Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

FF:TIRpG: Shaggradd's Hives of Peril: Play Session #2


We're playing the adventure Shaggradd's Hives of Peril from Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG), so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

As I've mentioned before, I've been planning to use the RPGs derived from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks for pickup games with the kids, today we continued with the second adventure from Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG), Shaggradd's Hives of Peril.


  • T.K.B. — GamesMaster.

  • T.A. played

    • Ezarik (e-ZAR-ik) — SKILL 8, STAMINA 17, LUCK 10.

    • Oswald — SKILL 10, STAMINA 21, LUCK 12, who was already lost in the treasure vaults in the dark. (This was C.A.'s character from the earlier game, but he wasn't available today.)

  • E.A. played Letty Letitia — SKILL 10, STAMINA 19, LUCK 10.

  • M.A. played Toth — SKILL 8, STAMINA 17, LUCK 9.

  • L.B. played Amber — SKILL 12 STAMINA 21 LUCK 8.

Actual Play

Amber introduced herself as Judy for some reason. (The player did this deliberately. I have no idea why.)

Started in 1, went to 19, then 22. They skinned the weretiger. On to 23, 13, 14. Finally Lettie looked in 18 and then the door shut.


The kids were giddy, and the game didn't last very long, alas. No doubt the chaos contributed to my inability to take good notes this session.

My Actual Play

The items you can find on this blog under the category Actual-Play and tag actual-play (except for this entry) describe actual play sessions from some of my games. They tend more to describing in-game events, but sometimes talk about mechanical aspects of the game illuminated during the session, or creative aspects of running a game. Sometimes they're just a session recap, written so that when I come back to that campaign in a week or a month or six months so I can look up the details of the last couple of sessions to figure out what was happening and where the campaign is going. These latter sometimes are barely more than a list of the places the PCs visited and events of notoriety:

The PCs went to 20, where Olsman chopped the head off an ogre with one blow. Afterwards they started down the stairs to 23, but the stairs collapsed into a slide, and much hilarity ensued as they tried to avoid stabbing and bashing each other as they tumbled down and landed in a deep pool.

The Tome of Horrors Complete, for Swords & Wizardry

My copy of Frog God Games The Tome of Horrors Complete, for Swords & Wizardry, arrived today. My, that's a massive tome: a hardback with 671 numbered pages followed by 14 pages of advertisements. (In a smaller book, I might have complained about that many pages of advertisements, but in a book this large it doesn't seem excessive.) From my earlier quick perusal of the PDF and a brief scan of the hardback today I'm very pleased with the content, and I'm looking forward to using this in my game. To the folks who worked on this: well done!

I've got a problem...

I've got a problem — I like RPGs just as an area of study and as artifacts, even if I never get to play a particular RPG. When I was younger I'd buy new systems just to compare them, even if I never expected to play them. Even now I sometimes buy multiple editions of a game to compare them, often delving back to through the earlier editions of game to see how things have changed and what's been lost along the way, 1 although usually only if I'm actually planning on playing one or more editions of the game.

As a consequence of this, I've got more RPGs than I'll ever get a chance to play, and I'm still interested in buying new ones.

I have resolved to play more of the games that I already have, though, and I've got specific plans for several of them.


I've found the work that folks in the OSR 2 are doing analyzing the various versions of D&D and other old-school games very interesting. I'd love to see even more games given this treatement: the various versions of RuneQuest and BRP, the Palladium RPGs, the various varieties of Rolemaster and its children, and so forth. A pity that my obsessions have yet to drag my unorganized ruminations over the mountains of clarity and illumination and into the blogosphere.


Does anyone have a link to a good explanation of the OSR?

FF:TIRpG: Shaggradd's Hives of Peril: Play Session #1


We're playing the adventure Shaggradd's Hives of Peril from Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG), so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

As I've mentioned before, I've been planning to use the RPGs derived from the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks for pickup games with the kids, and today I was able to put that plan into action, starting as planned with Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG), using the second adventure from the the book, Shaggradd's Hives of Peril. 1


M.A. and E.A. were watching a movie, but T.A. (as always) was eager to play, and as we were getting started C.A., who had heard us talking about gaming earlier and said he wanted to play, wandered in and wanted to join in, so I had him roll up a character too.

