My introduction to RPG of any kind, not counting pinning a towel around my neck and claiming to be Superman regardless of whatever game was being played by the other kids, was via gamebooks. There was the Choose Your Own Adventure line, which was aimed at a younger crowd, and the older kid style where you actually needed dice and a pencil to play. Many of them were actually Dungeons and Dragons books as well. My particular favorites were the Lone Wolf series by Dever and the Grailquest series by Brennan, but I would sample any of them, really. I purchased this particular book in 2000, meaning I've had it for over ten years, and I've never finished it. Because it is hard. It is unforgiving. It is brutal.
Essentially any gamebook has two ways of resolving conflict. All gamebooks use the first method, which is to offer choices to the reader. "Will you have the fish or the chicken? If you choose fish turn to section 41. If you prefer the chicken turn to section 198". Some gamebooks also use a combat mechanic involving dice or some other randomizer and some form of resource tracking such as life or hit points or endurance (or whatever). In the classic fantasy and sci-fi gamebooks of yore the player's life total was enough that the reader had an advantage to deal with the many opportunities for combat throughout the books and some healing was often made available. I even read a modern mercenary book that had complex hit location charts and multiple life points.
Raining Hammers is not that book.
|Johnny's signature gun, the LeMat. The scattergun underbarrel did not keep me alive.|
Well it's not bad if you have 36 hit points and the enemy's pistol only does 3 points of damage. It is VERY BAD if losing means that you get to read a paragraph about how you've been gutshot and while you are coughing blood and begging for water some carpetbagging sumbitch comes up and shoots you in the face. You start to like better odds. This game has seriously brutal combat. Johnny doesn't just lose fights, he gets shot in the leg, then limps away to hide in a gully and dies from infection. I swear I once turned the wrong way in a mine and died of suffocation during a cave in.
|This killed me.|
|This killed me.|
|These guys caught and killed me.|
|This killed me 28 times.|
But then it's a western, innit? It's supposed to be brutal and harsh and guns a-blazin'. There is plenty of that, let me tell you. The author even included rules for making your own character instead of the default Johnny Macdonald and notes for GMs that might want to use the game as an adventure. That's all well and good, value added and sichlike, but I have yet to finish it alive and successful. And on top of all that you are supposed to be collecting clues as you run from the law so you can clear your name. Whew. So essentially this game, as much as I have enjoyed not finishing it, is the deadliest, most savage gamebook I've ever played. It literally has choices that you can make that kill you instantly (wrong passage in the mine springs to mind) and the combat is a one chance to succeed situation. No hit points, just screaming lead death.
Makes you remember the cutthroat days of old school D&D fondly as being "to the player's advantage".
Three Beholders and seven Mind Flayers? That all? No problem.