Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in review

Hello to you all, gamebookers!

Here's one last post for the year of 2013, where I just sit here and tell you about my year, within and without gamebooks.

I don't really know where the year has gone.  I would have liked to have presented you with a large gamebook of my making, but, if there is one thing I have learnt this year, it is that these things take a hell of a lot longer to do well than I imagined.  My aim was to finish writing Awakening of Asuria for Tin Man Games, Goblin's Bounty for Attic Squad, and Bane of the Golemheart for Adventure Games Guild.  How have I progressed?

Well, I used Dia to map out each adventure and then started writing with the intention of putting them into ADVELH.  did I finish them all?  No.  I would have finished them all if the number of paragraphs I ended up with matched the number I had planned, but when I wrote Goblin's Bounty, it ended up being about 60% bigger than what I had started, due to me decided to give people more choices and fitting in the shops.  The same has gone for the Awakening of Asuria - it is 60% bigger than what I first intended.  So I wrote the number of paragraphs I thought I would - it was just that these paragraphs were for two books instead of 3.  However, the text for these two will be done early next year and handed over to the developers.

For my next batch of books, I will use the Gamebook Authoring Tool, which uses a flow diagram and turns it into a rtf file.  I have used it for smaller gamebooks and it is very useful.  I would highly recommend it.

What I did do was the news and reviews for this year's Fighting Fantazine issues, a mini adventure for issue 11 of Fighting Fantazine, an entry to this year's Windhammer competition, some Advanced Fighting Fantasy scenarios, some scenarios for Pirates and Traders, and go to Dragonmeet.

I (almost) managed to keep up a post a week and also did the 2013 April A to Z with a lot of lovely guests who let me interview them, but I have not done much more than that, what with my blog as my focus has shifted to reporting news for Fighting Fantazine, writing bigger gamebooks for other people (and so to deadlines) and, in real life, looking after my baby.

I feel that since I started this blog, I have experienced a shift.  At first, I was kind of just stumbling around, and simply expressing my thoughts.  Now it has turned into something bigger, as I have got to know you all and become integrated into the gamebook blogosphere, it has become less about just what I think and more about the bigger gamebook world.

I was quite lucky to start when I did, as I managed to catch the wave of the gamebook revival and I've been riding it ever since.  I have learnt a lot from my writing and from my various gamebook buddies and I think I know my own writing voice a lot better now.  I have also found the whole process very cathartic (and in the process, finally discovered how catharsis feels).

Once I have finished my current batch of projects, I think there will be another shift in my tone - I feel more confident with what I am doing and I'm already excited about what will come after my current projects.

As well as meeting some great people here, who have supported me and interacted with me (including the progenitors of gamebooks themselves), another reason I have stuck with gamebooks for this long is that anything gamebook related in my life has never felt like work.  I'm currently just rattling this blog post off at the moment, and a lot of the time, planning and writing gamebooks or writing about gamebooks seems like a lot less effort than most things I do.  I'm not saying I'm great at it (some of the stuff I produce is garbage), but when I'm working on something gamebook related, things just come easily and the time passes very quickly, even if I am doing something that I would normally find hard work if it was not gamebook related. I am very grateful that I have something in my life that I can say that about.

So, how do I feel overall about 2013?  In the gamebook world, it was great.  We have many lovely new gamebooks to read and new improved versions of old series.  In 2011, Tin Man games said that 2012 would be the year of the gamebook, but 2013 has taken the quality and quantity of gamebooks to a whole new level and I feel that this meteoric rise will continue into 2014 and beyond.

Personally,  I feel that I have not produced enough and I have missed many targets.  2013 has been a testing time for me in terms of my writing, but I think that  it is because I am pushing myself to the next level of gamebook writing.  I feel that if I stick with it, I will come out the other end a much better writer, blogger, gamebook designer and person.

So hang on in there, my lovelies!  We've got a lot of treats to come.  I leave you with Neil Gaiman's (why didn't I get anyone that cool at my graduation?  I got some guy who worked in a bank and that's all I remember about him) 2012 commemoration speech, which never fails to inspire,

Happy new year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Beyond the Pit preview (Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition)

Hello sexy reader.  I hope you had a lovely Christmas.  Today, I bring you a late Christmas present.  As you may know, Out of the Pit 2 (known as Beyond the Pit) was funded on Kickstarter earlier in the year.  Its release is imminent, but today I give you a tantalizing sample of what is to come.  Here are two pages of the forthcoming release.

As you can see, the book features the monsters from various Fighting Fantasy books.  The stats of the monsters also include Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition rules.  It looks like between Out of the Pit and Andrew Wright's new release, that every monster from Fighting Fantasy will have been featured.  And that is something to celebrate.

If you don't return before New Year, have a happy new year!

My Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2 adventures or: How it feels nice to get things out of your head.

Good day to you all, gamebookers!  I hope you had a lovely Christmas and that you are enjoying that weird but nice time of the year between the excesses of Christmas and the excesses of New Year.  Nothing really happens in terms of work, people are usually away and it's just quiet and lets you wind down from Christmas and then prepare for New Year.

