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Monday 29 August 2011

In the sky with diamonds

Okay, okay - I admit it, Russ Nicholson I'm not. The picture is my finger-paint attempt to illustrate this scenario for the Fabled Lands RPG. It's pretty freeform and would fit into an Over the Blood-Dark Sea kind of quest as a peripheral standalone adventure.

Now, if you're planning to play in this scenario I suggest you read no further!

To the referee, umpire or (if you must) game-master: choose carefully which player-character you use to initiate the adventure, as the payoff hinges on him buying into the romantic ideal so that the ending will have a suitably tragic flavor. You will probably want to adjust the stats to fit the characters' rank; the Angels should be a tough fight, especially because of their cunning, while the apparitions should be a real struggle for survival.

A Fabled Lands RPG seafaring scenario that would fit in with a Sinbad/Odysseus type of campaign.

The bait

A young woman appears to one of the characters in his sleep. She wears a lacquered mask which she sets aside to reveal a face of startling beauty. She pleads with him to come to her rescue, but appears distracted. "I am trapped within a tower," she says, "and can appear to you only in your dreams. But if you can free me, you will have my gratitude and my love."

If any of the other characters are on watch and look into the cabin, they will see the dreaming character moaning and tossing in his sleep.

Surprise at sunrise

Shortly before dawn, a shadow appears on the horizon. Wary in case it is an uncharted island, the captain trims the sails. The rising sun, however, reveals an astonishing sight: a circular citadel with a central silver tower gradually takes shape out of the twilight, floating hundreds of feet up in the air.

While the characters watch, a tiny figure plunges from the citadel and hits the water. He does not surface - unsurprisingly, as nobody could survive such a fall. (In fact it is one of the "Angels", see later; it swims to the ship and waits underwater until it can slip aboard unnoticed, and may cause trouble in subsequent adventures.)

Obviously, if the characters have no means of levitating up to the citadel, this encounter is merely another eerie episode on the Violet Ocean and they must sail on. No need to force it. The dreams could recur over months or years of the character's life and that will only make the eventual resolution more effective.

The floating citadel

Consists of five circular terraces connected by steps passing through ornate archways. Trees and flowers grow in marble beds ranged along the terraces. A tower rises from the middle of the citadel.

Inhabitants of the citadel

Five hundred and fifty-five people live here. They are tall and slender with dark skin, narrow faces, gentle in disposition. Whenever a 556th baby is born, the oldest inhabitant leaps down a well shaft (located on the third terrace) into the sea. These people call themselves the Exalted and subsist on fruit, plus occasional fish that may be thrown up from the sea during very violent storms. For fresh water, they rely on the rain.

When picking fruit, they process around the terraces at regular intervals; a date might thus be described as "the time of the Third Orchard of the Second Terrace".

The Exalted never ascend beyond the third terrace - the second and first are off-limits, inhabited by "Angels". The Angels serve and guard the Goddess, who lives in the central tower. The legend states that the Goddess originally dwelt here long long ago (ie, in prehistoric times) and departed, but was brought back only a generation ago by warriors bearing a green banner. These warriors tried to slay the Exalted, who hid from them. They bore the Goddess on a silver catafalque, levitated from ships far below, and carried her up beyond the third terrace. From that day, all who glimpsed her could speak only of her sad beauty. After plundering the place, the green warriors flew back down to their ships. But they left the Goddess in the tower. The Goddess's servant, a green bird, sometimes descends to take offerings from her shrine on the first terrace.

The true story

The "Goddess" who dwells in the tower now has no connection to the legendary deity of ancient times. She is actually a sorceress called Virinasi, left here 40 years ago by soldiers from Chrysoprais ordered to conduct her into exile. If she was beautiful then, the long years of solitude have stolen that from her. Now she is wrinkled and barely sane. The green bird is her familiar, which brings her morsels of fish.

The "Angels" are pale, mute, homuncular creatures created by alchemy, sexless and undying. They were set here as the original guardians of the armoury. They retreated in the face of superior force when the Chrysoprais soldiers arrived, and would now like to trace and retrieve the plundered weapons. To this end, one of the Angels will hurl itself down into the sea and try to get aboard the characters’ ship.

There are twenty Angels here. (Despite the name, they have no wings; envisage white-skinned, naked, androgynous figures with pupils as large as their eyes.) They will attack only if somebody tries to plunder items from the armoury, and will fight intelligently:

Combat 5; Intelligence 10; Magic 5; Muscle 7; Scouting 5; Thievery 5
Defence 9; Stamina 11
Special attack: Pacify – if the Angel succeeds in a Magic roll of difficulty 11, the target will stand passively for one minute unless attacked.

The Angels ignore Virinasi. She sent her dream self, which still appears as a 20-year-old, to lure a rescuer here.

2nd Terrace: The armoury

At the back of the plundered armoury (describe gaps on wall where once were swords, spears, shields) is a huge metal door. There are tiny scratches on the surface of the door. Inscription in huge letters hangs over the door, in unknown language.

The damage to the door was caused by the pickaxes of the soldiers who brought Virinasi here. They looted the armoury itself and wanted to get into this inner vault but the door resisted every effort.

The inscription on the door is in an ancient language that can be read by means of an Intelligence check at Difficulty 15. (Language skill applies.) Reading the inscription aloud causes the door to open. Beyond lies the Lightning Armour Hall.

Inside the Lightning Armour Hall

Dim blue lighting flickers on. There are two daises set into the floor, one silver and one black. Each dais contains two oval indentations as though for feet. Directly above each dais is a silver disk suspended from the ceiling.

If you step into the indentations on the silver dais, the dais slowly rises and the disk lowers. Electricity crackles around you. Then you are returned to the floor.

