Saturday, December 4, 2021

Numbers vs letters

 I remember reading in a gamebook (I think it was Deathtrap Dungeon) that my character went down a very long corridor for a very long time and fell into a pit. I was surprised when I read this because it was not the first time I had read this book, or the second and probably not the third, but it was the first time I had read about falling into the pit. And that's when it hit me. 

I had spent most of my gamebook reading time looking for the game related stuff and ignoring a lot of the story. 

I remember doing that as a teenager - skimming sections for stat changes or adventure sheet adjustments - and not reading the story parts.

This was apparent in my early writing. My first attempt at gamebook writing was a Fighting Fantasy dungeon crawl where my main concern was to not make it impossible like some Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

My next attempt was another Fighting Fantasy book for Windhammer 2008. I messed up the character creation (1d6 +9 for SKILL rather than 1d3 +9) and it was SUPER easy. For 2009, I came up with my own system with a light story. Per Jorner, who wrote a lot of reviews on Yahoo Groups (are those reviews still out there?) had many problems with the story, but won with 1 Health Point left which I considered a success for my system.

After that, I realised that the story is also important and my 2010 entry, Sharkbait's Revenge had nothing but a health score, money and an items list. I let out my puntastic tendencies in a pirate setting and won that one.

This set me off on the first steps of working on my writing. 

Making a gamebook is a delicate balance of numbers and letters and neglecting one can spoil the other. In my experience, most people prefer a good story and it is easier to make a gamebook full of pure story choices (like Choose Your Own Adventure) than it is to make a number heavy gamebook (Which would basically be a solo RPG), so in my experience, it is better to lean towards the story side than the numbers side. Of course, if I do put numbers in, I try to make sure that they enhance the story rather than detract from it. At the very minimum, the system has to work and not be unfair. At its best, it has to enhance the story (so having stats that link in with the story would be good. Choice of Games does this well).

That's all I have today, I'm afraid as the pressures of RL call, but I just need to remind you that the Lindenbaum competition is now accepting entries between now and midnight GMT on February 1st 2022 (that means 1 minute after 11:59pm on January 31st - I'd hate to have it in 1 day late!)

You can find details here:

Lloyd of Gamebooks: The Lindenbaum prize for short gamebook fiction 2021/2022

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