Thursday, January 27, 2011

Future projects

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I am flattering Andrew Wright by making a post about future projects on this blog. 

Telling you all about it will motivate me to do these posts as well. 

Please please give me feedback in the comments section.  I would love to hear from my followers about what you want to read about.

You Adventure ends here

I intend to finish this series off with a post about how death paragraphs reveal information, a few of my personal favourite failures and then a conclusion.  So three more posts of this.


When shoud we use them?

What should they be?

Do we have any neat tricks we can do with codewords?  (I'm looking at you, Crimson Tide)

Handling stupid decisions in gamebooks

What constitutes a stupid decision, why you should offer them and what the consequences of them should be.

Wounds and healing

How deadly should your wounds be?  Should food and water provide healing or should it be a long hard process to recover?  How deadly should combat be? 

Mass battles in gamebooks

What systems have been used and how should they be handled?

Gods and priests in gamebooks

What are your gods like?  What role do priests play in your world?  How are they different from sorcerers with a sense of morality?

Money and shopping in gamebooks

How important should it be?  What can be bought and sold in gamebooks?  What other things can money buy?  How many currencies should you have?  Should you have it so they hero never has enough money?

Food and water in gamebooks

Should it heal?

Should hunger and thirst cause damage?

Generic meals or named food?

Revealed information in gamebooks

What are the good points and bad points of showing a reader that something different will happen if they have an item or codeword? 

How are programs which don't reveal this information play differently?

Should gamebooks tell you how you feel?

Description or emotions?  How does it affect your character?  How does it affect the game?

Skills and abilities in gamebooks

What skills and abilities add to a gamebook.  What they take away.  How to make sure you have a balance of character creation choices vs choices in the book.

The level of magic in gamebooks

What magic items are available?  Can you buy them like food or are they rare and well hidden?  How many magical monsters or magic wielders do you come across in the book?  Does your level of magic fit the leevl of the rest of the book?    What kind of spell systems could you have?

Items in gamebooks

How items can be used.  How they shouldn't be used.  When do you have too many items?  Would an encumbrance system help?

Morality in gamebooks

What does having a sense of morality in gamebooks add to the gamebook?  How can you enforce that morality?

What writing microadventures taught me

It's amazing what a 25 paragraph gamebook can do.

Amateur gamebooks, gamebook programs and games that read like gamebooks

A list of wonderful things I have found online. 

So there you go.  Please leave feedback about the blog as a comment so far and tell your friends!

Something to look out for.

Fighting Fantazine issue 5 will be out soon.  Don't miss it!

And finally...

I like cats.  I also found this blog about a cat, which has 180 followers.  So here is a picture of a cute cat. 

If you like cats and H.P. Lovecraft, I recommend The Cats of Ulthar, a short story by Lovecraft which I enjoyed.

Your adventure ends here - a quick ending

Here is an ending from The Screaming Spectre by Dave Morris.


You cower in the bottom of the boat under a tarpaulin and pray they'll miss you.

They don't.

Why I like this ending

Some death paragraphs, particularly ones by Peter Darvill-Evans are great because they into loads of disgusting detail of how you meet your end.  This paragraph is great because it doesn't.  All it tells you is that your plan doesn't work and that the result of your choice ends in your death, but it is left to your imagination of just how the phantoms suck out your soul. 

The paragraph is almost written like a joke.  It describes your "plan" as a build up.  The punchline, 'They don't' is a commentary on how lame your plan was. 


How did I get into this mess?

I'm a wizard trying to get across a swamp.  I meet a ferryman who says that phantoms live in the swamp and eat people's souls, but his boat is blessed and will protect you if you pay him 2 items to get across.  That's half the things I can carry.  I decide to take another boat for free, but then realise that there are phantoms on the swamp and they want to eat my soul.  I have the option of hiding or casting a spell.  Casting a spell is the best option.

What have I learnt from this?

A lot of the death endings you read will be because of really stupid choices.  There is more than one way of telling someone that they have made a stupid choice than just telling them that their choice was stupid. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Your adventure ends here - in a blaze of glory.

Here is a death paragraph from The Masters of Darkness by Joe Dever.  This is the 12th Lone Wolf book in the series and the last of the Magnakai series with a climax in the city of Lone Wolf's nemesis, Darklord Gnaag.


