Sunday, January 31, 2016

Statting the Fighting Fantasy books and You are the Beer-O

Hello gamebookers!

I case you haven't noticed, we have a new member of the team. Ben Roberts is statting the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and coming up with some great analysis and comparisons. Check out his first post in case you haven't seen it.

Also, I just saw this on my Facebook feed:

 Rob Learner is organising this great event. I'm planning on being there at some point.

The Facebook Group for the event is here.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Gamebook Statting - Intro

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my first run at statting out the FF line of gamebooks.  For those of you not accustomed to reading big blocks of text can jump straight into the action by looking at my findings below (scroll to the bottom).

For the rest of us, here’s a little more guidance on what all this is about.

So what is it?
Simply put, I’ve gone through an entire gamebook, listed all the monsters, their skill and stamina scores, the treasure they’re carrying, along with any and all traps you encounter and other events.  That in itself isn’t really of much interest.  The ‘fun’ comes from comparing the gamebooks to each other.  For this first run, I’ve statted out Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Forest of Doom.

What am I looking at?
First up there’s a link at the bottom that will take you to the google spreadsheet that contains all the data I’ve collected for Warlock of Firetop Mountain (as it was first, this will be the baseline).  However, this will be very dry and not much fun for you unless you love numbers and statistics.  Beyond that is my ‘findings’.  The results, if you like, of my gamebook study.  I’ve generated these results from using the SAS programming tool in my day job.  For example, we can see the average stamina score of all creatures in both books amongst other things.

What are you hoping to achieve and where do I fit in?

Eventually I hope to stat out every single gamebook there is.  A very lofty goal considering Warlock and Forest took me over 6 months to do.  By sharing my work now, I’m hoping that any feedback will spur me on to deliver my findings faster.  Also, I need feedback and ideas on what to look for in the data.  For example, you might want say, “I found Temple of Terror to be the hardest gamebook there is, where does that fit in your list of stats, Number Boy!?”  You might be right, so I’d go through ToT and see if the data bears out your comment.  Or you might ask, “Which gamebook has the highest rate of insta-death paragraph results?”  We can look at all of these, but I need those questions from you lot.  At the moment I’m literally looking at the numbers and averages of things like Gold Pieces and Luck Reward bonuses.  There must be more interesting things I’m missing!


Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Forest of Doom
Total Gold
Luck modifier total
 Luck from opponents
 Luck from other
 Luck penalties
Skill modifier total
 Skill from opponents
 Skill from other
 Skill penalties
Stamina modifier total
 Stamina from opponents
 Stamina from other
 Stamina penalties
No. of combat encounters
Total number of opponents
Average Opponent skill
Average Opponent stamina
Lowest Opponent skill
Lowest Opponent stamina
Highest Opponent skill
Highest Opponent stamina


Okay, let's start with the Gold.  In any FF adventure you’re going to find gold, usually from friendly goblins who leave it to you after their untimely death at your hands.  This row shows you not only all the charitable donations you receive from such creatures, but also just lying around (such as the gold piece you find in Forest of Doom on the path).

I’ve omitted such things as items (like Catwoman’s gold stud earrings) which are valued at 5gp each.  It was never made clear if you could ‘spend’ items like that on anything?  And are you supposed to get change?  So for now I’ve only gone with actual gold piece-age.

WoFM has a greater yield than FoD, especially when you consider the more numerous enemies in FoD, but more on that later.  You’ll note that I’ve not mentioned the chest of treasure you find at the end of Firetop Mountain after liberating it from the Warlock.  Didn’t see the point, especially as there’s not an exact amount listed (I like exact amounts as you’ve probably guessed).  But this is something we could put in if people are interested?

Even though this part takes up 12 rows, I’m not going to dwell on it too much.  What we have here is an amalgamation of EVERYTHING you can gain and lose with regards to your attributes.  I’ve given a top line result for each (Attribute Modifier Total) which is made up of modifiers made by meeting, defeating or being defeated by opponents; ‘penalties’, which could be things like traps; and ‘other’ which encompasses everything else.

It’s really the total modifiers I’m interested in here.  I think it indicates the overall danger level of the adventure you’re in.  Firetop is really quite giving in it’s Luck bonuses: 59 points up for grabs compared to Forest’s 14, all of which can be taken away!  Skill is comparable, but Stamina, phew, that’s a mighty 67 points Forest will beat out of you if you let it.  How many forests do you know that could kill you 3/4 times over?  Forest of Triple Doom could be an acceptable name.  Forest of Quadruple Doom even?  Forest of Quintuple Doom however is right out.

