Skip

You Are The Hero!
August 16, 2013 8:15 AM   Subscribe

"I think the answer is 100 per cent of people cheated! That's what everyone tells us. Do we mind? No." A history of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy game books.
posted by dng (49 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, why Creature of Havoc is the best Fighting Fantasy book of all (even if it was all down to a printing error).
posted by dng at 8:26 AM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had Crown of Kings as a kid and loved it. I liked how they solved the problem of dice-- at the bottom of each page was a roll of two dice. When it was time to make a roll, you just flipped quickly opened to a random page.

Even with cheating, I never won. There were hundreds of decision points and if you didn't get the exact path through correctly, you were dead. And, like Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, correctly choosing the right path was largely a matter of luck.
posted by justkevin at 8:31 AM on August 16, 2013


Loved these books as a kid. I am proud of my Sorcery song.


Tin Man games is doing similar stuff along with FFproject.
posted by josher71 at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2013


Thank you for this.
posted by Jairus at 8:39 AM on August 16, 2013


I was obsessed with these books when I was a kid. Dungeoneer blew my mind and resulted in me and two friends inventing a fully fleshed out set of role playing and miniatures rules so that we could run our own fantasy campaigns using Lego (I still hold that Lego makes the ultimate role playing miniatures and terrain). We were 12.
posted by 256 at 8:40 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


why Creature of Havoc is the best Fighting Fantasy book of all

Hilariously (to me anyway), before it dawned on me that CYOA stood for Choose Your Own Adventure, I was mentally expanding it to Cover Your Own Ass. I was confused.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:41 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great books. I managed to scare myself silly reading House of Hell under the covers by torchlight (and now I see it's available for iOS).
posted by inire at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2013


Even with cheating, I never won

I can't stand suspense, so whenever I got a Sorcery! gamebook, I would quickly turn to the last entry to find out how it all ends. Turns out you DID win! So maybe you are thinking of a different book???
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:42 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Work is kinda crazy at the moment so I'm just going to link to this MeTa comment with resources for people who want to play FF games on different mediums.

Also the Sorcery! iOS port is amazing. Just really beautiful in every way.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm amused that when the workload became overwhelming Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone hired a third guy also named Steve Jackson. That's one way to ghostwrite.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:51 AM on August 16, 2013


I never did get into the GURPS thing but I was a wizard and builder on the original SJG Metaverse MOO. Almost all of my work was online but several times I visited their offices. There was seemingly always a crowd around a table play-testing some new game. I didn't get paid (except in zormids) but they did give me a free shell account on io.com for almost a decade, far beyond the life of the poor MOO. If there are any old Metaversers here I was quiver, the blue gelatinous cube that had escaped from a crashed nethack game...
posted by jim in austin at 8:53 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's less of a favourite, more of a thumb stuck in the page so I can turn back to it.
posted by Artw at 8:57 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


GURPS

This is actually the OTHER Steve Jackson, influential game designer.
posted by Artw at 8:58 AM on August 16, 2013


Which one gets the portmanteauy name like on Fringe?
posted by griphus at 9:02 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even to this day, many Fighting Fantasy readers aren't aware that not one but two Steve Jacksons worked on the franchise - the second being the Texas-based founder of Steve Jackson Games.

Ah, I was completely unaware. My mistake...
posted by jim in austin at 9:04 AM on August 16, 2013


I love the whole idea of interactive fiction. I was a hardcore Choose Your Own Adventure reader as a kid, and eventually graduated to various versions of IF books. Unfortunately, series like the Lone Wolf books or Fighting Fantasy were in my case, often appealing because they had the trappings of a tabletop role-playing game without the need to gather together 3-5 friends in order to play. Sad to say, but in my case, growing up in a rural area and not having tons of friends, the idea of a 1-player RPG was terrifically liberating.

It's only been in my adult life that the idea of Interactive Fiction as a really cool medium resurfaced. I wrote a blog post about Choose Your Own Adventure and the invention of gamebooks a while back, and more recently, I've become fascinated with the natural language programming of Inform 7 (and it's IDE-like interface for creation).

I never read it back in the day, but the Sorcery! iOS port looks really cool, and I'll probably check it out. But just as cool, from a content-creation perspective, is that they make the tool they used to create it available to make your own stuff.

