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Sunday 28 February 2010

Lands of Legend

There's been some speculation about the Fabled Lands role-playing game in light of the re-release last year of 1980s RPG Dragon Warriors. Will it be a tie-in? A revamp of the original DW rules? Hardcore aficionados may even wonder if it'll bear any resemblance to my Empire of the Petal Throne RPG Tirikelu.

The short answers are no, no and only very slightly. The core system will be completely new, though obviously inspired by the game mechanics of the Fabled Lands gamebooks to some extent. There'll be some elements of the Tirikelu magic system in there, but not so as you'd notice. In the main, it will be a new set of rules designed for today's style of gaming.

Dragon Warriors players frequently say they enjoy the simplicity of the system, and that is definitely something Jamie and I want to get into the FL RPG too. Our goal is a set of rules that allow for a quick, intuitive style of play that allows the group's emphasis to fall where it should be: on role-playing, atmosphere and the excitement of a shared narrative.

Talking of Dragon Warriors, there is a DW Wiki project under way, and moderator John Reed recently put up a little-known adventure of mine, "Wayland's Smithy". There's enough of a similarity in faerie flavor that the scenario could be run in Golnir, so no matter whether your preference is DW or FL, you may like to check it out. And in less than a week we'll have some more gleanings from the recently-recovered folders of DW2 Invaders & Ancients material.

Friday 26 February 2010

FL computer game

A quick plug for Jon Mann's open source FLApp game, available as a free download, that lets you play through the first six Fabled Lands books, including the rare and elusive Over the Blood-Dark Sea. Jamie and I raise our glasses (a battered metal goblet in Jamie's case - no, really) to toast the labors of guys like Jon, who have given their time, energy, talents and enthusiasm to keep on adding to and enhancing the FL opus. Sláinte!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Invaders & Ancients

Back in the 1970s, I was a voracious reader of pulp fantasy including (of course) the works of Robert E Howard, creator of Conan. Around that time, or a few years earlier, Howard's literary agent Glenn Lord unearthed a storage trunk containing thousands of pages of unpublished fiction and poetry. Now, I'm a natural skeptic and a born believer in Lucius Cassius's maxim of "cui bono?" so I have to admit that I used to wonder about that trunk. To the thirteen-year-old Morris mind, it seemed awfully convenient that all those stories had shown up just when REH was starting to enjoy a new surge in popularity with the Lancer paperbacks of Conan, with their unforgettable covers by Frazetta at his best, and of course Roy Thomas's and Barry Windsor-Smith's comic book adaptations for Marvel.

So, I just want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Mr Lord for ever having entertained those unworthy suspicions. Dishonored is he who thinks ill of others, and now I see how very possible it is to stumble across a stack of unpublished work that you believed lost forever. For this is what I wrote three years ago in my preface to the reissued Dragon Warriors RPG:

"...There was also an entire world of Dragon Warriors rules and adventures, much more extensive than in the original six books. This is the Invaders & Ancients book, which was to have been incorporated into Chaosium’s Questworld project. When that deal failed to come about, we reworked the material into a massive worldbook, called Ophis, that would have comprised some of DW books 7-12. If you’re interested, a little glimpse of that continent of Ophis will feature in Shadowline: The Art of Iain McCaig. But that is all there is, alas, as in those days we did our work in non-electronic form. The manuscript may have taken the train to Dumfries or been used to lay the cornerstone of a church or used to light a fire on an especially cold winter’s night – all those fates that the one and only copies of things are wont to suffer."
But no no no, I spoke too soon. For in sorting through boxes at the back of my wife's wardrobe (it is a big wardrobe; you could live in it) I came across folders containing the actual typewritten pages and hand-drawn maps that Oliver and I did for that project. And it's a massive amount of material - a whole campaign of linked scenarios, a detailed continent, two (perhaps three) distinct cultures, new magic items and monsters. Everything you'd have expected of Dragon Warriors books 7-9, at least, if not up to the twelve books I estimated in that preface. This material has survived twenty-five years of house moves, leaky roofs, burglaries and wifely clear-outs, which to me is not so much a sign of divine providence as of the gob-smacking improbabilities of blind chaos.

