Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Chasm of Doom – Conclusion

The Chasm of Doom – Conclusion

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Well, every fantasy series has to have their own ‘Chasm of Doom’, don’t they?  The Rift, the lava pit at Mount Doom (along with the depths of Moria), the massive drop from the top of Rak Cthol etc etc.

Giving Lone Wolf travelling companions at the start of (or during, for that matter) the adventure, by Book 4, is starting to be a clear signal that, before too long, Lone Wolf will be travelling by himself.

Bet then, I suppose the first part of our hero’s name should be enough of a warning regarding his intentions, after all.

Image result for lone wolf chasm of doom

Back to the book.  Like a number of Lone Wolf books, this is broken up into a series of fairly distinct sections.  There is first the (comparatively) peaceful trip south, protected by your loyal rangers.  There is then the more frantic dash towards Ruanon, either cross-country or through the mines.  After the frenetic battle at Ruanon, Lone Wolf must then navigate the final endgame to the Maakengorge.

Although making some provision for individual choices and preferences, there is still a strong flavour of a ‘story’ to Lone Wolf’s adventure, with distinct ‘acts’ and a strong conclusion.  It is surely not coincidence that it is this series of gamebooks which has translated into a fairly lengthy series of novels, known as the Legends of Lone Wolf.

Image result for lone wolf chasm of doom

As usual with these books, a significant strength is in the writing, as well as the gameplay. There is a distinct sense of ‘place’ permeating through the different books, as Mr Dever clearly takes pride in giving a sense of the protagonist travelling through snow, wildlands, cities, wilderness, mines and so forth.  This can be favourably contrasted with the anodyne ‘dungeon crawls’ in a number of other gamebooks.  (This is so pronounced that the setting of Fighting Fantasy book 12, Space Assassin, was infamously changed from a dungeon crawl to a spaceship mission without having to significantly alter the text).

As stated with regard to previous books, the existence of the Sommerswerd still have a worrying effect on combat difficulty.  Having to craft a book which would be interesting for players (theoretically) with Combat Skills ranging from 10 all the way through to 30 would be a task beyond almost all writers, and so it proves here.  In my playthrough, Lone Wolf was never serious tested in any of the fights, and I think lost no more than about half-a-dozen Endurance points.

 

Image result for lone wolf chasm of doom

Given my statistical advantage, my only real worry was ensuring that I could avoid so-called ‘insta-deaths’.  I can say unequivocally that, if it were not for my previous knowledge of the book, I would have (literally) fallen head-first into the cellar trap in the latter stages of the book.  Indeed, I would categorise this trap as unfair, in that there was no indication (in the text) whatsoever that the choice in question would lead to any danger or risk at all, let alone a death with no chance of survival.  This is true not only on a meta-level, but (in addition) the inconsistent application of Sixth Sense is applicable here, since you would expect that it (Sixth Sense) would warn Lone Wolf of such a risk.  Mind Over Matter would presumably also be helpful to either open the trap-door or create a diversion.

Image result for lone wolf chasm of doom

Each of the five books that comprise the initial ‘Kai’ series have their own distinct setting and ‘hook’.  There is the ‘dash to the capital’ of Book 1, the epic adventure to retrieve the Sommerswerd in Book 2, the arctic wanderings of Book 3 and the countryside stroll (!) of Book 4.  The desert scramble of Book 5 is for future days.

One aspect of the series (with this book being a prime example) that is well-crafted (if frustrating in a good way) is the combination of (1) strict restrictions on the number of items which can be carried and (2) a significant number of items which are either completely unuseful or only become useful in limited circumstances.

For instance, there was no real indication that the Holy Water which ended up being crucial to finishing off the final villain would be helpful at all, apart from general gamebook experience.  By contrast, I was slightly panicked about which pieces of mining equipment to take, and whether other paraphernalia would be of use.  The need to retain Meals and Healing material made the choices doubly difficult.

Image result for lone wolf chasm of doom

Unless  my memory fails me, the difficulties in this regard become even more pronounced in future books, when restrictions on Special Items are also implemented.

In summary, a well-written and crafted book, with the only (minor) quibbles being the problems caused by the Sommerswerd’s existence, and one or more ‘insta-deaths’ that struck me as unfair and without warning.

Next – Bring on the desert, and the Book of the Magnakai!





