Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review

Happy new year, gamebookers! 2016 is just around the corner, so I thought I'd be original and go review the past year and talk about what's going on in the future.

Year in review

Asuria Awakens!!!!

Yes, my Gamebook Adventures book came out this September. It felt great to finally get my book out to the world and also to have great reviews for it.

Legend of the Wayfarer

My mini gamebook series has reached 8 books now. I want to make shorter gamebooks but also make them better, such as including hyperlinks in the books. I want to system to be sustainable and possible to do in my spare time at the rate of 1 a month. Having books of 80-120 sections each are too big to do once a month with the spare time I have. These books don't have hyperlinks as well and people do want them to make reading them easier.

Windhammer 2015

My gamebook, Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter did not win any prizes, but I'm proud of it anyway. At the very least, I'm glad that I managed to get over my problem with working out titles.

AFF2 - I have contributed lots and lots to the forum. As well as the adventures (see my bibliography), I have made a collection of other things to help with AFF2. Have a look on the forums for loads more homebrew stuff.

For more information on what I have written, here is my bibliography.

My New Year's resolutions

Getting more blog posts

The thing is the gang of us who started blogging about gamebooks around 2010 then went on to write actual gamebooks. We all have jobs and a lot of us have children too. Since I started writing this blog in 2010, I have got married and had two children. I have also been approached by people to write some gamebooks and also my store of thoughts on gamebooks has started to run dry. Writing gamebooks has provided me with more thoughts, but I need the time to write them down.

I don't know how to get more posts - I have shared this blog with people, but they are equally busy. we need to find some new blood out there - people who are interested in gamebooks and interactive fiction and who are eager to share their thoughts and post their books. The audience is there.

If you want to contribute, please email me at

Revisiting old posts

I have mentioned before that my gaming guru is Mark Rosewater, lead designer of Magic the Gathering. I read Mark's Monday articles since he started writing them and also long after I played Magic seriously. One thing Mark did was revisit old posts that he had done in the past. I have been thinking about this for a while. I think the first posts I will revisit will be my 'How to Write a Gamebook' posts as I will want to go back to the core of writing a gamebook.

More gamebooks

I have some gamebooks in the works, which I don't want to talk about yet. Hopefully, they will come to light in 2016.

More Interactive Fiction

I have gradually become aware of Interactive Fiction circles, mainly by having my Windhammer entries Sharkbait's Revenge and Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter reviewed by Emily Short I have also started reading the These Heterogeeous Tasks blog.

I want to write something using Choicescript or Twine, so that will be something next year.

So there we are. I hope you all have a happy and prosperous 2016. Happy gamebooking!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gamebook Kickstarters part 1: 6Quest

Good day to you, gamebookers!There is currently another gamebook kickstarter, which is for a lovely interactive program called 6Quest. Please look at it and back it to show your support!!!!

You can find the 6Quest Kickstarter page here.

You can find the demo here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Corporate Treachery Meets Otherworldly Forces in MetaHuman, Inc.

Damn. I promised myself I wouldn't do this.

It's been a while since I posted anything on Lloyd of Gamebooks. The last few posts I wrote were back in the 2015 Summer of Gamebook Kickstarters (remember those heady days?), and each one of them was to promote various interactive fiction books or apps. Oh, they were all in earnest – I really was excited about those projects. But they all came down to selling something, nonetheless.

And yet, what has always most appealed to me about this excellent blog that Stuart Lloyd has created is its, and his, honest adoration of gamebooks – the geeky fanboy element, if you will, a category under which I would also class myself. When Stuart first asked if I'd be interested in contributing to this blog, I wanted to respect that honesty – I intended my posts on Lloyd of Gamebooks to be first and foremost about discussing the gamebooks that I loved, old and new, and not merely a means of hawking my own wares. And yet, by the end of Summer 2015, I'd used this blog to do a lot of promo. It was about time I returned to my starry-eyed fanboy roots, and got back to talking about apps and gamebooks that I loved on their own merits, rather than because I had a dog in that particular race.

With that proviso in mind, I'm about to tell you how amazing my newest gamebook app is, and then I'm going to tell you where you can buy it.

It helps that I can be sincerely effusive – that I am enormously invested in this app I've been working on for about two years, which is probably the best thing I've ever written. Is it distasteful, even vulgar, for a writer to so brazenly market his or her own work? It shouldn't be. Particularly in this growing climate of ebookery and self-publishing. Particularly too in the interactive fiction sphere, which is still a niche domain, peopled by indie publishers and even indie-er writers. Oh, you can find a few giants who are still republishing Fighting Fantasy books, if you step outside the English language. But even they show no interest in breaking new ground. If we, as emerging writers, aren't prepared to market our own work, who will?

Dave Morris addressed this point in detail in an article he wrote for The Bookseller in February. Take a look. For gamebook writers especially, there are far worse people to consult for advice.