The moment you unsheathe the Sommerswerd, it radiates such godly power that every creature in Helgedad is alerted to your presence.  Within minutes you are surrounded by a nightmare legion of snarling, snapping screaming horrors.  You fight valiantly, and slay many before you are eventually overwhelmed and taken in chains before Darklord Gnaag.  With cruel glee, he orders you to be cast in the Lake of Blood where your endless suffering will feed its unholy flames for all eternity. 

Tragically, your natural life and your mission end here.  

The Sommerswerd is a powerful holy magical weapon.
Helgedad is a city ruled over by your enemies and is best described as a steampunk hell. 
I know it looks ghastly but the rest of the city is disturbingly abominable.

Darklord Gnaag is a powerful insectoid monster with lots of magical power.  He's a bit like the emperor from starwars except he could probably latch on to the side of a shaft if he gets flung down it. 

Can only be killed by weapons of awsome magical power.  Or a really big swat.

The Lake of Blood is not really described in the books, but I think you get the idea of what it's like. 

Why I like this paragraph 

You are doomed in this paragraph but the book throws you a bone and let you slay hordes of mooks before you meet your death.  In this way, you are rewarded as much as you can be in this situation.  Sure, you're going to die but you are going to take down dozens to hundreds of your enemies in the process.  You might die, but you get one last chance to show how badass you are.

Is that the best you've got?

How did I get into this mess

Joe Dever describes your death as a tragedy.  I found a definition of tragdy on the internet.  It goes like this.

Drama or film portraying the doomed struggle and eventual downfall of an admirable but flawed hero. Usually about powerful leaders or extraordinary individuals torn between opposing goals or difficult choices. Examples: Sophocles, Oedipus the King; Shakespeare, Hamlet.

Lone Wolf definately is an admirable but flawed hero in this ending. 

Admirable traits:  Has a powerful magic sword, good at killing his enemies.

Flaw:  Can't follow blindingly obvious avice.

Lets be grateful that Lone Wolf was not working at a nuclear missile silo during the cold war.

At the beginning of this book, I am told that I am going to the city of my greatest enemy, Helgedad, and it will be full of his servants. 

I am also told that using the Sommerswerd will alert all of the inhabitants of Helgedad to my presence and that I should only use it when I am within striking distance of Darklord Gnaag.  In order to hide its powerful magical aura, I am given a scabbard lined with korlinium which makes the sword undetectable.  As long as I do not unsheathe it before I face Gnaag, I will be OK.

The person who gives me this advice is Lord Rimoah, a trusted and experienced ally, so it's not like he's making this up.

Also, if you are given the option of using the Sommerswerd, it tells you to go to 208.  If you face Gnaag and you want to use the Sommerswerd, it tells you to go to 214.  There's a big clue.

It is just like the big red button.  You've been told that doing it is bad.  You rationally know that doing it is bad, but you still want to.  It might be because you want to see what happens or it may because everyone has told you not to but the first thing I want to do ocne I get to Helgedad is to climb to the tallest smoking wreck I can find, unsheathe the Sommerswerd, wave it around and scream 'COME ON THEN YOU FILTHY SCUM.  COME AND HAVE A GO IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HARD ENOUGH!'

What have I learnt from this death

If you're going to go down, go down in a blaze of glory. 

Joe Dever is an evil genius and a master of reverse psychology.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Your adventure ends here...go to 14. What?

Here's a death paragraph from The Den of Dragons by J.H Brennan.  It is the second Grailquest book.


You enter the cottage and the entire place caves in on top of you.  It's no fun being an adventurere sometimes, Pip. 

Go to 14.

Why I like this paragraph

This death paragraph breaks the fourth wall.  If a gamebook breaks the fourth wall, it is usually in a death paragraph or to tell you that you are a cheat.  However, Grailquest does this a lot.

The main reason why I like this death paragraph is that it reminds you that death is not the end.  In all Grailquest books, 14 is the paragraph that you go to when you are dead, which sounds a bit wierd.  What do you need to do when you are dead?  A lot, it turns out.

On paragraph 14, you wake up in Merlin's home.  In the Den of Dragons, it's a crystal cave.  He then tells
 you to reroll and enter the village again.  Here we have a lot more personable death than a full stop.

How did I get into this mess?

I started the game in a village where I turn to a paragraph if I want to enter a particular building.  I enter this building and it collpases on me.  On my head be it.

