Saturday, 29 March 2014

The demise of Rebuilding Titan

Another short post, just to get me back into the swing of things after what has felt like a long, draining semester.

Those of you who have been involved in the Fighting Fantasy online community for a long time will likely know about the Rebuilding Titan Yahoo! discussion forum. The forum was launched in 2000, before I became involved in the FF online community myself (I think that was in 2001 or 2002), and was moderated by Daniel Fiander. Its aim was to try to pull together everything we then knew about the world of Fighting Fantasy and to try and bring some consistency to things. This was partly because at the time FF was no longer being published and there was no hint that the series would be relaunched by Wizard Books. There was kind of a feeling in those days that FF was no longer a going concern and that it was up to the fans to keep the franchise alive and even to develop it further.

The early years on Rebuilding Titan were exciting, filled with posts exploring and developing all sorts of things to do with Titan, the FF world. Well known names in the online FF community were involved, including Ken Beuden, Dave Holt, Jared Milne, Doug Riddell, Brett Schofield and Andy Wright. There's loads of great discussion on there if you can bear to access it (see below).

Unfortunately by 2006, the moderator of the group, Daniel Fiander, had disappeared (and has never been heard from since). Since the group didn't require moderator's approval to join, it became swamped with spammers, who began to fill the list with links to all sorts of dodgy business. Several of us complained to Yahoo!, but they appear to have a policy of only dealing with the moderator of a group and wouldn't do anything to help. As a result, we abandoned the group and set up a new version of it, titan_rebuilding, also on Yahoo!, where the discussion continued and ultimately gave rise to the FF bestiary databases and the FF wiki, Titannica. (That group has now largely fallen into disuse too, for entirely different reasons which I'll maybe come back to in another post.)

Although we had abandoned Rebuilding Titan, it still exists out there on the forgotten edges of the internet. In fact, I kept my membership of it going for years in order to have access to the (non-spam!) posts that are on there. Unfortunately in recent months the spam has got a lot more dubious (i.e. not just your regular links to sites for people in your area looking for casual fun, but stuff which looks illegal), so I decided I'd better terminate my membership. I made a quick copy of some of the posts I'd made on the group and pressed 'Leave Group'. A sad day indeed, but there doesn't seem to be any hope that the group can be saved. Not unless Daniel Fiander comes out of retirement, or Yahoo! finally decide to evict the spammers and clean up the site.

The history of FF online is in some respects a history of discussion groups which have waxed and waned (and which have often disappeared because the moderator has pulled the plug without warning), but the case of Rebuilding Titan seems particularly sad, like some kind of archaic deep space probe drifting beyond our communication in the lonely depths of space. Maybe one day it'll be fixed or, more likely, Yahoo! will just put it out of its misery.

Help us Daniel Fiander, you're our only hope!


  1. The TRB did a great job and provided lots of info and ideas before it got spammed out. The climate and ocean currents chart is incorporated into the new maps, and the location of Gundobad was your idea, if I remember right. I've shown it as a region on the new base map, so you can map it in more detail later.

    However, the TRB had an impossible task... Earlier this year I asked Marc a few questions and got this...

    1. Who drew the sketch maps I worked from for the Titan book?

    They were all by me. As someone who grew up as a player of D&D and other games, and as a reader of fantasy from Tolkien and other writers, fantasy maps were pretty much in my blood. Creating the originals for the maps and cutaways, and consolidating existing maps of certain regions from existing books into the now-definitive maps of the continents, was one of the delights of working on Titan.

    I was working closely with Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, of course, but also with maps from several of the Presents... gamebooks too. One of the challenges was to fit pre-existing regions into a fairly consistent, geographically logical larger world - which, since some were set in deserts and others icy northern climes, was something of a forced fit. That's one of the reasons why there are three continents - initially, one each for Steve, Ian and Everyone Else (Khul), though later writers including myself set gamebooks in previously unexplored areas I'd added. There were also some quirky little twists, because I can't help myself - the Japanese-inspired land is a large empire, its Chinese-inspired neighbour a small cluster of islands.

    2. How big is Titan? The only measured reference in published work is Port Blacksand to Oyster Bay (80 miles) which roughly scales Titan at 6,000 miles around the equator.

    Or is it? No one actually knows and I like it that way. Obviously, I worked on the Advanced FF roleplaying game, and one of the curses of an RPG is that referees and game masters often require accurate information. But this is a medieval-inspired world, where maps are rare and precious, and distances are often only known in terms of time taken to cross them rather than to the mile. So we deliberately didn't put in too many accurate measurements for that reason. And where we did, there were even some deliberate differing distances, to add to the feel that this was not a world where accuracy was to be found.

    And of course, you're assuming it's an Earth-like oblate sphere. In which case, what are the turtles carrying?

    3. Was Titan designed with the idea of other continents to be added?

    This is really to be joined to the next question. There was certainly room for them, if the series kept on going indefinitely - though there was plenty of room to set adventures in the existing continents. This wasn't discussed as a strategy, but the Unknown Land was my deliberate placeholder for such an eventuality, a terra incognita that could be opened up if needed. In the end, we didn't get that far, but I bet there are some avid fans who have had thoughts as to what one might find there....

    4. Were there any undeveloped ideas relating to the Unknown Land?

    See above.

    Hope you have fun with that!


    1. All very interesting! One thing that various FF sources do make clear though is that Titan IS a globe - it has northern and southern hemispheres, and you can sail around it with no mention of anyone sailing off the edge.

      The climate is always going to be a problem, but I'm fine with that - we can assume some kind of warping or other leading to hot and cold spots on the planet. The seasons are another matter (with the same seasons at the same time in the northern and southern hemispheres).

      I'd be keen to know more from Gascoigne - I wonder what the interview with him in Fighting Fantazine will reveal.

  2. I figure that Titan HAS to be a globe and the fact that there are seasons suggests it is a planet rotating on a tilted axis. The calendar gives basic info which adds to that. There are enough hidden clues to work out some of the major geological aspects.

    I guess all that was probably considered as unnecessary complications for the game at that time. The ongoing effects of chaos are a very convenient explanation for any anomalies.

    The interview is gonna be fascinating! I hope he doesn't mention the Xmas parties!