Fighting Fantasy is a series of single-player role-playing gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Originally published by Puffin Books, then by Wizard Books who took over the license in 2002, and now by Scholastic Books who took up the licence in 2017. Although not the first books to use this format, Fighting Fantasy popularised the format and spawned dozens of imitators.
British writers Steve Jackson (not to be confused with the US-based game designer of the same name) and Ian Livingstone, co-founders of Games Workshop, authored the first seven books in the series, after which point the writing stable was expanded.
The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were similar to other interactive gamebooks that were being published at the time — most notably the Choose Your Own Adventure series – in that the reader takes control of the story's protagonist, making many choices over the course of the story and turning to different pages in order to learn the outcome of their decisions. The Fighting Fantasy series distinguished itself by the use of a dice system to resolve combat and other situations, not unlike that used in Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games, though far simpler.
The action in a Fighting Fantasy gamebook is split into small sections, ranging from a paragraph to a page, at the end of each of which the character usually must make a choice or roll a die. Each page features several of these sections, each headed with its number in bold. Where the page number would appear in an ordinary book, a Fighting Fantasy book gives the range of sections appearing on that page, much as some dictionaries do for the words listed on a page. Most of the early books in the series had 400 of these sections, with the optimal ending being number 400. Some later books had more than 400 sections (others less than 400), and some concealed the optimal ending somewhere in the middle of the book to make it harder for the reader to find.
With the notable exception of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! miniseries, all entries in the series are stand-alone and do not assume any prior knowledge on the part of the player. That said, many of them take place in a single world known as Titan, and the three books which deal with the wizard Zagor, (namely The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Return to Firetop Mountain and Legend of Zagor), are undoubtedly more rewarding if played in sequence, as are the books Deathtrap Dungeon, Trial of Champions and Armies of Death.
- For a list of linked gamebooks, see Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks Sub-Series
Typically, a Fighting Fantasy gamebook follows the "collect w, x and y to reach z" approach. This means that the player can only reach the end of the book by following the correct path and finding all the items (keys, gems, rings or even pieces of information) that let him or her proceed to the final confrontation. Later books sometimes varied this formula, allowing multiple routes to success.
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy media from Puffin, see Fighting Fantasy Collection - Puffin Books
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks from Puffin, see Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks (Puffin)
In 1980, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, co-founders of Games Workshop, decided to capitalise on the spreading enthusiasm for Dungeons & Dragons by creating a series of single-player gamebooks. Their first submission, The Magic Quest, was a short adventure intended to demonstrate the style of game that they sought to create. The Magic Quest took over a year to be accepted by Penguin Books, at which point the two creators devoted a further six months to expanding and improving upon their original design, resulting in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy gamebook. After several rewrites, the book was accepted and published in 1982 under Penguin's children's imprint, Puffin Books.
Following the success of the first book, Jackson and Livingstone began to produce further gamebooks, writing solo in order to make better use of their time. In 1983, Jackson produced the second Fighting Fantasy adventure, The Citadel of Chaos, and Livingstone the third, titled The Forest of Doom. Jackson then produced the first book in the series with a science-fiction setting, Starship Traveller, and Livingstone the first with an urban setting, City of Thieves, as well as Deathtrap Dungeon and Island of the Lizard King.
In 1984, the decision was made to expand the number of writers working on the project, and the second Steve Jackson (from this point on referred to as "Steve Jackson (2)") was added to the roster with Scorpion Swamp, published that year. From that point on, many more authors began to contribute to the series, including Andrew Chapman (Space Assassin, 1985), Robin Waterfield (Rebel Planet, 1985 and creative editor for the range from book #3 till about book #42), Peter Darvill-Evans (Beneath Nightmare Castle, 1987), Luke Sharp (Star Strider, 1987) and Marc Gascoigne (Battleblade Warrior, 1988 and the consulting editor who took over from Waterfield).
