Sunday, June 26, 2011

What I look for in a gamebook

I was looking through some old threads that I had posted and I came across this post I made in June 2010 here (on the 2nd page but read through the ranking of Fighting Fantasy books) and I realised that I actually haven't explained what I look for in a gamebook, so here it is.

I guess what your best gamebook is depends on what you want from a gamebook. 

Things I like:

Vivid characters and an imaginative setting (Moonrunner, BVP, Chreature of Havoc, Crimson Tide, Spectral Stalkers, Portal of Evil, Slaves of the Abyss Beneath Nightmare Castle and Talisman of Death I think are the best examples of this.)

A well rounded hero, which can be done with a back story or a flavourful set of skills (Moonrunner has a good backstory, Midnight Rogue has a set of skills that fit the character. Master of Chaos has a set of skills, but they are not very flavourful. Taking them away takes nothing away from the story or the character of the hero.)

A main villain who isn't just a 'boss monster' (Karam Gruul is a good example of this. Balthus Dire is a pure boss monster (not Zagor, but only because of the painting.)

Problems that require some thought (How to beat Globus, several situations in Siege of Sardath, Slaves of the Abyss.)

The episodes in the book are part of an overaching quest to solve rather than small disparate episodes(Rebel Planet and Moonrunner.)

A descriptive, well written story (Night of the Necromancer, Legend of the Shadow Warriors, Portal of Evil, Slaves of the Abyss.)

Something innovative Something new that hasn't been done before, either in terms of rules (Starship Traveller) or flavour (Howl of the Werewolf, Night of the Necromancer, Magehunter)

Things I don't like in gamebooks:

A lot of items either because they are all 'power ups' or because the whole book revolves around collecting random junk and then using it later. (Legend of Zagor is the biggest culprit in the powerups category. Basically, if the book has a potion of stamina which restores half your initial level in stamina points, it's a powerups book. Crypt of the Sorcerer comes under the random junk collection category.)

Linearity Just makes the book a big exercise in turning to as many paragraphs as possible. (Trial of the Champions) 

Random sudden deaths (I don't mind sudden deaths because you did something stupid, but dying because you picked an option which sounded sensible makes you feel cheated. So does death by die roll. Chasms of Malice is the big offender here. 

I'll forgive one from the Crimson Tide because I find it quite clever to turn to 400 towards the end only to be killed off. I'll forgive that one for its cleverness and entertainment.

Flavourless, statistics driven characters makes the book like a computer game. Fight generic orc sk 6 st 5. Later on, fight ogre sk 8 st 10, then dragon sk 12 st 20, then the boss sk 16 st 30. Find a wizard who gives you a potion. This type of gamebook will work better as a computer game (I'm looking at you Legend of Zagor, which I think was turned into a boardgame. Also Knights of Doom, Night Dragon, Curse of the Mummy and Island of the Undead.)

Impossible, unavoidable fights Makes you feel like you can't win without cheating (City of Thieves, Knights of Doom.)

Arbitrary puzzles and random consequences to your choices I don't want to get inside the authors head (Daggers of Darkness, Chasms of Malice.)

The book is just a bunch of encounters There is no thread tying the plot together (Scorpion Swamp)

Tedious adventure sheet management/map making It may be important to the game but when it is the game, it becomes boring (The Sorcery! series for all its strengths suffers from this. Scorpion Swamp is an example of a book where too much of the game is making a map.)

I think that's it. People's opinions on books will differ on how important they rank these for and against points. If someone likes fights and collecting potions etc. then Legend of Zagor will probably be a favourite. 

Lots of books with good points usually have a few flaws (It may get tedious deciphering the code in creature of Havoc or you may not like the setting in Moonrunner) and lots of bad books have redeeming features (Scorpion Swamp has a spell system.)

I think Battleblade Warrior is an interesting gamebook because it has very few good or bad points. It is a perfect example of a perfect middle of the road gamebook. I think it leans slightly to the good side with some background and some interesting characters and scenarios.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gamebooks for Dummies

This post was inspired by all of you who stumbled upon my blog during the A to Z challenge and said that you knew nothing about gamebooks.  In the interest of being inclusive, I have written a little primer of what gamebooks are.  I have split it into structure and style.

