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Friday, 11 April 2014

Are the FL books too tough?

Jamie forwarded me an email he got recently from Johnathan Finfinis, who makes a pretty important point about the Fabled Lands books:
"I have played books 1,2,3 and 4 and lose without a reasonable survival possibility. The monsters are too powerful, you start off with sixteen shards, and there is nothing available in the Fabled Lands for anything under twenty shards except maybe a ferry ride. It's disappointing because I like to play fair, but no matter how hard I try and how careful I am I get killed off.

"Also, how is a level one character going to get two hundred shards to buy a boat? I don't even see opportunities to steal or to earn money. The game is simply too hard! It's unfortunate because I really do like the game and want to play it. One player suggested using a level 6 character and playing book one with that character - which would work, but that seems to be cheating. I think you guys could have made weapons and armor and other stuff cheaper, and given characters more money and a better chance at fighting enemies. I don't like a cake walk but this is way too tough!

"What do you suggest? By the way I bought all six books at once. I want to enjoy playing the series but I want at least a measure of possibility that I will survive!"
Well, that gave me and Jamie pause for thought, I can tell you. We always knew the FL books would be trickier to balance than any ordinary gamebook because there are so many possible routes through. But if it's really the case that the books are so tough that a starting character can't even get going, that's a serious flaw indeed.

What's been your experience of the books? Did you start out in The War-Torn Kingdom with a 1st rank character? Did you need to cheat, or were you able to make your way in the world? We need to know!


And while I'm talking about FL... Megara Entertainment have just released the first collector's edition Fabled Lands book. This is a full-colour hardback and it's on sale on Megara's website for $50. Not cheap, but you do get a whole lot of lavish colour pictures and a foreword by yours truly. The text is mostly unchanged from the original edition, apart from a few places where the illustration deviated from the description - a priest becoming a priestess, things like that. The illustrations that are colorized versions of Russ Nicholson's work are the most successful, for my money, but there's plenty to suit all tastes. This is a limited edition, so if you want a copy then better grab one now.



68 comments:

  1. There's certainly a bit of a learning curve. I remember it took me several runs at it before I was able to get anywhere in book 1, but once you know where to go, there are some simple quests you can do to get started. Once you've got a couple under your belt, things get easier, but it is rather daunting at first.

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  2. I started with Book 4 as that was all I had. That was tough, but I had a lot of fun going into the Steppes and trying to come back alive.

    Realistically, you want to start with Book 1. It's a) the easiest b) quests are easier to find and c) any deadly dangerous places are clearly flagged.

    Starting in later books you do get a higher rank, but you don't have the equipment or blessings to survive unless you do "undead problem solving", as in "I got killed three times here because I didn't have the keyword "Excalibur" so I'll avoid the death cave of doom for now.

    Book 2 is deceptively deadly. If you stick to the roads, you'll be OK at low levels mostly, but stray from the path and the Big Bad Wolf will get you. To be fair to Book 2, some of the "bad things" don't kill you which lead to other adventures.

    I've never tried starting in Book 3. I'd imagine that starting in Book 5 will lead to a nasty fate at the hands of the priests of Eibon.

    Once you have some blessings, and maybe a resurrection deal, that's when you start exploring the nastiest corners of Harkuna...

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    1. And with ships, if you buy the little ship and have a poor crew, you can potter about in coastal waters and you'll probably be OK. If you upgrade both of them and have the correct blessings then you can be a real explorer. One of the nice features of sea voyages is the "You aren't fourth rank so we're not going in there sunshine" attitude of the crew, which is charming :)

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    2. And when I started in Book 4, I did do some grinding. There is a repeatable encounter that lets you pick up a lantern for relatively small risk. Get lantern, sell lantern, get lantern, sell lantern a few times and you can get some equipment. A bit like working in a supermarket for a few weeks so you can save up for your machete and pith helmet...

      As time isn't a factor in a Fabled Lands, i.e. Nothing blows up or burns down if you end up working in an office for fifty years before starting quests... Otherwise you could trade time or health for money. Like iAnd when I started in Book 4, I did do some grinding. There is a repeatable encounter that lets you pick up a lantern for relatively small risk. Get lantern, sell lantern, get lantern, sell lantern a few times and you can get some equipment. A bit like working in a supermarket for a few weeks so you can save up for your machete and pith helmet...

      As time isn't a factor in a Fabled Lands, i.e. Nothing blows up or burns down if you end up working in an office for fifty years before starting quests... Otherwise you could trade time or health for money. Like in Sorcery! Where you can dig a cesspit for someone.

