Thursday, April 30, 2015

One last thing...

Hello all!

Thanks for joining me for the April A to Z! I hope you had an enriching experience and have learnt a lot about gamebooks. Maybe you might even want to write one.

I just wanted to leave you with my current project - Legend of the Wayfarer - a gamebook series where you eplore a world and undergo mini quests. My aim was to make one gamebook a month to release (for FREE!). A tthe moment, I've missed the last couple of months, as I have loads on at work. As a teacher, I my workload fluctuates between nothing and everything, and, with exams coming up, I am currently in the everything stage.

In the summer hols, I will make a stockpile to save up for busy times, but I just need to get back into the habit of writing, even if it is only 1 section a day.

Anyway, you can get the rules and the first 5 books for FREE! from my Lulu page.

And if you love it so much, you want to throw money at me, you can support me on my Patreon page.

And read Fighting Fantazine! It's the Z post, but I thought I'd mention it again. It's also FREEEEE!

I've enjoyed the April A to Z and reading other blogs. I hope you've enjoyed mine and you will swing back later.

Happy gamebooking!

April A to Z - Z is for Zines. An interview with Alexander Ballingall, editor at Fighting Fantazine

Hello all! Last day of the 2015 April A to Z challenge and we have someone who I love to have on easy way to get Z in either.
the blog, and not just because he gives me an

Here we have Alexander Ballingall, the editor behind the excellent Fighting Fantazine. Which is also free! Go and check it out after reading this interview.

How has Fighting Fantazine evolved in the past year?

In small ways. I had originally seen involving other gamebook ranges as a sudden throwing open of doors, but it has been a much quieter process than that. An article here, an adventure there. I’d love to see more, but that contributions haven’t exactly been flooding in. :)

How can people contribute to Fighting Fantazine?

Article, both humorous and serious about gamebook. Either from an in-world perspective (like the “Rogues’ Guide to Blacksand”) or real-world (looking an the history of thematic material etc. of gamebooks (both series-wide and individual titles)).

What would you like to see more of in the gamebook world?

Interesting, well-written gamebooks. Maybe a more generic, less-FF only gamebook conventions (preferably within easy reach of NZ!).

Fighting Fantazine has just printed a Lone Wolf adventure. Are there any other ways that it will branch out?

Well, in terms of adventures we have permission to use the rule sets of Tunnels and Trolls and Gamebook Adventures. No one has submitted a adventure proposal for either rules yet.

Are there any future developments that you can let us in on?

Nothing ground-breaking any time soon. I’m looking to refresh the interior layout before the end of the year (probably with issue #16) and the website needs more work on it. I’d also like to print some more issues, but that depends entirely on more people buying the copies already available!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April A to Z - Y is for Yet more gamebook goodness from Yuliya and Chris from Adventure Cow

Hello all! We have Yuliya from the Adventure Cow project, a team that has been working on helping people make interactive stories and has also been making the Destiny Quest app, DestinyQuest Infinite.

Here she is...

How is the Adventure Cow project going?It's going pretty well overall. We're on track to release the last and biggest act of DestinyQuest Infinite soon. Our build-your-own story software, StoryLab, just came out this month so everyone will be able to make their own gamebooks in it. (more here (

Did you change anything of the original DestinyQuest for the app?
For the most part, I wanted to keep the rules as is, since they were the most tested set. All the dice rules are the same; what we did was mainly making the app take care of all the housekeeping, and adding new pictures, descriptions, etc.
I've had suggestions from people who want to create version with modified rules, or create their own...I'd be interested in talking more about that (hint). Inline image 1

DestinyQuest is a series of different encounters. What is the process of turning an encounter into an app?
We're at the point where a basic Choose Your Own Adventure style chapter is really easy to make - you just write it out and add the links between pages. Most of the work is in adding special abilities, which also gets easier with each one we do.
I'm really excited to share the process of how we made it - I'm hoping to put out some tutorials and more detailed videos soon.

What was your favourite part about turning DestinyQuest into an app?
Hard to say - there's a point where, as a maker, everything clicks and suddenly it goes from a series of coding experiments to a game that I can just give to anyone, even if I don't know them, and they can have fun playing it. That's pretty satisfying.

Act 2 is currently out. When does Act 3 come out?
I don't know for sure yet. But if you take when Act 2 came out and subtract it from the official launch, presumably that would give you some idea of when it might come out. Inline image 2

April A to Z - Y is for Yet more stuff from Graham Bottley - Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Hello all! Today, we have Graham Bottley, writer of many games and also star of Gogglebox. He has been a busy boy and we talk Advanced Fighting Fantasy, Maelstrom and more...

How is the Salamonis book going?

The Salamonis book is being written, and is mostly planned.  I will be really cracking on with this over the next month or two.  Steve Luxton has already been producing some fantastic maps, and the successful Trolltooth Wars graphic novel kickstarter will also help as they have already produced some images of Salamonis!

Steve Luxton is making some awesome maps for Fighting Fantasy. What do you intend to do with them?

Steve has indeed been creating some cracking stuff.  One idea we did have was a glossy map book with maps and various commentaries.  Maybe even a pack of colour maps in a poster tube?  All What are your future plans for Advanced Fighting Fantasy?suggestions gratefully accepted!

 What are your future plans for Advanced Fighting Fantasy?

There are two more AFF books half written (one gamebook adventure conversion and one supplement) but at the moment I can't say much more unfortunately..

You have managed to run several successful crowdfunding campaigns. Do you have any tips for being successful at crowdfunding?

Kickstarter is great.  It provides some funding up front, proves that there is some demand for the game and also provides a core of invested fans who are keen to proofread and otherwise help produce and promote the game.  My biggest bit of advice would be to be very modest in your initial goal.  Set the target amount as low as possible and aim for a basic product.  If there is loads of interest and the total rockets up, add content/colour/images as stretch goals.

What are your plans for future books?

I have lots and lots of books planned, both for existing lines and new ones!

 You came up with a game for children called Witch. Where did your inspiration come from?

