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Sunday 31 July 2011

Get ready for Dirk Lloyd

If you've been following this blog from the start, you'll know that Dirk Lloyd was the first new concept that we came up with after founding Fabled Lands LLP. By that I mean the company Fabled Lands, not the gamebook series - though Fabled Lands projects (the world, gamebooks, RPG and apps) are all controlled by Fabled Lands the company. Don't worry, it confuses us too.

Anyway, back to Dirk... In a nutshell, it's the story of what happens when the Lord of All Evil is defeated by the forces of good and banished to our world in the body of a 13-year-old kid. Oh, the ignominy! Whoever heard of a dark lord having the crusts trimmed off his peanut butter sandwiches? But even stripped of his powers, Dirk isn't going to take his exile on modern-day Earth lying down. Imagine a novel told from Tom Riddle's point of view - and with a style of crazed humour that will be familiar to anyone who used to enjoy Jamie's hilarious column in the old Warlock magazine.

The first book had a pretty drawn-out development process, as new projects often do. We plotted it in detail, Jamie went away and wrote a first draft, we then completely reworked the storyline, and Jamie wrote another draft before getting a full story analysis from Roz Morris (bestselling author who I had to foresight to marry so as to save the company money) which guided him in polishing it. Would you believe that all took nearly two years? What can I say? Perfection doesn't come overnight. Then the series took another year to sell, and even after that it went through a healthy process of thorough critiquing and editing from our UK publisher, Megan Larkin, at Orchard Books.

And now this lovingly polished jewel of dark brilliance is about to be unveiled to the world. The first book, Dark Lord: The Teenage Years just got a glowing review from Hazel Holmes over on the Chicklish site and you can pre-order it on Amazon. (Just don't look at the product description there as it contains a massive spoiler about the end of the book!) Freya Hartas, daughter of Leo and grand-daughter of John Vernon Lord (how's that for an artistic pedigree?), has produced a clutch of macabre illustrations as unique and tasty as devilled dragon eggs that perfectly complement the dry black humour of the text.

Now that the characters and scenario are all worked out, coming up with new stories is much easier. In fact, Jamie has already written the second book in the series, Dark Lord: A Fiend in Need, and is about to start work on the third, The Dirkest Hour. Orchard are planning a promotional tour, so if you keep an eye on your local bookshop window you may find that Jamie is coming to your town. (Hide the beer and sausages if so.) NBC are developing the Dirk Lloyd TV show. There are plans for apps and gamebooks and bunch of other stuff. And all for you, dear reader; all for you.

The UK books will be out in October with editions in Germany, Spain and the US to follow soon after. So there you have it - Dirk Lloyd is going to conquer our world. There's no use fighting it.

Friday 29 July 2011

The Lost Prince on Kindle

News of Jamie's latest fictional masterwork tomorrow, but in the meantime Fabled Lands fans may want to pick up a copy of his fantasy novel on Kindle: US here and UK here and Europe here. (That isn't actually the cover image above, the resolution on the original art not being high enough for Kindle, but a nice design all the same combining Megara's inspired artistic élan and Jamie's... er, instinctive design sense.) The blurb will give you the general idea:

Gasping back tears of horror and anger, Varren shimmied his way down the well.

In the circle of light above his head three ugly, scarred, war-bitten faces appeared, staring down at him. One of them was readying his crossbow.

Varren released his grip and fell straight down into the water. A crossbow quarrel whooshed into the water next to him.

He hauled himself out, and into a side tunnel just above the water level. He’d used this way in and out of the castle for years. He hurried off down the tunnel, the sounds of battle fading away behind him...
It's written for kids age 7 years and up and, while it doesn't have the laugh-out-loud humor of the Dirk Lloyd books, it's still a ton of rip-roaring fun. And I'm not just saying that because Jamie has a broadsword at my throat.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

From gamebook to RPG

Still sitting on the fence when it comes to the new Fabled Lands RPG? Shane Garvey and Jamie Wallis have created an elegant and versatile system that's worthy of your attention. Even if you're not a fan of the world of Harkuna, you can use it for other settings. I know of at least one Legend campaign that's switching from Dragon Warriors to FL rules.

