Thursday 13 November 2014

The Fantastic World of Puffin Kingdom 1984

There's nuffin like a puffin.

Back, back through the dusty nostalgic mists of wibbly wobbly timey wimey. I don't normally go in for personal reminisces, but for some reason...

Books for Keeps announced: The Fantastic World of Puffin Kingdom and there will be plenty of Dungeons and Dragons-type activity at Chelsea Town Hall, 23 April-5 May (1984). And indeed there was, as I recall... NOW TURN OVER.

The outside looked something like this. the 80s had color but we couldn't afford any |via

1. Inside the Chelsea Old Town Hall, which was much smaller on the inside than it appeared on the outside, there were three main areas to which the Fighting Fantasy Puffineers attention was drawn to.

You can visit:
Island of the Lizard King (turn to 17) or Deathtrap Dungeon (turn to 230). or The Computer Area, (Turn to 97) returning here after each exciting adventure. Once you've visited all the areas, it's time to go home. (turn to 400)

hmm. needs moar paper mache

17. The Island of the Lizard King - where a giant purple-blue paper mache over chicken wire LIZARD KING head (complete with giant twisted tin-foil GONCHONG) glared out across the exhibition hall from above a raised stage like some grinning prehistoric A-level art project. Below this monumental edifice a rather strained dude in a bad BARBARIAN outfit, complete with horned helmet and furry boots, was forced to mock swordfight with over-eager children hopped up on a diet of Space Raiders and Quatro.  The guy was probably from Treasure Trap (the premier LARP club at the time), more than likely it seemed like a good idea, a few quid for essentially doing your hobby. Then, the barely supervised psychotic yelling D&D fanatics from class 3H arrived. My memory is hazy, but I think the phrase "one at a time, one at a..." was vaguely heard under a mass of pummelling. If by chance you are that guy, and you're reading this, I owe you a pint.

abandon hope all ye who...

230. The Deathtrap Dungeon - My all time favourite gamebook was represented by what amounted to a few bits of black painted cardboard with cut-out drawings of GHOSTS and skulls stuck on it. No I was not impressed, but its seclusion made for a good hiding place for doing the illicit things the average 10 year old gets up to (like swapping Star Wars stickers and rolling up fags D&D characters). If Island of the Lizard King was some over-enthusiastic A Level art project homage to Ian McCaig's epic cover, combined with an open invitation for children to inflict random violence on someone dressed as a cartoon viking, Deathtrap Dungeon was the remedial O'level stream (this was pre GCSEs of course) lead by a teacher who had lost all hope and hadn't even looked at the the book and an invitation to petty criminality. Actually, do you know the sort of bad haunted-house artwork that serial killers on the telly do in their basements to show how mad they are? it was like that.

probably the first time I ever looked at a screen and
uttered the geek mantra of "the book was much better".

97. The Computer Area - which had a massive queue, and if I recall correctly bunch of Commodore 64s running Warlock of Firetop Mountain on it (what? that was nothing like the book!) and maybe the Forest of Doom, I dunno. the queue was massive, and it probably cost 50p a go or something. Of course, having spent all my cash on junk food, I returned home on the school coach without so much as a puffin edition of Watership Down, the Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen or Charlotte Sometimes. Don't worry, Puffin, I do now, it might have taken 30 years, but the marketing effort eventually paid off. Oh, wait, I bought them second hand, never mind. Turn to 400.

400. And that was that, home to Findus Crispy pancakes for tea, Peter Davidson as Doctor Who on the telly and the vague threat of complete annihilation by thermonuclear war hovering over everything. Ahh, happy days.

23. Chelsea Town Hall as a venue was well known to British Grognards for holding the 1977 Games Day - Chelsea looms as a kind of recurring nexus point in the psychogeography of British Gaming, probably because it was cheap and not overly large. Next years Puffin Carnival also promised guest appearances by Steve & Ian, which would have been something, but our class didn't go to that. Not sure why, maybe the lynching of the viking guy incident had some knock-on effect. Unlike Games Workshops Games Days, such events seem to have had zero coverage in White Dwarf or even Warlock. There was possibly a preview in Puffin Post Spring 1984, which is apparently not documented on the internet anywhere.

No, Books for Keeps, That's not Fighting Fantasy, that's Lone Wolf, that is.
391. Lone Wolf - After posting the Books for Keeps cover it would be remis of me to not mentioning that Greywood publishing are running a Kickstarter for Gary Chalks  Lone Wolf - The Board Game a board / card-miniatures game with a distinctly old school feel, not least because it is full of amazing imagery by Gary, but has a combat system that isn't designed for the "add it up on your fingers" crowd. By the way, that issue of Books for Keeps has an article "Orcs in the Classroom" encouraging FF and RPGs to be used in schools, well worth a read for gamer-parents and gamer-teachers.

1 comment:

  1. 50p a go?! In 1984?! Was this for the children of Thatcherite financiers?

    Also, this event makes no sense: the furry booted BARBARIAN was a character in Deathtrap Dungeon. Not Island of the Lizard King. Where was MUNGO?

    Regardless, it would be about this time when I tried to do a book report on The Forest of Doom, and was thoroughly ridiculed by the teacher, who just couldn't 'get' the concept. Which, rather than knocking my confidence, only made me think that I must be exceptionally clever.

    I'm still paying for that unearned arrogance today.