Fighting Fantasy

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Fighting Fantasy
Warlock 25th.jpg
The 25th anniversary edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, originally published in 1982 and the first in the Fighting Fantasy series.
Designer(s) Ian Livingstone, Steve Jackson
Publisher(s) Puffin, Wizard Books
Publication date 1982
Genre(s) Fantasy
System(s) Gamebook

Fighting Fantasy is a series of single-player role-playing gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. The first volume in the series was published by Puffin in 1982, with the rights to the series eventually being purchased by Wizard Books in 2002. The series distinguished itself by mixing Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling with a dice-based role-playing element, the caption on many of the covers claiming each title was an adventure "in which YOU are the hero!" The majority of the titles followed a fantasy theme, although science fiction, post-apocalyptic, superhero, and modern horror gamebooks were also published. The popularity of the series led to the creation of merchandise such as action figures, board games, role-playing game systems, magazines, novels, and video games.


The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were created by 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, and provide an original twist on traditional fiction in that the reader takes control of the story's protagonist, being required to make choices that will affect the outcome.

The text of a Fighting Fantasy gamebook never progresses in a linear fashion, but rather is divided into a series of numbered sections (usually 400, though a few are shorter or longer). Beginning at the first section, the reader typically must pick one of a series of options provided by the text, each with a non-sequential numbered section (e.g. turning from Section 1 directly to either Section 83 or Section 180) which in turn provides an outcome for the option chosen. The story continues in this fashion, the player continuing to pick other numbered sections, until their character is stopped by the story or killed in combat, or completes the quest. The books also feature a system whereby the protagonist is randomly assigned scores in three statistics (named Skill, Stamina, and Luck) which, in conjunction with the player rolling a six-sided die, are used to resolve skill challenges and the combat sections. Some titles use additional statistics or conflict resolution mechanics. A typical Fighting Fantasy gamebook tasks players with completing a quest, with players then making choices in an attempt to successfully finish the adventure. A successful play usually ends with the player reaching the final numbered section of the book. In some cases this can only be achieved by obtaining various story items (e.g. gems in Deathtrap Dungeon);[1] many of the titles only feature one path to the solution.

There were 59 books in the original series, beginning with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, 1982) and concluding with Curse of the Mummy (Jonathan Green, 1995). Jackson also wrote a self-contained four-part series titled Sorcery! (1983-1985). Andrew Chapman and Martin Allen also wrote a two-book, two-player adventure titled Clash of the Princes (1986). There were also several supplemental books produced that provided more information about the Fighting Fantasy universe, including a comprehensive bestiary of monsters and a sample adventure. Wizard Books acquired the rights to the Fighting Fantasy series in 2002, and have since published reprints of older titles and several new titles in a revised order.

The majority of the Fighting Fantasy titles are set in the fictional medieval world of Titan, which consists of three giant continents.[2] Other titles are set in fantasy, horror, modern day, and sci-fi environments.

All Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are illustrated, including full-page pieces and smaller, generic images scattered at random throughout the book, often serving as breaks or space fillers between sections. Regular contributors included Les Edwards, Terry Oakes, Russ Nicholson, Leo Hartas, Ian Miller, John Blanche, Martin McKenna, and Iain McCaig.

Publication history[edit]

In 1980, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone attended a Games Day, and after meeting with a Penguin editor decided to create a series of single-player gamebooks.[3] Their first submission, The Magic Quest, was a short adventure intended to demonstrate the style of game. The Magic Quest was eventually accepted by Penguin Books, although the authors devoted a further six months to expanding and improving upon their original concept.

Puffin Books (1982–1995)[edit]

The end result was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and after several rewrites, the book was accepted and published in 1982 under Penguin's children's imprint, Puffin Books. Following the success of this title,[4] Jackson and Livingstone began writing individually to create additional Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. In 1983, The Citadel of Chaos and The Forest of Doom were published, by Jackson and Livingstone respectively. Four more titles followed: Starship Traveller (the first title with a science fiction setting), City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon and Island of the Lizard King. In 1984, a decision was made to hire more writers to continue the series: Steve Jackson (the U.S.-based founder and owner of Steve Jackson Games), Andrew Chapman, Carl Sargent (aka Keith Martin), Marc Gascoigne, and Peter Darvill-Evans. Jackson and Livingstone, however, continued to be involved and approved all cover and internal illustrations within the UK.[5] Covers were rarely consistent and due to printing errors[6] and different markets[5] many different versions exist.[7][8] The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks published in the US by Dell/Laurel Leaf featured a new cover design and illustrations by Richard Corben.[9]

Jackson wrote a self-contained four-part series titled Sorcery! (1983-1985), which combined the use of combat and sorcery. The books also featured dice images at the bottom of each page, making it possible for the player to randomly "flick" through the pages for the equivalent of a dice roll. The Fighting Fantasy titles published by Wizard Books use the same device.

Although the Fighting Fantasy titles had successful sales[4][10] the increasing dominance of video games in the 1990s caused a gradual decline. The series was scheduled to conclude with Return to Firetop Mountain (book 50, Livingstone, 1992), but due to strong sales of that volume, ten more books were scheduled. Nine were published, the series ending with Curse of the Mummy (1995). Bloodbones, the tenth scheduled title (meant to have been book 60 in the series) was cancelled, but was eventually published by Wizard Books as part of their later reprinting efforts.

