Monday, March 10, 2014

Beyond the Pit: Old School Art and Hideous Monsters!

 Great and terrible flesh-eating beasts have always shared the landscape with humans... (Quammen, 2003)

Well, it took a bit over two years to get done, but Beyond the Pit is finally finished. When I originally agreed to write it for Graham Bottley's Arion Games and their second edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy I knew it would be a big undertaking, but I probably underestimated just how big it would be! I should have considered the fact that if Marc Gascoigne never wrote a follow up to his own Out of the Pit then there must have been a good reason.

And there was. Basically, the simple fact is that trying to compile a bestiary of at least 250 monsters drawn from random paragraphs scattered throughout well over 60 gamebook canonical sources, while trying to keep each creature entry informative and interesting, is a big task! Not to mention all of the extras: treasure tables, encounter charts, Advanced Fighting Fantasy rules, and Fighting Fantasy canon consistency. Still, it's done, and I thought I'd share a few snippets about the product and the process.
  • The original brief was to use 250 creatures that already had prior artwork published in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, to avoid commissioning new art and limiting the Kickstarter target to cover the licensing fees for the old artwork.
  • This did allow me some creativity in using different artwork for creatures that originally had none (e.g. see the entries for the Carnivorous Plant, the Killer Bee, and the Man-Octopus).
  • I started at the very first book (The Warlock of Firetop Mountain) and basically tried to cram in many old favorites that didn't make the original Out of the Pit. (e.g. the Iron Cyclops, the Night Horror, the Sand Snapper, and, of course, the She-Satyr).
  • Where possible I tried to clump creatures as opposed to split them (e.g. see the Death-Knight, the Kraken, and the Serpent).
  • Half way through writing, Stephen Hand requested via Steve Jackson that his monsters not be used, so out went any creatures from Dead of Night, Legend of Shadow Warriors and Moonrunner. This was disappointing...
  • Marc Gascoigne was too busy to write a brief foreword. More disappointment...
  • Ian Miller and Dave Carson had issues with their artwork being used, so Graham commissioned the talented Jason Lenox to provide illustrations for these creatures, and, especially given the short time frame, I think Jason's pictures are excellent!
Having said all that, I am very very happy with the final product. I think it stands up well as a companion to Out of the Pit, and provides definitive information on a horde of Fighting Fantasy beasties that were screaming out for their own official Advanced Fighting Fantasy treatment. I hope I've walked the fine line between a useable monster manual and a canonical sourcebook, while providing plenty of ideas for how the various creatures could make an appearance in a game or campaign. Despite the lengthy timeframe, and the workload (on top of family commitments, studies and my day job!), I thoroughly enjoyed myself writing this folio of fiends, and, well, who knows, there may certainly be a third volume to write yet! After all, there are plenty more monsters where these horrible creatures all came from...

The monster, of course, is a product of and a regular inhabitant of the imagination, but the imagination is a driving force behind our entire perception of the world. If we find monsters in our world, it is sometimes because they are really there and sometimes because we have brought them with us... (Asma, 2009)


Asma, S. T. (2009). On monsters. New York: Oxford University Press.
Quammen, D. (2003). Monster of God. New York: Norton. 


  1. Thanks for the 'behind the scenes' article on Beyond the Pit. It was very informative!

  2. Very interesting. I suspect you can't really discuss it, but I'd be interested to know Stephen Hand's reasons. (Also Ian Miller's and Dave Carson's 'issues'!)

  3. Does the fact that Stephen Hand refused permission for his monsters to be used in Beyond the Pit mean that my dream of an 'Old World Gazetteer' is a complete non-starter, given how much of the (very exciting) canon information on the Old World is in Dead of Night, Legend of Shadow Warriors and Moonrunner?

  4. I'm also wondering why Stephen Hand wouldn't grant permission. Even Jamie and I didn't refuse to allow our monsters to be used (though we retained copyright in Keep of the Lich Lord and will shortly be evicting it from its bedroom again to go out into the world in the clothing of a Fabled Lands book). Anyway, well done on a Trojan effort. Now we know what you've been up to these past two years :-)

    1. I notice that Stephen Hand's books are 'redacted' on the official FF website. Seems strange.