The premise in brief: pilgrims from the known lands of Legend sail west seeking an earthly paradise as the millennium approaches. They arrive at another continent, which many are convinced is their reward from God. Some centuries later, few still believe that in their hearts, though it is still the official teaching of the Church and the capital city is called Deliverance. Inland, a decadent civilization known to the Coradians as Ancients, shored up by a slave army of creatures called habdigars, continues to oppose the newcomers' expansion along the great river Ophis. Think Legend meets Aguirre with a dash of Showboat World and you're not far off.

If you're a DW fan, don't expect this stuff to be rolling out overnight. It was originally written for Questworld, so much of it uses Runequest rules. Typewritten pages are not so convenient for re-editing as Word documents. Some of it is too close to other ideas we've used since. Role-playing has moved on (well, changed anyway) in the intervening years, so it would need updating. And editing material Oliver and I wrote over two decades ago has to take a back seat to projects like the Fabled Lands e-gamebooks. But in spare moments we'll tinker with it, and eventually, you never know...

Monday 22 February 2010

Fantasy adventure at the dawn of time

Fantasy fiction these days tends to be either clanky and mud-spattered or else it's all about urban elvish nightclubs. Way back when, there was a whole strain of science fantasy with lost technology and vril-powered aircars shading over into swashbuckling swords and sorcery. It's a tradition that the John Carter of Mars movie will hopefully restore.

Abraxas was our contribution to the genre. Originally conceived as a massively multiplayer online game (this was 1999, so a wee while before World of Warcraft wowed the world) it was set 40,000 years in Earth's prehistory. Encircling the globe are Saturnian rings of a strange mineral that amplifies psionic ability. On the mainland, homo sapiens is gradually forcing out the neanderthals, but out on the island of Abraxas there is another race of Man that has already built a dazzling civilization and is now in decline.

The fauna of Abraxas comprises giant ground sloths, terror birds and lumbering toxodons. And each of the great cities bears the stamp of a culture which is destined, when the island disappears, to leave survivors who will seed the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Toltecs and so on. All gloriously implausible but perfectly in line with the pseudoscience of the pulp era!

We're still trying to decide what to do with Abraxas. We have masses of world background and character history - enough to make a computer game, in fact - including loads of brilliant concept artwork by Russ Nicholson. Or it could be the basis of a whole new series of FL books when we've finally completed the first twelve.

When we figure out the best way to use it, you'll be the first to know. In the meantime, starting one month from today, we'll be opening the treasure chest of background material and concept art to give you a comprehensive look at this lost continent of four hundred centuries past.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Gifted part 5

So that's the final instalment of this sneak preview of the Fabled Lands studio's Gifted comic. What plans has Prester Damon got in mind? Such things, I know not what, but they're bound to mean terror for the Earth. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, we'll be back to mainstream Fabled Lands news from tomorrow.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Gifted part 4

Hover cops - I know. But in our defence, we did this at least six months before any of the trailers for Star Trek came out. And anyway, don't they say great minds think alike? It's us and J.J. Abrams!

Thursday 18 February 2010

Gifted part 2

If you're a comics fan and you're recognizing Siku's style, it may be from the much-lauded work he's done on Judge Dredd. Interview here.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Gifted part 1

Start as you mean to go on - with a bang. More sensational visual virtuosity from Siku tomorrow.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Pandora Hope

Not every project from the Fabled Lands studio is set in the fantasy world of the Fabled Lands. Um. Yes, I guess it is confusing. But so was Octavian changing his name to Augustus, and the whole Roman Empire had to get their heads around that one.

I'll give you a for instance: our sci-fi/superhero story Gifted, illustrated by Britain's leading comic artist Siku. Not a goblin or a wizard in sight. Yet, if you've a yen for imaginative journeys, we hope Gifted is one you'll enjoy too.

