Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Allansian Adventurer

I don't know about you, but my favourite role in the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks has always been the 'Adventurer' - that nameless, wandering sword-for-hire who stalks the lands of Titan looking for adventure and gold, stopping every now and then in some more civilised place to rest, recover, and find a new mission. The Adventurer lives for the thrill of battle, the romance of the open plain, the glitter of gold, and the fame that comes with banishing evil wizards and mighty beasts. What's not to like?
An unnamed adventurer
OK, so the Adventurer is probably also a short-lived, rather smelly and generally unpleasant sociopath (borderline psychopath), kind of the opposite of what I try to be in real life, but maybe that's not so much of a problem if your home is the treacherous verminpit that is the world of Fighting Fantasy rather than the quiet suburbs of Britain.

I particularly associate this role with the early FF books set in northwest Allansia. Concentrating just on that continent in this post, the following gamebooks (not including the role-playing adventures, where you can choose to be whoever you want) cast you in the role of a nameless wandering Adventurer:
  • The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
  • Forest of Doom
  • City of Thieves
  • Deathtrap Dungeon
  • Island of the Lizard King
  • Caverns of the Snow Witch
  • Temple of Terror
  • Trial of Champions
  • Crypt of the Sorcerer
  • Slaves of the Abyss
  • Armies of Death (although you've gained a fortune and an army)
  • Return to Firetop Mountain
  • Night Dragon
  • Curse of the Mummy
  • Eye of the Dragon
It's conceivable that you are/were such an individual in Creature of Havoc too, but that fortune has taken some rather dramatic turns in recent times. Your characters in Tower of Destruction and Siege of Sardath are also adventurers but appear to be locally based ones rather than the prototypical wandering nameless Adventurer.

Of all of these, only three weren't written by Ian Livingstone (TWoFM was of course co-authored with Steve Jackson), and, as I've discussed already here, here and here, quite a few of these books form little sub-series within Fighting Fantasy. But is it possible to construct a coherent sequence of all of these adventures which would allow you to imagine yourself as a single Adventurer in all of them? Well, one day soon I might give it a try, but there are various difficulties involving the Zagor and the Galleykeep timelines, especially when you factor in the FF novels and AFF roleplaying adventures (which also add several other complexities). For now, it's easy enough to imagine the Blacksand/Fang series following on from the Stonebridge trilogy, perhaps with you coming back north from Vatos to Silverton (in which case, Crypt of the Sorcerer would be at some later date after Deathtrap Dungeon at least, maybe even after Armies of Death). Return to Firetop Mountain and, especially, Eye of the Dragon, are set quite a few years later than the other Livingstone adventures, whilst the start point of Curse of the Mummy (in Kaynlesh-Ma) suggests a possible tie-in with the Kallamehr based adventures. Night Dragon could be set at any time, as far as I can tell. I'll come back to the history of Zagor and the Galleykeep in future posts.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Fighting Fantasy SVGs

To me, and I'm sure to many of you, mapping Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and exploring all of the hidden nooks and crannies is one of the great pleasures of the hobby. Some books are easy to map, because they are logically laid out in geographical terms:

Others, though, present something more of a challenge, either because their geographical layout is not logical (e.g. turning left and right ultimately lead you to the same place), they are not geographically structured (so that the focus is on what you do, and how and when you do it), or their structure is so complex that simple forms of representation just don't cut it. We've all been in this situation, I'm sure:

We're rather far removed from the traditional North-East-South-West or forwards-backwards-left-right type map here; what's important isn't the geographical relations between places, but the relations between paragraphs in a flowchart arrangement.

Unfortunately, unless the adventure is very short or simple, flowcharts of this sort are hard to draw, and end up rather messy and cluttered (and often spill across several pages). But thankfully technology can come to our aid here and do all the hard work for us. Using fairly simple software and code, Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs) - essentially flowcharts - can be created which lay the boxes out in an economical position and connect them with the necessary lines (with as little overlap as possible). The style and colours of the lines and boxes can be customised and identifying/explanatory text added to the various elements in the chart.

