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  • Writer's pictureKevin Grover

YOU Are the Hero, A Fighting Fantasy Top Five

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

When computer games couldn’t keep up with your expectations and your imagination was better than blocky sprites jumping over things on an epic quest, kids of the 80s turned to Fighting Fantasy books. These were choose your own adventure books where YOU are the hero. They were stories where you could choose the path and find the correct way through it. You had to think your way through puzzles as the story unfolded around you. Normally set in fantasy worlds, they also covered science fiction and the present world. Penned by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, these were a series that fired the imagination and had you sword fighting mighty monsters, stealing treasure from powerful Warlocks and exploring strange worlds.

Most kids started reading books with these and I was one of them. Was it because of these books I started to enjoy plotting out my own stories, choosing my own plots and paths I could make the reader follow? Probably was a catalyst. I highly recommend anyone to have a go of these, especially if you want to learn about plotting in a fun way. In this article, I’m going to run through my top five must play Fighting Fantasy books. So sit back, grab your dice and roll two for Stamina and Luck, because here’s my top 5 personal favourites.

My Top 5 Fighting Fantasy Books

1. House of Hell. This was set in our world where as the hero, you break down in your car in the middle of a storm. Luckily there’s a sinister old house you can find help from, but all isn’t how it seems, because this is the Hose of Hell. From the moment your adventure starts, you’re pulled into a world of demons and satan worshippers as you try to escape the house. The illustrations were dark and twisted, firing the imagination even more. It’s one of my favourites, though I never did complete it. The cover used to really freak me out and was a great introduction into horror, when you weren’t being scared by James Herbert novels. Read if you dare!

2. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. This is the first Fighting Fantasy book produced so it’s number 2 for starting the entire boom in the 80s and is a traditional adventure. Your task is simple: steal the treasure from the Warlock’s dungeon. There are traps and puzzles for all keen adventurers and each path must be tread with care. Written by both Jackson and Livingstone, this is a difficult book to play through and often had me scared to turn to the correct numbered paragraph in case I’d made a wrong turn. It’s all okay, because I’d keep a thump on the page I’d gone from in case I did end up falling down a pit and dying. Who ever did these books without cheating at least once?

3. Deathtrap Dungeon. This is a classic dungeon crawling game book where you navigate a mighty labyrinth of traps in order to claim a prize from the fiendish Baron who created it. This was followed up by a sequel called Trial of the Champions which was the first one in the series I read when I got it from the old Puffin school book club. I was around 11 at the time, so it would’ve been 1986.

4. The Forest of Doom. This adventure was a change from the dark dungeons of traps, because now you found yourself in Darkwood Forest on a quest to find missing pieces of the Hammer of Stonebridge to help protect a village. I remember making a map up as I went on this one and it’s on my top 5 list because it’s one of the few I actually completed. Go me! I never judge a book by the cover, but this one stood out as the hooded figure of a lizard creature runs through the woods, staring out at you, daring you to read the book.

5. Creature of Havoc. In this story, you start not knowing what you are. All you know is that you’re some sort of creature of instinct. As the beast, you start gaining reasoning as you go and embark on a quest to find out what you are. It’s such an unusual story and I think creates a desire in the reader to find out more about the story as they go. Another one I never completed! I personally loved Steve Jackson’s work and he later went onto produce his Sorcery series.

Worthy mentions also go to Starship Traveller, a Star Trek style adventure where as a captain of a starship, you’ve fallen through a black hole into another universe and you have to beam down to various planets to find coordinates to get back to your own universe. Then there’s Appointment with F.E.A.R, a superhero story. Seas of Blood had you as a fearless pirate captain on the high seas and really thrust you into the story. There were other series back then and I fondly remember the Lone Wolf series where you’re the last of a group of monks fighting a growing darkness. The story unfolded over a long series of books.

There are so many in the collection and I have over fifty of them. Have I missed any worthy mentions in my list? Do you have fond memories of playing them? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to my mailing list and like my Facebook page.

Kevin Grover is an indie author of supernatural thrillers. His books are on Amazon and his website, Indie Bookshelf, shares various tips and experiences about his indie career.

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