The number of actual fights you can have in both adventures is relatively comparable, but Forest has 9 more guys to jump you.  Understandable really as the Forest doesn’t have a fence, anyone can just wander in from the grasslands.  Not so with Firetop and it’s strict members only policy.  Although the bouncer at the front doesn’t really take his job seriously.

Finally we have the skill/stamina ranges.  I guess it’s good news that these are similar (WoFM is actually skill=6.5, but I didn’t want decimals dirtying up the place).  Of all the book stats, this is the one I’m most keen in seeing the variation of.  What’s interesting to note is that the highest skill/stamina in WoFM is actually from one guy, the Warlock himself!  Before you meet him in his chambers, he was playing poker with those dwarves you met earlier and beating them into poverty.  Before that he’d been up for 24 hours, having just come back from teaching the dragon how to play the piano. What a guy!  

Okay, so we'll be able to glean more useful information when we have more data to compare.  My next gamebook statjob is Deathtrap Dungeon.  Seeing a theme?  I'm focusing on 'fantasy' adventures.  I'm not sure how it's going to work comparing Freeway Fighter with Masks of Mayhem, so I'm going to leave non-fantasy books for the time being.

Also, all the data you see above is only about 95% accurate.  Probably only 90% if I'm being honest with myself.  Working in such a regulated industry that I do, you come to value the benefit of having someone independently QC your work.  They always find things you've missed or gotten wrong.  I've had no such help here.  So if you spot any errors or want an explanation of why I've interpreted something a certain way, please comment!  ALL FEEDBACK WELCOME.  Including insults (provided they're funny).

Link to WoFM spreadsheet:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

RPG - Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Hello,  gamebookers!  Lovely to see you again.  Today, I'll take about my thoughts after perusing the ADD
Player's Handbook recently and also my memories of reading the AdD Dungeon Master's Guide (which was in my school library).

The Dungeon Master's Guide was the first RPG book that I read, and it blew my mind, partially because I had no idea what the spells mentioned in the magic items section meant.  However, I still loved every bit of it.

Of course, ADD is one of the biggest RPGs of its time, and there is a wide range of treasure to obtain and monsters to destroy, and each of these requires a whole host of stats to think about.  Back in the 70s, it must have been a huge job to juggle so many numbers without computers or a Dungeons and Dragons wiki to base your RPG stuff on.  But somehow they did it, although some of the results to me seem a bit weird.

I would like to know what the creators of DnD were thinking when they created the classes - were they based on any historical information?  Fantasy writing?  The need for a particular gap to fill in game terms?  For example, why must druids have to beat a higher level druid in combat to get to level 12?  There are only 9 level 12 druids apparently, but is that in the country?  The world?  The universe?  Why must clerics only use blunt weapons?  Why do illusionists get their own special class, when the other schools don't?

Some of the mechanics are funny too.  The monk has the ability to deflect arrows.  How do we determine if the monk can deflect arrows?  Use their save against petrification.  Why petrification, of all things?

And then we get to the numbers and the tables. Oh, my the numbers and the tables - from the thief skills table (why are thieves so good at climbing walls but relatively terrible at everything else?) to the psionic powers table (which has a base 1% chance of being needed for characters who have an intelligence, wisdom or charisma score of 16 or over) to the probability tables in the Contact other Place spell (which plane am I going to?  Now, will I go insane?  Will I get knowledge?  Will I get veracity?).  What I want to know is whether these numbers were carefully tested with some purpose in the game, or were they just added because they 'feel right'.  There seems to be so many numbers and no logic to how they seem to have been determined.  Also there does not seem to be any reason behind several of the stats in the game.  Why do monks go to level 17?  Why do fighters go up to level 11?

I remember reading the Dungeon Master's Guide a few years ago and the magic items were equally random.  There was a brooch that could protect you from 101 points of magic missile damage.  Why 101?  There were two magic bags (I can't remember which ones) where if you put one in the other, there was a chance that it opened up a dimensional portal, or stopped them both working, depending on which one you had put in which.