The series enjoyed good sales all through the eighties, but experienced the same difficulties in the early nineties as the rest of the role-playing industry, brought on primarily by the increasing dominance of video games. The series was slated to conclude with book 50, Return to Firetop Mountain (Livingstone, 1992), but this book was unexpectedly successful, experiencing better sales than any recent gamebook and prompting an increase in demand for the Fighting Fantasy back catalogue. As a result, nine further books were written through to Curse of the Mummy (Jonathan Green, 1995).
- For more information on the end of the series, see Cancellation of Puffin Range
- For details on books under consideration at the time the range ended, see Unpublished Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy media from Wizard, see Fighting Fantasy Collection - Wizard Books
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks from Wizard, see Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks (Wizard)
In 2002, Wizard Books bought the rights to the Fighting Fantasy series and has put many of the original titles back into print, making the controversial decision to change the order of the books in order to fit their reduced line-up (initially only the gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were published) and to incorporate the Sorcery! miniseries into the core series. The original cover art has also been replaced. The Wizard editions have also been criticized for the extensive errors in the rule section of the reprints. Copying and pasting from Firetop Mountain has introduced errors into the rules, in most cases affecting the rules for Provisions and Potions. These problems have continued in the more recent re-releases as number 24, Talisman of Death, also has these errors.
2006 saw the publication of Talisman of Death and Sword of the Samurai, both written by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith. This was the first time Wizard Books had reprinted works by "secondary" authors from the original range.
2007 saw the release of the third new title in as many years, Howl of the Werewolf by Jonathan Green, alongside two of his titles from the original run (Curse of the Mummy and Spellbreaker). Both have been edited to make them more playable, with skill scores and other minor aspects changed. That same year Fighting Fantasy celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. To commemorate the event, Wizard Books published a new twenty-fifth anniversary special edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (in August) that used the original wrap-around cover image and contained extra material.
The range was planned to continue in 2008 with a further titles, although nothing was eventually published.
In March 2009 a new title appeared on Amazon.com scheduled for publication in September and titled Stormslayer. This new title accompanied a re-branding of the range with a new cover layout and numbering of the books, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos and Deathtrap Dungeon being reissued alongside the new title. A second new title was published in April 2010 alongside seven further reprinted titles, and a further four reprints were issued in 2011. Ian Livingstone announced via his Twitter account that he was writing a new adventure for the 30th anniversary of the range in 2012, which became Blood of the Zombies.
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy media from Scholastic, see Fighting Fantasy Collection - Scholastic Books
- For a list of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks from Scholastic, see Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks (Scholastic)
In late 2016 Ian Livingstone announced (via Twitter again) that he was writing a new book, this time set in Allansia, to mark the 35th anniversary in 2017. In March 2017 it was confirmed that the new book, announced as The Port of Peril, would be published in August 2017 alongside several reprints published by Scholastic.
The majority of the Fighting Fantasy books are set in the heroic fantasy world of Titan – 46 of the 59 Puffin books take place there, as does the Sorcery! spin-off. Like many fantasy settings, Titan corresponds roughly to medieval Europe, with the addition of magic, monsters and several sentient non-human races. Titan consists of three continents: the one most commonly used in the series is Allansia, followed by the Old World and then Khul. The scattered and somewhat incoherent information gleaned about the world of Titan from the gamebooks is consolidated and greatly supplemented by a reader's guide titled simply Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World (Gascoigne, Jackson & Livingstone, 1986).
Two other similar worlds have featured in Fighting Fantasy books: Amarillia in Legend of Zagor and Orb in Talisman of Death. In addition to these, a small minority of Fighting Fantasy books employ a science fiction setting. It is never specified whether or not these books are intended to be set in the same world, but the lack of consistency between them or mention of common locations seems to indicate that they are not. The science fiction books not set on Earth, in order of publication, are Starship Traveller (Jackson, 1983), Space Assassin (Chapman, 1985), The Rings of Kether (Chapman, 1985), Rebel Planet, (Waterfield, 1985), Robot Commando (Jackson (2), 1985), and Sky Lord (Martin Allen, 1988).
