Out of the Pit (1985)

Transitioning from Steve Jackson’s Sorcery series, this well-thumbed book is Out of the Pit, a 300+ page collection of monsters from Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebooks.

I am a bit sketchy on the history here, so forgive any errors (and correct me, by all means!). Out of the Pit was first published in 1985 in support of Fighting Fantasy: The Introductory Roleplaying Game, an RPG system slightly more complicated than the one in the single-player Fighting Fantasy books and considerably simpler than just about any other RPG of the period I’ve encountered (and maybe on par with that of the Sorcery books, but I haven’t thought to compare them until just now). Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World appeared in ’86 to detail the world and its characters.

This edition, from ’89, was reprinted along with a fresh edition of Titan in support of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG, which is slightly more complicated than the ’85 rules but still pretty simple compared to everything else. I don’t honestly understand the decision to produce an RPG system based on Fighting Fantasy, but the 80s RPG scene was rife with this sort of niche product that ignored all the things that made the original appealing (in this case, the ability to play an RPG-like story alone, accompanied by swell illustrations). I am not sure there was a huge market of FF readers who weren’t already playing D&D, but I could be wrong (the recent relaunch of the system in 2011 indicates that there were, I guess). At any rate, to my knowledge, only three other books came out in support of the system.

As a novelty for fans of the regular Fighting Fantasy books, and monster books in general, Out of the Pit is a nice one. FF monsters are weird, ranging from doofy to outright horrific, usually riffing on some standard monster trope in a unique way. Most feel less like actual creatures with ecologies than they do narrative devices with teeth, which is fair since they all appeared in books as narrative devices. The art is reprinted from those books, which gives Out of the Pit the feeling of a high school yearbook. Flipping through is less about learning about monsters than it is reminiscing about specific encounters from the books: “Ah, yes, I remember when that fiend crawled out of that clay jar, what a hoot!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *