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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fabled Lands role-playing is here

This is a difficult post to write because my fingers don't really want to be on the keyboard. They keep twitching towards the beautiful object at the side of my desk - to wit, the core rulebook and first volume in Greywood Publishing's epic Fabled Lands Role-Playing Game series.

I remember getting starting in role-playing. Dungeons & Dragons came as three little booklets in a white box. You didn't need any more than that. It was a Narnia wardrobe, a Tardis, a Cavorite sphere to convey you into endless worlds of the imagination.

For many, though, rules quickly got in the way, spreading like traffic signs and one-way streets through the landscape of fantasy. I remember one Sunday afternoon at Jesus. (Yes, that was our church.) I was playing D&D or EPT with Mark Smith and Oliver Johnson. We went into the next room, where another group were playing Chivalry & Sorcery, to borrow the kettle. "As you enter the tomb, the sarcophagus lid starts to slide back," their umpire was telling them. Fifteen minutes later, tea brewed, I took the kettle back. "So, two of you are now adjacent to the sarcophagus, you others have readied arrows, and the wight is now standing up in the sarcophagus..."

The Fabled Lands RPG cuts away all the unncessary stuff. You want adventure. You want to create a character without having to use Excel, and you want to get stuck into a fun story without the need for calculus to resolve every situation. Shane Garvey and Jamie Wallis have delivered exactly the balance of ease-of-use and detail that the freewheeling, fast-paced, limitless vista of the Fabled Lands demands.

Of course, nobody in their right minds wants to turn the role-playing clock back to 1975. These days players rightly demand more than hack and slay. You might be creeping through the shadows of your enemy's castle, walking in disguise under the noses of temple guards, struggling to keep your ship afloat in a storm, trying to charm your way out of a fight, desperately weaving spells, or gambling with faerie folk for your very soul. And the Fabled Lands RPG has nicely streamlined rules to cover all of that and combat too.

You start by creating a character with all the familiar FL characteristics and a bit extra in the background. The best characters are "this but that", so you get to choose both positive and negative personality traits. You could be brave but selfish, for instance, or supportive yet an inveterate liar. It's up to you how to play those, and how to use the detailed background rules too. They're there to give players something to get to grips with right away.

The core system is based off the FL abilities (Charisma, Sanctity, etc) and you need to roll two dice, add your ability score, and beat the difficulty of the task. But with a few deft additions, Shane and Jay give a lot more scope to that basic mechanic. Skills modify your abilities for specific tasks. So if you have Navigate 2, for example, you can add +2 to Scouting rolls when plotting a course.

On top of that are the powers. These are unique to each profession: Primal Rage for barbarians, Cure and Bless for priests, and so on. Each profession has four special powers and as you rise in rank they can be taken multiple times for extra benefit.

The rest of this beautifully produced and laid-out book has sections on the gods, equipment, magic, monsters, world background (Yellowport is covered in detail, including maps and personalties with stats) and a very useful long section to guide the umpire (or GM if you must) in running adventures. And Greywood has marshalled a first rate art team, led by the undisputed master of fantasy Martin McKenna, to help evoke the Fabled Lands visually.

Further books are planned - in fact twelve sourcebooks, each zooming in on one part of the Fabled Lands and providing quests, treasures, characters, cities, lore and everything else you need for a long-running FL campaign. And yes, that does mean you will get to visit Chrysoprais and Atticala and the Forbidden Realm.

I am sure some of you will be saying, "That's all very well, but I like gamebooks. I'm not a roleplayer." But actually, you are. Just as most gamebooks were multiple-choice forms of a novel, the original six Fabled Lands books are a multiple-choice form of role-playing campaign. What Greywood have done is take all that material and rework it so that the world can be opened up for groups of friends to adventure together. And you don't need weeks to prepare a game nor a law degree to understand the rules. If you have read any of the Fabled Lands gamebooks, you'll be able to pick up the RPG, gather some friends together and get started.

Now, if you'll pardon me, my fingers are reaching for the rule book and they will not be denied. I'm going to be running an FL game in the near future, and I hope you will too! Oh – you want to know where you can get it? From Cubicle 7 right here and shortly (we hope) from Amazon.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Roll up, roll up

A teaser today from Serpent King Games, who have inherited the Dragon Warriors license from Magnum Opus Press to allow MOP supremo James Wallis to focus on his upcoming Facebook game. I don't think I'm allowed to tell you anything about the latter, but everyone in the gaming world knows that a new project by James is sure to make a big splash.

Serpent King have all the old DW books and are hard at work on new titles, and as they are James's own hand-picked DW team you can count on those being top-quality stuff. So fullscreen the trailer and get yourself in the mood for some gritty Brit fantasy action.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

When Doctor Who was seven weeks old

Here's something for Fathers' Day. Last week I did a post on my other blog that could just as easily have fitted in here, assuming that SF/fantasy gamers have, as I suspect, a wide overlap with Doctor Who fans. It's the story of how I became the first boy ever to meet a Dalek face-to-face. It was 1964. JFK had been shot, the Beatles were about to break big, but all I cared about were fluid links, static electricity, neutron bombs, police boxes and genocidal mutants. Happy days!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Fabled Lands 2 now on iPad

A new update to the Fabled Lands app for iPad allows you to use in-app purchasing to access the land of Golnir as featured in Cities of Gold & Glory. The press release from Megara Entertainment tells us:
"If you already own Fabled Lands HD, you will be able to purchase the expansion for $6.99 via in-app purchase. You will be able to keep an existing character.

"The Fabled Lands 2 expansion adds more than twenty hours of gameplay. You can use any existing save game or create a new character, and you can travel freely between Golnir and Sokara.

