Friday, March 30, 2012

The Forbidden Gate review

Once again, Ill be reviewing a gamebook based on an existing franchise.  This time, it is The Forbidden gate, the fifth gamebook based on the Knightmare TV series.  There are six gamebooks and one puzzle book in the Knightmare series.  Dave Morris wrote first one jointly with Tim Child (the creator of the Knightmare TV show) and then wrote the remaining books alone.  The gamebooks (not the puzzle book) are all preceded by a novella about Treguard's adventures which are also very entertaining.

For those of you who don't know about the Knightmare TV show here is the concept:  A team of four children are pitted against a dungeon full of monsters, traps and strange characters.  One of them is the 'dungeoneer' who has to survive the dungeon while wearing a huge horned helmet that obscures their view (this is so that they do not see the blue screens used for the effects backdrop).  The dungeoneer's friends guide them through the dungeon.  Unlike many childrens' TV gameshows it was a very sophisticated game with a high failure rate but that made success all the more sweeter.

It is interesting to read the gamebooks in chronological order as they gradually move away from the format of the TV show where you have to find your way through a three level dungeon to a more open setting where you travel across the land and interact more with people.  I guess that one issue with transferring the format of a TV show to the format of a gamebook means that things will get lost in translation and things that work for TV don't work in the gamebook (thankfully, in the gamebook your vision is not obscured by the helmet of justice.  That would make for boring reading similar to doing the Colossal Cave with no brass lantern).

Anyway, on to the review...

Theme 3/5

The aim of the gamebook is to steal an earth dragon's egg from right under its nose.  Now that's a dangerous task and the reason why you have to go into a dragon's lair and steal its young is not clearly given.  Maybe Treguard wants to train one up for the Knightmare challenge.

However, as in all Knightmare gamebooks, it is the journey which is important and not the destination.  You spend very little time on the dragon's island - most of your adventure involves getting passage on a ship and then surviving the journey.  The ways of succeeding the challenge involve acting as a true knight - with quick wits and chivalry.  So the dragon's egg is really some macguffin to prove to Treguard that you are worthy to be a knight.  It's a bit like the end of Midnight Rogue where the gem is a fake but by overcoming your trials, you have proven yourself to be part of the guild.

As Treguard says:

'The path to chivalry is long and arduous' he says 'Now you must prove yourself worthy.'

Illustration 2/5

The cover illustration, intended for the novella shows a lovely forest with a castle on the top of a hill in the background and Lord Fear's eyes in the sky.  It is a nice picture, but I don't think that the colour scheme befits a Knightmare book (the previous ones all having black as the dominant colour).  It seems more suited to an elvish glade rather than a forbidden gate.  Even the menacing eyes don't seem that menacing as they are a lovely shade of azure and drawn like clouds.

The interior illustrations of the gamebook are all quite small and done well enough - there just aren't many of them.

Gameplay 4/5

Dave Morris demonstrates his skill in this area.  Despite being only 97 paragraphs, Morris manages to stretch it out by having the range of skills and having the player try to find the optimum path for your chosen skill.  Morris has also put situations in the book which could allow you to succeed very well.  for example, you can get an extra skill and a spell in the book if you do particularly well.  There is also a very clever ending situation where if you make the right choices (which appear to be the wrong choices at first), you are able to free some slaves in addition to stealing the dragon's egg, giving the player a kind of bonus ending to work for.

As in previous Knightmare gamebooks, Dave Morris also rewards the player for reading the novella before hand as it is a good idea to know the 'morality' of the gamebook.  There are certain ways of thinking that the gamebook encourages - for example, using weapons is rarely the best way out of a problem.

The tricks that Dave Morris uses do help make the most of a short 97 gamebook and even though it is still too short to get lots of play out of it, it certainly stretches it out and marks should be given for ingenuity.

Exposition 3/5

I have always found Dave Morris's writing very eloquent (sometimes too much so when writing the dialogue for a barbarian).  The world here is one of chivalry, sorcery and roguish opponents.  There are also moments for humour such as a golden malicious apple and the scene where you return to Knightmare Castle by accident to find Pickle and Treguard eating sandwiches and drinking coffee.  It is a good mix of evocative drama with a touch of light heartedness.

Rules 3/5

The rules are vaguely linked to the rules from the TV show.  Your health is measured in Life Force grades.  You start off unwounded with a green grade.  If you lose a grade, you go down to amber and if you lose antoher one, you go down to red.  If you are wounded while on red life force, you die.  You can restore life force by eating food on paragraphs marked with an *.  This makes the idea of resting to eat more realistic than Fighting Fantasy's rule of 'You can't eat when in combat.  You can eat when running, climbing, swimming, talking or falling but not when in combat.'

You are also able to learn spells.  When you are given the chance, you are given the name of the spell which may or may not be self explanatory.  Spells are not items and you may only use them once.

You may carry up to 5 items.  Dave Morris does something very clever with the encumbrance limit towards the end of the book.  If you get into the dragon's lair, you find two different varieties of eggs, but since they both count as 3 items, you may only take one egg.  Nice touch.  You may carry 50 gold pieces as one item.  You also have the choice of one skill to choose from the following list:  Acrobatics, Fisticuffs, Gambling, Seamanship, Swimming, Swordplay, Thievery, Trading.

Those of you who are familiar with the Virtual Reality series of gamebooks will find the last set of rules very familiar.  Indeed, it seems that this book (published in 1993) was a precursor to the Virtual Reality series (published in 1994).

The rules work well enough - however, the short length of the book makes the skills only useful in a few situations.  The only use of some skills is to obtain passage on a ship to the either by getting money or by making your skills useful to the captain of the ship.  However, as the Virtual Reality series has shown us, such a system is very good for longer gamebooks.

Total 15/25

The problem with all of the Knightmare gamebooks is that they are too short to showcase the skill that Dave Morris has.  The Quest for the Dragon's egg quest is the shortest Knightmare quest at only 97 paragraphs and it seems that Dave Morris put a lot of effort into making such a short gamebook replayable.

In tiger terms, is a decent snack. It seems that Dave Morris was given a very small piece of meat and told to make it palatable. He added plenty of other tasty stuff to bulk it out and cooked it as well as he could.  However, it is still a very small piece of meat so it won't satisfy for long.

One good thing about this book is that it may have been an important experiment for Dave Morris which may have led to the Virtual Reality series - this book certainly demonstrates that the game system is a good way of improving gameplay and increasing replayability.  It is a good reminder that gamebooks and other art forms should never be looked at in a vacuum but rather as a smaller part of a larger creative process.  The Forbidden gate did very well as a Virtual Reality precursor and it may have been the deciding factor in bringing us the series.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

April A to Z - one week remaining

There's only one week to go before the April A to Z challenge and I am delighted to say that I have tons of great interviews to post in April. It will be a jam packed month where I have more than one post on some days.  At the time of writing, there are also over 1200 other blogs that are taking part in the challenge so we really are spoilt for choice.  Take a look at my post list and the other blogs joining in.  Maybe you may want to join in yourself.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I will.

Amateurs  (interviews with amateurs from here)
Blogs (interview with Coopdevil)
Choice of Games
Discussion forums (interviews with people from forums here and here and possibly others)
Excalibur Junior (Grailquest) (interview with Herbie Brennan)
Gamebook Adventures (interview with Neil Rennison and Andrew Drage aka Brewin)
Harkuna and the Fabled Lands (interview with Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson)
Illustrations (interview with Russ Nicholson)
Jasan Barnett (interview confirmed)
Kleptomaniac Heroes (interview with Billiam Babble)
Lone Wolf
Magazines (interview with Gallicus, editor of Fighting Fantazine)
Tunnels N Trolls (Interview with Scott Malthouse and Ken St Andre)
Own Adventure (as in choose your)
Pirate gamebooks that took a while to be released (Jonathan Green) (interview with Jonathan Green)
Quest, Destiny (interview with Michael J. Ward)
Readers (herehere and here) (interview with Murray and Torallion)
Spin offs (herehere and here)
Twitter (interview with SamuelJ, the brains behind Tweet RPG)
Undead filled new Fighting Fantasy books (Ian Livingstone's 30th Anniversary book)
Very comprehensive Gamebook websites (interview with Demian Katz)
Windhammer competition (interview with Wayne Densley)
Xhoromag and other gamebook programs (interview with Xhoromag and Christopher Liu)
Zhu Bhajee (interview confirmed)

