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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: 25th Anniversary Edition - Steve Jackson

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Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy / Author: Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone / Edition: 25Anniversary Ed / Hardcover / 224 Pages / Book is published 2007-08-02 by Wizard Books

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      15.04.2011 14:38
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      The start of something very big

      == Introduction ==

      The Fighting Fantasy series of solo adventure gamebooks may have faded from the popular consciousness a bit since their heyday in the 1980s, but in their day they sold well over 10 million copies and became a genuine phenomenon. This is where it all began. Back in 1982, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson of Games Workshop collaborated on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and the Fighting Fantasy story was underway. More than 50 further books were published before the series petered out in the mid-1990s, and more recently Wizard Books have reprinted a fair selection... of which this, fittingly, was the first.

      == Story and setup ==

      As you might expect from the first book in the series, there isn't a great deal of unexpectedness or originality about the basic plot of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. As the hero of the adventure, your part is not developed much further than making you a wandering soldier of fortune, and the aim of the game is simply to find and defeat the eponymous warlock and to get hold of his treasure. There's no particular personal reason for you to want rid of the wizard, and the complex, interlocking world described in later FF books is completely lacking here. Indeed, the only background you will have as you begin the story is a short "Rumours" section before the game proper begins.

      This is the original FF gamebook, and so the rules are about as standard for the series as you can get. There are no personal attributes beyond the usual Skill, Stamina and Luck, your treasure is measured in gold pieces, Stamina can be restored via eating provisions or drinking potions, and so on. One thing to watch out for, though, is that you may only eat when specifically given that option in the text; some of the later books in the series were a little less restrictive in that regard. On the other hand, the automatic allowance of a potion at the start of the game is not something that was allowed after the early books, so in that one respect you're getting off rather easily!

      == Gameplay ==

      The adventure is quite clearly divided into two parts, with a river crossing you have to make marking the handover point between the first half, written by Livingstone, and the second, written by Jackson. Those who have played plenty of FF books will be unsurprised to discover that Jackson's part is generally the more difficult and fiendish, but in fact this works fairly well given that (at least originally) most players would not have encountered anything similar previously. You start off with Livingstone's fairly by-the-numbers - though quite atmospheric - hack-and-slash stuff, and then have to engage your brain a bit more for the climax.

      The puzzles, especially in Jackson's part of the book, can be surprisingly difficult for something that was, after all, aimed at eleven-year-olds. Even today many people will find the Maze of Zagor to be a real cause of hair-tearing, and this is certainly one book in which the usual injunction to keep a careful map is not just a stock phrase but something you really do have to take notice of. Then you must get to the warlock himself - and you won't succeed unless you have collected just the right numbered keys. (Objects in general are sometimes startling in this book; the Y-shaped stick is only the start of it!) The final battle is quite nicely realised, too, although if you know what you're doing it's not the hardest in the series.

      == Artwork ==

      The cover design differs quite substantially between the original Puffin book and the later Wizard Books edition. The first one is brown with the title (unusually for the time) in the centre, and a couple of fairly standard fantasy pictures either side - one of a dragon and, naturally, one of the warlock himself. To be honest, it looks rather dated by today's standards, though after all it is now almost three decades old. The later book, on the other hand, has a more striking and modern appearance somewhat reminiscent of an American comic book, with the same two elements but both (the warlock in particular) made to appear considerably more sinister. It was updated yet again for the 2009 reprint, though this change I feel was less successful.

      Inside, and the same in both editions, it is Russ Nicholson who is the artist, and a very good choice too. He was also responsible for the second in the series ( The Citadel of Chaos ) as well as half a dozen other entries, and it is he more than anyone else who was responsible for the classic style of FF art: scratchy, detailed pen and ink drawings with a distinctly "medieval woodcut" feel to them. They are mostly extremely atmospheric, and even some fairly simple subjects (such as the approach to the ferry pier at the river crossing) are made to look, quite justifiably, as though danger might lurk just out of the shot. As was the case in the early books only, each picture has a one-line caption from the paragraph to which it pertains.

      == Buying and verdict ==

      The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was a great and immediate success, and it's not hard to see why. Even today it stands up as one of the better and more satisfying of the "dungeon crawl" type of FF adventure, and the difficulty level ramps up slowly as you explore the mountain rather than (as with, say, Creature of Havoc ) being rock hard from the start. A few things do still give the impression of the series not having quite yet found its feet (for example, your Skill score can bounce around all over the place, much more than is the case later on) but they're generally fairly minor points.