This provides one user with the Lightning Armour. The Armour functions only when you have discarded any crystalline objects on you (including metal, and jewels). If you wear such items, you only notice minor side-effects: acrid taste on tongue, ozone smell, people get a mild shock when they touch you, bits of paper stick to your fingers, etc.

When you're down to very little crystal adornment, you might even notice sparks crackling around you in the dark. When no crystal at all is worn, then the Lightning Armour becomes active: a scintillant white aura that gives Defence +6 and full resistance to any electrical-based attack. You can wear leather armour with it (for an additional +1 Defence) but no form of metal armour. The glow of the Lightning Armour illuminates a circle of 10m radius around the wearer, causing -2 to any Thievery rolls involving stealth.

The black dais functions similarly but equips the user with the Thunder Spear.
This can be thrown (like a javelin) or used in melee. It always appears in the user's hands when a weapon is required. This means that it is never out of your hands for more than half a round (even if dropped) but also that you can't use any other weapon. No armour counts for better than 4 Defence against the Spear. It cannot be broken.

If the user of either the Lightning Armour or the Thunder Spear is killed, the item returns to the dais and can be claimed by somebody else.

The damsel in distress

Virinasi shows herself as the characters leave the Lightning Hall or if they fail read the inscription. They see a slight female figure in white robes, her face covered by a lacquered mask. She beckons to the character whose dreams she visited, calling him her champion and thanking him for coming to rescue her. But as he approaches her, the characters will become aware of creatures emerging from the shadows all around them. Virinasi screams, terrified, and seeks the protection of her champion.

Forty years of solitude with only the silent Angels for company have left Virinasi unhinged. Though her conscious reaction to her rescuers is one of gratitude, her troubled psyche unleashes monsters from the id that will attack. These are in fact just apparitions – but apparitions that can kill:

Combat 9
Defence 11
Stamina 14

Each round, 1-6 more apparitions appear on the scene until there are ten in all:
  • Worm-thing
  • Oozing slime that mutters
  • Swarm of skulls
  • Robed spectre
  • Bloody corpse with teeth for hands
  • Fiery spider
  • Carrion bat
  • Clanking warrior
  • Jellyfish with heads inside
  • Shrieking fungus man
The apparitions are not real, but will cause real damage to anybody who fails a Magic test at Difficulty 15. A character who succeeds in the roll will take no damage when hit, and can then try to convince others they are just illusions. This takes one round and everyone in earshot can then attempt the roll again, this time at Difficulty 12.

If anyone specifically states they are looking at Virinasi during the battle, they will notice on making an Intelligence test at difficulty 9 that she seems to be subvocalizing a spell. If she is struck unconscious, the apparitions immediately drop by 3 in both Combat and Defence.

If the apparitions are defeated, Virinasi gives a cry and drops to the floor. The psychic backlash has slain her. If they remove her lacquered mask, the characters will see that she is no longer the beautiful woman who appeared in the dream.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

It's alive!

As a follow-up to the previous post, I'm pleased to announce that Fabled Lands Publishing has just released a Kindle edition (Amazon US here and Amazon UK here) of award-winning SF author John Whitbourn's latest novel, Frankenstein's Legions.

Baron Frankenstein's work let the genie out of the bottle. New life can be created from the bodies of the dead. The governments of the early nineteenth century see a means to create a new supply of slave labour and military cannon-fodder. An army that falls on one day can be pieced together and returned to battle the next. And so the world descends towards the maelstrom of total war.

Ada Lovelace has been murdered, her friend Charles Babbage framed and arrested, and Julius Frankenstein, last of his line, looks set for an "accident". But Ada's death, while no exaggeration, is not going to slow her up. Restored to life, she teams up with Julius to find out just who it is that will stop at nothing to see the Analytical Engine destroyed.

If you like your science fiction dark, devious and steampunky, with intrigue, horror and violence, you'll love Frankenstein's Legions. Just one warning, though. This book is definitely adult content and not for the squeamish.

And even if you don't have a Kindle or emulator thereof, don't lose heart. As long as there's enough demand, Fabled Lands LLP will consider a paperback edition to come out following the Binscombe Tales series in October. (Sadly, we can't use Martin McKenna's brilliant painting above for the cover, but scoot over to his website and I guarantee you'll find lots of other deliciously gruesome stuff.)

Tuesday 23 August 2011

The Twilight Zone of suburban Surrey

This is a cross-post over to the Mirabilis blog, but it probably belongs here even more than there, because John Whitbourn's Binscombe Tales series is the next publishing endeavour from Fabled Lands LLP.

The Binscombe Tales are true classics that exist in the overlap between SF, fantasy, horror, ghost stories and whimsy (hey, fiction is an n-dimensional space, didn't you know?) and they have previously appeared in The World's Best Fantasy and the After Midnight books. Mr Whitbourn himself is a a laureate of the Gollancz/BBC first fantasy award - which is no mere tyro genre-writer award, believe me - making him the modern Hemingway of the bizarre.

We will be releasing the complete series of twenty-six tales in print form (three eminently collectible paperback volumes) and on Kindle in time for Hallowe'en. (In fact, October 31st is the very day of publication, how about that.) Lovers of the macabre, the mysterious and the marvellous in fiction will not want to miss.

Saturday 20 August 2011

When Earth was a planet with rings of vril

This blog has had a lot of coverage in the past of Abraxas, the lost continent that Jamie and I originally developed as a massively-multiplayer game world. It's definitely a setting that inspires us and we'd like to do something with it - though whether as a series of fantasy novels, a roleplaying game, a comic book, or something else remains to be seen.

