Sunday, June 30, 2013

Villain Profile - Globus

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Appears in


Spectral Stalkers (Fighting Fantasy 45)


Background


Globus is an archmage on the Ziggurat World who has summoned the Spectral Stalkers to find the Aleph, a powerful magical artefact that can transport its bearer to any time and place.  With it, he will attempt to conquer the Macrocosmos.


Prominence


Globus does not have any influence in any of the other worlds you come across in the Macrocosmos, but he does have an entry for him in the Directory of Wizards in the library of Limbo.  When you get to the Ziggurat World, you will find that he is its ruler, known to and hated by all that he rules over.  9/10


Hardness


You do not see any stats for Globus, but seeing as he places himself in an almost impenetrable giant crystal, I can't imagine that his skill and stamina are too high.  That said, he has placed himself in an almost impenetrable giant crystal, so you can't actually kill him. 8/10


Ambition


Globus looks down on those petty villains who want to conquer a mere world as he wants to rule the whole Macrocosmos.  He truly is aiming for the Moon.  And all the other planets.  11/10


Style


He pretends to be all luvvy duvvy and nice but in fact he is really really evil.  He also has some cool killer servants and lives on a giant Ziggurat.  7/10


Diabolical genius


He's under no illusions that he is anything but a tyrannical ruler.  He is also smart enough to know that because of that, most people want to kill him.  And also, he is not so vain that he thinks that people who hate him will fear him so much that they won't try to kill him.  He really takes precautions against those people.  He is able to summon and command some invincible relentless killers.  And when you do meet him, he pretends to be some kindly wizard who will help you.  In fact, you have to be pretty clever yourself to get him killed.  9/10


Total


Globus really has it all covered.  He already rules one world and from the point of view of most gamebooks, that's already game over.  He has super powered killer servants (who are, however, not too bright) and makes sure that no one will kill him.  It's only through a loophole that you have any chance of winning.  44/50

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My problem with dragons.

From this site.
OK, so having analysed the Night Dragon as a villain, and rediscovered some chagrin that I had
concerning dragons and other large, all powerful creatures with almost no equal, immense magical power, massive hordes of treasure and the intellectual ability far beyond that of the greatest minds of their time combined.

And my chagrin lies with the fact that dragons are generally just used as big powerful boss monsters.  For some reason, it's OK for a (usually) physically weak evil sorcerer to command armies, come up with super devious plots and come within an inch of taking over the world, but for some reason, despite being way more powerful, Dragons seem content with sleeping on their hordes.  Why are they not seen as gods, with each dragon commanding a whole civilisation swaying its growth and development - having its own priesthood and army and the king of the humans is appointed to do its bidding, such as gather as much treasure for them as possible, their favourite foods or expand their territory.

Instead, the most powerful and intelligent beings in the world just horde treasure and eat. 

I know that the Night Dragon does have a huge cult, but I get the impression that they grew themselves to wake it up and not because the Night Dragon itself ordered it to be so. 

Of course, if dragons did unleash all their potential on the world then it would be very different - humans would make less of a difference to the world.  No human could be top dog, and even if some humans lived under the rule of good dragons, then their lives would still have less meaning.  I guess dragons could arrange a situation where other races get on with their thing and they ask for the occasional offering (such as in Choice of Dragon), which might make more sense because then they would not have the boring job of actually maintaining their kingdoms.  There is also the Izzet Guild in ravnica which is run by a dragon and this has the situation I described above - the dragon in question has built up this guild around it to provide it with what it wants.  The people of Magic the Gathering have also come up with the idea that dragons one some planes (such as Jund an most dragons on Ravnica before they were hunted to near extinction) are just massive reptiles with little intelligence - just raw power.  However, this takes something away from dragons - why not just have a massive T-Rex?

Something I just wanted to get off my chest.

Villain - Night Dragon

Hello gamebookers!  Today, I revisit a type of post I did on my first April A to Z - a post of villains. Back in 2011, I picked 26 villains, each one with a name beginning with a different letter of prominence, hardness, ambition, style and diabolical genius.
the alphabet and rated them on

Since I was restricted by letter of the alphabet, I had to gloss over a few great villains, but now I free from such constraints, I am going to return to the format and profile some more great villains, starting with The Night Dragon.

So without further ado, let us see how it rates against the other villains...

Appears in:  Night Dragon (Fighting Fantasy 52) by Keith Martin and illustrated by Tony Hough.

Background:  The Night Dragon was a terror centuries ago before it got put to sleep.  However , it is now waking up and it seems that nothing can get in its way.  Modern dragons are oathbound not to fight it (bit of a stupid oath there) so they have to recruit an adventurer to do the dirty work for them.  Otherwise all Allansia will fall.

