Sunday, April 29, 2012

April A to Z - Z is for Zhu Bhajee

Art by Zhu
Zhu Bhajee is a talented artist and fellow blogger down at where you can find many lovely drawings and posts on other subjects including Fighting Fantasy.  For a full low down on what Zhu covers here is the manifesto from the first post on the blog:

This blog will become a space for my fantasy and gaming related art, design, opinion and campaign development projects.  Expect “old school” Dungeons and Dragons, Retro Warhammer, 80’s Citadel Miniatures, Lord of the Rings, Fighting Fantasy, Meta-Gaming, my campaign setting – tentatively entitled The Realm of Zhu, Post-modern fantasy and related musing and accompanying drawings...

...and beer.

Zhu does not disappoint.  As well as many posts on gamebooks, Fighting Fantasy and a Fighting Fantasy collection list, Zhu has an art page and many other interesting posts including some great ones on female armour.

> What was the first gamebook you read?
Deathtrap Dungeon. I remember it clearly - I played through with my dad (I think he was checking it was suitable reading) and he encouraged me to cheat at the end!

> What is your favourite gamebook?
The Sorcery! series by Steve Jackson is the one that comes to mind, awesome adventure, awesome art. I suppose it's not really fair to choose 5 books (including the Spellbook) instead of one, but there you go!

> What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the
> genre?
It's got to be Warlock of Firetop Mountain. We all know Ian gets a bit of stick from gamebook fans for his "gonzo" adventure design, but there was a more wild and creative streak in early D&D games, and I think Steve and Ian captured that perfectly. It also serves as a great introduction to the form - all the important elements are there.

Having said that, if I knew someone who was perhaps 10-16, heavily into console gaming or MMOs and didn't read much, then I'd give them a copy of Destiny Quest by Michael J. Ward.

> Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.
Only YOU can decide what happens through a multiple choice narrative structure.

> What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
Well, I think were getting into the whole "death of print" all entertainment media is becoming digital, except for the luxury market - thinking of Fantasy Flight Games boardgames or even Games Workshop products  - hugely expensive and very tactile, with super-high-quality components. I don't think the luxury item is a route that gamebooks are going to go down (although they could), so they're going to become digital assets.

With the plethora of devices that do not have decent keyboard input, we could see the gamebook as software format become the Interactive Fiction of the 2010s - with publishers making reasonably priced entertainment software that doesn't take a team of 300 people to make it - just one or two.

I'd like to see the death of the amateur / professional divide especially in the FF scene.  Just look what print-on-demand has done to the RPG scene, there are hundreds of micro-publishers all of varying qualities - but all with something to offer. And then Warlock magazine used to publish fan-submitted (rather than commissioned) adventures, so it's not a new idea. So I hope that Print On Demand enables a lot more semi-pro efforts.

> Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?
As a literary form, game books are very different to a novel. When I think of the best genre works (Earthsea, Lord of the Rings) they have a narrative point, a sense of direction. When I think of my favourite gamebooks, they have a sense of an open 'anything can happen'  exploration.

Gamebooks tend to be the creation of only one or two people - and in many ways are more immediate and personal than the design by committee feel that the average video-game has.

> Have you written any gamebooks?
I wrote one when I was 11 or 12. It was a kind of dungeon-crawl set on board a derelict alien spaceship, with laser guns and dog headed humanoid aliens. I don't think I ever finished it.

> *On illustrations:*

By Russ Nicholson
> Who is your favourite gamebook illustrator?
Nicholson...  Blanche... McCaig... Chalk! Nicholson just has an amazing grasp of technique and style, characterful, whimsical, slightly grubby and mysterious.  I almost cut Blanche off the list having recently seen the work he did on The Glade of Dreams, absolutely dreadful, we all have off days and Sorcery! is sustained brilliance, so he's forgiven. Chalks run on Lone Wolf is also uniformly great. McCaig and Deathtrap Dungeon - it's just the sheer effort that McCaig has put into the textures and effects and history of every scene.
Art by Zhu 

> What process do you go through when coming up with a drawing?
Sometimes an image starts with an extremely convoluted back-story that 'explains' in a narrative or historical way why things are like they are, and sometimes they start with a visual idea, an atmosphere or  and then ends up with an extremely convoluted back-story added on to it to 'explain' it. I'll gather research materials - architectural reference, photos of people, animals, historical arms and armour etc.

Then I start with small pencil sketches getting the composition and elements right, then I draw it up a bit bigger (about 1/3rd) than the final drawing, then once that's done, out come the pens and the thing gets inked. Then the image is scanned into Photoshop and the whole thing contrast adjusted - I work in black and white, not greys -  Its important to me to try and evoke the feel of earlier print production methods, when everything was done off repro-cameras and tone / greys couldn't be consistently reproduced so weren't.  Occasionally I fix up some bad scanning in and even rarer I'll rework something a bit in photoshop - I even created custom brushes based on the fiber-tip pens I use so that the digital work is as seamless as possible the analogue, but not much. Then it's shrunk down to print size and the final thing done!

Art by Zhu 

> Is there anything that you enjoy illustrating more than anything else?  Any
> particular creatures or scenes?
Yeah, pseudo-medieval fantasy stuff, Tolkien, D&D or classic Fighting Fantasy type subjects.   I'm drawn to humanoid monsters as a theme, they're us, but bad!  So Orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, ogres, bugbears.

> What is your favourite piece of art?
Art? Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals.
Illustration? The Kelmscot Press Morte D'Arthur, Beardsley and Morris.
Genre based ? Gary Chalks Talisman.

Art by Zhu  

> How do you practice your drawing to make it the best it can be?
Well, I try my best, and it continually surprises and delights me that people actually like what I'm doing. I draw every day, sometimes not more than a quick sketch - a mix of experimentation and observational drawing, I do spend time just looking at things and people.

My work is heavily stylised, some pieces more than others, so it's not always obvious the research that has gone into something! Looking at the work of the masters to see how they solved certain problems - Beardsley and Durer especially helps.

> Do you have any other sites besides your blogs/Twitter feeds?
Hmm. Well, yes and no! Zhu runs and - although I tend to read more on twitter than post things. I also help Trevor Hammond out with his blog at his work from Warlock magazine should be familiar to gamebook fans.

There are some other bits here and there, like which is a monster feed of people who used to contribute to White Dwarf in the 80s and are now active online - really quite interesting, but a bit of a mess! 

Gamebook Yahoo groups

Yahoo groups has been around for ages and to me they seem a little 'old fashioned' but although there are many abandoned groups that have been overrun with spam, they are still buzzing with life and, in some cases, they have over a decade's worth of fan made material in their files sections.  Here are some gamebook themed Yahoo groups and whether you should join them.


Still very active and contains lots of great files to have a look at.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Gamebook Collectors

It is very rarely updated but it looks like people still check it.

Should I join this group? Only if desperate.

Moloch's Gamebook Garden

A file-less and rarely updated group that may still have life in it.

Should I join this group? Only if desperate.

Titan Rebuilding

The new group once Rebuilding Titan was overrun with spam.  It is still very active and chock full of resources.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks

A quite active group with  several useful files.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy

A spam ridden group with 3 files of questionable use - one is one equipment carrying, one is a list of items, similar to the one found in Dungeoneer and one is a new character creation system including other scores such as wits and magic, which has been rendered obsolete by AFF2.

Should I join this group? Only if desperate.
Fabled Lands

A very active group with tons of files including notes on the unpublished books 7-12.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Book Seven

This refers to Fabled Lands book seven where people have written their own version.  It has not been active for over a year but you can take a look at the fan made book seven.

Should I join this group? Only for the files.

Chronicles of Arborell

A very active group that Wayne Densley updates regularly and the community talks about the news.  There's only one file but you can easily get everything you need from instead.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Joe Dever's Lone Wolf

Has not been updated in over a year and it has no files but someone might respond if you send out a message.

Should I join this group? Only if desperate.

Lone Wolf d20

Another spam ridden group with 2 files - the Magnamund Companion (which you can get from Project Aon anyway) and a class construction engine.

Should I join this group? Only if desperate.

Radio Free Trollworld

A Tunnels and Trolls group that still has messages posted.  It also has a few files including a solo.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Blue Frog Tavern

Another quite active Tunnels and Trolls group full of nice files.

Should I join this group? Very much so.

Russ Nicholson

The legendary gamebook artist has his own Yahoo Groups fan page with files including the history of Fighting Fantasy books, an interview with Russ (Not my interview) and Russ's biography.  There are also several pieces of his artwork in the photos section.  No one seems to post there any more.

Should I join this group?  Only for the files and photos.

Rebuilding Titan

Although the message section has been overrun with spam, there are plenty of useful files for you to download such a maps, monsters, the history of races and Deathtrap Dungeon 3 along with its solution and a review.

Should I join this group? Only for the files.

Do you know of any other gamebook related Yahoo Groups?  Leave a comment!

Friday, April 27, 2012

April A to Z - Y is for Youtube

Youtube is the second biggest search engine in the world after Google so it is only natural that gamebooks and interactive fiction will appear on Youtube.  Here is a selection of gamebook related channels and videos on Youtube.  Enjoy!

Tin Man Games

You can see the trailers for the latest Gamebook Adventure at the Tin Man Games channel as well as watch some interviews with the Tin Men and see what they like.