It'd be interesting to see if more ubiquitous reading technology like tablets and Kindles fosters a resurgence in interest in Interactive Fiction. Unfortunately, it seems like it's always been something that everyone thinks is going to become a big thing, but never actually does.
posted by Eldritch at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair Steve Jackson (uk) doesn't have quite the same reach outside of home territory (80s Britain) - dare to confront him there at your peril!
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I did cheat when I played/read the Lone Wolf books. Instead of dice, there was a random number grid on the last page. You were supposed to close your eyes and pick a number, but I had the locations of all of the 9's memorized.
posted by thecjm at 9:16 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


As I pointed out once before on the blue, Steve Jackson (US) having written two of the Fighting Fantasy books for Steve Jackson (UK) makes him one of the few people to have ghostwritten something under his own name.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:24 AM on August 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Recently I re-bought a copy of Forest of Doom, tore out the illustration of a hobgoblin, framed it, and hung it on my wall. I figured: you should never forget your first kill.

But even today I wonder what that young hobgoblin would have achieved, what loves he would have known and what joys he would have experienced if only he had lived.

So damn you, Ian Livingstone - damn you and your horrible blood-lust.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:31 AM on August 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


They weren't really ghostwritten (the books did list the actual authors on the title page even if they weren't on the cover) but they never did explicitly point out that one of the Steve Jacksons was an impostor.

The only way you could tell it was a different Steve Jackson was that on the books not written by Ian Livingstone or Steve Jackson #1 it said "Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone presents" on the cover, and the ones they did write just said their names without saying "presents".

It was like a little detective game in itself it was quite exciting. I was seven years old and it was 1985
posted by dng at 9:32 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always say that the trouble with interactive fiction is ... ah fuck it, finish this comment yourself.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:41 AM on August 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you want to point out that actually it's a branching tree and not truly a creative form of interactive fiction, turn to the next comment.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


But let's face it, most of them are like that.
posted by Artw at 9:44 AM on August 16, 2013


Perhaps diceless tabletop RPGs are the only true interactive fiction.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:45 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never played these. I did play Barbarian Prince as a kid. It came down to what the local hobby store had in stock - store owners had great influence on popular culture than any store owner these days.
posted by stbalbach at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2013


dng: "Also, why Creature of Havoc is the best Fighting Fantasy book of all (even if it was all down to a printing error)."

Creature of Havoc really is fantastic, but the most fun I've ever had with a gamebook has to be Gnomes 100 - Dragons 0. It's basically a completely ridiculous D&D licensed Fighting Fantasy clone, and it is hilarious (it was also available as a free PDF from WotC for quite a while so it's pretty easy to track down).
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 9:54 AM on August 16, 2013


Barbarian Prince, you say.
posted by griphus at 9:55 AM on August 16, 2013


The Fighting Fantasy books were perfect for a lonely nerd kid like me. I spent hours and hours playing The Forest of Doom, using painstakingly drafted character/inventory sheets that my dad was able to xerox at work (photocopier access was still a pretty rare thing at the time). I think I held out against cheating for a while, but ultimately resorted to giving myself mulligans when a wrong choice or string of bad rolls did me in; what would be the point or enjoyment of starting over from page one and playing all of the same choices to get halfway through the adventure? I accepted it as a limitation of the platform and didn't feel too guilty about it.

I vaguely remember the human sacrifice scene in House of Hell, although by the time I acquired a copy, it had been gently renamed House of Hades. I remember that one being a little clunky, having some narrative inconsistencies and redundancies stemming from the statelessness of the medium; it's tough to implement NPCs in a branching narrative set inside a house, where you may wind up doubling back on your path. But the skill/charisma/stamina points and combat system were so much more engaging than Choose Your Own Adventure books, where you were just along for the ride no matter what choices you made.

To this day I'm fascinated by interactive fiction, even though I have a pitifully low tolerance for getting stuck in puzzle-type adventures... but I'm not all that interested in "arty" IF either. It's the world-building combined with narrative writing that really gets me. I've only written one complete, tiny adventure in Inform 6 and it was a lot of fun, and quite rewarding. I finally got around to purchasing Aaron Reed's Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 a few months ago, but in typical fashion I've since been distracted by some other shiny thing. One of these days!
posted by usonian at 10:11 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It just occurred to me to wonder whether anyone had ever implemented a combat system for Inform and found the Adventure Book extension for Inform 7, which gives a nod to the Fighting Fantasy books.
posted by usonian at 10:20 AM on August 16, 2013


(Actual link, sorry)
posted by usonian at 10:40 AM on August 16, 2013


Related (and previously): Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series.
posted by ao4047 at 10:55 AM on August 16, 2013


Wait. Now I feel like a sucker. I had Forest of Doom, never won, and it never even crossed my mind to cheat. I don't know if that makes me cripplingly honest or just dense.