'0 level' rules for Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2

Before the blog post, I'd just like to announce that I've released a Lone Tiger Review - it is Stormin' Sonic by Jonathan Green and Marc Gascoigne.  Take a look at that after reading this post.  

I've just been introduced to Dungeon Crawl Classics  from this blog and I loved their idea of character creation - each player starts off with 2-4 0 level characters and sends them on a mission that gets most of them killed. 

And so this appealed to my nature of fiddling with game systems.  I ws thinking about how this could be applied to AFF2 (fiddling with AFF has been done before)

You can still choose the colour of the coat if you want.

Skill - 5 
Stamina - 7 
Luck - 7 
Magic - 0 

Roll 1 die:

1-2 +1 skill, -1 stamina
3-4 +2 stamina
5-6 +1 luck

(using values given on normal humans on page 23. I have also taken 1 from luck. The idea is that characters get that back after a big quest.) 

Add racial modifiers and give them their skills based on race. 

Other modifiers 

I was thinking of a quick way to apply a trade and appropriate skills. I thought that all players should roll 1d6 and subtract 1. That is the character's social scale (directors may subtract more as this or use 1d3 and subtract 1 or 1d3 and add 2 if there is no real reason why someone of social scale 5 should be travelling with someone of social scale 0). 

Then you roll a die to determine the trade. Players can then choose skills from the lists given from their trades. Heroes pick 6 special skills from the list. They can apply 2 points to two of them and 1 point to the other four. 

The following skills are available to all backgrounds: brawling, clubs, staves, thrown 

Social scale 0 - beggar, mercenary or criminal 

1-2 Beggar: dodge, awareness, disguise, sleight of hand, sneaking, bargain, city lore con, languages, secret signs, world lore. 

3-4 Mercenary: Any combat skill, dodge, ride, sneaking, bargain, con, fishing, hunting, languages, sea lore, (terrain) lore, underground lore, world lore. 

5-6 Criminal: swords, any movement skillany stealth skill, bargain, city lore, con, evaluate, languages, law, secret signs, world lore. 

Social scale 1 - Peasant or soldier 

1-3 Peasant: axes, bows, strength, climb, jump, ride, swim, animal lore, fishing, healing, hunting, religion lore, sea lore, (terrain) lore. 

4-6 Soldier: Any combat skillany movement skill, fishing, hunting, (terrain) lore. 

Social scale 2 - farmer or watchman 

1-3 Farmer: axes, bows, strength, dodge, ride, animal lore, bargain, evaluate, fishing, healing, hunting, sea lore, (terrain) lore. 

4-6 Watchman: Any combat skill, climb, dodge, jump, ride, swim, any stealth skill, bargain, city lore, con, etiquette, law, secret signs. 

Social scale 3 - craftsman or sergeant 

1-3 Craftsman: armour, axes, bows, strength, swords, ride, awareness, locks, trap knowledge,, animal lore, bargain, city lore, con, crafting, etiquette, evaluate, fishing, healing, hunting, languages, sea lore, secret signs, (terrain) lore, world lore. 

4-6 Sergeant:Any combat skill, dodge, ride, awareness, bargain, city lore, con, etiquette, fishing, hunting, leadership, sea lore, (terrain) lore, world lore. 

Social scale 4 - clerk or witch 

1-3 Clerk (gains the learned or natural linguist talent): awareness, bargain, city lore, con, etiquette, evaluate, languages, law, religion lore, secret signs, magic lore. 

