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Friday, 12 April 2019

Game rules that lead to ridiculous results

One of the problems with game design is that the rules you come up with may have unlooked-for consequences. Well, I say it’s a problem; actually it can be rather satisfying. Early playtesters of Deus Ex realized they could get out of a maze by planting a limpet mine on a wall and rocket-jumping off it. The designers accepted that as a rather neat bit of lateral thinking. Not a bug, a feature.

Early Dungeons and Dragons was a whole other matter. The world it presented was ostensibly medieval, but if you really plugged those rules into the Middle Ages then you’d get something unrecognizable. I don’t mean because of elves and dwarves. It’s the rules themselves that skew everything. The different physics. One lone paladin confronting a regiment. Magic users firing off spells like 19th century artillery.

That’s why I made magic extremely rare in Dragon Warriors, so as to make it credible that the world looked and behaved like the real Middle Ages. Or you can go the other way, as Professor Barker did with Tekumel. He worked out how many powerful sorcerers a city or a nation could deploy and worked that into the fabric of Tsolyani society. You haven’t been in a real battle until you hear your own lines beginning the chant for a Doomkill.

The biggest source of counterintuitive behaviour in my own games comes from GURPS’s attempts to have a set of rules for all worlds and all times. I’ll give you a recent example. I was planning a commando scenario set in 1943 and the players wanted to equip with flak jackets. In the real world that’s utterly insane. Flak jackets of the period were bulky and restrictive, not to mention mostly useless against gunfire as they were designed to stop slow-moving shrapnel inside the body of an aircraft – and weren’t terribly good at even doing that.

But here’s the snag. GURPS lists flak jackets as weighing 20lbs and stopping 7 points of damage. That means a moderately strong character (ST 13, say) can have a flak jacket plus all their other weaponry and still count as completely unencumbered. Which is nuts. And that jacket won’t just stop shrapnel; in GURPS terms it will stop most handguns. In fact, if you just went by the GURPS rules, you may as well go on your commando raid wearing medium plate (DR6, weight 20lbs). Hey, you should be able to parachute jump wearing that, right?

In a 19th century campaign of ours, some of the player-characters actually walked around in plate armour. You can't blame the players; under the rules as written that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but that was the end of the road for me and GURPS. If a system that claims to be believable throws up results like that, it's really not worth the effort of memorizing all 570 pages. I went cold turkey with the much more enjoyable (and more realistic, even) Sagas of the Icelanders and haven't looked back.

As it turns out, the British did experiment in the early 1940s with infantry body armour weighing just 3lbs. The US Army took a look at this and, to nobody’s surprise, concluded that:
“…all reports indicated that any advantages of such armor would be very slight as compared to the overall loss of combat efficiency and to the increase in the soldier's carrying load.”
And, yeah yeah, you’ve seen videos of re-enactment fellows doing press-ups in full plate. But listen to the impressively scary Stan W Scott explaining why “travel light is travel right”. I wouldn’t argue with him, would you?

It’s annoying because I don’t want to have to say to players, “You can’t have that item.” The rules should rule; on that I’m with Hammurabi. If it's going to come down to arbitrary decisions by the umpire, why bother with game rules at all? Yet if the rules are supposed to be generic and universal, then they should not lead to wildly unrealistic tactics.

Yet… we don’t want more fiddly rules. It's bad enough that you need to fire up Excel just to create a GURPS character sheet. At least that's all in the prep, but nobody likes book-keeping in the middle of a nail-biting game session, which is why encumbrance and fatigue rules tend to be more honoured in the breach. Hence the rules for them are often quite abstract. But it would be very simple for GURPS to factor size into the weight of armour, as Runequest does. I say simple because the weight of armour for a given protective value (ie thickness) goes up with the square of linear dimension - and so too does strength, more or less, being a function of muscle cross-section. So twice as strong means almost twice the weight of armour to carry.

Another factor that many game systems ignore is that even modern body armour is hot. It may not matter in a ten-minute engagement, but it would certainly tell in the course of a ten-mile yomp over the Brecon Beacons. And that aspect is independent of strength. Indeed, greater muscle bulk heats up more, because the surface area goes up with the square but the mass goes up with the cube - meaning that the guy with bigger muscles already loses heat less efficiently, and thus gets fatigued regardless of how easy it is to lift that gear, with or without armour. How might we represent that without continually having to cross off fatigue points? One solution could be like the Psychic Fatigue Rolls in Dragon Warriors. When you fail the roll, you’re fatigued by one level. It’s a little arbitrary, but people do have some days when they’ve got more energy – and the virtue of that kind of rule is that there’s not much book-keeping.