"Tales of the Village", a game about a newly qualified witch, was heavily inspired by the Tiffany Aching books by the late, great Terry Pratchett.  My daughter loved the books (Crivens!) and so I wrote the game to play with her.  I was very happy with it, got some incredible art done, and published it.
I have another one half written focussing on a young Knight, and a few more planned.  The idea will be that they can all be used together.

 Sorcerers of Ur Turuk will be out soon. What was your inspiration for it?

Sorcerers arose from my desire to play Ars Magica (in a S&S setting) but knowing that the chances of getting my group to play such an involved game are close to zero.  I know and love the D6 system, which seemed a good fit for a S&S game, so sat down to write.  The KS hit the final stretch goal, and so the setting book will be written next and the pdf sent free to all of the KS backers.  Hopefully there will be more after that.

You have extended the original Maelstrom, created Maelstrom Fantasy and also Maelstrom Domesday. Do you have other plans for Maelstrom? Do you plan on releasing it in another time/genre?

I was at Conpulsion last weekend in Edinburgh, and when I wasn't guest starring on a panel (!) I was discussing Maelstrom Space with the main author.  It will be a fairly gritty hard scifi, but all tied into the phenomena of the Maelstrom.  We bandied ideas around for a Roman or WWII version!

Do you have any other plans?

Lots and lots of plans.  Probably far too many for me to actually write though!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April A to Z - X is for eXtra stuff from Andrew Drage

Hello lovely gamebookers! Today, we have Andrew Drage, writer, gamebook creator and editor and all round genius who is going to talk about his latest creations. You can read Andrew's blog here.
Q: What are you working on right now (both gamebook and non gamebook related)?

A: You've probably noticed I've been quiet of late on creative/social media fronts... That's mainly been because I've been busy (and a bit overwhelmed) with the "day job" that's often taken up days, nights and weekends, until recently anyway... Then I've just been taking a break from promotion etc. Sometimes you need to do this (we're all in this cos we want to be and it's fun right?) but as I think any creative person will understand, you never really stop being creative (it's something you're compelled to do), it just finds expression in different ways... Lately a lot of my creative energies have gone towards the running of an "old school" Greyhawk D&D campaign, which I'm enjoying very much. I say "old school" since I'm using the rule set I'm most familiar with - second edition (with the Player's Options added in for "something different"). If I was new to the game, fifth edition does indeed look like a good rule set to play with, but for me I can't be bothered learning a new set of rules (and besides the rules matter far less than the story and roleplaying anyway)... Furthermore I've got boxes and boxes full of first and second ed material haha.

Having said all that, I am working on a couple of different gamebook-related projects at the moment (I'll decline to say anything about those just yet) and still in the process of finishing "The Calling" - which is the musical prequel to my horror novel "The Dark Horde" (see here:  -Was planning to have this finished of course by now, but sometimes real life can cause delays, and ultimately it's better to have something as good as you can make it, than rushed out to meet some arbitrary deadline :)

Q: You have some really in depth analysis of Windhammer entries. Is there anything that has cropped up that people definitely should not do?

A: Yes and I've still got half of last year's entries to get through before I can post my latest reviews... Sorry about that! But to answer your question, and of course this is all just my (somewhat informed) opinion, I would sum up what writers shouldn't do as simply "do not break the contract that they have with the reader". What I mean by that, is that by getting the reader to commit to the reading/playing the writer's story, they have made a "contract" with them that implies that (a) the reader will be able to follow the story, (b) that sufficient care/effort has been taken to merit the reader taking the time to invest in and experience the story and (c) that the reader will be treated fairly and has a "plausible" chance of being able to complete the story if they "play fairly". Anything that violates these implied principles (whether that be because of broken/unclear links in the story, poor writing quality, bad game balance or near-impossible odds), I would argue is to break this writer-reader "contract". Most other things are more down to personal preference I guess, but I did cover such a list in more detail on my blog here:

Q: What about something people definitely should do?

A: Hmm I'd suggest that's both harder and easier to identify. Harder because I think that there really isn't a "magic rule" to follow of what you should do, and easier because the only "magic rule" to follow is that there really isn't one haha. As I recall I've said in previous interview with you (and a point I've made numerous times elsewhere), regardless of how good or bad anything you release is, or how you go about executing it, there'll be some that love it, some that hate it and some that have a reaction somewhere between those two extremes. Yes the degree to which you'll get positive reactions over negative ones will vary depending on how "good" the work is, and your publicity, but ultimately it's important to understand that you'll never please everyone (I don't believe there's ever been a creative work of anything in the history of humanity that "everyone did or would like", nor ever will be). Which to me means that you only really need to please one person - yourself - and anything beyond that is a nice bonus haha. Okay sure, you do want to build and keep your audience, but ultimately you should be creating the work that you want to create in the way that you want. This can mean "following established conventions", but equally it can mean taking risks and trying something completely different from what you and/or others have tried before (which is certainly my preference). There is no "failing" as such, there is only the "failure to try".  

Q: You have written some in depth posts about turn based games. What do you look for in a good turn based game?

A: Yes and that's another blog post series I've yet to finish! But anyway, yes it is quite clear to me what I do look for in such a genre (something which is even more apparent once you know what are my personal all-time favourites, but I'll keep you in suspense as to what those are for now!) and that is as follows:
  1. Familiarity. Not an essential thing by any means, but the one thing my top three turn based games all share is that they're based on games that now at least twenty years old and were games that I was already intimately familiar with. Playing a game based on a world you already know and love, with rules you already knew is like reuniting with an old friend where it seems like it was only yesterday rather than years ago when you last caught up - you just seem to pick up from the last time you left off without any effort, and the experience is much the same with such a game... Most games however, won't be able to take advantage of this however, but there's still plenty they can do to "be awesome".
  2. Modularity. Having a game with some epic story is great, but ultimately it's "one story" and that once you've finished it, you can only ever redo the "same story" (in different ways yes, but ultimately it's still the same story with probably the same conclusion). For me the truly awesome games, that can be replayed hundreds, even thousands of times over many decades, are those that exhibit a high degree of modularity - their elements can be changed and recombined to form an endless number of stories. It is the most modular of games that I continue to play decades after their original release...
  3. Other things I like in my turn-based games, in no particular order, are a decent AI (too often the "hard" mode isn't actually very hard and easy to anticipate and beat), only having as much text as is needed to follow the story, not having ridiculous amounts of inventory - most of which isn't actually used, and having variety in the enemies and scenarios that require different tactics.

