Gamebook store

Thursday 30 August 2012

The Land Below the Sunrise

Want to pick up a big, sumptuous full-colour map of Akatsurai to go with the newly reissued FL Book 6: Lords of the Rising Sun? Thought so. Well, hit the link and it's yours. Mythic cartography courtesy of Russ Nicholson as usual.

While you're at it, and if that low, low price of free appeals, why not grab a copy of Tetsubo, the Oriental-themed RPG that Jamie and I wrote originally as a Warhammer supplement. We delivered our first draft the day the commissioning editor left Games Workshop, so it ended up cast into the oblivion of a Nottingham filing cabinet. (Or so I like to think. More likely it just lay on the floor under a desk for a year.) It's only a work-in-progress, and it's full of all that Dungeons and Dragons stuff like alignment, ho hum, but there's enough there to get an Akatsurai role-playing campaign going if you're so inclined.

The Oriental RPG I'm really waiting for is Paul Mason's Outlaws, based on the exploits of the Water Margin heroes. I ran my own Kwaidan variant of Outlaws at just about the time I was writing Lords of the Rising Sun, so (as usual) a lot of the ideas for the gamebook came from our role-playing sessions.

Monday 27 August 2012

Fabled Lands Book 6 is back in print

Fabled Lands
The new edition of Fabled Lands Book 6 goes on sale today. As you can see from Kevin Jenkins's cover, the action takes place in the Oriental land of Akatsurai, which has a strong flavour of Heian and Kamakura Japan with a little bit of Thai, Burmese and Chinese folklore thrown in for good measure - although, to avoid the usual archly indulgent exoticism of a Western writer looking East, I mostly avoided Japanese terms. So no ninja, samurai are "knights", and the Emperor is referred to as the Sovereign, a better translation of the role in the period I was drawing on for inspiration. (Sixteenth century explorer Will Adams thought the Japanese Emperor was more like a Pope.) I would have used the term Lord Protector instead of Shogun, too, except that might have caused confusion with the title of General Marlock in Book 1.

The blurb is a bit small to read on the image here, so to save you eye-strain:

The LORDS OF THE RISING SUN rule the exotic kingdom of Akatsurai. But proud warrior clans constantly seek to overthrow them. In the turmoil of war, there are countless opportunities for a quick-witted adventurer. Will you spy for the Shogun? Become one of the Sovereign's chivalrous knights? Or just play one side against the other in your pursuit of riches and power? 

Track down the elusive, raven-winged Tengu to learn the secret arts of sorcery and swordplay. Defeat the vampires, skilled in martial arts, who guard the Lost Tomb of the Necromancer. Enter the dreadful cloisters of the Noboro Monastery, where you will fight the most dangerous opponent of all — yourself.

Sunday 26 August 2012

From Upanishad to the Ioun Straits

More news about the Orb role-playing game that's in production at Megara Entertainment. Check out Megara's website, where you can pre-order the rulebook (including a limited run of signed copies) and buy maps, T-shirts, Way of the Tiger necklaces, and other Orbalicious goodies. (No, I don't get a commission.)

And if this distinctly Oriental palace (by Megara artist Lise) from the opening adventure gets your heart pumping, you're going to like the news we've got coming up in a few days.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Monster-crewed airships of the Georgian Fleet Air Arm

There have been enough posts about Frankenstein's Legions of late that I probably don't need to recap it here. In case you missed the details, it's not my recently-revamped example of next-gen interactive literature, published by Profile Books, which was not a genre work, but instead a steampunk universe in which Frankenstein's technology is used to create armies of endlessly recycled body parts.

The novel, by award-winning SF author John Whitbourn, has been available on Kindle for some time. But not everybody likes an ebook (it has been forcefully brought home to me in comments here) so this month Spark Furnace has published a whopping great paperback edition of the book. It's a large-format, 356-page monster that you will need to keep chained in the cellar if you have any pet hunchbacks you're worried about.

To give you an idea of what it's like, here's a scene where Julius Frankenstein, nephew of the illustrious/infamous Victor, is escaping across the English Channel in a small boat with Ada Lovelace, whose murder he is investigating. (Yes, murder. In a world of Frankenstein science, homicide victims can sometimes cooperate in tracking down their own killers.) A navy cutter spots them and opens fire, and as if that wasn't bad enough, they then attract the attention of a galloon - a lazaran-powered airship of the Fleet Air Arm - which descends to the attack:

* * *

One of Julius’s father’s favourite maxims was ‘never argue with policemen or lunatics.’ He had imbibed that from earliest years, along with ‘Do what you want—but don’t whine about the bill.’ 

So instead he stood and took aim at the galloon. 

Lieutenant Neave hadn’t been expecting that. His own shot went wild. What with the waves and it being extreme range for a mere pistol, Julius’s shot was impressive. Its bullet shattered the pilot’s windscreen—but not, as intended, his head. Lieutenant Neave was duly impressed, amongst other sentiments. 

‘What the—!’ said Mariner.

‘Stop that,’ ordered Frankenstein, meaning the slackening of speed. The authority of education and class was backed by a second, still loaded, pistol.

