A series of Choose Your Own Adventure game books, targeted at children and teenagers. The majority of the 50+ books were set in a generic fantasy land called Titan, which later got its own tabletop RPG spin-off. Originally published by Puffin throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the series went out of print in 1995, having amassed 59 gamebooks, several spin-off series (including a range of novels) and many other related books, boardgames and videogames.Wizard Books revived it in 2002, republishing some of the original books with new covers (and later some new adventures). Following a brief tail-off, they relaunched their relaunch in 2009 with another range of new covers and more new adventures.The game mechanics are like a simplified single-player version of Dungeons & Dragons. There are adventures set in sci-fi universes, a Mad Max rip-off, a Star Trek pastiche, a haunted house horror, and... Sky Lord, a book which was almost certainly written under the influence of psychedelic drugs and dadaist thinking.The series has the standard Choose Your Own Adventure second-person narrative style. Outcomes are influenced by three randomly determined statistics: Skill, Stamina, and Luck. A lot of the books introduced a fourth statistic, such as Faith or Honour, a selection of special skills, or statistics for your vehicle.As you will see on the Trope list below, the franchise has amassed quite a bit of Snark Bait over it's run, yet it remains fondly remembered and has an unusually devoted fanbase. This best example would be the webbased fan magazine Fighting Fantazine.The books were were written or presented by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson note a different Steve than the Steve who runs Steve Jackson Games though the latter has written a few books, see below. The series has had several Spin-Off series, most notable being Sorcery, and a game on the Nintendo DS.Books that have their own page: (Note: Books that have been adapted into IOS Apps will have the iOS tag behind it.)
Added Alliterative Appeal: Practically enough alliteration in titles for every letter of the alphabet: Citadel of Chaos, Daggers of Darkness, Deathtrap Dungeon, Demons of the Deeps, Fangs of Fury, House of Hell, Masks of Mayhem, Night of the Necromancer, Scorpion Swamp, Siege of Sardath, Spectral Stalkers, Star Strider, Stealer of Souls, Sword of the Samurai, Temple of Terror, Vault of the Vampire. And, most relevant given that this trope specifically applies to trope names, Fighting Fantasy itself of course.
Apologetic Attacker: The Spiked Maiden from Beneath Nightmare Castle. Actually the baron's daughter whose magical suit of armor forces her to attack anyone who approaches.
Atlantis Is Boring: Subverted with Demons of the Deep, which offers an interesting adventure set underwater.
And I Must Scream: Suffering four hits from a Ghoul will paralyze you, which allows the monster to eat you alive. Not fun.
A Winner Is You: Several of the books have disappointing endings, the last "reference" being only a few lines long and giving no details on the outcome. Particular offenders: Space Assassin, The Rings of Kether, Rebel Planet and Deathmoor. Even more annoying, Masks of Mayhem, which has a two-line ending to avoid giving away its Twist Ending.
An Adventurer Is You: Usually the classless variety, but on occasion you get to play as a wizard, a demon hunter, or a four-armed space warrior battling an army of dog-headed clones. A particular note goes to Creature of Havoc, in which the reader plays a monster who gets to kill and eat several standard adventuring parties.
Author Avatar / Creator Thumbprint: Ian Livingstone seems to be a sailboat racing fan, given how he sneaks references to his racing teams into Return To Firetop Mountain and Armies Of Death.
Authority Equals Asskicking: In Starship Traveller the non-security officers suffer a Skill penalty in combat. All of them except you, the captain.
Awesome Mccoolname: Plenty. Among the more memorable is the chaos warrior Darkblade Skullbiter.
Body Horror: Happens every now and then, but most noteable in Beneath Nightmare Castle, thanks to the Big Bad Xathaz, a sorceror who worships Lovecraft style gods, leading to both him and his followers gaining Lovecraftian Superpower. One of the illustrations in said book was actually banned because the publishers thought the audience would get too scared. Its of a woman with black eyes with tentacles coming out of her mouth. Its viewable on the Fighting Fantasy Wiki.
Batman Gambit: At the end of Trial of Champions, when Lord Carnuss has managed to humiliate Baron Sukumvit by kidnapping you and forcing you to successfully penetrate Deathtrap Dungeon, he tries to claim the prize of 20,000 gold pieces. Knowing that you were kidnapped by Carnuss and sent into the dungeon against your will, Sukumvit turns the tables and offers you an additional prize, that of having one special request fulfilled. As he anticipated, you ask to challenge Lord Carnuss and get revenge for all the people he kidnapped and killed.
Every bear you meet is out to get you — unless you get it first!
One exception is found in Vault of the Vampire, where the bear is merely an animal companion to a local ranger. It doesn't attack you unless you attack her.
Another exception is in Portal of Evil, where the hero can briefly team up with a former miner transformed into a bear by the portal.
Burn the Witch!: In Spellbreaker, it's possible to get embroiled with some witchhunters. Notably subverted, since in this book the witch hunters are the good guys, fighting against a coven of evil witches and warlocks who are trying to free a powerful demon from its prison. One of the encounters involves an actual witch-burning, although the girl who's about to be burned is actually innocent, and the inquisitor who's about to burn her is the actual warlock, who's framed the girl as a way of throwing suspicion off himself.
Cassandra Truth: Your character combines this with Genre Savvy in Siege of Sardath. When the town of Grimmund is plagued by a series of increasingly bizarre incidents, your character, a member of the governing town council, suggests that some unknown enemy is deliberately plotting to conquer the land. In an almost chilling display of Genre Blindness, the rest of the council laughs at your suggestion. Naturally enough, events soon prove that you're right.
Cast from Hit Points: Standard in most books, especially the "Advanced Fighting Fantasy" spin-off. Including the basic healing spell, which costs one Stamina to cast and then restores six Stamina.