4-6: Witch (must reduce skill by 1, stamina by 2 or luck by 1 to increase magic by 1): dodge, awareness, disguise, sleight of hand, sneaking, animal lore, city lore, con, etiquette, fishing, healing, hunting, languages, religion lore, secret signs, (terrain) lore, world lore, magic - minor, magic lore, second sight. 

Social scale 5 - master craftsman or physician 

1-3 Master craftsman (gains the natural crafter talent which gives a +2 bonus on all craft checks): armour, axes, bows, swords, ride, awareness, animal lore, bargain, city lore, con, crafting, etiquette, evaluate, fishing, healing, hunting, languages, law, leadership, religion lore, secret signs, (terrain lore), world lore. 

4-6 Physician (gains the natural physician talent): awareness, animal lore, bargain, city lore, etiquette, fishing, healing, hunting, languages, religion lore, (terrain) lore. 

Unless mentioned above, the characters do not start with a talent. 

The characters then go out on a quest. Once the players have chosen the character that they can use from the survivors, then the new character gets a +1 bonus to their initial luck. 

So there we go.  What do people think?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stormin' Sonic review

It's a testament to the popularitiy of gamebooks in the 80s and 90s that eventually, companies started making spin off gamebooks of their products.  There were gamebooks based on boardgames, gamebooks based on toys, gamebooks based on TV shows, gamebooks based on comics and gamebooks based on computer games so since Sonic the Hedgehog was such an icon to children everywhere in the 90s that it was only a matter of time before he also got his own gamebook series.

There are six Sonic the Hedgehog books written by various authors.  Stormin' Sonic, the sixth and final book in the series was written by Jonathan Green and Marc Gascoigne.  I never played Sonic when I was a little 'un (cue tales of woe involving working twenty seven hours a day down pit) but I wanted to see what I had missed out on.

One interesting thought I had about this book and all gamebooks based on a tie in to an existing product is how much of it is dictated by the product's existing rules and story.  For example, did Jonathan and Marc have to make Robotnik the enemy, include characters from the game and base the game rules on rules from the computer game?  And do such things change a gamebook for the better or for the worse?  I would like to hear peoples' thoughts on this.

Theme 3/5

The weather on Miobius has gone nuts and you need to set it right.  The perpetrator is Robotnik (obviously) and you need to travel to different zones on the planet to collect clues in order to track down your arch enemy and stop him.  This plot invloves the theft of a chaos emerald and the inevitable appearance of Knuckles the echidna and the inexplicable kidnapping of Sally Acorn only to have her disappear just after she is rescued.  I'm sure a weather based story is almost inevitable in any long running adventure series or cartoon series (I'm talking about TV film and games, not just gamebooks) so it is not the most original of themes.  However, the four areas that Sonic and Tails explore are pretty fun with many opportunities for cool things to happen.

An interesting side note is that I think I'm starting to see how certain authors' ideas evolve.  The basic story of Stormin' Sonic is that a crazy individual has created a flying machine crewed by mechanical creatures in order to control the weather and take over large areas of land or even the entire world.  The hero has to explore four areas in order to obtain the means to defeat his opponent by getting on board his ship, defeating him in combat and then trying to excape from the ship before it is destroyed.  Does that remind you of any other gamebooks?

Illustration 2/5

 The many simple, cartoonish illustrations give me the impression that this book is aimed at younger readers; maybe pre-teens.  They are serviceable, pleasant to look at and do not have too many details.

Gameplay 2/5

After an introductory scene where Sonic finds out what is going on, we then move onto a hub where we choose one of four places to go. Once we have enough clues, we can then go on to save Sally Acorn and defeat Robotnik.  This then leads to the final scenario where we face Robotnik and his minions.  Most of the branches lead of to an area where you could get some rings and then return to the main path.  This makes the book quite linear as most of the choices revolve around how you will fight enemies as you will probably have to go to all of the locations anyway, your only choice is in which order you do so.  There is also an annoying section where if you have found Sally Acorn's scarf, you drop everything and end up in the final area without the option of exploring other places.  This caused me to lose my first play through, so I made sure that I went in another direction.

