Oldoran Zagor is the most emblematic and recurring villain of the gamebooks series Fighting Fantasy, and one of the few featured in more than one gamebook. He is a dark wizard serving as the main villain and final enemy in the first book of the series and two sequels: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Return to Firetop Mountain and Legend of Zagor. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain being a genre codifier to gamebooks and the basis of the world of Titan, ancestor of sorts to the Warhammer universe itself.
Oldoran Zagor is an ambitious, scornful, arrogant, self-centred and malevolent wizard who would stop at nothing to take over Allansia, the most featured of the three continents of the world of Titan. The only thing which interests him about other people is what they own that he could steal, or the way he could use them.
Those who survive to an expedition in his labyrinth are often thrown in jail for the rest of their lives or tortured to death.
Worse, he is greedy and rapacious, taking control of Firetop Mountain to gain his ancestor's wealth, and ransacking riches from the populations around. Moreover, he always keeps treasure next to him and he minted his own money coins, the "Golden Zagors" with which he pays his troops.
Zagor is suave, collected, dignified, smooth-talking, taunting, patient and clever. He waits for his two "friends" Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr to fight to the death before making his move. Yet, in the third book, merging with a demon made him wrathful and violent, lashing out furiously when another hero rises against him.
Surprisingly enough from such an evil being, Zagor displays on many occasions a real respect towards his enemies, to whom he speaks very politely, and a strict code of honor. In Return to Firetop Mountain, when the hero overcomes his Chaotic Elementals, he acknowledges them as an equal and challenges them to a fair duel with no armor and just a dagger for weapon, when he could have destroyed them with a Thunderbolt spell. (He goes as far as giving them a dagger to fight with.)
This code of honor might explain why Zagor did not took part in the Trolltooth Wars, and only grudgingly helped the hero Chadda Darkmane, as he may have valued his friendly rivalry with his former comrades.
Despite this, it clear that he is very confident in his abilities, and most importantly that should he lose, he knows that he will rise again. It is also clear that he values his own ambition more than his friendship with Balthus and Zharradan.
Very little is revealed about Oldoran Zagor's past and origins in the gamebooks that feature him (even his first name is not mentioned), but more is told in several additional sources about the Fighting Fantasy universe. He is the great-grandson of the powerful wizard Gallan Zagor, who gained an immense fortune from his practice of magic and took over the gloomy caverns of Firetop Mountain to hide his treasure.
It is explained in Creature of Havoc that when Zagor was a child, he was sent to learn magic from the wicked wizard Volgera Darkstorm. He was one of Darkstorm's very best students, along with two fellow pupils equals to him in terms of power and malevolence; Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr. The three became friends and (mostly) rivals, and started calling themselves the Demonic Three.
They soon grew powerful and talented enough to frighten even the aging Volgera Darkstorm, who began to fear their evil and limited the lessons he gave them, hoping that they would not learn too much.
Unfortunately for him, the Demonic Three grew tired and disposed of their now useless teacher with a Rain of Knives spell. They then ransacked Darkstorm's library and belongings before parting ways, likely entering a (not so) friendly competition to conquer Allansia before the others.
Zagor headed to Firetop Mountain, which had been occupied by a tribe of dwarves since Gallan Zagor's death. It had repeatedly appeared in his dreams and he grew convinced that his destiny was bound to it. He was also was very likely driven by the desire to obtain what was left of Gallan's treasure, which he regarded as his rightful inheritance.
Zagor quickly raised an army of monsters, chaotic beings and undeads - including Slytherghach, his tamed Red Dragon - with which he slaughtered the dwarves and took over the caverns of Firetop Mountain.
He expanded his armies, sending them on the neighboring towns and villages on a regular basis, to abduct the guinea pigs he needed for his experiments and to steal riches to gain more wealth, quickly establishing him as one of the most feared Sorcerous Overlords of Allansia. It is even said that he cursed the surroundings of Firetop Mountain to turn those who die here into his undead servants.