But don't take my word for it, see what Stuart Lloyd has to say in the comprehensive new review on his blog Lloyd of Gamebooks. Andrew Wright has also begun a multi-part look at it on Fantasy Game Book. And if you like what those gentlemen have to say, you might want to order a copy now as we'll have a scenario for the FL RPG here in a fortnight or so.

Okay, there's more Lloyd (Dirk, not Stuart) at the weekend, but before that why not drop by on Friday for news of Jamie's latest book? (Our own Jamie T, that is, not Mr Wallis.) It's The War-Torn Kingdom meets Harry Potter... or so he tells me. And I also just heard that BBC radio are repeating his Harkuna-set fantasy serial in which a bunch of adventurers seek the mythical Heart that will grant ultimate power. No, sadly it's not what you think, gamebook fans ;-) but you should enjoy it anyway. And talking of gamebooks, can you wait two weeks until the next installment of The Castle of Lost Souls? Truly, 'tis a veritable summer feast of fantasy around here.

Monday 25 July 2011

Building up a threat

After writing the last post I was looking at William of Newburgh's account of a 12th century revenant. Passages like this have an almost dreamlike matter-of-factness:
"Hastening to the cemetery, they began to dig; and whilst they were thinking that they would have to dig to a greater depth, they suddenly, before much of the earth had been removed, laid bare the corpse, swollen to an enormous corpulence, with its countenance beyond measure turgid and suffused with blood; while the napkin in which it had been wrapped appeared nearly torn to pieces. The young men, however, spurred on by wrath, feared not, and inflicted a wound upon the senseless carcass, out of which incontinently flowed such a stream of blood, that it might have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons. Then, dragging it beyond the village, they speedily constructed a funeral pile; and upon one of them saying that the pestilential body would not burn unless its heart were torn out, the other laid open its side by repeated blows of the blunted spade, and, thrusting in his hand, dragged out the accursed heart. This being torn piecemeal, and the body now consigned to the flames."
I find the same effect in the opening scene of A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers, in which a man may or may not have inadvertently asked a dybbuk home for supper. Anyway, that reminded me to go digging around a little more in the Brymstone material for a couple of descriptions of the Brollachan, who was the Big Bad for that campaign. First we have this sober account left by a scholar called Edlym Whitebeard:
"Long ago, before the awakening of men's hearts to the True Faith, there was found in the far north of this land a strange being left over from the parting of Death and Life. No form had it, save what it could seize, and the men of the North Country feared it, believing it to be a god. At each new moon they sacrificed to it their goods, cattle and even their children. The demon Achferinar took it for a servant and bestowed upon it great gifts of sorcery, yet it was ever wilful and would not answer its master's call when he summoned his servants to the feast of the Breaking. Thus it was that it survived the fate of the old gods and continued to trouble the men of the North. At length Kurnac Mac Dir, whose domain this now was, sent out his heroes to seize and bind the monster. He himself sealed the enchantment by which the Brollachan was sunk in the depths of the sea, to thresh and chafe impotently there and trouble the hills and vales of the middle world no more..."
That we found in a local monk's library, but later in the campaign we received a rather more vernacular description of our adversary from a farmhand who had been sleeping off an evening at the tavern:
"I were dozin' behind this tree by the river, see, 'avin' drunk perhaps more 'an I needed, an' I woke about midnight to see these little goblins carryin' some poor chap out of a boat. Well, there were this tall thin feller on the other bank, an' 'e called across to 'em, sayin' "Bring 'e 'ere, you knows I can't cross". All them goblins started a titterin' an' a-gigglin', an' the poor feller they'd ahold of moaned somethin' fearful, when suddenly this thin wight calls out again, only this time 'e's got a voice like a clap o' thunder! The goblins all fall down in a tremblin' heap an' start wailin' for mercy, then they bundle the feller in the boat again an' row 'im over to where the other one's waitin'. Well, 'e took that poor feller's head in 'is thin hands an' the next thing - an' I swear on me good mother's grave I were sober when I saw it - he sort o' belched up all this black smoke into 'is face! I only 'eard a muffled scream, but I caught a 'orrible whiff o' brimstone right across the river. The thin feller, 'e falls down like a broken puppet, but the feller the goblins 'ad I thought he were a goner, but 'e sort o' breathes in the smoke an' then some'ow 'e's turned into the other feller even though 'e don't look no different. The goblins all start to grovel at 'is feet, but just then 'e sees me an' gives a great shout. Well, I don' need no tellin' but I'm off like a ferret in a hole, an' don' turn round till I'm 'ome and a-holdin' on to a crucifix in one 'and and an oak club in the other...."
We didn't actually encounter the Brollachan in the flesh until the very end of the campaign, but you can bet that he had been built up enough by then through hearsay and eyewitness accounts that the whole party had a healthy terror of him.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