Before you head off and start creating SVGs for the FF books (which is a somewhat laborious process to be honest), have a look here, where gamebook master Simon Osborne has uploaded colour-coded SVGs to his website, The Outspaced Shrine, for all the FF gamebooks and various other gamebooks too. Excellent work, it must have taken hours!

In comments to my post on FF Solutions, Stuart Lloyd pointed out that SVGs are also a kind of solution. This is true if the creator of the SVG highlights the optimal path through the chart, but SVGs are much more, and a bit less, than true solutions. They're more like DNA sequences of gamebooks, laying bare the skeletons of adventures so that their full structure and workings can be appreciated. They really do show how complex gamebooks can be (see, for example, the SVGs for Luke Sharp's or Paul Mason's book - how is that even possible?!). With an SVG, you can see all of the paths through the book, optimal or not, get a feel for how linear the adventure is, and explore particular parts of the adventure exhaustively. I find them really useful for researching particular FF topics in a book (say, for a Titannica article or a blog post) for example. But they aren't quite solutions either - they don't tell you which path to follow unless it is highlighted, nor do they tell you what to do or why.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Pit has been reopened!

Maybe it seemed like a good idea at the time - pledge a small amount of money in the hope that a new Fighting Fantasy project could come to fruition. Little did you know what you were unleashing, but ignorance is no excuse for those who dabble in things beyond their ken. The Pit has been reopened, and once more from the darkest corners, from the deepest pools and from dungeons thought only to exist in nightmares come the Fighting Fantasy monsters. May the gods of Titan save us all from destruction!

Yes - The Beyond the Pit Kickstarter has been a runaway success and has gone beyond the level required for its production. Brilliant news. In fact, this is a hugely significant publication for Fighting Fantasy - the first completely new product in the Arion Games line (of course some of their previous books have contained new stuff, but this is completely new), and the first major new FF fantasy publication since Night of the Necromancer. Let's hope it is only the start and that there's more stuff in the pipeline.
So what are we going to get? Well, there will be descriptions and stats (normal and Advanced Fighting Fantasy) for 250 creatures and monsters from the FF books, along with the original illustrations from the gamebooks (no bestiary would be complete without them), and an all-new text by FF master, Andy Wright (greyarea13). In case you are not familiar with Andy's work on creatures from Fighting Fantasy, see the Out of the Pit articles in issues 1, 3, 6 and 7 of Fighting Fantazine, which I suspect give a mouth-watering taste of what's to come.

According to the Kickstarter page for Beyond the Pit, copies should be sent out in December, so that should make for an excellent Christmas present (it's 26 years since I got the last one for Xmas, so it has been a long wait!). Once I get hold of my copy, expect a full review here.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Fighting Fantasy solutions

Maybe you've never made it out of the dungeon in Creature of Havoc. Or solved that annoying puzzle in Tower of Destruction. Perhaps you've ended up in the kitchen one time too many in House of Hell. Or wondered whether it is in fact possible to beat Crypt of the Sorcerer with a 12-24-12 character. There are many reasons why you might want to have solutions to the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and not all of them involve trying to figure out how to finish a book you've always been defeated by (e.g. maybe you just want to relive the experience of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain without trying to solve Zagor's maze again 30 years later, or see how many medallions you can actually get in Daggers of Darkness). So if you are after Fighting Fantasy gamebook solutions, help is at hand. Starting on the (now defunct) Unofficial Fighting Fantasy Forum!, 'Champskees' set his hand to working out the perfect solution for each of the FF gamebooks (judged by the highest and easiest level of success with the weakest character).

In the kitchen again?

Unfortunately the plug was pulled on the Unofficial Forum in September 2013 and Champskees' solutions disappeared with it. (Warning! If you post something interesting on an internet chat forum, remember to make a copy of it for yourself.) But thanks to Google's cache, he was able to retrieve the solutions and has been putting them up on the Fighting Fantazine Forum for us all to enjoy again (currently books 1-50, Puffin numbering of course, are available).

