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 demeanour 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 Serpents
The 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 drawn 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 draws power from the Ocean God Hydana, the Earth Serpent draws power from the Earth-Goddess Throff, the Air Serpent draws power from the Wind God Pangara, the Serpent of the Moon draws power from the Moon God Lunara, the Serpent of the Sun draws power from the Sun Goddess Glantanka, and the Serpent of Time draws power from the Time God Chronada.
In addition to their elemental power, the Seven Serpents are sentient, intelligent and talkative. They can assume the aspect of regular snakes to go unnoticed, and they can also manifest themselves as spiritual entities looking like snake-headed humans. Whether these Seven Spirits are projections of the Serpents or subservient entities linked to them remains unclear, but they have no power under such form and rely on talk and deceit.
Very little is known about the Archmage. Where he was born or how he learnt magic remains untold. He one day came to the Kakhabad, also known as the Vermin Pit at Earth End: a land in the continent of the Old World which was turned into a desolate waste 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 neighbour.
Alas, the Archmage planned to use it for his goal of ruling the Kakhabad, and sent his birdmen followers to steal it from the king of the country of Analand. Ashamed, the king sent one of his best mage-warriors -the playable character known 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 you will fare in one book will influence the conditions of play in the following ones, and you will find objects that will only be of use in latter books, but can spell your doom if you do not have them when needed. You can either play as a warrior, with rules very similar to the ones in regular Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, or play as a wizard, with weaker stats but the possibility to use or learn many spells, each marked by three letters.
Casting spells costs you stamina points (life-points), and the most complex ones require a specific object. (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.) You can also call upon your patron deity, Libra Goddess of Truth and Justice, to help you once per gamebook, either to heal you, to dispel curses affecting you, or to save you from great peril.
The Shamutanti Hills
The gamebook starts when you enter the Kakhabad. You can buy equipment in the town of Cantopani. You 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 you annoy her, she creates a Wood Golem to fight you. You will be confronted by a black clad assassin named Flanker, whom you must defeat. Finally, you can also gain greatly in this gamebook and the next if you bring back his axe to a man named Glandragor.
During your travel, you will meet Jann, a Minimite (sprite-like beings that neutralize all magic around them) who will follow you around. While friendly, he poses a big trouble since he prevents you from spellcasting, so you need a way to get rid of him. Either with by giving the witch Gaza Moon the spellbook 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, you will have to 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 you 6 stamina points if you fail a test of luck. You can use spells to protect yourself from its attacks, weaken it, or destroy it, and it is vulnerable to the HOT fireball or ZAP thunderbolt.
Once you defeat the monster, you head to the dangerous city of Kharé...
Kharé - Cityport of Traps
The city is a very dangerous maze that sure deserves its ominous name, unfortunately for you there is no other way to cross the Jabaji River and reach the Archmage's domain. You 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 you the different parts of the spell that can open the North Gate; through which you can continue your quest. Any other attempt to cross it leads to a painful demise. In the IOS adaptation, you can also thwart a Goblin King's attempt to take over the city by making his people rebel against him.
- You can find Lortag's house in the south-west of the city. You 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 you to a test, consisting in finding two missing numbers in a mathematics puzzle, confusing but logical. If you fail, you will be forced to worship Slangg, leading to the end of your quest.
- Shinva, the late Fifth Noble of Kharé was turned into a Death Wraith by the Third Noble, who is rumoured to be a vampire. He is found in his crypt in the cemetery. 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 by calling the Goddess Libra to your aid. If you defeat the wraith and restore Shinva to human, he will tell you his part of the spell.
- The Seventh Noble of Kharé became blind and is now reduced to the life of a beggar in the streets. You need to save him from two harpies. Although the monsters are rather weak, the even weaker beggar fights alongside you and if he gets killed, everything is done for. Unfortunately, he does not remember the part of the spell in its entirety, forcing you to go to the temple of Courga.
