ByNicholas Montegriffo, writer at
NowLoading's Lucky Office Goth. Tweets: @unstabledweomer
Nicholas Montegriffo

The Fighting Fantasy game book series "in which YOU are the Hero," started in the 1980s by Games Workshop founders Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, has always managed to maintain something of a cult following even over 30 years since it's inception.

The books are older than I am and I still managed to amass quite a collection of them and similar titles as a child in the late 90s. They were (intentionally) a kind of gateway drug into RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, but also worthy games in their own right, with baroque, evocative artwork, extensive world-building and hints of dark humor. Typically, you played an adventurer in the fantasy world of Titan questing against some evil in a perilous locale, but the series also touched on the sci-fi, post-apocalyptic and superhero genres.

There's been something of a revival for old school games lately, which has led to a resurgence in board- and tabletop- games as well as gamebooks. Some of this has to do with the original fan generation growing up and getting some spending money, but also to a hipsterish fetishization of a more authentic analogue past. But if Fighting Fantasy has a future in the digital age, it's going to have go beyond nostalgia.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Indie publisher TinMan games remade several classic Fighting Fantasy titles. The UI, automatic dice rolling and optional modernized artwork made the gamebooks great to play on mobile, but were nothing ground-breaking.

Alexandra of Blacksand demontrates her particular combat skills
Alexandra of Blacksand demontrates her particular combat skills

With the kickstarter-assisted The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Tin Man games made their first adaptation that actually attempts to add something fresh to the mix. The game is, if anything, too conservative in its faithfulness to the book, because the innovations are what makes it special. The virtual tabletop evokes the feeling of playing classic fantasy boardgames like Talisman and Warhammer Quest (also now available digitally), and the option to play as different characters with their own backstories, strengths and weaknesses is a welcome change from the typically nameless and faceless FF protagonists. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a classic and an excellent choice for videogame adaptation, but with over 60 other titles to choose from for potential future development, here's my choice pick and the direction I'd like to see them take.

4. Deathtrap Dungeon

Puffin Books
Puffin Books

I know this game has been adapted before, but quite frankly that version doesn't really engage the world or play to the strengths of the concept. The plot is simple gritty fantasy lunacy.

Every year a rich and powerful Baron hosts a dungeon crawl in his town, where adventurers from around the world compete against each other to best various monsters and traps and complete the dungeon for fortune and glory. The entire town has a festival based around this bloodsport, despite the fact that it happens underground and you can't see it. This one is worth adapting as a dungeon crawl based on the traps and monsters alone (as is evident by the death-metal awesomeness of it's cover star, the Bloodbeast, depicted in a bubbling bath of-you-guessed-it-blood), but the competition is its most interesting aspect.

In the original, the player goes at it alone most of the time except for a brief team up with a barbarian, who they are later forced to kill. Later on one can find the corpses of other contestants, and have a showdown with a ninja. This aspect of the game can be fleshed out for a video game to allow online play, with players taking on the roles of the different characters (with distinct abilities a la the new Warlock). This would bring something new to the table in terms of options, replayability and a social aspect that could make digital gamebooks more than just prettier versions of their ancestors.

3. Creature of Havoc

Wizard Books
Wizard Books

This one is interesting because of the subversion of the typical fantasy protagonist - you start as a strong, bloodthirsty monster incapable of even rational thought. The creature must escape the dungeon it awakens in and eventually regain its reason and memory to discover its origins and purpose.

The unique character makes this book a fan favorite and years later remains a relatively unexplored role for video game protagonists. The original book initially made the creature act randomly before it regained reason, but a videogame adaptation could explore the mental evolution even further, adjusting graphics and controls to the shifting worldview of the protagonist.

2. City of Thieves

Puffin Books
Puffin Books

The titular city is the star of this book, a real gothically wretched hive of scum and villainy filled with corrupt guards, crooked merchants, crafty thieves and muggers, pirates, and freakish monsters lurking in abandoned townhouses. The many possibilities and non-linearity of a city adventure is straightjacketed by the gamebook format.

An Elder Scrolls-like adaptation of Blacksand, with a player free to backtrack along the streets and find their way around, and the citizens and hazards likewise moving and interacting according to their own schedule, would really bring the City of Thieves to life in a way that the original format never could.

1. Seas of Blood

Puffin Books
Puffin Books

The protagonist pirate captain of the Banshee has 50 days to ravage the chaotic lands of Khûl, and reach the island of Nippur with more gold than rival captain Abdul the butcher. This book is one of the richest of the series in terms of gameplay, featuring ship management and combat, dungeon crawling, raiding and diplomacy in a land of chaotic city-states, forgotten ruins and dangerous hidden islands.

Like City of Thieves, this world would explode to life in a well done sandbox setting, with a ship free to move around the map as they will. A 4X-inspired layout would allow freedom of movement and a turn based race against time with an AI or human rival.

The future of Fighting Fantasy is in video games, but would you pick a different selection? Tell us which books you'd most like to see adapted and why.


Latest from our Creators