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  3. I agree with Liam. The beginning is definitely the most brutal part. There's no guidance leading you towards easier quests, and little about quest descriptions that suggests whether the'll be easy or hard (or what stat they'll be testing).

    I had to throw a parade of characters into the grinder before I found a couple of straightforward quests and could earn a bit of money to start making my character less flimsy.

    Playing a mage or other low-combat character is extra-hard. Combat is the most common form of test, you often can't avoid it if you want to complete quests, and once you're in it you generally can't get out! While you might get a lucky roll on other stat tests, Combat lasts over multiple rounds, so you need a bunch of lucky rolls to fluke your way through it. And beyond blessings (which are great!) there's not much in the way of consumable resources to give you temporary advantages.

    BUT! If you get lucky or stick with the books through some frustrating character deaths, it all changes. You can win big in Fabled Lands! All it takes is one lucky score or well-exploited opportunity (bought with the blood and misery of previous characters) to get established. For me it was duelling the knights in the War-Torn Kingdom. I won piles of very expensive armour and sold it for vast profit. That let me buy much better equipment and set up a small but lucrative shipping business!

    Once your foot's in the door, the options multiply and the books shine. It's amazing once that happens. But that early phase (especially in the first book) is savage!

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  4. It was a long time ago, but my experience echoes Chris.

    After a couple of restarts in book 1, I ran a character from book 1 to 6.

    My overall impression was that 99% of the content pretty easy - once you're up and running there isn't much that can stop you. I do remember needing to make a big score to 'bootstrap' the character, but after that it's plain sailing.

    I guess I approached it with a gamebook mindset - you're gonna die a number of times trying to play through a Fighting Fantasy, and I expected no different from Fabled Lands.

    Maybe someone approaching it like a pen-n-paper RPG would have different expectations.

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  5. I started playing the Fabled Lands series for the first time recently after rediscovering my love of gamebooks this year and I must say it is a superb series. However, it is true that the beginning is too brutal. I lost many characters by just exploring a little and finding an impossible check or combat. There are several easy starter quests, but there are no clues to finding them, so trial and error is required.

    In WTK, you might try seeking a ghoul or going in the sewers early as that's probably the first quest you'll find, but you will likely fail and possibly die. Sure, more fool you for trying that, but initially you have no clue how hard those quests are or where to get a start. In Cities of Gold you wash up by a fort and a beach, but exploration of either is likely to result in death or serious injury-there are clues how to profit from both elsewhere in the book, but someone just starting out will probably be interested in exploring their starting location and not expect immediate death. In book 3, arrival in Dweomer or Smogsmaw can lead to a swift end if you explore the wrong place too soon.

    You do learn what types of location to avoid if you have certain stats low, but every do often you get a nasty surprise.

    It means that you have to learn from your earlier experiences and deaths rather than diving into a role play mode early and you must learn the optimal opening just as you would in a more traditional gamebook.

    Maybe more gold would help so you could join a temple, buy a few blessings or a weapon or armour before trying an adventure, rather than always seeking out the same starting quests. Or maybe a few more clues in taverns. One of my bugbears about book 2 is that the inns have no rumours but instead useful hints were hidden in random road encounters which I missed initially by not rolling the right numbers. Only after I'd died in the very encounters they warn did I later discover them by walking in circles to get all the hints (I was using the fantastic web app to track my character so I couldn't cheat!).

    I really love huge parts of the books-I recently went to Yarimura with a rogue and had a fantastic time doing all the thiefy things there. I now want to explore books 5 and 6 fully. But it will be with a new character as I lost everything by sailing out to sea and meeting a demonic ship which took me to book 12. Such is the life of a Fabled Lands adventurer!

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    1. Whatever you do don't throw your character away, Dave had teased the idea of a mini Fabled lands expansion to allow characters to escape from those unfortunate dead ends (Dave, please treat this as a reminder!). I think there might be another one where you are washed into a river in book 7.

      My own view is that the difficulty is perfect, once you have a few tricks up your sleeve, a res deal handy and a stash of gold in the Yellowport Sewers its hard to knock you out of the game! The longer you play, the more invested you are but the better security you have. Much better than poor old Lone Wolf having a 10% chance of instantly dying every time somebody shoots an arrow at him!

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  6. Just from my memory, the easiest start of the adventure meant taking a ride with the horse goblins. Take woul turn your equipment into something usefull. But yes you had to know what to do. Once you start making moneyand taking gear it becomes easier.