There are also a few occasions where Sonic will not let you take a certain course of action despite you choosing it.  These choices involve you being particularly cowardly.  If you choose them, Sonic will scold you and do the thing you didn't choose to do.  The idea behind this was probably to have someone kids look up to tell them how they should act and to make sure that they don't do naughty things like leave their best friend to roll down a mountain in a giant snowball or teleport back home before you have sorted out Robotnik.  The effectiveness of such a program of moral instruction has yet to be determined.

Who can resist the lure of the
mystery box?

One thing that I liked amongst the options was the occasional option to try 'something else' to overcome the problem.  Intrigued by this option, I had to choose the 'something else' option every time - the mystery box of gamebooks.  I was not disappointed, especially when the option involved Sonic and Tails putting on an ice skating display to impress some robotniks.

Exposition 3/5

The writing sees to be aimed at pre teens and the language takes me back to the 90s.  I'm sure that I would have enjoyed it more as an 11 year old Sonic fan, the targeted audience for this book.  Marc Gascoigne and Jonathan Green write conversationally, informally and sometimes break the fourth wall in order to connect with the reader.  Here is a paragraph from the book to highlight the writing.

As they plod through the sandy wastes, Sonic and Tails suddenly spy on the horizon a large pyramid built from stone blocks.  'Woah!' Sonic exclaims 'Where on Mobius did that come from?'

'I don't know,' Tails admits 'but let's go and explore it.  We might find the treasure of the fairies!'

'That's "Pharaohs" you dweeb!' Sonic sighs.  Should the pair act on Tails' suggestion (turn to 137) or keep on moving (turn to 113).

'Dweeb' is a very 90s kids' word and many others show up in the book such as 'dude' and 'cool' which are used in non ironic ways.

Rules 4/5

The rules system is very simple, has some nice exposition with it and is quite fair.

Sonic's stats are speed, strength, agility, coolness, quick wits and good looks.  You can allocate one of these stats a value of 5, one a value of 4, one a value of 3 and the others a value of 2.  Tasks and combats are resolved in a similar fashion - roll on die and add it to the stat that the book states.  If it is equal to or greater than a difficulty stated in the book (set between 6 and 10) then you succeed.  If not, something bad happens.

In the case of combat, your opponent will have a rating.  If you get equal to or higher than the rating, you beat your opponent.  If you don't, they can take a swing at you by rolling one die and adding it to their rating.  If they obtain a score of higher than 10 you will lose all of your rings or a life (just like in the game).

I found most of the die rolls to be fair and the consequences of failing are never huge.  The worst thing that can happen is that you lose all of your rings or a life.  You start with one of three lives and you may be able to gain more of them if you find one or if you get 100 rings.  There are a couple of instant deaths but they occur at the end of the book if you have not fulfilled all of the tasks.  This means that, with the correct choices and a little luck in combat, you should be able to make it through the book with a minimum of cheating (or even no cheating).

Total - 14/25

I found Stormin' Sonic to be a fine gamebook that hasn't aged well in terms of language and theme.  I may think this because I never was a huge Sonic the Hedgehog player and I am now a lot older than the target audience.  The gaming side of the book is fine with some great scenarios and good use of the rules.  However, the gameplay experience will not differ too much between plays as you will still have to explore every area - the main choice is the order.  In tiger terms, I think the word leftovers is a good way to describe Stormin' Sonic - it would have been perceived as much better by a Sonic the Hedgehog fan in the 90s but it hasn't aged well and so it has gone from being a decent snack to leftovers.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pre order Destiny Quest today and win great prizes!

Pure awesome
Destiny Quest, Legion of Shadow is is coming!  I know it already has, but this time it is even BETTER (and that's no mean feat) as it incorporates the web material and contains a bonus quest into an already hefty epic.  So this means that it will be even more wonderful than what  reviews  have said about it.

And as if the bonus material is not enough, Michael J. Ward is giving away wonderful collectable bookmarks if you pre-order a hardback book and then email him with proof that you have done so (at  Now that's a great deal.

