Sunday, August 28, 2011

Year in review

OK, OK, I admit it.  I'm writing this blog on August 23rd, so it's not quite a year, but I'm away on the 28th, so I won't be able to put my exact stats for that day up.  So shoot me.

So I have now had this blog for a year, so I thought I'd talk about how it's grown over the past twelve months.

I'd just like to thank everyone who has fed back to me, encouraged me and followed me over the past year.  This blog has opened up a whole world of gamebook to me.

I started this blog as an education for myself.  In this age, we absorb too much information without analyzing it properly and discerning its true meaning.  I aim to learn more about how to create a good gamebook.  It has now grown to include Twitter and Youtube.

Over the past year, I have written 124 posts (including this one) and had 18045 pageviews (although I'm sure that most of them involve people searching for images based on the searches I can see).  My Twitter account now has 157 followers and my Youtube channel has 2 videos about gamebooks.  I also have a Facebook group with 17 followers.

Things people have asked for more of

Image found here.
Pictures - I will supply more of these.  A picture paints a thousand words.

Vlogs - I liked doing the vlog and I will do more in the future.  I am planning on commenting on my gamebooks in vlog form.

Quotes from players playing a gamebook - I need to start this up again as people asked for it.  I will do this in future.

Lessons I've learnt from this blog

Listen to BlogcastFM.  Most of the things I've learnt have come from this excellent podcast.

Review things ASAP to give them and you the most coverage.  I made a mistake with Destiny Quest.  I scheduled it, but I should have just published it.

Build up relationships with readers - such as having a dialogue with them or emailing them.  It makes blogging more rewarding.

Write lots of posts in advance so that you acn deal with stuff that comes up - this is because real life stuff comes up and when you start putting yourself out there, you start getting emails to deal with.

Think very hard about a good title - I called the blog virtual fantasies as a mixture of Virtual REality and Fighting Fantasy.  I then tried to get another name ( but it didn't work as I had two blogs with different followers.  I got rod of the new URL as it was causing confusion.

April A to Z - Doing this got me lots of pageviews and followers.  It was well worth it.


As you can see from this, after a dip in November and December (when I did very little posting), my views have gone up 
every month.  I think August will be the month when I hit a plateau.
My top posts are mostly reviews.

Here are my top reference sites - thankyou guys!

The future

I am actually going to do more gamebook writing in the future.  I hope to release a small gamebook every month.

I have written most of the posts for the rest of this year and some for next year.  I have a lot of posts of inspirations for my gamebooks.

I have more reviews to write about gamebooks and the websites that they appear on as well as analysis of gamebooks and their characters.

I'm looking forward to sharing my second year with you all :).

Happy gamebooking!  And for those of you writing a gamebook to share, keep it up!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to write a gamebook part 4 - characters and descriptions

This post will discuss what you need to consider when you are thinking about characters in our gamebook and how to describe them.

The character you play

In early Fighting Fantasy books, your character was a warrior with very little description, but that does not have to be the case.  You can think about any distinguishing features the character might have (for example in Black Vein Prophecy, they look like Feior and can use that to their advantage), any history they might have (In Crimson Tide, the hero has to avenge their father and their mother is a slave), any friends they may have (such as Baralo from Slaves of the Abyss) and any connection to the villain they may have (Moonrunner)

The second thing you need to consider with the character is how much information you are going to give them.  Are you just going to describe sensory information to them or are you going to write thoughts, feelings and speech for the character too?  How much role playing will you leave to the reader?  Just having sensory information can be boring but if you have the character think and say a lot then this enforced role play cannot cut out the reader's choices.


Make sure that the villain fits into the setting.  Also a good trick to add depth to a story is to have the hero and villain connected in some way.  I don't have anything else to add to the post I wrote here, so I will just link to it.

Companions you have

Some gamebooks involve you having companions.  First of all, how do they fit into the story?  When you have decided that, we need to decide how they affect the story, think about what they look like, what their abilities are and how the reader will interact with the companion(s).  If we write sections where the player may or may not have a companion then it is hard to write a paragraph that could include both having and not having a companion.  Jonathon Green deals with this well in stromslayer by having an star by paragraph numbers and telling the reader to turn to a new paragraph if they are with a companion.  A similar thing is done in Creature of Havoc.