Fighting Fantasy

Currently has only one video but it might get some more?

Laughing Jackal Games

This is the company that has made some Fighting Fantasy books available on Playstation.  You can watch the trailers here.

The Dark Room

Comedian John Robertson berates you in increasingly creative and amusing ways while you try to escape from the dark room.

Blend Your Own Adventure

Corey Vidal blends two items of your choice together and drinks the results.  Your reward is the look on his face.

Blend Your Own Adventure 2

As above but you also get to do it with ten people.  Endless fun.

Chad, Matt and Rob

Choose Your Own Adventure style game with entertaining videos as the eponymous heroes get themselves into dangerous and bizarre situations.

Star Breed gamebook trailer

This is a game for the iPhone.  Check out the trailer.


This user videos games as he plays them but he has also played some gamebooks.  If you want to read along with him, you could start on Let's read Lone Wolf 1.

April A to Z - X is also for Xtra amateurs - an interview with bcyy

The gamebook interviews just don't stop.  Bcyy is a regular of ffproject who also replied to my interview questions.  Here we go...

What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn't your own)?

Metal City Mayhem (Sonic series)

What is your favourite gamebook?

Creature of Havoc or Moonrunner, can't decide which.
Captif d'Yvoire (T&T) and Warbringer (Way of the Tiger) also stand out, but they suffer from belonging to mundane series, IMHO.

What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?

Midnight Rogue, Vault of the Vampire, Creature of Havoc. In exactly that order.

Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.

A novel in which the decisions of the reader or random events have an impact on the plot.

Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?

Please define the terms "game" and "book".

Where did you come up with your ideas for gamebook game systems (in this case additional rules for FF)?

Actually, I don't think I would add additional rules if I ever wrote one. Additional rules deviate from standard rules, and could be stressful for the player to implement if they are either too complicated or are implemented too frequently. They could also be difficult to implement for a computer-coded version, thus limiting their development (I converted Lair of the Troglodytes as a C programming exercise, but stopped at converting ones with more complicated rules, since those rules were incompatible with my central subroutines dealing with stats and combat).

When it comes to writing a gamebook, what's the most important thing that you do?

Make sure it would be worth reading. Not necessarily fun - educative or inspirational would do too.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April A to Z - X is for Xhoromag and gamebook writing programs.

Writing a gamebook can be a time consuming process.  First you have to plan all of the possible paths, then you have to split the paths up into paragraphs and write them.  Then you have to randomise the paragraphs.  This can get very tedious.  Fortunately several people have come up with gamebook writing programs to make the whole paragraph organisation and randomisation thing easier.  Once of these people is Xhoromag, whose program, ADVELH is very useful in randomising the paragraphs and producing them as a RTF document or a hyperlinked web page.  There are many other gamebook creation systems on this page (scroll down) for you to try, but I've been using ADVELH for a while and not felt the need to change.  To get ADVELH for free, go here.

On to the interview...

What was the first gamebook you read?
The Caverns of Kalte.

What is your favourite gamebook?
Not a specific favorite gamebook, but a favorite series : Lone Wolf.

When did you decide to write ADVELH?
Roughly around 1995.

Did the idea come from trying to write a gamebook yourself?
Not quite. I was writing amateur gamebooks before that. The idea came from a defective version of MS Word which tended to save files as 0-byte documents (thus losing all my work on a semi-regular basis). That's when I thought I could construct my own little gamebook-writer.

What did you want to include in ADVELH to make a gamebook writer's life easier?
The tools I myself was using manually, namely the graphs (trees) and the reserved-vs-typed paragraph grid. Then, taking advantage of the power of computers, Advelh's ultimate functionality, the MasterMix (randomly scrambling the section numbers while keeping the adventure's structure intact). Everything else came later, even stuff like Bold and Italics... lol.

Have you written any gamebooks of your own?  Are they available?
Yeah. Everything signed "The Oiseau" on is mine. That's about 100 of them. But they're all in French. Six of them were published by Les Éditions AdA in a series called Le Secret de l'Univers (The Secret of the Universe – also in French). There should have been nine but they didn't sell.

What other projects have you completed?
I converted some of my amateur gamebooks to novels and had them published. Still in French ("Les Enfants d'un Autre Ciel" – Children of Another Sky). Co-created a board game too (again in French).

What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a gamebook newcomer?
If they're kids, probably something simple like the various Pick-a-Paths on the market. For a grown-up, stuff like Lone Wolf, Way of the Tiger, Sorcery and other gamebooks with a good story to go along with the game. I don't get the feeling that most Fighting Fantasy books would be a hit with adult newcomers.

Explain what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or less.
Gamebook, n. : An interactive story where you choose the hero's actions and manage his various resources.

