The Rules

The Fighting Fantasy rules are simple enough. You roll one die and add six for skill and luck, and two dice plus twelve for stamina. Skill is your general combat prowess, quick thinking, dexterity, and so on. Stamina is your life total, and also sometimes physical strength. Luck is, well… an ever dwindling sign you’re going to die due to non-monster related factors. They’re the core statistics, and feature in every book. Other stats are relative to the setting and the book, such as the ones for a player’s magical power, or their force of will, or their starship, or armies, or the crew of a pirate ship, or a heavily armed and armoured car for cruising through a post apocalyptic wasteland (no, really, there’s a book about that).

The general fantasy rules are that the player gets ten units of unidentified provisions. Some books tell the player when to eat, and penalise them for having no food. Others let players eat at any time, and restore stamina points. This is a bit silly, and yet also very convenient since combat can be brutally unfair. The other general fantasy rule is that the player gets a magic potion, which restores either skill, stamina, or luck. This is not guaranteed, since some books take this item away, and it always seems to me that a potion of fortune is the best bet, since skill doesn’t go down often (unless you’re an idiot, like me), and provisions are a magical cure-all. I sometimes wonder why potions of healing even exist on Titan, considering the philosopher’s stone could probably be derived from a cheese sandwich.

Other than the consumables, the player gets a sword, leather armour, and a backpack. Possibly some gold to spend on souvenirs, and I’d assume a good pair of boots. Non-fantasy settings have other generic gear. If this seems like a lightweight kit for a bold adventurer, remember that the goal here is to recklessly charge into danger and kill some monsters and take their stuff, not to be a well-equipped adventurer ready for anything like those show-offs in Dungeons and Dragons with their iron spikes, 50 feet of rope, and ten foot poles for poking at suspiciously chequered floors from a safe distance (which is why, incidentally, falling blocks of stone should be twelve feet square).

Generally, combat is a matter of rolling some dice for each combatant, adding skill scores, and seeing who won. The loser of the round loses 2 stamina points (optionally, double or half if lucky), and this continues until someone dies. Usually the player. Some of the monsters have a skill of ten or more. Some of the final villains have skill scores that are ridiculous, like Xakhaz’s 14 skill. With an average roll of 7, that means he’s getting a 21 or higher attack strength most of the time, so I’d need a skill of 12 and to roll 10 or higher more than half the time… What the hell? I’m reading Beneath Nightmare Castle last.

My personal rules are to play the book through for some kind of outcome that isn’t dying in the first couple of combats, and play properly. I have a fundamental problem though: I know the plots for many of them too well. I tried reading the first book in the Sorcery! series a year before starting this blog, and it was a cakewalk. Likewise, Forest of Doom posed no challenge at all. Once I got started, I found I can remember the way through too many of them. This sort of skews the play through when it’s an easy book, and will make the harder ones too short. So, I’ll give it two or three tries and take whatever gives the best tale of adventure. I will possibly rejig stats as well: If Citadel of Chaos is supposedly possible with the lowest scores, then I should probably try that out…

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3 Responses to The Rules

  1. Ed Jolley says:

    ‘Beneath Nightmare Castle’ is nowhere near as harsh as you make it sound. For one thing, it is possible to defeat Xakhaz without fighting him. And even if that doesn’t work out, the book doesn’t include the standard restriction on exceeding your Initial Skill, so any Skill bonus you can pick up (and there are some good ones out there) will apply. His Skill 14 doesn’t look so daunting if yours is in the 16-18 range, which is definitely achievable.

    • Yes, I’m aware of all that. I’m also aware there’s no guarantee I’ll find the right gear in a book I’ve only given a cursory glance to before starting this blog.

      • Ed Jolley says:

        Fair enough. I was just surprised that you singled out BNC, when the two books before it and the two after it are all much more lethal. Some of them even if you’ve memorised the optimal route and rolled a 12-24-12 character.

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