The fact that the Archmage, Mordraneth and Xakhaz are the only villains of the series to bear such a title indicates that he is by far one of the most powerful mages ever seen on the world of Titan, surpassing the likes of Oldoran Zagor, Balthus Dire, Zharradan Marr, and probably Zanbar Bone themselves.
He masters all spells available in the story better than the Analander, the playable character and a master spellcaster in their own right, and can counter all of them effortlessly.
He can create, subjugate or vastly empower many monsters, turn wooden objects into sentient golems, animate objects, cast lasting illusions able to harm people for real, summon demons, syphon the power of the gods to some extent, and manipulate eldritch energies from the Netherworld, among many, many others. Also, he is protected by the evil gods, whose influence on his fortress is so strong that the gods themselves cannot intervene here.
The Archmage's identity and very nature are a never resolved enigma. Even his name is never disclosed. The fact that he transforms into a Netherworld Demon during the final battle indicates that he is no longer human, or perhaps even that he never was human in the first place and that his human body is merely a shell or a possessed victim. He sometimes refers to himself as "we" and seems to exist as at least two different people at once.
The fact that his other identity can be resurrected as someone completely different after his death implies that the Archmage transferred his essence into him. However, the Archmage cannot spellcast if he possesses someone without magic powers, forcing him to assume his demonic aspect when confronted. This proves very dangerous for him however, as the transformation takes time and he is extremely vulnerable when not fully transformed.
In the IOS adaptation on the contrary, the Archmage is a normal sorcerer, albeit one who used magic to live over a thousand years old. While a gifted wizard in his own right, the Archmage is completely dependent of the powerful magical artefacts of the previous Archmage he usurped. He relies mostly on the sentient Crown of Kings and seems under its influence.
The Archmage is calm, collected and regal, but also intelligent and deceitful, feigning surrenders and using smokescreens to hide himself and induce his foes in mistake. He is quite polite with his foes, as long as they do not attack him, but reacts to their attempts with condescending scorn. He retains his arrogant demeanor even in a powerless state, and like so many villains before and after him, his overconfidence proves his undoing.
In the IOS adaptation, the Archmage is even more cruel, callous and selfish, utterly indifferent to the sorry state in which his rule and his careless use of the magic Beacons have left his domain. He even killed his lover after she made the prophecy of his defeat, and became a paranoid recluse, who in spite of his desperation to prevent his fall made him do exactly what was foretold, precipitating his fate.
The Seven SerpentsThe Archmage’s trusted seconds-in-command, spokespersons and spies, who roam around his domain, reporting anything they learn to him. They are huge, winged snake-monsters, each imbued with elemental power from a distinct deity. While considerably powerful and deadly, the Seven Serpents have distinct weaknesses, that when exploited makes them much less dangerous to deal with.
The Fire Serpent draws power from the Fire God Filash, the Water Serpent from the Ocean God Hydana, the Earth Serpent from the Earth-Goddess Throff, the Air Serpent from the Wind God Pangara, the Serpent of the Moon from the Moon God Lunara, the Serpent of the Sun from the Sun Goddess Glantanka, and the Serpent of Time from the Time God Chronada.
They are sentient, intelligent and talkative. They can shape-shift as regular snakes to go unnoticed, or manifest themselves as Seven Spirits looking like snake-headed humans. It is unclear whether they are projections of the Serpents or subservient entities, but they have no power under such form and rely on talk and deceit.
Little is known about the Archmage, not even where he was born or how he learnt magic. He one day came to the Kakhabad, the Vermin Pit at Earth End: a land in the continent of the Old World: A country that was turned into a desolate wasteland plagued by monsters and evil, after a powerful ritual was performed there to destroy the forces of Evil before the Demon Princes could strike, sparing the Old World from the Chaos Wars that devastated the other two continents of Khul and Allansia.
He used his power to sway the monsters around under his rule and had them build the huge, unassailable Mampang Fortress around an extinct volcano in the Xamen High. The Archmage spent the following decades expanding his grasp over the Kakhabad, recruiting scoundrels of all sorts, gaining the allegiance of the local birdmen and expanding his vast knowledge of magic. At one point, he fought a two-day long battle against a gigantic and immensely powerful Seven-Headed-Hydra, killing it and using its head to give birth to the fearsome Seven Serpents.
Unfortunately, ruling Mampang was not enough to the Archmage, who strived to rule the entire Kakhabad, and gain enough military might to invade the neighbouring nations, if not the entire continent or even Titan as a whole.
