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Friday 12 January 2018

Lost in the wildwood

Last year Gary Chalk called me up to talk about collaborating on a graphic novel. How that came about was that Gary, who lives in France, had been at the supermarket a few days before and he ran into an elderly woman he knew who said, “Why aren’t you at Saint-Malo, Monsieur Chalk? I thought every artist went? Even my grandson took his portfolio.”

Saint-Malo is the venue for one of France’s biggest comics conventions – bande dessinée, I should say –and Gary’s immediate reaction was to rush home, dump his groceries on the kitchen table, grab a few art samples, and drive to Saint-Malo that afternoon.

“Quite a few publishers said they’d take a look at anything I have to show them,” he told me. “So how about it? Do you want to write something and I’ll draw it?”

Did I? You’d have to hold me back with an electric prod. Gary is a fun guy to bounce ideas around with, his artwork is uniquely captivating and gloriously inventive, and I enjoy writing for comics more than just about any other medium.

After some brainstorming over Skype, I went back to Gary with a proposal for Jewelspider – a series of bande dessinée books set in Legend, the Dragon Warriors universe, some five hundred years after DW. Think Down Among the Dead Men’s Tudor world of magic and faerie and you’re not far off. I figured that the combination of flintlocks, faerie woods, rude mechanicals, half-timbered cottages and horror would suit Gary’s style to a T. Here's the overview:

A country a little like Elizabethan England. OK, a lot like. Only there is real magic and there are faerie folk. The heartless sort of faerie folk whose whims make a cat seem compassionate.

Twenty-five years ago at the village of Crossgate, a peasant woman called Mary Barley finds a child lying in the snow near the edge of Jewelspider Forest.

At the same time, the stillborn baby of Sir Roger and Lady Olivia Keppel, whose body was lying in Crossgate Church, is found to have been taken. The locals suspect the “ladies and gentlemen” of the woods, but the priest doesn’t want to hear that. When Mary shows up carrying a baby, he claims that it’s the Keppels’ child, who was only mistaken for dead. “A fox must have dragged him off, and the shock brought him round,” he says. “A miracle! Praise be!”

So the baby is raised as Lady Olivia’s second son, Pelagius. But the rumours of faerie origin persist and the child is undeniably strange. Soon Lady Olivia wants him gone from the manor. He’s given to Mary, who discards the name Pelagius and raises him as plain John Barley.

The years pass. “Gentleman” John Barley is an up-and-coming playwright with the Publican’s Players. As New Year approaches, the Players set out to perform a special play for the Earl of Netherford which they hope will earn them patronage. “We’ll soon be the Earl’s Players,” reckons the company’s manager, Francis Barnsbury.

On the way to Netherford, Francis has seen the opportunity to put on a Christmas play in Crossgate, not realizing that it’s John’s home village. John is not keen to go back. They arrive to find the village troubled by the disappearance of John’s one-time stepbrother Peregrine Keppel.

Before long, and very much against his will, John is investigating what happened to Peregrine and uncovering a macabre tale involving “Mad Dan” Duluth, the squire of the manor a hundred years before. Mad Dan and his henchmen, known as his three knaves, so terrorized the county that they are used to this day as bugbears to scare children. But John begins to suspect that, though dead and buried, Mad Dan and his knaves don’t rest as quietly as they should.

Before the curse can be lifted and the ghosts laid to rest, John will have visited the court of Faerie where he finally learns who his real parents were.

No doubt you will have spotted that the plot borrows from the scenario “Silent Night” which I ran on this blog one Christmas and which I later intended to use as the basis for an interactive story app. Only, this being fiction rather than a game or gamebook, that wasn’t what the story was really about. What interested me most was the Shakespearean career of John Barley, and how being a changeling gave him a special relationship with the world of the imaginary. Some deconstruction of the storytelling process itself seemed likely to feature.

Just as Will Shakespeare liked to mix comedy and high drama – the Joss Whedon of his day – I set out to create a similar blend. Horror on its own bores me; it’s too one-note. Humour helps to add the human dimension that makes the horrific elements more disturbing. And in regard to storytelling I always use disturbing in a good sense, of course.

