Sunday, September 25, 2016

Twelve forces of destruction inspired by Magic the Gathering

Here re twelve absolutely unstoppable monsters (around Tarrasque level) that would cause worldwide devastation if a band of valiant heroes do not stop them in time.  Usually, these forces of nature are locked away and the heroes may be able to keep the door of their prison closed or sometimes, they may have to come up with another way of stopping the creature (like there are ways of stopping the Tarrasque).  However, as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Davill-Evans and Dave Morris has shown us, entities this powerful cannot be destroyed for good.

Hellkite Overlord

Even smaller dragons cause havoc in the lands of humans, but this one really takes the biscuit.  It fits the criteria of dragons - flying and firebreathing but it is also larger than most dragons and it can attack as soon as it is summoned, trampling anything in its path.  If by some miracle, it is dealt lethal damage, if it has access to some green mana, the mana of nature, it can regenerate itself so it will start the whole cycle of destruction again.

Hydra Omnivore

Just as big as the Hellkite Overlord and capable of damaging any number of opponents with its multitude of heads.  This monster not only causes massive damage.  It causes massive damage to everyone at once so even ganging up on it isn't that effective.  Good luck.

Stormtide Leviathan

This creature is so big that it displaces enough water to flood the rest of the lands.  It also surrounds you with plenty of water so that creatures who cannot traverse it or fly over it cannot attack you.  what is more, it is impossible to defend against it if you are on an island so it will be coming to swallow you up soon.


This is the beast of beasts.  It is huge and can attack and summon another beast just like it in the same turn.  You aren't just dealing with one massive force of nature - you are dealing with a steady stream of monsters all just as hard to kill and there will be no end to the assault unless you kill the original Godsire.

Avatar of Slaughter

This is a huge nasty creature, but the death and destruction it will cause is nothing compared to the damage caused by the rage it incites. It makes everyone simultaneously bloodthirstry and deadly and they will not stop until they are dead or all of their enemies are.  This creature can start a huge world wide bloodbath.  Beware its release.


This creature is the physical manifestation of the darkest thoughts of twisted wizards. Its presence is enough to wipe your mind of all of its spells and more through the sheer terror of its appearance.  Left mentally defenceless, this nightmare will crush you like a bug.

Gaea's Revenge

The world itself is angry and it is now fighting back.  Nature herself has assembled an elemental to destroy anything that is not like itself and it will not stop until the artifice and corruption that blights it has been layed low.  Cheap tricks and dark magic are not going to stop this elemental.

Demon of Death's Gate

Mighty demons require mighty sacrifices.  You can summon this demon with mana or you can summon it with blood.  Wither way, it will crush your enemies.

Vengeful Archon

As well as being a powerful creature, this archon will definitely avenge you by reflecting any hostile magic against its perpetrator.

Blightsteel Colossus

It's huge.  It can't be destroyed and it will kill you with its corrupting disease.  Only a sick and twisted world could come up with such a sick and twisted artefact.

Dark Depths

Marit Lage is imprisoned under the ice.  If it is released, its 20/20 flying indestructable form will make short work of even the most powerful planeswalker.
Whatever you do, make sure that the ice stays thick.

Emrakul, The Aons Torn

Finally, we have a huge beast that goes further than the previous eleven.  They were only content to destroy a world.  This thing destroys worlds.  It is almost unstoppable.  It is huge.  It flies.  It can manipulate time so that it seems to move twice as fast and every time it attacks, it devours creatures or even lands.  Finally, it will never truly die.  If the Eldrazi come for your plane, you find a way to get off that plane.  Or you try to imprison them.  or you get devoured.

Only one of these creatures is enough to overturn the world, but they can do so in many different ways.

Until next week...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lords of Benaeron now available!

Hello gamebookers! Jeffrey Dean, author of the excellent Road Less travelled books has just released his third book that was funded in his Kickstarter. The book is called Lords of Benaeron and you can get it from Jeffrey's website - Greek Winter Media.

Jeffrey is also selling Westward Dystopia with a $5 discount on his website and the ebook of Westward Dystopia will be available for only $0.99 on Amazon starting on Friday 23rd September. Have fun!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Magic the Gathering - the planes

I love the descriptions of the planes in Magic the Gathering.  They are one of the great strengths of the card game.  Every few sets, we usually visit a new plane in the multiverse, each one with its own unique character.  

