Thursday, March 26, 2015

April A to Z preivew - an interview with P.J. Montgomery, creator of the Trolltooth Wars comic

Hello gamebookers! The April A to Z is upon us again, and once again the wonderful gamebook
community has been very generous with answering my questions and giving me some interviews.

I thought I'd give you a sneak peek of one of the interviews coming up. This one is with P.J. Montgomery, the creator of the Trolltooth Wars comic. P.J. is currently running a kickstarter to fund his comic and if that succeeds, maybe the other stories could be turned into comics.

You can back the kickstarter (is kickstarter always a proper noun?) here.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a writer, originally from Surrey, but currently based in Cardiff. I've got a number of credits to my name, including co-writer on the horror comedy comic Stiffs, a short story in the superhero anthology The Pride Adventures, plus a number of episodes of the online radio sitcom, Supermarket Matters.

What is your favourite Fighting Fantasy book?

Oh, that's a big question. There are plenty that I love a lot. Warlock of Firetop Mountain will always have a special place in my heart, since it was not only the first in the series, but the first one I had. Being a massive fan of superhero comics, I also love Appointment With FEAR (despite how difficult Steve made it!), and the atmosphere of City of Thieves makes that a firm favourite. However, if I absolutely had to pick, it would probably be a tie between Moonrunner (a medieval murder mystery with plenty of dark horror elements really appeals to me) and Howl of the Werewolf (just the idea behind that book is absolutely brilliant).

How did you get involved in the Trolltooth Wars?

The original idea to turn Trolltooth Wars into a graphic novel was mine. It was something I'd been mulling over for a while, but hadn't really made any strides towards making a reality. One morning, just on the off chance, I decided to e-mail Jamie Fry (the Warlock of the FF website, who handles rights enquiries for Steve and Ian). Later that day, I had an e-mail sitting in my inbox from Steve Jackson, and it all moved on from there. And can I just say, for someone who grew up reading Fighting Fantasy books, and being a lifelong fan, just having an e-mail from Steve was pretty exciting!

Apart from the novel itself, what other source material have you used to help you with your graphic novel?

I've gone back to the original FF books to feature the key characters and locations in the novel, so Citadel of Chaos, Creature of Havoc, Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Forest of Doom have all been thumbed through a fair bit. There are also a couple of small moments which refer to both City of Thieves and Caverns of the Snow Witch, plus my copies of Titan and the Tenth Anniversary Year Book have both been well thumbed for this project.

How was running a kickstarter?

It's been an interesting experience. It's a lot of work, more than I was expecting if I'm honest. I have friends who have run Kickstarters before, both successful and unsuccessful, and they all told me that it was a lot of work, but I don't think it quite hits you just what that means until you actually do it. And there are the days when you're not getting many pledges come through, when it can really get you down, even though, rationally, you know from the off that some days will be slower than others. But overall, I've found it to be a fun and rewarding experience. It's put me in contact with a lot of Fighting Fantasy fans all over the world, all of whom have been very supportive of the project and a pleasure to talk to.

Do you have any advice to people who want to run a kickstarter?

Make sure you're ready before you launch. We had to delay the launch of ours when we had the opportunity to add in some extra rewards, but I'm glad we did, because it gave us more time to work on it and make sure it was ready. Honestly, you can't do too much preparation for this. And make sure that you're ready to be working solidly while the Kickstarter runs. Finally, try not to let the slow days get to you. They'll happen, but you just have to move on and wait for the better days. I could do with listening to that last one myself a bit more!

Any plans for the other Fighting Fantasy novels to be turned into graphic novels?

Not at the moment, no. Don't get me wrong, I would love to carry on and adapt both Demonsteadler and Shadowmaster, then move on to adapt all four Zagor Chronicles, but we really have to see how Trolltooth Wars does first. If it does well, then maybe. The more people who buy Trolltooth Wars, the more the chance of further Fighting Fantasy comics increases. So if fans are interested, and they haven't done so yet, they should really back Steve Jackson's The Trolltooth Wars on Kickstarter!

Do you have any other projects that you would like to plug?

I can't really leave you without mentioning Stiffs in a little more detail. It's a horror comedy set in the South Wales Valleys, about a group of twenty-something call centre workers who hunt zombies in their spare time. One of them just happens to be a talking monkey. It's co-written by myself, Drew Davies and Joe Glass, with art by Trolltooth Wars artist, Gavin Mitchell. The first three issues (of five) are available now, either through ComiXology, or our own webstore.