That’s where Gary and I didn’t see eye to eye. So don’t get excited, because (as I maybe should have said at the start) this collaboration is never going to come to pass. Gary hates that whole Joss Whedon vibe, you see, and he felt the comedy elements I’d included, particularly with my Will Kemp like character Pip Cabbage, destroyed the suspension of disbelief.

Well, not every project comes off and that’s a hard truth you just have to get used to as a writer. Because the writing happens before everything else, you end up with an awful lot of abandoned fragments of development work. Jamie and I have got whole TV scripts and samples of novels that fell on stony ground and now languish in the attic or the far unvisited corners of our hard drives. I briefly toyed with finding another artist to work with, but it’s already a struggle finding the funds to pay Leo and Nikos to work on Mirabilis. I don’t really need another comic book to finance!

So here is that unfinished script. Too jokey? Or a fine blend of the humorous and the macabre? I leave it to you to decide…
Jewelspider Wood book one


A big panel, this, maybe top two-thirds of the page. Nice establishing shot.

Caption:  Then.

A snow-covered landscape, late afternoon. In the left foreground we see thickly clustered trees – the edge of Jewelspider Wood. From there the land slopes down to a valley where the village of Crossgate stands in the middle distance beside a river: cottages, church and manor house. Smoke rising from the chimneys. Beyond, the hills sweep up again into the distance.

A peasant woman, MARY, is trudging up the hill in the foreground carrying a basket. Mary is in early middle age, which for the times and given her social class might mean her mid-30s. It’s bitterly cold – see her breath steam out on the wind.

Behind her, further down the slope, three peasant lads are chucking snowballs at each other.

Reverse previous shot, so we’re looking up the slope with the three lads in the foreground. Mary is a tiny figure approaching the edge of the forest.

Lad #1: Bet a farthing you won’t go twenty paces into Jewelspider.

Lad #2: Nearly suppertime. I would else.

Mary looking down sadly at her basket, which contains just a few twigs. She needs more firewood.

View from behind Mary as she faces the immense, dark and forbidding wall of trees that marks the edge of the woods. We can sense that she feels daunted by it.


Mary has ventured a little way into the wood. Here under the trees there’s less snow – just what the wind has blown in, edging the dead leaves.
She’s stooping to pick up a bit of firewood, but looking all around nervously as she does so.

CU on Mary, startled as she turns towards the sound.

Sound effect: SNAP!

Mary looks down to see some broken twigs laid on the ground in the shape of a pointing arrow. It points back out of the woods.

Mary reacting to the sound of a baby crying out-of-shot (sound effect cutting off at edge of frame?) in the direction the arrow points to. Her hand to her mouth. Fear forgotten now – she’s only concerned for that lost baby.


Right behind her in the dark undergrowth – she’s not aware of them - are dozens of cat-like eyes and grinning fanged mouths. The faerie folk.

A faerie POV shot – we’re looking out from between the trees as Mary runs down the slope away from Jewelspider Wood.

Sound effect: WAAAAAAA

In a hollow in the snow, Mary comes across a baby (in right f.g.) lying on a blanket. She drops her basket in shock.

Mary: Oh, Heaven and all the saints!

Baby: Waaaaaaaa!


New scene -- Outside the small village church in Crossgate. FATHER GULES (Patrick Magee; about 30 yrs old in this flashback) is berating the SEXTON. By the way this is the equivalent of roughly 1565 AD.

The church door is open and there’s an infant’s coffin lying on the path between them, on its side, lid off.

A small group of less than a dozen peasants has gathered to see what all the fuss is about.

Father Gules (gesturing at the door): Obviously you left it open. A wild animal --

Sexton (deferential but aggrieved): Wild animal? In Crossgate, Father? And I double-bolted it, I swear to that.

At the back of the crowd of onlookers, ROD arrives. He’s a 12-year-old with a shock of unruly red hair (which we will recognize immediately when we return here in 25 years’ time). He tugs the sleeve of a woman, who looks round.

Rod: What is it, Ma?

