Friday 27 November 2020

Gamebook Friday: Bardsung and 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas

Neither of the subjects of today's Gamebook Friday blog post are gamebooks, but they may both be of interest to fans of gamebooks.

In a nutshell, Bardsung is a cooperative RPG dungeon explorer for 1-5 players, from the creators of the Resident Evil™ & Horizon Zero Dawn™ board games. Descend into the depths of an ancient forge, building your dungeon, customising your hero, and creating your legend as you explore in either campaign or one-shot play—no game master needed. RPG immersion meets elegant mechanics in a board game where your choices matter*. Featuring guest writers Rhianna Pratchett, Ian Livingstone, Luke Gygax, Yours Truly & more.

You can find out more about what myself and the other writers are planning here, and you can back the Kickstarter here.

Available now is 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas, the first release from ACE Gamebooks Roleplay and the fruits of my own Kickstarter labours from earlier in the year. Fully illustrated by Tony Hough, it is a labour of love and an object of beauty, and it's not a bad RPG either**.

Currently only available as a PDF, both softcover and hardcover editions will be available soon. You can find out more here.

It's also Black Friday day/weekend/week, so feel free to ignore Amazon and buy some signed copies of my ACE Gamebooks direct from the author!

* In other words, it features gamebook elements within the game design.

** Even if I do say so myself, which I do.

Friday 20 November 2020

Gamebook Friday: 'TWAS

When I crowdfunded 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas last year, I had limited funds to pay for artwork. Despite pushing the budget as far as I could, to ensure the fifth ACE Gamebook contained as much of Tony Hough's incredible artwork as I could afford, there were still certain things that I would have liked to have had illustrated that had to be left out nonetheless.

However, when I crowdfunded 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas earlier this year, I commissioned more artwork from Tony, which meant that I could have those abandoned scenes illustrated at last. The RPG also contains various vignettes, and some of these were inspired by the gamebook too, including the following...

Robot Bombs

Gingerbread Men



'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas is available now, and you can buy a signed copy here, while 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas will be available to buy through DriveThruRPG soon.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Happy Birthday, Ded Moroz!

18th November marks the birthday of Ded Moroz.

"Ded who?" I hear you ask.

Ded Moroz, as he is known in Mother Russia, or Grandfather Frost, as he is also known further afield.

Grandfather Frost, by Tony Hough.

Morozko was once a powerful and cruel god of frost and ice, married to the equally unforgiving Winter. He could freeze people and landscapes at will, including entire invading armies, and while he could be capricious and unpredictable, he was also known for being wise and impartial.

With the coming of Christianity Ded Moroz was recast as a snow demon but, over time, turned into a kind of Slavic wizard of winter. Under the influence of Orthodox traditions, the character was transformed again and, during the Soviet era, become the main symbol of the New Year's holiday – Novey God – that replaced Christmas.

Today Grandfather Frost is depicted as bringing presents to well-mannered children, frequently delivering them in person on New Year’s Eve.

According to a newly created legend, Ded Moroz was born on 18th November in Veliky Ustyug, a small town in the Vologda region of Russia.

Veliky Ustyug, Russia.

The date of the magician's birthday was chosen by weather chart makers as their long-term observations register that on that very day the ground of Veliky Ustyug is usually covered with a heavy snow blanket. However, no one knows his exact age. Although experts insist his career began more than 150 years ago, the first mentions of his appearance in noble Russian families on Christmas and New Year's Eve date back to the beginning of the 19th century.

The celebration takes place at Ded Moroz' Votchina, a few miles outside Veliky Ustyug. Festive performances, fireworks, sport events and concerts are part of the program. As usual, on this special occasion Ded Moroz welcomes his friends - holiday-season miracle-makers, wonderland creatures and helpers from Russian regions and former CIS-states. On the exact day of his birthday party, Ded Moroz lights the first fir-tree lamps and sets out from his fiefdom, congratulating the people of Russia on New Year's Eve.

Ded Moroz and friends.

Grandfather Frost makes an appearance in 'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas, which is coming to DriveThruRPG soon!

'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland LIVE - Part 6!

This evening, from 7:00pm GMT on Facebook, Ken Boyter of The Bottled Imp Fellowship will be continuing his live readthrough of the original ACE GamebookAlice's Nightmare in Wonderland.

If you have yet to pick up a copy of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, you can do so here.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Bardsung: Legend of the Ancient Forge

I am delighted to be able to announce that I am one of the guest writers on the new board game Bardsung: Legend of the Ancient Forge, from Steamforged Games, that is currently funding on Kickstarter.

Here's the newsflash that appeared on an update this week:

I will be writing a standalone adventure for the game, which includes gamebook mechanics, as well as those of a board game and tabletop wargame.

Anyone who is already aware of my work will know that I have an abiding love of steampunk, golems, things with too many tentacles, and Scandinavian/British folklore. I also enjoy a good mystery, so I plan on my adventure containing elements of all of these.

There are daily updates and unlocks on the Kickstarter campaign page, and I have been particularly excited by those revealing new monsters that will be appearing in the core box, as well as the Lost Levels expansion.

I hope to use elements of these in the story I want to tell, and already have a number of ideas jotted down in my planner. 

