Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why I read reviews

This post is going out at 11:59 PM on New Years Eve 2011 (GMT), so before I start, I'd like to say 10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I've been thinking about why I read reviews for a while, but the catalyst for writing this post was brought on by the Lone Tiger Gamebook Reviews blog which I contribute to.  I noticed that it got quite a few views and I think it's because the blog is about reviews.

First, I'd like to thank David Walters (who has written some great ebooks), Richard Palmer (who has a blog on SF books) and Sam Richards (who has brought gamebooks to Twitter) for their contributions to this post with our twitter discussions.  Thanks all.

A good review gets to the point.
I'm an obsessive review reader.  I read reviews about everything - Dr Who, board games, computer gamesfilms, books, TV showsgamebooks.  Oh hang on, I write some of those reviews.  Anyway, I read reviews about all these things and more.  I read reviews about things I'm going to buy.  I read reviews about things I've bought.  I read reviews of things that I'm never going to watch or read or play.  And I don't think I'm alone.  Four of my five most viewed blog posts are reviews (the other one being the introduction to how to write a gamebook) and even though at the time of writing, the Lone Tiger Gamebook Review blog only has two posts, it has way over 100 views a day.  Zhu Bajiee, in his review of his first year states that ' others have pointed out generally about OSR blogs the creative stuff gets a lot less hits than the commentary and review stuff.'  

So it seems that people like reviews.  In this post, I'm going to analyse why I read reviews and hopefully, it will resonate with other people as to why you read reviews.

Why I read reviews of  things I haven't partaken in yet (but may do so)

Yes.  Even that episode.
This one should be pretty straightforward.  I read reviews of things that I haven't watched or played yet to find out if they will be worth watching or playing.  However, strangely, this is the least common reason as to why I read reviews.  I can't remember a time when a bad review put me off something or a good review made me want to partake in something.  No matter what Den of Geek  says about the latest Dr Who episode, I'm going to watch it.  I don't care if Eastenders came top of the TV ratings with an amazing story, I'm not going to watch it.  I enjoy reading all gamebooks, even the bad ones.  If it's a gamebook, I'm going to want to read it.  It's the same with everything else.  reviews don't really sway my decision over whether I am going to partake in something or not.  Oh well.  On to the next stage.
It will ruin your life.

Why I read reviews of things I have already partaken in.

This I do a lot.  I have read the reviews of Fighting Fantasy books from Mark J.Popp's website at least a dozen times.  I scour forums for peoples' opinions on gamebooks I know intimately and I read reviews of films and TV shows I've watched.  I don't just read reviews of them either; I also want to understand how they are broken down into their tropes.

But why?

There are quite a few reasons actually.  I suppose, one reason is confirmation.  I want to know if someone else had the same opinion about something as myself.  It's a bit like having a one sided conversation with a friend about it, but instead, you are just listening.  Reading other peoples' well written opinions on things helps you form your own opinions, express them and lets you understand where you fall in relation to other peoples' views on something.  Or maybe it will show you that you are ALWAYS RIGHT and that everyone else is ALWAYS WRONG! (thanks to @redrichie).

There was no poetry, however.
Another reason for reading a review is that the review may highlight something that you missed.  There are many subtleties to TV shows, films and writing and sometimes it is a pleasure to go over something one more time to pick up on new delights.  Reviews can help point that in your direction.  For example, TVTropes informed me that the Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011 Dr Who Christmas Special) had a reference to Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy at the beginning (the spaceship announced 'People of Earth!'  just like the Vogon ship in HGTTG).

Takes me back towhen I was 8.
Another reason why I like to read reviews of things that I have already experienced is for nostalgia.  It's nice to kick back and remember the first time I finally saved the world of Orb from the Talisman of Death or blew up Helgedad or invented the method of fighting combats where I just assumed that I won.  It's not nice when said nostalgia leads to watch the Flight of the Conchords songs on Youtube when I should be finishing off this blog post (they are very funny though).

Reviews are informative.  Reviews may give some background into the creative process that may have gone into the finished product.  It may explain a lot about certain things that you spotted.

Why I read reviews of things I never intend to partake in

I like reading reviews because I can see someone give their opinion in an erudite way.