Here is a list of gamebooks that include companions:

Magehunter (Reindhardt)
Most of the Grailquest books (Excalibur Junior the talking sword)
Down Amongst Dead Men (Blutz, Oakly and Grimes)
Heart of Ice (Kyle Boche)
Caverns of the Snow Witch (Redswift and Stubb)
Crypt of the Sorcerer (Symm and Borri)
Eye of the Dragon (Littlebig)
Stormslayer (Brokk)
Night of the Necromancer (your dog)
The Race Forever (your navigator)
The Horror of High Ridge (Ricardo and Lisa)

Mooks have their place as obstacles for the player but they should not be overused as the gamebook becomes one big bloodbath.  Generally mooks' only strategy is combat and possibly being present in large numbers.  There are many strategies for dealing with them - fighting with them, sneaking past them, turning them against each other, knocking them out etc.  However, they should only be used a few times before the hero will want a more complicated problem to deal with.  

Like all characters, the mooks need to fit the flavour of the setting.  Fantasy settings use orcs, zombies, goblins, skeletons and foot soldiers.  Scifi settings use robots, genetically engineered foot soldiers and alien beasts.  Animals could be mooks in most places.  

"Wild card" characters

Wild card is the name I give to characters who could help or hinder you or maybe even do both at different points in the book.  They are more complicated than mooks and maybe even villains and they present a great chance to have some complicated interactions in our gamebook.

If a character is not just a mook then it is good to give them a sense of individuality.  What is your character like?  How do they fit into the setting?  How will they react to the hero?  What are the character's motivations?

For great descriptions of deep characters and complex interactions, read the free Heart of Ice by Dave Morris.  You will meet several individual characters towards the end of the book.  Have a chat with them all.

To read about archetypal characters and stock characters, click here.

To read some example gamebook characters, click here.

How to write a gamebook part 4a - archetypes and stock characters. Why people don't like them and when they are useful.

If you want to create good 3D characters, you could start from an archetype or stock character and then add some unique touches and character traits that make them more 3D.  You could also create characters that go against readers' expectations of stock characters or archetypes.  For example, there is an orc in Beneath Nightmare Castle who does more than just scream and charge at you.  There is also a character in Masks of Mayhem who is not as they appear at first, but I won't say any more.

mentor archetype

These are the definitions of archetype:

  • A very typical example of a certain person or thing
    • - the book is a perfect archetype of the genre

  • An original that has been imitated
    • - the archetype of faith is Abraham

  • A recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology
    • - mythological archetypes of good and evil

  • (in Jungian psychology) A primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.

  • The shadow archetype
    Every story tends to have archetypal characters, of which there are many.  However, these characters are more than just recurring characters.  They are universal representations of something deeper within us, such as our hopes, desires or fears.  I remember writing stories as a youngster without any knowledge of archetypes but including archetypal characters within our book.  We all know archetypes and we can all understand what they mean. 
    You can find a list of archetypal characters here and here

    Another mentor archetype

    Any ancient myth is laden with archetypes.  If you want a story that is basically just a lot of archetypes shoved together, read any culture's ancient myths.  For example, Ashanti myths focus on Anasi, a trickster archetype.  Greek myths and plays are full of archetypes and many myths have similar themes.

    Merzei:  'Down with the
    tyrant!  Up with the council!'

    If you create a story full of archetypes then you will create a great story that everyone can relate to.  So why shouldn't we overuse them?  Stories with archetypes will just end up being the same stories.  For example, the story of an ordinary person who is pulled out of their humdrum life by an old guide to go on a long quest to save everyone from a dark lord could fit both Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, two archetype heavy stories.

    However, archetypes are incredably useful as readers will immediately connect with them.  They are good to draw the player in and to quickly set the tone of the scene.  You can also put a twist or unique features on some archetypes so not every wise old wizard is a Gandalf clone.  You can also give them some lines and actions to allow them to show the player that they are individuals.  Yaztromo is a mentor archetype, but he is a grumpy one who has a crow for a friend and has decided to live near a dangerous forest.  As long as they are given a chance to become more than two dimensional, they will enrich the gamebook.  

    Gamebook archetypes:  YOU! (the hero), Yaztromo (the mentor), Merzei (the visionary), Janus Gaunt (the philosopher), The Riddling Reaver (the trickster).

    Stock characters

    The definition of a stock character is:

    • A stock character is a fictional character based on a common literary or social stereotype. Stock characters rely heavily on cultural types or names for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. ...

    • (stock characters) Established characters, such as young lovers, neighborhood busybodies, sneaky villains, and overprotective fathers, who are immediately recognizable by an audience.

    At least they have a knight to clarify matters.
    The great thing about stock characters is that they are instantly recognisable and they can help set the scene.  Want to show your player that you're in a rural village?  Have a straw chewing farmer lead a cow through the square saying 'ooarr' or maybe a group of filth covered stupid peasants who grab torches and pitchforks every time someone says the word 'witch!'