Bref, as the French say when they want to change the subject. Let's talk about MetaHuman, Inc.

MetaHuman, Inc. is an interactive fiction story in which you play as CEO of a nebulous corporation that specialises in creating Enhancements – superhuman abilities, for sale to the highest bidder. You must navigate the tribulations of the business world – recruiting and managing staff, say; prioritising Enhancement projects and building the resources necessary to handle them – while striving to raise your company's share price as high as possible. Because, should it fall too low by the end of the year, MetaHuman's shareholders won't be pleased. And they aren't the kind of preternatural beings that you want to have displeased with you.

Yes, MetaHuman, Inc. is a tale of corporate dealings and treachery. But it is also a tale of sorcerous powers and bleeding-edge technologies – and the consequences and responsibilities of integrating such modern-day miracles into your own body. As you govern the fortunes of MetaHuman Incorporated, you'll face mercenary psychics, and fiery creatures out of Arabian myth. Worst of all, when the extraterrestrial parasites known as the Surgeons attempt to gain dominion over the planet Earth, you must decide what role MetaHuman will play in repelling this incursion – or whether you wish to help the aliens, in the hope of gaining immense power.

In terms of game mechanics, Choice of Games, this app's publisher, has a track record of steering away from the clean-cut 'skills' that you would find in RPGs – 'You're good at this skill, you aren't so good at this...' – and preferring variables that reflect a degree of nuance on the player's part. And so, here you can play as a CEO displaying Ruthlessness or Compassion, one who shows a great deal of Candor or Guile. Publicly misbehave, and your company's Image will suffer, unless you can put a good spin on things. You can try to keep morale high amongst your staff – or you can bully and intimidate them into good behaviour. As mentioned, your company's Share Price is paramount, and it's a good idea to build up the Resources necessary to develop the really high-level Enhancements.

Ah yes, the Enhancements, the bread and butter of MetaHuman Incorporated. These are, essentially, superpowers-for-sale, and the key to building up a good company profile. You can direct your company towards focusing on magical or hi-tech research, Witchery or Superscience; most Enhancements fall within one domain or the other, though a few walk the line between the two extremes. In writing this game, I wanted to shy away from including 'classic' superpowers – and so you won't find super-strength, or the ability to fly listed amongst MetaHuman's potential projects. Instead, you may be able to develop Heightened Legerity, Hex of the Arc Savant, Technopathy, Psi-activator, Probability Filter, and a bunch of others. And, yes, if your company develops these abilities, you, as CEO, get first taste of the finished product.

And the game is big. It's about 260,000 words long, in total. Word count in apps can be a bit misleading – maybe 15% of that word count is coding rather than content. Plus, when comparing an app and a dead-tree book, in an app it's far easier to copy and paste a chunk of text, editing for continuity; do that, and that's a big brick of words that you have to count twice. Still, you've got maybe the equivalent of three Fighting Fantasy books crammed into this app. When you buy MetaHuman, Inc. you get your money's worth, any way you look at it.

It's an added bonus that I love, love, love the game's cover art, by Paul Guinan. My one-line brief for that was along the lines of, 'I think the app's cover should be MetaHuman's company logo – something suitably sinister.' The final cover, up at the top of this page, is really fantastic. Thanks for that, CoG, and Paul Guinan in particular.

So, I'm really proud of this game, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you take a look at it. You can play the first three chapters of the game for free right now, on the Choice of Games website. If you want to buy the game now, it's currently on sale until 4th January 2016. You'll get 40% off the regular price.

I hope you enjoy it. And, once again, please excuse me for using this space to sell my stuff.

(Post by Paul Gresty)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Blog posts I read to improve my gamebook writing

Hello gamebookers! I hope you are well and gamebooking along quite nicely. Here is a list of five links that I have found myself going back to when I want to remind myself if the gamebook I a writing is a good one.

The Brewin's Guide to Writing Better Gamebooks - This is full of tips and things to avoid when writing a gamebook. I reminded myself of them when writing Asuria Awakens and realised that I had included all the items that you need to avoid instant death at the beginning, so I added an extra item towards the end to avoid the death section.

Game Design Principles by Ashton Saylor - I go back to this one normally for rule 1. I have put some things in gamebooks that I thought were funny or clever, but they turned out to not work because they annoyed the player.

A Bestiary of Player Agency on These Heterogeneous Tasks blog - this is an important blog post to read if you want to get the most out of your options in gamebooks. There is a lot more to options than just offering sections to turn to and this post allows you to think about more options that you could use.

Standard Patterns in Choice Based Games on These Heterogeneous Tasks blog and also Classifying and Rating Linearity on Jake Care's blog. I like these posts as they let me classify the gamebook I am making and then let me think about whether it is panning out in the way I want it to. Now that I am using the Gamebook Authoring Tool which provides flow diagrams, I compare general shapes of the diagrams.