Rod’s Mum: The lady’s stillborn infant. Laid out in the church, poor mite, and something stole the body.

Back to the argument by the church door. Now Father Gules and the sexton have both rounded on OLD ABE, the gravedigger.

Sexton: The child should’ve been buried by now, anyway.

Old Abe: You take a pickaxe to this ground if you want. Like iron it is.

Father Gules turns to the small crowd of onlookers, one of whom is pointing up towards the woods.

Peasant: You know what’s took it. No wolf.

Father Gules: Enough of that talk! And none of you breathe a word of this up at the hall. If the lady –

Father Gules pauses in surprise at the sound of a baby crying from the back of the crowd.

Sound effect: Waaaa

The crowd parts to reveal Mary standing at the back. In her basket she’s cradling the child she found.

Baby: Waaaaa!

Father Gules: Mary Barley. Where did you get that child?

Mary: Found him, Father. Up by Jewelspider Wood.

Father Gules lifts the blanket to look at the baby.

Father Gules: It is a miracle. You have found Lady Olivia’s baby son – and he lives! Give thanks to God.

On Mary’s horrified expression as the basket with the baby is taken from her.

Mary: No. He’s not hers. Hers was dead. I found him!
(new bubble): No! NO!


Close-up on the exasperated face of “GENTLEMAN” JOHN BARLEY, mid-20s.

John: No no no no NO!
(new bubble): Feeling! Give it some FEELING!

A large function room over a pub, where the Publican’s Players are rehearsing. This is the equivalent of ~1590 AD. John and Francis have copies of the script.

It’s not a dress rehearsal – they’re in regular clothes, though DOUGAL GRATE (late-50s, old thesp, wild-haired Michael Gambon type), who is playing King Solomon, wears a crown and carries a sword. He ought to wear spectacles but he’s too vain, so he makes do with a squint.

FRANCIS BARNSBURY (late-30s, George Sanders type) is the company’s manager and pitches in playing bit parts as needed.

RICHIE BIGG (late-20s, Randy Quaid type) is a lumbering, easy-going hulk of a man who ought to be a bouncer rather than playing one of the women whose case has been brought to King Solomon. He’s the object of John’s ire.

PIP CABBAGE (mid-20s, a young Jeremy Piven) is playing the other woman. He’s the company’s clown, one of those guys who can’t go one minute without turning everything into a joke.

Caption: Now.

Richie: Sorry, John.

Francis (looking at the script): Can’t we simplify it a bit, love? All this “my son” and “thy son”... You’re going to lose the groundlings.

Pip pours himself a flagon of ale.

Pip: “Whoreson”, now that’d get a laugh.

John is impatient – he wants to get on with rehearsal. It’s not a play he’s especially keen to do, either, so Pip’s insouciance is doubly annoying.

John: Not everything has to be about getting a frigging laugh, Pip!

John grabs the tatty rag doll that they’re using as a prop and holds it up to Richie. He points to Pip, who is playing the other mother.

John: Look, Richie, the King – he’s going to cut the little perisher in half. Pip says it’s his kid. But it’s really YOURS.

Richie: I’m the father?

John: You’re the mother!


Pip: Ha ha!

Richie (looking at Pip): I can do feminine, thank you! I’m very in touch with my lady side. I just need direction.


Richie leans close to John for a confidential chat, but Dougal is right behind them.

Richie: John, the thing is... I’ll fling myself in there, mate. Take one for the nipper, God love ‘im. But couldn’t we get Dougal a wooden sword?

Dougal: I heard that!

Dougal draws his (real) sword and strikes a majestic pose. We see a glimpse of the sizzling brilliant actor he was ten or twenty years ago.

Dougal: What need have I of props? Gewgaws and fakery! Fifteen years I’ve trod these boards.

Dougal swings his sword in a wild sweeping arc. He’s very short-sighted. John and Richie duck just in time to avoid having their heads cut off.

Sound fx: SWOOSH

Dougal: Precision! Focus! Control! And you propose I brandish a whittled stick? Have you no appreciation of the thespic arts?

John: What about a pair of glasses?