I'm also the scriptwriter on an upcoming comic, Dynamite. This one is the story of Harry Harwich, a man who, disillusioned with his life and the world around him, becomes the anti-establishment vigilante, Dynamite. It's based on an album of the same name by musician Kevin Pearce, who I co-plotted the book with, an illustrated by Shaun Speight. It's due out later this year, but fans can be kept updated on the Facebook page!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Computer game - World Conquest from Wisisoft

Hello gamebookers! I'm going to talk about World Conquest a game that I think is super obscure, yet has a special place in my heart.

World Conquest is basically a really simple version of Civilisation with only warfare involved. You get a map of the word where there are cities, resources (metal, rubber, oil) and instillations (airfields and harbours). The aim is to produce army, navy and air units to take over the world. Cities need 1 rubber, 1 oil and 1 metal per turn. Army units can be carried in transport ships but they can only enter them on cities or harbours and aircraft have to land in cities or airfields to refuel or they crash.

I first found it on an ST format cover disc ages ago and enjoyed playing it then. Recently, I found a video of someone playing it on Youtube and asked them how they got it. I downloaded it myself and played it, but got horribly trounced, because I'd left the skill setting on quite high (I don't think my version had a skill setting)

The game suffers from the problems that the objective is to destroy every city, installation, resource and unit that belongs to everyone else whilst making it easier to defend than attack. This resulted in most games being very long and involving you spending time first gathering resources, then building units to defend your territory, then finally build up a huge invasion force to wage a slow war of attrition against your enemy.

However, it does have charm for being simple and diverting enough. It had a couple of nice quirks - you could play as the only side to see how long it would take you to conquer the world, or you could play as two humans and build up huge forces to unleash on one another. I enjoyed this.

I would love to find a game similar to world conquest in app form as it is simple to learn and play.

Happy gamebooking!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Windhammer 2015 guidelines out

Hello gamebookers! Just a quick post to say that the guidelines for the 2015 Windhammer competition are out. The entries aren't actually open until August, but this is a good time to get started.

The rules don't seem much different - still a 100 section adventure of up to 25000 words on 40 A4 pages. Illustrations are allowed if they are maps or relevant to puzzles and you can have any genre except erotica( Silkwords can cover that).

If you want to enter, but the idea of writing and organising the sections then randomising them sound a little daunting, then the Gamebook Authoring Tool can do 100 section books for free.

And if you want to see the kind of gamebooks that get written for the Windhammer competition, you can find the archive here and read some really in depth reviews from Brewin here.

So start your brainstorming and writing so that you have the chance to win 300 Australian dollars and see your gamebook as an app made by Tin Man Games.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

RPG - Maelstrom

Maelstrom was brought to my attention thanks to Graham Bottley at Arion Games who republished the Maelstrom Domesday.
original book and then followed up with expansions and then his own version -

The original Maelstrom was published in 1984 by Alexander Scott, who was 16 at the time, obviously in order to tell me that I wasted my teenage years.  The game, is set in Tudor times when there is significant upheaval in the country.  Characters are ordinary people who have to survive in such times.  Your characters can be butchers, traders, priests, mercenaries and rogues.  If you want, magick can be introduced or left out with no real effect on the game.  This is because most magick in Maelstrom works by producing outcomes that are likely to happen anyway (such as making someone fall over etc.) except they would be things that the mage wants.  Things that are physically impossible would be spells of the highest power and extremeley difficult to pull off.  It's always amused me that Magic Missile, which would be a simple spell for most magic users, would be almost impossible for a Maelstrom mage.

Characters have 10 stats with values from 1-100.  Tests are done by rolling a d100 and trying to get under or equal to that value.

Maelstrom is very good for being very simple and also very realistic.  There is a wide range of weapons with different levels of quality, which is demonstrated by having different modifications to attack skill and defence skill and different dice for damage.  Combat is very punishing, but the idea of the game is not to fight all the time - it is to navigate your way through a time where the monasteries were being dissolved and poverty was rampant.  Peasants hunted witches and greed and betrayal were everywhere.

Maelstrom is a very versatile game as it can cover almost every theme - you could have a party of traders and labourers and do a business campaign. Or you can have a band of mercenaries, bladesmiths and rogues for a miltary campaign.  Or, you could have a group of priests and mages for a supernatural campaign or a campaign where all of your characters are beggars and rogues who have to eke out a living.  The Maelstrom Companion and the Beggar's companion help expand on the original rules.

If you fancy a standard Fantasy Dungeon Crawl, then you could use the Maelstrom Fantasy Toolkit.  The mechanics in Maelstrom are versatile enough that they can fit into almost any setting.

