Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ten mooks you will come across in gamebooks

A mook and an elite mook.
The life of an adventurer is a dangerous one.  When you are sent on a quest to slay an evil lord or you want to infiltrate a sorcerer's dungeon to steal their treasure or if you are just travelling the countryside, you are likely to come across a whole variety of dangerous creatures.  These adversaries pose a physical threat and may even be extremely skilled and tough but they don't have many tricks up their sleeves beyond a straightforward assault and maybe an ambush.  These creatures are known as mooks and it seems that every self respecting villain has employed a horde of them.  Most of the time, you should be able to defeat them without trouble unless they appear in large numbers or you have been
weakened or if you face a more powerful mook.

Here are ten common mooks that you would encounter in most fantasy settings.


Goblins and their bigger versions, orcs generally infest a lot of Titan and they are usually enslaved into service by some evil sorcerer.  They are not very bright and alert and you can probably sneak past them or scare them away.  A single goblin should be no threat to anyone with even basic combat training.  The danger is being attacked by a horde of goblins.


Giants, along with trolls and ogres are an elite mook version of goblins.  Some of them may not want to kill you - merely intimidate you into handing over your money.  Some of them may prefer a wrestling contest, but most of them will prefer to bash your brains in.  If you are unlucky, you may come across an ogre with enough intelligence to really capitalise on all of that corruption and malice inside of it.  Fortunately, most of them just want to kill and eat you.

In times of war, many people are conscripted into the army.  You may be lucky and be facing some conscripted peasant with a makeshift spear or you may be facing a disciplined and trained fighter.  Soldiers are their most dangerous when they are highly trained and disciplined and are directed by an intelligent and daring commander.  Feoir manages to raise a powerful army backed up by a crazy dragon which requires you to pull all of the disparate threads of the Isles of the Dawn together at the last minute.  It is only through your own cunning tactics that you win.


On of the staple undead soldiers for necromancers, zombies are shambling rotting corpses that you can easily outrun.  They are most dangerous when they are in a large group and they all start shuffling towards you, arms outstretched, moaning for your brain.  If this is happening, you need to make sure that you have an escape route.

Small animals
These creatures include rats, insects, wolves and bears.  These creatures are generally not in the service of some evil lord - they just want some dinner.  You can probably keep them at bay with fire or if you wound them enough.  Most animals will not fight to the death.  Be careful when outdoors.  They could strike at any time in the wilds.

Large animals
The elite mook version of your bog standard animal, these creatures are extremely strong, quick and have great senses in order to track you down and eat you.  They may have tough hides and sharp teeth.


Most normal plants will do nothing other than provide a physical barrier to your path when you are outdoors. You may also be unlucky enough to get poisoned if you eat or come into contact with a part of a plant but that is rarely going to be fatal.  Some plants, however, can grab you with tendrils and squeeze the life out of you or release deadly poison.  There are also plants with sentience out there, who will get very angry if you are destroying their habitat.


Elves are intelligent combatants who may have magic to back them up.  In some worlds, they may be on the side of good, but in some worlds, they may just want to be left alone and they may let you know that with a few well placed arrows.  Don't be fooled if they don't hit you the first time.  They were a warning.  The next ones definitely will.  Their dark versions will be deadly to all intruders.

Faerie folk

Be careful if you come across these vicious and capricious creatures.  They do not prefer a full frontal assault but may sneak into your camp and steal your treasures, lead you through dangerous marshes, ambush you and inflict some pain upon you before vanishing into the undergrowth or just disrupting your magic.  These creatures are highly unpredictable and if you come across them, you should run a mile.

Constructs/animated objects

These creatures involve golems or normal objects that can fly around and buffet you.  They generally have low intelligence and their main tasks are guard duty.  These constructs may have an element of surprise if they are just normal objects that can fly or of they are disguised as statues or suits of armour.  Be careful.  Depending on their material, constructs may be impervious to certain types of weapons or to magic.