Zagor first displayed no apparent desire for conquest. Yet, the Trolltooth Wars, the all-out conflict that broke up between Balthus Dire and Zharradan Marr likely made it difficult.
In the novel Trolltooth Wars, which retconnects the events of Citadel of Chaos and Creature of Havoc, it is said that the famed Salamonian hero Chadda Darkmane ventured into Firetop Mountain and came to an uneasy agreement with Zagor, who grudgingly accepted to help him reach Zharradan Marr, whom Darkmane defeated. Zagor did so because, like everyone else in Allansia, he feared the imbalance of power that would ensue if one would triumph and gain control of his rival's power base.
Powers and Abilities
Oldoran Zagor is described by the Great Mage Gereth Yaztromo as one of the most powerful wizards ever seen on Titan.
He mostly specialises in Elemental magic, as he is seen using element-based attack spells, commanding vegetal beings and elemental spirits, crafting a spell opening fissures on the ground, and most importantly summoning Elementals (immensely powerful creatures made of a distinct element) to serve him.
To a lesser extent, Zagor is also well versed in Demonology and Necromancy. He can raise living-deads and cast his signature resurrection spell, which revives him long after his demise as long as a part of his body remains, but forces him to create something that can thwart him as a compensation.
He can also summon many kinds of powerful demonic beings and cast curses. He proved able to shape-shift, to teleport, to perform levitation and telekinesis, to hypnotise people, to cast illusions, to see and talk where he is not physically present through a portrait representing him, and to cause plagues and disasters. In addition to his magic skills, he can also wield a dagger in battle with great proficiency.
The caverns of Firetop Mountain are full of animated objects performing tasks on their own as if used by someone invisible, or animating themselves to attack any passer-by; drawings that become real things or drawings that cast a spell on those who see them; writings that cast a deadly curse on those who read them, and a gem that transforms into a very powerful warrior made of carved crystal; all this being caused by Zagor's powerful magic.
In Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Zagor's power is rumored (and later confirmed) to reside in his treasured deck of bewitched cards. The deck can be burnt to drastically weaken him. (Some gamebooks providing ways to make battles easier, or outright skip them, should the boss prove too powerful.) In the last two gamebooks, Zagor's deck reappears, still carrying powerful magic but without further incidence on his powers.
Return to Firetop Mountain focuses on Zagor's Elemental powers. His magic once spawns a flaming spirit from a camp-fire and Zagor's physicians cast a spell he likely devised, to open a huge fissure and trap the hero inside before closing it. Before the final battle, Zagor will summon four Chaotic Elementals in succession.
In Legend of Zagor, the warlock is accidently transported to another world, where he gets fused with a mighty Demon Lord and transforms into a demon warlock with their power combined. Such transformation makes his power increase exponentially and would have made him unfathomably powerful and invincible, had the hero not defeated him before the metamorphosis was complete.
During the final battle, Zagor's magical might, physical strength and overall power already eclipse that of any fighter, and the hero must weaken him to stand a chance. Zagor has also gained the demon's foul ability to corrupt people and has become virtually immortal, as even when killed, he awakes after some time.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Being the first gamebook of the series, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain focuses more on the different situations faced than the characters' personalities and backgrounds. Oldoran Zagor himself is almost never referred by his name, which is only mentioned when he is "met" through a painting, and when venturing into the Maze of Zagor.
Even during the battle against him, the narration refers to him as "Warlock" when displaying his skill (level of power) and stamina (life-points).
Zagor is surrounded in mystery and rumors (sometimes true), as very few have met him in person and lived to tell the tale. He is not presented as malevolent or ambitious, though his control of monsters and torture of prisoners without reason make it clear that he is dangerous. Zagor guards an immense treasure, which the playable character covets, making Zagor paradoxically appear as a victim of sort, protecting his property and his very life.
