Gamebook store

Thursday 29 September 2022

Some day my prints will come

We're big fans of Gary Chalk around here, not just for his astonishing artistic talent but because he's a true gentleman and a huge personality loved by all who know him. So it's a pleasure to spread the word about his new online shop where you can buy giclée prints of some of his best-known pictures. While stocks last, as they say, so don't delay.

Thursday 22 September 2022

A glimpse of the Vulcanverse

The Vulcanverse gamebooks so far have met with a mixed reception. I'm currently writing the final book in the series, Workshop of the Gods, and mindful of those readers who don't enjoy discovering quests for themselves I'm putting a lot of hand-holding in this one. Not quite to the extent of an old man running into a tavern to give you an adventure, mind you, but a cast of characters who will give you plenty of hints if you're gaming in a hurry and just want to motor through the the big plot points.

But it wasn't just the text that bothered some readers. Everybody seems to agree that Mattia Simone's artwork (the colour image above, for instance) is sensational but "there's not enough of it" complained many readers. We didn't have a budget to illustrate every scene even if we'd wanted to (and I tend to think, after all, that's what prose is for) but the French editions forthcoming from Alkonost are going to fix that. Each book in the series will have forty fabulous drawings by the immensely talented Gaucelm de Villaret. For example:


I don't want to give too much away here. If you want to savour Gaucelm's illustrations you'll have to buy the books. But the one below is my personal favourite. It shows the player-character's family as encountered at the start of books 1-4:


And here are those aunts and uncles brought to life:



And if you haven't yet ventured into the Vulcanverse, you've still got one week left to scoop up The Hammer of the Sun in paperback at the special knockdown price before we come to our senses.

Thursday 15 September 2022

Expeditionary Company is in need of goldash

Only three decades after Jamie and I more or less invented the open-world gamebook genre, suddenly you can't move for new ones.

I'm not complaining. Books like Steam Highwayman are more than worthy successors to Fabled Lands, in the same way that Citizen Kane didn't need to spend too long genuflecting to Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed.

What I like about the new generation of open-world books is the way they take the concept as a springboard, not a straitjacket. Steam Highwayman gives you a role to fill in the world, though you have considerable freedom in deciding how you go about it. Alba is a more directed story experience, like a literary The Long Dark. And Legendary Kingdoms has a party of characters with their own relationships and an epic story set in a detailed fantasy world.

Oh, and there's Vulcanverse of course, which has companions and a story arc that builds in from the first four books to culminate in a finale that the MCU wouldn't be ashamed of. And there's never been a better time to try it out, incidentally.

But I digress. Now comes Expeditionary Company by celebrated gamebook authors David Velasco and Riq Sol. This is more than just a gamebook, though. It's almost a mash-up of roleplaying game, boardgame and multiple-choice adventure, with notes of Expedition and To Carry A Sword. Download the free demo and see what I mean. 

But it looks to be much more than just a blend of those elements, with a compelling lore and world all its own. What I especially like is the depth of the backstory: a mystery to be uncovered that not only sets up some dubious saviours (or more likely outright scheming bad guys) in the form of the Auric, it also provides the dramatic tension between travelling to make money and exploring the wilderness to find out more. It's a background that would do justice to a series of fantasy novels. This is how gamebooks grow up.

Tragically the Kickstarter was cancelled, so we can only hope the authors find another way to fund this innovative project. Perhaps a games publisher will get behind it, or maybe a new crowdfunding effort will raise the money needed. It's not easy (I can't even figure out how to Kickstart any of my own projects) but I'm really rooting for this one.

The journey of a thousand miles

We got an interesting question about the Vulcanverse series this week:
"I understand that The Houses of the Dead is book one, so is there any difficulty jumping into that if I start from a later book in the series instead, say The Pillars of the Sky which is book four? I was wondering if I need to follow the order of the books for an optimal experience?"
OK, that's an important one so I'll answer it here. You can start with any book in the Vulcanverse series and move between them in any order. They don't escalate in difficulty the way Fabled Lands does throughout the series. The numbering of the series is just because bookstores like Amazon insist on a series having a book 1, book 2, etc -- it doesn't actually mean any more than that.

That said, the grand finale takes place in book five (Workshop of the Gods, due out early next year) and that does raise the stakes to epic proportions, and you'll need to be an experienced adventurer to tackle it -- but you can even start in that book, and you won't get access to the endgame until you are fully prepared by having completed the three labours in each of the first four books.

