Saturday, July 26, 2014

Island of the Lizard King playthrough


Originally published at http://fightyourfantasy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/island-of-lizard-king-playthrough.html

Written by Ian Livingstone, Artwork by Alan Langford

Aha! Aha! Ah-hah!

I don't remember much about this book.

Everyone I have mentioned it to has very fond memories of it. And I remember getting a copy of it for christmas one year, a year I also got Scorpion Swamp. I do remember that IofLK was damn good though, so it seems I agree with people who I've mentioned it to. It's just that I'm damned if time hasn't scrubbed the reasons as to WHY it was good from my mind.

Let's refresh my memory on it, shall we?

The game begins as I walk into Oyster Bay, a small fishing area which has recently been plagued by raids from the nearby titular island. Lizard men have been abducting the villagers and forcing them to work in mines, so I've been asked to go and rescue them. That's a pretty good story, actually. I lucked out on my stamina roll, with a healthy 23. Skill and Luck are both a moderate 10.

An old friend gives you a ride on his boat to the island, and you promptly begin the adventure. The island boasts a wide array of landscapes visible even at this early stage - we can see forests, we've heard of the mines, and there's an ominous smoking volcano in the distance. Will we live to see it up close?

Me and my old friend, whose parents evidently hated him enough to name him Mungo, start to explore the beach. I find a ruined old hut, and while I'm on my way to check it out, Mungo manages to get crushed in the claws of a giant crab, thereby fulfilling the unwritten rule that any companion you find in a Fighting Fantasy game will quickly die a tragic and horrible death. I kill the crab, and Mungo gets to have a few last words before he dies.

Let us take a minute of silence to remember poor Mungo...

Okay, enough of that. Digging through the hut, I find a note left by a previous inhabitant who tells me that many of the plants on the island are poisonous and that he advises drinking from a bottle of anti-potion that he left behind. I give this a few gulps and then make camp for the night. The book details the cacophony of wildlife noises on the island, and I'm impressed with how atmospheric it all seems.

I trudge my way through the jungle, hacking my way through the foliage with my trusty sword. Growing tired from making such slow head-way, I take a rest by one of the large trees. I awake some time later to find that the tree has ensnared me in its vines and is trying to eat me. Sometimes I wonder about why this kind of thing happens to me. Eaten by a carnivorous tree, not a noble way to go. I manage to pull myself free, and flee from the creature - right into the waiting clutches of a gang of headhunters.

If you've ever seen the end of 'Cannibal Holocaust', then you've a pretty good idea what's about to happen. My stamina is beaten down to single-figures very easily. And even though I'm able to snarf down some meals over the course of the next few segments, I still feel rather sore. It was pretty rough to send three headhunters at me so early in the adventure.

Still, it isn't long before I manage to encounter a rather friendly figure, in the guise of a former prisoner who has taken to living in a small hut in a tree. I use 'friendly' in the loosest possible way, because the first thing he does is throw coconuts at me. He then demands that, to earn his friendship, I give him three of my meals, and in return he gives me a lockpick and tells me that I should follow the general direction to the volcano.

Would anyone mind if I threw him to the cannibals?

What follows is a series of very unusual and silly encounters which I manage to screw up in a variety of interesting ways, which I will hereby dub "MJ touches and chews on weird stuff that he probably shouldn't". You could make a youtube series out of it, if you had the time. The first one is a variety of weird mushrooms that I find growing on a log near a dragonfly I'd just cut in half

Seriously, who wouldn't want to eat some weird mushrooms they find in the forest? I reach out to it, and it spits some spores into my face, which cause my skin to blister. The book then asks if I want to ignore this and hope it will go away, which is very sensible medical advice that I'm sure any doctor will recommend. "Oh, your face has bubbled up due to toxic fungus irradiation? Just ignore it, you'll be fine. Or dead. But probably fine."