Why are gamebooks so great compared to games or books?
Their game aspect is what makes them fun. Some are like puzzles to solve, and thus don't resemble traditional novels. Having control of the hero's destiny tends to involve a casual reader in the story. The paragraph divisions also allow you to digest bite-sized descriptions and actions. A gamebook rarely feels like you're trudging through endless pages of text waiting for something to happen.

What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
Probably the iStuff, although I'm nostalgic and will always prefer actual books.

Do you have a blog/Twitter feed/webiste?
My website is Xhoromag. Surely you knew ? ^_^ I have nothing else.

Many thanks ofr your answers and for saving me hours of time.
Hours ? ^_^

To get ADVELH for free, go here. 

To find a comprehensive list of gamebook creation programs, go here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April A to Z - W is for the Windhammer competition

Ah, the Windhammer competition.  If it wasn't for this showcase of gamebook talent, I probably wouldn't have ventured too far into the world of gamebooks.  It was the Windhammer competition that motivated me to write better gamebooks after a few terrible attempts.  So it means a lot to me.  However, there is more to arborell than this competition.  It is also home to the Windhammer gamebooks written by Wayne Densley which are set in a rich vivid world.  You should definitely take a look at them.

The Windhammer competition is running this year and there is no excuse for not entering so get typing on your short gamebook.  After you've read the interview, of course.