Prologue - fancy a snack?

What shall I have today?
We al know how vending machines work.  You go to one when you fancy some snack or a drink, we put our money into the machine punch in the code for what we want and out it comes.

In this situation, you have a choice of delights from a limited selection and to make your choice, you need to give the machine a number or a number-letter combination.

This means that you could have a mars bar one day and crisps (potato chips) the next day.  However, vending machines do not usually sell legs of roast lamb, so you can't have one of those (more's the pity.)

However, some may see this as a good thing.  Vending machines only offer a limited number of things which means that you won't be there forever, suffering from overchoice.

We've all been to a vending machine.  We may also have some hilarious tales of vending machine experiences such as pushing the wrong code which led to paying 60p to watch the holder twist around or having to reach up and grab a chocolate bar that had wedged itself between the glass and the products.

Oh, vending machine, we love thee.

I promise you, this has something to do with gamebooks.

Gamebook structure

So how are gamebooks structured?  First, I'll describe how novels are structured.  With a novel, you start at page 1, read the paragraphs from the top to the bottom of the page and read the pages in sequence.  The story should make sense from that sequence.  I know the writer may decide to put the middle or end of the story on page 1 or skip through time, but they intend for you to read the novel in the order of pages 1,2,3 etc  (unless you're like me who likes the read the ending first.)

Page from my gamebook,
Left for Dead (click here
for a larger image)

Gamebooks are different.  You do not read the pages in order and you do not read the paragraphs in order.  Instead, the paragraphs are numbered and you are told which paragraph to start from (it is usually paragraph 1 but it does not necessarily have to be.)

The paragraph will give you a description of your situation (gamebooks are one of the few books to write in the second person) and  then you are presented with a choice and a paragraph number to turn to depending on what your choice is.

You then turn to that paragraph, read what the consequences of your actions are and then you have to make another choice.  Each choice has a paragraph number to turn to.  You turn to that paragraph, read about the consequences of you actions and so on.

The vending machine
got owned.
You will be given an aim at the beginning of the book - a way to win the game element of the gamebook.  What you have to do is discover the correct sequence of choices that leads you to the winning paragraph.

And that's the premise of gamebooks.  They are the vending machines of literature.  Each paragraph gives you

a limited number of choices and you need to use a number to show your choice.  However, if you get the right sequence of choices, then you win a big prize.  However, some sequences of choices mean that you will lose the game part of the book.

It's like buying a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, a snickers bar and a coke in that order from the vending machine and it then gives you all of its snacks because you ordered the correct items in the correct order.  However, if you accidently press 60 when it is empty, then you get nothing and lose.  FAIL.

Here's an example 10 paragraph gamebook where the aim is to find the perfect blog.  Start at paragraph 1.


It's 3am in the morning and you have sifted through a ton of rubbish on the internet.  You've seen all the ninja cat videos and keyboard cat videos on Youtube, read all of the reviews on Den of Geek! and read all of the articles on Cracked.  It's all too much and you want to find some real quality on the web.  If you decide to go to Blogger, turn to 2.  If you decide to Facebook, go to 3.


Blogger is full of great blogs but there are too many to choose from!  You kept on adding blogs at a whim and now you are following over hundred blogs on a wide range of topics.  How will you find some good quality blogs like this?  If you decide to give up and go to Facebook, turn to 3  If you click on the first blog in the list, turn to 4.  .


There is not much new on facebook.  Most of your friends have gone to bed so there has only been one update from a friend in another time zone.  Desperate for something good, you click on the groups page of facebook to see what they have to offer.  If you click on a group called Fabled Lands, turn to 5.  If you click on a group called Keyboard Cat, turn to 6.


The first blog in the list is a blog called Adventures and Shopping.  Its last post is talking about how today is Free RPG Day and that there are many great free RPG products online.  If you decide to look at all of these great products, turn to 7.  If you decide to click on another blog, turn to 8.


This group describes a really intriguing series of gamebook where you explore a huge world and go off on many adventures to earn fame and fortune.  However, you have to pay for them and Amazon does not have an 'immediately teleport this item to you' option so you can't play them now.  If you explore this group further, turn to 9.  If you go to the Keyboard Cat group, turn to 6.  If you have not already done so, you could explore the blogosphere (turn to 2)


The familiar cat stares at you with its hypnotic gaze and its happy tune.  You cannot help but read all of the comments and discussions in the group until you pass out three hours later from sheer intellectual numbness.  Your adventure ends here.