What have I learnt from this

Death is not the end.  It can be very useful.  I'm not sure, but in this case I think I get to keep equipment and I'm also forewarned.

Another useful feature of haveing death not being the end is that you can have 'save points' in the book.  Talisman of Death by Jamie Thomson and Mark Smith allows you to restart the book at a particular point depending on where you were killed.  If you were killed in the Greyguilds (a city), you go back to (Almost) the beginning.  If you were killed outside the Greyguids, then you return to the point where you have just left the Greyguilds.  This doesn't happen in all cases, such as dying in combat or if you die as a result of one of Death's minions, but it helps in this situation.


A spray of brightly coloured light speeds from Thaum's hands into your eyes, dazzling you.  Cassandra stabs you neatly in the heart as Tyutchev cleaves your head from your shoulders.  Turn to 109.

This is the first death paragraph that a seven year old me read.  It seems apparent that Thaum, Cassandra and Tyutchev do a pretty good job of killing you, so I was quite surprised to be able to turn to another paragraph.  Paragraph 109 tells you that as your spirit floats gently towards the Valley of Death, the gods that summoned you offer you the chance to be returned to life and try again. 

Other death paragraphs

My death paragraph collection is not a completely original idea.  I remember reading several death paragraphs on a website.  I couldn't remember what it was, so I fired a message on the Titan Rebuilding Yahoo Group.  Andrew Wright, who has a great gamebook blog provided me with the answer. 

The page is on the Black Tower website, archived at  It can also be found here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Your adventure ends here - no second prize?

Here is an ending from The Race Forever, the 17th Choose Your Own Adventure Book (and the first one I read) by R. A. Montgomery.  In this book, you are a rally driver who has entered a race in Kenya.  You can choose between the speed race and the rough road race.  You then choose a vehicle and meet your navigator/co-driver. The book is not as long as it sounds, but if you finish one race alive then you are offered the chance to enter the other race.  So therefore you can literally race forever.


Even though Eduardo is sure that the soldiers' repair is more than strong enough, you feel that it will be safest not to pull out all the stops.
Each time you stop at a checkpoint you examine the repair for signs of weakening.  The welded axle holds perfectly, though, even when you bottom out in a particularly bad gully in the Olduvai Gorge.  Eduardo spends an hour dragging, jacking, and pushing while you stand on top of the car and watch for puff adder snakes and other dangers.
Dusty, tired, and happy, you finally cross the finish line two days after you start.  You finish third overall.  "Not as good as first," you think, "but at least we made it.  That's better than many others."

Why I like this paragraph.

AsI like this paragraph because it is an example of a failure where you don't actually die.  The Race Forever is an example of a group of gamebooks where there is a sliding scale of success.  Too many gamebooks, usually ones that involve killing some evil wizard and saving the world, have two types of endings - you kill the wizard and save the world or you die horribly.  If for some reason, you don't kill the wizard but you do survive, you have to endure some crushing sense of shame and guilt for the rest of your life. 

Choose Your Own Adventure books have a different approach.  In the Race Forever, you could die, but you could finish in a particular place number, you could win, you could get injured, you could lose your car and have to walk back or you could find gold and become extremely rich. 

In this case, there you would expect finishing first to be the most successful ending.  However, you may then stumble across the gold paragraph and realise that you have wasted your life trying to finish first in some poxy race. 

How did I get into this mess?

 As I mentioned above, I couldn't really consider it a mess.  Coming third in a tough off road race across Kenya is no mean feat. 

I didn't win because I chose the British Land Rover instead of the Japanese Toyota to do the rough road race.  Seriously.  You can't win the race in the Land Rover.  What a gyp.

You come across some refugees on your route and decide not to help them.  Then my axle cracked and some friendly soldiers repair it.  I finished third because I decided to go easy on the car.  If I would have decided to go flat out, however, I would have finished fourth, also in two days.  How does that work?  I guess this book runs on the moral of slow and steady wins the race. 

 What I have learnt from this paragraph

Gamebooks don't have to be about victory or death.  Having a sliding scale of success means that I will want to explore the other areas more.  If I get to the victory paragraph of a gamebook with two endings - victory or death - then no route I will take will have a better ending, so what's the point?

