|(unlimited reissue cover)|
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #1
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 2) #1
The Anniversary Collection (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Box Set 1 (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Box Set 3 (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Gamebox (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Gamebox 1 (Collection)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Software Pack (Collection)
Čaroděj z Ohňové hory (Czech)
De Duivelstovenaar van de Vuurberg (Dutch)
O feiticeiro da montanha de fogo (Portuguese)
O feiticeiro da montanha de fogo (Portuguese)
Häxmästaren i Röda berget (Swedish)
El hechicero de la Montaña de Fuego (Spanish)
Der Hexenmeister vom Flammenden Berg (German)
Hifuki-san no mahou-tsukai [火吹山の魔法使い] (Japanese)
HMKFP MPSGT HR HAF [המכשף מפסגת הר האש] (Hebrew)
Magyosnikat ot ognenata planina [Магьосникът от Огненената планина] (Bulgarian)
Seiðskrattinn í Logatindi (Icelandic)
Skatten i Monsterfjellet (Norwegian)
Le Sorcier de la montagne de feu (French)
Lo stregone della montagna infuocata (Italian)
Troldmanden fra Ildbjerget (Danish)
Tulemäe Nõid (Estonian)
A Tűzhegy varázslója (Hungarian)
Velhovuoren aarre (Finnish)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Role-Playing Material)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Video Game)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Digital Gamebook)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Board Game)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Video Game)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Digital Gamebook)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Role-Playing Material)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Merchandise Item)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Part I (Mini-Adventure)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain: Part II (Mini-Adventure)
Jackson, Steve (United Kingdom)
Jones, Peter Andrew
(original two covers)
Corben, Richard (American cover)
McKenna, Martin (reissue cover)
Nicholson, Russ (interior)
August 27, 1982 (original)
November, 1983 (American edition)
May, 2002 (reissue)
October 1, 2003 (American reissue)
September 3, 2009 (series 2 reissue)
0140315381 / 9780140315387
0440993814 / 9780440993810 (American edition)
0743475119 / 9780743475112 (American reissue)
1840463872 / 9781840463873 (reissue)
1840465212 / 9781840465211 (unlimited reissue)
|Number of Endings:||3 instant deaths, 1 victory, plus failure by inadequate inventory or loss of Stamina points.|
|User Summary:||You travel to Firetop Mountain, a dangerous place inhabited by Zagor the Warlock, in search of treasure and adventure.|
I think this book is one of the very best of the series. Varied and exciting encounters, replay value, all types of interesting and cool stuff. And most of all, the combats are actually winnable with most starting rolls if you play well!
The imagery in this book is pretty good, and the atmosphere is intense. The amount of ways to go gives the illusion that the dungeon is massive; and in fact it is. So much fun to explore =D
I also like the fact that the dungeon is split into 4 unique parts: Greenskins, Monsters, Undead and the Maze - how cool is that for a progression?
Love the maze; yes it's frustrating and took me about half an hour or more to get through on average. However, its difficulty just makes it feel better when you actually get through in the end. After all the getting lost in the maze, the encounter with the dragon and Zagor feels very sudden!
Overall, this is excellent, especially for a first book. With a first it would be easy to make a mistake, yet the balance on practically everything is spot on, unlike in later books (when it was too difficult, too many sudden deaths or no replay value for example).
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the first book in a successful series of game books offering simple rules for character generation, combat and making "saving rolls."
The book was written by Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson. I had always wondered about the "schizophrenic" nature of the adventure - one portion of the book allows you to "wander" around and retrace your steps... and another portion leads you on what is essentially a "forced march" (you can't retrace your steps), quite literally shoving you toward your appointment with destiny. Well, the reason behind the stylistic differences of the two parts is actually quite simple - each section was written by one of the authors! Ian Livingston wrote the "forced march" section and Steve Jackson wrote the "wander around" section!