    The downside of stock characters is that they are one dimensional and if you stock a gamebook full of them, then your player will not have a particularly variety filled adventure.  Everything will become boringly predictable and stereotyped.

    You can make a stock character interesting by giving them some unique features or by playing them against type (a well dressed farmer who doesn't like getting money or a smart peasant who runs the village for example)

    Why have sanctuary when
    you can have a mad robot?
    There are many stock characters for all genres.  Here is a list of  scifi stock characters and stock characters from TVTropes.  There is a great list of sterotypes from many genres here including a list of fantasy stereotypes.

    Gamebook stock characters: Violent orcs, evil wizards, good wizards, mad robots, evil demons, raging barbarians, honourable knights, gruff innkepers, scurvy pirates, superintelligent aliens, benevolent aliens, homocidal aliens, ninjas, zombie hordes, peasant mobs and many more...

    So that's it about archetypal characters and stock characters.

    To return to the main page, click here.

    To read some example gamebook characters, click here.

    How to write a gamebook part 4b - some examples of gamebook characters

    Here are some details on different gamebook characters.  

    Your character - Lone Wolf

    Lone Wolf
    History:  You are a young Kai initiate who was sent to collect wood as a punishment for inattention in class.  When you return to your monastery, you see a huge coud of black leathery creatures attack your monastery.  Fortunately, you manage to escape by knocking yourself out(?) and wake up to find that your order has been destroyed and that you are the last of the Kai.  You must now warn your king.  This is only the beginning as your journey to the rank of master involves obtaining a powerful Kai weapon, finding the traitor who started all of this, preventing the resurrection of a darklord and, finally, killing a darklord and finding a sacred Kai text that will guide you into finding more powerful Kai disciplines.  You have several adventures to find some lorestones, each one giving you more knowledge.  When you collect them all, you go to the city of the darklords and blow it up.  You then return to your monastery, the Kai restored and have several further adventures until you get some more grand masters and then they start having adventures instead.

    Description:  Lone Wolf is depicted as wearing the green clothes of a Kai Lord and looking pretty badass.

    Abilities:  As well as combat training, Lone Wolf starts his adventures with five of the ten Kai disciplines.  When you become a master, you can learn improved disciplines called Magnakai disciplines which can improve as you rise in rank.  When you become a Grand Master, you can get Grand Master Disciplines which also improve as you rise in rank.

    Equipment:  Lone Wolf starts off with quite basic equipment but along the way he can pick up some potent equipment, only some of which he can carry over to the Grand Master books.  Lone Wolf gets some cool toys to play with in his adventures.

    Some of the awesome equipment Lone Wolf can carry:

    The Sommerswerd:  The ultimate Kai weapon.  Gives a +8 combat bonus, deals double damage against undead and absorbs all hostile magic against the wielder.  Lone Wolf gets this in book 2 and it makes life so easy that Joe Dever makes life deliberately harder for him in later books if he has it.  In Masters of Darkness, Lone Wolf gets a korlinium scabbard to hide its power.
    Kagonite chainmail:  This is light armour that can be worn in addition to other armour.
    Silver helmet:  Gives Lone Wolf a combat skill bonus.
    Jeweled mace:  A magical weapon.
    Silver Bow of Duadon:  Increases Lone Wolf's ability with a bow.
    Crystal Star pendant:  Doesn't do much, but marks that you have met Banedon and looks pretty.
    Golden Amulet:  Protects Lone Wolf from the poisonous atmosphere of the Darklands.
    Crystal Explosive:  Lone Wolf uses this to blow up Helgedad.
    The Book of the Magnakai:  Lone Wolf uses this to learn the disciplines of the Kai masters.
    Lorestones of Nyxator:  These gems contain the wisdom of the Kai and heal Lone Wolf.
    The Moonstone:  A powerful artefact, created by the Shianti, which increases the health and prosperity of the whole of Northern Magnamund.  Lone Wolf decides to give it back to the Shianti when it turns all of the seasons into one spring and he decides that it is being too disruptive to the delicate natural balance of the world.
    Kai Weapons:  Upon becoming a Kai Supreme Master, Lone Wolf gets the power to create ten powerful magical weapons.

    Strategy:  Lone Wolf's strategy involves falling back on his powers.  The quests he goes on would be too difficult for someone who does not have them, so he is the only person who can achieve them.  Sometimes, combat is the only option which is fine for him as he is skilled with weapons and has a nice array of magical weapons and armour as his adventures continue.