The Adaptation develops, the Archmage's past. In this, he was born in the Kakhabad about a thousand years before the start of the story, in the region of the Baklands. He studied magic in the Fortress of the Sorcerers, under the Archmage of these times Valiquesh. As soon as he completed his studies, he betrayed her and sealed her in the bewitched book of the Magical Prison.
At some point, he met a young seer girl named Bria and the two fell in love and lived together. Until the fated day when she made a prophecy about his theft of the Crown of King and his subsequent death at the hand of a hero. Enraged, he has her killed and exiled every mage from Mampang, establishing his rule.
He later used the magical Beacons of Past Life that mix past, present and future to prolong his life and became a paranoid recluse, waiting for a chance to steal the Crown of King, despite knowing that it would be his downfall, delusionally persuaded that it would grant him the power he needed to defy his fate.
Role in Sorcery
Since the end of the gruesome War of the Four Kingdoms (and the subsequent defeat of Voivod the Waster), the countries of the Old World share the Crown of Kings, a magic artifact that vastly increase its bearer's wisdom and ruling abilities, granting it to one nation for a few years, then to its neighbor.
Alas, the Archmage planned to use it for his goal of becoming king of the Kakhabad, and sent his birdmen followers to steal it from the king of the country of Analand. Ashamed, the king sent his best mage-warrior, the playable character known and famed as the Analander, to get the Crown of Kings back and to put an end to the Archmage's threat.
Sorcery is a very long, complete and difficult quest, consisting in four gamebooks directly linked. How well the Analander fares in one book will influence the conditions of play in the following ones, and they will find objects that will only be of use in latter books, but can spell their doom if they do not have them when needed.
The Analander can be played as a warrior, with rules similar to the regular Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, or be played as a wizard, with weaker stats but the possibility to use or learn many spells, marked by three letters.
Casting spells costs stamina points (life-points), and the most complex ones require a specific object to work. (There are among many others, ZAP and HOT: powerful thunderbolts or fireballs, FOF and WAL: powerful defensive barriers, LAW: creature-control, BIG: to become giant, DOP: to open locks, SUS and HOW: to detect danger and ways of escaping, GOB and YOB: to create goblins or giants from their teeth, DOC: for healing, MAG: a protection against magic, FAL: feather-fall, TEL: mind-reading, NIP: for speed, ZEN: levitation, RAP and YAP: to communicate in other languages or with animals, FAR: to see the future, RES: to resurrect someone, and the mysterious ZED.)
The Analander can also call upon their Patron Deity, Libra Goddess of Truth and Justice, to help them once per gamebook: either to heal them, to dispel curses affecting them, or to save them from great peril.
The Shamutanti Hills
The gamebook starts with the Analander entering the Kakhabad. They can buy articles in the town of Cantopani. Later, they can save the young witch Aliana, who is trapped in a cage in the Meddiki Forest nearby, and gain powerful items and power-boosts from her, but if annoyed she turns a chair into a Wood Golem to fight. The Analander will be confronted by a black clad assassin named Flanker, who must be defeated. Finally, they can gain greatly in this gamebook and the next by bringing back his axe to a man named Glandragor.
During their travel, the Analander meets Jann, a Minimite (sprite-like beings that neutralize all magic around them) who follows them around. While friendly, he is very troublesome as the Analander cannot spellcast in his presence, so they must make him leave. Either with by giving the witch Gaza Moon the spell-book page that she lost and have her make him flee, or by convincing him of going to help the population of a village victim of a plague.
At the end of the story, the Analander will travel through a dangerous maze of caves haunted by a Manticore.
- The monster is a very powerful and dangerous enemy with 12 in skill (power-level, the regular maximum) and 18 in stamina, who strikes with its stinger-tail instead of its claw 2 in 6 times, costing 6 stamina points if the Analander fails a test of luck. They can use spells to be protected from its attacks, weaken it, or destroy it, and it is vulnerable to the HOT fireball or ZAP thunderbolt.
Once the monster is destroyed, the Analander heads to the dangerous city of Kharé...
Kharé - Cityport of Traps
The city is a considerably dangerous maze that sure deserves its ominous name. Unfortunately for the Analander, there is no other way to cross the Jabaji River and reach the Archmage's domain. In the IOS adaptation, the Analander can also thwart a Goblin King's attempt to take over the city, by making his people rebel against him.