In short, you can't go wrong so just pick any book that appeals to you and dive in there.

Thursday 8 September 2022

Soldiers Three

H G Wells was a wargamer. Everybody knows that. And when you read something like this (from "With the Main Guard") you could almost believe Rudyard Kipling designed his characters as if they were going into a GURPS campaign:

In the Soldiers Three stories, Mulvaney, the Irishman, is the most interesting. He understands people instinctively and knows how to gin them up and calm them down. He is also subject to bouts of "the black dog", has a drinking problem, and reacts to violence by throwing up, all obvious GURPS disadvantages/quirks. Ortheris, the sharp-as-a-pin Cockney, is small and prickly but a crack shot. Learoyd, the Yorkshireman, is slow but strong. The character sheets write themselves.

The British Raj would make a great setting for a roleplaying campaign. Though I can't see SJG getting around to publishing a sourcebook any time soon, and even Osprey's books of the period seem to be out of stock, here are some weapon stats to get the ball rolling.

We can estimate Ortheris's shooting skill, incidentally. He says he can hit Mulvaney five times out of seven at 800 yards with a slightly substandard rifle. Assume an Accuracy of 4 (1 less than a brand new Lee-Enfield .303). Ortheris can aim for three rounds to get an extra +3 bonus, so he's rolling at +7 in all -- less the range modifier, which is -16. And let's give a +1 to hit Mulvaney because he's a big fellow. So the overall modifiers add up to -8. Ortheris is hitting 71% of the time, so his Guns (Rifle) skill must be 20.

Saturday 3 September 2022

A cut-price ticket to the Vulcanverse

September is kind of gamebook month, what with International Gamebook Day (okay, that was August) and then the Fighting Fantasy convention. I didn't make it along to FFF -- after all, I only wrote half of one Fighting Fantasy book, so my connection to it is rather spurious -- but to do my bit I've reduced, nay slashed, the price of The Hammer of the Sun while stocks last or until October 1, whichever comes first.

You can play the Vulcanverse books in any order, going back and forth on multi-stranded quests just like in Fabled Lands, but The Hammer of the Sun is the big one. At 1706 sections it's like two FL books combined. The discount applies to the paperback edition, which you can get at one-third off the usual price (UK) or almost half-price (US) for this month only.

(You can also buy the paperbacks from Amazon in Spain, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan.)

And while we're on the subject of open-world gamebooks, here's some more good news. Martin Noutch, author of the superb Steam Highwayman books, is creating a new four-book series called Saga for Spidermind Games, who publish the hugely successful Legendary Kingdoms gamebooks. Saga is set in the days of the Vikings, is described by the author as "atmospheric, morally ambiguous, and written with a love of place", and if like me you're an enthusiast for all things Norse then you'll want to bookmark that right now.

(Image by Wombo Dream, which has nothing to do with The Hammer of the Sun but I've been playing with it this week and I liked the Ditko-ness of this one.)

Thursday 1 September 2022

Reversal of meaning


Fighting Fantazine issue 17 is now out. It's great, the artwork is fabulous, there are some epic gamebook adventures to play through, in-depth reviews, and it's free to download. What more do you want?

If you answered, "An interview with Dave Morris" then you're in luck, they've got that too. But I will just draw your attention to an erratum. Asked about my Jewelspider RPG, the reply printed is:

"I think Jewelspider will appeal to simulationists who have yet to see something to admire in Powered by the Apocalypse..."

But wait. What what I actually said was:

"Jewelspider will appeal to simulationists who yet see something to admire in Powered by the Apocalypse’s streamlined let’s-get-on-with-the-story approach."

Quite a difference! I do admire PbtA, you see, despite being a simulationist. My reason for favouring simulationism is not because I'm a wargames nerd but because I want rules that procedurally create a story without authorial steering. So on the spectrum of roleplaying, I'm probably nearer to the PbtA end than the GURPS end. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm in a superposition of states; I like both.

Anyway, I just wanted to set that straight in case anyone bothered to read that far into the interview and thought I was some daft old fogey dissing the new(ish) trends in roleplaying.

The artwork above is by the very talented Johan Tieldow, incidentally. I hope if I ever write another gamebook that I can get him to do some of the illustrations.