Friday, 19 February 2021

Gamebook Friday: Knights of Doom Redux

Knights of Doom was my second published book and my second published Fighting Fantasy gamebook. It came out 27 years ago in 1994, the summer after I left university, and was illustrated inside and out by m'colleague Tony Hough.

The trouble is, play-testing wasn't as easy or as rigorously as it is now and the adventure was effectively unbeatable because of too many over-powered enemies and it being necessary to fail a dice roll to ultimately succeed.

But now FF superfan Victor Cheng has revised the adventure, to make it fairer, and has made the PDF available to anyone who might like to give it a read.

Considering the book has been out of print for decades, having never been republished, and was flawed to begin with, if you fancy giving the revised adventure a go, simply follow this link to download the PDF for free.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Gamebook Friday: Vikings, Valentine's and a Moral Paradox

Happy Chinese New Year! If you head over to DriveThruRPG now, you can pick up 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas and The Lion, the Snitch, and the Wardrobe at 30% off. The sale runs until the end of this weekend.

If you're a gamebook fan, you might want to check out A Moral Paradox, an interactive fantasy gamebook that will be written and illustrated by young people, supported by expert tutors, one of whom is Keith P Phillips, author of the 49th Fighting Fantasy adventure Siege of Sardath.

It's only a short blog post this week, as I have a lot on, but I would just like to ask you to show HEOROT - Role-Playing in the World of Beowulf Beastslayer some love this Valentine's weekend. If you've not pledged your support yet, please check out the rewards on offer today, and whether you have pledged or not, please share the project with the rest of the world.

Thank you.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Gamebook Friday: The Biggest Gamebook Ever?

At midnight, Alba - an Open World Adventure Book funded on Kickstarter, thanks to the support of 10,301 backers*. It's original funding goal was £5,000 but it ended up raising £272,794.

That's over a quarter of a million pounds.

For a gamebook.

While the Alba Kickstarter was running, it seemed to be everywhere. My social media feeds were full of adverts for it**, adverts that seemed to make much of two very particular claims; number one, that it has an innovative non-linear structure, and number two, that it is...

Leaving aside the 'innovative non-linear structure', this second bold (and factually inaccurate) claim was challenged when one of the Alba team posted a link to the Kickstarter on the Fighting Fantasy (and other gamebooks) Facebook group. From the discussion that subsequently took place it seems that the book is roughly 165,000 words long and has 800-900 sections.

I am currently finishing writing my sixth ACE Gamebook, Dracula - Curse of the Vampire. I can tell you that it will be be made up of 1,000 sections and will be at least 150,000 words long, but there are gamebooks already in print that are far longer. For example, The Sword of the Bastard Elf , by H. Skull, is over 1,800 sections long, and I would guess that the word count is suitably massive as well.

The Alba team member in question claimed that their gamebook is the longest based on their research. This would imply that their research wasn't particularly in-depth. Why a book that is 165,000 words long needs to be printed across 1,200 pages I have no idea, but that might be where it really can claim to be 'The Biggest Gamebook Ever Written'. But of course biggest doesn't necessarily mean best.

I realise any comments I make about the book are inevitably going to come across as sour grapes, whether they are intended that way or not, and I will not be able to judge the book fairly until I have read it myself. These are just my observations so far, based on the information that is readily available. It's just that when you start claiming that something is the longest, or the biggest, or the most-innovative, you had better be ready to back-up those claims with some hard evidence.

Alba is published by Inside the Box Board Games and is written by H. L. Truslove. I have not come across Truslove's work before, but that might be because Alba is their first full-length novel.

Credit where it's due, Alba would certainly appear to be a gamebook too, rather than just a Choose Your Own Adventure-style branching narrative***, based on the sticker packs and maps that come with the book.

It certainly benefited from some clever marketing, but I know that some people are annoyed by the fact that higher level backers actually get a longer gamebook. I tried something similar with The Wicked Wizard of Oz, giving the Kickstarter backers some extra content, but it bred resentment in those readers who bought the book later and then couldn't access all of it. I haven't done anything like that since.