They will have to deal with some of the nobles who rule the city, the scholar Lortag, and the High Priest of Slangg, the evil God of Malice, who can tell them the different parts of the spell that can open the North Gate; through which they can continue their quest. Any other attempt to cross it leads to a painful demise.
- The Analander can find Lortag's house in the south-west of the city. They must help him translate a sequence of runes, through a rather simple yet confusing puzzle.
- The High Priest of Slangg is found in his temple. He challenges the Analander to a test, consisting in finding two missing numbers in a mathematics puzzle, quite confusing but logical. If they fail, they will be forced to renounce Libra and worship Slangg, leading to a game over.
- Shinva, the late Fifth Noble of Kharé was turned into a Death Wraith by the Third Noble, who is said to be a vampire. He is found in his crypt in the cemetery. The Analander must be careful, as he is a very dangerous enemy with 9 in skill and 8 in stamina, who can only be defeated with silver arrows, or with the help of the goddess Libra. Defeating the wraith restores Shinva to human, and he gives his part of the spell in gratitude.
- The Seventh Noble of Kharé became blind and was reduced to the life of a beggar in the streets. The Analander must save him from two harpies. Although the monsters are rather weak, the even weaker beggar fights alongside them and everything is done for if he gets killed. Unfortunately, he does not entirely remember his part of the spell, forcing the Analander to go to the temple of Courga.
- Courga, the Goddess of Grace worshipped in Kharé as a male, will not help the Analander if they committed a crime. They must perform a ritual by kissing the deity's idol on the left eye, right eye, forehead and lips on that order, to learn the final clue.
- Finally, the Analander must reach the North Gate and chant the spell in the right order, lest the magic kills them.
The Seven Serpents
The Analander has only a few days to track down and kill the titular Seven Serpents, who learnt of their mission and are rushing towards Mampang Fortress to warn their lord. If they own a Serpent Ring, they can learn a spell that will compel the Seven Serpents to give them a clue before fighting. If the Analander met Flanker the assassin in a previous book, he will help them. The Analander must meet the hermit Shadrack and Fenestra, a black elf lady who renounced evil, to learn about the Serpents. If they have a snake-shaped Oak Sapling Staff, each Serpent loses 2 points of skill when confronted.
- Fenestra defeated the Serpent of the Sun before the start of the book, using its weakness of water to conjure a rain and trap it in a glass orb.
- The Serpent of the Moon is found on the left side of a big bridge near the beginning of the book. It is a very powerful and dangerous enemy with 13 in skill (1 point over the regular maximum) and 10 in stamina. Its weakness is fire, making it very vulnerable to the HOT fireball spell. Having gained a tinderbox in a previous book and setting it aflame reduces it to 7 in skill and 6 in stamina, making the battle very easy.
- The Fire Serpent is hunting the Analander in the Forest of Snatta. If they climb a tree after it, it might set it ablaze to incinerate them and end the game. It is a very powerful and dangerous enemy with 13 in skill and 12 in stamina, whose flaming breath cause additional damage. Its weakness is sand, which reduces it to 5 in skill and 6 in stamina, making the battle a joke.
- The Air Serpent has shed its physical body to assume a gaseous form, and uses the corpse of the ferryman of Lake Ilklala as a husk, in order to ambush the Analander. It is a powerful and dangerous enemy with 11 in skill and 14 in stamina. Its attacks only cost 1 stamina point, but the damage doubles at each consecutive wound it inflicts after that, for it engulfs the Analander in its cloud. They can only harm it by winning two consecutive turns, costing it 3 stamina points. Its weakness is wind ironically. Casting a HUF gale spell disperses it, and destroying its corpse husk kills it, for it dies if it stays in gaseous form more than a few minutes.
- The Water Serpent is fought on Lake Ilklala. The Analander must investigate bubbles on the surface before getting away, lest it sinks their boat and kills them. It is a powerful enemy with 10 in skill and 11 in stamina. Its weakness is oil, which destroys it without fight.
- The Earth Serpent is found in a fissure near the ferryman's hut, under the aspect of a normal snake. The Analander must not jump into the pit or the Serpent bludgeons them to death with stones. It is a very powerful and dangerous enemy with 12 in skill and 14 in stamina. Its weakness is getting airborne. Casting a HUF gale spell blows it away and renders it powerless, enabling the Analander to strangle it without fight.