Francis leads John aside, gesturing towards TIM and TAM, in the foreground, the company’s two midgets..

Francis: Glasses? John, love, next you’ll want a real gold crown.
(new bubble): If I showed you the accounts book it’d give you a bigger scare than the Welsh Play. We can’t even afford wires for the fairies to fly in on.

Seeing themselves talked about Tim and Tam come over with their copies of the script.

Tim: It’s not like we don’t appreciate the lines, John, but we don’t always have to play elves and goblins and that. 

Tam: Yeah. We could be – you know, just little people.

John is always considerate of everyone’s feelings:

John: Well, I –-

But Francis dives in with a frothy pep talk aimed at giving Tim and Tam the brush-off.

Francis: And you are. You are DEAR little people. But audiences today demand a faerie touch, a whiff of otherworldliness. It’s bums on benches, loves.


John looks back over his shoulder as he and Francis go out of the door.

John: Haven’t the heart to tell them they’re going to be playing cherubs.

Francis: Cherubs? In this weather? Brrr.
(new bubble): John, I’m sorry, I know the Old Testament isn’t really your thing. No scope in it for all your usual laughs and mayhem. But it’s what the Earl of Netherford expects.

Outside. They’re going down the steps into the pub garden. It’s a cold day in early December. Not snowing. The pub is in a town but it’s morning, and whatever clientele there is hasn’t spilled out to the garden yet.

Francis is warming to his theme, arms waving. John catches the eye of a SERVING WENCH who’s putting out trestle tables.

Francis: And if we get the Earl’s patronage, the sky’s the limit.
(new bubble): Terribly nice touch getting a baby into the story, by the way. Should go down well. The Earl’s wife is broody, so I’m told.

John helps the serving wench with a table. She smiles saucily at him. Francis doesn’t even notice as he goes to sit at another table.

John: Just as long as it wasn’t Moses being found among the rushes. That would’ve been too close to home for me.

Francis: Ah, yes. Your mysterious orphan past. I know better than to pry.
(new bubble): Not too scary with that Solomon scene, though, eh? Don’t want the ladies fainting, do we. Unless it’s for love.

Francis, still not noticing the flirting going on, is pouring a beer from the pitcher on the table.

Winking, John leans over the table to steal a kiss. The serving wench looks like she’s going to respond. No doubt John is thinking of her as he says:

John: Wait till you see the Queen of Sheba’s dance. Should be a real show-stopper.
(new bubble): Mind you, it’ll be Richie in a dress, so that’ll take the edge off.

Francis: Oh, I meant to say, you will get a chance to stage one of your gutsier plays after all. I’ve booked us a performance on the way to Netherford. Just a manor house gig to earn a few crowns.

John jerks his head round to look at Francis, who is holding out a flagon for him. The serving wench is left kissing empty air, lips still puckered but eyes wide in surprise.

John (pensive): Netherford..?

Wench: !

Francis: Yes. Rural folk, you know. They’ll appreciate the Gentleman John Barley touch. I thought “The Death of Pompey”. We’ll use the wax head from “King Herod”.

Extreme close up on John’s expression of shock and dismay.

Francis (out of shot): Crossgate Manor, it’s called.
(new bubble): Ever heard of it?


  1. I'd probably come down on Gary's side on this one. To me, humour is very hit or miss (see Last Jefi for some recent examples of it used terribly), and unless it's done very subtly it undermines the key tone. I'm a big fan of much of Joss Whedon's work (currently midway through another run of Firefly on DVD) and I think he uses it well, but then I don't feel he's going for a serious horror tone anyway.

    Fairies I can similarly take or leave, though would mostly leave in truth. In literature as in life, people who act capriciously for no other reason than because they can just irritate me.

    1. I'm with you on the attempts at humour in The Last Jedi, Michael, but that's a movie that left me entirely unmoved anyway. Anyway, I think we can safely say that there is no risk of this particular blend of fairies, horror and humour ever seeing the light of day.

    2. Oh I was moved by Last Jedi. Moved to add a 1 star review on imdb and to not watch another Disney Star Wars movie. Just absolutely dire.

