Saturday, April 30, 2016

April A to Z - Z is for Zero cost gamebooks

Hello all! Welcome to the last day of the April A to Z. It's been a great time as always, and I've enjoyed looking at the blogs immensly. I want to leave you all with a present and that is some links to all the free gamebooks that you can enjoy online. There's plenty here to sink your teeth in and all for free! Enjoy! And I look forward to the April A to Z 2017.

Project Aon - a collection of all the books written by Joe Dever, author of the Lone Wolf series, Freeway Warrior, Combat Heroes and many other excellent gamebooks. And they are all free!

Fighting Fantasy amateur adventures - A collection of amateur adventures submitted to the Fighting Fantasy website.

Fighting Fantasy Project - more Fighting Fantasy books, most of which are playable online.

Chronicles of Arborell gamebooks - excellent gamebook series by Wayne Densley

Windhammer competition entries - speaking of Wayne Densely, here are the entries to his fabulous
gamebook competition.

Ashton Saylor's works - Ashton Saylor has made many of his gamebooks free as his gaming materials. Check them out.

I have also made all of my gamebooks Pay What You Want or free apart from Asuria Awakens, which is well worth the money.

Friday, April 29, 2016

April A to Z - Y is for You are the Beer-O

Good day to you gamebookers and visitors. Now, if you're wondering if there is anywhere you can meet fellow gamebook fans, then today has the answer. There is a group of dedicated Fighting Fantasy fans who meet up in London and you can meet them too. In this post, you will get to know all about them.

1. For those of us who don’t know, tell us about yourself.
I’m James Aukett, and have been into Fighting Fantasy since my early teens.
I remember buying The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain (which was my first FF gamebook) at a second hand bookshop in Muswell Hill during the mid-1990s and have always maintained an active interest in the series since then. I was interviewed by FF author Jonathan Green for his book You Are The Hero which chronicles the history of Fighting Fantasy, and also filmed a couple of the talks at 2014’s Fighting Fantasy Fest.
Talk on The History Of Fighting Fantasy:
Talk on The Art Of Fighting Fantasy:

2. Where did the idea about the first Fighting Fantasy meet-up come from?
The idea for the first FF meet-up was initiated by Rob Learner, and Steven Green created a Facebook event for this as a result. This meet-up took place at The Black Friar pub in London – Rob and Steven were there, along with myself and Luke Blaxill. Steven had a copy of You Are The Hero with him on the table and this gave Rob the inspiration to nickname any future FF meet-ups as You Are The Beer-O, a name which has stuck with these events ever since.

3. Where do you meet?
We have had two You Are The Beer-O events so far – and both of these have taken place in London pubs! The first was at The Black Friar (as previously mentioned) and the second was at The Salutation in Hammersmith, the latter being only a few minutes away from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s original Games Workshop retail premises. The third You Are The Beer-O will again be at The Salutation, as it gives those who couldn’t make it last time another chance to look at the first ever Games Workshop site, which nowadays is home to a venue known as the Coco Club.

4. Do you plan anything for the meet-ups?
There isn’t any particular agenda, however as the title of You Are The Beer-O suggests it generally involves a bit of drinking and of course plenty of Fighting Fantasy discussion! Although come to think of it, maybe one day we could have a playthrough of The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain board game or even read one of the multiplayer books such as The Riddling Reaver or Clash Of The Princes.

5. Does anyone need to bring anything to the meet-ups?
All that we ask of people if they do come is to just bring along a nostalgic fondness of Fighting Fantasy, no matter how big or small! Personally I also tend to bring along a few of the Puffin green spine books and place them on the table where we are sat, as I believe they would help any newcomers to find us quite easily. The distinctive green spines of the Puffin Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were a key element for me when locating and collecting them back in the day, and I tend to think that this is a factor agreed and shared with my fellow enthusiasts as well.

6. How often to do you intend to do the meet-ups?
As present we have a You Are The Beer-O every three months, although we would be happy to do one-off specials to tag alongside events such as a future Fighting Fantasy Fest (if this does occur though I’m always confident it will do given 2014’s event was such a success). Whilst the meet-ups usually happen in a London pub, maybe one day we could take an adventure outside of the capital. Steven has also suggested for a You Are The Beer-O to be held at a beer festival instead of a conventional pub, so many a possibility for forthcoming You Are The Beer-O events.

7. Have you got names related to the Fighting Fantasy books prepared for all of them?
I reckon we’ve got up to as far as the first ten, but I don’t want to give away the names for the future ones just yet! You Are The Beer-O 2 was entitled City Pub Of Chaos and whilst You Are The Beer-O 1 didn’t officially have a proper name at the time of it taking place, I’ve since referred to it as The Black Friar Of Firetop Mountain (in honour of the venue where it was held).