Each section has its strengths and weaknesses - going on a forced march seems very constrictive and takes away from the reader/player's sense of being able to control his/her destiny by the choices he/she... but it does prevent you from walking around in circles around a maze and propels the "story" forward. Being able to "wander" around has the advantage of granting the reader/player a certain degree of freedom to retrace his/her path and fully explore the game's world... however, if you're terrible at making maps and/or notes or have a lousy memory, one could easily end up chasing one's own tail with the story being "stalled" as a result... with freedom comes choice and with choice comes responsibility. I guess there's a certain philosophical message in there somewhere.
This is a decent start to a good series, and it's easy to see how people were hooked on gamebooks after playing this. It's more or less plotless, but the dungeon environment it allows the reader to explore is pleasantly quirky and greatly enhanced by Russ Nicholson's remarkable artwork. I'm especially fond, for some mysterious reason, of the delightfully repulsive ghoul pictured near section 275.
Gameplay is fast and fun, though also rather flawed. My biggest complaint is the frequent use of a lazy pattern of game design. For example, say the reader can go either east or west. If the reader goes east, there's no turning back, but if the reader goes west, something important happens, and the reader is subsequently herded east anyway. This pattern shows up again and again in the book, and while it obviously made the writing process easier for the authors, it's often a source of frustration for the player -- there are times where it would be nice to turn back, but no such option is offered. Certainly, it would have been difficult to increase the player's freedom of movement without making the book overlong, but the linearity of this particular story structure could probably have been masked a little better.
A lesser complaint is that the game's inventory system is poorly thought-out. There's no inventory limit, but certain objects require you to drop an existing item before picking them up. This almost makes sense for a heavy shield (though not if you drop a light black glove to make room), but it's totally senseless when later in the adventure you are required to drop an item in order to pick up a key. Inventory is one place (though not the only place) where Lone Wolf undeniably had an edge over Fighting Fantasy.
A final feature of game design that I'm not sure whether to praise or complain about is the final segment, where you have to open a chest using keys gathered during earlier parts of the story. This is done using a fairly clever mechanic (adding key numbers together to yield a section which shows whether or not the keys fit), but it means that you can get within an inch of victory again and again without ever actually winning. This makes replay high, but it might be considered a bit cruel. Personally, I think it works well enough for this book since the adventure's challenge level is low overall, but it would be unspeakably nasty to place a similar twist in a tougher adventure.
Also, if I may be picky, I'd like to point out that the very first paragraph of the rules says that you start with a shield but that it subsequently seems that you don't (especially since you can find one at one point in the adventure). Probably just a little flaw missed in copy editing. Also, my early British printing of the book is missing the letter "e" in the word "grey" in the picture caption by section 122, though my more recent printing includes the letter.
Anyway, overall, I think this book deserves its classic status. It's challenging but not impossible, it has a number of memorable situations (aided greatly by good artwork), it's fun to map, and it has some unusual design elements (most notably the final key puzzle) despite being more or less the first of its kind. Of course, it can also be blamed for typecasting the whole genre of interactive books through its fantasy setting and its emphasis of mechanics over storyline. While these things are a shame, they can't really be used as direct criticisms of the book. Taken at face value, it's a good bit of fun and worth reading the four or five times it'll most likely take to emerge victorious.
(based on the original Puffin version; this review contains some spoilers)
This is a very tough book to review, due not only to its seminal place in gamebook history but also because the styles of the two authors involved would come to influence the hobby in different ways. A lot has already been written about this book: at the time of this writing, there are 19 different reviews posted on the Internet, if one counts only those available at the FF Reviews Archive and Planète LDVELH. So why bother writing yet another one? One reason may be that there are several specific criticisms which are made by more than one reviewer, and while there is certainly some validity to them, it's surprising that so many seem to be missing the point. Before tackling the criticisms, a summary of the book is in order.
