Friday 31 August 2018

Win Fighting Fantasy Steam keys, courtesy of Tin Man Games, in our Trial of Champions-inspired competition!

Baron Sukumvit is looking for a new dungeon designer, and that person could be YOU!

Do you have a devious mind? Do you find yourself coming up with cunning ways to dispatch the unwary? Do you like nothing better than creating labyrinthine conundrums to test even the boldest of heroes?

If you answered "Yes!" to any of those questions, then the latest Fighting Fantasy competition is for you!

To be in with a chance of winning one of ten Steam keys for Tin Man Games' Fighting Fantasy adaptations, all you have to do is design a frighteningly fiendish trap for Deathtrap Dungeon. The more cunning the nature of the snare the better, but bear in mind that it should be possible to escape the trap - if only just!

You can draw your trap, describe it, or make a model of it, if you so choose, but whatever medium you use, your final submission must be sent in the form of an email, with any necessary attachments included, to

The closing date for the competition is Sunday 30th September 2018*, and any entries submitted after that date will not be considered. The winners will be announced as soon as they have been chosen.

So don't delay - start designing today! And may your STAMINA never fail!

* Terms and conditions
Copyright in any images or text remains with you (although any characters, locations or logos from the Fighting Fantasy series remain the copyright of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone), but reserves the right to reproduce your design however we like online. There will be no fee paid and you give us permission for to post your design online regardless of whether you win the competition or not. No correspondence will be entered into regarding any entries and if you have not heard from us by Sunday 14th October 2018 then you must assume that your entry is not among the winners.

Monday 27 August 2018

Happy Birthday, Zagor!

36 years ago today, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, was published for the first time.

Steve Jackson: “When Ian and I first decided how to split the Warlock writing duties, we agreed to site a river in the middle of the adventure and force all readers to cross the river at the same place. Ian would write the adventure up to the river, and I would do the river and beyond, including the maze and the treasure chest puzzle. So we both started writing. After a month or so we realised we were both using very different combat systems. We’d discuss this, and both realised it needed sorting out. But there was nothing between them; there was no reason why we shouldn’t use Ian’s ‘Strength’ instead of ‘Stamina’. I think Ian’s combat was simultaneous rather than turn-based.”

Ian Livingstone’s original plan for the first half of the Warlock’s dungeon.
(© Ian Livingstone, 2014 and 2018)

Ian Livingstone: “It was a joint decision to keep the combat as simple as possible, so as not to interrupt the flow of the adventure. Adding Luck was a later decision. The final terminology was Steve’s; Skill, Stamina and Luck over my Combat, Strength and Luck.”

Jackson: “To sort it out, someone had to back down and agree to use the other’s system. We’d meet at Ian’s to discuss all this but end up playing pool and drinking beer. No decision was made. In the end, when we handed our two halves of the book in to Philippa, the difference in writing styles was obvious.”

Philippa Dickinson started to go through the completed manuscript and immediately made some crucial observations. A few of the teething problems the book went through included the fact that choices were not presented in one uniform style, there was both a Wolfman and a Werewolf at different points in the adventure, and a copyright-protected song even appeared in the first draft.

Philippa Dickinson: “What I absolutely remember is sitting them down and saying you’ve written two different books here because they had very different writing styles… Ian’s was quite analytical and Steve’s was full of exclamation marks… You cross the river and it’s a completely different voice. So one of the things that I asked them to do was to even it up…

“I understand that sometimes the things that the editor says are very annoying, and Steve and Ian were very tolerant of the annoying things I came up with, and they would mostly listen to what I had to say. Somebody once described the skill of an editor as being to help an author not muck up a book. It’s always got to be the author’s book and what you have to do is to find a way of communicating what you’re saying, and you must to be able to flex your editing style to work with an author… It’s a very satisfying process when it works.”

Philippa Dickinson’s ‘Notes for discussion’, prepared after reading the first draft of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
(© Ian Livingstone, 2014 and 2018)

The biggest problem was the obvious change in writing styles that occurred halfway through the adventure.

Jackson: “In the end Muggins here volunteered to rewrite Ian’s section so as to keep the styles consistent.” (As word processors had yet to be invented, this meant retyping huge sections of the manuscript.) “And that also sorted out the combat system. I was doing the rewrite, so I stuck with my combat.”