- Courga, the Goddess of Grace worshipped in Kharé as a male, will not help you if you committed a crime. You 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, you must go to the North Gate and chant the incatation in the right order, lest the spell kills you.
The Seven Serpents
In this gamebook, you have a few days to track down and destroy the titular Seven Serpents, who learnt of your mission and are rushing towards Mampang Fortress to warn their lord. I you own a Serpent Ring, you can learn a spell that will compel the Seven Serpents to give you a clue before fighting. If you already met Flanker the assassin in a previous book, he will help you. You must meet the hermit Shadrack and Fenestra, a Black Elf lady who renounced evil, to learn about the Serpents. If you have a snake-shaped Oak Sapling Staff, each Serpent you fight loses 2 points of skill.
- Fenestra defeated the Serpent of the Sun before the start of the gamebook, 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 gamebook. 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. If you got a tinderbox in a previous book and can set it aflame, it will be reduced to 7 in skill and 6 in stamina, making the battle very easy.
- The Fire Serpent is hunting you in the Forest of Snatta. If you climb a tree after it, it might set it ablaze to incinerate you. 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 you. It is a powerful and dangerous enemy with 11 in skill and 14 in stamina. Its attacks only cost 1 stamina points, but the damage double at each consecutive wound it inflicts after one blow, for it engulfs you. You need to win 2 consecutive turns to harm it, causing a loss of 3 stamina points. Its weakness is wind ironically. Casting a HUF gale spell disperses it, and destroying the corpse it uses as a 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. You must investigate bubbles on the surface and get away, lest it sinks your boat and kills you. 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. Do not jump into the pit or it causes stones to bludgeon you to death. 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 you to strangle it without fight.
- The Serpent of Time is the most powerful and formidable of the seven. It is found in Vischlami Swamp (or either Lake Ilklala or the Circle of Stones in the IOS adaptation). You cannot hope to defeat the monster if you have not taken Fenestra’s parchment from a goblin fleeing it. It uses its power to slow down time around you and speed up time around it, making it invincible. With the parchment, you can cast an Arcane Chant to rob it of its power, reducing it to a laughable 3 in skill and 14 in stamina, for a battle you cannot lose.
You might run into the Seven Spirits, who try to trick you into reciting a chant, in which you renounce the goddess Libra, effectively dooming you. You must order them to reveal their snake-like faces. If you end the gamebook with one or more surviving Serpents, the Archmage of Mampang will be warned of your arrival in the following gamebook, making it much harder. You also suffer penalties that can prove crippling if you let too many escape.
The Crown of Kings
The hardest gamebook of the four starts in the Xamen High near Mampang Fortress. If all the Seven Serpents were defeated, none of the Archmage's men will have heard of you, allowing you to go undetected. You must meet the Holy Man Colletus and the She-Satyrs, who give you a genie's bottle mandatory to finish the game if you play as a warrior. During your exploration of the cave, you 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 himself. You cannot hope to defeat such a formidable foe, and if you manage to harm it, it retaliates and wounds you. Fortunately, it is but an illusion that vanishes as soon as it strikes you, without even harming you.
Be careful, for the Goddess Libra cannot help you in Mampang Fortress. You must pass four magic Throben Doors, and to befriend the Samaritans of Schinn, birdmen enemies of the Archmage of Mampang.
- The first Throben Door poisons intruders. You need to take the key on the guards at the entrance.
- The second Throben Door turns intruders amnesiacs. You need to gain the password from Valignya, assistant to the Archmage's treasurers. Do not offer him any gold, for he is a greedy miser who will poison you to get everything you 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 exists. You 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. You can gain the key from Cartoum, the Archmage's captain of the guards. The best way to gain the key 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 their lord, and can get you sent to jail, ending the game. You 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. You must spare him to get the key, but only when his stamina drops under 3. If spared before, he will kill you from behind with a poisoned dart.
Upon reaching the highest tower of the fortress, you discover 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 you to another tower, to challenge the Archmage of Mampang at last. Beware, starting from this point, even if you killed the Seven Serpents, you will be detected.
