Monday, April 26, 2021

April roundup and May upcoming events

Hi all! Sorry for the late post! This month is very busy as it is exam season! Here are a few things going on in the gamebook world. 

Kurosh James Shadmand is releasing his debut gamebook based on the Isle of Dr Moreau. It will be out on the 1st May on Amazon!

The Instadeath Survivors' Support Group podcast has some new episodes - the last one is with Dr Graham Wilson about his Rise of the Ancients series.

International Gamebook Day 2021 was announced to be on August 27th this year!

There are no gamebook Kickstarters currently active!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Alison Cybe does a playthrough of Curse of the Mummy

Hello all! This is Stuart here! I've never done any playthroughs for this blog before, so I thought that I would continue this habit for today and give you another person's playthrough. That person is Alison Cybe, who, about a decade ago, did a playthrough blog. Now she has done many many other things including writing novels, short stories, RPGs and board games. You can read all about it on her website and support her on Patreon.

This is the first playthrough of Alison's that I have published on the blog, so I thought I would start at number 59 in the original series. There is a method to my madness. There were a lot of playthrough blogs that started at 1 (The Warlock of Firetop Mountain) and went in numerical order. A lot of blogs dropped off before the series ended and so as you go through the series, you will find fewer and fewer playthroughs of the Fighting Fantasy book. So I thought, I would give the later ones more press.

So, without further ado, here is Alison's playthrough. You can read it at her site with pictures here.

Over to you...

The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were blockbusters of the era. The final book in the original line is here – CURSE OF THE MUMMY!

In 1982, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, founders of Games Workshop, released the book ‘The Warlock of Firetop Mountain’. Intended as an introduction to tabletop role-playing games of the era, the book’s choose-your-own-adventure format mixed with simple dice-based combat proved massively successful, giving rise to a full series of books – Fighting Fantasy. With over 65 books in the series by a legion of authors and illustrators, the series’ legacy continues to this day. Come along with us as Cybe and co play through each one – with no prior knowledge, no hints or walkthroughs and no cheating!

Before continuing, please be aware that all of this content is made possible by the goodwill and support of my backers on Patreon. If you enjoy the work on this site, please consider supporting the creation of more content like this by clicking the button.

I guess that quite a few people want me to play this. I received two copies in the post, after all. One of which was from the author himself. This is always a nice thing, and I certainly could get used to it. I’d encourage other authors to maybe someday send me free copies of their books, so that I can read them and rate them on a score out of ten. I also accept bottles of wine as gifts, by the way.

I never actually played this adventure as a kid, mostly because mummy men are’t really my type. No, really, it’s a sore spot that definitely needs some bandaging. Nah, I’m not going to look a gift Horus in the mouth here… Okay, enough bad puns.

I had the chance to get this book in a shop when I was a kid, but chose Revenge of the Vampire instead, because at the time I didn’t know that Revenge was as awful as it would be.

The only additional stat to take care of is poison. If it hits 18, you die. Simple enough. Must admit, by this point in the franchise we’re all a bit tired of the more complicated, unnecessary additional stats, so a simple one like this is a breeze. We begin the adventure by washing up ashore from a shipwreck, which only goes to support my belief that undertaking ANY journey by water in one of these books is always, always doomed to horrible failure.

I find my way into a nearby merchant town and take a job as bodyguard to an archaeologist who tells me that there is a particularly nasty old mummy in a tomb somewhere around. He intends to rob the tomb for all its worth, but a particularly nasty cult of villainous villains want to bring the mummy back to life, because they’re gits like that.

No sooner have I taken the job, than a group of said cultists attack. Together we fight off the group, causing one to flee. I give chase, but he escapes when he sets a nearby giant black lion on me.Pausing for a moment to consider the health and safety ramifications of any merchant town that lets people carry around giant killer lions in easily-unlockable boxes that any villainous cultist could open and unleash on poor hapless adventurers…. Okay, done.

We head out into the desert, and make camp for the night, during which we are attacked by giant scorpions and the archaeologist is killed. This is the usual fate for any companions you make in Fighting Fantasy adventures. In some parts of Titan, they call you ‘doombringer’.

Stumbling around in the desert, I find an old ruined amphitheater where I meet a crazy old man who is convinced that he’s an actor. He has a few items that he’s willing to trade, no doubt for items that I could have picked up in the market earlier if I’d stuck around to do so, and no doubt very important key items for the plot. But without any, all I can do is wave him goodbye.

My next destination is to find an old shaman, purely because the archaeologist told me to check in with him. My path to him takes me through an old gorge, which the locals use to ambush travelers Thankfully the actor warned me about this, so I’m able to avoid being attacked.

