Gamebook store

Friday, 7 February 2014

Surely you jest?

I've been thinking a bit about what Fabled Lands should be like if we can ever get the remaining books funded.

Earlier caveats apply: thus and so. Bringing Fabled Lands back to life by crowdfunding alone would be a struggle. Two hundred backers, even if willing to pay $50 for a hardcover edtion of book 7, would mean maybe $3000 to spend on writing, copy-editing, illustrations, cover art and typography. And there are EU minumum wage regulations to take into account. Problems...

One way Jamie and I considered tackling that is by licensing Fabled Lands apps and/or computer games. Those could potentially find a bigger market than the books, and since new content would have to be created for the apps anyway, it would then become feasible to do more books.

Another possible solution would simply be to create new books that appeal to a larger market. That's the direct approach: to make more books, we have to sell more books. So far our print gamebooks have really sold only to a small, devoted circle of readers who probably bought these books originally when they were kids. The new edition FL books, for example, are now selling about thirty copies a month each. It's not bad, but it won't fund a series.

But here's a thought...

The big trend in gamebooks now is towards send-ups. Fluffy rabbits fighting zombies. HG2G clones. Hamlet in cheek. Those are the clear frontrunners. So, if Fabled Lands were to return, should we inject a shot of Jamie’s trademark Dirk Lloyd comedy? Make Ankon-Konu a satire of feckless colonials ransacking ancient cultures? Tell stories of punctured pomposity from the supposedly refined civilizations of Atticala? Of bureaucratic idiocy among the demons of the Underworld?

You can probably tell that. where humour is concerned, I take to parody like a duck to lava. “Take That You Fiend” makes me want to punch the game designer, not attack the troll. And even though Jamie won the 2012 Roald Dahl Prize, and can do enough funny for both of us, it remains to be seen whether his flair for laugh-out-loud comedy will translate to the kind of spoof fantasy that is currently playing well with gamers. Still, the choice seems to be between selling a couple of hundred copies of a serious gamebook or several thousand of a send-up one. And it could be worse; we might have to try erotica. Put like that, gimme a jester’s hat and I’ll bring my bladder. So to speak.

90 comments:

  1. Efrem Orizzonte7 February 2014 10:13

    I may be in the minority here, but I really think a big part of the appeal of some works is precisely that they're incomplete. And I also think that there is hardly any way to complete that work years later and convince your audience that you've made it precisely as you originally intended.

    In other words: I don't think that the "lost" 6 books of FL, if ever written, would fulfill the expectations of the fans, even if they were 100% what you had planned in the 90s. Some works are a product of their time, and when that time is 20 years past, the thought of what it could have been is probably more exciting than finally seeing the finished product in your hands. That's basic human nature, after all - myth and speculation are often more exciting than the most perfect of realities...

    There is hardly a remake as good as the original work.
    There is hardly a late sequel that's truly worth the wait.

    In this fast modern world, time is of the essence. That time, I think, has passed for Fabled Lands.

    I don't mind thinking that in 1996, a great cataclysm occurred that wiped away half of the Fabled Lands... hey, come to think of it, isn't THAT worthy of a story? ;-)

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    1. I'm glad you said that, Efrem, because it's exactly how I feel. No doubt a small group of fans would like more adventures in the Fabled Lands, but anything I wrote now would be completely different from their expectations. If the series continues, I wouldn't be the person to write them. I'd rather work up new projects along the lines I started with Frankenstein, or comic books like Mirabilis.

      In the case of Dragon Warriors, I handed it over entirely to the new team of writers James Wallis found because, even though I still run campaigns set in Legend, it's a different Legend from what old-time DW players expect. When I hear people saying how they like DW because it's old school, I realize they are playing a whole different game. My Legend wouldn't be their thing at all. And the same probably goes for FL.

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  2. Though I would never choose to get an app of a book over an actual book, if it comes to the choice of only apps of the rest of the series, I might download them but I would of course rather have the rest of the series in actual book form. It really is too bad not enough people know of the FL series.

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    1. If there are apps of the remaining books, Alex, then I'll try to find the time to typeset as print books too. As I said to Efrem, I think the way to do it would be to get a bunch of other writers who are fans of FL and let each of them loose on one book. That way, FL players will get something more to their tastes than I would write. Somehow we have to make the economics work to pay those writers, though - and that's tricky seeing as there are very few people out there waiting for FL books 7-12. A Kickstarter is possible, though.

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  3. Yes, I know the rest of the would be different than what it would have been if you finished it back in the day. It might turn out better if you DO let some fans finish it. Good luck with the series, I'll be happy with whatever you do with it!

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  4. I seriously hope you're taking the piss with the "send-up" idea. Trend or not, I have no interest in that type of literature in gamebooks. Which isn't to say I don't like humor in a gamebook (the FL series has wonderful examples of understated humor throughout the series; "We'll see who gets processed here, you She-Devil" is still one of my favorite lines in any gamebook. But it makes no sense to have one tone for the first six books and another for the remaining.

    As for not writing the books yourself, I see what you're saying about being a different person, Dave, but I think you're selling yourself short. I think if the new books had anything approaching the same "feel" as the previous ones, they would be popular. At the very least, I hope you turn over your copious notes to any new author who should write on your behalf.

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    1. When I say that I'm a different writer 20 years on, I didn't mean that I'm not a better writer! Interests and style change, is all. But certainly I'd let them have my notes. (Not that copious, though, I have to say.)

      The plan was to gather the writing team and do a Kickstarter for book 7 and 8, with stretch goals to pay for Russ to do artwork and for a cover. And we would have licensed that to Megara Entertainment, who ran the very successful Way of the Tiger KS campaign. But I just heard from Mikael Louys, CEO of Megara, that he is not going to do any more Kickstarters. So that knocks the crowdfunding plan for six.

