I’d read a couple of Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid1, but if I’d known about the Fighting Fantasy series of books, man that would’ve been exactly what I’d needed. We took long family drives from Dallas to Galveston, or every so often to New Mexico, and I always laid down in the back seat of the minivan.
If you don’t know, the Fighting Fantasy books were essentially CYOA books, but with a dark UK fantasy twist. Created by Steve Jackson2 and Ian Livingston (both co-founders of Games Workshop), the books are a very simple introduction to RPGs. They have a CYOA style text, but they add in some barebones character creation and mechanics for combat, etc. Your three stats are Stamina (HP), Skill (Everything), and Luck (Uh, how lucky you are).
They made fifty some-odd books in the Fighting Fantasy canon, then put out something called the Fighting Fantasy Introductory RPG, before moving on to Advanced Fighting Fantasy: Dungeoneer! The first of a half-dozen AFF books that would appear. The AFF line beefed up the rules from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks so that you could run a multi-player RPG with a GM (called a Director) and a party of people.
Additionally, Steve Jackson did a series of CYOA/FF style gamebooks called Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! set in the same world as the FF books (the world of Titan, and more specifically, the eastern land of Kakhabad) but with the ability to choose between playing a Warrior or a Wizard (who has these cool three letter spells like “ZAP,” which creates a lightning bolt) and a few other minor rules changes.
I found out about Sorcery! through the amazing Inkle IOS remakes of the game. These are super fun, super playable, deadly, and filled with that old amazing art that still makes the world feel dangerous and wondrous at the same time in a way that a lot of the newer D&D stuff has sort of moved to this merry England middle of the road tepid fantasy kind of world that I think Michael Moorcock would’ve probably despised. /rant
After that I found Troika! which is sort of like an OSR retro-inspired version of AFF, streamlined, and set again in its own strange and wondrous world. AFF uses a pretty basic 2d6 roll under mechanic for most task resolution (except for opposed rolls, where the winner is the high roller).
I eBayed a few AFF books and I’m excited to dig into them to see what the deal is. The community is sparse as far as I can tell, or at the very least shut off from the rest of the OSR community and now enjoys some tiny cult status, but I’m always curious to see what the non-D&D games (like WHFRPG, Traveller, EPT, etc.) brought to the hobby.
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