They were fun though. I also did CYOA books and never cheated on them either.

Mayb it's just pig headedness? I don't cheat in video games (single or multi player) either. There's just something that makes cheating like that feel like losing for me. I used an infinite money hack on the My Little Pony game because I hated the rip off prices the company put in ($200+ were required to win). But after I did I completely lost interest.

That's depressing, I never thought of myself as being on the lawful side of the lawful/chaotic spectrum.
posted by sotonohito at 10:58 AM on August 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure it is almost impossible (and possibly actually really impossible without being some sort of luck god) to complete any of the books while fighting properly.
posted by dng at 11:06 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


When are we having a meetup, dng?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:35 AM on August 16, 2013


People who don't know about it tend to be pleased when I let them know about the Fabled Lands App in threads such as these, so here you go. For the uninformed, the Fabled Lands series are like an open-world variant of gamebooks. The App is officially sanctioned, btw.
posted by juv3nal at 11:49 AM on August 16, 2013


Has anyone played their game that's out for iPad/Android, Blood of the Zombies? If so, how is it? Almost interested enough to buy it, but the reviews are keeping me from plunking down the money for it. According to them, if you make one mistake during the game, you get the "fail" ending. Doesn't sound like much fun to me. Any other opinions on it?
posted by zbaco at 11:53 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously on MetaFilter
posted by usonian at 12:03 PM on August 16, 2013


The excellent guys at Numberphile analyzed "Warlock of Firetop Mountain", the first Fighting Fantasy book. See the 8 minute video here. Highly recommended, as is everything by Numberphile.

Also, I never cheated. And very seldom won.
posted by Triplanetary at 12:15 PM on August 16, 2013


This also reminded me of the documentary about the Fighting Fantasy franchise, called Turn to 400 proposed by Sean Riley on Kickstarter last year. Unfortunately, the campaign only reached 39% of its funding goal by the deadline.
posted by Triplanetary at 12:35 PM on August 16, 2013


I used an infinite money hack on the My Little Pony game

Baller, yo.
posted by Etrigan at 12:43 PM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Soo, this *isn't* a choose-your-own-adventure book? (Would a total newb to the fantasy book genre be able to play the iOS app?)
posted by Mooseli at 12:48 PM on August 16, 2013


It's like a choose your own adventure book, but with the excitement of very limited character stats and fudging dice rolls!
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like a choose your own adventure book, but with the excitement of very limited character stats and fudging dice rolls!

And a lot more killing and monsters and sorcery.
posted by josher71 at 1:15 PM on August 16, 2013


Also I feel like they are a bit more consistent in their world? Like you wouldn't turn one way and the cave you are in is a monsters throat and turn another and it'll be a hologram on a spaceship.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2013


Ack! This is the series of books that I was searching for for YEARS, as documented by this AskMe question from 2007. Helmquest in particular.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:46 PM on August 16, 2013


Well, now I feel obliged to say that I'm not, like, Cheaty McCheaterson by nature, and certainly not when it comes to games played with other human beings. But when I hit that wall of "@#%&$ it, I have been trying to do this for days and I'm not getting any closer to success and I'm certainly not having fun any more," then I'll fudge just enough (or look up a walkthrough) to get through whatever that roadblock is, and go back to trying to play it straight. Life's too short.
posted by usonian at 1:58 PM on August 16, 2013


Also I feel like they are a bit more consistent in their world? Like you wouldn't turn one way and the cave you are in is a monsters throat and turn another and it'll be a hologram on a spaceship.
It's been many years, but in general I think the writing in the FF books was better and more evocative than many of the Choose Your Own Adventure books; one of the reasons I kept going back to Forest of Doom as much as I did was the setting.
posted by usonian at 2:02 PM on August 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I loved these books to pieces and I wish I had them still, I think I had pretty much all of them up to 30 or 40.

I guess it must have been up to 40, because my first-ever was this one.

The "Advanced" FF books were great fun too. I fondly remember Titan and Out Of The Pit, I read the living shit out of those books.

Got rid of them all as a young idiot, but I recently picked up a mint first edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, so who knows. If I ever have kids I know I'll be forcing these on them.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:49 PM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older Martin Manley: My Life and Death   |   Nighthawks in the round Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post