Sunday 31 October 2021

Blast from the Past! Vault of the Vampire

Published in 1989, Vault of the Vampire was the 38th gamebook in the Fighting Fantasy series. Written by the late Carl Sargent, under the name Keith Martin, and illustrated by the late Martin McKenna, FF's riff on Dracula is a bona fide classic of interactive horror fiction.

Interestingly, despite blood-suckers appearing on a regular basis throughout the previous thirty-seven titles, up until this point no one prince of the night had taken centre stage and become the Big Bad to be dealt with at the climax of an adventure.

Keith Martin rectified this by transporting the reader to Titan's version of Transylvania, set within the mountainous Old World realm of Mauristatia, replete with wolves howling at the moon, creepy forests, a headless coachman, and a sinister, bat-haunted castle.

The plot is also just what you would want from a story called Vault of the Vampire...

Can you put an end to Count Heydrich's evil reign of terror?

YOU are a hardy adventurer and have journeyed to the icy mountains of Mauristatia in search of great wealth and fortune... but what you find there makes your blood run cold.

You discover by chance the terrible secret of the local villagers. Can YOU free them from the evil tyranny of the bloodthirsty Count, or will you too succumb to a horrifying fate?

Two dice, a pencil and an eraser are all you need. YOU decide which paths to take, which dangers to risk and which foes to fight!

Les Edwards painted the cover for the book: “Vault of the Vampire turned out to be one of those classic images. I can’t say why exactly. It’s just one of those cases where everything works the way that was intended. It’s a pretty traditional Vampire but maybe that’s part of its strength. It’s a simple and dramatic image and very direct. It was a big influence on Vampire paintings that I did subsequently.”

Martin McKenna, who was still only eighteen at the time, turned his hand to producing some very Hammer Horror-esque images for the book’s internal illustrations that have stood up to the test of time very well.


A blood-soaked sequel followed in 1995, entitled Revenge of the Vampire. This was the only occasion a direct sequel to a gamebook was written by an author other than the series’ co-creators Jackson and Livingstone.

Revenge of the Vampire (FF58) was Keith Martin’s seventh contribution to the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series. In the story, Count Reiner Heydrich returns from the dead once more to stalk the Old World in search of fresh blood and new slaves. It is up to the hero (who is not the same hero as featured in Vault of the Vampire) to put an end to him once and for all.

Count Heydrich, Vampire, is back from the dead!

A half-forgotten evil has arisen from the grave to stalk the Old World in search of fresh blood and new victims to enslave. Count Reiner Heydrich, undead Vampire Lord, is ancient beyond the reckoning of mortals. This time, however, there is someone on his trail, a brave hero who is determined that he shall not succeed in his evil plans. That someone is YOU!

As well as being written by Keith Martin, author of Vault of the Vampire, once again Les Edwards painted the stunning cover image while Martin McKenna came up trumps with the internals.

Friday 29 October 2021

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel - 24 hours to go!

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel, written by Mark Lain and illustrated by Gary Mayes, has just 24 hours left to go on Kickstarter and it has already achieved its funding goal.

The book will not be available to buy after the Kickstarter, so if you want to secure your copy, make sure you pledge your support before it's too late!

Friday 22 October 2021

Pandaemonium Miniatures' Legendary Fighting Fantasy Figures

If you follow @fightingfantasy on Twitter, you may have already seen Pandaemonium Miniatures' painted Fighting Fantasy Legends models, as produced by Atlantis Miniatures.

The Warlock used his scrying sphere to track down the painter and then summoned him to the depths of Firetop Mountain to find out more...

The Warlock: Who are you, where are you from, and what is it you do for a living?

Paul Cooke: My name is Paul Cooke, I'm from Bristol and I am self employed, splitting my time between commissioned miniature painting and scenery building, and tutoring English at GCSE and A Level.

TW: How long have you been painting miniatures?

PC: I started painting miniatures (badly!) when I was about 13 with my HeroQuest set (I'm actually currently in the process of stripping, repairing and repainting my original set!), I've had a few gaps, and prior to returning to the hobby four years ago I hadn't painted a figure for approximately six years. [Paul turns 45 on 22nd October. Happy Birthday! ~ The Warlock]

TW: What was your first exposure to Fighting Fantasy? Do you have any favourite titles in the series?