As others have already pointed out, the book's plot is very simple. You play a warrior who decides to venture into the subterranean den of a Warlock of great power, with the intent of defeating him in combat and keeping his vast treasure. The entirety of the adventure takes place inside the dungeon complex, and the player's task consists not only of finding the final room and confronting the Warlock, but also of finding the keys to the treasure chest, each of which is hidden in a different part of the dungeon. The first half of the dungeon, written by Ian Livingstone, is very characteristic of his style, with many corridors to choose from, each of which runs through a series of rooms in sequence. The challenge in this first part, as players will eventually find out, is to figure out a single correct route along which the items essential to the completion of the adventure lie hidden. As is also usual with Ian, once certain points in the dungeon are reached, the player is not given the option of turning back, so taking a single wrong turn will result in an eventual inability to complete the adventure successfully. The second part of the adventure, written by Steve Jackson, is very different, since most of it consists of navigating a maze where the player has complete freedom of movement, before the final battle with the Warlock himself.
The book's writing is very concise and has even been described as dry by some. This criticism probably arises from the fact that other gamebook writers (including some who wrote later books in the FF series) usually write better. However, since this is a work of entertainment and not art, and also since it succeeded at keeping engaged the children and young teenagers who were its target audience, I believe this conciseness is to be praised rather than criticized.
People have also complained about the fact that there is no way to figure out which of the many keys to be found in the dungeon are the correct ones, thus usually requiring the player to replay the adventure until the correct ones are found. For my part, I do find this appealing rather than off-putting, because if it weren't for the fact that one of the distinctive features of the branching-path book is not revealing its entire content in a single read, thus forcing the reader to take a different path each time, the genre wouldn't be different from the linear novel at all. Keeping vital information hidden from the character and encouraging the reader to learn it through subsequent plays does more for this type of book than scattering clues everywhere (which, by the way, would render further choice-making meaningless).
Another common criticism is the thinness of the plot, which I also have no problem with. Since reaching the Warlock's chamber is a difficult goal, and finding the correct keys is not exactly an easy feat (except if done by chance), most players are easily immersed in the challenge offered by the adventure, and this more than makes up for the scarcity of developed characters, storylines or dialogues. This emphasis on gameplay rather than plot contributed a lot to defining gamebooks as a distinct genre, and even later books which intended to balance the two owe a lot to it.
Other reviewers point out that the book is too derivative of Dungeons & Dragons, which is to a degree justifiable by the fact that one of its goals was to introduce young audiences to the role-playing hobby. Besides, Russ Nicholson's artwork does a lot to bring the creatures to life, so that the Dragon, the Ghoul, the Zombies, Goblins and Wizards all have a flavour which really sets them apart from depictions in other role-playing materials, and contributes to the unique identity of Titan as a setting. Furthermore, the portrayals of the Warlock in the illustrations are so good that I assume many of us felt more motivated to reach the final encounter just by looking at them.
Yet another complaint is that the dungeon seems illogical with its assortment of creatures and traps which seem to serve no other purpose other than wait around for adventurers to arrive. This criticism stems from a school of thought which holds that a fantasy adventure should be planned out like an ecosystem, and that every creature, object and event should have a logical raison d'etre within a larger context. In principle, I have no quarrel with this opinion, and I could even agree that this kind of effort could lead to interesting adventures, but I think this kind of "logic" is hardly a requirement. The fantasy genre, after all, allows for a great deal of free-wheeling creativity in characters and situations (authors like Lewis Carroll and Lyman Frank Baum come to mind as examples). Furthermore, a scientific explanation for the presence of wildly varying creatures living next to each other is more a requirement of science-fiction than it is of fantasy fiction. Finally, there are many genres of entertainment, besides the dungeon crawl, which have obvious incoherences and are still a lot of fun, so dismissing this book based on a "lack of logic" seems like extreme purism to me.