Q: What other influences do you draw on to aid you with your writing and game design?

A: With writing, my influences are all things horror, fantasy and science, but I suppose heavy metal has its influences there too haha. With game design my influences are these same things, with the additional influences of my background in statistics, mathematical modelling and zoology. My greatest work (still at least a couple of years away from release), which fills about four drawers is the ultimate culmination of all of these things I think - hopefully one day soon I'll be able to talk more about that, but let's wait and see ey? :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

April A to Z - W is for Writing with Ashton Saylor

 Good day to you all! Today, we have Ashton Saylor, who, apart from writing lots of Windhammer gold, other wonderful gamebooks and a great series on how to write a gamebook. He's been a bit quiet recently, but that's because he's been hard at work.

Here he is...
What have you been doing since your last interview in 2012?

Thanks for asking. I wish I had more updates since then, but at the same time that my writing opportunities started to really take off, I also wound up facing some big changes in my own life, so it's been a slow couple years. I've had a complete career shift, into becoming a high school teacher, and the combination of grad school and new career have taken a lot of my time. That said, the dust is settling, and the last couple months have been some of the most productive in recent memory. At this point, I'm hoping to have one or two of my projects out by this summer.

Writing is a big part of your life. How did it begin?

I've always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a writer, but it took me a long time to get to the point where I was comfortable with actually writing. I read some terrible advice when I was younger, which was not to even try until you have a Master's degree. It was from one of my favorite authors, too, so that was really demoralizing. Anyway, by the time I started reaching late twenties, early thirties, I felt like I'd crossed some sort of invisible boundary, and was able to start writing in earnest. It's satisfying to see results coming my way.

How does writing affect your life?

It's a big investment for me; sometimes it feels like a second job. But at the same time, it's something I love and enjoy, so it's worth it. More than worth it. A lot of time I find myself framing my schedule in terms of, "where can I find time for writing?" I get really excited when a block of time becomes available. 
What do you think improves your writing?
Reading, definitely. Also roleplaying. I'm a big gamer, and sometimes expressing my ideas through roleplaying helps me realize them in writing, where it's a much more solo activity. Oh--the other thing that really helps my writing is to do it in passes, not all at once. I've worked out that I've got about four stages... first is the core idea, then outlining each plot/subplot and the overall flow, then working out specifically scene by scene what happens, and only then going back over one more time and doing the wordsmithing.

Is there anything that every writer should read/do?

Dream. Be inspired. Live life to the fullest. Get out there and enjoy yourself. Because it's that joy from shared experiences that's going to feed back into your private writing world and fuel your imagination.

What advice would you have to anyone who wants to write anything?

Do it. No fear. Writing comes out best when you are unafraid. Of course, it also benefits from an honest, critical appraisal, and balancing those two very different mental stances is the juggling act all writers go through.

Tell us about the evolution of the Dwarf King app.
I'm pretty excited about Dwarf King, or Dwarf Kingdom, as we've also been calling it. Michael and I have been working on this for years now. Progress is slow because we both have full professional lives and are also working on other projects with what creative time we have, but I think we're finally nearing the point where we'll be able to release Part 1. We've decided we're going to release it in parts, rather than all at once, which I think makes a lot of sense, both for business reasons, and because it gives us an immediate and achievable goal. I'm very excited about getting something ready for you guys come summer.

Tell us about the premise for the Good, the Bad and the Undead.
The Good, the Bad and the Undead was originally based on an idea by Jamie Thompson, about a traditional Western gunslinger type hero facing off against a bunch of zombie-like vampires. I like to describe it as Clint Eastwood meets Night of the Living Dead. Jamie ended up leaving the idea on the table as he moved on to higher priorities. I wound up coming on board to pick up the project, based on his original notes, and we've been collaborating since. It's taken a while, but I feel we're in the final legs of the project. We're planning a Kickstarter this summer to fund the costs of publishing, and by this time next year I hope to have it on my shelf.

What other projects have you got in the pipeline?

I've had to pick and choose which projects to prioritize as my free time slimmed down and my projects stacked up, and it's been tough. I have a lot of other ideas, many of which I've put substantial hours into. Some of these are just notes, others have been shelved in various states of partially-complete. It hurts me to see unfinished projects languishing, but if I'm going to get anything done, I need to pick my battles. For now, the two above are my priority. After that, we'll see what comes next.

April A to Z - W is for Marc Wilson

You managed to get the books funded on Kickstarter. What was using crowdfunding like?

For me it was a great opportunity to promote the book I was writing, and the ideas I had surrounding a fledgling series. It was pretty exciting, and waking up each day to find perfect strangers backing my project was personally very affirming. I was quite lucky to have it fully backed at an early stage, without the need to explicitly tap up friends and family. It’s not a fun run – you can’t badger people for money, otherwise the whole thing is just a fabrication built on quicksand. My parents didn’t back me. They don’t get it. It’s a truly an alien concept to most people. The phrase ‘Oh, I sponsored you’ is not one you want to hear.

I’m proud, and clearly insane, to say I didn’t make a penny of profit from the initial campaign. I’m in it for the long haul.

What advice would you offer to someone who is planning on using crowdfunding?

Don’t rush it. Publicizing the campaign and working on the product is mutually exclusive. I’m not terribly disciplined and used the date as my red line, which enabled me to tie up all the loose ends. Let’s say it was a tough month. Do your research on costs. Tier your rewards realistically – no one cares about what your time is worth. Use it for what it is – a platform, not a cash-cow. It’s a one-use-only teat, so don’t be greedy or think you’re going to grow fat off the proceeds. Give free stuff of low value; everyone likes bundles.