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  8. Well, when you first start it definitely requires some learning and finding your way around. But it didn't take long until I found my around and was able to do a couple easy quests with a cash reward at the end of them. And you just have to have a little thought on what to buy at markets to survive some harder adventures and what important decisions to make during a quest. When I started Fabled Lands it wasn't too hard at all! You just need to think and learn your way around some towns before you go off on a quest. And it bugs me when someone says they're having a hard time finding quests, because if they really were trying to look for one, they would've found one in just a little time! It has never took me very long to find a quest in Fabled Lands! Just go to taverns and listen for rumors or go out side of town and explore! You'll be sure to find some kinda adventure to go on.

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  9. I echo the previous comments. It is rather difficult with a book one character. Since there are six professions, everyone is weak in at least one area, and failing a skill roll can prove deadly. What's even more frustrating than dying early is having some success, building up some equipment and treasure, and then dying from an unlucky roll. I recently began another play-through, but I started with a 4th level (bk 4) character and immediately walked back to books 1-2. I don't consider this cheating- the whole point of the series is open, unbounded movement and exploration.
    Having said that, the books are still immensely enjoyable and I keep coming back, discovering something new each time. Perhaps a way to better balance beginning characters would be to have a little more money, and maybe even the choice of one or two blessings, to insure against an early unlucky roll.

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  10. As someone else who started with Book 4 (stumbling upon it by chance at a local library), I found that there was a scarcity of things to do, but a fairly beginner-brutal climate. Once I had more books (1-4), and had played through a reasonable number of times, it was fairly easy to get into it. And once a character has gotten fairly strong, the game becomes very easy, with very little challenge, even from the most difficult combatants and rolls.

    Really, I don't think this matters a great deal. The beginning difficulty and subsequent easiness really means that you pay attention to the setting, to the details and the plots, which are really where the series shines. I think that this is where a Sorcery-style adaptation (mention of the Fabled Lands appearing in an interview with Ingold recently) could really come in and make improvement though. Balance and difficulty curves could be made a lot easier, when there is added dynamism, and a rejigging of rules which grant omnipotence at high levels.

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  11. I played the game with a 'custom class', basically a Rogue where my magic and sanctity were terrible but I had decent scouting/thievery/charisma/combat, which made a big difference in the opportunities available to me. Occasionally I'd dice-roll, but more often than not I'd simply assume I won the situations my character was 'good at', and lost the ones my character was 'bad at', which ended up being quite fun.

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  12. I remember I had no problem starting with a 1st level character in Book 1. The following books were indeed tougher, except the one in Akatsurai.

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  13. Well, I'm encouraged that most people seem to have managed despite Jonathan Finfinis's reservations. Still, as a role-player I feel that it should be able to progress a character without having to rely on lessons learned the hard way, ie by losing a previous character. Certainly if we ever do a new app version of these books it will be essential to give players enough clues to be able to play through without constantly dying and starting again. Possibly, if we can get an Inkle-style app version, players could view rumours on the map without actually having to throw themselves in harm's way.

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    1. An app could show what players have learnt from talking to people in pubs/the street/docks in some way? Such as overlays, which become increasingly detailed based on the quality of information. e.g., it's dangerous in the North, when toggled on, the danger overlay covers the North of the map in red, but with quite thin stripes. As you learn more, the stripes get thicker, and the areas become better-defined.

      Just a thought :D

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    2. Ah, you're making me dream of a full-on Fabled Lands CRPG now. Sigh...

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  14. Gah. I want this sooo bad. I wish I had money. I loved the original, the other kids at the hospital would love it, too. If only. Maybe it'll still be available when I can afford it. Bleh.

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  15. Efrem Orizzonte12 April 2014 at 17:12

    That collector's edition looks absolutely fantastic.

    But, 50 dollars magically turning into 50 Euro for European customers is a dealbreaker. Shame, I would have totally bought at least Book 1, but not at that price.

    About the actual topic: Fabled Lands is pretty difficult to get into, but I guess it was supposed to be. You have to experiment with the various options available, and find some sort of optimal path that allows you to beef up your character. Once you're stronger and better equipped, you are free to wander wherever you please and take on pretty much any challenge.

    As is usual with gamebooks, though, some luck manipulation really helps enjoying the adventure that little bit better...

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  16. Some interesting debates could be had as to how to deal with difficulty into book and beyond. THe game could probably flow mechanically and narratively but might struggle a little with keeping combat balanced - especially with the armor system as it is.

    A couple of house-rules that might help survivability would be to allow characters to use magic rolls instead of combat rolls in combat, provided that no armor or weapons are allowed. Perhaps thievery could be used to 'evade' certain combats.

    In my experience my most successful characters tend to be the mage, warrior or wayfarer - I think having a good combat OR magic plus scouting is a fairly good base early on in the game.

    It would be quite fun to have a 7th class - perhaps a 'generalist' or jack - perhaps 4 in each score or would that be too easy?