Anyway, today, I want to tell you about my Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition adventures that I have been writing recently.

There are three of them, and they are all based on ideas that I have had for a while, which have been in my head, occasionally shouting out to be written down.  I decided that I would deal with them once and for all and write them down.  Now that I have , I feel a lot better, as if some space has finally been cleared in my head.  Of course, it is not quite as simple as that, however, as while I was thinking about these scenarios, I came up with more ideas for sequels.  It seems that ides beget ideas.  At some point, I will write those down too, but for the moment, I can enjoy a brief moment to relax.

Here is a summary of the three scenarios, along with where I got the ideas from.  I have not given away any plot twists just in case future players are reading.

The Orc Warlord

No big plot twists here.  An orc warlord has been causing trouble in the area, and, for a short time, he is not surrounded by his massive army.  You have to take the opportunity to go into the dungeon and kill him.  I got this idea from the Advanced Heroquest Rulebook which was an idea for a dungeon.

Legacy of Benedos

I ran this on the official Fighting Fantasy forums a few years back.  However, the thread has been lost since the forum was swamped with spam about wedding dresses.  It used basic Fighting Fantasy rules, but each player had a class to choose from (the full rules are here).  When I ran it, it took longer than I expected, so this version is considerably shorter as I have cut out all the 'fluff'.

The Northern Invasion

I have had this idea floating around for almost two decades.  It started with the villains (as do most of my stories).  As with most children of the 80s, Star Wars had left an indelible mark in my brain.  My villains were going to be a powerful black robed wizard and a magical black knight.

The campaign (or what I imagined would happen) would eventually build up to a massive battle, involving the bad guys using a Flying Castle and the heroes attacking it with their own flying ships that fired crystal missiles enchanted with the explode spell and also had crystal cannons that fired lightning bolts.

My idea was that the massive amounts of money could be made to fund all this by becoming powerful enough wizards to create a pouch of infinite gold pieces (there was one in fighting Fantasy:  The Introductory Role Playing Game - you find a pouch with a gold piece in.  If you take it out, 15 minutes later, another one appears and so on) and then hanging them off the ceiling in a cavern, so when they make a gold piece, it falls out and so another one could appear 15 minutes later, thus having a huge cavern where it literally rained gold pieces.

Years ago, however, I did not have the skill to create such an adventure, so now I have come up with a 'reboot' (in my head at least) that is lower in magic and is only the first stage of the adventure (I may continue the story later...)


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Magic the Gathering Characters - Ice Age

Hi all!  Here is a Christmasy (well, snowy, at least)  post for you which I actually wrote back in 2011, but shelved because I did Christmas themed gamebooks in 2011 and took my one and only opportunity to cover the Mayan apocalypse in 2012 (wow.  Considering we had an apocalypse a year ago, things are going pretty well).  Don't forget to check out Tin Man Games' 12 Days of Gamebooks at their blog.  They have opened door 11 today!

There are plenty of interesting characters in the multiverse of Magic the Gathering. My only problem is that they always get killed off far too quickly and easily.  However, there are a lot of interesting characters which can be used in gamebooks.  I will look at two from the Ice Age, Alliances and Coldsnap sets.

They are the friendly enemy double act of Arcum Dagsson and Sorine Relicbane.

The world they live in is now covered in a permanent winter bought on by a huge explosion caused by Urza at the end of the Brother's war.  

The war had been fought between Urza and his brother Mishra with artifacts inspired by the designs of a lost race known as the Thran.  Urza caused a huge explosion (the equivalent of several nuclear warheads) in a battle between his army and his brother's army.  Just before he caused it, he discovered that the Mishra he was fighting was not actually Mishra, but a robot replacement from the evil machine hell known as Phyrexia.

Some of these Phyrexian relics have been found in the Ice age and Arcum Dagsson, an artificer of the country of Soldev really wants to use them to make his own artefacts in order to help his land, which, like most civilisations is beset from the harsh weather and cruel monsters.  However, Relicbane a Soldevi heretic (because he hates machines), fearful of the disaster of the Brother's war and the horrors from Phyrexia want all of these artefacts to be destroyed.  They both have valid points of view.  For example, Dagsson has several useful items:

—Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist  

But Relicbane is fearful of another war with machines which may have even worse consequences than a plane wide ice age.

He thinks that there is a cult which wants to open a portal to Phyrexia and let its horrors loose on their plane, destroying all life.

At one point, Dagsson has to defend himself in a tribunal and the debate between the two is written in the flavour text on many Magic cards.  Dagsson demonstrates several artefacts that can be helpful towards the people of Soldev.

Take this item, for instance. How would it destroy us, Relicbane?" —Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist

However, Relicbane counters by pointing out some of the more dangerous and twisted artefacts.

Dagsson does acknowledge that some artefacts are dangerous and that they have been misused.

However, Dagsson can't stop focusing on all the secrets and wonders that his artefacts have uncovered.

He also can't see past his ambition of the power of humans combined with machines.

The trouble is that both men refuse to compromise.  Dagsson loves machines to the point where he has forgotten that the ice age that he is living in was caused by them.