Will you do another campaign to fund more gamebooks?

I don’t really believe in going back for a second dollop of good will. If a project doesn’t stand on its own merits after the initial push, it’s probably because it’s not a good product, or that it betrays a lack of guile on behalf of the originator. I know some big companies use it to effectively guarantee pre sales for new products, and I don’t subscribe to this as an honest function.

Is there anything you would do differently if you did a second kickstarter?

I would probably do a bit more research about how to push people towards it. I was quite reliant on social media and forums, and often felt like a gatecrasher to other peoples parties which I’m not madly comfortable with. I would certainly have given a free copy to bloggers and influential figures within the products market. I would have written a press release and circulated it to the same. I regret not tying it in with other Kickstarts or having the patronage of a big name. Going solo is a hard task. It’ll always be easier when people are going into bat for you. I was going to get Brian Blessed to do the voice over. Couldn’t afford him.

Oh, and I’d also do proper research on postage costs to Australia, the US and Far East ;)

Can you give us a preview of the Lost Legion? Does it continue from the cliff hanger of book 1?

The Lost Legion is a standalone book, based in the same fantasy world as Restless Heart of Evil,though on a different continent – an immense and capricious jungle setting in which you are part of a search and recovery mission. It’s somewhat unique in the sense it can be played either as a solo adventure, or with you in command of a company of men. You don’t get to choose which – your decisions dictate the circumstances you find yourself. There are individual and group characteristics and different over-arching storylines. There are multiple dynamics running through it; trading, disease, curses, earthquakes, different protagonists fighting for various causes. It started off as a simple adventure and became something quite complex. Writing an adventure in a single setting is a challenge I hadn’t fully understood. So much more work is needed to keep pace.

The first 150 sections were written in one go over the space of three days and are quite heavy on narrative, so these are being revised to inject more immediacy into proceedings.

You have had some feedback about the system. Are you thinking of changing it?

Most of the feedback was complimentary towards the writing and characterisations, and hesitatingly critical about gameplay. I have to admit, this was a relief. Gameplay can be tweaked - poor writing is more difficult to turn around. The mechanics are very similar, crucially however I have adopted randomisation into tests and combats, using 1D6 and 2D6 ‘rolls’ to add to attributes, rather than flat pass/fail criteria. The bottom of each page will feature virtual dice rolls, so thumbing through the book will act it a proxy for rolling dice. Obviously, I’m not the first person to use this mechanism.

What does the future hold for the series?

I’m planning for two more books in 2015, so three published in total this year. Ambitious, but realistic. As I mentioned in my painfully narrated Kickstarter video, I wanted other authors on board, and have one such pensmith beavering away on a Desert Kingdom adventure, whilst I will be working on a Sci-Fi adventure. The follow-up to Restless Heart of Evil will follow as Book 5.

Work needs to happen to underpin the series. Social media needs a lot of love, and a website is planned. As it stands, meaty paperback gamebooks are a niche and I’m pretty comfortable with this, but should opportunity arise I’d love to take them to mobile in the form of Dangerous Worlds Lite.8

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Inspiration for gamebooks - Iron Heroes

Iron Heroes  is a D20 RPG created by Monte Cooke.  It has some similarities to Dungeons and Dragons,
but its setting is distinctly low magic.  However, it is not simply Dungeons and Dragons with the magic removed; rather, new classes and rules have been created in order to make play more awesome than ever.  Out of the 10 classes available, only two are not combat specialists and only one of the two is a magic user and that one is totally optional.  These combat specialists have abilities that make them far better than any Dungeons and Dragons barbarian.  The archer can pull of great feats of ranged attack.  The armiger can do powerful things with defensive abilities and the Man-At-Arms is so versatile, he can actually change feats if he wants.

This RPG was a good inspiration for me in many ways.  First of all, it showed me that removing magic from a system did not necessarily mean making it less interesting.  It showed me good ways to make non magical characters a lot more interesting.  One of the ways that these characters are more interesting is that they are capable of stunts in combat.  A stunt is an action, not covered by the combat rules, that your character can attempt to make.  Examples from the book include throwing sand in your opponent's face, run along a narrow wall to maneuver around a foe or cracking open a keg of beer to send a stream of liquid into an opponent's face.  I can imagine that players having a great time thinking up creative stunts and then being able to boast about their victories over their foes.

This idea helped me greatly when I was writing my Tunnels and Trolls solos.  In Tunnels and Trolls, you could be a character that is not very good at combat, such as a rogue or a wizard, or even a citizen.  I did not want to exclude them from my solos with too many combats, but at the same time, I did not want to de-power the enemies so that the warriors could easily defeat them.  Which is why I created the option of doing stunts in a combat round.  Basically, each combat had the option of four skill tests, that may not have been based on combat based abilities.  In fact, I made sure that every ability had a chance to use a stunt.  My rules cover this idea in more detail.  This meant that even a wizard could use their skills to overcome a stronger foe.

The other great idea from Iron Heroes was the idea of grouping skills.  The RPG uses the same skills as .  However, Iron Heroes also has skill groups.  A skill group is a collection of related skills.  For example, the agility skill group covers balance, escape artist, and tumble, whilst the mysticism skill group covers concentration, decipher script, spellcraft and use magic device.  You can spend a skill point on a skill group rather than one skill and get bonuses in all the skills in that group. This mechanic helped me when working with Shane Garvey on the Adventurer system.  Gamebook systems have to be a lot simpler than most RPG systems so that the writer has less to think about when thinking about how a hero can get out of a situation and the reader can create a character in minutes.  We wanted the skills to be similar to RPGs, but not be so numerous, so I, inspired by the Iron Heroes RPG, I suggested that we have skills cover a multitude of things.
SRD Dungeons and Dragons, which means that it has about 40 skills.  Iron Heroes has those same skills, but it breaks them into groups.  If you choose to invest skill points in the group, you get bonuses for all the skills in the group, which made me realise that I could do something similar.