      Hopefully, we'll find a reliable developer like Tin Man or Inkle who's interested in doing something impressive with the FL apps. Those could find a new audience and justify continuing the series. I think they would need to become much more of a CRPG than a gamebook, though, which the diehards won't be happy about.

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    2. No more KS projects from megara. I guess that means both the coloured blood sword & ORB KS projects are DOA

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    3. I'm not sure what's happening with the Orb RPG. Didn't Megara already run a Kickstarter for that? But yes, I'm afraid it means there'll be no full-color edition of Bloodsword. That campaign had already been indefinitely postponed because Megara wanted to focus on Way of the Tiger, anyway.

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  5. Actually, a correction here: Mikael has declared that he won't be involved in any more Kickstarters. But Megara has a French division (that Mikael runs) and a US division (run by Richard S Hetley). The US part *may* still be willing to run Kickstarter campaigns, in which case FL 7 and color Bloodsword would still be possible. More news as I get it, folks.

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  6. *Please* could you let Inkle do apps for the Fabled Lands? There is no other company that would do justice to the books—a straight "gamebook on iOS" doesn't really work so well for something like FL.

    The possibilities for a very well done FL app have little limitation. Those flaws which the original books could be said to have (too easy at high levels, exploitable areas) would be easy to address, and then in terms of adding to them, there are so many things which the apps would make possible.

    Who really doesn't want to see a more fleshed-out civil war in Sokara, with the environment changing more, and prices change as supply lines are controlled by the rebels. Maybe even the Nergan Corin returning to power? And then the international implications of things, always hinted at in the Fabled Lands but with the limitations of the medium. Who wouldn't want to see watch the power of the pirates affect commodity prices, and see the ownership of the islands of the violet ocean move toward the pirates depending on their success, in the backdrop of a dynamic world which changes not only based on what you do, but semi-randomly based on the balance of power and events which happen which don't affect the player at all, making FL into a living world? These things don't strike me as being alien concepts, more as extensions of the way that FL works.

    Well-made apps could also allow for player-made content, random events or short quest-lines drafted by fans in something approaching Inklewriter, which when moderated could be added to the game for everyone (say, once a month), making people feel as if they're returning something to it, and adding quality depth to the game without requiring spending, just increasing the amount of possibilities...

    As you can probably tell, I'm very excited about the prospect, and I'm certain that an Inkle version of FL would be very popular—with the credit they have from Sorcery, I'm sure that despite FL's relative obscurity (frequently overstated) it would find new audiences. It may also allow the unwritten realms to be progressively written, and would make it easier for them to be written by a number of people... Please let this happen! This sort of thing would be a way to fulfil the incredible potential the FL have, as far as I can tell... Sorry for writing so much and so unorganisedly: my excitement overwhelms me.

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    1. Hey, you convinced me. I'm a huge fan of Jon and Joe at Inkle, and we certainly aren't stopping them from doing the FL apps. But I suspect they are kept pretty busy working on Steve Jackson's oeuvre right now - and his books are just a tad better known.

      And btw Tin Man have some pretty fab new tech coming, so don't write them off. These apps are quickly going to move way beyond "gamebooks on iOS" and Inkle's Sorcery has pointed the way.

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    2. I agree with the anonymous guy there. If Inkle or Tin Man make some FL apps, the apps WILL be noticed. And maybe in the future, you can pay a writing team to start the rest of the series in actual book-form with money earned from the FL apps.

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  7. Incidentally, I shouldn't let this discussion go by without acknowledging that the true successor to Fabled Lands is Fallen London. Fans of the former will enjoy the open-structured feel and the nested quests. And if steampunkery isn't your cup of tea, try the other worlds on StoryNexus. Samsara is a great favourite of mine: http://storynexus.com/sd

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  8. Definitely keep the spoofiness out of Fabled Lands, if only because the change in tone between earlier and later books would be too jarring. Of course, spoofiness might work well in a whole new gamebook series - maybe even something that ties in with Dirk Lloyd.

    And, to add my piece to earlier comments, these days I personally tend to read most of my gamebooks as apps, if only because I do a lot of my reading on trains and dice tend to roll off seats and bounce around the carriage floor. When Blood of the Zombies was released fairly recently, I bought the app but not the gamebook. So yes, FL 7 to 12 could work in app format, I feel.

    Although maybe software is less durable than actual books, when the time comes around for people to change their equipment/operating system and whatnot. And I'm guessing that the fans who've been hanging onto their FL books for the last twentyish years want something long-lasting to complete their collection.

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    1. Jamie and I did discuss Dirk Lloyd gamebooks, but tbh it makes a lot more sense for Jamie to spend the time writing another Dirk novel. Even the most successful gamebooks these days are niche in comparison. (But hey, I'm not against niche interests - look at my own enthusiasm for comics.)

      The new generation of gamebooks will really only work as apps, I think. I couldn't do an effective print version of Frankenstein, and the print version of Sorcery is a pale shadow of the app experience. But I take your point that print isn't going to become outmoded the way an OS might.

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    2. I would definitely agree with Paul's take on this subject.

      The universal medium of print/text plainly cannot win an even break in a straight fight with flashy videogames*. Developing gamebook classics as closed-format videogames is a bitter-sweet pill for some gamebook fans (or at least those like me). Every new gamebook is more than welcome, whatever the medium.

      However, even if we assume for a moment that printed books and PDFs are obsolete (and I am still not convinced of that), there are modern alternatives such as open platform-independant engines that permit release on multiple formats. If videogames are to be considered a worthwhile replacement for print books then I feel that they should at least offer a truly universal medium. Platform lock-in is pretty frustrating.

      Am I right in thinking that Tin Man and Inkle have have developed some great videogames, but they appear to have halted all production on venerable and stable operating systems such as Windows, Mac or Linux? Will a videogame that requires iThing Sundae be compatible with any mobile device in five years time?