In the end, it is revealed that there is a secret cult which wants to open a portal to Phyrexia and they use Dagsson's steam beasts as part of their plan.  Dagsson is mortified.  

"Nothing has ever broken my heart so much as this—the betrayal of Soldev by my beloved machines"Arcum Dagsson, Soldevi Machinist

They cause widespread devestation, but Relicbane gets no joy from seeing this happen.  They are both on the same side after all and they both wanted the best for their people.  

The tragedy from this story is that both mens' views were too far and they refused to compromise.  Relicbane wanted all artefacts destroyed, but Dagsson had demonstrated that some of them were harmless and his own creations such as his sleigh and the whalebone glider would not be corrupted by the influence of Phyrexia.  
Dagsson, however, refused to see that Phyrexian machines are evil and want to destroy all life.  He still wanted to replicate them despite living in an ice age caused by a
war between artefacts, half of them Phyrexian.

I like the way the artist used the
victim's perspective on this card..
Why I like this story

This conflict is different to most of the conflicts in gamebooks and in Magic the Gathering in that both of the opponents want the best for Soldev, but they have different opinions on what is best.  No blood is spilt between them and I feel that Relicbane takes no joy in taking this stance.  He would love Soldev to thrive but he thinks that any machines would lead to its destruction.  His mistake is taking a too extreme stance against artefacts.  It is clear that those not of Phyrexian origin are purely beneficial and so by demanding that all artefacts should be destroyed, he alienates any sign of credibility and deserves having his claims being called hysterical.

Dagssson can see that improper use of machines is dangerous but he goes too far and he is blinded by his passion for artifice and so he goes too far.  His mistake is delving into Phyrexian lore.  If he had stuck with making things himself, then he would have made some great harmless artefacts.  Steambeasts, however, were able to be controlled by the Phyrexian cult and so they were turned upon Soldev.

Its a complicated story that goes beyond the prevalent and simple 'kill the sorcerer' plot and using an antagonist with the same goals but a different approach would add more depth to a gamebook and more possibilities with the hero's response.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dragonmeet 2013

/Hello, gamebookers!  Apologies for my silence recently.  The last weeks of the winter term are crazy busy, and I normally publish a post that I have prepared earlier.  However, this year, I tried to write about
Tony Hough, Neil Rennison and myself.
Dragonmeet, but didn't.  Anyway, here it is now.

So this year, Dragonmeet was attended, not only by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone again, but also by Lone Wolf writer Joe Dever.  I spoke to all of them, and they are all top guys.

Joe complimented Fighting Fantazine and talked to me about the upcoming Lone Wolf RPG.  I also thanked him for putting all of his books on his website for free.  As well as being very kind, it also seems to be a good business move as giving away free e-books increases print sales (here is one site that quotes that, though I first heard this in several episodes of a podcast I used to listen to called The Future and You).  I hadn't bought any of my Lone Wolf books, as they were in my loft, but I managed to find a haul and bought some for Joe to sign, after getting into a round of politeness judo with someone (I was taking all the books I might want out, he liked some.  I said he could have them as I hadn't paid for them or claimed them. we both took some books in the end).

I showed Ian the Island of the Lizard King app (out now in Google Play and on iTunes), which looks amazing and talked to Steve about the new Khare app from Inkle.

I then met up with Tony Hough (who has illustrated the recently released Forgotten Spell (out on iTunes and Google Play) and has more illustrations coming in Awakening of Asuria).  He showed me some of his awesome collection, including a battle scene with half a horse hanging off a wooden pole (nice!) and then had a talk with Neil Rennison (who is clearly busy - have a look at his blog) and Jon Green (who is also busy dealing with an increasingly expanding YOU ARE THE HERO).

It was great to see all the gamebook people at the convention (including John Berry, a fan of my blog).

Pictured:  Awesome cake.
Other things I enjoyed doing was seeing the Lords of War people again.  It's great when you walk by and you hear 'I know you from last year!', from the creator of a game.  Lords of war turned 1 on December the 7th and they have had a great year, which includes releasing Elves vs Lizardmen and getting Templars vs Undead 120% funded on Kickstarter.  I'm looking forward to seeing more from them, which may not necessarily be fantasy.  They also had some awesome cake.  I'm sure they will be there next year.  If they are, I expect more cake!

I went to one seminar this year, and it wasn't the Steve and Ian one (it was in the morning and I had some pressing house business to attend to that morning), but instead, I went to the Storygames panel, where the London Indie RPG group talked about what story games are, including using Witch as an example.  They are games where a small amount of information is used to facilitate the group to co-create a story.  There is no DM and no dice rolls.  Conflicting ideas about what should happen go to a vote.  I was wondering if a gamebook could utilise some of these things.  It would be more book than game and if there were succeed/fail options, you could choose them, but failure would not lead to something bad...just something different.  Anyway, there is plenty of food for thought there.

So, another great Dragonmeet.  I'll be there next year, as it is a great day out.  Looking forward for more!

The posts will return now.  I ahve plenty saved up, and now it's the holidays, I'll be writing more up for later.