It isn’t long before I find the shaman’s hut, which is on top of a very nasty cliff. I attempt to climb said cliff, and only wind up in falling off the side of it, breaking a few ribs and bones along the way. Fortunately I survive, although I’m in some very bad shape.

I’m also slightly poisoned by this point, because I indulged in my habit of eating random plants I found lying on the ground. Oh well. I chew down on some provisions and decide to head onwards anyway, without any real clue which direction to travel in.

That night, I’m attacked by a nandibear, a creature I’ve not seen in quite a few FF books, and it manages to deal quite a bit of damage to me before I kill it. I find a cultist’s ring in its cave, and shortly thereafter I find an explorer’s journal in another cave, this time belonging to a giant lizard which I’ve also killed. Y’know, I really should have kept a list of how many things I’ve murdered during all of these books, it must number in the thousands by now.

Without anything to light a fire with, I’m forced to spend a night shivering for warmth, just like I’m needing to do in this new flat here in Leeds. Bleh. The next morning, however, I reach the valley of the kings. Heading right along into the ruins, I find a large map of the area carved onto an old wall. I expect that it will guide me to the mummy’s treasure, or at very least, to the lost arc.

But without any way to decipher the map, I’ve no idea where to start looking for the entrance to the tomb. So my adventure ends here. I suspect I’d have fared better had I got a few items from the market, traded them with the actor, and actually managed to speak with the shaman, who I expect was meant to tell me how to use the map. That’s just my guess, though. It’s a fair ending, for a first playthrough.

I’d like to play this again, mostly because I really don’t think I got very far. And partly because I think that I know what I’d need to do in order to succeed, which is something that a lot of the FF books tend to lack – a feeling that you can win if you play again and do this, this, and this differently.

The structure of this book is nicely different from the usual ‘go kill the evil wizard’ type, instead giving you more the feeling that you’re exploring a new region of Titan with a new history to it. In short, it’s a first-rate book, clear to see why it earned a wizard reprint, and I’d have much preferred it instead of Revenge of the Vampire.

Cause of death: Got lost.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Blog posts I would put in a gamebooks textbook

 Hello gamebook team!

How are things going? I'm going to try to get a regular weekly schedule. I'm just feeling out what to write as well as whether a blog is still the best medium. Going dark after a few years and then coming back makes me feel a bit like Captain America coming out of the ice.

Unfortunately, that doesn't include the whole
"peak of human performance" thing as well.

Anyway, I'm going to go easy and build up some posts while I bring to light some things I've been working on in the past. 

A while ago, I thought about making an ebook where I would copy and paste blog posts that I thought a person who wanted to write a gamebook should read before they try. My idea was to reach an audience that didn't read blogs or use social media. 

I made a list and asked the authors for permission to use their blog posts and offer to link to their blogs in the ebook (which I would make free). I never heard back from some, so I put the project on hold, but I still have the list, which I will present to you today.

I've presented the list in other places, but I will add a quick commentary on why I would include these people on the list.

I also would like to update this list as I made it a few years ago.

So, here is the list.

Grey Wiz

Grey Wiz wrote a brilliant six part series on the problem with gamebooks and how to fix them. A very deep analysis indeed.

Grey Wiz is currently working on Break! RPG and has a Twitter here.

Andrew Drage

Andrew Drage (aka Brewin') worked at Tin Man Games, wrote the Sci Fi entry Infinite Universe and also worked on other Gamebook Adventures with other authors. He has a degree level knowledge of statistics and has also written a novel. His blog post on writing better gamebooks has great insights.

Ashton Macsaylor

I first came across Ashton Macsaylor with his awesome Windhammer entries. He wrote a blog for a while before working on The Good, the Bad and the Undead. Ashton's blog posts has some good ground rules for designing games which also applies to writing gamebooks.

Ashton has a Twitter account and is runs RPGs professionally (nice work if you can get it!)

Sam Kabo Ashwell

Sam has a great blog with many many in depth posts on interactive fiction. The two comprehensive posts I've linked to below are the most gamebook relevant ones, but he has much much more.

His last game is Scents and Semiosis on Itch.

Jake Care

Jake had a gamebook blog for a short time and seemed to have an interest in writing gamebooks that were as short as possible. I've not been able to see any updates from him for ages or get in contact with him. His blog posts are still insightful, however.

Paul Gresty

Paul Gresty has worked on many gamebooks including Fabled Lands 7. Anyone who has taken up the mantle of an open world gamebook system and studied 6 books in enough detail to link the 7th one to them all whilst adding his own insights knows a thing or two about gamebooks.

Dave Morris

Dave Morris is the cocreator of Fabled Lands, Critical IF, Bloodsword, Golden Dragon and many many other gamebooks. These posts are only the tip of the iceberg of his vast knowledge. Dave is currently working on an open world gamebook system based on Greek myths.

