Friday, July 29, 2011

How to write a gamebook part 1d - ideas

You know what
Edward Bulwer-Lytton said
If you have not yet read the introduction, it will help you if you do.  You can find it here.

First of all, we have loads of ideas every day.  Tons of them.  I second Andrew Wright's advice from Fighting Fantazine 4 to carry a notepad and pen or pencil around. I carry a notepad around with me all the time.  Now that I write every good idea down, I realise that we all have many many ideas every day, but if we don't put them anywhere, they may get lost in the aether.  Knowing this, I obsessively write down any ideas I have.

What would have happened if I
had packed the crossbow?
When you have an idea about an adventure, think about what the player could do and what the consequences of their actions are. Think about what would plausably happen in the situation.  A gamebook can have its own set of laws but we stick to them to suspend disbelief. Then plan it out using one of the three methods above.  Next week, we will turn it into gamebook form.

And because pirates
are cool.
Here are a few gamebooks I have written and where I got the ideas from:

I got my idea for Sharkbait's revenge from the Pirates' Who's Who

In The Name of Love was a Fighting Fantasy book inspired by Valentine's day

The Presence of a Hero was a Fighting Fantasy book made for Christmas

It's just a matter of who's first.

The Triad of Skulls was based on the film Predator (Some alien stalks a jungle, killing off the soliders one by one.  Well here, you stalk the jungle killing off some criminals one by one)

Other sources of inspiration

He's got no body left

As well as stories gamebooks provide different worlds to set your stories on.  They can be a great source of inspiration.


So all of time and space.
Anything that ever happened
or ever will.
One condition:  It must be amazing.
There are many periods in history that have inspired gamebooks.  A lot of fantasy gamebooks are set in a quasi medieval period.  This blog has a Medieval Monday post which could be used for inspiration.  This blog has lots of good medieval stuff.  Many RPG and gamebook blogs also focus on medieval life such as the female armour posts in the Realm of Zhu blog.  I have also come across a book called Knight:  The Medieval Warrior's Unnoficial Manual.

There are also books for gladiators and legionaries for an Ancient Roman setting.

How about Aztecs?

Or the Mayans?  (Necklace of Skulls)

Or Ancient Greece? (The Tasks of Tantalon)

Or the Iron age?


I'm a fan of H,P. Lovecraft (you can find all of his works here and there are podcasts based on his works here and here) and his cosmic horror stories can provide lots of inspiration, especially since his stories leave a lot of unanswered questions.

Role playing websites

A website called Roleplaying Tips has hundreds of newsletters on roleplaying which may help with gamebook ideas. Issue 14 has a list of books that will give you ideas for any setting.

RPG Gateway ha lots of RPG resources including historical references. 

Science fiction podcasts

A couple of podcasts that give good ideas for Sci fi settings are the Drabblecast which has scifi and strange fiction.

The Future and You is a podcast about both science fiction and speculation on future trends and technology.  Sometimes, reality can be stranger than fiction.
Conspiracy Theories and wierd stuff

Whether you believe in them or not, the interviews on Binnall of AmericaParatopia, and The Corbett Report have great material for ideas.


I like going to museums and taking pictures of artefacts and reading stories about them.  They can be about al kinds of wierd and wonderful things.  I found this museum in Spain which is all about torture.

These websites has lots of free resources that can be used for inspiration.

Online generators

The internet seems to have a generator for pretty much anything.  Seventh Sanctum has a story generator for fantasy, modern, scifi or free for all.  It also has a generator for characterssettings and writing amongst many other things.

Chaotic Shiny has many many generators including plot/writing generators.

Donjon has generators for fantasy and scifi that are more RPG scenario based but they can also be used for inspiration.

I love this site.  If you search for a book, a film, a play or any other work, you will find a list of tropes that make it up.  In this sense, a trope is not what a trope is usually considered to be but in this ontext, it is a story device.  We all know about tropes.  If we know that the unnamed security guard in Star Trek will be dead in the next five minutes, then we know a trope.  There are many many other tropes and we can use them in our gamebooks.  There is even a TVtropes page for gamebooks.

Real life

Sometimes you can get plenty of strange and inspiring stories just by keeping your eyes and ears open.  You never know where they will turn up.

For example, a few months ago, when I was getting my hair cut, the hairdresser told me about a Christmas he had where his dad bought a live eel to eat except it kept on thrashing around and trying to escape.  After a struggle with this eel, my hairdresses dad managed to cut its head off.  It stopped, but then the body started thrashing around.  I thought that would be a great idea for a monster in a fantasy or horror gamebook.

The blogosphere

There are plenty of great blogs to do with RPGs and gaming.  Some of them have free resources.  Here are some:

Anyone got any more to recommend?


For the main page, go here.

For the map method of planning, go here.

For the flow diagram method of planning, go here.

For the just write it!  method, go here.

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