Friday, April 25, 2014

April A to Z - V is for very nice Gamebook Companion

Hello, dear reader.  Do you ever read gamebooks in places where you don't have space to roll dice, such as trains, buses and submarines?  Is it annoying to have a pencial and paper handy?  Well, we have the solution for you today here at Lloyd of Gamebooks.  Today, we have Mark Stoneham, creator of the Gamebook Companion, available from iTunes.  So settle in and read all about Mark and gamebooks.

Tell us about yourself
I’m a mid-forties, 80s child. I grew up in a developing world of Rubiks cubes, electronic music, home computers and, of course, the surge of Fighting Fantasy!

When it comes to gamebooks, what do you like to read in particular?
I’ve read a number of gamebook genres over the years, but the draw for me has always been the magical and fantasy style. The worlds created in the Fighting Fantasy books were always my favourites, although the Lone Wolf series came a close second. I did enjoy the Cretan Chronicles as well, but probably only played through them a couple of times. With an almost 100% collection these days I should probably go back and have another read through of those.

What makes a gamebook stand out for you?
A good, engaging storyline and plenty to explore. Getting into the characters, whether the first person or people/creatures you meet - I like to feel a real ‘part’ of the gamebook and that my actions and decisions make a real difference to the outcome.

What spoils a gamebook for you?
A gamebook that’s just too hard! There wasn’t that many, but a few of the FF books, even using the ‘finger-in-the-page’ and skipping all the battles, were just too difficult to complete. Having spent pocket money on grabbing the latest release, not being able to finish a book could be very annoying as a teenager!

How did you come up with the idea for the Gamebook Companion?
It was a wet and miserable afternoon and my girlfriend (who by some massive stroke of fortune is a huge gamer - both console and board style) and we had decided to give the two-player Clash of Princes a play through. It had been years since I’d played it as a teenager and I wanted to give it another crack. After sitting on the sofa playing through a couple of times (she died quite quickly on both occasions) it was frustratingly difficult to hold a piece of paper, pencil and dice and have somewhere to write and roll. We’d already given up with real dice and had grabbed an app to do this for us instead, but we were still stuck with trying to write on our adventure sheets while sitting on a soft sofa - so I made the comment that an app to store all the game details would be really handy. A week later and v1.0 of the Gamebook Companion was pretty much ready to go. I’d never written an app before so it was a huge learning curve, but the app is relatively simple and I’d done  plenty of programming when I was younger (I even produced a drawing package for the ZX Spectrum for my Computing O’Level), so it didn’t take too long to pick it up.

What do you think was the hardest gamebook to accommodate?
The Gamebook Companion has been specially designed to work with as many books as possible. It has the standard stats (skill, stamina, luck and magic) but you can define additional, bespoke stats for books that use them.

Do you have any more features or upgrades planned?
I’m regularly asked if there’s going to be an Android or Windows version. Currently I have no plans as I don’t have the hardware for testing, but I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question. As for extra features, I have dallied with the idea of maybe including an auto-character feature and I’d like to improve the way you currently Test You Luck and the Quick Battle button. Only small changes though. I’d love to get some feedback on other things people might like to see in the app.

What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook? What is the most exciting thing about writing a game book?
I’ve not written a proper, full game book although I have dabbled with an online one , which can be found

What advice would you offer someone who thinks they want to write their own gamebook?
Take your time and plan EVERYTHING I reckon!

What future projects do you have that you can talk about?
I have a couple of new apps on the go. The first is Dice Dungeon, a FF and D&D inspired dungeon crawler. I’ve already spent a couple of years working on it and there’s still plenty more to do, but maybe one day I can get it finished and released. The second is the Fighting Fantasy™ Collector’s Guide that’s being pulled together with the help of Jamie (The Warlock) Fry from the Fighting Fantasy website. Although it will be an unofficial release, it does have the approval from Ian (Livingstone) and Steve (Jackson) to go ahead. Featuring a full list of collectible FF books and memorabilia, users will be able to tick off everything they have from a built-in checklist which will also provide approximate prices for each item.