So there you go. These 5  posts are all quite long, so there is plenty to get your teeth into there, but if you read them, digest them and follow the principles, you won't do much wrong with your gamebooks. Unless you don't proofread them.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Magic systems that don't warp the world

I've been taking some time away from my Legend of The Wayfarer last month to do some Advanced Fighting Fantasy stuff and real life stuff, but I've updated the system (and I'll be updating books 1-5 to fit it later) and I'm about half way through book 6.

One thing that I had an issue working out was magic. I wanted magic in my world to be present, but not affect it too much. I also did not want a situation where some people were making non-magical tools, professions or weapons obsolete.

This is a topic that people ussually ask about Dungeons and Dragons. If having a bunch of spells that can do everything a rogue and warrior of a comparable level can do, then why have rogues and warriors? If every novice cleric can cure wounds, and it only takes a little bit of experience to cure diseases and poison and not too much experience to cure death, why don't people live out their natural lifespans and nver catch a disease?

One answer is that magic is rare. Dungeon Crawl Classics has a breakdown of the percentage of the population by level and 95% of the population is 0 level (which are incapable of using magic). Of the remaining 5%, almost no one is above level 2.

That is one reason.

DCC also has a magic system where there is a huge range of effects. A spell that opens doors can have an effect that ranges from complete failure to destroying all doors in a mile radius.

However, this is difficult to do in gamebooks.

Maelstrom (and it's  medieval version, Maelstrom Domesday) have a very interesting version where there are no lists of spells. Instead, you describe the effect you want, and then you have to roll to see if you know the relevant spell and then you are capable of casting it. Spells are ranked in terms of difficulty depending on how removed from reality you want to be. Trying to do something that is likely to happen is quite easy. The more improbable the effect, the harder it is to pull off.

There are some interesting comparisons here. A novice Dungeons and Dragons wizard can make a random object shine like a torch, but this would be one of the hardest possible spells in Maelstrom.

I prefer this kind of magic - sure, wizards have  power over the world, but the only effects that they can produce are those that could have happened anyway. This is the way that the charms skill in the Virtual Reality books worked (at least the ones by Dave Morris). If you had charms, things would happen in your favour, which were unlikely but possible (such as skarvench having a misfire on his cannon at just the right time or your charm blocking a bullet that he fired at you).

From what I remember of The Golden Bough this is how a lot of sympathetic magic worked. Hunters would put the lead bullets in their mouths before firing them as this action would represent them putting the meat from the animal that they will shoot into their mouths and make it more likely to hit something. In this case, there are still only two possible outcomes if they fire a gun at an animal - they hit it or they don't hit it - but performing the action makes hitting it more likely.

This is the kind of effect I wanted in my game, but I did not want to affect skills (which would make everyone hypercompetent). Instead, magic in my world affects luck. In Legend of the Wayfarer, magic only allows you to reroll fate rolls, which means that a) the only outcomes you get are normally possible b) your magic could just produce the same result or a worse one c) no one would see anything supernatural; just that you are slightly luckier than others.

I have not decided how many people can use this magic - it is one of the 12 possible skills, but I haven't done a skill breakdown.

There is also another type of magic (mysticism) where the character is more aware of spirits and fae, is better at communicating with them and might be able to protect themselves from them. However, in these cases, there are no huge effects.

I have given myself the get out clause that there is more powerful magic that can do impossible things in this world, but for mortals to use it, it requires several items and long incantations and sacrifice. In short, powerful magic (such as curing a disease, teleportation or enchanting something) will only be used as a plot point in books.

I have also had the idea of 'gods' in this world who wield more powerful magic. However, some of these gods are not magical - merely rare monsters (such as dragons, sphinxs, treents etc.) and the humanoid gods with magic would have the equivalent power of a level 5 wizard or cleric from Dungeons and Dragons with some immortality thrown in (although in a sense that if you kill the mortal form, it will return some time later, meaning that you can stop these gods doing something if you kill them - they just won't stay dead). This idea was inspired by a very old article about Gandalf that is all over ther internet.

I think this would make it more interesting as it will prevent a deus ex machina.

Anyway, if you want more Legend of the Wayfarer stuff, go here.

Happy gamebooking!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Arborell requires patrons

Hello gamebookers! The Windhammer results have been announced. I've loved this year's entries and I would like to congratulate all the winners :).

Wayne Densley has put a great deal of effort into creating the wonderful Windhammer competition, which started all the way back in 2008. It has done a lot for the gamebook world in terms of giving an outlet for talented gamebook writers and bring a community together.

Wayne has also written many gamebooks of his own in a rich world. Please go and check them out. He has made them free for everyone to read for years, which is wonderful.

Now Wayne has discovered the brilliance of Patreon and you can give back to him. I've pledged $7 a month where he will be releasing a series of micro gamebooks. At $7 a month, it will be a steal.

So check out the Patreon page and pledge away.

Happy gamebooking!