Reviews in themselves can be entertainment.  Charlie Brooker has made an art of reviewing things with his acerbic wit.  There are also several hilarious reviews on Amazon for certain items such as this mystical t-shirt or this excellent book on silicon-29.

'Unfortunately I already had this exact picture tattooed on my chest, but this shirt is very useful in colder weather.' - Overlook 1977

Friday, December 30, 2011

Caravan to Kaad - an AFF2 solo.

I'm going to slip in a cheeky little post before 2012 hits us.  I am a Tunnels and Trolls fan and I enjoy the way that it produces lots of solo adventures for the system (basically, they are gamebooks, but the rules are in a separate book).

If you want to see a good example of a short Tunnels and Trolls solo, try Depths of the Devilmancer by Scott Malthouse.

Well, I decided to turn my hand to writing an Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition solo for a non magic user.The problem with writing gamebooks for a system designed for an RPG is that it is difficult to prepare your gamebook for all of the skills, abilities and spells that the characters may have.

For example, what happens if you cast ESP on an NPC?  A referee could make something up on the fly, but a gamebook cannot do that.  So, for the time being, I'm keeping it simple for myself.

In this solo, you are guarding a caravan for a few days.  Normally, it is boring, but this time, things go wrong.  Read on and let me know what you think.  It's nice and short, so it shouldn't take too long.

Caravan to Kaad
You are an adventurer who has fallen on hard times and has decided to guard a caravan for some gold pieces.  However, the job is far from boring. 

This gamebook is intended for a character with AFF2 stats, but magic has not been accounted for.

Skills and talents
This gamebook does not take into account spellcasting, so the following skills and talents will not be available for a hero doing this gamebook.

Skills not available:  Magic – Minor, Magic – Priestly, Magic – Sorcery, Magic – Wizardry.

Talents not available:  Arcane, Blessed, Dark Seeing, Familiar, Focus, Holy, Knighted, Natural Mage, Physical Empowerment, Status.

Starting equipment
You start with a bare minimum of equipment but you may find other items later  on.  At the moment, you have these items:
  • One weapon that you have a special skill in or a staff or dagger if you have no weapon special skill.
  • A leather cuirass if you have the armour special skill or a small shield if you don’t.
  • A backpack.
After falling on hard times, you decide to earn some money doing caravan guard duty.  The town crier announced that a merchant wants guards to escort him and his wares to Kaad.  You approach the well built, leather wearing merchant in the town square of Blitterford who introduces himself as Lars and tells you that he has several barrels of corn ale that he needs transporting to Kaad.  It should take three days for the caravan to get there along a well known trail and the fee is 30 gold pieces. 
Turn to 1.

30 gold pieces for three days work.  You need the money, but could you squeeze more out of him?  If you want to try, turn to 9.  If you accept, turn to 17. 

There is a cloaked man up ahead. He is carrying a staff. Lars stops the wagons and tells you and Margov to approach it. You do so cautiously. As you get nearer, the figure lowers its hood to reveal a face of madness. The man cackles insanely and launches himself at both of you. You and Margov fight the man together (you both get a +1 bonus to attack strength while you are both fighting).  He will target you with his blows.


If you win, you may take the man's staff, but there is nothing left of value. Turn to 24.

The peasants are very grateful for your help. They give you a bag of berries, nuts and apples that they collected today. 'Many thanks, my friend.' Says the woman. This will protect you from the elements. Note down the bag as a meal, but if you eat it in this gamebook, you will also enjoy the effect of the weather protection minor spell (you won't lose any stamina from bad weather). The spell wears off when this gamebook ends. Turn to 24.

You see two figures approaching and you wake Sovril. You have a chance to ambush them. Test your hide or skill. If you succeed, turn to 6. If you fail, turn to 18.

Before you can react, two MAN ORCS leap out of the copse and land before you, brandishing their battle axes. You are surprised. If you are with Margov, you both fight one man orc each. Otherwise, you fight them together. In the first round, the man orcs get a +6 bonus to attack strength and a +2 bonus to damage rolls due to the surprise. Also, if you win the attack round, you don't inflict any damage.

First MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.
Second MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.

If you win, you may take a battle axe, but the man orcs have no other possessions. Turn to 22.

You leave the shelter of the wagon and head for a nearby bush. The MAN ORCS look under the wagon and then at the barrels. While they are distracted you ambush them. They grunt in surprise and anger. You have to fight them. If Sovril has a weapon, he will try his best against the second man orc. Otherwise, he will flee while you have to fight both of them at once (they get +1 to their attack strength while there are two of them). If Sovril beats his man orc before you, he will aid you. If the man orc reduces Sovril's stamina to 4 or less, Sovril will flee. The man orc will ignore him and attack you. Since you surprised the man orcs, you get a +6 bonus to your attack strength and a +2 bonus to damage rolls in the first round. Also, if the man orc wins, you take no damage. The same applies to Sovril, if he is fighting.

Sovril   SKILL 6 STAMINA 11 WEAPON: Whatever you gave him. ARMOUR: None

First MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.
Second MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.

If you win, and Sovril ran away, he eventually returns. Turn to 25.

You awak at dawn and carry on traipsing along the trail, protecting the wagons. The day goes without incident until you come to a copse. Lars tells you to investigate it before he sends the wagons through. You approach it, getting slowly closer. Test your awareness or skill. If you have the hawkeye talent, you may use its bonus. You automatically succeed if you have the combat reactions talent. If you succeed, turn to 15. If you fail, turn to 5.

The first 3 hours are uneventful. You walk alongside the slow moving wagons, enjoying the countryside. Then you see something approaching you on the trail. Roll 1 die.

On the roll of a 1-2, turn to 12.

On the roll of a 3-4, turn to 16.

On the roll of a 5-6, turn to 2.

Roll 2 dice and add it to Lars's bargain skill of 9. Roll 2 dice and add it to your skill or bargain skill. If you get the same scores, roll again. If you beat his score, you manage to raise the fee to 36 gold pieces. If you fail, he lowers the fee to 24 gold pieces. Turn to 17.

Overcoming your revulsion, you search through the entrails and bloodstained clothes and backpack to find an axe and a pouch containing 5 gold pieces. You may take either or both of these. Turn to 24.

Lars and his caravan ride off. Just as they do, the heavens open and it starts to pour with rain. Lose 1 stamina point through cold and wet. You are left with Sovril, a servant. The first thing you both do is collect up the barrels and arrange them on the trail. Then you lean the broken wagon against the tree for shelter. After that, you get some food. Gain 2 stamina points. Neither of you sleep particularly well as you are anxious against further attacks. Eventually, the sun rises and you spend the day patrolling the copse. However, nothing comes. Sovril helps, but he looks like he couldn't hold himself in a fight and he is unarmed. If you would like to lend him a weapon, you may do so now. Turn to 23.

You see three figures on the road all dressed in ragged clothing. Two of them are supporting the third who is limping along. The central person's leg is covered in blood.

'Please help us.' Says one of the uninjured peasants, a woman with wild black hair. 'We were hunting for food and Arwal here got caught in a man trap. He's in a bad way. Please help us.' You look at Lars who is unimpressed and ready to move his wagon on.

If you ignore them and follow Lars, turn to 19.

If you want to help them and you have the healing skill, make a roll. If you succeed, turn to 3. If you fail, you may try something else.

If you try to convince Lars to use some of his bandages and alcohol to clean and repair the wounds, turn to 14.
Deciding that spending two days in man orc infested countryside is foolish, you turn around and head back to Blitterford. You don't get any pay and Lars will badmouth you to any merchant he meets, reducing your chances of employment, but at least you still have your skin. Gain 5 experience points for this trip.

Test your Con, Leadership or skill. If you succeed, Lars agrees to give you some bandages and alcohol and you dress the wound. Turn to 3.

If you fail, Lars refuses to give the materials away freely, but he will give them to you if you let him reduce your fee by 6 gold pieces. If you do this, turn to 3.

If you are not able to get the materials, you move on. Turn to 19.

You see a shape moving behind the trees and you shout a warning to the others. Two MAN ORCs leap out of the copse to attack you, but you are ready for them. If Margov is still with you, you fight one man orc each. Otherwise, you fight them together (they get a +1 bonus to attack strength while they are both alive).

First MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.
Second MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.

If you win, you may take a battle axe, but the man orcs have no other possessions. Turn to 22.

You see a pack of wild dogs gorging on something in the road. There are six of them. When you get near to them, they turn as one and glower at you, mad for more meat. The pack of dogs then launch themselves at you and Margov, barking madly. You must fight three of them at once (each wild dog in the pack gets a +1 bonus to attack strength for each other wild dog attacking you.


Fight Margov's combat simultaneously:


Make a note of Margov's current stamina. If he dies, the ramaining wild dogs will attack you. If he wins before you, he will aid you.

If you win, turn to 21.

Note down how much you will be paid.

'Great. We're leaving in a couple of hours.' says Lars. Come and help us load up.

You spend an hour loading barrels onto wagons. As you do, you get to know the other travellers. Lars has three servants and one other guard, a man in a chain cuirass who has a sword at his side and a shortbow on his back. He is known as Margov and he is an ex soldier in the Salamonis army who left for more adventure.

'I've been guarding caravans for the next six months. It was more entertaining in the army.'

Here are Margov's stats:


Skill 7 Stamina 16 Luck 10

Skills: World Lore (1), City Lore (Salamonis) (1), Religion Lore (1), Ride (1), Swords (2), Armour (2), Strength (2), Bows (1), Brawling (1), Dodge (1), Mounted Combat (1), Animal Lore (1), Etiquette (1)

Talent: Strongarm.

Equipment: Sword, dagger, shortbow, quiver of 12 arrows, chain cuirass backpack, waterskin, 2 meals, 25 GP, 10 SP.

After you have loaded up the Lars and each servant get on a wagon laden with barrels and begin their journey. You and Margov have to walk alongside them, keeping an eye out for  trouble. Turn to 8.

You hear guttral noises nearby and go to wake Sovril. As you do, two MAN ORCS appear on the trail. You have to fight them. If Sovril has a weapon, he will try his best against the second man orc. Otherwise, he will flee while you have to fight both of them at once (they get +1 to their attack strength while there are two of them). If Sovril beats his man orc before you, he will aid you. If the man orc reduces Sovril's stamina to 4 or less, Sovril will flee. The man orc will ignore him and attack you.

Sovril   SKILL 6 STAMINA 11 WEAPON: Whatever you gave him. ARMOUR: None

First MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.
Second MAN ORC SKILL 8 STAMINA 6 WEAPON: Battle axe. ARMOUR: Leather cuirass.

If you win, and Sovril ran away, he eventually returns. Turn to 25.

The peasants glare at you as you walk on. As you leave, you hear the woman mumble something under her breath. Then you feel a sharp jabbing pain in your back. Roll 1 die. If you roll a 6, lose 1 stamina point. Turn to 24.
'I'm you're boss, you insolent mudworm. Either do as I say, or clear off!' Shouts Lars. If you do go along with his plan, make a note that your pay has been reduced by 4 gold pieces since you angered him and turn to 11. If you still refuse, turn to 13.

After you have killed the pack, you then see that they were feasting upon the rotting, disemboweled corpse of an adventurer. No one else wants to touch it. If you investigate the corpse, turn to 10. If you carry on, turn to 24.
Eager to move on, Lars pushes the horses on. It all goes well, until the last wagon goes over a gnarled tree root in the copse, overturning it and sending the barrels flying. Lars curses. You all inspect the wagon which now has a broken wheel. Lars orders you and the servant driving the wagon to stay behind and guard the goods while the rest of them move on to get a replacement. If you go along with this, turn to 11. If you refuse, turn to 20.
You both eat well during the day. Restore 4 stamina points. Then night comes around and you decide to take the first watch. You stare out across the plains from the copse for hours. Test your awareness or skill. If you have the hawkeye talent, you may use its bonus. If you succeed, turn to 4. If you fail, turn to 18. 

The rest of the day carries on without incident. You circle the wagons, start a fire and enjoy a good meal. In the evening, you keep watch. If Margov is still alive, you share the duty and you may both restore 2 stamina points through food and a reasonable night's sleep. If you are alone, you get very little sleep and you have to lose 1 stamina point.

