Friday 24 February 2023

Gamebook Friday: Stormslayer and Night of the Necromancer hit Brazil

Two of my Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, Stormslayer and Night of the Necromancer, are going to be released soon in Brazil by Jambo Editora. This will double the number of FF adventures of mine that are available in Portuguese.

Here are the covers for the new editions.

Also coming soon from Jambo Editora is the Brazilian edition of The Wicked Wizard of Oz. Watch this space for more info!

Friday 17 February 2023

Gamebook Friday: The Box of Delights RPG Late Pledges

The Box of Delights RPG might have funded on Kickstarter but it's still open to Late Pledges, if you would like to back it too. Click on the image below to be taken to the Late Pledges page.

I will continue to promote the Late Pledges, because the more money we raise the more of Tony Hough's amazing artwork will appear in the book.

Thank you, as ever, for your support and remember, the wolves are running...

Friday 10 February 2023

Gamebook Friday: ACE Gamebooks' Half Term Sale

If you're wondering what to do with the kids this Half Term, why not try introducing them to gamebooks, or read the classics with them as they have never experienced them before?

Everything published by ACE Gamebooks Roleplay on DriveThruRPG is 50% off for the entirety of the Half Term break. So what are you waiting for? Check out the sale now!

In other news, it's the last big push for The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game on Kickstarter. If you have yet to pledge your support, you can do so here.

Monday 6 February 2023

The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game... One week to go!

The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game has one week left to run on Kickstarter and is currently 68% funded. If you haven't pledged your support yet, you can do so here.

If you have pledged your support, thank you. Apparently, Kickstarters raise most of their money in their first three days and their last three days, so I am optimistic that we will hit our funding goal, but there are some things you can do to help*.

  1. Share the The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter page far and wide, and ideally every day of this week.
  2. Share tweets about Facebook posts I post about the Kickstarter.
  3. Tell your favourite Facebook groups by sharing the link on their page.
  4. Ask your favourite social media influencers and YouTube creators to give The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter a shout-out.
  5. Post a link to the The Box of Delights - The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter on any RPG forums you belong to and on any gaming news sites you know of.
  6. And lastly, you could always increase your own pledge. Obviously, I appreciate you having backed the Kickstarter already and do not expect you to do this, but it could be that just £1 ends up making all the difference between glorious success and abject failure.

So, watch this space, and I'll be back in a week to share the good or bad news with you, depending on how the next 7 days go.

Thank you again for your support.

* You can also do these things if you haven't pledged your support yet.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Alba: One Year On

A year ago I published a blog post entitled The Biggest Gamebook Ever? 

In it, I took to task the spurious claims made by Inside The Box Games - but probably more specifically those of the company's CEO Peter Blenkharn - that Alba - an Open World Adventure Book was the largest gamebook ever. (Click here to read it.)

The company managed to raise £272,794 on Kickstarter, thanks to the suuport of 10,301 backers, so that they might publish the book. Their original funding goal was £5,000.

My issues were with the boasts about the size of the book, which only reinforced my feelings about gamebooks being the forgotten medium (but more on that another time). Not for one minute did I think the book wouldn't be published. I mean, it was already written and illustrated.

And, to be fair, the book has been published, but to date only in digital format, and nothing about the debacle that has unfolded over the past 12 months suggests that it will ever see print in a physical format.

I backed the project, at the £12 reward level, so I could see for myself what all the fuss was about when the book was published. I recently downloaded the eBook version but have yet to read it, beacuse, to be honest, I don't feel the same urgency I might have done when there was still the prospect of writing a gamebook for ITB Games*.

Following the success of the Alba Kickstarter, Peter Blenkharn, CEO of ITB Games, was interviewed on various podcasts and news sites, including Brian Hazzard's Instadeath Survivors Support Group. It was there that I heard his call for writers to get in touch. So did American gamebook author James Schanepp.

I discovered recently that James was working on a new book for ITBG, as was the author of Alba, H L Tuslove. I am not in touch with Tuslove, but I do know James and so I know that he was caught up in the aforementioned debacle too.

To cut a long story short, if you don't already know the details yourself, publication of Alba was delayed. A lack of regular updates, and confusing, not to say contradictory, information being shared when updates were posted only made the situation worse. Apparently the book was going to be printed in China, but that particular country's endless lockdowns threw a spanner in the works. Then printers in Europe were going to be used, but nothing came of this either.

