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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.


  1. Hello! What is the difference between the Vulcanverse and Fabled lands please? I know Fabled lands is the author's own creation, but is the Vulcanverse for another company? is it part of a wider IP?
    Mny thks

    1. The Vulcanverse lore was created by Jamie Thomson, who co-authored the Fabled Lands books with me. There are several "pay-to-earn" online games set ostensibly in the same world, but I know nothing about those and couldn't care less about play-to-earn; I just write the gamebooks.

      So I think you could get involved in the whole Vulcanverse experience, which has a lot to do with NFTs and cryptocurrencies, but you don't need to play those to enjoy the gamebooks, which are an open-world series very similar to Fabled Lands, Steam Highwayman, or Legendary Kingdoms.

      More about this here:

    2. The biggest difference between Fabled Lands and Vulvanverse is that Vulcanverse has an eventual "end game." Fabled Lands does not (as far as I know). FL has quests, even a book (Keep of the Lich Lord) that have ends, but the overall FL experiences is that the adventurer just keeps traveling around doing as he (or she or they) wills.

      In Vulcanverse there's an ultimate point to your adventuring aside from just adventuring to get stronger/richer/etc. There's a bad guy to beat/princess to rescue(not really unless Dave has some big surprises in store). Once you go past a certain point, as I understand it, the end game kicks off and it's win or die until your character succeeds or perishes.

    3. I'm just writing the endgame now, in fact. It's a lot more complicated than I thought, not least because once the player is on that track I have to be very careful not to let death throw them back out -- because the world has changed too drastically by that point for a return to normal adventuring to be credible.

      In fact, though, there is one way to escape from the endgame back into the open-world part of the book, but that's very tricky (though rewarding) to get to. Some time travel may be involved.

      The trade-off for having a story arc with a big ending is that VV players don't have quite the same freedom as FL players do to have the adventure be whatever they want. You don't have so many options for trade and investment, for instance.

  2. Have you thought of an image generating AI? They do an impressive work. A Spanish gamebook (En las Cenizas) used and AI for its illustrations and the book is filled with tons of them (some better than others). It's definitely an option if you can't afford an illustrator.

    1. It's interesting you should say that, because I was just talking to somebody a few minutes ago about whether we could use AI to illustrate a game. The question is copyright. Who owns an AI artwork? Presumably it depends on which one I use, but don't they all require some kind of payment? I have occasionally put AI art for the Vulcanverse books on Facebook and Twitter, which I think Wombo and Nightcafe don't mind as it helps advertise their AI -- but in the case of a commercial product it might not be so simple.