Freeway Fighter – Conclusions

With the new rules and weaponry introduced in Freeway Fighter, it’s clear that an effort had been made to differentiate the experience from non-vehicular titles, but for the most part, I don’t think Freeway Fighter really pulls it off. Generally it’s the same model we see in every book, Firepower is Skill, turn left or right at this junction… etc. On a few occasions, the excitement does ramp up a little though, the best bit of the book by far was the Blitz Race, this section actually felt fast and dangerous, I would have loved to have seen more of these quick decision based sections than the gun-play of Firepower and Armour stats. It would also been good to have seen more of Pete the mechanic, it felt good to get my Interceptor upgraded – RPG players love their loot! Extra weapons and turbo thrusters would have been an entertaining way to develop my ‘character’ along the journey, perhaps even obtaining different cars. We will have to wait for Robot Commando to bring us that level of sophistication!

Sadly, my enjoyment of the book was mainly impeded by the setting, a barren wasteland is in the end, a barren wasteland. Most encounters felt like they revolved around seeing what’s in this next overturned vehicle, the unfortunately rather short raid on the Doom Dog camp at the end was a welcome turn. Save for those already mentioned and perhaps the dualist, there were few particularly memorable encounters. Similarly, the theme of the book influenced the progression gating, most Fighting Fantasy books put obstacles in front of you that you cannot pass unless you have acquired a specific item, often in a creative situation that makes you feel powerful or is just plain fun. In Freeway Fighter you refuel you car, which is a little dull when you’ve done it a few times.ff 001 (2)

As far as the landscape and the feel of the world we’re in goes, it really didn’t help that the illustrations were not particularly interesting. This flat looking style really didn’t do it for me, with these buildings coming close to level of dullness we experienced in Space Assassin. As mentioned in the intro, an Iain McCaig illustrated Freeway Fighter might have helped bring the book to life a little more.

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The best illustration actually looks like it belongs in a completely different book altogether! I didn’t actually encounter this guy in my read-through, but this is Rat Man, a rat orientated fellow I would have encountered in the motel at the end of the book had I not slept in the cab of my tanker. I’m guessing this is where I could have sustained the rat-bite the text referred to, a very cruel twist at the end Mr. Livingstone!
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All in all, Freeway Fighter is by no means a bad title, it just feels like a book that could have been taken further if it had a little more content and a little less driving south through rolling tumble-weed desert.

Freeway Fighter – Part 3

Having received a polite goodbye from my dueling buddy I was on my way, heading into the final leg of my journey and narrowly avoiding a landslide through a canyon into the bargain. Up ahead was a roadblock, manned by two armed guards who made it known that it would be a good idea for me to stop. One of these armed goons told me that I would only be allowed to progress if I managed to win a speed race against their ace driver. A classic E-Type Jag pulled up alongside me, not driven by the Stigs apocalyptic cousin, but by a man, ‘Hi, my name’s Leonardi. I used to play ball for the Mets, but now I race cars’, he said. Did a Leonardi ever play for the Mets? Either way, wave hello to Leonardi everyone!

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What Leonardi hadn’t reckoned with when he saw my beaten-up Interceptor was the supercharger I’d recently had fitted by old Pete. Our race was dealt with by playing a small mini-game where I had to roll a D6 alternately for myself and Leonardi, the first gaining a total of 24 was the winner, the twist being that the supercharger gave me a +1 to all of my own rolls. Of course I screamed off to victory and didn’t stop to find out if Leonardi was a bad loser or not.

The next exciting wrecked vehicle I found was an articulated lorry that was over-turned at the side of the road. Stopping to have a look there was nothing of any use in the cab, but a quick tap of the fuel canisters revealed that they still had something in them, using the plastic tubing I found earlier I managed to siphon off a good deal of the petrol to top up one of my reserve cans. Adding 1 Luck point, I hoped that this would be enough to take me through to the end of the journey. The opportunity also presented itself to do a few quick repairs to my Interceptor and I was able to add an extra 2 Armour points for my trouble.