Over the next few days we'll be posting up the first 15 pages of the story. But first, to set the scene:

36,000 BC: An interstellar freighter of alien origin malfunctions in deep space near the Sirius system. Its cargo of five hundred technology pods is jettisoned in an explosion.

2016 AD: The first of the alien cargo pods bumps a communications satellite out of orbit, incidentally disrupting international broadcast of the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Tokyo. The pod falls to Earth, breaking up and scattering parts of its contents across North and South America.

2017 AD: Other pods are quickly identified drifting into the solar system - in the asteroid belt, the rings of Saturn, among the moons of Jupiter. Each pod contains incredible technology: ion drives, cold fusion, terraforming engines, retroviruses, nanotech. Those who acquire them will own the future of Mankind.

2017-2031 AD: Governments and corporations compete to seize the cargo pods and plunder their secrets. The front runner is the Damon Corporation, run by the immensely rich and powerful Prester Damon.

2032 AD - right now:

Pandora Hope is a teenager living with her Aunt Grace and invalid brother, Joshua, in southern California.

The 2032 Olympic Games are about to be held in Los Angeles.

And a superpod - ten times larger than the biggest cargo recovered to date - has just been sighted on the edge of the Solar System. The race is on.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Fabled Lands comic books

A cross-post from the Mirabilis blog today. Jamie and Russ have so far only completed the story and rough pencil layouts for their Fabled Lands comic. But, as you can see, even rough pencils by Mr Nicholson comprise a masterclass in comics layout and storytelling. The comic is available as a work in progress - issue #1 and issue #2 so far, in PDF format.

And you can get a 15% discount if you order now. Just enter coupon code WASHINGTON at checkout, valid until Feb 15. (That's on the print copies; the PDF versions are free anyway.)

The comic is based on Jamie's 1990s BBC Radio adventure serial "The Heart of Harkun" that gets repeated every few years. He's currently hard at work at Lionhead Studios writing the script for Fable 3, though of course we hope that one day he'll be designing the Fabled Lands videogame instead!

Meanwhile Mirabilis continues, with Jack learning more about the green comet and running up against a true enfant terrible. Catch up on earlier episodes then read the latest instalment: "Outside Looking In".

Thursday 11 February 2010

Fabled news!

All right, we know what you really want. You want news of the Fabled Lands series. You want to hear when the books will be available again. And, most of all, you want to know when The Serpent King's Domain and subsequent books will finally appear.

Hold your breath no longer. The War-Torn Kingdom is already in development as an iPhone game and we are actively looking into putting all the existing Fabled Lands books out in e-reader format later this year.

If these titles are successful, we hope to build a new audience for the Fabled Lands large enough to justify completing the series. And, as they'll be in the form of e-gamebooks, it'll be easy to regularly add content to the previous titles in the form of new quests and treasures. Which is not to say we're ruling out print editions, incidentally, just that the e-book versions will blaze the trail.

As if that's not enough, we're also working on a Fabled Lands role-playing game (you know: pencils, dice, pretzels...) which will be accompanied by a series of sourcebooks, or travel guides if you will, covering the regions of the FL world. That project will kick off with the Akatsurai book, using material reworked from our "lost classic" Oriental RPG Tetsubo. And don't worry, you won't need a bunch of dice shaped like alien coughdrops - it'll be six-siders all the way.

2010 is shaping up to be a year of renewed interest in Fabled Lands. Make sure you're signed up for the ride.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

A slushy hiss

Russ Nicholson needs no introduction to gamebook and RPG enthusiasts, I'm sure. This was an illustration he did for Dragon Warriors to accompany the following scene:
The crew scatter in all directions as the strange projectile descends. For a moment you think it is going to miss the deck, but then it veers in mid-air and falls with a slushy hiss. It looks like a huge ball of green snow, maybe, or else a very dense cloud of glowing vapour. You take a few steps forward, perplexed. The captain has ordered pails of water brought, thinking that the object was a lump of flaming pitch. But it gives off no heat or flames, just a billowing column of pale-green vapour.