So there we are.  I have read many RPGs and played several games that have helped me with gamebook systems and I will be talking about others in future posts.

Happy gamebooking!


Everyone cheats in gamebooks.  It's just so easy.
How was he supposed to know about the boulder?

"Oh, really, I'm dead after opening that nondescript door.  I guess I'll just pop right back to the previous paragraph and open the other one."

"I've fought this combat four times now and lost.  I'm just gonna pretend I beat this Razaak guy."

How many times has that thought, with minor variations, rattle around in our heads?  And how many times do we act on them?  If it's me then the answer to both questions is 'All the time.'

Do we feel guilty about this.  I mean, surely it's cheating isn't it?  We're not playing by the rules.

Well, I've decided to throw away my guilt and tell the world that 'cheating' in gamebooks is more than OK - it should be encouraged.

First of all, lets look at cheating.  What do people cheat at?  They cheat at games, they cheat on their partners, they cheat on exams, they can cheat themselves if they are trying to keep up with an exercise regime or diet.  All of these things have something in common - the person is trying to maintain a level of behaviour in order to keep someone happy or make someone else's life better (everyone has to abide by the same rules to make the game work, stay faithful to keep their partners happy, get a mark that reflects their ability on an exam or they will end up in over their head at some point and stick to their regime if they want to stay fit).

However, with a gamebook, it's just you and the book.  And the book doesn't care about what you do
with it.  Sure, the author might care, but they're not there and they will probably never find out what you are doing with their book.  So, if your die 'tips over' onto a 6 when you roll for skill, you haven't upset anyone.  You're happy because you have a skill of 12 and there's no one else around to mind.  And will it affect you badly in the long term, because you cheated then?  No, it doesn't.  You're not playing a gamebook to get fit, you're playing it for entertainment purposes.  If you have a skill of 12, you're probably going to be more entertained because that skill 10 wyvern that just ambushed you about 20 paragraphs in won't kill you off before your adventure has even begun.

Who cares if you read all the paragraphs in numerical order or every paragraph ending in 5?  If that's what makes you happy, that's what you can do.

There's a reason why Brad Pitt's face is blocking your
view to Edward Norton's face in this scene.
I regularly don't approach books and films in the way that they are intended - I like to know everything that is going on in them before I read or see them.  I like to read the last pages of a book before the first.  Why?  Because if I know what is going on, I can appreciate the other aspects of the book or the film, such as how it leads up to the ending (which is an  interesting puzzle in itself), the description, the characters, the jokes.  I don't have to spend ages focusing on where the plot is going.

It's basically like I'm watching Fight Club the second time round (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, stop reading this immediately and watch Fight Club twice before you go back to your cave).

If you want a gamebook version of Fight Club, you should read The Evil Eye by S.J Bell.

Gamebook people have caught on with this.  Early Tin Man games versions of their apps did not haveJon Green's  Fighting Fantasy books from the 90s with the ones from the 00s, you will find out that they are less hard, because, as Jon said once, that his motives became less about beating the cheats and more with entertaining people.
options to heal or go back to previous paragraphs, but they quickly worked out that it is what gamebook people want.  If you compare

In a funny way, if loopholes are too obvious, then it kind of destroys the desire to exploit them.  For example, I found a really cool way to level grind in Fabled Lands.  I would play as a warrior, complete some easy quest, and, when I was established, I would buy a boat, get the best crew I could and sail up and down.

It is a big and beautiful world.
The reason being that, eventually I would be attacked by pirates.  Since I was a warrior, I could roll 3 dice instead of 2 to fight the pirates off, increasing my chance of a decisive victory, which would lead to lots of loot and also an increase in rank, which would make it even more likely for me to do the same thing next time I encountered some pirates.  However, people would not consider that fair, and anyway, it is a pretty boring thing to do, especially when you have a whole world of wonders to explore.  Doing it would make exploring more boring as you would easily win every combat you came across.  It would take all the tension away.

So go ahead - flick through the book, fudge dice rolls, pretend you have items when you don't, give
yourself a few more life points and use that five fingered bookmark like it's going out of fashion (so if you're playing Crypt of the Sorcerer, you might as well just read paragraph 400) - It's not hurting anyone, so if it makes your experience richer, then cheat away!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April A to Z - V is for very good apps from Cubus games

You have managed to find a wide range of authors for your apps. How did you select them?
On one hand, by searching for the gamebook websites, blogs, game reviews, etc. we could find many interesting authors. On the other hand, other fiction writers got in touch with us from different countries (United States, England, Scotland, Spain, Russia, New Zealand, Bulgaria...). Once both parts know the conditions of the agreement, the final selection is made by our content director, Jaume Carballo, after going deep into the idea, get the feelings, and balance the possibilities of the story as an interactive fiction app. 

You have modernised Dave Morris's book, Necklace of Skulls and turned it into an app. Do you have any plans for any other Dave Morris books?
It's a good question! I have to recognize that we are working on a project with Dave Morris that is going to be 'launched' this spring. We like the way he works and the stories he creates. He's a master. 

You have also turned Kyle B. Stiff's Heavy Metal Thunder series into apps. Do you intend to work with Kyle on his future books?
It's a possibility. I mean, Kyle B. Stiff's has his own style, beloved by the fandom, and it has been working very well in the stores. For these reasons, in certain way he's part of Cubus Games crew for future journeys! Anyway, Heavy Metal Thunder series haven't finished yet... There's more Cromulus adventures to come!

You have just done a presentation on fear in video games. Do you intend to make any more horror based apps like the Sinister Fairground?
We like horror, sci-fi, steampunk, fantasy... but we feel that now it's time to explore the darkest side of our minds... Jaume is really focused in psycho-thriller stuff right now and I know for sure that sooner or later we'll announce something related to it. We've already done a few brainstormings and testings, and I hope the final approach is near.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to make a gamebook into an app?
I would say, think in the app format and the possibilities that the device is offering, but also don't forget that if you don't have a good story, you don't have anything.

