Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why 2012 was the year of the gamebook

Back in January, Tin Man Games published a post entitled 'Why will 2012 be "The year of the gamebook"?  Here's why...'

Let's have a look back on this post and see what has happened this year.

1)  Gamebook Adventures is coming to Android

Yes it did!  It also came to PC and Mac via Desura.  Nice work on expanding the market there!

2)  Fighting Fantasy's 30th Anniversary.

This wonderful milestone brought us Blood of the Zombies, a talk from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone at Dragonmeet , it almost bought us a documentary and it may bring us a book on the history of Fighting Fantasy by Jonathan Green.  Thanks to Fighting Fantasy's 30th anniversary, I met both Steve and Ian (twice) this year :).

3)  Dredd

Yes!  Tin Man Games released a Judge Dredd gamebook and they are planning on releasing another one next year :).

4)  The rise of the gamebook blogs.

I was very flattered to be mentioned in this post.  I've not been able to give Lone Tiger as much love as I would like but there are plenty more gamebook blogs out there to enjoy.  Just have a look at The Gamebook Feed to see what's out there.  

5)  Gary Chalk illustrating gamebooks again.

Yes he is.  Look out for Gun Dogs which will be out in 2013.

6)  Gamebooks on other digital platforms.

Oh yes.  Keep an eye out for the projects mentioned in the Tin Man's post.

7)  Jonathan Green writing for GA again.

I'm looking forward to this one...

8)  Fighting Fantazine

I love the hard work that Alex has put into the Fanzine.  It is a hub of gamebook love and I look forward to more editions.  Look out for some contributions by yours truly too.

9)  Supernatural romance hots up.

TMG released Vampire Boyfriends this year, probably as an antidote to the bromide of the Twilight series.

10)  Stuff that can't be mentioned.

Maybe they meant stuff like House of Hell being released or maybe the Fire*Wolf series by H.B Brennan.  Or maybe they meant even more stuff...

Other stuff that happened included Frankenstein by Dave Morris being released and Fabled Lands 5 and 6 being republished.  

What about next year?  

It seems that Dave and Jamie have big plans for 2013 as does Tin Man Games.  Shane Garvey has also made a gamebook RPG system which I was honored to help with which will involve lots of gamebooks and that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here's to 2013!  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas one and all!

Here's to a merry Christmas and a happy new year!  Many thanks for all of your support, ladies and gentlemen, it is much appreciated.

I look forward to all the delights on 2013!

Remember to fill up on petrol.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The End

Good day to you all!  I hope you are all having a good Yule season.  However, today's post is not about Christmas.  Since it is most definitely not December 21st in any time zone of the world as you read this, I can gladly announce that we have all survived yet another apocalypse. 

Only those people living in a cave, scared that the Millenium Bug would launch all the world's nuclear missiles and cause a nuclear winter would not have heard that 21st December 2012 was the date that the Mayan calendar would end its cycle and therefore the world would end.  Because that's what happens when calendars end. 
So, instead of making a Christmassy post, I thought I would do an apocalypse themed post because Christmas is the same date every year whereas we may have to wait a while before the next apocalypse (which may be in 2038 or you can take your pick from this list). 

I feel kind of sad for the end of the world dates as they seem to get too overshadowed by public holiday to get any kind of proper turn out.  People were too busy celebrating the new year in 2000 to really get into the Millenium bug apocalypse and the Mayan calander end of the world probably never happened because people had to get their Christmas shopping done. 
So, since we are all in one piece, I will present what seems to be the most common sense view from Anvil, the dwarf in Dave Morris's Heroquest novella in The Fellowship of Four.  He has good reason to be skeptical, but since this is Heroquest and he's a dwarf who is talking to a wizard, an elf and a barbarian, you can probably guess that he'll join up with them later.

‘Wait,’ says the sorcerer, ‘aren’t you going to help us?’

‘Help you with what, laddie?’ I say as I wipe my axe and hammer clean with handfuls of snow.

‘Help us with our quest to save the world.  Help us to fight evil.’
'Save the world is it?  Fight evil, eh?  Oh ho.  well the thing is, lad, saving the world always seemed to me to be in the category of Things that really Express the Futility of It All.  You know, no matter how much you do, it's never over washing up.'

'Somebody's got to do it!'

'That's up the them, isn't it?  Me, I eat straight out of the cooking pot and that saves all the bother.'