And then there's the restrictive nature of armour. However well articulated, full covering is never going to allow the full fluidity of movement possible without armour. And armour cannot perfectly replicate the weight distribution of the human body, meaning that in effect there should be a separate skill (with defaults, of course) for fighting in armour. Again, that’s not too arduous to factor in – especially not in GURPS, with its veritable thicket of default skills.

What about your games? Have you ever had by-the-letter rules interpretations leading to bonkers results? Georgian adventurers with chainmail overcoats? Private eyes going around ‘30s New York armed with flame throwers? Medieval footmen using longbows like sniper rifles? Share the craziness below.

Friday, 29 March 2019

The other side of reality

I finally got around to watching Stranger Things. After all the hype it came as a disappointment. I get that it's a pastiche of '80s movies, but I like my pastiches to be more than just familiar ingredients slung together and reheated. Nostalgia doesn't rule out putting something fresh in the mix. Think of Super 8, or even Fargo (season 1, obviously). Without the spark of originality, you might just as well be listening to greatest hits covered by a tribute band.

But I digress. I don't want to talk about 1980s, Stephen King, or pastiches in general. It's just that the Upside-Down in Stranger Things jogged my memory about a game concept I sketched out at Eidos in the mid-'90s. We needed a quick-n-dirty game (famous last words that have brought many a developer low, those) to show off Sam Kerbeck's cutting-edge 3D engine. It needed to be a realtime strategy game because that's what our game Plague, later renamed Warrior Kings, was. Sam happened to flip the landscape upside-down while showing off what it could do, and something in my brain put that together with the Aztec land of death.

We never got around to doing the game, as Eidos shut down internal development a few months later and Sam went off to do other things. His engine got used for another RTS game, Warzone 2100, but never in the freaky way I had in mind.


A variant on Plague set in pre-conquest Mexico, using the same engine and basic game design principles. It's anticipated that Plague will make quite a splash, and Aztecs will satisfy demand for follow-ups in the long wait for Plague 2.

Aztecs will however not be simply a copy of the original game swapped into a different setting. The Mesoamerican world is uniquely colourful. The architecture, costumes and imaginative mythology have rarely been used in computer games and merit a product that stands alone.

City management will be less intricate than Plague. This will be a game of warfare and keeping the gods happy.

All flesh is grass
Villages supply food. Food is not an explicit resource in the game as with Plague but is simply shared out to any units within range of your buildings. Rather than bothering with quantitative measures, you can tell how well the farms are doing by the landscape textures used: rich green if there's plenty of food, dusty scrubland if times are hard. Lack of food leads to loss of hit points; an excess is required for units to recover from injury.

As long as your people are healthy and well fed, new Aztec children continually appear in the School. You can pick these up and drop them onto other buildings, which will determine their fate in life. For example, a child dropped onto a Temple becomes a Priest, one dropped onto the War Lodge becomes a Soldier, etc.

Do it this way
Units are given orders through a (graphic) verb/adverb icon system. This means you can tell a unit to Attack (the verb) and just leave it at that, or you can go to the next level of icons to specify how the attack should be carried out: Aggressive, Balanced or Defensive (the adverbs). As with Plague, what you don't specify is left up to the individual unit's AI.

An eye in the sky
Your view is provided by a flying camera giving an eagle's-eye view of the world. You can fly the camera anywhere, but how much you get to see depends on whether you have any units nearby. Within range of a friendly unit, the camera can see enemy units and the condition of enemy farms and buildings. Outside this range the view enters the Fog of War; it becomes sepia-tinted, buildings appear stylized without hit point info, and enemy units freeze and gradually fade as if from a persistence of vision effect.

Trading in secrets
Merchants were notorious in the Aztec world for spying. This is reflected by allowing all players to have a clear view, free of the Fog of War, when within range of any player's Merchants. Thus the Merchant who increases your wealth by trading with another city will also allow you a clear view of that city's defences during his visit there but this advantage is a two-edged sword.

Discriminating views
View of enemy units is subjective. This reflects Aztec warfare, where experienced soldiers were needed to recognize details of enemy deployment. In the game, you can only distinguish the enemy's elite units (Eagle Lords, Jaguar Lords, Arrow Knights and Hummingbird Priests) if you have elite units of your own near at hand. Otherwise all the enemy's troops appear as generic soldiers and you won't know where the danger lies.