‘One shot: that’s all it’ll take,’ Mariner advised, meaning the closing cutter, not Frankenstein’s far lesser weapon. ‘We’ll be nothing but blood and splinters.’

Even so, he withdrew his hand from the ropes retarding their progress. Unlike the cutter’s cannon, Julius’ gun was both near at hand and near his head.

‘Since we’re all good as dead anyway,’ observed Frankenstein, ‘I can’t see that it matters.’

Mariner deferred to his logic. Having got his way in that respect, Julius returned to the galloon question. Lieutenant Neave was frantically reloading as best his confined cabin allowed. Frankenstein took the opportunity to take extra careful aim.

Neave’s nerve snapped first. ‘Up!’ His command to the crew could be heard loud and clear through the pierced screen. ‘Up—damn your undead eyes!’

Prow first, the galloon made an emergency ascension, gas valves being flung open as they came to hand, regardless of grace and stability. The lieutenant, on whom Julius was drawing bead, was flung back out of sight in the interior of the cabin.

Frankenstein could have fired anyway, but now there was a new fish to fry. The cutter roared again, and this time unmistakably in earnest. The heat of the ball as it passed not far above caressed all their faces. When they then looked up, as a natural reaction to still having heads, it was to note that most of the mast was no longer with them. Such was the force of the shot, it had not snapped or splintered but had simply been swept away in silence.

* * *

Monday 20 August 2012

Books with backbone

I said it probably wouldn't hold delivery up for more than 24 hours, and already Amazon have the slightly revised edition of Book Five back on sale, now with altered spine font to make it consistent with Books 1-4. (Oliver, you can stop brushing your teeth now.)

But I'm not bothered about fonts and point sizes, you're saying? What about the content, you ask? Well, the new edition has attractive greyscale maps which are a big improvement on the pure black-&-white of the first four books.
And it also has the six pre-generated characters from the original 1996 Pan Macmillan edition - one of whom (see if you can guess) is Jamie's own all-time favourite player character from our roleplaying campaign.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Silver linings

Okay, the bad news first because it isn't that bad. Amazon is listing Book Five as "currently unavailable". This is just for a day or two and is while we get our new printer to sort out a couple of minor details. You can still place orders, and it probably won't delay delivery by more than 24 hours or so.

The good news is that this should improve consistency of printing between the first four books and these latest ones. So please bear with us - it's a learning curve, but it's an upward one. And another bit of good news is that we're now expecting to have Book Six on sale before the end of September. Tell your friends. Come to that, tell your enemies.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Back in print: The Court of Hidden Faces!

Back on sale today for the first time in at least a decade, it's Fabled Lands Book 5: The Court of Hidden Faces, and I don't think I could do better than quote the back cover blurb:


At THE COURT OF HIDDEN FACES, no one is who they seem. The sinister lords of the Uttakin go masked to hide their treachery. The secret police of the god Ebron kill those who flout their fanatical codes. In this tyrannical realm of betrayal and assassination, life is cheap. But rich rewards await the adventurer courageous enough to penetrate this hostile land.

Will you uncover the secrets of the High King’s citadel, where no mortal has trod for ten generations? Or wrest the holy sword from the crypt of Kizil Irmak, the Harbinger of War? Or find the key that unlocks the greatest secret of all – the means to open the Gate of Time and travel back into the past?

Your fate is in your own hands. You choose your skills, your goals, where you will venture and what you will do. The only limit is your imagination. The choices are all yours. And success will give you the power to venture ever deeper into the amazing role-playing world that is Fabled Lands.

Book 6 isn't far behind - it's already at proof stage, so with luck and a following wind it could be on sale in just a few weeks. I know, I know - we should have had them both out last year. But better late than never. Let's light a taper now and pray to Ebron that sales will allow us to restart (or should that be kickstart?) the series.

Actually, you could help with that. Jamie and I believe that Fabled Lands are some of the best gamebooks out there. Nothing else is like them, that's for sure. But they came late in the big gamebook boom of the '80s and early '90s, and because of that they aren't nearly as well known as our other work, even though we think they are as fresh and innovative today as they were back then.

If there's one single thing that will bring Fabled Lands to a wider audience, it's reviews - especially on Amazon. I appreciate that old-time fans of the series won't necessarily want to buy the new edition, but that's no reason not to drop onto Amazon and say what you thought of one of the books. It doesn't need to be an essay for the Times Literary Supplement, just a star rating and a couple of sentences will do. It takes about as long as brewing a cup of tea.

The more reviews we get, the higher we climb on Amazon's recommendations list and so the more people will get to hear of the books. Just twenty or thirty reviews can make a significant difference, so if you know anybody who has enjoyed an FL book but hasn't got round to a review: please feel free to pester them, shame them, hassle and hector them mercilessly until they give in. And then award yourself a free blessing of your choice, for verily you will be a hero of the land of Harkuna and your glory will be shouted in its halls.

We hope that the book will soon also be available from Amazon Italy, Amazon Germany, Amazon France and Amazon Spain. As we're using Createspace as the printer, and Amazon own Createspace, distribution to European Amazon outlets should follow pretty swiftly after the US and UK.