In the meantime, while thinking of the best way to use it, we've put together an overview of Abraxas on Kindle - UK edition here and US edition here. Devotees of the blog will find no new material in the Kindle version, unless you count the poem by Robert E Howard, but if you want it all in one place in a form that's easy to cart along to a game, there it is. The cover blurb will tell you whether it's your cup of chumetl. (Sorry, in-joke there; don't worry if you don't get it.)
Abraxas is a lost continent from before the dawn of history. A place of high adventure, flashing swordplay, wild jungles, deserts of black sand, floating cities, classical temples, primordial animals, exotic wizardry and evil psionic aliens. When Abraxas finally sinks below the ocean, survivors will reach the mainland and seed the great civilizations of antiquity.

Who are the heroes?

Mighty swordsmen, gladiators, statesmen, scientists, explorers, barbarians. And wizards who watch the stars to predict threats to their homeland and their ideals. Some – the noble champions of the five city states – are born to greatness. Others achieve it despite humble beginnings, and even Neanderthal heroes are possible.

What do they do?

On the mainland, new young races of men (both Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal) are populating the world. Our heroes are destined to be remembered in legend as tutelary deities who guard and guide new cultures in the difficult struggle to survive. At the same time, they strive to confound the prophecies that say Abraxas itself is doomed.

What threats do they face?

Alien beings whose own worlds are dying have designs on the young Earth. Projecting their psyches across the gulf of space, they can influence the minds of weak mortals who worship these beings as if they were gods. The most powerful aliens such as the Churuk – and the Ulembi, whose home lies beyond the Coal Sack – are capable of physically manifesting themselves in our world.

How does magic work?

First of all, it's not really magic. First there is Thaumaturgy. In this period of the distant past, glittering rings like those of Saturn still encircle the Earth – remnants of a second moon that exploded. Adepts trained in the use of Thaumaturgy can draw down psychic energy from these rings. It is a form of magic that is powerful but unpredictable, based as it is on the solar-magnetic “weather” within the rings.

The other main form of magic is Wizardry. It is derived from the combination of the Four Substances (Earth, Air, Fire and Water – the “elements” as they were handed down to the ancient world) with the Four Essences (Aether, Life, Ur and Death). Wizardry is typically less epic in scale than Thaumaturgy, but more reliable and controllable. Think of it like technology is for us today.

What makes Abraxas unique?

Abraxas is very far from the usual quasi-medieval style of fantasy. There are no orcs, goblins and dragons. Every animal and nonhuman creature is unique to the Abraxas world, making it highly brandable and distinctive. Many of the fauna of Abraxas are mutated versions of mid-Tertiary animals that have survived on Abraxas itself until the time of the game, around 35,000 B.C. The cities of Abraxas are wondrous metropolises, mighty proto-civilizations of the great cultures of history such as Egypt, Babylon and Carthage.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

The black and the green

Joe Dunthorne, the author of the sharply comic novel Submarine on which Richard Ayoade's recent movie was based, has recently been experimenting with interactivity in his writing in a way that may be of interest to gamebook readers. Talking in the Financial Times, Dunthorne says:
"There are so many possibilities for interactive fiction, which is where I see the e-readers really coming in to their own. I’ve been writing literary Choose Your Own Adventure stories, and these seem perfect for digital.”
You can try it for yourself on his website: "Taking the lid off the olives, you wonder whether to have a black one or a green one. You watch the line of shade shift..." The story is pretty short, but I like that gamebooks don't always have to be about undead pirates.

Monday 15 August 2011

The colour of thunder

One of the many things Jamie and I have been holding under our hats lately is The Art of Fabled Lands, a lavishly produced, full-colour, 112-page book from Megara Entertainment that would do credit to anybody's coffee table. Currently it's only available on Lulu, but often that means there'll be a listing on Amazon before too long.

Mikael Louys, CEO of Megara, describes the book thus - and I wish my French was as half good as his English:
"When Fabled Lands was first published in 1995, it amazed readers with a rich, multi-book-spanning adventure far beyond the scope of traditional gamebooks. Now it has cracked its paper shell and spread its wings in the new realm of the digital, soaring on currents not only of text, but of music and colour artwork. From a team of visual artists with many skills and styles came a storm of hard work to vastly expand the original illustrations, giving graphics for text that had until then been untouched. This book holds a beautiful fraction of the artistic creativity that forms worlds within your mind. You submerge in the wonder of the moment: what creature is it that stands in those woods? Will this rain ever cease beating upon the fields? Sifting through the Art of Fabled Lands is like adventuring in the world already. We hope you enjoy the art and this perfect accessory for Fabled Lands gamebooks owners, with new text material included."

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Castle of Lost Souls part two: "The Quest"

A little while back we ran the first installment of The Castle of Lost Souls. This was one of the books in my and Oliver Johnson's Golden Dragon Gamebook series, and was serialized in the British fantasy gaming magazine White Dwarf (the April-July 1984 issues) before appearing in book form. The original version (which is what you have here) was aimed at older readers than the gamebook and the text differed considerably, especially in the early part of the adventure.

The rules are here, and if you want to dive into this installment without playing "The Champion" first, just follow those guidelines for creating a character but start with an Honour score of 4 instead of 3.

You are the champion of the Greengosh family, chosen by its head, Hogron. He sent you on a mission to collect some magical boots from a cave, guarded by a great giant who you slew after many adventures. Now you have returned and, rested and relaxed sufficiently after your ordeal, Hogron has called you to his study. Here he intends to explain the reasoning behind your expedition, and your next task. Go to

1: 'The Castle of Lost Souls,' Hogron explains, 'is where the demon Slank imprisons the souls of those who pledge themselves to him.' He hands you a glass of brandy. '...One day my father found an ornate bronze jar among his trinkets and wares. Unable to remember where he had got it, he read the inscription on the bottom. Immediately the arch-demon Slank stepped from the shadows!

'After some haggling, my father, concluded a deal with Slank. This was that he should prosper and grow rich in order to leave wealth for his sons and a dowry for his lovely daughter. For this the demon would have his soul.

