Sunday, October 27, 2019

Good things about Coils of Hate part 3 - the city and the atmosphere

NOTE: I wrote this post a long time ago and I've only just released it. Since then, Mark Smith generously gave me his permission to release a fan version I made which reboots the original book and (I hope) addresses the problems it had. You can get it from Drive Thru RPG for free!!!!!

So Coils of Hate in its current form does not work as a gamebook. However, the problem for this lies with technical issues of linking sections and actually, it has a lot of good stuff in place. I've been going through the book quite thoroughly recently and

Godorno is a stinking cess pit of a city. You live in a rotten hovel with nothing but a bug infested bed and a few utensils to your name. As soon as you leave it, the door breaks off and someone enters it to find something to steal. As you walk around the city, you see the poor, the starving and the diseased walking through streets with abandoned houses, cages full of plague victims and draconian militia. At one point, you see several human hearts float down the river. When you return, you find some friends starving in a cramped, damp cellar. You might also encounter Tyutchev in a cramped dive bar.

You go to other locations from the opulent Overlord's palace to the mysterious Tower of the Sentinel and there is a rich, vivid description of each place as you go there.

So, there is more to Coils of Hate than meets the eye. Why don't you have a read of it?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

200 Word RPG competition

Did you know that there is a 200 word RPG competition? Well, there is! The entries have just closed for this year, but there are plenty of 200 word RPGs to play.

After the deadline of October 12th 11:30PM EST (so 3:30AM GMT) - there's still time left - the winners will be announced on November 18th!

Take a look at the awesome competition, and, if you are quick, you can still enter!!!!

You can support the 200 word competition here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Cybe's Website - awesome gaming and gamebook website

Alison Cybe is a great award winning author who has made many wonderful things including Shush! A Horror Anthology and I was a Gay Teenage Zombie.

She has also written many RPG adventures and has very thorough write ups on her fabulous website (It is so slick and gorgeous).

She also made a great video at Fighting Fantasy Fest.

Alison has write ups of the first 24 Fighting Fantasy books.

You can also get Alison's awesome playthroughs by supporting her Patreon for a mere £5 a month or more.

Happy gamebooking!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The good points of Coils of Hate part 2: The NPCs

NOTE: I wrote this post a long time ago and I've only just released it. Since then, Mark Smith generously gave me his permission to release a fan version I made which reboots the original book and (I hope) addresses the problems it had. You can get it from Drive Thru RPG for free!!!!!

Here is part 2 on the good points of Coils of Hate - its NPCs. This book does not try to keep your interest with strange monsters and combats. In fact, there are few monsters in the book (Hate, a giant spider and some constructs). Most of your interactions are with other humans, but Mark Smith and Dave Morris go even further with this idea. In most gamebooks, you seem to have no place in the society you interact with - everyone seems to have no connection to you. However, in The Coils of Hate, since you have lived in Godorno all your life, the authors have come up with a list of people, their relationship to you and their personalities. This adds a lot more dimension to the gamebook and atmosphere to the city. Here is a list of some NPCs and how they interact with you.

The Overlord: I want to see more of him. We all know he has an oppressive rule, mismanages the city and encourages oppression of the Judain to cover for his mistakes, but we never actually hear him speak or see him do anything besides sleep. I want to know his motivations more. I would love to hear him make a speech on his philosophy.

Lucie: Lucie is a very interesting character. She actually helps you once (when breaking you into the prison of Grond), but most of the time she is a hindrance who likes watching you fight over her (against Tyutchev) or steals your amulet or even gets you killed for the price on your head.

Tarkamandir: It's not often people who sell you things get much characterisation, but this one does. You have a few conversations with him which imply that you know each other well.

Tyutchev: Although your character doesn't know him, anyone who's read any other book set on Orb does. He's here. He's causing trouble. And you still can't kill him.

Melmelo: The leader of the Thieves' Guild. A pragmatist who wants hate killed because it's bad for business. The text tells you that his approach grates against your idealistic outlook, and you have the option of killing him, but it's better to put your idealism aside in this case and join forces with him against the common enemy.

Marmeluke: A friend of yours who seems perpetually jolly despite having to eat cats. He does seem to have a lot of lady friends, however, so maybe that's why. He's very helpful and helps you get into Grond, which has a necessary item to kill Hate and survive.

Ruth: Mainly there for the situation of how you treat a pregnant woman when saving her could put your life at risk.

Caiaphas: Puts you in your place very early on. He is one of the few reasonable people in a city full of fanatics and haters.

