Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Crossing at the Crossing

Just a quick one, prompted by the map of the area around Firetop Mountain in Brett Schofield's excellent Advanced Fighting Fantasy adaptation of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Arion Games 2014) which I received in the post the other day (by the way, hat-tip to Arion for sending it within two days of me ordering it!).

Ever since the publication of Forest of Doom in 1983, we've known that there is a road running up the east side of Darkwood Forest, crossing the Catfish River before reaching the bridge across the Red River to Stonebridge.

In the classic map of northwest Allansia in Out of the Pit, this area looks like this (no roads are marked on the map):

Stonebridge has been rather shunted to the left here, but this is probably explicable by the orientation of the map generally, which has got a slightly warped shape, with things shifted slightly to the left the further north you go (e.g. the coast isn't quite in a straight north-south line, which other maps suggest it should be). It should probably be just under the BR of 'Stonebridge' on the map.

Although less detailed, a similar layout is indicated in the important (largely because it shows the major roads) map of northwest Allansia in Dungeoneer. Stonebridge is where it should be, but unfortunately the Catfish River is obscured in the crucial stretch where it enters Darkwood, but it looks like it might be indicated branching south from the Red River just above the R of 'Darkwood' on the map, which doesn't seem right at all when we compare it with other maps of the area.

And here's the relevant bit of Brett's map for comparison, which is more or less compatable with the Forest of Doom map, though more detailed, and with a somewhat odd shape to the northern part of the forest:

What both Dungeoneer and the AFF The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (and other later Fighting Fantasy sources, such as the d20 conversions and Dave Holt's various maps of the area) ignore though, is that this area of northwest Allansia is described in the first FF novel, The Trolltooth Wars. On p. 177 of the novel, we read that Chadda Darkmane, Jamut Mantrapper and the Chervah spend some time looking through the telescope at the top of Yaztromo's Tower. Among the sights they view is the area of the road east of Darkwood as it approaches Stonebridge, which is described as follows:
Yaztromo advised them to follow the path between the edge of the forest and the lower reaches of the Moonstone Hills ... The viewing-scope picked out the busy Crossing at the Crossing, where a ferry service would take them across to the north bank. Yaztromo swung the scope westwards to pick out Stonebridge ...
This is interesting, containing as it does a name which doesn't appear elsewhere in Fighting Fantasy and which hasn't been picked up by later authors - the 'Crossing at the Crossing'. But it's not easy to interpret this description, or fit it with the maps we have of the area in the other books. The Forest of Doom map shows bridges over the Catfish and Red Rivers, and it's not immediately apparent that Stonebridge is west of this crossing, even if it was a ferry crossing. So where is the Crossing at the Crossing, and why is it called that?

One option is that there is more than one road in the area, and that one of them runs straight north along the edge of the Moonstone Hills to the point where the Catfish River and Red River diverge, crossing before the two rivers split so that only one river crossing is needed. We can assume, in this case, that a road then runs west to Stonebridge from the north shore of the Red River. And as for why it is called the 'Crossing at the Crossing', might this refer to the two rivers in the area, which appear to rise as two streams in the northern Moonstone Hills, before merging together for a while and then splitting again into the Red River and Catfish River? In a sense, this is almost a crossing of rivers (not very likely in real-world terms, but this is a fantasy world after all). Might this give rise to the notion that the two rivers are crossing each other, and that the Crossing at the Crossing is so named because it crosses the river in the stretch where they are combined (i.e. where they are crossing)? Anyway, that's one idea, I don't know what you think of it. 

Another option is that the Crossing at the Crossing is at the bridge across the Catfish River halfway up Darkwood Forest. It's possible that there's also a ferry service there (or the bridge has been destroyed and replaced by a ferry service). This might also explain the name - there was a crossing (the bridge), but it's now replaced by another crossing (the ferry service), which is known as the 'Crossing at the Crossing' as a result. This would avoid the complication of having two roads and would fit better with the maps, but it doesn't quite square with the description in The Trolltooth Wars. What do you think?

Anyway, once again the novels prove a fruitful source of information on the world of Fighting Fantasy, and I suspect there's plenty more in there that I'll explore at some point. I still think the definitive map of northwest Allansia, spiritual home of Fighting Fantasy, has yet to be drawn, and this is one area it would be nice to see sorted out taking the various sources into account.


  1. I agree that there hasn't been a definitive map of Allansia to date. If I ever dare to attempt it I will make sure to pass it by your expert eyes first!

    1. I hope you do attempt it! How did you do the one in AFF Warlock? By hand, or using Steve Luxton's package or something?

      Oh, and if you ever feel like working together on such a map, let me know!

    2. I drew it by hand, well drew it digitally using a wacom tablet. I overlaid a bunch of different Allansia maps and tried to draw up a composite as best I could.