Celibate Hero: You might run into a fair number of beautiful women but don't expect so much as a kiss in these books.
Given the AFGNCAAP nature of the hero of many of the books and the assumption that perhaps, just maybe, some of the readers were straight girls, this is unsurprising.
Although there's a notable aversion in Vault of the Vampire.
Circus of Fear: The Circus of Dreams from Legend of the Shadow Warriors, in which the performers were all mandrakes. They replaced the inhabitants of each town they visited with more mandrakes.
Continuity Nod: After a while, the authors started including more and more references to previous books. For example, the Trial of Champions follows the player through a reworked version of Deathtrap Dungeon, and the protagonist goes on to star in Armies of Death. Likewise, the plot of The Crimson Tide is kicked off by events that occur in Black Vein Prophecy, and the PC of the former can meet several character from the latter, as well as a diplomatic envoy from Hachiman, previously seen in Sword of the Samurai.
The cover of the original edition of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain shows a white-bearded wizard who looks nothing like the Warlock, and he is summoning a dragon from a crystal ball, which does not happen in the story.
The cover of the original of Creature of Havoc shows Zarradan Marr, the Big Bad of the story, but this can make anyone think that the titular Creature of Havoc is him. The new edition cover shows a furry albino-like beast, while he is described as reptilian in the story. The albino monster seems to actually be a "Devourer", a one-off enemy from fairly early in the book.
The cover of the original Caverns of the Snow Witch shows an Orc who is grasping his neck as he stands in front of a globe containing a woman's head. The scene does actually occur in the story — the woman is the titular Snow Witch kills an underling just to show her power — yet many viewers think that the Orc is the Witch (because of his long hair and he seems to be "casting a spell" in front of a crystal ball"). What is really, really bad is that the newest French editions of the book cut the image so it just shows the Orc, proving the editors did no research just by flipping through the book.
You'd think that the menacing pumpkin-headed figures are the title characters of Legend of the Shadow Warriors, whereas they are actually just manifestations of nature's wrath against man, a force of good, not evil.
Demon Slaying: The entire plot of Dead of Night. More generally, various books have you fight everything from Fire Demons to Hell Demons to Ice Demons to Mirror Demons.
In the beginning of Demons of the Deep the hero is made to walk the plank, tied up, into the sea by pirates – and just happens to plunge down onto magic marks deep in the ocean which grant you with gills!
And said pirates even gave him Provisions as a (stupidly wasteful) sick joke. Which also happen to be preserved by the magic.
In Crypt of the Sorcerer a vital clue is just chiselled onto a boulder, standing in the middle of frigging nowhere out in the wilderness.
Robot Commando starts by having you unaffected, The Day Of The Triffids-style, by a mysterious disaster that rendered the entire rest of your country's population comatose. Which is extremely lucky, as otherwise there wouldn't be a whole lot of adventure.
In one book, after you kill the evil sorcerer, a Dark Elf who was also trying to kill him arrives just in time to fight you to the death.
A particularly odd semi-example in Night Dragon. After you kill the titular evil dragon, its skull grows spider's legs and tries to kill you. Okay, it's not actually the Dragon, but still. note The head growing spider legs is a Shout Out to John Carpenter's The Thing 1982 — the accompanying illustration makes this very clear.
Dungeon Crawling: Many of the books, particularly the earlier ones. Ian Livingstone seems reluctant to write anything else.
Early Installment Weirdness: In the first book, you can only eat a meal when specifically given the option. Subsequent books let you eat at any time except when fighting.
Elves VS Dwarves: Subverted with Redswift and Stubb, an elf and a dwarf who had become good friends when held as slaves in Caverns of the Snow Witch. It's also mentioned in the semi-canonical Zagor Chronicles that the dwarves and elves around Darkwood are actually pretty chummy with one another. That said, the same book also mentions that dwarves and elves have spilled plenty of each others' blood in foolish wars over the years, which accounts for why creatures like orcs and dark elves are as powerful as they are.
Enemy Civil War: The only thing keeping Balthus Dire and Zarradan Marr from overruning Allansia is that their forces cancel eachother out. After Dire's death, and Marr being sealed away inside the Netherworld, this situation has been defused.
Enemy Mine: The Slykk, a race of frog-like humanoids, are not known for their friendly treatment of humans who pass through their swamps. However, the Slykk in Siege of Sardath will help you if you prove to them that you're trying to stop the mysterious enemy that's threatening all the peoples of the region.
In a couple of the books you fight lizard men who use dinosaurs as mounts.
In Robot Commando you play the pilot of a Humongous Mecha whose job is to herd dinosaurs.
Also the Pit Fiend, a tyrannosaur-like creature that appears in Deathtrap Dungeon.
Evil Detecting Dog: In the Magehunter's world, it is common practice to feed a dog on nothing but goat meat for a week to make them sniff out wizards. On Titan, if you do this, it turns out they specifically sniff out evil wizards, as Kurt is actually quite friendly towards Khasim.
Evil Is Visceral: In Dead of Night, the Legions Of Hell set up a living factory to corrupt the land around the village of Axmoor. Said factory has a huge heart at its core and humans are fed into its furnace as fuel.
Evil Lawyer Joke: The background section to Portal of Evil states that "there were robbers of all kinds, from desperate outlaws to clerks and lawyers."
Executive Meddling: Supposedly, one of the reasons the original series published by Puffin came to an end was because the publishers wanted to reduce the books to 300 references to make them 'easier'.
Failure Is the Only Option: If you eat some mouldy food in Trial of Champions, it turns out it was infected with parasites that will slowly bore through your stomach. You lose 1 STAMINA point for each new section you turn to; this is fairly late in the game, so it is still possible to win, you'll just die if you reach 400.
