Gamebook store

Friday, 11 October 2013

You wait for a gamebook and then four come along at once

I think we pitched the Virtual Reality books as "like novels only you get to make choices". Mark Smith certainly wrote his that way. The Coils of Hate in particular has some beautifully evocative descriptions and sharply tuned dialogue, though even after struggling from dawn till midnight for weeks on end I don't think I managed to fix its dysfunctional flowchart.

My own VR books were not so much novels as role-playing adventures. Heart of Ice in particular was based on a Tekumel campaign that I ran many times, except that for the book I moved it to a near-apocalyptic future where the world may end with a bang or a whimper, and which of those fates it will suffer is largely up to you. I always saw it as a Sergio Leone movie with operatic sweep and pragmatically amoral heroes. In the new edition, I've corrected one logical flaw and in the process added yet another possible ending with the obligatory nod to Blade Runner.

Down Among the Dead Men is an adventure with pirates, magic and the undead. Pirates of the Caribbean in those days was still just a ride at Disneyland, and I don't know if I'd even heard of On Stranger Tides. If this one were a movie it'd be directed by Tim Burton. The setting is about a century before the powdered wigs era popularized by Hollywood. Think Drake and Raleigh and Doctor Dee.

I researched Necklace of Skulls while on honeymoon in Mexico and Guatemala following the Maya trail. Spirtually it owes a debt to Professor M A R Barker - as do all my books, really - but there's nothing there that came directly from our Tekumel role-playing games. There are two main routes through: one the underworld of Pre-Columbian myth, where I aimed for the logic of dreams, and that's contrasted with the "reality" option of the everyday world of the hero's clan and the historical backdrop of the collapse of Teotihuacan. Director of the movie? Jan Švankmajer or Terry Gilliam, maybe.

For the new edition, I've retitled Twist of Fate as Once Upon a Time in Arabia and I've given it a completely new prologue. The core of the adventure is unchanged, though: a whirlwind of encounters with a 1001 Nights flavour involving ghouls, djinn, flying carpets, magic rings, lost palaces, strange lands, devious villains and brave comrades. Well, you've seen the movie and played the boardgame I'm sure.

All four of my VR books return to print this week as Fabled Lands Publishing's new Critical IF series. These are completely re-edited versions, in many cases with new sections, and with brand spanking new covers by Jon Hodgson. All but Once Upon a Time in Arabia have the original illustrations, and they are formatted to fit on the shelf along with the new edition Fabled Lands and Golden Dragon books.

And if you're into the digital era of reading, all four books are also out on Kindle. Even better, they're included in Amazon's new Matchbook bundling program, meaning that if you buy the print book, you get the Kindle version for no more than 99c extra.

And, and, and - this weekend only, you can pick up a FREE Kindle edition of Down Among The Dead Men. This is what heaven is like for e-gamebook fans. But just till midnight on Sunday, mind you.

These are some of my very best gamebooks, so I'll hope you'll check them out - or, if you already read them, maybe you'd like to go put a review on Amazon? If so, may your barysal gun never want for charges.



Sorry about all these covers. I know it looks like a supermarket shelf, but I wanted to be sure everybody had easy access to at least the US and UK links. (Hey, I could have added Italian, German, Canadian...)

17 comments:

  1. Great to see these high-quality gamebooks make a return, and it's especially nice to see Necklace Of Skulls with it's almost-but-not-really-Lands-Of-Legend vibe.

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    1. Now I'm intrigued! In what way do you reckon NOS is like Legend? And which part of Legend?

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  2. I see shades of Sheol from Doomwalk, and the mezoamerican theme would go well as a companion adventure to The Temple Of Flame. Maybe the timeframe would have to be adjusted slightly to match Legend but that's not a big issue. Given that so much of Legend is uncharted, somewhere in the distant uncharted southern reaches of tropical Mungoda is a first thought, or further afield, it could perhaps be found in a secluded corner of the continent of Ophis. Lots of potential there.

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  3. I'm not convinced Temple of Flame takes place in Legend, though a case can certainly be made for that. In which case, maybe far across Mungoda there is indeed a Maya-like civilization... It's possible.

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  4. Damn I read your post only now! Well, no problem, I would've bought the books at least for Christmas in any case... Great job, I hope they'll sell very well! :)

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    1. Thanks. These four gamebooks didn't get very wide distribution back in the '90s, so they aren't well known and don't have the nostalgia appeal of something like Way of the Tiger, but I hope people will try them out.

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    2. I've already read them in Italian and all of them deserve to be on the shelves of a gamebook fan: Heart of Ice is one of my favourite books! If they didn't get a wide distribution years ago, then they're new for many old (and new) fans, in some sense even more than WotT or other well known series...

      I hope gamebook sites, amazon reviews etc. will be able to spread the news as much as possible, in order to make people know that Virtual Reality... ehm, Critical IF is waiting for them! :)

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    3. I liked your descriptions of the 80s gamebook industry in the UK. I've never had much luck reading Heart of Ice as a PDF, but it sounds good so I've ordered it and Necklace of Skulls as old-style books.

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    4. Well, the '90s in the case of these books, of course. I don't know if, like comics, anyone has broken it all down into Golden Age, Silver Age, etc. The most successful period for gamebooks was the 1980s, but I think the greater innovation and quality came later - so when was "the Golden Age"?

      Anyway, that's a post for another day. I hope you enjoy the books.

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  5. Damn i missed the train yet again.. Heart of Ice is a legendary gamebook
    but the others are great too! Really hope they sell well Dave!

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  6. Once Upon a Time in Arabia is awesome. Read/played it four times in a row last night (entertaining deaths and blundering around). Heart of Ice on wishlist for Christmas!

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    1. Four times and no success? Now I'm worried it's too hard - and I had thought it was the easiest of the series, too.

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    2. Nah, it's awesome. I think I managed to win the third time through. I had made some bad choices and was FAR too trusting :-) Last play through was as Rogue again and he did supremely well!

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  7. Will we see these on the ibooks store too Dave?

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    1. James, we were hoping to. We even had a publishing deal for them with one of the UK's Big Five publishers. But the developer we contracted to do the iBooks failed to hand over a version of the books that we could actually release. So now I think they'll have to wait till we can hand them over to Tin Man Games to do properly.

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  8. Dave,

    I admire your passion for writing gamebooks. I would like to introduce you to a brand new and exciting interactive book series called Explore-A-Quest. Created by Anthony Lampe, this series is family-friendly and great for all ages. I would like to see this series reviewed on your amazing website. The books include: Channel U, Once Human, Missing Money of Altevia, & Peacemaker: The Absorbing Rock.

    Here is the official website:

    http://anthonymlampe.wix.com/explore-a-quest

    Thank you,

    Anthony Lampe
    Explore-A-Quest - Creator/Writer

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    1. Anthony, this isn't really a gamebook review blog, but I wish you the best of luck with your venture. You might try sending the books to sites like Mrs Giggles's, which do reviews.

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