Sunday, February 27, 2011

Advanced Fighting Fantasy: My Default Blog System

Figure 1. Dungeoneer cover
by John Sibbick
(from Gascoigne & Tamlyn, 1989).

I alluded to a bit of writer’s block recently, and in my case it usually comes about because there’s something niggling me with what I’m trying to write (I’m struggling even as I type this out). Often it’s due to the fact the overall concept isn’t fully realized, or just needs a bit of tweaking, or may even be plain wrong. Having been trying to put together an interesting post for a few weeks now, it finally hit me that I needed to include some sort of generic RPG stats to better elaborate a point and make the post more useful. However, I haven’t really designated a default RPG system for this blog. As much as I enjoy reading Old School Renaissance blogs, I left D&D behind years ago (in favour of the original Warhammer FRP), and don’t feel confident enough posting up OGL stats that represent something I haven’t actively thought about for twenty years.

Conversely, though I’ve done some enjoyable recent work with the re-released Dragon Warriors system (Wallis et al., 2009), I feel it’s too tied up with the world of Legend for me to use on a more generic level. The solution I've come up with therefore is that old gem Advanced Fighting Fantasy (Gascoigne & Tamlyn, 1989, see Figure 1), for the following reasons:

  • It's extremely simple to use and post stat blocks for.
  • Despite the simplicity, both the Special Skills and Magic Spells systems capture a lot of colour and flavour.
  • I've been raving and ranting about Fighting Fantasy and Titan on my Titan_Rebuilding group for years now.
  • Likewise, it's the default system for posting stat blocks on the Titannica wiki.
Figure 2: Advanced Fighting Fantasy reissues from Arion Games (from Bottley, 2010a).

Perhaps the best reason though, is that it is being re-released by Arion Games very soon (Bottley, 2010a, see Figure 2)! While both Out of the Pit and Titan will be straight reprints of Gascoigne's (1985, 1986) earlier work, the entire Advanced Fighting Fantasy system itself will be revised, cleaned up, and repackaged as one book (Bottley, 2010b, see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Modified Advanced Fighting Fantasy Adventure Sheet,
for use with Arion Game reissue (from Bottley, 2010b).

This is because, as anyone who has played AFF will tell you, there were some fundamental problems with the original rules. The two big issues from my point of view were:
  • The random nature of character generation meant that Heroes who rolled high SKILL scores would be more powerful with far more Special Skill choices (and higher Special Skill values) than those who rolled a low number for their Initial SKILL.
  • The method of adding your SKILL score to your Special Skills to determine their value made Heroes even more powerful than the original nameless adventurers of the Fighting Fantasy solo gamebooks, who, for reasons of gameplay, were themselves vastly superior to most of the inhabitants of Titan (Wright, 2006a). 
These problems look to be solved by the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy reissue. However, as publication of these rules lies a few months away, I can't use them immediately as a default system for my blog. Instead, I plan on revisiting a few modifications I made to the AFF rules for an unfinished retro-hack system called Adventurers Limited.

Adventurers Limited was designed to be a gritty, low fantasy version of AFF, showing what the Heroes were like before they were Heroes. I couldn't be bothered to initiate a points system (probably a bad idea in retrospect), so the character generation rules for 'limited' starting Adventurers were still determined via dice, and ran as follows:

SKILL: An adventurer's SKILL score is found by rolling one die, dividing the result by 2, rounding all fractions up, and then adding 5 to the result. This will give an Initial SKILL score of 6, 7, or 8.

Our sample adventurer rolls one die. The result is 3. Dividing this by 2 gives 1.5. We round this up to 2 and add 5 to give our adventurer an Initial SKILL score of 7.

STAMINA: An adventurer's STAMINA score is found by rolling one die, dividing the result by 2, rounding all fractions up, and then adding 5 to the result. This will give an Initial STAMINA score of 6, 7, or 8.

Example: Our sample adventurer rolls one die. The result is 5. Dividing this by 2 gives 2.5. We round this up to 3 and add 5 to give our adventurer an Initial STAMINA score of 8.
(Wright, 2006b)

Bear in mind though, that these were just ideas and not based on rigorous play-testing. The second major modification was to introduce large number of Professions, all modeled on characters and people from previously published Fighting Fantasy books. These Professions would dictate what Special Skills your character could choose, as follows:

Common Skills: These are the Special Skills that a starting character of this Profession must invest at least 1 point in per Special Skill.

Uncommon Skills: These are Special Skills that a starting character may possess (but see also Rare Skills below). Each Profession will tell you how many Uncommon Skills you may choose. You must invest at least 1 point in each Uncommon Skill that you choose.