'Of fighting evil?'

'No, lad,' I say, speaking slower now I realize he's an imbecile. 'Of washing up.'  I stroke my beard, thinking I'd better give him the benefit of my wisdom. 'now listen, I've seen more of the world than you have...'

'I've covered two hundred leagues in the last ten days,' he protests.

'All right, fine...' (it's a good point; I give him that)' you probably have seen more of the world than me.  OK.  but the bits I have seen, I've seen for longer.  And in all my years, do you know how often I've heard this spiel about how the world is going to end?  Pretty damned often, I can tell you.  And what happened?  Well, Take a look around; it's still here.'

Looking forward to seeing you here next week!  In the mean time, I've got to go and do some washing up.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

AFF2 Heroes' Companion

Before you read about this delightful little nugget, have you funded YOU ARE THE HERO yet?


Excellent.  Then let us begin.

Back in April 2011 (wow, that wasa long time ago), I published a wishlist for the 2nd edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy.  Most of my wishes were granted, but it looks like the Heroes' Companion, the latest addition to the AFF2 collection will grant some more of my wishes and more with its simple yet versatile system.

I picked up this book at Dragonmeet but it will be available online in a few weeks.  Here is a run down of its contents.

Extra special skills and talents

This allows the players to have more options when building their heroes.  Most of the new skills are skills that more experienced heroes will want to learn when they move on from exploring dungeons for gold to spreading their influence across the world, such as battle tactics, leadership and stewardship.  There are several more advanced types of magic to learn and talents that make for more interesting heroes.  The templar talent allows you to create a paladin type hero, which fills a gap as usually, creating a warrior with some magical ability in AFF required a lot of XP to do both well.  Now, with talents such as templar, second sight and clearsight (which allows heroes to identify illusions), combat focused heroes can supplement their talents with a little magic.  There is also a magic resistance talent, a talent for leadership and a talent that negates your opponent's attack if it is the first round of combat.

New magical styles

This also offers plenty more options for players and also for directors to create NPCs.  There are several new magical types.  Tattoo magic is a great addition and also a nod to The Riddling Reaver.  Necromancy, conjuring and chaos magic will allow the director to create interesting NPCs and villains and battle magic will allow the heroes to take on whole armies.  I was glad to see that battle magic spells cost a lot more than normal spells to reflect their large scale effect as it seemed a bit wrong that in Allansia, creating a hail of arrows cost as much stamina as a couple of lighting bolts.  However, the rules allow the battle mage to use magic points from assistants so they do not have to sink all their XP into getting tons of magic points.

We also have more detailed instructions on making magical items, something the first edition AFF covered with a confusing description of a spell that cost 6 stamina in Blacksand.  Here we have a special skill for enchantment along with costs in terms of money, time and magic points.  The method does not cover every specific item so calculations need to be made but it has enough examples for a director to make an educated guess.


We then have a chapter on hirelings which gives rules for heroes to buy services of NPCs quickly and simply.  This allows the players to move on from a ragtag bunch of adventurers to people who can interact and grow in the world of Titan.

Domain management

Speaking of growing in the world, this chapter provides simple rules for owning a domain and making money from it from a small farm to a huge country.

Mass battles

Here are new rules for mass battles.  They are like an amalgamation of the complex and basic rules from Allansia! but they are more versatile covering units in the 10s, 100s or 1000s and also including heroic combats.  There are also rules for siege engines, buildings and standard bearers.  A lot of the mass battle rules needed more elaboration and these have done so without making them more complex.

Wilderness rules

This chapter covers the creation of a wilderness using a similar method to the dungeon generator from the first book (throw six sided dice on a piece of paper, draw a map based on where they land and assign the type of wilderness based on the number thrown).  There are also descriptions of hazards and encounters in the book.


Finally, we have some nasty afflictions that the heroes pick up, which also include a few nods to Vault of the Vampire. These afflictions are meant to create some interesting problems for the character and a hook for an adventure.  For example, curse of the warrior reduces a hero's skill and stamina if they fight, so they will have to find non violent solutions to their problems.

So there we are.  Graham Bottley continues to expand on the AFF2 system whilst at the same time making it  simple yet versatile.  This is not a system for those looking for hardcore realism.  It is more for people who want a fun game without being bogged down by too many rules.  Keep an eye out for it when it finally arrives  on the digital bookshelves.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


It's been a great year for Fighting Fantasy, but the goodness isn't over yet!