Smoke on the horizon clued me up to the burned out Corvette I was about to come across, the blonde girl with a rifle I wasn’t expecting, but it wasn’t a problem as I stopped to find out she was from San Anglo and knew who I was! A gang of road warriors had attacked her and left her out there, but now my new friend, Amber, could help me through the final stages of the trip.

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Before I could do that though, one more complication lay ahead of me. San Anglo had become besieged by the Doom Dogs, a gang led by a man known as Animal. The fuel reserves held in San Anglo were what they wanted and it had got to the point where nobody could enter or leave the settlement. Amber however had a cunning plan to sneak into their compound at night and disable all their vehicles using ‘guess-who’ as her partner in crime. We parked up in an area out of sight, waiting until it got dark. ‘We need to be alert for our raid tonight, so I’ve brought along something to keep us going‘, she said. Instead of producing a big bag of coke she handed me a few glucose tablets, giving me 4 Stamina. Once the only light available was from the moon we set off on foot towards the Doom Dog camp which was set on top of a small, flat hill.

Laid flat on the ground we had a good view of the camp, some men were drinking by a fire, a few patrolling with guns, it was a great moment for Amber to accidentally kick a rock down the hillside. Thankfully I covered up for it with a successful Luck roll which meant the guards were paying more attention to the camp-fire jokes than any noise we were making. Progress was short-lived though as our path onward was blocked by a mesh fence, the wire-cutters the text asked me if I had were unavailable and so we had no option but to head round to the main entrance of the camp. Another Luck test snuck us into the camp and before I knew it, limpit mines had been attached to the engines of the Doom Dogs vehicles, but all of a sudden, explosions started to ring out around us. ‘One of the mines must have had a faulty fuse‘, suggested Amber as we were still in the camp, not yet clear of the destruction around us. Headlights on the remaining Doom Dog vehicle began to flick on and all we could do was run for the exit. Successfully managing to leave the compound was determined by me having over 10 Stamina left, we ran towards the Interceptor as the pursuing vehicle put out a message on its loudspeaker, ‘Stop! There is no escape from the Animal!’. Getting back to the Interceptor just in time, we were faced with what was presumably the Animals car.

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Not too shabby an opponent either at 10/19 and I wasn’t allowed to use rockets due to our close proximity, but all I had to do was survive three attack rounds which wasn’t tricky and then pass a Skill test to get myself through being rammed by the swine. The pointed ram bar on his vehicle managed to pierce an armour plate of the Interceptor, pinning the two vehicles together. Another call on the loudspeaker told me to get out and fight the Animal hand-to-hand. Deciding to stick to the safer option, I pulled my pistol and so myself an Amber were held up in a gun-fight with the Doom Dogs behind the safety of the Interceptor doors.

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These guys weren’t too tough (7/13 & 8/14), but did take a while to take down due to some terrible damage rolls! Before we could do anything else though, we were beset by the Doom Dog we’d forgotten about, The Animal!

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Snatching me up in a bear-hug that cost me 2 Stamina I was slowly being crushed by the Animal, but as we had forgotten about him, he had forgotten about Amber and a wrench came crashing down on his head by her hand. He was knocked flat unconscious and we were left to tear off with the Interceptor to a heroes welcome at San Anglo. Rested and fed overnight I was given 1 Skill point back as well as 4 Stamina, in return regaling the township with tales of my adventures sucking petrol out of trucks. It wasn’t long though before gunfire woke me up in the early hours of the  morning though. These guys don’t give up it seems. In-fact they weren’t giving up to the extent that a small truck full of explosive had just been driven straight into the doors into San Anglo itself!

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People were scattered everwhere and I was the one it would come down to to control the rabble and defend the settlement – how these people got this far is beyond me. Urging them to fall back and take cover, my eye was caught by the armoured petrol tanker which had been prepared for me to take back home, or more accurately my eye was caught by the Doom Dog member heading for the drivers seat.

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Racing through the cross-fire, a successful Luck test got me over to him unharmed and the fact my Skill was above his Skill of 6 meant I was able to overpower him and put a gun to his head, which helped persuade him to call off the attack. Easier than I thought if I’m honest! The remaining Doom Dogs slunk out of San Anglo to jeers of the residents, looking like a bunch of pussys quite frankly. All fine by me though as it meant I could hop in the petrol tanker and set off back north to New Hope.