There are plenty of great free RPGs to look at but since you have no one to play with, you lose interest in them pretty quickly.  However, you then come to a link to a blog called Lloyd of Gamebooks and click on the link.  Turn to 10.


This the next blog is an account of how many ants someone saw on the pavement outside their house when they left it to go to work.  There is a post for every day for the last six years with nothing but a number on it.  After an hour of looking at these numbers and trying to discern a pattern to them, your brain shuts down to prevent it exploding in protest.  In a few hours, you will wake up with a splitting headache.  Your adventure ends here.  


After going down the comments list, you come across a link to a blog called Lloyd of Gamebooks.  You click on the link.  Turn to 10.


Congratulations!  You have found an entertaining* blog with free gamebooks.  You enjoy reading it for the remainder of the evening and your consciousness expands so that you gain an understanding of the workings of the universe**.

However, a lot of gamebooks have more elements than simply taking a choice every paragraph (see below.)  For simple gamebooks that follow the above premise look at the Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks.

Gamebook style

Modern setting
The settings and story of gamebooks could cover anything.  There are modern day settings, historic settings, horror settings futuristic settings, comic book settings, sci fi settings and fantasy settings.

Choose your Own Adventure books tend to go for modern day (at least at time of writing) or historical settings with some elements of scifi and fantasy thrown in.  However, almost all other gamebooks cover fantasy settings with only a few scifi, horror and modern day settings.

Fantasy setting
I think (although I have no proof) that this stems from the fact that most tabletop RPGs are fantasy settings and gamebooks were playing to that market.  Some RPGs have solo adventures using their rules.  Tunnels and Trolls has several of these.  

The Maelstrom RPG  sourcebook also has a short solo adventure presumably with the aim of showing the referee how the rules of the game play out.

Historical or fantasy
setting (depending on
the rules you use)
On a side note, the Maelstrom solo adventure has the shortest path to a successful ending.  It tells you at the beginning that you need to be an assassin to play the game.  If you choose another class, then on paragraph 1, it tells you that you are travelling on a path and that if you are not an assaiss to go to another paragraph.  You are then told that you get home safely without incident.  A one paragraph win!  What a result!

Other gamebooks have simplified RPG systems such as the Fighting Fantasy series (which uses three to six characteristics and two six sided dice) and the Virtual Reality series (which does not use dice but the character has life points and a choice of skills)

If you are already familiar with tabletop role playing games, then a gamebook is just like a tabletop RPG where the referee is the book.

If you want to play some gamebooks straight away, you can download my gamebooks from this blog.

There are now plenty of gamebooks that you can play electronically without flipping to numbered paragraphs in a book.  For a list of these, go to my post about technology in gamebooks.  

If you have any more questions, please ask in a comment.

*I hope.

**Reading this blog is unlikely to give you an understanding of the workings of the universe.  I'm not saying its impossible; just don't get annoyed if it doesn't happen.

Extra note:  In my last post, I criminally neglected the great Lone Wolf website,  I criminally neglected it because Joe Dever has very generously made almost all of the Lone Wolf books free from the site!  Please go over there to check it out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What new technology is doing for gamebooks

The internet has been instrumental in making gamebooks prevalent again.  After a short search on the internet, I have found many ways in which interactive fiction has made itself prevalent.  This post is a summary of online gamebooks.  I will do a more in depth review of each method later on.

Tweet RPG

This twitter feed has made an innovative use of Twitter in order to create an online gamebook.  The rules for how to use Tweet RPG are here.  

Basically, TweetRPG offers you a choice.  You need to reply to the tweet with your decision.  After a set amount of time, the vote closes and the option which the most people voted for will be used.  This is a great use of twitter and a great way to make a gamebook.  At the moment, I'm investigating a farmhouse in a storm.  Absolutely nothing can go wrong with that.  

Choose your own adventure wiki

The wiki system has been used here to make some great online gamebooks where you can make your decision by clicking links.  Since it follows the wiki layout, anyone can make their own gamebook or even edit another gamebook making it possibly to co-write a gamebook with many other people.