"This second app is set in the prosperous kingdom of Golnir, a land made wealthy by its rich agriculture. There are quests, including slaying a dragon for the Baroness Ravayne (the ruler of Golnir), searching for magical artefacts for the wizard Estragon, bringing to justice a murderer on behalf of his victim's ghost, finding the Key of Stars to gain access to a treasure-filled tomb in the Forest of the Forsaken, and making a map of the treacherous northern mountains. The quests in the second book have a more whimsical fairy-tale nature to them than those in the first Fabled Lands HD app, giving Golnir a very strong Merrie England atmosphere."

Monday, 13 June 2011

Castle of Lost Souls part one: "The Champion"

American publishers, as you can see, didn't really know what to make of British gamebooks. While every effort was made over here to give the books a dramatic, RPG-influenced look, avoiding anything that smacked of being "you know, for kids", over in the US they would happily put a picture of the school's uncoolest kid on the front. Small wonder we never broke big over in the States. (And so unjust; if U2 did it, anyone should be able to.)

Still, enough of that. You're here because I said we'd have the first instalment of the original magazine version of The Castle of Lost Souls, and you know I never break a promise. On the other hand, if you just found this post by accident while googling Bono, you'll need to know that the rules and introduction to the adventure are in the previous post.


1: After a few hours, Hogron calls the candidates to the main hall. You look around at the others. Most seem to be scoundrels or opportunist ruffians, but there are one or two whose exploits rival yours.

Hogron steps forward. 'After due and careful consideration of the, er, corroborated adventures of each candidate, my brothers and I have chosen Salakar as our champion.'

You are horrified to see Hogron clasp hands with Salakar, whom you have always regarded as a loudmouthed braggart! A disgruntled murmur from some of the other candidates is silenced by the five pieces of gold each is given for his trouble. You take your gold with bitter heart, trying to think of a way to cancel or reverse Hogron's decision and make yourself champion. Do you: Challenge Salakar to a duel to show who is the more worthy champion? If so, turn to 91. Suggest that two of you would be better off than one? If so, turn to 45. Leave now but wait outside the mansion, and follow Salakar? If so, turn to 80. Wait outside the hall and eavesdrop on what Hogron has to say to his new champion? If so, turn to 14. Attack Salakar right now? If so, turn to 85.

2: You are now Salakar. Your initial characteristics are: Fighting Prowess: 8; Constitution: 11; Cleverness: 7; Magical Fortitude: 5.

You have 2-point armour (chainmail), standard equipment, 12 gold pieces, and a silver amulet which marks you out as the Greengosh family's champion.

You have no potions, and no Honour either. Hogron told you something about getting a crystal ball and the ashes of a saint, along with some other items. None of that matters for now. You just have to find a certain cave up in the hills and get some magical boots that Hogron says are hidden there. Simple. Turn to 53.

3: You are some kind of sucker for punishment. Again you lose Constitution (one die's worth). You give up on the pool for now. You can try the stone slab (turn to 52) or return to the entrance (turn to 21).

4: A servant nearly spotted you, but you heard him coming and dived behind a tapestry. You go back to listen at the door, and hear Hogron saying something about the ashes of a saint and a crystal ball. There could be a lot more that you missed. You slink out of the house and wait to follow Salakar when he emerges. Turn to 80.

5: Whether or not you were the original cham¬pion, Hogron is delighted you brought the magical boots. 'Excellent!' he cries, showing the boots to his brothers. 'Wearing these, you will be able to travel to the demon's castle and free my father's soul!'

You smile nervously at them, but you're in too far to back out now. Turn to 104.

6: Your pride prevents you from continuing the adventure. But you have only enough gold for a few more days at the inn, then you must move on. A balladeer tells you that Salakar's seven brothers are all great warriors who will be after your blood. Perhaps you will accept Hogron's offer after all. Turn to 101.

7: Your treachery has paid off; Salakar lies dead at your feet. Being the sort of cur you are, you decide to loot his body. You get 12 gold pieces. There is a silver amulet around his neck. If you take it, note it down on your Character Sheet. You lose 1 point of Honour, by the way. That's if you had any left. Now go to 16.

8: Hogron accuses you of murdering Salakar and has you seized and thrown from the mansion. You hadn't found the magical boots anyway so (as Hogron yells to you now from an upstairs window) you couldn't expect to be paid. You can rejoin the adventure in the next instalment: “The Quest”.

9: Salakar manages to stay in the saddle. He wheels around, levels his lance, and charges again. You spur your horse on, determined to unseat him this time. Roll for both of you to se if you hit. If you hit Salakar but he missed you, turn to 24. If Salakar hit but you missed, turn to 86. If you both hit, turn to 39. If you both missed, you turn for another charge. Roll again until someone hits.

10: The liquid in the pool looks strange. It is probably magical. What do you want to do? Put on the long gloves (if you have them) and pull the lever (turn to 65)? Take off the silver amulet (if you have it) and pull the lever (turn to 23)? Drink from the pool and then pull the lever (turn to 75)? Reconsider your options (turn to 50)?

11: The right-hand tunnel leads to a low-ceilinged chamber. You can return to the cave entrance (turn to 21) or enter the chamber (turn to 49).

12: If you are Salakar, turn to 33. If not, turn to 72.

13: You return to where you got the blue satin gloves. You can replace them if you like, if you still have them. Then turn to 34.

14: You lurk in the corridor outside the main hall, eavesdropping on what Hogron is telling Salakar. You hear him say something about getting some magical boots. Try to roll your Cleverness or less on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 4. If you fail, turn to 87.

15: Salakar is still the champion. You hear from the innkeeper's daughter that he is about to set out. You decide to fol¬low him. Something will turn up. Turn to 80.