PC: I think when I was 11 or 12 I played my first gamebook and it happened to be The Warlock of Firetop Mountain - that's still a standout because it's so challenging. I also love Deathtrap Dungeon, The Forest of Doom, City of Thieves and the Sorcery! series in particular. It was the whole package really; the interactivity and feeling like you were really in that world, drawing out my maps as I went and then making a neat version on completion, and gazing at the amazing artwork. I still have my collection, and I've also been enjoying the various PC game versions.

I remember my local Waterstones held a design competition when I was around 14 to create your own monster with stats etc. I got a lovely letter explaining that, as it happened, I was a bit older than most other participants so they didn't feel it was fair to give me a prize, but they did send me all of the display posters from the event, which I was more than happy with! So they were so influential and were definitely my way into the world of wargaming and role-play, along with HeroQuest of course. So you can imagine my reaction when I was approached to paint this set!

TW: How did you feel when you discovered that Atlantis Miniatures would be producing the Fighting Fantasy Legends range?

PC: Very excited - I'm familiar with Atlantis and I really enjoyed painting one of the Trolls for my Frostgrave games so I knew they'd be fantastic - but also torn as I had to make a tricky decision about which miniature to get! The design of each miniature is so well done and evocative of the original artwork.

TW: Which pledge level did you select?

PC: I backed at the single figure level, as that's what I could budget for at the time, and had to make the difficult choice between the Shapechanger and the Bloodbeast. In the end I went for the Shapechanger; the cover art was always a favourite and it's such a good match to Ian McCaig's original watercolour.

 Is there a particular process you follow when you paint a Fighting Fantasy mini?

PC: So far I have been referring to the cover art to aim to match details and colours as much as I can. As I'm lucky enough to be painting this set for Ian Livingstone, it's invaluable that he can give me guidance on colour choices for those which are based on the internal black and white artwork, and I can consult with him on any tweaks or changes. In general I am using a range of techniques including the 'traditional' basecoat/shade wash/highlight method, wet blending, and some airbrush work.

For larger figures such as the Shapechanger and Bloodbeast I've found it best to paint them in their separate pieces, and for all of them I'm painting the bases separately as they are very nicely detailed in their own right. It's important to note that as these are resin miniatures I've made sure to wash them in soapy water and carefully scrape away any flash and mould lines before priming.

 Are there any particular challenges to painting an FF mini? Is there anything you found particularly hard, or anything you're especially proud of?

PC: I think as above, knowing how to prepare resin figures is important. A wash in soapy water and a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush will remove the traces of the release agent from the casting process - if this isn't done the primer won't adhere and indeed can completely flake off. Dry-fitting the pieces is a very good idea, although these are really well designed from that perspective, and in most cases the pieces 'plug' together in a fairly intuitive way. Looking over the figures to check for mould lines and flash is also vital - I found it is very thin and feathery, so a gentle scrape with a new scalpel blade is all that's really needed. I use superglue for assembly, and in some cases I've drilled and pinned parts together for a stronger join.

Honestly, I have been so impressed by the quality of these miniatures; Altantis produce lovely work anyway, but these are definitely up there with their best. In terms of painting, they all have their own challenges - most recently I was finding the yellow flame-like edging on the robes of the Archmage of Mampang really tricky - yellow can be a pain anyway, but it is a very fine edging, probably only 1.2mm thick. Basecoating with pink really helps with yellows and oranges, otherwise it's hard to get it to sit evenly, but even with this method it took a few attempts. So far the one I'm most pleased with is the Bloodbeast.

 Do you have a favourite miniature from the range?

PC: Again, it's a tossup between the Shapechanger and the Bloodbeast, and I can't really decide! Having painted both now, I still like them equally.

TW: Are there any other FF characters or monsters you would like to see turned into miniatures?

PC: I think a rendition of the cover of Freeway Fighter would be great. Admittedly, that would be much more of a diorama in its own right, with the car and characters. I also think Zanbar Bone, although he already has a 28mm miniature, is definitely worthy of being turned into a larger scale bust to match the original Ian McCaig cover of City of Thieves. The Iain Miller cover of House of Hell is another contender!