    Companion - Kyle Boche

    History:  Kyle Boche is described as a trader by some, but he is nothing more than a treacherous rogue to others.  He wants to seek the Heart of the Volent for himself.  

    Description:  When you meet him, Boche is described as a small dapper man in a grey trimmed white snowsuit.  If you are able to use ESP, you may get to read his mind.  You find out that he is vain, pompous and self serving.  Someone you meet describes him as a parasite whose sole instinct is treachery and sole talent is self preservation.  Another man says that he is more complex than that.  He thinks that Boche is a man of such prodigious vanity that he can admit no faults.

    Abilities:  Survival is one of Boche's abilities as he does not display a great ability at combat.  He has an ability for getting other people to do the hard work for him.  He also has a few flashes of inspiration such as hypnotising himself to forget that he is carrying a grenade (it makes sense in context.)

    Resources:  Boche kits himself out with a barysal gun and a grenade.  He does not have any special equipment and he has few contacts that trust him any more.

    Strategy:  Boche basically tries to convince you to travel with him.  If you do, you end up protecting him from all the dangers of the journey.  He basically tries to get other people to do the hard work for him.


    'I expected a little more support from you.  Have you forgotten that I started out with a gesture of comradeship by paying the bill at the Etruscan Inn before I knew a thing about you?'

    Main villains - Karam Gruul

    History:  Karam Gruul is one of Brice's most notorious generals.  He is wanted for a very long list of war crimes but he has been in hiding for the past few years.  He has recently been spotted in a town called Blackhaven.


    Most of the time, Karam Gruul walks around disguised as an elderly wizard called Radu the Magus.  When you do find him, you see that he is tall and has very long fingernails.  In this interview, Stephen Hand that he wanted Karam Gruul to be a Fu Manchu/Moriaty villain.

    Abilities:  Karam Gruul possesses an extremely high intelligence which he uses to stay hidden for years, manipulate organisations from behind the scenes, create doomsday devices, anticipate his enemies moves and make all kinds of contingency plans.  Gruul has also created his own form of magic known as Notura which can evoke powerful spells, raise the dead and create strange monsters.

    Resources:  Gruul commands a cabal of war criminals, an extra dimensional being known as the corpse master, zombies, zombie like fogwalkers and a squad of sorcerer assassins.  He has also somehow managed to get a shape shifting mandrake to take his form in order to keep him safe.  Gruul has many secret hideouts and it is only when his plan comes to a climax and he is confonted does he make himself known.  In order to cause widespread death and destruction Gruul created the Ethereal Projector - device that can kill thousands.

    Strategy:  There is no strategy that Gruul has not thought of.  Body double?  Check.  Manipulated army?  Check.  Undead?  Check.  Deadly traps?  Check.  Killing the hero's allies?  Check.  Dangerous diversions?  Check.  Anticipating his enemies' moves?  Check.  It is only by dogged determination and the skin of your teeth that you will actually catch Gruul and bring him to justice.  

    Quotes:  Since he is so good at hiding, you do not get to speak much to Gruul.  However, he does sometimes leave messages lying around.  For example, his assassin leaves this letter in the house of one of your dead informants:

    Greetings, Bounty Hunter.  I had hoped that we would meet before this necessary termination of your meddling.  But you have proved to be too disruptive.  For that, I congratulate you.  For this letter coated in deadly contact poison, however, YOU must congratulate ME.  In the end, only I, Karam Gruul could win.  Now go to your gods.

    This says it all about Karam Gruul.  He looks down upon you as a meddling pest and enjoys revelling in his genius.  

    Villain associates - Leesha

    History:  Leesha is the ruler of the desert city of Vatos.  How long for, no one knows.  She has lately allowed Malbordus to stay there while he searches for five dragon artefacts that he will use to rule Allansia.
    Description:  Leesha is a beautiful young woman who spends her day lounging around in luxury.  She has a taste for fine art and poetry.

    Abilities:  A powerful sorceress, Leesha is immune to all weapons apart from a Sandworm's tooth.  She can paralyze an adventurer with her laugh.  She can also create magical rings which make the wearers immune to physical attacks.

    Resources:  Leesha seems to have endless wealth in the lost city.  She summons artists from all parts of Allansia to paint for her, she leaves solid gold idols lying around and she is waited on by an army of slaves and creatures.

    Strategy:  Leesha relies on her powerful magic which works very well against you.

    Quotes:  She doesn't actually say anything in the book.  She escapes alive, however.  I think a sequel is in order...