What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn't your own)?
I started reading gamebooks back in the early nineties and if I remember correctly the first gamebook I ever read was Deathtrap Dungeon followed shortly thereafter by Spectral Stalkers.
What is your favourite gamebook?
I can't say that I have a particular gamebook favourite. As far as the series go I like both Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy but for different reasons. Lone Wolf is a great series when you are wanting to be a part of an ongoing adventure that allows your character to develop skills and evolve in a large world setting. Fighting Fantasy however, allows a reader to find adventure in a range of different settings and genres. Allansia and Titan figure prominantly in those books but there is a great deal of variety in the subjects and themes delivered. I have also enjoyed some of the Herbie Brennan gamebooks. I must admit that I have read none of the Fabled Lands books although the structure of those books does sound intriguing.
What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?
As far as commercially published gamebooks are concerned the first few Lone Wolf books are a great introduction. There are also a large number of amateur gamebooks available that are every bit as good as the commercial ones and I would say that the internet is always a great place to start. The Fighting Fantasy Project and the Windhammer Prize Gamebook Archive are two that come to mind.
Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.
A gamebook is an interactive story, one where a reader can choose the path they wish to take within that adventure and where success is theirs to find alone.
Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?
Gamebooks fill a niche that allows a reader to play out an adventure alone, where the interactive nature of the story goes beyond what you can find in most books, and where there can still be introduced a measure of luck or good judgement to find success. What I like about gamebooks is that they allow a reader to explore a number of branches within a storyline and ultimately find the best way to an adventure's end. It is true that many games allow a greater level of exploration but few have the depth of narrative that can be found in most gamebooks. In the end I guess what makes them great is that gamebooks meld the best that can be found in both books and games and produces at its end a coherent solitaire adventure that can be enjoyed almost anywhere.
Where did you come up with your ideas for gamebook stories?
The Chronicles of Arborell started many years ago as a single solitaire adventure called Windhammer but which quickly grew into the series The Chronicles of Arborell. The idea initially came from a desire to write a well-written and compelling adventure but which evolved from that point into a much larger and long-term undertaking.
Mostly the stories I put together are extensions of circumstances and characters that have arisen in previous plotlines from the Chronicles of Arborell. In drafting the first volume of Earth and Stone (and yes it will one day be completed) I put together the character of Tansen'Delving, a Jotun from the northern wastes of Arborell. In writing that character into the story it became apparent that he had a story of his own to tell so I drafted the beginning of the Jotun of the West series. That series has then led to the development of the Mythology of Arborell and the full creation of the First Book of Haer'al, the Elder Tongue of the Ancient World. Each new branch of the story generates new ideas that then lead to new storylines and a greater filling out of the world of Arborell itself. When the series is finished it will encompass a continuous history of Arborell from its first creation as the world of Emur to the final destruction of the Old Enemy and the reconciliation of the Oera'dim and Humankind.
Ultimately characters beyond Halokim Vesh such as Shalengael, Gremorgan Hedj, Qirion'Delving, the Hresh Ghered, the Mutan Besson, Shamaril, the Brethren of the Deep Guild and a number of others will have novels, games or gamebooks devoted specifically to their part in the history of Arborell. As is the case in our own world it is strong personalities that drive history and the Chronicles of Arborell is very much about the way each of the main actors interact with each other and the events that those interactions precipitate.
It must be said that the Chronicles of Arborell is not only a gamebook series. The main narrative of the story is encompassed within the fourteen gamebooks that are currently planned, but of the forty-five titles that will make up the world of Arborell there can also be found novels, novellas, card-based gamebooks, wargaming systems, roleplaying materials, atlases, fantasy languages, a fully documented mythology and other internet-based resources.
Where did you come up with your ideas for gamebook game systems?
In a way the game system for the Chronicles of Arborell has evolved as the series itself has evolved. The Chronicles has always tried to provide as much of a traditional gamebook experience as possible, even though it is delivered in a digital format. Over time that system has grown to include a range of character generation options and two distinct combat systems, a standard system written into every title, and the Windhammer Enhanced Combat System available as an option for players who like combat focused adventuring. I particularly like the WECS as it allows a player to develop individual fighting styles and to recognise tactics that best suit different types of opponents.
Those game systems have also been developed to be consistent with the Torchlight card-based gamebooks and the Warriors of the March large-scale wargaming system.
When it comes to writing a gamebook, what's the most important thing that you do?
Planning above all else. Generally when I write a gamebook I start with a general plotline then draw out a terrain map of the entire adventure. Once I'm happy with that I start drafting the narrative and balance the different branches of the story so that no matter what options you take the adventure is equally complex and challenging. After putting together a handwritten draft of the text I type it all up and then print it. Then comes the playtesting, in particular looking at story logic and flow, combat balance and overall difficulty. Testing can take a while and I find myself regularly updating all the titles to include new information and to maintain the consistency of the overall world setting.
Why did you come up with the Windhammer competition?
Any quick search of the internet shows that there is an active community of readers and authors out there who have a passion for gamebooks, and who are in many cases excellent gamebook writers themselves. I started the Windhammer Prize five years ago because it seemed a good idea to have an ongoing international competition that would give an impetus to authors to write gamebooks and promote the gamebook genre in general. It seemed like a good idea at the time and over the intervening years has achieved all the objectives I set for it. I can see the Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction being around for a long time to come.
What advice would you give to someone entering the Windhammer competition this year?
There are a couple of things. Firstly check the rules carefully and make sure your entry is properly tested and spell checked. I have found that readers are turned off a gamebook pretty quickly if they have to wade through large amounts of bad spelling or logic flaws. Secondly the gamebooks that do best are those that take to heart the competition need for original and creative subject matter. Do something novel and you have a far better chance of being read and voted for.
What have you enjoyed most about the Windhammer competition?
For me the Windhammer competition has been a successful exercise in promoting gamebooks and gamebook authors, and it has been great to see it grow into the competition it now is. The inclusion this year of commercial publication of the winning entries has met one of the main objectives I set for the competition and it is going to be really interesting to see how it effects the reach of the Windhammer Prize.
I can say that it is very satisfying to see the level of energy and creativity that authors put into their work. It is not an easy task to write a gamebook adventure, the hours can be long and the creative process complex, and I appreciate the work that goes into all of them. It is very cool that so many authors have taken the time to be a part of the competition so far.
What have you got coming up in terms of your gamebook/competition projects?
Currently I am working on the second Jotun of the West gamebook and will have it out later this year. I am also working on a Sixth Horde War Campaign Manual for the Warriors of the March wargame and if I can I will finally finish the second Windhammer companion novella, Honour Among Thieves before beginning the third JOTW adventure, the Horns of Gorgoroth. I find that I have a number of unfinished projects and it is my intention to get through them all asap.
I have been writing the Chronicles of Arborell for eighteen years and so far have put together more than twenty individual titles. It is one of the great advantages of digital publishing that it is very easy to improve and update existing titles and I have always believed in a constant process of quality improvement. This process means that I also spend some time redoing older titles so that they remain consistent with the newer storylines. To this end a new version of the Windhammer companion book, The Inquisitor's Lament will be out in the next few days.
Do you have any other sites/blogs/twitter feeds besides
I do have a number of Facebook pages devoted to different titles from the Chronicles of Arborell and a Facebook group - Chronicles of Arborell Gamebooks. There is also the chroniclesofarborell yahoo group. I find that the website and the writing of the series itself takes up most of my time.
What do you think the future of gamebooks is?
The commercial future of gamebooks lays with the growth of digital apps and ebook titles for tablets like the Kindle and ipad. Although there are some very good printed gamebooks available I'm not sure that they will have the same reach as the digitally available versions. With the growing popularity of mobile computing and hand-held devices such as idevices, android etc there are markets developing that small developers can access and the future of gamebooks certainly looks bright because of it.
For amateur gamebook authors there is now a world audience available and re-enervated with interest because of the emergence of these digital gamebook apps. Readers who loved their new FF or GA gamebooks now spend time trawling the internet for what else is available and that has implications for anyone writing new gamebook fiction, commercial or otherwise.