Here, I will describe my three favourite planes and some ideas for adventures on them.


Imagine a world where every woodland is as hostile as the forest of Snatta, every hill is as dangerous as the Shamutanti hills and every plain holds a dark dungeon beneath it.  This is Zendikar, a place where nature is extremely hostile and even the largest settlements are no bigger than Kaad or Stonebridge.  
However, the land holds many treasures, artefacts left over from an ancient and powerful civilisation which still influences the land with its large magical monuments known as hedrons.  Where the magic is strong, natural laws are overturned and it can sometimes cause tectonic upheaval and storms.  This is known as the Roil.   
It is basically as if every inch of the land was like Darkwood Forest - full of hostile creatures and plants but also containing powerful magical items and lots of gold with its own dungeon underneath.  

If you are brave enough to face the dangers of the plane then great material and magical rewards are yours and may people do.  This is why there are many allies in Zendikar, who, when they work in teams, get stronger.  
Adventure hook:  You are approached by a shady wizard who has a map to a horde of treasure.  However,  you can keep most of it - the wizard just wants a hedron in order to unlock its secrets.  There will be dangers of all kinds - deadly storms, carnivorous plants, huge cliff faces to climb and an uderground cave that suffers from quakes every few hours.  Can you get the wizard to the treasure?


From one extreme to another.  The plane of Ravnica is one big city.  Nature forces its way through ruins, but there is no place that has not been built upon.  
On this plane, ten rival guilds vie for power, money and knowledge using different approaches and abilities.  For example, the Boros guild is an army warlike and fanatical vigilantes who mete out swift punishment to those who break the law whereas the Orzhov guild is a huge crime family which operates behind the respectable front of religion.  Think Port Blacksand but with about three times the intrigue and many hundred times the size.  
Adventure hook:  An apparently abandoned neighbourhood that you are squatting in suddenly becomes overrun by soldiers from at least three guilds.  Within minutes, the whole place is a war zone.  The first thing you have to do is get out before you end up on the wrong end of a sword.  When you are safe, you think about what could have caused such a conflict.  You have been there for a few days now and know the area and the sewers underneath it well.  Do you hire yourself out to one of the factions or try to find the object of their desires on your own?

This is a realm of pure metal created by a silver golem planeswalker.  However, it used to be uninhabited before his servant went a bit mad and summoned loads of creatures to the plane in order to find a 'planeswalkers' spark' within one and take it for himself.  He is killed and the creatures he bought here are sent to their homes, but their children stay.  In the latest set, the plane is becoming corrupted and they must fight for it.
Adventure hook:  You parents have disappeared along with the rest of the elders.  You need to recreate the community on Mirrodin and prevent your tribe falling apart.

Another adventure hook:  You have spent several years surviving on a metal plane.  You have changed so that you are part metal yourself.  Suddenly, you find yourself on your own plane and have to learn to fit in again, even with your radically altered appearance.  

What's your favourite Magic the Gathering plane?  Have any planes inspired your own settings?

Have a good week!  

Friday, September 16, 2016

You want to make games? Just do it! No programming skills required.

Before I jump into it, I would like to thank Stuart for inviting me to be an author at and I feel honored to be here with you.

In my first post here, I decided to share my theory that to be a game designer is something completely different than being a programmer. Many kids make the mistake of assuming that in order to make games, they have to learn computer languages. I know that because I was one of them. Almost 30 years later, I can tell you that most of the computer code I have written in my life was a waste of time and I regret that I didn't use more of that time to research and learn how to design games rather trying to code them. I thought that if I learned how to write programs, I would most certainly be able to create games. Well, I was completely wrong! Let's face it, even if you become the best programmer in the world, you will most certainly not succeed in developing the next Doom, Diablo, Heroes of Might and Magic or World of Warcraft all by yourself. If you don't believe me, just read the credits of each one of those games! Sure, there are a few programmers listed there, but there are many more people involved in the process, who never wrote a single line of sourcecode: graphic designers, special effects, music composers and so on. The bottom line is that to produce a game of such great scale, you need a big team of people where each one of them is a specialist in a different area.

