Wednesday 21 February 2024

Mining the Pit

Fifteen years ago this month I wrote a post about Out of the Pit, the Fighting Fantasy monster manual and my first ever RPG book. In particular, I wanted to see what lessons I could take from that beloved book. 

I was still finding my feet with that blogpost, and I continue to do so today, so I can't say it's really worth revisiting. 

But what about the monsters of Fighting Fantasy?

A few years ago I saw Beyond the Pit and Return to the Pit on the shelf of my local game shop, both follow-ups to Out of the Pit, compiling a new selection of monsters from the Fighting Fantasy books. 

Any gems in there? Let's pick a few and see what we get. 

Beyond the Pit

So for context all(?) of these monsters have appeared in a Fighting Fantasy book before, compiled here for the first time. While they're all from books set within the world of Titan they're interesting because they've all seen some form of action. 

I'll go through the first few spreads of the book and pick the monster I like most from each.


The first line of this entry has me hooked.

"[Angarocs] exist only in the dream world - until some sorcerer discovers how to bring them through to the real world!"

It looks like a snake with four spider legs, which is kind of disappointing but also sort of fitting for a native of the dream world.

They have no weapons because their mere presence is poisonous (in both the dream world and reality). It drains life force through a janky, arbitrary mechanic which belies its gamebook roots, so it's kind of a quintessential Fighting Fantasy monster. 

Ape-Dog and Dog-Ape

I haven't even read the description yet and I know I'm choosing this one. 

One is an ape with a dog head, the other is... well, work it out.

They guard the gate to a demi-sorcerer's tower and offer some sort of riddle. Again, the gamebook vibes are strong with this one. It also notes that "the race of Blogs from central Allansia is very similar to the Dog-Ape in particular, though this just may be pure coincidence".

Are "Blogs" detailed in this book?

They are!


Okay, I'm done laughing at the name. 

They're jungle-dwelling pot-bellied humanoids with dog heads, hated by the local humans who hunt them tirelessly for the sins of head-hunting and eating human flesh.

Alarm bells are going off in my head, but I'll continue. 

The shoot poison darts, which paralyse victims for long enough to take them to their huge cooking pots. 

Blogs first appeared in a 1988 gamebook and if I'm being generous I'd say they feel very much of their time... or maybe of a time before. 

Annoyingly they don't even look that much like the Dog-Ape who sent us here!

Right, onto a random spread. 


I was all ready to flick past this page, as I'm met with a bunch of real-world dinosaurs, but I'm glad I stuck around.

It's noted that "there has been speculation of late that they are not originally from this world. For example, they have no recognised deity in the pantheon of the Animal Court."

That's a fantastic little bite of worldbuilding.

It goes on to suggest that dinosaur eggs were brought to this world through portals, prized as beasts of war. Again, that's a lovely touch.


Pool Beast

Wait, isn't this just a Bloodbeast?

No, it's a different "big monster stuck in a gross pond". 

I suppose that's handy for a gamebook. It keeps the monster in one place, ensuring you get to encounter it within its signature lair. 

This one also has a large violet gem in its head, presumably to serve as treasure. 

All very Fighting Fantasy but not all that inspiring for me right now.

One more random flick then I'll go to the final spread.


Wait, no.

Apparently, Merfolk have difficulty making tools underwater, so have bred special fish to serve as tools. Flintstones of the sea, I guess. 

They're small when kept on the rack, but magically grow when taken out for use. It even details some of the special varieties, from axefish to glowfish to the obvious sawfish (the only one that will fight on their own).

You can buy them from a Merfolk, but when used by non-Merfolk they swim away after one use. Classic old school fuck-you to the players.

This is all very dumb but I don't hate it. 

Onto the final spread.


This is the most "fantasy RPG monster book" monster I've ever seen.

Let's check these off.

  • Two croc heads
  • Bear body
  • Bird legs
  • Stegosaurus tail
  • Eight-fingered claws
  • Acid vomit attack
  • Lives in dungeons
  • Made by a wizard

I can't say there's much interesting to actually do with this. It speaks common and has average intelligence, but is still mostly described like a guard animal. It specifies that it can be trained to recognise a badge or symbol...

Oh wait, that'll be something from the gamebook that it was used in, right? The player will need to find the badge that lets them pass through without fighting this thing.



I'll level with you, I did this just because after finishing up the writing on Mythic Bastionland I wanted to dig into warm, familiar world and look at some silly monsters. There are examples of nice worldbuilding but also lots of stuff that shows its gamebook roots a little too strongly for use in a TTRPG.

Next time I'll dig into Return to the Pit and see if that fares any better. 


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  1. Toolfish for some reason exude a similar energy to me as the infamous Far Side comic "Cow Tools"

  2. The Dog-Ape is basically a bear, and the Ape-Dog is clearly a pug, aren't they?