Posted by Ross

Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death battles its way through submission

Another step has been taken in Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death’s epic quest towards release on the PSN Store.  I’ve just received an email telling me that Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death has been approved by SCEE. 

We’ve also had the honour of speaking to Steve Jackson, the co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy Series.  Here are some of his thoughts on the Fighting Fantasy series and on Talisman of Death in particular.

LJ: How did you get interested in fantasy gaming and what was your first fantasy game?

SJ: My first fantasy game was actually a home-made board game I designed in 1973 inspired by The Lord of the Rings. You rolled a dice and moved to an encounter with Spindlies or The Trime Nord. I persuaded a friend of mine to draw the board, and he created a real work of art! But that one doesn’t count really… Dungeons & Dragons was my first real fantasy game. That was in 1975. Games Workshop had been going for about 6 months, mainly publishing a fanzine “Owl & Weasel” and selling traditional wooden games crafted by our flatmate John Peake (hence the name ‘Games Workshop’). We received a copy of D&D from the US for review in O&W. When we finally figured out how to play, we realised this was a revolutionary game and we became instant evangelists…

LJ: What inspired you when creating the Fighting Fantasy series?

SJ: Dungeons & Dragons again! After the ‘invention’ of role-playing it seems it was inevitable that someone somewhere would create the Fighting Fantasy format – solo role-playing by flipping backwards and forwards through the pages of a book. Indeed shortly after Warlock of Firetop Mountain came out, TSR (publishers of D&D) came out with their Endless Quest series (like FF but written for a younger audience). And others too. They weren’t ‘copies’ of FF or anything like that - there wasn’t enough time. All these projects were in development at the same time. It seems the solo gamebook concept was just an inevitable evolutionary step in gaming…

LJ: Talisman of Death was one of the most controversial books in the series. Why was this?

SJ: During the mid-80s, Fighting Fantasy was in its prime. At one point we had the top 3 positions in the Sunday Times best-seller chart. Inevitably there were going to be critics. Sure enough, the series became viewed by some religious groups as the work of the devil. A group called the Evangelical Alliance appeared in the media protesting publicly about the appearance of Gods, Devils, Demons etc in Fighting Fantasy. Since the series was published by Puffin Books, these were ‘children’s books’ and we shouldn’t be introducing children to devils and demons which were of course real entities. In South Africa one group from a religious school even had a Fighting Fantasy bonfire. When these groups quoted passages from the books as evidence of their evil nature, they often cited a particularly gory reference from Talisman of Death where you wind up skewered on a spear: It was a “Your adventure ends here…” occasion and they deemed this particular passage as particularly unsuitable for children, Of course we were very grateful for the controversy, which helped Puffin sell lots more books!

LJ: Why was Talisman of Death set on Orb and not Titan, where most the other Fighting Fantasy books were set?

SJ: As FF developed, Puffin wanted to publish a new FF book every month to keep the competitors at bay. There was no way Ian and I could write a book every month. We already spent all day in the Games Workshop offices and all evening typing the next FF book. So we recruited other authors to expand the range of FF adventures. Up until then, Ian and I had set all our own fantasy adventures in a particular area of what was to become Alansia. We were a bit wary of other writers’ adventures also being set in Alansia in case there were inconsistencies between the authors’ and our own characters, locations etc. So we drew up a map of the Fighting Fantasy world ("Titan") and created 3 continents: Alansia for J&L adventures, The Old World for Sorcery and Tasks of Tantalon. And Orb for the Presents series authors.

LJ: Did you ever anticipate that over 20 years after The Warlock of Firetop Mountain people would still be playing the Fighting Fantasy series?

SJ: It has always astonished me that, in spite of the arrival of consoles and computers adding a whole new dimension to interactive entertainment, the books are still in print in quite a few countries around the world.  I think it’s because FF has succeeded in bridging a generation.  Players who remember reading the series as children in the 1980s now have their own children to introduce to FF.  And of course, we’re delighted to see the brand extended even further with FF coming to PlayStation for the first time in a series of Minis.  Here’s to the next 29 years!

Part two of this interview is coming this time next week.  We’re also going to have more news for you all soon, including a release date and trailer.  So lay down your pen and paper and pick up your controller, as Fighting Fantasy: Talisman of Death is coming soon to PlayStation minis!

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