Gamebook store

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Fantasy with bite

A lot of what goes under the banner of fantasy isn't really all that fantastical. Quaint half-timbered taverns filled with half-elf barmaids and dwarves with Scottish accents where you go to be given your latest quest. My own experience of these games is that the players tend to sit knitting or stroking the cat while saying things like, "My halfling thief asks the innkeeper if he's seen any strangers passing through." There will be a dark lord, and an item you must destroy to defeat them and fix everything. It's made up, but it's not exactly fantasy. Where's the wonder? Where's the weird?

Good fantasy isn't cosy. It isn't a safe space. It takes you somewhere new and unpredictable. In Wightchester you're sealed up in a walled city where the plague is turning people into undead. What are you going to do now? "My drow ranger-witch hides in the shadows and listens for rumours" isn't going to cut it. No theme-park retread of Tolkien's tropes, this, but a dark and exciting roleplaying setting that'll immerse you like quicksand.

The crowdfunding has just hours to go. If you're looking for real fantasy, drop the knitting and get over there now.

Friday 24 September 2021

Vulcanverse erratum


To err is human, but it doesn't stop me from kicking myself when readers pointed out a mistake in The Houses of the Dead section 391 which routed the reader to 751 instead of 752 where they were supposed to go. What makes that infuriating, on top of the inconvenience to readers who rushed to get their copies early, is that I had spotted the mistake in the proofs and corrected it on a print-out -- and then failed to amend the file.

If that mistake is in your copy, the only consolation I can offer is that it might be worth something like one of those Lincoln pennies with a missing letter. The corrected section is above, and if you run across me or Jamie at a convention we will happily correct it and add our signatures.

We've corrected it in all copies ordered from now on but we think there might be as many as a hundred early editions out there with this erratum and not all of those readers will come across this blog, so please circulate the corrected image as widely as possible.

Friday 17 September 2021

A time capsule of ideas

I love a notebook. No, that's understating the case; it's a fetish really. There's something about starting a new project with a fresh notebook, feeling the glide of the pen, watching the ideas start to flow on pristine pages.

But when is the right time to start? I have cherished notebooks going back years, still uncracked, waiting for a project that's worthy of them. And then there's the project itself. Is it ready for the notebook stage or does it need to cook a while yet?

Worse than that, there's the problem of finding an idea again. Once I've jotted it down the brain seems to favour wiping that neuron to use for something else. And a full notebook is the Augean stables of inspiration. There might be gold nuggets in there, but boy do you have to work to dig them out. Makes me feel like that poor bugger in Memento

I came across a notebook just now while tidying out my desk drawer. Circumstantial evidence points to it being fairly old. The handwriting looks nothing like mine, for one thing. Also I don't think you'd find one for under a quid these days. Adjusting for inflation would date this relic to 1971. That can't be right… 

Aha, here's a clue: "Megatron wants chips to make robot brains." We're back in 1985, then, when I wrote the Transformers gamebooks, so the roleplaying notes here would have been intended for Dragon Warriors.

Here's one: "Spells. State what you want to do. Chance of success depends on how much you are having to thwart someone else's will, therefore on the strength of his will. Cf the door in LotR."

Or: "Have to set up a 'box of tricks' to do spells. Stops sorcerers moving about too much once they're casting."

I may have been thinking there of the cover art for War of Wizards, which showed a little shrine-cum-workstation beside the sorcerer. It's before I'd heard of Encounters of the Spooky Kind, in which magical shrines were an essential prerequisite and vied for height like the towers of San Gimignano.

Another: "Go into a trance to use magic. Deeper trance, stronger magic. But you have to be led around because you're 'out of reality'."

(It was the mid-'80s. Altered states were a big thing with me back then.)

Another tack here: "Magic as release of the content of the subconscious. The more power you call on, the deeper into yourself you're delving, the more likely to work in reverse against you."

This one is interesting because here we are thirty-five years later and look what I recently wrote in the Jewelspider notes:

"Consider inspiration in the literal sense. When you are singing, for example, and you begin to go beyond normal use of skill and start to channel a divine or pagan presence, with a song so marvellous that everybody stops to listen, the rafters ring out, goblets chime, and even time holds its breath. This is no longer controllable by the singer and the entity, god or goddess that imbues them is manifesting in the song and, being a god, is inhuman, beautiful and terrible – who knows what will happen?"

Now, if I can just make that work in rules terms!

Thursday 2 September 2021

Hot off the anvil

The first two books in the Vulcanverse series are now out, with two more coming later this year. If you don't know what that means -- well hey, where have you been? (And check out previous posts here and here.)

There will be five books in the series, but they're open world solo roleplaying, which means you can start in any of the first four books and play them in any order. The numbers on the spines are just so you know where to put them on your bookshelf.

The art is by Mattia Simone, who also painted the cover for the Librarsi edition of Heart of Ice.

You'll be seeing more of Mattia's work on our future projects, I hope. Comments are open below if anyone has played Vulcanverse -- and there's a no-prize if you spot the itsy-bitsy deliberate mistake (I hope there's only one) in The Hammer of the Sun

If you want to order the full-colour hardcover editions, any bookstore should be able to do that for you and the details are:
  • The Houses of the Dead  ISBN 978-1-909905-37-5
  • The Hammer of the Sun  ISBN 978-1-909905-38-2
Or you can get the black-&-white paperback editions from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all the usual places.


Also at Blackwell's UK:
And at Barnes & Noble in the US:

And by the way you can get copies of the Adventure Sheets (including maps) for the books from the Spark Furnace website: The Houses of the Dead and The Hammer of the Sun.