      Well, that's my contribution, for what it's worth. Maybe it seems like I am having a pop at videogames, but that is not that case. I know for a fact that many videogames are awesome, but I still feel that proprietary videogame formats have limitations in comparison to books; they cannot fully replace a printed book or even a PDF (or at least not yet!).

      On another note; the Blood Sword postponement is disappointing but entirely understandable, in the circumstances. I hope the situation improves for Megara.

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    3. I don't think of videogames as replacing print or ebooks, any more than movies do. It's probably inevitable than they would supplant '80s-style fantasy adventure gamebooks, because both were trying to do the same thing, and Dragon Age just does the job a lot better than Warlock of Firetop Mountain imo. But there are new evolutions of the gamebook medium that videogames can't fully replace quite yet - or not without spending a lot more money on development, anyway. After I wrote Frankenstein, my book publisher was saying how great The Walking Dead game was. I agreed, but my response: "Give me an advance of £750,000 instead of £7500, next time I'll give you The Walking Dead."

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  9. Just my two cents. Fabled Lands new app would be a perfect example where a good mod, allowing writers to make their own content would certainly be a success.

    There are so many places in the original books where you just want to explore a bit more...

    Cheers

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    1. I'm surprised there aren't more fan expansions of existing gamebooks! Davide. In role-playing, you buy a rulebook and from that point pretty much everything is a mod. There are some great fan additions to the Fabled Lands already, of course (2 whole books, at least) and I believe somebody wrote a Return to Firetop Mountain... That *was* a fan work, right? :-)

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    2. Plug-in gamebook expansions are an interesting idea. I would guess that just like novels, traditional gamebooks have been largely perceived as a discrete and perfect whole. In the same manner, videogame adventures tend to be less modded and generally conceptually distinct from their action or sandbox/rpg-driven videogame cousins.

      Nothing stopping people from adding extra content to an existing gamebook of any format, though...

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    3. When I was preparing Castle of Lost Souls for re-release, I considered converting it to FL rules and inserting it as a multi-stage quest at a town in Golnir, making it an expansion pack for FL book 2. The only thing that stopped me was the realization that, if I was going to do that, it would be almost as easy to write a new book.

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  10. I feel like Tin Man has done some amazing things with the gamebook apps, they have been pumping out apps at a fairly consistent rate. So I can only imagine they are making some decent money. Have you spoken to them about the possibility of taking over the Fabled Lands series? I know there was talk of some new Fabled Land iOS apps but I haven't heard anything about that for about a year, did that idea get scrapped?

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    1. We licensed the FL apps to a company in 2011 but they never appeared and the licence lapsed. So I think we will definitely do them with somebody like Tin Man or Inkle, once the tech is there. The FL apps need to be a step up even from Sorcery.

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    2. In the meantime, it's no secret that Tin Man will be releasing both The Way of the Tiger and the Golden Dragon series in app form later this year.

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    3. GD videogames? Where do I pre-order?

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  11. Late comer to the Fabled Lands (mania?) here. As somebody who are just discovering these books now, I really wish the missing books someday see the light of day. While some you here see Fabled Lands as the remnant of a bygone era, I think Fabled Lands is a compelling product, regardless of the time it finds itself in. Period. I think I'm a testament to that. A 20's something guy who is having a heck of a lot of fun when the hay day of these books were supposedly when I was still in diapers. This is a good product Dave. I have pitched it to my friends and they have run off and gotten their own copies. All of them just as unfamiliar as me but loving the concept just from description alone. Perhaps it's true that Fabled Lands was as much a victim of gamebooks fading popularity -- but perhaps even more so "bad marketing". I really think that maybe with a bit of PR you could really get this off the ground. Heck look at what I did with a few posts and tags of my friends on Facebook. Imagine what a more professional marketing strategy could do. I'm looking at DestinyQuest. An IP made from scratch. And it's already slated to release it's 3rd book this year. And that's without nostalgia to back it. It's banking on it's ability to deliver a strong product. And like I've repeated many times. I really believe Fabled Lands is a strong product :)

    And after all isn't this your baby Dave? Man I sure would love for you to finally finish this epic project of yours after all these years. :)

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  12. I'm now imaging "Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson present: Traulight". Those books sold very well :)

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  13. Late comer to the Fabled Lands (mania?) here. As somebody who is just discovering these books now, I really wish the missing books someday see the light of day. While some here might see Fabled Lands as the remnant of a bygone era, I think Fabled Lands is a compelling product, regardless of the time it finds itself in. Period. I think I'm a testament to that. A 20's something guy who is having a heck of a lot of fun when the hay day of these books were supposedly when I was still in diapers. This is a good product Dave. I have pitched it to my friends and they have run off and gotten their own copies. All of them just as unfamiliar as me but loving the concept just from description alone. Perhaps it's true that Fabled Lands was as much a victim of gamebooks fading popularity -- but perhaps even more so "bad marketing" (I can only guess). I really think that maybe with a bit of PR you could really get this off the ground. Heck look at what I did with a few posts and tags of my friends on Facebook. Imagine what a more professional marketing strategy could do. I'm looking at DestinyQuest. An IP made from scratch. And it's already slated to release it's 3rd book this year. And that's without nostalgia to back it. It's banking on it's ability to deliver a strong product. And like I've repeated many times. I really believe Fabled Lands is a strong product :)

    And after all isn't this your baby Dave? Man I sure would love for you to finally finish this epic project of yours after all these years. :)

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    1. DestinyQuest gets a lot of publicity but I'll bet it costs Michael Ward a lot more than he makes back on it. Fabled Lands LLP is a company with shareholders, so we can't lavish resources on marketing that we're not going to earn back, and with those Amazon rankings there's no sign of a surge of popular interest in gamebooks. Would that it were otherwise. We do appreciate that FL fans are very passionate, but there just aren't enough of them. Maybe we can turn that around with some really good apps, though, if we can just find a developer of the calibre of Inkle or Tin Man to do them.