People who wrote Choose Your Own Adventure books knew this.  The books tell you how many endings there are on the front cover to show you how much variety they have.  It was also one way to make these books replayable, since Choose Your Own Adventure books had no stats, no equipment lists and no points system.  It was all based on your choices.  If Choose Your Own Adventure books had one victory ending with all the others involving you dying, then they would be a lot less playable.

If I have a sliding scale of success, then I can get to an ending that isn't great but at least I survive to try again.  It will make a difference to having to die every time you 'lose'.  I could also put in a better ending where I can achieve the original objective AND get a bonus.  That will give a point to exploration because then there may be a way to get to a better ending. 

Some gamebooks go even further where there is no measurement of success between endings.  In Outlaws of Sherwood Forest (Choose Your Own Adventure 47, by Ellen Kushner), you travel back to Sherwood Forest from the present day.  Your objective is to make sure Robin Hood does not get captured.  You can achieve this and return home or you can acive this and stay in Sherwood Forest.  Both have their up and down sides, but only the reader can decide which one is better.

So instead of having victory or death, we can have several endings on a sliding scale of achievement.  Maybe we can have some surprise bonus endings that have nothing to do with your original aim but are great endings as well.  And maybe we can have some endings that aren't necessarily better but that different people would prefer.  This increases  replayability of books and provides pleasant surprises.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Your adventure ends here - who you gonna call now?

Here is an ending from Night of the Necromancer by Jonathan Green.

'Quick, Streng,' Van Richten calls to his companion, 'deploy the spirit snare!' His henchman responds at once, hurling the modified trap towards you.

Your first reaction is the trap will pass straight through you but then it snaps shut, its silvered teech snagging your ethereal form.  You let out a blood curdling scream of agony as pain like you have known only once before - when you died - shoots through you.

'I have a suitable receptacle ready,' the Ghost Hunter says.

As you struggle to free yourself from the spirir snare , Van Richten unstoppers a silver flask and mutters something incomprehensible under his breath.  You suddenly feel the world around you is swelling in size beyond all reason and there is a pop and you hear the squeak of the bung being pushed back into the neck of the bottle.

Van Richten holds the flask up to his face and peers at you with undisguised disgust.  'That's another one dealt with,' you hear him say before he stows the flask in the strongbox.  There is no way out of the ghost trap and so yor adventure must end here.

Why I like this paragraph

You know what I thought when I read this?  Titan has its own version of the Ghostbusters. 

Sure there's only two of them and they're darker, a lot less comical and they're not prepared to have a friendly ghost for a pet as you have just found out.  Instead they set upon you before you have a chance to tell them of your plight. 

These two versions of the ghostbusters do have similarities.  Both of them have their own versions of ghost traps.

Functional but not very elegent.

Far more classy.  And glassy.

I love the description you get of being left in a bottle trap - hearing the squeak of the bung and seeing your opponent's face from inside the bottle.
You might end up in one of these traps if Van Richten and his companion, Streng both get hits on you in two consecutive combat rounds.  

How did I get into this mess?

In Night of the Necromancer, you spend most of your time as a ghost.  When you see Van Richten, you get the idea that he may be able to help you.  However, if you do reveal yourself to him, you realise that he really can't see past the fact that you're a ghost.  You don't have much time to think about how judgemental and exclusive he is as he and his companion are attacking you with silver weapons.

What have I learnt from this?

In gamebooks, even death paragraphs can be entertaining and have pop culture references.

In Night of the Necromancer, being beaten in combat or being banished is usually not the end, as you are then whisked off the Earthly plane and may be able to to return to another place to continue your adventure. 

 However, it sometimes I should have an actual deadly combat or situation to make sure that the hero does not become complacent and it still gives the reader a sense of danger.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A few links

Jonathan Green, author of several gamebooks has now opened up a forum.  Join it to discuss his writing and gamebooks in general.

In his forum, I found this article from the Guardian  about electronic gamebooks and Tin Man Games, a company that has released electronic gamebooks. 

My phone at the moment is quite old.  I still like it because it has a fun ringtone (click the mp3 link half way down the page).  However, it does not have apps, so I need to get a new phone that can so I can take advantage of them.  I'll just have to let go of the cat dance.

There is one to be found here that Suresh V.S. posted on this blog on my other URL (now discontinued).

I'm glad that gamebooks are getting more attention and ebooks are giving them a new platform.

Your adventure ends here - the not quite Hero Quest

The gamebook endings I'm quoting have something special beyond the standard 'Your adventure ends here.' and I would like to make sure that any of my future gamebook endings should have one of these special features.