Richard S. Hetley

Richard is a writer, gamer and psychologist who helped reprint the Way of the Tiger series along with books 0 and 7. Here is a great post about Way of the Tiger. I'm not sure what he is up to these days.

Jon Green

Jon Green has written several great Fighting Fantasy books and other gamebooks (such as the Sonic the Hedgehog gamebooks), nonfiction books and fiction books. Look at his blog. He is currently working on Ace Gamebooks , a gamebook series based on public domain fiction. His latest project is Heorot, an RPG based on Beowulf.

Heather Albano 

Heather has produced work at Choice of Games and also made lots of other interactive stories.

Heather can be found at and she also has a Twitter.

Heather's latest work is an interactive romance novel called To Sail the Ghostly Sea.

Adam Strong-Morse

Adam Strong-Morse is the cofounder of Choice of Games, a choice based gaming app company that has gone from strength to strength since it was founded. He has tons of experience writing such games and the below blog posts are a sample of what he has to offer.

Dan Fubilich

Dan Fubilich is the cofounder of Choice of Games, a choice based gaming app company that has gone from strength to strength since it was founded. He has tons of experience writing such games and the below blog posts are a sample of what he has to offer.

Emily Short

Emily Short has written many many interactive fiction games and tools and works as an interactive fiction consultant (living the dream!). She is a very prolific blogger as well. A lot of her posts are about computer programs, but she has plenty that would also apply to gamebooks. In fact, I need to catch up on her work. Her posts are always thorough. Below is a post that works for gamebooks.

Beyond Branching: Quality-Based, Salience-Based, and Waypoint Narrative Structures

Doug Sharp

Doug Sharp has had a very eventful life. I know very little about his work apart from the fact he made a lecture entitled "Story vs game" in 1989. The transcript can be found here.

Peter Agapov

Peter very kindly volunteered to put his content on this blog and he has great insights and thorough analysis of gamebooks. He was also organised enough to label his posts, making linking to them very easy.

Have a great week, team and happy gamebooking!

More! More! More, more more!
I made this list a few years ago. Since then, a lot of new gamebook authors have emerged. I will be going through their blog posts and linking to them in this blog in the future.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

End of March round up and upcoming events

Hi all! I had an idea, inspired by Emily Short's blog. Emily Short has made several great interactive fiction games, is an interactive fiction consultant and is distinguished enough to have her own Wikipedia page

If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.

If I keep copying her, maybe I'll get a Wikipedia page as well

Twice a month, Emily does a list of links and events that are coming up and I thought that would be a good idea for gamebooks. 

Samuel Isaacson has released the third and final book in his Entram Epic, Solar War. You can get it in paperback or on Kindle.

A total eclipse of the heart

A door able

Brian Hazzard has released the first 4 (possibly 5 at time of printing) episodes of his gamebook podcast, the Instadeath Survivors' Support Group. If you can spare some cash, you can show your appreciation on Patreon.

He's being worked to the bone

The Gamebook Zine issue 1 is out. You can get it as a paperback, on Kindle or as a free pdf. You can support it on Ko-fi.

Have you zine it yet?

The Gamebook Zine also ran its first gamebook jam on Itch. You can see the entries and results here. Also, keep an eye out for more in the future.

Mmmm, gamebook flavour.

The Defenders: Throne of the Bandit Lord Kickstarter is still going. It is fully funded, so you will get your products if you back it.

Alternative title: Shield convention

James Spearing will be posting an exclusive review to a gamebook on his Gamebook Adventures page. Keep an eye out for that!

Joonseok Oh has started compiling a list of all the free gamebooks out there. You can find it here.

Adam Mitchell has a Facebook page called Man with Kids Gamebook and RPG Reviews.

Man with kid.
Not pictured: more kids.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Gamebook Theory: fixing the lack of Player Agency in gamebooks (Dice Flick)

Welcome, young adventurer! In this book YOU ARE THE HERO.

Roll one dice. Add 6 to the number rolled and enter this total in the SKILL box on the adventure sheet"...

- Later in the Gamebook -

You must jump over a chasm. To check if you succeed, roll two dice! If the number is lower or equal to your SKILL, you succeed. If you fail, you are dead and have to start over from the beginning.

How is the reader responsible for the outcome? I hope that we don't expect him to take responsibility for the dice result. Let's talk about player agency in gamebooks!

Should gamebooks be like one of my favorite board games: "Dungeon!"? Winning the session is a matter of luck, not the result of good decision making. It is still fun, but very little depends on player's decisions. My personal opinion is that gamebooks can do much better than falling into the category of player protagonism - "the sense of special investment in one token on the board over all the rest".

Like the lack of player involvement in the outcome of the adventure isn't enough, many gamebooks are impossible to beat without cheating. See Grave Mistake #2 (Level of Difficulty).