Yes, we've had the 30th anniversary of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks this year, marked with the release of Blood of the Zombies in August where many adoring fans turned up to get their copies signed by Ian Livingstone.

The creators of the well loved gamebook series were also present at Dragonmeet where they told us the story of how they brought Fighting Fantasy to us all.  And it was a great story indeed.

Jonathan Green, author of many a great Fighting Fantasy gamebook wants to tell this story and bind it into a book called YOU ARE THE HERO.

To get this mighty tome off the ground, Jon requires £15000 to be raised.  Things are going well, with almost £7000 raised at the time of writing.  Well, this is the time when YOU ARE THE HERO and you can fund this excellent project.

The rewards for funding this book are wonderful.  You can get a pdf of YOU ARE THE HERO if you fund £10, a hard copy for £25.  For £30, you name will be in the acknowledgements part of the book - your name in a piece of FF history.  Other rewards include superb art prints, being interviewed for the book, and, if you have £500, having a lunch with Steve Jackson, Ian Livingstone and Jon Green.  Now that is something to look forward to.

So get on down to the Kickstarter page and show your support to fighting Fantasy :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Artist profile - Tony Hough

When I was younger, I would look at the front cover of Night Dragon made by the talented artist, Tony Hough and think of only one word - awesome!

The cover said it all. Here was a dragon that all other dragons feared.  It wasn't like a normal dragon as it looked like it had some biomechanical enhancements to it.  It's chest looks deliciously gigerian as if it is not just a dragon but some kind of xenomorph dragon hybrid.  Magic was flowing out of its claws as if there was too much magic inside it to be contained and its head contained an eerie blue glow, not like the traditional fire of those mediocre modern day dragons.  Oh yeah.  You don't mess with the Night Dragon.
Tony Hough has illustrated the interior of Spectral Stalkers, Night Dragon, Knights of Doom and Bloodbones.  He has also illustrated the covers for Night Dragon and Knights of Doom.
Tony has also done some excellent artwork which you can buy from here.  You can also commission him to do some art that you might want.

You can take a look at Tony's website here where he has many more excellent pieces.  You can also follow his blog.  So have a look.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dragonmeet 2012

Goblins and
First of all, apologies for the lateness in my post.  I always try to get them out on Sunday and most of the time, I achieve this by bulk writing posts when I have the time and then scheduling them.  However, this one could not be scheduled as it was about the great experience I had (and gained) from Dragonmeet 2012, where I met up with lots of gamebookers and other great people in the gaming community.

I met up with Emil before the convention to  have a little discussion about Goblin's Bounty, which is coming along very nicely.  I also had a demo for people to play at the convention.

The fans are enraptured.
I then got to the convention in time for Steve Jackson's and Ian Livingstone's talk '30 years of Fighting Fantasy' where they entertained us with stories about them living in a van together,  being accused of making children fly with their books and how their first shop was so small, they had to leave it whenever a customer came in.  There was also lots of good stuff about the future of Fighting Fantasy where they announced that House of Hell will be the second fighting Fantasy gamebook to be released by the Tin Man and Jonathan Green announced that he is planning to write a book about the history of Fighting Fantasy and that there will be a kickstarter for it soon.

After the talk, I had a great chat with Tony Hough, artist, who has put his talents into illustrating some Fighting Fantasy books and is also responsible for my favorite Fighting Fantasy cover.
This is not Tony Hough - this
is my favorite FF cover.
Now this is Tony Hough.

We bonded over our mutual love of Terry Gilliam and manga and he told me some very interesting stories about his illustrations, which are awesome.

If you want to see more of his work, you can view his black and white drawings here and his colour illustrations here.

If you would like to buy any of Tony's art, you can go here.  If you would like to commission him, you can go here.  I'll be doing a post on more of Tony's work next week.

Sam Richards. Tweet RPG master.
I was also approached by Sam Richards of Tweet RPG fame  and we had a good chat about where he wants to take his innovative marriage of gamebooks and Twitter.  I'm looking forward to what is coming up.

I then headed over to the fighting Fantasy stall, noticing Michael J. Ward selling his new Destiny Quest book and made a mental note to talk to him when he wasn't being surrounded by enthusiastic customers.

