Save your healing potions
September 14, 2004 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks tried to do Choose Your Own Adventure books one better with D&D-style rules. These massively single-player games, released in Britain, absorbed '80s nerds into the kind of murky, dead-serious fantasy recently parodied by Trogdor, in a decade when interactive fiction was on the rise. A bunch of the Gamebooks are now available to play online. Hang on to those healing potions.
posted by inksyndicate (32 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet Jesus! I wish I could find one of these IRL. Would be fun to try for an hour or two. This is groovy.
posted by sciurus at 10:57 AM on September 14, 2004

I have a book from probably around the same time. It's paperback sized, and was set in some dystopian future desert where everybody drives the cars of Mad Max and Interstate '76. I believe that it used a d10 on some pages. It's not by these guys, though.

It's so memorable I can't remember anything about it other than the cover and spine were black and the car-tank on the front was red.
posted by codger at 11:19 AM on September 14, 2004

Cool. Although I don't recognise any of the actual books you can play on here.

I've often thought these things were well suited to the internet, and am surprised no one has done more with them sooner
posted by devon at 11:25 AM on September 14, 2004

This is pretty cool!

And I'm still bitter that my parents threw out several hundred dollars worth of books, figures, dice and character sheets when they moved.

codger, I had a book with a black spine a red car tank on the front, I think it was a repair manual though, sorry.
posted by fenriq at 11:26 AM on September 14, 2004

I can read/play The Warlock of Firetop Mountain online? So when I inevitably get stuck in that stupid maze that always confounded my ten-year-old self, is there a way to flip forward?

Oh, wait it's not on the list. I'm safe.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:31 AM on September 14, 2004

This link brought a lot of memories back. My friends and I jointly collected all of the Jackson/Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books when I was in primary school. They weren't all Tolkienesque swords and sorcery - there were a lot of horror and science fiction stories too. I never bothered rolling the dice for the fights, I just read them for the stories. They were actually quite well written as far as kids pulp fiction goes.

(Be sure to open each page in a new tab in case you get one of those damn instant death pages.)
posted by TheCuriousOrange at 11:36 AM on September 14, 2004

I had so much fun with these for those times when no Dungeon Master would have me. *sniff* I feel like 12 years old again! Thanks, inksyndicate, great link.
posted by brownpau at 11:39 AM on September 14, 2004

Glad you like it...

Yeah, actually the writing was good in these things, very dark and definitely an influence on my teen psyche that I had forgotten about for 15 years until finding this link.
posted by inksyndicate at 11:43 AM on September 14, 2004

I think that car game was called Car Wars by Steve Jackson.
posted by darth_smoothies at 11:46 AM on September 14, 2004

Also of note: Lone Wolf books, online.
posted by evinrude at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2004

Wow. I totally forgot about these. Thanks for the post. I always thought D&D was too expensive/complicated to get into for a beginner. These books were a nice way to indulge in a little role playing geekiness without having to shell out mucho $$ to get killed in five minutes by an 80th level beast lord.
posted by Otis at 12:01 PM on September 14, 2004

Man, I hate those 80th level Beast Lords!

And, because someone's got to do it:
posted by fenriq at 12:05 PM on September 14, 2004

inksyndicate, am I correct in thinking that the ones available to play online are fan-fiction based on the Fighting Fantasy model, and not the actual books that were available 20 or so years ago? (I checked on a master list of the FF books, and couldn't find any of the ones listed on that interactive site.) If so, it's still cool, but kinda disappointing. When saw your link, I was really excited, because I'd love to play through Deathtrap Dungeon or House of Hell again, but I have a strict "no fan-fiction" rule.

Hmmm.....time to check eBay I guess. Thanks for bringing back some great memories! :)
posted by emptybowl at 12:08 PM on September 14, 2004

I introduced my son to the FF books I played back in the day (I was with them pretty much from day one, up until just after the time Ian and Steve stopped writing them, and I got bored). Funny though, the way I played them was more like a traditional RPG - my mum would be the DM effectively, I wouldn't read the books myself until later.

My mum was great. Go mum.
posted by SiW at 12:54 PM on September 14, 2004

evinrude, I played so much Lone Wolf as a kid. Seriously, I loved those books. My parents wouldn't let me play role playing games (because they were eeeeeevil, of course) but they didn't realise that that's the sort of books the Lone Wolf series were. I used to spend hours going through every possible path in the books. ah, memories...
posted by vorfeed at 12:59 PM on September 14, 2004

Good news for those interested in finding the books again! Looks like they're starting to reissue them, and you can find a bunch on Amazon (or possibly your local bookstore). Since "Fighting Fantasy" brings up, like, 55,000 hits on Amazon, here's some direct links to some of them:

Citadel of Chaos

Creature of Havoc
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Deathtrap Dungeon
Crypt of the Sorcerer
House of Hell
City of Thieves
posted by emptybowl at 1:17 PM on September 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

Wow, Metafilter in action. Most of those have only single digits left in stock.