    Mooks - Orcs

    History:  Orcs have different histories depending on the world they are on.  On Titan, they were created by Hashak who hid them as he was ordered to destroy them.  They were turned evil by the Dark Lords of Chaos
    Description:  Orcs are green, muscular and have lower intelligence than humans.  They are ugly and animal like and a lot of them have mutations.

    Abilities:  Beyond their strength and warlike nature, orcs have very little use.  There are some shamans that can wield magic but they are mainly just foot soldiers.

    Resources:  Orcs basically like weapons.

    Strategy:  Attack!  The orc in Beneath Nightmare Castle is a cut above the average orc, however.

    Quotes:  Urk.

    Wild cards - The pilot from Space Assassin

    I describe the pilot as a wild card as your encounter with him could go well or badly.  

    History:  The pilot is a machine with the aim of err, piloting the huge space ship called the Vandervecken.  Except, according to a technician you may meet on the ship, it is alive.  The scientist, Cyrus, wants the pilot to be shut down as the pilot disagrees with him.

    Description:  The pilot is a robot who is very pleasant to talk to as long as you are polite to him.  He likes to ask deep philosophical questions about existence.

    Abilities:  The pilot is sentient and curious about its existence.  It does not seem able to defend itself in combat as if you fire on it, it will be destroyed.  The pilot is capable of manipulating the ship.  If you befriend it, it is able to stop escape pods working.  

    Resources:  If you annoy the pilot, it can trap you in a stasis field.  It also has access to the Vandervecken.

    Strategy:  The pilot does not want to fight you but ask you deep philosophical questions.  Saying you don't know is the safest option but it disappoints him.  Engaging him can be the most rewarding option.  Ignoring his questions will annoy him to the point where he traps you in stasis.


    If you decide to shoot the pilot, it says 'What a strange person' before bursting into flames.

    ' you think that you could be dreaming me or I could be dreaming you?'

    To return to the main page, click here.

    To read about archetypal characters and stock characters, click here.

    Friday, August 19, 2011


    Firstly, we have something I always enjoy reading - an amusing and witty playthrough of a Fighting Fantasy gamebook at Turn to 400.  This time, Island of the Lizard King gets the Murray treatment.

    Secondly, I have made a short, simple RPG system.  It's only 3 pages as the referee gets most of the creative license (i.e they have to come up with a setting, list of skills and an adventure) but give it a look in.  Edit:  I have just uploaded a version where the hyperlinks work.

    Thirdly, this is on Jonathan Green's blog regarding the Fighting Fantasy website:

    2) Under New Management
    Jamie Fry of Fighting Fantasy Collector fame, is taking over editorship* of the official Fighting Fantasy website. I - along with many FF fans, I am sure - would like to wish him well with this venture and look forward to seeing what he has planned.

    Fourthly, if you are on twitter, then you can take part in a gamebook adventure run by Tw33t_rpg.  At the moment, we are playing Starfall, a scifi adventure.

    Fifthly, I have found a clever little website that can turn twitter feeds into a newspaper.  I have done this with my gamebooks list so if you would like to know all the news in the gamebook world then go here.

    Sixthly, there is a new Arborell gamebook!

    The Chronicles of Arborell is pleased to announce the release of a new PDF edition of its popular core gamebook adventure, Windhammer. Comprising 600 sections and more than 400 A4 pages of text, this solitaire roleplaying adventure is a must for anyone wanting a printable edition of this central title in the Chronicles of Arborell fantasy gamebook series. Including new and updated graphics and illustrations, more than 200+ pages of supplementary documents and information, and a new Visualising Windhammer section this edition provides not only a fully interactive gamebook adventure but an immersion into the world of Arborell, its cultures and its long and violent history.

    Windhammer is free to download from the Chronicles of Arborell website and is part of a series that currently boasts more than twenty titles. All are free and available as part of a fantasy world that includes gamebooks, novels, novellas, atlases, fantasy languages, mythologies, historical journals, card-based gamebooks, large-scale wargaming rule systems and a range of supplementary titles, most of which are available either online, as html-based downloads or in PDF format editions.

    To obtain your free copy of this new PDF gamebook:
    To find out more about the Chronicles of Arborell fantasy series:

    Wayne Densley
    Chronicles of Arborell


    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    Back from Iceland

    I've just been on holiday to Iceland which is why I've been a bit quiet recently.  Iceland is a very interesting place to visit.  The landscapes and natural features are great and the countryside is beautiful in a barren way.  Amongs the fun activities that I took part in, I went whale watching and horse riding.  My horse was always impatient to move on and devoured nearby plants at every opportunity.  I also picked up an interesting fact  - it's been illegal to import horses to Iceland since 982AD.

