Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gamebook magnificence. Charitable munificence.

If you're a regular follower of this blog you may already know Choice of Games. They develop gamebook-style apps, such as the phenomenally successful Heroes Rise, and my own app The ORPHEUS Ruse. Which isn't selling so well, these days. Sigh.

Anyway, it turns out those folks at Choice of Games also have great big hearts. They're currently auctioning off cameo spots in some of their most anticipated forthcoming apps. So, if you want to design your own superhero to feature in The Hero Project: Redemption Season, or if you want to choose a certain grisly death for a character in Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, now's the moment. Head over to the Choice of Games website, or directly over to Charity Buzz, to find out how.

All money raised will go towards the homeless shelter My Friend's Place, which principally works to take care of minority and GLBTQ youth in the Hollywood area.

So, now's the time to turn that predilection for gamebooks into a force for good. Go. Go bid. Now. Go. Now.

(Post by Paul Gresty)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

5th edition Dungeons and Dragons and E2 rules

I love looking through RPG systems for inspiration for gamebooks, so naturally, so soon as 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons came out, I got the Players' Handbook, Dungeons Masters' Guide and Monster Manual.

However, I am not a fan of people walking around fantasy worlds with superhuman abilities or magical spells that can wipe out hordes of opponents or render any mundane utility completely useless. This is one reason I like Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Maelstrom and others such as the Conan RPG and Barbarians of Lemuria.

Of course, Dungeons and Dragons does not lend well to this, but someone has come up with the E6 system which is DnD using the Open Source material but stops the level progression at level 6. Players can then get extra feats with more experienece, so there is progression, but numbers do not increase (except in a few special circumstances made for E6 where skills can go above 9 points and the restoration spell can be used).

5th Edition does a lot of things to make sure that players do not become too superhuman with bonuses capping at +6, concentration meaning that spellcasters can't just buff themselves up with tons of spells.

However, there are still spells that allow flight, teleportation, summoning items, fireballing tons of opponents and bringing people back from the dead, so I started searching for some low level rules for 5th edition.

I found this website which goes from E2 to E10 and this website which details how each level affects the world.

I decided to go for an E2 system, but being a fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, I also wanted to start at 0 level. As always, the internet provided and I found this post about 0 level 5th Edition.

So here are my E2 rules. My world is a human-centric one, so only humans are able to be created.

Roll your abilities

You can use whatever method you like, but I'm going for the DCC way of 3d6 in order (but I'm doing this for 2-4 characters per player, so at least one will be good).

Each character has 4 hit points + CON modifier.

Each character has a +1 proficiency bonus.

Choose your racial benefits

My world is human centric so they are the only option (of course, you can use whatever races you like). To increase variety amongst characters, I will use the variant human traits (PHB page 31) where you can increase two scores by 1 point, gain proficiency in one skill and gain 1 feat (PHB page 165).

Choose background

Also choose other details and equipment (you can use Bernie's random tables)

Level advancement 

This is where I differ from the others as I'm amalgamating two ideas.

It takes 100 xp to get to level 1, where the character now gets a proficiency bonus of +2 and they can add their hit die to their current hit points (making their hit points slightly higher than a regular level 1 character). They also get to choose their class and get all their regular class abilities.

It takes another 400xp to get to level 2 (so 500xp in total). The character can multiclass if they want with no penalty or requirements.

On level 2, the character can then improve every 500xp after that. The character gets to choose whether to get 2 ability points either for one ability or split between 2 ability scores OR they can get another feat. Bear in mind that some feats are of limited use to 2nd level characters.

New class - master

This is an idea I got from the Dragonlance sourcebooks. If you want an NPC to be level 1 or 2 but still be a civillian, this could be the class for you.

Hit points 

Hit dice: 1d8 per master level.


Armour: Light armour
Weapons: Simple weapons
 Tools: Any two from the list of artisan's tools and musical instruments.
Saving Throws: Intelligence and wisdom
Skills: Any three.


Any simple weapon
Leather armour
One set of artisan's tools or one musical instrument


Level 1: Expertise (double proficiency bonus with two skills), Jack of all trades (add half proficiency bonus to any ability check that does not already have a proficency bonus), Bonus training (gain proficiency with one language, one set of tools or one musical instrument).

Level 2: Skilled (gain proficiency in any combination of three skills or tools), Expertise (double proficiency bonus with two skills), Master of craft (Has the advantage on one roll that involves a skill or set of tools that the master is proficient in. They can only use this once and then need to complete a long rest), Bonus training (gain proficiency with one language, one set of tools or one musical instrument).

The world of E2

Using the DCC table as a guide, I figured that 90% of the world is 0 level, 9% is 1st level and 1% is 2nd level.

The world of E2 would be almost historical fantasy, but casters of level 1 spells can create food (goodberry) and water (create water). Mending things and healing is also better. There are some good rituals that anyone with the ritual caster feat can learn, which are mainly divination spells, but there's also purify food and drink.

Magic items will also be quite rare and the only magic items found randomly will be on magic item table A (DMG page 144).

Some magic items could have minor properties only (DMG page 143) but anything more powerful would be at the GM's decision only.

However, powerful magic is not completely unobtainable - there are stories of planar travel, telportation, flight and resurrection - it's just that such magic will require an adventure to access it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

One last thing...

Hello all!

Thanks for joining me for the April A to Z! I hope you had an enriching experience and have learnt a lot about gamebooks. Maybe you might even want to write one.

I just wanted to leave you with my current project - Legend of the Wayfarer - a gamebook series where you eplore a world and undergo mini quests. My aim was to make one gamebook a month to release (for FREE!). A tthe moment, I've missed the last couple of months, as I have loads on at work. As a teacher, I my workload fluctuates between nothing and everything, and, with exams coming up, I am currently in the everything stage.

In the summer hols, I will make a stockpile to save up for busy times, but I just need to get back into the habit of writing, even if it is only 1 section a day.

Anyway, you can get the rules and the first 5 books for FREE! from my Lulu page.

And if you love it so much, you want to throw money at me, you can support me on my Patreon page.

And read Fighting Fantazine! It's the Z post, but I thought I'd mention it again. It's also FREEEEE!

I've enjoyed the April A to Z and reading other blogs. I hope you've enjoyed mine and you will swing back later.

Happy gamebooking!

April A to Z - Z is for Zines. An interview with Alexander Ballingall, editor at Fighting Fantazine

Hello all! Last day of the 2015 April A to Z challenge and we have someone who I love to have on easy way to get Z in either.
the blog, and not just because he gives me an

Here we have Alexander Ballingall, the editor behind the excellent Fighting Fantazine. Which is also free! Go and check it out after reading this interview.

How has Fighting Fantazine evolved in the past year?

In small ways. I had originally seen involving other gamebook ranges as a sudden throwing open of doors, but it has been a much quieter process than that. An article here, an adventure there. I’d love to see more, but that contributions haven’t exactly been flooding in. :)

How can people contribute to Fighting Fantazine?

Article, both humorous and serious about gamebook. Either from an in-world perspective (like the “Rogues’ Guide to Blacksand”) or real-world (looking an the history of thematic material etc. of gamebooks (both series-wide and individual titles)).

What would you like to see more of in the gamebook world?

Interesting, well-written gamebooks. Maybe a more generic, less-FF only gamebook conventions (preferably within easy reach of NZ!).

Fighting Fantazine has just printed a Lone Wolf adventure. Are there any other ways that it will branch out?

Well, in terms of adventures we have permission to use the rule sets of Tunnels and Trolls and Gamebook Adventures. No one has submitted a adventure proposal for either rules yet.

Are there any future developments that you can let us in on?

Nothing ground-breaking any time soon. I’m looking to refresh the interior layout before the end of the year (probably with issue #16) and the website needs more work on it. I’d also like to print some more issues, but that depends entirely on more people buying the copies already available!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April A to Z - Y is for Yet more gamebook goodness from Yuliya and Chris from Adventure Cow

Hello all! We have Yuliya from the Adventure Cow project, a team that has been working on helping people make interactive stories and has also been making the Destiny Quest app, DestinyQuest Infinite.

Here she is...

How is the Adventure Cow project going?It's going pretty well overall. We're on track to release the last and biggest act of DestinyQuest Infinite soon. Our build-your-own story software, StoryLab, just came out this month so everyone will be able to make their own gamebooks in it. (more here (

Did you change anything of the original DestinyQuest for the app?
For the most part, I wanted to keep the rules as is, since they were the most tested set. All the dice rules are the same; what we did was mainly making the app take care of all the housekeeping, and adding new pictures, descriptions, etc.
I've had suggestions from people who want to create version with modified rules, or create their own...I'd be interested in talking more about that (hint). Inline image 1

DestinyQuest is a series of different encounters. What is the process of turning an encounter into an app?
We're at the point where a basic Choose Your Own Adventure style chapter is really easy to make - you just write it out and add the links between pages. Most of the work is in adding special abilities, which also gets easier with each one we do.
I'm really excited to share the process of how we made it - I'm hoping to put out some tutorials and more detailed videos soon.

What was your favourite part about turning DestinyQuest into an app?
Hard to say - there's a point where, as a maker, everything clicks and suddenly it goes from a series of coding experiments to a game that I can just give to anyone, even if I don't know them, and they can have fun playing it. That's pretty satisfying.

Act 2 is currently out. When does Act 3 come out?
I don't know for sure yet. But if you take when Act 2 came out and subtract it from the official launch, presumably that would give you some idea of when it might come out. Inline image 2

April A to Z - Y is for Yet more stuff from Graham Bottley - Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Hello all! Today, we have Graham Bottley, writer of many games and also star of Gogglebox. He has been a busy boy and we talk Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Maelstrom and more...

How is the Salamonis book going?

The Salamonis book is being written, and is mostly planned.  I will be really cracking on with this over the next month or two.  Steve Luxton has already been producing some fantastic maps, and the successful Trolltooth Wars graphic novel kickstarter will also help as they have already produced some images of Salamonis!

Steve Luxton is making some awesome maps for Fighting Fantasy. What do you intend to do with them?

Steve has indeed been creating some cracking stuff.  One idea we did have was a glossy map book with maps and various commentaries.  Maybe even a pack of colour maps in a poster tube?  All What are your future plans for Advanced Fighting Fantasy?suggestions gratefully accepted!

 What are your future plans for Advanced Fighting Fantasy?

There are two more AFF books half written (one gamebook adventure conversion and one supplement) but at the moment I can't say much more unfortunately..

You have managed to run several successful crowdfunding campaigns. Do you have any tips for being successful at crowdfunding?

Kickstarter is great.  It provides some funding up front, proves that there is some demand for the game and also provides a core of invested fans who are keen to proofread and otherwise help produce and promote the game.  My biggest bit of advice would be to be very modest in your initial goal.  Set the target amount as low as possible and aim for a basic product.  If there is loads of interest and the total rockets up, add content/colour/images as stretch goals.

What are your plans for future books?

I have lots and lots of books planned, both for existing lines and new ones!

 You came up with a game for children called Witch. Where did your inspiration come from?

"Tales of the Village", a game about a newly qualified witch, was heavily inspired by the Tiffany Aching books by the late, great Terry Pratchett.  My daughter loved the books (Crivens!) and so I wrote the game to play with her.  I was very happy with it, got some incredible art done, and published it.
I have another one half written focussing on a young Knight, and a few more planned.  The idea will be that they can all be used together.

 Sorcerers of Ur Turuk will be out soon. What was your inspiration for it?

Sorcerers arose from my desire to play Ars Magica (in a S&S setting) but knowing that the chances of getting my group to play such an involved game are close to zero.  I know and love the D6 system, which seemed a good fit for a S&S game, so sat down to write.  The KS hit the final stretch goal, and so the setting book will be written next and the pdf sent free to all of the KS backers.  Hopefully there will be more after that.

You have extended the original Maelstrom, created Maelstrom Fantasy and also Maelstrom Domesday. Do you have other plans for Maelstrom? Do you plan on releasing it in another time/genre?

I was at Conpulsion last weekend in Edinburgh, and when I wasn't guest starring on a panel (!) I was discussing Maelstrom Space with the main author.  It will be a fairly gritty hard scifi, but all tied into the phenomena of the Maelstrom.  We bandied ideas around for a Roman or WWII version!

Do you have any other plans?

Lots and lots of plans.  Probably far too many for me to actually write though!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April A to Z - X is for eXtra stuff from Andrew Drage

Hello lovely gamebookers! Today, we have Andrew Drage, writer, gamebook creator and editor and all round genius who is going to talk about his latest creations. You can read Andrew's blog here.
Q: What are you working on right now (both gamebook and non gamebook related)?

A: You've probably noticed I've been quiet of late on creative/social media fronts... That's mainly been because I've been busy (and a bit overwhelmed) with the "day job" that's often taken up days, nights and weekends, until recently anyway... Then I've just been taking a break from promotion etc. Sometimes you need to do this (we're all in this cos we want to be and it's fun right?) but as I think any creative person will understand, you never really stop being creative (it's something you're compelled to do), it just finds expression in different ways... Lately a lot of my creative energies have gone towards the running of an "old school" Greyhawk D&D campaign, which I'm enjoying very much. I say "old school" since I'm using the rule set I'm most familiar with - second edition (with the Player's Options added in for "something different"). If I was new to the game, fifth edition does indeed look like a good rule set to play with, but for me I can't be bothered learning a new set of rules (and besides the rules matter far less than the story and roleplaying anyway)... Furthermore I've got boxes and boxes full of first and second ed material haha.

Having said all that, I am working on a couple of different gamebook-related projects at the moment (I'll decline to say anything about those just yet) and still in the process of finishing "The Calling" - which is the musical prequel to my horror novel "The Dark Horde" (see here:  -Was planning to have this finished of course by now, but sometimes real life can cause delays, and ultimately it's better to have something as good as you can make it, than rushed out to meet some arbitrary deadline :)

Q: You have some really in depth analysis of Windhammer entries. Is there anything that has cropped up that people definitely should not do?

A: Yes and I've still got half of last year's entries to get through before I can post my latest reviews... Sorry about that! But to answer your question, and of course this is all just my (somewhat informed) opinion, I would sum up what writers shouldn't do as simply "do not break the contract that they have with the reader". What I mean by that, is that by getting the reader to commit to the reading/playing the writer's story, they have made a "contract" with them that implies that (a) the reader will be able to follow the story, (b) that sufficient care/effort has been taken to merit the reader taking the time to invest in and experience the story and (c) that the reader will be treated fairly and has a "plausible" chance of being able to complete the story if they "play fairly". Anything that violates these implied principles (whether that be because of broken/unclear links in the story, poor writing quality, bad game balance or near-impossible odds), I would argue is to break this writer-reader "contract". Most other things are more down to personal preference I guess, but I did cover such a list in more detail on my blog here:

Q: What about something people definitely should do?

A: Hmm I'd suggest that's both harder and easier to identify. Harder because I think that there really isn't a "magic rule" to follow of what you should do, and easier because the only "magic rule" to follow is that there really isn't one haha. As I recall I've said in previous interview with you (and a point I've made numerous times elsewhere), regardless of how good or bad anything you release is, or how you go about executing it, there'll be some that love it, some that hate it and some that have a reaction somewhere between those two extremes. Yes the degree to which you'll get positive reactions over negative ones will vary depending on how "good" the work is, and your publicity, but ultimately it's important to understand that you'll never please everyone (I don't believe there's ever been a creative work of anything in the history of humanity that "everyone did or would like", nor ever will be). Which to me means that you only really need to please one person - yourself - and anything beyond that is a nice bonus haha. Okay sure, you do want to build and keep your audience, but ultimately you should be creating the work that you want to create in the way that you want. This can mean "following established conventions", but equally it can mean taking risks and trying something completely different from what you and/or others have tried before (which is certainly my preference). There is no "failing" as such, there is only the "failure to try".  

Q: You have written some in depth posts about turn based games. What do you look for in a good turn based game?

A: Yes and that's another blog post series I've yet to finish! But anyway, yes it is quite clear to me what I do look for in such a genre (something which is even more apparent once you know what are my personal all-time favourites, but I'll keep you in suspense as to what those are for now!) and that is as follows:
  1. Familiarity. Not an essential thing by any means, but the one thing my top three turn based games all share is that they're based on games that now at least twenty years old and were games that I was already intimately familiar with. Playing a game based on a world you already know and love, with rules you already knew is like reuniting with an old friend where it seems like it was only yesterday rather than years ago when you last caught up - you just seem to pick up from the last time you left off without any effort, and the experience is much the same with such a game... Most games however, won't be able to take advantage of this however, but there's still plenty they can do to "be awesome".
  2. Modularity. Having a game with some epic story is great, but ultimately it's "one story" and that once you've finished it, you can only ever redo the "same story" (in different ways yes, but ultimately it's still the same story with probably the same conclusion). For me the truly awesome games, that can be replayed hundreds, even thousands of times over many decades, are those that exhibit a high degree of modularity - their elements can be changed and recombined to form an endless number of stories. It is the most modular of games that I continue to play decades after their original release...
  3. Other things I like in my turn-based games, in no particular order, are a decent AI (too often the "hard" mode isn't actually very hard and easy to anticipate and beat), only having as much text as is needed to follow the story, not having ridiculous amounts of inventory - most of which isn't actually used, and having variety in the enemies and scenarios that require different tactics.

Q: What other influences do you draw on to aid you with your writing and game design?

A: With writing, my influences are all things horror, fantasy and science, but I suppose heavy metal has its influences there too haha. With game design my influences are these same things, with the additional influences of my background in statistics, mathematical modelling and zoology. My greatest work (still at least a couple of years away from release), which fills about four drawers is the ultimate culmination of all of these things I think - hopefully one day soon I'll be able to talk more about that, but let's wait and see ey? :)