If you are an adventurer, good luck when you face these monsters.  You probably will face all of them at some point.  And if you are an evil sorcerer, good luck in stocking up on your mooks.  However, don't forget to have some more dangerous challenges for all of those pesky adventurers out there.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What do you want in a gamebook review?

Hello, gamebookers.  I hope you are well.  Since it was Valentine's day a couple of days ago, I thought that I might show you some love by producing another blog post.

Actually, I would like to ask you something.  I'm writing quite a few news articles and reviews for Fighting Fantazine, and what I want to make sure that I do is transmit all the information that you find pertinent in those articles, and give you a very good idea about whether you want to buy something or not.  And for that reason, I want to know from you that I am doing so, and how I can improve.  So here are a few points:


Is this a big thing for you in a gamebook?  Do you care if it is either very linear, or that there is only one narrow path?  Is being able to take a very different path subsequent times whilst still being able to achieve victory important to you?

The game system

How much randomness does the system depend on?  Do you want to know how much combat there will be in the gamebook?  Do you want to know how much die rolling there is?  do you want to know how complex the system is?  If the gamebook is in app form and it does all the calculations for you, do you care if the system is complex and requires lots of die rolling?

Story complexity

Is the dungeon crawl the ends with a showdown with an evil sorcerer so 80s and does not have a place in the 21st century?  Do you want to know if you will be hacking up monsters or interacting with NPCs more?  Do you care how complex the story is?  Will you shy away from a dungeon crawl, or a book with a complex plot?


What do you want to know about it?  Do you want me to give you a style?  How would you categorise styles?  Do you want to know how purple or beige the prose are?  Are there aspects of the writing that would put you off a book?  Are there things that you do not like about a gamebook that you would forgive if you liked the writing?

The facts

What else would you like to know besides cost, author(s), illustrator(s), supplier, shipping costs, format (electronic or physcial), date of release (if it has not already been released)?  Do you care if it was crowdfunded  Do you want to know if there are illustrations, and, if so, colour or black and white?  Is there anything that would put you off/turn you on?


What would you like to know about the illustrations?  What words would you use to describe the illustrations that you love/hate.  How much doe illustrations contribute to your gamebook experience?


Which sins would you forgive in a gamebook, and why?

Playthrough or overview?

Would you like me to describe a playthrough?  If so, how much?  Or would you like me to just give an overview?

Favourite reviewers?

Have a look at some of the websites on the Gamebook Feed.  A lot of people review gamebooks.  Which ones would you like best?

Anything else?

As this is an impromtu blog post, I've probably missed something.  Please tell me what it is.

Personally, I like a gamebook with lots to explore on subsequent playthroughs, more than just a dungeon crawl, a system that is not too complex, combat that involves choice, I have no preference on what style of writing it is, and I could take or leave illustrations.  However, I cannot base my reviews on personal preference, and I would really like to know what you want.

Four seemingly stupid decisions that you can make in gamebooks with surprisingly good results

One of the reasons that some gamebooks are frustratingly hard is that some of the choices you make seem very arbitrary and fly in the face of common sense or even what the gamebook rewards you for.  Here are four seemingly stupid choices that actually have positive results.

Not taking the bow and silver arrows in Khare - Cityport of Traps.

You need a silver weapon to kill the deathwraith and you can buy a bow with silver arrows from the market.  However, this gives you a difficult combat.  As well as having to kill a skill 9 stamina 8 opponent (which you need to because it knows one of the lines to the spell to open the north gate), every time you win an attack round, you have to roll under your skill on two dice to hit it and you only have ten arrows to use.  If your skill is 8 or less, you don't stand much of a chance, so I suggest not buying the bow and calling upon Libra for this situation. 

Not taking the hammer in Caverns of the Snow Witch (but taking the spear)

You find both the hammer and the spear while you are hunting the yeti and are told that you must take both.  The trouble is with that is that if you don't have a spear, then the yeti is a skill 11 stamina 12 opponent.  If you do, it becomes a skill 10 stamina 9 opponent.  

That's good so far.  

However later, you come across a crystal warrior (skill 11 stamina 13) which you must fight if you have a hammer.  If you don't, you are able to get around it if you have a genie friend that makes you invisible.  