Ian Livingstone’s handwritten notes regarding the familiar Fighting Fantasy rules for combat.
(© Ian Livingstone, 2014 and 2018)

To find out more about the origins of the The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and the series it inspired, pick up a copy of Jonathan Green's YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks today!

Friday 24 August 2018

The Imaginarium of Ian Miller

Anyone who played Warhammer back in the 1980s and '90s will doubtless have experienced the wonder, and maybe a little fear, at coming across the incredibly detailed, dream-like work of Ian Miller.

Terror of the Lichemaster, by Ian Miller.

And of course Fighting Fantasy fans remember him fondly for his gamebook covers, including The Citadel of Chaos, House of Hell, Creature of Havoc, Phantoms of Fear, for which he also produced the internal illustrations, Spectral Stalkers, and Magehunter.



If you are interested in owning one of Ian's original FF illustrations then simply follow this link.

Friday 17 August 2018

Martin McKenna's Fighting Fantasy Art

If there is one artist who encapsulates the way the art of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks developed during the series' original run with Puffin Books, in terms of tone as well as subject matter, it has to be Martin McKenna.

Martin doesn’t attribute his success to one big break: “It was probably more like a lot of little breaks. Really early stuff like meeting Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in ‘86 was helpful. They liked the fanzine work which had included a Fighting Fantasy spoof, and they recommended a submission to Warlock magazine. Coincidentally Marc Gascoigne had seen my fanzine stuff and liked it, and he was then editor of Warlock. Most importantly, an invitation came from John Blanche, then art director at Games Workshop, to produce work for him. John’s initial contact came as a result of me entering an art competition featured in the Citadel Journal."

Martin McKenna was still at school when he started doing illustration work for Games Workshop and John Blanche encouraged him to send some samples to Puffin Books, which resulted in him being commissioned to illustrate Daggers of Darkness when he was only seventeen years old!

If you would like to own some of Martin's work yourself, you will be pleased to hear that prints of Martin's FF art are available for purchase from both ArtPal in the US, and Artmajeur in Europe.

Friday 10 August 2018

Fighting Fantasy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone will be appearing at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this weekend, not once but twice.

On Sunday 12th August 2018, between 2:00pm and 3:00pm, Steve and Ian will be at the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre to take part in a thrilling interactive audio experience in which YOU become the Hero. As the story unfolds, you will be asked to make all the decisions, bringing the worldwide bestselling series of gamebooks to life.

The event is currently sold out, but it may be worth checking for returns nearer the time.

And then on the same day, Sunday 12th August 2018, between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, Steve and Ian will be joined by Charlie Higson to chat about the concept and evolution of the books. Tickets are still available for this event and can be purchased here.

Monday 6 August 2018

Terry Oakes' Fighting Fantasy Art

For fans of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and novels, Terry Oakes will need no introduction. His stunning art graced the cover of adventures such as Beneath Nightmare Castle, Slaves of the Abyss, Dead of Night and Tower of Destruction, and the novel Demonstealer.

He also contributed a painting of a Brain Slayer to The Fighting Fantasy Poster Book, and produced the cover art for The 10th Anniversary Yearbook. And then there was the cover of Warlock magazine #3.

If you have particularly fond memories of Terry Oakes' Fighting Fantasy art, you should make sure you head over to Intercept Studios, where prints of his work are available to buy. Not only that, but enter the code FFPRINT10 at the checkout to get 10% off orders, until Monday 27th of August!

Tell them the Warlock set you.

Friday 3 August 2018

The Second Swordsman – Your Adventure Ends Here (Part 2)

Last week we presented the first part of Malcolm Garcia's 17th and final The Second Swordsman post. And now it's time for Part 2...

The Second Swordsman – Your Adventure Ends Here

By Malcolm Garcia

At the start of last year I decided to test an idea – could I complete any FIGHTING FANTASY adventure by always choosing the second option? Many of the books in the series are notoriously difficult, punishing even the slightest deviation from the ‘one true path’ with an instant death or worse, not finding an essential key or jewel.  But would the path to success ever be something as elementary as always making the second choice? Only the authors of those books would know, but could I discover their secret?

