Monday, November 28, 2011

Photos for inspiration

A flock of Starlings enjoying the sunset.
So I went to Brighton this weekend to see some friends.  Brighton is a vibrant and attractive town by the sea and I enjoy visiting it very much.  As well as watching the starlings fly in formation near the pier, enjoying a night on the town and scoffing the HUGE tasty Sunday roasts that The Foundry pub has to offer, I also did some gamebook related stuff.

First, I'd like to thank the staff of the Games Workshop in Brighton for their help when I enquired about buying Hive of the Dead.  They were very accommodating and I would have signed up to Black Library  then if I wasn't also looking for a restaurant to book.

African ceremonial swords.
On Sunday, I went to the ostentatious Royal Pavillion followed by the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery.  At the museum, I took several pictures of the exhibits.  There were African weapons, armour and jewellery as well  as an Ancient Egyptian exhibit.  

I took pictures of some of the items thinking that they would give me some good ideas for items in gamebooks.  These items have character and they provide me with inspiration for my gamebooks.  

I have done this on a few holidays and I now have a large collection of photos of weapons, outfits, jewellery, armour and art items from many different cultures.  

I then had a thought - what if I organise and publicise these photos for everyone to use and add to.  These photos could be used for inspiration in RPG campaigns for treasure, magical items, weapons, armour, outfits and many more.  

African treasure box.
I have started an account of Flickr, which I will be adding my photos to it as time goes on.  I will be doing this with the intention of giving fantasy writers and RPG referees historical based ideas for their campaigns.

If anyone would like to add any photos to it please email  

The account can be found at

This Sunday, I'll be writing about my inspirations for Rulers of the NOW.  Until then, happy gamebooking!  

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Windhammer competition review part 3 - A Strange week for King Melchion the Despicable by Kieran Coghlan

Fairness of dice

Champion appeal
There are a few endings beside victory or death.  You could carry on living your life as a wizard or you could replace Melchion or you could win or there are many ways that you could die.  The route to victory is not too difficult or too easy.

Explorer appeal
I had completed the game twice but I had still not explored all of the available pathways.  You have a lot of choices on how to go about solving King Melchion’s predicament.

Puzzle solver appeal
The book involves a puzzle where you have to work out the recipe for a potion by paying attention to when the full Moon was and doing some maths.  There is also a map based puzzle.  You will do well with careful reading and some maths. 

Storyteller appeal
I loved the story to this gamebook.  It begins with a mystery as to why the king is turning into a woman while you try to deal with it.  When your original solution doesn’t work, the plot thickens and you have to deal with all the strange shenanigans that go on which are believable consequences of what happens in the book.  However, the explanation at the end ties everything together.

Game system
It is a nice and simple system where you have a list of items and notes.  I think this was a good move as a number based system would have distracted me from the great story and the exploration. 

Who I voted for
This year, I voted for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress for its strategy system and having a story where you have to make difficult choices and A strange Week for King Melchion the Despicable for its puzzles and story with a great twist.

I loved reading all of the Windhammer entries and I found it very hard to make my decision.  My vote is made purely based on which two I enjoyed playing the most.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beggars of Blacksand review

Our first Lone Tiger Review starts with Beggars of Blacksand by Al Sander, writer of the sixth Gamebook Adventure - The Wizard from Tarnath Tor (you can find an interview with Al Sander here).  He is also the winner of the inaugural Windhammer competition  with the brilliant Raid on Chateau Fekenstein.  You can download Beggars of Blacksand for free here or you can play an interactive version here.  It is hosted on that treasure trove of amateur Fighting Fantasy books, where you can also find another gamebook by Al Sander - The Cold Heart of Chaos.

Blacksand always offers
a warm welcome.
Beggars of Blacksand combines several Fighting Fantasy tropes in one place and provides quite a cunning mystery all in a short 64 paragraph gamebook.  It's brilliance is in the fact that none of this is obvious straight away.  You begin living as a beggar in Port Blacksand.  As time goes on, you get more and more clues indicating that there is more to your life than this and you need to pick up on them to get to the winning paragraph.

Right, have you read it and got to the winning paragraph?  Are you sure?  We'll see.  Let the review begin.