    I also spent some time playing Choice of the Dragon on my android.  There are several Choice of Games online and I found Choice of the Dragon an entertaining read.

    There is also a great post on the Choice of Games blog about designing great stats and also how to write a long interactive novel that doesn't suck.

    Choice of Games are looking for writers if you are interested as is The Chronicles of Arborell.  The Windhammer competition closes on September 7th, so there is still time to get a gamebook written and entered.  And if it's your first time, I  suggest you do it anyway.  You will get some very helpful feedback about your book.  Now if there was just a series of blog posts on how to write a gamebook to get you started...

    On Sunday, we will have part 4 of How to Write a Gamebook - characters.  How do you think it's going at the moment?

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    How to write a gamebook part 3 - genre and setting

    After the first two parts of this series (part 1 is here and part 2 is here), we now have a good grounding in the mechanics of writing a gamebook.  We may also have an idea for the subject of our gamebooks.  In the next two posts of the world, we will flesh out the world and its inhabitants.

    We may have an idea, but where will we set it and how will we write it?  The idea may involve the player hunting down a criminal, but it could be a dark wizard in a fantasy world  or a mad scientist on a huge starship.  This post will give you some ideas on genre and setting of a gamebook.

    The aim of this post is to give you a few ideas on what genre you can use and what setting you could use.


    Accoding to Wikipedia, the definition of genre is:

    literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary techniquetonecontent, or even (as in the case of fiction) length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, orchildren's. They also must not be confused with format, such as graphic novel or picture book. The distinctions between genres and categories are flexible and loosely defined, often with subgroups.

    Wikipedia also has a list of literary genres if you are in need of some examples.

    Guess the genre
    Most gamebook genres are subgroups of fantasy or science fiction.  You will find that a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure books are of an adventure fiction genre set in the modern day and there is an occasional horror gamebook

    Do not let the huge number of fantasy gamebooks put you off from writing a legal thriller  or even an educational gamebook (in fact, some of the first gamebooks were educational thanks to B.F. Skinner.)

    A word of warning though - it is quite hard to make humour work in a gamebook in large doses.  I think this is because some humour works by going against peoples' expectations and in gamebooks, people make decisions based on expecting their actions to have logical consequences.  It may get frustrating to have completely different consequences to your expected actions, even if they are done for humorous reasons.  Humour is fine as long as it does not involve readers' decisions.


    The Wikipedia definition of a setting is:

    In fictionsetting includes the timelocation, and everything in which a story takes place, and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story. Setting has been referred to as story world [1] or milieu to include a context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. Elements of setting may include culturehistorical periodgeography, and hour. Along with plotcharactertheme, and style, setting is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.[2]

    So what kind of settings can we have?  It's not to hard to imagine the setting if your gamebook takes place in the modern day and historical settings have plenty of source material, so I will focus on fantasy and scifi settings.

    Fantasy settings

    If we are not too concerned about world building at the moment and we just want a site for a fantasy gamebook, the most common setting is a dungeon crawl.

    First of all, a dungeon crawl gamebook does not necessarily mean that the game will take place in a dungeon.

    Wikipedia's dungeon crawl entry begins with:

    Typical dungeon crawl
    dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in fantasy role-playing games in which heroes navigate a labyrinthine environment, battling various monsters, and looting any treasure they may find. Because of its simplicity, a dungeon crawl can be easier for a gamemaster to run than more complex adventures, and the "hack and slash" style of play is appreciated by players who focus on action and combat.

    Dungeons aren't mentioned at all.  According to this definition, the following gamebooks (with their environments) are dungeon crawls:

    Still a dungeon crawl.
    The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (inside a mountain)
    The Citadel of Chaos by Steve Jackson (in a citadel)
    Forest of Doom (in a forest)
    City of Thieves (in a city)
    Deathtrap Dungeon (in a dungeon...with deathtraps)
    Island of the Lizard King (mostly on a tropical island but also in a mine and a castle)
    Scorpion Swamp (in a swamp)
    Space Assasin (in a space ship)

    As you can see, a lot of early Fighting Fantasy books were dungeon crawls.  

    Why dungeon crawls?

    As Wikipedia stated, dungeon crawls are simple to run.  This is also true from a gamebook perspective.  If you go around a dungeon where small discrete scenes take place in rooms then your flow diagrams do not have to be very big.  In the early gamebooks, a typical dungeon crawl would involve you coming across some kind of creature.  The options were to attack it or talk to it.  