Friday 10 August 2012

2013 is "Open Sesame" for gamebooks

Here's what I've been working on while waiting for the proofs for The Court of Hidden Faces to come back from the printer. It's by Leo Hartas, of course - the doyen of gamebook cartographers - but can you name the book?

This is one of six titles with which we're launching our gamebook  co-publishing venture next spring. I can't reveal the full details till we have those contracts inked and in the safe, but all the books will be published in print and ebook editions, with worldwide distribution, and a couple of them (including this one) will also be turned into deluxe iPad apps by the masters of illuminated interactivity, Inkle Studios.

These are all pretty rare gamebooks, so for many readers they'll be completely new. And one of thse six launch titles will be new to everybody, because Jamie is only just starting to write it now. That's the one I've been calling Undeadwood. Think 30 Days of Night meets Django and you won't be far off.

Following those, if they're successful, we'll have Way of the Tiger, Blood Sword, Falcon - and more new titles too. You thought 2012 was turning out to be a good year for gamebooks? You ain't seen nothing yet.

Strange tales from another world

A cross-post from the Mirabilis blog today which is likely to be of interest to only a few Fabled Lands readers, I guess, but if you occasionally yearn for something else to while away your leisure hours other than blasting shotgun holes in waves of marauding zombies, here's something completely different...

I've blogged before about A J Alan, radio raconteur of '20s and '30s Britain. Think of an English Rod Serling, only on the wireless instead of the TV and with considerably less formulaic a cast to his storytelling.

That era was the Burgess Shale of broadcasting, when interesting ideas and a willingness to experiment trumped such things beloved of marketing as genre, ratings and tribally narrow tastes. A J Alan's tales of the odd, the quirky, the (mildly) racy and the (sometimes) supernatural were definitely perfect for long winter evenings by the fireside with tendrils of grimy London fog pressing up against the window panes. Not "the Twilight Zone" so much as "the Velvet Hour" - which, I know, some say is dawn, not dusk, but I think of it as the time when cocktails may be respectably mixed and drunk and one might start to think about dressing for dinner - at least, in the world that Mr Alan and his listeners inhabited.

I mention this now because Spark Furnace Books have just published a paperback edition of But That's A Detail, my collection of A J Alan stories. So if you want something different, and really rather good, I'd say it's an absolute snip at £3.99.

Tuesday 7 August 2012


No prizes for spotting where the image above comes from. Unfortunately, as the new paperback editions of the Fabled Lands books don't have the large format and fold-out cover flaps of the original books, this beautiful big mother got the chop. Unlike the notorious Lorna the Leprechaun, however, I cut her with a heavy heart.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Multi-storey artwork

I wouldn't even try to pick a favourite Russ Nicholson picture. He is so versatile that there are a least a dozen "best" images executed in completely different styles. That's one of the reasons he is the definitive Fabled Lands artist as far as Jamie and I are concerned - not only for the fresh inventiveness of his ideas and the humanity and humour in his character studies, but because he chose a different style to reflect the flavour of each region of the world of Harkuna. Man, that's an artist.

As a body of work, Russ's illustrations for Lords of the Rising Sun comprise the high point in the FL series for me, in large part because of the bold brush-stroke inking that reminds me of the work of Chic Stone. My favourite of all of the Book 6 pictures is this one showing four floors of a palace (or is it?) that has been invaded by a dragon (or is it?). You'll have to play the adventure to find out:

‘The dragon has entered the palace!’ screams a footman. The courtiers fly to and fro in panic while you marshal the best of the paladins and lead them down the long staircase. The dragon squats in the vast hall below chewing the palace’s valiant defenders in its maws. Its head alone is longer than your ship! You give the order to attack, leading the paladins down the staircase in a reckless charge. The dragon bares its fangs and spits venom. Make COMBAT and CHARISMA rolls, both at a Difficulty of 15...

Thursday 2 August 2012

Once upon a time in the East

A mock-up cover image just to show that this one is coming along too. At current estimates, I'd reckon on early September for The Court of Hidden Faces and sometime in October (maybe November) for Lords of the Rising Sun.

While editing the book I came across a passage that seems best to invoke Kevin Jenkins's atmospheric cover - a scene inspired, as cineastes and wuxia enthusiasts will not need to be told, by King Hu's classic A Touch of Zen:

"You are standing in the weed-choked courtyard. Pampas grass stands all around to the level of your shoulders, dampening your clothes with dew as you press forward. Clouds of midges rise like smoke into the air to swirl about in the low sunlight..."

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Big triptych

Fighting Fantasy
And here, to compare with the sketch by Russ featured in the last post, is Kevin Jenkins's full finished art for The Court of Hidden Faces, sans text. These covers were produced before digital art, remember - or when you needed a Cray to run Photoshop, anyway, so Kevin created them the old-fashioned way, using enamels and oils and tufts of camel-tail. And they're big. Kevin had to haul the paintings out of his attic, each in three sections, stack 'em up against the wall, and snap them with his Canon EOS 400D.

So, behold: the Garden of Exotic Fragrances. I wonder whether we shouldn't run off some full-size posters. Any takers?