16: You go on into the hills for almost an hour. Salakar seems to be following the stream. Suddenly a rabble of hill goblins leap out of the trees nearby, hurling rocks and small javelins. Roll one die. On a roll of 1-3 you have been hit by one missile. On a 4-5, two have hit. On a 6 you have been hit by three missiles. Armour subtracts from each missile's damage (which is 1d6) separately. Take any damage off your Constitution. Before you can retaliate, the goblins scatter and run off. Turn to 62.

17: Salakar's lance hurls you from the saddle. You hit the ground with a jarring impact that makes your head swim. Try to roll Constitution or less on four dice. If you succeed, turn to 90. If you fail, turn to 67.

18: You rush over to Salakar He is coughing blood. He hasn't long to live. 'I've failed,' he groans, 'but you can carry on the quest. At least wipe out that giant for me. Here... take this.' He gives you a silver amulet from around his neck. 'That makes you the Greengosh family champion. In case Hogron thinks you killed me for it, tell him you know he needs a saint's ashes and a crystal ball. In the first place, though, you've got to get some magical boots from the cave up there.

You allow yourself but a moment of pity as your old rival passes from this world. Then you filch the 12 gold pieces in his belt-pouch. You creep up the path to the cave. You can see the giant just inside, chewing on a leg (not his own) for lunch. You draw your sword and attack. Take 3 points off the giant's initial Constitution for the wound Salakar did him. Turn to 82.

19: You flip the lid of the chest open. Roll two dice, trying to score your Cleverness or less. If you succeed, turn to 20. If you fail, turn to 32.

20: Phew! You were just quick enough to dodge three sharp needles that shot out of the lock and flew past your ear. They were probably poisoned. Turn to 79.

21: You are just inside the cave mouth. You can see two tunnels leading away. You will need a lantern if you wish to go down either tunnel. You can take the left tunnel (turn to 77), the right tunnel (turn to 11) or leave the cave (turn to 83).

22: You stand over Salakar’s body. Several of the other candidates watch, aghast. There is a moment of silence. You turn to Hogron, whose expression mingles shock and distaste. 'An interesting way to establish your credentials,' he sighs, obviously offended by your savagery. 'The position of champion appears to have become vacant. Perhaps you will accept the job in Salakar's place?'

You feel the weight of his moral censure; lose 1 point of Honour. Perhaps you will behave more chivalrously in future. Or perhaps not. Turn to 101.

23: Turn to 29.

24: You are satisfied to see and feel your lance strike Salakar's shield with bone-crunching impact. Your own shield is barely scratched by his inaccurate strike. Roll one die and add 3 to determine the damage for this mighty blow! He seems to have lost his contempt for you now. He could also be thrown from the saddle: roll two dice and compare the score with Salakar's Cleverness. If the dice score is more than his Cleverness, turn to 71. If the score is less than or equal to his Cleverness, turn to 9.

25: You are in a small chamber with a wooden chest in the middle of the floor. You can try to open it (turn to 19) or go back (turn to 21).

26: Hogron will brief you on your adventure tomorrow. You decide to return to your room at the inn. As midnight approaches, you hear a creaking sound. Someone is coming in through the window! You leap out of bed and grasp your sword. Your assailant is a black-garbed assassin.

ASSASSIN: Fighting Prowess: 5, Constitution: 6, 1-point armour.

You are naked at the moment, so your chainmail armour will not count. If you win, turn to 63. If you lose, turn to 48. If the assassin rolls a 12 on two dice when trying to hit you, turn to 96.

27: You burn the troll's corpse and take the boots. They are covered with strange runes and sigils. Note them on your Character Sheet. You head back to town. Turn to 5.

28: Congratulations on killing a defenceless old man. Lose a point of Honour. You retrieve your dagger and decide it is time to get away before you're discovered. You creep out of the mansion and conceal yourself in the bushes like the rat that you are. You wait for Salakar to come out and then follow him. Turn to 80.

29: A shiver runs through your whole body as your fingers thrust into the pool. Roll one die. You lose this many points of Constitution – and armour does not protect you. You jump back from the pool. You can return to the cave mouth (turn to 36), try and push the stone slab aside (turn to 41) or take some special precautions (turn to 10).

30: You are dead. If you wish to have another go at the adventure, roll up a new character and start at the beginning. If you don't like the idea of winding back time like that, it is possible to join at the beginning of the next instalment of the adventure: “The Quest”.

31: Salakar does not get up. He has been knocked cold by the fall from his horse. Turn to 37.

32: Three sharp needles fly out of the lock and strike you on the cheek. You feel a burn¬ing pain where they scratched you. Poison. Try to roll your Constitution or less on four dice. If you succeed, turn to 69. If you fail, turn to 30.

33: A pesky adventurer, indignant at not being selected as champion, followed you and tried to cause trouble. You tell Hogron how you finished the villain off, but he is more concerned that you haven't brought back the magical boots. He pays you a derisory 5 gold pieces and shows you the door. You can try the whole adventure from the beginning, using a new character, or you can join at the beginning of the next instalment of the adventure.

34: You are back at the cave mouth. A couple of rats are chewing on the giant's body, but they scuttle into the shadows as you approach. You can take the left-hand tunnel (turn to 13), the right-hand tunnel (turn to 92) or go back to town (turn to 43).

35: Struggling to remain conscious, you get to your feet. A squire runs up and gives you your sword. Salakar has already got his sword ready and is closing in. You fight. If you win, turn to 37. If you lose, turn to 48.

36: You are back at the cave mouth. You can take the left-hand tunnel (turn to 61) or the right-hand one (turn to 100). Or you can leave the cave (turn to 81).

37: You have beaten Salakar. Hogron rushes forward. 'How can I apologize to you for my misjudgement?' he says. 'I see now that Salakar's great deeds were nothing beside your own. He won me over with his empty boastfulness, but I can see now that your noble reticence disguised a fierce and peerless skill. Please forgive me for my wretched stupidity, and agree to become our family's champion.'