Adventure Cow

This is similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure wiki in the sense that you can write and edit your own adventures.  It started off as a website but it is now being designed for mobile devices.  I have written a story for the site, called The Path to Greatness.

Fighting Fantasy Project

This is a website which has several great amateur Fighting Fantasy books in a format where you make decisions by clicking links.  The site also determines dice rolls for you.  Check out the gamebooks.  They are awesome.

Age of Fable

This website is similar to Fighting Fantasy Project with an excellent sandbox style game similar to Fabled Lands.


This company is producing Fighting Fantasy books for the Kindle.  Unfortunately, they are only available in the US at the moment.


This website has interactive fiction games in the medium of IM chat.  At the moment, you can play Soultracker: Day of the Supernaturals (also found on but there are more gamebooks in the pipeline.

Pirates and Traders

Pirates and Traders is a great Android app where you play the captain of a ship where you can decide to trade or be a pirate.  It also has some elements of interactive fiction where you meet someone in a tavern who gives you a job to do.  do you deliver the goods or take them for yourself?

Destiny Quest

Destiny Quest is a paper gamebook, but it makes a good use of the internet by having a forum and a place to download add on quests.

Gamebook Adventures

Gamebook Adventures have some great titles for the iPad and iPhone (and hopefully the Android in the near future.)  Since I do not own an 'i' device, I have not yet had the pleasure of playing the games, but they are getting rave reviews.  One of them has been written by Andrew Wright and another has been written by Jonathan Green. 

Gamebook writing programs  (look at the gamebook creation systems)

Writing a gamebook requires a lot of organisation in terms of getting the paragraphs to link up and then randomising them.  There are several gamebook programs at the moment.  My favourite one from the ones that I have tried is A.D.V.E.L.H.

"How to make a gamebook on a blog"

This is what someone put into google to search for my blog and it led me to think if you can write a gamebook on a blog.  I guess you could if you made a post for each paragraph and had links between them.  Thanks for that, whoever wrote that.

Yahoo Groups and forums (and more forums)

There are plenty of places to meet fellow gamebook lovers.  Just do some searches on the internet.

Demian's Gamebook Web page

This deserves a section all of its own as it is the most comprehensive collection of information and links regarding gamebooks EVER.

So there we are.  I'll be linking to this page from teh homepage in future.  I will also be looking at these media in more detail in later posts.  

EDIT - Lone Wolf

I know I alluded to Lone Wolf below, but it deserves a bigger slice of publicity than a link.  After all almost all of the Lone Wolf gamebooks are free to play online and download!  So if you want to be part of a huge epic quest where you save the world several times and battle dark gods then go to


There are several blogs on the bloosphere dedicated to gamebooks or by gamebook authors.  They are:

Jonathan Green, Author
Let's Play a gamebook
Fantasy Gamebook
The Lone Delver
The World of Gamebook Writing
Adventures and Shopping
Fabled Lands
Turn to 400
Fighting Fantasist
Titan - The Fighting Fantazine Blog
Trollish Delver

I have just noticed that I do not know of any Lone Wolf blogs.  Are there any?  Does anyone want to start one?

Once again, I meant this to be a short post, but as always, I have discovered many hidden depths to gamebooks and the interactive fiction that they have fathered.  My in depth posts on each of these media will keep me going for a while.  

Right - I originally promised to do one post a week as to not run out of ideas too quickly so I need to stop doing these impromptu posts, but I wanted to get the word out about all the great gamebook innovations that are going on.  

My next post will be on Sunday and it will be entitled Gamebooks for Dummies.  If anyone has any questions, please leave a comment, email me on or send me a message on twitter (!/slloyd14).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A view on views

The number of page views I've had over these past few days has shot up.  I think it has something to do with the number of reviews I've posted.  I have posted reviews of Fabled Lands, Destiny Quest and Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2.

As mentioned in Zhu's blog in the post Year One, review and commentary gets fewer hits than creative stuff.  

I will be posting some more reviews in July and I will have a think about why people like reading reviews.  I like to read reviews of books I've already read and TV shows and films I've already watched, so I'm going to give a little analysis of why I would do that.

