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

Somewhere South Of Fang… Fighting Fantasy shirts!!!!

It is hard to believe that three and a half decades have passed since since Jackson and Livingstone unleashed their unholy creation Fighting Fantasy upon a generation hungry for adventure and anarchy, but 2017 is indeed the 35th anniversary of Fighting Fantasy’s birth. Whilst that thought does make me feel old as shit, it seems an appropriate opportunity to reflect upon the legacy of that magical series of books. I’ve spoken with great passion about FF a few times over the years here at Corehammer. It’s an enthusiasm I often find matched by the others I encounter who share that same gateway into the realms of the fantastic and arcane.

One such mortal is Paul Hardacre, the man behind a new T-shirt company called Somewhere South Of Fang . SSOF are working collaboratively with some of  the original FF  artists and printing good quality shirts using classic artwork from the early years of Fighting Fantasy. Naturally my interest was piqued and after a flurry of emails back and forth I decided to shoot Paul some questions and let him tell us all about SSOF. Paul has also graciously offered Corehammer readers a discount voucher for his store that entitles you, dear reader, to a 20% discount at checkout until June 2nd. Simply type the code COREHAMMER into the appropriate box at checkout and save yourself some bunce. Continue reading

Nate’s Hot Dates – Middlehammer & Fighting Fantasy Fest Part Deux

Sometimes the very insular nature of our hobbies can be isolating. I know for many of my peers that is part of the appeal of these pastimes. Finding some solitude away from the unrelenting streams of work, responsibilities and bullshit that gnaw away at our daily lives. Hell, an hour away from the internet and endless Whatsapp group chats and ‘can you just…’ lectures, to disconnect and take pleasure in the simple joy of painting a plastic moon man or dreaming up a D&D scenario. I get it man.

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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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Tales From the Darkwood Part 1 – A Fighting Fantasy Primer

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“The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness—a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild”

Jack London.

Regular readers of this here website will have no doubt noticed that in recent weeks I have been talking A LOT about Fighting Fantasy books. If that has been boring for you, tough luck, because here comes a bunch more. In the anticipation building up to the first ever Fighting Fantasy Fest held in London earlier this month, I got a bit carried away and kind of assumed that EVERYONE reading this blog would at least have an awareness of them, if not share the same love that I have for them. How wrong I was!

I posted a few pictures on Instagram of FF artwork and one of our younger followers quizzed me on just what the hell they were. Similarly, whilst sat in the pub after our Wednesday night D&D session, one of the guys in our group confessed to not knowing what on earth I was talking about when I was filling them in about my little trip to Ealing.

I reluctantly had to acquiese that despite the best efforts of the likes of Jonathan Green and the BBC, there’s still a lot of people out there who have no comprehension of the simple joy of Fighting Fantasy. So guys, let’s talk shall we? Continue reading

Fighting Fantasy Fest 2014 – Your adventure starts here!

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An absolute goldmine

It takes a lot to drag me away from my home in a leafy Yorkshire village these days. The arrival of the first ever dedicated Fighting Fantasy Fest however, was a temptation I simply could not resist. I had been looking forward to this event ever since it was first announced earlier this year. By my own shameful admission I slept on the Kickstarter campaign for Jonathan’s book on the history of Fighting Fantasy, You Are The Hero! but I was delighted that the book had reached its goals and found its audience and was keen to join all the other errant sons and daughters of Allansia in making the pilgrimage to be a part of the celebration.
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You Are The Hero! An interview With Jonathan Green

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With Fighting Fantasy Fest just around the corner (Tickets for the fest are available HERE) and You Are The Hero! gnawing at its heels, I thought now would be an appropriate time to get to know the man who has brought both of these exciting projects to life. Jonathan Green is a familiar name to many of our readers having written broadly in the realms of fantasy and science fiction. He has written SEVEN Fighting Fantasy game books as well as an impressive number of novels and short stories set in the grim 40K and Warhammer backgrounds for Black Library. Jonathans highly regarded Steampunk series, Pax Britannia, continues to draw a rabid fan base and there’s even some Cthulhu short stories on the way, right on!
Big thanks to Jon for taking the time out to answer my questions and everyone look out for You Are The Hero! in the very near future. Continue reading

The Art of Ian Miller: Studies in Transmogrification

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‘Twitch once, Miller and you are king of the heap.

Twitch twice and you’re inconsolably lost.

Carry on and remember the twitch’

Last year as part of our Jagged Visions series, I wrote a gushing account of my personal experiences with Ian Millers work.  Shortly after, Titan Books contacted me to say they’d read the piece and would I be interested in taking a look at a retrospective volume of Ian’s work that they had recently published. Naturally I leapt at the opportunity and given my current obsession with surfing the Fighting Fantasy zeitgeist, it seemed an appropriate time to post this review of a man who’s cover to House Of Hell caused me many sleepless nights all those years ago.

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