Friday 31 March 2023

The Citadel of Chaos - published on this day 40 years ago!

The Citadel of Chaos by Steve Jackson was published 40 years ago today on 31 March 1983.

"After Warlock had done so well, Puffin wanted to know if we could turn this into a series," recalls Steve Jackson. "And yes, we could. At a meeting in Philippa Dickinson’s office, she wanted to know what we should call this series. Ian came up with ‘Fighting Fantasy’. I think at the time it was just expected to be a working title. But it never got changed!”

Work started immediately on another two titles, with the authors of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain now working on one new book each.

Jackson did not stray that far from the familiar format of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Although it was set within a castle, The Citadel of Chaos was effectively another dungeon bash, but with the addition of rules for using magic.

Atop his sinister Black Tower, the dread sorcerer Balthus Dire is making plans of conquest. The hero of the adventure is a student of the Grand Wizard of Yore, charged by King Salamon with penetrating the stronghold of the fell magic-user, and stopping the fiend before he can unleash his army upon the peaceful Vale of Willow.

Before beginning the adventure, the hero has to determine his MAGIC score and then choose a corresponding number of spells from a pool of twelve that includes such enchantments as Creature Copy, Fool’s Gold and Levitation. But where did the inspiration for Balthus Dire and the lethal Ganjees come from?

Jackson: “Creating names for new characters monsters and places was always a brainstorming exercise. I’d write lots of contenders on a sheet of paper and eventually pick one which to my mind sounded evocative... ‘Balthus’ was the name of a French painter. At the time I was constantly on the lookout for inspiration for names for characters, places and creatures. I came across Balthus the artist – his name, not his art, which I have never seen! I thought: ‘Yes. That’s a cool name. Sounds kind of demonic, or like a dark religious pontiff.’ I used to use a thesaurus a lot for inspiration. ‘Dire’ sounded particularly bad. And thus Balthus Dire became the boss of the adventure.”

Internal art was by Russ Nicholson, while the cover was produced by the enigmatically-named Emmanuel.

Gark, by Russ Nicholson. (© Russ Nicholson, 1983 and 2014)

“The only art I really didn’t like was the cover of the original Citadel of Chaos,” reveals Jackson. “As this was the second book in the series, it could have been interpreted as a significant statement of art intent. But it was followed by Iain McCaig’s cover of The Forest of Doom which set a new standard. I asked Penguin many times to have the Citadel cover recommissioned. Eventually they gave in and Ian Miller did a fine job.”

One of the rewards sent out to backers of the Kickstarter to fund production of YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, the second part of Jonathan Green's history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, was an 'album' of music inspired by the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. One of these was a track inspired by Steve Jackson's first solo gamebook...

Friday 17 March 2023

Billick O'Doone

Warning! Spoilers ahead for Steve Jackson's
Secrets of Salamonis

If you have read  Steve Jackson's Secrets of Salamonis you will have encountered a certain child-like character who goes by the name of Billick O'Doone and who is, in fact, a Leprechaun. He even appears in one of Tazio Bettin's filler illustrations that appear throughout the book.

Billick O'Doone, by Tazio Bettin.

The inclusion of the character was not just some random idea. Billick O'Doone first appeared in another Steve Jackson project many years ago - the telephone RPG F.I.S.T. Adventures.

If you have yet to play Steve Jackson's latest adventure, you can buy it here. To find out more titbits of curious information about the world's premier gamebook series, it's not too late to place a Late Pledge to Jonathan Green's ultimate 40th anniversary edition of this FF gamebooks history YOU ARE THE HERO .

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday 9 March 2023

The Dice Man Cometh

Sir Ian Livingstone was recently interviewed for the Digitiser channel on YouTube. During the course of the interview, which starts at 20:00, Sir Ian talks Mr Biffo through the history of Games Workshop, Fighting Fantasy, and Tomb Raider.

Friday 3 March 2023

Return to the City of Thieves at the UK Games Expo 2023

Three months from today, on Saturday 3rd June 2023, you could enter of eponymous City of Thieves* in the company of Sir Ian Livingstone himself and stalwart Fighting Fantasy adventurer John "The Dark Room" Robertson, at the UK Games Expo 2023.

Fighting Fantasy has been a mainstay of the UKGE for many years, with the live readthroughs being a particular highlight. After being unable to attend last year, Sir Ian Livingstone is back to put John Robertson through his paces once more.

John, with the help of an enthusiastic audience, will take on the role of an adventurer on a quest to find and stop the powerful Night Prince Zanbar Bone, a being whose minions are terrorizing the town of Silverton. Hired by a desperate mayor, John and his advisors** will journey to the dangerous city state of Port Blacksand, in search of the wizard Nicodemus, who apparently knows of Bone's one weakness. 

Tickets for the event are available here, and half of the revenue from each sale will be added to the UKGE Charity donations.

To find out more and book your ticket, follow this link.

* Which is 40 years old this year!

** The audience.

Thursday 2 March 2023

World Book Day 2023

World Book Day is all about encouraging young readers. But what if you are trying to encourage reluctant readers? Have no fear, for Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are here.

Proven to improve literacy levels, their exciting storylines, gruesome monsters, and short sections help those who are starting out on their reading journey engage with the text. The books also aid with the development of other vital life skills, such as decision-making, problem-solving, and numeracy.

So why not check out the Fighting Fantasy series today?