the silent stuff that I can never see coming that makes me uneasy. A stealthy goblin stole some of my gold once. It wasn’t the loss that bothered me, just the fear that he could have slit my throat while he was at it. I look over my shoulder and then feel foolish. I’m in a row-boat for goodness sake! I make it to the shore and I’m given the option to rest awhile if I’d like to. The rudeness of the old man is still fresh in my mind, making me trek so far without a care to my well-being, so I opt to rest.

I rest for a very lazy and languid ten minutes. Why only ten? Well the noises coming from deeper in the chasm do start to niggle at my courage and resolve. You see, I’m a barbarian very much in touch with his emotional side, and I know when I’m bullshitting myself. Most of the time anyway. Ten minutes seems the ideal length of time to rest, yet not let my mettle weaken too much. Every time my eyes close, the screeches get louder too! They know I’m here and they are deliberately robbing me of rest! Paranoia is something I also dabble in, as you can probably tell.

I stand and stretch as the thought crosses my mind that it will be even colder once I go inside. Unless, I think hopefully, it’s some kind of hell-spawn pit with fire and brimstone. That would actually be quite nice, under the circumstances. I could dry off if nothing else. I enter the chasm and all the screeching and wailing falls silent. Now they definitely know I’m here! This isn’t paranoia! All I can hear as I move forward are my footsteps, steps that echo back louder than I’d really like. It almost sounds like I’m being followed by a pirate with a wooden-leg. I soon realise that I have a stone stuck in the sole of one boot, which is a bit of a relief.

As I move deeper, the cavern I’m inside merges with two more, likely the paths that I didn’t take when I made my choice for the middle chasm. The whole thing narrows into a tunnel as I wonder what pitfalls I avoided in the other two. I hope they were nasty, just so that I can feel a bit smug. Flickering torches begin to appear on the walls, setting me to pondering the question of if they are magically induced or kept going by minions. I briefly ponder what the economy of a dark lord might consist of. Underlings don’t come cheap. It’s while my head is full of, well, overheads, that I practically stumble on the first monster of my adventure.

Caves of Fury

An ape-like thing snarls at me, all narrow-eyes and flared nostrils. It has a big “Fuck-off!” sword next to it, but it’s holding a big “Try it punk!” diamond in its claw. That type of diamond is the best! I decide to fight it for it, ignoring the option to avoid it. I turn to the applicable page and catch my breath. It needs to be wounded 8 times before it will die! I could understand if it was some kind of land-based octopus, having to lop off each tentacle first, but even that might need 9 wounds if we include the killing blow. Actually 8 might work if you don’t mind waiting for the loss of blood to kill it. Does an octopus have blood? Ichor? A snarl brings me back to the ape thing. Focus.

I loosely hold the dice in my right hand and roll them on the floor in front of me. This is real life me, not barbarian me. Meeting a snarling creature and promptly bending down to roll wooden cubes in front of it isn’t that conducive to survival. Unless, I guess, you find yourself up against a monster partial to a bit of gambling. The first roll tells me that the creature bashes my shield with its sword. I’d expected to be wounded and to run away on my very first roll, so this was a bit of a result.

Roll two has the exact same outcome, another shield bash, sending shock-waves up my arm. The next roll results in my shield being raised as the creature just stares at me. So much for the rule of three that Hollywood abuses in almost every blockbuster. Where was that third strike on my shield? Blasphemy! It’s on the fourth roll that I wound it with a darting sword strike. Haha! How do you like that ape monster!

The fifth roll results in it staring at my shield again. I wish I was a bit more proactive, that shield is coming up so often its embarrassing. Next, I land another wound. Just six more to go! I still don’t think I'll achieve the kill but I’m persistent if nothing else. Roll seven sees it looking at my shield again. I feel myself beginning to blush. Roll eight is another deft sword strike from my good self. Five wounds left for the win!

Roll nine is my shield and its face again. Damn it! Roll ten just shows our faces glaring at each other. Should battles to the death be this awkward? Roll eleven has my shield raising in-front of its face. Again. Roll twelve gives me something new, our weapons actually clash! I listen to the sharp “ting” of metal echoing away down the tunnel. It lasts for far longer than I expected. Roll thirteen sees my shield raised in its face again. Of course it is. Roll fourteen is the same thing... yet again!

This creature must think I’m such a coward! Roll fifteen sees me wound it once more! Just four more wounds needed! Then it happens. Roll sixteen sees it cut an angry gash along my right arm, sending my hulking barbarian running down the tunnel, screeching that he doesn’t want to play any more! Shit.

I reduce my Strength Counter by one and use it as a bookmark to hold my place. Not the best of starts, already weakened, no loot and a character already struggling with paranoia and afraid of what the monsters he is fighting must think of him. I hope he doesn’t run into a trap in his panic. Best case scenario he runs into a wall, knocks himself out and has a nice little nap. Otherwise, part two will be pretty damn short.


If you enjoyed reading about my adventure so far, join me again soon for Part Two of my delve into the Caves of Fury, coming next weekend.