What is your wish for gamebooks?
My real wish is that they don’t die out and continue to be written. I can see a digital future, but it would be nice to get some new, printed releases once again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April A to Z - U is for unbelievably simple role playing from Scott Malthouse

Hello all!  Today we have long time friend of Lloyd of Gamebooks, Scott Malthouse, who has been busy since I last interviewed him in 2012.  Today he talks about his Unbelievably Simple Role Playing system, Tunnels and Trolls and a mystery gamebook...

What have you been up to in the last year?

Aside from keeping The Trollish Delver updated, I've been working on a number of different projects, ranging from core rules to adventure modules. USR (Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying) has been a big focus for me in the past year and I've had the pleasure of watching a nice little community form around the game. 

How has USR advanced in the last year?

It's been a big year for USR with a couple of new projects being released. In August I released Halberd Fantasy Roleplaying, the first core game using the USR rules. It's a fantasy game with a comedy twist - think Discworld. Everyone can use magic, people go into the business of 'flipping dungeons' for profit and there are all kinds of guilds and organisations causing chaos in the world. Halberd has been pretty well received and I'm looking at doing a guide to Tequendria, the game's setting.

The most recent release was USR Cyberpunk, a supplement to the core rules that allows players to roleplaying in a cyberpunk setting like Akira, Blade Runner or The Sprawl Trilogy. I found it hard to find a cyberpunk game that suited my play style, which is fast and light, so I created USR Cyberpunk to do just that. You still have all your body modifications, hacking, drugs and all that awesome stuff, but it's also super easy to play. So I'm quite proud of that. 

Are you excited about Tunnels and Trolls Deluxe?

Very much so. From what the team has been putting out in update emails and having read through the lite version of the rules, it's looking like it's going to be the definitive version of the game. However I'm mostly excited to read the campaign setting, which there hasn't been in any previous T&T ruleset. 

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

Right now I've got a few irons in the fire. I've begun work on a new game called Shadows of Persephone, which I refer to as 'if Lovecraft wrote A Princess of Mars.' Crazy alien adventure with a load of eldritch evil thrown in. This is my first game that won't be using the USR rules, although it's still going to be a relatively rules lite game. 

Another that should be coming out around May time is an adventure I've written for a new anthology called Apocalypse in Your Hometown published by Peryton Publishing. All the scenarios in that book are for use with Stay Alive!, a great set of variant T&T rules by Jerry Teleha of Darkshade Publishing. Each author has written about a different apocalyptic scenario involving their home town, which is a pretty cool idea. Mine involves witches. 

I'm also working on a new original gamebook app for iOS with a new developer - but more about that in the future...

What makes a gamebook stand out to you?

It's got to do something different. Whether it's a cool mechanic or a completely crazy concept, it needs to do something I've never seen before. This is why I'm such a big fan of Trial of the Clone by Zachary Weiner, which is a great send-up to the sci fi genre with its own groovy mechanics. Also, if you get me to feel an emotion during a gamebook, then you've written a good one. It's really difficult to have the same impact story-wise with a gamebook as with a regular novel, so anything that makes me care about a character get bonus points from me.

What spoils a gamebook for you?

A poor plot. There are some gamebooks I read and it's like 'Oh, hey, it's another fetch quest' and all I'm doing is going from encounter to encounter until I finally get the MacGuffin. Also, lazy writing hurts a book a tonne. I want to smell the exotic market, to feel the hilt of my sword and to taste the sweet smoke in the air. If you're giving me bland descriptions then I don't care about your world, plain and simple.

What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook?

I think it's making sure that you're presenting the reader with meaningful choices. I'm not a fan of choosing to go left or right and being given no other information about those directions. You want the reader to care about what they're doing and the characters in the book, so coming up with choices that are really going to make them think is a tough one. Aside from that, though, it's making sure everything flows correctly and you don't get any recursive loops. When your sections start getting into the high numbers it gets trickier to not trip up over yourself.

What is the most exciting thing about writing a gamebook?

For me it's crafting a world. It's the same reason why I love to be game master in my home games. I love fleshing out the history of a place, what its people are like and what nasty creatures are likely to ensnare you. Then it's knowing that someone will be exploring your world and having their own experiences. That's really cool to me.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to write a gamebook for the first time?