It won't stay in the ground

About a year ago we ran a short series of posts about the town of Brymstone, a setting for roleplaying games in the land of Legend. I played in this campaign back at Oxford originally, before Dragon Warriors was even thought of. The town was called Sneyp then, though not apparently from the Old English root meaning a marsh, for it was surrounded by farmland and downs. Robert Dale, its creator, later renamed and relocated Brymstone to the DW country of Ellesland where, funnily enough, it seemed like it had belonged all along.

The main thrust of the Brymstone campaign was the tension between the traditional power of local lord, Erek Longsword, and the town guilds that were gaining in strength. This conflict was embodied in the Brollachan, a primordial shapechanger who had settled in the district and seemed to be fomenting strife for his own reasons. I'm keeping the rest of the campaign under wraps because possibly the team at Serpent King Games may want to do something with it someday - and in any case, that decision is Robert's, not mine. But here is a short episode that gives a little of the folkloric flavor:

This incident has nothing to do with the Brollachan storyline, but will provide some light relief for the player-characters, as well as a good fight. The creature in this adventure is not quite the standard sly bloodsucker. Folklore abounds with a number of interpretations of the vampire, after all. The shrewd and scheming tactician personified by Count Dracula is one; this is another.

The characters hear that the villagers of Cradoc's Ford are looking for adventurers to help guard an isolated farm against attacks by a vampire. The young daughter of one of the farmers, Anskar, has suffered recurrent attacks. Local efforts to track the creature down having proved ineffective, outside help is sought. The characters will be expected to arrange themselves into a hunting party by day and provide protection by night. For this they will be paid 25 silvers a day each (payments will be made one day in arrears), and there is a reward of 300 silvers for whoever removes the vampire's head. The villagers will lend a hand if the characters make any attempt to track the vampire, but they will not fight except in extreme circumstances. The vampire's lair is an old forgotten barrow on a low hillock north of Cradoc's Ford (see map). There are no really clear tracks, so unless a search party stumbles across it by accident there is only a 10% chance that even the most experienced trackers (say Assassins of 5th rank or higher) will succeed.

The characters will probably soon see that the best way to catch the vampire is to let it come to them. At Anskar's farmhouse they will meet his ailing daughter Kara, frail and pale but still winsome. Her swain, a youth named Skuli, is also present. He is a very likeable sort, though not particularly charismatic or forceful. However, he is utterly devoted to Kara and will doggedly insist on joining the characters' vigil. They need only watch for one night before the vampire makes its appearance.

Pyron the Reaper (vampire)
Reflexes 18; ATT 22; DEF 2; Sickle (d6+2,6); Unarmed Combat (d6,4); AF1; 30HP; MAG DEF 7; EV 7; move 10m(20m); STEALTH 13; PERCEPTION 10 (darksight); nonmagical weapons (unless of solid silver) score half damage

Pyron can fight until literally cut apart, but effectively only has animal-level intelligence. This does not mean that he is stupid, merely that he cannot reason logically. It would never occur to him to lie low for a week or two to throw hunters of his scent, for example. When approaching his prey he may utter phrases of reassurance ("But wait - Pyron means you no harm..." etc, etc) without consciously remembering their meaning. In trying to imagine himself into Pyron's role, the GM should perhaps consider something like a very long and horrible nightmare. Pyron's conscious mind fell into the sleep of death years ago, and the fragment that remains is primitive, tormented and irrational.

He is not affected by garlic or crucifixes. Because he is just a walking corpse as opposed to an undead spirit, he does cast a reflection. He cannot change into a bat, mist or perform any other Hollywood trickery such as mesmerism. Immersion in fresh running water renders him powerless, and at the sound of cockcrow he must depart to his lair or be destroyed by the first rays of dawn.

