YOU BECOME a ninja out for revenge. An orphan dropped off at a monastery, you lived the usual monastic lifestyle — sweeping the floor, learning humility, training in how to break necks and sneak into fortresses, learning how to kill people with poisoned darts. Apparently there is a deity involved in this religion, but it’s mostly Easter and Christmas, cuz there’s so much ass to kick who’s got time to pray?
When your foster father is killed in a fight over magic scrolls, this idyllic life of peace, study, and murder is turned upside down, leaving you with a permanent chip on your shoulder. Some years later, a stranger arrives with news that a sorceror, a warrior, and a sorceror-warrior have formed a United Underworld Axis-of-Power sort of thing, where they will trap your god (Kwon) in the Inferno forever, hailing in a new reign of the evil god (Vile, Kwon’s brother).
Not only is this a chance to save the world, but it’s the perfect chance to kill 40 or 50 people with your bare hands.
Review and Opinion
This is the first of the six-book Way of the Tiger series, and it’s really different from Fighting Fantasy. There’s a real backstory, a continuity between stories (rewrite your character sheet in ink when you finish!), and multiple paths to get to victory. To me, that makes for a good gamebook.
Less obvious, is some of the ways the path remains hidden (cheat prevention). Instead of being asked if you’ve met some person, you’ll end up at the same location with a different page number, so it’s a subtlety to notice that you’re not really in the same place. That’s some good writing there.
There were only a few glitches, and they’re about difficulty:
At the very start, you’re attacked by an ogre that you’re unlikely to survive with more than 2 endurance left. And then it’s a Fate roll to avoid insta-death, and a combat against the captain where you’ll take 10-20 more damage. After twelve honest attempts, I finally gave up and skipped straight to the captain battle. I took the best out of 10 fights, and just made a note to turn to 26 with 5 endurance left.
There are two three-against-one battles, a bar brawl and an ambush. Even with their ridiculously low defence, at least one is likely to hit you per turn. At d6+1 to 3d6+3 per turn, you won’t last long. Experimentally, I played the one battle over 40 times in 4 hours, healing myself to 20 each time to play just the one battle… and it’s a nope.
The completely unbalanced combat aside, the story and atmosphere made it an enjoyable book.
On the last page, as Kwon thanks you for saving the world and all, you get 1 more ninja skill for free… to be carried over to Avenger’s next adventure!
Instructions, kinda big. After a successful throw, you’re supposed to get +2 to hit on your instant followup attack. The instructions say +2 damage. Later editions to this book say it’s both +2 to hit and +2 damage. I’m not sure which it should be.
The pirate scene at the beginning is practically unbeatable. The orge will kill you, then you have a 50/50 insta-death, then the pirate captain will do you another 10+ points. Just roll 1d10 and give yourself that much endurance and turn to 26 — it’ll be less annoying.
311 mentions a poison dart, even if you didn’t use one. Trivial, not game-breaking.
219 describes you as being on the eastern coast of the Sea of the Star, but of course you’re on the western coast. Trivial, not game-breaking.
352 there’s a Fate roll to see whether you’re detected by the pirates. It makes absolutely no difference; you’re told that a pirate heard you but you snap their neck, turn to the same page.
Written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson
Illustrated by Mylène Villeneuve
Book 1 in the series
Other Players and Links
Tags to Other Adventures1985 Jamie Thomson Mark Smith Mylène Villeneuve Ninja Orb Way of the Tiger
First published September 25, 2016. Last updated April 6, 2023.