Initially I was escorted by two cars, but then I was on my own again, somewhat surprised the adventure was still going. Night began to fall and I neglected the option to sleep in an abandoned motel as I didn’t want to leave my precious tanker unattended, so elected to sleep in the cab and thankfully was undisturbed. After an hour or so of driving in the morning though, two bikes appeared in my mirrors. No longer being armed to the teeth in my interceptor, this might be a problem. Despite not having my rockets and spikes and things, I did still have a roof mounted machine gun though and was able to take out one of the bikes, but the second rider remained upright and was able to get a crossbow bolt into one of my tyres. A nice bit of control helped keep the tanker under control, but left me stranded with a maniac holding a crossbow in wait at the rear. His appeals for me to leave the cabin were rejected and so instead he challenged me, ‘How about a duel then? Winner takes all!’.

I wasn’t keen on that idea so just stayed in the cab. Waiting him out wasn’t exactly a fool-proof plan though as I could hear him walking across the roof of the tanker, I opened the door and climbed to the roof myself to face what had turned out to be a muscular Michael J. Fox in a loin-cloth.

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His inevitable response of a crossbow bolt being fired at my head didn’t work out for him as a Luck test avoided it, then a Skill challenge against his pathetic Skill of 7 meant I managed to wrestle him down and off the edge of the tanker, falling unconscious on the ground below. I jumped back in the tanker and was somehow able to drive away all of a sudden, despite being brought to a halt moments earlier by a crossbow… The text asked me if I had been bitten by a rat, I assume this was a cruel way to steal victory at the last, but as I hadn’t I could sail onto page 380, the final paragraph. I drove on to New Hope and was greeted by hundred of petrol-starved citizens. Civilization was on the road to recovery at last… I was reminded that if I also managed to rescue Sinclair during my adventure, I should consider my mission a triumph. Who…? Oh yeah, that guy they mentioned in part one… oops.

My adventure was over and Sinclair is probably dead.

Freeway Fighter – Part 2

Heading out from the cafe in the morning, a D6 roll meant I blissfully sailed over a minefield unscathed to the tune of 1 additional Luck point and ended up at a junction where I headed east. My goal was to the south, but by now I had figured out that progression in this book means finding extra fuel, so heading off the shortest route might be the way forward. Above my chosen route was a railway bridge and as I passed underneath, a man appeared on top of the bridge and pushed a stone pillar off the top into my path. A successful Skill test meant I avoided the pillar, I came to stop and decided to go after this dick. He might have fuel. Carefully climbing the side of the railway embankment, revolver in hand, I came to the top and found my assailant rushing out of a caravan, and carrying a bag, towards his bike.

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Oddly, the choice to pursue and find out what was so valuable in that bag was not given and all I could do was watch him roar off into the distance. I took solace in being able to loot his caravan and turfed up a grenade and a tin of corned beef. What more could a man want?

The answer is of course some fuel as I soon realised I had driven down another dead-end in my adventure as I was again being asked if I had any spare canisters of petrol. I did not, and so I went back to the previous junction and tried heading south. Taking this route eventually led me to a dirt road that led off to to the side, clearly someone had driven down here very recently and I decided to see who it was. It was Chuck Norris.

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A gate barred me from going any further down the road, Chuck had a machine gun on me and wanted to know who I was. I told him I was from the Black Rats gang, which he had never heard of, probably because I had just made them up. He was quite happy for me to come in, trying to get me involved in a race. A logical choice given that petrol is probably the most valuable substance on the planet right now. What drew me in though was the prize… a can of petrol! I had to place a bet of 200 credits, the world of Blitz Racing was a popular one as many other parties were there placing their bets too. My race would be a one-on-one affair against some guy in a yellow Ford down an 8km track to a white house and back again – no rockets allowed. A girl dropped a white towel between us and a Skill test sent me shooting off ahead, leaving an angry faced Ford driver in my dust. Catching me in what must be a supercharged vehicle, my opponent rammed my Interceptor at high speed. Keeping the car under control with a Luck test I accelerated ahead only to break short of the grenade the Ford had launched ahead of me. Narrowly avoiding the subsequent explosion did however mean that the Ford had again caught me and delivered another ram, this time deducting 2 Armour points, and then accelerated ahead of me.