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    2. My thoughts are:

      - Tabletop gaming is making a comeback. And this is a resurgence outside of the digital platform. There is surprisingly strong demand right now for something tactile and interactive. In fact some people are saying that this is the golden age of board games, with the community larger than ever, and online serving as a platform to get the word out on these games.

      - Lots of people expected digital to cannibalize old school tabletop gaming, just as when it happened years ago when DnD died out in the face of a rising video game culture. But right now the opposite is happening. Tabletop gaming is thriving despite the digital presence. Mobile apps are getting inspiration from table top gaming because they are just that popular. And these are not just nostalgic titles. These are titles released in the last 3 years getting digital ports. Days of Wonder, a giant in board gaming today are saying that instead of having the digital platform cannibalize their physical sales, it has actually boosted it. Video game websites like Rock Paper Shotgun and Kotaku have begun to post a review section for tabletop games. These are signs of the digital platform trying to promote the industry, not overtake it.

      - I keep on mentioning board games because I think Fabled Lands shares many similarities with it. In fact I found out about FL through a board game website: www.boardgamegeek.com, when they ran end year 2013 awards for the iOS platform (http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/26710/best-of-2013-awards-genres-part-2). The Sorcery! apps happened to win the award for best gamebook then (Device 6 was second. Wtheck. What is Device 6??). I left scratching my head what a gamebook was. I did a bit of googling. And the rest was history!

      - One of the growing trends in board games right is the concept of solo gaming, permanence, and portability. Sound familiar?

      - Solo Gaming: More and more board games are offering a solo option. War games in particular have more of these (ex. Navajo Wars, Hornet Leader). But "cooperative" games, one wherein instead of competing with each other, players are working towards the same goal -- such as beating a programmed AI (such as a deck of cards) -- in order to win the game. Games like Sentinels of the Multiverse and Pathfinder Card Game by their coop nature, are also played solo. FL is already this game. It's a solo gaming experience that is rich in story and has choices. Sometimes in board gaming you have to give up theme in order to have good mechanics -- or vice versa (see: Arkham Horror or Tales of the Arabian Nights)

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    3. - Permanence - Board games right now are trying to find ways to incorporate permanence in games. Lasting effects that carry from game to game. The board game Risk Legacy implemented this by introducing stickers you put on the board to mark important events in the course of your play which forever alter the board. Races are also forever scarred depending on which events are triggered. Many more games, both coming and current, incorporate this permance ala campaign: Seafall, Pathfinder Card Game, Descent Journeys in the Dark. A game like Fabled Lands already incorporates this. It even had dynamic events way before mmorpgs had dynamic events! Can you imagine?? Character progression is already present in Fabled Lands.

      - Portability - But the trouble with board games, for the price of having something tactile, you have to contend with portability. Board games are unwieldy. That's why digital games get a nod sometimes. Gaming on the go is such a premium right now. Also more and more emphasis is being put on "pocket sessions" of gaming. Gamers today simply cannot commit 5-8 hours to gaming anymore. The popular games nowadays play quick and shall we say "scratch the itch". This is a strength of Fabled Lands that it can be played in the course of several 1-2 hour sessions -- anywhere you go.

      - Again I keep on calling FL more game than book, probably because it's a good idea to start marketing it not just in the traditional book channels but also in gaming stores as well. Aside from Amazon and Book Depository, gaming websites such as Coolstuffinc and Miniatures Market should be carrying this. I think we are benchmarking FL against the wrong product (books), this should be benchmarked among other games in the market. It is more game than book after all! Perhaps we should be looking at reaching out to tabletop gamers, not just the nostalgic crowd and the book reading crowd.
      - Sometimes when I see book collections/bundles of AGoT or Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings at the store, I really find myself thinking that Fabled Lands deserves that treatment that well. Getting a 12 book Fabled Lands bundle for Christmas. Haha! Can you imagine how awesome that is? That would be an epic gift to whoever was receiving it :)

      - TL DR -- I kinda went on a tear there Dave haha. I hope I gave you some new insights on how to approach an old problem. Basically I think FL has strengths in today's environment that is beginning to prefer portable table top gaming more and more. Perhaps this is an avenue to explore in terms of future positioning and marketing. Like you said, the environment before was different 27 years ago. But perhaps times have changed enough that Fabled Lands can become relevant again (look at a tired old hobby like board games) :)

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    4. If there was a job, you'd get it :-) I like boardgames myself, and Tales of the Arabian Nights was one of the main inspirations for Fabled Lands. We did in fact go some way towards developing an FL boardgame (designed by James Wallis) but boardgaming is a whole industry of its own and neither Jamie nor I has time to go down that route of learning about manufacture and distribution. If a boardgame publisher comes along and wants to license the rights, we'd be happy to do it.

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    5. Boardgames are definitely experiencing a golden age. No doubt about it. It's a cast-iron 100% fact. Boardgames are now "shiny", and the mainstream wants those awesome shiny toys - iThings are a comparable case in point.

      One aspect that vexes me about the phenominal upswing in the fortunes of boardgames, though, is the disparity in attitudes towards boardgames, videogames* and RPGs/gamebooks, which can be quite jarring even on Board Game Geek itself. For example, I find it frustrating that RPGs and gamebooks are hidden away in the RPG news feed, while tablet videogame* versions of almost identical gamebooks are strongly promoted with equal status to boardgames right on the default homepage, instead of limited to the videogames news feed like Windows versions of gamebooks. Hardly seems fair, does it?

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    6. Jiminy that's a good point. And that's the point I'm also trying to make. Game books should be held side by side with digital games and board games. They are more comparable than the rpg section they are in right now. And I wasn't saying we should make a board game version of FL either. I'm saying the FL game book concept is already a very good product to roll out along board games.

