Thursday, 29 March 2018

35 years of French Fighting Fantasy

Today sees the release of new French editions of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - or Défis Fantastiques - from Gallimard, marking 35 years of Fighting Fantasy in French.

France is the only country where Fighting Fantasy never went out of print. And it's not only the original gamebooks that have a dedicated following in France - thanks to Scriptarium there is also a French language version of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG.

The Warlock caught up with the man behind Scriptarium, Florent Haro, to ask him about his history with FF and what the future holds for Défis Fantastiques – le Jeu de rôle.

The Warlock: Which was the first Fighting Fantasy adventure you read? 

Florent Haro: That was Citadel of Chaos. My brother offered it to me for my 11th Christmas, but it probably looked weird to me, as I waited some months before opening it, a day when I was ill and forced to stay in my bed! That was such a fantastic discovery and experience that I can still feel the pleasure I had more than 30 years later! And that's why I'm so proud to have added some background text in the new French edition, a kind of tribute to this marvellous book that opened the door to gamebooks and RPGworlds to me, and that I have never left. 
TW: Which is your favourite FF gamebook?

FH: Probably House of Hell. I’m not fan of horror and contemporary horror, and much prefer medieval-fantasy adventures. But this gamebook is so well written and illustrated that you can't forget its ambience. It's also very challenging to play, with impossible (and nicely cruel) paths. And probably the only gamebook which really provoked fear for me... a major gamebook!
TW: Do you have a favourite writer or illustrator? 

FH: The first gamebooks I played were Fighting Fantasy, and Steve Jackson is my favorite FF author as he wrote the gamebooks I prefer (the ones I already talked about and Creature of Havoc and Sorcery!). Nevertheless, I must recognise that some of the gamebooks Jonathan Green wrote are maybe better in some aspects; I particularly loved Stormslayer and Night of the Necromancer. My favourite FF artist is Russ Nicholson; his style is a mix of naive, exotic and detailed drawing. And not too realistic; realistic illustrations are often impressing, but they lack the bit of fantasy and mystery Russ can provide with his art. I'd like to mention Malcolm Barter too, who became a good friend of mine. I didn't love all his art from The Forest of Doom, but its style is so special that he puts you into the ambience very well and some of the pictures are great. I love most of the many illustrations he made for our books, even better than his old art.

TW: What made you decide to publish a French language edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy? 

FH: Mainly because I had never understood why the first RPG and the first AFF hadn’t been translated in French, when FF sold very well. FF were sold without interruption from 1983 by Gallimard - all the existing gamebooks were translated - but, like anywhere, the golden age was in the 1980s. I seized the opportunity in 2011 with Scriptarium. For Titan, we wanted to have the possibility of promoting and developing the game and becoming the official publisher for the French version. Then we contacted Steve Jackson, who accepted kindly my offer, and we agreed on a licence.

TW: How well-received has the AFF RPG been in France (and elsewhere)? 

FH: AFF was nearly unknown when we proposed a French version - only some true FF fans like me had bought second-hand copies of the original AFF books, or Arion's new edition. Then we thought it would interest many FF fans, as there were still a solid French-speaking community on the web, and sales in all the bookshops and even in large-scale distribution. But the success was greater than we thought, sales of the Rulebook never dried up, for instance, and now we have to re-issue it. We even had some sales in non-French speaking countries (UK, USA, Australasia) when some collectors understood the French version, and had many exclusive illustrations and maps (for example Créatures de Titan, our last translation, has around 100 illustrations not present in the original book), including by famous FF illustrators, or exclusive items, such as game-screens or a Yaztromo miniature.

TW: How many AFF books/products have you released so far? 