Backers started to smell a rat. I, like many, had not done my due diligence before I backed Alba, but it turned out that it was the fourth or fifth unfilled Kickstarter run by ITB Games, who had raised over £1 million on the crowdfunding platform. Some started to claim it was all a con. I am not one of those conspiracy theortists.

What I do know is that ITB Games moved into some swanky offices in London in January 2022. I also know that they were a major sponsor of UK Games Expo last year. Neither of these things are inexpensive activities.

I was also reminded recently of the collapse of Megara publishing in France, and all those caught up in the resulting turmoil. Everything seemed to go wrong the moment the company moved from a back bedroom to rented offices. Making money from games is hard. Many of us who try to do so aren't business people, we're creators with a passion for the hobby. As a result, it is very easy to overreach yourself, if you're not careful.

At the end of June 2022 the Alba udpates dried up altogether, until Blenkharn posted one almost two months later. In it he explained that ITB Games was in financial trouble; he had had to give up the swanky London offices the company were renting, he had had to fire everyone, and he had moved back in with his mum. He also claimed he would fulfil Alba by himself.

A week ago, Blenkharn posted this update. Later the same day, an ex-employee, who still clearly had access to the Kickstarter project page, posted this update.

It was around this time I discovered that James Schanepp had been working on a book for ITB Games but that Blenkharn had stopped communicating with him**, and that he remains unpaid for the work he had completed. Clearly this meant that James was not in a good place, financially or mentally.

Hanlon's razor is a rule of thumb that states, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." I do not believe Peter Blenkharn ever set out to steal from anybody. 'Stupity' might be a rather strong word too. It could just have been back luck. However, I know what it can feel like when the funds to fulfil a project turn out not to be enough and it's tempting to launch another Kickstarter to bring in some more funds, but then you risk robbing Peter to pay Paul, and the cycle continues.

I also know that you shouldn't overstretch yourself or make bold claims which may come back to haunt you later on***. My rule of thumb with Kickstarters is under promise and over deliver. And I don't always get it right by any means; after all the Heorot RPG is almost a year late in delivering. The difference is, I have kept backers informed of what is happening during that time, and I've been honest with them. As a result, they have been very kind and patient, all of them, and they will all have their rewards before I take physical copies of the RPG to the UK Games Expo in June. I also haven't lost the thick end of a quarter of a million pounds.

At the end of the day, I couldn't care less whether I receive a physical copy of Alba or not****. I lost far more money to Megara's unfilled Kickstarters. I only feel sympathy for those involved. I feel sorry for H L Truslove, that they won't get to hold a physical copy of a gamebook they clearly worked so hard on. I feel sorry for James Schanepp and the other creatives who are out of pocket as a result of all this. I feel sorry for the ex-employees of ITB Games. 

And I feel sorry for Peter Blenkharn. His mental health must have taken a terrible knock from the fallout of this PR disaster, and the vitriol he continues to receive from disgruntled backers on an almost daily basis must be almost too much to bear. And it would appear that, no matter how hard he tries, he has got himself into a situation he can't get out of.

A year ago I was wondering if the success of Alba would result in giving other gamebook Kickstarters a boost, but doubted it. Today I feel the same way regarding the potential damage done. Despite various backers of Alba saying they will never support a creator on Kickstarter again, I don't think that will make any difference to the success of the next DestinyQuest, Steam Highwayman, Legendary Kingdoms, or ACE Gamebooks crowdfunding campaign. But the Alba debacle should serve as a warning to us all of the dangers of hubris, especially in the world of gamebooks.

DestinyQuest: The Wrath of Ragnarok, coming soon to Kickstarter,

* If I hadn't already blown my chances with the blog post I had written.

** It seems he's not communicating with many people anymore.

*** Such as offering a no-questions-asked refund at any point in the process, which is what the Alba Kickstarter did and then turned out to be a promise the company soon reneged on.

**** If it does ever turn up, it will probably go straight on eBay. 

Friday 3 February 2023

Gamebook Friday: Taunton Comic Con and Gaming Festival

In a last minute change of plans, I will be attending the Taunton Comic Con and Gaming Festival this Sunday, 5th February 2023, at the Wellsprings Leisure Centre in (funnily enough) Taunton.

Doors open at 10:30am, the event closes at 4:30pm, and you can purchase your advance tickets here.