Tormil: The captain of the guard who has a very minor role, but he demonstrates the greed that some people can exhibit in a crisis as well as the fact that even people who commit evil acts have loved ones (in this case, his daughter).

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The good points of Coils of Hate part 1: The hero

NOTE: I wrote this post a long time ago and I've only just released it. Since then, Mark Smith generously gave me his permission to release a fan version I made which reboots the original book and (I hope) addresses the problems it had. You can get it from Drive Thru RPG for free!!!!!

Coils of Hate is a gamebook in the Virtual Reality series written by Mark Smith. In the book, you are a member of the Judain community in the decadent city of Godorno. Your people are much hated upon and to make matters worse, about 5 sections into the book, the corrupt overlord of the city makes the hate official, banning Judain from the city unless they are slaves. You have to flee the city. When you return, things have really gone south. The overlord's men are hunting and killing Judain, there has been a plague and a giant purple creature is stalking the city, swallowing up people and undermining its foundations. For some reason, you are the only person who can stop all of this.

Now the book is maligned due to logic errors which cause a lot of frustration. Per Jorner has put in a lot of effort to catalogue them and Dave Morris has acknowledged that they need a lot of editing, but if you look past the logic errors, there is actually a lot of depth and great aspects to the book that surpass many other gamebooks.

The first aspect is the main character.

First of all, I would like to say that the character you play is an idiot. He (and, based on his relationship with Lucie, it is probably a he) does have some skills, but against the worst that Godorno has to offer, he is completely out of his depth. Want to fight Tyutchev? You'll probably die. What about go to some pub that thieves drink in? If you don't have streetwise, you'll get your throat cut. How about threatening or bribing a bunch of guards? You'll get peppered with crossbow bolts. Surely you can organise the resistance against the guards? No, they will also get peppered with crossbow bolts. How about tomb robbing? Can't harm the Jade guards. Killing the overlord? Failure is the only option. He doesn't even want a job, thinking that is beneath him.

Basically, it seems that the only thing you can succeed at is running away.

Now, I think the main character is an idiot, but I also think he is an extremely well fleshed out and written idiot with a depth that almost no other main character in a gamebook has.

He has a great can-do attitude: Despite only taking a few sections, your trip out of the city is vital at the beginning of the book - it gets you away from the city when things really go bad and crush the spirit of your people. You miss the plague and the initial attacks on the Judain. You also miss the first attacks by Hate. As a result of this, you are one of the few people in the city whose spirit hasn't been completely crushed, which means that you are ready to do whatever it takes to save your people. Due to the fact that everyone else is desperate, they actually listen to you.

He has friends and enemies: The character has people who know him and who he can drop in on. Now sometimes, these friends just pop out of nowhere, but they are introduced with familiarity. Tarkamandir, Caiaphas, Marmeluke and Lucie are exaples of the character's friends. The character knows Melmelo the thief and disapproves of him.

He has desires: He wants to make something of his life, which is what the introduction says, but not get a job. I'm putting this down to the arrogance of youth rather than the protagonist actually knowing that they will achieve something great. He must have a high opinion of himself when he is living in a broken down hovel yet somehow knows he is destined for greatness. He also desires Lucie. There are many points in the text where you can tell that the character is so besotted with Lucie that what is actually happening and what they are feeling are completely at odds.

He perceives things through an emotional lens: Most gamebooks simply describe the five senses to the reader, but this one demonstrates the characters thoughts and feelings. The book mixes the five senses and character perception well, so that you, as the reader can see that the character has a warped version of reality in places. This is most apparent when Lucie is involved. When she steals your amulet, your first thought is that she is being influenced by some supernatural creature, not the fact that she wants to sell it. There are also parts where there is a discrepancy between how skilled you think you are and how skilled you actually are. For example, in a section where you organise the resistance to take on the Overlord's men, you feel quite happy with your plan. And then the Overlord's men fire a bunch of crossbows at the resistance and completely curb stomp them. Oops.

So there we go. Here we have a main character who is really up against it. Their steps to being a hero is fraught with failure and sacrifice and yet, they are the only person who can do it as they haven't had their spirit completely crushed by oppression, plague of hate itself. They become a hero simply by just doing something.

I think this quote from Mark Twain sums up the hero perfectly:

"Only two things are required for success - confidence and ignorance."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

3 rules I had to be reminded of when writing Asuria

Asuria Awakens, my addition to the Tin Man Games Orlandes series is still out in the App store. It was released on September 11th 2015, making it almost its anniversary.