Visit the Chronicles of Arborell website here.

For the 2012 Windhammer guidelines, go here.

For the Chronicles of Arborell Yahoo group, go here.

To go to the Facebook group, click here.

April A to Z - W is also for Wright, Andrew

Andrew Wright has been a huge contributor to the world of gamebooks on the internet for as long as the internet has been around (and before that, he was probably planning lots gamebook related stuff to put on the internet as soon as it was to be invented).  There is nothing he hasn't done.  He has written many many gamebooks.  He has won competitions for his gamebooks.  He has produced a gamebook for the iPhone.  He has and is the leading expert of Titan's bestiary and he is also a lynchpin in many gamebook groups and forums (going by the name Greyarea13).  He is also a regular contributor and Out of the Pit editor for Fighting Fantazine.  I could go on but I'll be here all day.  For more information, you can read his entry on his Titannica page  (yes - Fighting Fantasy has a wiki, don't you know) or have a look at his page.

I am also feel very privileged that Andy also joined my little venture in reviewing gamebooks on the Lone Tiger blog and also answer some questions for me.  Myself and the world of gamebooks is forever in his debt.

What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn't your own)?

Choose Your Own Adventure #5 "The Mystery of Chimney Rock" by Edward Packard. I bought it at a second-hand book stall at a fete in Hong Kong as a kid, and I was spooked by the horror and disturbed by the gonzo possibilities of the various different endings.
What is your favourite gamebook?

Heart of Ice by Dave Morris is just awesome and I blogged about it extensively at the start of my blog's existence. Rounding out the top 5 would be Creature of Havoc by Steve Jackson, The War-Torn Kingdom by Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson, Deathtrap Dungeon by Ian Livingstone, and The Demon's Claw by Dave Morris.
What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?

My daughter had a lot of fun with the Fabled Lands iOS app, so I'd recommend that for tablet fans (though I fear it is no longer available). Tin Man Games' Gamebook Adventures are likewise awesome, and if you enjoy a good dungeon crawl, try my own Catacombs of the Undercity (blatant plug!). Bookwise, I'd recommend something simple like the reissued Deathtrap Dungeon or Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.

A book you play!
Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?

Books: Because you get to decide what you want to do, instead of some whining, self-absorbed character you cannot identify with.
Games: Gamebooks are the perfect solo immersive experience if you can't get a bunch of friends around to cause dice-rolling mayhem.
Where did you come up with your ideas for gamebook stories?
I talked a lot about this in part 1 of my ongoing Adventure Game series of articles in Fighting Fantazine (part 1 is in issue 4). Bascially, the ideas could happen anywhere, and I always keep a notebook and pencil handy to write them down. They usually start by me thinking: "I wonder what would happen if Gonchongs invaded the real world?" or some other frivolous nonsense, and flow on from there.
Where did you come up with your ideas for gamebook game systems?

I look at other systems and see what I like and could borrow and rename and adjust and tinker with! I do it to my own gamesystem rules too, which is why the rules for the 2011 Windhammer Prize winner 'The Sea of Madness' are essentially a re-skinned version of an earlier Windhammer Prize entry called RAMPAGE!
When it comes to writing a gamebook, what's the most important thing that you do?

Three things actually. 1) Flow chart it all out perfectly. 2) Assign all paragraph numbers to events on the flowchart. 3) Write paragraphs entries relentlessly, ticking them off as I go.
What have you got coming up in terms of your gamebook/competition projects?

Currently I'm working on a bunch of things when not being waylaid or plain kidnapped by real life. I'm trying to finish an Advanced Fighting Fantasy role-playing scenario for Fighting Fantazine that is equal parts Moby Dick and Inside the Monster by Lucian of Samothrace. I'm also half-way through a sequel to Out of the Pit, again for the new version of Advanced Fighting Fantasy by Graham Bottley at Arion Games. Who knew 250+ monsters would take so long to write about! No wonder Marc Gascoigne never wrote another Out of the Pit! I'm also starting a 200 paragraph mini-adventure for an upcoming issue of Fighting Fantazine. It's called Barbarian Warlord! and it's essentially a reboot of Armies of Death, where your hero has completed Deathrap Dungeon and raised an army to conquer the lands east of Allansia. Instead of some poxy, poorly-developed Shadow Demon however, your enemy is a mighty and devious Barbarian warlord who has united the tribes of the wastelands and is intent on conquering Allansia himself.