Jonathan Green
The Warlock.
It was all happening at the Fighting fantasy stall - Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were signing their adoring fans' Fighting Fantasy books (including mine - thankyou!) whilst the Warlock was selling a variety of Fighting Fantasy merchandise and trying to keep up with the demand.  The Tin Man and Jonathan Green were also there for a chat.  It was gamebook central.

Steve Jackson and the warlock
discuss who gets to ride
the dragon home.

Ian Livingstone talks to a fan whilst being minded
by the Tin Man and Jonathan Green.

Graham Bottley spearheads theAFF2 revival.
The Fighting Fantasy stand was not the only one that had all the gamebook goodness on it, however.  I also visited the Arion Games stall where Graham Bottley was selling his latest addition to the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG - the Heroes' Companion with its simple yet flexible rules for managing domains, mass battles, wilderness creation, curses, more types of magic and much much more.  Copies will be available from Cubicle 7 in the next six weeks or so, so stay tuned!

Michael J. Ward and myself.
Although it was only 2pm at this point, I was approached by Michael J. Ward who had closed his stall down because he had actually sold out of the Destiny Quests that he had bought with him.  It was great to finally meet Michael who had created the Destiny Quest series.  I was glad to hear that there is a third book in the works, planned for late 2013.  Until then, you have the Heart of Fire to beat.

The day went too fast but I also managed to squeeze in a game of Lords of War, a card game where fantasy races battle it out.  It was a close and enjoyable game, so I'm glad I played it.

It was an excellent day and I heartily look forward to next year's Dragonmeet.  I have plenty more posts to write about the day, such as a review of the AFF2 Heroes' Companion, Destiny Quest 2 and new projects from various people.

In the mean time, check out the Tin Man's 12 days of gamebooks and updates from YOU ARE THE HERO, the title of Jonathan Green's history of FF blog (also on Twitter) and back Goblin's Bounty to make it even better!

There's plenty to do in the world of gamebooks, so get stuck in!

Lastly, here's a picture of myself and Ian Livingstone :) (thanks, Ian Livingstone!)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goblin's Bounty is full of goodness and we're not just talking about the coconut and chocolate

Our heroes and Dianamh,
the ugly goddess of nature.
She doesn't even have any warts.
For those of you who haven't seen my vlog, I am working on a great little project called Goblin's Bounty, an Android app, which combines two of my favourite things - gamebooks and collectable card games.  I've not been this happy since the release of the Ravnica block or Blood of the Zombies.

So basically, you play it like a gamebook and when you get to combat, you draw a load of cards that deal damage to an opponent, or protect you from their attacks and they do likewise.  You can see some examples of card combat here.

This is a challenging thing to do where we not only have to create a gamebook that provides lots of options and branching paths but also a set of cards which are balanced and fun to play both individually and as a deck.  And if my creative guru, Mark Rosewater (lead designer at Magic the Gathering) knows one thing, its that doing such a thing is no simple process (if it was, he'd be designing Magic the Gathering sets on his own in a shed)

A screenshot of combat.
So what's been going on with Goblin's Bounty?  First of all Emil (originator of the idea to have an app with a gamebook and a collectable card game in one), Ashton and I have been discussing the ins and outs of what kinds of cards we want and what combinations of cards we want.  One of the things we've decided on is that  we are not going to have too many defensive cards.  They will have their place but too many defensive cards will stall the combat and make it no fun.  We're also going to have opponents with themed decks and strategies.  This way, you are able to think about how you will fight them and beat them.  What strategies are there?  We can reveal that later.

There's also the story side of things.  Basically, your world is being threatened by a terrible danger where heroes of great strength and resolve are needed to save it.  Except the world will have to make do with four smelly goblins to save them.  Hopefully, despite, or even because of their goblin ways, they can save the day.  

This is going to be a crazy journey that will take our heroes to places beyond their wildest dreams (so in this case, better than a fresh steaming jacuzzi of ogre poo) in order to face terrible enemies.  Will our goblins have it in them to save the day?  You will have to find out.

Goblin's Bounty is going to be awesome, but you can make it even more awesome by supporting our kickstarter and also getting cool rewards!

You can also visit Emil's site, Attic Squad, here!

I'm also going to be at Dragonmeet where we can chat about Goblin's Bounty.  Come over and say hello!