You think there is a strong element of sarcasm in Hogron's obsequious manner. If you turn him down, go to 6. If you agree to become the champion in Salakar's place, turn to 101.

38: Hogron comes forward .'You have certainly shown more skill than Salakar. Since he himself offered you the choice of competition, I feel sure he will agree that you should be our champion in his place.'

He gives Salakar ten gold pieces for his trouble. The expression on Salakar's face suggests you may have made a lifelong enemy. Turn to 26.

39: Both your lances find their targets. Roll one die and add 3. This is how much damage you take; your chainmail armour absorbs 2 points of this. Roll the damage to Salakar as well. Each of you must roll Cleverness or less on two dice or be thrown from the saddle. If you both make it, turn to 64. If you make the roll and he doesn't, turn to 71. If he makes the roll and you don't, turn to 17. If neither of you makes it, turn to 98.

40: Do you have the silver amulet Salakar was wearing? If so, turn to 56. If not, turn to 46.

41: All your strength cannot budge the stone slab. You must find some other way to get into the tunnel beyond. You could try pulling the lever in the pool (turn to 29), though you might like to take some precautions first (turn to 10). If you wish to go back to the cave mouth, turn to 36.

42: Several of the other candidates pull you and Salakar apart. You hear someone say you are a sore loser. The taunts don't hurt as much as the 2 Honour points you've just lost.

'Obviously you are a thoroughly unworthy knave!' cries Hogron, shaking with rage. 'To disturb a bereaved household with your coarse and objectionable ways! You have merely confirmed my – our opinion that Salakar is the right man for the job. Now begone.'

You are unceremoniously hurled into the street. There is nothing for it but to wait and follow Salakar when he comes out. You'll find some way to redeem yourself – or bring about Salakar's unexpected retirement, perhaps. Turn to 80.

43: Turn to 12.

44: Hogron comes over after examining the butts. 'You have scarcely demonstrated your overwhelming superiority,' he says to you. 'My decision stands: Salakar of the Wild Moor is our champion.' You leave, deciding that the best thing is to follow Salakar when he begins his adventure. Turn to 80.

45: Salakar laughs derisively. 'Pah! Why should I want to team up with the likes of you?' he chortles. 'So few people have been witness to your “mighty deeds” that one is forced to dismiss them as your own lies.'

Resentment boils up within you. The reason there's no-one to corroborate your greatest exploits is that you prefer to adventure alone. You could relate some of your most daring exploits (turn to 94), or challenge Salakar to a duel to show him just how skilled a warrior you really are (turn to 91). Come to that, you could save time by drawing your sword and attacking him here and now (turn to 85).

46: Hogron gives you a cold glare. 'Where arethe magical boots?' he demands. 'Without them, the quest cannot proceed.' You admit to failure. Hogron gives you 5 gold pieces and has you shown out. If you want, you can roll up a new character and try the whole adventure through from the start. Or you can keep this character and join at the beginning of the next instalment.

47: You race out of Greengosh mansion. No-one follows you. You are pretty certain that the servant would not recognize you if he saw you again. You wait behind a tree. When Salakar comes out you follow him. Turn to 80.

48: Unfortunately you are dead. If you wish to continue this instalment of the adventure, roll a new character. Your new character has heard all about the Greengosh family's requirements from rejected candidates. You decide to follow their champion, Salakar, when he begins his quest. Turn to 80.

49: There is a pool of shimmering blue liquid in the middle of this chamber. Beyond this is a heavy stone slab which appears to block up a tunnel. The pool is about eighteen inches deep with some sort of lever at the bottom.

What do you want to do? Return to the cave entrance (turn to 21)? Reach into the pool and pull the lever (turn to 59)? Try to push the stone slab aside (turn to 52)?

50: In the middle of the chamber is a pool of bright blue liquid. A heavy stone slab blocks another tunnel on the far side of the chamber. The pool is about eighteen inches deep and has some sort of lever at the bottom. Do you want to: Go back to the cave entrance (turn to 36)? Reach into the pool and pull the lever (turn to 29)? Try to push the stone slab aside (turn to 4l)? Take some precautions (turn to 10)?

51: Whatever excuses you make don't impress Hogron. Turn to 8.

52: The slab is obviously blocking another tunnel. You can’t shift it – even the giant would have had trouble. You can reach into the pool and pull the lever (turn to 59) or return to the entrance (turn to 21).

53: After a while you find the cave set in the hillside. Stealthily you follow the narrow path which snakes towards it. There are human skulls scattered around, but you aren't so easily frightened. Inside, with his back to you, sits a giant chewing on the leg of his last victim. You decide to attack. Turn to 82.

54: You hurl the dagger. Try to roll your Fighting Prowess or less on two dice. If you succeed, roll one die to see how much damage the dagger does. Unless you kill the servant with this one throw (he has a Constitution of 3 and, of course, no armour) his shouts will bring Salakar and Hogron. If you kill him, turn to 28. If you don’t, turn to 74.

55: You drop your lance and take your sword from the squire who runs up to you. Salakar is struggling to his feet, dazed. He seems confused as he takes his sword from another squire. You ride down on him, sword raised. Surely you have him now! Because you are on horseback, and thus have the advantage, subtract 1 from Salakar's Fighting Prowess. Fight and, if you win, turn to 37. If you lose, turn to 48.

56: Hogron notices the amulet. 'Did you get this from Salakar, then?' he asks, obviously suspecting you of foul play. You tell him that Salakar gave it to you. 'Well, perhaps you can mention another couple of items that Salakar was going to obtain later in his quest?' replies Hogron. 'He might have told you when he gave you the amulet.' Do you mention the ashes of a saint and a crystal ball (turn to 46), a brass helmet and a goblin's left hand (turn to 8) or nothing at all (turn to 51)?