What future releases have you got planned?
Apart from some ideas about interactive storytelling that we are developing and testing in background (to be released soon), we are preparing a Kickstarter campaign to fund and promote the next 'gamebook app' release. We can talk about it in few weeks! ;)

Friday, April 24, 2015

April A to Z - U is for Underbyte studios

Howdy gamebook lovers! As you may or may not know, gamebook apps have fuelled the revival of the gamebook format and also smashed the boundaries of what gamebooks can do. And today, we have the people from Underbyte Studios to tell us about their latest project, Heroes Guard.

Underbyte Studios also have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.
Tell us about your backgrounds?
I always wanted to work with video games, learning to program around the age of 13. Unfortunately "breaking into" the game industry is difficult, so I started off my career as software engineer in the defense industry. After about 8 years, I was lucky enough to land a job working on a AAA title: Elder Scrolls Online. It was a wonderful experience and taught me to not give up on pursuing my dreams. 

After launching the PC/Mac release of Elder Scrolls Online and helping to do console integration for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, I decided to set out to work on my own games. Actually my wife Colleen was a big proponent and really pushed me to further explore the opportunity. I can't imagine a more lucky man!

What influences did you draw from when you created Heroes Guard?
I grew up reading and loving Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was younger. It wasn't until much later through the App Store that I came to find out gamebooks even existed. I loved the game and role playing elements that they mixed into the story. I could have seen myself being thoroughly obsessed as a kid if I knew they existed!

Most of my interactive fiction reading these days comes from: Choice of Games, Inkle, Tin Man Games, and Cubus Games. More specifically, I have to tip my hat to Lucid who authored Life of a Wizard.

Some of the game is Zelda like and some has gamebook elements to it. How did you decide which parts of the game would have text and which parts would have graphics?
Hah! Zelda-like, that probably would be neat! But since the game is turn-based and text-heavy, I think it is probably best described as a hybrid of Choose-Your-own-Adventure, Magic: The Gathering, and table-top role playing.

Heroes Guard was always meant to be first and foremost an interactive fiction experience. All of the graphical and game-oriented parts are there to help the reader get more engaged into the story. For instance, how much gold the player had on his adventure: This could be a simple flat number, but instead I chose to create a bag of gold that spills over with coins. The more gold they have, the more the gold spills over. I feel that the player can become more entrenched in the story and world if they have a few of these elements to help get them there - but ultimately the fun is enhanced by the player's imagination!

Secondly, one thing I felt to be lacking in most of the interactive fiction I read was a strong sense strategy and replay-ability. The card game for large encounters gives the player some opportunity to win a fight "their way" and not just with the fate of a few dice rolls. The story-engine technology in Heroes Guard, coined Fate Spinner, also plays a key role in keeping the story fresh and new for each play through!

I played the demo version of the game. What features will the full game have?
Are you sure you've played a demo version of Heroes Guard? It is only in alpha and I've hand selected the few people who have gotten test copies. Although I would love to rope you in as the game nears beta (few months).

Some key features that make heroes guard different from most gamebooks and other interactive fiction are:
  • Fate Spinner Story-Engine: Story chapters, choices, characters, and locations are chosen by fate from a curated selection. Perhaps you were raised by hunters that found you as a child lost in the woods, or perhaps you were sold into slavery at a young age. Replay through Heroes Guard over and over and see what fate has spun for you!
  • Card-Battle System: Use the magic, weapons, and companions gathered through the story to defeat powerful foes. Perhaps you'll squash that giant spider with your war hammer or perhaps it's a better idea to blast it from afar with a fireball? Your choice, your strategy!
  • Dynamic Short-Stories: An interactive map with random locations and events is built by the Fate Spinner Story-Engine. Each event is a short-story that will put your strength, dexterity, intelligence, and charisma to the test! Careful, as each short-story can escalate if left unattended and eventually will consume the towns you are meant to protect. You must manage your choices well!
  • Life Chronicle: In Heroes Guard you are a old, weathered adventurer recalling all his past feats. You managed to live through everything fate could throw your way, but just how well did you fair when you did finally hang up your sword and shield? Perhaps you rose to power as a commander in the guard, or perhaps you lost it all and ended up as a beggar on the streets?
What can we see for the future?
For Heroes Guard, I'll continue to iterate on the features and content. I hope to get to beta-status within the next 2 or 3 months. For those in the area, Heroes Guard will be at the Too Many Games festival in Oaks, Pennsylvania on June 26-28! I'll also be applying to the Gamescape festival in Baltimore, MD that takes place from July 17-19. But, we'll see if I'm lucky enough to get a spot!

I would love to have guest writers for post-release updates, as the short-story mechanic makes it very simple to add additional content that is separate from the main story-lines.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April A to Z - T is for Way of the Tiger - an interview with David Walters

Hello gamebook lovers! Today we have an author of many awesome books, who has recently turned his hand to producing awesome gamebooks - this is David Walters, writer of books 0 and 7 of the Way of the Tiger series.

You can find David's Amazon page here.

You've written lots of books with a Japanese/ninja feel. How did you feel when you were asked to do Way of the Tiger?
It felt like a natural progression from some of my other work, and a great honour as a fan of the series. I hadn't written a gamebook before so that was an added challenge. I wanted to explore more about Avenger testing out ninja skills, there were ways to do this that the series hadn't touched yet. Plus I wanted to get Avenger off that cliffhanger ending from book 6!
What kind of research did you do to do books 0 and 7?
I had a lot of research of Japanese mythology which I used for book 0, especially for the monsters, but was sure to give them an Orb twist. I had already fleshed out the Island of Plenty for the Orb RPG, so I used that too, drawing inspiration from some old travel books set in Japan. Orb is not meant to be an oriental setting, but this part if the world is and it was fun to detail it. I was knee to include a nightingale floor, a Jorogumo etc. to the series as it hadn't been done before.