Here is an ending from The Fellowship of Four, a Heroquest multiplayer gamebook by Dave Morris. 

Some adventurers you are! If you have not even got the gumption to get involved when you see there's something wrong, how do you ever expect to be heroes?  Obviously, you would rather just stay by the comfort of the hearth with your beer.  Perhaps later on in the evening, you would be as so daring as to risk a game or two of darts?  It is clear that you are not cut out for swashbuckling, and so your adventure ends here before it's even begun.

Why I like this paragraph

This ending breaks from the norm of failure paragraphs in many ways and I like breaking from the norm. 

First of all, you don't die.  In most gamebooks, all of the failure endings end in your death.  Although you are on a dangerous quest, the non death failure is underused.  Multiple non failure endings are underused even more?  What's so bad about a good ending, a better ending and the best ending?  It will allow you to 'score' your adventure and may even provide a pleasant surprise when you try a different route and realise that there was a better way.

Second, the book berates you for behaving inappropriately.  Some gamebook authors have a set of rules based on morality, logic or common sense that the reader can work out in order to make it easier for them to make more successful choices.  Morris wants the reader to behave like action seeking, heroic characters and tells them this in the paragraph.

Third, you can get to this paragraph from paragraph 1.  Yes, you've turned to one other paragarph and you've failed.  Why such an early failure?  It's a possible choice - no one makes you go on quests.  Maybe Morris was screening his readers for characteristics such as curiosity and a desire to help others.

Fourth, Morris speaks to the reader.  Unless you are playing Grailquest, gamebook paragraphs rarely give you more than a description of your surroundings and dialogue and only break the fourth wall in failure paragraphs or when they tell you that you are a big cheat.  Morris really lays into the reader for making such an obvious mistake even to the point of sarcasm.  If you are being dissed by a gamebook, then you really know you've gone wrong.  Speaking to the reader is another underused feature in gamebooks.

 How did I get into this mess?

You are in a tavern when a worried looking man walks in and says something to the elders who shake their heads.  He then stands by the fire, looking chilled and concerned.  You decide to ignore him and carry on drinking beer. 

What have I learnt from this?

Failure endings do not just have to be a grim description of how you die.  They can still contain useful information for your next read through.  Morris is reawarding characters who want to help people in need.  If you do not do that then your adventure will be a lot harder.  A lot of gamebooks contian rules that the author has made.  He or she may make them obvious or not, but if you work them out then you will be much more successful.

Failure endings can contain useful bits of advice, so that when the reader starts again, they now feel more knowledgeable about what is expected of them.  This is something failure endings can provide - clues and hints for the reader in order to help then succeed on thier next attempt.

There is also much more to endings than just 'You die.'.  You do not have to die.  You can fail right at the beginning.  You can fail and still be told something useful.  You can have the author talk to you and tell you what an idiot you are.  All of these things are tools for writing a memorable failure ending.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Your adventure ends here - snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Here's a crushing failure ending from the Crimson Tide by Paul Mason.


He leads you through the labyrinthine corridors of the palace until you come to an area of old dusty stonework.  He gestures you through the doorway, then tugs a lever.  The floor gives way; you are plunged into a deep, bone filled pit.  Pantu cackles an unnerving high pitched sound.  There is no way out of the pit; you are trapped.  Your adventure is over.

I like this paragraph because Mason makes you think that this will be the victory paragraph.  He places it near the end of your adventure under paragraph 400 - numericaly, the final paragraph in the book.
Traditionally, in Fighting Fantasy, 400 is the winning paragraph.  I'm guessing this is where this amusing Fighting Fantasy blog got its name from.  So this may be a surprise for people who check the ending first.

However,, this is also Fighting Fantasy 47 and the Crimson Tide was not the first book to have a non victorious paragraph 400.  Depending on your point of view, the first book to do this is either Demons of the Deep (FF 19) or Starship Traveller (FF 4).

Demons of the Deep is quite straightforward.  It has 400 paragraphs and paragraph 400 tells you about how delicious some crab meat is.  It's a nice treat but it's not victory by any means.

Starship traveller is the first book where the victory paragraph is not 400 because it has fewer than 400 paragraphs.  The victory paragraph is 340.  However, Starship traveller has 343 paragrahs - the last 3 give you rules for combat. 