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    1. Sorry - that should say book *7* and beyond above!

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  17. [Mikaël from Megara] Hello Efrem, I want to comment first by saying that it's Dave who made a mistake, I never said to him 50 usd, it was from the start priced in euros. Never mind, Dave. Other comments from myself:
    1) 50 euros is shipping worldwide included and for a hardback book with a good number of pages it's costing Megara 13 euros so the real book net price before shipping is 37 euros
    2) I agree that in total with shipping 50 euros is a bit steep but it's because of three reasons:
    a) this book was not produced thanks to a kickstarter
    b) the selected book quality is higher than for our 30 or 35 euros books with better picture resolution better colours and thicker inside pages
    c) Megara cannot afford to produce books in large runs only short runs
    d) Megara still needs to make a decent profit because we are paying our artists and authors some fees and because we are a business also with fixed costs

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  18. I came upon FL quite late - only last year. I've tried to give it a go, but in perhaps 10 fresh starts (from level 1) I've only managed to accomplish one thing (I killed some monster in a lake, I think, with a warrior). Literally every other try ended in death against the first thing I came across. Somewhat... irritating. I haven't picked it up since. It's certainly not ideal to have to know an optimal route (as a commenter above notes) just to survive. Otherwise, it just feels arbitrary.
    But regardless, eager to see what comes next with FL.

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  19. I played the Fabled Lands Java applet, which prevents cheating. This was a few years ago, first contact with FL, so no nostalgia, though some nostalgia for the CYOA books of my youth.

    The concept is brilliant, but the mechanics need to be updated for modern audiences. I died semi-arbitrarily many times, or more insultingly, had all my possessions taken but was expected to keep playing. I wouldn't have stuck with it, except it came so highly recommended. Eventually, I figured how to make some money and travel to other books, only to die arbitrarily again. And, as mentioned, what fun is it if every warrior begins his life with the same 50-step process of traveling to the castle, fighting the knights, selling their armor, etc.?

    Recently I played Skyrim and realized I wished FL could be more like it, where you can try almost anything you run across, and develop your character in one of a dozen different directions. You feel entirely free, but actually mostly encounter only suitable quests for your level, areas unlock organically, and deadly quests are signposted pretty clearly.

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  20. I died a lot when I played it. After a while I tended to start in book 2, then make my way back to the book 1 area so that I would have a 1 rank bonus. That made things easier. Still I found book 4 very difficult. I have books 5 and 6 but have only played bits of them with the FL app.

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  21. A few years ago I bought all the books second hand or the new editions. I read the 1st book but stop at the 2nd. The books didnt satisfy me because when I am reading a gamebook I am waiting for being the hero of a story, like the VR books (heart of ice) or the bloodsword ones.
    A few months ago, I tried the FL java applet and SHOCKINGLY, I was hooked to this game!! As I knew that the books are hard, i started at the 6th book and went all the way to the war torn kingdom. So it was very easy to me to grind money, levels, skill increases, ... But nonetheless it was very pleasurable to me, far more than reading the books.
    To me it is obvious that the videogame format is far more convenient than the book format for the FL serie.
    Just my 2 cts

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  22. The FL books are too hard? I absolutely disagree. A few reasons for this: -

    1) Resurrection deals! These immediately make Fabled Lands the most survivable, least frustrating gamebook series around. Yes, the beginning is tough, but once you've scraped together enough Shards for your first resurrection deal, you're pretty much in the clear.

    2) Blessings are cheap, and give you some measure of padding against the odd unlucky roll.

    3) Part of the fun of Fabled Lands, once you know the series pretty well, is judging what you can go up against in reasonable safety - and even, the joy of 'punching above your weight', and surviving encounters that should by rights have killed you.

    4) It's not that difficult to amass thousands of Shards, reach a high level, and have crazy high stats. I have, in my hardcore playthroughs, managed to get up to about Level 15, with a natural 12 in every stat, going up to 18 with equipment. When you're at that level, you can waltz into any combat unarmoured, and come out with barely a scratch. If anything, I'd like to see FL books 7 - 12 feature harder challenges, and more dangerous foes.

    Just my 2 Shards worth.

    (I'm the 28th commenter already? Wow, people really care about this subject.)

