Sunday 28 May 2017

Ian Livingstone appearing at the UK Games Expo 2017

Fighting Fantasy fans who are attending the UK Games Expo 2017 (2nd - 4th June) will be pleased to hear that Ian Livingstone CBE, co-creator of the FF series and co-founder of Games Workshop (amongst many other things), will also be attending the event on Friday and Saturday.

Ian will be signing his books (and any other works you might want to bring along) on Stand F11 at 2:00pm on Friday and 1:00pm on Saturday 3rd June, as well as at other times. (You will also find gamebook author and FF historian Jonathan Green on Stand F11.)

At 6:00pm on Friday 2nd June, in the Toute Suite, Ian will be giving a talk on his history in the games industry from Games Workshop to Fighting Fantasy to Lara Croft, and will also reveal his Top 10 board games of all time.

Don't miss this opportunity to hear from one of the founding fathers of the hobby games industry.

If you are attending the UK Games Expo, may your STAMINA never fail - at least not until the Sunday evening!

Thursday 25 May 2017

100 days to go until Fighting Fantasy Fest 2

There are just 100 days left to go until Fighting Fantasy Fest 2 opens its doors to fans on Saturday 2nd September, at the University of West London in Ealing.

A large number of guests have already been confirmed for the event, including Guests of Honour Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone and one-time FF consultant editor, gamebook author and novelist Marc Gascoigne. And now we ready to announce some of the traders who will also be attending.

Arion Games - publishers of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG (2nd edition) will be running games throughout the day for anyone to drop in and enjoy, as well as selling their many and varied AFF prodcuts.

Fighting Fantasy Collector - Jamie Fry will be in attendance, selling signed books and hard-to-find items of Fighting Fantasy memorabilia.

inkle Studios - creators of the popular Steve Jackson's Sorcery! apps (and the critically-acclaimed 80 Days), inkle will be talking about bringing the legendary gamebook quartet to the small, hand-held screen, as well as demoing their games.

Nomad Games - in a Fighting Fantasy Fest exclusive, Nomad Games (creators of the Games Workshop-licensed Talisman games) will be showcasing their new game Fighting Fantasy Legends for the first time at Fighting Fantasy Fest 2.

Titan Comics - publishers of Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter (as well as Doctor Who, Assassin's CreedDark Souls, Warhammer 40,000 and Anno Dracula comics) will be in attendance, accompanied by the creative team behind this year's most anticipated new monthly comic release.

And that's just for starters. More traders and partners will be announced soon.

There are still some Early Bird tickets left, so don't delay - grab yours today!

Sunday 21 May 2017

Freeway Fighter signing at Forbidden Planet

On Saturday 20th May 2017, fans of comics and gamebooks united to gather at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London for the signing of the very first Fighting Fantasy comic, Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter, published by Titan Comics.

In attendance were writer Andi Ewington, artist Simon Coleby, letterer Jim Campbell, editor Jonathan Green, variant cover artist Jim Burns, and the creator of the original Freeway Fighter gamebook, Ian Livingstone.

Signing pre-orders in the back room at Forbidden Planet.

Ian Livingstone and Andi Ewington marvel at Simon Coleby's original pencils and inks for the Freeway Fighter comic.

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks were also available for fans to pick up and have signed at the event.

Issue #1 of Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter comes with seven variant covers, one of which was only available from Forbidden Planet.

The fans gather for the signing, including the usual suspects.

Two fantasy legends were reunited for the event - the original Freeway Fighter cover artist and author, Jim Burns and Ian Livingstone.

You can see more photos from the signing here.

Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter has been extremely well-received by comics and gamebook fans alike, and you can read reviews all over the web. And don't forget, Issue #2 goes on sale next month and is available to pre-order now, while the variant covers for Issue #4 have also now been released.

Cover A by Simon Coleby & Len O'Grady - Cover B by Ben Oliver - Cover C by Tazio Bettin & Luis Guerrero

Friday 19 May 2017

Forbidden Planet Freeway Fighter signing - Saturday 20th May 2017!

The day is finally upon us!

On Saturday 20th May 2017, from 1:00-2:00pm, many of the creative team behind Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter, published last Wednesday by Titan Comics, will be visiting the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London to sign copies of the very first Fighting Fantasy comic.

In attendance will be writer Andi Ewington, artist Simon Coleby, variant cover artist (and original gamebook cover artist) Jim Burns, letterer Jim Campbell, editor Jonathan Green (author of the award-winning YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks), and author of the Freeway Fighter gamebook, co-creator of the FF series and co-founder of Games Workshop, Ian Livingstone!