Fate Worse Than Death: Some of the 'deaths' you can reach are actually this. In the book Night of the Necromancer, the character you play is Dead To Begin With, so all of the bad endings are this. Baleful Polymorph endings are also commonplace, with lycanthropy curses a particular apparent favourite of many of the authors. Howl Of The Werewolf places its cards on the table right from the very title.
Fish Men: A few are encountered as monsters, but one benevolent example is Cyrano the Swordfish, a master swordsman who dwells in a magical painting and will provide the main character with a swordfighting lesson in Demons of the Deep.
Frankenstein's Monster: In Legend of the Shadow Warriors it turns out that Dr. Kauderwelsch is a would-be Dr. Frankenstein, working on one of these. And then her son — yes, the Son of Kauderwelsch — performs the same trick in Moonrunner by chopping up the inmates of an insane asylum and piecing them together in an effort to resurrect his mother.
Galley Slave: You get to start Creatures of Chaos by going undercover as one. Played straight in Trial of Champions.
Guest Star Party Member: Sometimes other characters will accompany you for part of the adventure, although you don't usually roll dice for them in combat.
Guide Dang It: Some of the books have only one true path (read, some very specific things to do) to make it to the end. Particularly bad offenders are Crypt of the Sorcerer, Crimson Tide or Creature of Havoc.
Heroic Mime: Most of the time. The hero of these stories sometimes speaks, but its rare, and he's almost never quoted.
Heroic Sacrifice: Averted in Slaves of the Abyss; the authors wanted the player to sacrifice themself, staying in the Abyss to allow everyone else to go free, but Steve Jackson insisted that the reader get a massive reward at the end.
Played straight in Legend of Zagor if you arrive at the Heartfires with Zagor's body, but only have 3 or fewer Stamina points remaining. You'll throw Zagor into the flames, but you'll be too weak to keep your balance and will end up falling in after him. The text says that you've saved the world, and your legend will live forever...but you won't be there to see it.
Hoist by His Own Petard: The Archmage from Spectral Stalkers sends a group of unstoppable demons called the Spectral Stalkers after the bearer of an artifact called the Aleph. You eventually hand him the Aleph... just as the Spectral Stalkers are about to appear in his throne room. The resulting Oh Crap moment is stupendous.
In Bloodbones, one of the enemies you fight is the Anchor Man, an assassin who uses an anchor and chain as a weapon. The story is set in a seaside port. Take a wild guess as to one of the ways you can kill the Anchor Man.
Intercontinuity Crossover: The Chaos Warriors of the Warhammer universe appear here as well, possibly due to Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson being involved both with Fighting Fantasy and Games Workshop.
Karma Meter: Honour in several of the books. In Sword of the Samurai, if Honour drops to 0, the main character automatically commits seppukku. In Knights of Doom, the lower the PC's Honour, the easier it is to corrupt them. Tower of Destruction has a stat with similar utility. Honour also appears in Night Dragon, though having too little has no adverse effects. In all of these books, a sufficiently high Honour score nets bonuses towards the end.
Karmic Jackpot: While you're frequently penalized for various dick moves (see Video Game Cruelty Punishment, below), just as often you'll be rewarded for doing good and helping people out. You can regain LUCK points, gain cool new weapons or items, be cured of diseases, have curses removed, etc.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The final books of the original Puffin series are very hard to come by, and only a handful of them have been released under Wizard Books. Another setback has been added with the decision to relaunch the Wizard range again.
Kill It with Fire: This is the only way to kill creatures like Mandrakes, Gonchongs and Mummies.
Kleptomaniac Hero: On the one hand, if you're not this, you'll run into challenges you can't beat, but sometimes the stuff you try to take ends up making villains arrive, or ages you, or does something else dangerous.
Knight Templar: Averted. You play a templar in Knights of Doom, but doing well hinges in large part on acting like a proper defender of the weak and oppressed.
Last Minute Hookup: Sort of. In The Crimson Tide, the player can meet the protagonist of Black Vein Prophecy, who is now a king. The best ending includes introducing him to the Hachiman ambassador, and the two are soon deep in discussion. The PC idly wonders if this meeting will lead to more than just a trade agreement.
Lost in Translation: Alarmingly bad in the non-English editions. Many books require the reader to work out a number hidden in a riddle or a name, which may depend on an acrostic, a pun, or converting a word into a number using an alphanumeric code. Translators usually just translated these directly without concern for lost information, rendering the acrostics and puns meaningless. The riddles could potentially be saved, but the code would lead to a different reference, and the paragraph numbers were not updated in the translation. This all meant that many books were unwinnable except in English.
Averted in most of the German translations, however. Even a set of two riddles based on converting letters to numbers and adding them up was done properly in the German version of Sword of the Samurai.
The Hungarian translations take great pains to transplant every riddle correctly as well. Not too surprising, given that Hungary has a very large and active fantasy/roleplaying scene with several publishing companies dedicated solely to it, one of which publishes the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.
Luck-Based Mission: In the first part of Creature Of Havoc, your character is almost mindless, so instead of choosing what to do, you have to roll dice. Also, this trope comes into play in virtually every book in a different respect: often, there's no way of judging what will or won't harm you except for having played the gamebook before.
Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: A recurring trope in the books, although how exactly any given shield will protect you varies Depending on the Writer. Some shields will give you a SKILL bonus, others reduce the amount of damage you take in combat, and still others guard against specific hazards ranging from arrows to magical lightning bolts to a Manticore's tail spikes.
The Many Deaths of You: You can die in combat, but you can also suffer a number of "instant death" fates, ranging from being permanently imprisoned to crushed beneath a falling ceiling to passing out from the poisonous fumes in a monster's lair and then being devoured by said monster to being paralyzed and devoured by the undead.