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  23. I've just read a Let's Play of Fabled Lands (from about 5 years ago), and it seemed that with a modicum of caution, a bit of luck, regularly stocking up on blessings and having a resurrection deal, Books 1 and 2 weren't too bad. They dipped into Book 3 to go to Dweomer and had a visit to Yarimura before running out of steam. (They also spotted what I never did, that the different books had different authors. I always imagined the two of you in a monastic cell together with Russ... :)

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    1. We do work pretty closely together in the planning stage of our books, but ultimately there's only room on the keyboard for one pair of hands at a time :-)

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  24. I've been away most of this week, so didn't have the time to respond to everyone's comments individually as I prefer to. As Paul points out, it's obviously a subject that people feel strongly about. I would rather a player could pick up the books and play through with their original starting character, not have to learn the tricks of the various quests by dying and starting again. In CRPG form, it would be possible to react to the player's power level more readily to ensure that the more difficult quests were hedged with warning rumours, or only accessible when you'd reached a given rank. (Yes, I know we did a little of that in the books, but as one of our coders at Eidos used to say, we were struggling against the limitations of the medium.)

    One day I hope we can do a Fabled Lands CRPG - or, if not that, at least a Sorcery-style gamebook app that plays to the sandboxy strengths of the FL series. In the meantime, if you are finding it a killing field at the start, maybe begin in Book Three and come straight back to the mainland. I think that's not too extreme an advantage.

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    1. I think back to my very first playthrough - which was only about 3 years ago - and I wandered all through books 1 - 4 without permanently dying. In-game, the character died a whole bunch of times. But the resurrection deals are a great idea; getting burned in a dangerous area, mooching around different parts of the world to get more goodies and experience, then finally coming back to tackle the parts that had given me problems the first time around... that was all a part of the fun.

      Many playthroughs later, no matter how high a rank my character is, I still treat certain parts of the Violet Ocean with great trepidation.

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  25. Given the nature of the medium, some degree of trial and error is unavoidable. The game world doesn't scale with the character that will only get increasingly powerful the longer it manages to survive.

    This is one of my "guys" who have "made it":
    http://oi57.tinypic.com/iq92x5.jpg

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  26. I downloaded flapp last night and gave it a go for old times sake. Starting in book 1 as a Mage, I followed the advice and went for the first quest. Skill roll in skill I was bad at (not an unreasonable skill, just not Magic), which I failed, followed by a roll under rank on one die. Whoops. To be fair, there were lots of warnings that the place was dangerous. But the first mission, where you have no money, no blessings and no equipment is tough. At least flapp lets you save the game. Once you get a few hundred shards, you get the re-rolls, some better equipment and the lands are indeed fabled!

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  27. MAR Barker's Adventures On Tekumel solo books are also tough, but there are few death paragraphs. Instead, if you get defeated in a fight you might surrender, or be enslaved, or ransomed, and the narrative continues from there. If we were to revise the books for adaptation as a CRPG or a Sorcery-style app, we'd probably replace a good proportion of the deaths with something like that.

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  28. Also, I have to admit I used to play the FL App, start with a book 5 character, travel along the coast real fast to Yellowport and start farming for cash there before venturing in land.... I've always thought they are a bit too hard. We can replace death paras with further adventures - we do that already in many cases - but there is a limit on the amount of content you can put in. I favour upping your starting money or maybe giving players a resurrection or a blessing to start with.

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  29. It might be kinder if sometimes in fights you could surrender (losing possessions or money perhaps), or run away (fight one round of combat, or just lose 1d6 Stamina maybe) sometimes. The gorlok and other nasties might not accept those of course.

    There's a particularly harsh punishment for a skill failure in Book 2... you trip up, break your neck and die!!! Not just make a noise and have to run for it, or get into a fight. Nope, Andros the Awkward dies and someone has to fill out a Health and Safety report :)

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    1. Lol. And that one must be my fault, too, being Book 2. Jamie will never let me hear the end of it :-)

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    2. Ah, just checked it. Well, you were kind of warned there. "Honey for a thief," indeed!

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    3. Yep... a Morris Thieftrap :) Still, at least in Book 2 you had lots of people singing songs and telling fairy stories... "If a robbing you must go, tie your shoelaces like a pro!". You can't bear to listen to any more of this doggerel. If you travel to Wheatfields...

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    4. And try telling me that didn't influence the designers of Black and White :)

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  30. I remember in Book 1 in Martok City, you could go to a gambling den for a 5 shard fee. That leaves you with 11 shards. You'd play a game where you place a bet (up to 20 shards) and roll two dice. 5 through 9 loses the bet, the rest you earn double the bet, except 2 and 12, which pays 5 times! It's like the field bet in craps (I deal table games) with one huge exception: the odds are in your favor (I did the math). Now, if you roll a bunch of 5's through 9's, or bet too big and roll an unlucky or two, you'll lose all your money. But most times with bets reasonable to your bankroll, you'll win. You can even sell equipment, win, then buy it all back and more. Dave, did you mean for this game to be in our favor? If so, you shouldn't run a casino, but thank you!