Happy gamebooking!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Legacy of Benedos

Hi, gamebookers!  I'm having a bit of an Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition   obsession at the moment.  I have just put together a scenario that grew out of one I ran on the official Fighting Fantasy forum a few years back (before it got overrun with spam and it had to be deleted and resurrected).  I've slimmed it down, and I may do some other edits and/or playtests in the future, but it is servicable at the moment.  It is called Legacy of Benedos.

In this scenario, Sir Benedos has sent you on a mission to recover an heirloom of his that he kept safe in a dungeon nearby.  However, it has been recently cursed, and so he needs brave adventurers to recover it.  but is there more going on?

Here is the adventure...

And if you want more Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd edition discussion, click here for the forum...

On a side note, is anyone heading to Dragonmeet in Kensington Town Hall in London on the 7th December?  I'll be there in the afternoon, if you fancy meeting up for a chat.  I'll be looking for Joe Dever, who announced on Facebook that he will also be there, and probably going to watch Ian Livingstone as well as looking at the latest Advanced Fighting Fantasy stuff from Arion Games.

Happy gamebooking!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

AFF NPC: Arcane investigator

Hello, gamebookers! I said that I would have Windhammer reviews up, but this is the busiest time of the year for me (parents' evenings, mocks etc.) and so I ahven't had a chance to do them.  In previous years, I've got around this problem by writing a load of posts during the holidays, when I have more time and then scheduling  them for the winter months.  However, since I can't do this for Windhammer as the results come out in November, I will have to hold fire on them, but they will be out.

In the mean time, here is the next post I have scheduled.  Enjoy!

Today's NPC is not really a villain - it is an AFF version of the paranormal investigator.  It will have a different spin to today's investigators as Titan is a world where most people know that magic exists.  However, villages may still have strange occurrences such as ghosts, demon portals opening or the ill effects from magical effects happening.  The investigator here is a non spellcaster (I will post a magical version and then a non human version later) who does not know how magic works, but has studied to the extent that they can detect it and identify magical things.  They can then use their knowledge to organise rituals or contact a relevant magic user to help them.  After all, there are not many spellcasters on Titan and a lot of them are too apathetic, insane or evil to deal with supernatural dangers that occur due to fallout from the War of the Wizards, schemes of the Demon  Princes or the tricks of non human races.  Or the spellcasters may be the ones causing all of these.

These investigators may either be independent, searching for 'The Truth' or just after some gold or they may be working for a patron, such as a lord, temple or a powerful spellcaster in order to stop supernatural occurences happening, or, in some cases, suppress witness accounts of supernatural occurrences that they, themselves have caused.

If there is some mysterious supernatural event in your adventure, these people may soon turn up and may be helpful or a hindrance.

Arcane Investigator (non spellcaster)


LOCATION:  Anywhere

REACTION:  Neutral


CREATURE TYPE: Humanoid (human)

SKILL:                      7

STAMINA:               12

LUCK:                      12

MAGIC:                    0


SKILLS: World Lore (1), City Lore (1), Religion Lore (1), Awareness (1), Common Speech (4), Swords (2), Sneaking (2), Locks (2), Magic Lore (1), Second Sight (1), Secret Signs (1), Trap Knowledge (1), Dodge (1), Con (1)

TALENTS: Dark Veil,

WEAPONS: Shortsword, dagger, silver dagger,  throwing dagger, silver throwing dagger.

ARMOUR:  Leather Cuirass

SPECIAL:  This is an arcane investigator at the beginning of their career.  If they work for a patron, these people will have access to all kinds of esoteric equipment from such as holy water, silver weapons, magical sundries and holy items.  Independent investigators will have less access to these things, but will seek them out wherever they can.  This arcane investigator is basically a thief with enough magical knowledge to identify a magical effect.  Their job is usually to break into a dungeon or building and to report back.  This arcane investigator has been selected based on their ability to be able to sneak past demonic entities with their Dark Veil talent, which is very useful as Demonspawn are usually used as guards.

More experienced arcane investigator (non spellcaster)


LOCATION:  Anywhere

REACTION:  Neutral


CREATURE TYPE: Humanoid (human)

SKILL:                      7

STAMINA:               15

LUCK:                      12

MAGIC:                    0


SKILLS: World Lore (2), City Lore (1), Religion Lore (2), Awareness (2), Common Speech (4), Swords (2), Sneaking (2), Locks (2), Magic Lore (2), Second Sight (2), Secret Signs (2), Trap Knowledge (1), Etiquette (1), Disguise (2), Dodge (1), Brawling (1), Bargain (1), Con (2), Sleight of Hand (1)

TALENTS: Attuned, Dark Veil

WEAPONS: Shortsword, dagger, silver dagger,  throwing dagger, silver throwing dagger.

ARMOUR:  Leather Cuirass

SPECIAL:  This is a more experienced arcane investigator who may do some extended fieldwork or infiltrate a cult over some time.  Their skills are moving from breaking and entering to also interacting with people to get what information or assistance they need.  These investigators may have access to a potion or scroll in addition to the magical sundries to help them out.