    An example from the Warlock of Firetop Mountain:


    The door opens into a small room, comfirtably furnished with a table, several chairs and a large bookcase which covers one wall.  Seated at the table is an old man with a long grey beard, and squatting on the old man's shoulder is a large winged beast.  This creature is no more than six centimetres tall.  It has two arms and legs; its skin is a dusty grey colour.  It has tiny sharp white teeth and its wings are folded behind its back.  The old man says nothing as you walk through the door but he beckons you over to sit at the table.  He is tossing in his hand two small white objects.  Will you:

    Sit down as he tells you?                           Turn to 204
    Leave the room and return to the junction?  Turn to 280
    Draw your sword and rush forward?             Turn to 377

    The 'scene' will be resolved in one or two paragraphs time.

    Map of Firetop mountain.
    The walkthrough is here.
    The good things about dungeon crawls (from a writer's point of view) is that they are simple and that they do not have to logically fit together.  Two rooms can have completely different furnishings and inhabitants.  For example, in Firetop Mountain, there is a nice old man who will sell you stuff, a room with hands and stars on the floor, a room with a dragon and a room that has two helmets.  You can throw in any old idea.

    These good points can also be bad points for the reader if they are looking for more depth or a logical settlement with a food and water source.  There is also very little chance for character or plot development.

    However, they are good books to practice on.  You can write a dungeon crawl by drawing a map of your dungeon, writing a short note as to what is in each room and then writing it.  My first gamebook, War of Deities part 1 was a dungeon crawl and although it was 400 paragraphs long, I finished it in a small amount of time.

    You can include mazes in gamebooks, however I do not like mazes where the only decisions you make are 'Which way do you turn?'  I do not find them very interesting.  I do not find the maze in Warlock of Firetop Mountain interesting at all.  The maze in Spectral Stalkers is done a little better since you have a map, so it is more like a puzzle to solve and your decisions are less arbitrary.  What do other people think about mazes?

    You can set non dungeon crawl gamebooks in all of the above settings.  Instead of dungeon crawls, you can have options based on interaction with NPCs, moral decisions, decisions you make at the beginning of the book having consequences later on or puzzles.

    Gamebook worlds 

    For those of us who like to work from the top down, we can create our own gamebook worlds.  You do not have to create a whole world at the beginning.  You could create an area.  If you do this first, then you can work out the area that your gamebook is set in including who lives there, what the landmarks are like and what kind of encounters the player could have.  This would make the world more believeable as it will have more internal consistency and it will be put together more logically.  Here are some things to think about.

    The geography of the world

    How big is it?  What terrain does it have?  What climate does it have?

    If you need guidance on a physical or climate map of your world, first look at the physical and climate maps of our world.  There are plenty of sites that also do fantasy maps:

    Fantastic maps
    Fantasy World Maps
    World Builder Projects

    There is also a very comprehensive world building site here.

    Technology level

    A centurion on a space ship?
    It makes sense in context.
    When I mention technology, I usually think about what weapons you would have.  Anyone who's played Civilisation knows that gunpowder drastically changes battle tactics.

    What other things have been discovered?  Fire? Bronze?  Iron?  Steel? Lasers? A good guideline is to look at the Civilisation Wiki   and have a look at what your society has discovered with all the implications for your gamebook.

    Of course, you could also have a weird mix of technology in your gamebook.  Maybe the philosophers of the time have discovered steam power, but just didn't get around to creating building impressive ships.

    Hard Scifi
    You might also have a post apocalyptic world where primitive technology might mix with advanced technology from a lost age.

    In a science fiction book, you need to consider things such as faster than life travel, communication with other races, phasers, teleportation and colonisation of other planets.  The level of technology will have a big impact on what kind of problems your character will have to face.  For example with Starship Traveller, your ship has weapons and teleportation, so the probles are ship to ship problems and the problems that various planets produce.  In Star Strider, with no faster than light travel or teleportation the problems are unreliable technology and navigating a largely abandoned Earth.


    Society will be influenced by geography and technology of the world you are in.  If you want your technology to be similar to the level in Ancient Greece, then it would be reasonable to have a society similar to Ancient Greece.  Things to think about include:

    How civilised is your world?  Are there lots of cities or just a few villages surrounded by wild primal countryside.  In a science fiction setting, the people may have enough technology to be able to survive even the most hostile of climates and planets.

    What is the government system of your world?  Democracy?  Tyranny?  Is the government powerful or weak?

    How do different countries get on?  Is the world full of peaceful trade or is everyone at constant war?

    What does your society value?  Money?  Strength?  Power?  Piety?

    If you want some examples of fantasy worlds, this is a list with reviews of how good they are.