Market-Based Title: House of Hell became House of Hades in America, because 'Hell' is considered a curse over there.
Metafiction: To win Magehunter, you have to listen to Al-Bakbuk's brother tell a story, which quickly turns out to be a metaphor for the story thus far, and which turns up Reinhardt's surprising secret.
Milestone Celebration: Return to Firetop Mountain, as its name suggests, takes place in the same location as the first book, in order to mark both the fiftieth book and the 10-year anniversary of the franchise.
Missing Episode: Bloodbones, intended to be book number 60 in the original 1980s-1990s range, was never published before the series ended, leaving the series ending somewhat unevenly at number 59. It enjoyed a practically mythical status amongst fandom for over a decade before it was finally published by Wizard in 2006. New gamebooks have been published after Bloodbones as well, so it's no longer even the final episode.
Mook Chivalry: Present in most of the books, until very recently. There were rules for dealing with more than one attacker starting from the first book, but they were used rarely and most of the time the enemies would attack one at a time.
Multiple Endings: Usually, there's one good ending and a bunch of horrible deaths, though a few books have poor-but-not-awful endings.
Name's the Same: Series co-creator Steve Jackson has written several books in the series, but there are three further books, Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep and Robot Commando, which as normal (for the peak-period UK editions at least), say "Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone present..." on the cover, and give "Steve Jackson" as the author on the title page – without mentioning anywhere that it's not the same person. Confused yet? To clarify, the Fighting Fantasy series creator is the British writer/game designer Steve Jackson, founder of Games Workshop. The north-American writer/game designer Steve Jackson, founder of Steve Jackson Games, wrote those three books... for the other one's series.
Necromantic: The son of Doktor Kauderwelsch in Moonrunner seeks to bring back his mother. His first attempt involves placing his mother's brain into a body assembled from the spare parts of the inmates of Craven Asylum. He later tries to transplant the brain into the body of the main character.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Most of the major villains have these. E.g. sorcerer-warlord Balthus Dire, Zanbar Bone the demon-lich, bloodthirsty general Vlax the Slayer.
Nintendo Hard: Most of the books were designed to entertain and amuse adolescent and young adult readers. Creature of Havoc, however, is designed to make you kill yourself in frustration. Some of Ian Livingstone's books were also unpleasant in this regard, forcing you into constant combats, many of which are against enemies with extremely high Skill scores and that much harder to beat. What's exceptionally galling about Livingstone is that sometimes he doesn't even give you any Provisions (the general equivalent to Healing Potions) to start out with, and you have precious few opportunities to heal at all.
Crypt of the Sorcerer is the most unfairly difficult book in the entire series. Even if you make all the correct choices and have the highest possible stats, there's still a chance of being randomly killed (e.g. at one point you must roll a dice: if you roll a 1, you die - and no amount of Luck or magic items can save you) or weakened to the point you can no longer defeat the Big Bad... However, what really sets this particular book apart is the final battle: provided you have the highest possible Skill score (12), you have a mere 5.5% chance of winning.
This is subverted other times, however. For example, in Deathtrap Dungeon, there's a scene where you see an elven warrior being crushed to death by a boa constrictor. Choosing not to help her doesn't have any real repercussions. If you do try to help her, however, it's too late to save her life, but she gives you a valuable hint before she dies, and you gain an item that restores your health AND another that let's you get past a very dangerous monster later without fighting it.
No Fair Cheating: Midnight Rogue had one of these as well and another where if you attempted to pull out a magic weapon to fight a gargoyle, the book would tell you that there is no way you could have acquired one yet and tell you to start over, "honestly this time". Since you played a thief in this book that was a bit rich... Tower of Destruction had a section that gave the reader a slap on the wrist for cheating at one point. More annoyingly, Black Vein Prophecy and The Crimson Tide each have a situation where the player must fail a dice roll in order to win.
One-Winged Angel: Quite a few, but especially Xakhaz from Beneath Nightmare Castle and the Archmage from the Sorcery series.
Our Zombies Are Different: The Slave Warriors from "Portal of Evil." They don't eat flesh and retain just enough of their minds to wield weapons, albeit clumsily. In all other respects, they're zombies.
Out Gambitted: Carnuss's attempt to humiliate his brother Sukumvit (see Win Your Freedom, below) backfires when Sukumvit immediately offers you another prize, namely that of having any wish you want granted. As Sukumvit cleverly foresaw, you want nothing more than to kill Carnuss and avenge all the other slaves who died in his arena, and you demand to fight a duel with him. If you win, Sukumvit still has to pay the 20,000 gold pieces, but chances are he views that as a worthwhile price to pay to be rid of his hated brother.
Plant Person: The Mandrakes from Legend Of the Shadow Warriors, a magical plant species that can mimic a human being.
Print Long Runners: The series has been running since 1982, including a seven-year gap between 1995 and 2002. There are currently 64 different gamebooks across the Puffin and Wizard print runs, plus the four-volume Sorcery spinoff, two books that adapt the rules for a Tabletop RPG, two supplementary titles (Out of the Pit lists various monsters, Titan is a guide to the world of Fighting Fantasy) four books in the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system, seven novels, a magazine that ran for three years, the two Clash of the Princes books which form a two-player adventure, the 10th Anniversary Yearbook, and the 25th Anniversary edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
Prongs of Poseidon: Completely and totally inverted with the Trident of Skarlos. It breaks both of the rules mentioned on that trope's page in that it has nothing at all to do with the sea and is actually an Empathic Weapon that takes pleasure in destroying demonic creatures.