57: You leap at Salakar with your sword raised for a mighty blow. Startled, he reaches for his own weapon. Because you surprised him, he doesn't get to strike at you in the first combat round. After that, the fight proceeds normally.

SALAKAR: Fighting Prowess: 8; Constitution: 11; 2-point armour

If you lose, turn to 70. If you win, turn to 7.

58: Salakar is about eighty yards ahead of you. You glance aside just for a moment. When you look back, you see Salakar struggling with several hill goblins which are swarming over him. He crushes two or three with his shield. Seeing this display of martial prowess the others run for it. As a parting shot, one of them throws a tiny javelin which catches Salakar in the arm. He is slightly wounded now. Do you want to attack and finish him off? If so, turn to 93. If not, turn to 78.

59: The moment that you plunge your hands into the blue waters, you can feel an icy chill run through your body. Roll one die; this is how many points of Constitution you lose from the numbing cold of the waters. Armour makes no difference in this case. You jump back from the pool. Do you want to try again (turn to 3), have a go at pushing the stone slab aside (turn to 52) or return to the entrance (turn to 21).

60: Somehow you resist the fell sorcery that threatened you. That was worse than the time the demon-witch Halthania tried to get you drunk on wyrm's blood. You reconsider your options. Go to 50.

61: The tunnel leads to a small chamber. You have been here before. If you didn’t take the gloves last time then you could take them now. Note them on your Character Sheet if so, then turn to 36.

62: You press on. You will need your wits about you to find Salakar’s objective. Attempt to roll your Cleverness score or lower on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 88. If you fail, turn to 99.

63: You dump the assassin's body out of the window and go back to bed. You’ve got a fairly shrewd idea who sent the assassin (or should have) but you'll have plenty of time to settle your score with him when you've sorted out the Greengosh family's problem. Owing to the night's disturbance, you oversleep and have to rush to keep your appointment with Hogron and his brothers. Turn to 101.

64: You just managed to stay in the saddle. As you wheel your horse around, Salakar is already charging towards you. You will not give in. Roll as before to see if you hit (and do the same for Salakar). If you hit Salakar but he missed you, turn to 24. If Salakar hit but you missed, turn to 86. If you both hit one another, turn to 39. If you both missed, roll again. Keep doing this until one or both of you scores a hit.

65: You feel a slight chill, but no ill-effects. You pull the lever and the stone slab grates aside. Beyond it, a tunnel leads down, with rough steps hewn into the rock. Do you want to go down the steps (turn to 84) or go back to the entrance (turn to 34)?

66: You get out of the mansion safely, but had to leave your dagger behind. Its distinctive pommel means you could be traced. You rush back to the inn, gather your gear together and depart at once. If you wish to resume the adventure, roll up a new character. Your new character hears a few rumours from other champions and decides to follow the Greengosh family's champion, Salakar, on the first part of his quest. Turn to 80.

67: You try to rise, but everything goes black. After a while you wake up in your room at the inn. You ache all over. The innkeeper's wife brings you a rich, warming broth and a flagon of ale, however, and all your wounds are soon forgotten. Restore your Constitution to normal and turn to 15.

68: You meet Salakar for the joust at noon the following day. His horse is richly caparisoned in scarlet and grey, and his armour gleams in the sun. But all this finery cannot disguise a certain awkwardness in the saddle. You feel the choice of a joust gives you the advantage. Now is your chance to teach him a lesson.

The two of you ride to opposite sides of the field and rein in. Hogron raises a staff. You wait, staring across the field into the visored eyes of your rival. Hogron brings the staff down, and your horses thunder across the sward. Your shield and lance are steady, your concentration absolute.

Roll Fighting Prowess or lesson two dice for a hit, as usual. Do the same for Salakar. Note down his characteristics on the back of your Character Sheet now:

SALAKAR: Fighting Prowess: 8; Constitution: 11; 2-point armour; Cleverness: 7.

If both of you fail to hit on the first charge, you turn for another attempt. This continues until somebody's lance lands home. If Salakar hit you but you missed him, turn to 86. If you hit Salakar but he missed you, turn to 24. If you both hit one another, turn to 39.

69: You manage to shrug off the worst effects of the poison, but you feel groggy. Reduce your Fighting Prowess by 1 point for the rest of this instalment of the adventure. Reduce your Constitution by 1 point permanently. Turn to 79.

70: Well, some champion you would have made. Continue the adventure using Salakar as your character. Turn to 2, remembering to keep track of any wounds he has taken.

71: Salakar is thrown from his horse by the impact. You almost wince as he hits the ground with a sickening crunch. Roll four dice and compare the result with Salakar's Constitution. If the dice score exceeds his Constitution, turn to 31. If the score is less than or equal to his Constitution, turn to 55.

72: Were you originally chosen by the family as their champion? If so, turn to 46. If you left town tailing Salakar, turn to 40.

73: Well, at least you spat it out in time. You look around you and take stock of options. Turn to 50.

74: For an old fellow, the servant can make a lot of noise! His yells will quickly bring Hogron and Salakar and a host of others. You run for it. Turn to 66.

75: You drank it? What do adventurers use for brains these days? You must roll one die. This is how much Constitution you lose; your armour does not protect you. Also, try rolling Cleverness or less on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 73. If not, turn to 95.

76: You meet the following afternoon at a bridge quite near the town. Hogron has come along in a curtained carriage to watch. There is some honour in such a duel, because you are not taking undue advantage of Salakar's low Constitution. Gain 1 point of Honour. Salakar stands ready. At a signal, you both draw your swords and close to fight.

SALAKAR: Fighting Prowess: 8; Constitution: 11; 2-point armour.

If you win, turn to 37. It you lose, turn to 48. If you are faring badly at any point, you can submit by throwing down your sword (turn to 102).