So, if you've not checked out the Kickstarter campaign page already, why not do so today, and pledge your support?

Thursday 12 November 2020

Tie-in Tuesday: Judge Fear's Big Day Out and Other Stories

From the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine:

A shopping mall where droids sell organs harvested from street trash… 
A murderous imaginary friend…
A psychotic composer drafting music from pain… 
All in a day’s work for the Lawman of the Future.

Edited by and with an introduction by Dredd veteran Michael Carroll, Judge Fear's Big Day Out and Other Stories gathers the very best short stories from more than a decade of the Judge Dredd Megazine, including stories by legends Alan Grant, Gordon Rennie and Simon Spurrier, among countless others…

As seems to be my lot with short story anthologies I've contributed to in recent years, I am one of the "countless others", even though I actually have four tales in the collection. They are:

Psimple Psimon
One-Way Ticket
You'd Better be Good, for Goodness' Sake...
and Miracle on 34th and Peltzer

Judge Fear's Big Day Out and Other Stories is published this Thursday, 12 November 2020, but you can pre-order it now.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Happy Birthday, Bram Stoker!

8th November is Bram Stoker's birthday, which means that he would have been 173 years old today, were he still alive.

This time last year I started writing my ACE Gamebook adaptation of Stoker's most famous novel, Dracula, and twelve months on I am still working on it. There are various reasons why it remains unfinished, not least of which is the global pandemic we are still in the grip of. But last weekend I learned the very sad news that Martin McKenna, who was supposed to be illustrating Dracula - Curse of the Vampire, died at the beginning of September.

I still intend to finish the adventure, having already written almost 800 sections, but I am taking some time to mull over what to do about the book's illustrations. However, late pledges to the project are still open and you can pledge your support here.

Friday 6 November 2020

Gamebook Friday: What is a typical JG adventure?

I may be picking up my skald's harp and singing a new story into being next year, so this Gamebook Friday I have one simple question to ask you.

What would you expect from a typical Jonathan Green gamebook adventure?

Answers on a postcard or in the comments below, please.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland LIVE - Part 5!

This evening, from 7:00pm GMT on Facebook, Ken Boyter of The Bottled Imp Fellowship will be continuing his live readthrough of the original ACE Gamebook, Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland.

If you have yet to pick up a copy of Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland, you can do so here.

Monday 2 November 2020

Martin McKenna (1969-2020)

It was with great sadness that I learned this weekend that Martin McKenna had passed away at the beginning of September. He was just 51.

Martin was an incredible artist, his illustrations for the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks some of the most realistic of all. They also dripped atmosphere, with their fine pen and ink details and sinister gothic air.

I first encountered Martin's work via Fighting Fantasy but I soon discovered that his art peppered numerous Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay products as well, and it was with genuine pleasure that I pored over his immaculate vignettes and character portraits.

His illustrations really helped bring the grimdark corners of Warhammer's Old World to life, as they did Fighting Fantasy's own Old World.

Naturally, when I started writing my own FF gamebooks, it was Martin I requested to illustrate the adventures, but it didn't happen until Curse of the Mummy*, my third FF title. Unfortunately, the illustrations weren't quite what I had been hoping for and Martin later admitted himself that they had been rather rushed. In contrast, the cover painting he produced for Curse of the Mummy** was astonishing.

The digitally retouched cover for Curse of the Mummy that Martin McKenna produced in 2007.

However, when Wizard Books started publishing new titles, I got the chance to work with Martin again. We were clearly inspired by the same source material, and the illustrations he produced for Howl of the Werewolf and Night of the Necromancer are some of my favourites.

The cover for Howl of the Werewolf, by Martin McKenna.

The Werebear, Water Wyrd, Van Richten the Vampire Hunter, Serpensa the Serpent Woman, Werebat, and Count Varcolac***, from Howl of the Werewolf.

The Sea Demon, Grave Golem, Dread Knights, Wraith Queen, Hellfire Golem, and Shadow King, from Night of the Necromancer.

He also painted the stunning cover for my zombie-pirate adventure Bloodbones, which ened up being animated for Tin Man Games' digital edition.

The cover for Bloodbones, by Martin McKenna.

When I wrote YOU ARE THE HERO - A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, I knew there was only one artist who could produce the wraparound image I desired for the book.

The cover for YOU ARE THE HERO, by Martin McKenna.

And we were due to collaborate again on my new ACE Gamebook, Dracula - Curse of the Vampire, but sadly that is not to be now.

We never actually met and we didn't even speak on the phone, but I had huge respect for Martin and his work, and I think if we had met we would have got on very well.

However, my greatest regret is that is seems Martin did not have the same confidence in his own abilities as everyone who ever enjoyed any of his immaculate illustrations. I only hope that he had some inkling of the pleasure he brought to all those whose lives he touched through his art.

In memory of
Martin McKenna

Martin's close friends have set up a JustGiving page to raise money, to help disadvantaged children gain access to the arts, in Martin's memory. If you feel able to give something, no more what, follow this link.

* The upside of this was that I got to work with Alan Langford and Tony Hough instead, and Tony and I have a new RPG coming out this Christmas.

** His first FF cover!

*** Martin based Count Varcolac's face on his own.