FF24: Creature of Havoc

Lafe Travis Fredbjornson (spoiler - win condition; edited to remove massive spoilers)
Per Jorner
Silly Name
John Stock
David Sutherland
William Vanderwhelm
Peter West



This was, and always will be now, the best book in the FF series. With Steve Jackson's wonderful gimmick of hiding the reference clue to escape the dungeon, it at first seems totally impossible. Until the reader finally realizes Jackson's sly trick. It is all worth it though as discovering the outside world brings the book to life, with whole new areas to explore and a feeling of wonderful accomplishment.

The book is full of such traps, like the infinite loops which cannot be escaped until your stamina is at zero. Or the many story paths with many paragraphs and decisions but which will all ultimately lead to failure as the path u should have taken was missed 20 paragraphs ago.

The hardest but fair (not including The Curse of the Mummies ridiculously overpowered enemies) book in the FF series, and also the best written. This will always be the benchmark of FF.

If u haven't played it, get it now. Even if u are in Britain (where sadly the books haven't been published for 8 years now, although recently they have started again with new covers and are up to book 6).



[Lafe Travis Fredbjornson]

Because of your bestial nature at the beginning, many of your early decisions are random; a die must be rolled to determine which direction you go. I don't care too much for this, because you'll end up missing important areas through no fault of your own. But once you open the Vapor of Reason, you'll be allowed to make your own decisions. Vapor, eh? You'll learn more about those later if you don't know what they are. The starting dungeon is quite hard to escape from. It's a large maze, and occupies the first half of the adventure. Unless you have the means to find secret passageways, you'll be running around in circles forever. Many branches lead to the same areas. I kept finding myself arriving at the workroom from different directions.

The pendant really comes in handy for finding secret passages. But it was unfair that the phrase "You find yourself..." was not part of passage #213, although you still need to add 20. One really nasty trick up on the surface, is being sent back down to the dungeon, except without the pendant in your possession. The map you're given on the inside cover of the book isn't very useful. But some of the clues are hidden in the illustrations, so look at them carefully!

Finding the location of Zarradan Marr is tricky. (He's the weird guy on the book cover.) You are given no clues about where or when you should try to enter his netherworld. But there is no limit on the number of times you may try. (If the passage you arrive at doesn't make any sense, then you'll know that you haven't found him.) You may be wondering what's with all the strange language? Steve Jackson has brilliantly created this to keep you from learning too much about what is going on. Because you are a primitive creature, all common speech and writing will sound like gibberish to you. Until you are given the Gift of Understanding, you will not be able to decode any of the garbled phrases.

I congratulate Steve Jackson for writing such a complicated adventure. Unfortunately, most people have found it too hard. Too many things are left to chance or guessing. It's not easy to get far.

Rating: 9 out of 10


[Per Jorner]


With a mixture of horror and anticipation you realize that you're reading a Fighting Fantasy book review in the form of a mini-adventure. What is your reaction to this?
  "What a dumb idea"? Turn to 9.
  "Hey, I haven't had the time to roll my stats yet"? Turn to 7.
  "Geez, not again"? Turn to 3.