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    7. PS -- and Dave about that job..... ;)

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  14. If crowdfunding is not an option, would a print on demand type of deal work? I am aware the books are presently printed on demand, but I am thinking about something like lulu.com or RPGnow.com / DrivethroughRPG.com.
    Do you consider those unprofessional ways of launching a book? Is the main problem paying the autors up front instead later for each book they manage to sell?
    Personally I am very impressed by Fabled lands and I did my playing through them only in the reprints (I never knew about them before the first 4 were reprinted).
    At one time, spending most time in book 1-3 (because 4 was just so deadly!), I decided that I would wait to play the books when/if the series was finished, because my OCD kind of dislikes the fact that I am playing a thing that feels unfinished, even though half of the world is there atm, I still cannot get over the feeling that there are invisible walls that shouldn't be there!

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    1. I don't know that it makes a lot of difference which POD company we use. I picked Createspace because they are owned by Amazon, on the assumption that most people buying books have an Amazon account. Lulu is easy to use but the printing costs (and hence cover price) would be a little higher. I could look into DriveThruRPG as well as Amazon, though. Good point.

      There is the problem that we don't have the money to pay for authors and artists upfront. Well, Fabled Lands LLP does have the money, but we can't justify spending it as we'd never get it back!

      Lots of people do seem bothered by the notion that the world is "unfinished". Truth is, those invisible walls would still be there if we'd got to 12 books, it's just that they'd have been a little further away :-)

      Did you try books 5 and 6?

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    2. Hey, speaking of invisible walls... What about an expansion of the current books like Anonymous (8 feb) says?. Small booklet of 150 sections that complements currents books or fill details when travel from one book to another. Perhaps add new characters with interesting backgrounds and goals (compelling reasons to travel).

      All of this should be cheaper to produce (even recycling art), Could be added to the next FL apps as a bonus and could sell it as an add to the currents books (already have 'Court of Hidden Faces'?, well here is a new story for your character!)

      Or what about a compilation of short stories based on Fabled Lands? You could even star a contest here!

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    3. I have bought book 5 and 6 as soon as they were reprinted, howerver I never got to them. For me it feels like cheating starting with a stronger character in one of those books! I usually start with a book 1 character and go from there.
      The invisible walls problem would be less a problem if there weren't references to books that were planned but never make it! I mean, if all 12 original planned books made it, I don't think there would be the option to travel to the west of the map and to go to book 13 right?
      As it is now we can gain keywords that never get used and we can travel to the edge of the map and find references to book 7-12 :(

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    4. I think my soul dies a little bit every time I roll that dreadful 'sent to hell by the furies' random roll in book 3 that sends you to book 12. I have a level 14 or so ranger that is stuck and hell and still waiting for a way out, I think there is a similar 'dead end' that sends you to book 7. Would love a small short story that allows characters to fight their way out of that particular demise!

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    5. When we reissued the first 6 books, we should really have removed any encounter that sent you off to later books without any choice. For the time being, I suppose you have to regard those as - not death paragraphs, but limbo paragraphs. Maybe next Christmas the FL blog freebie ought to be a mini-adventure for getting out of those traps and back into books 1-6. You'll have to remind me.

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    6. Absolutely!! Meanwhile the fans will need to figure out if there are any more. Now I need to find that crumpled up character sheet!!!

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  15. There's a lot of humour in Fabled Lands already, but done in a way without making the whole world a satire. For example, there are the Seven Fools in Golnir, the sleepy academics of the Wizard University (forgotten the name), the cultists in Sokara, and so on. As well as fear, adventure, wonder and so on.

    And even in Dirk Lloyd (both books of which are great) there are serious points being made which I also liked.... although I ROFLed at the Cursed Car Parking Space of DOOM!

    Jamie's novelisation of The War-Torn Kingdom was nice too.

    I started with Book 4 (just Book 4!) and had great fun walking into the wilderness and trying to get back without dying. Obviously having books 1 - 6 is better than just Book 4.

    Not sure if that's at all helpful though...

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    1. I think the successful gamebooks now are not the ones that have humour within the world, but the metafictional ones that poke fun at the medium and its traditional genres & tropes.

      I imagine what's happening is there are all these people who remember gamebooks from when they were kids, but they're embarrassed by their nostalgic interest in the medium. So, in order to mediate that interest with their adult personae, they prefer concepts that allow them to indulge their childhood passion for gamebooks while the adult self can wink and say, "See, I'm not taking it seriously."

      Hence the current crop of humorous gamebooks that seem to thrive on Kickstarter. They're not humour "within" the world (the way you get humour in Jack Vance's books, for example) but humour that continually pulls the rug out from under any suspension of disbelief - if that's not too mixed metaphor. So, stuff like:

      The orc is heading straight along the corridor towards you. Will you:
      (a) Hide inside the broom closet. Turn to 35
      (b) Pull an orc face until he goes by. Turn to 127
      (c) Do the hero thing with a sword or other pointy object. Turn to 301
      (d) Remember that you're in a gamebook and so cheat by looking ahead. Turn to any number you like, I can't stop you.

      I know, I know, but this seems to be what's selling.

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    2. Efrem Orizzonte13 February 2014 05:42

      I see this too. But it's probably because gamebooks today, as virtually all entertainment media, are made by people who were kids in the late 70s and in the 80s, and experienced that new wave of media that's the basis for what we watch and play today. References, quotes and various clin d'oeils seem to be almost required.

      While I appreciate it at times, if overdone, it speaks of a problem: the author is aiming their work precisely at the nostalgic audience, instead of trying to appeal to the largest possible audience. If you can't catch the reference, you're out of the game, and it feels.

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  16. You have said that the Fabled Lands fan-base is very devoted, but not tremendously large. Whilst this is a 'problem' in terms of getting the rest of the books published (not enough awareness to justify alone, not enough of a market to spend on advertising), it could also be a solution.