Confronting the Archmage
There is absolutely no way you can defeat the Archmage of Mampang. No matter what you try, you will end up in jail. If you attack him, he will either cast a HOT fireball spell or turn the furniture into a wooden golem to attack you. If you use the GOB spell to create a squad of goblins, he will create a squad of trolls to smash them. In fact, the best way to survive the confrontation with minimal damage is to accept his offer to trade your sword for the Crown of Kings. He will not fulfil his part, so do not relinquish your sword, but he captures you without harming you.
The Archmage has you thrown in jail (with all your equipment, a mistake that will cost him his life), along with Jann the Minimite to prevent you from spellcasting to escape. The dying Minimite reveals that Farren Whyde is in fact one of the Archmage's other identities who led you to a trap! The only way to escape is to travel back through time to the moment when you were in his jail and confront him.
To do so, you either need 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 you got at the beginning of the gamebook. (Beware, as mishandling the ZED spell will at best sent you to the beginning of the first gamebook to restart the quest from scratch, or at worst lose you to the far future or the distant past to a game over.)
The Final Battle
Upon 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 you. The Archmage is pathetically easy to defeat during the transformation, but the slightest mistake spells your doom: the fully formed Netherworld Demon will either trample you to death under his hooves or incinerate you with his flaming breath.
If you play as a wizard, you can destroy him instantly with a HOT fireball or a ZAP thunderbolt, though any other spell is useless and gets you killed. If you play as a warrior, he has only 7 in skill and 7 in stamina during the transition, making him ridiculously easy to defeat, though you 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, making him by far one of the most powerful enemies of the entire series. Fortunately, you do not get to fight him.
After finally killing the Archmage, you need the silver whistle that the Samaritans of Schinn gave you, to call for their help and get taken away from the fortress. If you lack a whistle but can cast a RES spell to resurrect the real Farren Whyde, he will use his own to call for the birdmen. Otherwise, you will be 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, you 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
In this game, you must interact with several deities who do not belong to Titan's normal Pantheon, though quite apathetic to your plight. You 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 you can choose to use or to forego.
The Serpent of Time uses a ritual to trap you in time, but casting a counter-spell at the very first second defeats it.
The Crown of Kings
Before entering Mampang Fortress, you can visit a village of peaceful goat-like people and meet the assassin Flanker, whom you spared and who becomes a powerful ally and love interest, whether you play as a male or a female. You also meet a man named Throben, who casts the ZED spell on you. Instead of travelling time to a certain point, it resets time whenever you are killed.
Mampang Fortress is completely different there, Cartoum wants to kill the Archmage to free Xamen from his demented rule and can be reasoned with and the Throben Doors are bypassed with specific counter-spells. You can visit the Inner Colleges, many towers filled with magic power and doors leading to different times and space.
You 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. You eventually learn that the Crown of King is sentient and a malevolent artefact who controls people, and very likely influences the Archmage himself, leading to the question whether the King of Analand is really righteous or a tyrant in the making not unlike the Archmage. You will have to fight Flanker, whom the Archmage brainwashed with the Crown. Do not cast spells or he cuts off your arm, use the potion or Jann's anti magic power to save him. You can fight him to the death and mourn him.
The Final Battle
The Archmage tries to brainwash you with the Crown to send you to jail, or to use its power to break your spirit by making you question your purpose. He can sell half of his soul to kill you with a demon, a nod to the gamebook. Use the NAP sleep spell, GAZ invisibility spell and DIM stupidity spell to resist the Crown influence, if Jann is not with you to dispel its power. Aliizi or Valiquesh will distract him.
In the end, you can either kill the Archmage or trap him in the Book of Magical Prison, leaving Mampang either to Cartoum or Valiquesh. You can make the choice 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, you can live in Mampang as Valiquesh’s apprentice, or to get back home with Flanker and Jann if they made it alive, starting a romantic relationship with the former.