Beyond the Pit

Like Monster Manuals?

Want the sequel to the seminal Out of the Pit?

Want another 250 Fighting Fantasy beasties straight out of the pages of the classic FF books?

250 original images from the likes of Russ Nicholson, John Blanche, Martin McKenna, John Sibbick, David Gallagher and Terry Oakes?

Then this my friend is your Kickstarter, already funded so completely no-risk.

Also Graham’s a good lad who ships quality product on time, with good communication along the way. I know this from the Blacksand KS earlier this year (which I must review at some point).
Beyond the Pit cover

Advanced Figthting Fantasy Blacksand pre-order

Port Blacksand , which is the star of Fighting Fantasy Book 5 City of Thieves, is getting the Advanced Fighting Fantasy treatment courtesy of Arion Games, with this reissue & expansion of the 1990’s Blacksand! book. To speed up the production process they are running the pre-order as a campaign, with a number of perks such as signed copies, big fold up versions of the city map and limited edition hard covers.

So what are you waiting for get yourself over there.


12 Days of the UK OSR Day 4: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Ok so I’ve slipped with keeping this daily. It no longer tallies with the 12 days of XMAS, oh dear. Whoops!

I will however patriotically soldier on with one review-let a day, with gaps for when I’m feeling pathologically lazy/worn out with the world/busy doing real d101 sorting out etc.

So onwards.

Silly old me forgot to mention Fighting Fantasy in my intro piece. “How could you!?!” you weep. Well I was focusing on RPGs and FF fine as it was and entry point and inspiration for us Brits into the wider field of D&D land was never a RPG. Well not my snobby 15 year old mind.  I kinda played with the nice Fighting Fantasy RPG, a simple but effective affair by Steve Jackson with a Tiger-Man-Thing jumping out of an exploding dice as a cover. I ran it once for my younger brother, which successfully introduced him to RPGs. Otherwise ignored it in favour for D&D. I was dimly aware of Advanced Fighting Fantasy by Marc Gascoigne when it came out, but I was bedazzled by the brilliance of RuneQuest at the time so it never registered. “Its not a proper role-playing game, its for Kids”, forgetting but five minutes ago I had been one of those kids.  Verily was I in my Kevin the Teenager phase.

So when Arion Games republished Advanced Fighting Fantasy as a 2nd Edition to much fanfare with a publishing deal with Cubicle 7 (which means it gets into your local gaming store), I felt honour bound to do my bit for Queen and Country and pick up a copy.

And I liked what I saw 🙂

Highlights for me personally.

  • Lots of Russ Nicholson art (YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!)
  • The basic Fighting Fantasy game book system, expanded in all sorts of fun common sense ways.  For example basic FF has all damage being 2 stamina and Armour is never a factor.  Adv FF allows you to roll D6 to determine damage by weapon and reduces it by Armour type which again you roll a D6 against a short easy table (which you copy to your character sheet). There’s also a very groovy random dungeon creation method as well.
  • Its a complete RPG which is very newcomer friendly without being patronising. You could buy this for somebody new to RPGs and they could easily run a game with it. There’s tons of examples, advice, lots of print off and play example characters, and a couple of adventures. All squeezed in with a very inclusive system – monsters, GMs guidance, setting info, full magic systems – all in all a nice one book game.

Why this is important to the UK OSR?

  • Its Fighting Fantasy maaaannnnnnn! 🙂
  • Its an ideal starter RPG for young and old alike.  When the young Newtlings come of age and show interest old Dad will crack out Adv FF.
  • It oozes the atmosphere and feel of UK OSR. Not just the obvious Russ Nicholson art, but also the text.

Arion Games have also republished Titan and Out of the Pit, which are the setting guide and monster manual respectively. Although Adv FF also has a selection of bits from these books, pick up these two and you’ve got the ultimate UK OSR RPG. My hat is off in salute to Graham Bottley who put this edition together so lovingly 🙂

Related reading

If you want a complete chapter by chapter run down, along with what has been changed from the first version check this out.


These two men have a lot to answer for….

Almost every UK RPGer’s who started in the 70s/80s, have these to men to credit. Steve Jackson (left) and Ian Livingstone (right) where the founders of Games Workshop and brought D&D and many other RPGs to these shores, as well as authoring the original Fighting Fantasy books.

Last UK Games Expo they did a talk called “An Illustrated History of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy” which my friend Paul of Cthulhu recorded for recorded for your listening pleasure.

Also worth noting this online interview with the duo, covers pretty much the same territory.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

So I start this blog’s journey proper with what for alot of UK gamers was their entry point into the hobby.

My original copy of the Warlock of Firetop MountainThe Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

First published in 1980 by Puffin this was the first of Ian Livingstone’s and Steve Jackson’s (a Uk based chap, not the owner of the US games company that bears his name) “Fighting Fantasy” series. This pair play a big part in the 80s UK role-playing scene, and will be the subject of a future post for sure, but for now its worth mentioning that these two men had already set up Games Workshop, which at this point specialised in selling Dungeons and Dragons and other US RPGs of the time to the UK market. Fighting Fantasy was their successful attempt to put D&D in a ‘choose your own adventure’ format , where you go though a series of numbered entries each of which gives you the choice of what to do next which in turn leads to another bit of description. The genius of the FF series was that Ian and Steve married this successful format with a very simple RPG system; Three Stats Skill which was used for practically all skill tests (Fighting, detecting traps etc), Stamina – your hit points as you take damage this stat got marked down, and Luck which was used whenever the situation called for completely random resolution – but with some indication of how ‘Lucky’ the character is.

Warlock was not the first FF book I read. That honour goes to the second book in the series “The Citadel of Chaos”, which I found in my high school library in about ’84. I was hooked on the spot and I knew from a quick skim that this was for me and was going to be ‘my thing’. It was the beginning of my journey through Fantasy role-playing games, but it was an influence that has stayed with me always.

How FF has influenced my game design
This line from the Hints and Tips’ section at the start of the book has always stuck with me;

“The one true way involves a minimum of risk, and any player, no matter how weak on initial dice rolls, should be able to get through pretty easily.”

I interpret this in many ways, which would probably make a post of its own, but this phrase has influenced me more in my reffing and adventure writing over the years than any other piece of GM’s advice. However that’s not to say I’m a push over, because…..

Grit, I like my fantasy Gritty and dark. Warlock and subsequent FF books had this in bucket-loads, partially down to the wonderful art of Russ Nicholson. This is probably why I was never impressed by things such as Dragonlance and other fantasy that had shiny soft rock happy looking heroes on the front cover.

Its out of this world Fantasy. Almost as counterpoint to the gritty ‘realism’ evident in the books, there are moments of Fantastic almost whimsical fantasy. One of my favourite examples in Warlock is where you come to a dead end and there are a bunch of magically animated tools digging the tunnel to the tune of “Hi, Ho, Hi, Ho its off to work we go…”

There’s always a strong narrative both in the back story and in play. Even if its merely the search for a chest of treasure, as is the case with Warlock (although Ian Livingstone later gave the Warlock a name and a more detailed back ground in Return to Firetop Mountain FF Book 50 – but by then I had long given up on the series).

For me The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and the next six game books (up to The Island of the Lizard King), really do sum up all that is good about Fantasy UK roleplaying in the 80s. And the good news is that none of this is out of print – Wizard Books currently publish a range of FF books including the Warlock, as well as bringing it to the IPad/IPhone (see links below).

Finally here’s Russ Nicholson’s iconic illustration of the Warlock himself

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Russ Nicholson