      Counting all its editions together, in all of the 15 languages in which it has appeared, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain has sold more than a million copies. It deserves that success, and to this day remains a great way to introduce yourself to Fighting Fantasy. The very fact that it's sold so well also means that it's very cheap to buy: a second-hand copy in good condition can be found for a couple of pounds, while Amazon will sell you a brand new one for £3.89, which is fine value for what is a very enjoyable gamebook.

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      • More +
        07.11.2009 19:30
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        The first Fighting Fantasy book

        As kids, my brother and I were lucky enough to have parents who made sure we had a variety of entertainment. I was obsessed with books, and as they wanted me to have fun and extend my reading, they started me off on the collection of books called 'Fighting Fantasy', written by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, that are known as 'choose your own adventure' books.

        Quite simply, they do tell a story, as other books do, but they mix it up. They have written a story, cut it off into sections, and then jumbled these sections up, giving them numbers. What you have to do is make choices along the way. You start at number 1, it starts off the story, and then gives you a choice. This could be as simple as taking a left or a right turn along a passageway, or it could be as vital as choosing the right weapon for a battle. Each choice will then have a destination page accompanied by an instruction, saying something such as 'Go to 132'. You then turn to 132, and the story continues from there.

        To make things even more interesting, the story is told as if you are the adventurer, and as such, it gives you character points, such as skill, stamina, luck, and other things like a backpack with limited space, or magic powers. To determine these powers, you need a die or dice, and at the front of the book, you follow the instructions to determine the number for these skills.

        As you progress through the book, there are various enemies to fight, and to fight them, and thus progress, you must roll dice and compare skill scores to reduce the opponent's stamina score until you have won. You may also need your luck score to uncover traps. There are chances along the way to improve your scores, such as eating food to increase your stamina, or using a specific weapon to increase your skill.

        It's quite an involved way of reading a book, and what Jackson and Livingstone manage to do at the same time is provide brilliant stories and characters to go with it. This is the first of many books they have written, and it features 'you' as the hero, arriving at Firetop Mountain, and follows you as you find your way inside, and to the top, where you must face the Warlock and defeat him to complete the book. The descriptions of the surroundings and the fights and the creatures are incredible, and this special 25th anniversary book has a number of extra features to it, including a fold out map and a brief history of Fighting Fantasy.

        I have read and played the majority of these books, and have a few of them here still. My local library had plenty of them when I was a kid. Sadly, there remain only a few, and a more modern cover to them as well, and while they don't have this 25th anniversary edition, they do have a copy of this one. If you are looking for the anniversary edition, it will cost you a bit more than a regular book. However, the original version, albeit a newer reprint, will be under £5, and you can probably pick a used copy up for next to nothing if you have a hunt. I recommend playing/reading these. When my son is old enough to get the gist of it and able to fully read so much, I'll introduce him to them, and hipefully he'll love them as much as I once did.

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          06.08.2009 10:47
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          A great book to be enjoyed by all!

          This was the first of the greatest books ever. The fighting fantasy series of books allowed you to decide your own fate and work your way through many different decisions and every turn of the page was a new discovery.

          The Warlock Of Fire Top Mountain sent you on a difficult quest to find the warloacks treasure. You will need to fight your way through great formidable creatures and perilous chances of doom and death to get to your goal.

          You use a pencil and an eraser to play this game. Yes it is not just a book it is a game aswell! You can add and deduct things from your equipment list at the front of the book depending on your choices within the game.

          The book is full of interesting illustrations to help the reader visualize what his character is facing and makes the book that bit more interesting. The illustarations are of a very high quality and it really did make the book feel more realistic for me.

          This book is great for 11-16 year olds as they are packed full of adventure and also have a fantastic and original storyline. There are many more adventures after this one!

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            20.09.2008 13:18
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            A great start for children who want a decent book that is educatonal and fun.

            This book is a re-release of the 1st ever Fighting Fantasy Book that was first released back in 1982 which is quite a long time ago.The Authors Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone must have had fantastic imaginations as some of the pictures and roleplay in this book for me are great.I think what my parents wanted me and my brother to do was to educate us while having fun at the same time instead of always being glued to the television and we could also create our own adventures and see how it would turn out.

