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Wizard Books are the current owners of the Fighting Fantasy licence, and they've done a wonderful thing. Knowing that the fans of a body of work will seek to emulate the objects of their veneration, Wizard have actually facilitated that process by embracing the fans and helping them create their own Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. And more than that: not content with providing them a template file, Wizard also publish any of these fan works that get sent back to them.

So if you go to the official website, you can find dozens of fan-created adventures all available for free download in PDF format. This is a wonderful service, letting the creativity of the fans be expressed and showcased in a sanctioned format and on a website with global coverage. Here's the link for you (or from the main page, choose "Amateur Adventures" under the "Features" tab):
http://www.fightingfantasy.com/index.php?option=com_content&...

Now it's not all good. I should note that Wizard do not appear to edit these works in any way. Aside from compiling and publishing them, all of the content is the authors' own, so quality is by no means assured. And to find out which are good and which are bad, you simply have to read them all, as they are listed only by title and author name. Page count is somewhat useful in that regard (many of the less-polished efforts have fewer entries) but is not a perfect measure of quality.

In this review, I have chosen to tell you about just one of these works, one of the best in my opinion of the ones that I have read. It is called The Blackthorne Ogre and is written by Christopher Challice.


Production

This is actually one of the relatively shorter adventures. The PDF file is 23 pages long, of which the background and story make up 15 pages. And there are only 25 numbered sections. Note that on the website, Wizard suggest that you start by trying to write a 25 section story, and this is a limitation to which many fans have restricted themselves; but it is not necessary as there are stories of varying sizes here too (including up to 400 numbered sections).

It is not perfect. There is the very occasional typo, but overall is well presented. Although note that there is a spelling mistake in the beginning sentence of the introduction, "You are about to take the lead roll in an adventure that will make you into a living legend, renowned and respected throughout the world." This was actually an error on the part of Wizard, but has been corrected in the current version of the template.

The character sheet is also somewhat impaired as the two halves, superimposed on one page, obscure some of the detail. This isn't a huge problem since this is an electronic document, and it is easier to write your own character sheet on a piece of paper than to print off the one included in the file.

Aside from that character sheet and the fancy front page title (both of which form part of the template) there is no artwork. That's not surprising given that these fan adventures are all about the text content, and indeed it is standard that there be no art at all (it is sadly rare for an excellent author to also be an excellent artist). The adventure is relatively brief, so the lack of art is not a problem, and the descriptive quality of the prose definitely makes up for this.


Content

This adventure tells the story of a witch, Ariel, who sets out to rescue a local young man that has gotten himself into a spot of bother with the terrible Blackthorne Ogre. The writing is very engaging, and totally drew me in. I found the story compelling from both a dramatic and emotional point of view:

The plot is exciting, and the distribution of numbered sections is very well done. Choices and challenges are meaningful rather than arbitrary. If you have to make a choice then it is because it is important, and you are not presented with random death or uninformed splits in the path.

The characterisation is excellent, creating a world that I cared about. The emotional impact of the characters' goals was palpable and poignant. I really felt this story come to life.

Given that the author has restricted himself to 25 numbered sections, what he has created is wonderful. I really was surprised when I realised how few sections there were, because the quality of the story is outstanding.


Rules

Standard Fighting Fantasy rules apply: 6+d6 Skill, 12+2d6 Stamina, 6+d6 Luck. Combat is Skill+2d6 versus opponent's Skill+2d6 with the loser suffering 2 Stamina damage. Luck tests (on 2d6) reduce your Luck score by 1. All very familiar to players of other Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

The role of a witch results in the inclusion of a new custom rule: Ariel can cast her spells in a variety of situations as is required and appropriate, but each use of magic reduces her Luck score by 2 points. This is a significant investment, but not a crippling one, so there is a real dilemma in whether to cast a spell or not at any stage, balancing the details of the current situation, and your expectations for future encounters. I found that this worked very well indeed.

A similar dilemma you face is what to do with a bucket of magical mud given to you by your mistress. To drop it would risk her wrath with unknown consequences; to keep it impairs your effectiveness as holding it reduces your Skill in combat and restricts your choices (no swimming across a river, for example). This was very well handled, with either option having its pros and cons, actually encouraging replayability (a remarkable achievement for such a short adventure).


Summary

I was surprised and delighted by this gem of an adventure. The quality of the plot and writing surpasses most commercial adventures in my opinion, and I hope that Christopher Challice graces us with more of his work in the future (no other published adventures bear his name).

This is freely available and doesn't take long to read and enjoy, so I encourage you to give it a try. And while you're at it, have a look at the other titles listed there too. You may find your own favourite amongst the dozens of free adventures.
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Jeremiah Lee
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Thanks, never would have seen this without the review.
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Jeremiah_Lee wrote:
Thanks, never would have seen this without the review.

Then I have been successful in my review.
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Eric Dodd
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Nice one, Stelio!
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I occasionally Google anything I release online to see what has read and reviewed.

I stumbled across this review and was floored. Thank you for writing it. I will make it my mission to write more and lengthier, adventure books in the future.

If your curious I have written some other works and can fill in the details here or in another thread.

Regards,
Christopher Challice
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He went overloading on testing and coding and his name was
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Support comes in many forms: community involvement, forum posts, submitting data, running PbF games, word-of-mouth advertising, financial donations... All these are vital to this site, and you have my sincere thanks for participating in any of them.
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theChall wrote:
If you're curious I have written some other works and can fill in the details here or in another thread.

Please, yes! Personally, I'd be delighted to read more of your work.
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Very well, here's what I got:

Available for Free Online

-- A Hard Days Knight: http://www.fudgefactor.org/2006/05/hard-days-knight.html

This won the Iron Fudge Competition. It's a fairly standard vampire adventure designed using the Fudge system.

-- Anime Battle Magic: http://www.fudgefactor.org/2006/05/anime-battle-magic.html

Another article I wrote for Fudge Factor, basically it's custom rules for casting spells in a flashy Anime sort of way.

--My Blog: http://taoofchall.wordpress.com/


Published

-- A 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' article for Knights of the Dinner Table 121.

-- They Only Come Out At Night, a short story published in Polygraff #1.


Coming Up

-- A tabletop RPG I'm working on with Malcolm Sheppard of White Wolf fame. Knights of the Hidden Sun: http://www.mobunited.com/mobunitedmedia/mobworx-creator-owne...

-- Another Fighting Fantasy style book, this time 300 paragraphs, using the FATE system.
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