- Choose Luck Potion. Take the two parts of the luck potion immediately.
- Go west.
- Test Luck. Fail = Fight Sk 6 St 5 Orc.
- Go north.
- Open door.
- At least a thousand Gold Pieces, diamonds, jewellery, rubies and pearls are in the chest. You also find the Warlock’s spell book. With this book, unlimited power is yours and the safety of your return to the village is ensured. Or you could remain as master of Firetop Mountain...

Brilliant stuff. And, what's more, it looks like Champskees' solutions are going to feature in future issues of Fighting Fantazine too, so keep an eye out for those as well. So now you have no excuse for failing to reach the end of that problem gamebook (actually, that's not strictly true; Champskees points out that even with the perfect solution, many of the gamebooks are extremely difficult to complete). If your Stamina fails, it's probably not your fault!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Other Fighting Fantasy sub-series

There have been a number of other sub-series within the Fighting Fantasy range over the years. By sub-series, I don't just mean books by the same author(s) or adventures which take place in the same setting. Something else significant (and particular) must feature within the gamebooks themselves, connecting them into a series. The following is a list of some possible sub-series, with the features that connect them highlighted:

  • The 'Astragal' trilogy: Chasms of Malice, Daggers of Darkness and Fangs of Fury (by Luke Sharp). All set in southwest Khul, with different heroes, but with the recurrent character Astragal the Wizard who appears to be trying to keep a lid on chaos in this turbulent part of Titan (another recurrent character is Alkis Fearslicer).
  • The 'Mandrake trilogy': Legend of the Shadow Warriors, Moonrunner and the unfortunately never written/published Blood of the Mandrake (by Stephen Hand). Set in and around Gallantaria in the Old World, featuring several recurrent sub-plots (e.g. the Mandrakes and the Kauderwelsches). It's not clear that the hero of LotSW and MR are the same individual, but they could be interpreted as such I think.
  • The 'Vampire' saga: Vault of the Vampire and Revenge of the Vampire (by Keith Martin). These two books involve attempting to destroy the vampire Count Reiner Heydrich. It's not clear that the hero is the same in the two books (otherwise we'd expect to see more obvious links). Tempting though it is, there isn't really anything much to connect these two books with Jon Green's Howl of the Werewolf other than VotV and HotW being set very close to each other geographically and featuring the same kind of adventurer.
  • The 'Isles of the Dawn' or 'Maior' duology: Black Vein Prophecy and The Crimson Tide, both written (at least in part) by Paul Mason, set in the Isles of the Dawn, and featuring recurrent characters, including Maior and Poo Ta. The hero cannot be the same individual in the two books (and indeed the heroes from the two books may meet).
  • The 'Riddling Reaver' or 'Kallamehr' series: The Dreaming Sands (Warlock 13), The Riddling Reaver, Slaves of the Abyss and Magehunter, all written, in part at least, by Paul Mason. Warlock 13 tells us that The Dreaming Sands was written as a prelude to The Riddling Reaver. Slaves of the Abyss could conceivably follow on from TRR, but there's no sure evidence that the hero is the same; it does follow on in terms of the history of Kallamehr though (Baron Bluestone is dead and the Lady Carolina rules the city). Magehunter has an entirely different hero, but follows on chronologically (in terms of the history of Kallamehr) from SotA. All of the adventures except The Dreaming Sands feature the city Kallamehr, two of the adventures include encounters with the nightmarish Maijem-Nosoth, and all have appearances by the Riddling Reaver.
  • And then of course there's Zagor. It used to be relatively simple; there was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and then a while later Return to Firetop Mountain came along. The adventures are set 10 years apart, but both involve you entering Firetop Mountain and confronting Zagor. Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World gave us a bit of backstory, and The Trolltooth Wars complicated things slightly. But then Legend of Zagor and the Zagor Chronicles were published (and were tied in with Casket of Souls), and I no longer have a clue what the deal is with Zagor, where he came from or how old he is. I think I'll return to that problem in another post!