    The fan community on Yahoo has achieved some great things—the fan versions of books 7 and 9, the FLApp java applet (which is great), as well as a few expansions for the books. All of this within the horrible Yahoo groups system which both discourages contribution and limits its membership (Yahoo isn't as popular as it once was, a lot of people just join for the FL group). Provided no opportunities (such as Inkle) come up, then there is a possibility to overcome the problem of paying writers and artists: let the fan community finish it, and illustrate it. Without requiring a great deal of time devoted from any individuals, they wouldn't require paying. With appropriate guidance from the original authors, and appropriate positioning of people as artists, writers, planners, editors, a result could easily be produced. Admittedly, it couldn't be as good as the original authors finishing the series, but it would add completeness, and it could be distributed through a pay-what-you-like version of FLApp, rather than have printing costs. Those who get it for free would at least likely spread knowledge of it, and would be aware of the series, and money from those who pay could go to the authors, those heavily involved in the writing, and to Fabled Lands LLP. It would also consolidate the existing fan base, and would make it easier to convert the Fabled Lands into an app, for portable device and for computer, as well as demonstrating the amount and the degree of interest.

    However, the Yahoo group is not really fit for such a purpose, and doing it in private would discourage a lot of potentially useful fans from contributing. Yahoo is declining in popularity, and the Yahoo group has suffered in use as a result. A forum set up with vBulletin or Proboards for the Fabled Lands, with subforums for discussion, amateur improvements, and also the the development of the Fabled Lands, would gather many of the fans (who seem to number in the low thousands), and possibly attract further interest. The rest of the Fabled Lands could, with guidance, be crowdsourced. Surely there are talented writers, artists, passionate role-playing gamers, and developers amongst the community who would be happy to devote their time to such a project? If more 'traditional' completion of the series is impossible, this to me seems the most desirable alternative, if done properly.

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    1. I agree, and as you say there are fan versions of at least books 7 and 9, as well as the superb Pace's Journal. There's nothing to stop fans from doing this kind of thing. Nothing, that is, apart from time. It's a lot of work doing a gamebook, and although the FL books lend themselves to team writing (and would probably be much the better for it) that means somebody has to coordinate everyone else's efforts. I think many FL fans are dedicated, but we're talking about a mountain of work here.

      I did think that it might be worth putting the content we have onto StoryNexus. You can keep adding content indefinitely and, whereas in print FL looks like half a series that was never finished, on StoryNexus it would be a respectable beginning to a world that need never be finished.

      The drawback, dare I say it, is that the interactive story medium has grown up in the last 20 years. Comparing FL (which was marketed to 10-14 year olds) to a StoryNexus world like Samsara or Winterstrike is a bit like putting Thor #1 next to Watchmen. It's not that both those things aren't awesome, but FL would struggle to define itself alongside all those high-concept settings. "It's a fantasy world." "And?" "That's it, a fantasy world. You know, like in D&D." FL is very like the settings in successful CRPGs, but not very like other interactive text-based games.

      Still, I could be wrong. Despite the odd Nepalese name, Sorcery is basically just another Fighting Fantasy type world (which is one generation of derivation below D&D) and that's doing great guns.

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    2. I have only glanced at the fan-made book 9 but it seemed very professional and huge amounts of effort had been poured into it. Admittedly, its 2 books ahead of the current waiting order but would it be impossible for you to consider adding your literary flair to the existing prose and adding that to the official FL canon?

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    3. To add to my previous comment, I think what I am trying to say is that if the quality of book 7 and book 9 is relatively close to what you would consider acceptable, then it would surely be very cost effective to canonize those versions (with some editorial changes, stylistic changes etc) then focus any costs on paying somebody to write book 8 and 9+. Obviously I would vastly prefer you to write them but if its that or nothing I'd go with the former!

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    4. I don't think those books need any extra work, do they? They seem pretty darned respectable additions to the series and don't need any additions from me and Jamie. Even better, they're free! I could say "thry're canon" but does that make any difference? No FL reader needs my approval to enjoy an adventure. So I'm very happy for people to continue their adventures in those books as they are.

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    5. Indeed, but I was considering the idea that they could be converted into IOS format or paper format along with the current series and any other new books, which might make it an easier sell for old fans that want to add something new to their experiences (without having to play from a PDF)

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    6. PDFs? Good heavens, no. Just upload them to Lulu.com and a week later, at a very reasonable price, you'll have your print books.

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  17. It's an interesting option, 'crowdsourcing' the rest of the series. It would be a lot of work though. You'd need a virtually full time editor to co-ordinate it all. Worth thinking about though.

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  18. Yeah, it's a lot of previous work.
    If you consider the crowdsourcing, you could check the available projects. At least the RPG ones, they present the full text (without layout and Images).

    I have never directed a Kickstarter, but I have put money on many, so my humble recomendations are:

    1.- Present a complete draft for backers from day one: this help to spread the voice of solid proyect and works as beta tester (and help corrections). I can only Imagine how hard is to edit a Gamebook, so more eyes the better!

    2.- Start small: Start with book 7. 7-12 could bring a lot of atention, but requiere bigger budget. A big initial funding goal is intimidating.

    3.- Stretch goals kill proyects: Too many streatch goals and aditional books, lose focus on the main goal. A Stretch goal could be illustrated by Russ Nicholson, or add more interior art, etc.

    4.- Outsource the shipping. Make a partnership with DTRPG or Createspace (if possible), and forget to recive 200 books (or 2000), make package and send it back to the origin. If I pledge for a book, recive a coupon for a free book (if I live in Chile, is my problem how I get it in my country). This point is vital, because many KS fails on the delivery of the product and all the blame falls on the creators.

    5.- Make Streatch goals of numbers of backers: Sometimes is not about the money, is about the people eager to support even with $1. If everything fails, you have a large list of people eager to suport your next proyect.