  • T.K.B. — GamesMaster.

  • T.A. played Ezarik (e-ZAR-ik) — SKILL 8, STAMINA 17, LUCK 10.

  • C.A. played Oswald — SKILL 10, STAMINA 21, LUCK 12, who was already lost in the treasure vaults in the dark.

Actual Play

T.A. had rolled up his character and was speaking with Shaggradd when C.A. showed up. I decided that Ezarik would meet C.A.'s character, Oswald, down in the treasure vaults, where he'd been sitting in the dark after his candle burned out after he‘d run from a monster. So we rolled up a character, who turned out to be skilled, strong, and lucky, named him Oswald, and went back to Ezarik.

Shaggradd blindfolded Ezarik, lead him around by hand, spun him around in a circle, told him to hunker down, and pushed him into a low tunnel. After he refused the 2% extra on the 10% entrance fee for her to cast a Reverse Teleport on him, she pulled off the blindfold and pushed him further in, and slammed a door on him. After he lit his lantern, he could see that he was in small tunnel with rotting wood sides, that opened out into a taller and slightly larger roughly circular room. The floor of the tunnel and the room were both dirt, and in the cent of the room was a pit trailing down into blackness, with a rope tied to a black spike hammered into the rotting wall of the chamber, covered with spider webs.

Descending the rope he ended up in a 1, small chamber dug into the earth, with four exits at right angles. He took the exit to the west, leading to 30, a large cavern with a skull carved into the east all, with three tunnels leading out through missing teeth in the skull. He headed out the middle passage, and after a little while heard the sound of a stream, but couldn't see it. 2 A little further on he found a little man, about a metre tall and dressed in what appeared to be the entire skin of a small dragon3, wings and tail included, cleverly formed so that the rear feet were boots, the fore feet were gauntlets, and the head was a helmet, with the face appearing through the mouth of the beast, sitting next to a puddle of wax that was all that left of his candle. This was Oswald, a hobbit, and as it turned out he was very hungry. He had lost his way while being chased by a monster, and then his candled had burned out, leaving him waiting in the dark, as he hand not taken advantage of Shaggradd's offer of a Reverse Teleport either.

Continued on to 35. Pulled lever. Could see just a bit by the light of a phosphorescent plant growing on the surface of the cavern. Not knowing where they were they headed out the only entrance they say, and back to 30, where they recognized the skill. This time they took the right (north) passage to 31, and started to enter the middle passage there, but a troll popped out of the passage and attacked them. After exchanging a few blows with the troll and getting a small cut on one cheek, Oswald fled, leaving behind his companion and his companion's lantern! Ezarik stayed behind and fought the troll for another round, and then pursued his companion, and luckily the troll did not follow.

Meanwhile, Oswald ran back down the passage to 30, bounced off the wall and ran through the passage to 1 and straight across and out the passage that lead to the collapsing stairs, slide down the stairs, stumbled across the gravel beach, through the water, and finally sat down on the ground beyond the stream in 19, in the dark again. He could smell some delicious fruit nearby….

Ezarik, fleeing the troll, guessed at the likely route Oswald had taken and quickly found him, sliding down the collapsing stairs into 19 and wrenching his arm in his fall. Glad to be reunited, Oswald drinks some water from the stream while Ezarik eats some of his provisions. The smell of delicious fruit was coming from some large green fruits on a strange underground tree. After they rested a few minutes they continue exploring, taking the passage east until it forked and then taking the north-east slanting passage until it ended in a dead end, 20. Returning to the fork in the passage, they entered a very hot room half filled with burning coals, 21, where a fiery lizard squeaked at them. Oswald squeaked back, but the lizard was puzzled. They left that room through another door, where they discovered a tall red-headed man sleeping (22). Unfortunately, he woke up and was very angry, demanding that they leave immediately. They went back through the door to 21, Oswald apologizing to the man for waking him up, and the man calming down and going back to bed. Then they returned to the cavern with the stream, where Oswald climbed up into the tree and started to pick a fruit, noticing a key in the tree as he did so. Unfortunately, just at that moment, five of the fruit hatched into large angry goose-like red birds, and began attacking. Oswald fled east into the passageway, as did Ezarik, though he tried and failed to grab the key as he fled.