Spectral Stalkers uniquely has both Titan and non-Titan settings, with one of the latter having a distinctly science fiction feel. The other remaining books of the series have all utilised a modern or futuristic Earth setting, but as with the space-based books there is no consistency between them.
Although not part of the main series of gamebooks, the world of the Flat Lands first appeared in the mini adventure The Floating City in Warlock magazine in 1986. Since then two other mini adventures have also been set there.
- For a more detailed look at the Fighting Fantasy game system, see Game System
Cover Format GuideEdit
- For a more detailed look at the various cover formats, see Puffin Book Cover Formats
- For a more detailed look at the various cover formats, see Wizard Book Cover Formats
| US Editions|
- For a more detailed look at the series artwork, see Series Artwork
All Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are illustrated and most of the art is considered by fans to be of very high quality, especially in comparison to other role-playing products of the time. The cover artwork of the original series are also considered to have played a major role in the original popularity of the series; Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone reflected this belief by personally signing off on every cover throughout the entire series.
All Fighting Fantasy books feature two forms of interior illustration; full-page pieces which depict the action taking place in one of the sections on the opposing page and smaller, generic pieces scattered at random throughout the book, often serving as breaks or space fillers between sections. The full-page illustrations are generally used for the most dramatic or spectacular sections of the story, while the generic images usually depict items such as skulls, swords, monsters and treasure. The two sets of illustrations are always drawn by the same artist.
Many artists contributed multiple illustrations to the series: Les Edwards and Terry Oakes created eleven and twelve covers, respectively; Russ Nicholson drew the interior illustrations for thirteen books, and Leo Hartas provided the maps included in eighteen books.
Several additional books were published to supplement the core series.
- For more information, see Sorcery!
The most successful of which was Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series, which was published in from 1983 to 1985 and consists of The Shamutanti Hills, Kharé - Cityport of Traps, The Seven Serpents and The Crown of Kings. Billed as "Fighting Fantasy for adults", it was the longest and most complex story published in the series and the only one to run over multiple volumes.
- For more information, see Clash of the Princes
Clash of the Princes was a pair of books designed to be played or read by two players simultaneously as opponents (although either book could also be read on its own). In the two-player game each of the readers would from time to time be instructed by the book to make a note on a shared piece of paper as they made decisions, which could influence what happened to the other player as his book instructed him to respond accordingly.
- For more information, see The Role-Playing Game Books
In 1984 Jackson produced a guide to multi-player role-playing using the Fighting Fantasy system and world, a volume simply titled Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-Playing Game. In 1985 a complete Fighting Fantasy bestiary was released, Out of the Pit (by Gascoigne, though credited to Livingstone & Jackson), and in 1986 it was followed by an adventure for the multi-player system, The Riddling Reaver as well as a then-complete encyclopaedia of the Fighting Fantasy world, entitled Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World.
- For more information, see Advanced Fighting Fantasy
In 1989 a second Fighting Fantasy multi-player system was released, referred to as Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Three books were produced using this system: Dungeoneer, Blacksand! and Allansia, all by Gascoigne and Pete Tamlyn; Out of the Pit and Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World were subsumed into the range as sourcebooks and reissued in reformatted, companion editions.
- For more information, see Fighting Fantasy Novels
Seven Fighting Fantasy novels have also been published. These began with three standalone books, titled The Trolltooth Wars (Jackson, 1989), Demonstealer (Gascoigne, 1991) and Shadowmaster (Livingstone & Gascoigne, 1992). In 1993 Livingstone and Sargent began a four volume series entitled The Zagor Chronicles, reprising the popular villain of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and its sequels.
Additionally, a range of "junior" adventures under the banner of the Adventures of Goldhawk were published.
Other Fighting Fantasy spin-offs have include an oversized poster book, The Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook (a diary with articles, trivia and a gamebook spread across the days), and a boxed set of dice and character sheets. Games Workshop's Citadel Miniatures produced a small range of 54mm plastic warriors. The associated magazine Warlock first produced by Puffin Books and later Games Workshop, ran for 13 issues. It featured a miniature gamebook adventure in every issue, as well as new monsters, rules, reviews and comic strips. Editors were variously Livingstone, Steve Williams and Gascoigne. Strangely, the magazine was licensed for a Japanese edition, which continued with original material from issue 14 onwards and continues to publish to this day.