He's happy because
he's in a spin off.
Theme - 4/5

Port Blacksand is always an exciting place to set an adventure and this book capitalises on its location.  You meet all sorts from rats to imps to thugs to the man orc shopkeeper from City of Thieves.  The book also manages to have big ties to other Fighting Fantasy books and if you work out which ones then you will have a clue as to how to win the book.  Almost every paragraph has a reference to the world of Titan and very cleverly fits the material together. 

This gamebook packs a lot of Titan into 64 paragraphs including the location, the people and the use of the days of the week.  I'm giving it a 4 as it is a short gamebook but makes good use of its paragraphs.

Illustrations 2/5

There is only one illustration, the cover illustration, which is also a clue as to what might happen in the book.  Bonus points to Al Sander for putting the time in to hyperlink the paragraphs. 

Immersion 3/5

The style certainly brings out the squalid life of a beggar in Blacksand with all of its trials and tribulations.  The cover illustration has an unkempt figure (presumably you) watching as a building burns - a clue to what might happen, perhaps?  Also, Al Sander gets bonus points for hyperlinking all of the paragraphs.  That certainly makes things more convenient.

Gameplay 4/5

Cheer up.
At least the property
prices are low.
I’m a big fan of starting the player off in as bad a situation as possible and Beggars of Blacksand does not fail to disappoint.  Before you even turn to paragraph 1, you have to reduce your skill and your stamina and then when you turn the page, you end up getting thrown out of your hovel by Big Dave and his cronies and left with a blunt knife and 1 gold piece.  Even the hero in Master of Chaos, who started off as a galley slave had 2 gold pieces.

Despite having a weakened character, combats are still fair and you can find items that can increase your skill and stamina.  However, thriving in this game requires more than just fighting enemies and getting items that increase your stats.  The aim of the gamebook is not just about surviving on the streets of Blacksand.  You need both a good knowledge of the Fighting Fantasy series and an ability to pick up on the clues in the text to achieve victory.  For example, why does the power of the spell gem get sucked into you?  What are your dreams all about?  Where does the sword with the S on it come from?  If you can work out the answers to these questions, then you will get a clue as to what very special item you will need to win. 

The climax results in you facing someone who wants you killed, but defeating your opponent is not the only thing that you must do.  There is more at stake than just your life...

Exposition 3/5

The book does a good job of describing the characters that you encounter and Al Sander ‘writes big’ with over the top people, crazy dreams and dangerous enemies.  All of the characters, even the minor ones have some traits that make them more than just stock characters or nameless mooks.  The locations also get some decent description.

No time for sleeping.
Rules 3/5

The book follows the standard Fighting Fantasy rules where you have skill, stamina and luck but skill and stamina starts off lower than their initial scores due to the ordeal of living on the streets of Blacksand as a beggar.  You also need to keep track of time.  The book is split into seven sections which are represented by part of a day.  The time means that you can do the same things in a different order rather than missing your chance if you don’t do them at the first opportunity and also introduces the chance for you to brush up on your time management skills.  You also get the chance to do some begging which involves taking your chances on whether you will get money or get mugged. 

It's all packed in there.
Total 16/25

Total 17/25

Beggars of Blacksand packs a lot into a small 64 paragraph gamebook – tons of Fighting Fantasy canon, lots of interesting encounters and a challenging puzzle.  It’s length is its major shortcoming (pun intended) and I would love to see this as a longer gamebook.  

In tiger terms, this is a decent snack.  It is the equivalent of a few small bites brimming with flavour and protein.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Windhammer review part 2 - Peledgathol, the Last Fortress by Ashton Saylor

Here is my feedback for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress by Ashton Saylor who won a merit award in this year's Windhammer competition.

Fariness of dice
If you make the right choices then all combats you fight would involve enemies having a skill 2 higher than yours, making it easy to defeat them with a 1d6.  The exceptions are a giant spider with a skill 4 higher than yours but only 1 strength, meaning that you have 3 chances to roll a 5-6 on 1 die and a giant goblin that you don’t have to fight.

When determining the success of a military mission or the number of dwarves who come to your fort or the number of battle points your get, 2d6 may be a big range.

Champion appeal
The book is quite difficult to win.  It is a strategy game in a gamebook and I failed a few times, but I was satisfied with my success.  It is a good challenge, not too easy or hard. 