Here is a Thordon machine.
See those things its holding onto?
They're mountains.
And you're going to have to stop it.
Good luck.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Arcana Agency preview - The Case of the Unghostly Ghost review

It is a great time for gamebooks as there is something new every week going on.  The end of the Windhammer competition was just the beginning of November's gamebook goodness.  Megara Entertainment is looking to release a gamebook written by Paul Gresty called Arcana Agency:  Thief of Memories via Kickstarter and just to give us a taste of what we have to look forward to, it has also released a free preview with a short 57 paragraph adventure.

Here is what I think of the preview.

First impressions:  The layout and the illustrations of the book are gorgeous.  It certainly has high production values and it really gives the gamebook a slick and polished look.  The book also comes with a foreword by Dave Morris who talks of how gamebooks have moved on since the 80s and how Paul Gresty, author the Arcana Agency gamebooks  has taken full advantage of the medium in order to deliver everything a gamebook can offer.  I certainly agree with him here.

The book certainly immerses you in the world of a 1930s New York detective agency world.

The rules:  The rules cover a mere two pages of the book but they have a lot of versatility and also enhance the depth of the characters.  The stats are strength, reflexes, knowledge, insight and charm.  They follow rules similar to fabled Lands' system where you are presented a task with a difficulty score and it is resolved if you roll 2d6 add the pertinent score and get equal to or over the difficulty. 
Your state of health is not given an abstract score, but rather five statues - perfect health, shaken, hurt, badly hurt or close to death. 

The characters:  Few gamebooks offer such depth to its characters as Arcana Agency.  In this book, you control the actions of Humphry Brown, the head of the agency who is accompanied by his two associates, Joe Strelli and Tom Shanigan.  Each character has their own page with their stats and also a little history about themselves.  Each character also has their moments during the book and you get a real feel for them through their interactions and opinions. 

Since you are reading about three characters, the book uses the third person instead of the second person which works very well.

There are also two pages devoted to supporting characters and it pays to look at the details.  You are playing an investigator after all...

Design:  This 57 paragraph book has a lot of depth.  It manages to include the hidden motives of the characters as well as a red herring and a puzzle based on translation and reading carefully (you are an investigator, after all).  It will take a lot of effort to solve the case and work out the motivations of everyone there but it is not imporssible and there are several excellent reveals and at least one thread hanging.  Let's just say that the book will keep you guessing about the metaphysics of the universe that you are in.  If the full book is like this then I can't wait to read it.

So in summary, read this preview and then back the full gamebook in order to fulfil the potential of this delight.

You can find Paul Gresty's site here.

You can play Case of the Unghostly Ghost here

You can fund the Arcana Agency kickstarter here.

And while you're on kickstarter, why not also support a gamebook app by Emil Bakalinov, Ashton Saylor and myself called Goblin's Bounty.  It's a gamebook with a collectable cardgame based combat.  It is a delightful combination of two wonderful things.  Fund our kickstarter here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Goblin's Bounty!

Do you like collectable card games?  Do you like gamebooks?  Then we've got the game for you!  Goblin's Bounty from Attic Squad.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goblin's Bounty

Sorry for the delay, folks, but I have some breaking news to report!

What's going on in the gamebook world?  Goblin's Bounty, that's what!

Here are some links: 

Goblin's bounty from Attic Squad -

Attic Squad homepage:

Goblin's Bounty on Facebook!/WarlockEmil

Warlock's Bounty on Google Play (full or lite version) - get it!

Ashton's blog

Friday, November 9, 2012

More Call of Khalris analysis

Good morrow to you all!  I have more analysis on the Call of Khalris.  I think the take home message from this is that readers will do what they like with a book and so I should not try to impose what I find significant in a story on the reader as there is plenty of fun to be had in finding your own significance (for example, people seemed to love the whole 'camel experience').

Anyway, have a listen for yourselves and find out how I amuse myself on my commute home.

Call of Khalris analysis of character creation:

Call of Khalris analysis of the cheat score:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Call of Khalris analysispost Windhammer results part 1 - the journal

Hi all!  Here is the first part of my analysis of Call of Khalris post Windhammer results.  In my first installment, I talk about my journal idea and why some people loved it and some people didn't.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Windhammer winners announced!

I got this email this morning!

Congratulations to Zachary, Ashton and Marty!