The flipside of reality
Slain units become Skeleton Warriors in the Underworld: a subterranean mirror-image of the living world, where mountains ridges become narrow defiles and vice versa. You view the Underworld by flipping the world around to see the underside. The Underworld is another front where you must fight wars, because the concentration of your Skeleton Warrior forces in the Underworld affects the power of your Wizards' magic in the world above. You have only very limited control of your Skeleton Warriors: you can order them to move, but once they get where they're going they'll just attack any other tribe's Skeleton Warriors that are nearby - even if the other tribe are your allies.

Open heart surgery
Morale is improved by human sacrifice, making it worth capturing foes and taking them back to your Temples. This also prevents the slain foes from becoming Skeleton Warriors in the Underworld, as well as earning you the favour of the gods. You can see this as a strengthening of the glowing aura around the shrine on top of the Temple, which is what your Priests draw on to cast their prayer-magic.

Visitors from heaven
Sometimes, when a Temple's aura is very strong, a Hero will emerge from inside it. These Heroes are beings sent by the god to aid you. They have special strengths in battle, magic, etc, depending on the god. (There are gods of Rain, War, Sun, Learning and Luck.) However, the main advantage of a Hero is that they can dreamwalk. This is essentially a way of setting up a long string of orders for the Hero to follow: a dream-self (Nahual) is created which you can run rapidly around the map, giving it a sequence of orders which it will remember. When the dreamwalk ends and the dream-self merges with the Hero's physical body, he carries out the orders you gave during the dreamwalk. This allows you to set up complex tactical patterns of attack and defence and hold them in readiness, waiting to awaken your Heroes at the moment of greatest need.

The nitty-gritty
There will be considerably fewer buildings and unit types than in Plague. The basic buildings featured in the game are:

  • Palace School (spawns new units)
  • Ball Court (increases public contentment)
  • Skull Rack (each unit sacrificed adds a skull, boosting morale)
  • Market Plaza (stimulates trade)
  • Gladiator Platform (combatant is upgraded to veteran or killed)
  • Wizards' Tower
  • Priestly College
  • War Lodge
  • Temple (five types)
  • Canal
  • Well
  • Road
  • Causeway

Buildings concerned with resource production &/or processing:

  • Farm (can be set to produce food or cash crop)
  • Fishing village (produces canoes that can be seconded in wartime)
  • Weaponsmith (upgrades swords, invents spearthrower)
  • Cotton Mill (supplies cotton for armour)
  • Quarry (supplies obsidian for swords and stone for buildings)
  • Mine (supplies gold)
  • Banner Maker (improves the commands you can issue to units)
  • Aviary (supplies Banner Maker)

Resources that the player is told about in detail:

  • Gold
  • Stone
  • Mana (decreases over time, but never below increasing limit based on total sacrifices)

Hidden resources that you have only qualitative control over:

  • Food
  • Cotton
  • Obsidian

Basic unit types:

  • Commoners
  • Merchants
  • Nobles
  • Priests
  • Wizards
  • Scouts
  • Swordsmen 
  • Javelineers

And veteran units:

  • Eagle Lords
  • Jaguar Lords
  • Arrow Knights
  • Hummingbird Priests

Not all of those ideas would have made it into the finished game, of course. This is just a brainstorming pitch document to get the design process started. That's my favourite part of any project, incidentally, though I'm also willing enough to roll my sleeves up and keep toiling away to the finish line.

Friday, 15 March 2019

A rules rutter

What are we looking at here? A good question. You know I was talking about having another crack at revising the Dragon Warriors system? More like completely rewriting it, in fact. It's a project I've returned to many times over the years, usually abandoned in short order as the need to actually crack on and run a fortnightly campaign gets in the way.

This time of going back to the well, I have a rules mechanic that I'm finding pretty neat. Those could be famous last words. I did remark to one of my gaming group that "designing a new set of rules is like doing a jigsaw. After early frustrating dead ends, everything seems to come together, gathers momentum, gets exciting – and then you see the gaps that the remaining pieces just won’t fit into. Rinse and repeat."

But I think I can punch through the doldrums of design to arrive at a workable set of streamlined rules that will fit any contingency. God knows we need it. The obscure rules lurking in the thousands of pages of GURPS books is starting to try the patience of most of my players. We only get a few hours' gaming every couple of weeks. We need something simpler.

