Saturday, 19 September 2020

A Pirate's Life for Me!

Today, 19th September, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day - so what better time to revisit some pirate-themed adventures from the Fighting Fantasy series?

While pirates feature in almost every visit to the eponymous City of Thieves - including The Port of Peril and Assassins of Allansia - they first appeared in Ian Livingstone's classic urban adventure, and YOU actually have to board a pirate ship that is in port in search of the mysterious Black Pearls.

In Seas of Blood, YOU are one of two pirates, infamous for their ruthless greed, their daring raids and their countless skirmishes with death. The other is Abdul the Butcher, but only one of you can be King of the Pirates. And so a wager is laid, and the race is on. But which of you will win?

When the dread pirate ship Troll strikes, in Demons of the Deep, you know you are doomed! Captain Bloodaxe - the terror of these seas - is known to give no quarter. But you and your crew are hardy sailors, courageous too, and are determined to go down fighting. The skirmish is swift and deadly. When it is over, YOU are the only survivor from your ship. But Captain Bloodaxe has a terrible fate in store for you - one which will take you into the coral caverns beneath the waves and into the dens of the demons of the deep, in search of more mysterious Black Pearls, which are your only hope for survival!

Clawing his way back from the grave, the foul Lich-Lord has once again set his sights on the Arrowhead Islands. Allying himself with the Chaos pirates of Blood Island, he threatens to bring the Varadian Alliance under the cruel domination of his undead armies. They have already taken Bloodrise Keep, a key point in the defence of the islands, and soon nothing will stand between Mortis and victory. The Keep of the Lich-Lord has YOU undertaking a vital mission to enter Bloodrise Keep and overthrow Lord Mortis!

The dreaded pirate-lord Cinnabar, scourge of the twelve seas, plagued the seafarers of the Old World in a bloody reign of terror until a brave adventurer put an end to his evil. But now he is back from the dead, seeking revenge and with the dark powers of voodoo at his command. YOU have your own score to settle - Cinnabar murdered your family when you were a child. Only YOU can end the horrific slaughter by destroying the pirate captain and his crew of cutthroats. Come hell or high water Bloodbones must be stopped!

So who is your favourite Fighting Fantasy pirate?

Friday, 18 September 2020

Blast from the Past! The Forest of Doom

 A straw poll asking for subjects for today's post produced a plethora of suggestions, and once the votes had been tallied Creature of Havoc and Dead of Night were in equal fourth place, House of Hell and City of Thieves were in joint second place, but topping the list was Ian Livingstone's first solo Fighting Fantasy gamebook - The Forest of Doom!

First published in 1983, the tale has the hero braving the perils of Darkwood Forest in order to recover the pieces of the stolen Hammer of Stonebridge, fashioned by the Dwarfs to protect their village from the predations of Hill Trolls.

“I’d thought about writing another dungeon crawl,” says Livingstone, “but coming out just months after Warlock, I decided to set the adventure above ground. But where? I had two ideas in mind. One had a working title of Blackhill Manor and the other was called Doom in Darkwood Forest. I finally decided on the forest adventure. Blackhill Manor would have to wait. Thirty years on and Blackhill Manor is still not written, but the synopsis was influential in part for City of Thieves and Caverns of the Snow Witch.

“For the book title, I had a shortlist of three; Doom in Darkwood ForestThe War Hammer of Darkwood Forest and the third – The Forest of Doom.”

Ian Livingstone’s original notes for The Forest of Doom.
(© Ian Livingstone, 1983 and 2014)

The book introduced several characters and locations that would reappear later throughout Livingstone’s contributions to the FF series, including the village of Stonebridge, Darkwood Forest of course, and the wizard Gereth Yaztromo.

Livingstone: “When writing Fighting Fantasy books, I like to create names and places that are both descriptive and evocative. Readers would know what to expect when they read the words The Forest of Doom or Darkwood Forest. The creature on the front cover of the book I named the Shape Changer as that was exactly what it was when it metamorphosed from a goblin into a flesh-ripping reptilian man-eater! I also came up with names that had something to do with my own world. The grand wizard Yaztromo is a good example of this. Ridiculous as it may seem now, the name was made up by combining the nickname of a baseball player and a spaceship!

“Unusually for a Brit, I used to follow baseball. I saw my first game in 1976 at Fenway Park, home to the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox’s hero at that time was Carl Yastrzemski, a power hitter whose nickname was ‘Yaz’. I watched in awe as the fans went crazy when Yaz launched one of his mighty home runs into the right field bleachers. So I became a fan too. A few years later I saw Ridley Scott’s Alien for the first time. The atmosphere and suspense he created on board the Nostromo was powerful and it became my favourite science fiction film. So it was a simple matter of adding ‘Yaz’ to ‘tromo’ to give my grumpy old wizard his name!”

Yaztromo was the most commonly recurring character in the Fighting Fantasy series, appearing in numerous gamebooks and novels, even out-doing Zagor the Warlock in terms of the number of guest appearances he made.

