Editorial: The magazine opens with an editorial that names the winners of the various competitions held over the last few issues. The most notable of these is Paul Struth, whose adventure The Dervish Stone appears later on. Not much of interest otherwise, aside from Ian and Steve signing off with a plea for us to "keep bashing the orcs". Will do, lads!
Out of the Pit: This entry features four new beasties created by Marc Gascoigne, who it is noted is currently editing an unnamed collection of monsters. All of them are appearing here for the first time, and they all make it into that monster book. I wonder what it's title will be...
Caarth: These snake men rule the deserts south of human civilization, lording it over tribes of ape-men and neanderthals. Intelligent, strong and merciless, the Caarth are stopped from conquering the lands around them only by their aversion to temperate and colder climates. A few tidbits of FF lore are dropped in this short entry. First, we learn that men descended from apes, and orcs were crossed with swine. (Bleargh, get your pig orcs outta my fantasy, Gascoigne.) The Snake Demon Sith is mentioned, as he is worshipped by the high priests of the Caarth. Overall they're a cool monster, and it's a wonder that there was never a gamebook centered around them.
Death Spider: The demonic creatures have the five-metre-wide body of a spider and the head of a human. Their webs are their link to the Realm of the Damned, and any adventurers caught within it - or paralysed by the spider's bite and dragged into it - will be bitten until they die. The web and the corpses within will then fade away back to the demonic plane, where their soul will be tortured for eternity. Is this the first real notion we get that demons are a thing in Titan? I guess there's been the Mirror Demon in Deathtrap Dungeon, and the Ice Demon from Caverns of the Snow Witch. I'm probably forgetting others as well, but this seems to me to be the first blatant "torture your soul in hell" type of demon.
Strangle Weed: This plant grows in Darkwood Forest, and... look, it's a plant with vines that will strangle you to death. It's not much else to say about it, although the macabre touch of it raising dead adventurers over its head to squeeze out the juices, then leaving the skeletons hanging above is pretty great.
Krell: These are six-armed apes that can be tamed, and taught tricks. There are tales of the arch-wizard Belandros, who even taught his pets how to speak the language of men "though, it must be said, with a thick eastern accent!" They supposedly dwell in jungles to the east, though I'm not sure where that would be. There aren't really many jungles on the continent of Allansia, certainly none to the east of the area where most of the gamebooks had been set to this point. There are some jungles to the south, past the Desert of Skulls, so maybe there. Otherwise I guess we could place them on Khul, which is technically east of Allansia. Shit, you can put anything in Khul and it works, that's the whole point of it.
Warlock Profile: This month's artist's profile is on Iain McCaig, and it's presented in the form of a comic strip drawn by McCaig himself. It shows off his seldom seen flair for comedy, as a cigar-smoking dragon shows the reader around McCaig's mansion, but it doesn't really tell us anything about the man himself. Unless you want to believe that he was born shortly after the dinosaurs, and grew up drawing on cave walls.
Tricks & Traps by Ian Livingstone: "Throw a few Skill 12 monsters at 'em, that'll get the little fuckers." Jeez, short article, Ian.
Haha, I kid. This actually is a short article, in which Ian outlines some basic traps: falling stone blocks, pits, illusions, riddles, the rudimentary stuff. Of more interest are the John Blanche illustrations that accompany them. It ends with a competition, inviting the readers to submit their own ideas to the magazine. They'll no doubt show more imagination than the examples Ian provided (not that he's short of imagination, but it's obvious that he's saving his best ideas for the books).
Cartoon Competition Results: The winner and runner-up of the cartoon competition are printed. The first is a two-pager showing the adventures of Arkenor the Wizard, and the runner-up is a guide on "How to be an Adventurer". Neither are all that funny to my humourless, jaded self. If these are the winners, I'd actually be more interested to see the other entries. Awfulness is far more interesting to me then mediocrity.
The Warlock's Quill: Stephen Taylor of Newport gives some general praise. Russell Cooper of Southport wants Skill to decrease along with Stamina, because he obviously hates winning. S. Wilson of Sheerness provides a system for calculating XP and levelling up in FF. The editor (Ian, I assume) dismisses it with some twaddle about how the books would then have to get increasingly tougher, never mind that there's already a massive discrepancy between adventurers with Skill 7 and Skill 12. Patrick Fahy of Epping ranks the books (with Starship Traveller at the bottom and Deathtrap Dungeon at the top). He also whines about the Maze of Zagor being impossible. Crybaby. Michael Waite of Dorchester wonders why the adventure sheet for House of Hell in Warlock #3 had sections for magic spells. Paul Cater Malden of Essex wants an FF convention. L. Heilbronn of Malda Vale thinks it's very important to let us all know that she's a girl. Lewis Tennant of Tregaron wants an FF version of Disneyland. And Daniel Clayton of Salisbury is annoyed that Warlock has printed nothing but rehashes of existing adventures.