A few days ago, I found the following thread on reddit: How often did you cheat when playing your first gamebooks? The last comment under the post reads, "I never cheated as a teen in the 80s – either rolling initial stats or continuing on after a defeat... I always felt that I had to play gamebooks the right way, without cheating, to 'earn' any successful completion. I also found most of them too difficult to finish, and lacked the desire to keep at it after frustration had taken over."

I also think that most gamebooks aren't balanced well and reading that opinion made me feel that I am not alone.

Of course, our good old friend - cheating - is always an option. Even the Great One in the Gamebooks Realm (read Stuart Lloyd) says so in his blogpost on the subject of Cheating..?

Yes, some of us claim proudly that they read a gamebook for the story, not for the gameplay. Seriously!? Why don't you read Tolkien instead? His narrative and literature are much better than any of the gamebooks out there.

The truth is that we play games for the satisfaction of participating in the adventure and there is no participation in "Roll to determine your skill. Now roll for a skillcheck!"

 Ideally, to fix the Player Agency problem from now on, gamebooks would be testing the reader's attention, memory, knowledge and logic. However, there are so many old gamebooks worth playing, but sadly, the participation in them boils down to rolling dice. Like that isn't enough of a problem, many of those adventures lack gameplay balance. And that is to the extent of the reader rolling against the odds all the time. So, how do we fix those worthy gamebooks? 

See, Stuart Lloyd was kind enough to rework one of them -  Coils of Hate - for the reason of giving the player more agency. However, somehow I doubt that he would have the time to rewrite all of the gamebooks from the past.

So, I was also very amused by the solution user "liverem" found for fixing the lack of Player Agency and Level of Difficulty in the comments section under the above mentioned thread. He said, "I had some d10, but I used the table (printed at the end of the book) instead AND I got pretty good at "randomly" pointing at the correct digit (usually a 0?). I did however see that as kind of a sport, and if I accidentally did point at the wrong digit I took the consequences. Not that I think that happened very often, but I do remember dying and starting over every now and then when my random aim was not good enough."

Way to go, liverem! You found your own way to influence the outcome and that also fixed the fact, at least partially, that most of the old gamebooks were impossible to beat if the reader didn't cheat at all.

But I am extremely proud to announce that I found a much better and very universal solution. We now have a tool for adding some Player Agency and fixing the Level of Difficulty in most of the old gamebooks (and all the unbalanced ones in the future) without having to re-write all of them. I call it Dice Flick...

You can download the PDF version here: DiceFlick.pdf
This is a very simple dexterity game which allows you to flick a coin and get a result between 1 and 6, depending on the aim and power of your flick.
To use this gamebook supplement, download and print the one page PDF on a letter size or A4 paper. Put a quarter (or a coin of equivalent size) in the silver circle. Flick the coin, using your finger, and get a result from 1 to 6.
Use this dexterity game to resolve skillchecks, determine attack score and calculate inflicted damage during an encounter. You can, and probably should, roll old fashioned dice for all other gameplay needs.

There are some variations for increased or decreased difficulty - flick from the green or the red coin circle or re-flick the coin if it doesn't land on any of the circles (consider the die cocked and flick again just like you would re-roll the dice).

Also, if your target is a lower number, use the result on the printed dice in the colored circles instead of the numbers printed there. This is very handy for skillchecks when you need a score lower that the skill you are testing.

Using Dice Flick adds another level of player agency to any gamebook, but I would only use it for books that are impossible to beat without cheating. As a matter of fact, from now on, I would give every gamebook the benefit of the doubt and will play it the way it was meant to be played at least once. If I feel that the adventure relies mostly on chance and lucky rolls, I would use this supplement to try giving myself better chances for success.

Of course, Dice Flick doesn't fix all the instant death encounters. To influence those in the favor of the reader, I would flick a coin before I start a new adventure and I would use the result as a starting value of a Blessing stat. I would allow myself to disregard any instant death paragraphs, let's pretend that a guardian angel comes down from the skies and saves your sinful soul, at the expense of 1 Blessing Point.

See, we finally have a way to influence the outcome even in an unfairly designed gamebook. After all, there is no greater satisfaction than completely immersing in the fictional world of a book, experiencing the narrative in first person and knowing that the satisfactory happened because of your own participation and influence over the course of the adventure.

Happy Gamebooking, my friends!

P.S. Dice Flick is intellectual property of and

It is free for personal use, but if you are a gamebook author and would like to print it as a supplement to your future adventures, please ask Stuart Lloyd or Peter Agapov for commercial use permission! You know how to reach us.

Peter Agapov
Game Designer at
President and Chief Executive Officer of American Limo Naperville
Former Road Captain of Marine One at Operation "Welcome You Home"