FF19: Demons of the Deep

Robert Clive
Per Jorner
Andrew Makrigiannis
Sean R. Rook
John Stock
William Vanderwhelm
Andrew Whittingham


[Robert Clive]

I've always liked this one. Demons of the Deep is a good Fighting Fantasy gamebook which has you exploring a different environment completely. The adventure is set almost entirely underwater in a lost city, similar to that of the Atlantis myth!

The mission is essentially one of revenge against a Pirate Captain who has wronged you personally, instead of the usual type where you confront the villain to stop his evil plans. You spend almost the entire adventure searching out allies and artifacts that'll assist you in the final confrontation with the Captain and his salty crew of sea scum.

You get to swim around a sunken city under the ocean, interact with some of the local creatures and explore various ruined buildings and the like. The book's interior artwork is okay, the front cover is especially excellent featuring a fearsome bone creature rising from the depths in a cloud of bubbles!

This book is unusual in the way that there are different solutions to finishing the book. You can play it a number of times and achieve a successful mission differently each time! Demons of the Deep is a good addition to the series.



[Per Jorner]

Demons of the Deep is a book that doesn't stand out as particularly good or bad. The concept is unique, and the beautiful cover by Les Edwards with the Bone Demon is my favourite FF cover.

The inside actually reads somewhat like an Ian Livingstone quest with a subaquatic city as the chosen setting. There are obvious differences, however, one being that the encounters don't lie neatly arranged down parallel paths. Instead, if you have a choice between entering locations A, B and C, you may very well find that after exploring A you're given the choice of doing B or C, and that after B you can do C, but if you were unfortunate enough to pick C from the start you'll automatically move on to the next part of the adventure. The shortest path through the first half of the book is only a tiny fraction of the longest, and you will continually find yourself prompted for items that you've never heard of (the ubiquitous references to toolfish had me puzzled for the longest time). Finding the true path thence becomes less a matter of choosing which path is more advantageous than working out how to get to take all of them, which seems odd.

Steve Jackson the 2nd also has a habit of writing "effectively", sometimes using one paragraph for content that would traditionally require two or three. For instance, an entry might read: "You search the room for stuff. Test your Luck. If you're Lucky, you find a purple platypus which you may add to your possessions. If you're Unlucky, a crab pinches your nose, making it go honk. In either case, when you're done you leave through the door by which you came in. Turn to blah blah blah." Purists may find this annoying.

Moreover, as has been noted by others, although there is a kind of ongoing item hunt in the book there are multiple ways of finishing it, and not all of them involve the items in question. Basically the endings range all the way from being marooned or adrift on the sea to grabbing some treasure or getting your own ship. There are other books which sometimes let you live although you don't slay the villain or recover the treasure, but at least they make it abundantly clear that you didn't win. It would have been sufficient to put the best ending in paragraph 400 like any sane book would, but no.

Some short notes: You don't get any potion from the start, but it's possible to acquire them down the road (except the Potion of Skill, for some reason). There are also half a dozen ways to improve your initial stats, which seems a little over the top considering very few other books do this even once. If you like a challenge, try to get the maximum of 14 Black Pearls without gambling for more in the games room (hint: this involves performing a questionable deed). The protagonist in this book is not gender-neutral, but is referred to as a "he" by the pirates in the introduction (not that I know if this was ever considered an issue by the editors). In one place you'll be prompted for a piece of information that you probably never bothered to write down and which is supposed to lead to a numeric reference; in this situation I cheated and reread the paragraph with the clue, assuming that my character wouldn't have forgotten information known to be vital. Lastly, there's a small glitch in one part of the book where if you previously talked to a Dolphin using a certain item you can do so again even if you've lost the item (guess the magic rubbed off on you or something).

Summing up, Demons of the Deep has a promising setting, some good ideas and cute moments (like when the Sea Dragon refuses to let you borrow 2 Gold Pieces), but is marred slightly by the confusing area progression and the ending's lack of focus. Neither bad nor unmissable.

Rating: 6/10


[Andrew Makrigiannis]

I started reading Demons of the Deep about six years ago but I never found the time to get through it, until about 3 months ago. First I want to say that I'm a long time fan of Fighting Fantasy. Deathtrap Dungeon, Forest of Doom and all the early books are what got me interested in RPG-type games initially. Anyway on to the review. I first purchased this book because of the amazing cover art. I know its a bad reason to buy a book, but most of us get sucked in by this. On the cover is a Bone Demon made up of many human skeletons and wielding a spear, battle-axe and long-knife in its 3 arms. It is bursting from the bottom of the ocean amid a multitude of air bubbles. This is one of the best covers I've ever seen.