77: You are in a narrow tunnel. You can go deeper into the hillside (turn to 25) or go back (turn to 21).

78: Salakar clambers up a winding path. At the top is a cave entrance with skulls scattered in front of it. Suddenly a ferocious giant leaps out of the cave and brings his club down on Salakar, splintering his shield. He slices back, wounding his huge opponent in the thigh. The giant bellows with rage and deals Salakar another mighty blow, dashing him from the ledge. He tumbles down the slope to where you are. You see the giant amble back into the cave without noticing you. Turn to 18.

79: Looking inside the chest, you see two strange gloves. They are made of blue satin and cover your whole arm right up to the shoulder. If you take them, mark them down on your Character Sheet. You return to the entrance. Turn to 36.

80: Salakar spends some time in town buying equipment for an adventure. You buy the same things: a lantern and a flint and tinder. This costs you two gold pieces; cross them off your Character Sheet. Turn to 103.

81: You are on the ledge outside the cave. You can return to town if you think you have all that Hogron wants (turn to 12). If your business here is unfinished, turn to 36.

82: The giant does not get to strike back in the first combat round because you surprised him. After that the fight proceeds normally.

GIANT: Fighting Prowess: 5; Constitution: 18; 1-point armour

He fights with the leg he was eating for lunch, using it as a club. He is so strong that he adds 1 point to his damage rolls. If you beat him, turn to 21. If you lose, turn to 30.

83: You are on the ledge outside the cave. If you are sure you have what Hogron wants, go back to town (turn to 12). Otherwise, you could have an¬other look at the cave (turn to 21)

84: The steps lead down into a dank cavern. On a rock ahead of you, you can see two fine boots of grey leather. Before you can reach them, however, there is a terrible shriek and a troll leaps out at you, raking with its bronze claws. You must fight.

TROLL: Fighting Prowess: 6; Constitution: 7; 1-point armour.

Trolls regenerate damage. At the start of each round, add 1 point to the troll's Constitution if its score is still positive. Once its Constitution is down to zero, you can burn this appalling creature with fire from your lantern to prevent it regenerating. Regeneration can never increase the troll's Constitution above its initial score. If you win the fight, turn to 27. If you lose, turn to 30.

85: You draw your sword and charge at the amazed Salakar with a cry of rage. In the first combat round he doesn't get to strike back because you caught him unprepared; the fight then proceeds normally.

SALAKAR: Fighting Prowess: 8 Constitution: 11; 2-point armour

If the fight goes on for more than four combat rounds, turn to 42. If you win before then, turn to 22. If you lose before then, turn to 48.

86: The damage roll for this massive blow is one die plus 3 points. Your armour will protect you from 2 points of this. Your whole arm is numbed. Try to roll your Clever¬ness or less on two dice. If you succeed, turn to 64. If you fail, turn to 17.

87: Bad luck – an aged servant comes around the corridor and sees you skulking about. He is about to call for help. You must act quickly. You can run (turn to 47), try to kill him by throwing your dagger at his throat (turn to 54) or wait to see what he does (turn to 89).

88: You see a cave entrance up in the hillside ahead of you. Maybe that's where Salakar was going. You draw closer, alert to any danger. A narrow path leads up to the cave. You clamber up as quietly as possible. There are skulls strewn about the ledge in front of the cave. Adventurers like yourself perhaps? You can see the cause just inside – a giant seated on a low slab of rock. He seems to be eating something, so you can take him unawares. You attack. Turn to 82.

89: Hearing the servant call out, Hogron comes into the corridor. Before you can think of an excuse, the servant says, 'Yon cur was listening at your key'ole, sir.'

Hogron glares at you. 'I admire a certain tenacity in a person,' he says slowly, 'but if you harbour any hopes of becoming our family's champion, I must dash them here and now. Salakar has agreed to the mission, and your continued presence in my house will be regarded as trespassing.' You leave at once, deciding that it is better to wait outside and follow Salakar when he emerges. Turn to 80.

90: Somehow you manage to get to your feet. A squire rushes up with your sword. You take it and stand ready. Salakar is already bearing down on you with his sword raised. You fight. Being on horseback gives Salakar the advantage, so subtract 1 from your Fighting Prowess for the duration of this combat. If you win, turn to 37. If you lose, turn to 48.

91: Sneering, he accepts your challenge. 'So sure am I of success,' he declares, 'that I leave to you the choice of combat. Will you joust, or duel, or compete with me on the archery field?'

A duel involves a straight fight, a joust is strenuous and demanding, while archery tests only your skill. Your assessment of Salakar is that he is skilful but not hardy, and would fare badly in a punishing joust. What do you choose? A joust (turn to 68), a duel (turn to 76) or archery (turn to 97)?

92: You go back to the chamber with the blue pool. Steps lead down from the arch that the stone slab previously blocked. Do you want to go down the steps (turn to 84) or return (turn to 34)?

93: The wound from the goblin's javelin cost Salakar 2 points of Constitution. Knock this off his total before the fight begins. Turn to 57.

94: Hogron and Salakar listen to your tales. After some time (fifteen minutes or more - you're just on the story of how you rescued the Princess Esmeralda from the ivory fortress of Hangdrak) Hogron interrupts you: 'This is all very, um, stirring stuff, I'm sure, but I have made my choice. Salakar is our champion.'

You could challenge Salakar to a duel (turn to 91), attack him here and now (turn to 85) or wait outside and follow him later (turn to 80).

95: You couldn't help swallowing some of the liquid. Your soul feels as though it's being torn from your body. Fingers of ice seem to stroke across your skin. Perhaps you scream. Try to roll your Magical Fortitude or less on two dice. If you make it, turn to 60. If you fail, go to 30.

