Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chopping Block - Part Three

Hi everyone,
Back again with a final look at some of the crazy critters that lurk inside the Nintendo DS game The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. For those that are interested, the webpage for the game developer, Big Blue Bubble Inc., can be found here.

Nobbler: A Dwarf who is willing to sell his wares to anyone, as long as they don't stink of Orc. He can be found inside the common room of the Dwarf stronghold.

Og: A White Orc who is so lonely that he is willing to sell his weapons to anyone. He did some terrible things when he worked for Zagor and Giles.

Giles: An evil man in league with Zagor. Knowledge, not power, is his only desire, which is why he gets along so well with the Warlock. He somehow charmed the Dwarf leaders into believing he is their friend, although they are fully aware that he is also cavorting with Zagor. No-one's really sure how and when he came to Firetop. He seeks a sample of one of the undead Dwarfs so that he can learn its secrets and use it to infect his enemies.

Gorrin Briarbeard: This Dwarf guards the entrance to the Dwarf stronghold. He has red hair and wears a patch over his left eye. He wields a huge battleaxe and carries a dagger. He is on the lookout for spies and distrusts Giles immensely.

Oliphant: An insane Dwarf priest who hides out in a chamber accessed via a secret passage from the Trophy Room. He is balding, grey-haired and wields a sledgehammer. He believes the hero to be a new initiate and orders him to go to the Room of the Three and collect the Book of Right from the compartment beneath the statues.

Zagor: The evil Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Some say he looks young and came from the direction of Darkwood Forest, followed by a Red Dragon and leaving a string of burned-down villages behind him. Others say that he is very short, wizened and old, and say he came from Darkwood with a lot of green servants. Zagor and his legions stole the home of the Dwarfs and their ancestors as well as their possessions. Those he defeated have been raised from the dead to serve in their former home.

Firetop Dwarfs: Many Dwarfs still live inside Firetop, but they can't be counted upon to be friendly. They have a military outpost on the upper levels and they are still on guard against 'invaders'. All non-Dwarfs are attacked on sight. The Dwarf warriors think it is their skill and loyalty that keeps them safe from the Warlock, but others think that the Warlock lets them live for his own amusement. None of them mine the mountain anymore. There are some among them who are organising an army to chase the monsters away from their home.

Golems: The Dwarfs created the Golem to serve them, but the gods punished them for their laziness. The Golems were released from their burden of servitude until Zagor the Defiler came and added them to his legions. Now they are deadly killers. The Cyclops guards the entrance to the Upper Keep; it can shoot fireballs from its eye. Lesser Golems can be found beyond, of different colours and lesser power.

Orcs: Green-skinned Orcs are the weakest, then grey-skinned Orcs, Red Orcs and the powerful White Orcs.

Skeletons: Although undead, the Boat House Skeletons are not evil. Engineers have been tasked with running a ferry to Stonebridge, but the Dwarfs have prevented them from travelling downstream. The industrious Skeletons have dreams of trading with Stonebridge and someday creating their own merchant empire.

Eye Stingers: These creatures appear to be an advanced or magical breed, for they are covered in many eyes instead of just one, and can shoot bolts of magic from their main eye. Spikes emerge from their body when enemies get too close. Pink Eye Stingers shoot fireballs from their main eye, while Green Eye Stingers shoot green blasts that poison their opponent.

Misc. Info:
- Zagor wishes to be rid of the Dragon. He offers its hoard to the hero who kills it. 
- Killing the Dragon yields a mysterious vial of Dragon Essence, probably what Zagor seeks.
- One of the Dwarfs can be found drinking in the Orc Tavern. He wears a necklace of human ears.
- Zagor's Inner Sanctum is sealed off by an iron portcullis, which has been further barricaded by the Orcs who removed the handle from the winch. This was to prevent the Undead Dwarfs in the room beyond from getting through. Too many Orcs were careless, so the chieftains blocked the way. The Warlock teleports in if he needs to visit the outer rooms.
- No Orcs are allowed in the Fortress proper, which is protected by a spell that blocks the doorway with magical chains unless the hall is lit by a special blue candle. Most Dwarfs don't think twice about it, because in their glory days the hall was always filled with blue candles.

I hope you enjoyed this look at how the Nintendo DS game chose to portray the iconic Firetop Mountain. As you can see it varies quite a bit from the previously established setting, but I think there is still a lot of value in it and perhaps some of the lore here can be used to enrich the setting or perhaps portray a future version of the Warlock's lair. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chopping Block - Part Two

This post is a continuation of the previous one, in which I took a peek at the citizens of Stonebridge in the Nintendo DS game The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. This time we will venture into the infamous mountain instead and see who is there!

Bartholomew: A red-bearded Dwarf who is seeking ore inside Firetop to forge a new weapon. He lives in an area of the basement near the Temple. Mizar claims that he is delusional, like all remaining Dwarfs inside the mountain.

Mizar: A hunchbacked Dwarf who has lived undisturbed in a hidden workshop near the keep entrance in Firetop since Zagor came. He holds a grudge against the Orcs and other monsters that occupy his home.

Hobbler: A diseased Dwarf wretch who was held captive in the torture chamber. He was desperate to get a message to Weaselnose but died in his cell. One of the Dwarf leaders, he was captured through his own carelessness, not because he was betrayed.

 Klugg: A savage, grey-skinned Orc and Warden of the dungeon's prison. He is the only one who holds the key that opens the door to the deeper levels of Firetop. He is often found in front of the Cells or in the Torture Chamber. He acts tough but is partial to bargaining when faced with the possibility of death. Carries the Prison Mask.

Max Pain: The brutal Orc torturer.

Livingstone: The white-haired Dwarf high priest and war leader of all the Dwarf clans. He resides in the temple within the Dwarven Barracks and always refers to himself in the third person.

