Interview with Graham Bottley of Arion Games, Creator of Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Following my review of Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition, in which I mentioned my desire to interview its creator Graham Bottley, the man himself contacted me and offered me just that. Here’s what we talked about.

How long were you working on AFF and what drew you to it as a project?
Gamebooks got me into roleplaying all those years ago (specifically Forest of Doom) and AFF was a game I played a lot when young. I even did my own rewrite back then adding in the sorcery spells etc. So when my resurrection of the Maelstrom RPG was so successful, I decided that the time was ripe for AFF to make a comeback. I contacted Steve and after I got the OK, it took about 6 months to write, playtest and then rewrite.

What do you think the most significant changes are from Dungeoneer?
There are a few major changes and quite a few minor ones. We added in an armour system, as there was none before. We completely changed Holy magic so that it was distinctive. We added in talents to help further distinguish similar characters. We added in Sorcery magic

We also tweaked character creation, combat, spellcasting and some of the action rules. And we added in a dungeon generation system, and loads of optional rules. We did leave out the adventure, but that 3 part campaign should see the light of day again in the near future.

I never played the original AFF. What were the problems with the Dungeoneer system that 2nd Edition fixes?
The character creation in Dungeoneer was badly broken and lead to a large disparity in character ability. AFF2 introduces talents which helps define otherwise similar characters (always an issue with a rules light game).

We introduced sorcerer magic in AFF2 which offers more options but is finely balanced with wizardry. Many of the wizardry spells in Dungeoneer were broken, especially STAMINA. Priests in Dungeoneer were just wizards by another name (identical mechanics).

Character advancement was very wonky in Dungeoneer.

There are no armour rules in Dungeoneer. We also added some more combat options in AFF2 to give a bit of variety.

Why did you feel that rewriting The Wishing Well was the right idea? Also, why did you choose to put the adventure before the rest of the rules?
One of the great things about AFF is that it works as an introductory game for those who have read the gamebooks or even those with no knowledge of gaming. And we wanted to include an introductory adventure that anyone could pick up and GM in 10 minutes.

Now, whilst I loved those two FF dungeons (Wishing Well and Hives of Peril), they were very weird in places and quite difficult to run if you had no previous RPG experience. So the goal was to include something very straightforward and easy to pick up and play, whilst at the same time including a bit of the Titan humour and feel. We also put the adventure there (with stripped down rules) so that novices could pick up the book and be playing very quickly without feeling they had to learn the full rules first. These concepts have been quite popular with new gamers and is similar to the old red box D&D which had a “choose your own adventure” before the rules or character creation were explained.

How does grappling work and is it in the book somewhere?
There have never before been any formal rules for grappling, and we didn’t include any in the book, mainly because we couldn’t in playtests find anything that was balanced but kept the feel of the game. I am minded to put together some rules and post them on my forums for those that need them. Any suggestions welcome!

What are your plans for the future of AFF and how long does your licence run for? How will Blacksand differ from the original?
The license has got a good few years left yet, and assuming it keeps doing well should be continued beyond that. We are working on a SciFi version of the ruleset (, Beyond the Pit, a Salamonis sourcebook and more.

Blacksand, the bulk of the writing should be finished tomorrow morning, will have much of the original information about the city from the original book, expanded with new setting material and with some new rules etc as well.

I’ve seen it mentioned that mass combat rules are absent from the core rulebook and that you were holding it for a later release. Is it in a currently released book?
Mass combat and wilderness creation rules were included in the recently released Heroes Companion (available from our webstore and very soon through all normal channels) along with loads of new magic types, organisation and hireling rules and more.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Crown of Kings campaign and the Heroes Companion?
The Crown of Kings campaign is a fairly faithful adaptation of the four gamebooks. I tried not to add in too much extra information outside of what was originally found there, but if you want to use it as a framework to add on other mini-quests, that is very easy. I always loved the Sorcery series because it starts off very low fantasy and atmospheric in the Shamutanti hills, goes a bit crazy in Khare, adds in some plot in the Baklands and then comes to an epic conclusion in Mampang.

The Heroes Companion is intended to provide options, and add other bits that were left out from the original books. So we have quite a few new magic systems, some rules for hirelings and organisations, mass battles and other bits and pieces. All of these additions are purely optional and can be used from the start of a campaign or added in at a later date as they are options that most heroes will grow into rather than start with.  Although we have had some issues with our main printer on this one, slowing down the release a bit, it should be out very soon (and I have a short print run available from my webstore).

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