Expanding Fighting Fantasy - Experience and Character Improvement by Graeme Davis: This article provides a system for increasing a character's Skill score in the FF introductory RPG. Basically, you earn experience points equal to the Skill score of monsters defeated. When you have ten times your current Skill in XP, you can roll 2d6. If you score equal to or higher than your Skill, it increases by 1 point. It also presents a similar system for your Magic score, if you happen to be using the system from Citadel of Chaos. Luck is included as well. Steve Jackson chimes in at the end with his own opinions of the system, which is pretty cool. He seems in favour of it, though he doesn't like the idea of a new character popping in with Skill 12, and instantly being as good as someone who's worked his way up from Skill 7. He's also against the idea of Luck increasing, as you can't really train to be luckier.
Expanding Fighting Fantasy - Magic in Fighting Fantasy by Tony Smith: This article has some ideas for spell-casting characters. The spells must be read and learned by the prospective caster, and a Skill roll will be required for the casting, which then drains Stamina points. This sets up a red flag for me already - Skill is already paramount for warriors, and making it important for spellcasters as well just unbalances the game further in favour of those who rolled a high Skill. It ends with some sample spells obviously cribbed from Sorcery! It's rudimentary stuff, and unfortunately Steve doesn't share his opinion here to liven things up a bit.
Fighting Fantasy News: The production schedule is ramping up to a book a month, with the following all in the pipeline: Space Assassin, Talisman of Death, Freeway Fighter, Temple of Terror, Rings of Kether, and Seas of Blood. The monster collection is mentioned again, this time with the working title of Out of the Pit. Two jigsaw puzzles have also been released, and Citadel Miniatures are releasing a set of plastic minis.
Fighting Fantasy Feedback: This is a survey for the fans to give their feedback. I'm going to record my own answers for posterity, drawing only from those books I've covered so far in the blog. Any other questions I'll answer as though I was at my peak FF-reading age.
1. What is the most exciting Fighting Fantasy Gamebook you have read? Deathtrap Dungeon
2. Which Gamebook did you find the most difficult to complete? House of Hell
3. Which Gamebook features the best cover art? Forest of Doom
4. Which Gamebook featured the best interior black and white illustrations? Deathtrap Dungeon
5. What is your favourite monster? Dog-Ape. Or is it Ape-Dog?
6. Most Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks have featured a swords and sorcery theme. Would you like some of the future books to be based on different themes?
- Science fiction - No
- Horror - Yes
- Espionage - Hell no
- Pirates - Yes
- Wild West - All the no ever
- War - Only if it's war with swords
- Time-Travel - Yes
- Samurai - Yes
- Superheroes - No
- Any other suggestions - More skeletons
7. Which Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks have you bought? (Please circle) As a kid, I had bought books, 3, 5, 6, 8 and 10.
8. Which Sorcery! Gamebooks have you bought? I never even saw these books as a kid.
9. Which magazines do you read? G.M. and Dragon.
10. Did you enjoy the Fighting Fantasy board game 'Market Mayhem' in Warlock 3? I'll say no, because it didn't really even have rules.
11. Would you like to see more board games in future issues of Warlock? Sure, why not.
12. Would you like to see Fighting Fantasy Role-Playing Game Scenarios in future issues of Warlock? Yes please!
13. Would you like to read fiction in Warlock? Nooooo.
14. Would you like to see a regular cartoon strip in Warlock? Yes, contingent on it actually being funny.
15. How do you rate the current features of Warlock?
- Out of the Pit - Wizard!
- Warlock's Quill - Average
- News - Average
- Crossword - Orc's Armpit
- Warlock Profile - Orc's Armpit
- Cartoons - Orc's Armpit
- Fighting Fantasy Adventures - Wizard!
- Tricks and Traps: Orc's Armpit
16. Do you think the Fighting Fantasy game system should: a) stay the same b) be made more complex? or c) be simplified? Stay the same.
17. Do you always play through the Gamebooks strictly according to the dice rolls? Oh yeah. Sure.
18. Do you play computer games? Yes, on Commodore 64
19. What is your favourite computer game? Bard's Tale 3.
20. How old are you? Ten. (I'm actually 39...)
The Dervish Stone: The remainder of the magazine is taken up by this 200 paragraph adventure. That's for my next entry, however.