In a fight at the farmhouse, Pyron will continue to attack until he is obviously losing the fight. If he manages to retreat (perhaps taking advantage of a chance diversion such as burning logs spilling from the hearth and starting a fire during the struggle - the GM can improvise) the villagers will insist that a hunt is mounted to destroy the monster once and for all. They will not pay the characters any more until Pyron is slain, and will place themselves under the protection of Erek Longsword if threatened.

Pyron's hasty retreat from the farmhouse will have left good tracks, and his barrow should be found without difficulty. Forewarned by now that he is not the kind of vampire they are accustomed to, the characters should no longer be caught off balance by the fact that he is immune to the usual precautions. If they enter after sunrise they will find Pyron lurking in the very heart of the barrow. Bearded in his lair, he fights to the true death.

A distinctive mood may be brought to this adventure by giving some emphasis to the characters of Anskar, Kara and Skuli. Anskar does not entire endorse the youngsters' relationship, so Skuli is eager to prove his worth. So eager that he might just rush into battle against Pyron - and either get himself killed if the PCs do not act quickly, or just possibly end up as the one who slays the vampire and claims the reward. It could be interesting for once to give the player characters the impression that they are not at the centre of the stage, but peripheral characters in someone else's story. Whether that story is one of tragic love, grand heroics, gentle whimsy or broad farce... that is up to the GamesMaster.

There is a small amount of treasure in the tomb, though most of the grave goods are of purely archaelogical interest - just old pots and so on from the player-characters' viewpoint. There is a gold drinking cup worth 900 silvers, silver belt fittings (on the belt around the vampyr's waist) and a necklace of jet (not worn by Pyron; perhaps a last token from a loved one). The silver would fetch perhaps 60 silvers and the jet (prized by sailors as a charm against shipwreck) another 100 or 150. All told, some 1100 silvers. The villagers will claim a quarter share as is their due under local law. Again, they will invoke the protection of Lord Erek if threatened.
As I read through this, I'm aware that Pyron as an archetype has appeared a few times in our games, most recently in Tim Harford's Immortal Spartans campaign, where he dwelt in an ancient tomb by the eastern walls of Rome and was known as "the Etruscan". If your taste is for these gray, loam-smelling, grave-cold vampires, I can recommend Marcus Sedgwick's My Swordhand is Singing and Lindsey Barraclough's Long Lankin as two novels that will send a chill down your spine. In a nice way.

Friday 15 July 2011

Green snow falling

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!

Another note of interest: this scene featured Ghulfang the warlock, who along with his ensorcelled blade Thanophon was an early character played by Steve Foster, who later created the memorable Tobias of Vantery, who will be familiar to everyone who's played the Blood Sword gamebooks.

Thursday 14 July 2011

This just in -

I just got a heads up from Jamie Wallis at Greywood Publishing to say that the Fabled Lands RPG is now on Amazon UK. If you're Stateside, it's still on Amazon US, of course - and there, as bargain hunters will probably have already noticed, at a slightly lower price than the British edition.

Jamie also told me to tell you that the Sokara sourcebook will be out in September and the Golnir book in December. So lots of background material, scenarios, creature, characters, locations, maps and items to come. Better roll your characters now.

Oh, double-taking at that cover? It was Greywood's original mock up using Kevin Jenkins's beautiful painting from The War Torn Kingdom (FL Book One). Who wouldn't want to live in that castle?

Saturday 9 July 2011

Preschool gamebooks

Here's a little gamebook fragment I dug up recently, part of a project with Leo Hartas called Tell Me A Story. You can read about how we came to work on this over on the Mirabilis blog, but Fabled Lands fans are, I'm sure, more interested in the interactive part. (The image is by Daryl Sim from his Flickr stream.)
Tell Me A Story
Interactive stories for children of pre-school age, designed for “mother-and-me” use.
This demo is Jack & The Beanstalk and begins halfway through the story, with Jack already in the giant’s castle.
Continue [ link to #1 ]

[Two variables; WISHES = 1 and HARP = false ]
But the giant lifted the mug and found Jack hiding there. “I’m going to have you for my tea,” he said. And he tied Jack up with string.
What do you think Jack did?
Laughed at the giant [ link to #2 ]
Bit his thumb [ link to #3 ]