96: The assassin misses you and instead hits the innkeeper's cat, which had chosen to curl up on the foot of your bed. The cat howls and leaps across the room. It has only lost a couple of inches of tail, but you are enraged that your assailant should have hurt a dumb animal. You go berserk, adding 1 to Fighting Prowess for this combat only. If you win, turn to 63. If you lose, turn to 48.

97: By choosing an archery competition you are not taking any advantage of Salakar's weak constitution. Gain 2 points of Honour. The competition is held on the lawn of the Greengosh mansion. Hogron shows you the butts, about seventy yards away. To score a hit on the butt you must roll your Fighting Prowess or less on two dice. Do the same for Salakar, whose Fighting Prowess is 8. Compare your score and Salakar's when you have each taken five shots at the butts. If you scored more than Salakar, turn to 38. If you scored the same or less, turn to 44.

98: You both take a tumble. Roll your Constitution or less on four dice. Make this roll for Salakar as well. If you fail (whether or not Salazar succeeds) turn to 67. If you succeed but Salakar doesn't, turn to 37. If you both succeed, turn to 35.

99: Another goblin ambush. Roll one die. A roll of 1-3 indicates one missile has hit you. A roll of 4-5 indicates two missiles. On a 6 you have been struck by three missiles. Each missile does you one die of damage less 2 points for your armour. Cross any damage you have taken off your Constitution and turn to 62.

100: The tunnel leads to a low-ceilinged chamber. You can go back to the entrance (turn to 36) or enter the chamber (turn to 50).

101: In their father's study, Hogron and his brothers brief you on your mission. Hogron gives you a silver amulet, by which all friends of the Greengosh family will know you are their champion. 'This will be a long and challenging quest,' he explains, 'and you will need to gather many curious objects for it: a saint's ashes, a crystal ball and a four-leaf clover, among other items. At first, though, you have only to go to a certain cave up in the hills and bring back some magical boots you will find there. I advise you to buy a lantern and a flint and tinder before you set out.' After describing roughly where the cave is, he gives you a pouch containing six gold pieces, wishes you good luck and sends you on your way.

You buy the equipment Hogron recommended, at a cost of two gold pieces, and set out. (Note the equipment on your Character Seet along with the remaining four gold pieces.) Barely two hours' walk from the town, you find the cave he told you about. You climb the steep path leading to it. On the ledge in front of the cave there are several human skulls. Forewarned, you peer into the cave. A giant is sitting inside with his back to you, chewing on something. It seems like the ideal time to attack him. Turn to 82.

102: You cast your sword aside. Lose 1 point of Honour. You are at Salakar's mercy, but unfortunately he is a rather merciless chap. Roll one die. On a roll of 6 he decides you're not worth killing (turn to 15). On a roll of 1-5 he cuts you down (turn to 48).

103: You follow Salakar into the hills north of the town. He is so intent on watching the trail ahead that he doesn't spot you. After an hour or so he pauses by a brook to fill his waterskin. You could attack him now. If you do, turn to 57. If not, turn to 58.

104: You have successfully completed the first part of your adventure. Gain 1 point of Honour. You can now attempt to improve your score in either Fighting Prowess, Magical Fortitude or Cleverness. Decide which characteristic you will try to improve, then roll two dice. If the number you roll is more than or equal to your current score, you have learnt from your experiences; increase the characteristic permanently by 1 point. Hogron gives you 25 gold pieces. He also gives you a bottle containing one dose of Potion of Healing. The adventure continues in the second instalment, “The Quest”.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A new way of sharing stories

Okay, Castle of Lost Souls part one is coming up on Monday as promised - and that's the original White Dwarf version, remember. And to entertain you over the weekend, here's a look at the cool new comics reader widget from, which allows users to share around their comics.

"Just like a YouTube video, you can now embed the comic wherever you want," writes president Micah Baldwin. "Put it on your blog. Include it in a story."

If you like this, click over to, give us a rating, and take a look at the hundreds of other comic books they have on offer. No, I don't own shares.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Castle of Lost Souls

In 1984, gamebooks were getting to be big business in Britain. This was mainly thanks to Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson who, during a fact-finding trip to Los Angeles, had seen the success of Choose Your Own Adventure and guessed that a more rules-heavy Dungeons & Dragons style of gamebook would sell in the UK. Somehow they sold the notion to Philippa Dickinson at Puffin. She later confessed to me that she spent months wondering if she had made the smartest or stupidest decision of her career. It turned out to be the former, and so Fighting Fantasy was born.

Livingstone was then the nominal editor of White Dwarf magazine, though the real editorial duties fell to Fabled Lands' very own Jamie Thomson, and he figured that a solo adventure would help bring Fighting Fantasy readers into the even more hardcore roleplaying hobby. (White Dwarf at that time was a roleplaying magazine.) As I was in the habit of hanging around the Games Workshop offices nattering with Jamie, and had already written an entire roleplaying game - no, wait, two of them! - for Livingstone and Jackson back in 1980, I had become in their eyes the unofficial staff writer and ended up with the task of writing a four-part solo adventure to run in WD issues 52-54 (April to July 1984).

"The Castle of Lost Souls" was my first gamebook-style work, co-written with my girlfriend, Yvonne Newnham. I'm sure I treated it as slumming, my real interest being in roleplaying games, and not of the "snotty goblins" school of GW fantasy either. But life, as Lennon said, is what happens when we're busy making other plans, and little did I know that I was about to embark on a decade of gamebook writing that produced about thirty titles (if you include Heroquest and Knightmare).

The adventure got repurposed as the sixth book in my Golden Dragon Gamebook series. That's the cover above, shorn of the yappy little loldragon face that the Grafton art director saw fit to inflict on the series. The original magazine version was quite different from the book, especially in the opening instalment, "The Champion". And you can try it for yourself next Monday, when we'll be posting up that first part right here.


