Fighting Fantasy

The Fighting Fantasy books of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are legend. Starting with “The Wizard of Firetop Mountain”, millions of gamers have grown up riffling through these books looking for paragraph 287 (open the door) or 17 (continue north) in titles like Forest of Doom, Deathtrap Dungeon, or Citadel of Chaos. “Now YOU are the hero” was the motto of a wholly different experience, sometimes copied by other creators, but the quality of those with the magical names “Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone” on them was unmatched.

For many, these books, mostly set in the fantasy genre, with some taking up science fiction, and some bringing on a horror setting, were a strong gateway drug to the world of roleplaying games. Not for nothing did the *other* Steve Jackson (the Texan one) include a solo adventure in GURPS 3e that was clearly inspired by the mechanic of these books, not for nothing were they translated into a multitude of languages.

Aside from an extremely simple rules set, fit to play on a bus or on a train, but also versatile enough to form the basis to the mechanics of such accomplished RPG systems as Troika!, these books also feature some of the most gripping fantasy Art I have ever seen.

There is much more where those came from. Some of the very best are by Iain McCaig and Russ Nicholson.

My brother and I played them a lot, we compared our results, drew maps about them, and finally my brother even figured out from the little hints left in several of the books how they fit together, and he set out to draw an almost complete map of all of Allansia. Some elements of the books have stayed with us over the years, like the Gonchong, whom we at times reference when we speak about real-world politicians.

Well, the books I played through as a boy (most of them, at least) are still in my bookshelf. Yet, over the years I have moved on to other things and they seemed to be a thing of the past. Re-published from time to time with new covers, but in contrast to other blooms of the Jackson/Livingstone enterprise, these seemed to be more memory than contemporary. But now, there is a new one. Ian Livingstone has created a new Fighting Fantasy book – the 72nd – and it connects two of the old masterpieces in a clever way. No spoilers.

Assassins of Allansia

Opening another Fighting Fantasy book was like time travel. The rules were still the same: SKILL, STAMINA, LUCK, ten rations of food, a sword. And right from the start, it harkened back to the City of Thieves, mentioning old household names like Lord Azzur and the horrible Zanbar Bone, deadly foes of yesteryear.

The first part of the books plays out on an island, and it was all so easy. I thought: “Look at that, the old training still holds up, I know exactly what to do. This is going to be a cakewalk.”


I named my heroes, and while the island was easy, setting sail for the mainland changed things. Jasan fell to a smile, Jorrik to a blowpipe, Arden to a friendly face. Bozo decided to take a shortcut. Foolish! He died in shame. My fifth attempt I called Ray, and I was sure I had it now. I had all the gear and mowed down assassins left and right.

Still, it was not enough. Narrowly.

I was always a fan of those guys and their work, and I remain one. I salute you, Ian Livingstone, Assassins of Allansia is just as tough, and at the same time just as interesting and rewarding, as the old batch. I enjoyed returning to Allansia again … and one day I hope to get that pretentious old rogue Sukumvit.

Service: British Amazon Link:

Addendum: Attempt #6 (Hero name “Algar”) was successful. Two detours I thought unnecessary were actually vital for “winning”.

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