Red Herring: Goes all the way back to the very first book, which featured a Y-shaped stick whose only function was to break and be useless. As time went on, in order to provide a challenge for increasingly Genre Savvy readers, the writers started including items which would only hinder the player. For example, in House of Hell the player is encouraged to look for the Man in Grey. This character does exist, and he is an enemy of the antagonists, but the information he gives you won't help you much.
The Rest Shall Pass: When you're making your way through the villain's lair in Portal Of Evil, you can rescue two of his prisoners. If you do, they'll help you fight the villain's bodyguards. Rescue both of them and they'll each take on one of the guards and free you up to take on the villain.
More generally, there are several books in which you'll have other people traveling with you when you run into multiple monsters. Your companions will take on some of the monsters and leave you to to deal with one or more of the others, although you usually only have to roll dice for yourself.
Retraux: Blood of the Zombies, the book published to mark the thirtieth anniversary, used the original logo and green spine the Puffin books featured.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After being forced to kill your friend, you can take a swipe at the Trialmaster who pitted you against him in Deathtrap Dungeon.
Schmuck Bait: And lots of it. Unguarded treasure chest? Turns out to be a monster. Choice of two candles to light a pitch-black room? The one that stays alight for longer feeds on your blood.
Just before the end of Dead of Night, your brother's "ghost" shows up and tells you to jump out a window at the top of a high tower in order to reach Myurr. Guess what happens.
There are three cases of this with the Final Boss of Space Assassin. (The guy is a Faux Affably Evil type and a Bad Liar.) He first offers you a drink. (It's poisoned.) If you don't fall for that, he asks for a Last Request and asks to play cards. (He's trying to distract you to get a weapon.) And if you don't fall for that, he threatens you with what he claims is a lethal weapon. (It's nothing but an old clock.) The worst part about all this is, even you're smart enough not to believe any of his lies, there's still a fight, and it isn't easy.
Sea Monster: A few pop up, but the most notable example would be the Kraken from Demons of the Deep. Either that, or the Abyssal Horror from Stormslayer.
Seppuku: You automatically do this in Sword of the Samurai if your Honour drops to 0.
Shout Out: Ian Livingstone and his teammates appear as minor NPCs with real-world names (albeit sometimes spelled phonetically-"Fyll" instead of Phil, "Ndroo" instead of Drew, etc.), and can offer help to the player. Another example is in the more recent Eye of The Dragon, where shopkeeper Thomas Peppercorn is a dead ringer for Livingstone, although he's not a sailor.
Show Within a Show: In Magehunter, to defeat Mencius, you listen to a story by Al-Haddar, which starts out as a metaphor for your own adventure - Jaddar pursued the evil Abdul Al-Azrad with his magic bow. Abdul escapes, but Jaddar pursues, and en route encounters a man who tells him the story of a prince who befriended an evil wizard.
In this substory, the wizard was captured but the prince freed him, and the wizard turned him into a lion. The lion prince wandered the land in desolation and eventually came across a genie, who had to kill him. First, however, the genie told the lion prince the story of his brother to explain why he had to kill him.
The genie's brother was a great genie, but he was killed by his jealous brother. The brother was thrown out of the tower, and when he tried to get in, he found his way blocked by a snake, a lion, and a raven, and he was instructed to kill the most dangerous.
At this point, the story transitions to second-person choose your own adventure style, but still has Al-Haddar's quotation marks. When the most dangerous animal is dead, the hero is approached by an exile prince who asks for aid - and at this point Al-Haddar stops narrating.
Ian Livingstone's books require the player to collect a tonne of items and trinkets, and usually they have to open every door and pick a fight with everyone they meet in order to find them all.
The markedly different style of Legend of Zagor created a Running Gag within the fandom that Livingstone had taken the credit for the book from Keith Martin and buried him in his back garden.
Steve Jackson is more experimental, always trying new ideas and situations. His books often require the player to collect items in order to avoid hard battles.
The notorious style shift within the series' very first book The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, frequently registered when its infamous 'maze' section comes up, is a result of Jackson and Livingstone essentially writing half the adventure each and simply jamming the two parts together to create the finished volume.
Paul Mason's books require the player to take an incredibly narrow, specific path, but also tend to have the most complex stories, featuring actual plot twists. To make up for the restriction, he often includes a few mediocre endings and hollow victories in addition to the optimum ending and failures.
American Steve Jackson (see Name's the Same above) stands in direct contrast to Mason. His books feature non-linear stories that give the reader multiple paths to success and multiple good endings. Like Mason, he allows the reader to revisit locations.
Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson collaborated on Keep of the Lich Lord. The book features optional miniquests, a heavy sense of atmosphere, passwords, multiple (optional) weapon upgrades, and more-expressive-than-usual supporting characters. All five staples are prominently featured in their own series, The Fabled Lands.
Significant Anagram: The Trialmaster in Deathtrap Dungeon gives you two anagrams to solve, each one the name of a monster. After solving them, you choose one, and then fight the monster. The anagrams are NO CROP IS: "Scorpion", and RUIN MOAT: "Minotaur". The Minotaur is easier to fight.
Smug Super: The dog-headed Prefectas from Sky Lord were an entire race of "perfect warriors." They are defeated by cloning another group of Prefectas who are even more unbelievably arrogant than the first, sparking an Enemy Civil War.
Snake Talk: The Demon Prince Myurr ssssssspeakssss like this in Dead of Night because he is a ssssssssnake demon: Myurr "Greetingss, Demon-Ssstalker. Welcome to the culimanation of my plansss."
SNK Boss: A lot of bosses are super-strong and super-cheap. Special mention for Razak in Crypt Of The Sorcerer: if you even manage to get to him, he has top stats and will kill you instantly if he hits you twice in a row.
