You know, the one thing I loved as much as comics when I was a 13 year old was wanking. But if I had to pick my third favourite thing in the world at that age its likely that roleplaying would just about have pipped the ZX Spectrum to the bronze medal position.
Of course the trouble with roleplaying games is that you need people to play them with. Whilst I wasn't short of pimply peers with a penchant for kobolds and complicated encumbrance tables, my hunger for fantasy games often needed satisfying at times when I wasn't allowed out. Thank God then for Fighting Fantasy.
I read some Stephen King as a teenager, but other than that, FF books were the only things I had any interest in looking at outside of comics. I say FF books, but really I'm using that as a catch all term for the "choose your own adventure" craze that Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson started, but which quickly spawned a host of imitators.
While unpacking a bunch of boxes full of my mouldering tat earlier today, I ended up wasting a fair few hours thumbing through The best of these imitators, (better than FF in fact), Lone Wolf, a series of books which could be played individually or (and this was the cool part) as an ongoing adventure that rewarded the returning player by allowing him to take his character from book to book. WOW! Just like D&D baby, but without the need for interaction with real people!
Of course you had to play the character provided for you, but what a dude he was - LONE WOLF, last of the Kai Monks. A sort of cross between David Carradine and Aragorn, Lone Wolf could whoop arse with a sword or (and obviously this was the preferred route) by using psychic powers.
The books were written by Joe Dever and illustrated by the genius that is Gary Chalk. Chalk also did the drawings for Talisman, a monster of a board game from Games Workshop that ran to six expansions (five of which I own and still play by the way). He's without doubt one of the greatest fantasy artists EVER. Anyone who likes Juan Jose Ryp's work will love Gary Chalk .
I've picked up quite a few of the Lone Wolf books from charity shops in recent years. Although the later ones (the series ran into double figures) are quite scarce and go for a fair amount of dosh, the real winners are the first six or seven.
Anyway I enjoyed looking through the books this afternoon, but at the end of the day I was happy enough to stick them in a cupboard where they will probably turn a crisp yellow. There are plenty of folk out there who are properly obsessed with the series though, including this man who thinks he is Lone Wolf...
and this lot (lol at their Lone Wolf names. SLAVEMASTER!!?? Fans eh?!)...