The column of vapour rises higher, thickening. Dark outlines become visible inside the swirling cloud. Three cloaked figures. A sudden gust of wind stirs the cloud and disperses it. As the tattered wisps drift away, three black-armoured warriors are revealed. They are swathed in cloaks of black and vermillion and stand in a circle, their hands resting on the pommels of their unsheathed swords. The tallest has long black hair with a single streak of silver. You draw your own sword as you see how his eyes blaze with malevolence...
Russ has been a major influence and source of inspiration on all our books, but especially on Fabled Lands. He's not an artist who passively waits to be told what to draw; the ideas come thick and fast and all we have to do is jot them down. The walking cities of the Uttakin, for instance, and the way those mechanical legs fold up to become the buttresses of colossal palaces - that was all from the fertile Nicholson brain. And a good decade before Mortal Engines, I might add.

Cross-posted from the eclectic and always-intriguing Super Comics Adventure Squad blog. If comics are your bag, go take a look.

Monday 8 February 2010

Introducing Dirk Lloyd

The very latest project we've been preparing to send out blinking and hissing into the unrelenting light of day is called The Lloyd of Dirkness, or Dark Lord: The Early Years. This is one that Jamie has been writing. It's possible that Dirk himself may honour us with some guest posts, so here is the opening of the book so that you know what you're in for:



His fall seemed to go on forever. It felt like bits of him were being stripped away, as if he was changing into something else as he fell. After a long time his cries of rage and fear faded and he sank into a kind of sleep, all sensation lost, falling silently in an immense void of nothingness for what seemed like an eternity. Then, suddenly -


Pain filled him up like an over-inflated balloon. Then it burst away, and he took in a great shuddering gulp of air. He coughed and spat out a glob of black mucus. He watched as the mucus began to form a small puddle, like a pool of shiny black oil. He lay there for a while, just breathing.

The ground felt like stony gravel. He could barely move. He couldn’t think properly and he felt weak and listless. The sky above was blue, painfully blue. He hated blue skies and sunlight.

He needed help. He called out for his lieutenant, Dread Gargon, Hewer of Limbs, but his voice caught in his throat. He tried again.

‘Gaa… Gargon, to me!’ he tried to bellow in his most commanding tones, but it only came out as a little squeak, high pitched and boyish. Where was the dark, imperious voice that sent forth his Legions of Dread to bloody war and pitiless plunder?

He tried once more, but again it came out as a high pitched trill. He groaned and tried raising his head, but couldn’t. He wondered whether his Helm of the Hosts of Hell had slipped off again – if it wasn’t balanced just right it could catch his neck in an uncomfortable pinch. He reached up, but there was no Helm at all. He couldn’t feel any horns either, or knobbly ridges of bone, only what seemed like a brown mop of hair on a rather small head. And his teeth! They didn’t feel right either – no tusks or yellowed fangs to inspire terror and dread. Instead his head felt like a little human head, just like the ones he usually kept impaled on those iron spikes over the Gates of Doom, or the ones that Gargon wore hanging from his belt.

What was going on and where was Gargon?

There was something else as well. Too much harsh sunlight usually fried his undead flesh like an egg in a pan of hot oil, but he couldn’t feel the usual sunfire burns. Not only that, the sky actually seemed rather beautiful. White clouds drifted serenely across the bright blue canopy of the heavens, and birds sang songs of joy in nearby trees. The sun warmed him nicely and a feeling of… hmmm, let’s see now, something he hadn’t felt in aeons, a sense of… peace came over him! How could that be? Normally, he hated blue skies and he’d spent years trying to perfect a spell to cover the sky in The Black Vapours of Gloom.

A wash of pain came over him again. That was better, he thought. He didn’t want to feel a sense of peace. It just wasn’t the sort of thing he should be feeling. He had his reputation to consider after all.