2012 Windhammer Prize winners announced. is proud to announce that the winner of the 2012 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction is Zachary Carango for his futuristic sci-fi adventure, Final Payment. Merit awards have also been awarded to Marty Runyon for his magical fantasy adventure, Academy of Magic - The First Term, and to Ashton Saylor for his exciting sci-fi adventure, Legacy of the Zendari. Well done to all participants and congratulations to this year's winners.
This year's competition has been particularly hard-fought. With 22 quality entries, more than 4000 visitors to the competition webpage over the voting period, and greater than 8500 downloads considered, it proved the most competitive of competitions in the history of the prize.

It is no small thing to ask entrants to write original gamebooks for the Windhammer Prize. This year the quality of the entries submitted has been exceptional. I would like to thank all readers who voted this year for their commitment in evaluating such an extensive entry list. Special thanks must also go to those who provided feedback for authors. The amount of comment forwarded has also been the largest given in any competition year and all is greatly appreciated.
All entries have now been placed into the Windhammer Prize gamebook archive and can be accessed from that page along with all other gamebooks submitted since 2008.
All Information regarding the Windhammer Prize can be found at :
All entries can be found in the gamebook archive at:
Information regarding the sponsor of this competition can be found at
May Glory and Renown follow all who have found success in this year's Windhammer Prize.
Wayne Densley
2012 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction
Chronicles of Arborell

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My thoughts on my Windhammer entry - Call of Khalris - pre results

Good morrow to you all!  The voting stage to the Windhammer competition has closed and the results will be announced on the 7th November.  In the mean time, here are my thoughts of my entry, the Call of Khalris before I ehar what other people have said.  After the results, I will release a response to the results.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

10 Magic the Gathering horrors from the Innistrad block

At the end of last October, I produced a Halloween post on black creatures from Magic the Gathering, only to have a whole horror based block to burst on the scene too late for me to make any changes to it.  So this year, I'm going to give you some Innistrad horrors, none of which are black in order to give the other colours a fair shot.  Don't have nightmares!

Unruly Mob
'Scared people.  Give me a Dalek any day.' - The Doctor in A town Called Mercy.

Some of the best horror stories don't actually include a big scary monster but instead have people become the monsters through fear, hysteria or just because they are that bad.  Unruly mobs appear a lot in gamebooks, such as in Spellbreaker when you are accused of being a witch whilst on a quest to rid the land of evil.  It seems that no good deed goes unpunished. 

Manor gargoyle

Horror, like humour, involves turning expectations on their heads.  One of these methods involves having seemingly lifelfess objects come to life and attack the poor adventurers.  Of course, this is used so often now that most adventurers expect a statue to come to life and attack them which is why, in my gamebook War of Deities part 1, I threw in a little subversion with a skeleton.

Afflicted Desterter and Werewolf Ransacker

Werewolves.  They always turn up in gamebooks and you can even play as one in howl of the Werewolf.  It also includes a very good puzzle where you have to work out who the werewolf is using an illustration and text as a clue.

Creepy Doll

 Most dolls are creepy, especially when they come to life and try to kill you.  I don't think I need to say any more on the issue.

Laboratory Maniac

It is great to persue knowledge but horror stories are full of scientists who go too far and sacrifice their humanity for what they think is the greater good.  This is what the laboratory maniac is all about.  MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Nearhearth Stalker

Another good horror trope involves people surrendering to their basest impulses, something the Innistrad vampires enjoy.  This one also enjoys a good horror trope of being able to come back, because after all, the best horror stories leave room for the villain to return.

Headless Skaab

Zombies are great, especially ones that are stictched together from body parts.  This one is also open to classic 'keep your head' jokes.

Mad Prophet

There's nothing better than having a lunatic raving about how the world will end and that 'They' are everywhere.  Always adds a touch of class to a good horror story.

Raging poltergeist

There's nothing in the room.  except that axe that's flyinig towards my head.  Poltergeists are great because you can never see them and you can't harm them.  And that's how horror should be - surprise and an enemy you can't kill.

Cloistered Youth and Unholy Fiend

No one suspects the innocent child.  Horror is about turning expectations around and thinking that a youth could turn into a crazed killer is one of those expectation turning moments.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Battlemaster (MMORPG) showed me a wealth of non magical rewards.

It might look fun
now but it will lose
its appeal in book 11.
This post is all about how the game Battlemaster  and how it showed me that there are plenty of opportunities for success without having to stuff my gamebook full of powerful magical stat boosting items that   don't fit into the game world and would lower the chances of using the same character in a future book unless they had to lose the items somehow (causing annoyance) or the power of the enemies had to increase (which may lead to power creep).  