            When we first got the original copy of the book it was in 1984 so had been around for a little bit but at the age me and my brother were at we was at the early start of our education so books like these could stimulate our own imagination and it would be like we were actually the character that was going on these journeys and facing the different battles and pitfalls to reach our goal.I think we did have the odd squabble at first as to who would use the book more but my brother won as he was older but then more books were introduced into the series and then these were purchased so there was no more arguments to be had.

            As with most of the books the tagline was "A fighting fantasy gamebook in which YOU become the hero!" and as i have said before you did feel like you was the hero and even after i had played the book i would try and act out some of the battles and actions from the book with my brother and my friends and we had quite a lot of fun from it.

            At the start of the book it gives you a list of contents and the best way you can defeat the creatures of the underworld, the different equipment and potions you may pick up along the way and how much you can actually carry, some hints and strategies on how best to play the game to win, an adventure sheet which i advise you do not use the actual book to write on as it will ruin it as i found out sadly you could instead photocopy some of the adventure sheets or write the different statistics on a piece of paper, there was a section about the rumours about what different things lay ahead of you and then a brief explanation about The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain.

            Then there are pages more towards the back of the book that are shown in the contents that gives you a history of The Fighting Fantasy Books and different facts about the books some ideas from one of the authors Ian Livingstone and then there is a list of The Fighting Fantasy Collection Of Books of which there are 30 or more and i have a lot of the original books but i have also bought
            some of them that have been reissued and revamped and they are still as great as ever and still bring back fond memories.

            The book starts where you are looking up at Firetop Mountain and it gives you a description of where you are then a direction you can go and then whichever way you choose to go you have to turn to the page number given and see what you have to do next.When you come up against a creature you have 3 different attributes which are Skill, Stamina and Luck.

            Before you begin your journey you have to roll some dice to determine what your statistics will be and i must admit i did cheat sometimes but did it fairly most of the time.For your skill you roll one dice and then whatever the score is you add a score of six to that and then that is your Skill score and then for your stamina you roll two dice and whatever score you get from that you add twelve and that becomes your Stamina score and for your luck score it is the same as for Skill and then you have your Luck score and then you need to mark this down on your Adventure Sheet along with any other equipment you may be carrying at the start of your journey.

            So when you fight the monsters they will more than likely have worse statistics than you so you should be able to defeat them but you basically roll two dice and that score is added onto their Skill Score and then roll two dice add that onto your Skill Score.If you get a higher score then they get two points deducted off there Stamina Score but if they get a higher score then you get to points deducted off your Stamina Score.

            It is the first person to reduce their opponents Stamina Score to zero that is the winner of the battle and if you are victorious then you can continue on your journey but if you fail then you cannot continue on your journey and you will have sadly been killed.Some of the pictures and graphics even at this early stage for me were great and as more and more books were produced the quality of the pictures and artwork got better and better.

            Sometimes if you had lost some of your Skill, Stamina or Luck then if you had certain places you went you could eat provisions you had to restore your Stamina to its original level and if you found a special item it could increase your skill by even more than its original figure or there was sometimes places where you could Test Your Luck and if you were lucky then could gain extra luck points or gain valuable information or a piece of equipment that is vital on your adventure.

            There is also some situations that if you have some misfortune then you may lose Skill points with a bad find or if you get in a bad situation like getting caught in a trap that could lose you Stamina points and if you are unlucky on Test Your Luck then you would lose Luck points and this would be a bad sign on your way forward on your adventure.

            If you are brave enough to take a risk in this particular book then you can defeat The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain but there are many pitfalls and battles along the way.The equipment you need yourself is a pen or pencil, an eraser if using a pencil and two
            dice so you can become an adventurer.

            The book got re-released in 2002 when it had a new cover and some new graphics and like i have said before the books still play and look as good as when i first started playing them more than 20 years ago.I would like to think that children of today would be interested in playing this book and then they could play more of the collection and have fun and be educated while doing it.

            I still have my original copy somewhere but the pages are worn some have fallen out and its past its best days but it still goes down for me as a book that stirred my imagination in a very good way.

            You can buy the this edition of the book from Amazon for £6.99 and also the updated version with the different picture on the front for £4.49 and for me they would be worth the purchase and if you like this book you can buy more of The Fighting Fantasy Collection Of Books.

            Thanks for reading.

            Rob :)

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