'Papa died six months ago. As you can see from this mansion and estates, the demon kept his side of the bargain. While Papa lay on his deathbed, Slank waited to take his soul to the Castle. None of us could see Slank, of course, but Papa had told me, his eldest, about the deal. He was rather upset about losing his soul there at the end, but actually I could rather see Slank's point of view - who loves a welcher? Anyhow, just as Papa breathed his last, a single tear fell from the eyes of our sister onto his face. The demon led him through low hills and swamps to where the Castle stands enshrouded by mists. Papa heard the demon chuckle as he closed the door behind them. Gathering his courage, he turned round and cast the single teardrop into Slank's face. The demon howled in pain and ran off through the Castle, clutching his eye which sizzled and smoked where the tear struck it.

'Papa was no fool ... is no fool. Seeing that goodness is the means to destroy the evil demon, he barricaded himself in the Castle library and sat down to work out the necessary weapons. The action of killing Slank can be thought of as a spell which requires a crystal ball, a four leaf clover, the ashes of a saint, the hair of a nun, a fragment of the armour of the most chivalrous knight, and a tear from my sister's eyes. Luckily, Papa also discovered a book called Biodialogos: Speaking with the Living. He got through to us in a vision and told us to find a champion - that's you - because none of us are adventurers, obviously. He told us where to find the magic boots that are the only means for a living soul to find the Castle. He also checked the company accounts, in fact - he may have popped his clogs, but he's kept his head for business.'

Hogron thinks you should start with the teardrop, since his sister, Perterra Greengosh, is just upstairs in her room. Turn to 9.

2: You buy them drinks (deduct 3 gold pieces). You recognize them from yesterday's interviews. 'Ah, you're the one who got the Greengosh contract, aren't you,' says one, accepting a cup of wine. Will you ask them if they know where you can get a crystal ball (turn to 6), or do you mention four leaf clover (turn to 88)?

3: You wake up in a gutter about midnight, wincing at your terrible hangover. You vaguely remember the gypsies getting you drunk, but after that everything is a total blank. You reach into your money pouch to find they have looted all your cash. Turn to 13.

4: Curse the luck – you slip on a patch of damp grass and he turns round and sees you. With a single bound he is upon you, sword drawn. You have no choice but to fight.

CHIVALROUS KNIGHT: Fighting Prowess: 8; Constitution: 18; 2-point armour.

If you win, turn to 77. If you decide to submit, turn to 50.

5: You go over to the bar and, while the innkeeper is pouring your drink, reach up to remove the horse brass from the wall. Lose 1 point of Honour. Try to roll your Cleverness or less on two dice. If you succeed, go to 30. If not, go to 83.

6: They tell you there is an old hermit outside the town who might well have such an item, as he collects curios and odd artifacts. They will take you to his hut for 5 gold pieces. You could go with them straight away (turn to 27), or first ask if they know where you can find a four leaf clover (turn to 40). If you will not pay their price, you could walk over to the bar and either chat to the innkeeper (turn to 65) or attempt to pilfer the horse brass you noticed when you came in (turn to 55).

7: You cross her palm with a gold piece. She gazes into her crystal ball. There she sees much of your past and a little of your future. How much Honour do you have? If it is 4 or more, turn to 49. If less, turn to 22.

8: You are scratched and bruised by a rain of blows as you charge for the door. Lose 3 points of Constitution. Turn to 73.

9: Hogron tells one of his brothers to take you to Perterra. You are led up a winding staircase and along a gallery hung with old paintings. The brother guiding you is either surly or half-witted, for he won't answer when you speak to him.

You reach Perterra's room and the brother ushers you inside. You are surprised to see a little girl, no more than four years old. How will you make her cry? Will you: Twist her arm? (turn to 21) Tell her a joke? (turn to 41) Tickle her? (turn to 31) Break her teddy bear's neck? (turn to 51) Cut up an onion under her nose? (turn to 16).

10: A Luck Charm may be used three times only so you must keep track of how often you use it. Any time you need to make a two-dice roll equal to or less than one of your characteristics, you can activate the Charm instead. Using the Charm means automatic success, ie you do not need to roll the dice. You must decide in advance when you use the Charm; you cannot to change a dice roll after you have attempted and failed. Remember it will work only times only, so use it wisely, Turn to 86.

11: Perhaps you will have more luck elsewhere. You could approach the adventurers (turn to 2), the gypsies (turn to 15) or even the innkeeper (turn to 65). If you decide to have a go at stealing the horse brass instead, turn to 55.

12: The lies flow from your tongue like wine from an uncorked bottle, and you soon convince Hogron that your brawl with his brother was the best way to make Perterra cry. In fact, when the brother enters nursing his black eye, Hogron berates him for being so obstructive. Pleased with your easy dishonesty, you head off into town for a lunchtime drink at an inn called The Four Leaf Clover. Turn to 74.

13: You return to the inn the next day. If you wish to talk to the innkeeper, turn to 65. If you would rather try to steal the clover-leaf horse brass, turn to 55.

14: An elegant solution to the problem - as long as you are, in fact, chivalrous. Do you have Honour of 7 or more? If so, a fragment from your own armour will indeed serve the purpose. This is the reward of virtue: turn to 36. If your Honour is less than 7, you are not chivalrous enough, and you will have to come up with another plan. Turn to 25 and choose again.

15: You take a bottle of wine (which costs 3 gold pieces) over to their table and they start chatting to you. You could try asking them about a crystal ball (turn to 67) or clover (turn to 19). Or perhaps you should find out if they can introduce you to a fortune teller (turn to 70)

16: At your suggestion, the brother gets a servant to fetch an onion. You cut it up, and soon the tears are streaming - not only from Perterra's eyes, but also from you and the brother. You collect her tears in a vial, and gain 1 point of Honour for your painless solution to the problem. Turn to 84.