The FF books were just so much better than CYOA or LW, I dunno why. Maybe it's the Britishness of it all.
posted by SiW at 1:28 PM on September 14, 2004

Steve Jackson also put out (at least) four other books using the same system, in the "Sorcery!" series: The Shamutanti Hills, Khare - Cityport of Traps, The Seven Serpents, and The Crown of Kings. I've got those four sitting right here, after just unearthing my big box of Choose Your Own Adventure books for a book re-org. Also, note that this is not the Steve Jackson that most of us know from Illuminati, Car Wars, etc - this is a totally different guy, which I didn't realize until just recently.
posted by majcher at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2004

I actually saw one of these books on an Ipod recently...yep...its referenced here on Slashdot
posted by mattr at 1:54 PM on September 14, 2004

mattr, now THAT is cool! Thanks for the link, I will have to get some titles loaded up tonight!
posted by fenriq at 2:03 PM on September 14, 2004


Uh-oh, I wonder. Let me check. He does claim that he's gotten the rights to these from someone, could they be late series FFG?
posted by inksyndicate at 2:07 PM on September 14, 2004

Thanks Evinrude, I was looking for the Lone Wolf things for ages, now I can find out how the damn things end.
posted by Swandive at 3:12 PM on September 14, 2004

I've never heard of these specific titles, either and assumed they came after I stopped collecting (round about book 50, which was a sequel to the first one). This list of sixty seems to be all there were and they don't include any of the ones on the site. So yeah, fan fiction I suppose.
posted by TheCuriousOrange at 4:09 PM on September 14, 2004

I loved these books when I was little, my library had loads of them - perfect for when you haven't got anyone geeky enough to play D&D with.
posted by Orange Goblin at 4:17 PM on September 14, 2004

"You've been killed in combat!"

Thanks for these links. Here's a reason to use the terminal in OS X-an oldie I remember from a past Metafilter post in 03, Valheru.
posted by xtian at 5:28 PM on September 14, 2004

I still have two of these from when I was young, City of Theives and Deathtrap Dungeon from Puffin books and with kick-ass artwork from Iain McCaig (cover scans). Unfortunately, his webpage kinda sucks.
posted by wobh at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2004

City of Thieves was my favorite. Grunge metal fantasy.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:25 PM on September 14, 2004

I can read/play The Warlock of Firetop Mountain online? So when I inevitably get stuck in that stupid maze that always confounded my ten-year-old self, is there a way to flip forward?

I did exactly the same damn thing. Literally, I tried a hundred times over several years but never got through. It haunted me to the point that I actually looked up the solution somewhere (I don't remember where) a couple of years ago, and nearly 20 years after I last put down the book. Basically, the bit of the maze that trips you up is annoyingly simple. It is in the shape of an "H". You start in the bottom-right, and to pass through you have to go to the top left. If you go to the top right or bottom left then you get knocked out by a gas trap and find yourself back at the beginning. My puny child's brain was never able to solve this extraordinarily easy puzzle, and it seems, neither was yours... :-p

They also made a Warlock of Firetop Mountain board game several years later that was quite fun.
posted by bifter at 1:43 AM on September 15, 2004

I have about 10-15 of the original FF books and they really are great - nice simplistic game rules and fun to read. Of course I used to cheat like hell (we all did right?) but some of those instant death pages were just mean dammit.
I seem to recall another series of choose your own adventure style books with some ninja guy in them which was much more complex (it even let you choose which move you were going to use on your opponent "TEETH OF TEH TIGER THROW! YE BASTAD! *roll 2d6 for damage*)

Fairly recently I did in fact dig a few of the FF books out of one of my bookshelves to play on those long bus rides into work and they are still kind of fun even to this day.

Not that the fun actually mitigates the pitying looks of the other people on the bus, but then they haven't faced the Quazzi-Quai Quargs of Quarn and emerged victorious...
posted by longbaugh at 3:08 AM on September 15, 2004

Way of the Tiger! I TOTALLY forgot about those books until just now!
posted by SiW at 12:01 PM on September 15, 2004

Great post! Thanks.
posted by dazed_one at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2004

merry christmas.
(lots of gamebooks in pdf format courtesy of home of the underdogs).
posted by juv3nal at 2:04 AM on September 16, 2004

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