    3. Perhaps too small a sample to make a judgement, Dave, though inclined to agree with Michael. The mix of humour with the surreal works perfectly with Mirabilis, however. Interesting concept though.

      I certainly agree with you both on Last Jedi, a real mess of a film, and I'm complimenting it by considering it a film (I've pinched that line from somewhere). I can't actually think of many films or books that get the blend of horror and comedy right, albeit I watched Get Out tonight and whilst the rave reviews are over the top, I thought that was a pretty decent effort.

    4. I kind of liked the humor in The Last Jedi more than the humor in Thor: Ragnorak (it's astonishing to watch Jessica Jones and The Punisher on Netflix while realizing that those shows take place in the same universe as Thor: Ragnorak and Ant-Man) because it arose more natural from the characters and their situations. Poe screwing with Hux at the top of the movie was funny - but it was an excellent example of the military tactic of luring the enemy into assuming something expected was occurring while setting up a surprise. Luke gravely accepting the lightsaber and then casually tossing it over his shoulder was funny, but it also made the point that the Luke we were looking at was someone very different from the one we knew at the end of Return of the Jedi. Snoke lying cut two on the floor with the close-up shot of his tongue sticking out was funny - and hammered the idea that Snoke isn't just really dead, he's really most sincerely dead. And that this trilogy isn't going to play out like the previous two with the Dark or Light side of the Force winning because some pivotal character joined the right/wrong side. There's no grand manipulator behind the scenes now. It's just Kylo vs Rey and may the best (or worst) person win.

    5. For me the perfect blend of horror and comedy has to be The Fearless Vampire Killers -- though I prefer the title Dance of the Vampires, which shows where my sympathies ultimately lie. Still haven't seen Get Out, though I plan to rectify that in the next few days. I notice nobody is mentioning Thor: Ragnarok btw...

    6. Thor: Ragnorak didn't work humor-wise because the humor didn't rise organically from the characters. I thought the humor in The Last Jedi worked pretty well because it did rise from the characters. It was also used pretty well to punctuate certain character beats and plots moments (Poe was setting up an attack with distraction, Luke isn't the same guy he was at the end of Return of the Jedi and Snoke isn't just really dead, he's really most sincerely dead).

    7. The humour in TLJ struck me as rather stilted, but then it did have a very clunky script and some performances that would be painful to watch even in am-dram. But I agree the humour did at least come out of character; it wasn't a Ragnarok-style panto send-up.

    8. TLJ was just The Phantom Menace et al in different clothes to me. If you had problems with BR2049 in terms of plot holes and suspended disbelief, Dave, you must have ran out of notepaper half way through TLJ! Very disappointing after the ok ish first two new films. The Empire Strikes Back was the benchmark in how to make humour work, even though it was the darkest (and best) in the series. I've not seen Thor: Ragnarok yet. The superhero films don't really float my boat in truth, albeit I keep munching my proverbial popcorn through them all.

      I'll look up The Fearless Vampire Killers, another I wasn't aware. On a related note, I watched Mr Vampire tonight (and a Chinese Ghost Story a few nights back). I'm not sure I can quite find the words to describe it! Far Out probably being the closest! I just wonder whether a few bits of Mr Vampire were influences on John Carpenter when he was making Big Trouble In Little China? Now there's a film that has the comedy element pitch perfect!

    9. I'll tell you where Carpenter got most of Big Trouble from, Andy, and that's Shogun Assassin. There was quite a trend in the '80s for filmmakers to borrow energy and inventiveness from Oriental cinema -- a tradition Tarantino maintains to this day ;-)

      Totally with you on ESB. But I'm sure you knew that already!

    10. If you haven't mentioned it already, I'd have made an educated guess! ESB is the first film I remember watching at the cinema, or full stop for that matter. I must have been aged five and it's never left my top ten favourites. I won't list the other nine as I've probably mentioned most of them on here in the last few months already!