Hearing voices, you decide to go exploring. Soon two creatures come into view, an Orc and a Dwarf frantically playing cards at a small wooden table while exchanging opinions on this and that.
  "Creature of Havoc impressed me in several ways," the dwarf declares. "I mean, just take the 20-page introduction of slightly twisted fantasy that sets the stage nicely, while still not requiring you to read it all before playing. Since you're likely to die a lot to begin with anyway, you can read a page or two in between games. It'll add flavour as you go along."
  "Speaking of the beginning, that was pretty different," says the orc. "I couldn't believe it when I first got to eat a Hobbit. I'm never going back to ordinary Provisions again! And that was in paragraph 446 - there's never _been_ a paragraph 446 before!"
  "I was a little dubious of the 'death-blow' mechanic at first. Since it happens so often - every six Attack Rounds - it can cut even momentous fights very short, making them seem a little less momentous. It also makes using Luck in battles pretty redundant. But in the end it helped you get past those early battles a little faster. I got pretty sick of fighting the Flesh-feeders! I don't know how I'd have put up with it without a computerized Adventure Sheet."
  "That dungeon was a dangerous place, but strangely intriguing even so. Even when I'd found what looked like the true path, I still took different routes several times just to check for alternative paths and new rooms. In the end I'd got to the point where I could play out the entire dungeon without flipping through the book at all, just rolling the dice, making the proper checks and adjustments. A little weird, but saves you a lot of grief!"
  The dwarf rubs his bearded chin. "If I recall correctly, it took me twelve attempts to get out of the dungeon, and another eleven games to win, without any cheating or mapping."
  "No cheating at all?" the orc asks pointedly.
  "None - well, I did my customary cheating with initial stats: I won't accept a starting Skill lower than 9. And there was that one time when the Giant Hornet slew me in one round and I suddenly remembered I had a special weapon that I'd meant to try out. And maybe once or twice when crossing the slippery bridges..."
  "Fear the slippery bridges."
  The card game has reached a critical stage; the orc wins the pot and cheers. The dwarf chews on the table. Suddenly the two become aware of your presence and turn their eyes towards you.
  "Ho, stranger!" the orc cries out. "What's your take on cheating?" What will you answer to this challenge?
  "I never cheat! Except for that one time..."? Turn to 10.
  "Prepare to eat the sharp end of my... something, foul cave-scum!"? Turn to 6.
  "Gamebooks are dumb. I just flip to the last paragraph and win"? Turn to 9.


"I want out of this," you say to yourself. Looking around, you notice two doors in the northern wall. The left one is adorned with a symbol in the shape of a seven-pronged star, the other with an odd mosaic of dead squirrels. Which door will you open?
  The left door? Turn to 5.
  The right door? Turn to 11.


"Well then," says the orc. "This one's top notch. It's certainly the most technically clever gamebook I've ever read, what with the code and all the secret references. It also sports an unusual premise and a good backplot overall, although I'd have liked some clarification on certain issues: for instance, what the Galleykeep was all about to begin with, some sinister explanation of why the creature couldn't resist the taste of Hobbit, or how the heck you're going to handle Marr's lieutenants after the book is over."
  "I mostly agree," says the dwarf. "It's not without flaws, however; among these I'd include having to fight the Flesh-feeders over and over again, the lack of options you may experience at times, the over-abundance of Luck and Stamina boosts, and the uncharacteristic ease of the final stretch. Its greatest weakness, I think, is the overall structure of the second half, where the line between imminent death and ultimate success is too sharp. But make no mistake: this is an excellent book, displaying a wealth of ideas, creepiness and irony. A lot of thought and care has gone into this one."
  "Shall we say 9 out of 10, then?"
  "That sounds about right."
  They fall silent. It seems this is all the information you're going to get out of these two. What will you do now? Do you desire those lotus flowers after all and offer to trade your key (turn to 8)? Or will you cast off your disguise, laugh maniacally and demand that they abase themselves at your feet (turn to 6)? Or will you wander off in search of an exit (turn to 3)?


You open the door, step through and find yourself in yet another round room. Turn to 3.


Enraged, the two of them brandish weapons and throw themselves at you! Fight them both at the same time.

ORC  Skill 6  Stamina 7
DWARF  Skill 7  Stamina 5

If you win you rummage through their belongings, finding a curious green orb and a piece of mouldy bacon. The poker chips turn out to be made out of wood and you leave them on the table, taking stock of your surroundings. Turn to 3.


You wait to see what happens. You suddenly gain a flash of insight: Creature of Havoc is a rather unusual gamebook which can easily be spoiled, in great ways or small. You do know that just about everyone who's had anything to say about the book thinks it's one of the best in the series, if not the very best. A thin voice, which may just be your imagination, tells you that you couldn't go much wrong if you avoid the hell out of reading any more reviews or comments about this book and just run off and buy it.
  If this sounds like good advice to you, turn to 3.
  If you'd rather learn a little more and risk a few minor spoilers, turn to 2.


