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Friday, 12 September 2014

Blood Sword redux: Doomwalk (part 2)

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More designer's notes in "the making of Blood Sword" series, this time another look at Doomwalk. (Part one here.) The covers of this and the previous book in the series, The Demon’s Claw, now credit me as the sole author. Originally Oliver Johnson and I signed to do all five Blood Sword books, but Oliver’s job at Random House meant that he had very little time to spend on them from the start, having to bail out altogether shortly after we started work on The Kingdom of Wyrd. He did return – sort of – for the final book, but one at a time, eh?

Between The Battlepits of Krarth and The Kingdom of Wyrd, a week or so has passed. Between the latter and The Demon’s Claw, the characters are implied to have been adventuring for years. But Doomwalk begins with a Bourne-style cut, following on immediately after the events of the previous book. There’s no particular significance in this. I usually avoided cliffhangers because books couldn’t be ordered off the internet in those days, and I’d learned the hard way about the vagaries of distribution when all the copies of Dragon Warriors book 1 went to the south of England and all of book 2 went to the north. So I tried to make sure you could jump into a series like Blood Sword at any point and if you missed out a book entirely it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Except in book 5, when it really was the end of the world. But, as I said before, more on that in a later post.

I was glad to have the chance to fix the maps, which in the 1988 edition were printed the wrong way round. So you were presented with a map of Sheol at the start of the book, and if you managed to get to the lands of the dead and if you were lucky enough to find the ancient carving on a monolith there, you would uncover… a chart of western Legend showing the location of the island you needed to find in order to reach Sheol in the first place. I was aiming for a certain amount of dream logic, but not in Lewis Carroll quantities. So after twenty-six years it’s nice to be able to put the maps back where they belong.

Talking of maps, I noticed that the artist (not Russ Nicholson; he wasn't the original map artist) had written “burrow downs” instead of “barrow downs”. I’ve never had much luck with artists and barrows. In one early gamebook I described the character crossing a desolate moor at night when an old man steps out from behind a barrow. That became a picture of a geezer with a wheelbarrow. But I digress… All this talk of barrows at least gives me an excuse to run one of my top favourite of all of Russ's pictures, the wights who come out for a meet 'n greet when you arrive in Sheol.

It’s not obvious why we didn’t make more use of codewords as logic flags in early series like Blood Sword and Way of the Tiger. Instead the reader would just be asked, “Did you meet the scarred scholar and ask him about the carved pillar…” or whatever. If you’re playing the book for the umpteenth time, it can be tricky remembering which incarnation of you did what, and codewords help with that. I’ve written a few into Doomwalk including one to keep tabs on whether you’re accompanied by Cordelia’s ghost as you cross Sheol. (The codeword there, incidentally, is WANDER – a little tip of the hat to Team ICO.)

One more part of this reminiscence of Doomwalk to come. That's in a fortnight, and then we're on to The Walls of Spyte and the big Krarthian free-for-all on the final day of all Creation. But what about next Friday's post, you ask? Ah, or should I say Arrrrr!


12 comments:

  1. I try to talk like a Fabled Lands pirate. I put my head on a shelf and say nothing at all. I'm currently playing a Rank 10 Warrior in a Galleon with an Excellent crew. The pirate captain heads are starting to stack up now.

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  2. I remember that picture of the wights. I must have looked at it a hundred times and I can just feel the wind over the moors of Sheol. Do these new editions have all the Russ Nicholson original drawings?

    Dan

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    1. Yes indeed, Dan. Apart from the new covers, all the original artwork is in these 2nd edition Blood Sword books.

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    2. Have you considered the idea of putting out some Blood Sword "adventure apps" set between The Kingdom of Wyrd and The Demon’s Claw? That way the player could get a bit of the experience of "adventuring together for years" while getting a little extra XP and non-unique items to help them out down the road in the later, tougher books.

      And, of course, it would help build and popularize the "Blood Sword" brand name and maybe make you guys a little cash without the overhead that comes from paper printing. I'd buy it, I know that.

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    3. You'd need an iPhone or iPad, though, John :-)

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  3. Possibly. Again, I could likely use iTunes. That said, if it meant getting a continuing source of Fabled Lands, Blood Sword and Way of the Tiger content, I would absolutely invest in whatever Apple gadgets I would need to buy that content.

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean about "using iTunes", John. It's a media store, library and player. I'm assuming you have an iPad emulator installed on your machine? In which case apps you buy via iTunes may play okay in that.

      App-wise: over the next few months keep your iTunes peeled for a couple of Critical IF books (both major overhauls from the original book versions), Way of the Tiger, Golden Dragon, and another series that hasn't been mentioned much around here lately. No plans for a Blood Sword app yet, but it'll come.

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  4. One thing that I have to admit that I'd like to see if there's ever a Third Edition Fabled Lands is a little more diversification in terms of the challenge level and the various geographies. I get that book 1 and 2 were written for low Rank characters. However, I'd like to certain parts of those books written with the idea that higher Ranking character might travel into them. I'd like the Sea Dragon and the Vampire Knight to have stats linked to Rank. Say if you're Rank 4 or below, the encounters proceed normally, but if you're over 4th Rank, those monsters get statistics, powers and Stamina points. Sure the Sea Dragon can vaporize the unfortunate person who attracts his attention. However, the 13th Rank Warrior from Danger with the Vulcanium Mail, Sword +10 and a Neurtronium Wand +11 Magic is likely to be able to fight the Dragon on a more equal basis. Likewise the Vampire Knight probably isn't that much tougher than Dawatsu the Necromancer (or Big Boy) from book 6.

    Similarly, I like to see some lower level encounters in areas like Uttaku or Akatsurai. Otherwise it makes me feel as though a freshly created character from Books 10-12 could likely conquer all of Sokara by himself.

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  5. I'm glad you decided to reprint the Blood Sword books without completely rewriting the rules, like you said you might do in an earlier post. It wouldn't be Blood Sword without the Nemesis Bolt and those battle grids. But even as a kid I thought the last book stuck out like a sore thumb. Is the delay with reprinting that one because you are doing more rewriting?

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    1. Let me tell you my process for these books, Jay. I scan them, pour the text into a rough template, and print one copy of the book for editing purposes. Then I go through that copy, proofreading and flowcharting, and make notes as I go on what needs changing. And the notes for Blood Sword 5 are longer than the notes for all four other books put together. So, yeah, I agree with you about the sore thumb!

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  6. Having just purchased the four new Blood Sword books (I never owned the originals), I'm blown away by Russ Nicholson's art (and that one the wights is definitely a highlight). He's always good, but the BS illos are some of his best. Looking forward to getting to know the books themselves.

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    1. I agree, and Russ's great artwork was one of the reasons I finally went with the larger format for these books. Hope you find the adventures measure up!

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