This book was written by Steve Jackson, not the one who wrote the Sorcery! series (which, incidentally, are my favourite FF books) but the second one who's company got raided by the US government. The premise of the book is that you are an adventurer who gets caught by a shipful of pirates. Captain Bloodaxe decides to throw you overboard to the sharks but he first equips you and gives you provisions. You sink to the bottom of the ocean and land in a magical pentagram which bestows upon you the ability to breathe underwater. This allows you to explore the underwater region you have found and you soon find out that you have found the long-sunken city of Atlantis. However, the spell only lasts for one day and you must return to the surface after that or drown. The problem is that the pirates will kill you if they see you. Therefore, you must find a way to destroy the dastardly Captain Bloodaxe and his scummy crew.

You soon find out that you will need to find black pearls in order to defeat the pirates. So you set out and explore the underwater city of Atlantis. You are basically like a tourist visiting all the sites. You get to go to the arena, mausoleum, palace, public gardens, a cathedral and other various places. The book is generally well written. But not in the same category as books like City of Thieves and Khare-Cityport of Traps. The book was enjoyable if you like something different and there are few underwater adventures that I'm aware of. One gripe I have about the book is that it is relatively easy to get from beginning to end without dying. There was only one deathtrap in the whole book and only if you failed a luck roll. This is probably why I didn't get through it the first time. If you are constantly scared that a wrong decision will kill you, you tend to pay more attention. There are two hard monsters in the book, a Sea Dragon and a Kraken, however you don't need to fight them to win.

The interior art was good, but not fantastic. One thing that turned me off is that on the very first page there is a picture of the pirate ship and ...horrors.... a cannon is sitting beside the captain. As far as I'm concerned guns don't belong on Titan. One thing I did like about the book is that there are four ways to increase either your Initial Skill score or your total attack strength. There is also a way to re-roll your whole character. So even with really bad stat rolls you can bring them up for the end of the book. It should only take you 3-5 tries at most to finish the adventure. I have to admit that the final battle is more interesting that normal. You normally just have to hack down the bad-guy, but there are multiple ways to win in this book and you get to use a bit of strategy.

Rating: 6.5/10


[Sean R. Rook]


This was the first FF book I bought and out of the roughly 20 FF books I own I'd rank this as number 3 (right after Moonrunner & Deathtrap Dungeon).

In this adventure, you're the last survivor of a pirate attack. Instead of outright killing you they decide to have a little fun and make you walk the plank. Luckily you end up in the middle of an ancient circle of magic that grants you gills. You have 24 hours to put together enough weapons and allies in order to get your revenge on the pirates that slaughtered your crew.

It's an excellent adventure that makes good use of its undersea location.


[John Stock]

Hmm, an undersea adventure. Interesting.

The premise is, you and your valiant little merchant vessel are raided by pirates, specifically, the dreaded Troll ship which is captained by the imaginatively named Captain Bloodaxe, and made to walk the plank. Still armed, of course. (You would have thought that an evil nautical maniac would have taken all your belongings before shoving you overboard?) But, for some reason, you find yourself able to breathe with gills (?). Coincidentally, you fell right onto the ruined city of Atlantis. Hmm.

By this point (3 paragraphs in, or thereabouts), I was thinking things along the lines of, "This is convenient."

A short while later down in the same paragraph, the book mentions the "Black Pearls" which can give one one's best chance for survival. I am now thinking that this is VERY convenient.

Yes, the plot might be convenient and contrived beyond belief, but it's still an enjoyable undersea romp. That being said, there are many random undersea creatures. Batfish. Ballfish. Borerfish. Swordfish. Axefish. Badgerfish (probably). Dopefish (ok, I'm making this up, but I'm sure it crossed the author's mind). And - get this - Cyrano the Swordfish (obviously The Other Steve Jackson was a Gerard Depardieu fan!).

In all, it's not a bad little romp, but... it's a bit silly and contrived at times. And the bony thing on the cover has nothing to do with the book.



[William Vanderwhelm]


Demons Of The Deep is an interesting Fighting Fantasy adventure in that it occurs underwater. The book begins as you, the only survivor of a merchant ship, are thrown overboard by a bunch of pirates. You float to the bottom of the ocean, but realize that a magical pentagram inscribed on the ocean floor has given you gills! The book is full of unique encounters, including a duel with a half-fish, half-man swordsmaster named Cyrano. You also get to do battle with the legendary Kraken! This creature has the most stamina that I've seen in a Fighting Fantasy book (30!). Your goal is to ultimately get revenge against the pirates that killed your comrades. The last encounter with the pirates is well staged, as there is more than one way to finish the book. Also, for a change, the book is not about reaching one evil foe and killing him. You will need to have accumulated valuable items if you are to succeed. Not one of the best Fighting Fantasy books, but belongs in the collection, given its unique setting and encounters.