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  19. Btw, you should consider promoting the book as a whole game and not the 7th part of a saga. You should considering attract new people to play this unique Gamebook, not just the old players.

    I also sympathize with the idea of promoting it as a game rather than a book.

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    1. A parallel springs to mind with Alan Garner's Weirdstone books. He wrote the first two back in the 1960s but only got around to the third one a few years ago. That book, Boneland, was a work of genius - and very, very different from the earlier books, inevitably so given the lapse of nearly five decades. So going in a different direction with new FL releases - making them more boardgame-like, for example, or standalones - makes a lot of sense.

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    2. In a way fabled lands reminded me of a good old Hexcrawl, with the main difference that it was solo and didn't require a GM.
      I have not looked into the sourcebooks for the Fabled Lands RPG, are they in depth like Wilderlands of High Fantasy or are they more gazeteer-ish with overview descriptions of the regions and cities?

      I wouldn't mind the last 6 books to be more OSR-ish, although it would probably alienate a lot of the fans of the first 6 books. I don't think they need to be all modern breaking the third wall and such, there is a old school renaissance that harkens back to the days of olde of RPGs, although its all less mainstream then for example giants such as Pathfinder.

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    3. I'm not actually very sure what OSR means. I mean, I know the acronym but I wouldn't know how to go about pitching something that would appeal to OSR players.

      I've only seen the Sokara sourcebook. It's got city maps and location & character descriptions. So gazetteer-style, then, I guess.

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    4. Rewind: I do know what you mean. Blood Sword is pretty OSR - more so than I remembered in the case of books 1 and 5. But with any new gamebooks I'm more inclined to go forwards in a Fallen London kind of direction (not necessarily steampunk, I mean structurally).

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  20. Hey, I was thinking today: why not make a Harkuna encyclopedia or Gazetteer?
    You could start here in the blog to catch interest. I bet it sells better than the rpg! For those who have the rpg makes an excellent supplement. For those who like to start an adventures would make an excellent guide. And finally, there is always fans.

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    1. I suppose that's what the Sokara and Golnir sourcebooks are, Ikaros. You don't have to play the FL RPG to use them. Jamie actually began construction of an encyclopaedia of the whole FL world. Unfortunately, it was all online and the subscription lapsed, so everything was lost :-(

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    2. Oh, that's a sad news indeed. Perhaps a Nice and Tidy 'wiki' would be a good replacement. The fans could start with the information on the books and Jamie and you could elaborate more in de deepest secrets. Perhaps is not a book, but could become a epub

      The source book are a good point!. I can't find Golnir source book at the moment and was printed in 2012.

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    3. I'm not sure whether Greywood Publishing are even still in business. It's a shame, because the initial ideas for the FL role-playing game were brilliant. But Shane Garvey, who had been the project's creative champion, left for another job before the RPG was published, and I think that knocked the subsequent releases back a bit. For whatever reason, it fizzled out.

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    4. In terms of that FL encyclopaedia, would you approve of fans setting up a Fabled Lands wiki?

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    5. Certainly. There's a very good Dragon Warriors wiki already.

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  21. In a way, I’m glad I’ve come late to this post, because my grumpy comment will probably slip in unnoticed and unremarked. Reconstituting Fabled Lands as spoof fantasy would be by far the worst suggestion I’ve ever seen on this blog, *if* I thought for a moment you were being serious. Purely from my own perspective, I have no interest in apps, unless books follow on in their wake, and I see no romantic charm at all in a project left incomplete (I can’t think of any unfinished or fragmentary work of interest where I’m actually glad that the original author(s) did not see it through to the end or that not all of it has survived). Very occasionally, a project will be terminated because the author just decides one day that they have nothing else to say (though the only example of such a scenario that immediately springs to mind is, I think, Sam Kieth’s “The Maxx”); but usually if a project doesn’t reach a planned conclusion, it’s for non-artistic reasons; and so it was for FL 7–12. Those books should have existed but they don’t. I realise that FL 7–12 written now would not be the same as they would have been 16 years ago, and a virtue could conceivably be made of that (different themes, different cultures, different domains, etc.), but in any case we have to accept that we cannot recapture exactly the lost opportunity that existed in that particular moment in time. Nevertheless, the foundations (FL 1–6) endure. FL 7–12 could still be built upon them, and in that spirit I would still want to see finished what was started, despite the widening gulf of the intervening years.

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    1. I'm not keen on send-ups myself, Graham. I like humour to be in-character, not bought at the expense of suspension of disbelief. Right from the start of my role-playing days, that's why I preferred Tekumel to Dungeons & Dragons, as the prevailing tone of the latter was sub-sub-Monty Python. We had plenty of laughs in our Tekumel games, but never at the expense of immersion.

      But here we are now and the market is what it is. The old gamebook series like FL have a tiny number of faithful followers, far too few to make them viable as a business. One way to fix that may be to do them as Sorcery -style apps, which are likely to outsell the reissued print books by a factor of 10 at least. And then we noticed that, as the few success stories in gamebooks lately have all been spoofs, maybe the answer is to let modern readers come back and take an ironic look at the books they enjoyed in their youth. (Btw I believe that is just a defence mechanism for them to defuse embarrassment at enjoying something perceived by many as "for kids".)

      Jamie probably will do a humorous gamebook, but you'll be pleased to hear it won't be in the FL series. If FL continues, it will be because the apps (if and when they appear) have found a new and bigger audience. Personally I agree with Efrem's opening comment - for me, too much time has gone by and there's nothing that I personally could contribute to the series now. I'd want to do it as a comic book, or a videogame - not at all what the fans want. I expect Woody Allen gets people asking him to make a sequel to Bananas, lol.