Orlinn: A down-on-his luck human gambler. His lucky dice were stolen by an Orc and since then nothing has gone his way. Most of his clients are the dim-witted Orcs and Dwarfs that infest Firetop.

Rubblerat: The burly Orc that guards the only way into the inner sanctum. He wears an enchanted blue crystal amulet around his neck that makes him immune to all attacks, be they physical or magical.

Zhug: Orc chieftain and boss of the Orc Stronghold.

Peon: Zhug's cowardly but sneaky servant. He suffers from a debilitating cough that only the mushrooms from the Rat Caves can cure.

Back soon with more devious denizens!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chopping Block - Part One

I may have mentioned before that The Warlock of Fire Mountain AFF adventure compiles almost every version of that infamous dungeon over the years into what (I hope) is the most comprehensive and detailed edition yet. There were, however, two sources that I didn't include. One of them is the Nintendo DS game that was released some years ago. This version of Zagor's dungeon was so radically different from what had been previously established that it was too difficult to reconcile.

The adventurer in this game is actually from the Old World; he travels from Gummport to Stonebridge with the express purpose of plundering Firetop Mountain of its riches. In Stonebridge the adventurer stocks up on supplies and meets some of the town's unfortunately named inhabitants...

Thelonius Manintown: A Dwarf gold prospector who just arrived in Stonebridge. He claims that the Dwarfs in these parts live in the past, and that some of them hate the new ruler bitterly, and that none of them do any mining anymore. When the keep at Firetop fell, many of his kinsmen left Stonebridge and joined his clan. Others stayed in the mountain and from time to time let their kinsmen know that they still live. Thelonius is ashamed of them and believes they have lost the true way of Dwarfhood, which is mining (and nearly all he can think about!). When he eventually makes it to Firetop he sets up camp in the Rat Caves.

Weaselnose:  A Dwarf peddler who was born in Firetop before the Warlock came, and still travels back there a lot because his father still lives inside. His father, a former High Priest and Warleader of the good Dwarfs inside Firetop, considers Weaselnose a failure and a disgrace.

Oaffer Goodnessake: A Dwarf who claims to have searched every corner of Firetop and found no evidence of the Warlock or his fabulous treasure.

Wilkins: A bald, well-muscled human who sells fine weaponry and mans the Stonebridge barracks. He alone holds the copper key to the main gate (which is rumoured to explode in the enemy's hands). He won't let anyone outside the town gates unless he believes them capable of surviving in the wild.

Gloria: A human female who stays inside Stonebridge for fear of the Warlock.

Waxenwicks: A sly-looking human male who blames Wilkins for preventing trade and artisans to the town. He claims to be a blacksmith, leathersmith, goldsmith, candlemaker, cobbler, carpenter, tailor and, above all, a trapper. He has crafted hundreds of candles for use by Giles the Librarian.

Tweedle: A female Dwarf who runs the Tweedle Triplets Trading Post in Stonebridge. She and her two sisters (who man posts inside Firetop Mountain) have a monopoly on fresh goods in the region. They literally killed the competition.

Caleb: A mysterious human monk who runs the church in Stonebridge. He believes what befell Firetop to be a punishment from the gods. He took over running the temple after so many Dwarfs fled the town.

Next time I'll detail some of the inhabitants of Firetop Mountain itself.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tidings from the Warlock

By now a few lucky devils have gotten their grubby mits on a copy of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain AFF adventure. If you are one of those said devils please drop me a line and let me know what you think! Here is one review by Bronn on the Arion Games forums:

Righto, I have my copy and have been greedily devouring it this afternoon. The short version is: I love this book! It's sixty-two pages of iconic FF excellence.

More extensive highlights include:

Cartography & Art: Excellent maps throughout, breaking the dungeon into easily managed sections that correspond with the larger whole. Steve "Mr. Nibbs" Luxton's depiction of the lands surrounding the mountain is a particularly evocative, stand-out piece. I'd love to see more of this style in future. Then there's the art -- it's Russ Nicolson's original work from the game book, what more is there to say except it's classic stuff, amazingly rendered.

Fidelity to Source: Yes, the bulk of the dungeon adapts and stays faithful to the original gamebook, at least in terms of dungeon layout and monster demographics. It's an iconic location, and the author preserved the encounters, puzzles and traps that made it a classic in the first place.

Expanded Material: That said, there's plenty of extra stuff to enjoy. Brett Schofield has done a clever thing here, inserting material from alternative representations of Firetop Mountain as random encounters. So now we have Shylock the Moneylender, the Hungry Beggar and a 'Lucky Find' imported from the board game; which I love! Previously unnamed NPCs like the Dwarves, Librarian, Maze Master and others are given further detail, making their presence in the mountain seem more explicable. Named characters, like Zagor and Farrago DiMaggio are given brief histories as well. The surrounding landscape is also explored, including the lovely aforementioned map, rumors and encounter tables, as well as brief descriptions of nearby settlements.

Over all, the union of classic and expanded material really makes this feel like a complete product. Firetop Mountain isn't just a solo dungeon anymore, it's a substantial and viable adventure location for AFF parties who fancy tackling the setting and villain that started it all. Bravo.

This pleases me to no end as its exactly the balance between faithfulness to the original gamebook and expanded material that I was aiming for.

For those that are interested, here is a link to a copy of the Pagan Plains map that I drew for the book.  I will upload some images of the dungeon maps in the near future.

Back with more soon!

EDIT: And I'm back! Here are some links to the dungeon maps:

I don't mind saying that I put a lot of work into these maps! If you'd like to take a closer look at any of them, just click on the 'Download' button to the right for the original hi-res image. There's lot of little details hidden away in the maps - let me know what you find!