This is an adventure like the well-known Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. Your fate will be determined by the decisions you make, along with a little luck. Read only those numbered paragraphs you are sent to in the text. You begin by determining your characteristics. These show how good an adventurer you are.

Roll one die. Add 5 to this number. The total is your Fighting Prowess. The higher the score, the better you are at swordplay and other martial skills.

Roll two dice and add 10. This is your Constitution. A high score enables you to resist hardship, disease and poison, and gives you the strength to fight on even when badly wounded.

Roll one die and add 5. This is your Cleverness— how fast you can think and act in an emergency. Your Cleverness helps when you are trying to jump clear of a hidden trapdoor, hide from a pursuer and so on.

Roll one die and add 3. Add 1 more if your Fighting Prowess is 7 or less. Add 1 if your Constitution is 14 or less. This is your Magical Fortitude. The higher it is, the better chance you have of resisting the effects of hostile sorcery,

What you have just done is called rolling up a character. Note down your scores in each characteristic on a piece of paper; this is your Character Sheet.

When you fight, you will be told your opponent’s Fighting Prowess, Constitution and armour. Note these down before the combat starts, as you may need to turn to other paragraphs during the combat.

A fight comprises a number of combat rounds. During each combat round, both you and your foe get to strike at each other. The sequence for each combat round is as follows:

Keeping Track of Your Characteristics
Keep careful note of your characteristics. Your Constitution could change quite a bit, as you take wounds in combat or suffer other hardships. Sometimes your other characteristics may change as well. Make a special note of your initial score in each characteristic as (unless you are told otherwise) your score in a characteristic cannot exceed its initial value. If you successfully complete this adventure, you will have a chance to permanently increase one of your characteristics.

The armour you are wearing reduces the damage you take from a blow. Your opponents will often have armour as well. In the case of monsters, this usually represents their tough skin rather than being actual armour. 1-point armour is leather (or thick hide); 2-point is chainmail (or horny scales, like a dragon's). You start your adventure with chainmail armour, which will absorb 2 points from the damage of any blow that strikes you. Note this down on your Character Sheet.

You should also note down the equipment you have. As well as the chainmail, you have a sword, a dagger, a bow and six arrows, a backpack for holding treasure, a Potion of Healing (see below), and 10 gold pieces. Whenever you pick something up during the adventure, note it down on the Character Sheet.

The Potion of Healing
You start with a flask containing one dose of this potion. When you drink it (which you can do at any time except during a combat), roll one die and add 3. This is the number of Constitution points you recover. The potion cannot, however, increase your Constitution above its initial score.

The more chivalrously you behave during the adventure, the more Honour you will acquire. Conversely, you lose Honour by behaving in an underhand fashion. In many cases it may seem easier to take a dishonourable course of action, but be warned that this could make parts of your subsequent adventures more difficult. You begin with an Honour score of 3.


You are a famous and skilled warrior. Your many adventures have pitted you against all manner of foes: wily goblins in the Spiderbite Hills, mummified guards of desert tombs, ghoul-witches of Dastragor Marsh, many a crazed wizard, and more than a dozen of the kingdom's mightiest knights. Your fame (or notoriety) precedes you into every town and village, so you are not surprised when you trudge into yet another smoky tavern to hear the rowdy hubbub stop as faces turn towards you. You drop your backpack by the hearth and sit at an empty table, your broadsword carefully propped against the chair.

The landlord pours you ale while whispers flit among the other pat¬rons. 'I suppose they are unused to seeing an adventurer in a town such as this,' you say to him.

'Allow me to correct you,' he replies cheerfully. 'Lately, adventurers have been as thick as flies on the back of an old horse. My other customers are surely discussing your chances on the morrow. Aha! Look there.' He gestures towards two men counting money. 'I believe Logbrew the miller has just wagered five silvers on your acceptance.'

You lean forward, interested now, and motion the innkeeper to sit down. 'Please join me for a glass of wine and explain all this to me. I have just arrived in town after a long trek through the uninhabited forest to the east.'

'Well then, you will not have heard of the interviews tomorrow. Hogron, head of the wealthy and prestigious Greengosh family since his father's death some months ago, seeks to hire a warrior for some great quest. Word has been sent far and wide, and adventurers have come from many leagues away to apply for the position. The candidate selected by Hogron and his brothers stands to profit richly.’

After getting full details from the innkeeper, you take a room for night. In the morning, you arise and have a light breakfast. Refreshed, you set out briskly for the Greengosh estates at the west of the town. You are confident that the interviews are a mere formality and that you will be selected for the quest.

The Greengosh mansion is an imposing edifice in an estate of some thirty acres. A gaunt servant in a black coat opens the door and escorts you upstairs to a room off a long gallery. Shortly, you are joined by a well-groomed man of about forty who introduces himself as Hogron. After a few questions relating to your previous adventures and preferred fighting technique, he jots down some notes in a ledger. He tells you the interviews are nearly all complete and so you will not have to wait long. Then he leaves.

You are now ready to begin. Turn to 1 in the first instalment of the adventure, which follows on Monday.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Unearthly delights

Here's a hint about what's coming up tomorrow. And for a bonus prize: can anyone identify the artist?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Gold, silver, ivory, apes, and terror birds

If you were hanging around these parts a year ago, you will have seen the long string of posts about Abraxas, the fantasy setting Jamie and I created and were planning to use for our MMO at Eidos in the late 1990s. Abraxas is a continent of prehistoric civilizations, aircars, vril-powered cannons, cosmic rings around the Earth, neanderthal barbarians, psionic magic, and hostile intruders from other stars. A Princess of Mars rather than Lord of the Rings, say. While digging through some old floppy disks, Jamie came across this image of the Vadem Causeway gate outside Tamo Anchan, as depicted by our concept artist Darren Horley. Would've been great to materialize there and go charging your character through the city in realtime 3D... Sigh.