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AICN’s Russ Sheath remembers Fighting Fantasy books and talks to film maker Sean Riley about plans to bring the iconic adventure series to a Kickstarter project!!


Russ Sheath here...

If, in the early 80s, you were reaching the end of your time in a galaxy far, far away and looking for a new obsession - there’s a chance you happened upon the Fighting Fantasy series of books.

A ‘roleplaying game in a book’, Fighting Fantasy was the brainchild of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the legendary founders of Games Workshop and were an instant smash with young readers.
If you remember titles such as The Warlock of Fire Top Mountain, Forest of Doom, Deathtrap Dungeon and The Citadel of Chaos then you recall a youth that consisted of decisions such as:
To follow the Sorcerer up the stairs Turn to page 31
To challenge the Sorcerer to mortal combat Turn to page 6
Fighting Fantasy celebrated their 30th Anniversary this year, have been translated into multiple languages, and have sold 17 Million copies worldwide. 
‘Turn to 400 - The Fighting Fantasy Documentary Film’ is a Kickstarter project by former BBC Director and Film Maker Sean Riley.
A labour of love for the film maker, the documentary will chart not only the history of the books but also the foundations of Games Workshop, the careers of Jackson and Livingstone and the future for Fighting Fantasy.
For fans of the history of gaming, roleplaying, or even books such as Ernest Cline’s ‘Ready Player One’, this might just be the Kickstarter for you. ‘Turn to 400’ is the kind of project that you would only ever see funded by Kickstarter but time is running out to contribute.
The pledging closes this Friday at noon GMT, and Russ Sheath spoke to Sean about the origins of the project and how Fighting Fantasy and fans of classic gaming can get involved in this unique project.
Russ Sheath (RS): Sean, tell us about the origin for the Kickstarter to make a documentary about Fighting Fantasy?
Sean Riley (SR): My background is as a BBC Director and I left the BBC about a year and a half ago.
All good things originate in the pub, and shortly after leaving the BBC, my friends and I were chatting about Fighting Fantasy books and that led to an idea for this documentary. It’s been 30 years since the first book and I felt that it was the perfect opportunity to propose the story as a television documentary idea.
We pitched the idea to one or two television channels, and they thought it was too ‘niche’ an idea.  But when Kickstarter came about, we approached Ian Livingstone and he offered to support the idea and help us out with some of the rewards.
The idea is that we are going to do a documentary about the books, what led up to the books and them exploding in popularity in the 80s - and then what happened to Steve and Ian, the authors, after that. We plan to follow the future of Fighting Fantasy as well.
RS: What have been the highlights of this journey?
SR: You should have seen reaction when I got the first email response from Ian Livingstone! This was one of my childhood heroes, and he responded and said he’d be delighted to be involved. The next stage in the process will be talking to the artists who contributed to the books like Ian McCaig, who went on to create Darth Maul, its like, OMG! to use kid speak.
RS: Tell us about the pledges and the rewards that folk can get?
SR: We have a basic entry level of £10 for a digital download of the documentary.

After that, we go to £15 for a key shaped USB Key with a copy of the film and extras, and then every reward from £25 upwards includes a copy of the key.
The £100 and £150 are for signed items like movie posters and prints by Russ Nicholson of the Warlock (from The Warlock of Fire Top Mountain). The pledges go all the way up to £5000 mark for those people who are the Alan Sugars of this world who want to get behind the project, and we’ve had one of those go already, which is fantastic.
RS: Have there been any challenges to putting this project together?
SR: The big thing is that people see the target, and think that its a lot of money for what we want to do - but we are doing this to a professional standard. We do this for a living and basically £40.000 is an absolute minuscule amount of money for this type of video.
For every £5.00 pledged, about £1.50 of that will go to the tax man. You then have to pay for your rewards, and pay the Kickstarter fees so £40.000 quickly dwindles to a little over £20.000 which isn’t a lot of money when you are doing a historical documentary and need to use archive footage. When you see how that all breaks down, not very much is left. 
We did a full budget when we did the TV pitch, and you are looking at around £100.000 for a project of this nature.
We are doing this because we want to make the film and we believe in the story. 
RS: How is the Kickstarter going, with regards to funding?
SR: It’s plateau’d a little. I think we can still make it, but time is tight. The thing is, if the word gets out there, then these things can go massive in a matter of hours. Its going OK ,but could do better. We have been able to target the hardcore gamers quite easily, but the more casual gamers - or those who remember the Fighting Fantasy books fondly - they are harder to reach.
A big thanks to Sean for his time, and best of luck in the Kickstarter reaching its target. 
The project's Facebook page is HERE!  
Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 27, 2012, 12:02 p.m. CST

    These were probably the first books I actually took interest in

    by donkey_lasher

    The BFG, and The Demon Headmaster were alright I suppose, but this made me love reading. I'm not sure if I read it wrong, or there was a page missing from Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but I could never complete it. Deathtrap Dungeon was gold, as was Appointment with F.E.A.R. and The Forest of Doom. I remember shitting myself reading The House of Hell one night.. I also remember they made maps of the fantasy world which was frequently visited (Titan) and a bestiary if I recall right? Does anyone remember the Grail Quest books as well? They were fun.

