Friday 22 December 2017

The Second Swordsman - Who is the Hero?

It's Gamebook Friday again, which means there's just time for one more of Malcolm Garcia's  Second Swordsman posts before Christmas.

This time he considers a trio of adventures in which YOU may be the Hero, but YOU don't actually know who YOU are!

The Second Swordsman - Who is the Hero?

By Malcolm Garcia

In most FIGHTING FANTASY adventures, YOU start as a seasoned adventurer, setting out on an epic quest to save the world from an evil scourge or to find a horde of treasure beyond your wildest dreams. But there are a handful of books in which YOU do not even know who YOU are when YOU begin your journey.

Talisman of Death has YOU transported from Earth to the world of Orb. Through this mysterious process YOU acquire swordsmanship skills previously unknown, but which will be necessary if YOU are to succeed in the task given to YOU by some deities to save the world from Death itself. In Black Vein Prophecy, which is the first FIGHTING FANTASY novel I’ve yet read where there is zero background, YOU awaken in a tomb not knowing who or where YOU are, and YOU acquire your SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK scores via a series of trials. Where Black Vein was short on background, in Creature of Havoc there was an abundance of history to read before starting the adventure. But this is all irrelevant as YOU don’t know who, where or even what YOU are.

None of these three adventures where YOU start off as an unknown were written by the same author. Talisman was penned by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith, who would go on to write Sword of the Samurai. Black Vein was written by Paul Mason and Steve Williams, who also wrote Slaves of the Abyss and The Riddling Reaver. And Creature was the product of Steve Jackson – his final book in the FIGHTING FANTASY series. In a 2011 poll of FIGHTING FANTASY readers, Creature ranked number five – previously  the highest rated books I’ve attempted using the Second Swordsman process were House of Hell (also by Steve Jackson) and Deathtrap Dungeon – ranked six and seven and respectively.

Deliberately choosing every second option meant that Talisman of Death lived up to its name. After establishing some decent SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK scores, and buoyed by my possession of ten meals and a STAMINA-restoring potion, I started my adventure, not unusually, in a subterranean vault. Within a few choices I had been given the eponymous talisman and tasked with keeping it from the clutches of the minions of Death. But then within another few options I had made the foolish decision to charge into a group of Dark Elves, who swiftly captured me and took me to their evil master. Thusly I had failed within just a handful of choices of the start (although not doing as badly as in Island of the Lizard King), having undergone no LUCK tests or fought any creatures.

In Black Vein, the Second Swordsman process enabled me to escape the tomb that was collapsing around me in the beginning, along the way not being sure whether what I was seeing was real, or a hallucination. When I reached the ruins of the city above I remained unsure about my reality after encountering a talking horse and, obviously freaked out by this encounter, choosing the second option meant I decided the best way to get away from the city was to launch myself into the ocean using a catapult. Because I’d acquired a poor LUCK score when underground, I failed a LUCK test and lost some STAMINA when I hit the water. But I was then rescued by a ship, the Captain of which somehow knew about a dead body I’d found in the tomb at the start. My confusion only increased when I had to fight a crazy man who was floating on the sea in an inflatable zorb-like ball – which would unfortunately turn out to be the last time I had a fight.

Soon I went ashore with the Captain, who I then bizarrely chose to betray to some travelling bandits. Being bandits, they robbed me and left me tied to a tree. For the rest of the adventure, choosing the second option made me ignore several opportunities to interact with the locals and my aimless wandering was soon mercifully put to an end by some suspicious locals who had me jailed and executed. Through all of my choices in Black Vein I never really got an idea of what I supposed to be doing; somewhat akin to my earlier misadventures in Demons of the Deep and Spectral Stalkers.

Creature started promisingly enough with what has to be the most comprehensive, but also instantly redundant, background story of how the Necromancer Zharradan Marr came to be. I then gained consciousness and proceeded to kill and munch my way through the dungeon where I’d been put, for reasons as yet unknown. Yes, munch. It turns out that whoever/whatever I am has a hankering for hobbit meat. Sating this appetite was helped by the new rule that if I rolled a double for my attack strength I instantly killed my opponent – even if their attack strength was greater in that round. Because it’s not too hard to roll a double, I knocked off five of my nine adversaries this way.

Deciding what to do in Creature was not always possible by using the Second Swordsman process, because at the start of the adventure several of your choices are selected on the basis of random dice rolls. But once I gained more control over my own fate, I rewarded this by making some foolish decisions, such as provoking a Giant Hornet and falling into a trap pit. I then got lost in a series of the dungeon’s dead ends and brought about my own doom by attacking a poorly constructed tunnel.

Excluding Talisman, which was an abject failure when just choosing the second option, these adventures started promisingly – I enjoyed the process in Black Vein whereby YOU establish your SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK scores, and being a brutal killing machine in Creature was a refreshing change from the pressure of always having to try and save the world. But a series of poor choices in both of these adventures soon caught up with me, and my failures were rather anticlimactic. Next time I’ll hopefully learn who I was in Black Vein or get out of the dungeon in Creature, if only to devour some more hobbits – I never seemed to get full no matter how many I ate!