And this is where we ended for the evening.

Over the course of the evening we learned that Oswald's dragon armor and dragon tooth sword were not family heirlooms, that he could play both the piano and the flute, and that he had lost a wand and a map earlier in the these caverns.


The simplicity of FF:TIRpG makes it a great pickup game. There are only three stats, SKILL, STAMINA, an LUCK, so rolling up a character is trivial, which is great for when somebody unexpected shows up in the middle of things and wants to play — say, for example, a three-year-old, C.A. And the rules are so simple that after you have played a few times you can easily remember them, so you don't even need to have your rule book handy.

Playing with a three year old has a few pitfalls. C.A. has a great vocabulary, and uses pretty complicated sentences, but his pronunciation is somewhat unclear, adding to our communication difficulties. He's not familiar with the fantasy genre, so doesn't know that there are no flashlights or cars or technology. And he hasn't quit figured out that once his character is in a situation, he has to deal with the situation using only the resources he has at hand already and what's available in the situation.

On the other hand, he's also a lot of fun to play with. He comes up with lots of interesting details about his character, he tries interesting things, he has fun seeing what's going to happen next.

T.A. liked the game, though it was not his favorite. (I think he's used to more detailed systems, and prefers them to something this simple.)


The first adventure from FF:TIRpG, The Wishing Well, is shorter. It is also redone in Arion Games' Advanced Fighting Fantasy, 2e, with example characters, so I'll probably start our AFF2e game off with that adventure.


It's not immediately obvious from the map, but later area description text makes it clear that the corridor from 30 to 35 crosses the stream on a bridge. Since I hadn't read that area description yet, I went with an unseen but not unheard stream.


C.A. was dressed in a dragon suit, making him look much like an Anne Geddes picture, so I carried that element into the game.

Fighting Fantasy and Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPGs

I missed out…

Somehow I completely missed out on the Fighting Fantasy:series (FF) gamebooks during their initial run. Probably, since I was already playing AD&D, T&T, and DQ, the solitary fun of the gamebooks was not as appealing as the social fun of tabletop RPGs, and what little desire I had for something like gamebooks was was more than adequately served by T&T solo adventures. In any case, I never owned any FF gamebooks until I picked up the 2003 iBooks reprints of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and The Citadel of Chaos.

This also means that I missed out on the FF and AFF RPGs, as well. Thank Hamaskis for Internet bookstores!

…but Internet RPG Forums are amazing

I had run across a mention of a Fighting Fantasy RPG, somewhere (probably on, and eventually figured out it was Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG) and purchased a copy from a used bookstore online. It was easy to find, as I recall. 1

Mechanically it is the system from the FF gamebooks, but with explanations for new tabletop gamers of how to use it for tabletop gaming. It is actually a nice introductory RPG, but it was a little too simple for the game I wanted, and my interested stopped there for a while.

(I only got The Riddling Reaver, a collection of adventures for FF:TIRpG, in 2011, after I got AFF2e and AFF.)

At some point I figured out (again, probably by reading on that the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG was a different set of books from the FF RPG, with a more detailed system, and it was probably what I should have been looking for instead of FF:TIRpG, but my interest had fallen asleep; no doubt in part because the third book of the set, Allansia, was reputedly difficult and expensive to get. 2

However, the Arion Games edition (AFF2e) published in 2011 reawakened my interest. I got that edition, and liked the system and setting, but wondered how different it was to the original AFF. Eventually I decided I wanted to compare AFF2e to the original AFF, so it was back to the Internet bookstores. Dungeoneer and Blacksand! were relatively easy to find (Dungeoneer in particular), but an relatively affordable copy of Allansia was more difficult. Eventually I was successful. Yesterday Allansia arrived, and today Blacksand! arrived.

At My Table

I'm planning to use AFF as my pickup game with the kids, the game we play when something else has to be canceled, too few players are available, or I'm just too tired to play anything more complicated. I'm looking to make use of the Titan setting, with all its over-the-top fantasy elements.

