How did you come up with your idea for the blog?
I speculatively bought Blood Of The Zombies and, as I was playing it, it got me thinking how it fits with the classic Puffin range and how the series had advanced over the years. I wrote up my thoughts, posted them on the Facebook FF group and got a surprisingly positive reaction from other gamebook enthusiasts. From there, I wrote up a few more, then a friend suggested I set up a proper blogger page. The rest just sort of carried on from there.
You have written some of your own gamebooks (such as Honour and Glory). Are there any gamebooks planned?
Yes, I’m working on several ideas at the moment: a sequel to my first gamebook (Nightshade) provisionally called Blind Nemesis which will continue the story of the demon Pesmagroth that you play in the first adventure; a gamebook for Stuart Lloyd’s Wayfarer series called Brotherhood Of The Regulator which should hopefully be ready in the next couple of months; my first Sci-Fi effort (Days Without) – I don’t like many Sci-Fi gamebooks so this one could take a while to get finished; I’ve just completed a FF set in a Convent in the Moonstone Hills called Sister Angela’s Veil which will hopefully appear in a forthcoming issue of Fighting Fantazine; I’ve been reading a lot of Jon Sutherland’s Real Life Gamebooks series lately so I might write something based on that system – I have an idea for a Civil War effort called The Protector’s Man but it’s only at the initial stage right now – you can’t change history as such in Real Life books (only your own fate is affected) but in mine you will be able to completely change the outcome of the English Civil War if you take a certain route; I also have an idea for another FF called Kaleidoscope Frenzy where you have berserker rage skills but, again, the idea is only in the early planning stages; finally, I’ve started writing a gamebook which will be my first ever Windhammer Prize entry, but I’m keeping my cards close to my chest on that one (wink). All in all, I have a lot of ideas on the go at the moment, but the Wayfarer one is likely to be completed next! I also have an idea for a FF RPG scenario where you can fold time called The Arrifluvient Essence but that one’s on the back burner whilst I try to get all these other ideas out of my brain first!
Where do you get your inspiration for Honour and Glory?
I was reading about jousting and thought a small cameo based around a tournament would be a nice idea for an adventure, plus I wanted to try to write something short and quick, rather than a “campaign” that takes lots of planning and design. It’s a simple idea but the mechanics for jousting went through lots of drafts before I had a system with no gaping holes in it! It’s my least satisfying adventure in my eyes due to its brevity, but I’m proud of it all the same as I was challenging myself to try to write something that did not just grow and grow as I designed it. It was fun to write it after writing the fairly ambitious Legacy Of The Vampire as I was less conscious of having to try to do justice to source material ie Vault Of The Vampire which everyone loves and also trying to carry over ideas from the trainwreck that was Revenge Of The Vampire which, if you ignore its disastrous structural errors, is still a good gamebook in terms of concept and scale. With Honour And Glory I only had to try to turn the joust scenario into something that made sense!
Your reviews are very thorough and detailed. What is your review process?
I play each book through in every possible direction, which takes about 3 or 4 hours. As I’m playing I note down things I particularly like or dislike, unique features, throwbacks/steals/references to or from other FFs, any cultural or historical references (eg: Hammer tropes, witchcraft, etc) and any particularly easy or harsh moments or design elements. Then I sit down with a blank Word document and get it all typed up. It usually takes two sittings of about an hour each to get it to a state that I’m happy with. Then I post it and wait for responses. I’ve been surprised at the positive reaction to my reviews and even more surprised at which ones have had the most hits (Mask Of Mayhem and the ZX Spectrum games seem unusually popular, in particular.)
You have done most Fighting Fantasy books. What gamebooks/RPGs do you plan on doing next?
There’s still about a third of the series left to write-up – it’s Creature Of Havoc next, incidentally – then I’ll do Sorcery, plus I’m half way through the Starlight write-ups and there’s still the FF boardgames, several computer games, more novels, Cretan Chronicles, etc to add as well. Since I started writing my own FFs I’ve got very interested in the fan-written amateur material that’s out there and have been collecting all of those that I could find, with a view to doing short reviews of these too at some point. As for material beyond the world of FF, I enjoy playing other gamebook series too but whether I’ll add them to the blog, who knows, but I’d prefer to keep it FF-focussed to avoid it becoming a clone of Demian Katz’s gamebook page. I’ve never been a big fan of pure RPGs – I used to play D&D and Judge Dredd RPG but I prefer gamebooks for their all-encompassing qualities.