17: You have failed to obtain the armour fragment and so cannot continue with your adventure. You can roll up a new character and try again, or rejoin the adventure at the start of the next installment.

18: You pass a group of townsfolk and gypsies gathered in a ring, shouting and cheering. You stop to see what all the noise is about. There is a tall, thin man with a scarlet bandanna around his head taking coins from the people around him. He is taking bets on a cockfight. You could place a bet yourself (turn to 57). If you decide to pass by, turn to 69.

19: ‘Why don't you ask the innkeeper?’ they suggest. You go over to the innkeeper and inquire about the clover you need. Turn to 65.

20: You creep off between the brightly coloured pavilions and find a quiet place where you can chip a fragment from the helmet. You then get rid of the helmet by selling it to a trader for 20 gold pieces. Turn to 36.

21: You grab the little girl's arm and are about to twist it painfully when her enraged brother steps forward and pushes you. You stumble back against the wall. 'Don't you lay a hand on my kid sister,' he snarls. Will you lose your temper and hit him (turn to 61) or choke back your anger and think of another way to make Perterra cry (turn to 47)? Either way, lose a point of Honour for being so ungallant.

22: 'Your intentions are clear to me,' she says. 'If you want my crystal ball you must pay more than gold for it...' She pricks your finger with the point of her dagger, and a single drop of blood falls into the silver chalice which she holds out. You find you have lost 1 point of Constitution permanently. A Potion of Healing will not restore this point, and nor will anything else. In exchange for the droplet of blood, she gives you a crystal ball from a casket behind her. You take it and leave, feeling you have indeed paid dearly for this item. Turn to 43.

23: The curse takes its effect on you. Reduce your Fighting Prowess by 1 point permanently. Uttering a stream of colourful invective at this unhappy turn of events, you nonetheless make good your escape with the purloined ball. Turn to 43.

24: As you enter his study, Hogron asks you to explain the thumps and shouts he has heard from his sister's playroom. Roll two dice. If you roll your Cleverness or less, turn to 12. If not, turn to 59.

25: Now that you have the teardrop, the crystal ball and the four leaf clover, all you need is a fragment of a chivalrous knight's armour. Will you: Try taking a sliver from your own armour? (turn to 14). Go to the joust being held tomorrow? (turn to 45) Go to see Wincho the Cleric, who keeps a small private collection of arms and armour at the parsonage? (turn to 62).

26: He offers you a Luck Charm for 20 gold pieces. If you decline this and continue to wander around the fete, turn to 86. If you buy the Charm, pay him the 20 gold pieces and turn to 10.

27: They lead you into the woods outside the town, down a little-used pathway. You are beginning to get suspicious. You turn to see one of them drawing his sword as he creeps up on you. He shouts to the others and all three rush in to the attack.

FIRST ADVENTURER: Fighting Prowess: 6; Constitution: 8; 1 -point armour.
SECOND ADVENTURER: Fighting Prowess: 5; Constitution: 7; 1 -point armour.
THIRD ADVENTURER: Fighting Prowess: 4; Constitution: 9; 1 -point armour.

Every round you must roll for each of them to see if he hits you. You can only hit one of them in any given round. If you feel you must flee, turn to 32. If you fight them and kill all three, turn to 48.

28: They order more wine. They are obviously trying to get you drunk. You tell them that you must be leaving soon. You get up from their table. Will you start talking to the innkeeper? If so, turn to 65. If you'd rather try stealing the horse brass, turn to 55.

29: You seize the helmet when his back is turned and start to skulk off with it. Roll two dice: If the score is less than or equal to your Cleverness, turn to 20. If the dice score exceeds your Cleverness, turn to 4. Either way you lose 1 point of Honour.

30: You take the brass, put it into a pocket of your tunic, finish your drink and leave the inn. Turn to 25.

31: Unfortunately she's not ticklish, and carries on playing with her teddy bear. What now? It occurs to you that you could seize the bear and break its neck (turn to 51) or send down to the kitchens for an onion to cut up in front of her (turn to 16). If you are really exasperated, you could just twist her arm - in which case, turn to 21.

32: You cannot fend off all blows as you turn to run. Lose 4 points of Constitution. You make off down the track to town. You do not lose Honour, because you were badly outnumbered. Turn to 52.

33: Your blood boils and you draw your sword. The cutpurse tries to duck away between two tents, but a caravan blocks his way and he has to turn and face you:

CUTPURSE: Fighting Prowess: 4; Constitution: 6; 1 -point armour

If you win, turn to 91.

34: To your dismay, if not complete surprise, they lapse into a drunken rambling and then fall asleep. You get up from the table, annoyed at wasting your money. Turn to 11.

35: They are initially wary of you because you are from out of town, but when you buy them flagons of ale they soon become quite affable. Deduct 3 gold pieces for the drinks. You ask if they know where you could get one of the items you need - the crystal ball (turn to 64) or the four leaf clover (turn to 82).

36: By hook or by crook you have obtained the daughter's teardrop, the four leaf clover, the crystal ball and the armour fragment. Gain 1 point of Honour if you have done all this without so far losing any Honour. Only the saint's ashes and the hair of a nun remain to be found - but Hogron suggests that since the town is not a very holy sort of place, you might have more luck finding the last two items en route to the Castle of Lost Souls. You agree and, pulling on the magic boots, you make ready to depart. Turn to 93.

37: You try to divert her attention, but realize your deceitful words will not fool her. In desperation you hold your sword to her throat and grab the crystal ball. Lose 1 point of Honour. As you turn to make your escape, Gypsy Gayl calls on the spirits of the departed to curse you. Try to roll your Magical Fortitude or less on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 68. If you fail, turn to 23.

