“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Steve Jackson / Edition: First THUS / Paperback / 240 Pages / Book is published 1986-11-27 by Puffin Books „
The Riddling Reaver (what is it, incidentally, with Dooyoo's seemingly random attitude towards the definite article?) is a role-playing gamebook in the long-running Fighting Fantasy series, written by Paul Mason and Steve Williams but with the rather more box-office name of Games Workshop's Steve Jackson listed on the cover instead, as editor. This is not a solo gamebook in the vein of "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain", but something more akin to a simplified Dungeons and Dragons adventure, with multiple players and more freedom allowed.
Unlike most of the FF series, this book really requires the Games Master (GM), and preferably the players too, to have read the earlier - and somewhat confusingly named - "Fighting Fantasy: The Introductory Role-playing Game", as quite a few of the rules, concepts and conventions introduced in that work are used here with little further explanation. It would also help to have played at least some of the solo books in order to have a reasonable grounding in the ways of the FF universe itself. You could probably muddle through without that, but I think the "Fighting Fantasy" book itself is probably necessary.
The Riddling Reaver is a longish adventure divided into four "Acts" - but despite that theatrical language, there is none of the conceit of the players making an actual action movie that appears in some later FF role-playing books such as "Dungeoneer". Here things are kept more straightforward: the heroes are fairly straightforward adventurers, committed to the cause of Good but also with an eye to the main chance and a liking for gold. You know the drill by now... Their enemy is the titular Riddling Reaver, a servant of the Trickster Gods of Luck and Chance who wishes to destroy the balance between Good and Evil in order that Chaos may rule.
The difficulty progression through the four Acts seems quite well thought out. The first section, "the Curse of Kallamehr", ought not to present too severe a test for a reasonably sensible band of heroes who are prepared to show a bit of initiative, but by the time we get to the climactic "The Realm of Entropy" the tests are a good deal more difficult. As the text heavily implies (and occasionally outright suggests) the GM might well decide to influence things slightly in the adventurers' favour if they seem to be having real bad luck, but by the time they're at Act Four the risk of failure and death is a real one.
The black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations are by Leo Hartas and Brian Williams; whether or not the latter is related to Steve I don't know. They're pretty much in the tradition of FF drawings, although I was a little disappointed by the lack of detail in one or two of them. On the other hand, a couple of nice humorous touches can be found: in one dinner-table scene, for example, one of the warriors imprisoned in a glass jar is very clearly based on Steve Jackson himself! This sense of fun isn't confined to the illustrations either: the book "Teach Yourself Demon-summoning" is written by a certain Jaiphrai Ah'cha...
Although The Riddling Reaver would probably seem rather simplistic to those who are accomplished players of D&D itself, for those - especially younger people - who desire a rather less complex and intricate style of role-play it seems quite well judged. Of course, as with any role-playing game a lot depends on the skills (not least diplomatic!) of the GM, and their ability to play the parts of the non-player characters convincingly. Without that, this is likely to prove a frustrating experience. With it, it can be a surprising amount of fun, and at under £3 (inc p&p) from several Amazon sellers it's good value.