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Fighting Fantasy

Entry updated 26 January 2016. Tagged: Game.

Gamebook series (from 1982). Puffin, Wizard Books. Designed by Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone.

The idea of single-player Role Playing Game scenarios was first used in a number of adventures for the early fantasy game Tunnels and Trolls (1975 Flying Buffalo [FB]) designed by Ken St Andre, beginning with Buffalo Castle (1976 FB) designed by Rick Loomis. In essence, these scenarios replaced the Gamemaster's human intelligence with a predesigned multilinear plot (see Interactive Narrative), making it possible to play the game alone, but left the rest of the system's mechanics intact. The form did not achieve mass popularity, however, until Games Workshop founders Jackson and Livingstone created a similar series of scenarios aimed at young adults and packaged as books, each of which contained the full rules for what was essentially a simple RPG. The books are split up into numbered sections, allowing the reader – or player – to pick a path from one to another, as in such "variable plot" Gamebooks as the Choose Your Own Adventure series. In Fighting Fantasy, however, the course of events also depends on the results of combats and other actions in which success or failure are determined by quantified rules and the roll of the dice.

The first Fighting Fantasy Gamebook was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (1982), by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, which contains a somewhat generic story of Sword and Sorcery. While most of the books in the series are fantasy, science fiction made an appearance with Starship Traveller (1983) by Steve Jackson, an adventure which was heavily influenced by Star Trek. Other science fiction titles are: Space Assassin (1985) by Andrew Chapman; Freeway Fighter (1985) by Ian Livingstone; The Rings of Kether (1985) by Andrew Chapman; the Superhero based Appointment with FEAR (1985) by Steve Jackson; Rebel Planet (1986) by Robin Waterfield; Robot Commando (1986) by Steve Jackson; Star Strider (1987) by Luke Sharp, and Sky Lord (1988) by Martin Allen. Some of the later volumes in the series experimented with the format, as in Steve Jackson's Creature of Havoc (1986), which begins with the player unable to control their own actions and unaware of their character's true identity, while a somewhat more adult tone was employed in the associated Sorcery! books beginning with The Shamutanti Hills (1983) by Steve Jackson. Further Fighting Fantasy series authors with entries in this encyclopedia include Peter Darvill-Evans and Jonathan Green.

Many other Gamebook series with similar mechanics were launched on the basis of Fighting Fantasy's considerable international popularity, which eventually waned with the rise of Videogames. Almost 60 Fighting Fantasy books were released before the original publisher, Puffin, ended the line in 1995. However, Wizard Books began republishing the back catalogue in 2002 for a niche audience, and have since commissioned several new titles, of which the first to be released was the Sword and Sorcery Eye of the Dragon (2005) by Ian Livingstone.

Related works: Rebel Planet (1986 Adventure Soft UK, Amstrad, C64, Spectrum) designed by Stefan Ufnowski is a well-regarded illustrated text Adventure based on the Gamebook of the same name. [NT]

see also: Les Edwards.


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