Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Fighting Fantasy Books (1982-95)

The first in the series
I still remember the blurb on the front cover of The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain and many of the subsequent Fighting Fantasy novels.

Starship Traveller was the first Sci-Fi FF Novel
"An original fantasy adventure in which YOU are the hero!". This described their unique selling point perfectly. A book where you take on the role of the lead character and decide their fate.

Deathtrap Dungeon was my personal favourite.
As a teenage geek back in the early eighties I enjoyed fantasy role playing games but the problem was you always needed a group of friends to be available and a good size place to play them. You were also expected to bring a fair amount of materials to someones house, at least your own painted models and a variety of different shaped and sided dice and quite frankly some of the rules seemed to be more complicated than they needed to be. So complicated that you usually needed a Dungeon Master to run game and if it's you who's running the game you miss out on all the fun of playing it. Well that's my opinion. In my experience very few people ever seemed to volunteer to take on the role of Dungeon Master. I quite enjoyed the creativity of it but I seemed to be in the minority.

Space Assassin was one of the very best FF Novels.
These role playing games in book form were a godsend. A simple idea where you could take different routes through the book and the story would be different each time. More often than not the end of the story would coincide with your heroes premature death. More importantly like any other book you could enjoy it by yourself.

Pages from The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
Each step of your solo journey would give you two, three or even four choices telling you which page to turn to next. Certain parts of the story contained other characters to interact with, Items and gold to find, puzzles to solve and monsters to fight or run away from. Most of the books were set in the fictional fantasy world of Titan. Others had sci-fi, horror and modern day themes. Basically your adventure could take place anytime and anywhere and was only limited by the authors imagination and your own.

I must have photocopied this hundreds of times
Friends unavailability was no longer a problem. Tabletop space was also no longer an issue. Only six sided dice were required along with paper, pencil and eraser. No fancy painted lead models which was great. I was terrible at painting anyway. Finally no complicated rules and stats and therefore no dungeon master dilemma's. These books did have some combat but they were more about making your own decisions within a story and living with them, or more usually dying with them.

Some of the illustrations were of a very high quality.
All of the books contained some excellent illustrations which built up the atmosphere and rewarded the player as they progressed further into their adventure.

A couple of the more famous illustrations.
 I only really remember the first dozen or so books of the sixty published. As I got older my interest in role playing games much like comics was taken over by videogames. Many videogames covered the RPG genre and they were totally automated and therefore more addictive for lazy people like me. It seems ironic that these same fighting fantasy books are available in digital form as videogames, complete with colour illustrations from the original books, right now for tablets and smart phones. They're pretty good but as with the difference between paperbacks and ebooks the feeling is just not the same.

Digital colourised version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
Who knows in years to come there may not be any books written on paper. Then again if everything is stored digitally what happens if we lose the ability to generate electricity. It would make a great movie or at least a TV show right? .......... Wrong! (See 'Revolution' the cancelled TV show).

Quest's usually ended with death or treasure.
Here are a few links for more information about the Fighting Fantasy Series and the authors of the initial novels.

Fighting Fantasy
Ian Livingstone
Steve Jackson

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