On the one hand, this is quite complex and there is no easy way to remember any of this.  On the other hand,
it does open up some fun options.  If the system is too simple, then characters would all be too similar and if magic items worked predictably, they would lose some of their magical feeling and seem more like tools.  It would be interesting to engage a fighter in combat, only to discover that they have psychic powers too.  You wouldn't see that coming, because psychic powers are so rare, you wouldn't assume that anyone would have them.  I would like to be able to insert a little randomness into gamebooks, but I need to strike a balance between variety and the tedium of unnesessary dice rolling.  For example, the critical hit rule in AFF (that you score more damage on the roll of a double 6) would be a good example of adding a bit of variety and it has the bonus of being applied to die rolls that you are doing already and having a good effect.  I think having to roll 2 dice with the reason to see if you roll a double 6 is a bit much, however.  Having these random events happen are better when applied to die rolls that you have to make anyway (like critical hits).  I have to work out if the effort of rolling a die and referencing a table will be worth the consequences of doing so.  Rolling 2d6 only for nothing to happen on a 2-11 will probably just be annoying.  Also, in the case of a random encounter, the combat has to be a sufficient threat.  Fighting a mad pilgrim in Fabled Lands 1 might be a challenge to a rank 1 character, but a rank 4 character returning to their house in Yellowport after their adventures on the Violet Ocean might just find it tedious.  Working it out can only be done with practice.  I'd better get on it then.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Inklecast - an interactive fiction podcast - is out now

Hello gorgeous. I love podcasts. So I was overjoyed to hear that the lovely, talented people at Inkle
have just released episode 1 of the Inklecast , a podcast where the lovely, talented people at Inkle talk about interactive fiction. The first episode was very informative and entertaining and I can't wait to hear more! 

So check out the Inklecast. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The evolution of Legend of the Wayfarer

Hello gamebookers! As I write this, by Legend of the Wayfarer series is into 8 books. The rules have gone through a few tweaks since I settled on a 1d6 system with 12 abilities. After writing 8 books, I have had some feedback and had time for thoughts on the process so far.

Before I begin, I want to remind you of my aim with Legend of the Wayfarer. My aim was to create a game system and find a set of tools to help me create a decent short gamebook in a short amount of time. This was because my second child was due and time was dwindling. There is a lot to gamebooks that involves creativity and individuality, but I wanted to make sure that any aspects to gamebooks that could be addressed using a system or a procedure that requires no thought could be discovered, and then I would create such as system to follow. This way, I could either devote more effort to the creative aspects or just spend less time on the gamebook. It has worked to some degree, but there are other things that I need to focus on to improve the quality of the books or improve the plan.


This would make reading the books online more convenient, so I will start to include them.

Proof reading

As several people, such as my wife and Nicolas Stillman have said, bad grammar and spelling can really detract fro the experience of reading a book. I went through my books recently and found a few mistakes, so I need to be more careful in my proofreading or get someone else to do it.

Items are too specific

There are plenty of items that have one use in the books. However, if the player misses their opportunity then they will have a useless item. I will get around this by making groups of items - special materials, artefacts, which are magical treasures, keys, which open doors, tomes, which contain spells

The gradual increase of items and codewords in every book

I want to write a lot of these books and each book will have at least 1 or 2 plot items that are specific to that book that might be useful for the rest of the series or items that might be useful to other books. However, even with me inserting text at the end of each book where I instruct players on the items and codewords they can delete, there will still be an increase in items, which will clutter up character sheets. I will make sure that there are fewer items per book.

The 'If you return here' sections

This bit always bothered me a bit. I included this section in case people missed sections, then they could revisit quests. I also included them so that players could buy things and recover. However, my problem was that I had no way for people to work out why they should return, or where they should return from. The books were too jumpy. You could go from one town to another and there was no way of working out what would happen in between. I got around this problem by including a map and travel rules. This adds complexity, but it solves more problems than it creates. It also means that there are a lot fewer sections, which will speed up the writing process.

The order you do the adventures

My aim was that a player could do any adventure in any order. This is why my system revolves around rerolls rather than modifiers. A character with all 6 abilities might find a book challenging as they still might fail an ability roll. However, the player has no chance of working out what happens if they go from the area of book 1 to the area of book 8. The map solved this problem too.

There were settlements that appeared in the backs of some books, but there were no adventures associated with them

Not all settlements could have something exciting in them, so some settlements were relegated to being at the back of certain books. Once again, the map solved this problem.

The map

Now I have a map and travel rules, I no longer need to write sections describing the countryside, inventing encounters and thinking of ways to make going from A to B more interesting. I can devote sections to quests now. My first map has the areas for books 1-8, so what I will do is get the relevant sections and put them all together into one book. I might also include some other books in the map too. I don't know how big each book for each area will be, but it might be big. I'm looking forward to writing it again.