Prominence:  The dragon has a hard working cult infiltrating every town that you come across.  They are made up of a variety of enemies - there are grey robed 'foot soldiers', black robed assassin types and some pretty powerful people on top such as a high priest and a red robed wizard.  In addition to that, they are all creating stalkers which are large humanoid reptilian creatures.  there is even a stalker mage.  One town is gradually being drugged by this cult to be more subservient and everyone fears the cult so much that they will not talk of them.  By the time you start your quest, the Night Dragon's servants already have a strong hold over Northern Allansia.  In addition to that, the dragon itself is starting to enter dreamtime and spread its terror there.  Nowhere is safe.  10/10

Hardness:  The base stats for the Night Dragon are Skill 17 Stamina 32, already putting it more powerful than the Zagor Demon.  Even Razaak would be hard pressed to get his famous two consecutive strikes in against that.  The only Fighting Fantasy Villain with a higher skill is the Titanium Cyborg,  but he needs lots of futuristic technology to do that.  I haven't even talked about how the stamina of 32 is the minimum stamina - it will be higher.  How much higher depends on how long you took to get there.  Then you have to add into the fact that unless you have some pretty powerful magic items, you will lose 1 skill point when you meet it and any blow against it will be negated on the roll of a 6.  I also haven't yet mentioned its powerful breath and magic.  Put these all together and the Night Dragon is truly a formidable enemy.  And even when you beat it in combat, it still isn't dead.  You have to fight its skull.  I think all of these combined mean that the Night Dragon gets a well deserved 11/10.

Ambition:  All of Allansia will be destroyed by the Night Dragon if he (?) succeeds.  Also a bonus point for taking over Dreamtime.  10/10.

Style:  The Night Dragon's cult is smart about achieving its aims - it knows that it's not huge, so it drugs the populace or starts a reign of terror.  It hires the right people - wizards and high priests - to get things done.  It kills off your informants before they can give you much information.  However, individuals do not really stand out much - the cult is defined by robe colour, mainly and two grey robes are pretty much alike.  Also, the Night Dragon itself does not have much of a personality.  It doesn't even seem to enjoy the terror it spreads, making it a bit flat.  7/10.

Diabolical genius:  The Night Dragon's cult displays quite a lot of initiative in spreading its reign of terror (the aforementioned mass drugging for example).  I'm not sure how much of this was actually the Night Dragon's idea or how much was up to the cult.  I get the impression, however, that it is the cult that is coming up with all of this with the end of awaking the Night Dragon.  In that case, the dragon itself falls into the trap of being the big boss monster in a dungeon.  The traps, the wizard's attempts to strengthen the dragon and the stalkers all seem to be the cult's ideas, making the Night Dragon more of a figurehead than a leader.  It's fighting style also does not display much genius - cast lots of spells, breath fire and be hard.  6/10.

Total score:  When it comes to raw power, no one can match the Night Dragon.  However, it needs other people to do the thinking for it and it doesn't really have an MO beyond mindless destruction.  However, there will be a LOT of mindless destruction.  44/50.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Paradigm shift - my blog

Hello to you all, gamebookers!

Last week, I talked about how I have experienced a paradigm shift as a writer.  This week, I will talk about how I have experienced a paradigm shift as a blogger.

When I started this blog, I had very little idea of what I wanted to do with it besides log my experiences in gamebook writing in an aid to improve.  From there it grew into analysis of several aspects of gamebooks as well as a place to write news about gamebook goings on.  It also led to me being offered the chance to write gamebooks for people.  Over the past three years, I have experienced a lot of changes and now I need to re-evaluate what this blog is for.  I will go through some things that I could blog about and comment on whether I will be blogging about them in future and why.

Gamebook news:  I usually surf the web for gamebook related stuff and I used to post news on this blog as it came up.  However, at the time of writing this post, I have been news editor for Fighting Fantazine, a fantastic free gamebook related zine, so I won't be doing much news here any more.

Gamebook related reviews:  Like with the news, I write reviews for Fighting Fantazine, so I won't be posting stuff here.

Playthroughs:  I've never done one of this, mostly because several people on the blogosphere can write far more entertaining and informative playthroughs that I ever could, so I might give it a try one day, but not today.

Gamebook analysis:  Now this is what I would like to write about a lot.  The thing is, my analysis has been based on the material that I built up over the years before I started this blog and the well is starting to run a bit dry.  I am also experiencing a paradigm shift in my writing.  Basically, I will be writing more analysis and I will be revisiting old posts to see if my view has changed, but this will be later when I've had time to play a load more gamebooks, write a load more gamebooks and cogitate on them.