They warily produce their lotus flowers and lay them on the table for your inspection. You finger the key in your pocket while pondering your next move. Do you intend to go through with the trade (turn to 12)? Or will you say you forgot the crystal key in your other jacket and edge away from the table (turn to 3)? Or will you attempt to snatch the flowers and run for it (turn to 6)?


Stupid adventurer! You die! You die!!


They nod understandingly. "The difficulty of the book doesn't much lie with battles or raw numbers," says the dwarf, "but with the sheer amount of dead ends and instant deaths waiting for you. Still it must be said that most of them are so entertaining in themselves that a lot of the time you don't really mind dying. The book is excellently constructed so that you always seem to find something new each game - and the way you find it! Old encounters take on a whole new significance with new knowledge, making each important discovery very rewarding. Meanwhile the protagonist's development from reactive to proactive is handled subtly and effectively."
  "If I have one complaint it's about an imbalance in the second half of the book," the orc interjects. "After you first leave the dungeon you're given what feels like a million different options, most of which will eventually get you killed, of course. But when you pick the right one, you're suddenly shoved firmly in the right direction and provided with several strong clues, as well as Luck and Stamina restores you probably don't even need because very few battles or other hazards remain. In just two games I went from having no idea which way to go, to winning! I felt a little disappointed, like I should have had a lot more savoury ways of dying ahead of me. I didn't feel I had earned the victory in the same way that I had earned my escape from the dungeon. Is it too much to ask for, having to face Quimmel Bone just once?"
  "Aw, cheer up. You'll no doubt die a lot in House of Hell."
  "Ah well. The new cover by Les Edwards looks good in any case. It doesn't actually depict the eponymous creature but a Devourer that you meet in the book. The creature you play is described as being more reptilian in appearance. Alan Langford's illustrations aren't very detailed or awe-inspiring, but at the very least he's good with spooky undead creatures and contributes to the dark fantasy atmosphere."
  "I did find a few minor glitches in the book," the dwarf notes, "none of which really affects gameplay, though. Firstly, it says on page 11 that you lose only 1 Stamina if you lose an Attack Round, which is clearly false. Secondly, in paragraph 217 it says you leave through the east door, but in the next paragraph you're back in the room choosing which door to take. Thirdly, it's technically possible to enter the first hidden room more than once, but I expect everyone will have the good sense not to do this. Fourthly, there's one place in the dungeon where taking a certain path will effectively return you to the previous junction, which is odd since the rest can be mapped logically. Given that there's an exit south from the Rhino-man's room that you can't take, I think going north from paragraph 309 was originally meant to take you there, in which case the map would make perfect sense. Fifthly, there are Skill restores that you cannot possibly benefit from, making it seem like the writer doesn't know his own book; there are redundant Stamina restores as well, but I can live with those. Finally, the introduction's claim that the nature of the Vapours was unknown is clearly refuted by Swinebeard's verdict."
  "About the code, I first thought the book was describing the way to turn code into normal text instead of the other way around. It was just a little bit unclear. But it was a pretty clever code in any case. I only found it a bit confusing initially that the letter Y was never treated as a vowel."
  "I suppose that only leaves the rating," the dwarf says. He then turns to you, asking: "Are you ready for our verdict?" What is your answer?
  "Sure, why not"? Turn to 4.
  "Maybe, but first I'll trade you a crystal key for two lotus flowers"? Turn to 8.
  "I don't really care. You're dumb"? Turn to 9.


As you reach out for the handle, the pattern of squirrels suddenly seems to come alive. With a shock of terror you realize these are no ordinary park animals, but fearsome Tree Devils! This insight comes however far too late as they swarm you and sink their chisel-like teeth into your flesh. Your adventure ends here, ignominiously.


The orc and the dwarf chuckle as if at some private joke. As you start off down the passage, you cannot help but wonder if you've somehow got the short end of the stick. After a few paces you halt and turn to ask why they wanted the crystal key so badly. To your horror, there is no sign of them, nor of the table! There's just a fluttering note that reads: "Yp vubr fedv mb. Wfelbv ghuj nith fef bcfep fothff. Bwb h bhb." All of a sudden you feel very creepy. Turn to 3.