Hope that you are all having a good week.

And hello to...

Those of you who listen to Blogcastfm know that one of the characteristics that successful blogs share is that the writer builds up some good relationships with their followers.  I set out to do this but things have been rather busy of late and I have not been able to give you all the attention you deserve for following my blog.  I will get onto it, but in the mean time, I'd just thought I'd say hello and that I'm still thinking of you all and thank you for your attention and comments (especially comments; I like comments and will start replying to them soon.  Thanks to BilliamBabble for giving me a lot of comments)  I hope you're getting as much out of reading this blog as I am writing it.  

I'd also like to give a shout out to Shane Garvey whose great blog with Fabled Lands Previews seems to be where a lot of my readers are linking from at the moment.  

I also didn't get round to entering the One Page Dungeon Competition, but I'm enjoying looking at the maps.

I have been perusing the blogosphere and I have found some good gamebook related stuff from Tunnels and Trolls blogs.  I like the retro presentation and system of Tunnels and Trolls.  It gives me comfort.  

As well as being an RPG, Tunnels and Trolls produces a lot of solo gamebooks and there are several Tunnels and Trolls blogs out there.  First of all, Scott Malthouse has produced his own Solo, Depths of the Devilmancer.  I have ordered it and need to give it a good play through.  

Since Tunnels and Trolls has a lot of solo adventures, people have written a lot about writing these solos well.  First is H'rrrothgarrr's Hovel which has  a good post about writing a solo book.

Another Tunnels and Trolls blog devoted entirely to solo adventures is The Lone Delver which has posts devoted entirely to Tunnels and Trolls solos.  I'm particularly enjoying the Solo design series which now has eight parts.

If you fancy writing a Tunnels and Trolls solo adventure, the submission guidelines are here.  

If you are a new or old reader, please carry on - I appreciate it immensely and hopefully, I'll get round to writing some more gamebooks.  I'd like to release a micro adventure every month, but that won't happen until September as I'll be writing them over the summer just like I'll be writing my entry for the Windhammer Competition.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Inspirations for my gamebooks

I have written several posts about how other games provide ideas and inspiration for some of my gamebooks.  This post will give an overview on where ideas have come from and name a few sources.  In future posts, I will focus and analyze a computer game, an RPG or an aspect of Magic the Gathering.

Computer games

I have not actually played many 'big' computer games.  Most of my computer game playing was with the cover disks from the ST format magazine on an Atari ST which was a hand-me-down from an uncle.  I liked these games a bit too much,but some of them gave me some great ideas pretty much any aspect of a fantasy RPG such as monsters, items, what aspects of combat to focus on, magic, what stats to use, how to advance a character etc.

Years later, I got into some MMORPGs and also bought Diablo and Neverwinter Nights which also offered some other great ideas.

Magic the Gathering

This was another addiction of mine.  I was eleven when I first came across Magic in 1994 when I noticed two   sixth formers (17-18 year olds) playing this interesting fantasy card game.  One of them gave me Energy Tap (pity it wasn't Black Lotus).

I didn't think much of it at the time, but I loved analysing all the aspects of the card.  I loved hand reaching out to take the charged orb.  I had no idea what most of the words meant in the context of the game.  Populous 2 taught me that mana was magical power, but tapping?  Casting costs?  Creatures?  What was going on here?

I thought that the card was from some ancient Greek world based on the fact that the expansion symbol was a pillar, but I had no idea what the drop was in the right hand corner and what else could be written under the picture instead of sorcery.

A few years later, I found a shop that sold more magic cards which I found just as engrossing.  Someone from school gave me a rulebook and I bought enough old cards and lands to make a functional deck, which was nowhere near competitive with just about any deck that wasn't built by a two year old.  The MVP of my deck was Gravebane Zombie.  Why?  Because it wouldn't die.  However, my enthusiasm for magic survived these initial thrashings.

As well as playing the game, I enjoyed analysing the 'flavour' of the cards.  Why, for example, was a creature that deals damage blue, the colour of knowledge and countering spells?  Why was it not red, the colour of fire and spells taht deal damage.  It turns out that it shouldn't have been and a red version was made.

Magic the Gathering has also come up with some great characters in the form of legends and planeswalkers.  It also has its own stories which can be entertaining but I find them frustrationg because they have a high lethality rate for main characters before they have had proper development.