However, this death is particularly crushing as I will explain below.

How did I get into this mess?

The killer with this paragraph is that up until this point, you do not think that it is a mess.  You have managed to cross the country, train in Baochou Monastery in accordance with your father's final wish, saved some peasants, obtained the Sacred Sword of Tsui, made friends with an ambassador and  made your way into the palace.

You are standing before the God King and he is offering you a high up positition in his Kingdom.  You are offered the choice of accepting his postition or turning it down.  Both options, however, lead you to 400 so it makes you think that you have won as you now have the God King's help to stop the mercenaries that slaughted your village and murdered your father before your eyes.

And then some official drops you into a pit. 

I was surprised, then annoyed, then impressed at just how Paul Mason had built your hopes up, gave you a tantalizing taste of victory and then dropped you into a pit of bones.  Brilliant. 

What have I learnt from this disaster?

I won't tell you how to get to the proper victory paragraph, but I'll tell you to follow the advice in the notes section of the rules and when you see the God King, make sure you know what all the options are.

As a writer, I have learnt that you can turn a reader's expectations on their heads make sure that they don't end up metagaming.  I don't feel cheated by turning to 400 to find out that I'm dead.  I guess it's because it just became an assumption of mine that the last paragraph is always the victory paragraph.  This means that Mason has a good understanding of the habits of gamebook readers.

Other news

I have ordered the first 4 Fabled Lands books from Amazon.  They have been republished and hopefully we will have books 5-6 too.  And if we're really lucky, we may get the six books that were intended to be released but never were.   

Monday, January 10, 2011

Your adventure ends here - my favourite fiascoes

I wanted to write a post about failure endings in gamebooks, but so many of them were good for several reasons that I imagined having to write a huge post.  However, I didn't.  I'm going to write posts with one good failure ending and say why I like it.  This also solves the problem of lack of updates as I start out with a big idea I can never complete.  However, this way, there will be lots of updates. 

To me, failure endings in gamebooks have less impact on my enjoyment than success endings.  I think this is because when I see the fateful phrase 'Your adventure ends here.' I would rather go back to the beginning (OK, he previous page that I had my finger on) and get on with it. 

However, good failure endings can have a positive impact on your experience for many reasons which I will cover in this post and others. 

So here is the first of my favourites, from Beneath Nightmare Castle (Fighting Fantasy 25) by Peter Darvill-Evans.


You open the door and find the blade of a curved sword inches from your nose.  You duck and crouch instinctively, ready to fight, but the hiss of many swords leaving their scabbards deters you.  You have no choice but to surrender.  You have walked into the section of the outer bailey that houses the hordes of southern warriors.  They remove all your possessions and clothes , lock you into an iron cell and provide you with decent rations.  Each evenig, they bring you out to play a game called 'Stone-drop':  you are pegged spreadeagled on the ground at the foot of one of the towers and two swordsmen, chosen by lot, have one chance each to drop a boulder from the top of the tower on to your head.  All the soldiers in the barracks come to watch and much excitement is generated.  Gold pieces change hands at furious rates as wagers are laid on which man will drop a boulder nearer to your head and on how many days it will be before one of the drops is accurate enough to crush your skull.  Eventually one of them is, and does. 

Why I like this death ending.

I love the old 'you open the door and there's a sword (or gun) pointing in your face' image.  The only image better than that is the image of several people holding guns or swords to your face.

Sing your way out of this one.

The only thing that would have made that entrance more awsome is if you had gotten out of it somehow, but then the paragraph wouldn't be in this blog. 

This could have so easily been a 'You get cornered by hordes of mooks; they kill you.' ending, but Peter Darvill-Evans made it a lot lot more.  Instead of just being sliced up on the spot, you are captured (fair enough) but then well fed (what's going on here?).

You then realise that instead of being quickly executed, you are actually the main entertainment for the southern soldiers for the next few days.  Peter Darvill-Evans goes into great detail about how much excitement, joy and profit your enemies get from making you the object of some sick game.  There is a very slow build up as you imagine boulders crashing nearer and nearer to your head before you are finally killed.

In fact, the author has a knack for writing detailed and brilliantly gruesome endings for you in this book.  I will be posting more failure endings from Beneath Nightmare Castle on this blog in future. 

Bonus points to the author for using the word spreadeagled.  I don't see that word enough in books.