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December 6, 2016 at 07:45PM

Choice of Games: Author Interview: Caleb Wilson – “Cannonfire Concerto”

Choice of Games: Author Interview: Caleb Wilson – “Cannonfire Concerto”

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Choice of Games’ latest release will be Cannonfire Concerto, an adventure of spies, intrigue, musical genius, and more set in a world not too unlike Napoleonic Europe, called “Meropa.” I sat down with the author, Caleb Wilson, to learn more about his game and his experiences writing interactive fiction. Look for Cannonfire Concerto later this week, releasing on Thursday, December 8th.


Cannonfire is a fantastic game, both in the sense that I loved it, and also that it’s set in a slightly fantastical version of perhaps Napoleonic Europe, which you call Meropa. Tell me about Meropa and some of the corresponding real-world places you explore in the game.

Meropa is definitely meant to be a cartoonish/simplified version of Napoleonic Europe. In the earliest drafts, it *was* Napoleonic Europe: Cerigne was Cologne, Kavka was Prague, Bonaventure Fox was Napoleon Bonaparte, etc. It never quite worked properly. I think that because I wanted to make the world of the game simpler and smaller than real history, it just felt weird to write about real places and people. Rienzi was never based on a particular city, though in our world it would have been a rival to Florence and Venice. Its role in the story is as the main city that has embraced “Genius” as definitely a real thing. Colubrina is like if Venice were full of mazy alleyways instead of canals. The Grand Duchy of Lithaltania is kind of all the Balkan states rolled into one. The real Lithuania was one of the last places in Europe to officially convert to Christianity. A city that’s mentioned but never visited in the final version of the game is Aessa, which was to have been modeled on Odessa.

What is “Genius?”

It’s a little ambiguous on purpose — some people consider it a soul, and some people don’t believe in it at all. I think its tentacles make it just a bit sinister. One thing that I play with a bit is how much physical presence a Genius has. The main character of Cannonfire thinks of it as something physical and separate, and seems to see it interacting with other people, though really it interacts with their Geniuses. So in a sense I think the Genius’s existence could be denied! Whatever it is, there’s no moral element to the Genius, which I guess makes it pretty different from a soul after all.

What kinds of social issues did you have in mind as you were writing it?

Hmm, maybe only the fairly obvious idea, still relevant these days, that being a skilled artist doesn’t make someone a good person. In general, I really like the inclusive mode that Choice of Games sets as the default in its games. It was really nice to work from that, and fun to try to write a character than felt consistent no matter what details the player chose.

And your background–you’re a long-time IF writer but this is your first CoG title.

Yes, I’ve written a bunch of short parser IF, mostly entered in various “minicomps” — this seems to be a term I only see in that context, but they are more or less game jams.

What were some of the unique aspects of working in ChoiceScript for you, as compared to other IF tools?

Of all the various IF tools I’ve used, ChoiceScript feels the most like writing prose fiction. But that’s also a little bit of a trap, because you can’t just write like you’re writing a novel. My technique was to make the mercurial and somewhat fickle nature of the protagonist part of the story: it’s not so much that the reader is choosing what kind of person the virtuoso is, because they’re always the kind of person who might think to do all the choices the reader is given, but instead they just help the protagonist which impulses to follow. I try to make the presented choices part of the narrative too, and when I read a piece pf choice-based IF I like to imagine the character thinking of actually doing all of these things. I also like how ChoiceScript lets you easily integrate game-aspects into the fiction, though I think there’s still a lot there for me to explore.

Do you have some favorite IF (other than your own) you want to rave about to me?

I really love the work of Chandler Groover, which is dark and fairy tale-ish. He started writing in the last few years and has
already produced a bunch of remarkable pieces, my favorite being “Midnight. Swordfight.” I’d also like to mention “With Those We Love Alive” by Porpentine and Brenda Neotenomie, which is mind-blowing and heart-breaking, even if you don’t follow its directions to draw sigils on yourself with a marker (though it really does add something kind of special).

What are you working on next for us?

I want to write another story set in Meropa! It would be very different from Cannonfire, and I now that I’m a little more familiar with how a long-form ChoiceScript story can be constructed, I have some ideas for making the focus a little different. It would explore a place that’s mentioned in Meropa but not visited, Rabami (heavily inspired by Finland), and I’d like to make it a thriller.