38: The innkeeper tells you that there are sometimes four leaf clovers to be found in the inn's beer garden. 'Why do you think it's called The Four Leaf Clover?’ he laughs. After spending an hour carefully searching the garden, and 2 gold pieces on drinks, you find a four leaf clover. That’s lucky. Turn to 25.

39: After a short and vicious battle, the cock you bet on wins the fight. You get back twice what you bet, less 1 gold piece which the tall man keeps back from each wager. You press on. Turn to 69.

40: ‘Maybe the hermit will have some,' suggests one of the adventurers. 'Can't say for sure - he collects just about anything.' They take you to meet him. Turn to 27.

41: You tell a joke that has you and the brother in tears of laughter, but Perterra doesn't even crack a smile. Then you try some amusing antics like juggling with gold coins, but you drop one of your coins and it falls through a chink in the floorboards where you can't get at it. (Cross it off.) The girl turns away, bored, and you rack your brains to think of something else. Do you twist her arm (turn to 21), tickle her (turn to 31), grab her teddy bear and break its neck (turn to51) or chop up an onion under her nose (turn to 16)?

42: You climb the steps of the brightly painted caravan, push aside the silk curtain over the doorway, and enter. It is dimly lit. There is a strange herbal smell - incense, perhaps? Exotically colorful fabrics hang down in drapes. You feel heady and disorientated, as though you have stepped from the noise and bustle of the fair into a different world.

You have several plans, and now you must choose which one to use. Will you ask her to tell your fortune (turn to 7) - or suggest she reads her own fortune (turn to 90)? A less honest, but possibly effective, approach would be to try and steal the crystal ball (turn to 56). You might see if she'd like to join you for a drink and spend some time looking around the fete (turn to 53).

43: Do you have the tour leaf clover as well? If not, turn to 87. If you have, turn to 25.

44: You have just filched the brass when you hear a shout: 'Hoy, Bimbo. Y've got a thief in yer bar!' Several heavyset men are closing in on you with cudgels and broken bottles. You draw your sword to fight them.

HOMP THE BLACKSMITH: Fighting Prowess: 5; Constitution: 10.
KLIMPI THE TAILOR: Fighting Prowess: 3; Constitution: 5.
TORRICK THE RUFFIAN: Fighting Prowess: 6; Constitution: 6.
BIMBO THE INNKEEPER: Fighting Prowess: 6; Constitution: 7;
No armour.

Every round you must roll for each of them to see if he hits you, but you only get the chance to hit one of them at a time. After two combat rounds you see a chance to run for it - if you take this escape route, turn to 8. If you stay and beat them all, turn to 73.

45: You walk around the field where the joust is taking place. Among the various gentlemen parading back and forth on horseback or cuffing their indolent squires, you see a very gallant looking knight accepting a maiden's favour. You can tell he must be chivalrous because he only kisses her hand. You approach him. Will you: Explain your quest and why you need a piece of his armour (turn to 72)? Point out an unsightly dent in his breast plate and offer to rush with it to the armourer so that it can be repaired before the joust begins (turn to 81)? Try and steal his helmet when he isn't looking (turn to 29)?

46: You go on for a short distance, then it strikes you that there was something suspicious about the fat man. If you bought a Luck Charm, you find you no longer have it. If you did not buy a Charm, you notice that the money pouch on your belt has been stolen, and the thief has made off with all your cash. Turn to 66.

47: Keeping a cool head but glaring at the brother with what you hope is a look of glowering menace, you try another tack. Do you assault the little girl's teddy bear (turn to 51) or cut up an onion under her nose (turn to 16)?

48: Well fought! You can attempt to increase your Fighting Prowess by 1 point, by rolling more than your current score on two dice. You check the bodies. You find 15 gold pieces and a Potion of Healing. You set off back to town, whistling cheerfully. Turn to 52.

49: ' I perceive you to be a person of good heart,' she says, smiling at what she sees in her crystal ball. 'I will not deny you what you seek.' She takes a spare crystal ball from a casket behind her and hands this to you. You thank her and leave - but not before she adds that she may have a favour to ask of you someday. Turn to 43.

50: You drop your sword and ask for quarter. 'Base varlet!' cries the knight, shaking with rage, 'I should spit thee like a pig where you stand - but nay, for thou hast requested mercy, and I would not slay an unarmed foe. Begone!'

You scurry off into the crowds – utterly disgraced, an abject failure... If you wish to try the adventure again you must roll up a new character. Perhaps your experiences in this incarnation will prove useful in your next?

51: You wrench the teddy bear from her arms and break its neck. She bursts into a flood of tears and kicks you hard in the shins. Undaunted by the pain or the loss of 1 point of Honour, you collect the precious tears in a vial. Turn to 84.

52: You return to the inn. The gypsies are still here. If you wish to join them at their table, turn to 15. If you now try talking to the innkeeper, turn to 65. If you prefer a dishonest approach, why not try to pilfer a horse brass in the shape of the clover you seek (turn to 55)?

53: She is flattered and gives you a smile. You leave the caravan together and make your way to a large tent nearby. A few drunken figures - townsfolk and gypsies alike –stand, sit or lie around it. The wine and ale flow freely here. You push your way through the crowds of merrymakers and find a small table, where you ply Gayl with drinks. You spend 5 gold pieces, and soon she relaxes and starts to laugh and joke. A few of the more rowdy customers egg her on to dance for them. Eventually - quite quickly, in fact -she is persuaded and, picking up a tamborine you hadn't noticed before, she slaps it against her thighs and begins an erotic dance. The men all cheer, crowding in a circle around her and clapping their hands. You enjoy a last sip from the wine you've bought, then make a discreet exit. Returning to her caravan, you take the crystal ball and leave the fete. Turn to 43.

54: You craftily slip the brass into your tunic, coolly finish your drink and stroll out of the inn. Turn to 85.

