AFF: The Gamebooks That Grew Up


The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were wonderful innovations. They took the basic format for the juvenile Choose Your Own Adventure books and added a neat twist: you actually rolled up a character for use in the story-line through which you wended in the course of the book. The books were mostly set in the same world (Titan) on three different continents (Alansia, Khule and the Old World) and shared a common history. One bit of neatness about the series is that they back-referenced each other so that if you played many of them, you could get a sense of making history; but reading one wasn't necessary for understanding another. The mechanics were simple but fun, and they had quite a loyal following in the 80s.

Naturally, an attempt was made to convert the books from stand-alone adventures into a full-fledged paper and pencils role-playing game. Two such attempts were made: the first one was the self-named book Fighting Fantasy and its supplementary volume, The Riddling Reaver. These books did little beyond lifting the rules from the gamebooks into a single volume and expanding on them slightly for team play; on the whole, they're fairly unimpressive. A second attempt to make the crossover came later on with the release of Dungeoneer: this was a much more effective translation of Fighting Fantasy into RPG format, taking what was there and expanding upon it by tenfold. There are some flaws to this game (such as skill choice, ye cats), but overall it's a worthy addition to the whole Fighting Fantasy line.

It's also quite impossible to find these days. The Fighting Fantasy books took off like a bottle rocket in the UK and Commonwealth (thus, here in Canada), but they never really set the US on fire. Ergo, in Canada the Fighting Fantasy books are rare; in the States, they're bloody near impossible to find, especially as they were released in a somewhat... ah... sanitized version (witness the stunning House of Hell becoming House of Hades in its Amerikan-jin release).

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