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WELCOME ADVENTURERS' TO THE HISTORY AREA
Greetings lowly ones! to our Fighting Fantasy history area. If you ever wanted to know more about the history of Fighting Fantasy series, then this area is for you. The history page is an area of the site where we go behind the scenes of the how the Fighting Fantasy series began.
Where did it start?
It all started in 1980 at Games Workshop’s annual Games Day exhibition at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London. Penguin Books had taken a stand to promote a new book called Playing Politics. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the young founders of Games Workshop, met one of the Penguin editors, Geraldine Cooke. The Dungeons & Dragons craze was spreading like wildfire and they tried to persuade Geraldine to publish a book on the growing Fantasy Role-Playing (FRP) hobby. She invited them to send in a synopsis.
This was to be a sort of ‘how to do it’ manual; an introduction to the world of FRP games. But the pair came up with a much more interesting idea. Why not a simple solo role-playing game presented within the pages of a book? This would get the concept over much more effectively than a dull manual. They would create an individual quest in which the reader becomes the hero of his own adventure, using the mechanic of jumbled paragraphs and a simple dice-based combat system. And so, under its working title, The Magic Quest, the gamebook concept came into being.
When Geraldine Cooke received her synopsis of The Magic Quest, she didn’t quite know what to make of it. Was it a book? Or a game? Was it for children? Or for adults? The manuscript passed around Penguin editors for a year before a decision was finally made to publish The Magic Quest. Steve & Ian now had to turn their idea into a reality. Writing a synopsis was one thing, but a whole adventure was something entirely different. And as they also had Games Workshop to run during normal office hours, all work on the book took place in evenings and at weekends. It took the pair 6 months to write The Magic Quest, which by this time had a proper name. The adventure was set inside Firetop Mountain. And the final encounter was with the Warlock Zagor. Hence: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
The plot itself was split in two. Ian wrote the first half of the adventure, up to the river crossing. Steve wrote the second half, from the river onwards, devised the combat rules and the key system to prevent the reader cheating his way through. But when they finally handed in the manuscript, a very apologetic sub-editor explained that it still needed work. The writing style changed completely when you arrived at the river! The manuscript required a re-write. Word processors had yet to be invented, so that meant re-typing huge sections of text all over again.
But the second draft was fine. The next problem was who would publish it. Geraldine Cooke, who had signed the title, wanted it to be a Penguin book. Others within the organisation thought it should appear in the Penguin’s children’s list as a Puffin Book. Puffin won the argument and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain first appeared in August 1982, published by Puffin Books. Sales at first were nothing exceptional. But word began to spread around schools, colleges and also - thanks to the Games Workshop connection - around the games community. This was something new; part-book, part-game and part-puzzle. Within the first 3 months Warlock had been reprinted 3 times. Within the first year it was reprinted twenty times! Penguin desperately needed a sequel. So work started immediately on The Citadel of Chaos (Steve) and The Forest of Doom (Ian) — any difference in writing styles would no longer be an issue if the two authors were writing on their own. In March 1983, the 3 titles were topping The Sunday Times bestseller charts. The Fighting Fantasy phenomenon had arrived!