So if you take both the hammer and the spear, you have to fight a skill 11 opponent no matter what.  If you take neither, that is also true.  But if you just take the spear, then you win.  However, you still have to fight a skill 12 stamina 14 white dragon.

Killing the man who makes bone rings in Crypt of the Sorcerer

There are very few non hostile people in Crypt of the Sorcerer.  One is a man who offers to give you a ring which repels werewolves.  Very useful.  However, unless you want to fight a Gargantis - a skill 12 stamina 24 opponent, you have to kill him.  Even though you take a luck penalty.  It's because he has a skull ring which raises skeletons from the ground but also uncovers half of a magic rod of paralysis which can be used against the gargantis.  

Trying to throw a curtain on Balthus Dire's head

Let's be honest, if you were facing a powerful sorcerer with a skill of 12 and a stamina of 19, even if you had used up all of your spells, throwing a curtain over his head would not be the first thing that springs to mind.  You would probably be thinking about breaking into his weapons cupboard or trying to steal his magical ring, but strangely enough, that would not be the most effective way to kill Balthus Dire because when you pull the curtain down, you expose the sorcerer to sunlight, which turns out to be lethal for him.  So Balthus Dire is vulnerable to sunlight and lives in a room with a window and you think it is a good idea to throw a curtain on his head.  I don't think it would be appropriate to say that you are the smarter of the two here.  I think it's better to say that you are the less dumb out of the two of you.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to prevent huge equipment lists

I've played the Sorcery! series in full and loved it.  However, by the end of it, my equipment list was huge and I was finding it difficult to fit it into the box and find stuff I was asked about.  While items are cool, you don't want to be carrying round huge piles of junk in your backpack.  Here are some ideas to reduce huge equipment lists.

Have a some items that you keep track of - provisions, money, arrows are all items that you can get more of, so instead of giving out some different item, you could hand out gold, food or ammo.  There are other items that you can keep track of as long as you state their use in the intro.  For example, you could have healing potions that restore 1 skill and 6 stamina points and have several vials of those lying around.  Other such items include black cubes from Daggers of Darkness, spell gems from Scorpion Swamp, and magic rings from Legend of Zagor.

Get rid of unnecessary items:  Have a gem worth 10gp?  Why not just have 10gp?  OR if you really want gems because gems are cool say 'You find 10gp worth of gems.  Add them to your money.'.  What about some healing herbs that restore 4 stamina points?  Why not have another provision.  Streamline the equipment you can get without reducing the flavour too much.

Have codewords to track events rather than items - some items such as Banedon's crystal star pendant from Lone Wolf 1 are only given to you to indicate that you have performed a certain action.  It is done so that there is no ambiguity about whether you have done something or not.  However, in later Lone Wolf books, you are asked if you have the crystal star pendant, not because it has any use, but because if you do, you get to speak to your new friend Banedon.  However, if you lose it or leave it behind, then it seems to negate your friendship which doesn't work.  I know why items are used.  They are to prevent ambiguity.  Say the book asks you if you are friends with Banedon.  You might think that you may have met him back in book 1 but you don't know if you are friends.  You may think that you missed a previous encounter with Banedon where you become friends so you don't know whether you are or not.  The crystal pendant makes it clear.  However, instead, you could use a codeword - it keeps track of what you've done and you cannot lose it.  Sure you are putting a word in a box, but it is a different box so it will be less cluttered.

Have an inventory limit - stops clutter, is more realistic and it can open up some interesting game choices.  How realistic you want to be is up to you.  Lone Wolf has a good balance between realism and simplicity.  Or you could just have a 5 item limit or a 10 item limit or whatever.

Make most of the items consumable - if they are a magic item, you lose it after you use it, for example a potion or a one use scroll.  To make sure that people don't hang onto it, you could make it so that you have to use the item at a certain point.

Have the character lose some/all of their items -  burglary, robbery, letting them go to prevent drowning - there are many ways you can deprive a player of their items.  Use sparingly as it may annoy players if done too much.

