Wednesday 31 January 2024

The Warlock Returns - Issue #11

Available now from Arion Games is Issue #11 of The Warlock Returns, the Advanced Fighting Fantasy fanzine.

Within this issue you will find...

* Denizens of the Pit - This time a host of horrors rise from the Deep Ocean!
* Lunara - Scriptarium's alternative moon lore
* Bhingara, Orc Mage - The start of a new graphic comic
* Director Advice - Articles with rumours and plot hooks
* Bringing Back the Princess - AFF solo game
* Grappling Rules - Two different takes on grappling!
* The Legend of Gareus - comic and agony aunt page
* Stellar Adventures - Into the Doors of Eryx - Part V

and more!

Friday 26 January 2024

Happy 50th Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons!

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

It is not an exaggeration to say that without Dungeons & Dragons there would be no Fighting Fantasy gamebooks either.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were sharing a flat in Shepherd’s Bush with another friend, John Peake, when the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974, and their lives changed for ever.

They had heard about D&D through fanzines, although they did not actually get hold of a copy of their own until 1975. Jackson once described the arrival of D&D as “manna from heaven”. It was the game they had been waiting for.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone with Dungeons & Dragons in 1976.
(© Ian Livingstone, 2024)

Overwhelmed by the possibilities such role-playing games offered imaginative individuals, Jackson, Livingstone and Peake decided to start their own business. In February 1975 Games Workshop was established. Later that year they secured the exclusive European distribution rights for Dungeons & Dragons. Games Workshop started slowly but became a huge success over time, expanding from a bedroom mail order company to become a major retailer and publisher of wargames and RPGs.

You can read about those early years of the company in Dice Men: The Origin Story of Games Workshop, by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.

Gary Gygax, Don Turnbull, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson in 1979.
(© Ian Livingstone, 2024)

Meanwhile, Geraldine Cooke has taken over Penguin Books' ailing science fiction, fantasy and horror list. Cooke’s best friend Geoff John, an avid Dungeons & Dragons player of several years' standing, told her all about Games Workshop. He told her to ring Jackson and Livingstone and see if they could turn the game, or something like it, into a book.

As a direct result of Cooke’s interest in Games Workshop, Penguin Books took a stand at Games Day 1979 (Games Day being the annual retail and gaming event established by Jackson and Livingstone in the same year they co-founded Games Workshop) ostensibly to promote a new book called Playing Politics.

Fired by a combination of entrepreneurial bravado and youthful enthusiasm, Jackson and Livingstone agreed to work up a proposal and outline for a book about the growing fantasy role-playing hobby. The book was intended to be a 'How to' manual of role-playing, but the synopsis they submitted was for a simple solo RPG, presented within the pages of a book. A gamebook. The rest, as they say, is history...

Coming full circle, there are now Dungeons & Dragons gamebooks, but they are not on the same level as your favourite Fighting Fantasy adventures. But without D&D you wouldn't be reading this blog post today.

So, Happy Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons! Here's to the next 50 years!

Friday 19 January 2024

Deathtrap Dungeon's 40th anniversary

2024 marks 40 years since Sir Ian Livingstone's seminal Deathtrap Dungeon was first published.

Inspired by a holiday Livingstone had taken to Thailand, the plot of the adventure sees the hero taking up the challenge of the Trial of Champions, devised by the devilish mind of Baron Sukumvit, entering the eponymous dungeon, braving the labyrinth’s fiendish traps and monstrous denizens, all in the pursuit of fame and fortune.

Ian Livingstone’s rough map of Deathtrap Dungeon. (© Ian Livingstone, 2024)

“I went trekking in Northern Thailand in 1981,” explains Livingstone. “I passed through Fang and crossed the River Kok on my way to the jungle near the Burmese border. I took lots of photos of villagers and scenery on the trek. It was an incredible adventure, and one not without drama. Our guide was constantly fretting about armed bandits coming over the border to rob us! The trek made a big impression on me, enough for me to want to reference the people and places in Deathtrap Dungeon which I began writing in late 1983. But the dungeon plot itself was a product of the dungeons I’d designed during the years I’d been playing D&D. When Penguin Books told us they wanted a sequel to The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, I thought I’d write a classic dungeon-bash next, but I put it on hold and wrote The Forest of Doom and City of Thieves before Deathtrap Dungeon.”

As well as the River Kok and Fang, the names of several other places Livingstone visited on that fortuitous trip made it into the book, including Chiang Mai. Baron Sukumvit himself was named after Sukumvit Road in Bangkok. The marriage of both eastern and western influences in the adventure created something entirely new, helping to give the world of Fighting Fantasy a truly unique flavour.

One of Iain McCaig’s illustration roughs for Deathtrap Dungeon alongside Ian Livingstone’s handwritten first draft. (© Iain McCaig and Ian Livingstone, 2024)

Deathtrap Dungeon was a huge success, selling over 350,000 copies in its first year alone. It was the best-selling children’s book in April 1984 and was ranked eighth out of all books sold that month. (Three of the top one hundred books sold that year were Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.)

Deathtrap Dungeon was so successful that Livingstone’s eighth gamebook was a sequel, Trial of Champions (FF21, published in 1986).

Like City of Thieves before it, Deathtrap Dungeon was illustrated inside and out by Ian Livingstone's favourite FF artist, Iain McCaig.

“My favourite black and white illustration is the image of the inscrutable Trialmaster on his dragon-hide throne,” says McCaig. “It was the height of my love affair with croquill pens.”

Deathtrap Dungeon has been reimagined again and again, as numerous video games, an audio drama and even a live action show. On top of that, the infamous Bloodbeast from the adventure has been turned into a 3D model, produced by Blue Giant Studios.

To find out more about the history of Deathtrap Dungeon and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks you should peruse YOU ARE THE HERO by Jonathan Green.

Friday 12 January 2024

Armies of Death is coming to Fighting Fantasy Classics!

Tin Man Games recently announced that the next much-loved Fighting Fantasy gamebook to be added to the Fighting Fantasy Classics library will be Sir Ian Livingstone's Armies of Death.

And today, the Warlock can exclusively reveal the cover art for the game, which features a new logo as well as Chris Achilleos's original cover painting.

New artwork has been produced for the game by Joshua Wright. How many of these encounters do you recognise from the Armies of Death gamebook?

Armies of Death will be released on Steam in a few months' time and it will be the first of three gamebooks to be added to the Fighting Fantasy Classics  roster in 2024.

Keeping checking the official Fighting Fantasy blog to be kept up to date regarding these exciting new developments for Tin Man Games' Fighting Fantasy Classics.

Friday 5 January 2024

Welcome to 2024!

Happy New Year, Fighting Fantasy fans!

2024 marks the 40th anniversary of another six classic Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, as well as volumes 2 and 3 of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! epic, not to mention Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game.

Over the course of the year, we will be revisiting those much-loved adventures, and they will also form the focus of Fighting Fantasy Fest 5, which will be taking place in the autumn.

We also have the release of two new Fighting Fantasy-related books to look forward to. The first is Jonathan Green's YOU ARE THE HERO - An Interactive History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, and the second is MAGIC REALMS - The Art of Fighting Fantasy, written by Sir Ian Livingstone and Jonathan Green.

If you have yet to pledge your support to the MAGIC REALMS crowdfunding campaign on Unbound, you have until 14th January 2024 to do so and ensure you get your name in the book.