55: You stroll casually over to the bar. While the innkeeper is pouring your drink,
you surreptitiously reach up to take the horse brass. Lose 1 point of Honour and roll two dice. If you roll your Cleverness or less turn to 54. If not, turn to 44.

56: Roll two dice, attempting to score your Cleverness or less. If you do this, go to 79. If you roll more than your Cleverness, turn to 37.

57: You can wager up to 3 gold pieces on a proudly strutting bantam or on his opponent, who is larger but has a tattered comb. If you choose the former, turn to 39. If the latter, turn to 92.

58: He is insulted by your paltry offer! You will now have to increase your offer by 3 gold pieces to successfully bribe the armourer. If you do this, he does as you ask - turn to 36. If you cannot or will not increase your bribe, turn to 17.

59: You mumble some feeble explanation and then the other brother comes in behind you nursing a black eye. Hogron is unconvinced by your excuses and has you thrown out for disturbing his household. Dejected but determined to redeem yourself, you go in search of the clover and the crystal ball. You decide to console yourself with a lunchtime tipple at The Four Leaf Clover inn. Turn to 74.

60: It you offered the armourer 3 gold pieces or more, he pockets the bribe and shaves off a sliver of armour for you. Turn to 36. If you offered 2 gold pieces or less, turn to 58.

61: Your sudden punch catches him unawares, but despite his now-bloodied nose he swings back at you. You are in a fistfight, and the brother is obviously a skilled boxer.

BROTHER: Fighting Prowess: 7; Constitution: 13; No armour.

Resolve the combat in the usual way. You are not wearing your armour, by the way. If you lose, turn to 71. If you beat him, turn to 80.

62: Wincho invites you in and seems to believe your story - that you are a collector and connoisseur of antique armour. He shows you his small but valuable collection, including the suit of plate worn by the valiant and pure knight of legend, Sir Quedri. While the trusting Wincho fetches tea and cakes, you break a splinter from the armour's breastplate. He will never notice its loss. You enjoy his hospitality for a while longer and then take your leave of him. Turn to 36.

63: Gypsy Gayl has retreated to the back of the caravan. You wipe the gore from your sword on the velvet tablecloth and lift the crystal ball from its stand. When you bid her farewell, she spits on the floor. You leave quickly before she can think of a spell. Turn to 43.

64: 'Can't say for certain,' says one, 'but another drink could jog our memories.' They all chuckle. If you decide to buy more drinks for them, then deduct 2 gold pieces from your Character Sheet and turn to 34. If you decide to try one of the other groups, turn to 11.

65: The innkeeper says that there are sometimes four leaf clovers to be found in the beer garden at the back. 'Hence the name of the inn!' he chuckles. You spend a couple of hours searching the beer garden and eventually find a four leaf clover. You have spent 2 gold pieces on drinks by now. Turn to 85.

66: You see a young couple by the beer tent - a swarthy gypsy lad and his plump country maid. You ask where you could find someone with a crystal ball. 'You want Gypsy Gayl,' he tells you. 'She's the best fortune teller for twenty leagues and more.' He directs you to her caravan. Turn to 42.

67: As soon as you mention the item you their expressions become guarded. They exchange sly glances as they talk to you. You must roll two dice and attempt to score less than or equal to your Cleverness. If you succeed, turn to 28. If you fail, turn to 3.

68: You are able to resist her sorcery and make off with the crystal ball. Turn to 43.

69: You find yourself jostled by an excited crowd of townsfolk. A man in a long purple robe catches your eye. He has been performing conjuring tricks. As you watch, he brushes his fingers together and creates a flare of light and a puff of green smoke. If you decide to pass by, turn to 86. If you want to wait and buy one of the magical charms he has for sale, turn to26.

70: After finishing the wine they take you to the local fete, where they point out Gypsy Gayl's caravan. You approach it, hoping that here you will find a crystal ball for your quest. Turn to 42.

71: He lays you out with a knockout punch. You wake up to find yourself being carried out of the house by two servants. 'I would sooner have an imbecilic half-orc as my champion,' Hogron tells you, 'than entrust my father's fate to you!' You slink away in disgrace. If you wish to start again, you will need to roll up a new character.

72: He is only too glad to be able to assist you in your noble undertaking, and shaves a sliver from his helmet with the sharp edge of his sword. You also gain 1 point of Honour for your open approach. Turn to 36.

73: You dash out of the inn and down a side alley. You still have the horse brass in a pocket of your tunic, and you are also fairly sure that none of the people in the bar got a good enough look at you to identify you again later. Turn to 85.

74: A short walk across town brings you to the inn. As you enter the public room, the first thing you see is a horse brass in the shape of a four leaf clover hanging above the bar. You might try stealing this if you think it will serve your purposes (turn to 55), or you could ask the innkeeper if he knows where there is some clover to be found (turn to 65). If you prefer, you could strike up a conversation with some of the customers in the bar. Will you join a group of gypsies (turn to 15), several farm workers having lunch (turn to 35) or a trio of adventurers, presumably would-be champions who failed Hogron's interview (turn to 2)?

75: As you run for the door, Bondek swings the stool leg at the back of your neck. Lose 3 points of Constitution. Dazed by the blow, you nonetheless manage to stumble out into the street. Turn to 89.

76: You spot the fat man trying to cut the strings of your money pouch. Turn to 33.

77: He lies dead at your feet. You snatch up the helmet and push your way through the astonished onlookers. No one tries to stop you as you have slain this perfect if not gentle knight. You chip off the fragment you require and then throw the helmet into a ditch. Turn to 36.

78: They shrug. 'Can't help you there.' You go with them to get the clover. Turn to 27.

79: You inquire as to whether she has any lucky heather for sale. As she goes to the back of the caravan to get some, you scoop up the crystal ball and hastily make an exit. Lose 1 point of Honour if you have not lost it all already. Turn to 43.