For book 7 the main source material was book 6 and the Orb encyclopaedia, plus Talisman of Death. There's a paragraph in book 6 that specifically mentions other monsters in the Rift including plague trolls, and all those got a mention or appearance in book 7. A small but significant part of Talisman of Death was set in the Rift, and it was too good an opportunity not to link to it.

I also looked up people's favourite book of the series, and book 3 was a strong contender as it had genuine multiple paths and a fun ending of gathering support to overthrow the usurper - I used that as inspiration to write the city section of book 7.
There were lots of loose ends by the time you reached book 6. Were there any that you couldn't address in book 7?
There were a few loose ends from previous books that I didn't go back to, such as that Avenger could have caught lycanthropy in book 3.

I think I caught all the loose ends from book 6, I certainly meant to. There were so many permutations to draw together whilst still making decisions count. I had a fan saying they wished they had an alternate path to help Foxglove in book 7, and I understand that if you had kept her safe all through book 6, but given her treacherous nature I didn't think it should change the final outcome too much. She does have her moments in the book regardless.
What did you find harder to write - a prequel or a sequel?
The prequel was harder simply because I'd never written a gamebook before, but also it has to directly fit the rest of the series. For a sequel, even one with a lot of loose ends to tie up, at least you have a little more freedom to go in another direction. Ideally if there was a book 8 we could really innovate from a much cleaner slate.

Are there plans to release further Way of the Tiger books?
There is the Orb RPG coming this year, which not only allows you to run role-playing games but also has a huge amount of background material on the Way of the Tiger, a sourcebook if you like.

I'd like to write book 8 of the Way of the Tiger as Avenger's story isn't finished yet, those who read book 7 very closely may realise why, particularly where the gods were mentioned. The decision to sanction more books or not has still to be made by Mark Smith.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
The Orb RPG and my novels mostly, although a few other interesting options are available. If anything I have too much on, which is a nice position to be in!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April A to Z - S is for sound based gamebooks (an interview with Matt Benson from the Pick Your Path podcast)

Hello all! Since the April A to Z has started, a new gamebook podcast has started. It is called Pick Your Path, by Matt Benson.  It has currently started a preview episode and the next episode is due in May. Matt has a very wide range of podcasts and other materials on his site, so check them out too.

Here is Matt...

My name is Matt Benson. I cofounded the Benview Network and host nearly half the shows on it. I've been writing creatively since I was 11 (I've gotten much better since then) and reading gamebooks even longer.

The Benview Network is a podcast collective that deals in both the creation of pop culture, with scripted shows like Midnight Marinara and Pick Your Path, and the criticism of pop culture, with review shows like Nerd's Eye View; shut up, leonard; and Comic Nerds Unite. It was founded by myself and Andrew Linde (also a writer for Pick Your Path) and is named after our first two podcasts, BENson's Boombox and the aforementioned Nerd's Eye VIEW.

I had really wanted to do a fully scripted show for a while. I was writing sketches for Benson's Boombox, but I wanted to something long form ever since I started listening to the Thrilling Adventure Hour. Every podcast I had heard before that was just a few people sitting in a room talking and then suddenly here was this scripted show that was funny and fantastic and every bit as good as something you'd see on TV or read in a comic, but it was a podcast. I so badly wanted to do that, but since they all ready did that, I had to think of something else. I remember also around this same time CYOA seemed to be having a bit of a resurgence. I know I was spending a lot of time on the You Chose Wrong tumblr. And then I read To Be Or Not To Be, Ryan North's excellent CYOA version of Hamlet. That's when I realized that this was something I could and desperately wanted to do as a podcast.

The structure will pretty much be the same as a CYOA book. Each episode will have a short introduction and then the story begins. Each episode will be a different scripted story that plays off the familiar tropes of CYOA, with chapters, like an audiobook so the listener can make choices. In the style of CYOA, it will be all ages friendly, but not without dire consequences. We tell parents who might want to listen with their kids to think of Doctor Who or Goosebumps in terms of gruesomeness. There will be music and the occasional sound effect and a whole lot of fun!

The first month's story is called "Don't Blow Up the Universe." I wrote it and in it, a couple of shadowy organizations contact you to let you know that your neighbor built a time machine. Your goal is to make it through the adventure without getting stranded in time or creating any paradoxes that blow up the universe (as the title suggests).

You can support us in all the classic ways that you support a podcast. Subscribe to us on iTunes, rate us, review us, that all helps us in the rankings and tell all your friends about us! 

I mentioned it earlier, it's To Be Or Not To Be by Ryan North. It's hilarious, prone to fanciful tangents, and, at times, provides intelligent and engaging commentary on the work of William Shakespeare. It's great, though I do feel a little guilty choosing a recent release as my all time favorite. My heart will always be with the original CYOA series, but it's so hard to pick one of those specifically since I read them all as a kid and now they all kind of bleed together in my mind.

I like a gamebook that goes in as many crazy directions as possible. If you can pick out two random pages and it's hard to tell if they came from the same book, that's a winner. Of course all the different threads should make sense, but a lot of my favorite memories with gamebooks involve accidentally turning to the wrong page and thinking, "How the heck did I get here?"

April A to Z - S is for Emily Short

Hello gamebookers! Today, we have a new addition to the April A to Z series and someone with her own Wikipedia page This is Emily Short, expert at interactive fiction. I'm so glad to be making steps into the interactive fiction world by interviewing Emily who has a fabulous blog.

> Tell us about yourself.

I work as a consultant in interactive narrative, mostly for video games but also sometimes for publishing and other types of creative projects. I got into this field through interactive fiction, which I've played since I was a young kid; I've been writing IF for about 15 years now. I also write a lot of reviews and other coverage of interactive storytelling, which you can find at

> What is the best Interactive Fiction game you have played?

I really couldn't narrow that list down to a single game, but here are a few that are favorites of mine. (If you asked on a different occasion, you'd probably get a different list.)

