Lord of Chaos (Gamebook)
De Leuw, Dave
(cover and interior)
Hunter, Alan (interior)
Pickering, John (interior)
Often ignored or derided as a cheap and nasty Fighting Fantasy rip-off, at least partly on account of the insults heaped on it by Warlock magazine, Proteus deserves better.
Looking at the first issue, The Tower of Terror, there’s no denying that elements of it are less than original – indeed, the rules have obviously fallen off the back of an FF book. Attributes are Dexterity (1d6+8), Strength (2d6+15), and Courage (1d6+6), lost Strength can be restored by eating rations (5 points a portion), and details are recorded on the Quest Sheet. Combat is identical to FF combat, except that Attack Strength is called Fighting Power, and there's no equivalent to FF's use of Luck in battle.
The only noteworthy difference is Proteus' use of potions, which is closer to the magic system in The Citadel of Chaos than the FF staple 'restore one attribute to its initial value'. Here you get to pick six potions (effectively one-shot spells) from a list of thirteen.
Anyway, enough of the mechanics, what of the plot? It's a run-of-the-mill 'find and kill the evil Wizard' mission, but not entirely without its merits. Your character, while a cliché (student of magic, bored with studies, wanting to get out and practically apply your skills), has more of a background than the average early FF hero, and you are confronted with a few examples of the villain's misdeeds before you enter the eponymous tower, so you have a little more motivation than just "What do we do with evil Wizards? SLAY THEM!!"
Some of the more tiresome aspects of your archetypal fantasy gamebook do crop up. Sometimes you come to a junction and decide to ignore one of the possible directions - but not always. Occasionally it is possible to retrace your footsteps back to section 1 and take a different route. There are also the inevitable Instant Deaths, some of which can be avoided with a successful roll or use of the appropriate potion, but you do get the odd 'turn left and DIE' moment as well. Item hunting plays its part - without this key you won't get that weapon which can kill the creature guarding the other key, without which you'll never get to the second level of the tower - but that is hinted at in the preface.
Then there are the puzzles. Proteus really did love its puzzles, frequently punishing getting them wrong with Instant Death. Still, there are only two in this issue, and one of them (a clumsy variation on the 'two guards, one always speaking the truth, the other always lying' one) is avoidable.
A good Dexterity is essential here, as almost every opponent has a double-figure Dexterity, but at least Proteus doesn't bother with the 'even a character with low initial scores should be able to do it' myth. Belenghast, the evil Wizard, has a Dexterity of 14 (don't forget, yours is 1d6+8, so that's not quite as bad as it sounds), but that can be reduced if you use the right potion.
Mr. Brunskill clearly had trouble stretching TToT out to 200 sections. The opening spans two sections, the victory three, and there's slightly less blatant padding elsewhere. Descriptions are largely superficial, and the text evokes little atmosphere. The illustrations don't improve matters much, only Alan Hunter's Pit of Death standing out in a good way, while John Pickering's nest of worms and odd-looking man are very poor indeed.
All in all, The Tower of Terror is not an impressive start to the series. It's not dreadful, and the difficulty level is just about right, but it does come off as a poor man's FF, and I doubt that the magazine would have lasted as long as it did without the improvements that came in later issues.
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Proteus #1 Ad
from Eagle comic, October 20, 1984. Thanks to Ed Jolley for the scan.