The hero must explore the caves of Firetop Mountain, and halfway through them find their way into the Maze of Zagor (which sure deserves his name) to reach the warlock's innermost sanctum, while overcoming obstacles, deadly traps and troublesome monsters (including a strong iron golem, a dangerous wight and a powerful vampire).
They must collect many items, including the keys that can open the treasure chest at the end of the gamebook. Without the right keys, the game ends in a failure even if they succeeded in finding and killing Zagor.
- Zagor's quarters are protected by a powerful Red Dragon with 10 in skill and 15 in stamina. (Ironically, when the Fighting Fantasy universe further developed, these statistics came to prove ridiculously weak for a dragon.) The hero can defeat the dragon without fight, by casting Farrigo Di Maggio's Dragonfire Incantation.
Zagor is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill (with the maximum being 12) and 18 in stamina. The hero can use some items before fighting, but if it proves useless, Zagor retaliates with flames costing 3 stamina points. If they own the magic gem Eye of Cyclops, it is infused with magic that reduces Zagor to dust without fight. They can also destroy his bewitched playing cards, reducing Zagor to 7 in skill and 12 in stamina and making the final battle way easier.
The ending states that the hero can choose to use Zagor's grimoire to become the new lord of Firetop Mountain, but the canon later retconnected the story to fit his return, stating that they took the treasure and left.
Return to Firetop Mountain
Oldoran Zagor is retconnected into an evil warlock spreading terror all around, and that his victor is hailed as a hero. Ten years after Zagor's demise, his name no longer frightens people. Alas, he cast a resurrection spell prior to being killed.
He rises from the grave and causes a plague in the city of Kaad, before resuming his reign of terror. Having returned as a decayed living skeleton, he restores himself with his victims' body parts, being now covered in scars but retaining his face.
The playable character is an adventurer looking for fame and riches, who offers to kill the warlock. Unfortunately, Zagor sent spies in all villages, forcing the hero to track them down and kill them. The hero can directly head to Firetop Mountain, but by doing so they cannot get mandatory item, dooming their quest.
They must visit the city of Kaad to gain help from the Great Mage Gereth Yaztromo. There, they must defeat a dangerous doppelganger in Yaztromo's likeness sent by Zagor, before it banishes them to another dimension.
Yaztromo is too busy curing the citizen from Zagor's plague to go along the hero, but he provides precious indications and directs the hero to a shop where they can buy extremely useful (if not mandatory) items, and to a half-elf owning a giant eagle that would take them to Firetop Mountain. (The half-elf is later captured and tortured, and eventually meets his demise after helping the hero one last time.)
The caverns of Firetop Mountain are quite the same as in the first book. The hero can even find elements of the previous adventure, such as empty boxes which contained items back then, and skeletons of monsters once slain (who rise again and attack). However, the place is now much gloomier and there are more monsters (stronger than in the previous book) and more (deadlier) traps.
The hero must survive the encounters with Zagor's wizard servants and the trials they put, mostly enigmas and games of observation ; and find four golden dragon teeth and learn the incantation and numbers linked to them, to survive against Zagor.
Zagor's quarters are guarded by a Chaos Beast Man. Then the hero needs a magic staff to escape the fissure spell of the Death Lords (Zagor's physicians) or get captured.
- The Chaos Beast Man must be bribed with the sword of a Chaos Lord to avoid the fight. It is a very powerful enemy with 12 in skill and 13 in stamina, who turns into a formidable Mutant Beast Lord with 14 in skill and 14 in stamina, after landing two blows. With his might, the monster is bound to transform, and become virtually invincible, as a foe surpassing the regular maximum by 2 points cannot be beat.
Zagor greets the hero and states that he will complete his new body with their left arm. He summons four Chaotic Elementals, one after another.
They need the four dragon teeth and know how to activate them to summon Elementals of their own that can defeat them. Fire is countered by Water, Water by Wind, Wind by Earth and Earth by Fire. (They also need a throwing dagger to kill a rat that steals one of the golden teeth.)