TW: Are you planning on creating any FF dioramas using the minis?

PC: For this set, I don't know. Ian might have that in mind for display purposes; these are being painted in time for the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain in August 2022. For my own Shapechanger.. .that's got me thinking. It would be good to do a scene to emulate the cover art, maybe incorporating some forced perspective to get a sense of peering into the depths of the forest behind the monster.

Friday 15 October 2021

Are you ready to enter the Golden Room?

Deathtrap Dungeon: The Golden Room is an interactive movie based on Ian Livingstone's classic Fighting Fantasy gamebook. Starring Georgia Hirst (Five Dates, Vikings) and Marcus Fraser (Transformers: The Last Knight).

As the Brave Adventurer faces many foes, you must tread carefully on your quest through to the Golden Room. Face the Trial-Master of the Dungeon Vhaidra and her tricks and traps as she tests your skill. Beware of the Bloodbeast lurking behind any door. Decide wisely, or find yourself in a Deathtrap.

Deathtrap Dungeon: The Golden Room is a live action, cinematic interactive fantasy adventure movie, featuring the same CGI Virtual Set technology as used in Disney's The Mandalorian. It is being developed by Wales Interactive and Good Gate Media, ready for release in 2022. To find out more, follow this link.

Friday 8 October 2021

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel - Mark Lain Interview

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel, written by Mark Lain and illustrated by Gary Mayes, has only been running for a week on Kickstarter but it is already more than half way towards its funding goal.

The Warlock decided that it was time to find out more about the project and so summoned Mark Lain to the dungeons beneath Firetop Mountain to interrogate him... Sorry! To interview him.

The Warlock: What inspired you to turn Rebel Planet into a graphic novel? 

Mark Lain: It’s the only sci-fi FF that really has a fully-developed “world” and the concepts in it are still very contemporary and relevant. The sheer variety of the environments of the planets you visit gives a lot of scope for showing the different experiences and challenges faced by the Player’s character. Plus the Arcadians are a brilliantly designed set of species and Gary’s art really beings the whole package to life.

TW: What can fans of the original gamebook expect from the graphic novel?

ML: Something faithful to the gamebook but not a slavish rendition of the true path. There needs to be peril and moments of potential failure, so some of the areas that you should avoid on the true path are here too, to make it more than just an easy ride to success. This is meant to be a mission against the odds. Also, there will be some surprises.

For example, some parts of the gamebook have been substituted for aspects from the computer game adaptation, particularly in places where I personally thought the computer version handled things better or more logically. There are some essential details for the Prologue too that are missing from the gamebook so I’ve added in some material of my own, but nothing that will contradict of offend – it’s purely to complete and fill gaps.

TW: What will readers who have never heard of Fighting Fantasy get from this adaptation?

ML: For these readers, it’s a cracking sci-fi yarn. Because of how the plot plays out, the reader has no requirement to know anything about the gamebook or FF in general. Indeed, the plot will be a total surprise for non-FF readers. At the end of the day, this is a science fiction graphic novel.

TW: What has it been like to work with Gary Mayes?

ML: So far it’s been great. He is full of enthusiasm for the project and is very open to my ideas and suggestions. We have been discussing this collaboration for over a year now, and I’m really happy at how keen he is. He is the artist who will bring my words to life so a passion for the material is vital. His love of sci-fi and knowledge of the genre makes my job of explaining concepts and tropes much easier as he just gets what I’m referring to straight away, and he’s a consummate professional.

TW: Are there any other FF books you would like to give the graphic novel treatment?

ML: Well, without giving too much away, there is an open ending designed to segue into a sequel, but obviously this first book needs to hit the right notes so we actually get a sequel (and all the necessary permissions of course)! But I’m not going to say which book it is that the ending leads to – people will have to read the Rebel Planet GN to find that out.

Friday 1 October 2021

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel is funding now on Kickstarter!

Rebel Planet: The Graphic Novel is now live on Kickstarter! To find out more and to pledge your support to the project, follow this link.

Written by long-time Fighting Fantasy fan and gamebook author Mark Lain, the graphic novel is being drawn by original Rebel Planet artist Gary Mayes!