      Have just ordered SA and TFVK. I'll be shortening the Bruce Lee film night btw. Aside from Enter The Dragon, there was only Way Of The Dragon I thought was any good (I was convinced it was James Hong in it, but not according to any movie database). The Big Boss wasn't too bad in fairness, but Fist of Fury was so repetitive and the less said about Game of Death the better (if you consider that to be a BL film in the first place). That said, could be a good one for a drinking game (every time it cuts to the real BL, down your Singha beer!)

    11. I haven't seen a Bruce Lee film in quite a while. Probably best left in the comfortable embrace of memory, then. Chinese Ghost Story, on the other hand, is long overdue for another viewing -- but so much depends on which set of subtitles you end up with. I may speak Mandarin with a Beijing accent (very few words, mind) but my Cantonese is non-existent.

    12. Now I know you can speak Mandarin, if you could watch The Way Of The Dragon for me, that would be appreciated. I'm just interested to know whether BL actually asks for directions to "The Sh!tter", or was it the subtitle translator taking liberties! You can validate James Hong (or not) while you're at it!

    13. I can order a beer in Mandarin, Andy. Not much more than that. Just the travel essentials, y'know.

    14. Hi Dave. I've just watched TFVK and SA. TFVK was an enjoyable romp, albeit veered to much towards farce for my usual tastes. The bit with the circuit of the courtyard had me laughing though. I see what you mean with SA and BTILC Unfortunately the version didn't have subtitles so I had to make do with bad dubbing. More cannon fodder than the BL films put together! When I was trying to complete my Lone Wolf gamebook collection some year back I sometimes came across Lone Wolf and Cub and wondered what it was without looking into it, so at least I've got the answer to that.

    15. It's odd about TFVK -- Dance of the Vampires as I prefer (revealingly) to call it -- as it's a type of broad knockabout humour that wouldn't normally appeal to me. But the creepy elements are so effective that it still gets to be one of my favourite movies. There are plenty of nods to it in season one of Mirabilis -- not just the vampires themselves, but the juxtaposition of what's happening up in the castle with (via telescope) a glimpse of goings-on down the mountain. I swiped that gleefully!

      The Masters of Death were better used in Shogun Assassin than in Big Trouble, I think. Mind you, it's been decades since I saw the former.

    16. For me, the most eerie bit of DOTV was the dancing sequence itself, prior to the comedic turn that is. Not quite sure why. It also tickled a memory I couldn't quite grasp, although maybe that's what was so disquieting about it.

      The Masters of Death were darker in SA (and possibly hats a bit bigger!), but at least the ones in BT put up a bit of a fight. I read SA was an edited version of multiple previous films, so maybe some of that was chopped in the cutting room. In truth, as I have to persistently defend BT being my favourite film to my mates, I may have lost some subjectivity on the matter!

  2. Hi Dave, glad to see that Legend (the world) survived the millennial apocalypse after all ! Bit concerned that if Albion follows this trajectory however it's going to end up...actually I don't want to say the "B" word. Why don't you just write this up as a short story ? I've never been a huge fan of comic books myself; I think we've all got far better artists in our own heads when it comes to the pictures that accompany the words.

    1. I must admit, John, that writing prose isn't my bliss. After the game developer I worked at went bust I was asked to write a comic for Random House's DFC magazine. That became Mirabilis, and a few months after I started it I met up with some of my former colleagues who asked if I'd be coming back to the games industry. And I realized that, much as I enjoy game design, I really love writing comics. It's the fact that I just get to do the parts I like: planning a shot and writing dialogue. No more, "he crossed the room," "the sun came up," and all that. Admittedly it doesn't work so well when you can't draw!

    2. I hear what you say - whilst my favourite form is prose (with poetry a close second) all forms have their ‘write-ful’ place in the pantheon (including punnery I guess !). The script writing you favour being the key not only to comics but so many great films and shows of course. In fact, judging by Harry Potter ‘Book 8’ I could well imagine JKR herself echoing your penultimate line with satisfaction ! (That being said, I’m now about to adapt ‘Book 8’ as a bedtime story for a 9 year old which will probably involve me ad-libbing all those “he crossed the room” bits back in).

