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Midnight Rogue

September 17, 2014 14 comments

Twenty-seven years after the fact, the Sidekickcast blog has published a review of my Fighting Fantasy book, Midnight Rogue. Reviewer PJ Montgomery seems to like it, although he raises a point that concerned me at the time.

Inspired by tabletop RPG supplements like Chaosium’s Thieves’ World and TSR’s Lankhmar: City of Adventure, I set out to write a city adventure for a thief character. The best-known city in the Fighting Fantasy world of Titan was Port Blacksand from Ian Livingstone’s earlier book City of Thieves, so I set my book in the same city and called it Prince of Thieves. Ian worried that this was too similar to the title of his book, so mine was changed to Midnight Rogue.

The essence of a thiefly adventure, as I saw it, was that it should involve a lot of sneaking and very little fighting. After all, the most successful thief is one who is never seen, let alone challenged. In the first draft, fighting was always the worst possible option. That didn’t go down too well with the editors at Puffin.

Their response to my first draft was an order to add a lot more combat, accompanied by a tart reminder that “it is Fighting Fantasy after all.” I thought they had missed the point, but I set about rewriting to give them what they wanted. I shortened the city part of the adventure, adding a few combats here and there, and I used the recovered space to put in a dungeon at the end, which I hoped would satisfy them.

Midnight Rogue did fairly well – as did anything that carried the Fighting Fantasy logo in those days – but it has never been regarded as one of the better FF books. Mr. Montgomery really puts his finger on the problem in his review:

“Midnight Rogue is very much a book of two halves. It’s just a shame that one of them really isn’t anywhere near as fun as the other.”

What makes me feel vindicated, after all these years, is that the part he likes is the city adventure.

“…the first half in Port Blacksand is great. Tracking down the clues that will eventually lead you to the Eye of the Basilisk is great fun, with Davis’s writing drawing real tension out of your mission. It’s great to have a proper run around in Blacksand again, as it’s a place with a lot of character. Unfortunately, once you leave Blacksand, the book becomes just another dungeon crawl, and honestly, it’s a pretty generic one at that. ”

Could I have written a better dungeon for the end of the book? Probably. As good as an Ian Livingstone masterpiece like Deathtrap Dungeon? Probably not. But even if I had, it would still have felt odd after all the sneaking about and city exploration. Looking back, I don’t think the book could ever have worked well as this odd hybrid.

Maybe it’s sour grapes. When I wrote Midnight Rogue I was also working on the early part of the Enemy Within campaign for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and I wasn’t in a dungeon-friendly headspace at all. Subconsciously, I was probably trying to turn Fighting Fantasy into WFRP, ignoring the fact that it was quite happy being Fighting Fantasy, thank you very much.

Still, I’m sure every writer loves to read a review that bears out everything they thought about one of their own books, both good and bad. How intelligent and insightful this reviewer is, one thinks, and fights the sudden urge to track down the editors in their comfortable retirement and wave the review in their faces, shouting “See? SEE?”

Not that it makes any difference at all after 27 years. But still.

If you are interested in finding out more about my career as a Fighting Fantasy writer, I did an extensive interview for Fighting Fantazine a few years ago. I can’t link directly to it, but issue #7 (and all the others) are free PDF downloads. If you’re a gamebook fan from the ’80s you’ll find a lot to like about this magazine, and I’m sure you’ll be happy to learn that the hobby is still going strong in various electronic formats.


November 6, 2015 Comments off

Over the last 30-odd years I have been lucky enough to work with a lot of very smart, talented, and otherwise excellent people. Here are some of them:

Fenix Magazine
Intelligent articles for grown-up roleplayers – and some stuff by me. Partly in Swedish and partly in English, with a separate (and cheaper) English-only version of each issue. Other English-language contributors include Ken Hite and Pete Nash. Find it here, or at your favorite games e-tailer.

Andy Law
Andy knows a frightening amount about many, many games (including WFRP), and has an even more worrying breadth of talent as a writer, editor, cartographer, artist, art director, and more things beside. His Lawhammer blog is always worth a visit.

Ben Scerri
Ben composed some fascinating and very useful posts for the Cubicle 7 blog, but this one is all his own. It’s called Liber Etcetera and it’s well worth a visit – especially if you are a WFRP player or GM.

Mark Gibbons
Mark is a fantastic artist who has created some amazing images for Blizzard, Games Workshop, and others – including my own Director’s Cut of the Enemy Within Campaign for WFRP 4th edition. He’s also part of The Rookery, which promises to be exciting. Check his work out.

Sam Manley
Sam is another of the incredibly talented artists helping to make WFRP 4th edition so very, very nice to look at. Here is his portfolio.

If you like dark, horror-tinged dieselpunk, NecroMech is a game to check out. It uses an unusual subscription model, which means that all the books are stored online. They are continually updated, so you automatically get the most recent version.