Before proceeding, a disclaimer must be made. My comment about the free-wheeling nature of fantasy on the previous paragraph should not be interpreted, as some people have done, as an advocacy of free association to the point where the limits of fantasy are crossed and one wanders into the realm of Surrealism. In my opinion, the thinly-plotted dungeon-crawl genre is still within the defining limits of fantasy because the elements relevant to that genre are prevalent in it. Moreover, the way those elements are assembled in the dungeon-crawl is also consistent with the themes of fantasy literature.
But let us proceed with the review of TWoFM. The inventory system, as Demian has pointed out, is poor, such as in the instance where the player can take a glove out of his / her backpack in order to be able to carry a shield on his / her hand. Fortunately later entries in the series adopted more logical systems or let go of inventory restrictions altogether.
Ian's part of the adventure, as mentioned before, sets the style which would become characteristic of his works in this series. Some reviewers have complained at the lack of flexibility, since at many points in the adventure, the author's whim prevents the player character from retracing her / his steps. As questionable as this design practice may be, the truth is it was very influential on the gamebook genre, to the point that it's far more common to find a gamebook where the character is always propelled forward - and must choose her / his way often at random -, rather than one where the player is allowed full freedom of movement. Steve's part, on the other hand, allows such freedom, and although some people claim it's boring - mostly due to the fact that there are rather few encounters in it - it should appeal to you if you like solving mazes. It's very easy to be transported from one point of the maze to another far away without warning, however, so mapping it will require a lot of patience. A nice touch in the second segment is the use of instructions which direct the player to a different paragraph if a specific location is visited more than once. This feature is so clever it was copied in many later gamebooks, both in this series and elsewhere.
The criticism that Ian's design makes it easy to miss items which are essential to the completion of the adventure should also be taken with a grain of salt, since this is true for one of those items at most.
In both parts, the encounters and traps are often designed in a very clever way, and often prove entertaining to solve (with the flexibility of the choices helping a lot). Who can forget the room with the star tiles, the dark room, the giant spider, the magic portraits, the river and the room with the vampire, to name only a few? Most traps are hardly fatal, but it's possible to weaken your character by reducing his / her SKILL or Attack Strength if you're not careful. Since completing the adventure will require at least two tough fights, a character with a low Skill will have a hard time prevailing in this book. This should pose no problem except if you're one of those dorks who don't dare to roll up several characters beforehand and settling for a powerful one. There are also some Skill-raising items which can be helpful. Zagor the Warlock is a very tough enemy if battled hand to hand, but there are at least three alternate strategies which will make the final battle easier, and the player is advised to pay attention to the clues available throughout the adventure in order to figure them out.
While this was not the first attempt to bring solitaire role-playing adventures to the public (Tunnels & Trolls did it before, and High Fantasy published standalone gamebooks which coincided with the early titles of the FF series), this book was indeed the first one to introduce a game system which, while far from perfect, was accessible to younger readers and as such introduced them painlessly to some basic concepts of the role-playing hobby. The immersiveness, complexity and atmosphere of the adventure make it a true classic, even if, like me, this was not your first full-system gamebook. Overall, an essential read which, for better or worse, defined what many people would come to understand as the basic features of the genre.
|Modern Moriarty's Thoughts:||
My first review here, and it had to be for my favourite gamebook series of them all - Fighting Fantasy. Words alone cannot express my love for this series, as I grew up with these books, and they fuelled what became a lifelong passion for RPGs and adventure fiction of all kinds.
But there will be plenty of time for tearful nostalgia later, as I have a review to write, and on the book that started it all no less, both for the series and for me - The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Does this fondly regarded book hold up, all these years later?
Well, for a start, we must remember that this is the very first book of the series. The writers did not know then, how successful the Fighting Fantasy series would become, nor did they have anything like the specific detail of what Titan was like, fleshed out - they just wanted to make a good adventure book and took things from there.
So it's understandable that the book is rather simple in many ways, compared to the rich stories and experimental approaches to structure and narrative that many of the later (particularly 40+) books would offer.