Genuinely impressed, Zagor challenges the hero to a fair fight, to determinate the fate of Allansia. Once again, the mighty warlock has 11 in skill and 18 in stamina, but this time there are no way to make the battle easier and fighting is the only solution.
After triumphing from the evil warlock, the hero pockets every gem adorning his golden throne to become filthy rich and returns in triumph to the village where the quest started. They lead villagers into the deserted caves of Firetop Mountain to get back the ransacked goods, but alas, they notice that Zagor's corpse is missing his skeletal arm, hinting that he will return once more.
Legend of Zagor
Given that a third trip to Firetop Mountain would have proven uninteresting, Zagor's third return takes place in another world very similar to Titan, in a kingdom called Amarillia.
Five years ago, the populations of Amarillia scarcely managed to win the war against the fearsome Bone Demon and his armies of monsters, when the Bone Demon was trapped into the magical Casket of Souls and banished outside of the world. However, the monsters continue to plague the land and the kingdom is on the verge of collapsing.
Worse, the magic that expelled the Bone Demon from this world accidentally dragged there Oldoran Zagor, who had just resurrected for the second time. They both merged into one demon warlock of unfathomable power, who returned to Amarillia and took shelter in the Castle Argent, the former castle of the Amarillian kings ransacked and defiled by the Bone Demon's forces. There, Zagor spread his evil influence over the castle and the entire land.
While Zagor's personality prevailed, albeit with some of the Bone Demon's traits, the warlock and the demon are now one and the same. As such, he took control of the demon's remaining forces and started rebuilding an army. Zagor's power is slowly but surely increasing and he is close to become unstoppable. Should this happen, Amarillia would suffer a second attack. And this time, the exhausted nation would not be able to resist.
Fortunately, the Great Mage Gereth Yaztromo sensed Zagor's disappearance and was able to contact Amarillia, warning the boy-king Irian of the upcoming threat. Irian, whose entire armies and last trustworthy vassals are busy keeping the kingdom as stable as can be, hires the playable character to destroy Zagor before he reaches his full power.
The book's major innovation offers to choose between four characters with distinct advantages and weaknesses, to lead the adventure: Anvar the Barbarian, Braxus the Warrior, Stubble the Dwarf or Sallazar the Wizard.
The hero must venture into the Castle Argent and fight their way towards the demon warlock. Needless to say, the castle is full of monsters, traps, riddles and obstacles; even worse, they risk catching several types of plague that would greatly afflict them. They must gather as many Gold Talismans and Silver Daggers as possible, and find a powerful magic weapon (a distinct one for each character) to stand a chance against Zagor.
They can buy several useful items from the merchant "Three-Eyes" Haag (a cameo of the author Ian Livingstone) and the elven Thief Prince Elranel, enlist the help of a teenage thief, and finally find two extremely useful relics: a powerful Onyx Staff guarded by a very powerful and dangerous Air Elemental with 12 in skill and 16 in stamina, and an enchanted orc-slaying sword, that flies and attacks them automatically.
Legend of Zagor contains references to the previous books. Once again, the hero can “meet” Zagor through a bewitched painting or find his magic cards. And his last line of defence is a powerful dragon, only weaker than him by a single skill point. The hero must fight Zagor's mighty generals, who can prove a serious challenge:
- Thulu the Orc King is surrounded with a court of monsters that must be destroyed first. Weapons that can strike several targets and the orc-slaying sword will make the battle easier. Thulu himself is pretty strong, having 9 in skill and 17 in stamina.
- The Dark Knight is a powerful enemy with 11 in skill and 17 in stamina. Using the Onyx Staff can summon a red lion that will inflict constant damages and decrease his skill by 2 points, making the battle way easier.
