Friday, 19 June 2020

Gamebook Friday: Stormslayer

Last month I asked people on social media what topics they would like to see me cover in my Gamebook Friday blog posts. The first suggestion that received a write up was Ian Reynolds', who asked for "Anything to do with Horror and in particular Vampires." This week I'm running with Matt Ward's idea, as he wanted to know how I came to write Stormslayer.

My fifth Fighting Fantasy gamebook, Howl of the Werewolf, was published by Wizard Books in 2007 and well-received by the fans. In 2008, Wizard decided to relaunch the FF series, with a uniform cover design, and I was asked to supply a new title for the initial tranche of four books to be released.

This all happened over ten years ago, and I do not have my planning jotters from that time accessible now, so there is a lot I have forgotten, but I'm pretty sure that Stormslayer - or rather The Eye of the Storm, as it was called in my initial outline - was an idea I had while Puffin Books were still the gatekeepers of the FF franchise. I may have even made some notes while I was in my final year at uni, when I had only had two books published so far. I'm sure I remember a sketch of an interlocked crystal made up of four constituent parts, one for each of the four classical elements.

The Eye of the Storm, by Stephen Player.

Before submitting an outline to the publisher, I brainstormed ideas for the gamebook. I had always wanted to do something featuring a weather mage, so he would be the villain of the piece. With a weather mage as the Bad Guy, a quest to collect artefacts linked to the four elements suggested itself, so I needed a setting which could encompass earth, air, fire and water. The Old World kingdom of Femphrey suited perfectly. For one thing, no one else had set an adventure there yet.

A map of Femphrey drawn by a French fan.

While coming up with weather- and elements-related encounters, I also had a flick through Out of the Pit, looking for suitable monsters to use, including some that hadn't appeared in a gamebook at that point, and Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World, which led to me including a Decapod (or Abyssal Horror) in the adventure.

Abyssal Horror, by Stephen Player.

I was also writing the Pax Britannia series for Abaddon Books at the time, so a little bit of steampunk might have snuck into the adventure...

Steam Golem, by Stephen Player.

Part of my plotting process is drawing a map. In the case of Stormslayer, I wanted the player to be able to visit any of the four major locations linked to the elemental treasures in any order they wanted, and for the linking encounters to vary accordingly.

Once I had all the encounters, monsters and maps ready, I wrote up the outline and sent it to the publisher. Once this had been approved, I started writing, coming up with many of the details of the gamebook in the process.

I also introduced some mechanics involving the days of the week. A passing reference in Titan - The Fighting Fantasy World mentioned that different types of  magic work better on the days associated with them, and are negatively affected by days associated with their opposite element, and so this became a vital element of the adventure.

After Stormslayer was published, all sorts of things happened that I wasn't expecting. For one thing, the book appeared on TV...

Someone playing Stormslayer during an episode of Channel 4's 24 Hours in A&E.

And then all these images started appearing online, which were clearly inspired by the adventure...

It turned out that Stephen Player, the artist who had illustrated the adventure, was using my illustration brief with his art students in San Francisco!

But it's not only budding artists and people waiting in A&E who have been inspired by Stormslayer. Recently I was contacted by Christopher Griffith, who has an MA in Creative Writing and who has turned my gamebook into a short story. If you would like to read it - but please be aware that it contains many massive spoilers for the adventure! - then click the image below.

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