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Caverns of the Snow Witch


Images:
Caverns of the Snow Witch (original cover)
(original cover)
Caverns of the Snow WitchCaverns of the Snow Witch (American cover)
(American cover)
Caverns of the Snow Witch (reissue cover)
(reissue cover)
Series:Fighting Fantasy #9
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #10
Translated Into:La bruja de las nieves (Spanish)
As cavernas da feiticeira da neve (Portuguese)
A feiticeira das neves (Portuguese)
A hóboszorkány barlangjai (Hungarian)
Die Höhlen der Schneehexe (German)
Isheksens huler (Danish)
Jeskyně sněžné čarodějnice (Czech)
Legovishteto na snezhnata veshtitsa [Леговището на снежната вещица] (Bulgarian)
MKFPT HFLG [מכשפת השלג] (Hebrew)
La Sorcière des Neiges (French)
Yuki no majo no doukutu [雪の魔女の洞窟] (Japanese)
Adapted From:Caverns of the Snow Witch (Mini-Adventure)
Adapted Into:Caverns of the Snow Witch (Role-Playing Material)
Author:Ian Livingstone
Illustrators:Les Edwards (original and reissue covers)
R. Courtney (American cover)
Gary Ward (interior)
Edward Crosby (interior)
Release Dates:October 25, 1984 (original)
May, 1985 (American edition)
April, 2003 (reissue)
ISBNs:
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0140318305 / 9780140318302 (original)
0440911265 / 9780440911265 (American edition)
1840464321 / 9781840464320 (reissue)
Length:400 sections
Number of Endings:24 instant failures, 1 victory, plus death by Stamina loss or bad Luck.
Summary:A simple job involving the protection of a caravan eventually turns into an expedition into the icy passages of the evil Snow Witch....
Demian's Thoughts:
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After a bit of blessed relief, we're back into nasty territory again. This book is Ian Livingstone at his worst: a linear sequence of excessively difficult but not especially interesting encounters complete with a stupid, luck-based guessing game poorly disguised as a climactic battle. This sort of thing is growing extremely tiresome. A character with a Skill of less than 10 simply stands no chance (despite what the lousy lying introduction says), and since the book is a long sequence of tough fights followed by lots of random ways to die senselessly, reaching victory is not challenging, it's merely frustrating. Although the final few events of the book are fairly interesting, most of the story is so weak and dull that it does nothing to redeem the awful gameplay. We have the same orcs and dwarves we've seen before, the most original creature in sight is the Brain Slayer (a lame rip-off of D&D's Mind Flayer), and the Snow Witch herself doesn't really do anything to distinguish herself as a memorable villain.

Some of the book's problems are likely due to the fact that it is an expanded version of an adventure from Warlock magazine. In the original version, the reader kills the Snow Witch and it's all over. In the book, though, that's only the halfway point, and there are lots more irritating locations to die horribly in. Every time the book seems to be about finished, something new, unrelated and tedious seems to crop up. Even after the whole Snow Witch plot is over, you still have to suffer through lots and lots of random events and obstacles featuring mostly-gratuitous references to early entries in the series, eventually revealing this story to be a prequel to The Forest of Doom. This adventure wasn't anything special to begin with, and apart from a couple of nifty moments, this added material only makes it overstay its welcome further. I suppose it could be said that the book has more NPC interaction and a more epic scope than previous volumes, but for these features to be significant, they'd have to be well-executed. Since they don't manage to be all that interesting, only long and irritating, they barely seem worth mentioning. The only real improvement in the book over the magazine version is the new artwork, which has a quite appealing semi-woodcut-like look to it. Interesting stuff!

I've probably said it before, but it's worth saying again. A well-designed gamebook allows a reader to quickly retrace his or her steps up to the point of death upon each replay or at least try out some new things along the way. If, by the time a player has explored every possible path, he or she still ends up dying off consistently near the beginning of the story, something is obviously wrong, and the gamebook is clearly not going to be very much fun. This book suffers from this problem severely, and it's an unforgiveable flaw in my opinion. The only good that came of the whole mess was that I figured out a way of streamlining combat resolution: roll two different-colored pairs of dice at once and see which pair rolls higher; it's faster than rolling one pair twice and is easier on the memory. Not especially clever, I admit, but helpful nonetheless.... In any case, even this accelerated combat wasn't enough to help me win -- eventually I resorted to designating computer-RPG-inspired "save points" so that I wouldn't have to struggle through the early stages of the book over and over. Yeah, it's technically cheating, but my conscience is mostly clear.

Fireguard's Thoughts:
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I don't mean to knock one of the game designers without whom there would be no Fighting Fantasy, but I've always found Ian Livingstone's solo books to be on the dry side. He likes to make you look for lots of little items and most of the time not having them is quickly and severely punished. Caverns of the Snow Witch is no exception, but given where it originally appeared perhaps it's not all the author's fault.

Still, I found the experience to be on the tedious side, and the epilogue quest feels somewhat tacked on. I can't imagine a lot of thought went into it. This is a minor complaint but this also felt kind of jarring when it turned out to be chronologically previous to a book from earlier in the series. Only for the hardcore Fighting Fantasy readers among us.

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Fighting Fantasy # 9 Character Sheet


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Related Links

Edward Crosby Design
This blog belongs to Caverns of the Snow Witch illustrator Edward Crosby.
http://www.edwardcrosbydesign.blogspot.com/ (last verified: 2006-07-23)


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