- The Serpent of Time is the most formidable of the seven. It is found in Vischlami Swamp (or either Lake Ilklala or the Circle of Stones in the IOS adaptation). The Analander has no hope to win without having taken back Fenestra's parchment from a goblin fleeing the monster. It uses its power to slow down time around the Analander and speed up time around itself, making it invincible. The parchment holds an Arcane Chant that can rob it of its power, reducing it to a laughable 3 in skill and 14 in stamina, for a battle that cannot be lost.
The Analander might run into the Seven Spirits, who try to trick them into reciting a chant renouncing the goddess Libra, causing a game over. The Analander must order them to reveal their snake-like faces. If even one Serpent escaped, the Archmage of Mampang will be warned of the Analander’s arrival in the following gamebook, making it much harder. The Analander also suffers penalties that can prove crippling if too many could escape.
The Crown of KingsThe final and hardest gamebook starts in the Xamen High near Mampang Fortress. If all the Seven Serpents were defeated, the Archmage of Mampang and his men will never have heard of the Analander, allowing them to go undetected. They must meet the Holy Man Colletus and the She-Satyrs, who give them a genie's bottle.
During their exploration of the cave, the Analander might come across the corpse of the Seven-Headed Hydra killed by the Archmage, which animates itself with the heads of the deities powering the Seven Serpents.
- The God-Headed Hydra is an immensely powerful enemy with 17 in skill and 24 in stamina, equal to the Night Dragon itself. The Analander cannot defeat such a formidable foe, and if they manage to harm it, it retaliates and wounds them. Fortunately, it is an illusion that vanishes as soon as it strikes them, without doing any harm.
The Analander must beware, for the Goddess Libra cannot help them in Mampang Fortress. They must pass four magic Throben Doors, and to befriend the Samaritans of Schinn, birdmen opposing the Archmage.
- The first Throben Door poisons intruders. They need to take the key on the guards at the entrance.
- The second Throben Door renders intruders amnesiacs. The password can be learned from Valignya, assistant to the Archmage's treasurer. The Analander must not offer him gold, for he is a greedy miser who will poison them to get everything they own. Leaping across the table to threaten him, or using the NAP spell to put him to sleep before gaining the password from his library are the only viable options.
- The third Throben Door is protected by illusory fire that incinerates anyone not knowing that it does not really exists. The Analander must learn the secret from the Archmage's torture master Naggamanteh, by helping him or paying him to pass it safely.
- The fourth Throben Door is guarded by a dangerous Sleepless Ram. The Analander can gain the key from Cartoum, the captain of the Archmage’s guards. The best way to gain it is by giving him a locket with the picture of his estranged lover, found in the first book. Pretending to be a messenger who must see the Archmage will not work if the Seven Serpents warned him, and can lead to a game over in jail. The Analander can sway him with the GOD empathy-spell, or fight him and his two guards. He has only 8 in skill and 9 in stamina. He must be spared to get the key, but only when his stamina drops under 3. If spared before, he kills the Analander from behind with a poisoned dart.
Upon reaching the highest tower of the fortress, the Analander discovers that it is a cell for an important prisoner: Farren Whyde, a famous weaponsmith from the country of Ruddlestone, whom the Archmage imprisoned to force him to equip his armies. Farren Whyde directs them to another tower, to challenge the Archmage of Mampang at last. Beware; starting from this point, the Analander gets detected even if they killed all the Seven Serpents.
Confronting the Archmage
There is absolutely no way the Analander can defeat the Archmage of Mampang. No matter what they try, they will end up captured and thrown in jail. If they attack him, he will either cast a HOT fireball spell or turn the furniture into a wooden golem to attack them. If they use the GOB spell to create a squad of goblins from their teeth, he will create a squad of trolls to smash them. In fact, the best way for the Analander to survive the confrontation with minimal damage is to accept his offer to trade their sword for the Crown of Kings. He will not fulfil his part, so they must not relinquish their sword, but he captures them without doing harm.
The Analander is thrown in jail (with all their equipment, a mistake that will cost him his life), along with Jann the Minimite to prevent them from spellcasting to escape. The dying Minimite reveals that Farren Whyde is in fact one of the Archmage's other identities, who led them to a trap!
The only way to escape is to travel back through time to the moment when they were in Farren's cell. To do so, the Analander either needs to spend 7 stamina points to successfully cast the ZED spell, which is so powerful that it bypass Jann’s anti-magic aura, or to use the Genie they obtained at the beginning of the gamebook. (beware, as mishandling the ZED spell will at best send them to the beginning of the first gamebook to restart the quest from scratch, or at worst lose them into the far future or the distant past to a game over.)