At the Forbidden Planet signing of Freeway Fighter fans will also to be to buy two limited edition Jim Burns giclee prints (each one £29.99, 18" x 24"), signed by Jim Burns and Ian Livingstone. These will only be available at the event and will not be available later from the Forbidden Planet website!

The event is bound to be very busy, so make sure you start queueing early, and may your STAMINA never fail!

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Freeway Fighter roars into comic stores today!

Yes, it's the day comics fans and Fighting Fantasy fans have been waiting for ever since it was announced on the official Fighting Fantasy website in December last year that Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter would be coming out from Titan Comics, written by Andi Ewington, with art by Simon Coleby, colours by Len O'Grady, and letters by Jim Campbell.

Today Freeway Fighter #1 goes on sale in comic book stores around the world - although word is it has already sold out in New York's legenday Midtown Comics!

As Issue #1 hits newsstands - with numerous variant cover formats, including the one to the right here by series artist Simon Coleby - Issue #3 is well on the way to being finished, with work having already begun on Issue #4.

Issue #1 of Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter includes an exclusive introduction by Ian Livingstone himself and a letters page featuring missives by some very well-known figures within the world of comics indeed.

If you're in or around London on Saturday (20th May 2017) why not pop along to the Forbidden Planet Megastore on Shaftesbury Avenue from 1:00-2:00pm, when the creative team behind the Freeway Fighter comic - creator Ian Livingstone, writer Andi Ewington, artist Simon Coleby, original cover artist Jim Burns, and editor Jonathan Green - will be taking part in a mass signing.

Saturday 13 May 2017

An Interview with Carl Jackson of Nomad Games

The Warlock recently summoned Carl Jackson, Design Director of Nomad Games, to the depths of Firetop Mountain to find out what the company have planned for their forthcoming Fighting Fantasy Legends game.

The interrogation was conducted in Firetop Mountain's torture chamber and the accompanying screams and howls of pain have been removed from the following transcription.

The Warlock: Did you read FF gamebooks in your youth?

Carl Jackson: Yes I did. Like most people, I picked up a few of the books as a kid and was amazed by them. I specifically remember reading City of Thieves and feeling like it was this huge, sprawling, dangerous city. Every step through Port Blacksand was taken very carefully by my 10 year-old self. I also enjoyed the AFF system books, including Dungeoneer and Blacksand! I read those a lot and came up with my own little stories set in these amazing places.

TW: Do you have a favourite FF author or artist?

CJ: I honestly don't have a favourite author. It's the diplomatic answer, but it's also true! When reading the books, I really get caught up in the situations and decision-making and don't think too much about the writing style to be honest. Iain McCaig is probably my favourite artist, but that might be because City of Thieves is one of my favourite books.

TW: Do you have a favourite monster or villain from the series?

CJ: Ooh, that's a tough one! The Shapechanger... Zanbar Bone... or perhaps the Bloodbeast... I think I'll go for Zanbar Bone. He's a classic villain, trying to kidnap the local sheriff's daughter, then setting Moon Dogs on the town when he doesn't get what he wants. He pretends to be a cat when you first meet him, and then he can kill you with just one touch! What's not to like?

TW: And so to Fighting Fantasy Legends... How will Fighting Fantasy Legends differ from other video games such as Tin Man's adaptation of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and inkle Studios' version of Steve Jackson's Sorcery?

CJ: I see those games as more of a 'pure' gamebook experience. They are the closest you can get to playing the gamebooks digitally and those guys have done a great job. Fighting Fantasy Legends is more like a classic RPG with card elements. Think Baldur's Gate + Warhammer Quest + Talisman = Fighting Fantasy Legends.

TW: How does the card-based system of gameplay work? Will Fighting Fantasy Legends make use of the classic SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK attributes?

CJ: Each main location in the game has its own deck of cards which is shuffled as you enter. Your hero moves through the location making movement choices, similar to the books, and at various places on the map, a card-draw happens and you draw the top card of the deck. The cards include things like - Treasures, such as weapons, healing potions, Gold Pieces and other useful items. Monsters, including standard FF monsters like Goblins and Orc, plus rarer monsters like Chesttrap Beasts and Wheelies. Events, which may trigger Skill or Luck tests or perhaps give the player a tough decision to make. As well as the 'draw card' areas of the maps, there are also lots of places where specific things happen, such as the ferry crossing in Firetop Mountain, the Spotted Dog Tavern in Port Blacksand and lots of others.