The big question is, what does Alba's success mean for the future of gamebooks and gamebooks on Kickstarter in particular?

I suspect nothing, unless it's another gamebook published by Inside the Box Board Games. In fact, it could unfairly disadvantage other gamebook projects, increasing people's expectations of what gamebook crowdfunding projects should deliver, but only time will tell.

I hope to fund the seventh ACE Gamebook later this year. I would be delighted if some of the interest and goodwill generated by Alba rubs off on it, but I very much doubt that it will.

In other news HEOROT is currently 67% funded on Kickstarter. I did tag Inside the Box Board Games on Twitter asking if they'd mind giving my project a signal boost, but I guess they haven't had a chance to check all their Twitter notifications yet.

* And yes, I was one of them. I decided to back in the final few hours, just so I could see what all the fuss was about myself when the book is published in March.

** I've since discovered there were YouTube videos about the project and pieces in the press too.

*** Long-time readers will already know of my distinction between branching narratives and gamebooks.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave

Seeing as tonight is Burns' Night, it's time for my annual blog post reminding you that I wrote a book about Scotland once, called Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, that still sells very well in America, I'm pleased to say, eleven years after it was first published. It's even available in eBook format!

With Scottish Miscellany, author Jonathan Green lets you revel in the fun and fascinating explanations behind Scottish traditions and folklore, giving you the answers to questions you’ve always had — or never knew you had — and more as he covers all aspects of Scotland.

From Scottish culture to the ancient history of the country to modern pastimes, this book has all that and more. Learn why the thistle is the floral emblem of Scotland, how Scotch whisky is made, why the Scots celebrate Hogmanay, how to play the bagpipes, and much more. This delightful book is the perfect gift for anyone planning a visit to Scotland, with an interest in Scottish history, or a drop of Scottish blood. With 50 color illustrations.

"Well organized, easy to read, high interest but low enough vocabulary for a 10 or 12 yr old to read independently. Full of unexpected facts, good photos. All 'round 100%." ~

Friday, 22 January 2021

Gamebook Friday: HEOROT - Role-playing in the world of Beowulf Beastslayer

I am pleased to announce my next Kickstarter, which will be launching one week today, on Friday 29th January 2021.

HEOROT (pronounced 'Hay-or-ot') is a rules-lite RPG, designed to be picked up and played with minimal preparation. It is inspired by the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, Viking legends, Norse mythology, and the Icelandic sagas, as well as my own ACE Gamebook Beowulf Beastslayer.

I am continuing the process, begun with 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas, of turning my existing ACE Gamebook properties into other games*, in this case a classic tabletop RPG.

In HEOROT, players take on the role of noble heroes and their brave companions, who are guided through their adventure by the Skald (or Gamesmaster).

There are three different ways to enjoy the game but all involve an element of storytelling. For it is through telling tall tales of their heroic deeds that players increase their Wyrd, which in turn gives them the ability to perform heroic feats during their adventures that would otherwise be beyond the capabilities of mortal men.

The Storytelling Contest format will suit shorter gaming sessions, while longer ones are ideal for extended Heroic Sagas. Alternatively, you can play through the Songs of the Skalds - traditional scenarios and campaigns that have been designed specifically for the RPG.

HEOROT is part of Kickstarter's Make 100 initiative. Every January, the platform invites its creators to launch a campaign that offers a pledge level limited to 100 rewards.

For HEOROT, this is the Trollslayer reward, which comes with a PDF and print code for the RPG, one Grendel's Mother miniature, and a print code for the HEOROT-themed deck of playing cards, plus all unlocked stretch goals.

These two will soon be joined by the Mother of Monsters herself.

Watch this space for more information about the new RPG, or sign up to my Newsletter to be notified when HEOROT goes live on Kickstarter.

* Anybody would think I had a masterplan or something...