So I think that's the obvious sub-series within Fighting Fantasy (Sorcery!, the novels and Advanced Fighting Fantasy adventures aside of course); have I missed anything obvious?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Another early Fighting Fantasy trilogy?

The 'Stonebridge' trilogy is not the only sub-series in the early days of Fighting Fantasy. Three of Ian Livingstone's other early gamebooks also seem to have been linked: City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon and Island of the Lizard King.

City of Thieves, the fifth FF gamebook, begins in Silverton with no apparent connection with any other gamebook. Silverton is about 50 miles east of Port Blacksand (para. 1). After your adventures in Port Blacksand and Zanbar Bone's tower, you return to Silverton to receive your reward and the thanks of the people of the town.

The sixth FF gamebook, Deathtrap Dungeon, begins with you spotting an advert for the Trial of Champions. You decide to head for Fang, walking two days west to Port Blacksand, where you catch a boat north to your destination. Although Silverton is not mentioned, a two day walk east of Port Blacksand must put you in the area of that town. Deathrap Dungeon ends with you being proclaimed 'Champion of Deathtrap Dungeon' in Fang (in the unlikely event that you actually survive the adventure...).

The next FF gamebook, Island of the Lizard King, sees you travelling south from Fang for a few days' rest with your friend Mungo in Oyster Bay (60 miles south of Port Blacksand). It ends with your victory over the Lizard King on Fire Island, off the west coast of Allansia.

So far so good - here we have three consecutive FF gamebooks by the same author, the last two of which start in the same place as the previous one finished. This can hardly have been by accident. That in itself marks this out as a little sub-series within the FF gamebooks, regardless of other considerations which I'll discuss below. But what can we call this FF trilogy? The only place common to them all is Port Blacksand, but in two of the books it is just somewhere you pass through in the Background to the story, so 'The Blacksand Trilogy' doesn't really work. What would YOU suggest?

Identifying these three books as a trilogy doesn't of course mean that the hero is the same individual in each of them. But (s)he could be. I suspect Livingstone intended the links between the adventures to allow readers to imagine that it's the same hero in all three books if they wanted to. But there are problems with assuming that it's the same hero in each book, as Ed rightly pointed out in the comments to my post on the 'Stonebridge' trilogy. These are:
  1. The books don't actually say that the hero is the same in each adventure. As Ed suggested, just because he has a friend who's been to Wimbledon, that doesn't make her Tim Henman. But let's think about this a minute. There was no reason for Livingtone to start each book in the place the previous one finished unless he wanted to suggest that the heroes could be the same person.
  2. After City of Thieves, you are a wanted individual in Port Blacksand with a very obvious identifying mark (as Dungeoneer points out). In that case, why would you pass through it between each adventure? I don't suppose it would be hard to wear a hood or a bit of make-up to hide the problem though.
  3. In Deathtrap Dungeon, you meet Ivy, the sister of the troll Sourbelly, who you've met or perhaps even killed in Port Blacksand in City of Thieves. As Ed puts it, 'there's no hint of recognition when Ivy mentions being his sister'. Probably wise if you killed him of course!
  4. In your conversation with the doomed Mungo at the start of Island of the Lizard King, he tells you that his father died in Deathtrap Dungeon at some point in the past. Ed is right that it is odd, since you've just won through the dungeon, that you don't make any comment here (even to yourself), but of course now is not really the time to be boasting that you survived the dungeon that killed your friend's father!

So there we have it - this is a trilogy, in which it is up to the reader to decide if the hero is the same individual in each book (which Livingstone appears to have suggested at least). But hang on a minute! Is it really just a trilogy? In issue 7 of Warlock - The Fighting Fantasy Magazine, a multi-player adventure by Paul Mason and Steve Williams called Deathtrap on Legs appears. This adventure, which takes place in the neighbourhood of Fang, is written as following straight on from Deathtrap Dungeon, and constitutes another installment in this series of adventures (in this case the third of four). But that's only a minor aside to the main trilogy to be honest. More strikingly, it's just about conceivable that another of Ian Livingstone's later books, Trial of Champions follows on, perhaps by some time (it is set a year after Deathtrap Dungeon according to Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World, Sukumvit and Carnuss), from Island of the Lizard King. You end Island of the Lizard King on Fire Island and start Trial of Champions sailing in a small boat south from Port Blacksand to Oyster Bay. Not the most convincing of links, I'll grant you, but it puts you in the right part of Allansia and you certainly have a reason to visit Oyster Bay again.