How did I get into this mess?

You can end up on this paragraph while wandering around Neuberg Keep.  You are given the option of going to the outer bailey or the keep.  This is what happens if you go to the outer bailey.  I think the author wants you to head inside the keep and towards the main action rather than hang around with the mooks on the outside, not getting anything productive done. 

What have I learnt from this disaster?

The good thing about death in gamebooks is that you can learn from it after you start again. 

Next time, I would head for the keep.  Or, even better, I would find a more discrete entrance and not wander around a dangerous castle full of swordsmen and strange monsters in the middle of the day.  In fact, I would try to get under the castle as fast as possible.  The title of the book is quite a hefty clue.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy new year!

Happy new year!

I have been neglecting the blog recently - december is both a hectic and a tiring time for me at work and  then there are all the holidays.  However, I am now refreshed and relaxed.  You could say that my stamina has been replenished. 

However, I have been working quietly away and keeping my finger on the pulse. 

First of all, there is a new gamebook blog, written by Andrew Wright who has also written tons of great gamebooks which you can find on

The blog can be found on:

It has only been active for a short time, but it already contians several well written posts with references for further reading.  In fact, it was Andrew's post about gamebook blogs that has inspired this post as it showed me that people are taking notice that I haven't updated yet. 

So read it - it is really informative.  Andrew's latest posts contain a great review of Heart of Ice, a gamebook by Dave Morris.  You can find it on his blog for free (it is half way down the page).  I'm ashamed to say that I haven't read it yet, but I am putting it on the top of my list.

Secondly, it was announced that Advanced Fighting Fantasy (AFF) is being revised, re-written and reorganised by Arion games.  It is due to be released in Spring 2011.  The website for the new Advanced Fighting Fantasy is here:

I am looking forward to it.  I have the AFF gamebooks and I enjoyed the unique way in which it was presented.  Adventures were presented as films with scenes, characters and props.  The approach did not take itself too seriously, either, which I enjoyed.  It made the book an entertaining read for the director while they were planning an adventure.

The side of me that was all about games mechanics noticed a few things though (and when I was younger, I went through a phase that was all about games mechanics.  Sometimes I would scan gamebook paragraphs to see if I needed to changed stats or gain an item and jsut ignored all the lovely description that the author had gone to lots of trouble to write - sorry!).

First of all the old problem of having a skill range between 7 and 12 was exacerbated by the rule that every point in skill you had allowed you to pick a point in a special skill. 

The value of that special skill was your skill + the number of points you had allocated to that skill (maximum 4).

This means that a skill 7 character had 7 points to use and the maximum value they could have was 11.

A skill 12 person had 12 points to use and the maximum value they could have was 16.  The minumum value they could have was 13.

So a skill 12 character could have 12 special skills with a value of 13, while a skill 7 character could have a value of 11 for their best skill and only 3 points left to spend. 

I also think that there needs to be clarification on what the skills do and how balanced the skills are.  Some skills overlap with others.

The scouting skill allowed you to sneak and hide outdoors.  However, there was already a sneak and hide skill.

The heavy armoured combat skill which allowed you to fight in heavy armour.  However, there were no rules for what heavy armour did.

There was a battle combat skill and siege combat skill which allowed the character to fight well in a mass battle and siege.  What did that mean exactly? 

Excellent vision and excellent hearing are both  self explanatory, but there is also an awareness skill which allows the character to detect anything. 

The strength skill allowed you to increase the damage you inflict in combat by 1 - I'll have that one!  Heal allowed you to restore other peoples' stamina. 

The magic system also needs tidying up.  There was a priest magic list and a sorcerer magic list.  However, they were too similar.  Priests had offensive spells and sorcerers had healing spells.  Priests had to follow a moral code of their god or be excommunicated and lose the chance to learn more spells. They only had a few spells that sorcerers did not have.  Sorcerers, on the other hand, could do what they liked and had lots of spells that priests could not access.

I just read what I wrote and realised that I was sounding a bit down on AFF.  I enjoyed reading the books immensly.  I was never able to find a group to play with, but I'm sure I would have liked it.  These issues are easily tidied up and I look forward to the new releases!

I am working on my post about endings in gamebooks which are a result of bad choices (I really wanted to say bad endings there, but that would be ambiguous).  However, I am getting sucked in to reading a lot of endings.  A lot of them are very entertaining.