This is at its core, a dungeon crawler in the classic sense. Mazes, monsters, fabulous treasures, an evil wizard, etc., etc. Your hero displays very little personality beyond seeming to be generally a decent guy (he's upset if he accidentally kills the insane prisoner for example), but he seems to be in this for the money really.
And people who are coming to the series now might be surprised to learn of Zagor's fan favourite status, seeing as how he is similarly quite lightly written in this book. There are hints that Zagor was worth more than his rather easy 'death' in this book, but his potential as a character wouldn't be realised until The Trolltooth Wars.
So is this just an ordinary meat and potatoes gamebook that is classic simply for being the first installment in a great series?
I feel that's unfair, and would argue that the book is generally of an above average quality. The book may lack the sense of atmosphere and sense of occasion (at least consistently anyway), that some of the other books have, but there are some genuinely fascinating encounters contained within its pages.
Part of this is due to Ian Livingstone's talent for world building and for presenting a situation that is as close to reality as the fantasy setting will allow. His books tend to be far more down to earth than Jackson's, and whilst they do include fantastical elements, they are generally more sober and 'how it actually would be' affairs.
This is somewhat in effect here, but as I say, this is very early days, and the writers still hadn't quite found their voice.
So whilst the book is generally divided into distinct areas, goblinoids in the outer sections, with ever more esoteric creatures the further in you go, there are many elements that feel quite artificial (the numbered keys to the chest just lying around in trapped rooms etc.).
I do however feel that people are being quite unfair when they say the dungeon doesn't feel like it is a real place, that it's just a series of fairly random encounters etc. Because I feel the book finds a good middle ground between showing it as a lair for Zagor's troops, with offices, prisons, armouries etc., and showing that this is the darkly magical and eldritch lair of a powerful wizard.
Livingstone's writing has been described as quite dry at times, and that is sometimes a concern in his work. He tends to be quite methodical, applying reason and craft to make sure a scene fits into what you could expect to see, but often lacks the genius for great visuals and one off ideas that Jackson has.
A kitchen and dining room, for example, is to Ian L. simply a room. Food is prepared there, because baddies need to eat just like everyone else, and so you might see people eating there (as you do with the Orcs in WOFM).
Steve Jackson however, does not share Livingstone's concern for realism, so his books are often pretty wild affairs. It simply isn't enough for Jackson to have ordinary rooms in his books.
Taking The Citadel of Chaos as a brief example to set against the one in Firetop, a kitchen cannot simply be a kitchen with him. It has to have fire elementals heating the ovens, which are in turn manned by witches.
He has a very cavalier attitude to realism therefore, with every encounter he writes, being strange or bizarre in some fashion. They are fashioned to be constant hits of 'Wow, that's really weird... but very cool.'
His approach to writing the maze is low key, seeking to drive you crazy trying to find a way out, and occasionally throwing a curve ball like a secret door or a room full of quite friendly dwarfs playing games! By not grounding the maze in too much realism with overly descriptive text, he allows the maze to become a mental prison, rather than a mundane chore to be overcome.
When you think about Jackson's scenes though, they rarely make logical sense (would Balthus Dire really want to go through all those traps and monsters - including the Ganjees - just to get to the breakfast table each morning?)
So I think its a shame the two never worked directly together again. Because with Order (from Livingstone) and Chaos (from Jackson), that's a very potent mix. Without the other to rein things in or push things out, the two sometimes suffer when apart.
Livingstone's books are as I mentioned sometimes 'worthy,' in that they seem like places that would exist in this world, and operate in the fashion he suggests, but are also quite dry and uninspiring (Forest of Doom, Temple of Terror are 'good' examples of this).
Meanwhile, Jackson's readers are frequently at the mercy of him bombarding them with sights and situations that thrill, but are ultimately lacking in real substance when all is said and done. Too often you're left thinking 'But would it really be like that?'