But there's more. deadshadowrunner has just pointed out in the comments to my last post (thanks!) that the Wizard 2nd edition of Trial of Champions states on its backcover that 'YOU are the legendary adventurer who conquered Baron Sukumvit's perilous labyrinth'. I had never noticed that before, as it is not present on the blurb on the back of the Puffin editions of the book! So this confirms that Trial of Champions follows on from Deathtrap Dungeon, which means that if Island of the Lizard King follows on from Deathtrap Dungeon, we are dealing here with a tetralogy (or a pentalogy if we include Deathtrap on Legs). And of course we all know what happens after Trial of Champions - you use your massive winnings to hire an army and take on the Shadow Demon Agglax in Armies of Death.

So actually, it looks like this isn't a trilogy after all. It's a pentalogy if we ignore the multi-player adventure in Warlock, or a hexalogy if we do include it.
  1. City of Thieves
  2. Deathtrap Dungeon
  3. Deathtrap on Legs
  4. Island of the Lizard King
  5. Trial of Champions
  6. Armies of Death
But that still leaves us with finding a suitable name for the series.

What was that? Did I just hear you mention Demons of the Deep (after all, if Conan could become a pirate...), Dungeoneer, Blacksand! and Allansia?! I think I'd better stop now before I work out how to link all of the Fighting Fantasy adventures in one grand scenario.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The 'Stonebridge' Trilogy?

Unlike the Lone Wolf series, each of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks (other than the Sorcery! epic of course) was a stand-alone adventure. In other words, nothing you did in any adventure affected any other, and you technically played a new character in each book. I suspect this was one of the things that made the series interesting - it allowed greater freedom and variation for the authors and readers. That doesn't mean that some of the gamebooks weren't linked in some way though, and I'm going to explore some of these links in some posts here on The World of Fighting Fantasy.

One of the most obvious links is between three of Ian Livingstone's early gamebooks, Caverns of the Snow Witch, The Forest of Doom and Temple of Terror.

In Caverns of the Snow Witch, you begin your adventure guarding the caravans of the merchant Big Jim Sun in the frozen north of Allansia, with no hint of any connection with any other FF adventure. Assuming you survive as far as Stonebridge with your companions Stubb the Dwarf and Redswift the Elf (and that's a big assumption given how hard the book is!), you learn that the fabled war-hammer of Gillibran, Dwarfen king of Stonebridge, has been stolen by an eagle (which subsequently dropped it whilst flying over Darkwood Forest). Stubb leaves you and Redswift to join his fellow Dwarf, Bigleg, on a quest to find the war-hammer and return it to Stonebridge (see para. 211).

In Forest of Doom, you start your adventure as a sword for hire 'roaming the northern borderlands', where you chance upon the mortally wounded Bigleg, who has failed in his mission to find King Gillibran's war-hammer. You take on his quest, visiting the wizard Yaztromo and braving the perils of Darkwood Forest in an attempt to return the hammer to Stonebridge. There is no mention of any connection with any other FF adventure, not surprisingly as this was only the third one published, but Livingstone's retconning in Caverns of the Snow Witch clearly establishes a relationship between the two books.

Temple of Terror, the fourteenth FF gamebook, begins with you relaxing and recovering in Stonebridge after a recent quest. The wizard Yaztromo brings news of Malbordus and asks for aid to bring an end to the Storm Child's evil plans. When you volunteer to help, Yaztromo asks 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?', and during the adventure you are given King Gillibran's war-hammer to help you in your quest (para. 171). No other link with other FF gamebooks is mentioned, but the obvious inference is that Temple of Terror starts where The Forest of Doom left off.