    Here is a blog where someone has created a world for a Tunnels and Trolls Campaign.

    You can also use historical periods as a source of inspiration.  For scifi ideas, there is a TVTropes page about scifi settings.

    A race description from this artist.
    He has many more.
    How can we turn a historical setting into a fantasy setting:

    Sentient races

    Do you want other races in your fantasy world other than humans?  If so, what role do they play in the world?
    You can find a list of standard RPG races along with more races in the D and D wiki along with their characteristics.

    The classic situation is that elves live in forests, dwarves live in mountains, humans live pretty much anywhere and then other races live in little pockets elsewhere.  It is probably best not to have a huge plethora of races unless you need them as it can get confusing and those sticklers for logical consistency will not like it.

    Just because a world is human centric with alomst no other sentient creatures does not meant that it is boring. There could be a war between countries or courtly plots or treasure hunting.  Fabled Lands, Iron Heroes and the Conan RPG do fine with only sparing use of creatures that you wouldn't find on Earth.

    Science fiction can logically have more races due to faster than light travel between planets.  Here are some places to find inspiratin for scifi races:

    15 Memorable Alien Races in Science Fiction
    Science Fiction Biology blog
    Star Trek races
    Star Wars species

    Magic level

    In scifi, what I say about magic level here refers to tech level.  To quote A.C. Clarke:

    "To the primitive mind, any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic"

    Magic level is a biggie if you are world building.  If you just want a hero to go into a dungeon, kill the monsters and grab the treasure without thinking about the outside world then you can whatever magical items and spells you like.

    What is it today, sir?  Bread and
    ale or the seventh staff of daemon
    However, if you start to think about magic in the wider world, it could affect the economy of a society (if you can buy stones that produce light for example), it's security (if people can just teleport into vaults to rob them) how easy peoples' lives could be made easier or harder (if you have levitating discs for people to travel on for example).

    There are an infinite number of magic systems out there.  You could have a magic system like D20 where there are several spells that can produce many unnatural and powerful effects such as magic missile, scrying and teleportation.  In Dungeons and Dragons, these spells are relatively easy to get hold of yet being able to do these things would radically upset society.

    Maelstrom RPG has quite a different magic system where the magic user would specify any effect they want but the more unlikely or unnatural the effect, the more difficult it is to make happen.  So most magic in Maelstrom is something that could be put down to luck or someone's choices.  In this system, even magic missile is almost impossible to cast.

    Iron Heroes has a magic system where the effects are unnatural but few people wield magic as it has dangerous results.  The same applies in Conan RPG.  Magic users (even the good ones) are in grave danger of losing their souls or if a spell goes wrong, they could obliterate the surrounding area.

    There may be different types of magic.  Dungeons and Dragons has arcane spells, divine spells and psionics.  Spells may be cast using different systems.  Casters can cast x spells a day or they may have a reserve of magic points or they may cast spells from their hit points.  Powerful effects may need special items or locations and may require several people or a long time.

    When you are coming up with a magic system, you need to think about what kind of effects your magic users can produce, what they need to do to produce those effects and whether there will be any problems with producing those effects.  You then need to think about how magic affects your world.  Do ordinary people have access to it?  Do nobles each have a sorcerer?  Do kings have magical items to prevent scrying and teleportation?  Do the general populace mistrust magic users?

    Like with races, you can have a world with no magic in it and it can still be entertaining and interesting to play.  Iron Heroes characters can pull off cool stunts despite the lack of magic in the world.  Do not think that you need magic to make a cool gamebook.

    You could spend the rest of your life researching RPG magic, so don't do it too much.  Use a system and see where it goes.  For a summary of RPG magic, look at the TVTropes page.

    For a brilliant study on magic in the real world, you can read The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazier for free.  You can also find the free audiobook here.


    What kind of god(s) do the people worship?  Can their priesthood use magic?  How do different priesthoods view each other?  How does the general populace view the priests?  Do the gods actually exist?  If they do, do they play a role in the world or just step back and give the occasional message?

    For a good article on religion in role playing games, go here.

    For ideas on deities, there is a list of Dungeons and Dragons Deities here.

    For an example, here is the Wikipedia page on Pelor, a popular deity.

    I have a bit more to write on this, but this post is getting long enough, so I will post examples of gamebook worlds in part 3a.

    Up until now, I had had to make the links by publishing the blog post, then copying the URL and then editing the links in later.  However, I found this helpful guide on how to determine your blog post titles in advance, so I've done that this time.  I hope I've written them out correctly.

    Have fun!