Having attempted 47 of the books in the series, the conclusion I’ve come to is (perhaps unsurprisingly) ‘no’. However, although every one of these adventures ended in my failure to find the treasure, protect myself, or kill the ‘Big Bad’ and save the world, I did find a lot of enjoyment and learned a few things along the way.

(To read Lessons 1-3, follow this link.)

Lesson Four. It’s not just about SKILL and STAMINA. For much of my adventures, by choosing every second option my goal was just to stay alive. This meant defeating every creature I came across, relying on my own SKILL and STAMINA to be better than theirs. But in many FIGHTING FANTASY books there was more to it than that. As early as Citadel of Chaos there were often extra attributes to take into account that could help or hinder your journey.

In Citadel of Chaos I chose to take every second spell available, which meant I took several duplicates with me into Balthus Dire’s fortress. Because I lasted a while in this book I actually managed to use a number of these (including burning through all of my Levitation spells), although I’m unsure whether I took the right combination with me from the very beginning. Phantoms of Fear also gave me the ability to use magic, in the guise of the POWER score. Alas, I barely managed to use this, casting just one fire and one weaken spell. On the other hand, the FAITH score in Vault of the Vampire enabled me to avoid fights against several creatures and probably some unsavoury situations, and in Howl of the Werewolf the CHANGE score gave me some useful abilities to turn me into an almost unstoppable killing machine towards the end of the book. While on the subject, the ability to instantly kill an adversary in Creature of Havoc added to the enjoyment of this adventure, and I wish I’d seen it used more often than just the five times in the nine fights I had.

In two of the gamebooks written by Stephen Hand, Moonrunner and Dead of Night, YOU are given the opportunity to personalise your character by choosing from several Special Skills, and in Midnight Rogue, YOU can also choose what specialities your thief has trained in. This provided a new dynamic to the books as it was no longer a matter of just choosing the second option; the second option had to be something YOU are able to do. As with Citadel of Chaos I was unsure in these books whether choosing the wrong skills even before section one dooms a player to failure. When I tried Appointment with F.E.A.R. my chosen skills not only turned out to be useless, but I ended up being killed by my own energy blast.

In other adventures an extra factor can work to make success that much harder. In most of the books with these I didn’t live long enough to notice any effects. But in Daggers of Darkness the poison that I am inflicted with by the assassin in the prologue seemed to be spreading rapidly through my body, mainly because I was constantly physically exerting myself throughout the course of the adventure in combat. Of a maximum allowed POISON score of 22, I had gained 15 points by the time I failed – and I was nowhere near the end. The most memorable complicating factor I encountered was, of course, House of Hell’s FEAR score. Set by the initial whim of a dice roll, relentlessly accumulating, and likely to be accrued at almost any time, the FEAR factor must surely narrow the path to victory in a book where YOU already start with a SKILL penalty for being unarmed. In my attempt at this book I was only one FEAR point away from being scared to death when I failed, and I was nowhere near escaping.

All of this is not, of course, to ignore the other third of the three main character characteristics – LUCK. In general, the longer I lasted, the more I tested my LUCK. I underwent six LUCK tests in each of Battleblade Warrior, Legend of Zagor and Seas of Blood (where failing the final test had me crashing into an iceberg and dying). I also used LUCK during every round in my fight against the Basilisk in Night Dragon – which also killed me when the dice went against me and I was petrified.  However throughout my long-lived adventure in Howl of the Werewolf I only tested my LUCK twice. And I only used this factor three times throughout Stormslayer and twice in Stealer of Souls. Even in The Forest of Doom I was able to cross Darkwood Forest from north to south and only tested my LUCK twice.

As mentioned above, failing a LUCK test did bring about my demise in Seas of Blood and Night Dragon. I also failed the second LUCK test I had in Forest of Doom and was torn to shreds by a hail of arrows. The other adventures where a failed LUCK test sealed my fate were Crypt of the Sorcerer (where I was thrown from my horse and knocked unconscious), Tower of Destruction (where, during my exploration of the interior of a mysterious flying ball, I was unable to avoid a fire trap which burned off my remaining STAMINA), and Scorpion Swamp (where in my rush to explore the swamp I fell into a muddy hole and disappeared).