So there we have it, an early trilogy within the FF series by Ian Livingstone. Caverns comes first, then Forest, then Temple. The hero of Forest and Temple look like they could be the same individual, although there is no indication that the same goes for Caverns and Forest (though of course they might be). But what should we call this trilogy? I've named it the 'Stonebridge' trilogy in the title to this post, as Stonebridge is the only place that occurs in all of them, but have you got any other suggestions?

Oh, and it's possible that this isn't a trilogy at all, but a quadrilogy! Another of Ian Livingstone's books, Crypt of the Sorcerer, starts with you visiting your 'friend' Yaztromo, who hasn't seen you 'for over a year'. Other than that, though, there's no obvious link with the 'Stonebridge' trilogy, even though your adventure to defeat Razaak does take you to Stonebridge itself (well, if you can survive that far at any rate...). So is this the 'Stonebridge Quadrilogy'? Or am I going too far, and giving in to that temptation we've all had at one point or another to try and link ALL of the FF adventures with one super-human adventurer who stalks the world of Titan banishing evil wherever (s)he can find it?*

And just in case you are wondering, all of these adventures are probably set in 284 or 285 AC (After Chaos) in Titan's timeline. We know this because Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World states several times (e.g. in 'Dwarfs Today' and 'Reckoning the Years') that the current year is 284 AC, and at the time of writing Gillibran's war-hammer hasn't yet been stolen, and the Snow Witch, Malbordus, and Razaak are all incipient threats.

I'll have a look at some other sub-series within Fighting Fantasy in later posts.

*See here for a classic example from the early days of FF online fandom.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Fighting Fantasy soundtrack

Just a short one today: what's the music that you most associate with Fighting Fantasy? For me it is the unmistakable sound of some of the early albums by rock gods Queen. In particular, their second album, the unimaginatively titled but utterly awesome Queen II.

This is one hell of an album, only one weak track on it (can you guess which one I'm thinking of?). I'd like to say that I associate this album with FF because of its epic fantasy theme, but I think it might be more because my older brother was majorly into Queen when I first got into FF and their albums were the constant soundtrack in our bedroom at the time, creating a long-lasting, deep-rooted connection in my mind with the world of Fighting Fantasy (mind you, he was also into Iron Maiden, but I never formed the same attachment to that, nor to Queen's later stuff, which he also played a lot). It's not just this album actually, although it is probably Queen's best IMO; A Night at the Opera (again especially the mystical fantasy themed The Prophet's Song, so maybe there is a fantasy connection after all) and A Day at the Races are both forever linked in my mind with the early years of FF, up to and including Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World. Both great albums, especially A Day at the Races (though there are a couple of duff tracks on there too).

What's the music that most connects with Fighting Fantasy for you?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Deathtrap Dungeon, the computer game - available to play again!

A curious thing happened to me yesterday (actually, two things, but the other one was at work and need not detain us here). I was having a think about what I'd like to blog about, and one of the items high on my list was the 1998 Eidos computer game for PC and PlayStation, Deathtrap Dungeon.


I was going to bemoan the fact that although I own copies of both versions of the game, I have never been able to play it, as by the time I got hold of the PC version it was incompatible with current operating systems and I'd never owned a PlayStation (and presumably the same problem would hold for that). So I was going to talk about all the interesting goodies that came along with the game, the official strategy guides to it by Prima, and how it would be great one day to see a conversion of the game for modern PCs.

Anyway, I was having a look at the Official Fighting Fantasy website yesterday evening to see if there was anything new in the world of FF, and I spotted news from the 12th October that the game has been made available by Steam for play on modern PCs (unfortunately not Macs, as Alex/Gallicus (@ffantazine), editor of Fighting Fantazine has pointed out)! For a fee of £4.99 it can be downloaded and played (you need to be online whilst playing). Brilliant! At long last I can enjoy the madness that is Deathtrap Dungeon as imagined by Eidos and can experience it through the eyes of the brutal barbarian Chaindog or the deadly amazon Red Lotus (though up till now I keep dying on the first level...). I'll post some more on the game as I get to know it better, and will put together something on the various extras that came with the original games at some point soon too.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Out of the Pit II - Beyond the Pit!