Arcane investigator chief


LOCATION:  Anywhere

REACTION:  Neutral


CREATURE TYPE: Humanoid (human)

SKILL:                      8

STAMINA:               16

LUCK:                      12

MAGIC:                    0


SKILLS: World Lore (3), City Lore (2), Religion Lore (3), Awareness (3), Common Speech (4), Swords (2), Con (2), Sneaking (2), Locks (2), Throwing (1), Magic Lore (3), Second Sight (3), Secret Signs (3), Etiquette (2), Disguise (3), Dodge (2), Brawling (2), Leadership (1), Stewardship (1), Bargain (2), Sleight of Hand (1)

TALENTS: Attuned, Dark Veil, Clearsight,

WEAPONS: Sword, dagger, silver dagger,  throwing dagger, silver throwing dagger.

ARMOUR:  Leather Cuirass

SPECIAL:  This is a leader of a group of arcane investigators.  This investigator will have access to all the magical sundries they need.  This one also has one enchanted item - a bone medallion which reduces all damage from undead creatures by 1.  Ironically, even though a group of arcane investigators will come across many magical items in their time, they usually come across the unpredictable, inscrutable and dangerous ones, so they are no more likely (or even less likely) to have powerful magical items than other adventurers.  However, they do have a ready supply of potions, sundries, scrolls and a minor item or two such as a blue candle or pickled shapechanger brain.  This arcane investigator will do less routine fieldwork and only go out for special missions.  They have started learning some of the skills of managing a domain and leading a group of younger investigators.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Journey to Mount Darkness review

Hello, gamebookers! I will be bringing you Windhammer reviews, but not today.  however, if you want some Windhammer reviews, Brewin' (author of Infinite Universe) is writing in depth reviews over on his blog  and the Crumbly Head Games blog has a review of every Windhammer book.

Today, I'll be writing about another gamebook that will be hitting the shelves soon.  This is Journey to Mount Darkness, by JP Barnett who has written Invitation to a Feast.  Journey to Mount Darkness takes place in the woodland Forest Chronicles universe - a place where The Noble Ranger looks after many woodland creatures, such as rabbits, owls and dogs and where the Dark Panther leads evil creatures such as Darkness Wolves to kill the good creatures.

Whereas in Invitation to a Feast, you played Jumpster Hopper, a young rabbit whose aim was trying to get to a feast, in Journey to Mount Darkness, you play Theodore Hopper, Jumpster's dad, who is tasked with an important task which requires a longer and more perilous journey. 

His journey involves Mount Darkness which is a mountain in the centre of the Woodland Forest.  As its name suggests, all kinds of nasty things live there, and if nice creatures on one side of the forest want to visit their friends, they have to spend ages travelling around the mountain. However, one day, the Noble ranger mined a tunnel through the mountain and lit five special torches that kept the tunnel lit all the time.  This scared off the nasty creatures and provided a safe quick route through the mountain.However, on one fateful day, the lights went out.  It is now Theodore's quest to relight them.

This first book in a four part series takes you from Theodore's home to just outside Mount Darkness.  There are two main routes through the book; one is harder than the other (but it may be more reqarding), and this offers some replayability. 

One of the great strengths of the book lies in the world that JP Barnett has crafted.  Along the way, you will meet several types of animals and they all have special characteristics and you learn how they fit into the Woodland Forest community and whether they serve the Noble Ranger or the Dark Panther - there are fox archers (bad), sneaky weasels (bad, but some can be good), noble deer (good), wise owls (good), ranger dogs (good) and many others, including some animals that were in Invitation to a Feast. 

There is no system for combat, but there is a system for pursuit - you are usually running away from things, or, in some cases, chasing things.  This fits in with your character being a rabbit and also the mentality of the Noble Ranger who does not seem like the kind of guy who supports killing.  However, there are other ways of getting out of trouble.

The whole series has an epic feel to it and there are some good scenes, especially at the end when you have to get past a horde of fox archers with the help of an owl friend; and the chase situations can be quite gripping.

Aimed for younger readers, this is not your traditional dungeon crawl gamebook, and it is not full of battles with various monsters, but it is still gripping and it sets up the main bad guys quite well.  You don't see them in this book, but there is plenty of talk about them and it sets itself up for book 2 very well.  So why not give it a go? 

To buy Journey to Mount Darkness, go here, where the website is having paypal features added.  When they have been added, you will be able to order a copy.  If you are interested, you can email JP Barnett here and he will notify you when the website has been updated.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Competitions, apps and blogs

Hello, gamebookers!

There's lots going on in the gamebook world.  First of all, the Windhammer results are in! 

Congratulations to the winner, Phillip Armstrong for his entry, 'Normal Club', the merit award winners Ramsay Duff (The Scarlet Thief) and Paul Struth (Out of Time) and the highly commended winners, Marty Runyon (The Independence Job), Andy Robinson (Tipping Point), and Nicholas Stillman (Gunlaw).

