Friday 25 June 2021

Blast from the Past! Spellbreaker

(FF53) was published 28 years ago this week, while its author, Jonathan Green, was still studying at university.

The story begins with the hero inadvertently enabling Nazek (another Warlock) to steal the Black Grimoire from its guardians at Rassin Abbey in the Old World kingdom of Ruddlestone. To make amends, the hero sets out to track down the villain in order to stop him from opening the legendary Casket of Shadows, and releasing the evil imprisoned within.

Art – both exterior and interior – was provided by Alan Langford. It was the first and last time the artist painted a cover for the series, despite having illustrated five FF adventures before Spellbreaker.

“They just asked me to do it,” says Langford, “which was rather nice, because you get paid rather more for cover art than you do for your inside work.” The image was produced using predominantly watercolours. “I used a little bit of permanent white gouache as well, which is my normal technique for watercolour.”

The Devilworm, which was inspired by the legend of the Lambton Worm.

One of the internal pen and ink illustrations provided by Alan Langford.

(© Alan Langford, 1993)

However, when Wizard Books republished the adventure in 2007, Martin McKenna was commissioned to produce a new piece of cover art, which was done digitally. (Green had been keen to have McKenna illustrate one of his FF adventures ever since being commissioned to write Spellbreaker, back in 1992.)

Despite being incredibly difficult to complete fairly, Spellbreaker still has its fans among the Fighting Fantasy community.

Did you know...?

It was John Sibbick’s image of a dragon attacking a band of adventurers, determined to steal its treasure hoard, that appeared on the front cover of Dungeoneerthat inspired Green to write Spellbreaker in the first place, because he thought the forward-facing dragon was actually a demon!

Friday 18 June 2021

Modern Yet Nostalgic - Classic Fighting Fantasy Covers Redesigned

Guilherme Gontijo is a Brazilian, designer, writer, and RPG enthusiast. He is the author of Into the Bronze, an old school role-playing game set in the Bronze Age of a magical Mesopotamia.

His day job as a graphic designer, and his love of RPGs, inspired him to give the covers of some classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks a drastic makeover, and he posted the finished pieces on Twitter.

The Warlock used his scrying sphere to track Guilherme down and drag him back to Firetop Mountain to interrogate him about his reimagined book covers.

The Warlock: When did you first get into Fighting Fantasy? Which was the first book you read? Do you have a favourite adventure?

Guilherme Gontijo: My first contact with Fighting Fantasy books was back in the '90s. I had a friend who was very much into gamebooks and he lent me The Warlock of the Firetop Mountain for a weekend. It was totally different for me because I was not used to a solo RPG experience. Until this day it remains my favorite one, mostly because of all the memories of my childhood it brings.

TW: What inspired you to redesign the covers of some of the classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks?

GG: I lost a friend to COVID-19 some time ago and this process of redesigning something so precious to me helped me to deal with my grief in hard times. Beside, redesigning covers you love is always a very fun exercise!

TW: Do you have a background in graphic design?

GG: Yes, I have been a graphic designer for a few years, and work mostly in art direction and layout design. Back in design school days we used to redesign a lot and that sharpened our skills and imagination.

TW: Can you tell me a bit about the thinking behind your redesigns?

GG: The whole idea behind the redesigns was to make it modern and yet nostalgic. The modernism aesthetic has this strange power to look highly retro-futuristic and because of that it was a logical choice for the redesigns. The colour palettes were all based on the original covers and most of the illustrations paid homage to them in some way or another. It was quite a challenge because when you redesign a much-loved series like Fighting Fantasy, you deal with the expectations of diehard fans. From what I saw on social medias, the fans liked them a lot, thank God!

TW: Are there anymore FF covers you would like to reimagine?

GG: I would love to design another run with the sci-fi adventures this time! Especially Space Assassin, Starship Traveller, Freeway Fighter, and Appointment with F.E.A.R.

Friday 11 June 2021

The Cartography of Kakhabad

Last week, we introduced you to the marvellous maps of FF fan Alnaro.

Well, it is not only the standard Fighting Fantasy series that he has mapped - he has also used his artistic talents to create a quartet of cartographic wonders for Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series. And here they are...

The Seven Serpents

The Crown of Kings

Friday 4 June 2021

Marvellous Maps

The maps that used to appear in the Fighting Fantasy books have always been celebrated, quite rightly, as wonderful works of art.  

Well French Fighting Fantasy fan Alnaro has produced his own maps of some of the most iconic FF adventures, and they too are works of art.

But be warned - spoilers lie ahead!

Alnaro's maps are characterised by the inclusion of creatures, characters and settings that appear in the gamebooks, or on their covers. His map solution for Steve Jackson's The Citadel of Chaos is a perfect example of this.

One of the things that makes Alnaro's map of Ian Livingstone's seminal Deathtrap Dungeon stand out is his portrait of Baron Sukumvit. Another is the fact that it has been presented horizontally, rather than vertically.

The different regions of Fire Island can be clearly seen on this map of Ian Livingstone's Island of the Lizard King, which includes two mini-maps of the gold mine and the prison colony.

Alnaro's map of Scorpion Swamp is less illustrative, but nonetheless striking and effective.

His map of Ian Livingstone's Caverns of the Snow Witch makes it clear what a wide-ranging adventure it is, with the hero travelling from the Icefinger Mountains, across the Pagan Plains to Stonebridge and the Moonstone Hills, and from there to the peak of Firetop Mountain!

Alnaro's map for Vault of the Vampire includes the overland route to Castle Heydrich, as well as detailed plans of the vampire's lair itself.

The beast-haunted land of Lupravia is rendered in exquisite detail in Alarno's solution to Howl of the Werewolf, as is the kingdom of Femphrey that is the location for Stormslayer.

And finally we have the Invisible City, from Charlie Higson's FF adventure The Gates of Death. The Temple of Throff is a nightmare to navigate, but with this map to aid you, you actually have a chance of doing so successfully!

If you have your own maps of your favourite Fighting Fantasy adventures, we want to see them. Find out more here.