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!