With a great effort he was able to turn his head a little and take his eyes off the sky. He saw a low building of dull grey stone on his left, squat and unsightly. Excellent. At least someone was making ugly stuff around here. Maybe it was Orcish. You could always rely on Orcs to make ugly stuff.

He saw some kind of banner flying over the building. Runes were written on it, in a strange language. To his surprise he realized he could read them. ‘Tesco Supermarket’ it said. A market. That didn’t sound Orcish. Orcs tended to prefer pillaging to shopping. And Tesco – was he the local overlord perhaps? Lord Tesco, Smiter of Foes, the Pitiless One? Something about it didn’t sound right.

He moved his head to look the other way. What he saw was even stranger to his eyes. Several rows of oddly shaped metal boxes gleamed brightly in the sunlight. They were of all kinds of different colours, and glass plates had been set into the sides of them. They rested on what looked like four wheels, thickly encrusted with some kind of black resin that looked like the hard set mucus of the Giant Spiderbeasts of Skorpulos. One of the boxes suddenly shuddered into life, rattling away with a terrible noise like the coughing shriek of the dragon before it discharged its fiery breath.

He tried to bend it to his will. If it was a thing of evil, it should instinctively follow his command. ‘Beast of Steel and Mucous – I command you in the Name of the Dark Lord and by the Power of the Nine Hells!’

But his voice came out as a querulous squeak. The metal box moved away on its wheels as if he hadn’t even spoken. Then he noticed what looked like a human woman inside the box, peering out through the glass panels. Of course! It was some kind of horseless chariot, driven no doubt by magic. The woman must be a potent witch indeed to command such a thing. The wizardry of mortals was getting sophisticated and powerful. He’d have to watch them more closely.

Then he heard a voice, another human by the sound of it, shouting. ‘Hey, are you all right, lad?’

His interest sharpened. A lad’s lifeblood would help to perk him up. He looked around for the boy the human was talking about, but couldn’t see him. Instead he saw two men running towards him, both dressed in curious dark blue uniforms and helmets. They looked like a typical pair of ignorant, dim-as-dormice human soldiers, though their uniforms didn’t look very useful for war, and their helmets wouldn’t stop a sword or axe, let alone a goblin pike or orcish arrow.

He tried to laugh maniacally and tell the humans to flee for their lives, or be utterly destroyed, but all that came out was a cough. He tried unsuccessfully to sit up. He was still too weak. They stood over him.

Surely it couldn’t end like this, lying helpless, waiting to be killed by a couple of ordinary humans? But then an odd thing happened. One of the warriors bent down and cradled his head, as if to help him.

‘Better call an ambulance, Phil.’

The man who had spoken leaned closer, looking him over. Stupid human. Didn’t the fool realize who he was dealing with? Immediately, he tried ripping his throat out with his iron-taloned Gauntlets of Ineluctable Destruction, but it was no good, he just didn’t have the strength. Then he noticed he wasn’t wearing any gauntlets or even gloves. In fact, his hands were pink, pallid and pudgy, with neat little white nails, like those of a wretched little human boy. You couldn’t even rip out the throat of a rat with those hands, let alone a fully grown human warrior. He groaned in despair.

The other human seemed to be whispering something into a little black box attached to the front of his uniform. The black box crackled and spoke back to him! It must have some kind of sprite or minor demon bound into it by powerful sorcery to do his bidding. Perhaps they were more than just ordinary human soldiers. Or more likely they served a mighty human wizard king, maybe even the White Wizard himself, Hasdruban the Pure. Hmm, he’d have to bear that in mind.

The human called Phil said to the other man, ’OK, John, ambulance called in.’

The one called John said, ‘Don’t worry, son – we’re police officers. I’m PC Smith. You can call me John. That’s PC Phil Johnson. The ambulance will be here soon. Take it easy. Best not to move until we know what’s wrong with you.’

Well, he was right – there certainly was something wrong with him. He couldn’t move properly even if he wanted to and his body felt strangely smaller than it should.