You get a better deal if you buy a hardback book - when you email proof that you ordered the book, you get to choose whether your  two bookmarks (edit) is one are of light or shadow and if you send him proof that you also ordered the previous Matador edition of the Legion of Shadow, you will also be entitled to win a free Gollancz book.  If you order the paperback version, you get a random bookmark.  For more details, go here.

With a picture like this on the cover why wouldn't want to get a nice big collectable hardback?  Maybe you know a Destiny Quest fan?  A hardback edition of the book will make an excellent present.

If you're in need of a reminder, there are several reviews that say just how great Destiny Quest is from Andrew Wright, Billiam Babble, Zhu, Scott Malthouse and myself.

So go over to Amazon and pre order a hardback copy Destiny Quest: Legion of Shadow and get free goodies to go with it.  Then email with proof that you have made your purchase (go here for details).

If you want to see my video about the Destiny Quest new edition, just click below:

So go over to Amazon and pre order a hardback copy Destiny Quest: Legion of Shadow and get free goodies to go with it. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Before paragraph 1: Choices you might have to make before your adventure.

Bob wanted a more realistic skill
score for Crypt of the Sorcerer.
Your adventure begins on paragraph 1.  That is when you are thrust into the dangerous world to face many trials and tribulations.  However, in some gamebooks, your success or failure may have already been determined.  And that is because you may have been making choices about your character in the rules section of the book.

Most writing on gamebooks focuses on the story itself and how the rules interact with that story.  What you have to do to 'roll up' a character is usually relegated to a paragraph near the beginning and it is only there for the purpose of informing the reader of the system rather than looking at it critically.  However, there is a lot to think about when you roll up a character.  What kind of choices might you have to make and what bearing does it have on the gamebook?

Choices about abilities

Sea of Madness by Andrew Wright
has a point build system.
The degree to which you make choices about you ability scores varies.  You may have a point build system which means that the choice is 100% yours.  On the opposite end of the scale, you may have to roll up each ability randomly in turn and have no choice about which score goes to which ability (Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf) or even a situation where you are given your stats and cannot change them at all (Tyrants Tomb).  In the middle, we have systems where we roll up scores and then distribute a limited number of points (such as in Night Dragon) or a system where you can roll up scores and distribute them as you wish amongst your attributes (such as in Tunnels and Trolls if you are being kind to yourself).

don't even bother
trying Return to
Firetop Mountain
with a skill roll
like this.
The dangers of having a completely random system is the risk of rolling really bad scores and having to watch your character get cut down within three paragraphs.  However, if the gamebook is done well, there would be a route picked out for a character with minimum scores (such as Citadel of Chaos).

A point build system will never create amazing characters - in points terms, every character will be equal (of course when we get to the book, some attributes might be stronger than others) - but that also means that you will never get a terrible character and if you do get slaughtered within three paragraphs because of your stats, you now know that that particular build is rubbish and you will try a different one.  It is less of a gut punch than losing because of one bad dice roll.

Your skill choices are important
when playing Lost Labyrinth.
Choices about your skills

I am defining skills are different from abilities in the sense that they have no numerical value.  Lone Wolf either has the healing skill or does not have the healing skill.  If you have a list of skills, you will probably have to select them from a list basing your decisions either on how useful you think they would be (does the introduction give you any clues?) or what kind of character you would want (do you want Lone Wolf to be a  nature type who can hunt and talk to animals or a warrior type who can use weapons and mindblast for example).

Choices about your spells
Don't forget that
levitation spell.

If you are a magic user, you may need to decide what spells you can cast and, if you are using a Vancian magic system, how many uses of each spell you can get.

Choices about your personality

This is a variation on customising your abilities, but instead of getting to choose which abilities to add to, you may be given a situation and different choices on how you would handle the situation.  Each decision mya raise or lower one or more abilities depending on how your choice fits in with your abilities.

Here is an example from the great Android game, Pirates and Traders:

On the small estates of your parents, you...