“Don’t you laugh at me. You’re going on my dinner plate.” The giant served himself peas and mash, and he spooned some gravy over Jack’s head.
What then?
A knock at the door [ link to #5 ]
Dinner-time [ link to #6 ]

“Ouch!” said the giant. He dropped Jack to the floor and forgot all about him. “Ow, ow ow!” he said, sucking his thumb.
What do think happened next?
The giant slipped on a banana skin [ link to #4 ]
He went to get a bandage [ link to #5 ]

The giant’s foot shot out from under him and he came crashing down like fifty tons of bricks. The whole castle shook – though it was only built on a cloud, remember, so maybe it shook quite a bit anyway.
Jack quickly untied himself. Then what did he do?
Helped the giant up [ link to #13 ]
Ran for it [ link to #15 ]
Hid inside the banana skin [ link to #11 ]

The moment the giant left the room, the sparrow that Jack had helped earlier flew in through the window. Plucking at the string with its beak, it soon had Jack free. “Where’s that magic harp I came for?” wondered Jack.
Did he go and get the harp? [ link to #22 ]
Or did he leave right away? [ link to #15 ]

So, Jack was about to end up in the giant’s tummy if he didn’t think of something quickly. He still had his sword and he still had his last wish. Which do you think he used?
The sword [ link to #8 ]
The wish [ link to #7 ]

[Set WISHES = 0]
“I wish that the giant’s potatoes would turn to plaster, his peas to cannon balls, his gravy to mud, and his beer to vinegar,” said Jack.
The giant tasted his mashed potato. “Horrible!” he said. He tried his peas. “Yuck!” he said. He drank some beer. “Urgh! I can’t eat this!” And he stomped out of the room, shaking the castle with every angry footstep.
What next...? [ link to #5 ]

“What’s that, a little toothpick?” laughed the giant. He took the sword, which was smaller than a cotton thread between his fingers. But although the sword was small, it was sharp too, and the giant pricked himself. “Ouch!” he said, leaping to his feet.
What happened then?
He went to get a bandage [ link to #5 ]
His wife came in [ link to #9 ]

“What a fuss over nothing!” scolded the giant’s wife. “It’s only a pinprick.”
“But it hurts!” said the giant.
They had forgotten all about Jack. What was he doing while they argued?
Whistling a tune [ link to #30 ]
Untying himself [ link to #27 ]

Jack’s mother was astonished to see a giant banana fall down off a cloud into her back garden, and she was even more astonished when she saw Jack get out of it. “Hello, mum,” he said. “You’ll never believe this, but...” And he told her the whole story.
Next [ link to #12 ]

Jack crawled inside the banana skin and zipped it up like a sleeping bag. “Oh my head...” said the giant as he sat up on the floor. Then he saw the banana skin that Jack was hiding inside. “Another banana!” he roared. “I don’t want bananas in the house. They’re too dangerous!”
He threw the banana out of the window. Where do you think it landed?
In the dustbin [ link to #31 ]
In Jack’s back garden [ link to #10 ]

[ if WISHES = 1 and HARP = false, go to #33
else if WISHES = 0 and HARP = false, go to #34
else if WISHES = 1 and HARP = true, go to #35
else go to #36 ]

Imagine you’d fallen over and an ant was trying to help you up. That’s how much use Jack was. In fact, the moment he got under the giant’s back to give him a push, the giant began to wail like a baby. “Oh! Oo! It’s got inside my shirt! Help, mother! It tickles!” And he jumped up on a chair.
What then?
Jack ran off [ link to #15 ]
The giant’s wife came in [ link to #37 ]

He had enough, all right. “Stop chopping!” he cried. “I’m going back up to my cloud. Look!”
“And you can stay up there,” said Jack. As soon as he was at the bottom of the bean-stalk, he lopped it off so that there was no way to ever reach the cloud again. And then he went home whistling a tune.
Continue [link to #12]

Yes, Jack ran out of the castle, across the cloud, and started down the beanstalk. But he hadn’t gone more than half a mile when the beanstalk started swaying. Jack looked up. The giant was coming down after him!
What did he do?
Jump [ link to #16 ]
Draw his sword [ link to #17 ]

Jack looked down. He could see a haystack. It was so far below that it looked no bigger than a bread roll. He jumped off the beanstalk and tumbled down to land safely in the haystack. So what do you think the giant did?
Jumped after him [ link to #18 ]
Kept climbing down [ link to #19 ]