(Additional note: In the original edition, the combat rules stated that you lose only 1 Stamina for each lost combat round, perhaps to reflect the creature's toughness (not that this was necessary to balance the book or anything). In the Wizard edition this was changed, but not the multiple opponents rules, creating the inconsistency mentioned above.)


[Silly Name]

This has to be easily the best of the FF books. While Livingstone knocked out high quality but more traditional books, Jackson always advanced the series. First he introduced magic in Citadel of Chaos, then gave you a ship and crew with Starship Traveller, although this was hardly one of his best efforts. In House of Hell (which employed many of the mechanics-tricks from which COH benefits), he turned out a very creepy piece series-redefining piece.

But, in COH,  he really went to town. First, the background was a short story in its own right: a huge, evocative and important set-up for the gamebook itself. Then, Jackson squeezed every possible cunning trick into the book's pages, adding an extra golden 12.5% references for good measure.

This has to be the most difficult of the books, with numerous red herrings and false-hope paths. There is only one way to complete the book, unlike some of the FF series, but the extreme difficulty seems believable, given the bigger-than-usual scope of the story. There's a code to decipher throughout the book which adds a layer to the central mystery of who the player character actually is. Needless to say, complete the book and you find out, although it is predictable shortly before this point.

The variety is also a treat - we go from dungeon to wilderness to town to final showdown, and none of it seems rushed. The enemy monsters are tough, and the hierarchy of enemy leaders that you get to meet or hear about is even more daunting.

Much of the game is down to luck - you roll a die at the beginning, rather than choose your path, but as your character becomes more aware, you can choose your destiny. Unfortunately, this is a frustrating aspect of the book - you can play time and again with no hope of winning if you roll the wrong number at the very start. However, none of these false paths lead far, so you can start again soon. The temptation to cheat is perhaps higher here than in any of the books. In the end, though, it just adds one more unusual feature to the book.

Cover and interior art are great. Atmosphere is menacing - there is a feeling of being manipulated throughout, both by the book's bad guys, by fate itself and by the author. A masterwork of the gamebook genre! Seek and acquire.

Rating: 10/10


[John Stock]

"Are you ready for the most unusual Fighting Fantasy adventure yet?" reads the back of this product of Steve Jackson (the one who wrote Citadel of Chaos, not the one who did the execrable Scorpion Swamp!). And not only is it the most unusual, but widely regarded as THE best FF adventure. And while I don't agree ENTIRELY with this (my favourite FF book is number 54, Legend of Zagor) it is still an extremely good FF.

The plot is great - you don't know where you are, who you arem or even what you are. All you get given for the Background section of the adventure is a long, very entertaining, seemingly irrelevant story. This is great.

While this adventure has come under fire for being too hard, it is this difficulty that is necessary to convey the feel of the adventure. There are some very good bits, and there are some downright devious bits - I remember one sequence where you get stuck in a cycle of battles that go on endlessly... And the coded speech is interesting too.

Pntih fgrijpf efrp nt, thf irfjsvfuryl jtatlf, SORRY! My mistake. Coded speech, COH-style!

On the gripes front, there is very little to say apart from the HORRENDOUS difficulty of it. But this dificulty, while not irritating like in The Crimson Tide, makes you want to come back and keep plugging away at it. Mapmaking is all but essential. However, one very serious gripe is near the beginning - it seems that if you get a wrong dice roll you won't be turning to paragraph 460 in a hurry. 460? Yes, 15% extra paragraphs with this one! And for the same price! Great!

So, find it, buy it, and finish it (on attempt 58 or there about).

MY RATING - 9.6/10


[David Sutherland]


I remember when this book first came out. In fact, I have a copy of the first edition still knocking about in the attic somewhere.

The structure of this book is really what makes it unique. It casts the reader into the role of the main character, and allows them to make the decisions. Although nowhere near as versitile as D&D (you can only select to follow the paths that the author has written), it is still packed full of surprises.

