The (Digital) revival of adventure game books.

FFWarlockI’m a big fan of adventure game books.  I have a nice little collection on my bookshelf at home of Fighting Fantasy, Wizards Warriors & You, Lone Wolf and several others.

The idea of a branching path or interactive book had been around since the middle of the 20th century however it didn’t gain a lot of attention until perhaps the mid to late 70’s with the “Choose Your Own Adventure Series”.  Young readers where able to directly interact with the book and make decisions that effected the plot of the story.

Around the same time a game you might have heard of before, Dungeons & Dragons was born from the fertile soil of Chainmail (The D&D precursor).  As anyone who has attempted to get a regular game going for any roleplaying game, trying to get regular players to meet up for a game can be difficult.  Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (Both founders of Games Workshop) took the game book system and evolved it into the “Adventure Game Book” with their “Fighting Fantasy Series”.  The first book “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain” was released in 1982 and was perhaps at least partly aimed at roleplayers who couldn’t get a regular game going.

WWY5The Fighting Fantasy series went to great success with an eventual total of 59 books in the original series.  During the 80’s riding on the success wave of Fighting Fantasy came a plethora of copycats and imitators, most noticeably the Lone Wolf series by Joe Dever (Which also had great success).  Some of these expanded on the rules system to create a more advanced and detailed roleplaying experience (Such as Blood Sword) and others simplified it to bring it back closer to the original game book system (Such as Wizards, Warriors & You).

With the rise of digital interactive entertainment (Computers, Video Game Consoles, Smart Phones and Tablets), the desire for these books dried up by the early to mid 90’s.  The books continue to be sort after now only by people like myself attempting to collect a full series of the different systems.

Things went quiet for a long time.  It was assumed that with all the fancy new interactive entertainment we had there would never again be a need for adventure game books.  There was an attempted revival during the mid 2000’s but it didn’t enjoy anywhere near the same success as it had in the 80’s.


A typical character sheet from a Fighting Fantasy novel.

And then about 2010 adventure game books started popping up on the Apple App Store.  Most noticeably an Australian company entitled “Tin Man Games” began creating and uploading to the App Store an entirely new series of adventure game books.  These where met with considerable success, success enough that they where given the rights to release digital versions of classic Fighting Fantasy books.

iPadSorcerySince then (as in the 80’s) we’ve seen similar products arrive on the App Store riding the success wave of Tin Man Games.  Most noticeably the release of Steve Jackons “Sorcery!’ by Inkle which has received many positive reviews from the gaming industry.

FFHouseiPhoneAs the world slowly shifts from printed material to digital it’s nice to see a breathe of new life for adventure game books and hopefully it’s the ignition for a great many more.  An entirely new, digital series of Fighting Fantasy books would be an amazing thing.

Spare a thought for the printed precursor though next time you find yourself in a thrift shop or a second-hand book store.  There is still something to be said for curling up with a blanket on a cold and rainy afternoon, rolling some dice and playing through Steve Jacksons “House of Hell”.


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