First time died fighting goblins paragraph 93.
Died on 82
Died on 89.
Turned into Devra on page 20
Died on my next go because by battle score was too low.
I won on my next go because I realised that the way of winning is by getting the resources in the right order (ore first so that you can make weapons and then get 80 extra warriors and a general if you use the apprentice craftsdwarf) to upgrade my fort then obtaining lots of extra commoners and warriors. 

Explorer appeal
There are plenty of options for you and decisions for you to make – where should you make your fortress?  What should you do with each season?  Which part of the caves should you escape through?   There are plenty of things that you can do.

Puzzle solver appeal
The puzzle comes when you determine how to deploy your forces and obtain as many battle points as possible.  It also comes with the order in which you do things over the seasons in order to maximise your defences and get as many warriors as possible.
The solution to the puzzle is working out what to do at the beginning (so you have the correct resources to start with), where to put your fortress and in what order you do the seasonal actions.

Storyteller appeal
It’s good that you don’t get rewarded for taking too many risks and that fits the situation – your character is a responsible king, not some lone adventurer.  You also have to lose resources or people on your journey and that is something that the king has to deal with.  Berek Stonewhisper doesn’t make it so sacrifice is inevitable.  You need to know how to minimise the losses.
There are plenty of interesting characters and your interaction with them is a big part of the book as you have to lead them and, in some cases, be responsible for their deaths.  
The story itself is quite an archetypal one – you are thrust into a huge role of responsibility and have to complete a long journey then kill your family’s killer. 

Who I voted for
This year, I voted for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress for its strategy system and having a story where you have to make difficult choices and A strange Week for King Melchion the Despicable for its puzzles and story with a great twist.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Windhammer Competition review part 1 - Rulers of the NOW

Hi all.  I'm copying Andrew Wright by talking about my entry to the Windhammer competition.  In my case, I have made two vlogs with my opinions about my entry, Rulers of the NOW.  The first one was made before I knew the results of the Windhammer competition and the second one was made after I knew the results and I had received the feedback from various readers.

Once again, I would like to congratulate Andrew Wright, Zachary Carango and Ashton Saylor for receiving their rewards.

I have learnt a lot from the Windhammer process.  I think the main lesson that I have learnt from the varied and sometimes contradictory opinions I received is that there is no such thing as the perfect gemebook.  I want to write more about this, because I think my article about gamebook player types does not cover all the needs of the people who play gamebooks but it was a good realisation that no one gamebook is going to appeal to everyone.

I want to write Rulers of the NOW as a full 666 paragraph gamebook and when I started the project, I wanted it to have EVERYTHING.  I now realise that this train of thought was actually slowing me down because when I wrote a paragraph, I was worried that it would not appeal to a certain type of gamebook player.  However it dawned on me that any gamebook paragraph ever written would not appeal to 100% of gamebook players.  This realisation will inspire me to just get on with it and write a gamebook that I want to do with less thought into pleasing everyone.

I have put my comments in video form because I will not write any spoilers that you will accidentally read.  Instead, you can play the books then play the videos.

Here is my video before the results::

Here is the video, post results:

Next week, I'll be writing about some other entries to the Windhammer Competition.

Happy gamebooking!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Windhammer Prize results announced

Wayne Densley has announced the winners of the 2011 Windhammer prize.  

Congratulations to Andrew Wright who won the competition with his mythological adventure, Sea of Madness and to Aston Saylor and Zachary Carango who won merit awards with their entries Peledgathol - The LastFortress and Above the Waves.  I loved all of the entries to the Windhammer competition and I would also like to thank Wayne for hosting it.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

You can find the 2011 page announcing the results here.
You can find all of the entries from the last four years here.
To look at the core Windhammer gamebooks, go here.

Here is the message:

Hi All, is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2011 Windhammer Prize
for Short Gamebook Fiction is Andrew Wright for his excellent sea-faring
adventure, Sea of Madness. can also announce that Ashton Saylor and
Zachary Carango have placed second and third in the popular vote and are
therefore worthy Merit Award winners with their entries, Peledgathol - The Last
Fortress and Above the Waves respectively. This year has seen an amazing
selection of entries, covering a wide range of fantasy and sci-fi settings and
all have done very well. Considering the limitations provided by the competition
guidelines the authors who have offered entries this year have shown once again,
that great gamebook ideas can be made to fit into very small spaces.