Original gamebooks:  I have only done one of these - an Adventurer gamebook in April.  I would like to try more of these gamebooks as writing a mini gamebook does not take up too much time and effort and I have found that the ideas for these mini gamebooks could be seeds that will one day grow into bigger gamebooks.

Other random stuff:   I can keep this up.  I can do random stuff all day.

So there we are.  Basically, because I am writing for Fighting Fantazine and I am writing actual gamebooks and also because the information stream that I had saved up before blogging is running dry, posts may not come weekly, but I have a solution to help that they do.  Quite early on in my blog writing, I decided to keep my posts weekly and not post them as soon as I had written them as to save material.  Obviously, I completely failed at that and I've posted loads of posts.  However, I have managed to build up a bank of posts for times such as these.  I will be posting more of these posts so that I can devote more time to writing and also get the old posts out and bring new ones in.  Discussion about gamebooks has moved on in the last 3 years and it's time for me to move on too.

What do YOU want to see? 

Please leave a comment below.  I will endeavour to reply to my comments.

Until next time...happy gamebooking!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paradigm shift - my writing

This post was born out of my thoughts from this post by Dave Morris.  Many thanks, Dave for the inspiration and also for introducing me to the word 'damascene'.

Have you ever had some crushing realisation that your knowledge and talents are not up to what you thought they were?  And that there is a whole new area that you've neglected, but you thought you could get by fine ignoring it but now it's just staring you in the face and you just can't any more?  Like it's saying 'Deal with me or get out.'?

Well, I'm having that feeling about gamebooks.  And, although crushing realisations of inadequacy don't fell too good, I've learnt to love them as it means that they are a precursor to upping my game in whatever area I have them in.

I'm going to deal with it.  I love gamebooks too much to get out, I hope you will be glad to know.

The thing that I just cannot ignore any more is that I really have to work at being a writer in order to produce better gamebooks.  The process was a long one.  It all began back with my first Windhammer entry, that disaster known as Triad of Skulls, where I made too many schoolboy errors to list here.

I hadn't realised that it was my writing letting me down, because when I wrote my second entry, City of the Dead, I approached it with the mentality that if I could just get an interesting game system that gave the player lots of choices of character creation and then make sure that the game element itself was balanced so that people wouldn't complain about it being unfair that I would be sorted.  However, due to that, I neglected the story and the atmosphere.  I had a very vivid picture of what the City of the Dead should be like in my head, but this didn't translate to the page because I didn't know how to do that and I was far too concerned with the game system to even realise that I needed to improve upon that aspect.

So I tried to improve upon my story telling.  I wrote 10 Short Fighting Fantasy books (I wrote the long one before any of this happened) in order to practise for Windhammer 2010.  I then wrote Sharkbait's Revenge which was based on a true story and relied on the tried and tested popular trope of pirates and all of their clich├ęs.  It also had scenes influenced by films, TV and cartoons that I have watched.  I won that year.  Wooooo!

Buoyed by my success, I then submitted Rulers of the NOW where I concentrated on tons of world building based on every conspiracy theory I could lay my hands on.  However, I was still pretty weak on character. 

In 2012, I went off the boil with regards to character and entered Call of Khalris which was inspired by Lovecraft, who, despite his great talent and fantastic stories, was not a writer who focused on character.  I tried to include character through the player with the use of the diary.  However, this had mixed reactions.

I have written other books over the time.  My TnT solos had very simple plots and characters and focused more on mechanics, but I tried to connect with the reader in other ways.  Temple of the Fool God was all about the trickster archetype.  I also wrote a free USR solo called Locket Away which is basically Film Noir in a fantasy setting.  I also wrote the Ascent of Darkness which is based on Greek myth.  Whilst I was doing all of this, I was obsessively trawling through TVTropes as if my life depended on reading every page in detail.

After all of this, my head was full of tropes, story archetypes, character archetypes and references, which I saw as a set of ingredients.  If I put the correct tropes together in the right proportions and order, then I could create something good.  What I found was that I could create something functional, but that a great gamebook was more than just the some of its parts.  To use an appropriate analogy, I felt like Victor Frankenstein who had put together the body parts of his creature but had not yet instilled it with the spark of life.

Recent discussions from Fabled Lands and Mysterious Path have also dragged me out of my paradigm of the archetypal gamebook being a Fighting Fantasy book or a Lone Wolf book - the ones I had grown up with.  The world of gamebooks has much more variety than those books.  There are much more and much better approaches to a gamebook than writing a solo dungeon crawl.  I have spent far too long skipping the text and looking at the options or looking for all the game relevant bits and calculating my odds in combats.  This discussion gave me the realisation that I had been stuck in my current paradigm and that I really need to branch out to survive.