Jack sliced through the beanstalk. “Yikes!” said the giant as he went tumbling past. He landed in the sea with a splash that sent water flying fifty metres into the air and upset every boat in the harbour.
Jack climbed the rest of the way down.
Next [ link to #20 ]

He did, he jumped as well. And he fell down and down like a big fool. And he landed in the harbour. The water splashed fifty metres into the air, and every boat tipped over and the fishermen had to swim for shore. On the docks, people were picking up fishes that had been flung right out of the sea. “We’ll feast for a week,” they said happily.
Next [ link to #20 ]

“That big fellow just won’t give up,” said Jack. Drawing his sword, he hacked through the beanstalk like a lumberjack chopping down a tree. “Oh-err... You stop that...” called the giant from high above. He didn’t like being on the stalk with it swaying like that. What do you think he did?
Kept on coming down [ link to #21 ]
Went back up to the cloud [ link to #14 ]

Jack waited by the sea but no bubbles came up. “Either the giant has drowned or he’s turned into a whale and swum off,” said an old sailor who had seen it all before.
Jack made his way home.
Next [ link to #25 ]

Jack sliced through the beanstalk. “Yikes!” said the giant as the beanstalk fell. Down and down he fell until his shadow covered half the county. Finally he landed in the sea with a splash that sent water flying fifty metres into the air and upset every boat in the harbour.
Next [ link to #20 ]

[set HARP = true ]
The harp was made of gold with silver strings, and it was said to make the loveliest sound of any musical instrument ever made. “I wonder what it sounds like,” said Jack to himself.
Did he play a tune? [ link to #23 ]
Or did he leave right away [ link to #15 ]

It was a more beautiful sound than fresh water flowing, bees buzzing in a field of clover, or birdsong on a spring morning. “Oi! Who’s messing with my harp?” shouted the giant, and he came running. Each footstep was like an earthquake!
What do you think happened next?
The giant slipped on a banana skin [ link to #24 ]
Jack ran out of the door [ link to #15 ]

Yes he did. There was a banana skin lying in the hall, and the giant skidded across the stone floor, tripped over in the doorway, and went flying. Imagine an elephant on a roller-skate and you’ll get the idea. He crashed to the floor with such an impact that the bricks fell off the chimney, fell all the way to earth, and those are the Mendip Hills that you can see to this day.
What about Jack? Did he:
Hide inside the banana skin? [ link to #11 ]
Or run back to the beanstalk? [ link to #15 ]

[If HARP = true, go to #28
Else go to #29 ]

Jack wriggled into the mash. He could hear the giant saying: “He’s gone!”
“Well, eat the rest of your dinner,” said his wife.
“No point,” grumbled the giant. “I don’t want vegetables and no meat.” And he scraped the plate off into the dustbin. What a waste of good food – but that’s giants for you!
Next [ link to #31 ]

That’s right, he was. He had just got the string off when the giant suddenly said, “Where’s that lad I was going to eat?”
Jack had to think fast. What did he do?
Hide in the mashed potato? [ link to #26 ]
Run out of the door? [ link to #15 ]

Jack got home in time for tea and told his mother the whole story. “I found the golden egg, the magic purse, and the loveliest-sounding harp you ever did hear,” he said.
The egg made Jack rich, the purse helped him save his money wisely, and he played the harp at parties and everybody liked him. And he became so rich and famous that people still talk about him today.
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

Jack got home in time for tea and told his mother the whole story. “I found a golden egg and a magic purse,” he said. “I’m going to sell the egg and save money in my purse so that we never want for anything again.”
So Jack became very successful and happy. And he never went climbing bean-stalks ever again!
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

The sparrow that Jack had helped earlier was just outside and it heard him whistling. It flew in the window and untied him with its beak. The giant and his wife were still quarreling. His voice was deep like thunder, hers was sharp like lightning. They had forgotten all about Jack. So what do you think he did next?
Hid in the mashed potatoes [ link to #26 ]
Went to find the harp [ link to #22 ]
Made his escape [ link to #15 ]