Now, I am not trying to tell you that you can't create good games all by yourself, nor I am telling you that learning some programming would be a complete waste of time. I am just pointing out that if you want to make a good game, you should first and foremost focus on how to write a compelling storyline and learn the principles and mechanics that make it interesting for the players. As a matter of fact, to create a game, you don't need to have any computer programming skills at all. If that is your case, the game mechanics of the gamebook adventures genre come to the rescue.

Many of you will argue that gamebook mechanics are very limited, if existing at all. Actually, gamebook mechanics do exist and in some ways, they could be better than video game mechanics. I wrote a whole article on the subject and I will re-post it here on in the near future. I would go even further and I will add that, even though the advanced visual and sound stimulation of the brain makes for a more enjoyable experience, they are not game mechanics at all. As a matter of fact, I believe that a lot of modern video games implement pretty 3d graphics to make up for the lack of quality gameplay most of them suffer from.

Diablo2: a gamebook adventure with graphics and sound
Let's take a look at one of my all-time favorite games: Diablo. If we dissect the engine this game runs on, we will find some gorgeous graphics combined with good sound effects and not much of game mechanics. If you really think about your input as a gamer, it is pretty much limited to clicking the mouse button over endless hordes of enemies, keeping your fingers over the potion keys to make sure you stay alive and absolutely no test of performance (it doesn't matter where or when you hit the enemy). The damage dealt is based entirely on a formula similar or exactly the same as the calculations in the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG (using random dice rolls). Therefore, if we removed the graphics and the sound effects, the gameplay of the Diablo franchise is the exact same as the gameplay in any gamebook adventure. Why do we enjoy playing that game so much? Well, because it implements other very appealing game mechanics: Exploring a Map, Treasure Hunt and Economics (collecting coins and buying stuff). The best thing about those three is that they are forming the very core of any good gamebook adventure. Actually, think how much better Diablo would have been if it implemented more of the gamebook approach and the player was required to solve some logic puzzles or to make some meaningful choices (I'll talk more about those gamebook mechanics in a later post). What I am trying to say is that Diablo is a poorly designed gamebook adventure with some pretty graphics and pleasant sound effects garnished with horrible narrative.

NSS mobile: the simplest and most successful

My point here is that anybody, who can write on a piece of paper can create a game similar to, if not better (at least from a gameplay and storyline perspective) than most games available on the market today. Sure, the lack of graphics and sound are going to seriously affect the enjoyment of your players, but gamebook adventures are a great place to start for anybody who wants to become a game designer. Once you learn how to write a compelling story and how to correctly implement test of performance that is based on the gamer input rather than random dice rolls, you can take a look at some programing languages. Even then, don't make the mistake to start learning C++ just because it is one of the most powerful computer languages out there. Start simple! A good example that the complexity of the source code is not relevant to the quality of the game is the New Star Soccer series developed by one of my idols: Simon Reed. All of his games were almost exclusively developed in Blitz Basic (a very simple to learn computer language) starting from 2d and moving to much more advanced 3d game engines. After 5 relatively successful versions of New Star Soccer for PC (he admits that he had a very hard time supporting his family with the profits from the series), Simon decided to go mobile and experimented for the fun of it. Due to the lack of computing power of the phone processors, he developed a game that had the simplest engine of them all (there are no 3d graphics and the sound effects are very limited). Surprisingly, New Star Soccer mobile is the game that made him a millionaire. I was not at all surprised when he later released New Star Soccer Story, a game that is ultimately a gamebook adventure. In his own words, during all those years of developing new versions of his game, he perfected not the code for the engine, but the principles that made the game addictive for millions of fans worldwide.

To summarize this post, I'd like to say to you: Stop wasting time on learning programming languages, start writing gamebook adventures and read about gamebook mechanics! You can find a lot of useful information on Gamebook Theory here at, and my own blog at Visual Gamebook Adventures.

In my next post, I am going to talk about Augmented Reality and how you can make a game like that for your friends or kids by using just your imagination and no computer at all. Actually, augmented reality didn't start with Pokemon. It has been around for more years than most of you can even guess, but more on that subject in my next article here on

Peter Agapov
Game Designer at
President and Chief Executive Officer of American Limo Naperville
Former Road Captain of Marine One at Operation "Welcome You Home"

My Magic the Gathering set in progress.