Sociopathic Hero: There are a couple of occasions where you have to perform some rather unconscionable acts to get the best possible outcome.
In Crypt of the Sorcerer, you have to kill the defenseless keeper of the Valley of Bones (which penalizes you right off the bat) and steal one of his rings, which you need to awaken the undead in the graveyard. Some readers found the book frustrating.
In The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Zagor is just sitting in his lair, minding his own business, when in barges this bounty hunter who wrecked the place and stole all his stuff, who kills him. Amongst Zagor's stuff that the player loots is a spellbook that shows the owner how to control the monsters of Firetop Mountain. That's right: the hero has the option to become an Evil Overlord should they feel like it.
Some Day This Will Come In Handy: As a basic rule for these books, grab everything that's not nailed down. If one of the available items is a claw hammer, ignore the last four words of the previous sentence.
At the start of Forest of Doom, you have the option to buy a whole bunch of magic items from a merchant, and almost all (except for a few red herrings) will be useful in some encounter you may have, either auto-succeeding a skill roll or just plain save your life. You don't have enough money to buy everything at the start, but since this book actually allows you to try again rather than give a Bad Ending if you didn't find the plot items, and you've been finding valuables all over the forest, a second attempt will allow you to test those babies out.
Something Completely Different: The four Sorcery books differ in several respects from most of the others, covering a multi-book adventure with a unique magic system. Even the setting and opponents are noticably different with a focus on non-standard monsters like Birdmen and Kakhabad in general having less of a 'European' feel (Word Of God has it Steve Jackson got the idea for the series after a trip to Nepal).
Space Police: You play a Space DEA Agent in The Rings of Kether.
Spikes of Villainy: A Chaos Champion from Trial of Champions wears plate armor that is literally covered in spikes. And he wields a spiked mace.
Squishy Wizard: Averted, repeatedly. A lot of the final bosses are evil sorcerers of one sort or another, and they tend to be the toughest fight in the book. You also get to play a very tough, sword-swinging wizard yourself in Citadel of Chaos off to fight a surprisingly beefy wizard who is as much a Badass in sword-fighting as in magic.
Take A Third Option: A lot of dangerous encounters give you an alternative to fighting, and some even give you an alternative to that. For example, in Space Assassin, there's a place where you have to get by a sentry who won't let you pass unless you answer a riddle. You can actually answer the riddle, which gets you buy without a fight, or you can fight him (not recommended, seeing as he uses a disintegartor, which means he wins the fight if he makes one successful attack), or you can use options that involve items from your inventory, assuming you have them. (Although one of these options carries a risk of making him angry and forcing you into the fight option.) Note that the first option (answering the riddle) seems to be the proper option, because the challenge in the next room is much harder if you get past him any other way.
Trial-and-Error Gameplay: This happens a lot of times, especially when picking up objects. How are you supposed to know that this glove in that box is going to make you permanently weaker while that ring in that very same box enhances your agility?
Un-Cancelled: Book number 50, Return to Firetop Mountain, was intended to end the series at a round number and bring it full circle, but it sold well enough for the series to continue for another 9 (technically 10) books.
Unwinnable: In more than a few books if you fail to pick up the right item, 50 pages later you find that you're completely screwed.
Caverns Of The Snow Witch: if you roll too low for your initial statistics, half-way through the book, you die.
Two battles in Creature Of Chaos are unwinnable, as they will simply restart every time you win, until you run out of Stamina. One is a fight against a constantly respawning number of Chaos Warriors, the other is against the undead Quimmel Bone, who will simply reform every time you win.
Crypt of the Sorcerer is notorious in this regard; you must follow a very specific path and pick up the right items or information, or you will die. Thing is, it usually won't happen immediately, but some 50 paragraphs later...
Unwinnable by Mistake: In The Crimson Tide, the player starts out as a child with a maximum SKILL score of 6, as opposed to the usual 12. Unfortunately, the editor of the book failed to realise this and increased the maximum SKILL of one of the first monsters you encounter from 6 to 12, thereby making the game more or less completely unwinnable at time of publication (since the error became apparent and the author of the book described the editor as 'an idiot', most people reduce the monster's SKILL score accordingly).
Video Game Cruelty Punishment: As noted above, you'll get burned by this if you commit certain dick acts. Sometimes you'll lose SKILL, STAMINA or LUCK, sometimes you'll be cursed with some sort of negative effect, or you may simply suffer an instant death.
A notable subversion occurs in Crypt of the Sorcerer, where you have to kill the Bonekeeper to get an item that lets you get another item that you need to avoid an extremely hard fight later on in the book. Unfortunately, you're still hit with a major LUCK penalty for doing so.
Another subversion occurs in Vault Of The Vampire with the Cloud Cuckoo Lander Wilhelm Heydrich. If you attack and kill him, you'll suffer a LUCK penalty...but if you catch him in an Ax Crazy mood and he attacks you first, you will not be punished for killing him.
Villain Protagonist: The chance to play an out and out bad guy comes up surprisingly frequently in the series. You get to play a pirate in Seas of Blood, a thief in Midnight Rogue and a few books offer options to go an evil route (such as Scorpion Swamp).
Warrior Monk: You play as one of these in at least two books.
Wax On, Wax Off: Menial tasks give you valuable combat experience in The Crimson Tide.
What Have I Become?: In Portal of Evil, the warlord Horfak will undergo a Villainous Breakdown if you reveal his hideously-disfigured features with a mirror. The portal is forced to destroy his mind to bend the former mine-owner to its will; while he will still fight you, he is now just another slave warrior and significantly weaker.
What the Hell, Hero?: After your home village is decimated at the start of Tower of Destruction, you can either start clearing away rubble and helping the survivors or you can start gathering up supplies for yourself by basically looting the ruins. Your fellow townsfolk do not appreciate your apparent opportunism.