So Jack was in the giant’s dustbin. He stank of old potato peelings, dirty tissues and last week’s fish, but at least he was safe. Or was he? “I’d still like that harp,” he said to himself, wondering if it was a good idea to go back for it. Do you think he should?
Yes [ link to #22 ]
No [ link to #32 ]

Better safe than sorry. Jack started climbing back down the beanstalk. But he hadn’t gone more than half a mile when the beanstalk started swaying. Jack looked up. The giant was coming down after him!
What did he do?
Jump [ link to #16]
Draw his sword [ link to #17 ]

So, Jack had found himself a golden egg and a magic purse. The egg made him rich, and the purse helped him to save wisely. And he still had one wish, which he used to get his mother the most beautiful dress anywhere in England.
And as for that beanstalk? Well, Jack got an axe out of the shed and...
Bet you can guess the rest!
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

So, Jack had got away with a golden egg and a magic purse. The egg made him rich, and the purse helped him to save wisely. So he did quite well for himself. And as for that beanstalk? Well, Jack got an axe out of the shed and you can guess the rest!
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

So, Jack had got away with a golden egg, a magic purse, a marvellous harp, and he still had one wish left. He used the wish to get his mother a fine new dress, and the egg and the purse made them rich, and every evening Jack would play the harp and people came from all around to hear him.
And do you know what he did with that beanstalk? Well, he got an axe out of the shed and you can guess the rest!
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

So, Jack had got away with a golden egg, a magic purse, and a marvellous harp. The egg made them lots of money, and the purse meant they always had a little bit saved, and every evening Jack would play the harp and people came from all around to hear him.
And do you know what Jack did with that beanstalk? Well, he got an axe out of the shed and...
Bet you can guess the rest!
New story [ link to #42 ]
Quit [ exits ]

She did. She pulled Jack out from under the giant and put a glass over him. “There, that’s got you trapped,” she said. Jack hammered on the glass, but he couldn’t break it. It was too thick.
But Jack still had his last wish. What did he wish for?
A thunderstorm? [ link to #38 ]
A sack of diamonds? [ link to #39 ]
The glass to break? [ link to #40 ]

The thunderstorm made the whole cloud shake. “Quick,” yelled the giant’s wife, “let’s get outside before the roof falls in!”
The glass fell over, freeing Jack, and you can be sure that he made straight for the beanstalk at once. But he hadn’t climbed more than half a mile down when the beanstalk started swaying. Jack looked up. The giant was coming after him!
What did he do?
Jump [ link to #16 ]
Draw his sword [ link to #17 ]

“Let me out and you can have these diamonds,” said Jack. The giant was so greedy that he picked up the glass at once, and Jack ran straight out of the door.
Next [ link to #15 ]

The giant and his wife started talking and forgot about Jack. He made his wish. From another room in the castle came the sound of a harp-string being plucked, and the note made the glass shatter.
Jack headed for the door. The giant and his wife hadn’t noticed he was free. Then he thought about the harp. Should he go back for it, he wondered. What do you think?
Yes [ link to #41 ]
No [ link to #32 ]

[set HARP = true ]
The harp was made of gold with silver strings. Perched on top of it was the sparrow that Jack had helped earlier. It had returned the favour by playing the note that shattered the glass. “This is a beautiful harp,” said Jack to the sparrow. “Would you like me to play you a tune?”
Do you think he did? [ link to #23 ]
Or did he climb back down the beanstalk first? [ link to #15 ]

Tell Me A Story
Jack & The Beanstalk [ link to #1 ]
The Goat & the Troll [ link to #0 ]
Snow White [ link to #0 ]
Options [ link to #43 ]
Quit [ exits ]

Follow link

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Kings of legend sleep under the forest

Another trailer from Serpent King Games to get you in the mood for the new wave of Dragon Warriors material coming soon.

For anyone not familiar with DW, this description by gaming éminence grise James Wallis says it better than I ever could:

Dragon Warriors is set in the Lands of Legend, a world that resembles parts of our world as they were around the thirteenth century, specifically Europe at the end of the Crusades. The world works the way that people in medieval Europe believed it did: there’s a feudal order, might makes right, and barons squabble and vie for power to stymie or oust the king, who is a weak fool.

But on top of that magic is real; the power of the Church is real; the devil is real and may meet you on the road at midnight; superstition and folklore are real; fairies and goblins are real and may sour your milk, lame your horse or steal your child if you don’t keep them happy; there are giants and dragons deep in the mountains; and the great kings of legend sleep under the forests and will return if their domains are threatened.