Graham Bottley has improved upon the orignal ruleset with Maelstrom Domesday.  In the original Maelstrom, you had your stats and a living, which allowed you some special privileges.  However, these extra living based privileges were not systematised in any way.  The only way you could pick locks was to become a burglar - there was no pick locks skill.  What Graham has done is put certain talents along with each living making the system more streamlined and systematic.  He has also created a lifepath character creation system, where you roll dice to determine what careers your character has.  I have done some and put them here.   Some turn out OK, but some end up with broken ribs and leprosy before they start.

Maelstrom is very versatile and puts lots of detail into many things such as its herbs, alchemical recipes and
other situations.  It got me thinking about the balance between complexity and options in gamebooks.

However, gamebooks have the advantage that no one needs to know the inner workings of the mechanics because their limited options and lack of human interface mean that the writer of a gamebook does not need to think of every rule in detail before deciding the outcome of a decision, especially when it may be the only situation in the gamebook when that situation in the whole gamebook.

There does, however, need to be a balance.  It may not be a detailed rule that informed the decision but it has to have some logic or common sense to it.  In a lot of ways, gamebook writers have it easy.  We don't have to memorise and familiarise ourselves with massive tomes of rules and remember endless numbers.  In fact, it is better that we don't and that we keep the numbers simple.  However, we do have to make more rules than the ones we present the players in the book - for example, laws of magic, maps of the areas the players go to, characteristics of different people and groups.

 These rules may not present themselves overtly in our books, but they might become apparent to the
observant reader.  When I see a sense of consistency and logic in a gamebook, I do find that comforting.  It shows that the writer has thought about their world and how it works and that I might be able to work out something that could help me later.  It's something I will endeavor to do in my future gamebooks.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Legend of the Wayfarer simplified

Hello gamebookers!

After writing a few books using my Legend of the Wayfarer rules, I have a better idea of what I want from them and what I don't. Basically, I could make the rules even simpler and got rid of item creation, fate points, die rolling over small consequences and accounting when it came to herbs and ore. I'm hoping that the rules are as simple as possible and I will be changing the current books to accommodate them.

Here is the latest copy of Legend of the Wayfarer. It is a mere 2850 words long. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Legend of the Wayfarer - new abilites

Hello all,

As I expected, I had to change the rules to Legend of the Wayfarer as I wrote more books. The main change came with the abilities. I knew when I started that I was going to add more abilities, but I just wasn't sure what they were. For a moment, I increased the number of abilities from 6 to 18, but now I have it down to 12. The abilities are:

Combat:  This ability covers the act of fighting, whether unarmed, or with weapons.  It also covers ranged combat and grappling.

Roguery:  This ability covers the talents of larceny – picking pockets, picking locks, sneaking around, looking for a weak spot to enter etc. 

Athletics:  This ability covers physical activities – running, climbing, swimming and many other things.

Insight:  This measures your level of knowledge of the world and also how good you are at perceiving things.

Psychic:  This ability is a measure of your intuition and your sensitivity to the supernatural and spiritual goings on in this world.  With training, you can harness your psychic talent to influence the world around you.

Social:  This ability covers anything that involves working with other people, whether it is selling goods, bribing them, intimidating them or making an impassioned speech.

Magick:  The ability to bend the tides of fate to your will and to better understand arcane language and to cast magical spells and rituals. If you have the magick ability, you may spend 3 will points to reroll any fate die.

Survival:  The ability to find food and shelter in most terrains and the knowledge of the animals that live there. A character with the survival ability is also able to identify healing plants and use them. If you have the survival ability, you are able to use plants to make healing preparations. This means you may spend 3 will points to restore 3 vitality points. Survival does not cover perception outside (covered by insight) or the ability to get across tough terrain (covered by athletics).

Alchemy:  The ability to use various minerals to make different substances. If you have the alchemy ability, you are able to use minerals to make dangerous substances such as acid and firepowder. If you have the alchemy ability, you may spend 3 will points to inflict 3 damage to an opponent as a ranged attack. This attack ignores armour.

Mysticism:  This ability gives the character a better sense of the energies holding beings together. It allows characters to have some limited power over the fae and spirits of the world when warding them.  If you have the mystic ability and you win a round in a contest of will, your opponent loses 1 extra will point (usually 3 points instead of 2).

Tactics:  The ability to excel in situations that involve the character to read opponents, exploit their weaknesses and organise allies. If you have the tactics ability, if you are wearing no armour, your armour score is 1. Also, you damage score is 1 higher than normal.

Pathfinding: The ability to navigate and use vehicles and animals for travelling. A character with the pathfinding is able to work on ships and ride most common mounts and use carts and carriages. They are also less likely to get lost.