The Final BattleUpon returning back to time and unmasking "Farren Whyde", the Archmage of Mampang discards his powerless host, who drops dead, and transforms into a Netherworld Demon to destroy the Analander.
The Archmage is pathetically easy to defeat during the transformation, but the slightest mistake seals the Analander’s fate: the fully formed Netherworld Demon will either trample them to death or incinerate them with his flaming breath. If the Analander is a wizard, they can destroy him instantly with a HOT fireball or a ZAP thunderbolt, though any other spell is useless and gets them killed. If they are a warrior, the Netherworld Demon has only 7 in skill and 7 in stamina during the transition, making the battle ridiculously easy, though they get killed if the battle lasts more than five turns, leaving little room for mistakes.
It must be noted that according to the Out of the Pit complementary guide, the Netherworld Demon has 16 in skill (4 points over the regular maximum) and 36 in stamina when fully formed, which would have made him one of the most powerful enemies of the series. Fortunately, he is never fought at full might.
After finally killing the Archmage, the Analander needs the silver whistle they got from the Samaritans of Schinn, to call for their help and get taken away from the fortress. If they lack a whistle but can resurrect the real Farren Whyde with a RES spell, he will call the birdmen with his own whistle. Otherwise, they are overwhelmed and killed by the Archmage’s guards, who will likely take the Crown of Kings for themselves and choose a new warlord to threaten Titan. With the Archmage destroyed for good, his domain in shamble and the Crown of Kings soon back where it belongs, the Analander can enjoy the rewarding end of the longest, most complete epic of the Fighting Fantasy franchise.
The first two episodes are pretty similar to the gamebooks originals. However, the third is quite modified and the fourth is almost completely different, with alternate characterisation, alternate choices, and alternate stakes.
The Seven Serpents
The Analander must interact with several deities absent from Titan's normal Pantheon, though quite apathetic to their plight. They can meet and befriend a young girl named Aliizi (in fact the past version of Bria, the Archmage's late lover), and travel through the Baklands blighted by the Beacons, which they can choose to use or to forego.
The Serpent of Time uses a ritual to trap the Analander in time, but casting a counter-spell at the very first second counters the magic and defeats the monster.
The Crown of Kings
Before entering Mampang Fortress, the Analander can visit a village of peaceful goat-like people and meet the assassin Flanker, whom they spared and who becomes a powerful ally and love interest, whether the Analander is played as a male or a female. They also meet a man named Throben, who casts the ZED spell on them. Instead of travelling time to a certain point, it resets time whenever they are killed.
Mampang Fortress is totally different. Cartoum wants to kill the Archmage and free Xamen from his wretched rule, and can be reasoned with. Also, the Throben Doors are bypassed with specific counter-spells. The Analander can visit the Inner Colleges, many towers filled with magic power and doors leading to different times and space.
The Analander must save Jann the Minimite from prison, find the Book of Magical Prison and free Valiquesh from it, find Aliizi, and brew a Potion of Magical Dissolution. They eventually learn that the Crown of Kings is sentient and a malevolent artefact who controls people, and very likely influences the Archmage himself, posing the question whether the King of Analand is really righteous or a tyrant in the making not unlike the Archmage.
The Analander will fight Flanker, brainwashed by the Archmage with the Crown. Casting spells only results in an arm cut off. They can save him with the potion or Jann's anti magic power, or fight him to the death and mourn him.
The Final Battle
The Archmage tries to brainwash the Analander with the Crown to send them to jail, or to use its power to break their spirit by making them question their purpose until they lose faith in their king and themselves. He can sell half of his soul to spawn a demon from it and kill his foes, a nod to the gamebook. The Analander can cast the NAP sleep spell, GAZ invisibility spell and DIM stupidity spell to resist the Crown’s influence, if Jann is not with them to dispel its power. Aliizi or Valiquesh will distract the Archmage.
In the end, the Analander can either kill the Archmage or trap him in the Book of Magical Prison, leaving Mampang either to Cartoum or Valiquesh. They can chose to return the Crown of Kings to Analand, to destroy it, or to use it to take over Mampang. Finally, if the Crown is destroyed, they can live in Mampang as Valiquesh’s apprentice, or get back home with Flanker and Jann if they made it alive, starting a romantic relationship with the former.