Win Your Freedom: Your character in Trial of Champions is one of many people kidnapped by the evil Lord Carnuss so he can find a champion to enter into the Deathtrap Dungeon contest as a means of humiliating his hated brother Baron Sukumvit (see The Unfavorite, below). Carnuss intends to keep the prize if you get through the Dungeon, but you'll receive your freedom.
Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: Largely averted. The lists of prices contained in Titan and Dungeoneer vary depending on whether you're in a large city with many merchants (least expensive), a smaller village with some regular commerce (more expensive), or a very isolated area where only a few very daring and greedy merchants will go (most expensive). Titan also goes into further detail about how a barter system can work-a master armorer will not accept two dozen chickens for a top quality breastplate, and it's a fairly dumb idea to buy a couple of apples with a bag of gems or a golden holy symbol.
All There in the Manual: Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World, which includes backstories on a lot of the villains and NPCs. There is also Out of the Pit which contains game stats and backstories on hundreds of different monsters from the series.
All Trolls Are Different: Large, tough, not too bright — and commonly employed as city guards, at least in the more morally ambiguous parts of the world.
Apocalypse How: Titan suffered two Type 1 versions. The first came when the kingdom of Atlantis had essentially become Ax Crazy and was determined to Take Over the World, which led the gods of good to intervene and split the One Continent of Irritaria into three separate continents. The War of the Wizards was the second apocalyptic event, although it was averted in the Old World, where a powerful magical ritual was used to destroy the forces of evil before they could invade the human kingdoms.
Cain and Abel: Sukumvit became ruler of the city of Fang upon the death of his father, and his younger brother Carnuss was more than a little bitter over this. Carnuss became so warped by jealousy that he tried to have Sukumvit murdered, but the assassins he contracted were Sukumvit's spies, who revealed the plot to their master. Sukumvit had Carnuss banished from Fang, and Carnuss wanted revenge, and when Sukumvit began the Trial of Champions Carnuss began searching for a champion to enter the Trial for him as a means of humiliating his brother. Sukumvit has the last laugh when Carnuss's enslaved champion, your character, finally emerges from the dungeon. Sukumvit offers your character one special wish in addition to the 20,000 gold piece prize, and as he anticipated you demand to fight Carnuss to avenge the slaves who died in Carnuss's arena.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: Several books show a somewhat consistent polytheistic pantheon, with different gods even having their own cults and devotional orders (for example, the Templars are devoted to Telak), but the cross is a significant religious symbol.
Cataclysm Backstory: With a few exceptions, there are no actual full-fledged countries in either Allansia or Khul, because of the sheer destruction wrought by the forces of evil during the War of the Wizards. Most areas are wild and unsettled, and almost all human settlements are city-states. This is averted by the Old World, which managed to avoid the horrors of war.
Cute, but Cacophonic: The Jib-Jib is basically a ball of fluff the size of a cabbage that runs around on two cute little feet. It also has a shriek that can be heard over a mile away and its default reaction when frightened is to start screaming, in hopes that either this will frighten away whatever threatens it or that an even bigger nasty will show up to eat whoever set off the Jib-Jib.
The Dung Ages: Particularly in the case of Port Blacksand, where some streets have so much filth and muck that it can be waist deep for a Dwarf.
Dungeon Crawling: There are plenty of traditional dungeons, as you might expect. One enterprising ruler named Baron Sukumvit, on the other hand, created his own dungeon, ready-made with a host of deadly monsters and traps, and offered 10,000 gold coins to any daring hero who could enter it and come back out alive. Deathtrap Dungeon, as Sukumvit came to call it, serves as the setting for two Ian Livingstone-written gamebooks.
Eldritch Location: Most noteably the setting to Beneath Nightmare Castle, thanks to the influence of Xathaz.
Enslaved Elves: They may not actually be enslaved, but the N'yadach have fallen a very long way from the time when they enslaved the Skorn and fought with the Dwarves for control of the underground realms. At their height they had both fearsome magical powers and fighting skills, but in their final war against the Dwarves their Skorn slaves rebelled and joined their enemies, and the Dwarf-Skorn alliance crushed them. Now, the N'yadach are pitiful wretches reduced to hunting vermin and struggling to survive.
Evil Overlord: More of them than you can shake a stick at, though slightly less numerous than...
Evil Sorcerer: So distressingly common on the continent of Allansia that there are no actual centralized goverments beyond the city-state level; they gang up on anything bigger before it becomes powerful enough to be a threat to their machinations. Other places are slightly better off; operative word here being slightly.
Evilutionary Biologist: More like Evilutionary Wizards, several of whom crossbreed various creatures to create monsters to serve as Mooks. Notable examples include Balthus Dire, Karam Gruul, Axion, Zharradan Marr, the witches of Dree, and the guys who created the Manticores and the Fish Men.
Heroic Neutral: Nicodemus spent most of his life fighting the forces of evil. He eventually became so burned out from the struggle that he retired to Port Blacksand, where almost no one would bother him. While he doesn't typically do much these days (and can become very irritated if he's bothered by adventurers who try to run to him to solve all their problems for them), he will help if the problem is sufficiently big enough.
Keystone Army: A few of the Big Bads, like Balthus Dire, Agglax and Arachnos, are the only things that keep their disparate armies cooperating. One of the major objectives in many gamebooks is taking out the Big Bad so his or her armies will destroy themselves with infighting.
Lizard Folk: There are isolated savage Lizardmen tribes you can run into, but there is also a huge, expansionist and decidedly evil Lizardman Empire around for a more civilised threat.
Such as a ape-headed dog and a dog-headed ape guarding the Citadel of Chaos.