Instead I decide to scrub my face with leaves, which seems to take away the pain and ease the sensation. Feeling much better, the book then asks if I still want to eat the toxic evil death mushroom. I say "Sure" and snarf some of it down. In a shocking twist, I am then violently sick - who'd have ever suspected THAT would happen?

Coming to the next clearing, I find a strange glowing crystal standing alone in a patch of sunlight. There are no trees growing near it, so I do the sensible thing and whack it with my sword. My sword breaks, reducing my skill points. Not particularly surprising, really. I'm offered the change to touch the weird glowing crystal, and I decide that this will be a bit of a laugh. Rather than setting me on fire, it actually heals me. What an odd little item. I leave it where it is and continue on my way.

Not to self - all mushrooms are evil
Soon after, I am confronted by a small crowd of pygmies. They shout at me and point blow-darts at me, but I'm not in the mood to try to fight them. Instead I offer them some items - namely a small axe I'd found earlier. It seems that they regard this item as a sacred artifact, perhaps the pygmy version of Excalibur or something similar. In return, they give me some berries. Not a fair deal, but at least I'm still alive and haven't been shot with darts yet.

The ground starts to get wetter and more swamp-like as I progress, and I am soon wading through a deep marsh. I'm actually really enjoying the atmosphere of the book - the island isn't huge, but you've got a real feeling of a believable landscape which fits together naturally. Soon though, it becomes apparent that I am not alone in the marsh - I am being followed by Gollum, determined to recover his lost ring. Well, not exactly Gollum, but it is a marsh hopper - a sinister little goblinoid who wants nothing more than to lure lost travelers into the waiting lairs of vicious monsters.

So I follow it. And guess where it takes me?

If your answer was "into the lair of a vicious two-headed Hydra that eats you" then you might be right. There is a fight, but I don't stand a realistic chance. I'll be honest though, the actual mechanics of the fight is pretty good, as it's one of those early instances where you have to fight two monsters (ie, both heads) at the same time. But with my damage to my skill I'd taken earlier, I just don't stand a chance.

I wonder if both heads wound up arguing over who got to eat me....

So, let's see what was lurking down the other path, shall we? The following parts are a little bit of an expansion to this post, because Island of the Lizard King is such a decent book, it deserves to be looked into a little bit more, eh?

Let's say, for instance, we don't follow the little marsh hopper. I stumbled through the marsh for a while and soon encountered a whole other monster - a slime-sucker. This creature was a large entity with long tripod-like legs, which keep its main body up out of the water itself, and large cupped hands to let it pull water into its mouth. The design for it is very unusual and quite interesting, and it is definitely the easier option. It's still a very difficult fight, though - when I say it's easier, I mean only barely.

The rest of the swamp is relatively easy. You are attacked by leeches, who serve only to diminish your stamina points further, and then you are free to enter the rocky hillside areas of the island. After avoiding a small avalanche, you stumble through the rocky hillside until you encounter a rock baring the warning 'turn back'. Yes, this definitely means we're getting closer to our destination. Warnings like that ALWAYS mean we're on the right track.

In the sand of the ravine, you find a snuff box which contains a small note, helpfully wishing whoever finds the box some good fortune and telling them the location of the owner's yacht. Which isn't immediately helpful, but it's good to know that we have a route to get off this island. This scene is quickly followed by a fight with a giant lizard, which lives up to the difficulty of the previous battles. This giant lizard sets the scene for the many lizard-themed battles that are going to appear shortly.

Boots of +2 Crappiness
Shortly thereafter, you come across a small pool of water. Sitting to drink from it, you are attacked by a spitting toad. It's a fairly easy fight for this book's standard, so once it's dead you have the option of pulling a large chest from the depths of the pool and looting its contents. The chest contains a ring of dizziness, a potion of clumsiness(think I can see why they locked these items in a box and threw them into a lake!), a bag of infinite holding, and a pair of boots. The boots don't seem to do anything, so they are either boots of unknown magic powers that are revealed later, or boots of red-herringness.