Thank you and Happy Christmas to Malcolm, for his latest Second Swordsman blog post. Which titles will he be tackling in the New Year? You're just have to logon to to find out!

And remember, if you have any suggestions for items for the official Fighting Fantasy blog don't forget to get in touch via

Friday 15 December 2017

Your Christmas Shopping sorted, courtesy of Fighting Fantasy!

There are only 9 shopping days left until Christmas, and you're wondering either...
(a) What do I get the gamebook fan in my life?
(b) What shall I buy for myself for somebody else to give me for Christmas?

Well, have no fear, all your Christmas shopping solutions are here!

How about the graphic novel collection of Ian Livingstone's FREEWAY FIGHTER, written by Andi Ewington, with art by Simon Coleby, colours by Len O'Grady, and letters by Jim Campbell, available now from Titan Comics?

And if graphic novels are your thing, don't forget that Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars, by PJ Montgomery and Gavin Mitchell, is also available now.

Perhaps you like your adventures more auditory. If so, then check out FoxYason's Fighting Fantasy audio drama, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: The Hero's Quest.

But if you like your FF adventures old school, then you should definitely check out Scholastic Books' new editions of various classic FF gamebooks, along with Ian Livingstone's newest title, The Port of Peril.

For the gamebook buffs and art lovers out there, there are currently two volumes in Jonathan Green's YOU ARE THE HERO series.

And there are the new licensed Fighting Fantasy ARUs from All Rolled Up!

But probably the ultimate gift for any FF fan, is the new book coming from Unbound, DICE MEN: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985, written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone with Jamie Thomson, about the early history of Games Workshop, without which there wouldn't have been any Fighting Fantasy gamebooks!

Rewards include signed, limited editions hardbacks, reproductions of Games Workshop’s newsletter Owl and Weasel No.1 signed by Ian and Steve, signed gamebooks, and even lunch with the authors. So don't delay, pledge today, for that ultimate Christmas gift!

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tin Man Games announce Fighting Fantasy Classics!

First there was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, then Fighting Fantasy Legends, and now Fighting Fantasy Classic will be coming your way in 2018.

Tin Man Games have announced that they will be releasing a classic gamebook version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, along with The Citadel of Chaos and City of Thieves, as part of Fighting Fantasy Classics, a digital library app for iOS, Android, PC and Mac, that the company have been developing.

The original FF adventures are being converted to a digital gamebook format. Combat and SKILL rolls will be resolved by rolling realistic 3D dice, and the famous Adventure Sheet, normally found at the front of the books, functions in the game via an autofill system.

The library will debut early 2018 and will feature Fighting Fantasy titles previously released by Tin Man Games, including Bloodbones, Caverns of the Snow Witch, Island of the Lizard King and The Forest of Doom, along with new adaptations previously unseen in Tin Man’s gamebook engine, which will include Deathtrap Dungeon, Sword of the Samurai and Creature of Havoc.

Fighting Fantasy Classics will be available to download in February 2018 for iOS and Android. It will also be available on PC and Mac via Steam a few months later.

To find out more, follow this link.

Monday 4 December 2017

Dice Men: The History of Games Workshop Unbound!

Some exciting news broke at Dragonmeet over the weekend. If you haven't already heard, Unbound will be publishing a new book about the early years of Games Workshop.

Dice Men: Games Workshop the Early Years 1975 to 1985 is co-authored by Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone and Jamie Thomson. Steve and Ian need no introduction, and Jamie Thomson will be best known to Fighting Fantasy fans as the co-author of Talisman of Death, Sword of the Samurai and The Keep of the Lich-Lord, but he was also an employee of Games Workshop in those early days.

We've already had the history of FF gamebooks by Jonathan Green, which currently runs to two volumes and which touched on the foundation of Games Workshop, but Dice Men will explore that seminal time in much greater detail. It will take the form of a full colour, highly illustrated hardback over 300 pages long, A4 (210mm x 297mm) printed on 140gsm gloss art stock, with colour printed endpapers and a bookmark ribbon.

To find out more about this very special book, and to pledge your support to the project, follow this link.

Friday 1 December 2017

Fighting Fantasy at Dragonmeet 2017

Celebrate 35 years of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks at Dragonmeet this Saturday, 2nd December.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the co-creators of the world's most popular gamebook series, will be giving a talk, to mark this incredible milestone, at 1:00pm.

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone
1982 - 2017

The day-long event runs from 10:00am until midnight, and Fighting Fantasy historian Jonathan Green will also be there, selling copies of YOU ARE THE HERO Parts 1 and 2.

Not only that, but Fox Yason Audio (producers of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain audio drama) will also be in attendance.

If you're attending the event, remember to stop by stands K5, K6 and K7 and say hello.

Click to enlarge