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A LATECOMER TO FABLED LANDS
The Fabled Lands series completely passed me by the first time it was published. I don't know how that happened. It might simply have been because my local bookshop didn't have any in stock, back in those dark, pre-internet days. Or maybe it was because back in the mid-90s I was busy dyeing my hair bright colours and learning to play guitar, and I didn't have time for gamebooks. But for whatever reason, while readers and adventurers were taking their first steps into Sokara and Golnir, I remained ignorant, quietly teaching myself to play Soundgarden songs.
Y'see, the Blood Sword books were my gamebooks. This, not Fabled Lands, was the series that had a colossal impact on my reading habits, perhaps on my youth as a whole. Yes, I also liked the Fighting Fantasy books, and Lone Wolf, and The Way of the Tiger. But it was Blood Sword, with its multi-player mechanism, that I would badger my friends into playing with me, and that I played innumerable times on my own, with every possible combination of characters. My first ever role-playing game was one that my brother and I invented ourselves, using the rules from the Blood Sword books. When the fourth Blood Sword book, Doomwalk, proved impossible to find, I spent a good ten years tracking it down.
I'm sure I would have loved the Fabled Lands books as well. Fabled Lands and Blood Sword did, after all, share an author and an artist. I just didn't know they existed.
It was Russ Nicholson himself, the books' illustrator, who recommended Fabled Lands to me. Which is a crazy way to hear about the series, actually. Russ had done some artwork for Loup Solitaire, the French edition of the Lone Wolf RPG; in 2011 he and Joe Dever were invited to a trade show in Paris by the game's publisher, Le Grimoire. I was living in Paris by then, and I'd done some translation work for Le Grimoire, so they asked if I'd come along to interpret for Russ, and to generally be on hand in case of any language difficulties.
That was a fun weekend. I pestered Russ with a whole bunch of questions about Blood Sword, and Dragon Warriors, and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. And Russ showed me one of the Fabled Lands books for the first time - one of the large-format editions from the '90s, that a fan had brought along for him to sign. 'You should keep an eye out for them,' Russ told me. 'They're worth a look.'
Man alive, was that ever the understatement of the year.
The first four Fabled Lands books had recently been republished - and, fortunately, the internet had been invented - so I ordered them as soon as I got home. When they arrived, I put them on my shelf and left them there awhile. I work from home a lot, and I'm not great at doing things in moderation; any time I get sucked into a game, my level of productivity takes a battering. I don't play a lot of computer games for just that reason, and I was worried that Fabled Lands would have much the same effect.
But curiosity is sometimes as distracting as gaming. At last I pulled the books down from my shelf, and tentatively crept into the world of Harkuna.
My productivity took a battering. I don't regret it. I've never really left Harkuna yet.
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You can read Paul's brilliant Dunpala demo for The Serpent King's Domain here. Did I mention that Megara Entertainment still need backing for great art, a colour cover, magnificent Nicholsonian maps, etc? Oh, I did? Okay then.