So, that book in the picture. In order not to repeat the false starts I've made in the past, I took all the notes I've made on different versions of DW2 rules and collected them into one volume, which I then printed up on Lulu. I find having a physical book like that is easier than wading through multiple files on the computer. Just behind the rules book there you can see the homemade booklet I used to prep for writing a chapter in The Design Mechanism's upcoming Lyonesse RPG.

Just to give you a taste of all these notes, one of the briefest sections in the booklet is this overview I sent to Grenadier Models UK when we got to talking about collaborating on a new roleplaying game in the early '90s.
Everything is based on a skill system, so a character might be a Rank 3 Wizard and a Rank 8 Fighter, or whatever. Ranks are purchased with Improvement Points, which are acquired by training or experience. There are no "character classes". The cost to acquire ranks of different skills depends on the character's culture. So elves need fewer IPs to advance a rank of Wizardry, more to advance as Fighters. 
Combat is handled by comparing Attack and Defence values. In some ways it is similar to the Dragon Warriors system, but characters can exercise a degree of choice in how much they concentrate on attacking as opposed to defending. The range of choice reflects different styles of combat. When a hit is scored, damage is determined by a single dice roll which is modified by the weapon used and the attacker's rank as a Fighter. Armour works by absorbing some of the damage.

I am in two minds about whether to include hit location or not. It adds a certain colour to any combat system, but it does tend to slow things up - and you get into problems where non-humanoid creatures are involved. The alternative system uses "wound values" - any wound causes Attack and Defence penalties, depending on how much damage is inflicted in a single blow. Characters are more likely to pass out from cumulative wounds than to fight on until cut to ribbons. This means that combat is fairly ferocious and damaging, but as long as the players' side wins in the end they will generally be able to heal up their fallen companions.

Magic is divided into three types. The first is Wizardry. This uses up no spellpoints, but requires a skill roll to work properly. It is also quite difficult to learn. It is the way a magic-user would contrive most of his "special effects" - weird events that are not directly related to combat. About a hundred Wizardry cantrips allow the magic-user to pass through locked doors, go unnoticed, conceal a trail through woods, and so on. I dislike the idea that wizards in many systems have to use up their spellpoints for quite minor effects. I cannot imagine Merlin or Gandalf crossing off a couple of spellpoints for an illumination spell, for instance. The Wizardry rules are intended to represent the popular fictional concept of the magic user more accurately.

The second branch of magic is Thaumaturgy. This is combat related magic. Wizardry illusions do not do real damage, for instance, but Thaumaturgy illusions can. Thaumaturges expend psychic points to cast their spells. The number of points available increases only slightly with rank, but what does increase significantly is the number of spell-matrices the Thaumaturge can hold in his mind. When a spell is cast, the mental matrix for that spell "fatigues". It will defatigue with sleep, but a further casting of the spell when the matrix is still fatigued will cost double points. Higher ranking Thaumaturges therefore never get to the kind of artillery-level capability of a D&D magic-user, as their power really lies in the greater versatility they get from having more spell-matrices available.

The last magical skill is Theurgy. This involves the manipulation of campaign magic. Such things might include gathering information about a foe's army or creating an enchanted artifact. Theurgy is often done in conjunction with other magic-users, as it involves a permanent loss of psychic strength and it is better if this loss can be shared between several characters. It takes long periods of time to work (and must often be performed on specific astrologically-favourable days) so it is useless within the limited time-frame of one adventure.
The idea is to capture all the rules notes from over the years so I can sort the wheat from the chaff. So I'm not sure which of the ideas here will make it into Dragon Warriors 2 (if any) but we'll see. I certainly want magic to be more mysterious, less "artillery".

Oh, and while you're here -- did I mention my Kickstarter for the final Blood Sword book? It's going strong and there's still one day left to jump aboard.

Friday, 1 March 2019

How a surfeit of skills in an RPG stifles interesting stories

This is going to look like another Gripe About GURPS, but the fact is that I’ve been thinking (for the millionth time) of writing a new edition of Dragon Warriors, and so I’ve been taking a look at what I’ve liked and disliked about various roleplaying systems over the last forty years.

Early on we hardly had skills. Lots of people started out dungeon bashing, a form of tabletop skirmish wargame on rails. So, apart from hiding in shadows, opening chests and hitting things, they didn’t think about skills much. The more roleplaying broke out of the dungeon and became about the whole scope of a fantasy life, the greater the demand for rules that covered all the things a character might do.