Also, everyone who entered deserves congratulations for putting the time and effort into their entries.  As the Winhammer competition has progressed, the gamebooks have become more and more innovative in every way (system, storyline, writing style, setting, subject matter) and I love reading all of the entries.  I'll be making video reviews of the entries and posting them later on.

I did not win, but as I said in my video, I did not think that I would.  My gamebook was entered to demonstrate another facet of the gamebook gem that was around in the 50s and 60s before there were actual gamebooks (for more examples, go here), but seem to have been largely neglected since actual gamebooks were released.  I wanted to demonstrate that modern technology could make these gamebooks relevant again (as this review mentions, it would be great as an app).

I got some great feedback from it, which is another reason for entering the competition, so I would also like to thank those people who took the time and effort to write some feedback, especially since there were 14 entries.  The entries are still all on the page, so check them out.  You can read all of the Windhammer entries (and there are quite a few of them, now) here.

In other news, there are still plenty of other great blogs to check out on The Gamebook Feed.  There is a new one called Ludus ex Libris (it is in English), where you can read about a playthrough of the masterful Heart of Ice.

Also, you should try Marsten's blog where he has had some time off in September, but has returned with a vengeance and you can read his current post which is a playthrough of Tower of Destruction or his own gamebook - Choose Your Own Drunken, Insane, Drug-fuelled Rampage!

And finally, Sorcery! 2 is out!  And it is amazing!  As I said of my review of part 1 in issue 12 of Fighting Fantazine, as well as keeping all the classic scenes and adding to them, there were also a few more plot features such as goblins looking for special metal, spirit guides and magic being woven from the stars.  Part 2 really turns this up a notch with loads more encounters and features, such as being able to make up your own spell, learning more about the nobles of Khare, giving twists to harmless encounters in the first book (such as the scholar), being able to go back in time if you fail, Swindlestones (an addictive little subgame), getting to know Vik a bit more, being able to switch gods (and I get the impression that it won't lead to sudden death in book 4), and having an epic end where you have to fight off an invasion single handed.  There is loads more freedom in this game where you get an impression of being in a living, breathing place.  Once again, all the old scenes from the original are there, sometimes with a twist, and not just because there are no random elements (apart from Swindlestones).

Inkle have done a great job with their programming - one feature involves instead of having discrete sections for each occurrence, there are different fragments of section which are put together when relevant.  For example, if you have the enchanted compass, and you are near one of the bearers of the North Gate spell lines, you get a paragraph telling you that it is pointing in a certain direction.  This allows greater freedom in the game and allows several encounters to be different depending on your past actions. I will be doing a more in depth review at a later point (probably in Fighting Fantazine), but for the moment, download it yourself.  And if you haven't already, download the first one, so that you can play Sorcery! 2 with more money and items (you won't regret it, even if it's just so you can buy an awesome sword for 40 gold pieces.  With this sword, combat becomes a LOT easier).

So in summary, here is your reading list for the week:

Windhammer 2013 entries.

Ludus ex Libris.

Fighting For Your Fantasy.

Fighting Fantazine 12.

Sorcery! 1

Sorcery! 2

Plenty to keep you amused and to guarantee happy gamebooking!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lindenbaum Memory Palace analysis

Good day to you all, gamebookers!  All is good in the gamebook world today.  Way of the Tiger got $45000 in their Kickstarter, which means that they just snuck in one final stretch goal at the last minute - the Music of Orb, 8 soundtracks inspired by the Way of the Tiger gamebooks, one for each book.  And if you can't get enough of martial arts themed gamebooks, there is another one to fund:  book 2 of the Shinte Warrior series.  Just $20 will get you a pdf of the book.

This positive Kickstarter has, once again, piqued the interest of Dave Morris, who is interested in doing a kickstarter, but reminds us that a Kickstarter for Fabled Lands would require a lot more money than $45000 and would probably cost a lot to pledge for a book, but, as the Way of Tiger Kickstarter has proved, there are plenty of people who are willing to pay $375 for the complete set of 8 books.

I would also like to say how impressed I am with how the Kickstarter was organised and run.  I have read Kicking It by Monte Cook and Shanna Germain (both Kickstarter veterans) and WOTT did a lot of the things mentioned in the book. There were clear stretch goals, tons of updates and lots of links to people who mentioned them (thanks, guys!).  I also think releasing the test version way before the kickstarter started was a great way to get publicity and feedback.  By the beginning of the campaign, the rewards were what the people wanted.  Also, it gave a lot of time for people to make up their minds about what they wanted, which lead to them getting $11000 in the first 24 hours.  Nice work, guys.

Also, the votes for the Windhammer votes are in, but the results will not be known until November 7th.  I'll be talking about other entries, but for now, I have a video about my analysis of my book, the Lindenbaum Memory Palace.

Here it is.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ninja! (Way of the Tiger book 0) review

Hello, gamebookers!  I'm excited to be giving you this weeks blog post, because my good friend David Walters has given me a sneak peak of Ninja!, the new Way of the Tiger prequel.  As we all know, there is a Kickstarter going on to bring Way of the Tiger back.  The Kickstarter is on almost $32000 and it reached its target within 24 hours of being launched; however, there are plenty of great stretch goals in $5000 increments and there are 6 days left (at time of publishing) to make your pledge.  I for one would like to hit the $50000 stretch goal where the series gets keywords.  That would tighten up the gameplay here, but that's just me.  You want to hear what Ninja! is about, don't you.