Don't be a carbon copy of Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone. Those guys did a great job with Fighting Fantasy, but we're living in a world where people are more likely to play their PS4 than crack open a lo-fi gamebook. You need to give them a reason to put down their controller and play your game. Think about things you have never seen in gamebook form. Get a notebook and fill it with ideas, mechanics and worlds. All this planning with pay off down the line. If you're going to just make another fantasy fetch-quest then few people will really care. 

What future projects do you have in the pipeline?

I'm going to be producing a new Tunnels & Trolls solo adventure for the new Deluxe edition rules, so I'm really looking forward to that. Other than that, I have some plans for Halberd Fantasy supplements and scenarios for USR Cyberpunk. 

What is your wish for gamebooks?

I really want to see new innovations in digital gamebook technology. We're always seeing great stuff come from Tin Man Games and now Inkle Studios have their amazing take on the Sorcery! series, so I want to see more original gamebook using the mobile medium to its full advantage, but also a return of classic gamebooks, which we're seeing with Way of the Tiger.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April A to Z - T is for Tweet RPG

Hello all!  We have Sam Richards from Tweet RPG today.  I interviewed Sam back in 2012.  Since then, Tweet RPG has gone from strength to strength and has also undergone changes.  Sam talks about what has happened with Tweet RPG.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Sam Richards, I'm a writer from the UK and one half of the creative team behind Tweet RPG. I enjoy videogames, electric guitar, watching movies, and I'm passionate about my beliefs as a Christian. I work for a social housing provider as a community engagement facilitator.  I have a wife called Lauren who is teacher, and a dog called Molly who is a nuisance.

How has Tweet RPG developed over the past 12 months?

The project has undergone some big changes, all of them very positive. The biggest change is that I am now running Tweet RPG alongside my good friend Alex Burns AKA Mister Mook, who is responsible for the technical side of things e.g. web development, programming, game mechanics, etc. This has freed me up to focus more on constructing the narratives for our adventures, which is where my strength lies.

Alex and myself have invested a considerable amount of time into identifying the strengths and weaknesses of Tweet RPG, and also into refining the project and plotting a course for what we would like it to become. One of the first decisions to be made was to initiate a rebrand of the project. Although Tweet RPG has its strengths as a brand, it has a definite shelf-life and appeals to a narrower group of people than we would like to engage. Therefore, Tweet RPG is soon to become StoryMechs. You'll still be getting the same interactive adventures, but under a more effective and hopefully more accessible brand.

What is your new adventure about?

The next adventure, science fiction thriller 'Protect the Prince', places you in the role of Captain Sharr, a warrior guardian in the service of the Tyrellian empire. Your mission is to escort Prince Ashton to safety after a riot breaks out on a diplomatic tour of the Aldo V station. It's a simple premise, but every decision you make will have effect on the fate of the prince.

Protect the Prince represents a different approach in comparison to previous adventures. Whereas past stories have been open-ended affairs, this story has a predetermined length, lasting for one week with nine narrative-altering decisions to be made. We wanted to try to condense all the quality of a Tweet RPG/StoryMechs adventure down into a very concise form and see if it produces a satisfying effect. We plan to run longer adventures too, but think shorter 'one-shot' stories will add some variety to the mix.

What other shiny new things are we to expect from Tweet RPG?

We're currently working on a new website for StoryMechs, which is going to be much more streamlined in comparison to the current Tweet RPG site. The main focus of our work on the project over the past few months, which has mainly been behind the scenes, has been on taking everything back to core principles and removing anything extraneous. Over the three years of the project so far, we have managed to pick up some bad habits and excused the existence of some weaker elements. We're hoping the result of our recent work will be a much more focused and accessible service for people to enjoy. There's not much more to tell at this point in time, but when we start running some new adventures, the positive alterations we hopefully start to become apparent.

What is your favourite thing about running Tweet RPG?

My ultimate goal with Tweet RPG has been to share my writing with other people, and that's my favourite thing about the project. I love telling stories and it's been so fulfilling to experience people enjoying my storytelling. My ambition is to earn a living as a writer, whether that's writing novels or through something more left-field, like this project. However, even if I never manage to achieve that goal, I know that there are people out there who have engaged with my work. At the end of the day, that's enough for me.

What is the hardest thing about running Tweet RPG?