Make sure items have several uses:  For example, the pocket myriad from Citadel of Chaos can get you out of several scrapes as can the ring of fire from City of Thieves.

I'm going on an epic quest
and all you give me is two
meals and some advice?
Make sure items are cool:  Increase the quality and you won't need the quantity.

Have fewer red herrings:  Red herrings can be cool if you make players work for them.  They are just annoying if they are a 1gp item on a shop list.  Get rid of them.

Have shops in places where you know that the player can't afford everything:  I love shops because it opens up choices but having shops where you can buy everything is no fun.  Limit the player's spending power and they have more choices and shorter equipment lists.

Have items that are smaller parts of a larger item:  Collect the components for a magic item and you can turn several mundane objects into one good one.

Make people tightwads:  Don't just give the hero stuff.  This is one area where Sorcery!  got it right.  You didn't even start with the spell components for you spells.  Not even easy stuff like sand and pebbles.  Now that's mean.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My system - overview and magic system

Hi all!

A couple of weeks ago, I presented a system that I will want to use in a gamebook at some point.  I am now up to version 8, so give me some feedback on how you think it will work.

I also wanted to create some guidelines on how to write adventures for this system, so I first started with the magic system.  However, it is less of a system and more of a way how I want magic to work.  The rule is basically this:  magic can do almost anything as long as it creates a better and more interesting story.

This is a magic system for a world that I have created.  This world is human centric with a few other none human races called the Fey.  The Fey are typical faeries or elves in appearance, who live in remote areas (not necessarily forests), who have blue and orange morality, so encounters with them could be beneficial or baneful, but they are never predictable.

There are also spirits, which are non-corporeal beings.  They may or may not be spirits of the dead.  These spirits have limited powers, but can help the players.

There are also gods in this world, but they are not omnipotent, omnipresent or omniscient.  Gods are beings that have better characteristics than mortals.  There are some skills that gods are so good at that they are regularly much better than even the best mortal (in game terms, they roll 3 dice for that skill and count all 3).  However, this might not be the case for all of their skills.  They are also capable of some magical powers at will, but these will be limited and only appropriate to that god's personality (so a god of healing can cure wounds and disease and occasionally resurrect someone).  Gods can create magical artefacts that can bestow their powers upon individuals or they can bless certain areas so that their powers are stronger there, but they cannot do absolutely anything.

I have decided that there is some kind of cataclysm in this world every few thousand years, where technology levels could range from stone age to renaissance.  This leads to a wide variety of technology and also leads to various sites where there are lost artefacts or ancient knowledge lying around, which can lead to lots of adventures.

There are will abilities in this world, but they are not true magic - they are an individual's limited ability to influence the world around them.  However, this is subtle, and the use of a will ability could be put down to anything like luck, intuition or training.

However, there is true magic in this world and it can do almost anything, as long as it takes several minutes to cast, and may require lots of adventures to get the required knowledge and/or items for the spell.  This means that there are no combat spells in this world.  Most magic is also subtle, such as magic for divination, protection from diseases, magic that helps crops grow, or magic that curses someone.

Magic items exist.  Items that mortals make require a lot of adventures to get the required materials, and when they are done, they have one primary use which is very specific (such as slay a named god, cure a certain disease or protect a named area from earthquakes) and then one minor general use, so that the magical item does not become useless after you have used it.

Gods make magical items so that their powers can be bestowed to mortals, or they have magical items that reflect their personalities.

That is the outline of the world. The main rule of magic is that magic should be used to advence a story and not as a tool for players - magic items should be the object of an adventure, or a spell may weaken a god so that it can be slain, but then the player still needs to go to slay them.  Magic should never be a deus ex machina.  Also, players should never have too much magic.  They should have one mortal artefact at most (which should be introduced to solve one specific problem and then kept as a memento.  It may not even have any other function after that, apart from to increase the prestige of the owner).

In future posts, I'm going to give some information on possible adventures in the world and also come up with a name for it.  I might also do a version of this system for the more standard dungeon crawl fantasy (with more combat and actual spells).

So have a look at the magic system and leave your comments.