Now it was my turn, but my attempt at ramming only served to deal 2 more points of Armour damage to the Interceptor as the Ford was equipped with steel-plated crash bars, protecting it from impact. Swerving left and right, my opponent was blocking my attempts to overtake, but another successful Skill roll took me past him and into a position to use some of my rear-facing weapons. Setting a load of iron spikes down behind me I Luckily caught one of his tyres, only to the extent of causing a slow puncture, but keeping him far enough behind me to take the grenade launcher out of the equation. More ramming was exchanged as both vehicles hit a U-turn at the white house to make the return leg of the race which took us across a narrow bridge. I had to keep my nerve as there was only room for one vehicle, I kept my foot on the accelerator and with a Skill roll I got across the bridge first as my opponent lost his nerve and braked.

The finish line was in sight and the supercharged Ford was bearing down on me, unable to deal with his speed I would have to try to block him. A simple choice of left or right was given to me. I chose left, the same as the Ford, he couldn’t find a way through and with that final act I had won the Blitz Race! A can of petrol and 1 Luck point were mine! As I left, Chuck made a quick check about the name of the gang I was in, seemingly trying to catch me out, but I remembered the Black Rats was my cover story and he let me leave unchallenged.

I left the racetrack, heading south and came across a sign by the road-side, ‘Pete makes your engines sweet. One mile to the left’. My engine could do with being a bit sweeter, so let’s go see Peter.

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Two hours, two med-kits and one-hundred credits later and I was roaring out of Petes workshop with a supercharged engine guzzling all my petrol. Hope this was worth it… Heading further south and another Interceptor came into view, it’s owner had apparently had a bad day.

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Stopping to see what I could salvage, I got myself a new tyre, investigating the inside of the can got me a snake-bite. You see my character is an idiot who doesn’t know what a rattlesnake sounds like and decided to open up the cars rattling glove-box, promptly getting bitten and losing 1 Skill and 2 Stamina! A med-kit eased the pain, but didn’t restore any stats, I did however find a length of plastic tubing in the car which I took with me. Driving off from the wreckage, and sure enough, it didn’t take long for someone else to paint a big red target on me…

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Tearing up behind me was a motorcycle and side-car team, peppering me with machinegun fire to the loss of 1 Armour point. Some defensive maneuvering was required and so I dropped a spray of oil across the road and my pursuers were left rolling away into the distance behind me. The text again asked me if I had any spare petrol to use, so I poured the winnings of my Blitz Racing into the Interceptor and set off as night began to fall. Onsetting darkness did not obscure the wrecked police car at the side of the road though, I pulled over and prised the boot open using the crowbar I found earlier. Nice little find too as I discovered a bullet-proof vest, giving me 1 Luck and, considering the penalties I’ve incurred so far, a very valuable 1 Skill. What I discovered next was that parked just ahead of me, was an absolute nutcase.

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This guy had converted his truck into a sort of chariot shaped vehicle, with scythes on the wheels and somehow he’d managed to get his hands on what seems like a Centurion’s helmet. And of course he was bare-chested – who wouldn’t be. Regardless, I blew him to pieces quite quickly, only taking a couple of hits.

Further down the road, a sign indicated that a workshop was just off the side and would offer repairs, investigating further revealed a friendly who was willing to weld some extra plating onto the Interceptor for 200 credits, I agreed and gained 10 Armour points.

Ahead was a tunnel blocked by a bus, as I drove up a man jumped out of the front door and announced that he wouldn’t be letting me past unless I either paid him 200 credits or beat him in a pistol duel. Not having any money left, I had little choice but to indulge his old-school chivalry.

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After winning a single attack round against him, he thanked me for such an honourable challenge, shifted his bus out of the way and sent me on my way, warning me of potential landslides in the upcoming canyon. What a nice man.

We can’t be far off San Anglo now, maybe we’ll get there in part three…

 

Freeway Fighter – Part 1

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#13

Freeway Fighter

Life is lawless and dangerous. Survivors like you either live in scattered, fortified towns, or roam outside as bandits. YOUR mission is to cross the wilderness to the far-distant oil-refinery at San Anglo and bring vital supplies back to the peaceful town of New Hope. Even in the armed Dodge Interceptor you are given, the journey will be wild and perilous. Will YOU survive?