Hello all! I'm realeasing a load of Magic the Gathering posts I did ages ago as they are going out of date. Occasionally, I like to add cards to a set I'm making. It is a bit along the lines of a base set, with only one new keyword - Prismatic. A card with prismatic is all colours.I have been working on the artifacts a lot, but there will be more coloured cards.

You can check out my set here.

If you want to check out an old set I did, go here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Magic the gathering auras I would really like to have cast upon me

It deosn't help when
some of them are
just rubbish anyway.
Auras (formerly known as local enchantments) have lost out a bit in Magic.  The main reason is the rule that if you attach an aura to a permanent in order to make it stronger and that permanent leaves the battlefield for some reason, then you lose the aura.  If the permanent is put in the graveyard, you lose two cards.  For this reason, the only auras that are usually played are auras that overcome this card disadvantage or auras that can be used as removal.

Even the sets which focus on enchantments (the Urza Block where auras go back to your hand if they go to the graveyard), the enchantments were overshadowed by other spells which were broken such as Tolarian Academy and Memory Jar.  Unlucky.

Build your own hero.
While auras that boost creatures can be risky for the planeswalker casting them, they are cool for the creature as it gets loads of cool new powers to use.  Here are ten auras that I would like to have cast on me if I were an adventurer.  I may be being vain, but I do not want any enchantments that change my appearance so I can't pass unharmed in civilised lands.  Enchantments like Serpent Skin and Sleeper's Guile would leave me looking like something a band of ignorant peasants would lynch.


Spending a whole card to give a creature flying is a pretty poor deal in Magic the Gathering, but in the real world, flying can get you out of all kinds of problems.  This first one is a bit of a no brainer.  Don't have the winged helmet in Trial of the Champions?  Fall down the pit on Forest of Doom? Need to escape from Mampang in Crown of the Kings?  The ability to fly solves all of these problems and more.


It will be cool to have quick reflexes as I can easily chase down fleeing monsters or avoid traps.  In terms of Magic the Gathering, I would weaken creatures blocking me.  In gamebook terms, you no longer have to rely on your luck to avoid traps and projectiles, unless of course, you don't want to such as in Black Vein Prophecy.

Giant Strength

Strength is another no brainer.  The good thing about this power is that it does not make you giant sized so if any passing giants would challenge you to a wrestling match or a shaman wants to test you before he helps you then you would have a nice surprise waiting for them.

Hero's Resolve

Some powers aren't bought on by magic but by a state of mind.  Gerrard has his back to the wall in this picture, but he's still not going to give up.  That's the kind of thinking a hero needs.  It would certainly be good when you're exploring Neuberg Keep or the House of Hell.

Street Savvy

Most fantasy gamebook worlds contain cities which are inherantly lethal to naive visitors - Blacksand, Khare, Helgedad, Blackhaven, The City of the Runes of Doom.  This enchantment will bestow the knowledge to defend yourself in a city and to notice thieves and worse sneaking around in the shadows, ready to pounce.

Battle Mastery

Fighting is inevitable for an adventurer and I would not go on a great quest without thorough training and the best weaponry.  With these skills, I will make short work of bandits, goblins and crazed animals.


Battles with mooks will slow me down and weaken me eventually, so sometimes, it would be better to just intimidate them into submission so that I can move on to the real power.  An aura of fear around me would make those orcs cower before me as I walk past them.  The picture on the card reminds me of a jib-jib.

Power of Fire

If combat is not the answer, then I can turn to magic.  Nothing gets rid of a problem better than a blast of flame and you never know, you might cross paths magical serpent whose weakness is fire.  This power could also have mundane uses such as starting a fire on a cold desert night or lighting a lantern.

Instill Energy

Being an adventurer requires quick action so I cannot stand around taking stock of a situation.  I need to move now.  It is also exhausting what with all the fighting and running, so I am able to energise myself once in a while.  It is good if you have a time limit to your quest.


If I meet an opponent that is too much for my skills and magic, I have this power to run back on.  Forget just being invulnerable to sword strike, here I'm invulnerable to (almost) everything as if I'd received one of Leesha's rings.  Acording to the Kamigawa story, being indestructable also means immortality, so it would also be like receiving the blessing from the giant in Necklace of Skulls.