I'm also thinking heavily about what to do for the Windhammer Prize this year. I got some excellent feedback last year on Sea of Madness, which has inspired a few ideas on things to do differently next time. Finally, I did a loose plot for a sequel to Catacombs of the Undercity for Tin Man Games. It's called Lord of the Undercity, and in it you play a journeyman thief trying to rebuild the Red Hand Guild of thieves after they were destroyed by the adventurer in the first adventure. There was going to be lots of intrigue, infiltrations, assassinations, and grey wars between the different criminal organisations that battle for control of the Undercity beneath Orlandes - dungeon politics basically! It's on the back burner at the moment as there's too much on my plate already, but it's something to focus on for the future.  
Why did you start a blog?

I'm not really sure. Mainly to explore aspects of not just gamebooks but a whole host of other stuff I'm interested in, but it's just so hard to find the time!
What has happened because of your blog?

I've got to talk to many interesting people, including yourself and authors like Dave Morris, whose work I greatly admire and who is definitely a big influence on my own work. Interviewing Michael Ward about Destiny Quest was fun too, as was reviewing the Fabled Lands RPG!
Has anything surprising happened because of your blog?

For some reason my post on feathered dinosaurs is insanely popular, and also my first post on Catacombs of the Undercity. Can't work out where the hits are coming from!
What is the most important thing when writing a blog?

To regularly update it!!!! (*slinks away in shame*)
Do you have any other sites besides your blog?

I moderate the Titan_Rebuilding and Fabled Lands groups on Yahoo, although they're both a bit quiet now too. I'm currently negotiating a move from Thailand to Saudi Arabia, and if that happens I can see I may have a bit more time on my hands to get busier on the blog and website front. In Bangkok I regularly spend two to three hours stuck in hellish traffic, and that's time wasted that could be better spent gamebooking!
What do you think the future of gamebooks is?

Digital. More web-based browser stuff and more tablet titles. Also, more POD and more PDFs. It's perhaps symptomatic of society of a whole, but time spent with a good book is becoming rarer and rarer as people find themselves spending more and more time interacting with a digital screen of some form or another. Sad but true, although perhaps there's a gamebook idea in that! 

Right - so there we go.  Andrew's blog is here so you can enjoy all of his posts .  It was a mention from his blog that kept me blogging so I've a lot to thank him for.  Another good place to start is his Titannica page which links to some other stuff he's done.  However, the sites that Andrew has contributed to are just too numerous to list here.  Google Greyarea13 to find all of his internet sites.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April A to Z - V is for Very comprehensive gamebook websites

Demian Katz has done exactly what this blog post is about - he has compiled the most comprehensive database on gamebooks ever.  You can find this at where you can find information and possibly reviews on any gamebook you could care to think of.  You can also create your own haves and wants list so that you can trade in gamebooks.  It is for this reason that Demian is a gamebook hero.  I have what appears to be a short interview with Demian but that is because most questions I would have asked have already been answered on his FAQs page so have a little gander at that first before coming back to this post, especially if you are a newcomer to gamebooks as it also offers an excellent primer as to what a gamebook is.  It's what tabbed browsing was invented for.

What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn't your own)?

The first "real" gamebook I read was Middle-earth Quest: Mines of Moria...  but before that, I read a variety of simpler CYOA-type books.  I can't remember exactly which one was first, but I know Which Way: Lost in a Strange Land was an early discovery, along with CYOA: The Abominable Snowman and CYOA: Vampire Express.
What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?

You really can't go too far wrong with Lone Wolf (or World of Lone Wolf, if you want a shorter series); I also recommend Kim Newman's Life's Lottery to everyone who will listen to me. 

Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.

A gamebook is a story with reader choices and multiple endings.  Some involve dice.

Did I make it? 

Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?

There is nothing more immersive than well-written prose -- even the best game can't have the emotional power of fiction.  Of course, a novel is usually a rather linear experience.  Gamebooks have the potential of mixing the interactivity and challenge of gaming with the unique strengths of the written word.  Granted, it usually doesn't come off as well as it should, but when it works, there's nothing else like it. 
Have you written any gamebooks?

I've written two published solitaire adventures for the Kobolds Ate My Baby! RPG, and a handful of silly unpublished  things that I might do something with someday.

What have you got coming up in terms of your gamebook projects?

Not much -- honestly, I haven't had much time for gamebooks lately.  I'm looking for volunteer co-editors to help keep my site afloat (email me if you're interested).  I'm hoping I might be able to help start some gamebook-related campaigns on when that site gets up and running in order to bring them to a wider audience. 

Do you have any other sites/blogs/twitter feeds besides

Well, my day job involves programming an open source search project called VuFind -- see  I also have a handful of social media accounts, but I rarely use them.

What do you think the future of gamebooks is?

I think e-readers are the best thing that's happened to gamebooks in a long time.  The current generation of electronic devices work well with the gamebook format, and I think they'll help spread the form.  I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this -- I still have a special fondness for the physicality of paper and dice --  but I think the good outweighs the bad.

