Lord of Shadow Keep was supposed to appear as a Fighting Fantasy book, but it got switched to the Golden Dragon series at the thirteenth hour. I wonder if that was why, when I finally got around to co-writing a Fighting Fantasy book, I called it The Keep of the Lich Lord...?
Probably not. Jamie and I submitted a whole bunch of concepts to the editors at Puffin, and Keep was a long way from being our favourite. It was rather odd that they picked it, come to think, as a quick glance on Wiki suggests that, Black Vein Prophecy excepted, the surrounding books in the series were all horror-inflected fantasy built on the very similar premise of raiding a monstrous super-villain's secret base. I guess Jamie and I aren’t the only ones who spent our formative years steeped in 007 and Hammer movies.
The deal with those FF books was that the authors got 60% of the royalty and Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson got 40%. Or possibly it was the other way round. You can’t really copyright a concept, but they established the brand and the split struck us as more than fair. When Icon Books picked up the series from Puffin (which, incidentally, is a bit like the BBC throwing Doctor Who to Canal+ in the early ‘90s) authors were offered a deal to sell their rights. Jamie and Mark Smith gave up Talisman of Death and Sword of the Samurai, but I make a point of never parting with copyright unless I’m paid crazy money. So Jamie and I kept Keep.
When I was prepping The Castle of Lost Souls for re-release, I briefly entertained the notion of relocating it to Golnir. The tone of the book just felt too whimsical for Fabled Lands, so that plan got dropped, but Jamie and I continued tossing around some other ideas. And we kept coming back to The Keep of the Lich Lord.
Obviously Fighting Fantasy fans would rather see Keep re-released using the FF world and system. I appreciate that. We can’t because we don’t have the rights, and anyway we have a gentlemen’s agreement not to make a big deal about it having been an FF book when publicizing the new edition. Not that we ever do any publicity per se, but you get the picture.
All of which is why Lord Mortis is now rising from the dead on an obscure but strategically important archipelago close to the Unnumbered Isles. You can start the book with a new character, or you can get an existing FL character to Dweomer and pick up the story there. We’re calling these single-story specials Fabled Lands Quests – though I admit to being slightly at a loss as to which other books could be adapted in the same way. Maybe a new version of Castle of Lost Souls, or the long-awaited reworking of Eye of the Dragon? Suggestions welcome!
To fit the adventure into the Fabled Lands, I wrote a new introduction set in Dweomer. But what to do with the old intro..? Recently on the blog, MikeH was asking about extras in our books. Well, Mike, you’ll be pleased to know that we have shamelessly swiped your idea and stuck our own names on it. This new edition of Keep has a wealth of cool stuff including the original introduction as an appendix, a section describing all the other concepts that could have become Fighting Fantasy #43, and a foreword in which I talk about the process of adapting the book from Titan to the Fabled Lands.
Anything else you want to know? Oh, artwork, of course. We don’t have the rights to the original FF illustrations so we couldn’t use those. Obviously, this being a sort-of Fabled Lands book, some new pictures by Russ Nicholson would have been great, but all-new art is expensive. We have the next best thing: thanks to the generosity of our friends at Megara Entertainment, the new edition features artwork from their Keep of the Lich Lord app of a few years back. Leo Hartas kindly let us use his gorgeous map, which appears in its full-colour glory on the back cover. And the front cover painting is courtesy of Kevin Jenkins, being the inside flap detail (as if you didn’t know) from the triptych of Over the Blood-Dark Sea.