ULTRA BUSINESS TYCOON III (Porpentine) -- Porpentine has written a lot of excellent IF, but I think this may remain my favorite because the ending is so personal and accessible, in contrast with the filigreed bonework style of a lot of her other writing (gorgeous; likely to cut you if you handle it at all). The trick of characterizing the protagonist via reactions to an old-school game is also beautifully handled.

Solarium (Alan DeNiro) -- This is masterfully horrific because, alchemy and superhuman characters aside, the scary thing it describes is true: there were fanatics during the cold war who did bring us close to destruction repeatedly, and who used the threat of nuclear disaster as justification for unethical experiments. It's also a structurally inventive piece of choice-based fiction with very good prose.

Even Cowgirls Bleed (Christine Love) -- A story about the personal dysfunction that undermines a relationship, told through a choice-based story with a bit of an arcade mechanic tucked in: you "shoot at", and thus select, whatever links your mouse passes over, and at a certain point in the game this may become more difficult to control than you might wish. Compact, effective, and highly personal; and a rare example of IF in which the UI itself is a critical part of telling the story.

Spider and Web (Andrew Plotkin) -- One of the best story-and-puzzle moments in all of interactive fiction, in which the protagonist does something that is not only surprising and clever but also has a profound effect on the other major character in the game. People talk a lot about the puzzle design here, but often I think in the process they undervalue how much of its success comes from the puzzle-story integration. There's something wonderful about solving this puzzle and getting a huge reaction out of the story.

Horse Master (Tom McHenry) -- Compellingly gross, with a very effective switch on what kind of story it's even going to be: it starts out feeling like a sim and winds up as a dystopian horror story about poverty and exploitation. One of the most viscerally powerful games I've played. Today I happen to give it a slight edge over Michael Lutz's My Father's Long, Long Legs, which could also have occupied this slot, because in Horse Master I was fooled into thinking maybe I could make things come out well, whereas in MFLLL I pretty much always realized things were going badly. But on a different day I might go the other way.

Fallen London (Failbetter Games) -- FL's size and structure are unique, providing a network of stories that you can sink into and inhabit for months or years. The content ranges from silly to horrific to affecting. People have often talked about the possibility of shared-world writing in the IF space, but this is one of the few to actually pull it off, since FL's contents and related games have been worked on by many authors over the years. (* Disclaimer: I've written for FL myself; otoh, my contributions are a drop in the ocean, and I was not involved in any of the original design.)

Make It Good (Jon Ingold) -- Very difficult, but with superb good puzzle/story integration. Characters pay attention to every little thing you do, and everything they notice matters; solving the story requires thinking deeply about the NPCs and their motives and probable reactions, then manipulating them to get the results you want. They seem to have their own inner life, purposes, and goals, to a degree very rarely found in IF.

80 Days (Meg Jayanth/inkle) -- Grand, beautiful, polished, with lots of lovely individual tales that weave together over replays, describing a world full of very different people with a wide variety of individual concerns. One of the most truly replayable pieces of IF out there, and a success of commercial IF in the modern era.

> What makes a good Interactive Fiction Game?

This really varies from one game to another. Some games are great because they have difficult but fair puzzles; other games are great despite having no puzzles at all, instead offering strong writing, a compelling story, or a particular emotional experience that you couldn't get elsewhere.

I've written some here ( about qualities of a good puzzle.

> What IF games would you recommend to people who want to see what IF is about?

There are multiple kinds of interactive fiction — parser IF, which is the descendant of text adventures like Zork, where the player has to type something to make progress, and choice-based IF, which is more like a CYOA where you click options to proceed. There are also a few interesting hybrids that use interfaces combining elements of both — but those are more of a rarity.

For choice-based IF, this list contains some good material:

Parser IF is usually a bit more challenging than choice-based IF, so not all highly-rated parser games are necessarily going to be ideal for someone just starting out. But there are some games that were designed to be friendly to novice players:

Those wanting to dig a little deeper into what the IF community considers canonical might want to check out — this is a list of the "top 50 IF games" as voted on by the intfiction bulletin board. It's skewed in favor of parser IF and is obviously a matter of opinion, but the games on this list tend to be things that the intfiction community talks about a lot or regards as touchstones. You can get more background about why people voted the way they did in the discussion thread at .

> What systems or programming languages would you recommend for people starting out with Interactive Fiction?

Twine is very popular for people who want to write primarily hypertext-style choice-based games. You can make a basic Twine piece with very little technical experience — check out for the tool and forum links. Games made in Twine can be hosted for free on , so you don't need your own website to share your work with the world.

If you want to write some parser-based IF where the player will actually be typing commands to interact, Inform 7 is probably the most widely used and supported system available. You can find the system at (or at the Mac App Store, if you're an Apple user) and get support at . In addition, Carolyn VanEseltine has some recent, up-to-date tutorials for getting started with Inform:

> What tips would you offer for someone who wants to write an Interactive Fiction game?

If you're starting on your first interactive fiction piece, try to keep your project reasonably small: you'll want something where you can see some progress and have a hope of completing the thing in a reasonable time.

Don't be afraid to ask for technical help. For that matter, don't be afraid to ask for design help and alpha-testing. Getting someone to have a look at your work in progress can be extremely useful, as well as morale-boosting.

> There is a lot of Interactive Fiction on the internet including an active community and competitions. Where do you think someone can start in the world of Interactive Fiction?

To get in touch with the community, try the forum at From there you can find out about local meetup groups, as well, if you're interested in that.

To read blog posts, including a lot of reviews and news, check out the feed aggregator at (and feel free to have your own blog aggregated there if you're writing about IF!)

ifwiki ( ) contains a lot of useful information about past and present projects; in particular the Craft page ( ) provides some design help for people learning the ins and outs of IF development.

IFDB contains links to a lot of games; it's a great place to look for things to play and for things that might be similar to a project you're working on yourself. . Among other things, IFDB contains tags that can help you find particular types of game (the tag cloud is at ), and you can also start your own poll to ask other users for recommendations of a particular game style.