The hardest thing is running the project alongside everything else going on in life. I often have evening meetings for work, and do a lot of voluntary work with my church, which means there isn't much time left for anything else. At the start, I really resented the other priorities that meant I couldn't focus the majority of my attention on Tweet RPG, but I've come to learnt that there's a time for everything in life, and it's best to use every moment for its proper purpose. It's still hard sometimes when I know that my half hour lunch break is my only time to write in the day, but if that's all I get I've got to make the best of it.

What future projects do you have that you can talk about?

I've written a science fiction short story collection called Resolutions, which I plan to self-publish at some point in the future. I'm currently editing the draft, but I don't get to look at it much as Tweet RPG takes up the bulk of my time. I'll get round to it at some point!

I've also been writing a roleplaying scenario for the Achtung! Cthulhu line by Modiphuis Entertainment. The scenario is based on the Kontamination adventure, which I ran in 2012, and has been redrafted for the tabletop with the help of my cowriter and editor Matt Pook. It's been a big challenge to write in the Achtung! Cthulhu universe, as I had to do loads more research that I'd ever done before to get the history and the mythos correct. However, when you get an opportunity to be part of such a popular series, you've got to dive in and give it your all. Kontamination is due to be published at the end of April, and I'm hoping that people will have a great time reading and playing it.

April A to Z - T is for Tony Hough, illustrator

Today, we have Tony Hough, fantastic illustrator for Warhammer and many gamebooks.  Tony has been doing a lot of illustrations for Tin Man Games recently and I have been working with him on Awakening of Asuria, and you can see some of his art for that book here.  He has also been creating some amazingly detailed art for the Forgotten Spell gamebooks (you can find some art for the books, and other art on Tony's Facebook page).

Over to you, Tony...

Tell us about yourself.
I'm from Luton and I'm part gannet, part nerd. Been illustrating since 1987 which makes me sort of old but I'm still not famous, so I should have tried to be an astronaut of rock star, as I first thought....but  you can't go back, can you?

How did you get into illustrating gamebooks?
I bombarded Puffin with samples for years until someone gave in.

What is your favourite gamebook illustration?
Anything by Ian Miller, Iain McCaig and Martin McKenna is pretty darn good too.

What inspiration do you draw on when illustrating?
50 years of influences from art, TV, Films, Comics books and music, the natural world and a lot of stuff I make up.

What instruments do you use for your illustrations?
The old ones were all Rotring pen on paper. The new ones are digital, done using Photoshop CS2 and a Wacom Graphire tablet, usually starting from a pencil drawing on A4 paper. I'd use more traditional materials and even sculpt if I had the space but I don't!! 

Were the Forgotten Spell illustrations different to anything you had previously done?
The Fighting Fantasy illustrations (well, most of them) were done in the pre-internet days when print methods were different and that affected the choice of style considerably. The style I adopted owed much to my favourite comic artists, such as John Bolton and Brian Lewis and to the Illustrators Gustave Dore, Virgil Finlay, Ed Emshwiller, Kelly Freas, Ian Miller and Patrick Woodroffe. They had to be crisp black and white with no grey tones. I took a very different approach with the Forgotten Spell because it was going to be created and delivered digitally and would involve colour. I still wanted a hand-done look so I created the illos in pencil at first, to a high degree of finish, then added colour, tone and refinements using Photoshop. The pencil drawings were still around A4 size, but the hi-res finished master copies could easily be blown up to poster size if required.Also because of format requirements (especially for the app versions), I had to drop my old FF thing of having bits of the illustration escaping the picture border.

What spoils a gamebook for you?
Dunno, I even like the unpopular ones. I can't say "getting killed all the time" because that always happens.

What makes a gamebook stand out for you?
I like special rules.

Do you have any future projects in the pipeline?
There are quite a few, including the 3rd Spellcaster book and your own Gamebook of course! I should be very busy this year....

You can find Tony Hough's webpage here.  He also has a blog and a Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April A to Z - S is also for James Schannep

Hello all,

Today, we also see the return of James Schannep, who we interviewed last year about his gamebook , about a zombie apocalypse.  This year, James has released another gamebook, MURDERED which is currently at $0.99 for the Kindle edition.  Here is James.