I'm going to start with the original FF RPG, play that for a few sessions, add in the stuff from Dungeoneer, then Blacksand!, then Allansia, maybe all in the same episodic campaign. Eventually I'll transition to another campaign, using the AFF 2e rules. At the end of it all I should be able to do a good comparison of all three rules sets. Maybe then I'll do an actual review, but don't hold your breath.

Fighting Fantasy and Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG Bibliography

Fighting Fantasy — The Introductory Role-playing Game (FF:TIRpG)

The system in Fighting Fantasy - The Introductory Role-playing Game is pretty much the same as in the Fighting Fantasy game books.

The game calls the person who ‘controls’ the game the GameMaster or GM (p. 11). The player characters are called “adventureres” (p. 9, 10).

  • Fighting FantasyThe Introductory Role-playing Game (copyright 1984 by Steve Jackson; ISBN 0-14-031709-0), and

  • The Riddling Reaver (copyright 1986 by Steve Jackson, Paul Mason, and Steve Williams; ISBN 0-14-032156-X), a collection of four adventures for FF:TIRpG.

These are standard mass-market paperbacks, 11×17.6 cm, 4¼×6⅞ in.

There were also the Fighting Fantasy Manuals, a couple of books detailing the monsters and world of the FF gamebooks: Out of the Pit and Titan. These are large format paperbacks, A4 sized (around US Letter sized).

  • Out of the Pit, Fighting Fantasy Monsters (copyright 1985 by Marc Gascoigne, Steve Jackson, and Ian Livingstone; ISBN ISBN 0-14-031999-9), and

  • Titan, The Fighting Fantasy World (copyright 1986 by Marc Gascoigne, Steve Jackson, and Ian Livingstone; ISBN 0-14-032127-6) detailing the Fighting Fantasy world).

Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF)

Advanced Fighting Fantasy took the role-playing system from the gamebooks and FF:TIRpG and developed them in more detail, adding ‘Special Skills', which allow characters to more skilled in specific areas than just their general SKILL, a magic system, a couple of mass battle systems, etc.

The game uses the metaphor of making a fantasy movie, so the person running the game is called the Director (p. 11) and the player characters are called Heroes (p. 9).

  • Dungeoneer (text copyright 1989 by Marc Gascoigne and Pete Tamlyn; ISBN 0-14-032936-6),

  • Blacksand! (text copyright 1990 by Marc Gascoigne and Pete Tamlyn; ISBN 0-14-034396-2), and

  • Allansia (text copyright 1994 by Marc Gascoigne and Pete Tamlyn; ISBN 0-14-036051-4),

These were published as paperbacks approximately 13×20 cm, about 5×7¾ in. There were matching releases of Out of the Pit and Titan to go along with the new game, in the same size.

  • Out of the Pit, Fighting Fantasy Monsters (copyright 1985 by Marc Gascoigne, Steve Jackson, and Ian Livingstone; ISBN 0-14-034131-5), and

  • Titan, The Fighting Fantasy World (copyright 1986 by Marc Gascoigne, Steve Jackson, and Ian Livingstone; ISBN 0-14-034132-3) detailing the Fighting Fantasy world).

Advanced Fighting Fantasy, 2nd edition (AFF2e)

In 2011 Arion Games published a 2nd edition, distributed by Cubicle 7:

  • Advanced Fighting Fantasy, The Roleplaying Game, 2nd edition (copyright 2011 by Graham Bottley, Steve Jackson, and Ian Livingston; ISBN 978-0-85744-067-9),

  • Out of the Pit (copyright 1985; Arion Games edition 2011, ISBN 978-0-85744-068-6), and

  • Titan, (copyright 1986; Arion Games edition 2011, ISBN 978-9-85744-069-3).

These paperbacks are approximately 21.5×28 cm, pretty much exactly 8.5×11 in. These editions of Out of the Pit and Titan are essentially straight reprints.

Unfortunately, the license Arion Games has to publish AFF2e precludes PDF versions of the books.


I don't know if FF:TIRpG was easy to find because they printed so many of it, or if it was just part of the large print runs they used to use in general.


I suspect that Allansia was published late enough that print runs in general had shrunk in size considerably, even if the print run for Allansia in particular was small simply because it was the third book in the AFF RPG series, which was bound to make it less popular than the gamebooks in any case.