8. When and where is the next You Are The Beer-O?
The third You Are The Beer-O is entitled Forest Of Doom Bar and will happen on Saturday 28th May from 2pm, again at The Salutation in Hammersmith – please see the flyer on this page for details. If you’re a fan of Fighting Fantasy then you are more than welcome to come along and join us, it would be great to see you.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April A to Z - X is for eXtra stuff that I want to give away

Hello all! I'm just in the process of clearing stuff out and I would like to offer my extra gamebook/RPG stuff for free to a good home. I would be willing to post outside the UK if I could get some money towards P+P. I'm going to do this on a first come, first served basis, so if you want anything, please email me at

My items are:

The Horror of High Ridge (CYOA 27)

DnD book for Diablo II: Diablerie

DnD 3.5 Song and Silence (guidebook for bards and rogues)

Deep Where the Liche Lord Lies (a TnT adventure by A.R. Holmes)

Raid on Rajallopor (a Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes adventure module)

A book of maps for Maelstrom Domesday

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Wilderness Survival Guide.

Happy gamebooking!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April A to Z - W is for (Frankenstein) Wars - an interview with Paul Gresty

Good day to you, lovely people! Today, we have the wonderful and talented Paul Gresty,
writer of the excellent gamebooks Arcana Agency , The Orpheus Ruse and MetaHuman Inc.. 
He has several great projects on the way, so I'll let him talk about them...

How is Fabled Lands: The SerpentKing's Domain going? Can you give us any previews on what to expect? Any items that might be useful?

'Sup, Stu.
Expect snakes. And a few spiders. And a whole bunch of trees. The book has suffered a couple of holdups, but for my part I'm chunking along with it quite nicely, now.
Regarding previews… I do have some criticisms of the first six Fabled Lands books, and I wanted to address those. Most notably, the books don't scale well once your character is up at the higher levels. The books are so open-ended that there are, of course, a bunch of exploits. It isn't so hard to get up to the high ranks, or to max out your stats, or to make a ton of money. Your character is probably carrying that amazing, undroppable White Sword, too.
So I hope to throw in a few curveballs that will cause even the higher-rank folks to stop and pause. Opponents that don't attack in a conventional way, or that use your own strengths against you. You see a little of that in the Dunpala demo adventure – I think that Kerep Tlotor can give you a bloody nose even if you're used to breezing through combats without taking a scratch.
Regarding items, that's one possible way of establishing a little variation between characters from playthrough to playthrough. As it is, there isn't much difference between, say, a high-level Troubadour and a high-level Mage and a high-level Warrior. You'll see a few magic items that work differently for different professions. You'll see a little item-building, where you'll be able to get one cool item or the other – but not both. Your character might still be amazingly powerful by the time you're done with FL: SKD – but your high-level character will look quite different to your buddy's high-level character.
It's curious that you mention items. They're my big headache just now. Interesting quest rewards, that you don't want to dump at the nearest market. Interesting market lists. Who would have thought that could be so complicated? 

What is your favourite bit about working on Fabled Lands? Are you including a few things that might be in future books?

Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson are gamebook grand masters. They've created an amazing fantasy world, and a game system that is both simple and yet that allows immense diversity for the player and for the encounters. They've written six books that establish a very sparse style of writing. And now I get to play around inside all that. They've already done most of the heavy lifting, which grants me the freedom to be like a big kid in a toyshop. That's my favourite aspect about working on the book.
And it's also the most intimidating aspect. Though I've come to know the series relatively late, I'm very conscious of what it means to the people who've been waiting 20 years for this. It's a lot of pressure to produce a book that approaches the same level of quality that Dave and Jamie have already established.
Sometimes I worry that Fabled Lands fans will hate me for ruining their series. 'This is worse than Jar-Jar!' they shout, their cries cutting through my nightmares. 'This is worse than Jar-Jar!'
In terms of future books… We can never be too certain about the future of the series, so I don't want to go crazy with hooks to as-yet-unwritten books. But yeah, I'm keeping books 8 to 12 firmly in mind.
I've been able to rummage through Dave and Jamie's original notes for the rest of the series, and they've even shot a few ideas my way quite recently for The Serpent King's Domain. All of that stuff goes in. Fabled Lands is still their baby. 

What is The Frankenstein Wars about? What kind of gamebook are we to expect?