- Grool the mutant ogre is a clever and very dangerous enemy with 9 in skill and 22 in stamina. Using the Onyx Staff summon a giant white cup of acid that costs him 10 stamina points, but when wounded enough he uses a magic ring to teleport atop the tower, and fire with a ballista that can cost 10 stamina points! If the hero reaches the top of the tower while dodging the rocks he throws, Grool will try to drink a healing potion before restarting the battle, regaining a dice roll worth of stamina.
- The Champion of the Hellhorns (powerful chaotic demons summoned by Zagor) has 10 in skill and 16 in stamina. The Onyx Staff summons blue chevrons that cost him 8 in stamina before the battle starts. He uses his poisonous breath to decrease the hero's skill by 1 and fights with poisoned horns and whip that cost from 1 to 4 stamina points and can decrease their skill further.
Aside from Zagor's vassals, the upper levels of Castle Argent contain a room that can heal the hero if they own gems, severed heads mounted on walls whose spirit can be summoned, and a young War Dragon related to Zagor's right-hand, not fully mature but still powerful. It has 10 in skill and 15 in stamina, and its flaming breath can cost 4 stamina points. When destroyed, the War Dragon's roar of pure rage shakes the entire castle.
Facing the War Dragon
The last and most powerful individual of a mighty species of evil dragons masters of Dark Magic, who was second-in-command to the Bone Demon, and now follows Zagor, his liege's second coming.
The War Dragon is a vicious and relentless monster, who uses his magic to torment the last surviving knights of the castle with endless supernatural dread. Like all dragons, he keeps immense treasures with him, but he magically hides them in a different plane. It is assumed that he kept the remnants of his liege's forces in line, and helps Zagor corrupt the castle and restore his armies, while trying to breed a new generation of War Dragons.
Without the Onyx Staff which summons green stars decreasing his skill by 3 points and costing him 2 stamina points for six turns, or a special relic that increases the hero's skill for one fight, the War Dragon is virtually invincible, as he has 15 in skill (3 points over the maximum) and 20 in stamina. Worse, without magic weapons or enough attacks spells they are doomed. He can attack with his tail, bite and flaming breath, which cost respectively 1, 3 and 4 stamina points, in addition to his claws.
Upon defeating the mighty beast, the hero can tap into his treasure and gain priceless items. Then the only threat left will be none other than the dreadful Oldoran Zagor himself.
Zagor is a truly formidable enemy, with no less than 16 in skill and 20 in stamina, making him one of the most powerful Fighting Fantasy villains. Each Gold Talismans costs him 1 skill point and each Silver Dagger costs him 2 stamina points.
Without enough talismans, the hero is as good as dead. (If they own ten Silver Daggers, Zagor's stamina will fall to 0 without fight, but this is very rare.)
Before fighting, the hero can attack Zagor at distance with special items but the mighty demon warlock can only be harmed by magic weapons or spells, and if he was to gain the upper hand, his spell would cost 1 skill point and 2 stamina point.
He must not be attacked with spells, as he is protected by a Magic Screen counter-spell. Zagor can also summon a beast against the hero when they climb the stairs towards him and regain stamina in this battle.
The energies in the tower cancel both Zagor's Magic Screen and the hero's if they have one. Zagor can be attacked with all sorts of spells and magic weapons, including ones dealing great damage, but he has powerful attacks.
In the first turn, he casts a Thunderbolt Spell (minus 7 stamina points), in the second a Fireball spell (minus 5 stamina points), in the third a Life-Absorbing spell (minus 1 skill point and 2 stamina points), in the fourth and fifth, he uses a poisoned dagger (minus 3 stamina points), and he then uses his claws and fists, costing the regular 2 stamina points. Winning the first three attack rounds means escaping his deadliest moves.
When Zagor is defeated, the hero has a limited amount of time to drag his corpse to the magical Heartfire, located in the caverns below Castle Argent, and throw it into the flames to destroy him once and for all. No second must be wasted, for Zagor partially awakes after a while and grabs them, drastically slowing them down. After another (shorter) time, he fully awakes and seals their doom.
