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.

The first and most important attribute was SKILL. Skill was the measure of your characters heroic abilities such as fighting, climbing, sneaking around and so on. As such, it was the attribute most commonly called upon to be tested. To determine your characters Skill score the player had to roll a dice and add 6 to the result. So 12 was the best you could hope for with 7 being the shittiest (and most likely to be re-rolled).

Your STAMINA was decided by rolling two six sided dice and adding 12 to the result.The Stamina figure reflected the physical condition of your character, their health and wellbeing. This figure was important and the one that was most likely to fluctuate throughout the course of the game as you encountered monsters, traps, poisons and your endurance was challenged etc.

The third (and conventionally final) attribute to roll up was your LUCK score and determined in the same manner as skill, of one D6 plus 6. Why Luck? Because this is a fantasy world fool! The agents of the trickster god walk the earth amongst humanity, working their schemes to maintain the balance in the eternal battle between good and evil. Luck is an aspect of that balance, the curveball that keeps things interesting. Sometimes, out of nowhere you would be called upon to test your LUCK in the game. If the dice were favoured you then maybe you’d bag some treasure or swerve a particularly formidable monster. But if the fates frowned upon you? Goodnight sweet prince….

Luck was always my favourite test simply because it seemed more fantastical and fickle than simply relying upon trite physical virtues like brawn or fighting ability. From an early age I had a deep fascination for trickster myths and archetypes. From Enid Blyton’s Brer Rabbit and Loki of the Edda’s to Reynard the fox and Shakespeare’s Puck, agents of chaos and their  mischievous/disastrous involvement in the affairs of man and the fragile balance between good and evil obviously resonated with me on some impish level. The thrill of rolling dice and pushing my luck has never grown dull for me. I love to gamble and I guess it should come as no surprise that I have ALWAYS played Rogue’s in D&D/Pathfinder etc. Some caps just fit I suppose.

In later years I made full use of the school photocopier to print off adventure sheets as the constant erasing of statistics was wearing my book pages worryingly thin, but early in my dungeoneering career I can assure you that no such fucks were given.

photoSo with your statistics rolled, a freshly sharpened black & yellow Stadetler gripped in your clammy paw, a couple of dice pinched from the family Monopoly box and only a glass of Chocolate Nesquik and a Blue Riband for sustenance, you were ready to face down whatever doom awaited beyond the first page….

And that is where I am going to leave it. I could guide you through what come’s next,  map the adventure stage by stage but I thought it would be a far more interesting premise to encourage a new reader to share their thoughts on the actual play through.

I recently loaned my main man David Ager my copy of Warlock Of Firetop Mountain. He’s a few years younger than me and the FF phenomenon had long since passed by the time he was of an age to get involved. However Dave’s got an interest in the roots of GW and in giving the FF experience a whirl so he is going to pick up this thread where I left off and share his thoughts once he gets done with his first play through of Warlock. I thought it might be interesting to examine the book through an unbiased contemporary lens rather than have to slog  through yet more of my misty eyed nostalgia. That and I am wicked lazy at the moment. After that interlude we shall return and explore the broader world of Titan and its expanded universe in more detail in Part 4. Until then here’s Helmet being heavy as all fuck.


5 thoughts on “Tales From The Darkwood Part 2 – Fates Messenger

  1. Wow I feel old. Just found half a dozen Steve Jackson/Ian Livingstone books I probably haven’t even opened in 25+ years.

    • Time certainly flies doesn’t it? I have been revisiting the FF series a lot lately and even when regarded with cynical adult eyes they still stand up to scrutiny. Somebits are obviously a bit bit naff but as tastemakers and gateways they were second to none back then!

  2. Digging these FF reviews dude! I’m currently trying to read and review my way through the series – check out my blog if you have time =)

    Oh and I agree with RJM above – that Hamilton ESP Custom is the shizz =D


    • Cheers for visiting Ace and thanks for your comment! I just had a peek at your blog and it seems we are cut from similar cloth in regards to the 80’s leaving a massive dent on our cultural inclinations! Looking forward to having a good read through your blog at lunch time!

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