  • Put on muscle from helping your father out in the fields.  (Increases strength)
  • Climed trees and rocks, building your agility.   (Increases agility)
  • Earned a reputation as an enfant terrible due to all the pranks you pulled.   (Increases cunning)
  • Often got into scrapes but always got out of them with your charm.   (Increases charm

What to take with me?
Choices about your equipment

In this case, you may be given a list of items and told that you can take a certain number of them or you might be given some money and you could buy the items.

Choices about your companions

In some gamebooks, you are either being accompanied by individuals or an army.  You may need to choose which individuals or which units of soldiers will go with you.

Choices about your characters

In some gamebooks, such as the Duel Master gamebooks The Shattered Realm,
you choose which potential monarch you could be.  You have a choice of three -
a military style commander, a magic user and a queen/princess.

You choose a character in Heroquest.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The April A to Z is going to be a gamebook bonanza!

I want Robin Hood and minotaurs
and Napoleon and Dwarves and
giant lego bricks and EVIL and
cowboys and knights and space
ships and tanks and ogres the
Sean Connery.  Next week we'll
do some really crazy stuff.
Stoked is not a word I would have considered using to describe my self about blogging, but I would definitely use it to describe how I feel about this year's A to Z challenge.  Why?  Quite simply, I got carried away.  In a good way, really.  My theme was the A to Z of why gamebooks are great and I was going to write a few articles and include a few interviews.  Then I decided that I should interview more people to include them in my blog.  Then I decided that I should just interview anyone I've ever interacted with who has anything to do with gamebooks and a few people who I had had nothing to do with.  I basically went on a large email rampage shooting questions in all directions and receiving loads of emails that filled up my inbox.  I just went on and on until I could interview no more.  For my excuse, I quote Terry Gilliam, who, after spending most of the budget for The Meaning of Life on his short, The Crimson Permanent Assurance, his response was 'Nobody told me to stop.'

I love Terry Gilliam's approach to his work.  Why let little things like money get in the way of realising your creative vision.  If we are to create, we should make it big and bold and completely over the top and with NINJAS!

So this is what I have done with my April A to Z.  The gamebook world has been very kind to me in the sense that much of it gave up its time to send me answers to my questions meaning that there will be some days where there is more than one interview and few days where there will be none - so far, the only entry I haven't requested an interview for is Youtube.

However, there may be people out there who love gamebooks who I haven't got in contact with.  If YOU are one of these people, leave a comment or email me at and tell me which letter that you would like to be featured in along with any links.  The April A to Z is a great time to showcase your website or blog as hundreds of bloggers will be taking part and exploring the blogs who are taking part.

Here are my interviews so far:

Amateurs  (interviews with amateurs from here)
Blogs (interview with Coopdevil)
Choice of Games
Discussion forums (interviews with people from forums here and here and possibly others)
Join the ever growing band of
Excalibur Junior (Grailquest) (interview with Herbie Brennan)
Gamebook Adventures (interview with Neil Rennison)
Harkuna and the Fabled Lands (interview with Dave Morris and Jamie Thompson)
Jasan Barnett (interview confirmed)
Kleptomaniac Heroes (interview with Billiam Babble)
Lone Wolf
Magazines (interview with Gallicus, editor of Fighting Fantazine)
Tunnels N Trolls (Interview with Scott Malthouse and Ken St Andre)
Own Adventure (as in choose your)
Pirate gamebooks that took a while to be released (Jonathan Green) (interview with Jonathan Green)
Quest, Destiny (interview with Michael J. Ward)
Readers (herehere and here) (interview with Murray and Torallion)
Spin offs (herehere and here)
Twitter (interview with SamuelJ, the brains behind Tweet RPG)
Undead filled new Fighting Fantasy books (Ian Livingstone's 30th Anniversary book)
Very comprehensive Gamebook websites (interview with Demian Katz)
Windhammer competition (interview with Wayne Densley)
Xhoromag and other gamebook programs (interview with Xhoromag and Christopher Liu)
Zhu Bhajee (interview confirmed)

So if you want to take part, leave a comment or email me on  It's going to be epic.

It's fun to charter an accountant.  And sail the wide accountancy...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New Tunnels and Trolls solo!