RPGs and games

I love reading RPG sourcebooks as they are a treasure horde of useful information.  What kind of background and skills could I give a character?  What monsters and NPCs could I use?  What treasure could I use?  What magical items could I add?  I have aread quite a few sourcebooks and obtained some great information about different worlds and how to approach them.  The RPG sourcebooks I have are:

Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 
Conan RPG
Tunnels and Trolls
Maelstrom RPG
Call of Cthulu
Dragon Warriors
Iron Heroes
Advanced Fighting Fantasy

I shall write an analysis of what these RPGs ahve helped me with in future posts.  

So that is something to look forward to on the blog.  

Have a good week!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

More on Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition

Here is a chapter by chapter description of the 2nd edition Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF) rulebook.  The new rules have taken AFF forward in leaps and bounds.  The main benefit that the book has bought is having a new hero creation system which adds more variety and balance than the old, random version.  It also creates heroes with lower scores than before, allowing them plenty of time for advancement.

The rules allow the heroes more chances to make decisions in combat, allowing them to do something other than try to hit an opponent.  It also has a wide selection of spells and a larger number of magical items and treasure for the heroes to use.

I would like to see (more of) the following:

  • The return mass battle rules and the battle tactics skill.
  • Item creation guidelines.
  • A full AFF adventure rather than a dungeon crawl (a remake of the Riddling Reaver or a solo FF book would do nicely too.)
  • Titan II (in the works.)
  • More spells.
  • Specialised sorcery spells.
  • Yet more descriptions of magic items from the main series solo books.


This contains an introductory dungeon crawl which readers of Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role Playing Game will recognise.  This chapter provides starting characters and descriptions of their skills and spells so that a group of players and a director can start with a minimum of fuss.  For someone who has read Fighting Fantasy - the introductory role playing game, I enjoyed the nostalgia of some of the encounters such as the dwarf eating house.

Chapter 1 - Hero Creation

The new version of Advanced Fighting Fantasy still uses skill stamina and luck scores.  Characters can also have a magic score.  Instead of finding these scores randomly, they are determined with a points system.  A starting hero's skill can be between 4 and 7 depending on how many points they spend.  Every character could have a maximum starting skill of 7 if they wish.

Right then, that's Advanced Fighting Fantasy completely sorted.  See you next week.

Seriously though, having a difference in skill between 7 and 12 and having this score determined randomly created a huge imbalance in the game.  I found it a testament to Graham's savviness with the system that all of his non-magic using heroes started with a maximum starting skill of 7 (magic using heroes have to invest most of their points into the magic skill, but that is worth it as they get plenty of spells and powers as mentioned below).  He knows what makes Fighting Fantasy tick.

This chapter also includes a list and description of the skills that are available to heroes.  Every race gets some skills to start off with.  For example elves get 1 point in minor magic and forest lore.  The chapter gives you the starting skills for humans, elves and dwarves.  However, the book also gives you information on how to create heroes of different races.

There are fewer skills than the original AFF but that is a good thing.  The original AFF had skills that were very narrow such as battle combat, siege combat and heavy armoured combat (not very useful considering that they did not tell us the benefits of heavy armour).  It also had skills which provided too many benefits in combat such as dodge and strength.  All of the skills in the new AFF are useful and more versatile.  Weapon skills allow the heroes to use groups of weapons rather than one weapon.  Dodge and strength provide benefits but not broken combat benefits.

Heroes also now have talents and there is a nice list of talents that heroes can have in order to make their lives a lot easier.  Some talents work in conjuction with certain skills and some work on their own.  The strongarm talent allows you to increase damage in combat.  The swashbuckler talent works with the dodge skill to work as 'armour'.  The natural mage talent means that wizards and sorcerers do not need to make rolls on simple spells.

The new character creation method provides a lot more opportunities for variety, balance and advancement and is a massive improvement on the old random generation system.

Chapter 2 - Game rules

This chapter covers the situations that players may come across on their adventures.  Most of it is based on the old AFF system but it also contains new bits such as poisons, diseases and when players can use their magic attribute instead of skill.  This chapter also covers experience which is nothing like the old AFF system. It is much more versatile (heroes get about 50xp per adventure rather than 1-3 which allows more room for minor differences) and can be used to increase more stats.  Every stat except luck can be increased with experience.