Lone Wolf books suffered from this problem when the hero got the Sommerswerd, a +8 combat skill sword that deals double damage against undead creatures and absorbs hostile magic in book 2.  In order to balance out this massive bonus, certain encounters were made harder if you had the Sommerswerd and in book 12, using the Sommerswerd might lead to instant death.

Battlemaster is a text based RPG set in a low fantasy. low magic world.  I actually came across it when I was googling an Atari ST game of the same name.

Battlemaster showed me that there can be plenty of rewards and character development in a setting without having to give players tons of magical items or gold pieces.  Instead, success is obtained by taking part in great deeds such as fighting for your country or trading, being part of a team and roleplaying.

It's not about the mace
or the magic.
You can have two (or three if you donate enough real life money to the website) characters who are nobles and who can belong to one of several classes (the main ones being warrior, courtier or priest, but warriors and courtiers also have subclasses).  Priests play a very different game to warriors and courtiers and have nothing to do with healing magic.   

You can also have one character who is an adventurer. They may become a noble one day, but at the moment, they play a very different game which involves scratching a living and fighting unnatural horrors personally rather than taking part in state affairs and fighting them as part of an army.

An example character sheet
from the tutorial.
Unlike a lot of role playing games, you do not have many attributes to think about.  Your main personal stats are honour and prestige which are linked to how courageous you are and how involved you were in important events in the country respectively.  Your character also has values in certain skills, depending on what class you are.  Most classes can train in the swordfighting skill, but there are other skills such as leadership or oratory.  Not a strength, dexterity or wisdom in sight.

I'd make a joke about a badly made
arrow but there wouldn't be a point
to it.
You can get wounded, but the extent of your health is measured by being OK, lightly wounded, seriously wounded or dead.

Death, however, is an extremely rare occurrence and is only possible if you are executed for commited a serious crime or a series of crimes or decide to duel someone to the death and lose.  You cannot die in battle unless you are the hero class or you are an adventurer and you battle a powerful undead creature or monster.

In addition to your personal stats warriors and courtiers can also command a unit of soldiers with a selection of paraphernalia.  

This means that instead of fighting to survive, gameplay is based more around making a name for yourself and roleplaying with the other players.  Rewards come in the form of wealth, honour, prestige, fame, titles, responsibilities in the realm and, if you make some contacts with adventurers (as they are the only characters who can talk to sages and wizards), important artefacts or maybe even the ability to cast spells.

If you like more role playing based rewards, you could write your family history in the wiki, try to top the infiltrator stats board or you could write role play messages to all of your fellow players about literally anything.  you could write an acoount of a battle that you were in, describe the undead or monsters you fought  (there are no descriptions in the instructions presumably to increase the role playing potential for the players), how one of your soldiers tripped and banged his head or what you had for dinner.  Roleplaying opportunities are everywhere, including a guide on how to name your unit.   

There are many ways to be rich and successful without power creep or by amassing a huge pile of magical items.  One of my gripes with some gamebooks was that even as a famous adventurer who had seen many campaigns, you only carry a sword and some food until you go on this adventure which just happens to be in the one place with a disproportionately high magic item density.

Adventurers in this game can find items but most are useless (apart from selling them or possibly being components for unique items) and the useful ones are non magical (apart from portal stones)

Almost all of the awards in battlemaster are non magical.  Even the effects of the artefacts (prestige increase and possibly a skill boost) could just be down to the effect it has in peoples' heads rather than due to any magic.   

The only definately magical items are portal stones (which don't seem to active yet) and spell scrolls (which I didn't know about until I started this post) and these items are very rare.

Just explore and enjoy.
However, none of this matters.  Despite the game focusing on being in a team and role playing rather than amassing items, Battlemaster is still a game of infinite opportunity with the potential to be a great success who is part of a great story and all of this is done without having to unbalance the game by obsessing over stats.

I have not mentioned all the features of Battlemaster but it is well worth a look in if you enjoy role playing RPGs.

Battlemaster was also the reason I started writing gamebooks.  My first attempt at writing a four hundred paragraph gamebook was based on Battlemaster.  It went awry when my attempts at randomising the paragraphs went pear shaped (I just put the numbers in as I went along and soon lost track of which paragraphs went where). However, like all complete disasters, a lot of great things came from it, and it inspired me to write at least one four hundred paragraph gamebook just to prove that I could.