As a general rule of thumb also, Livingstone is a much better writer of Good and Neutral characters, because he is able to give them plausible motivations and personalities (he's fond of the idea of having companions with your hero too). Jackson is less adept at this, because just about everyone in his books is either crazy or trying to kill/rob/trick you to a greater or lesser degree!
But Livingstone really doesn't seem to like writing for villains, and seems utterly unable to give even promising characters like Malbordus and The Snow Witch their due. His villains are pretty one dimensional 'I want power - POWER!!!' cacklers. Its therefore not surprising that even at this early stage, he passed on writing the section where you actually meet Zagor.
Jackson however, is able to bring a sense of adventure and super villainry/anti-heroism to his Big Bads. His villains aren't realistic in the truest sense of the word, but they are fun to meet (and beat), and often have devious tricks and over the top plans that entertain and do justice to their last boss status.
To return to the book at hand though, I think this is a good starting place for anyone looking to get into the series. Livingstone's early sections offer sober but fun dungeon crawling and offer treasure, orcs and goblins to slay, as well as surprising changes of pace in the one off encounters.
But keep going, and the book is actually gets pretty intense, even quite scary at times. Because the setting feels real, old tricks like the portrait's eyes attempting to hypnotise you, work very well. And the scenes with the zombies and ghouls are pretty creepy to say the least.
I must give special mention to the dark room where you use the blue or red candles. I was only young when I first played through the book, and that section freaked me out so much, I had to put the book down. Great scary fun.
There is as I say a general feeling of quality questing about the book, and that's the main basis for recommending it. It's not bogged down with needless detail that hinder you from enjoying it for the dungeon crawling hack and slash treasure hunting that it is at heart (a problem that the later Firetop Mountains had IMO).
Later titles in the series would offer richer stories, more fully realised characters, better systems with more room for customisation of character, and would simply offer more heavyweight experiences (indeed, Livingstone himself quickly becomes interested in the idea of epic, globe trotting adventures).
But if you just want a good 'quest em up', this is a very fine purchase. It doesn't really prepare you for your time on Titan in any but the most basic way, but its uncluttered with unnecessary fluff, and just gives you what you paid for and what you came for, with a hint that there's much more under the hood in the series yet.
Thoroughly deserves its classic status, and really is something that no dungeon crawler should be without. Monsters, mazes, treasure and horror, what more does a man (or woman) need?
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the first in the Fighting Fantasy series, and while not technically the best, it manages to overcome its shortcomings through sheer charm and raw simplicity.
Maybe I'm biased in favour of loving this book: for me it is a slice of pure nostalgia. I first came across this book as a child in the 1980s during a boring summer holiday and it had a profound effect since I had never come across interactive fiction or roleplaying games before this.
I love that Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a simple honest dungeon crawl. I love how it uses all the classic monsters (orcs, zombies, a vampire, and a dragon). There is an absolute bare minimum of back story, and you know absolutely nothing about the main character (the nameless, genderless YOU) other than that you have a sword and local townspeople are sad to see you go. But I love this too because it means you are straight into the heart of the adventure. And the lack of detail about the main character leaves it open for the reader fill that role, which is after all the idea in this kind if book.
The main problem with this book is what I like to call the turn left/ turn right problem. This is when you are presented with some options but there is no way distinguish between them so you just have to pick at random. This is particularly bad in the later part of the book in the section known as the maze. This seems to have no purpose other than to ensure that you make a map like a good diligent adventurer. How fun.
This is what I learned playing Warlock of Firetop Mountain:
So overall, a flawed but still great adventure gamebook. It is far from the best of its genre, but I think it is a great introduction for someone getting into this kind of book.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Ken G. for the oldest non-wraparound cover scan.|
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Fighting Fantasy # 1 Autographed Title Page
Thanks to Ken G. for sharing this.
Fighting Fantasy # 1 / # 6 / #19 Character Sheet