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    1. That's Jamie's gambling den and I think where he put, "Win twice your bet" he meant that you'd stake X shards and the total you would get back would be 2X. Not that you'd get back your stake plus another 2X! So the intention is that on average you'll come away with 83.3333% of what you gamble. Admittedly, the phrasing is ambiguous.

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    2. I wondered if I was interpreting the rules too much in my favor. Though it clearly says, after deciding how much to bet, you lose your bet on 5-9, but mentions nothing about losing your bet anywhere else in the passage. Hey, it says there's card playing; maybe you're a great poker player among a bunch of fish. You'd still lose big once in a while, but win over time. I do remember the Three Fortunes betting wheel (the one for money) in Book 2 having just awful odds.

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  31. I think the curve could use some tweaking. It's extraordinarily easy to die early on, but an advanced character will not lose in combat much ... however, they can still die to bad choices, supposing you don't cheat, if you make a mistake. Which is great.

    I think if the further material appears, it may be good to tweak things a bit, as far as combat. You could scale up opponents certainly, though I'm not sure if this would keep getting fuzzier.

    Probably some nerf of defense scaling with combat would be good. Once my questors are advanced, I usually walk around without armor or with the wizard shirt, for challenge.

    The rank-gaining from beating Pirates happens a little too easily. A warrior can swim back and forth as soon as (s)he gets a galleon and excellent crew and will basically be rank 10 in seconds flat ... it's not really the sort of thing where if you're looking for a cheap trick you can find one either, because pirates are extremely common sailing along the coast. If you want to sail at all you're going to level up from pirates.

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  32. I don't want to repeat what has already been said. I agree that it is tough (in the beginning) but nonetheless enjoyable (I started with book 2 as a 12 year old, a long time ago).

    The only thing I wouldn't mind to get easier, is the ability to gain ranks. While the warrior/pirate thing is truely easy, it gets a bit harder with non warriors (IIRC) and actually there are not so many opportunities outside the pirates and you are still able to mess up (although blessed are you three fortunes, goddesses of fate). I often find myself well equipped and high in stats but with a measly rank.

    My real concerns are with the 'endgame' experience. By now I do not like to exploit loops so much, and prefer to work my way to the top honestly, this requires some (highly enjoyable) time. But in my last play-through, I realized that the really tough quest, still kill you quite easily. While this is not the problem, regaining all the gear to even think about a second try, is, because it turns into a money grind fest and some looping, since some of the higher gear is only attainable through some rare encounters. All of this is tedious and immersion breaking, and the reason I couldn't get much into book 5 and I think I've never been outside of Chambara (I don't say that they are too hard but the long way to get there and the occasional resupplying just exhaust me to much by the time I feel able to explore this regions).

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    1. I don't think that book 6 has too many of those items that you have to loop to get back, but you raise a very good point there and I will look into it. If you do restock your gear, that shouldn't require you to loop through sequences that will destroy your sense of immersion.

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  33. I was almost ready to buy that 50€ hardcover...
    when I saw that it contained only one book. I somewhoe expected a big 50€ hardcover to have all 6 books in it. I don't really care for coloured pages, and I guess that's where all the money went to, but I would love to pay for 1-6 in one book.

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    1. The tricky bit there would be how to differentiate the sections so that you didn't accidentally turn to the wrong book. Short of renumbering every section, I guess we could color-code the edges of the pages for see-at-a-glance playability. I suspect most fans would prefer us to try and find a way to continue the series, though.

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  34. Hi Dave! good news the FL collector's edition!
    About the game, I have to say is a bit hard to start. My first character ended in a stew (with garlic). My second character is still kickin somewhere in the violet sea, looking for a good commercial trade.

    I have to confess that i learned from my previous run. That is sort of cheating

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  35. Very late to the party! But why the hell not, right?

    I played a few gamebooks when I was a young teenager (Fantastic Four I think, and Wizard of Firetop Mountain), but a lot of CYOA. I came to Fabled Lands via the iPhone app a while back, encouraged at the recommendation of the Failbetter Games people.

    I pretty much immediately set it down. The game was hard to play on the phone, first off, and second I died a lot and had to repeat text and set up of the game. I wrote it off as an exercise in nostalgia I didn't share and walked away.

    I installed the Fabled Lands java app on my desktop some time ago, and fired it up. A totally different experience, and the key was being able to aggressively save and reload the game! I couldn't ever fake a die roll, but if I died hard, which I did a lot in the beginning, I was able to reverse it and continue. Now having played through the majority of the content available in Book 1, I'm off to Book 4 and having an absolute blast!