The night passes without incident. In the morning, you carry on. turn to 7.

Once again, the man orcs have nothing of value. After two, thankfully uneventful days of waiting and resting (restore your stamina to its initial level), Lars and Margov return with an empty wagon. You hurridly load it with the barrels and hastily make your way to Kaad. Lars thanks you for protecting his goods and pays you his fee with an additional 15 gold pieces on top. You have managed to guard the caravan to Kaad. Gain 15 experience points.

So there we go.  Feel free to post any comments.  

I wish you all a happy new year.  Here's to 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Lone tigers

Good morrow to you all!  I hope that you all had a good Christmas and that Santa, the Riddling Reaver or Banedon brought you some good presents in their flying vehicles.

I enjoy the days between Christmas and New Year.  It is a quiet time where you can catch up and relax, look back and prepare for the coming of a new year.  A new start.  Maybe the start of a new blog.  A blog about gamebooks.  A blog where we hunt down the best amateur and obscure gamebooks, chew them up, savour their flavour and then tell the interweb what we thought of them.  So that is why Andrew Wright and myself have started the Lone Tiger gamebook review blog.

There is plenty written about the published official gamebooks, but thanks to the internet, there are now plenty of gamebook groups and forums where people have shared their own contributions.  They have showcased their talent and the Lone Tiger blog is just for them.

You can read the review system here and you can read the first review here.  Our first review is Beggars of Blacksand by Al Sander.

Anyone is free to submit reviews.  If you want to, give it a go and email

So give it a go!  Happy gamebooking!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Inspired Gamebooks

The tourist trade for
the pyramids has
gone down .
There are many gamebooks that hold the spirit of Christmas for various reasons.

Snowy gamebooks

Heart of Ice

In this gamebook, a computer program that once controlled the weather has been driven insane by a virus and now most of the world is covered in snow and ice.  Even Egypt is beset by blizzards.

It has cool skiing

The Caverns of Kalte (Lone Wolf 3)

In this gamebook, Lone Wolf is sent to the frozen north to track down Vonotor the traitor.  There's a lot of hardship to be had on your travels.

She wears red, but she's
no Santa.

Caverns of the Snow Witch

The first part of this book takes place in the frozen mountains and involves you trying to kill the Snow Witch, a vampire sorceress who wants to plunge the world in a perpetual winter.

The main character has a beard too.
The Cold Heart of Chaos by Al Sander

In this amateur adventure, you are a young dwarf who goes to the Icefinger Mountains to investigate another dwarf clan that performed rituals to keep chaos at bay.  However, chaos is rising, so you think that something is wrong.

Stalking the Snow Beast by Zachary Carango

This is another post apocalyptic adventure where the world has been plunged in snow.  The elders of your town announce that they have a powerful artefact that could reverse the effect of the snow and you are going to be one of its guards.

Gamebooks where you have to deliver something (like Santa)

A lot of gamebooks do not really have the spirit of Christmas as you usually have to kill someone and then you steal their treasure.  However, there are a few gamebooks where you get to give someone a gift.  Isn't that nice.
Santa in the
Insectoid World.

Spectral Stalkers

This is a bit of a cheat as you have to deliver something (the Aleph) to someone to kill them, but it's their fault for summoning invincible relentless cosmic horrors.
He's annoyed because
his sweater didn't fit.

Forest of Doom

You have to deliver the hammer to Stonebridege.  You just have to find it first.  Bonus Christmas points for having a bearded man who makes things in a tower in a place where elves live (although he's selling them because he's a tightwad and the elves are dark elves that live beneath the forest).

Post apocalyptic
Santa with his wheels.
Prancer's driving.
Freeway Fighter

Deliver some fuel to your city in a post apocalyptic world.  I guess if the apocalypse did hit, then a canister of fuel is something you would put in your letter to Santa along with a good shotgun and a water purification kit.

Amateur Christmas Adventures

The official Fighting Fantasy website has held a couple of Christmas Competitions.  Its winners were Jack Henseleit who wrote Christmas in Hell and Dan Brida with Village of Evermas.