My 1979 edition of Runequest lists about twenty skills. That felt like a great liberating leap forward. My 2010 edition of GURPS has more than twenty skills that begin with the letter A alone. There's maybe two hundred and fifty skills in all. And that doesn’t feel liberating, it feels like being tied in knots.

Having too many skills limits the narratives that will emerge, because not having a specific skill tends to block potentially interesting developments.
‘In the back room there’s a guy who’s tied up. “Thank God you came! They kidnapped me.”’
‘I free him. But as I do I’m taking a look at those ropes. Is it possible he could have tied himself up?’
‘Suspicious, huh? Have you got Knots skill?’
‘Er… no.’
‘Too bad. Nice idea, though.’
OK, Knot Tying defaults to Dexterity -4, so the player could still try to make the roll. But in practice DX-4 pretty much scotches it. With DX of 12, that nice idea gets squashed down to a 26% chance.

Obviously a good GM is going to find a workaround, maybe make it an IQ roll with a bonus if the character had had Knot Tying. But now we’re falling back on off-the-cuff rules, often a sign that the system isn’t fit for purpose.

In a much simpler system, with no rules for knots or ropes, you might just ask for an IQ roll. Some early RPGs didn’t drill down to the level of skills, but they did allow for character background, so you’d often hear an exchange like this:
‘…I free him. As I do I’m taking a look at those ropes. Is it possible he could have tied himself up?’
‘That’s going to be an IQ roll.’
‘I’m a sailor, too, so I’m familiar with knots.’
‘OK, I’ll give you a +1.’
That’s also making a ruling on the fly, but the difference in the second example is that the rulebook was probably 50 pages rather than 500. In a very granular system like GURPS 4e, skills are differentiated down to the level of Shadowing (following a person in a crowd, which could just as easily have been dealt with using Stealth and Observation rather than inventing a new skill) or Forced Entry (kicking a door in – yep, there really is a skill for that and it has no default).

The problem with all these skills is that PCs are unlikely to have most of them (Knot Tying, for instance), which will often block a course of action that would keep the game moving and be fun. Often they overlap, and inconsistently to boot, so the game degenerates into sophistry as players argue the case for why their obscure skill has a bearing on this situation. And of course, when you do decide to take a character with Forced Entry, the entire world starts looking like it’s made up of doors to kick in. These are all factors that straitjacket the kind of fluid improvisation that powers the best game sessions.

Instead of all that, you could design a system that lets players unpack the level of detail they want. So say I have Melee skill of 10. I can just roll that in any fight, whatever weapon I’m using. But if I prefer there's an option to specialize in one weapon – sabre, say. So now I get a +2 in my specialized weapon but -1 in everything else. Meleeing with a sabre, I now use a skill of 12, but with a club or spear I’m at 9.

And I can unpack further. Specialising in parry, I can now parry with a sabre at 14, but if I attack or dodge I’m at 11 – and at 8 with other weapons.

That’s not necessarily the way I’ll go with Dragon Warriors 2e. I’d like something that moves away from the kind of abstract number-crunching that accompanies character creation in something like GURPS and is instead based around the character’s life up to the time the game starts. Traveller began that trend back in the dawn of roleplaying, I used it in Tirikelu, and it’s in games like Warhammer too. The advantage is that you end up with a character with a history, a context in which his or her skills make sense, rather than just the best numbers you could wrangle using Excel.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A farewell to alms

There's been talk recently of financial trouble at Megara Entertainment. The founder, Mikaël Louys, launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to pay company bills, noting that if the money wasn't raised then Megara would shut down at the end of February. The crowdfunding was cancelled today some way short of its target. Based on what Mikaël has said on Facebook and on the Megara site, that implies the company may now close unless a new investor comes along in the next few days.

Why this particularly matters to Fabled Lands players is that five hundred of you pledged for hardback copies of The Serpent King's Domain. I don't know what's going to happen about those. Were they ever printed? If so, at least one other games company based in Cannes has offered to take the stock and arrange to ship them to the backers, though they report that they haven't been able to get Mikaël on Skype yet to discuss it. And if the books weren't printed -- well, it seems that the Kickstarter money has gone, and that Megara now doesn't have the means to fulfil those orders.

Jamie and Paul Gresty and I signed a couple of hundred bookplates which we sent to Megara a while ago -- but if Megara has no funds left then presumably neither the hardbacks nor the bookplates will get sent to the backers. It's a bad situation.