    If I may say so, the trouble that Fabled Lands has is that it's a sandbox game, with a linear game book mindset. Dying in a single storygame book is often less of a big deal, especially early on. The play, die, replay loop is key to them. But with Fabled Lands, the game book isn't a single puzzle to solve, but a world to immerse yourself in. So repeating those first couple of quests, trying to find the way to crack the nut was pretty dull, and dying was a pain.

    When I got sold into slavery I rejoiced! Losing a major battle resulted in my character continuing and, briefly, the unlocking of *new story* that was so cool! I didn't care about losing quests, at least the minor ones. The big ones I'd like to get multiple stabs at. And I won't mind dying if resurrection deals are set up, but the constant death before I can even afford the things was a real turn off.

    A fun mechanic (which might not work for Fallen Lands) might be to allow negotiating for a resurrection deal after death. So you can guarantee resurrection for 200 shards by doing it ahead of time, but if you don't some mystical figure extracts all your belongings (much more expensive, for most characters) and sends you on a quest to pay for your return to life... then losing a bad die roll isn't something the player has to reverse in order to continue that characters adventures, and won't want to because it opens up new content.

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    1. I think you're spot on about the "sandbox game in a solo package" analysis, Erik. Having to go back through the same intro sections again and again is just not acceptable in 2014. If we get to do the books as a series of apps, I'd want to completely rethink them - or maybe that should be "rethinkle" them ;-) to make it easier to enjoy the exploration right from the start without constantly having to start again.

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  36. I admit I felt swamped when i picked up book 1, and had a few frustrating and aimless deaths, though once I built some momentum it wasn't so bad. Maybe you could bump starting packages a little or something and mention that Warrior is the easiest class to start with (with Rogue being the best overall class and probably the second easiest to start with). Starting as Priest or Mage is hellish, don't know why you made those two so weak.

    Also book 6 is really vicious for a new character, you're likely to fail most die rolls with your starting character, monsters can easily overwhelm you, and there are death traps everywhere.

    The problem is the early frustration can make a lot of people put it down and not pick it up again, thus they don't get the benefit of "it gets easier"

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    1. Wow, I thought book 6 was an easy one. OK, I really need to fix that.

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  37. I ordered the first book, then the next three, and ended up going through a variety of characters before starting with Book 4, then taking the character all the way to Book 1 and using his boosted stats to get me going.

    So, yes, I do echo the original complaint, but I have recently started on the first book with a Rank 1 character, and remember which people to rob and places to go in order to make lots of money straightaway…

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  38. As someone who started playing the books as a youth, I think the learning curve is manageable in the early books. If a level-one cookie-cutter character dies right away, just start over and avoid that area; the old-school approach isn't bad, especially since accumulating metagame knowledge in a static game world is inevitable anyway.

    That said, I feel like Book 3 is really tricky except as a transitional area between the other books - there's not a major metropolitan area like in Books 1-2 (which have several big and small cities) and the seemingly random nature of sailing means it's hard to navigate. Book 6 just seems really hard - even an experienced character can face steep permanent penalties just for wandering into the wrong place.

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    1. That's alarming to hear, as I was rather proud of Book 6. I saw one review that called it the worst Japanese-inspired gamebook ever - perhaps unaware that it is far more authentic to (Heian period) Japanese culture and politics than probably any other work of fiction has ever been. But if you can't play it without getting killed, what's the use of that? :-/ If we can ever find a developer to turn FL into Sorcery-style apps, we'll be sure to take another look at the toughness question.

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  39. Late to the party, so here goes.

    My first experiences starting with Book 1 included a few nasty deaths, though one such experience was trying to take on the citadel (in Book 4, that shoulda been a clue...) right off the bat. It's definitely a game where, if you don't know how to play, you end up rolling and shouting until you find a big score or catch a break (for example, jousting at the castle). And until you learn the right bit of wisdom, the value of using the Yellowport Sewers as your base is unclear. (By the way, why do we have to have a sewer be the best base in the game? ^_^) Once you know what you're doing, though, the Sokarans and the dangers of Sokara are no real threat to you. Starting in a later book (with the exception of Book 5, or 6 if you immediately break for Yellowport with money and Rank; I consider both of these starts to be outright cheese) is even harder than that, but most of the difficulty is front-loaded. It's not hard to get quite a bit of money stored away (particularly if you invest a bit), and once you learn the ropes of earning money, and learn not to rely on any item you can lose forever (or, the way I like to put it, "only fly what you can afford to lose,") death becomes either a nuisance or (in some cases) speeds up the trip back to Yellowport. The possibility of permadeath is still there, but it's part of the exploration rather than something you need to consistently fear.