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 12:10 p.m. CST

    Erm, is anyone else here?

    by donkey_lasher

    Or am I one of the few that is old enough to remember these?

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 12:49 p.m. CST

    I have some of these books!

    by mattotest

    Yes I am here donkey_lasher, i'm 40 and read many of these books as a teen including the two-player FF books. I currently still have (in poor condition due to the amount of re-reads and page turns!).. warlock of firetop mountain, citadel of chaos, forest of doom, starship traveler, deathtrap dungeon (my all time fav), island of the lizard king, scorpion swamp, house of hell, creature of havoc, phantoms of fear, vault of the vampire, black vein prophecy, the crimson tide, return to firetop mountain and island of the dead. Also really loved grailquest books, and especially the 'way of the tiger' ninja books, all in the same vein as the fighting fantasy series. Those ninja books i've read countless times, their re-occuring characters across the series really made them epics, what a shame Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson never finished the series and left a big cliffhanger. I even have the books that came BEFORE fighting fantasy - 'choose your own adventure' books. I really really would love to see a Deathtrap Dungeon movie but doubt it will ever happen. will keep an eye on this docu though!

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 1:09 p.m. CST

    oh yes.

    by DocPazuzu

    I'm 45 and remember them well. A friend and I used to play them all the time. I still have the first 25 books or so, the British editions with those sickly green spines, as well as the companion books. Deathtrap Dungeon was one of the best, as was Island of the Lizard King. There was also a cool Mad Max-type one called Freeway Fighter and a few sci-fi books, of which Starship Traveler was the best. The artwork was usually great, especially Iain McCaig, whose name I immediately recognized when it popped up in 1999. I used to try to draw maps as I played in order to keep track of where I was. It could be easy to get lost at times. There was even a double-book adventure where you played against an opponent who had a book of his own. every now and then your paths would cross and you'd have to fight. Man, I haven't thought about this shit in ages. Good times, good times...

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 1:38 p.m. CST

    Hell, I'm in!

    by BloodiedFox

    Sounds fascinating. I enjoyed a few of the FF books as a kid, and the fact they''re also going to look at the foundation of GW as well makes it too intriguing to resist

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 1:44 p.m. CST

    I was more into the Lone Wolf series...

    by Fico

    Way of the Tiger was excellent also. But I never read Fighting Fantasy. Much respect for the genre.

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 3:58 p.m. CST

    Loved these books

    by kingralphuk

    Remember you had to roll a dice to see if you'd won a battle? How many kids EVER rolled the damn dice!?

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 6:36 p.m. CST

    by Michael Reilly

    I'm a financial backer – would love to see this film made. FF was a big part of my youth and helped to fire up my imagination. If you can find a bit of money to help this project get off the ground then please make a pledge!

  • Nov. 27, 2012, 8:52 p.m. CST

    Loved The Riddling Reaver

    by MotherPussBucket

    and putting several numbered bookmarks at critical choice points so that I could backtrack if I didn't like the way things were going.

  • Nov. 28, 2012, 1:55 a.m. CST


    by KGersen

    These books and D&D were important parts of my youth when I was between 10 - 14, also loved the artwork. Even now I will check out WoTC and GW just to look at the art and ideas. Will fund some money to this.

  • Nov. 28, 2012, 4:19 a.m. CST

    Played most of them up until around #30

    by Keith

    By that time Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston had passed most of the duties off to lesser writers. (Although Mark Smith and Jamie Thompson did a few which were good: Sword of the Samurai and Talisman of Death.) SJ's Sorcery! four-parter was the best of the lot. And of the rival series in the UK, I always loved Smith/Thompson's 'Way of the Tiger'.

  • Nov. 28, 2012, 4:20 a.m. CST

    Best of the late-era FFs

    by Keith

    Midnight Rogue and Dead of Night.

  • Nov. 28, 2012, 6:15 a.m. CST

    Really Hope This Gets Made...

    by SonOfChiba

    For my generation the FF books were just amazing. BTW, The Way of The Tigers may be getting a reprint next year - along with book #7!