Wizard Books Series 1 (2002–2007)[edit]

In 2002, Wizard Books acquired the rights to the Fighting Fantasy series and reprinted many of the original titles in a revised order (initially only the gamebooks actually written by Jackson and/or Livingstone were published), starting with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. They also incorporated the Sorcery! miniseries, as books 9, 11, 13, and 15.[11] An all-new title, Eye of the Dragon (by Ian Livingstone) was released in 2005, followed by Bloodbones in 2006 and Howl of the Werewolf in 2007. This series used a new logo, the rationale being that the old covers did not suit the modern market.[12]

2007 also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Fighting Fantasy, and to commemorate the event Wizard Books published a special hardcover edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain that used the original 1982 cover image and contained extra material such as the dungeon solution and a commentary on Fighting Fantasy by Livingstone. This series concluded that same year, ending with 29 books.

Wizard Books Series 2 (2009–2012)[edit]

Wizard Books then began again with a new series of reprints in 2009, again featuring a different cover art style, and again starting with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Three other original titles were added during this run,[13] including Blood of the Zombies by Ian Livingstone to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary in 2012.[14] To date this series is 17 books long, although Blood of the Zombies is unnumbered and packaged differently than the rest; it was the last volume released to date.

35th Anniversary book (2017)[edit]

Ian Livingstone announced in December 2016 that he is writing a new Fighting Fantasy book. He teased it on Twitter on the sixth,[15] confirming it first on December 14[16] and again on Twitter on the 27th.[17] The book is set to be published in August 2017 in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the series.

Other media[edit]

Warlock magazine (first published by Puffin Books and later Games Workshop) provided additional information on the Fighting Fantasy universe, and each issue featured a gamebook, new rules, monsters, reviews and comic strips. It was published from 1983-1986 and ran for 13 issues.

In 1984, Steve Jackson published a roleplaying game, Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game. A second game was published in 1989: Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF). AFF was re-released as a new and further expanded edition by Arion Games in 2011.

In 1985, Steve Jackson wrote a picture gamebook with the title Tasks of Tantalon, in which the player was required to solve a series of puzzles which were presented as large, full colour pictures containing hidden clues to be located and assembled.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (1986) and Legend of Zagor (1993) were released as board games by Games Workshop and Parker Brothers respectively.

In 1992, the Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook (a diary with articles, trivia and a gamebook) complete with a boxed set of dice and character sheets was published.

Several of the Fighting Fantasy titles have been released as video games, including seven Fighting Fantasy titles (The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, The Citadel of Chaos, The Forest of Doom, Temple of Terror, Seas of Blood, Appointment with F.E.A.R. and Rebel Planet) for the Commodore 64, Amstrad, BBC, and Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1984) and Deathtrap Dungeon for the PC and PlayStation by Eidos Interactive (1998). On August 18, 2011 an adaption of Talisman of Death was released by UK developer Laughing Jackal for the PlayStation Minis platform (playable on the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3).[18] On December 5, 2006, it was announced that Jackson and Livingstone were planning to release a new series of video games based on Fighting Fantasy for Nintendo DS and Sony's PSP.[19] The first of these, Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, was released for the DS in the United States on November 25, 2009, and for the Apple iPhone and iPod in early January 2010.

In 2010, Super Team Film Prods secured the rights to House of Hell, with the intention to make a motion picture based on the title.[20]

On February 10, 2011 an Amazon Kindle edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was launched by UK developer Worldweaver Ltd, for the US market.[21] Warlock and four other gamebooks were released on iOS by Big Blue Bubble, but retracted from the app store in 2012 when they lost the licence.[22] Australian game developers Tin Man Games have since published several iOS and Android versions of Fighting Fantasy books, including Blood of the Zombies, House of Hell, Forest of Doom, Island of the Lizard King and Starship Traveller,[23] and an iOS version of the first part of the Sorcery! series was released by Bright Al Ltd in 2010.[24]

Cambridge-based studio Inkle released another interactive version of The Shamutanti Hills for iOS in May 2013.[25] and has since gone on to release all four parts of Sorcery! on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "FF3: Deathtrap Dungeon". Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  2. ^ "Titan". 2005-09-01. Archived from the original on September 1, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  3. ^ "Fighting Fantasy FAQ". 2005-11-27. Archived from the original on November 27, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  4. ^ a b "Fighting Fantasy FAQ". 2005-11-27. Archived from the original on November 27, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  5. ^ a b "Fighting Fantasy FAQ". 2005-11-27. Archived from the original on November 27, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  6. ^ "Fighting Fantasy FAQ on the Internet Archive record of the old site". Archived from the original on 2005-11-27. 
  7. ^ "Fighting Fantasy FAQ on the Internet Archive record of the old site". Archived from the original on 2005-11-27. 
  8. ^ "One". Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  9. ^ "Fighting Fantasy on". 
  10. ^ "created". 2005-11-27. Archived from the original on November 27, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  11. ^ "Wizard Covers". Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  12. ^ "Interview with Simon Flynn on the official Fighting Fantasy website". 
  13. ^ "Gamebooks". Fighting Fantasy. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  14. ^ "Blood of the Zombies". Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death | Games". Laughing Jackal. Retrieved 2011-12-12. 
  19. ^ "Fighting Fantasy gamebooks to come to handhelds // News". Retrieved 2009-12-23. 
  20. ^ Lodderhose, Riana (27 April 2010). "Super Team buys 'House of Hell' rights". Variety. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf gamebooks at Worldweaver Ltd.". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  22. ^ "'Fighting Fantasy' Series Delisting August 14th". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  23. ^ "Books". Tin Man Games. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  24. ^ Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! The Shamutanti Hills goes live
  25. ^ Inkle Studios project page

External links[edit]