There are plenty more amateur adventures on the official site.  It does not say which of the others are Christmas themed, but I found A Grim Holiday by T.M Badowski and my entry The Presence of a Hero (get it? Presence sounds like presents?).

I hoe you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.  I'll be back next Sunday, 2nd January as usual, so until then, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Evolution of an Ebook cover - Rulers of the NOW

Rulers of the NOW was the idea that just wouldn't leave me alone, so I decided that I would do this idea properly.  I would make it into a real book and everything.  That everything included a book cover.

Cue Twitter.

Twitter is a great place to meet literally everybody.  At the time of writing this post (mid November), I have 505 followers on Twitter and I follow 1243 accounts (I don't say people because I know that some of them are groups and some of them are cats who have more followers than me).

I can't remember if Graphicz x Designs started following me or I started following them but I went to them for a quote.  I wanted a custom made cover as I wanted my image to include characters from the book and occult symbols that I had heard or read about so I sent Graphicz x an art description.

I had never written an art description before, but I had seen plenty of them on the Magic the Gathering website when I read articles about the making of cards.  It was informative to read them as you could see the finished product and sometimes some of the intermediate sketches that had come as a result of the description.  For a good example of the evolution of a Magic the Gathering card's art, click here.

I tried to emulate such a description, so I sent this:

Atmosphere - cyberpunk/ future tech dystopian atmosphere.

There are three figures in the same arrangement and postures to the devil tarot card.

The central figure is sitting on a shiny steel futuristic throne on a raised steel dais (the throne and dais is about the only thing in the room that should be shiny) which is plain. has his right hand raised
like the devil. His left hand is holding a shiny steel rod with a red glow at the end. He is pointing this rod to the ground, like the devil is pointing the torch to the ground (the red glow is on the
bottom end). The central figure is extremely handsome and has a perfect physique and is wearing extremely smart clothes that show it off (they may be futuristic or contemporary depending on what
is best to show of the central fiigure's physique). His right eye has been replaced by an eye patch with circuitry on it. There is a red glow in the centre of the eyepatch. His facial expression is what TVTropes describes as a Kubrick stare.

Above the central figure on the wall is a black triangle pointing upwards. In the centre of the triangle, there is a glowing red eye, similar to the HAL 9000 eye from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is basically a black eye of providence with a red HAL 9000 eye.

The figures either side of the figure are not chained up (unlike in the tarot card) and they are
androids rather than real people. They have the same position as the figures in the Devil card. Their
suits should be futuristic and identical in style except that one should be predominantly white and
the other predominantly black.

The female figure, one the central man's right (the left of the page), should be an android that bares some resemblance to the robot from the film Metropolis (without causing any infringements to intellectual property.)

The male android on the central man's left (the right of the page) should resemble a grey alien...(Spoiler). As far as I know, I do not think that the grey alien image is  copyrighted by anyone.

The floor is a black and white chequerboard and the android should be standing on it while the central figure should not be touching it. His dais raises his throne above the black and white floor.

From there, GX was very attentive to my needs.  He gave me a questionnaire to fill in to get a better idea of the feel of my book.  He also asked for a synopsis.  I gave him the one below:

Your house has burnt down, your identity has been destroyed and the enforcers of Callisto are
hunting you down to the ends of the Jovian Moon.
This is only the beginning of your discovery that the rulers of the New Order of Worlds (NOW)
is not the benevolent and democratic government it claims to be. Is there something more sinister
happening in the shadows? Is there a greedy and malicious power behind the throne?

As a fugitive in your own land, you need to escape your draconian rulers bent on sending you to
the hellish sulphur mines of Io. You must call upon all of your reserves of strength and willpower to
save yourself and maybe discover who the rulers of the NOW really are.

GX really went with my ideas, accommodated me very well and gave me some good advice.  The level of detail was too high to show on a thumbnail of an ebook cover, so the central character does not have small details such as the glowing red eye.  He paid a lot of attention to detail and provided me with several proofs for me to select from.  One of the first sketches to come back had Jupiter in the background because I had mentioned Callisto in the synopsis.  I emailed back to apologise and say that I wanted Earth in the background.  It was my fault as I did not state that although you start on Callisto, you don't stay there.  There were some other details but GX was very good and accommodated all of my wishes.

