Swords and Sorcery

An Introduction to Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Remember those old game books called Fighting Fantasy? Those books where you were the hero and you advanced by choosing between the options the books gave you, like a very old computer quest – “If you choose to fight the ogre, turn to page 12. If you choose to flee, turn to page 13.”
In 1985, the good people at Games Workshop – Steve Jackson (no, not the one from GURPS), Ian Livingstone, Marc Gascoigne and Pete Tamlyn came up with a roleplaying version to the same basic rules (although, as the title suggests, these rules were somewhat augmented) and campaign world. They called it Advanced Fighting Fantasy.
Only five books from this series were issued – “Out of the Pit”, “Titan”, “Dungoeneer”, “Blacksand!” and “Allansia”, and their production was discontinued together with the regular Fighting Fantasy series.

Some Dry Statistics

The System has three basic traits – Skill (which is a catch-all attribute for fighting abilities, magic abilities, dexterity and basically the the way to determine whether any action you took would succeed or not), Stamina and Luck.
The skill system is quite basic – the character can allocate a number of points equal to her initial Skill rating to a list of various skills, where each allocated point effectively raises the character’s skill for a specific action by one.
Magic is also a skill, however it takes a special toll on the character – for each skill point allocated to magic, he looses one Skill point from his initial rating.
There are no character classes per se (the character just chooses the appropriate skills). Races are also not really a part of the game – only two races are described (Elves and Dwarves) and they too are no more than a limitation on the skills the character must choose.

Time and Reality

Probably the strongest point of this system is it flow and ease of play. The books strongly recommend the use of props, and almost every major scene description comes with a list of ideas on how to use props to convey the atmosphere.
Another interesting idea the system introduces is the real-time concept. During combat, the system claims, game time is identical to real time. Each player has an allotted time slice to act in, and if he can’t make up his mind what to do, he will loose his turn. Spell durations are also stated in minutes and the use of an hourglass to monitor them is recommended.
All in all, the system comes through more as a structured form of acting than as a roleplaying system.

Alone and Together

Although there are only five Advanced Fighting Fantasy books, it is important to note that there are more than sixty personal Fighting Fantasy books (counting the spin-off series as well). These books could easily be used as source books for Advanced Fighting Fantasy campaigns.

Final Words

To be completely frank, the main reason I wrote this review was so that I didn’t feel I’m leaving a system that I played out. Nowadays, there is probably little reason to play a system that is overly simplistic (the World of Darkness systems are more complex than this, for crying out loud!), and even worse – out of production and not supported.
However, if you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty high fantasy swords and sorcery type of game – this might just be the system for you.

Games Workshop no longer produce Advanced Fighting Fantasy, but you can find more about this system by visiting the web’s largest Fighting Fantasy website – FightingFantasy.com