- For appearances of Fighting Fantasy in other media forms, see Other Media
The Fighting Fantasy series popularised the use of a dice mechanic in gamebooks, a random element which contributed hugely to the suspense and the enjoyment of the play experience. Many series would attempt to emulate the Fighting Fantasy style, with varying degrees of success: Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series enjoyed success nearly equal to that of Fighting Fantasy. Other series included GrailQuest, Fabled Lands and Way of the Tiger. The phrase "Fighting Fantasy" is sometimes used to refer to all single-player role-playing gamebooks, most notably in item descriptions on eBay, where such gamebooks are regularly sold. Fighting Fantasy and other gamebooks are seen as a primer or gateway to the RPG hobby for younger enthusiasts.
Despite common claims to the contrary, Fighting Fantasy was not the very first series of gamebooks. The gamebook format used in Fighting Fantasy was previously seen in a series of solitaire adventures released for the Tunnels and Trolls role-playing game, the first of which was Buffalo Castle.
- For more information, see Fighting Fantasy Fandom
- For more information on Fighting Fantasy-orientated fan sites, see Fighting Fantasy on the Web
- See also, Fighting Fantazine
- See also, Fan Written Fighting Fantasy
- See also, Fan Written Advanced Fighting Fantasy
In many respects it can be argued that Fighting Fantasy fandom did not achieve any sense of self till the advent of the internet, although the existence of the Fighting Fantasy-dedicated magazine Warlock in the mid-1980s did allow for some sense of fledgling identity. At that point in time there were many calls for a "Fighting Fantasy Club", although Puffin never delivered on this and Games Workshop were more keen on broadening it into a RPG club rather than one narrowly focussed on the gamebooks.
The explosion of internet use in the mid-to-late 1990s allowed for the tentative formation of an online fandom, coming into focus as the range came to an end at Puffin in 1995. The initial peak of this early online interest was around 1999/2000 (see the above link on fan websites) before the relaunch of the range in 2002. The development of the Rebuilding Titan (and then Titan Rebuilding) message-boards led to the creation of the Titannica wikia in 2007 and the fanzine Fighting Fantazine in 2009.
Selected Other Major Gamebook SeriesEdit
- Choose Your Own Adventure
- Legends of Skyfall
- Lone Wolf
- The Way of the Tiger
- Wizards, Warriors, & You
Selected Other External LinksEdit
- Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks - The official Fighting Fantasy website
- Icon Books - Website of the current publisher Wizard Books
- Fighting Fantasy Reviews Archive Thingy
- Fighting Fantasy Collector - An extensive personal collection of all Fighting Fantasy books and related collectables
- Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - Yahoo! group dedicated to the series
- Internet Archive record of Fightingfantasy.com - Record of one of the major amateur sites, before the domain passed to Wizard Books
- Fighting Fantasy - An Illustrated Bibliography - A fully illustrated guide to the Fighting Fantasy series
- ↑ Three of the books (Scorpion Swamp in 1984 and Demons of the Deep and Robot Commando in 1986) were written by the other Steve Jackson (2), the US-based founder and owner of Steve Jackson Games). This has led many gamers to mistakenly believe that they are the same person. 
- ↑ Interview with Stephen Hand at the Internet Archive record of Advancedfightingfantasy.com - "Robin Waterfield actually left early in my time writing for them."
- ↑ Interview with Jonathan Green at the Internet Archive record of Advancedfightingfantasy.com
- ↑ Interestingly, the list of forthcoming books in the "Special Edition" of House of Hell suggests this wasn't originally the plan with the Sorcery! titles listed separately and book #9~13 filled by those that became #10, 12, 14, 16, and 17.
- ↑ Stormslayer and Fighting Fantasy Relaunch
- ↑ Copy of advert at Gamebooks.org
- ↑ Buffalo Castle at Gamebooks.org