We soon come to a river and, retrieving the raft that was mentioned in the snuffbox from its hiding place in the nearby shrubbery, we are able to steer our course up river. It's moments like this which make Island of the Lizard King so classic. Remember that this was only the seventh Fighting Fantasy book made, and just look at how much of an area we've covered in terms of geography. We're soon beset by a crocodile, and have to stab it to death.

It's at this point when the atmosphere really starts to ramp up. We see an escaped prisoner, desperate to flee from the lizard men's prisons. I take him onto the raft but, in his delirious state, he attacks me and I need to punch him into the river's flowing currents.

I rescued them, so I count this
as a heroic victory. Yay me.
Before too long, the river brings you to a small village built of sticks and mud. Seeing a few lizard man guards, I realise that the mines are nearby, full of prisoners I need to rescue. Abandoning my raft, I soon find a tunnel that leads its way down into the mines. I manage to silence one of the lizard men guards, and find my way into a central tunnel.

Fighting my way through one of the lizard men, the prisoners are rallied to see me and quickly turn on their cruel taskmasters, ready to rise up and join me. They tear through several of the guards, and I ask that they lead me deep into the bowels of the tunnels so that I can rescue their fellow prisoners. Sadly as we run through the tunnels, I lose track of the group, and am unlucky enough to run head-first into another of the lizard man guards, who turns me into mincemeat. I die again, but having this time seen so much more of the island.

This is a really nice adventure. Loads of atmosphere and a very, very cool setting. I also really like the storyline, and I'd love to see how it pans out in the later parts of the adventure. This is one of the books that has been reprinted several times in later editions, and you can easily see why.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fighting Fantasy Fest 2014

Hello all!  If you don't know already, Fighting Fantasy is having its first convention on September 7th.  Called Jonathan Green.  Here is the blurb:
Fighting Fantasy Fest, it is being organised by fighting Fantasy author

The first dedicated Fighting Fantasy convention, featuring special guest appearances by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, and the official book launch of You Are The Hero - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, by Jonathan Green.

FF artists Russ NicholsonChris AchilleosTony Hough, Malcolm Barter, Leo Hartas and John Blanche will also be in attendance, as will Arion Games, Tin Man Games and inkle.

The fest will also include a goodie bag which includes a nice statuette of Zagor.

Tickets are only £50 for such great goodies.  If you would like to bring a child, you can buy an adult and child ticket for £60.

I'll be going, so it will be good to see you there!

Purchase your ticket today: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/fighting-fantasy-fest-2014-tickets-11436642305

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Night of the Necromancer playthrough

Originally published at http://fightyourfantasy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/night-of-necromancer-playthrough.html

Written by Jonathan Green, Artwork by Martin McKenna

This is the last of the newer FF books that I've picked up. Written only a few years ago by Jonathan Green, this was the most recent FF book until Blood of the Zombies came out. I still struggle to consider the Wizard Publishing books as 'true' Fighting Fantasy ones, even though there's several that are just simply fantastic books, and I'm sure that this one will be no exception.

 But yes, as for Night of the Necromancer, I've made a point to learn nothing about this book before I play it, so let's jump right in.

As I return home from a long crusade against the forces of evil and darkness, I am waylaid by assassins. Among their number is a cultist of Death, who fires a spell upon me. The spell kills me instantly.

So, what did I think of this book? Well, it was short. Overall I'd give it a seven out of ten, and... Oh wait, I'm not quite dead.

My undead soul has been ripped from my body, becoming a wraith-like spirit of vengeance. I fight the cultist, showing him the fury of the un-living. He tries to banish me, but I resist too strongly and he escapes before I have the chance to beat information from him. I don't know who it was that ordered my death, but it's my goal to find out.

The site of my murder is a set of standing stones, called the Nine Sisters. In the ethereal light of the moon, the spirits of the stones elect me as their champion, fusing me with ancient power. This raises my stats somewhat, which is rather nice as I'm unsure quite how dying would affect my stamina score. No, seriously. This is something of a mystery to me at this stage. As I receive the power from the standing stones, I find a portal which seems to lead off into the realms of the dead.