I've been working on it, however.  Whilst I have been working on Goblin's Bounty, I have had to come up with dialogue between the four goblins in the gang that wasn't only amusing, but also made them feel 3d - I wanted the reader to think that they had been lifelong friends with all the history and rapport that it brings.  Ashton Saylor, who has been providing me with excellent feedback has helped drag me out of my world where I believe that everything is reducible and gamebooks can be written by numbers (quite literally) - he has shown me that there needs to be more depth to a character than just a vehicle for delivering dialogue.  In fact, I've written backgrounds for the Goblins for that book, little of which has made it into the text, but they have certainly helped me write consistent characters that the reader is more likely to connect to. 

So I think what I was missing was text that 'connected' with the reader and engaged them, which is what I endeavour to do.  At the time of writing, I have written 100000 words of gamebook this year so far and the actual writing has been an education to me.  I feel like I have come a long way since Triad of Skulls, but I still have a long way to go.  However, I now feel like I'm on a higher level.

Until next time...happy gamebooking!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Monster: Black Eyed Children

I enjoy listening to Binnall of America for my regular dose of esoterica.  I recently listened to the black eyed children episode where Tim Binnall talks to David Weatherly author of a book on black eyed children entitled The Black Eyed Children.

A typical black eyed children encounter involves a ragged child approaching an unsuspecting person, usually at their house but also on the street or in their car.  They usually do not answer questions but they usually ask to be invited in.  People have reported feeling as if they are being hypnotised by them an also think that the black eyed children have some skill in telepathy.  It is at that point that the victim notices that the child's eyes are completely black and feels an overwhelming sense of terror.  If the victim flees the scene, or closes the door on the child, returning to that place will reveal that the child has vanished.  Encounters with the black eyed children are often accompanied by smells of decaying flesh and the victim may experience upheaval in their life afterwards.  Being touched by the children usually results in illness that won't go away.

Some people have turned to religion after their encounters and black eyed children have not been known to approach members of the clergy.  Black eyed children will try to avoid combat.  If someone does not willingly let them in then they will usually try to teleport away.


BLACK EYED CHILD

NUMBER ENCOUNTERED:  1-3

LOCATION:  Anywhere

REACTION:  Hostile

INTELLIGENCE:  High

CREATURE TYPE:  Spirit

SKILL:                      6

STAMINA:               4

LUCK:                      9

MAGIC:                    9

MAGIC POINTS:     28

SKILLS: Magic-Wizardry (5), Magic Lore (5), Second Sight (5), Religion Lore (2),
Secret Signs (3), World Lore (5), Eldritch Lore (5),

TALENT:  Natural Mage.

SPELLS:  Beffudle (1),  Fear (1), Combine (+2), Concentrate (+2), ESP (2), Command (4), Teleport (6)

WEAPON:  Diseased touch:  Black eyed children are unarmed, but if they touch a living creature or inflict any damage upon them, that character will develop a disease within a week.  The black eyed children touch anyone they fight who does not kill them in one round.  This disease will cause them to lose 1 skill point.  Curing the disease will only last a week before they contract another disease which will reduce their stamina by 2.  If that disease is cured, then after another week, the character will contract the original disease that reduces their skill by 1 again and so on.  This process can only be stopped by a priest who has a devotion of at least 10 casting a bless spell on the character.

ARMOUR:  None.

SPECIAL:  Misfortune:  Anyone who is affected by a spell cast by a black eyed child or touched by a black eyed child will also lose 1 luck point.  Being the target of ESP does not count.  They may only lose a maximum of 1 luck point a day through this ability.

Immune to non magical weapons:  Normal weapons do not harm a black eyed child.  Reducing a black eyed child's stamina to 0 merely banishes it from the mortal realm.

 Planeswalk: Black eyed children can move between their realm and the material realm. This requires 6 magic points and 10 minutes of preparation time.

Holy weakness:  The magic, misfortune ability and the diseased touch of a black eyed child does not work on any character who has the Magic-Priestly skill or the Templar talent and follows a good god.

Banishment:  black eyed children can be banished back to their realm if certain gods or spirits are invoked but this is difficult.  Only a character with either Religion Lore and/or the Secret Signs skills can do this.  They must make a check which can use the bonus to Religion Lore and Secret Signs.  Priests of good gods get a further +2 bonus.However, there is also a -4 penalty because it is very difficult.  If the player succeeds, the black eyed child is banished.  If the player fails, then they are affected as if they had had the fear spell cast upon them (but they do not lose luck).