What really makes this book unique in the series is that, unlike any other, it casts the reader as the monster, struggling to rediscover who they are. A lot of it depends on luck, as you struggle against your instincts.

Why only three stars? Well, in truth, if I remember the previous edition correctly, this book has one error in it's numerical system (all paragraphs are numbered, to allow you to flick back and forth) that left this book unable to be completed without cheating. Now, this MAY have been corrected, but given that it survived fifteen years already without being fixed I have my doubts.

And the second? Well, that point is lost to the simple fact that even the Fighting Fantasy series on a whole couldn't quite beat other choose-your-adventure books. I do admit that they were far better than most others in the field, and I have a sentimental attatchment because they were the first that I enjoyed. But quite basically, the writing skills cannot hold a torch to Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series. Let's hope they decide to reprint those ones too someday.

The sad fact is, we can hope that with the reprint, it may attract a new audience. But the truth is, it won't. Children today are not capable of looking at these books in the same light as people of my generation did. Yes, I sound so old here when I say that (I'm not even 30 yet, honest), but the simple fact is that the book form of entertainment was really a product of it's times. Stuck halfway between Dungeons and Dragons, and the rise of computer games, these served as the perfect bridge to entertain a generation of children. Nowadays, however, there's really no point in these books. Not when kids can just load up a game of Baldur's Gate or something equally dreary. Something that doesn't involve use of the imagination.

The only people that this book is going to appeal to are those like me who will want to catch the collector's 'milenium edition' reprint and perhaps relive the old magic again. And here's to us, many happy memories.


[William Vanderwhelm]


Creature of Havoc has been on the top of many fighting fantasy lists, and is well deserving of this recognition. However, this is also one of the most difficult fighting fantasy books and beginners to the series may be frustrated. Nonetheless, this book has a very intricate storyline which is set up by many pages of background material. Even with the background material, you start off as a creature unknowing of the world, and begin a quest for identity. There are a diverse number of environments that you will traverse. This updated book does correct a glaring error in the previous edition which made the book extremely difficult to solve. Also, the production value of this book is top notch, from the wonderful cover to the quality of the paper. A must for any fighting fantasy or gamebook fan.


[Peter West]

Creature of Havoc should be regarded as one of the best Fighting Fantasy gamebooks ever written. It details the intricate journey of a creature of unknown origin on a quest for identity. The reader is thrust into the book as this creature, and finds out that the creature does not possess much free will. In the early sections of the book, the author (Steve Jackson) interestingly creates the impression of helplessness by having the reader roll a die, the total resulting in going to a specific section of the book, rather than having the reader choose the path.

The inability to understand language is also wonderfully dealt with, by having characters converse in code-form. This code can be cracked as the creature gains more insight. In the latter parts of the book, the code is gone as the creature gains a grasp of language, although it still cannot speak.

Jackson piques the interest of the reader in the introductory sections of the book. The book is set in Allansia, in a region where the Windward Plain meets the Trolltooth Pass. The main villain of the story is no less than Zharradan Marr, the third powerful wizard in the 'Demonic Three' (readers encountered Zagor and Balthus Dire in previous books). No less than nineteen pages of background material are written detailing this setting. Although much information is gained from the background, adventurers will be prudent to regard the information with a grain of salt, for many dangers and wild goose chases may be encountered.

If the book had any drawback, it is its difficulty. Readers may become frustrated in the first area which requires much exploring, and perhaps, lucky choices. In the previous version of the book (i.e., the non-collector's edition), there is a slight 'error' in the book-involving turning to a specific paragraph given a specific word combination in the text. Fortunately, this is corrected in the new version.

There are some infinite loops in the book, but they become apparent quickly. One of these involves an encounter with a certain creature that is fought over and over again. Creature of Havoc just might be the most difficult Fighting Fantasy book to solve, and will probably require many tries involving trial and error, to finish.

The final encounter is wonderfully written, culminating in one of the best endings for a Fighting Fantasy Gamebook. The reader is finally told of the origins of this creature, and this revelation serves as a satisfying conclusion.

Rating: 10 out of 10