The Frankenstein Wars is an app from Cubus Games that focuses on two brothers caught on opposing sides of a technological revolution in France in the 1800s – that is, the emergence of Frankenstein's method of creating life, and reanimating the dead. At various points in the story the player personifies two brothers, Thomas and Anton Clerval, who are initially caught on opposing sides of the conflict.
I'm not sure 'gamebook' is the appropriate term, in fact. In some ways The Frankenstein Wars is poles apart from Fabled Lands – in this, you personify pre-existing characters, and the focus is on how they grow as they experience the events around them. Do their moral values evolve, or do they cling to their initial perspectives? Do they change allegiance? All of that is in the hands of the player – and so it's interactive fiction, absolutely, but I'm not sure 'gamebook' is apt. It's a world apart from Fighting Fantasy, or Choose Your Own Adventure.
And yet in some ways it's very like Fabled Lands. We're going for short, stripped-down text. The Cubus guys are harsh in imposing limits on the length of each section of text, and I think that's a big plus point. The choices come thick and fast.
It's a hard one to write – perversely, because it takes place in a historical, real-world setting. There's been a big learning curve as I get up to speed on 19th-century French history. I can't just write, 'A mahogany door occupies one wall' – if I do, I have to go look up mahogany on Wikipedia, find out if it was widely used in France in the 1827, and so forth. The horror and science-fiction elements are easy in comparison – I can just make those up.
Maybe I'm being precious. Writing The Frankenstein Wars, my big job is just to put the player in engaging, dramatic situations, and then sling mud at them. Then my job is done; it's up to the player to decide how to react.

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

Maybe. I'm increasingly working as a freelancer, which means I keep one beady eye on the sector. Then, when I spot an opportunity, I'm ready to pounce, like a hungry lion striving to tear apart the flesh of a young gazelle.
Yeah, that's what I'm like.
Lately I'm writing a lot of game code rather than plain text, so I'm currently finding ways to get faster and better at that. I have no background at all in programming; I'd imagined that would be a chore. Turns out it's actually quite fun. 

What advice would you want to give to someone who wants to write a gamebook?

Story is paramount. Story, story, story. Without a compelling story, you have nothing. Worry about the precise format and game mechanics only once you have that.
What I really liked in your own Asuria Awakens, Stuart, is the creepy 'Invaders of the Body Snatchers' vibe. That was the big draw there, for me.
Plan before you get started, although that comes under the 'story' recommendation above. You might be able to get away with pantsing a gamebook – but odds are it'll be much more coherent if you're working to a plan.
Don't go too retro, neither in content nor format. The most interesting gamebooky stories I read are things that I could never have thought of by myself.
Choice of Games are great for that. They have a huge mix of genres and writing styles. They now provide the first 25% or so of each game for free – you can really sift through everything on their site, or on your particular app provider, to see which games grab your interest.
Write fast, particularly if you have a lot going on. It just makes it easier to keep everything in your puny human brain.
Don't be overambitious. I'm guilty of this one again and again. With gamebooks, with interactive fiction in general, it's all too easy to get yourself tied up in knots. You start out with grand ambitions of innovative gameplay and story branches; you end up creating 100,000 words of needless work for yourself.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April A to Z - V is for Very nice of Michael J. Ward to pop by

 Good day to you, lovely readers. Today we have Michael J. ward, writer of the Destiny Quest series, gamebooks that follow epic stories that span huge countries. The scope of the gamebooks is huge in every way. They are like Game of Thrones for gamebooks (Gamebook of Thrones?).

Today, he tells us about himself, the series and what else he's been up to.

For the first time readers, please tell us about you and your writing.

I’m Michael J. Ward and I had the mad idea of meshing my love of computer RPGs with the traditional gamebook, and came up with DestinyQuest. Currently there are three titles in the series – The Legion of Shadow, The Heart of Fire, and The Eye of Winter’s Fury. You can find out more about the series and how to play at the official site:
Destiny Quest has been translated into German. How is it doing? Any more languages for Destiny Quest?
The first book has now been translated into French, Spanish and German – with the German translation being the most recent and successful. My German publisher, Mantikore, who also publish the translations of the Lone Wolf series, has now also taken on the second book to translate. I’m not sure what the release date of that will be, but likely to be end of this year or beginning of the next. I’ve been invited to Germany in August to attend my publisher’s self-run convention, where I will be meeting fans and signing books – so I’m sure that will be a lot of fun!  
There's a very active DestinyQuest community. Have they influenced any future plans for the series?
It’s always hard to gauge the exact size of a fan community, but I am certainly flattered by those passionate members who continue to engage with the forums or initiate their own DQ projects, such as the recent YouTube series, PageFlippers by Victory Condition Gaming. I wouldn’t say the community has necessarily influenced any plans, but I am conscious that a Book Four is sorely needed and I do feel peoples’ frustration that I can’t provide that at the present time.