I step through the portal, and find myself in what I assume to be some kind of nexus of the spirit world. Up ahead is what I can only describe as a doorway to hell (or more accurately, the hereafter). I feel vaguely drawn towards it, but I'm strong enough to resist it. I emerge from the portal with a new codeword, as my Will score is sufficiently high enough that I do not get drawn into the hereafter. Returning back to the earthly realm, I decide that it's high time I stop faffing around with ethereal ghostly energies and go talk to someone who can help me with my current problem.

Remembering the stories of an old woman who lives in the Wraith Woods not too far from here, I decide to make my way over there and speak to her. As I stumble through the woods though, I am beset by the terrible Baron Blood, the spectral huntsman, and his hunting party. I try to hide in the undergrowth, but his hounds manage to drag me out of the shrubbery, kicking and screaming.

Blood gives me an ultimatum - he wants to have some sport, so asks me to run to a nearby tree before his dogs can catch me. If I get to it, he'll leave me alone. So, I start running. So do the dogs. They run faster. They catch me and use me as a play-toy. Then Mister Blood takes my soul off with him, and I awake back in the realm of the dead. It's pretty clear that I'm going to wind up here each time that I 'die' in this adventure. This time, that big doorway I mentioned earlier that's trying to draw me into the hereafter? Well, there's things in it. Bad things. Things I have to kill. It's called a Sin Eater. And it looks like bad nightmares.

I type something as innocuous
as 'Warcraft imp' into google,
and it STILL gave me porn!
I manage to kill the thing, rather more easily than I had anticipated, and claw my way back out of the realm of the dead and into the woods once again. It isn't long until I'm able to find the hut of the Wise Woman. Now, there's three things you need to know about the Wise Woman. The first is that she's a Woman. The second is that I think I've made this joke before. The third is that, when she offers to summon a powerful netherworld imp that will answer the questions about who ordered my murder, the imp states that he cannot say as he is bound by another power before he rips the old woman's throat out and tries to kill me.

Wiping some demonic imp blood off my ghost-sword, I head off to the village of Sleath instead. The route to the town passes through a graveyard, and the spirits of the dead ask me to aid them. It seems that they are being bothered by a Grave Golem (like a Clay Golem or a Flesh Golem, but it's made out of Graves). One thing I'll say about Jonathan Green's books, they're full of imaginative monsters.

I'm making pretty good progress when I get to Sleath.Upon entering the town, I'm attacked by the external personification of the town's nightmares - a vivid cloud of billowing insanity called a Phantasmagoria. Actually reminds me something of one of the monsters that I fought in Black Vein Prophecy. Which in turn reminds me of the Angels from Evangelion, which in turn reminds me of the Colour Out Of Space, which in turn reminds me of fractals, which in turn... anyway, I kill it.

While I puzzle over how I can kill something that doesn't quite have a body of its own, I notice that the town has a spiritual medium called Zelda who owns a little store in town. I hurry on over, hoping to possess her and re-enact the pottery wheel scene from 'Ghost'. Zelda agrees to read my fortune in her crystal ball, and (much to her own surprise) gives me some rather useful information, such as not to trust someone who believes only in good.

I decide to head into the local tavern, hoping to terrify some foolish mortals. To my surprise, I find that I have developed a few ghostly powers - I can pass through solid walls and I can conceal myself in shadow. Very nice. Anyway, inside the tavern is a ghost hunter who seems only to believe in the power of good, so I decide to avoid him and check out the local chapel instead. Surely that's a bit more safe, eh?

Pushing through a ward of protection (which bloody well hurts and knocks my stamina really low), I encounter a ghost of an old paladin. He tells me that he can sense great evil in the land, and offers to help me if I can answer a puzzle for him. It's a reworking of the old 'a man was going to St Ives' puzzle, and I get it right, for which the paladin teaches me how to use poultergeist skills to move objects with the power of my ghostly mind.