80: Your powerful left hook floors the brother, at which his little sister bursts into tears. Taking advantage of this, you collect the tears in a vial. You have merely compounded your previous unchivalrous behaviour: lose another 2 points of Honour. You go back downstairs to Hogron's study. If your Constitution is less than its initial value, restore it to normal, as you recover much quicker from a fistfight than from sword blows. Turn to 24.

81: He gives you 2 gold pieces for your trouble. Unfortunately, the armourer's tent is very close by, so you have no chance to steal a fragment as you carry the breastplate over. Once inside the tent you try bribing the armourer to take a fragment while he's hammering the dent out. Decide how much you will spend on the bribe and then turn to 60.

82: ‘Don't grow that,’ they say. 'It gives th' old cows wind!' They all laugh uproariously. 'Maybe we'd know better if we had another drink, though.' Will you buy them more drinks - at a cost of 2 gold pieces (turn to 34) or will you take your leave of them (turn to 11)?

83: You are just putting the brass into your pocket when someone yells: 'Put that back, you light-fingered scum!' There is a crash. You whirl, drawing your sword. A huge man is advancing on you with a broken bottle in one hand and the leg of a stool in the other. As you edge away, the innkeeper comes out from behind the bar with a meat cleaver. You must fight both of them together.

BIMBO THE INNKEEPER: Fighting Prowess: 6; Constitution: 7.
BONDEK BONEBREAKER: Fighting Prowess: 7; Constitution: 13; No armour.

Each round, they both roll to hit you but you only roll to hit one of them. After one combat round you have a chance to flee (turn to 75). If you prefer to stand your ground and manage to beat them both, turn to 89.

84: You decide that the next two items to get will be the crystal ball and the four leaf clover. You have heard there is an inn called The Four Leaf Clover off the market square and this seems as good a place as any to begin the search. Turn to 74.

85: You hear there is a fete in town. Perhaps you will find someone there who knows where you can get a crystal ball. Turn to 18.

86: A short, fat man blunders carelessly into you and mutters a vague apology as he brushes past. Roll your Cleverness or less on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 76. If you fail, turn to 46.

87: You return to The Four Leaf Clover. There are a couple of labourers enjoying
a flagon or two of ale. Will you try to steal the horse brass in the shape of a four leaf clover that hangs over the bar (turn to 5), or will you adopt a more straightforward approach and ask the innkeeper (turn to 38)?

88: ‘Know where you can find some,' one of them replies. 'Pay us 5 gold pieces, say, for the info and we'll take you there right now.' Will you ask if they know where you can get a crystal ball as well (turn to 78), or go with them to get the clover (turn to 27)? You could refuse to pay what they ask, of course. If so, will you start talking to the innkeeper (turn to 65), or try to steal the clover-shaped brass over the bar (turn to 55)?

89: You hurry away from The Four Leaf Clover with the stolen horse brass in your pocket. Turn to 25.

90: She glances into her crystal ball and instantly sees your intention to acquire it. She clicks her fingers and two burly gypsies with wide-bladed knives enter the caravan. You cannot get to the door. This is a fight to the death.

FIRST GYPSY: Fighting Prowess: 5; Constitution: 9; no armour
SECOND GYPSY: Fighting Prowess: 6: Constitution: 7; no armour

You can only fight them one at a time. In the cramped caravan, they do not have space to attack you together. If you beat them, turn to 63.

91: You check the man's pockets and find several pilfered money pouches containing a total of 17 gold pieces. He also wears a carnelian ring in the shape of a skull. Remember to note anything you take on your Character Sheet. You find some grass to clean the blood from your sword, then step out from between the tents as if nothing had happened. Turn to 66.

92: The cock you backed utters its last squawk. You lose your money. The tall man is taking bets on another fight, but you decide to press on. Turn to 69.

93: You gaze out of the windows of the Greengosh mansion towards the setting sun. In that direction lies the Castle of Lost Souls - but in this world, or the next? What hideous perils await you over the Mungo Hills and the Swamps of Bosh? Can the items you have gathered together really allow you to prevail against the awesome necromancy of the demon Slank? Find out in the next installment: “The Demon Road”.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Nice price from DriveThruRPG

If you still haven't got your copy of the Fabled Lands RPG (and why not?) you may be interested in trying the PDF version that's now available on DriveThruRPG.

You can get the rulebook for $14.99 (that's about half the price of the print edition) or, for just fifty-one cents more, why not pick up a bundle of the rulebook plus a full-color map of Harkuna? Better do it right now, though - I can't believe those nice folks at Greywood Publishing will leave those prices so low for long.

The illustration, one of many excellent new images of he Fabled Lands to be found in the book, is by Tony Hough, and you can see more of his work here.

Okay, a short post today as I'm madly busy, but we'll make up for it with Castle of Lost Souls part 2 in five days. See you then...

Wednesday 3 August 2011

A tingling of spider-sense

To talk about my own pet project rather than one of the many irons in Fabled Lands LLP's fire, the first Mirabilis hardcover gets a pretty nice write-up in this month's SFX magazine. As regular readers will know, the story of Mirabilis
"begins with a duel between salt-of-the-earth soldier Jack Ember and pompous toff Dougray McNab, who are both vying for the hand of feisty duke's daughter Estelle Meadowvane. Morris deftly establishes a volatile chemistry between the trio, who are forced to work together as they are drawn into an esoteric conspiracy, centring around an ancient gold coin and the mysterious Royal Mythological Society."
Well, that's what the SFX reviewer says, and who am I to disagree? If you grab the current issue of SFX, you'll not only get to read the rest of the review, you can also find out the latest on the Spider-man reboot, Joss Whedon's Avengers movie, the new Conan, a peek at Fringe season four, awesome concept art for John Carter of Mars, and there's even a feature on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. (Honestly.)