The world of Dragon Warriors is familiar. You have been there many times in the stories of King Arthur, the tales of Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart, the classic works of fantasy fiction, and the histories of the medieval world. But at the same time it is a place filled with threats and the unknown. And the further you stray from home the stranger the places you will encounter: the desolate wastelands of Krarth, home to the Rathurbosk, a city built entirely on a bridge over the Gouge; the ruins of the city of Spyte, once ruled by (and perhaps destroyed by) the magi-lords, whose descendents still control Krarth today; the dangerous jungles of Mungoda filled with the remains of dead civilisations and populated by the bizarre Volucreth bird-men; the New Selentine Empire, trying to recapture the glories and power of the previous millennium; the Nomad Khanates; the Ta’ashim lands; the great city of Ferromaine where money is king and anything can be bought if the price is right; the Principalities of the Crusade; and much more.

Friday 1 July 2011

The quietest beat of an enormous drum

It's kind of an open secret - as secret as anything can be in a world that contains Twitter - that Jamie, Oliver, Mark and I have been looking at doing something app-related with our various gamebook series. Can I use the word classic there? I'm sure you're all eager for ninja action in the inimitable Way of the Tiger style, but another series we hope to convert into digital form at some point is Blood Sword. (Hopefully with a better title, though; I would have preferred The Sword of Life & the Sword of Death if only it fitted on a book cover.)

In this excerpt from the third book in the series, The Demon's Claw, you have finally tracked down the man who may be able to help you in your quest. I'm sure I don't need to add that the illustration is by the peerless Russ Nicholson, undisputed master of fantasy gamebook art, and you can see a lot more of his work over on his blog.
You have been told that Susurrien lives in a room above a butcher's shop. You enter and look towards a stone slab where a bearded giant of a man is dismembering a carcass. His cleaver strikes the raw flesh with remorseless thwacks. As he sees you, his eyes betray no emotion - but the cleaver slips, striking the stone of the slab and giving a metallic shriek.

The bearded man glowers at his chipped cleaver, then nods towards the stairs.

Still no word has been spoken. You pass him and begin to ascend. After a few moments you hear him start to hack at the meat on the slab once more.

The room you enter is plain. A man sits in a wooden chair by the window, drawing occasionally at a tall hooka that stands beside him. The odour of incense masks the charnel stench from the butcher's shop below.

Prince Susurrien turns. His robes rustle - a crisp, silken sound. His chair creaks as he shifts his body to half face you. A limpid red gem glowers like a third eye from the centre of his gold turban. His jewellery and gilt-decorated tunic glitter as they
catch a shaft of morning sunlight.

His stare is intense and unnerving. With his swarthily handsome face he looks like a man capable of great passion and cruelty. Then he gestures to the cushions piled against the wall and bids you sit. Sharp white teeth flash as he smiles. You crouch down on the cushions but your muscles remain tense. The sunlight, passing through the wooden lattice across one window and through the dusty air, casts a host of narrow bright beams across your face. They all appear to radiate from the exiled prince. The spider's web? You hide a wry smile.

'I knew you would come.' His voice is soft and deep, suggesting the quietest beat of an enormous drum. 'You seek the Sword of Life; I, the Sword of Death. By uniting we shall achieve what we desire.'

You don't pretend to like the idea, but there is no alternative. You nod.

'I have here the Hatuli - literally, the Bring-hither.' He holds up a mannikin that looks as if it has been carved from diseased wood. 'It was constructed by the great wizard Sa'aknathur, and my agents found it for me in the ruins of his fortress. If it were operative, it could find the magical swords for us. But it is not.' He sets the mannikin on the floor by his chair, where it waits, lifeless.

'Its eyes are missing,' continues Susurrien. 'They were two tiny emeralds of flawless beauty, and I believe they were prised from the Hatuli's head by Hunguk the Pirate-King when he sacked the fortress. So, your quest will involve stealing them back from Hunguk.'

You can see a difficulty here. Hunguk the Pirate-King, if he ever lived, must have been dead for more than five hundred years.

Click on the image for more information about The Demon's Claw and the rest of the Blood Sword series.