Friday 4 August 2017

ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book(s) of the Week - Week Ending 4th August 2017 - "Fighting Fantasy - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain / The Port of Peril" by Ian Livingstone, Steve Jackson and Ian McCaig (Scholastic)

Our Chapter Book(s) of the week this week put you right into your own fantasy adventure armed only with a pencil, some dice and hopefully a lot of luck...
I'm 14, it's raining, and a group of grubby youths are once again forced to spend 'playtime' huddled in the corner of the only dry spot in the playground, a rudimentary concrete shelter. Jostling for warmth and dryness like a bunch of scruffy penguins, some of us reach into our Adidas bags and pull out mysterious books, pencils and dice and are instantly transported to another world...

Oh my gawd, the Fighting Fantasy books. Seeing these again after all this time instantly transported me right back to my misspent youth, and what was to become a lifelong obsession with all things RPG (that's role-playing games for those of you who've yet to have the pleasure).

Back then, when most computers were so unsophisticated they had to be fed with games via dodgy tape recorders, RPGs were really confined to two separate realms. Those of us who clustered around tables playing Dungeons and Dragons, and those of us who toted one of the Fighting Fantasy books around with us, desperate to complete the quests within.

"The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" was the very first FF book I 'played' back then, and I wanted to make sure it was the first proper FF book Charlotte had a crack at. Poor girl, with a geek for a dad she's already well versed in the various other methods of playing RPGs but this was her first time out with a Fighting Fantasy book.

I was so pleased to see that she got straight into the idea, rolling up her character, and starting out gathering some initial loot to prepare her for the quest proper - entering the mysterious Firetop Mountain in search of a mythical and powerful treasure.

As soon as we started to read, we were both instantly completely immersed in Firetop. It does help to some extent that the book features great little illustrations throughout to set the scene in some cases, but again as Charlotte was already familiar with text adventures, she was more than happy to let the book draw up scenes in her mind as we played through.

But then came the fighting. Well they wouldn't be fighting fantasy books without the odd battle with mythical creatures, and though she was a plucky and well rolled character, she inevitably succumbed to a sneak attack by what seemed to resemble a poisonous porcupine. Drat. "Your Adventure Is Over" said the text sombrely, and for a moment I thought she'd burst into tears - but instead she went straight back in for her second go (much as I did as a wayward youth).

Again, speaking to the uninitiated the Fighting Fantasy books are being re-released with new covers but the same utterly fabulous adventures at their heart. Players initially roll a dice to decide their character's luck and resilience, they wander around some initial locations to gather up stuff that might be useful later on - and then they embark on a grand quest for fortune and glory (hopefully!) Your entire fate can be decided on the roll of a dice though, so even if you think you're as smart as paint
and as tough as nails, battles don't always go in your favour.

I guess realistically these are books for kids slightly older than Charlotte but if you're a geek dad or mum ready to pitch in and help, this becomes an utterly fabulous bonding activity you can literally play anywhere.

Initially the books are being released in small batches, with "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" and "The Port of Peril" first out of the gate...

Personally I can't wait to see "Deathtrap Dungeon" again, a book that I distinctly remember being a real challenge from the outset - and again something that would ensure that I ended up becoming totally into RPGs when they eventually moved to videogame formats (though alas, as an adult, there just aren't enough hours in the day to complete biggies like The Witcher 3 etc!)

Pick these up, they really are every bit as good as you remember - and if you're a novice adventurer that's never had the pleasure of wading through a Fighting Fantasy adventure, what on earth are you waiting for? Get on that, right now!

"The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" and "The Port of Peril" by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone are both out now, published by Scholastic.