Then the manthing called Phil said, ‘Have you got a mobile, boy? We should call your Mum or your Dad.’

Mo - bile? Mo’bile? Was he asking if I have more bile or something, he thought to himself? What was this cretinous manling going on about?. And what curious names! Jon? Could that be something to do with donjons? Jon the Smith. Had he made the strange black box in his blacksmithy? And Fill. Fill the land with their dead? Fill your heart with hate, perhaps? Fill John’s son? Fill him with what? And Fill was the son of Jon? How could he be Jon’s son – they looked the same age. What did it mean?

Either way, it was time they knew who was master here. He tried blasting them with the spell of Agonizing Obedience, but he couldn’t shape his hands properly, and nor could he put the right syllables together. It was as if his tongue wouldn’t obey him properly. He couldn’t believe what was happening. Where were his powers of domination and destruction?

‘What’s that he’s wrapped in?’ said Jon the Smith.

‘I dunno,’ said Fill, the Son of Jon – looks like some kind of oversized blanket. Black blanket though – that’s odd. All those weird red shiny patterns all over it as well. Looks foreign. Maybe he’s some asylum seeker’s kid or illegal immigrant or something.’

‘My nephew’s got something like it. I think it’s from some fantasy game or film with wizards and dragons and stuff,’ said Jon the Smith.

His robes! So he was still wearing his Cloak of Endless Night. Excellent. They didn’t realize those ‘weird red shiny patterns’ were Blood Glyphs of Power. Each Glyph was a mighty spell. Now he had them.

He managed to crane his neck, focussing on one of the Glyphs. It was the Glyph of Domination. All he had to do was read it out loud and all the creatures in a hundred metre radius would be his to command. But he couldn’t make it out properly. It didn’t make any sense, it seemed completely meaningless. How could he not understand the Glyphs? He had created them after all. Had they been stripped of their power somehow? What was happening?

The humans were still blathering on, blissfully unaware of his plans.

‘Does he speak English? What’s your name, kid?’

The kid, for that’s what he looked like, thought for a moment. He couldn’t remember his name. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t. But he could remember what he was and his primary title.

‘Daa…(cough, cough). I am the Dark Lord,’ he said. To his horror, he realized his voice really did sound like some kind of do-gooding elf woman or a human boy-child!

‘Dirk? Did you say Dirk?’

‘No! NO! Dark! Dark Lord,’ but his voice came out wrong, weak and raspy and even more boyish than before.

‘Dirk, eh? Dirk Lloyd? Where’s your mum and dad then, Dirk? Have you been hit by a car? Are you lost, son?’

‘Mum and dad?’ He sputtered, outraged. ‘I don’t have parents, you curs – I am the Incarnation of Evil! The World Burner! The Dark One - to name but a few of my titles! I’m not someone’s little boy, you fools!’

‘These computer games. It’s an obsession at their age,’ said the one called Fill, Son of Jon, to his father. He turned back. ‘Do you know your address, Dirk? Can you tell us what happened?’

‘Not Dirk, Dark! And my address is the Iron Tower of Despair, beyond the Plains of Desolation, in the Darklands. ‘I’m not ‘English’ and I haven’t been ‘hit by a car’ ….Er, what is a car?’

Graphic novel gamebooks

Now here's a genuine curiosity from the mid-80s. First a bit of history. The concept of solo gamebooks had been around since at least the 1970s, when Steve Jackson (the American one) published Death Test, an adventure set in a killer dungeon, but really came into its own with the Fighting Fantasy series. Those found a much bigger market than the hardcore gamers who might pick up something like Death Test because FF was (1) simple - you couldn't go back on your route, for example - and (2) sold in ordinary bookshops, not in hobby game stores.

Fighting Fantasy was such a huge and unexpected hit that UK publishers were soon falling over themselves to sign up gamebook series. Jamie and I and Mark Smith and Oliver Johnson had been role-playing together for years, lived within a few miles of each other in south-west London, and ended up writing, between us, about two-thirds of the UK gamebooks of the '80s and '90s.