Without much else to do in town, I head to the Burgomaster's house. The house, it seems is already haunted, and when I accidentally step on the cat, it wakes up the three ghosts who are already in residence. I manage to fend them both off and escape with only one stamina point remaining. By this point, the town has nothing to amuse me further, so I let myself be drawn back towards my family home in the castle overlooking the village.

Now, when I was alive, I was a noble and the guards would certainly have let me pass. But being that I'm currently not in possession of a body, I don't think the guards would be too keen to see me strolling town the road to greet them. So instead I decide to crawl through the castle's sewer to get into my old home. Sadly, the sewer is also home to a pack of giant skeletal rats. "Bite bite bite", go the rats. And before you know it, I'm back in the land of the dead, staring at that portal to the hereafter once again.

This time, I am greeted by the grim reaper himself, in full black robes and scythe regalia. We discuss the philosophical meaning of justice and I debate the merits of having a second chance, and much to my amusement he does not ask to play chess. Or Cluedo, or Twister even. He decides to let me run around for a little while longer, because it will be a laugh for him. Yeah, nice to see that Death has a real sense of humour.

Anyway, I'm chucked back into the mortal world once again, and I'm in the main courtyard of the keep. I investigate the stables, only to find my own horse in one of the stalls. Curious. Could the death cultist who murdered me have brought the horse here? I manage to tame a spectral steed in the stables and go to the blacksmiths to investigate further. The keep's blacksmith, a childhood friend, recognises me instantly. She tells me that there is indeed evil rooted here in my own family home.

I typed 'Ghost Dog' into google, this
was the least stupid result.
I decide to make the most of my time by trying to see who else I can coax onto my side. I try the kennels first, and find my trusting hunting dog Korzen, who will follow me into battle. Trying the guard's barracks, I encounter the captain of the guard, who (once I convince him that I'm who I say I am) tells me that a group of knights have been invited to stay in the keep by the chamberlain. They have forbidden my family's guard to enter the keep proper, and my sister is imprisoned in the tall tower.

The barking of the dogs in the kennel alerts a pair of Spirit Hunters, trailing ghostly brains with tentacles (yeah, I'm not sure either) and I manage to kill them without too much hassle. I opt to sneak through the hidden tunnelways into the keep proper, and as I do, I find the dessicated husk of a truly giant spider. The narrowness of the tunnel means I have to step over it, and - oh crap it's alive! Actually this spider is kinda unfair, because it's brought back to life because I'm relatively healthy - if I'd been close to death, it'd have remained dead too. Anyway, it has a really, really nasty poison that serves to heal it whenever it bites me, and that's enough to send me spinning back to that big ol' gateway to the realm of the dead once again.

Sometimes, I wonder if stepping through this door would take me to 1920s Berlin.. sorry, that's such an obscure reference, I doubt anyone's going to get it. Anyway, this time the gateway gives a booming voice screaming that it will devour me and hurl my soul into the abyss, but the cries of a million souls who have deemed me the champion. I'm given one last codeword - Endgame. One more 'death' and that's it, game over.

I don't want to risk wasting any more time - I charge straight through this part of the castle and into the main drawbridge, eager to get to the final encounter as soon as possible. I hurry over the drawbridge, when something genuinely massive lumbers into view. It's a giant iron golem that breathes fire. And... why is this a thing? What kind of insane megalomaniac castle-stealer me-murdering git builds a giant fire-breathing golem to guard his stolen castle? I mean...

My ability to hide inside shadows is almost no use here. I try my best to avoid its fire, and soon I'm able to dodge my way through, hurry over the drawbridge, and get to the large main entrance to the keep, only to find that it is painted over with large runes and scripts. It has been completely sealed against spirit beings like myself, and I don't have the requisite powers to get through it. I'm sure that they were in the second part of the keep, which I ran right past in over-eagerness to get to the ending.