Chapter 3 - Combat

Combat is the same as the old Fighting Fantasy system but with some welcome add ons.  Different armour is given damage reduction values.  Armour can't be worn by just anyone.  Your skill + armour skill needs to be equal or greater than the armour's value or you get penalised.  Also, wizards pay more for spells if they cast them in armour.

Critical hits are no longer as deadly as before - they now inflict double damage + 1 skill point of damage.

Fumbles are now much more interesting and the hero has to roll two dice to see what happens from a selection of disasters.  This chapter also covers the use of the heal skill.

A welcome addition to the new AFF is some combat options.  Fighting Fantasy is sorely lacking in these.  Most combats involve just a comparison of attack strengths which means that players with lower skills than their opponents have a hard struggle.  However, rules for surprise, defensive fighting, feinting and other options are covered here which will help heroes in combat.

Chapter 4 - Magic

Magic is now categorised as four types - wizard, priest, sorcerer, minor.  Heroes can only have one type from wizard, sorcerer and priest magic.

Wizard spells are now powered by magic points rather than stamina.  The wizard spell list is similar to the magic list from the old AFF books except certain spells are noticeable by their absence such as any spell that restores skill, stamina or luck (now that was a bit broken - having a spell that restores stamina in a list of spells powered by stamina).  However, there are still plenty of great spells to choose from.

Sorcerer spells use the magic system from the Sorcery! series.  This does include a spell that restores stamina but it only improves the effectiveness of a medicinal potion and does not work on the caster.

The super broken minor spell Hold it! has been  removed.  Some other modifications have been made which makes more minor spells useful.

Chapter 5 - Religion

Priest spells are completely different from wizard spells.  Rather than just having a smaller spell list and restrictions on what they can and cannot do, priests get powers which they can use once or twice a day.  These powers cover things that no wizard or sorcery spell can do, such as restore stamina, talk to the gods, give bonuses to luck rolls and protect heroes.  They also enjoy a boost to social status and a special power depending on the god they worship.

Graham has done a good job in making the magic system more balanced and removing the broken spells and combos with the old system.

Chapter 6 - The World of Titan

This gives a very short history and geography of the world of Titan.  There is nothing new here.  Most of this is in the book, Titan.

Chapter 7 - Director's Guidelines.

This is another very short chapter on how to run an adventure.  This is pretty basic stuff along with guidelines on how many magic items a hero should have.

Chapter 8 - Monsters and enemies.

Since the license that Arion Games holds means that they can only reprint Out of the Pit, not modify it, Graham has included a list of weapons, armour, damage modifiers and special attacks that monsters from Out of the Pit have.  This is a useful addition in turning Out of the Pit monsters into AFF monsters.

The chapter also provides guidelines on creating challenging yet beatable opponents and NPC villains along with an example non monster enemy.

Chapter 9 - Adventure ideas

This gives a list of hooks for the heroes as well as a very quick and simple way to make a dungeon - just roll dice onto a piece of paper, join them up with lines and then you have your rooms and corridors.  The chapter gives a list of possible antagonists and sub quests that the heroes could take part in as well as another dungeon for heroes to play.

Chapter 10 - Treasure.

The treasure section has been expanded.  Heroes can now obtain scrolls as well as plenty of other magical items, many, such as the pocket myriad, blue candle and ivory skull necklace, will be familiar to readers of solo books.  It is also much harder to obtain random magical items which unbalance the game.  Most items that the heroes will carry will be one use items, which is good.  You don't want every other orc carrying a magic sword.

Chapter 11 - Optional Rules

Finally, we have some suggested changes to the rules, such as random hero creation (don't worry, it is still likely that you will get a high skill with these rules), creating new races for heroes to play, allowing the heroes to have another talent to start with, allowing the heroes to get two magic specialisations or allowing heroes to become archmages amongst many other things.

When it comes to a quick simple and balanced system, the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy book is for you.  You have everything you need to start a simple adventure.  There is also the potential for much much more and I hope to see more products soon.

If you want to discuss the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules, there us a section in the Arion Games Forum, here.