An early series of mine and Oliver's was Golden Dragon. These were a massive success, soon translated into French, Danish, Japanese and half a dozen other languages. After six books I went to pitch a new direction, a series of connected adventures called Black Dragon, but there was a new editor who didn't care for fantasy adventure and would not be swayed by a little thing like 80,000 sales per title. So off Oliver and I went to write Dragon Warriors instead.

But we kept tinkering with the Black Dragon idea. The books would have been set in our role-playing campaign world of Medra, a slightly Indonesian/African culture with flintlock pistols and cold-blooded riding beasts that had to be warmed up before a battle. A big part of Medra was the exotic look and feel, so it made sense to find a visual way to portray it. Talking to Russ Nicholson, I came up with the notion of a gamecomic. We mocked up a few pages, of which this was the opening section (hence no choices), but soon found that the combination of fantasy adventure and comic books was anathema to the editors who ran British publishing in those days. Nowadays, of course, it's all run by the marketing people, with whom we might have had more success. Or not!

So Black Dragon got abandoned again, for good this time, and instead you got Virtual Reality, Fabled Lands and Oliver's Lightbringer fantasy trilogy. Fair exchange?

Sunday 7 February 2010

Free e-gamebook

In the twenty-third century the world is dying. Only a few million humans are left clinging to existence as the weather worsens and ice tightens its inexorable grip on the planet.

The cause of this slow death is Gaia, the AI satellite system designed to regulate Earth's climate. But Gaia has gone mad, and instead of a paradise she has made of the world a frozen hell.

Mankind's last glimmer of hope is the Heart, a crystalline meteorite thought to have been forged in the Big Bang. It has the ability to shape a universe, the one who touches it becoming mankind's savior and wielding the power of a god - or a devil.

The power to make yourself lord of a new creation is a tempting prize. The greatest heroes of the age covet the Heart for themselves, and the race is on.

The quest for ultimate power will take you across a dying world, contending with monsters, mutants and desperate men, to the haunted city of Du-En in the midst of the Saharan ice wastes.

You will need all your wits and cunning to choose the right allies, outwit your rivals, and be first to reach the Heart.

Right HERE you can play an interactive PDF of the classic sci-fi adventure gamebook Heart of Ice, illustrated by fantasy gaming legend Russ Nicholson. You won't need dice, you won't need a pencil. Just get playing.
And if you like it, please tell a friend. Or mail it to them. Shout about it on forums. Tweet about it. Plug it in your own blog. All we ask is that you help spread the word to everyone who might enjoy it.
In these days of freebies everywhere, you do have to look a gift horse in the mouth. It may not cost you money, but there's still your time to think of. So take a look at some reviewers’ comments:
  • The game system is not only simple and elegant, but it also makes an absolute joy out of character creation.”
  • “Superb use of exposition, tone, and detail.”
  • “The characterization surpasses that of many a novel.”
  • “Technology whose deeper secrets are lost to the centuries meshes wonderfully with a kind of freakish neo-Renaissance civilization of explorers, opportunists, merchants and nobles.”
  • “At all times this world feels as if it exists outside of your immediate experiences, outside of the page.”
  • “The metaphysical element reflected in the skill set melds seamlessly into the setting.”
  • “It shows every sign of having been written by someone who loves the gamebook medium, and with great narrative skill and vision to back that energy up.”
  • “The best character design, the best one-shot world design and the best writing.”
  • “Heart of Ice is an experience to remember.”
Thanks to Paul Mason, print publisher of Heart of Ice, for okaying the free online version. And to Per Jorner for insights and critique.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2012: I've had to remove the link to the free copy because Fabled Lands LLP is teaming up with a major publisher to reissue Heart of Ice and many of our other gamebooks in print and digital editions. But you can grab it here in the old print edition for a few cents, so I'm not going to feel too guilty. Also, I'm working around the clock to get the new editions out so if you did play the free version, please support us by buying the new one!