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Here she is then, my Interceptor. My limited car knowledge tells me that i’s basically a Lamborghini Diablo, which is an obvious choice to mod up for combat on a barren wasteland where petrol is worth killing over. After leaving New Hope all I see is desolation and roaming dog packs, civilization really has curled up and died. I pull up in a small town just outside New Hope and the sound of dog howls is suddenly joined by the crack of a shotgun blast, ignoring the chance to find out who is indulging in some gun-play, the best option seemed to be to get moving again.

Zig-zagging around the abandoned cars strewn about the highway I eventually came across a small filling-station, Joe’s Garage. A smart looking hot-rod was parked outside so I went to see if anyone was around, from inside the office an apparently rather cold young lady greeted me, ‘Hi! Can I help you?‘.

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I should really have smelled a rat, but the chance to buy some stuff is always tempting, especially as I had 200 credits burning a hole in my pocket. I stepped out of the car to speak to her and was promptly jumped by a skin-head with a crowbar who had been hiding behind the pumps. Not wanting to hand over everything I had at essentially the first hurdle, I took the guy on, not a tough opponent at 7/10 but I had only rolled a Skill of 9, so I wasn’t too hot myself. By the rules of the books hand-t0-hand combat I managed to knock him unconscious, but before I could turn my attention to the girl, she had jumped in their car and took off. Searching the garage didn’t turn up much, I set off on my way with a brand new length of chain.

Roaring out of the garage I was enjoying being able to hit a speed of 190kmph, uninhibited by the man, but I soon hit a different problem. There may be no police, but there are heavily armoured Chevvys with Steven Seagal sitting in a machine gun turret.

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Vehicular combat was going to be quite straightforward for me though as I’d rolled a maximum Firepower of 12 and damage was done at 1D6 per hit, so at 8/15, he didn’t last too long.

Shortly after this conflict, my radio crackled into life, it was one of the leaders of New Hope. Since I had left, they had been attacked by a biker gang who had kidnapped our council leader, Sinclair, and I was warned to be on the look-out for them. My progress was quickly brought to a halt though as the highway I was riding on was now completely clogged with abandoned traffic, my fuel situation was also becoming an issue as I had emptied the last of my supplies into the car and I needed to be finding some more pretty quickly. I took an easterly turn off the highway and my eye was caught by an ambulance off the side of the road.

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Checking out the vehicle turned up an empty drivers seat, I went around to the back to open up the doors and inside I found a small explosive that went off for 4 Stamina damage. Dazed and confused, I crawled into some tall grass, assuming that this booby trap would flush out its owner. Sure enough, an angry man in a headband followed the trail of blood I hadn’t realised I’d left and started shooting at me. Passing a Luck test, he missed, but I was now stuck in a shoot-out with him. Not easy given my Skill, he was 8/12, and despite killing him off I took a few hits. Sustaining in gunplay and getting hit more than once results in a loss of 1 Skill point – very harsh in my opinion, especially as this now meant I had a Skill of 8 to struggle along with. I took 150 credits and some knuckle dusters from his body and drove off to the east, then turning back south.

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My next obstacle was a small river with only a rickety old bridge to cross it. Wanting to keep moving south, I took the chance to drive across and the bridge was actually able to hold the weight of my vehicle! Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to sustain the blast of the explosives I triggered by driving across, destroying the support structure, sending me crashing into the water below. My adventure was very much over.

So let’s skip back and leave that one shall we? Turning back from the bridge, I headed back to the last junction, past the ambulance and found myself taking Skill tests to successfully jump a bridge. Another junction could take me south or  continue west, trying to keep on track, I took the southerly option. My progress was brought to a close again however as this path took me to a section asking if I had any fuel cannisters left… Having not yet found any reserves I had to again accept that my adventure was over!

