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Friday 15 September 2023

Just a scratch

While talking to Paweł Dziemski at Other Worlds (publishers of the beautiful Polish edition of Heart of Ice) we realized -- well, Paweł did -- that the strict Endurance rules of the original Blood Sword books are not in step with the thinking of modern gamebooks. Back then, your hit points were whittled away and if you got to zero, too bad: bury that character and go back to the start.

It's never fun dying in a gamebook, but at least if it happens because of a bad decision then you can accept that you should have thought more about it or watched out for the clues and warnings. When you just conk out from hit point attrition, that's a death of a thousand paper cuts. These days it's likely to have you throwing the book across the room.

Of course, you could include a sage in the party and rely on their healing, but the rules shouldn't make it impossible for you to play without a sage. Paweł suggested restoring Endurance to full if characters survive a fight, but I didn't want to go quite that far as it would make the sage's healing power pretty useless.

So I've added these optional rules to the Blood Sword books. Use any that take your fancy:

  • After winning a fight, every surviving character in the party can recover half their lost Endurance points rounded up. For example, if you normally have 30 Endurance and you end a fight with 9 Endurance, you can restore your score to 20. This only applies if you are victorious, not if you flee from the combat. Endurance is not recovered until the battle is over and all opponents have been vanquished. A character who was reduced to 0 Endurance during the fight does not recover; they are dead and gone.
  • Instead of unlimited movement on the tactical maps, you move a number of squares equal to ½ your Awareness.
  • If killed in a combat that the rest of the party win, a character returns to life with 1-6 Endurance.
  • If the whole party is killed, use the flee option for that section (if there is one) and return to life with 1d6 Endurance each. (So the party only dies if there is no flee option.)

The Blood Sword series is on Amazon (UK and US and worldwide).


  1. I can't relate to the idea that dying of hit point damage is unfair, but then again I still play the same edition of D&D I did in the early 1980s, and we expect characters to drop like flies.

    1. I agree, Joe; in a roleplaying campaign, PC death certainly shouldn't be impossible -- those can be some of the most memorable moments. In a gamebook it's always going to be less satisfying to die as a result of running out of hit points, because the book doesn't know to dramatize that moment. But these are optional rules, so the hardcore Blood Sword players can still risk death at any minute.

  2. I must say I really love the picture at the top - so much going on. It raises so many questions, what interests are being contested and with what strength? Who is backing who, what allegiances are shifting ? The dice are clearly rolling, but how will they fall?

    My favourite is the guy on his own in the gallery, next to the scheming trio - he's not looking down at the main group, so what (or who) caught his eye in the hall down below?

    I'm assuming it is one of Russ Nicholson's - was it from a book or was it a stand alone?

    1. It's from Doomwalk (Blood Sword book 4) and it is one of Russ's. As usual, he packed in lots of detail and a level of characterization and drama for which the written description below was just the tip of the iceberg:

      You pay a visit to the headquarters of the Guild of Coradian Merchants in order to raise money on your estates in Chaubrette. A coterie of plump-faced financiers scrutinise the title deeds you show them. At first suspicious, they finally acknowledge that you own considerable land, including several manors renowned for the quality of their grape.

      ‘These vineyards in the Amargue Province,’ says the oldest of the financiers, pointing to one of your documents. ‘I will give you a thousand gold pieces for them.’

      ‘I will give two thousand!’ snorts a younger man, snatching the deed. ‘Why be robbed by this old varlet?’

      ‘The robber’s age makes no difference,’ you sigh. ‘Even two thousand gold pieces is a fraction of their true worth. Still, the need is great…’