A cornerstone of the early days of Fighting Fantasy was Out of the Pit (OOTP), by Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone and Marc Gacoigne, a vast compendium of 250 monsters from the fantasy gamebooks written by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson up to that point (i.e. up to and including Temple of Terror and The Crown of Kings). It included almost all the monsters encountered in the gamebooks plus a good selection of new ones, and each monster was accompanied by an illustration, either from a gamebook or a newly commisioned one. In addition, OOTP included maps of northwest Allansia and Kakhabad, treasure and encounter tables, and eight full colour, full page illustrations of a selection of the creatures described in the volume.

I first got a copy of OOTP at Christmas, 1987 (the original A4 size edition; there have since been a smaller B-format edition in 1989 and a reissue of the A4 size in 2011 by Arion Games as part of their Advanced Fighting Fantasy second edition range, neither of which included the colour illustrations). Amazing as it was, I was disappointed to discover that it didn't contain the monsters from Scorpion Swamp or Seas of Blood, nor of the gamebooks which had been released in 1986-7. As the years went on, and as many more gamebooks, novels and multi-player scenarios appeared, OOTP became more and more dated, and I (along with many other FF fans it turned out) wanted a second (and third, fourth...) volume describing all those new creatures too.

It was beginning to look like this would never happen though, despite the resurgence of FF between 2002 and 2012 with the publication of some of the old gamebooks and six new ones by Wizard Books. But I hadn't reckoned on the energy and drive of Arion Games and one of our long time online FF buddies, Andy Wright (also known in FF circles as Greyarea13), who have teamed up to bring us what we've all been waiting years for - Out of the Pit II, or, as it is officially going to be known, Beyond the Pit. Hurray! I'll talk more about Andy's amazing work on documenting the monsters, creatures, villains and even plants of Titan in a later post, but all I can say right now is that the prospect of a book of FF monsters written by him is extremely exciting, as no-one knows more about them and the world of Titan than he does. There is just one tiny little hurdle to jump before we can get our hands on Beyond the Pit, and that's some up front cash to pay the illustrators for the wonderful pictures which need to accompany each monster description (we can't expect them to do it for nothing, and I think you'll agree that the illustrations are a must have). So Arion Games have launched a (very modest) Kickstarter to allow this to happen, with a minimum pledge of £1, and £22 for a soft cover version delivered to your door.

It looks amazing! So if you want to see this published, you know what to do - the goal of £3000 is very reasonable, and they're getting there, but every pledge will help. I can't wait to explore the darkest corners, deepest pools and nightmarish dungeons of FF once again!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Fighting Fantasy Characters in Focus: Beshbalik

One of the things that makes FF fun is the cast of characters who inhabit the world you're adventuring in. I'm not just talking about the Big Bads or those helpful if slightly annoying good wizards you start off many adventures dealing with. As I mentioned in my introductory post, my favourite FF character is someone called Beshbalik. Ever heard of him? If not, that's because he's not a very major character at all; he's just one of the interesting people you may chance to meet whilst adventuring in Titan, in this case in the land of Kazan, as described in Luke Sharp's book Dagger of Darkness.

So, who is he? Well, even if you don't know him, you might just recognise him...

Yes, that's him, the crazy-looking bald dude with the tash, eye-patch and dodgy cod-piece on the cover of Daggers of Darkness. Let's hope for his sake that the Grypfalcon lands on his protected left shoulder and that the two Fangtigers he's riding don't decide to head in opposite directions (which, from the look on his face, they might be already trying to do!).

Beshbalik is the leader of a mercenary group, Beshbalik's Marauders (also known as the Scavengers of Slaughter, which really ought to be the name of a Scandinavian heavy-metal band) operating in the land of Kazan in southwest Khul. The Marauders appear to have been in the employ of the usurping Vizier Chingiz, but their relationship seems to have broken down over a financial dispute, and Beshbalik and co. have essentially gone on the rampage around Sharrabbas, attacking Chingiz's forces. I like this. It's not your usual story of good and bad; it's the dirty politics and grey morality of this fascinating, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic little corner of the world of Fighting Fantasy.