I would like to thank everybody who participated, the authors and those
dedicated readers who took the time to evaluate all the entries, and also a
further thanks to those readers who provided feedback and comment to the
authors. It can be disclosed that more than 5300 visitors made their way to the
prize webpages over the course of the competition and that from those visits
more than 2100 downloads were made of competition entries. From these downloads
more than double the votes were forwarded compared with last year. Thank you all
for making this the most successful Windhammer Prize yet.

All information regarding the Windhammer Prize can be found at

May Glory and Renown follow all who have participated.

Wayne Densley
Chronicles of Arborell
2011 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Top 25 tweeters

I am flattering Scott Malthouse here by imitating his 25 Twitter accounts that you need to follow post by providing you with my own list of Twitter accounts.  So, in no particular order...

@Tw33t_RPG:  This account has bought gamebooks to twitter.  Follow this account to take part in the latest epic online gamebook.

@MirabilisDave:  The Twitter feed for Dave Morris, who has written or co written Fabled Lands, Dragon Warriors, the Knightmare gamebooks, the Heroquest gamebooks and several Virtual Reality gamebooks.  

@choiceofgames:  Choice of Games are a series of gamebooks in app form that range from you playing a dragon to a sailor and many other things in between.

@jamie_fry:  Author of the Fighting Fantasy collector website and editor of the official Fighting Fantasy site.

@TinManGames:  The feed for the creators of the brilliant Gamebook Adventure series.

@Gallicus:  Feed for the editor of the brilliant Fighting Fantazine.

@jonathangreen:  Writer of several Fighting Fantasy books, Doctor Who books and many more.

@Marc_Gascoigne:  Mark has written Battleblade Warrior, the Advanced Fighting Fantasy series and the Fighting Fantasy novels.

@AdviceToWriters:  Offers concise words of wisdom from famous authors.  

@radioovermoscow:  Feed for the author of the amusing and entertaining Fighting Dantasy blog.

@MicaByteS:  A company that produces great app games such as Pirates and Traders.  You can go to the website here.

@KoboldQuarterly:  Kobold Quarterly is an RPG magazine I enjoy.

Now that is one awesome cover,
thanks to Graphiczx design.
@adventurecow:  Adventure Cow is a website dedicated to making Choose Your Own Adventure style gamebook apps.  You can find one of my creations there, The Path to Greatness.

@Fantasticmaps:  The name does exactly what it says on the tin and that is to provide fantastic maps.

@graphiczxdesign:  This is an excellent graphics design company that were very helpful in making a cover for the full version of Rulers of the NOW.  

@MonteJCooke:  Feeds for the creator of the awesome Iron Heroes RPG.

@Negativethac0:  Tweets from a psychologist and gamer.

@destiny_quest:  The Feed for Michael J. Ward's Destiny Quest series which will be having a new addition next year.

@CrymsonKnight:  Feed for Shane Garvey, one of the authors of the Fabled Lands RPG, amongst other things.  He works with Greywood Publishing.

@blogcastfm:  Blogcast FM is a podcast full of useful information on how to create a successful blog from the people who have done it themselves.

@TheDrabblecast:  A great podcast of wierd tales.

@SJGames:  The feed for Steve Jackson, co creator of Fighting Fantasy writer of Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep and Robot Commando , president of Steve Jackson Games and creator of many games such as Illuminati.

He may also be known as the 'other' Steve Jackson to Fighting Fantasy fans (as opposed to the Steve Jackson who co founded Fighting Fantasy) and a source of confusion to at least one person (me) about which one is which.  Thanks to @FightingFantasy  for pointing that out to me.

@denofgeek:  News and reviews on sci fi and fantasy shows.

@majordufus:  Feed of Graham Bottley, author of 2nd edition Advanced Fighting Fantasy.

@scottmalt:  Writer and gamer with all Things Tunnels and Trolls related.  I love Tunnels and Trolls.  It's a flexible RPG system with many solitaire adventures.  Scott's blog is the Trollish Delver.

Actually it's 26...

Since writing, I have found out that Ian Livingstone, co founder of Fighting Fantasy also has a Twitter account @Ian_Livingstone.

So there we go.  Twitter is a great tool for networking and finding out what is going on with the people you follow.  For example, did you know that Ian Livingstone is penning a new Fighting Fantasy book?  Twitter told me.

And finally, it seems quite simple to get almost 1.5 million followers on twitter.  The secret is to be a cat as @Sockington will show us.

Until next week, happy gamebooking!