Lesson Five. Taking the second option doesn’t mean having a second-rate adventure. In the FIGHTING FANTASY books where I survived beyond a few choices, the series’ authors were able to create story worlds where I actually cared about the fate of my character and felt as if they were part of a larger world, either through the physical scope of the book, the importance of the quest, or the ability to interact with the locals.

Gathering McGuffins on dungeon crawls can be notoriously tiresome, but in Creature of Havoc even though I often had little control over my destiny, the sheer volume of fights I had and the one-hit kill ability made this into an enjoyable adventure - who doesn’t like eating hobbits for a snack? Although I ignored plenty of opportunities to explore some of the trees, caves, taverns and shops in both The Forest of Doom and City of Thieves, Darkwood Forest and Port Blacksand seemed to be places where a whole ecosystem of characters existed, independent of my presence.

While above-ground, there were several notable adventures where the author created the sense that I was moving across a much larger world, if I survived for long enough. This was certainly the case in the aforementioned Battleblade Warrior where I crossed the entirety of the included map in the one attempt. The ‘hub’ design of Stormslayer allowed me to choose which part of Femphrey I would explore first, with progress from one place to another taking several days, but without getting bogged down in minute choices. Midnight Rogue had a similar mechanism and did not force me to decide which individual street of Port Blacksand I should follow. Although, as with Stormslayer, I’m unsure whether, in spite of this apparent freedom, each place needed to be visited in a specific order to be successful.

In every FIGHTING FANTASY adventure the odds are stacked against success, particularly when subject to the self-imposed constraint of always choosing the second option. And in a good number of these books the writers have created a delightfully depressing atmosphere where YOU feel that the whole world is against YOU. One of my favourite examples of this was Moonrunner. As soon as the adventure began, with the death of my boss, there wasn’t a moment when I felt as though anyone in Blackhaven was going to actually help me. In Dead of Night the demonic blight that had settled over Gallantaria gave the book a medieval grimness, a sense that I also found in Spellbreaker (although I didn’t exploit many of the opportunities to interact with the locals). And once my character entered the diseased forest in Phantoms of Fear I knew I would be completely on my own as I descended into the underworld of the Demon Prince Ishtra.

What also created a great sense of atmosphere in several of the FIGHTING FANTASY adventures was knowing that I was not the only person in the world. In some books the NPCs were an important part of the story, not just an opportunity to test your swordsmanship, and how YOU interacted with them would directly affect your chances of success. In Legend of the Shadow Warriors an NPC brought about my failure because I’d failed to pay my taxes – and I never had an opportunity to run him through! In Dead of Night and Howl of the Werewolf I moved from depressing village to depressing village, and the locals would likely have helped me in my quest had I bothered to assist them, even just a little bit. Both Midnight Rogue and Moonrunner were set in cities and, partly to avoid attracting unwanted attention, I could not just attack every living thing in sight. But my favourite adventure with NPCs would have to be Vault of the Vampire. Within Castle Heydrich there were a few people who were just as keen to see the end of the Count as I was, and so they were willing to help, in varying degrees (although this did not stop the Second Swordsman process from having me kill one of them in cold blood).

My adventure ends here.
As I only attempted 70% of the FIGHTING FANTASY series by choosing the second option, I remain hopeful that in one of the other books the Second Swordsman process could lead to ultimate success. And while I did experience universal failure, in varying degrees, I was also entertained numerous times over the past seventeen months. I chose the right weapon to tackle the Bonecrusher Beast, rescued and used a genie, was saved from a pirate ship by seagoing dwarves, had a nap in a dungeon, was turned invisible by a witch, collected a tapestry, was guided underneath a volcano by a dwarven brewer, set a pair of gigantic aquatic monsters against each other, and got out of an abandoned city by catapulting myself into the ocean. My adventure might end here, but there are still plenty of stories of orc, dragons, treasure and magic to entertain readers everywhere.

A huge thank you to Malcolm for his hard work over the last 17 months. If you have enjoyed his Second Swordsman posts, you may be interested to know that Malcolm's debut novel is out now.

Remember, if you have an idea for a guest post, or even a series of posts, you can contact the Warlock at