Where did you get the idea to do a murder mystery?

My question has always been: What would be the most fun to read? With INFECTED, I gave people the opportunity to pit themselves against zombies. Now, with MURDERED, readers can see if they have what it takes to solve a mystery. As far as I know, there's never been a detailed "whodunit" gamebook for a mature audience.

How do you plan out your gamebooks?

I create a comprehensive skeleton plot and then let inspiration to serve as the meat. It's a thrilling way to write: at the end of every chapter I rack my brain for every possible choice/outcome for a given situation. More often than not, I surprise myself.

What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook?

Ending it. With the opportunity for near limitless choice, it feels as if a book could go on forever! So far, each of my books are around 120k words, which is twice as long as some novels. But I know the readers appreciate a comprehensive experience.

What is the most exciting thing about writing a gamebook?

The "inspiration" I talked about in question 2. It's a fantastic day when a new story element takes me by surprise. Writing a gamebook is a journey of discovery.

What advice would you off to someone who thinks that they want to write their own gamebook?
Keep a roadmap! Unless you’re reading this as a computer AI (in which case, I’m very flattered), you’ll have a hard time remembering so many parallel timelines and events. I keep detailed flowcharts in the hopes that I won’t get lost in my own mind.

What spoils a gamebook for you?

I get frustrated when the author doesn't keep track of their own world. I recently read a Choose Your Own Adventure where you're looking for your uncle in a museum. There comes a point where you must choose to keep looking in the building or to board a truck and check there. If you choose the former, you find your uncle in a suit of armor. If you choose the latter, you find him in a sarcophagus on the truck. This sort of thing (is he two places at once?) makes me feel like my choices hold little weight in the context of the story.

What makes a gamebook stand out for you?

Depth and breadth of choices. Are the differences in the story purely cosmetic? Or do we as the reader truly effect the story world? I do my best to keep my books in the second camp.

What future projects do you have that you can talk about?  What theme will you do next?

Up next: SUPERPOWERED -- an action/adventure where you get one of three super-human abilities (you can go back and try the others). Will you be a hero or a villain?

What is your wish for gamebooks?

I'll be happy when a wide audience knows they exist!

You can buy a Kindle or paperback version of MURDERED from Amazon.  Also, check out Jame's author page, his blog and his Twitter feed.

April A to Z - S is for Saylor, Ashton

Good morning gamebook fans!  

We have Ashton Saylor with us today, three time highly commended gamebook writer of the Windhammer competition.  Ashton is writing several gamebooks at the moment, which are going to hitting the market, so keep an eye out for them!

What are your current projects?

Whew! Big question :) Since getting a little bit of recognition from my modest successes in the Windhammer competition, I've taken on several "real" projects. The challenge now is making sure to keep anything else off my plate until I've finished those!

Dwarf King: Or possibly "Dwarf Kingdom" is an android game being developed by Micabyte system, based on my 2011 gamebook, "Peledgathol: The Last Fortress." It's a hobby project for each of us, so it's moving along slowly, but we're plugging away at it, and I think it's got the potential to be pretty amazing once it comes out. I never intended the original story to be anything larger than it was, so I put a lot of time into fleshing out the world, the history and the mythology. With Michael's excellent systems, I think we'll have a pretty solid game once we get it done.

The Good, the Bad and the Undead: This is an interactive novel that came about due to a fantastic opportunity to work with the Fabled Lands folks, Dave and Jamie. It was based on an idea of Jamie's that he never got around to writing. I volunteered to take it on, and we've been collaborating since last summer. Progress on all my projects has slowed since I got into grad school, but I'm about a third of the way through it and hoping to finish within a few more months. We'll likely do a Kickstarter soon to fund the publication. For me, this is an opportunity to explore some of my ideas about how a gamebook could be done differently. There's no combat, no inventory, almost no "rules" at all. And it's very character driven, despite being a western, horror adventure. It's something of an experiment, so we'll see how well it's received.

Shadow over Rema: This is my baby, my grand fantasy-adventure interactive epic. Set to be published by Tin Man Games in their southern continent of Rema, SoR represents a move toward the grand and epic in their fantasy series, with world-shaping plotlines. I anticipate taking another year or two to write this, but I'm really looking forward to it when it comes out. It's not experimental the way that Undead is; it's a traditional gamebook. But in many ways, it represents the gamebook of my own dreams.