Heading west at that last junction seemed to keep me running a little longer though so I stuck to that route, eventually coming across a man in a motorcycle helmet, waving his arms in the road. I was now one of them, ‘I might be able to kill him to get some petrol…‘, I mused.  Of course I still had a lot to learn in these wastelands and had been tricked into yet another ruse, the man ran to a ditch, flinging a grenade back at me, which a Luck test meant only caused a minor 2 Stamina points of damage. A second man popped up from behind the ditch and I was in another gun battle, thankfully they were relatively weak, having Skills of 7 and 5, I was able to dispatch them without sustaining any more loss of Skill. My reward was a throwing knife which I stuck in my boot and carried on driving.

More abandoned cars blocked my path as I continued west, but this time I did the intelligent thing and got out to investigate the vehicles for supplies. Very useful was the crowbar I came across, especially useful as I used it to pry open the boots of several cars, eventually turning up a precious cannister of petrol! An additional Luck point was also mine. Turning off south, this time I had the reserve fuel to keep myself going and I drove until it got dark. It was rime to get some rest, so I pulled up at a nearby cafe.

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Still having a modicum of self-respect, I rejected the option to sleep in the outhouse and went inside the cafe to find a bed. Satisfied that it wasn’t rigged with explosives like everything else seems to be in these parts, I set my head down for a bit of a sleep and managed a good nights rest for 2 extra Stamina points. Another day of driving and being blown up by things awaits…

Devastated by a killer virus, the world you once knew is a wilderness

Once upon a time, Mel Gibson wasn’t an utter maniac, he used to make films about policemen on the edge and Scottish terrorists, but one day he made a film called Mad Max. Ian Livingstone saw that film and then immediately wrote Freeway Fighter.

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Our adventure takes us to 2022, a world where World War 3 had been avoided and revolutionary farming techniques have all but eradicated world hunger, everybody is friends and it seems like science has saved humanity. An interesting detail is that the 2022 ‘soccer’ World Cup is actually being held in Australia, as if FIFA would hold it in such a crazy place. Even crazier is the idea that the final will be England vs USA. Anyway, the day that final was played, everything went a little bit Stephen King and a deadly virus emerged from somewhere in New York and within four days, 85% of the worlds population was dead. Civilization crumbled and people were willing to kill each other for a can of beans. As a survivor, our character finds himself living in the outpost town of New Hope where those holding onto the idea of civility hold up against the other half of humanity who are now rampaging around the place, looting and pillaging. New Hope has received word of another settlement in the south, San Anglo, and they are wanting to trade 10,000 litres of fuel for some of New Hopes food, which it has in abundance. So who do you think has to drive them sacks of grain and then bring back a tanker of oil amidst a lawless world of violence? That, would be our hero, who I shall call Mel.

We do actually get to name our hero in this book too as the adventure sheet has a section for the drivers name. There are actually a number of different rules to follow, we have 2D6+24 for our Stamina for instance. Unarmed hand-to-hand combat deals out 1 Stamina damage per turn and whoever takes 6 Stamina of damage first is knocked unconscious. Gunplay is run as normal combat is, but 1D6 damage is done per hit. Combat can also take place between vehicles as well, with a 1D6+6 Firepower score being the equivalent to Skill and a 2D6+24 Armour value being your Stamina, damage is again 1D6. We also have a number of special weapons in rockets, iron spikes and oil canisters.

Freeway Fighter is actually a book I remember getting as a kid, I actually remember being able to talk my dad into buying me a new Fighting Fantasy book, which is always a super exciting day as a youngster. My town hosts an annual fete with rides and all manner of duck hooks and associated rollercoaster fun times. Being a fan of video-games and books about wizards, this wasn’t exactly my scene… and to be honest, not a lot has changed! Anyway, as I managed to convince my dad that the money he would save on taking me on the rides would be best spent on a new book, and bingo – I’m cruising around a wasteland looking for oil.

With this book I get my first opportunity to steal anecdotes and information from Jonathan Greens You Are The Hero, which if you are sat reading this blog, you absolutely must own. From reading what is the Fighting Fantasy bible I am left wondering what might have been as apparently the amazing Iain McCaig was initially set to illustrate this book and produced this wonderful drawing before Kevin Bulmer took over.

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But you never know, Kev might have sketched up a storm here, so let’s get stuck into the book and find out shall we?