I thought I would share some lessons I leant whilst writing it.

1)  Don't annoy the player.

There's a reason why this is number 1.  It doesn't matter how clever you're being, or how great you're writing is.  It's all for nothing if it annoys the player.  I had a section in Asuria where you get sucked into a maelstrom and pulled into a giant monster.  Now, throughout the book, I wanted to give an impression of hopelessness and that winning was impossible, so in this section, I offered two choices - row or swim.  however, both choices lead to you being sucked away.  There was no functional difference between them.  The reason I did this was to make the reader think that they had chosen the 'wrong' choice and make them feel like it was hopeless.  However, I then thought that if they went back, chose the other choice and realised that there was not difference, then they would have got annoyed.  So I got rid of that bit.

2)  If you need an item, make sure you have a chance to get it towards the point you need.

I'm referring to point 4 on the terrific article linked above.  I wanted Asuria to be a book where you did not have to complete a set path to win and it would be quite forgiving in terms of instant deaths.  So there is only 1 section where you need an item or die.  And when I wrote it, you had the chance to find 3 different items that would save you.  However, when I went back through it, I realised that these 3 items were all at the beginning of the book and that you could go through 2/3 of it with not chance of success only for you to die at the end.  It is for this reason that I included a new location towards the end with a new item to help (the bat amulet in case you're wondering)

3)  If you give the player an option to leave, don't just let it lead to an insta kill.

This is one thing Dave Morris, author of the Fantastic Heart of Ice, does not like about gamebooks, so when I realised that I had done it in Asuria, I immediately changed it.  I had two bits where you could leave Casporur and head back to Orlandes before you finish (one by land and one by sea) and they might be justifiable too (you might have found the simulacra you were looking for and you were charged with the safety of Orlandes, not Casporur after all).  However, since I didn't want this to happen, it was an instant death paragraph.  However, after the interview, I inserted a combat to both bits where the simulacra you fight warns you that you will be followed wherever you go as a not too subtle message to stick around.  After a warning like that, I feel absolved of guilt about anyone who ignores that warning and heads home anyway.

Honourable mention: Never have a combat where you have an offence of 1.

Combat in Tin Man Games works like this. You roll a number of dice equal to your offence. Your opponent rolls a number of dice equal to their defence. The winner is not the one with the highest total number, but the one whose highest die roll is higher than their opponent's highest die roll. If the attacker wins, they deal damage equal to the number of all the dice added together. Then it's the other combatant's turn. This means that if you have an offence of 1, you are rolling 1 die. Even against a defender with a defence of 1, the chance of hitting is not large and if you do hit, you deal 2-6 damage at most, which means it will take a while to kill your opponent. I did not want lots of busy time, so I made sure that your character always has a dagger with an offence of 2 and it is impossible to lose it. Also, I had unavoidable weapon upgrades so that I knew the player could keep up with their opponents.

You can get Asuria Awakens from the app store.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The creation process

I created SCRAWL as the easiest, quickest system to write a gamebook from.

However, I have discovered that making a system to enable something able to be done quick and easily is a long and difficult process.

Obviously, once the system is in place, then things will take off.

I got this idea from a book (it's title escapes me now) that talked about MacDonald's success. The book states that pretty much anyone could make a burger that is better than a MAcDonald's burger. However, the rub lies in making several burgers with the speed and consistency of MacDonald's burgers that are better than MacDonald's burgers. We couldn't do that. And that is why MacDonald's is a success. It is not in the quality of its burgers, but is ability to be able to cheaply set up a restaurant and easily train pretty much anyone to make their products.

This is my aim with SCRAWL.

I started writing a SCRAWL mini adventure and it took a lot longer than I thought it would because I didn't have a system in place. This was a blessing in disguise, because it made me realise that I needed something like a checklist to think as little as possible about the process and that to perfect it, I should start small.

So I did. I am currently on my first Small SCRAWL adventure, but I'm going to write more of them until I have the system sorted and then I will move onto bigger ones.

This reminded me of Ten short Fighting Fantasy books and one long one (I really wasn't very good at titles about 9 years ago!) which I had written specifically to hone my gamebook craft.

I did it by writing short gamebooks and then writing what I had learned from each one.

I think I need to do the same exercise with SCRAWL. Basically, even though it is my system, it already seems to have a life of its own and I need to get to know it better.

So there we go. My journey in writing gamebooks continues...