At the start of the game, you create your hero much like in the gamebooks, but instead of rolling six-sided dice for your attributes, you get to distribute points instead. So, do you want to load up on Skill at the expense of Luck and Stamina? Or perhaps you want to have high Stamina, so you can really take a beating, but have lower Skill and Luck. Or maybe a balance of all three? It's up to you! Once your character has been created, they receive Skill and Luck dice based on the attribute numbers chosen, so if I give my hero 9 Skill and 11 Luck, they will have 9 Skill dice and 11 Luck dice. These dice are standard six-sided dice, but five sides of each die are blank and one side has a 'success' symbol on it. You roll your pool of Skill dice for combat and Skill tests and you roll your Luck dice for Luck tests.

As your hero kills monsters and completes quests, they receive experience points and can level up one of their dice, adding a new 'success' to a previously blank side. So your dice are upgradable as you journey around the maps and your hero gets better with experience. You can also choose one special skill when creating your character, such as earning XP quicker, being slightly luckier, etc. It's a nice, simple system which encourages replaying the game with different character setups, and I hope people really enjoy it.

TW: The initial release is set to include elements of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos and City of Thieves. What made you go with these three first?

CJ: Initially, the game design included ALL of the books set in Northern Allansia, but I quickly realised that this was too big a job and so we'd have to cut it down to just three. There are several reasons for picking those three books in particular. City of Thieves is a personal favourite and I really wanted to see Port Blacksand brought to life in a way never seen before. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a classic and one of the most well-known books, being the first, so we couldn't really have a Fighting Fantasy game without that. The Citadel of Chaos is extremely imaginative with some unusual encounters, such as the Ganjees, the Miks and the Ape-Dog/Dog-Ape, so it felt very different from the other two. Also, all three have great 'end of level boss' type villains in Zagor, Balthus Dire and Zanbar Bone, so there was a clear quest for each one.

Another reason is that having these three books means that there is a nice, even split between Ian and Steve so players can experience both authors' books in equal measure. The three books also just happened to be set in locations which are spread quite nicely across the map. So we ended up with a dungeon crawl, travelling through a large city and powering your way through a tower, three very different feeling levels.

TW: Is the plan to release more content based on other popular gamebooks? If so, which ones are in consideration?

CJ: The focus at the moment is finishing the game so I haven't thought too much about future content. It's important that people enjoy this game and so I'm spending my time at the moment adding nice little touches and Easter Eggs for fans of the books. If it turns out to be popular, and the demand for more is there, then I would love to add more content, or perhaps a sequel with three new books. The Deathtrap Dungeon/Trial of Champions/Armies of Death trilogy would be interesting!

TW: With the players' experience of Firetop Mountain, the Black Tower and Port Blacksand be the same as it is in the books? If not, can you let us into any of the surprises that you have in store for those people familiar with the original books?

CJ: It's a tough question to answer without spoiling anything. Let's say that Fighting Fantasy Legends is around 70% the same as the books, the other 30% being full of surprises and unexpected moments. One thing we've done is deal with revisiting a location more than once. Replayability is important in this game and the player is expected to run through the maps many times over in order to reveal all of their secrets, so I had to design some encounters to be replayed.

For example, if you choose to go into the Man-Orc's herbalist shop in Port Blacksand, and you end up killing him, his shop will be closed the next time you pass it. The intention is for you to make your own stories in these iconic places, but with the roots of your stories firmly planted in the original books.

TW: Have you re-imagined any of the classic monsters from the FF series for Fighting Fantasy Legends?

CJ: We've recreated all of the monsters visually. We realised early in the development of the game that we couldn't use the art from the books, because each book was illustrated by a different artist, so there would be an inconsistent style across the game. We've had fun re-imagining the monsters, and some of them have ended up being a lot more gory than they were originally! There is a Creature Codex in the game, which is like our version of Out of the Pit, where you get to view all of the monsters you've killed so far. Filling the codex won't be easy!

TW: Who are the artists who have worked on the project, creating the map, the rooms and the monsters the player encounters?

CJ: We have three artists - Andy, Donna and Amanda - whom we have worked with for a very long time and they've really enjoyed bringing to life things which were previously only in written form. Creating the map of Northern Allansia took a lot of research. We pored over many of the classic maps, including the great maps by Leo Hartas, to try and work out where roads should be, and where all of the towns and cities were in relation to each other.

TW: Is there anything that you are particularly proud of in Fighting Fantasy Legends, perhaps something that worked better than you hoped it might?

CJ: I'm very proud of the way that we've been able to link the three books together. I see each book as a puzzle that the reader is trying to solve, so for this game I wanted to rethink some of the solutions to the puzzles and perhaps have the solutions within other books. So, for example, what if one of the three Bronze Keys you need for Firetop Mountain ISN'T within the mountain itself? What if one was found by someone and taken somewhere? Maybe it's in Port Blacksand? Maybe it's been stashed in a treasure chest on the banks of the White Water River? Who knows? So, one tip for fans - don't expect to be able to complete this game by following the same paths as the books.