Also, they need to retain more than 4 stamina points left when throwing Zagor into the fiery pit, or else they fall after him in exhaustion, making their legend a tragedy.
If the hero succeeds, the sailors who brought them to Castle Argent will rescue them from orcs as they pass out from the strain of the fights, and bring them back to the land, where they will be celebrated as one of the greatest heroes ever and gain the enormous rewards they deserve from King Irian.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Nintendo DS)
The first gamebook of the series was adapted as a Nintendo DS role-playing game mixing exploration, riddle-solving and fighting battles. The plot summary explains a bit of the backstory that was not in the book: that Firetop Mountain was once a Dwarven Kingdom taken over by the evil wizard Oldoran Zagor, probably to cement him as a villain that must be taken down, instead of the ambiguously neutral character of the original.
The quest starts in the Dwarf Village of Stonebridge. The hero must visit the orc's den in a destroyed village, and interact with many characters, either for business or to gain information. They can gain several items, weapons, armors and accessories, and even learn some spells.
The hero can meet Zagor's associates in the caves, including torturer Max Pain, his orc warden Klugg, the powerful orc chieftain Zhug, and Giles the librarian, who has no loyalty and seeks knowledge above all, hence a possible understanding with the hero, and the Grey Minotaur keeper of the maze.
Zagor can be met several times in the game, and although he has no open hostility towards the hero, whom he regards as a minor annoyance. He will often teleport away without even deigning to speak to them. The next time, he denies any involvement in destroying villages, claiming that this is the orcs' doing, but the hero does not buy it. The last time he is met, he asks them to kill the Red Dragon for him.
- Zhug is the first mandatory boss. He is very powerful, he has lots of health, and he deals crippling blows, so unless the hero is of high level, it is best hiding behind his throne and attacking him at distance with projectiles or magic. Beware, his poisoned projectiles are dangerous.
- The Cyclops is a giant, animated metal golem, who hurls armor-proof fireballs from its central eye and deals devastating blows at close range. Again, the hero must hide behind the pillars to heal or attack at distance.
- The Grey Minotaur is much mightier than the other bosses. He strikes hard but lacks long-range attacks, so it is advised not to stay close for too long.
- The Red Dragon is extremely powerful, and his attacks are deadly, so the hero needs to be at high level and be well prepared. He cannot be harmed when he flies over and his fireballs can kill in one shot, so the hero must take cover behind the pillars. When he lands and passes his head over the end of the ledge, he breathes fire-balls and deals a nasty poisonous bite at close-range. He can only be harmed then, but caution is mandatory.
Zagor is faced in the treasury. He is impressed that the hero could kill the Red Dragon and demands his soul, but is denied, resulting in the final battle.
The hero must be at high level, for Zagor is highly powerful and can prove seriously challenging.
He hovers over the ground, he can block the hero's blows with a magic screen, and he hurls orbs of fire, water, ice and lightning. It is best to fight at close range and harass him, while minding his attacks.
When wounded enough, he randomly transforms into a monster with a smaller life-bar of its own, and turns back to normal once it is depleted to resume the battle. He can turn into two previous bosses, the Grey Minotaur or the Cyclops, or enemies like an Orc or a Wisp, with the same attacks as the original but needless to say much mightier.
- Legend of Zagor was adapted from a series of four novels, and was later adapted as a boardgame.
- Said novels were co-written by Ian Livingstone, co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series, and by Carl Sargent, best known by fans under his nom de plume Keith Martin. It was Sargent who wrote the gamebook in the first place, though Ian Livingstone was credited in its stead and the truth was only revealed much later. They might have co-written the gamebook as well but some fans are very upset over this.
- The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was adapted as a video game on Nintendo DS.
- Oldoran Zagor's page on Titannica the Fighting Fantasy Wiki http://fightingfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Oldoran_Zagor