      But there are many talented writers out there who are willing and able to resume the series just as it was in the '90s. Books 7 and 9 already exist. The only problem, as I've said above, is that such a team effort needs to be coordinated - and that means it has to be viable as a business. If spoofs are out, that leaves apps as the only way to get enough readers to make the thing pay. We'll try that (and follow up with print versions, if such apps can be converted into print) but first we need to find a reliable developer.

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    2. I am strongly of the view that no one has the right to tell an author what to do with their own work. I think you are justified in however you choose to proceed (or not) by virtue of the fact that it is your choice alone to make; but of course I also have an opinion on the matter, and it needed spouting.

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    3. It would be worth pointing out that a lot of fans would love FL to be completed as a videogame

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    4. Graham, it's a forum of equals here. I want everybody to speak their mind, no fear or favour. Hopefully we will find a way to get books 7-12 done somehow - and by authors who will do them justice. You wouldn't want me writing them, really.

      For the record, Jamie is much more confident that he would continue the series in the same vein as before. The snag is that he will be busy on Dirk Lloyd writing chores for a good few years to come.

      Anon, I'll drop everything and do the videogame. Just find me $5 million and I'm on it.

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    5. Maybe a £5 000 000 kickstarter for an open-world reacting-world fantasy game might be more successful than a £500 000 kickstarter for an open-world fantasy gamebook sequel?

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    6. Well, yes, my position isn't quite as extreme as I might have indicated; there's a good chance that I would, in fact, be interested in an FL video game/CRPG, depending upon the format, but I would prefer the gamebooks.

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    7. Well - reality check here, guys. I don't think anyone is going to give us 5 million ($ or £) to do a Fabled Lands CRPG. However, something a little more than just a straight port to iPad is feasible. I'm thinking of Inkle's excellent Sorcery apps. If it's possible to turn Sorcery (which was originally just a series of linear, single-story gamebooks) into the lovely map-driven adventures Inkle have created there, then how much more could be done with the FL books, conceived as they were as map-driven, open-world RPGs in gamebook form. But, as I've said before, to do that requires a developer with the appropriate tech. Inkle are busy, but Tin Man are working on some nifty new stuff.

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    8. That sounds perfect, surely you can get in the queue. We've waited 20 years for this, I'm sure we can wait until they finish Crown of Kings :) They could probably help out with Blood Sword as well!

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    9. Don't be too quick to dismiss Tin Man, though. They have a grant from the Australian government to develop their app technology in innovative ways. We already discussed with them a version of Bloodsword that would finally make a virtue of those pesky tactical maps (think Warhammer Quest). Good as Inkle are, they're not the only ones with some smart moves.

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    10. Fingers crossed that those videogames* - especially Bloodsword - will be open platform and not confined to tablet devices. I'd pay some good money if that were the case.

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  22. Well, a gamebook sequel wouldn't need quite that much, but the CRPG would have several advantages - not least being that all the KS money raised would go into making the game, whereas with books you've got to print and ship the blasted things

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    1. For that reason, the best course of action is outsource the process. I have followed close many KS for RPG and the main failure is delivery on time or delivery at all. The successful ones (like Fate Core) was a full time job for the creators.

      DrivethruRPG is a print on demand company with international shipping. Lulu does the same. The backers of a FL KS could receive a coupon for the price of the book, and they could figure out the shipping. So, from the money rised you pay the coupons and live without stress.

      Perhaps this procedure will rise the price, but honestly KS is many things except cheap :)

      PS: BTW I'm writing this comment, with the FL1 on my hand. Trying to figure out were will be my next adventure :)

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    2. We'd certainly do it that way if we do it, but I was making a different point. If a Kickstarter backer pays $25 for a digital product, all of that money goes into development, because the actual unit cost is zero. But if that $25 is for a printed book, around $20 goes to pay for manufacture and shipping, even if the book is sent straight from Lulu/Createspace/Lightning Source direct to the customer.

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  23. Thanks for letting me know about Alan Garner's new book. I will check that out. On the topic, it would be interesting rather than discordant if the remaining Fabled Lands books were completed with a diferent authorial tone than the first. Sometimes late sequels can work, and illuminate the work that has gone before. I hope the sequence is complete one day.

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    1. You'll get a slight flavour of the difference in style today from the new intro to The Keep of the Lich Lord, an old Fighting Fantasy book that I've relocated into the FL universe for a new edition. If I could go full Boneland I'd be really happy.

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  24. Just for the record, I ordered 2-6 off Amazon today, having been renewed in my interest in Game Books by attendance at FFF 2014 for the launch of You are the Hero by Jonathan Green. I can see the issue with print books, and the work involved, but clear pointers as to the hooks between 1-6 and 7-12, as well as between themselves, might allow 8 and 10-12 to be fan written. Having the promised "Get out of limbo" hooks, promised (?) above would be a step forward

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    1. Ah yes. Christmas is coming up, isn't it, Mike, so I should probably get down to that fulfilling that promise. I'd be very happy to see fans complete the series, though the fact that the FL Yahoo Group has fallen into inactivity doesn't help. One of the reasons for that is that the previous moderator has dropped out of sight, but until somebody starts up a new fan forum it won't be easy to coordinate the work. At one time I think there were about 1200 fans there, and if 10% of those are willing to take on such a project that's only 25 sections each to complete the remaining books. Somebody's got to get that altimeter out of book 7, mind you :-)

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    2. Further to that, did the FL Wiki that Valedearth proposed above ever get set up? 'Cause that would be a good starting point.

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  25. The other good starting point - I keep banging on about this: if everybody who said they'd give us money on Kickstarter for FL7+ would put up a review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc, that would do a lot of good. Seriously.

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  26. For any help it may be, I just ordered books 1 to 6 on Amazon, with expedited shipping even as we're leaving on out honeymoon on Thursday and I want to bring a few of them with me for the long plane trips.
    Didn't know about the series but reviews were so good I couldn't pass.

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