Return to Blacksand…..Port Of Peril – Ian Livingstone (Scholastic)

I make no secret of my deep and abiding love for Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy books. In the canon of things that make my brain cauldron bubble, FF 1-10 sit prominently alongside the first three Integrity records, Pushead artwork and every issue of 2000AD published between 1982-1993. Scholastic Publishing has recently resurrected the franchise, reissuing the first half a dozen books of the Puffin run and commissioning some new titles. Port of Peril authored by returning OG Ian Livingstone is the first of those new adventures.

To say that Scholastics stewardship of the series has been greeted with a mixed response from the FF fan community is a gross understatement. People tend to get very precious about the sacred cows of their youth, particularly those of us in our mid thirties- late forties who grew up with FF the first go round and I sit right in the middle of that particular demographic. Sure I can get as sensitive and defensive about FF as the next guy but I try not to act entitled and can accept that life moves on, capitalism is a thing and maybe other generations should have the opportunity to sample the things that stirred my own imagination as a child? Continue reading

Silent Wolf of Suburbia – Personal reflections on Lone Wolf

Tenacious and gentlemanly, even when brought low by chronic coronary artery disease, my metalworker father was going to die. Or at least that’s what 11-year-old me thought. A number of heart attacks and ongoing angina had rendered dad unfit to continue the life of heat, flames and particulate-heavy fumes, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, that he’d known during the course of his decades as an A-grade welder and boiler maker. Soon enough I was bedside in the intensive care unit of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospital, not far from our modest weatherboard home in Salisbury East, listening to talk of coronary artery bypass surgery and praying that, whatever the procedure constituted, it would somehow free dad of his wretched state and restore him to his reassuringly stoic best. Continue reading

Tales From The Darkwood part 3: Until the light takes us

Out_of_the_Pit_LargeIn the two PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS of this very rudimentary primer I have discussed Fighting Fantasy books, the excitement, immersion and joy they inspired in a generation of readers and the creative doors they opened for many of us. Less frequently discussed amongst the casual fan however, is the expansion beyond the core gamebooks that followed. The fantasy world of Titan that was the shared location (though not always) for the majority of the books, was explored and expanded upon by a number of other artists, writers and developers like Marc Gascoigne, Pete Tamlyn and the other Steve Jackson alongside many many others.

Out Of The Pit may sound like the title of an early 25 Ta Life song, but the FF bestiary appeared in 1985. Out Of The Pit was an extension of the popular regular article of the same name that appeared in Warlock magazine, and was a veritable necronomicon of the grotesque and ghoulish, brimming over with every monster, villain and shitehawk ever to stalk the pages of the FF universe! Just look at that beautiful Chris Achilleos cover. I remember being particularly captivated by the depiction of the Dark Elves, a fascination that only grew when Titan was published shortly after and the cruel nocturnal culture of that ruthless race was explored in more visceral detail. Needless to say my first Warhammer army was always going to be Dark Elves.
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Tales From The Darkwood Part 2 – Fates Messenger

WoFM-original-coverIn the previous installment of this primer HERE I introduced the simple premise of Fighting Fantasy. In a nutshell Fighting Fantasy could be described as self contained, simplified, single player D&D, staged for the most part (though not exclusively) in the setting of Titan. It would be fair to say that Titan definitely shared a lot of its aesthetic with what would become the Warhmmer world. Indeed for many young gamers FF provided a gateway into the more convoluted spheres of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, The Forgotten Realms, Orb and so on but we shall discuss that more in a future installment.

At the front of every Fighting Fantasy book was the Adventure Sheet. This sheet was used to document your characters progress through the adventure. It was the place where you could record the treasure, equipment and magical items you obtained along the way, document your encounters with monsters and of course keep track of the all important Skill, Stamina and Luck scores. These three statistics were the hinge upon which the progress or failure of your adventure swung. If you played by the rules, these figures were determined randomly by the dice at the start of the adventure if you were a cheating swine then you naturally maxed out with a 12/24/12 set up.
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