Something sparked an old memory of reading Fighting Fantasy role-playing game-books when I was a teen. The game-books are "choose your own adventure" stories written in the second person ("You walk through the forest" etc.). The story is broken up into numbered paragraphs each ending in a decision and your choices determine which paragraph you read next. There are monsters to fight and treasures to find and a quest to complete. The series was started by Britons Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone and spanned 59 books. Through a combination of Amazon sellers and Powells I got hold of five titles:
- The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, published in 1982, first in the series
- The Forest of Doom
- City of Thieves
- Temple of Terror
- Return to Firetop Mountain, the 10th anniversary title I never read, book 50 in the series
I remember the original Puffin cover art for Forest of Doom, the books I got have different covers but the illustrations inside are unchanged. You’re supposed to keep track of your ongoing skill, stamina and luck scores, and to do the fights with dice rolls, which I never did. As a teen I would keep track of what I was carrying in my bottomless backpack, but win all the fights without doing the dice rolls. I also kept track of my path through the story by writing down the sequence of paragraphs I followed to get to the magic 400th paragraph, which usually spelled the successful end of the quest.
Flipping through Forest of Doom it was a shock to land on a page I recognised, and follow the story onwards by picking decisions I knew were on the right path. It’s been a minimum of sixteen years since I read any of these books and they are still in my head. I never played Dungeons and Dragons, but I loved reading/playing these books and I would get one a week from the library as part of my weekly six books. I read through the entire children’s library, out through the Young Adult books and was edging into the adult horror and science fiction when I left for university.