A number of different monsters in Titan were created by insane wizards cross-breeding different natural species, including humans. The results include Garks (a cross between goblins and giants), Fish Men (Exactly What It Says on the Tin), Manticores (a cross between humans, lions, bats and scorpions), Shapechangers (monsters that use illusion magic to appear as innocuous travelers to sneak up on unsuspecting victims before attacking them), Rat Men (again, Exactly What It Says on the Tin), and so on. As you might expect, they're all pretty unpleasant sorts.
Only in It for the Money: A few of the gamebooks don't actually involve your character saving the city/kingdom/continent/world from a deadly magical threat. In some cases, your character is just out to line his pockets with as much loot as possible.
Our Elves Are Better: All Elves know magic. And they're far better at it than humans will ever be, though this verges on being an Informed Ability considering that most Elves you meet and have the option to fight are fairly weak as enemies, and considering the huge number of world threatingly powerful human spellcasters.
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Very much so. Some of them, like the one in Forest Of Doom, are cranky magic-using eccentrics who just want to be left alone, but the gnome you can meet in the Crown of Kings series will sell you out to the guards of Mampang if he recognizes you.
Our Goblins Are Different: Actually, not so much. While they are usually Mooks, some of them can prove to be challenging threats (such as in Return to Firetop Mountain where the hero can be captured by a goblin). The marsh goblins are considerably nastier.
Our Monsters Are Weird: Alongside the usual Trolls, Orcs, Dragons and so on you have some more oddball monsters like the Wheelies◊ from Citadel of Chaos.
Our Orcs Are Different: They're among the wimpiest enemies you can face (being, on average, slightly weaker than humans), but still have a reputation for savagery. One aspect where they do stand out are their ability to eat just about anything (including wood, rocks, dirt and metal) and their bizarre funeral rites, where each mourner takes a bite out of the dearly departed's corpse.
Our Werewolves Are Different: FF werewolves can be killed with normal weapons, but silver weapons are still your best bet Which you unfortunately have the chance to discover for yourself in the one book that has silver bullets
Plant People: Mandrakes, who can assume the form of any person. Fire is their only weakness.
Points Of Light: Allansia and Khul have been like this for centuries, with human civilizations tending to be city-states rather than full-fledged countries. Exceptions include Arantis, Vynheim and Shabak in Allansia, and Hachiman in Khul.
Retcon: Zagor, the Warlock of Firetop Mountain has at least two and possibly three very different backstories portraying him as either a brooding but not especially evil hermit, a more evil but still human would-be- Evil Overlord and a thousand year old half demon.
Sand Worm: A tooth from one of them is necessary to complete one of the books.
Shoplift and Die: Generally justified that the shopkeeper who forged the items he's selling is a powerful wizard, or the vendor just throws an item of merchandise at you and scoots away. Yaztromo is polite enough to warn you twice before unleashing Baleful Polymorph on you. You later run into to a talking crow who was a theif who had this happen to him...
Super Not Drowning Skills: When Hydana, god of the ocean, became lonely, he began kidnapping oceangoing humans to keep him company. After the first few groups of humans drowned, Hydana realized they couldn't breathe underwater and used his powers to turn their lungs into gills. This led them to become the Mermen, even as Hydana repeated the feat with the elves, trolls and giants he added to their ranks.
Take Our Word for It: The Shamutanti Hills are supposedly as wild and full of evil as the rest of Kakhabad. There are monsters and plenty of dangerous humans in the wilderness but the villages you pass through are harmless, or even friendly. Birritanti, the largest is downright pleasant seeming.
Überwald: parts of Legend Of the Shadow Warriors, and Moonrunner contains a simply ridiculous number of Expies and Shout Outs to every well-known horror movie imaginable, of every era and sub-genre, including the Uberwald classics. Also Vault of the Vampire and its sequels.
When their father died, Sukumvit became the fabulously wealthy ruler of the city-state of Fang, while his brother Carnuss became a nobleman with an essentially meaningless title. Sukumvit banished the jealous Carnuss when the latter tried to have him killed, and Carnuss attempted to get revenge on Sukumvit by recruiting a hapless adventurer to serve as his champion in humiliating Sukumvit by overcoming his famed Deathtrap Dungeon.
In Black Vein Prophecy, Feior was a cruel, ruthless prick, very much in the mould of Bezenvial. Maior, on the other hand, was pretty gentle and compassionate, and so naturally gets screwed.
Thieves' Guild: Accepted as a fact of life in Port Blacksand. In one book you actually play a member of the guild out to make his bones.
Unlikely Hero: The player character in House of Hell. You're pretty much an average joe who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. (This is reflected by the fact that you start the adventure unarmed, resulting in a penalty to your Skill until you actually find a weapon.)
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The book Titan details the story of the Halfhand brothers and their followers, a tribe of humans who invaded and slaughtered a tribe of orcs who lived in a fertile territory and took over their land. The book Lampshades what a dick move this was on the humans' part, since they were the ones who started the fight, but also notes that the humans are the ones celebrated as the heroes.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Minimites, a race of pixie-like creatures who had tremendous magical abilities, joined with a number of human wizards in a powerful magical ritual to destroy the forces of evil threatening the Old World during the War of the Wizards. They succeeded, and the Old World was spared the destruction suffered by Allansia and Khul, but many of the Minimites were so overwhelmed by the power they wielded that they thought they could become the benevolent leaders of the world.
Other Minimites realized that this was simple tyranny, so they deliberately nerfed themselves so that most magic wouldn't even work in their presence and they could not stay in close contact with one another.
Wretched Hive: Port Blacksand. There are more than a few others (such as Kharé, Cityport of Traps), but Blacksand is the world's ultimate example.