Ninja! is definitely an excellent addition to the series and it's not just because the title is a noun with an exclamation point after it, like all of the other books.  The prequel fits in very well.

Here is the story:  the events of this book take place before the scrolls have been stolen after the scrolls have been stolen, but before you set out to get them back.  You and four other Kwon worshipers (a mixture of monks and ninjas) go to the Island of Plenty in order to complete a series of tests and become a grand master.  These tests involve infiltrating certain buildings and stealing flags.  You have to do this twice.  This is not particularly difficult in itself - the trick is competing against your fellow students.

However, as it turns out, this will be no simple contest.  As soon as you land, it turns out that the place where the first flag is held has been taken over by ronin.  I don't want to spoil the rest of the book, but let's just say that it doesn't get any better for a heroes there - it gets a lot worse.  There is a mystery at the heart of the book - someone is trying to kill off all the Kwon worshippers and it is up to you and your four companions to find out who and stop them.

David has done a great job in tying this prequel into the rest of the series.  It is a difficult thing to do as there are six books worth of events that David can't tamper with by introducing a character too early.  However, he still manages to find some familiar faces, such as Gorobei and the Monks of the Scarlet Mantis.  The characters in your book are well written and thought out - upon learning of these attempts on your life, your character blames Yaemon, which is understandable, considering that he killed your step father.  There is also a difference in attitude between the monks and the ninjas which demonstrates their different approach.

David has also done fun stuff with the combat system.  The Way of the Tiger system is simple yet utilises a range of options that people might forget about.  There are combats where you need to use your inner strength to increase the damage you deal as you only have a certain number of rounds.  There is a combat where blocking is useful.  There are combats where you can use shuriken and poison needles and there is also a combat where you have to use nothing but throws.  David has really pushed the boundaries of the system.

So Ninja!  will make an awesome addition to the series.  And you can get it if you pledge on the Kickstarter.

$15 will get you the pdf of Ninja, but you could also get the beautiful hard back books that Megara is famous for.

Go on!  Have a pledge!  You know you want to!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Necklace of Skulls review

Necklace of Skulls is an excellent mold breaking gamebook from Dave Morris where your hero is in the Maya who sets out to avenge their twin brother after he went to Visit an evil wizard known as the Necklace
of Skulls.

The gamebook places you in a world deeply steeped in myth and magic - you can travel through the underworld, fight a hydra, meet a god and even become immortal (which in game terms, means that you can only die in a sudden death paragraph.  Life loss no longer means anything.  And this is not even a trap where you have to choose between this and winning.  You can become immortal AND win at the end too).

The gameplay depends on you choosing skills.  There are no random elements, so no dice to roll and no frustrating random deaths.  The skills are all balanced and skills that might not seems so powerful, such as etiquette, folklore and cunning are just as useful as the more powerful skills such as magic and swordplay.

As well as the fantastic encounters, you also get to explore the culture that you live in - for example, you could learn a sacred game which will come in very handy later on in the book.

The book culminates in visiting the city of Necklace of Skulls where you have to overcome various challenges before you see him.  Then you have to take part in the sacred game in order to get your brother back and destroy the Necklace of Skulls himself.

The game itself is challenging but the choices are logical. It also has several options and uses of skills that may not be the obvious ones to take, but Dave Morris has some good explanations as to why they work.

As with a lot of his gamebooks, Necklace of Skulls has the feel that you are living in a world of myth and
legend that you get to explore.  The gameplay is balanced and there are multiple paths through the book that, along with the skill choices, enhance the replayability of the book.  Buy this unique treasure among the world of gamebooks.

You can buy Necklace of Skulls as a paperback for £6.99 or as a Kindle ebook for £2.99.  Also, have a look at the other books available in the Critical IF series.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heart of Ice

Heart of Ice has recently been re-released as part of the Critical IF range for  Kindle and paperback.  I read the original version a few years ago.  Back then, I thought it was one of the best gamebooks ever, if not the best.  And now, Dave Morris has made it even better.

It's a big statement, but now I'm going to back it up.

So what's going on?  In the far future, the Earth's climate has been destroyed by a computer program known as Gaia, which has been infected with a virus that has driven it haywire.  Most of the planet is covered in arctic waste, apart from the bits that are covered in hostile jungle.  Humanity will probably be extinct in a century's time, so the rich live lives of hedonism and decadence while the rest of humanity struggle to survive.

One day, you hear Gaia talk to you through a TV screen where she tells you of the Heart of the Volent, which will grant ultimate power to whoever takes it, and so starts your quest to find it.

The writing does an excellent job of communicating the bleakness and hopelessness of the world you live in and you can get to see lots of it.  Dave Morris describes everything vividly from arctic wasteland to hot jungle to crazed mutants.  You really get the feel that you are in a hostile world.

