Thursday 12 July 2012

Titanic Lesson Plan

In order that my game world / PC graveyard doesn't meander off into boring quasi-historical mundanity, I thought I'd best make sure that I was clear in my own head what I am pinching from my influences when thinking about Hammerstein! I'm doing this in order to keep my imagination active and on message. Here's the lessons that I am taking from the first ten Fighting Fantasy books.

1. The [under]world has dungeons, lots of them. They are more than mere monster lairs, filled with a rich variety, including things that *appear* to make little sense - old dwarfs playing cards, random benches for weary travellers, ferrymen, and animated tools. [Warlock of Firetop Mountain] However, even though evil wizards build towers and populate them with a strange array of creatures and objects, there is a 'dungeon ecology', but it the rationale for and interaction between elements of the dungeon is fantastical rather than mundane [Citadel of Chaos].
2. The wilderness should be full of encounters that are mini-adventures in themselves. Stop thinking about mundane ecologies and economics - these forests are full of adventure. Indeed, the wilderness can be structured like a non-linear dungeon [Forest of Doom and Scorpion Swamp].

3.The 'world' can be small because travel is perilous. This peril is fantastical rather than grim.  Bandits should NOT make up the majority of random wilderness encounters [Forest of Doom and Scorpion Swamp].

4.The 'world' is geographically small; tropical islands are a short journey from temperate grasslands, and from there you can reach the icy mountains. All manner of adventures can be crammed into a small space. Mundane distance is not the problem - the fantastic is [Forest of Doom, Island of the Lizard King, and Caverns of the Snow Witch].

5. Pay no attention to real medieval settlement patterns. Civilisation exists as pockets of light amid the fantastical peril. Culture can vary tremendously within a short distance - European inspired fantasy can sit alongside fantastical names inspired by a trip to Thailand [Deathtrap Dungeon].

6. Urban life is no less fantastically adventuresome than the wilderness. Cities are great big dangerous dungeons. If you want a quiet life, live in a modest sized town. [City of Thieves].

7. The big bads of the game world are magically powerful. They cannot be defeated simply by saying 'I ht him with my sword', but require a quest in order to identify and exploit his weakness. Unicorn tattoos are optional [City of Thieves].

8. This world contains famous professional adventurers. Adventurers (that survive) are rock stars [Deathtrap Dungeon].

9. Horror is as good a source of inspiration as its sibling genre, sword and sorcery [House of Hell].    

10. Sci-fi gaming, despite all its promise, doesn't hold my imagination in the way fantasy gaming does [Starship Traveller].

Plenary: Forget subtlety - exaggerate! Don't drain the magic, the fantastic, and the adventure from the world by thinking about 'realism'.

[Addendum: an indiegogo campaign for a new edition of Blacksand? That is well worth £30]


  1. Excellent advice! I like 2, 3, 7 and 8 the best, in particular 7.

  2. 7 - You need Balthus Dire's Curtains.

    Also small sole trader enterprises, everywhere. In the Evil King's trapmaze? Someone here is a merchant and has a shop and will sell you stuff possibly relating to point 7.

  3. Curtains? He should have got himself a roller blind from IKEA.

    As for small sole trader enterprises, I'm including this under 1, 2, and 6. You might be able to buy some what is required to beat the Big Bad there... (but see extra credit point 13).

    For extra credit:

    11. Adventuring is dangerous; adventurers die [all the FF books].

    12. The 'world', which we have established is small, doesn't just contain one Big Bad, but is peppered with Big Bads [all the Allansian FF books].

    13. The 'inverse' lesson of many Fighting Fantasy books is this: give players meaningful decisions to make. 'Guess what the DM (or Ian Livingstone) is thinking' is a game that wears thin very quickly.

  4. I cannot wait to litter this wonderful world with the corpses of my characters.

  5. I have this book! I even ran a D&D campaign on Titan. It's a fabulous world and was my introduction to fantasy gaming back in the early 80s.

    1. Titan is great. And it is system-less. I'm currently using it to run a Magic World game.