Rare Skills: These are more obscure Special Skills that a starting character may possess. You may ONLY choose a Rare Skill if you have already chosen the maximum number of Uncommon Skills you are allowed.
(Wright, 2006c)

Note that if you wanted to pick Uncommon or Rare Special Skills, you had to pick your full complement of Common skills first. This was designed so that players could create characters that either had an initial broad base of skills they were reasonable at, or specialists who excelled at only a couple of chosen skills. So, for an example, if you wanted to be a mercenary, you would have the following choices:
Mercenary by Gary Chalk
(from Harris, 1985)


Common Skills: Weapon, Dodge, World Lore (Must have 3).
Uncommon Skills: Weapon, Unarmed Combat, Disarm, Second Weapon, Ride Horse, Heavy Armoured Combat (Choose 2).
Rare Skills: Battle Tactics, Battle Combat, Siege Lore, Siege Combat, Mounted Combat, Languages, Crossbow (Choose 1).
(Wright, 2006b)
This idea is now approaching obsolescence with Arion Games' impending release of the new version of AFF, but I may use it intermittently until then to provide a RPG stat angle on certain posts. Also, once the new AFF is published, I may start seeing if I can retrofit my Adventurers Limited Professions to the new rules framework, because I certainly had a lot of fun developing literally hundreds of them!

Note: You can pre-order the new version of AFF here! 


Bottley, G. (2010a). Arion Games: Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Accessed from

Bottley, G. (2010b). Modified AFF character sheet. Message posted to and taken from

Gascoigne, M. (1985). Out of the Pit: Fighting Fantasy Monsters. London: Puffin Books.

Gascoigne, M. (1986). Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World. London: Puffin Books.

Gascoigne, M. & Tamlyn, P. (1989). Dungeoneer: Advanced Fighting Fantasy. London: Puffin Books.

Harris, R. (1985). Talisman: The Magical Quest Game [2nd Edition]. Nottingham: Games Workshop.

Wallis, J., Hately, S., Kemp, J., Klein, M., Low, R., May, D., Monroe, B., Reed, J., Sturrock, I., Turley, K., & Wright, A. (2009). Dragon Warriors: Friends or Foes. London: Magnum Opus Press.

Wright, A. (2006a). Adventurers Limited (Part Two). Message posted to

Wright, A. (2006b). Adventurers Limited (Part Five). Message posted to

Wright, A. (2006c) Adventurers Limited (Part Six). Message posted to


  1. Your system sounds well-balanced, but I think that a starting warrior's STAMINA score should be higher. Humans in the world of Titan are more resilient than say, Orcs, which are more akin to the original Tolkien model than to the bigger, tougher WFRP model. I realize that you mentioned that these stats were for characters before they became warriors, but surely bigger, tougher guys would choose that as a "profession". The STAMINA range 6-8 is more in the league of an Orc than a human warrior, in my opinion. Just a thought.

    Also, which publication is that Gary Chalk illustration from?

  2. Hey Hamza, glad you think it looks balanced as I haven't actually tested it! You're right in that STAMINA should be higher, although I was really trying to get them to start at the absolute beginning level. Another problem with low STAMINA would be casting spells. Both of these look to have been solved in Arion Games' new version of AFF based on what Graham Bottley has posted in a thread on RPG Net.

    Gary Chalk's mercenary is from the second edition (first colour version) of the Talisman boardgame. He also turns up in the first edition, though I believe he's monochrome in that one.



  3. I'm a little surprised at the price tags on the new versions - much higher than I expected, especially for OotP and Titan, which are just reprints. I'll probably get them anyway, but I can't help feeling not everyone will.

  4. I'm guessing there may be some sort of license fee that Arion Games have to pay to Livingstone, Jackson, and Gascoigne, which necessitates the price-tag. The Myriador d20 conversions cost 9.99 pounds and the license fee was apparently what eventually killed the series and why we never got a d20 version of Crown of Kings.



  5. I like the idea of professions with common, uncommon and rare skills. It stops crazy combos like warrior/wizards with four points in sword and who are also able to fling firebolts at opponents and then restore their stamina to almost their initial level. Not that I ever did that, of course.

  6. From what I've seen of the new AFF system, you can't spend more than 2 SKILL points on a Special Skill like Magic or Sword, so that should cut down on some abuses.

    Having said that, I'm still still keen to resurrect my Adventurers Limited system and re-apply it to the new AFF when it comes out, if only as help when generating NPCs for example.



  7. I prefer a special skill points allocation based on 2x(13-Skill). This meant a high roll of Initial Skill means fewer special skill points- a jack of all trades character. But a low roll of skill gives many special skill points, which you can load up a few skills to a highish level- ie a more specialist character.
    eg starting skill of 7 = 12 special skill points to spend, starting skill of 12 = 2 special skill points to spend (and many penalties for not having many special skills!)

    High stamina was a problem, especially for mages. My solution- I'd make mages choose how many points to put into a "mana" pool, to split their health and spell casting ability. Also made magic less overpowered. Still, even warrior types should max out at about 18 stamina; maybe 2d6+6 or 1d6+12 would be more balanced starting stats. Especially with a healer in the party.

  8. I quite like the idea behind this system. It is very Warhammer Roleplay like with the requirements for Rare skills being the all of the common and uncommon skills of a profession. Warhammer Roleplay uses a similar idea with the stat line and skills before you can change professions

  9. Yahoo Groups doesn't exists anymore.
    I was trying to find someting else about Adventurers Limited but couldn't find anything about it over the internet.
    Do you still have the files of this or maybe any backup of the original yahoo group posts?