Good news everybody!  I have released another Tunnels and Trolls solo - Khazan City Chaos.  I wrote this book from the central idea of trying to get your character to spend/lose as much money as possible.  This short (56 paragraph) solo involves you pursuing some bandits to Khazan City in order to recover some royal treasure that you have stolen.  Unlike a lot of gamebooks, you start this solo with loads of equipment and shed loads of cash.  As well as the mission, you have plenty of opportunities to spend your money on magic, equipment, training or just the finer things in life.

Of course, you don't need pot loads of real cash to buy it - I'm selling this solo for £0.56 (around $0.88) so there is no reason not to go out there and grab it.

I have also reduced the price of my other solo - Temple of the Fool God - to £1.90 (around $2.98) so this is a great chance to get stuck into both solos for 1st level characters (or level 1-2 characters in the case of Khazan City Chaos) of any class - warrior, rogue, wizard, paragon, citizen, specialist -using the Tunnels and Trolls 7.5 edition.

This is also the first solo which includes my house rules for talents, magic and combat (including the use of stunts - saving throws you can do in combat which allow you to perform special attacks).

So what are you waiting for?  Temple of the Fool God has just received a glowing review so you should try that out and then continue the adventures of your character with Khazan City Chaos.  If you have recently read Trollzine 4 you may have played the solo where you get to hang around in a city.  Khazan City Chaos is similar to that (I had no idea that it would) but it includes a quest where you can recover the king's treasure (or run off with it if you like)

So that it all.  The next thing you need to do is download these solos.  You can find Temple of the Fool God here and Khazan City Chaos here.

Trickster profile - The Riddling Reaver

He always gets something off his chest.
The Riddling Reaver is a prominent character in the world of Titan.  He is the prime servant of Logaan, the trickster god and his mission is to make sure that good or evil do not get too strong.  For this reason, he could be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on whether your side is winning or not.  He pops up on many occasions as an ally, a villain or as a 'wild card' character that could help or hinder you.  The Reaver himself is a flamboyantly dressed human like creature who spends a lot of his time laughing and joking.  Most people would thinks that he is mad.  However, he serves an important role in balancing good and evil on Titan and his madness is just a facade with a devious and dangerous mind beneath it.

The Riddling Reaver as an ally


As long as you don't shoot him (which Logaan himself admonishes you for), then the Reaver gives you a lift in his flying ship and gives you a clue as to where you can find Mencius.  Of course, he doesn't just tell you where to find him.  He gives you the clue in the form of a riddle.  Your direct approach, however, irritates him.

His methods may appear
a bit ropey but he knows
what he is doing.

Slaves of the Abyss

You are just about to defend a village from a swarm of spirit sucking insects when the Reaver falls down the chimney with a rope to help you escape.  He definately knows how to make a great entrance.  You have to take his help to win.  The Reaver also gives you a sense of humour in a bottle, which sounds confusing but  if you use it, it becomes one of the most brilliant ways you will use to incapacitate a villain.

Black Vein prophecy

The Reaver makes a brief appearance in this book.  He pops out of a painting, tells you to change your ways and then does a backflip into a chest.  When you open it, he is not there.  The Reaver also knows how to make a good exit.

The Riddling Reaver as a villain

Opposing the Reaver is a jarring
In the Riddling Reaver RPG, you realise the full extent and madness of the Reaver's powers.  He ties up the princess with a jar of spiders on her head so that she can't move.  He has several stuffed replicas of himself with humorously deadly stuffings.  He has an army of mutant lizardmen and jelly encased skeletons and he aims to completely overthrow the balance of good and evil on Titan.  In this RPG, the Riddling Reaver is almost Titan's answer to the Joker.

That's all folks!
The Riddling Reaver as a wild card

In Crimson Tide, you find the Reaver posing as a monk on a mountain.  If you fight him and defeat him or answer his riddle, he helps you.  Otherwise, he does not.

And so ends a month of tricksters.  The Trickster archetype is always a fun and interesting character in every story as they usually throw everything into disarray and shake things up.  Great :).