And there is no way to get in. So, I fail. I have nothing else I can do but to re-enact the sad ending to Warlock of Firetop Mountain - sit there and cry.

This is a very impressive book. The use of the recurring gate into the lands of death is a nice dramatic touch, and gives you a countdown of remaining 'lives'. The book completely forgoes the idea of an inventory system in favour of code-words for everything, which gives it a more 'puzzle' feel to it. The atmosphere is very nice, with a lot of horror tropes and themes recurring throughout the adventure. There's also a few rather nice touches, in that normal weapons don't seem to hurt you, only magical or monsterous ones do - and it seems that pretty much everyone has one of those. Might want to borrow them for the next time I run into a Fighting Fantasy monster that can't be injured by non-magical weapons, I think!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blog review - The Tao of DnD

I have this thing for reading RPG sourcebooks for ideas.  I don't know why; maybe it is a compulsion of mine.  It might go back to when I was 11 and tried to make a wide open sandbox solo Advanced fighting Fantasy scenario, but could never get it right, and spent ages revising it.  Maybe I'm still trying to make that perfect system, despite knowing intellectually that there is no perfect system.  It's amazing how what we do sometimes flies in the face of everything that is rational or even beneficial, but that is a topic for others to delve deep into (like Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahnmen  and Stephens Levitt and Dubner).

Anyway, there is a point to this.  This compulsion of mine is probably why I love the Tao of DnD blog so much.  Since 2008, Alexis D. Smolensk has drawn on a huge range of sources (including the aforementions Malcolm Gladwell) and utilised a huge range of tools (such as some magnificent Excel and Publisher work) to analyse world building and role playing in every detail.  However, he always manages to tie this in to the bigger picture.  I wanted a list of random skills and fields of knowledge once and managed to find it on his blog.  He can turn seemingly small issues such as buying a healing salve and link it in to the bigger picture (why is it as rare as it is?  Why does it cost that much?  And why is this best for the game?).

Before you read any more, I cannot recommend Alexis's blog highly enough as something you should all read.  You will almost certainly find something useful in there, and if you don't you can admire the skill and dedication that Alexis has applied to his passion of role playing.

Alexis's posts are usually quite long, and quite dense, littered with information from all kinds of sources, but, I promise you that it is worth ploughing through them.  He also seems to have some kind of a reputation and he has gathered a crowd of haters in the RPG community.  Sometimes, I can see why, as he never minces his words and he can be very vocal about things and people he opposes and why (for example, this).  To be honest, I'm not sure what or whom he agrees with in the gaming world, if he agrees with anything at all.  If you leave comments with your own views, be prepared to have them dissected with a cutting argument backed up with an artillery barrage of logic.

Despite this, the blog is excellent and I highly recommend it.  Alexis also has two books about RPGs out at the moment (and one novel), so if you like the blog, get the books too.



Life of a Mobster


A month ago, or thereabouts, I wrote a post here saying how excited I was about the imminent release of Life of a Mobster, the gamebook application written by Mike Walter (aka Lucid's Games), and released by Hosted Games.

That time is now. That game is here. And, man alive, has it ever lived up to my expectations.

This was my original plan: I play the game, explore its nuances, then write a comprehensive review. But, you know, since I formulated that plan I've played through this game four times, start to finish. And I feel I'm still only scratching its surface. Yes, I'll likely play the game again and again, until I know it well. But that'll take some time, and I want to get this blog post written now, while Life of a Mobster is fresh, and shiny, and new.

Here's my new plan: I'm just going to gush about how great the game is, instead.

So, here you play a mobster. Not part of the Mafia - part of an organised crime family that's very similar to the Mafia (you get to choose the family name). If you've played Life of a Wizard - and you should - you'll already be familiar with the format. The game events are recounted as part of an autobiographical discourse, in the first person and the past tense. You choose your childhood background, and progress through adolescence into adulthood, where you meet your first mobster and, for one reason or another, become embroiled in a life of racketeering, tax fraud, theft, gunrunning and maybe even drug dealing (Apple really let that one past the censors?).