    3. Oh, my favourite form as a reader is definitely prose. There are things you can do in that medium (Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life" to take just one example) that you couldn't do in any other because it's closer to depicting the direct stream of consciousness. But in the act of creation I enjoy playing with visuals more, maybe simply because that's a field where I think I can excel. The bar is rather high in prose, after all. Or it might just be that I've written enough prose for one lifetime -- now all that is "words, words, words" and my inspiration comes in the form of scenes, shots, and character.

  3. Any chance we'll see some of the fabled, original DW Jewelspider Wood material on the blog? Pretty please?

  4. My Holy Grail would be material from the original, fabled DW Jewelspider Wood book. Any chance of it appearing in some form on your blog please?

    1. The roleplaying rulebook, you mean, Stephen? Well, it's a file on my PC, and it gets bigger week by week. What would really spur it on would be if I actually set a date to start running it for my players -- one of whom said, on seeing this post, that "Elizabethan" Legend seemed well worth further exploration.

    2. I quite like the idea of an Elizabethan Legend. Shakespearean Faerie intrusions against a backdrop of spies, treachery, religious persecution and a scandalous Gloriana "Unfulfill'd". I envy your players....

    3. The biggest hold-up has been the magic system (ain't it always the way?) but I have a shelf full of books on Elizabethan metaphysics, so it's on the to-do list.

  5. Dave, I have thought of a new story for you to pitch to Mr Chalk - "There's an artist - let's call him "Gareth Cheese" who turns down the chance to collaborate with a writer - let's call him "David Dancer" - on a story about Faeries and enchanted woods, whilst attending a big comic- con in St Malo. On his way home his car mysteriously breaks down in Broceliande Forest and he is kidnapped by Morgan Le Fay and imprisoned by her in the Val sans Retour until such time that he can produce a comic book to make her both laugh and cry... In the meantime, she and her fairy girlfriends watch nightly marathons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

    1. Another great pitch, John. I'm sold. In fact, maybe I'll swipe that for our next Legend game...

    2. I don't know if it's a game pitch, Dave, but did you ever check out TSR's Amazing Engine setting, For Faerie, Queen and Country?

    3. I just Googled it expecting an Elizabethan fantasy setting, John, only to find it's Victorian. Any good?

    4. That was actually my question to you, Dave. I remember seeing it and a few other Amazing Engine things in game stores in the late 80s-90s but don't recall ever picking them up. I might have, but my garage would need an archeologist to find them at this point, if I ever even owned them.

    5. I'd actually forgotten Amazing Engine ever existed. At the time I probably assumed it was a D&D variant, if I registered it at all, but it seems it was a whole other game system?

  6. It was a different system that looked a bit like TSR's answer to GURPS. And I got that from the Wiki page here:

    While I vaguely remembered For Faerie, Queen and Country, I'd completely forgotten all the other titles they released. And all that over the space of 1993-1994, too.

    1. I blinked and missed all of that. Wouldn't it be a pain if we tracked down those books now and found they were really great?

    2. Trying to remember what I was doing in 93-94 that I failed to notice an entire RPG line. Well, there was Fabled Lands -- and my Eye of All-Seeing Wonder 'zine. So that's my excuse.

    3. Well, to be fair, Amazing Engine was launched in 1993 and shut down in 1994. It was also launched by TSR who at that time, IIRC, still bestrode the Paper/Pencil/Dice RPG world like a colossus. And it lasted, what? Maybe a year? Maybe a little more or a little less? Figure it wasn't shit-canned because it sold too well or got reviews that were just too good. Here's one review from Basically Amazing Engine was a crappier, less well thought out version of GURPS.

      And here's a review of For Faerie, Queen and Country:

      Based on these two reviews (which is by no means exhaustive research) I'm going with you didn't miss much in missing this game line.

  7. I don't understand why the artist gets any say in the matter, (although this is Gary Chalk) as they usually do not, but I'm sure you'll soon find the Uderzo to your Goscinny.

    1. If I was paying an artist then he or she wouldn't get a say - other than to turn the job down, of course. As Jewelspider was to be an on-spec collaboration, with a view to taking the finished book to a publisher, the only way it could go ahead was if we both agreed to do it.