    Chambara is a challenging land, but not too difficult for me for this reason. The main thing is that shipping there is a royal pain due to unavoidable rocks and fights; beating the Wokou still steers you off course.

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    1. It reminds me of almost my first ever role-playing experience. I was a 1st level EPT sorcerer with 1 hit point (unlucky roll) whose whole party got slaughtered in the underworld. I was taken prisoner by a 5th level Hluss lord - figure on 20+ hit points for that, plus its spells. In desperation I tried fooling it with my one spell, Illusion, and then stabbed with my dagger. Got a natural 20 followed by a natural 20 - instant kill. In the underworld alone, I had to get out of there but I had time to prise one gem out of the dead Hluss's carapace. When I got back to town I rolled for the gem's value. A straight 100 followed by 66 gave a value of 20,000 Kaitars. So I went up a level and now I was rich. I think that character finally retired a year later at 15th level or higher. But it could all have gone very differently.

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  40. The first book I played was book 6, which was incredibly difficult. It's been too long, so I don't remember the level I used, but I remember dying an awful lot! Great fun though :)

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    1. If we did them today, the FL series would be apps instead of books and they could adapt their difficulty to the player's rank. Looking back, it's amazing to think of all those gamebooks created for a medium (print) that was really so unsuitable.

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  41. Cheaty as hell, and I won't deny it. I play book 2 primarily.

    Go to Golnir, run back and forth between Ringhorn and Castle Ravayne. Fight the bandits, you can do this indefinitely until you reach rank 12 (and you can, because the bandits are a nearly guaranteed way to level up every time you fight them).

    They drop several suits of +1 armor, one suit of +2 armor, 37 shards, and 5 swords. Also if you go to Castle Ravayne you can keep practicing swordplay until you reach 6 in Combat. It's free (aside from the stamina you lose for each attempt), and with Ringhorn only 2 sections away you can easily keep going back and forth to heal to raise up. Then when you reach rank 4 go into Castle Ravayne, talk to the Baroness. Offer to do her dragonslaying task, go kill the dragon, return with the head and you're now a paladin of Castle Ravayne. Now you can infinitely ask the Baroness for rewards, every time you get a boat reward that's free money. Every time you get armour, that's free money. And every time you get a training session you get to pick the stat to raise for free.

    People with MMO grinding mindsets can easily exploit those parts of book 2.

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    1. Gosh, if we ever turn these books into apps, I'm going to have to tighten some of those loopholes. Thanks for pointing them out, Void - and if you have the patience to endlessly fight those bandits then you deserve every level, say I.

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    2. Dave I bought the Amazon paperback versions of 1- 3 and after starting in book 1 I've killed a rat king,scorpion man and saved villagers PLUS invested 400 shards at Yellowport merchant guild all without cheating or looping or dying.I cannot agree with the others on how hard it is I started as a Wayfarer and played it like the character was me...i was in an unknown land so I played it safe and went to a town first and talked to people and piddled around until I was ready for bigger things.I think many people are throwing low level characters into the fray trying to get rich or hoping for lucky rolls so they can get good loot and end up dying over and over.Just my two cents anyway I love these books they are literally the best gamebook you can buy and I will certainly be buying the rest soon Thank you Dave for making something doo amazing and please finish the series !!!!!!!

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    3. Also sorry for making two posts but I really like that Fabled Lands is in book form I'm 26 and looove playing games on my phone but on the same token I feel like this series is much more fun in book form and also you lose something when you play it on a phone there's just something special to it when you sit in your recliner and grab a cup of coffee a fabled lands book,two dice,notebook and a pencil....i just can't get enough..

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    4. After a brief fling with ebooks I'm more or less 100% back to reading in print myself, James, so I know that feeling. Thanks for your kind words about FL. Hopefully we'll have Paul Gresty's book 7 for you to plunge into quite soon.

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  42. That sounds great!! Also is like to thank you on behalf of myself and the thousands of other Fabled Lands readers,most author's are only interested in that check every month and never talk or respond to their fans but you are actively accepting critique and praise from your fans,honestly it's an honor to even have you acknowledge a message but to respond to it is definitely awsome.Thank you for making mine and all of your other fans lives a little better by writing such an immersive and ongoing piece of art!!!! Much love Bro

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  43. I don't believe anyone could have this much trouble in the war-torn kingdom. First time playing with the wayfarer was a piece of cake. I got my stat upgrade from the sage and assassinated Marlock's brother to get to rank 2. After that I was well ready for anything Sokara had to offer. Before I new it I was rolling in shards with awesome enchanted gear, two titles, powerful potions and a resurrection deal with Tyrnai. Again, unless you are playing as the wizard or something I can't believe anybody could have this much trouble in Fabled lands.

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