Or maybe not. Maybe you'll become an FBI informant, or a backstreet surgeon, or a US senator (a subtly different type of crook). You can be as moral or immoral as you choose - just keep in mind that your crime family's captain, your caporegime, will be expecting you to pay your dues.


Rather counterintuitively, the staccato, 'tell, don't show' style of writing in use throughout here works really well - in a gamebook, it allows the player to jump quickly from decision to major decision. And there's a real tension to some aspects of the storytelling - I've never yet found out the consequences of failing to pay off my caporegime, just because I've been too scared to take the risk. Similarly, I was for some time too scared to try defrauding the tax man - and when I finally did take the chance, the repercussions were harsh...

There's a ton of stuff going on here. As well as managing your various crooked business interests, you may get married, have affairs, and raise children - one of the endgame achievements mentions you can have five kids; I've never managed to bring more than two little darlings into the world. There are also achievements for cold-hearted butchers and for pacifists, for love rats and celibates. Play through the game ten times, and you won't see everything. There are a whole bunch of different endings to aim for - you can unite the five crime families of New Daria, or you can crush them underfoot. Your life can be turned into a Hollywood movie, or you can live out your days in a witness protection programme. I still don't know how to achieve most of these endings, yet - and in my failures, I've found a few not-so-pleasant endings, as well.

Oh, and the game takes place in the city of New Daria - a city whose football team is the New Daria Wizards. That's a cute callback to Life of a Wizard, right there.

Criticisms? I don't have many. There are so many minor characters that it's occasionally a little hard keeping track of who's who (the reminder on the stats screen helps). So far, game balance seems weighted a little on the difficult side - some skills, and some relationships, seem really hard to improve. And that all-important money never seems to stick around for long. But keep in mind I've still only played the game four times; I suspect that's just because I haven't been playing it well, so far.

So, my conclusion: fun, fun, fun. Eminently replayable. My 'like' for this game is at maximum.

Lifeof a Mobster currently costs €2.99 , or whatever that is in your local currency, and that's a decent price. 



(Post by Paul Gresty). 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Immediately Save £149.99 (Plus £30 Postage and Packaging)

The 28th Lone Wolf book, the last of the Lone Wolf books to be published back in the 90s, was called 'The Hunger of Sejanoz'. If you go to eBay and type in 'hunger of sejanoz', you'll see something like this: -


Pricey, no? But wait, there's an alternative.

If you're reading the Lloyd of Gamebooks blog you probably already know what Project Aon is. This is a massive fan-driven undertaking to re-edit and make available online - for free, mind - every single one of the Lone Wolf gamebooks, all with the blessing of the books' author, Joe Dever.

Now here's the big news: a couple of weeks ago, book 28 went online. This means that EVERY SINGLE LONE WOLF GAMEBOOK (to date) is now available. And so are the (fantastic) World of Lone Wolf books, featuring the Shianti wizard Grey Star. And so is a miscellany of other works by Joe Dever - the Magnamund Companion, the Combat Heroes books, the first of Dever's Freeway Warrior series.

Immediately. For free. Online or in ebook format.

This is a truly Herculean project that has, I believe, taken about a decade to accomplish. To everybody at Project Aon: thank you, thank you, thank you. You are all my heroes. I would gladly give each and every one of you a big, wet kiss on the cheek.



So go, dear reader. Go over to the Project Aon website. Read these books now.

Oh, by the way, that eBay listing for Lone Wolf 28 asks for £30 in postage and packaging? Man alive, that's steep. I guess that must cover the cost of the Korlinium wrapping paper, to stop the Helghasts at the post office sensing the book's true worth.


(Post by Paul Gresty)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ingenuity?

Hello gamebookers.  How are you?