I wish I had better news. I wish I had any news. Unfortunately Jamie and I don't even have access to backers' contact details, so we can't let them know if any solution is found. Michael J Ward, creator of Destiny Quest, has had to do some ducking and diving to get DQ4 to backers, I believe, so Fabled Lands wasn't the only project to get hurt by the fallout. If I'm able to find out more, or if I learn of any chance of a solution, you'll hear it right here.

But in the midst of all that, and despite the public slurs Mikaël has directed at me and Jamie, and the fact that I'm not at all thrilled to see he has put works by me and Jamie, Gary Chalk, Russ Nicholson and others on Megara's Patreon page without our permission, I'll say goodbye to Megara  (if indeed it does close down at the end of the month) with some faint sadness. The gamebook world is tiny enough without a publishing company going out of business. And to give Mikaël his due, if he hadn't reached out to Fabled Lands LLP several years ago it's unlikely there would have been Kickstarters for The Way of the Tiger or Fabled Lands book 7. So it's a shame it all went sour, and it's particularly a blow for those backers who never got the books they pledged for, and for the creators whose work is being used on Megara's Patreon page -- but let's also remember the better times. C'est la vie.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Sibling wizards

Who do you think these two are? I don't speak Japanese, but given that these are the covers of Blood Sword books 3 and 4, I'm going to take a guess that it might be Psyche and her brother Icon. That's Saiki and Aiken to their friends -- or indeed to their dearest enemies.

"Role Playing Game"? That wasn't me. I didn't even know the publishers had sold the rights in Japan till I received these copies.

And while we're chatting about Blood Sword (subtle segue, huh?) have you seen the Kickstarter for book 5: The Walls of Spyte? (In English, that is.) And there's an interview I did with The Story Fix giving some background to that Kickstarter; you can read that here.

Friday, 15 February 2019

At last, Spyte

Too many cooks spoil the broth, as you know, but it can be just as much a problem when you've got too few, and that's what happened with The Walls of Spyte. Originally Oliver Johnson and I were going to write the Blood Sword gamebooks between us. In hindsight that was probably never a realistic plan, seeing as how in our earlier series (Golden Dragon Gamebooks and the Dragon Warriors RPG) I'd written two books for every one that Oliver finished.

In the event, before the ink was even dry on the contract Oliver got a full-time office job so he was only able to write about a quarter of The Battlepits of Krarth and none at all of books 2 through 4. We were approaching the deadline for the final book and I had lots of other work on, so Oliver said he'd take a holiday and do the whole thing. That way he'd end up having written a quarter of the series rather than half, and we could amend the royalty payments accordingly.

You know what Rabbie Burns said about foresight. Oliver couldn't get as much time off as he thought -- or maybe his wife insisted that part of the holiday should be spent, you known, holidaying. And I'd already booked up to work on something else. Oops. Luckily Jamie Thomson had a few weeks to spare and he jumped in to take up the slack.

Jamie wouldn't have had time to read the other Blood Sword books, though. Cranking out half a book in a couple of weeks must have been hard enough. So I expect Oliver put a pin in the flowchart, said, "Can you give me a generic 200-section dungeon that I can fit in from here to here," and Jamie came through. But by then Oliver must have thought somebody else was going to do the editing, because there were a lot of things intended to be filled in later (such as numbers on a segmented rod, which got left as "XX" in the printed copy) which meant the book was unplayable.

That's why, when I revised the Blood Sword books for republication a few years back, I pretty much threw up my hands when it came to The Walls of Spyte. That one was obviously going to take more work than the other four books combined. You'd already entered a realm of dreams, faced heroes on the mythic plane, and gone down to the land of Sheol to have it out with the Angel of Death. Did you really want to cap all that with a knockabout dungeon and silly jokes?

It turns out a lot of people did. As I was explaining for the umpteenth time why I couldn't muster any enthusiasm for getting Spyte into a publishable state, it suddenly occurred to me it would eat up less time if I just got on and did it. Hence this Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter is for a limited edition full-colour hardcover. That's going to be a genuine collector's edition, as it will only be available to backers of the Kickstarter. The paperback will go on sale as soon as all the hardcover copies have gone out to backers. So if you just want a paperback copy of The Walls of Spyte, you don't need to back the Kickstarter, you just need to wait a few months.

The Kickstarter for The Walls of Spyte collector's edition will run until March 16th.