What has writing gamebooks taught you about writing/game design?

I've learned a lot since getting involved with gamebooks, jeez... has it really been five years ago now? I've done a lot of posts about the theory of good gamebook design on my blog at (Many of which you can see by clicking the "Gamebook Theory" link at the top!) One of those articles,, discusses types of choices and common pitfalls, and I wish every gamebook writer would read it before picking up their pen.

I'm also taking this opportunity to study writing theory more deeply. I'm working my way through a tome called "Story," by Robert McKee, who is a renowned writing teacher in Hollywood. There's great material in there about pacing and structure of stories, characters, plots and scenes. For instance, he shone light for me on the insight that dialogue should never be too "on the nose." Instead, dialogue should be subtle. Characters rarely say exactly what they mean. Instead, they do or say things that move them in a direction, often without even knowing themselves what they really mean. Repo! The Genetic Opera is a great example of doing this poorly. Again and again, the character's lines are so one-dimentional it's painful. On the other hand, Chinatown is an example of a movie where this is done well. After confronting the girl and deciding he trusts her and wants to help her, the hero doesn't say, "I believe you and now I'd like to help you." He says, "We've got to get you out of town." This represents a shift in his attitude toward her, but the audience doesn't need it spelled out. It's a powerful line because of how much it communicates without being explicit.

What makes a gamebook stand out in a good way for you? Also, what really spoils a gamebook for you?

Those were originally two questions, but I'm combining them into one, because they have the same answer: the structure of narrative choices.

I mean, there's a lot else that goes into a gamebook: character, setting, plot, etc. But what makes gamebooks unique, or any interactive fiction, is the element of interactivity. The fact that you make choices which affect the outcome of the story is the defining element of a gamebook, and it needs to be done well for the genre to be successful.

There are two keys to designing meaningful choices. First, the reader should have enough information to make a thoughtful decision, yet not so much information that one choice is clearly superior. Second, the choice must have consequences. One of the best examples of this I've ever seen was a choice in Andy Moonowl's "Tipping Point," in which you may choose to rob the king's treasury. Pulling it off is easy--there's zero probability of failure. However, from then on you get branded as a thief and people across the land, throughout the rest of the gamebook, react to you differently. Consequences.

What would you say to someone who wants to write a gamebook for the first time?

Go for it! Don't fret about "doing it right" or "winning," just come up with your idea and make a run for it.

Writing is hard work. It takes time and dedicated focus over long periods of time. Beg your family's indulgence early, and remind them occassionally why they're supporting you in this. Schedule time regularly and stick to it. And read. A lot. Read all the gamebooks that come out, read reviews of gamebooks, write reviews. And don't be afraid to make mistakes! Your first few gamebooks, no matter how well-researched or well-intentioned, will likely be riddled with holes. Learn from them, get up, and try again.

For what it's worth, I've also got an article on how to write a gamebook, for newcomers. Feel free to check it out! It's less with the pep talk and writing advice, and more with a step by step breakdown of exactly how to do it:

Is there anywhere you go for gamebook writing help?

I like to read Dave Morris' blog on the Fabled Lands site: I like to read your own blog, here, and Andrew Drage's blog. I like to read reviews when I can find them. And to my own brain. I find a lot of times you can find the solution yourself if you search for it. Of course, that doesn't mean you should re-invent the wheel!

What would you say to someone who wants to win a Windhammer prize?

I would say do it for yourself, not for a prize. Do it because you love to do it, because you have fun with it, because you feel the burning urge to create something, and you're fascinated by the interactivity of a narrative, and giving players choices to change a story as they experience it. Do it because you want to do it, not because you want a prize. Nothing can guarantee you external success and recognition. But if writing is it's own reward for you, then you will win every time.

What is the future of gamebooks?

