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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Home of the Magi

More Blood Sword stuff, and this one's really for the diehards. It's Oliver's map of the chasm known as 'the Cauldron' that surrounds the ruined city of Spyte. For the purposes of the gamebook, the Cauldron was only a few hundred yards across - a bit of licence, that, as in Legend it's actually several miles across, and that's one of the reasons I don't consider the Blood Sword books quite canonical.

What happened with the Blood Sword books was they were originally meant to be written by me and Oliver together. But while I was a full-time author, Oliver had a job at Transworld Publishing (publishers of Dragon Warriors) and his workload began to mushroom, with the result that he had to back out after doing only about 25% of the first book, The Battlepits of Krarth. I then wrote the next three, but we always intended that Oliver would clear enough time that we could partner up on the finale of the series, The Walls of Spyte. Unfortunately, after drawing that first map and writing about half the book he had to drop out owing to a combination of career and personal pressures. That's why Jamie Thomson jumped in at short notice to help out with a couple of hundred paragraphs.

The Blood Sword books are probably quite hard to find these days (legally, anyway) but the first three were turned into my Chronicles of the Magi novels, available as PDFs for $4.95 each on DriveThru. Again, not strictly canonical Legend, but useful for roleplaying in Krarth, Wyrd, Outremer or the Ta'ashim lands. This taster should help you decide:

The heat of the day had long since fled from the desert, and under a sky of a million stars a man stood on the white sands beside a corpse.

In the man’s hand was a long knife, gently curved, whose blade shone dark and wet in the cold moonlight. Stooping, he dipped the knife in the corpse’s gaping chest and used its own blood to draw a circle around where it lay.

The task done, he raised his eyes to the heavens and spoke seventeen syllables in a guttural tongue.

A wind rose, pulling ripples of fine sand across the moon-bleached dunes.

The man directed the knife in turn to each point of the compass, his movements as graceful and precise as those of a dancer or a beast of prey. And as he turned he seemed to sing a spell under his breath in the same exotic language.

At his feet, the corpse’s eyelids rolled open and it stared in blind horror at the stars.


  1. I like the spots on the map; is this blood ?
    The last opus suffered of this discontinuity in authorship. According to critics, it is rather average (however, what is "average" in this gamebook series is good in other ones) because of a few quirks: for example, the tricks of the trickster nearly disappeared.
    IMO, the final battle helps to save the rest; well balanced between fightcraft and intelligence, and that takes into account the former actions of the adventurers. I don't know another series with a better final scene.
    (and, purely personal: I like the description of Onaka !)


  2. Thanks, Olivier - especially as the final scene was part of my own contribution to the book. I am sure Onaka must have been one of Jamie's sections as he loses no opportunity to showcase his old EPT character Jadhak in his gamebooks.

    I think book 5 did suffer from being rushed. For me, the series peaked with books 3 and 4, and the final showdown in the walls of Spyte felt a bit tired and dungeon-y after those epic events.

    The spots on the map? It was me and Oliver, so probably a nice bottle of Gevry-Chambertin rather than blood :-)

  3. The Blood Sword books are probably quite hard to find these days

    I've been trying for years, without success, to finish off my Blood Sword collection (need 1&5), but finding affordable copies is proving nigh impossible. Hopefully their collectability heralds good things for your future releases.

  4. If the new edition Fabled Lands books do well, there's nothing to stop FL LLP from releasing Blood Sword as well. This time round I would change the series title, and I might drop the fiddly tactical-map combat as well. Unless lots of people say they really love the old combat system, of course.

  5. You could include the old system, as well as the revamped one.

  6. Dave for what its worth, I am currently replaying the BS books and enjoy the tactical combat system.

    Sure there are battles where it seems irrelevant, like the seven-in-one, but there are other fights where the system is critical - e.g. fleeing the elder gods, fighting the four barbarians in Krath etc. In those situations I'm not sure how you can determine which characters are attacked, or how players can flee to certain areas etc.

    Also there is a sense when you flick through the book and see the maps that the book is something different than a normal book / gamebook. Perhaps you could have the maps redrawn with modern computer graphics etc to add to the visual appeal.

  7. Campbell - the publishers demanded a USP when we pitched the series and the tactical maps were what I came up with. I had thought that the fact you could play in a party of up to four was a USP, but they didn't figure that was unique enough. From what you're saying, it may be they were right - though nowadays if I'm going to play out a fight on a tactical grid I'd rather a computer was handling the nuts 'n' bolts for me. Still, I mustn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    One solution is to offer two options: a basic and advanced combat system, as Mike suggests. Or maybe I can think of a clever way to simplify the system but still keep the poosibility of interesting tactical choices, just implemented in a more abstract way.

  8. From memory, the tactical rules were a bit hand-wavey in the first place. It's unclear how far a character can move and whether they can move on diagonals; how intelligently the monsters behave is also up to the player. On the other hand, they help the player to picture the surroundings, and determine which characters are exposed to attack.

    In conclusion: um, it's enjoyable as is? But then I do like my maps...

  9. Beef up the tactical rules and release as a hybrid book/board game, with card floorplans and card/plastic minis.

    Book 1 has approx 30-35 unique locations, and 68 monsters/characters (from 27 unique types).

    Players would have cardboard character sheets, tokens for tracking status, and cards representing game objects.

  10. Perhaps the best solution will be to get the good folks at Megara Entertainment to adapt Blood Sword for iPad, where the tactical maps would be a neat feature rather than a fiddly nuisance to have to deal with. However, Mikael and his team have 12 FL adventures to get though first, so it might take a while!

  11. If you ever consider outsourcing to anyone else, give me a shout. I'm part of a small indie dev team currently working on i-device games (our first title will be out in a few weeks) and we are open to external projects as well as our own original titles.


  12. Now that's a very interesting idea, Wayne. I'll run it past the other Fabled Lands LLP guys and see what they think. In the meantime, good luck with the game. What's it called?

  13. I'll let you know as soon as we've reserved the app name - it's a simple casual game for our first title. At the moment we're just a small 4 person team - 2 programmers, 1 artist and 1 designer (myself). Programmers are young but talented and motivated, me and the artist are old hands who've been around the block a few times. Their energy plus our experience.