On the game side, there is no randomness, and so no frustrating deaths from die rolls.  There is also plenty of variety as you can take several routes to reach your goal and also choose 4 skills from a list of 10 which will depend on which situations you should deal with.

The structure of the adventure is one of the things that makes it so special.  Your journey allows you to really explore the world you live in.  As you do, you find other people after the Heart of the Volent and get to either interact with them or learn about them.  The characters in this story are all interconnected and they all have their own special MO which makes them all formidable characters in their own right.  Meeting with them allows you to learn about them or make some friends or enemies which may become important later.

You may also get to talk to Gaia more or learn more about the Heart of the Volent.  It turns out that this powerful artefact is not all that it seems to be and Gaia has a reason for sending you to look for it.

Eventually, you will fin the temple where the heart is located and find many other people there looking for it, some of whom you may have met on your way here.  This is where things really start to hot up - you can form alliances with certain characters when you go to explore the dangerous temple, but these alliances might break as soon as your perceived use may be over.  You don't know who to trust in this game, but you will still need the help of others to reach the Heart of the Volent.

Eventually, you might find it and this leads to one of the other wonderful things about this gamebook - it
presents a situation where you really have to decide what you think is best.  There are several endings and different people will have different opinions on what they will think the best ending is.  None of the endings involve you saving the world and giving humanity a lasting peace and happiness, but it is up to you to choose what you think is the best ending.  In a format where your choice for endings rests between 'you win' and 'you die', this gives the book a sense of gravitas that most gamebooks do not have.

The writing does an excellent job of communicating the bleakness and hopelessness of the world you live in and you can get to see lots of it.

On the game side, there is no randomness, and so no frustrating deaths from die rolls.  There is also plenty of variety as you can take several routes to reach your goal and also choose 4 skills from a list of 10 which will depend on which situations you should deal with.

So Heart of Ice is a fantastic gamebook - one of the best, if not the best gamebook out there.  It has a real sense of story with deep, well thought out characters, an immersive setting and several great endings, where you decide which one is the best.  Buy it immediately!

Heart of Ice is available for £1.96 on Kindle and £5.87 in paperback form.  And if you love that, why not have a look at the other gamebooks in the Critical IF range.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gamebook fun!

Good day to you all gamebookers! 2013 is proving to be a gamebooktastic year and here are some of the
treats that you can enjoy this October.

Fighting Fantazine issue 12! The latest issue of Fighting Fantazine is out!  Take a look at its great Sci fi adventure, read an interview with Robin Waterfield and take a look at all the latest news and reviews amongst other goodies.  Also, be sure to read all of the reviews as there are instructions to get a free pdf gamebook somewhere in them.

Windhammer competition!   There are 14 entries for this year's Winhammer competition.  Read them and vote for 3 of them.  Voting is open until 31st October.

Way of the Tiger!  In case you haven't heard, Megara Entertainment will be bringing back this classic gamebook series.  It has already raised $21676 which means that it has hit its target and also the stretch goal that the new book 7, Redeemer! will be fully illustrated.  Also, we have the treat of a prequel book, Ninja!, written by ninja maestro, David Walters.  There are many more stretch goals so head on over to the Kickstarter page and make your pledge.  It is well worth it to have these fantastic gamebooks with the added gorgeous touch that Megara gives.

Join us for Sunday, when I release a review of what I think is one of the best gamebooks of all time, if not the best.  I have mentioned it before, but on Sunday, I will go into why I think this is the case.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Turning Titan characters into magic the gathering cards

I've found an online Magic the Gathering card creator and with it, I will make Magic the Gathering cards of six famous Titan wizards - the Star Pupils and the Demonic Three.

The Healer

This character's card has pretty obvious abilities.  As a healer, it prevents damage.  He can also remove diseases in the form of -1/-1 counters.  However, his disease prevents him from actively taking part in combat.


The old wizard has a few tricks up his sleeve.  As we know from Forest of Doom, he can turn you into a frog.  He also creates small magical trinkets to sell to adventurers to help them in their quests or he may teach them spells.  This is represented by his +1/+1 counter ability.


Nicodemus does not like to be bothered which is why he goes away if you do not pay his upkeep cost and why he has shroud.  Nicodemus is a retired badass wizard who now hands out helpful (usually) advice to adventurers now which is why you can draw two extra cards at the beginning of your draw step but then you have to discard one as sometimes he gets things wrong.

Balthus Dire

Using my conversion table, Balthus should have a power of 4 and a toughness of 6.  Balthus makes tokens as he is rasing an army to invade the Vale of the Willow.  His collection of dangerous spells is represented by his damage ability.


The Warlock of Firetop Mountain can come back to life if he is killed as long as he has body parts to bring him back.  He is also able to gain control of many creatures and command them to guard his mountain or conquer Allansia.

Zharradon Marr

Marr's experiments in Marrangha where he uses the parts of captured creatures in an attempt to create the ultimate weapon.  This is why he can destroy creatures.  Also, if he puts more effort into his magic, he can create better beasts.

What other characters could we make into Magic cards?