Robe of Mirrors

Finally, I would don this robe so that I could not be targeted by any other spells or enchantments.  This covers targeted remove from the game effects and targeted effects that give me negative toughness.  I would have to don this last as I would not be able to receive any other enchantments as they are targeted.  Some aura enchantments are portrayed as clothes such as this one.  You can also get other objects such as veils or clasps.

So if you take me as a 0/1 creature, after receiving these enchantments, I would look like this:

I would be a 4/11 creature with flying, flanking, fear, haste, doublestrike, indestructibility and shroud.  I can block creatures with landwalk abilities as if they did not have them and untap once a turn.  I could also tap to deal 1 damage to a creature or player.

The only spells that can deal with me are non targeted effects that exile creatures (such as Apocalypse and Apocalypse Chime) and non targeted effects that will give me -11 toughness.  There is no one effect that can do that but it would require several.

What auras would you want on you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Doctor Who and the Fescan Threat

By Chris Stone

What is a Fescan? Is it like a fresco? Perhaps it's like a fax machine? I have no idea. Not yet, in any case. But thankfully, we have a professional on hand who knows all about them. We can trust him, he's a doctor.

Doctor Who and the Fescan Threat is a gamebook adventure by Chris Stone, and he's asked me to give it a whirl and see if I enjoy it. It is available exclusively at for a limited time, and proceeds go towards mental health charities.

If you don't know what Doctor Who is by now, I'd like to introduce you to the longest running sci-fi show in the world (beating out Star Trek), and also the show of the most variable and often dubious quality. Get your bubble-wrap ready if you want to cosplay as any of the alien monsters in this show, kids!

Our story begins with the doctor telling his trusty companion that the Fescans are alien fish people, and he has faced them multiple times - once for each of his incarnations. Now don't worry, you'll get a chance to see many of these, as his first ten incarnations are included in this book, each one with their own adventure against the fish folk. (translation - you get ten adventures to play through here, guys). So, I chose to decide by a completely random roll of a ten sided dice to let's see which Doctor I will be...

The Sixth Doctor

As the Sixth Doctor, played by the iconoclastic Colin Baker, you have a strength of 40. You are armed with a coat that could make a blind man's eyes bleed, and a badge in the shape of a cat. Your special skill is hypnotism and being fired by the BBC.

After rolling up a few stats, the TARDIS arrives in the Carollean system, and I have the choice of which planet to land on. I opt to check out the desert planet of Loxani, which I am reliably informed to be quite hot. Leaving the TARDIS, I wander northwards through the baking sun until I arrive at an oasis. Finding a few sprigs of orange berries growing on some oasis foliage, I chew on them until I realise that they're poisonous and spit them out. Well, going good so far!

Taking some of the berries with me, I explore the oasis a little bit more and take note of just how verdant it is. Very peculiar... At this point, a small assault craft descends overhead. A Fescan battle craft, it quickly opens fire. I dive for cover, but not before taking a sharp burning hit from its laser beams. Watching from under some cover, the fighter craft jets off into the horizon. The doctor proceeds past the desert, over the sand dunes, until something truly unusual catches his eye - a city, floating over the desert on a huge disc.

Eager to go and be haughty and arrogant at them, the Sixth Doctor scurries his way to the city and clamber aboard. It's an impressively futuristic city, kept cool by what I assume is either a geothermic dome overhead or by cunning air conditioners hidden where you least expect them. Wandering through the streets for a while, it isn't long before I catch sight of something suspicious - a group of Fescans. I head off in their general direction, and soon find myself standing outside of a bar.

So, ahem, the Doctor walks into a bar. The bartender asks me "Why the long face?" I tell him that Jon Pertwee's nose wasn't that big. Boom boom. Ahem. Anyway. The Doctor sits down at the bar, and a drunk chap wanders over and says "Psst, hey buddy, you're not a member of the secret underground looking to overthrow the Fescan invaders, are you?" The Doctor, naturally, steals the man's glass and runs out of the bar instead. Can't help but feeling that I missed a useful clue when I chose to indulge in my kleptomania...