So I bought a hard copy version of Dungeon Crawl Classics (I have the pdf, but the lavish illustrations make it slow to load), a game designed to bring alive the world inspired by the works of Appendix N, rather than create another retro clone or D20 game.  It certainly is an intriguing read.  I love the character creation method of the 'funnel' where you create 2-4 completely randomly generated level 0 characters and play them until only a few survive to become 1st level heroes that you know and love.  It actually inspired me to make a similar system for AFF2 (scroll down for an updated version) and it was played on the Platonic Solid blog (here and here).

I also love the fact that spells have incremental success rather than pass/fail, meaning that casting a simple knock spell could blow open every door and chest, locked, unlocked and even invisible in a mile radius (bad things can happen if you fail, however.  This is the risk with messing with magic).

It also finally made me realise something - there are several spells in the DnD list (such as magic mouth) here that are of limited help in combat or healing, but they are still there, and they can be infinitely useful, but only as useful as the ingenuity as the player who plays it and the GM who decides what the consequences of such an action are.  This could lead to all kinds of interesting twists and successes.

However, a great story could be weaved from the unpredictable ingenuity of a player and the abilities of their character.  This makes RPGs more of a game.  However, in gamebooks, you only have a limited predetermined

In the past, I wanted to streamline magic and skills to make sure that they didn't interfere with the rules, such as with the Adventurer rules - as many spells as possible would be substitutes for skills or items, so that I could just present a situation such as a locked door and a skill check, but then without presenting any other text, a character could cast a spell or use an item to overcome it.  Maybe a fireball spell could have burnt through the door, or an acid splash spell dissolved the lock away, or scry spell could have located the key which would have been hidden under a flagstone, impossible to find by searching.  However, I couldn't have accounted for every possible solution, and I wouldn't be there to reward a player who displays a great level of ingenuity.

So maybe there is a way to remedy this - maybe the player of a gamebook could be their own GM.  'But wait!'  I hear 'Won't they just pick the most optimal route for them and cheat?'.  My answer would be not necessarily.   I think the gamebooks with a high likelihood of fatality and with one successful ending or death do encourage cheating and the use of player knowledge over character knowledge.  Otherwise, people would never finish them.  However, gamebooks with a lower fatality rate and where failure in dice rolls and skill tests does not lead to huge negative consequences, but rather interesting consequences that lead to new routes, then maybe players would be more likely to take any route, even the less optimal ones, because they think that it would be interesting for the story, or maybe they think that the character they have chosen would have made the worse decision (assuming that the game aspect allows a choice of characters).  Maybe if the player knew that the game was like this, they would not mind 'losing' occasionally.

It reminds me of when I used to play Populous 2.  There was a cheat where if you pressed F9, you could get all the mana you wanted.  I could have obliterated the enemy with rains of fire, pillars of fire, storms, tidal waves and high winds.  I did it for a few times, but eventually it got boring.  Instead, I built an imperfect landscape with a few roads and gave the enemy soldiers the plague so that their god couldn't get mana and so it couldn't attack my people.  Then I just let the people get on with it.  Occasionally, there was fighting, but it was good to follow a tribe and see what they got up to, or just look at the border between the good and evil tribes and see how the battles are progressing.  When total victory was certain, it seemed less sweet.

I'm not saying that gamebooks should end with certain victory - rather that if death and ruin are not certain, then the player might take some bad options to enhance their story, even if they could take the best option.  Maybe, you don't even have to be certain about things.

For example, maybe one of the options could be 'If your character can build a fire, turn to x.  If no, turn to y.'  Maybe, there would be no explicit statements about gaining firewood in the book, but there could be a section before where you walked through a forest.  Maybe you could think that your character would have the foresight to collect wood from there.  Or maybe they would buy it from a village.  Or maybe they wouldn't have any.  Either way, it would enhance the story and entertain.  And even if your choices would lead to death, even the death would have value, as part of the story or entertainment.  This would mean a lot more effort on the part of the player, but it would mean greater rewards.

Dave Morris said in one of his posts (I can't remember which one) that RPG players don't like gamebooks  Maybe one of the reasons is that players don't have much chance to show their ingenuity in gamebooks.