FH: We've released 3 sourcebooks, some colour maps and some accessories: the Rulebook, including a 97-page campaign, Le Tambour de Gondrim, taking place in Old Allansia; the Titan sourcebook, including 25 pages of additional rules linked with Marc Gascoigne's text, a 130-page campaign with pre-generated characters and some exclusive Steve Luxton maps, A la recherche de la Jeunesse perdue, taking place in Lendleland and Analand, and a folder of 5 colour maps, including a location map of all the FF books; the map of Allansia by Jidus (including some exclusive Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone and Jon Green geographical features), first issued as a high quality vinyl poster, sold separately (and now out of print); the Créatures de Titan sourcebook, a translation of Out of the Pit, including 60 pages of additional rules, and 80 pages of play, with a 2-player adventure by Gwalchmei, in which you play an adventurer and a Marsh Hopper on Fire Island (La Huitième Plaie) and a solo adventure by tholdur where you play a Jib-Jib chaser (Odyssée pour un Jib-Jib); L'Ecran du Meneur de Jeu, a cardboard game-screen illustrated by Jidus - 2 editions with a different illustration, and the second one has coloured tables (the first edition included the 90-page adventure Pirates à la dérive by Paragraphe 14, taking place in the Ocean of Serpents and the Black Ocean, the second edition having the 104-page adventure La Quête des Oiseaux de Sagesse by Sébastien Urbanek, taking place in Gallantaria and the Cragrock Peaks; The Nécessaire de Magie, a card set with all the basic spells of the Rulebook and 5 new spells; the miniature of Yaztromo (and Vermithrax) by David Ayral, our most limited item (200 copies only) that will never be re-issued; Les Accessoires du Meneur de Jeu is the main out of print item: a set of tiles, furniture and figurines drawn by Eric Chaussin, to cut-out, intended to play the Rulebook beginner adventures or any other dungeon/tunnel adventure. We also released some free PDF-only adventures, available on our website.

TW: Is there one particular product of which you are most proud?

FH: I'm naturally very proud of the first product, the Rulebook, as that was a kind of achievement for the huge fan I am, and I wrote most of the campaign; a good part of me is in this book. Créatures de Titan is, to date, the product in which we put the most creation, but my favourite work is the Titan sourcebook: I love Marc Gascoigne's text, our own additions to the text, the campaign is exactly what I love in an RPG, and the work on the maps with my friend Jidus: hours to re-read in a detailed way absolutely all the sources, talks with Steve and Jon to complete some uncharted areas... I'm a geographer, then I absolutely loved that!

TW: What are your plans for the range?

FH: First, the re-issue of the Rulebook soon, with slight improvements, but that's not a reboot. We prefer to put our energy into new stuff. We are currently working on the Old World sourcebook, in which we were involved: Thomas Roesch and I wrote, respectively, the Kakhabad and Lendleland chapters, and we worked with Brett Schofield and Stuart Lloyd, authors of other chapters, in a way to be fully consistent with the sources... including with our adventure La Quête des Oiseaux de Sagesse. We should issue a French version soon after the Arion version will be available.

We should issue, mid-2018, our very first campaign as a single book (not included in a larger sourcebook, like the ones already issued), hoping that will sell enough! It's called Maudit Trésor ('Cursed Treasure'), includes a revised and expanded version of the Pirates à la dérive adventure and the second part of Paragraphe 14's campaign. It takes place in the Black Ocean and its different islands. Seven very original and endearing ready-to-play characters are provided.

Next we should translate a new Arion book, probably the Heroes Companion, and release an Adventure compendium, to play anywhere on Titan, and at different levels of experience, including some translations from English stuff but also new material. But we are interested by other translations, Blacksand or the Atlantis Campaign, and are working on some background stuff about Khul (Arion and Hachiman areas) that could be issued in English too, like for the Old World. Many many things to occupy our evenings and nights for years. :-) 

Thank you to Florent for taking the time to answer the Warlock's questions. Fighting Fantasy fans should be aware that Scriptarium have a section in their forum in English - all non French-speaking fans are welcome - and they are present on the various social networks, mainly on the Défis Fantastiques Facebook page.

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