[Andrew Whittingham]

Sentiment. It's an important word that in a way describes how people's hearts hold together. In Fighting Fantasy, the most sentimental thing is probably the first book you ever read or bought. Demons of the Deep was my first book. I bought it by mistake, as a present for my dad because it had a nice looking monster on the front. When I got home and saw that the book was actually an adventure game book, I decided to keep it for myself and buy him some sweets instead. Therefore, Demons of the Deep was what got me into Fighting Fantasy. I loved the book. It was better than anything else I'd ever seen. It will therefore always hold a place in my heart that none of the other books will ever be able to lay claim too. As for the book itself, you begin my getting captured by pirates after your ship 'Sunfish' is no match for the 'Troll'. You are the last man standing in your crew and Captain Bloodaxe, impressed by your valour, has a nice surprise for you. Instead of killing you instantly, he ties you down with your equipment and some provisions, and throws you into the water telling you to swim for home.

Obviously, you are going to drown, but no! Nothing's that simple in Fighting Fantasy. Instead, surreal plots devised result in you descending into the lost city of Atlantis and being protected by the magic of the Pentagram, which results in you gaining gills and having your dinner protected against ware. Hmm. Maybe, that's a little too bizarre for some people. It's certainly a crazy idea, but one that allows a different perspective to the book. Your actual quest hereon is not to survive as that's achieved easily enough, but to gain your revenge on the pirates. You have until nightfall to explore Atlantis gaining what you need to avenge the death of your crew and take home all the treasure for yourself. There are actually numerous ways of doing this, many of which you probably won't find. It becomes obvious from the beginning that you need to search for Black Pearls, as this is your best hope of overcoming the pirates and Captain Bloodaxe. These tend to be guarded by dangerous foes of course, and if you want to succeed in the best way - that is setting off for Port Blacksand with a ship full of goodies - you'll need at least eight and knowledge of an appropriate command. However, this in a way is a problem, because after you've dealt with the pirates once - say, with 6 black pearls in your pocket - the incentive is not particularly great for you to go back and do it the best way.

During the adventure, there are a couple of important characters you might wish to come across. These include Greylock, Cyrano the Swordfish, Keeekweeet the Dolphin and the infamous Sea Dragon. The Sea Dragon is a very curious character, as he can help you defeat the pirates in one of the lesser endings, or you can kill him off - no easy task - and then go on to do it the best way possible. A thing I don't particularly like about the book is that you can escape with your life quite easily. If you haven't got what you need by the end of the book, you can swim to the surface and live on. Not really in the Fighting Fantasy spirit this. Surely everything should be succeed or die. Still, despite the curious situations of the endings, the book is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I always enjoyed my journeys through the deep, encountering some nice creatures and characters, and linking together various pieces of the puzzle. To complete the book, you're going to have to beat at least one tough opponent of level 10 or above which is about the level books should be at. However, with the various endings it does become a slightly easy book to finish. One thing the book can't be accused of is being linear. It is quite difficult to map some of the areas out, and linking between certain buildings is not necessarily possible. Many locations can only be reached via certain routes, and your actions beforehand tend to alter the path you take in the immediate future. Unfortunately, this probably makes the book a little short from start to finish. It also becomes pretty obvious early on what you need to be doing on each journey. The book also introduces a number of creatures unlikely to be seen in other Fighting Fantasy books. Being under water, all the enemies are rather fishy, and we get introduced to the Lionfish amongst other better-known opponents of much more familiarity.

Overall, Demons of the Deep is a very nice read. There is little confusion, and getting to unexplored sections quickly is relatively easy. The characters are nice, though Captain Bloodaxe is unlikely to be heralded as a classic Fighting Fantasy enemy. The plot is reasonable, with a nice story unfolding as you journey through Atlantis. Where it comes unstuck is the simplicity of surviving and the multiple successful endings, which is not want people want to see in fighting Fantasy books. It's certainly never going to be classified as bad like some of the others in the series may be, but the flaws regarding the ending inevitably lower its status. There are a number of ways it could have been improved on, but it's definitely a must for collectors and an enjoyable read at all times.

Rating: 6 out of 10