Just in case you were wondering, Beshbalik, like many of the names in Daggers of Darkness, was taken by Luke Sharp from central Asia, in this case the old city of Beshbalik/Beshbalyk (meaning 'Main City' in the local Turkic language) in the Uyghur Khaganate (now Jimsar in Xinjiang, China).

You can read more about Beshbalik and his Marauders in Titannica, the Fighting Fantasy wiki.

Monday, 11 November 2013

More Fighting Fantasy maps - Steve Luxton

While I'm on the topic of maps in FF, I thought it would be worth drawing attention to Steve Luxton's blog, Mr Nibbs' New Maps (I didn't even realise there was a new incarnation of his blog until recently, very pleased to have found it). Steve has been discussing things with the members of titan_rebuilding and has been working with Arion Games to produce new maps of various places in Titan, of the continents, and the whole world. And look at the results! Maps of Salamonis, Lord Azzur's Palace, Port Blacksand, the continents and the whole of Titan in globe form. I particularly like the sketch map of northern Allansia, which captures the feel of the place wonderfully.

Actually, I can't help feeling that Steve Luxton has a lot to answer for. This blog for example. Steve's maps in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World were one of the things that really hooked my imagination as a kid. I almost turned inside out with excitement the day I first saw Titan on the shelf of my local bookshop and realised it had maps of the three continents. These maps together with his maps in Midnight Rogue, Chasms of Malice, Vault of the Vampire and Fangs of Fury really brought depth to the world of FF. Let's hope we see some more of Steve's work published soon.

Which brings me to this:

I only found out about this map by Steve Luxton when reading the latest issue of Fighting Fantazine. I'd like to know more! I know it's in French, but where can I buy a copy? And will it be released in English too?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mike Schley's Inkle Sorcery! maps

Have you played the Inkle Sorcery! adventures yet? They're brilliant, lush updates of the classic FF series. I'll talk about them more in later posts (especially once I've had a chance to play Kharé more); for now I just want to say how much I like Mike Schley's wonderful maps, which really add to the experience (the other maps on his website aren't half bad either). You can see the whole Shamutanti Hills map here, and you can view part of the Kharé map here (I can't find the full map online yet).

Beautiful! It looks like I'm going to have to update my article, The geography of Kharé, which appeared in issue 12 of Fighting Fantazine... Watch this space for more discussion of the Inkle apps and maps.

  • UPDATE 13/11/2013: Mike Schley has now made the full map of Kharé available here. Wonderful!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Welcome to The World of Fighting Fantasy

Welcome to The World of Fighting Fantasy! In this blog, I hope to explore the classic gamebook series, Fighting Fantasy (FF), and its main world, Titan, from many angles - looking at the books themselves, their characters, lands, rules and items, the ideas and sources behind them, and the editors, authors, illustrators, digital games and websites that form the wider world of FF. I may even do some reviews and play-throughs, and if I hear any news about FF I'll post it here. In fact, anything and everything to do with FF. I may occasionally talk about other gamebook series and fantasy novels and films too, but the main focus will be on FF.

And "Who am I?", I hear you ask. My names is Warren (though I normally go by the handle Paltogue in online FF circles). I'm a long time fan of the series (from the mid 80s), and have been an active member of the online FF community since the early 00s. I am a regular contributor on the Yahoo! discussion groups Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and titan_rebuilding, to the Fighting Fantazine forum, and am one of the founders and main editors of the FF wiki, Titannica. I have also been a regular contributor to the FF fanzine, Fighting Fantazine, including the mini-adventure In Search of the Mungies' Gold in issue 4 (a solo adventure inspired by Steve Jackson's multi-player adventure of the same name in Warlock 5). My favourite FF book is probably Kharé - Cityport of Traps, and my favourite FF character is Beshbalik.

Anyway, I'll be interested to hear what you think about the topics I discuss; an internet connection and some kind of computer/tablet/phone are all you need!