Leaving the bar, I eventually find a large statue of a Fescan warrior. The locals seem to be avoiding it, and it's pretty clear that there must be some real systemic hatred of their cruel overlords. Can't imagine why. I manage to stumble onwards until I find myself in a rough part of town, full of people wearing hoodies. For a moment, I thought I was in London rather than Loxani.

I soon find my way into a park, which sets my mind to rest by reassuring me that I am indeed on a desert planet because most of the plants are cacti. Apart from some red flowers, one of which I take to wear on my gaudy coat. In a rather unusual twist of architecture, I soon stumble my way past a castle, portcullis and all. Evidently the inhabitants of the desert planet of Loxani are big fans of European castle designs. On my way through the castle, a Fescan guard asks for my ident card and, when I don't have one, he shoots me. Say what you will about the criminal justice system...

I wake in a cell. And, being the Doctor, I immediately find a small electronic panel near the door. While fiddling around with it to try to unlock the door, I accidentally create a swirling wormhole in the fabric of space... as you do... And being a bit of a sucker for diving into swirling vortexes of chaos, I dive right in.

I promptly fall through space and time, tumbling through universes and witnessing abstract images and thoughts given form. Flames dance around me and meteors fly past, and before long I am absorbed by a sentient entity made of the colour purple. It devours me entirely, and my misadventure ends here. A tragic state of affairs, really.

Doctor Who and the Fescan Threat is a good, solid gamebook. It's long at over 2000 segments, and captures the feel of the TV show very nicely. Right off the bat, you're given a path that splits off if you play as the 1st or 2nd Doctor, and if you don't then you are presented with four possible planets to select to explore, all of which means that there's a lot of replayability here.

This book is a limited printing, and all proceeds go to mental health charities, so if this sounds like your kind of book or you would like to benefit a good cause, grab a copy fast before it's too late.

(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's bestselling collection of horror stories - "Darkness Bites", and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie".)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Ten Magic the Gathering artefacts I would use if I were a wizard

I see a great blog
post today.
If I were a powerful wizard and I could take ten magical items from the World of Magic the Gathering and bring them to my tower, then I would take the following.
Quick note:  As a Brit, I spell artefact with an e.  However, the US spelling is artifact.

First of all, a classic.  I'd want to know what is coming in my future.  I'll probably be having vagabonds knocking at my door asking for favours or trying to kill me because they see me as evil.  It's alway's good to plan ahead.

A sorcerer always needs a magic ring and this one 'taps' (if something is tapped, it cannot use its abilities and creatures cannot attack) an artifact, creature or land.  This will allow me to immobilise one opponent for a short time or disrupt another sorcerer's spellcasting.

And it doesn't need
I'm also going to need a guardian.  This fellow is good for many reasons.  First of all, he's not a creature all of the time so people will not suspect him.  Second of all, he is indestructable so he will be difficult to defeat.  A perfect guardian for my tower.

The Darksteel Brute deals with physical threats but I may have to deal with rival sorcerers, and for this I will us an artifact infused with dark magic to prevent them from using a spell.

The above artifacts all need magical power (mana) and this beautiful and powerful artefact will power them and my spells with any mana I desire.

Fantasy Sudoku.
If I require some more mana or if I am going somewhere dangerous, I can use this ingot of extremely precious metal, darksteel.  Since it is indestructable, I can use it in my dangerous rituals where objects may be damaged.  

Finally, if I need more magical energy, I can use this puzzling relic from a far off plane.  In a pinch, I can also use the spells written upon it.  I will only do this if my life is at risk, though as this will destroy the hedron.

I will need to advance my research and what better than by reading the designs of an extrememly powerful artificer and sorcerer who had lived for thousands of years?  

Ranked no. 1 on the
Dominarian Amazon.
For a planeswalker, Urza did not get around much as he was much too focused on saving his home plane.  However, Venser got about more than an adventurer with the Aleph.  They say that travel expands the mind and this journal expands it so much that I can hold any number of spells in my head.  It is also a refreshing read.    
Finally, most of these artefacts cannot go on forever, and need time to recover.  If I need to use another one again, I can activate this little statuette in order to reuse them.

The Magic the Gathering cardsstoryline and articles are a great inspiration for gamebook ideas.  Take a look at them.  What artefacts would you use if you were a wizard?