Monday, February 6, 2012

Fantasy from Across the Pond

I'm something of an Anglophile. I pretty much love all things British. Lately, this love affair has (once again) come to include British RPGs, specifically those that would be considered old school.

Perhaps the most famous British RPG, Warhammer FRPG, has been on my shelf for ages. I have a copy of the 1st editon with the awesome cover below (I've always thought that the wizard guy to the right looks like Jack Palance):

I picked it up years ago, but I've never played it. Everyone around me was so into D&D, Palladium games, or Amber Diceless RPG that there was never any interest to do anything else.

At Free RPG Day a couple years ago I grabbed the Dragon Warriors introductory booklet put out by Mongoose Publishing. This was my first exposure to that game, and I acquired the Mongoose editon of the rule shortly thereafter. Again, I haven't played it, but it looks really cool.

Something about having a British RPG has always seemed so exotic to me. Perhaps this feeling started when, as a teen (who had already been playing D&D), I found a copy of The Forest of Doom in a used book store, one of the Fighting Fantasy game books. I still have my copy, and it's still in great condition (cover image below):

Here was a game (albeit with a rather simple game book system) that WASN'T D&D, with mechanics not at all based on the D&D engine. What a concept! And the fact that it was British?! Even better! The simplistic nature of the mechanics wasn't lost on me, but I was enchanted nonetheless (Note: I encounted Fighting Fantasy before Warhammer).

I enjoyed playing The Forest of Doom, but I never tried to find any other Fighting Fantasy books. D&D and, later, other games were so prevalent in my life that they overwhelmed all other concerns.

These days, I'm once again curious about British RPGs. Newt Newport over at Sorcerer Under Mountain (the mind behind Crypts & Things) has been posting about old school British RPGs, and this post alerted me to the existence of Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

I'm really intrigued by Advanced Fighting Fantasy, and I'm working on getting myself a copy of the second edition of the rules. And this time, I'm determined to not let a British RPG just sit on my shelf. I'll let you know what I discover, once I get my hands on that book!

In the meantime, everyone feel free to share their own experiences with British RPGs, please!

Edit: It wasn't until recently that I acquired my second Fighting Fantasy game ever: Wizard of Firetop Mountain for my iPhone. I'm trying to picture what would happen if my current self was able to time travel, and tell my teen self that one day I'd be playing a gamebook on something the size of a calculator. Sorry, the passage of time wigs me out most of the time.


  1. Not an rpg per say but I found the British "U" series of TSR modules some of the best I ever got hold of. We played the hell out of them.

    Been playing WHFRPG 2e lately. It does grimy, gritty mud crawling like no other (or maybe just this DM?)

  2. I will make a comment!

    Being in the UK i grew up with WFRP1e, FF Gamebooks, AFF and Maelstrom, all of which have that "british vibe"

    It is very hard to define what this really means, but there is a certain grittiness even when there are high fantasy elements. There is also a humour, a tongue-in-cheek feeling.

  3. I love the attitude of WFRP, but the Reformation/Renaissance setting tends to be too late period for my tastes.

  4. I have a huge passion for British games, birthplace of alot of fantasy and all that rot. I owned 1e WFRP but like a idiot I traded away for crap for all I can remember...sad me.


    I am a HUGE Warhammer 40k Lore fan...LOVE IT!.

  5. I meant to comment on this earlier, but I originally read it on my iPad, and while I love reading blogs on it, I hate typing on it to write responses.

    Your point about being an Anglophile is a good description. I grew up in the suburban areas of a bunch of "Mountain States" as you can read on my blog, so England always seemed so "exotic" to me, but in a familiar way, if that makes sense. When we started to get British Wave on the radio finally (stuff like the Police and eventually Echo and the Bunnymen and U2), I thought it was awesome.

    Naturally I was really attracted to Warhammer when I first saw the ads and reviews for it in Dragon back in the early-to-mid 1980s. I was very intrigued by it, but it wasn't until the early 90s, when I had moved to Southern California, that I eventually picked up a copy of the rules (the same one you have a picture of, above).

    I also spent my Summer after high school playing the game, but I think a combination of an inexperienced GM and me having to take over someone else's character rather than getting to make my own meant that the game didn't really do it for me. I love the setting and the background and I really like the idea of the various careers and how you can change them pretty easily over the course of a campaign, but the actual mechanics didn't really do it for me, and I also had trouble grasping that, unlike in D&D, Warhammer characters aren't the baddest bad-asses in the world. They probably suck at quite a few things while only being of average competence on a few.

    After that Summer of playing, I ended up taking a bunch of the Warhammer careers and turning them into 2nd Edition AD&D "kits."