Lawrence Ellsworth
Wit, raconteur, sage, and onion (not to mention Game Design Legend under another name), Lawrence knows a slightly terrifying amount about the swashbuckling adventure genre. To prove it, he compiled and edited The Big Book of Swashbucking Adventure. Buy it immediately, and check out his blog while you wait for it to arrive.

Amanda Forrest
A Writers of the Future winner, Amanda has written some very thought-provoking stories that are well worth checking out. She is a fascinating writer and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Find her at

Keith Baker
Best known as the creator of Eberron and Gloom, Keith is a veritable game guru who is seemingly incapable of having a bad idea. Find him at

Matt Forbeck
Matt Forbeck is a lean, mean, writing machine. He once challenged himself to write a novel a month for a whole year. An authority on comics, a writer in more shared worlds than I can count, and a tireless creator of original settings, you can find more about his work here.

Joe Kulka
The creator of some of the most engaging children’s books of recent years, Joe’s art always looks as though it was created in a long-ago golden age of book illustration. You’d swear you’d seen some of it in your own childhood. When you see an image and sigh because they don’t make ’em like that any more, look again – it may be one of Joe’s.

Lee Moyer
Lee’s art defies superlatives. Just go and see it for yourself. You’ll thank me.

Darren Tan
Darren has illustrated a couple of my books for Osprey, and he’s one of my favorite artists to work with. The quality of his work speaks for itself, and he’s as pleasant as can be.

James Wallis
If you want to know anything about games – especially how to make good ones and how to make yours better – James is the man to ask. Just be sure you’re ready for the answers, because he’s not a man to mince words. He’s almost always right, though.

William King
Creator of the Gotrek and Felix saga for Warhammer and the first in-house head of fiction for Games Workshop, Bill King has written a slightly intimidating amount of fantasy fiction. Just how intimidating, you ask? Check out his blog at

Robin D. Laws
Game design luminary and co-host of the fantasy and gaming podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, Robin’s blog can be found at

Kenneth Hite
Co-host of the aforementioned podcast, Ken is worryingly knowledgeable about horror and World War II, and has successfully blended the two for Steve Jackson Games, Osprey Publishing, and others. Find him at

Justin Achilli
Best known for his game writing, Justin Achilli has also published a short novel, strategy guides, and game-related fiction. His blog can be found at

Richard Dansky
Another veteran of White Wolf, Rich now writes for Tom Clancy titles at video game developer Ubisoft, and creates strange and twisted tales in his spare time. Find him at

Jennifer Brozek
A prolific author with a growing catalog, I had the pleasure of working with Jenn on various Colonial Gothic products. Her blog is at

Stone Skin Press
Some of the most interesting fiction anthologies of recent years have come out of Stone Skin Press. They’ve even been kind enough to print a couple of my stories. Try any of their titles: I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Miguel Coimbra
Miguel created some beautiful images for my Osprey book Thor: Viking God of Thunder. Check out his portfolio at

Jose Daniel Cabrera Pena
The very talented illustrator of my Osprey Book Theseus and the Minotaur. His portfolio can be found at

Darren Tan
I’ve had the good fortune to work with Darren twice so far: on Knights Templar: A Secret History and Nazi Moonbase, both for the Dark Osprey line. His portfolio is at


My Complete and Utter Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Bibliography

October 28, 2015 13 comments


Fighting Fantasy gamebooks started in 1982 with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Over the next twelve years, a total of 59 gamebooks was published, along with a magazine, a multi-player RPG, and other spin-offs. I was by no means the most prolific contributor to the series, but here’s a list of my contributions to the gamebook craze.

Fighting Fantasy 10th Anniversary Yearbook, Puffin Books 1992 – “Rogue Mage” adventure (reprint)
Fighting Fantasy # 29: Midnight Rogue, Puffin Books 1987
The Adventures of Oss the Quick, Oxford University Press 1987 – 6 vols
The Adventures of Kern the Strong, Oxford University Press, 1986 – 6 vols

“Field of Battle,” Warlock #12 October/November 1986
“Into the Unknown,” Warlock #11, August/September 1986
“More Monster Conversions,” Warlock #10, June/July 1986
“Rogue Mage,” Warlock #10 June/July 1986
“Monster Conversions,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“Magical Items,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“The Ring of Seven Terrors,” Warlock #9 April/May 1986
“The Seasoned Adventurer,” Warlock #4, 1985
“Solo Voyages,” Imagine #22, Jan 1985 Download free here

Fighting Fantazine #7 – downloadable here


Also on this Blog
All posts tagged “Fighting Fantasy”

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

My Complete and Utter D&D/AD&D/d20 Bibliography

My Complete and Utter GURPS Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Vampire: the Masquerade and World of Darkness Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Colonial Gothic Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Dark Future Bibliography

My Complete and Utter Video Gameography

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: The Rest of the RPGs

My Complete and Utter Bibliography: Odds and Ends