Monday, 14 April 2014

Some Fighting Fantasy statistics

We all remember those heady days when it seemed like there was a new Fighting Fantasy book on the shelf every time you went into the local bookshop. Or at least you do if, like me, you're now in your 40s and your memories of things long in the past are sometimes better than things that happened yesterday... Then came the slow decline and first death of Fighting Fantasy, followed by the empty years, before the franchise was resurrected in the new century, at least for a while.

It's interesting to look at some statistics from the history of FF, and in this post I'm going to briefly examine the publication history of the original Puffin Books run of the series.* The first FF book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (obviously), was published on the 27th of August, 1982. The last Puffin FF book, Curse of the Mummy, was published on the 26th of November, 1995. That's exactly 13 years and 3 months of Fighting Fantasy, but of course for us FF fans it wasn't long enough. Publication of the books throughout that period wasn't constant though. The following graph illustrates the rise and fall of the Puffin Fighting Fantasy series:

That works out as 59 regular gamebooks and 21 other books (such as Sorcery!, the novels and the Advanced Fighting Fantasy series, but ignoring the Adventures of Goldhawk books which hardly count as FF books IMO), at an average of 4.2 regular gamebooks (5.7 over all) per year. Not all years were equal of course, as the graph shows clearly. From its first tentative step in 1982, the series exploded from 1983 to 1988 or 1989, and then tailed off in a slow death, with only a brief flutter of its old glory in the tenth anniversary year, 1992. The years 1984 to 1988 in particular stand out as the years when FF was at its height. 1985 was a bumper crop. Those were the years when the books came thick (well, Appointment with F.E.A.R. and Creature of Havoc were thick anyway) and fast, and the only down side to that was when you walked into the bookshop, saw a brand-new FF book, lifted it up excitedly, and then realised it was a sci-fi one. I hated it when that happened! It's interesting to have a look at the publication history of these (and other non-Titan) books too:

In this graph, I've grouped gamebooks (from the original 59) according to whether they were set in Titan or not. I've categorised Spectral Stalkers and Magehunter as being half in Titan, half not. There's a pretty obvious pattern here: non-Titan books were fairly common from 1983 to 1988, peaking dramatically in 1985. After that they disappeared from the scene almost entirely (and those which contained non-Titan elements were either partly set there or, in the case of Legend of Zagor, linked to Titan in other ways). Someone clearly realised that it wasn't just me having that reaction to the sci-fi books!

So there we have it, a little bit of Fighting Fantasy history. I don't suppose we'll ever see the like again, but maybe in another post I'll explore other FF statistics, e.g. the Wizard Books runs of the series.

*Thanks to Titannica for the dates analysed here.


  1. non-Titan books were fairly common from 1983 to 1988, peaking dramatically in 1985. After that they disappeared from the scene almost entirely

    Well, much of the later FF run is set in backwater corners of Khul and The Old World with only purely nominal Titan inclusion, maybe a shared placename or two. Their marginal status is reflected in some of them being republished (like the digital Keep of the Lich-Lord app) with the Titan details airbrushed out, resituated to Fabled Lands.

    1. I don't really agree with your point. The following books were all set in backwater corners of Titan without much connection to the rest of it, but they weren't late in the series: Sword of the Samurai, Masks of Mayhem, Beneath Nightmare Castle, Phantoms of Fear, Chasms of Malice, Stealer of Souls, Daggers of Darkness, Portal of Evil, Vault of the Vampire, Fangs of Fury and Dead of Night. Before Sword of the Samurai, there was no Titan, and several of the earlier fantasy books had little or no connection with the others either. So this is just the nature of Titan (designed by committee as I discussed in an earlier post) rather than a development as the series went on.

  2. The connection is that many people who shaped Titan had already worked with each other on White Dwarf and discussed this sort of thing quite a lot.

    It is probably more accurate to describe Titan as a compilation of previous ideas which were developed further, and that is mostly Marc Gascoigne's work. If you consider the Titan as reference material for future authors you will get the idea.

    I think it evolved pretty much as intended, but we ran out of time and real life got in the way. I posted a few Q&A's with Marc on this blog earlier today that explain some of this.


    1. Good point. I suppose many people who worked on Titan knew each other a bit but were kind of likes spokes on a wheel, with information passing to and from Marc Gascoigne, and not always surviving intact. Gascoigne certainly shows a love for the world of Titan in his FF contributions, but he's not exactly consistent all the time, perhaps on purpose as you suggest.

  3. Marc says he compiled Titan from two dozen existing books, so how much info was passed around during the edit is anybody's guess. Any inconsistencies in those would either have to remain or be edited out. Steve and Ian must have approved it otherwise it wouldn't have been published as it was. It must have been a nightmare job.

    But why should Titan, with all the chaos, (and the warpstone) be consistent? Why would an adventurer expect consistency in a medieval world where little exists? For me, thinking differently is part of the challenge of RPG's, but everyone plays their own way and that's what RPG's need to accommodate.

    I suggested nothing, Marc Gascoigne wrote that.