TW: Where next for Fighting Fantasy and Nomad Games?

CJ: We're aiming to release the game this Summer, hopefully around early July. Once it's out, I'll be all over forums and gaming communities talking to players to see what they did or didn't like about the game and then set about planning our next project. I'm sure we'll release updates for this game to make sure it's working as intended and that's it's fun, possibly adding some new features too.

We're also releasing a card game called Smash Up in the next month or two. It's a great shuffle-building card game based on a physical card game by AEG. Check it out if you haven’t already. We also have Talisman expansions still coming out, with The Dragons being the next one in July or August.

And with that, Carl Jackson was released from the rack and sent on his way, to finish work on Fighting Fantasy Legends in time for its summer release.

Nomad Games and Fighting Fantasy Legends will be at Fighting Fantasy Fest 2, Early Bird tickets for which are still available - so don't delay, pick up yours today!

Friday 5 May 2017

Ian Livingstone's Freeway Fighter in SFX Magazine and on the Comic Art Festival Podcast

It's a busy month for Ian Livingstone's FREEWAY FIGHTER comic, with the first issue being released in less than two weeks and the launch happening at Forbidden Planet on Saturday 20th May.

The comic has also received its own news item in the latest issue of SFX Magazine.

If you would like to find out more about how the comic came to be, listen to Episode #3 of the Comic Art Festival Podcast, in which not only are Ian Livingstone (creator), Andi Ewington (writer) and Simon Coleby (artist) interviewed, but also Matt Mastracci (executive producer) and Chris Thompson (Titan brand manager). You can listen to the podcast here.

Monday 1 May 2017

Who wants to go on 'The Walk'?

Every 1st May, bold and daring adventurers travel to the city of Fang from all over Allansia, to brave Baron Sukumvit's notorious Trial of Champions and enter the lethal Deathtrap Dungeon, in the hope of surviving its deadly denizens and finding a way through to win a veritable king's ransom...

The plot of Deathtrap Dungeon was inspired by a holiday Ian Livingstone had taken to Thailand. “I went trekking in Northern Thailand in 1981,” explains Livingstone. “I passed through Fang and crossed the River Kok on my way to the jungle near the Burmese border. I took lots of photos of villagers and scenery on the trek. It was an incredible adventure, and one not without drama. Our guide was constantly fretting about armed bandits coming over the border to rob us! The trek made a big impression on me, enough for me to want to reference the people and places in Deathtrap Dungeon which I began writing in late 1983. But the dungeon plot itself was a product of the dungeons I’d designed during the years I’d been playing D&D. When Penguin Books told us they wanted a sequel to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I thought I’d write a classic dungeon-bash next, but I put it on hold and wrote The Forest of Doom and City of Thieves before Deathtrap Dungeon.”

As well as the River Kok and Fang, the names of several other places Livingstone visited on that fortuitous trip made it into the book, including Chiang Mai. Baron Sukumvit himself was named after Sukumvit Road in Bangkok. The marriage of both eastern and western influences in the adventure created something entirely new, helping to give the world of Fighting Fantasy a truly unique flavour.

Deathtrap Dungeon was a huge success, selling over 350,000 copies in its first year alone. It was the best-selling children’s book in April 1984 and was ranked 8th out of all books sold that month, coming just behind Dick Francis in 7th place and ahead of Stephen King’s Christine in 9th. (Three of the top one hundred books sold that year were Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.) Deathtrap Dungeon was so successful that Livingstone’s eighth gamebook was a sequel, Trial of Champions (FF21, published in 1986). It even spawned a video game.

Deathtrap Dungeon has a fantastic, totally immersive setting and it's really tricksy; I probably had up to six fingers nestled in the pages as bookmarks at one point,” says author and FF fan Magda Knight. “Some may argue that the original books were less richly plotted than their successors, but I loved the setup of the Trial of Champions, the original Hunger Games. It appealed to my competitive nature. The illustrations flash up in my memory to this day, and the concept of an underground maze full of traps worked so well with the nature of the books. I also loved how Fang was placed so near to Port Blacksand, which meant that I was beginning to build up a picture of a world through these adventures.”

Like City of Thieves before it, Deathtrap Dungeon was illustrated inside and out by Ian Livingstone’s favourite FF artist, Iain McCaig.

“My favourite black and white illustration is the image of the inscrutable Trialmaster on his dragon-hide throne from Deathtrap Dungeon,” muses McCaig. “It was the height of my love affair with croquill pens, and the quintessential riddle picture that would lead to Casket of Souls.”

For more stories about the creation of your favourite Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, pick up a copy of YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks.