Monday, October 5, 2015

E0 rules for DnD 5th edition

A little while ago, I published E2 rules for 5th edition DnD. Now I've gone to the logical extreme and turned them into E0 rules - characters are all "0 level" and only advance by feats. This is similar to how my Legend of the Wayfarer rules work. The only levelled characters in this world are "gods" who go to levels 1-5. I may work out the "god" class later on (it will be quite close to the bard class).

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 12 hit points + CON modifier.

Each character has a +2 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)

Choose feats

In addition to their human feat, players can now choose 3 extra feats.


The character can then improve for every 500xp they get. 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 or no use in this world.

Rule changes

Skills are no longer tied to any stat and multiple skills could help with a particular roll.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An RPG you might need to take a bath after playing

In summer 2014, I decided to read a load of RPG sourcebooks for inspiration (although what inspiration, I'm not sure of).  Here are some of my thoughts...

Hello gamebookers!  Today, I present you with a free RPG that takes up 1 page - it is the 2d6 Quick and Dirty Roleplaying game rules.  I don't remember exactly how or when I found it, but I know it's been up for a few years.  For some reason, it stuck in my mind.  I think it was because I was a poor student at the time and wanted some free sources of entertainment.  And, thinking about it, it is halfway to being a gamebook system.

The core mechanic is this - ability tests are made by rolling 2d6 and trying to achieve 8 or more (the number could be higher if the task is harder).  Each hero has some traits that may give a +1 bonus to the roll if they are relevant to the test.  It is up to the player to decide what traits they have (as long as they fit in with the genre and that they are not too powerful, such as "immortal").  They also get a title and some quirks.Opposed tests are done by both parties rolling 2d6 and adding a value based on their traits and also items.  The loser uses the ability to use 1 trait temporarily (ranging from getting it back as soon as combat is over to recuperating for some time, based on whether the combat is a sword fight or a game of chess or something in between).  The loser ends up with no traits (and this could lead to a vicious cycle where, eventually the combatants lose useful traits and so roll lower numbers and lose more).

And that's the whole RPG.  I think it is halfway to a gamebook system because of its simplicity.  It seems that simple systems are the way to go according to Dave Morris (who is known to rankle at the idea of having to use maps in his Blood Sword books) and Ian Livingstone (who scrapped skill and luck in Blood of the Zombies).

The half that is not provided is the list of traits that you might need.  It is OK to more open in RPGs as the players' source of feedback is a living person with enough imagination and ingenuity to respond to what the players might come up with.  However, with a gamebook, the author is not there and so your options are the ones that the author thought of at the time of writing, so there is not point in thinking of anything else.  So in that case, the author needs to think of traits that would be useful for the problems that they have presented.

Another thing the system needs is a "hit point" system for characters.  I am not a fan of the rule that characters lose traits in opposed tests, because, as I mentioned above, it sets up a positive feedback loop where the loss of one trait will reduce the chance of the character's survival, which will lead to the loss of more traits which will further reduce their chances, which will eventually lead to death.  In order to keep it simple, these 'hit points' could be a representation of mental and physical fortitude (as the opposed tests could be anything from combat to having an argument).  These points could either be restored straight away or after some time.  That way, for the most part, the only danger the hero needs to worry about is the current one.  Destiny Quest does this well, where everything is restored after a combat.

One last thing that I think they could improve, though this is by no means a necessity, and, unless you care about statistics as much as I do, you probably won't care, is that I think 2d6 gives too large a bell curve of results, making a bonus too important.  I can explain what I mean if you use anydice for a 2d6 roll.  Rolling an 8 or more has a 42% chance.  If you have a +1 bonus, you need to roll a 7 or more, which has a 58% chance.  That's a 17% increase for 1 point.  However, after that, you start to get diminishing returns.  If you have a +2 bonus, you have a 72% chance (14% increase) and a +3 bonus gives you an 81% chance (9% increase).  Ages ago, I showed you that if you were having opposed checks and the opponent had a +3 bonus over you, you were pretty much doomed.  That is because the fewer dice you use, the more impact a bonus would give.  I think people use 2d6, because most non gamer houses have that many maximum, but more dice would be better.  Too many would mean too small an effect, however.  for my system, I settled with 4d6.

So, what can I take from the Quick and Dirty system?
  • You can do a lot with skill tests.
  • You can individualise a character very easily
  • Make sure the bonuses are not too game breaking.
  • Don't have a system where you are punished for losing.  Or if you can't avoid it, just give them a quick, clean death.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Asuria Awakens!

Hello gamebookers! It is a great time to be a gamebook fan at the moment.

First of all, the Windhammer entrants have been announced and there are 16 books this year. They will be made available on September 17th and voting will go on until 14th November. The winners will be announced on November 21st.

Also, Tin Man Games have released Songs of the Mystics and my own book, Asuria Awakens for Android!!!!

I am so pumped that my gamebook has been released, and what is more, that Tin Man Games turned it into an awesome app with excellent art by Tony Hough.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Long and Winding Road... leads to Bodie?

Ashton here, with one more update about the Kickstarter campaign for "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead." We are in the final hours now! You still have time to get in there and pledge.

The last of the Collector's Edition books have been claimed, but there's still room to name a character or to have an illustration of yourself as a cowboy vampire included in the book! Don't miss out!

Coming up next, I find myself looking forward to the last stages of writing the novel and developing the rpg. Unfortunately, creative time has been in short supply lately, with my main project having become managing the Kickstarter campaign myself. Now I'm looking back at my story notes, looking at where I left off, and thinking about moving to the climactic finale of the book.

After all the excitement lately, we've been considering a vacation, and this may be the perfect opportunity to go soak in a little Old West atmosphere.

I've discovered an old ghost town here in California called Bodie. It's not Texas, but it's about the best I can do at the moment. Actually, it turns out that one of the inspirational images we've used for art for "The Good, the Bad, and the Undead," are actually pics that came from Bodie!

Recognize this?

That's the old Methodist church in Bodie, CA. And I imagine the local saloon in Affliction, Texas looking a lot like this:

Once things calm down a bit, we'll be planning a trip out there, both to get away and to soak up some atmosphere before writing the final scenes. 

If you'd like to take a closer look at Bodie yourself, check out this video by a California local on visiting Bodie with his son. There's some really cool background info about the town there, including how killings occurred almost daily, and how the minister, Reverend Warrington, concluded, "Bodie is a sea of sin, because of greed, passion, and the overall lust of the civilians in the city."

Check out this video by youtube user moneybags73:

Also--there's still 10 hours left to contribute to the Kickstarter! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

5 years!

5 years ago today, I published a short blog post about how I should just complete things. A lot has happened since then.

Before I get into what's going on, The Midnight Legion does not have long left - go and pledge!

The gamebook world

The gamebook community is a very different place now than it was back in 2010 when I started. Blogs have sprung up all over the place and it seems that gamebooks are something that loads of people love and want to write. It's great to see this happen and there is now too much for me to keep up with. When I started this blog, I thought it would be a pure retrospective look at the gamebooks of old, but now so many new ones have sprung up, it's great. It seems that past gamebooks are getting revivals and finally, Fabled Lands is getting book 7 printed. I have met so many excellent gamebook buddies and I hope this continues for another 5 years.

Legend of the Wayfarer

Before I start, I have decided book 6 today to celebrate my blog's birthday! Check it out! It is available for PWYW.

My system. It took a lot of planning and changing to get it going, and then after 6 books, I wanted to change the system again. At the time of writing, I have written 7 and a half books and the tweaks get more an more minor (the best I can hope for) and now I want to build a world with my system.

My system is not just meant to be quite simple and versatile - it is also meant to allow me to write gamebooks as quickly as possible - tests usually have a difficulty of 4, but 5 for harder tests. I then have to think of the skills that might help from a list of 12 and that's it. All the maths has already been done when I made the system and I added some failsafes (using xp and items for rerolls, getting things that can reroll fate rolls) that means that if I do mess up a number, it won't be devastating. Also, I don't have instant death from die rolls, so it is quite hard to die randomly.

The shortness is not an accident either. These gamebooks can be written quickly, but I can also assess what people like about them and if something goes wrong, I haven't put too much effort into it. A lot of little gamebooks means that I get more feedback and so I can correct myself more.

This system is teaching me to write gamebooks as quickly and as efficiently as possible, so that when I write a big one, I can plough through it and not waste time.

The Lloyd of Gamebooks team

They say that every problem is an opportunity if you look at it the right way, and last year, I was facing diminishing amounts of free time (for wonderful reasons - my firstborn was growing up fast and I had another baby on the way!) and my well of thoughts on gamebooks was drying up. I was eating into the stockpile of posts that I had made in the early days of the blog and I had no idea to keep it going.

I noticed that a lot of gamebook blogs were limping along with a few posts per year, and I didn't want to lose readership by posting infrequently.

I don't know how, but the solution hit me - all the people who make a few posts per year about gamebooks could also post here and link to their posts in their own blogs. That way, this blog would be updated quite frequently and the other blogs would not be forgotten. It is for this reason that you now see posts from people such as Paul Gresty and Justin MacCormack (as well as others, occasionally) on the blog now. I'm trying to post one post a month just to keep some regularity, but now I feel that I should focus on writing actual gamebooks and I am attempting to write one short (around 100 sections) gamebook a month using the Legend of the Wayfarer rules.

I would love to thank everyone who has contributed to the blog and kept the community strong. Live together, die alone and all that.

What exactly have I written?

In preparation for this post, I listed my bibliography with links. You can look at it here.

The future...

I started this blog to get all the thoughts I had on gamebooks over the 18 years I had known of them (at the time) out and to discuss them. Now that stream of original thoughts is running dry and I have discussed and analysed gamebooks and games, I want to write more actual gamebooks.

I want to up my game. Almost all of the gamebooks I have written are less than 200 sections. I want my gamebooks to be bigger and better, so I'm going to write more, and they're going to be longer.

In terms of community, I want to get to know the interactive fiction world and also the international gamebook world a bit more and learn some programming language to allow me to take my books to new platforms.

So here's to another 5 years, everyone. Looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lone Wolf book 2 - Fire on the Water playthrough

"Fire on the Water", written by Joe Dever, illustrated by Gary Chalk.

Before starting on this adventure, as per the rules laid out at the start of this endeavour we treat the previous book as if it had been completed correctly (because the narrative of this book does, you see) and update our Kai skills. To hunting, tracking, sixth sense, mind shield, animal kinship, we now add another skill - a weapon skill in swords.

Having arrived at the king's palace in the previous book, we are told that the darklords armies are massing to take the city. As we start, there are more gribbly monsters outside the city gates than the whole of the final Lord of the Rings movie. The only way to defeat them is to recover an ancient mystical sword, which was loaned to a neighbouring country. Way back then, this was the usual method of cementing alliances between nations, based very much on the time-tested technique of kids swapping stickers and baseball cards.

As I'm the last surviving member of the kai and the only guardian of their powerful wisdom left in the entire world, naturally the king insists that I am sent to a safe location far from the war, with a unit of his best men to protect me, so that my knowledge may be preserved for future generations... Nah, of course not, he sends me off to recover the sword alone. Fantasy adventures aren't much fun if the kings of nations play it cautiously, after all.

I'm given fourteen gold coins, a sword and a set of chainmail armour. I also carry the royal seal, two meals and a crystal star pendant from the previous books. Now, let's rock.

The adventure starts as the captain of the guards escorts me to the docks, to board a ship that will take me the first part of the way on my quest. I'm confronted by a man who claims to be the first mate, who asks me to prove that I am the Kai by using one of my skills. After I command some mice to bring me cheese, he is so amazed that he summons two of his biggest friends to kill me. Yeah, turned out that he wasn't the first mate at all, but a servant of the darklords. You'd have thought that my ability to slice the nuts off a passing housefly would have put some doubt into his mind about this plan...

When I was finally able to catch up with the ship, it was already pulling out of the harbour, ready to leave me behind. Which was not exactly encouraging. Even less encouraging was several days into the voyage, when our stock of food was set alight and our water supply poisoned. Things were not going well, and they took a turn for the worse when we fished an injured man out of the sea. He told us that his ship had been wrecked by pirates, but Lone Wolf suspected that the darklords were behind it. But then, he says that every time he misplaces his car keys.

Following this ominous series of events, which are only slightly more ominous than a secret message scrawled on the wall in blood, the game decides that I've spent far too much time enjoying a comfortable voyage and sends a storm. The ship is ruined, leaving me bobbing up and down on some driftwood. After an extended period of time, I wash up on shore, having chosen not to flag down any passing fishermen out of fear that they might be the afore mentioned pirates. You can never trust fishermen, I tell you!

After regaining my strength with some fruit I found growing on a nearby tree, I headed inland until I found a caravan route. Fortune smiled upon me as I was able to hitch a ride on a carriage, and before long I had ridden into a city, Ragadorn.

One of the fellow passengers took the time to tell me that the man who owned the city was evil, which is about what you can expect in any city's politics. I quickly make my way through the city, only encountering one group of muggers (good going, you normally get four times that many just walking through Liverpool), and get to the next coach station. The attendant tells me that a ticket will set me back a good 20 gold, which I don't have. But after about ten minutes of solid gambling at the local (and very convenient to even exist in this book, so close to the coach station!) casino, I've won enough to pay my ticket.

Leaving Ragadorn behind, I board the coach with five fellow travelers - two brothers who are knights, a down on his luck merchant, a traveling priest, and a warrior woman. The coach rattled along for a few days, with each stop at inns for the night leaching me for more gold. One afternoon while driving through a mountain pass, falling boulders kill the driver. Everyone assumes it was an accident, but my Kai skill of paranoia tells me it was someone trying to kill me!

That evening the six of us arrive at the inn, I'm now down to my last 3 gold after I pay for the room. When dinner is served, I find that it's been poisoned. I'm told that I can go and attack the would-be assassin, but the options I'm given are the five other travelers. Guess I can't just question the cook or the waiter, then!

Given the option of leaping up and attacking one of my travel companions, I realise that I don't have many clues to examine. The only one I can think of is that the priest announced that the failing rocks at the mountain pass were an act of God rather than an attempt to kill us. It's a pretty sketchy reasoning, but I roll with it. Amazingly, it turns out to be correct - after I kill him, I find that he has a whole bunch of darklord mementos in his backpack. This doesn't seem to be enough to convince the witnesses that I didn't just murder the priest, though. I'm not given the option of simply explaining it all, so instead I have to run away.

The next day, I find a man lying injured on the roadside. He's been impaled by a spear and, when I remove it, he turns into a horrible gribbly monster and tries to eat me. I'm glad to have a weapon again, and I remember that this spear is very important later in the adventure... Once the fiend is dead, I push onwards until I eventually get to the port.

The port is a bit of a hassle, as I need to show the king's seal at an office in order to get a pass to continue onwards. Wild adventure of office red tape! After navigating some very dull offices and getting my red pass, I'm introduced to Rhygar, a stand up chap who offers to accompany me. One of the army's best and a heroic veteran, the book tells us how awesome Rhygar is. So, naturally as per all fantasy books, he'll be dead by sundown.

Almost immediately after we leave the port, we are attacked by an entire cabal of helghasts, the same gribbly monster we meet a few days ago. Rhygar and I have no choice but to flee from these nazgul wannabes, so we pelt it at full speed across the countryside. Eventually we come to one of several large tunnels which we are required to pass through, and one of the helghasts ambushes us, having hid in an overturned carriage within the tunnel. Thankfully I kept ahold of the magic spear, and killed the bugger without too much difficulty.

Now, I actually do remember the helgasts very vividly, because when I played the game as a kid, encountering them here had a good chance of being an instand-death moment. I'm unsure what it is about the adventure that worked out differently here. Perhaps it was because I chose to keep the spear. For whatever reason, though, I distinctly remember the helgasts as being horrible. And they have a face that looks like a cross between Norman Bates' mom and the Emperor from Star Wars.

I leave Rhygar behind and make the final rush towards the capital. Stumbling into the waiting arms of the guards, I wave the royal seal at them, and they rush me to see the king. He's thrilled to see me - so thrilled that he unlocks the royal vault and hands over the legendary sword.

The Sommerswerd is pretty imba, to be honest. It gives my combat skill a massive boost, deals super damage to undead, and amplifies my sixth sense. It also glows in the dark. In all seriousness though, this moment is written in such a way that it genuinely does feel very epic. I'm so pleased with it that I don't even care when a messenger tells me that Rhygar's body was found in the field, eaten by helghasts. Told ya so.

I'm sure that, somewhere out there, Rhygar is someone's favorate character. Not mine, though, mine's Banedon. But it's only right to spare a moment's silence for Deadmeat- erm, Rhygar.

The last leg of the adventure is in sight, and I'm amazed that I've made it this far. The king sets me up with a new ship in order to get me home, where I can kill an entire army single handedly with this imba sword. The voyage goes fairly well, until we're attacked by a massive, gigantic death-ship. Not just one ship, either, but a full armada of ships, all full of undead, which is a rather poor choice by the opposition given my newfound epic sword of undead-killing. I leap onboard their ship, carving my way through them by the bucket load, until I eventually find who is leading the vessel - the evil wizard, Vonotor. I chase him off the ship, and we sink it. I'd rather been hoping for more of a confrontation between Lone Wolf and Vonotor, but that will have to wait for the third book. For now, we have an army to slay! Almost there!

Having broken through the enemy armada with far, far too much ease, I return to the field of battle, ready to turn the tide of the war by slaying the darklord in heroic combat, mano e mano. I'm expecting the book to end with a phenomenal battle, one that will break the siege and cement me as a hero across the land. Unfortunately, the heroic warrior Lone Wolf instead decides to use his sword on possibly the least heroic way possible - to zap the darklords tent with him inside it, from all the way across the field. He doesn't even see the enemy in person, and possibly kills even kills him while he's asleep (or having a dump, or jerking off, whichever is funnier).

So yeah, the ending was a little anticlimactic, but it's still only the second gamebook I've actually finished in all the years I've been doing this blog, so that's a thing.

Despite that, though, the book is still damn good. Like the later Fighting Fantasy books, you get a real sense of having gone on a long journey. Finding the sword feels genuinely rewarding and suitably epic. It takes everything that worked with the first book and built on it to create something very memorable. The only thing that's really missing is a fight between Lone Wolf and the Darklord.

As a kid, I remember the helghasts being the most difficult part of this book, but I experienced none of the problems associated with my misadventures with them this time around, I'm unsure why that's the case but I'm definitely not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

It's also a good thing that the book had Vonotor put in an appearance, because he's the focus of the third book in the series. Check back in two weeks for the third book, Cavern of Kalte.

Lone Wolf Statistics at this point
Combat Skill – 15, Endurance – 25
Kai Skills - hunting, healing, sixth sense, mind shield, animal kinship, weaponskill swords (+2 CS)
Special items – Map, Crystal Star Pendant, Sommerswerd (+8 CS)

(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's two bestselling collections of dark fantasy stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'" and "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance". His newest book, "Diary of a gay teenage zombie", is available now)