Ian Livingstone’s handwritten first draft of The Forest of Doom.
(© Ian Livingstone, 1983 and 2014)

Illustrated by Malcolm Barter, The Forest of Doom was the last Fighting Fantasy gamebook to have every full-page illustration accompanied by a caption that gave the number of the paragraph depicted alongside a short extract from the text, until Scholastic Books reinstated them when they took over publishing the series in 2017.

“The commission came via my then agent John Craddock,” says Barter. “I remember, along with a couple of other illustrators I was asked to submit a sample picture, as the original artist Penguin had intended to use was unavailable… I was fortunate enough to get it.”

Stingworm, by Malcolm Barter.

But what of the book’s seminal cover?

Livingstone: “When I finally finished writing the adventure, I wanted to make sure that the art reflected my own vision of the creatures of Darkwood Forest. It was at that time when I was lucky enough to meet a young artist called Iain McCaig who visited us at Games Workshop looking for a commission. I looked at his portfolio and asked Iain if he would like to illustrate the book cover, and was very happy indeed when he said yes. We talked about the cover a lot and settled on the Shape Changer as the central character. It is still one of my favourite Fighting Fantasy covers, beautifully painted, full of threat and atmosphere. I purchased the original painting from Iain – an amazing water colour – and today it hangs proudly in my home with my other Fighting Fantasy book covers.”

Shape Changer, by Iain McCaig.

Steve Jackson's The Citadel of Chaos and Ian Livingstone's The Forest of Doom were published together, and in March 1983 the first three titles in what was fast becoming the Fighting Fantasy series topped The Sunday Times bestseller charts.

“Puffin’s ‘star author’ was Roald Dahl, whose books always topped the Children’s Bestseller charts,” explains Jackson. “In March 1983, WarlockCitadel and Forest topped the Children’s Charts in the Sunday Times... Roald Dahl had finally been out-sold…”

All three titles are in print again today, thanks to Scholastic Books, and there is even a video game version, courtesy of Tin Man Games.

So will you go down to the woods today?

Map of Darkwood Forest sent to Ian Livingstone by a fan.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Return to Deathtrap Dungeon

Ian Livingstone's seminal Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Deathtrap Dungeon, has been reimagined (and reprinted) again and again over the years.

One of the most recent adaptations is Branching Narrative's Deathtrap Dugeon: The Interactive Video Adventure, featuring Eddie Marsan.



However, the first video game adaptation was Ian Livingstone's Deathtrap Dungeon, released in 1998 for the Sony PlayStation and Windows PC.


Described as a medieval action/adventure video game, the adventure took place in Baron Sukumvit’s labyrinth of death, and some familiar faces made an appearance along the way – such as the prehistoric Pit Fiend, the Bloodbeast, as well as Skeletons and Giant Spiders – along with new elements including flying turtles, exploding pigs, and an entire Circus level.





The Blue Imps that recently appeared in Ian Livingstone's The Port of Peril first appeared in Ian Livingstone's Deathtrap Dungeon.


If you have fond memories of playing Ian Livingstone's Deathtrap Dungeon back in the day, or you were born too late and would love to find out for yourself what it was like to undertake the walk in state-of-the-art 1998 3D graphics, then you will be pleased to learn that the game is available now, as a Humble Bundle deal here. And the clincher is it's selling for just 99p!

So what are you waiting forDeathtrap Dungeon awaits!


Friday, 4 September 2020

Dice, Miniatures, and The Warlock Returns...

Three exciting pieces of news for Fighting Fantasy fans this week...

Dice

If you pre-order Rhianna Pratchett's new gamebook Crystal of Storms, and/or Ian Livingstone's reissued Return to Firetop Mountain, from The Alligator's Mouth, you will receive a pair of exclusive Fighting Fantasy dice with your book(s).

You can also sign up for an online event, via Chromecast, taking place on Wednesday 30th September, when Scholastic's Hannah Love, will be in conversation with Rhianna and Ian, discussing the history of the globally popular Fighting Fantasy series, and how a guest author goes about constructing a gamebook.


Miniatures

If you missed out on last year's Fighting Fantasy Legends: 28mm Resin Miniatures Kickstarter campaign, you can now pre-order the miniatures here, and at a knockdown price too!



The Warlock Returns

Available now from Arion Games, via DriveThruRPG, is issue #1 of The Warlock Returns, a brand new Advanced Fighting Fantasy fanzine. Inside this launch issue you will find:

*Denizens of the Pit - New monsters from Titan

*Jungle preparation for the wilder parts of Titan.

*Sizing Up Monsters - Adversary Power Levels

*Welcome to Arion - An adventure for AFF

*Director Advice Articles - Suggesting reading material and plot hooks

*Chinese-Inspired Weapons - For use in AFF

*The Legend of Gareus - Comic Strip

*Torra - A Stellar Adventures setting

*Letters from Arion

*AFF & Fantasy Grounds Unity

Plus a new character sheet from Dyson Logos and a one-page dungeon