After book 3, the series was discontinued, but you have hinted that there still might be a book 4. Is there anything else you can talk about now?
I do really want to do a Book Four and, while I can’t really say too much at this time, there is a company very interested in taking on Heart of Fire and Winter’s Fury to develop as apps, and also continue the series with more adventures. Things were close to getting signed at the end of last year, but sadly there were complications with funding and clashes with other projects, so while I am assured there is still a very positive chance it will all be happening, I don’t have a timeline to share at the present time. If it does go ahead, then it would offer a fantastic future for the DQ series.  
Have you started planning a Book Four and can you share any of your new ideas with us?

I have a very rough plot sketched out and an idea of the maps that would make up the two zones. Book Four has a desert theme, as I think many have guessed, and would bring in a lot of characters that will be familiar to fans of the previous books. I’ve also planned up the careers – and taken a different approach to developing the abilities in the game. In Book Four there will be much more focus on specific build-types, so each path (warrior, mage, rogue) will have two different builds that readers can specialize in – so, choosing abilities that really mesh well together and are focused around a single concept.

To give two examples, one of the warrior builds is built around the damage you have taken and the damage inflicted to opponents. It plays very much as a berserker, where you want to be potentially stacking abilities that trigger when your health is at a certain point. On the other side of the coin is the full on tank build, which uses your armour value to do interesting effects and combos. Players can choose to mix and match from the warrior ability pool as they gain items, or they can choose those abilities that focus them in one of those two directions. I think it brings a lot more synergy to the abilities and gives readers a more rewarding journey in upgrading and customizing their characters. Like the warrior, the other paths (rogue and mage) offer builds that are really very different in tone, using new mechanics to make each unique.   

Someone's being playing your books on Youtube. How are they doing? Is it fun to watch such a detailed read through of one of your books?

Yes, Victory Condition Gaming have been running a playthrough of the first book. It was very flattering to have been approached for the series and it’s been great fun watching Doug and his daughter, Sydney, battle their way through the hordes of monsters. At times it has been nerve-wracking to watch, as I know the first book is the toughest of the three, so I am always on the edge of my seat, worried whether they will get mired in a tough combat that makes them rage quit in anger (!), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their progress and their choices – so that has been a huge relief to me! The community have also been incredibly supportive in offering advice and feedback on the rules, so the videos have provided a good learning tool for those who might be new to the series. You can check out the series here:

DestinyQuest was inspired by your love of gaming. What games are you currently playing – both computer and table-top?

I’m currently playing through Dark Souls 3 which, as fans of the series will know, is a punishingly hard experience designed to make you fling your controller across the room, but I really enjoy that challenge and exploring the stunningly crafted world created by From Software. Incidentally, there is a board game conversion currently on Kickstarter, which I urge people to check out and support. It’s quite pricey, but you get a ton of great miniatures and extras.

Talking of kickstarters, I recently backed Zombicide: Black Plague and Arcadia Quest: Inferno. In the last few years I have really rediscovered my love of table-top gaming. There are some really innovative ideas going on in the board game scene right now, more so than I would say computer gaming, so I am always on the look-out for cool new games to pick up. The only problem is storage space – particularly if you go in on a kickstarter and end up with about a gadzillion boxes of extras! Think I may need to build an extension!     

Have you ever thought about designing a DestinyQuest board game?

I’ve been playing around with a design for a DQ card game. This is going to sound quite odd I know, but I actually dreamt the game (!). When I woke up I was like, wow that was a really good idea – grabbed my notepad and got scribbling. I’ve not really pursued it as much as I would like, but when I do get a rare moment of inspiration, I’ll add to my pool of ideas. I think it could be something quite cool, but not really sure how I would take it any further really.  

Last year, you were also working on some novels. How are they doing?
Slowly, is the word I would use! Most of my time of late has been taken up with freelance writing and editing, to pay the bills and keep my head above water, so I really haven’t had much ‘head-space’ to get back into the writing. I do have two books on the go at the moment (not sure if that is really the most productive approach to getting a book finished!), and while I am making progress, it is very slow. But then, I don’t feel too much pressure to get something out – I’d rather take my time and make sure that what I end up with is something I am proud of and would make a publisher say ‘yes!’.   

What do you have planned for next year?

Gosh, I don’t even have plans for the rest of this year so hard to think that far ahead! I guess my future hope is that the Book Four deal comes to fruition because there is nothing else I would rather be doing right now than more DestinyQuest. I would love to return to that world and share more of the story. It feels annoyingly unfinished, with story threads still dangling all over the place, so I don’t think I could find any kind of peace or satisfaction until the series was completed. I have faith, so we’ll see what happens!