Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin)
Adskoe Boloto [Адское Болото] (Russian)
La ciénaga del escorpión (Spanish)
Le Marais aux scorpions (French)
O pântano do escorpião (Portuguese)
Sasori-numa no meiro [サソリ沼の迷路] (Japanese)
A skorpiók mocsara (Hungarian)
Der Sumpf der Skorpione (German)
V bažinách škorpiónů (Czech)
Jackson, Steve (United States)
Courtney, R. (American cover)
September, 1984 (original)
March, 1985 (American edition)
0140318291 / 9780140318296
0440976766 / 9780440976769 (American edition)
400 sections |
|Number of Endings:||
20, not counting death by Stamina loss or bad Luck. |
|User Summary:||You've acquired a magical ring which allows you to detect evil and always identify north, so you figure it's time to make a map of the unmappable Scorpion Swamp; of course, the patronage of a mage adds further incentive....|
|Darth Rabbitt's Thoughts:||
I find it odd that Scorpion Swamp is often maligned amongst the Fighting Fantasy fandom. It certainly has its flaws, and its premise is extremely simplistic, but... it actually has free exploration (making mapping easy and fun) and lacks the "it is impossible to succeed if you missed one slight detail" that the series is so fond of. It has a One True Path (one for each quest), but that just makes it easier to complete your quest, rather than being impossible without it, and (for the most part) it hits "wrong" choices with stat penalties instead of auto-deaths, which I consider a plus.
Instead of offering replay value by making everything overly difficult, the book offers replay value through the three different quests. The three quests also make the book have a variable difficulty level; in general, the Neutral quest is Easy Mode (even with the worst spell selection, the mission is very simple), Good is Normal Mode (the journey is fairly long, but most people are friendly to you), and Evil is Hard Mode (the Masters are a pain to defeat and/or outwit, and pretty much everyone will be unfriendly if not hostile if they realize your true intentions).
On that note, I really like that you can serve Evil in this book. You get a lot of opportunities to be a jerk in these books (and this one is no exception) but you're almost always nominally the "good guy" (or at least "fighting the bad guy"). You can be the good guy in this one if you want to, but you're not forced into it, which allows for more of a roleplaying element in addition to making the book feel more open-ended. The magic system is fun, and much fairer than the one in The Citadel of Chaos, as you don't have to roll for the number of spells that you start your quest with. You also get opportunities to pick up new spells in a few areas.
Also, there is an NPC named Poomchukker. Poomchukker.
That's not to say this book is perfect; the writing is pretty bare bones, and some of the encounters in the swamp are pretty bad (the regenerating Sword Trees come to mind). There is also a potential encounter with a SKILL 16 (!) STAMINA 14 demon (which is essentially a death sentence barring a lot of very good dice rolls on your part), although it involves making a choice that seems obviously foolish to me, and that doesn't strike me as any more unfair than the auto-deaths a lot of similar books would offer in such a scenario.
I give this book 9 Poomchukkers out of 10 for trying a very different experience than most FF books, and coming out very well, despite having many of the flaws that all these books suffer to an extent. US Steve Jackson is one of the better authors in this series; all of his books are good, if not great.
It never ceases to amaze me that the first book in the series not written by Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone was written by a different person also named Steve Jackson. In any case, I'm glad that the American Steve Jackson did manage to get involved in the series, as he's a good gamebook designer and this is one of my favorite adventures. Unlike most books in the series, the design here is completely non-linear. You can wander through the swamp in whatever order you want, even revisiting old locations. This freedom of movement is made possible by the book's wonderful mapping system -- each area is explicitly numbered and its exits clearly defined, making it both fun and easy to create an unambiguous map of the swamp. Things are further enlivened by the introduction of spellcasting (though in a different form from that found in Citadel of Chaos) to the gameplay.
The challenge level of the book isn't very high, and this has been the source of quite a few complaints over the years. Personally, though, I think the fact that the book provides three distinct quests to finish more than makes up for the ease with which any single quest can be completed. The difficulty is scalable -- while it's possible to play as safely as possible and stick to the parameters of a given mission, there's nothing to stop someone looking for a real challenge from trying to complete the conditions of multiple quests at once or even to map the entire swamp inch by inch. This sort of flexibility is a rare and wonderful thing, especially in this series, and it makes Scorpion Swamp something special.
Although its story and writing aren't as notable as its gameplay, even in this area, I think this book is a respectable entry in the series. The usual Fighting Fantasy minimalism is in place, but there are plenty of odd encounters that stick with the reader (the swamp's Masters, the three mages, and even weird beasts like the crab grass are all worthy of note). As usual, the text is greatly enhanced by excellent artwork, though the original British cover is remarkably poor considering that it was done by the same artist as the far superior interior work. Small complaints aside, it just doesn't get much better than this, at least in the realm of plot-light fantasy adventuring.
Scorpion Swamp had some initial promise it never lived up to. First off, rather than having the same quest in every session you can embark on one of three different quests with a different alignment. Also, magical spells are a part of your arsenal as they were in Citadel of Chaos. The problem is the book isn't very engaging. It's a dungeon crawl in a swamp. None of the mystique that saved Warlock of Firetop Mountain from a similar fate is to be found. Maybe if the series had been around a little longer and more authors had experimented with tweaking the system first, the approach taken in this book could have been made more engaging. As it is, Scorpion Swamp isn't the book I hoped it would be, and I don't recommend it.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Brett Easterbrook for the second British cover scan.|
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