There's been a certain debate in the community lately about what the future of gamebooks is, and whether they have a future. Personally, I feel that they're here to stay. In today's world of slick, digital technology, interactivity in stories is available in a way it's never been before. You can see this in the massive promulgation of the video game industry. What many game production houses don't seem to realize (although many commentators like, Penny Arcade's "Extra Credits" do) is that story, and in particular, meaningful choice, is increasingly important in the success of the greatest video games. You don't need fancy graphics or a triple A production house to give players/readers an experience of meaningful choice. And hey, it's always possible that purely-text gamebooks that distinguish themselves could be adopted by video game creators and expanded, much the way that successful novels might be adopted by production houses and made into movies. Just look at Dwarf King!

If you had one wish for gamebooks, what would it be?

I want to see gamebooks, like video games, tackling deeper storylines and more powerful characters. I ascribe to the theory that any reading of a gamebook should be capable of reading like a good novel, if each of the entries were stitched together into a single, cohesive narrative. It'll just be a different novel, depending on the choices you've made.

What is the hardest thing about writing a gamebook?

I think one of the biggest challenges is just committing the time. It's not something you can accomplish in a single session, or even in a two-week flurry of activity. It requires consistent, dedicated hours, over many months or even years, to produce a good product. Pick up a good book on time management and productivity, but the advice will likely amount to: schedule time every day and stick to it.

What is the most exciting thing about writing a gamebook?

Bringing a world to life. I really love the creative process, and I love feeling an imaginary reality blossom in my mind into something true. Being able to dream up and craft these places, and then invite others there, is one of the greatest joys I know.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April A to Z - R is for Andrew WRight

Today, we have Andrew Wright, writer of Tin Man Games app Catacombs of the Undercity, creator of the recent Advanced Fighting Fantasy bestiary part II, Beyond the Pit, as well as contributing to Fighting Fantazine, Yahoo Groups, Windhammer and many other things.

Today's article is mainly about Beyond the Pit.  Enjoy!

What is it about Titan's monsters that are so great?

As we say in Thailand, the monsters of Titan just have that "same same, but different" feeling. You've got the standard fantasy tropes present, but then you have the gonzo stuff, like the Gonchong, the Ganjees, the Red-Eyes, the Bloodbeasts, and so on. For people like me, Out of the Pit was better than the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio because it had "colour" text, and no stupid monsters like the Morkoth or the Flumph.

What is your favourite monster?  Why?

The Bloodbeast. There's just something very iconic about Iain McCaig's cover depicting it for Deathtrap Dungeon.

Now that you have done Beyond the Pit, what do you have planned next?

Too much as always! I'm toying with the idea of a herbiary for Advanced Fighting Fantasy, in the style of Arion Game's rejig of the Sorcery Spellbook. I also need to plan and write the solo adventure Barbarian Warlord! for an upcoming issue of Fighting Fantazine,  as well as part 2 of the multi-player AFF adventure "The Hunt for the Black Whale", not to mention a Windhammer Competition entry for this year, and a bunch of other stuff as well.

What would you say to someone who wants to contribute to the world of gamebooks?

Read as many gamebooks as you can, particularly classics like Dave Morris' Heart of Ice, the Bloodsword series, and the Fabled Lands series.

What's an absolute no no when it comes to writing gamebooks?

These days I think it's Instant Death Paragraphs. Boring, pointless, and a waste of space. Others might say One True Path - they want variability and replayability.

What ingredients make an excellent gamebook?

A good story, an interesting setting, and fun and understandable rules go a long way to creating an immersive in-game flow experience.

What's your next gamebook-related project?

It's either Barbarian Warlord! which will be a shorter reboot of Armies of Death for Fighting Fantazine (but with better mass combat army rules), or my Windhammer Competition entry for this year.

Where do you think that the world of gamebooks is headed?

At the moment it seems to be diverging between app-based gamebooks and RPG-based sourcebooks for former gamebook systems or gameworlds.

What is your wish for gamebooks?

More physical gamebooks. People say the printed word is dead but as I spend most of my day staring at a laptop screen, I like to read a physical book to chill out. Dead tree versions of Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures (including my own Catacombs of the Undercity), Fabled Lands books 7-12, and more Fighting Fantasy books would be definite purchases for me. They need to be reasonably priced however - I didn't go near the Way of the Tiger Kickstarter because it was just too pricey. Arion Games has shown you can launch simple Kickstarters with minimal stretch goal nonsense and a quick product return and I think that's the way to go.