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A Look at Advanced Fighting Fantasy – 2nd Edition, The Roleplaying Game


Scores of role-playing enthusiasts cut their teeth, like I did, playing the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.  Classics such as Deathtrap Dungeon and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain are among the range of these single-player adventure titles played with pencil, paper and a pair of six-sided dice.  In addition to inspiring people like myself to branch out into more complex RPG systems later in life, they also spawned board game and video game adaptations right to the present day.

Lesser known is the Advanced Fighting Fantasy roleplaying game first published in the late 1980’s, set in the same fantasy world (Titan) as most of the solo gamebooks that preceded it.  A social RPG system in the familiar vein of Dungeons & Dragons, the basic rules were initially presented in the book Dungeoneer and later expanded upon in additional volumes and supplements.  AFF was certainly not the most comprehensive rule-set you can find; the focus is on fun and story-telling and not a mathematically precise, scientifically balanced experience.  It would be over-stating things to describe it as a system for beginners, though it undoubtedly was for many who encountered it at a younger age.

Years later, in 2011, Arion Games in the UK has, with the blessing of the original creators, revived the property with an AFF 2nd Edition.  As of 2016, nine books (some new material, some adapted from previous releases like Out of the Pit) have been released.  I was quick to begin collecting these for nostalgic reasons alone.  After reading, I’ve been very happy to see the work to improve and re-invigorate the system’s rules, address particular shortcomings and expand areas previously glossed over.  While I’ve not yet had an opportunity to put them to the test personally with a group of players, I will give my impressions thus far.

A map of Titan, the Advanced Fighting Fantasy world.

A map of Titan, the Advanced Fighting Fantasy world.

Character generation has had the random element replaced with a point buy system which will definitely make for more balanced starting characters in a group.  The introduction of Talents helps not only to further differentiate the three default “good” races of Human, Elf and Dwarf but to allow for much needed customization.  Having not taken the new system for a test drive, I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the character progression/experience system but it seems fair and puts the onus on the character to justify and earn or learn new abilities and spells: not to simply “level up” at the stroke of a pencil.

The core character stats (SKILL, LUCK and STAMINA) in AFF 2E have seen a slight adjustment with the creation of a MAGIC stat for magic users.  The incorporation of the “Old World” system of Sorcery! from the gamebooks of the same name as an alternative to the standard Wizardly school of magic makes for additional variety.  Priestly magic abilities also have new mechanics that allow for definite new advantages and disadvantages to role-playing as priest adventurers.

Along with the main rulebook itself, two indispensable resources are the reprints of Titan and Out of the Pit.  Essentially unchanged from their original releases, they function as a history book/encyclopedia of the AFF world and a catalogue of monsters respectively.  The setting of AFF will feel not too dissimilar to that of Games Workshop’s fantasy world – this is not a coincidence given that Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were also among the founders of Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures.  Just about every potential fantasy adventure hook you could imagine could work within the confines of Titan, a world as varied as it is large.  The races, conflicts, creatures and legends are derivative of both real world inspiration and the well-travelled Tolkien tropes one might expect.  Nevertheless there is wonderful originality to be found in all corners, as befits a world that is an end product of many adventures written across dozens of individual Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.


Some of the wonderful artwork to be found in the AFF 2nd Edition books.

Additional books have also been released since 2011.  Heroes Companion introduces some new Special Skills and talents, guidelines for running adventures in wilderness settings, rules for larger scale battles and more.  Several interesting new magic systems are outlined, though only a few are realistic as career paths for adventurers.  Beyond the Pit, as the name suggests, expands on the list of monsters from Out of the Pit, mining the FF gamebooks for 250 more creatures that a Director could beset his players with.  Blacksand, my favourite entry from the original AFF run has also seen a re-issue and is rich both with history of the foul port “City of Thieves” and a smattering of new rules and naval combat mechanics.

A small, reference-sized Sorcery book is a handy resource, either for including Sorcerer characters in homemade quests or when running the Crown of Kings campaign set in the Old World.  CoK is a well-regarded four-part adventure series also given the AFF 2nd edition treatment, and is as yet the only one of the new books I’ve yet to get my hands on.  Lastly, I was pleased to see The Warlock of Firetop Mountain adapted from its original gamebook form into a great adventure tailored for a Director and three players.  Whether or not Arion Games have permission to reprint/re-release the adventures included in the old AFF books such as “A Shadow Over Blacksand” is unclear, but I do notice their absence in these new editions.

The soft-cover versions I’ve purchased to-date of each of the above books are of excellent quality, though not exactly cheap when coming from the UK.  PDF versions are available for the cost-conscious RPG enthusiast, and hardcovers are occasionally in stock for the serious collector.  Having spent several hundred dollars on the Arion Games store website at this point (if I include the poster sized maps I also couldn’t pass up) I can confirm the customer service experience is excellent.

If you’re looking for a fantasy setting RPG system that is flexible and focuses on fun rather than perfect balance, I recommend Advanced Fightin Fantasy 2nd Edition highly.  To long-time fans of this world and its printed work, you will not be disappointed with these efforts at reviving the franchise.  I look forward to additional material expanding on the world of Titan, new or reprinted adventures and the upcoming “Stellar Adventures” gamebook which will tailor the existing game mechanics of AFF for a science fiction setting.  Keep an eye on the Arion Games Twitter account for news in future…

One Response to A Look at Advanced Fighting Fantasy – 2nd Edition, The Roleplaying Game

  1. There’s a friendly and active community over at Arion Games boards – if you’d like to find out more about the game or join in the conversation, come on over!

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