The Fighting Fantasy game books were a revelation but, unfortunately, I don’t remember where I got my first one. It was a slightly younger guy, Russell, at school who was really into them, more than I was. He had every single last one of them at the time and used to loan them to me and I’d play through them over a couple of days – apart from Starship Traveller – which like many people I never finished, whether there’s any truth to the rumour that it was broken or whether it was simply bastard-fucking-hard I still don’t know, but even cheating I never got through it.
Even before we knew what was going on we began reading the books to each other, one person reading the text and one person playing the part of the hero and making the decisions and the rolls for him. We quickly began to get frustrated though, FF game books suffered from the same problem that computer games still do, your choices were limited and even things that made perfect sense you couldn’t do, or even attempt. Then Fighting Fantasy, Titan and Out of the Pit came along. Suddenly it all made sense, we could do whatever we wanted, so long as it made some sort of sense. Of course, we didn’t quite grasp the idea of making up our own adventures, at least not straight away.
It’s safe to say that Fighting Fantasy – and later Dragon Warriors – were the ‘ZX Spectrum’ of British Roleplaying. Where that computer game us a cottage industry of bedroom programmers who later went on to create a world-beating computer games industry, so FF gave us the beginnings of the quirky and eccentric British RPG industry and, for me, my first steps into genuine role-playing and some of my ideas about what makes a good adventure, traps, settings and the overall ‘feel’ of a fantasy adventure.