The final product is here:

Many thanks for such a brilliant ebook cover, graphiz x!  

I wish you the best with all of your covers.

Happy gamebooking!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The birth of a gamebook or: The NOW is coming.

Rulers of the NOW has been a long time coming.  It grew from what could have been one of the tiniest ideas - what would a gamebook with 666 paragraphs be like?

I have not read a gamebook where the writing in the paragraph reflected some significance of the number and this is something that I wanted to do.

So I started with 666.  It seemed like a good number of paragraphs for a gamebook and had obvious connotations.  Then I thought to myself - what other numbers could I use and how could I get them into a theme.

This is where my obsessive podcast listening comes in.  I listen to loads of podcasts and audiobooks.  I can't get enough of them.  In fact, I speed up all my mp3s so that I can listen to more, more, MORE!

A lot of the podcasts I listen to have a lot to do with conspiracy theories - they run the gamut from reporting the unknown to coming up with alternative theories for UFO sightings to describing every level of the Illuminati and its modus operandi.

There are many sources that state that the Illuminati is satanic and that its influence pervades our lives through symbols in the media. According to some people out there, we already live in a dystopia simultaneously under constant surveillance as in 1984 and bombarded by short term pleasurable distractions as in Brave New World.  My idea was growing.

Dystopian fiction and conspiracy theories are also rife with meaningful numbers:  5, 13, 33, 101, 322, 451, the list goes on.  Throw in  bit of occultism and we are all sorted with meaningful numbers.

So I have the idea - dystopia.  I wanted to start the story with you as an ordinary citizen who knows little about the world outside the dystopia who is suddenly thrust into its crazy world, so I had you accused of a terrorist.  Why?  That will be explained in the full book.  The idea was that you would go from fleeing from the law to fighting back and you would take the fight all the way to the top - you just had to find out who was at the top.

This is where the title came in.  I'm usually terrible at titles and it wasn't until six months after my original idea that the title came to me in a flash while I was walking to work.  The book is about taking down the leadership of this dystopia, but that is a big mystery.  Conspiracy theorists talk of the New World Order.  How about if the dystopia was on several planets - the New Order of Worlds (NOW) and since one of the big questions is 'Who rules the NOW?', why don't we have that as a title?  So that is how the title 'Rulers of the NOW' was born.  There's also another reason why, which you'll have to find out when you read the full book.

So that is how Rulers of the NOW came about.  I've planned it as three parts - escaping from Callisto, going to                 and finally,                                                             .  I don't want to spoil any surprises.  

At the time of writing this post (mid November), I've written a third of the paragraphs and I plan to release the full book by April 2012.  I've even had a cover made - I will talk more about that next week.

As for NOW, I hope you have a good week and I hope you nurture your tiny seeds of ideas as, like mine, they might grow into great books.

Happy gamebooking!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Windhammer Review part 4 - Above the Waves by Zachary Carango

Fariness of dice

Champion appeal
The path to victory is not too easy – the trick is finding the correct path that matches your skills.  As is the case with Virtual Reality books, you can challenge yourself by having fewer skills.  There is also the challenge with dealing with the problems that your background produces.

Explorer appeal
The system is very similar to the virtual reality game system which means that you can start the book with a different set of skills and a different background and then try to find a new route which is optimal for your character choice.  There is a lot of exploration value in playing a gamebook that maximises your character choices.

Puzzle solver appeal
The main puzzle is working out which combination of skills and items is the best for your choices.

Storyteller appeal
Having a choice of skills and backgrounds allows you to have control over the story of your character. 
The world in the book is very detailed and you get to see many aspects of it – goons, pirates, rebels, sheiks, workers.  The world is ripe for adventure and exploration. 

Who I voted for
This year, I voted for Peledgathol, the Last Fortress for its strategy system and having a story where you have to make difficult choices and A strange Week for King Melchion the Despicable for its puzzles and story with a great twist.

I loved reading all of the Windhammer entries and I found it very hard to make my decision.  My vote is made purely based on which two I enjoyed playing the most.