Gamebook store

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Samurai smackdown

I said I had only one more of those Fighting Fantasy proposals - the ones Jamie and I submitted to Puffin just before being commissioned to do Keep of the Lich Lord. Turns out I was wrong; there were two more, and I'm going to save up the outline that I had been thinking of for a later post, but meanwhile here's the one I had clean forgotten about.

I'm pretty sure Jamie must have come up with this pitch, as it is similar in concept to a fifth title in the Duelmaster series that he wrote (and that was even fully illustrated) but that Armada Books then declined to publish. Which is a shame because Duelmaster was a great series, and if anyone could pull off the ultimate martial arts gamebook it would be our Mr Thomson!

You are one of the brothers at a martial arts monastery in the land of Hachiman. One evening, the monastery funeral bells are rung and you are saddened to hear the chanting which declares the death of the old Soryo (abbot). A new Soryo must be appointed, and it is the tradition of your Order that this will be determined by a series of martial contests.

You are one of the best warriors in the monastery, but at first you have no intention of entering the contests. You are interested only in your unceasing quest for perfection in the martial arts, and you fear that the position of Soryo would require you to spend too much time on simple administrative tasks. However, as you make your way back to your cell after meditation one evening, you overhear something that changes your mind completely. Unaware that you are passing by, another monk, Nintoru, and his cronies are discussing the forthcoming contests. "When I am Soryo," snarls Nintoru, "I will end this practice of giving shelter and training to the peasant rebels in the hills. Our monastery will put its military support behind the Shogun's forces, and any rebels venturing here will be seized and handed over to him."

You are sickened to hear this. It is well known that the Shogun is an evil man whose oppressive taxes have caused thousands to starve and driven thousands of others to a life of banditry. As a powerful military force, your monastery has always sided with the peasants, as it is the teaching of your faith that the powerful fighting secrets that were imparted to the Order also carry a great responsibility to defend the weak. Nintoru has always struck you as a secretive and venal man, even though his martial skill is the equal of your own. Now it is clear that if he becomes Soryo he intends to overturn everything the monastery stands for. To curry favour with the Shogun, he is prepared to betray hundreds of downtrodden rebels and send them to torture and death. You cannot allow such a thing! You must enter the contests after all - you must confront Nintoru in a bid to become the new Soryo. And you must win.

The principal feature of this book is the combat system, which allows readers to decide from a range of martial styles which techniques they will develop for use in their battles. Observing Nintoru's progress in the initial bouts will give some idea of his strengths and weaknesses, and hence suggest techniques that might work against him.

The later contests are not simple face-to-face battles in an arena or dojo, but complete tests of initiative, strategic thinking, courage and fighting skill. The protagonist will have to descend into the ancient catacombs deep below the monastery and engage Nintoru in a prolonged running battle involving wits as well as strength.


  1. Cool - it sounds like a cross between the Bruce Lee movies Enter The Dragon and Game Of Death set in ancient China. Hachiman was an underused FF setting and I reckon this book would have made a good addition to the series.

    I missed out on Duel Master first time round - is there any possibility of republishing it?

  2. Sword of the Samurai meets Arena of Death. Shame we never got to see it.

    Off topic, I know, but I've posted a scenario for Fabled Lands RPG on my blog:

  3. Fabled Lands LLP have ebook and app rights in the Duelmaster books, Jiminy, so we certainly intend to publish those next year. Mark and Jamie own the print rights, however.

    That's a big scenario, Paul. I'll put up a post linking to it in a day or two, for those who don't read these comments.

  4. 'Masters of Combat' seems like it might have been a forerunner to Jamie's Eternal Champions books. If I recall, they were a tie-in to a computer game of the same name, and were very martial arts-oriented.

    I only ever managed to get my hands on one of them ('Citadel of Chaos' - which shares a title with one of the early Fighting Fantasy books). A small spoiler - the final combat against the evil supercomputer's avatar is almost a move-for-move recreation of the fight against Yaemon in 'Avenger'. Do what you did to kill Yaemon, and you'll win here, too.

  5. I've got a feeling those books were offered to me first, but I suggested Jamie as I knew he'd be the ideal person to write them. Still a little baffled by the title, though - that implies to me they'd be something to do with Michael Moorcock. Having said that, the Virtual Reality books were nothing to do with real VR...

  6. pwgresty - almost a copy and paste in fact, of the Yaemon battle! I really though no one would notice. How wrong i was...

    Citadel of Chaos was actually an FF book originally, by Steve Jackson. But I was given the titles, not my choice. As they were based on Sega computer games. The stories had little to do with 'Chaos' in fact, but were time travelling martial arts stuff. The Eternal Champions system was more of an adaption of the Way of the Tiger stuff, but with much more attention of martial arts detail. I really liked those books, I was very pleased with what I did with them, though they didn't sell much at all, despite the computer game license. I mean, if you're playing the Sega computer game, why would you want to play a gamebook version?

    Masters of Combat also sounds more like a precursor to the Way of the Tiger system, though I can't really remember Masters of Combat. Probably is me, though. It does feel like it.

  7. Interesting. Hmm... wait. A helpful, informative, non-insulting comment? Who are you, and why are you impersonating the real Jamie Thomson?

  8. I am a amoeboid brain parasite from Altair 5, and I have taken over the body of Jamie Thomson. However, I am dissatisfied with this ridiculous bag of simian nonsense and I may jump ship soon.

  9. Hey Jamie, still waiting for the WOTT reprints....


  10. You poor ameoboid parasite, my heart goes out to you. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, "Never get involved in a land war in Asia." But only slightly less well known is this, "Do not invade the body of Thomson, or you'll soon discover that you're the host and he's the parasite."

    Anon - and WOTT book 7, don't forget!

  11. i doubt there'll ever be a book 7, Mark Smith seems to be off the gamebook business for good :(

  12. Never say never, Anon. Swamp Thing didn't end when Alan Moore left. Gene Roddenberry's gone but Star Trek voyages on. Spidey keeps on swinging even without Stan Lee to write his wisecracks.

  13. There's always a way. I shall get the ameoboid to do it. It's now under my complete control.