If you haven't already, check out and sign up to  It will enhance your life.

April A to Z - U is for Undead filled new Fighting Fantasy books - an interview with Jamie Fry, webmaster of the official Fighting Fantasy site (aka the Warlock)

Today, we have Jamie Fry a long time Fighting Fantasy fan who brings us lots of information and news on Fighting Fantasy with his website Fighting Fantasy Collector.  Of course, then he became the webmaster of the official Fighting Fantasy website (and obtained the title The Warlock).  I contacted him to as him about his rise to the official webmaster and whether he could tell us anything about Ian Livingstone's new 30th anniversary gamebook.

What was the first gamebook you read (that wasn't your own)?

I think the only way I can answer that is the one’s I used to borrow from the Library. I am afraid I cannot recall which one I read first but I do remember reading Lone Wolf as much as Fighting Fantasy. This was the only  way I could keep up as I couldn’t afford to buy them all myself at the rate they all came out in those days.

What is your favourite gamebook?

It sounds boring to keep saying but it has to be House of Hell and I still have the very worn copy. I also enjoyed a series called ‘Legends of Skyfall’.

What gamebooks/interactive fiction would you recommend to a newcomer to the genre?

It has to be Fighting Fantasy but in this digital age I would also recommend the iOS Gamebook Adventures published by Tin Man Games.

Summarise what a gamebook is to a newcomer in 100 characters or fewer.

A book that is a game with many endings all dependent on the decisions you make and the roll of a dice

Why are gamebooks great compared to games or books?

The sheer interactiveness. You can roll dice, create characters, they are portable and re-playable. You can collect things, fight, travel, the list is endless (even die and get to do it all over again!). I think the pictures inside at each encounter make a difference, done well they can help you realise a scenario much better

How did you come to edit the official site?

It originally started when I showed up at Gamesfest 4 and met Steve Jackson. I managed to to get some time with him and share my first checklist guide which he encouraged me to finish. The
following year I was contacted by Ian via my other asking me if I’d like to sell on some of his books. Following a series of e-mails between them I got to meet them in London and they offered me the opportunity. i didn’t take long to say yes. 
Image from Blood of the

What's new for the official site in 2012?

I think it will predominantly be about the 30th Anniversary, the Authors journey’s around the country for the celebrations and the launch of Ian's new gamebook, Blood of Zombies.

Can you tell us anything about Ian Livingstone's new book?

Well, now you know it is to be called Blood of the Zombies. It could have been Escape from Zombie Castle but based on a fan vote the latter was chosen. Being on the inside as it were has not meant I am party to anything else I am afraid. It is frustratingly a closely guarded secret, even for me he will only drip feed the info .I do know that the illustrations will be done by Kevin Crossley. I did ask if I could play test it but I think Ian was too afraid I would leak it! Cheers Ian. When I know more I will be the first to post it on the official site. I do believe though that something great is brewing and you will all love the outcome.

When it comes to writing a gamebook, what's the most important thing that you do?

Would it come as a surprise to you that I have never written a full one? Based on what I do know though is that a good imagination will not get the job done alone, research and planning are also key to completing a great gamebook. I read a lot of blogs etc on this subject including that of Jonathan Greens and I admire the amount of effort that goes into writing one. I realise it a lot of it can be done without the research but even Steve and Ian drew on experiences life had thrown at them but they used their imaginations to turn them into fantastical storylines.

What have you got coming up in terms of your gamebook/competition projects?

I said earlier that I have never written one but that is not to say I won’t. I do have plans to do something but it is very much in the planning stage. I have a few ideas up my sleeve that need shaping so watch this space.  I have a column in the Fighting Fantazine and I am also working on version 3 of my Fighting Fantasy Collector Checklist and Price Guide for 2012 that I will be launching soon.]

Do you have any other sites/blogs/twitter feeds besides

Yes, as alluded to earlier I run as well, But since i took on the other site I have neglected it somewhat. It still remains the number one place to look up all the Fighting Fantasy book covers and collectables. I see myself now as an on-line curator of this material. If I had more time i would tidy it up and modernise it somewhat. I don’t have a related blog just because of lack of time. I hold down a corporate 9 to 5 job and my other hobby of crafting keeps me busy ( enough. I tweet as me @jamie_fry or as The Warlock @fightingfantasy.

What do you think the future of gamebooks is?

Very exciting, this is certainly the year for it and one to remember them by. I think we are going to see new authors, new genres, new concepts and a lot of them will be digital. But there is still a place for the paper based gamebook where I am concerned not sure the publishers agree though.

So there we go - make sure you are dropping in to and and also following @jamie_fry and @fightingfantasy for the latest in Fighting Fantasy news.  Also check out Jamie's great crafts at