Proust style/Pivot-style Questionnaire questions:

What is your favorite word?

Picaresque.

Your favorite color and flower?

Green, very dark purple iris.

Your favorite composer?

Michael Nyman. His piece “Chasing sheep is best left to shepherds”, first used in the movie The Draughtsman’s Contract, is the unofficial theme song of Cannonfire Concerto.

 What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I used to imagine being a scientist. Assuming I could magically become better at math, I’d like to attempt it.

What profession would you not like to do?

Being a professional athlete seems to me to be the perfectly wrong proportions of stressful, dangerous, unfair, and ego-boostingly overpaid.

Take-out: Chinese or Mexican?

Chinese, probably? I think it survives the take-out box more intact.





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December 6, 2016 at 03:24PM

Author Interview: Caleb Wilson – “Cannonfire Concerto”

Author Interview: Caleb Wilson – “Cannonfire Concerto”

http://ift.tt/2h3fDFb

Choice of Games’ latest release will be Cannonfire Concerto, an adventure of spies, intrigue, musical genius, and more set in a world not too unlike Napoleonic Europe, called “Meropa.” I sat down with the author, Caleb Wilson, to learn more about his game and his experiences writing interactive fiction. Look for Cannonfire Concerto later this week, releasing on Thursday, December 8th.


Cannonfire is a fantastic game, both in the sense that I loved it, and also that it’s set in a slightly fantastical version of perhaps Napoleonic Europe, which you call Meropa. Tell me about Meropa and some of the corresponding real-world places you explore in the game.

Meropa is definitely meant to be a cartoonish/simplified version of Napoleonic Europe. In the earliest drafts, it *was* Napoleonic Europe: Cerigne was Cologne, Kavka was Prague, Bonaventure Fox was Napoleon Bonaparte, etc. It never quite worked properly. I think that because I wanted to make the world of the game simpler and smaller than real history, it just felt weird to write about real places and people. Rienzi was never based on a particular city, though in our world it would have been a rival to Florence and Venice. Its role in the story is as the main city that has embraced “Genius” as definitely a real thing. Colubrina is like if Venice were full of mazy alleyways instead of canals. The Grand Duchy of Lithaltania is kind of all the Balkan states rolled into one. The real Lithuania was one of the last places in Europe to officially convert to Christianity. A city that’s mentioned but never visited in the final version of the game is Aessa, which was to have been modeled on Odessa.

What is “Genius?”

It’s a little ambiguous on purpose — some people consider it a soul, and some people don’t believe in it at all. I think its tentacles make it just a bit sinister. One thing that I play with a bit is how much physical presence a Genius has. The main character of Cannonfire thinks of it as something physical and separate, and seems to see it interacting with other people, though really it interacts with their Geniuses. So in a sense I think the Genius’s existence could be denied! Whatever it is, there’s no moral element to the Genius, which I guess makes it pretty different from a soul after all.

What kinds of social issues did you have in mind as you were writing it?

Hmm, maybe only the fairly obvious idea, still relevant these days, that being a skilled artist doesn’t make someone a good person. In general, I really like the inclusive mode that Choice of Games sets as the default in its games. It was really nice to work from that, and fun to try to write a character than felt consistent no matter what details the player chose.

And your background–you’re a long-time IF writer but this is your first CoG title.

Yes, I’ve written a bunch of short parser IF, mostly entered in various “minicomps” — this seems to be a term I only see in that context, but they are more or less game jams.

What were some of the unique aspects of working in ChoiceScript for you, as compared to other IF tools?

Of all the various IF tools I’ve used, ChoiceScript feels the most like writing prose fiction. But that’s also a little bit of a trap, because you can’t just write like you’re writing a novel. My technique was to make the mercurial and somewhat fickle nature of the protagonist part of the story: it’s not so much that the reader is choosing what kind of person the virtuoso is, because they’re always the kind of person who might think to do all the choices the reader is given, but instead they just help the protagonist which impulses to follow. I try to make the presented choices part of the narrative too, and when I read a piece pf choice-based IF I like to imagine the character thinking of actually doing all of these things. I also like how ChoiceScript lets you easily integrate game-aspects into the fiction, though I think there’s still a lot there for me to explore.

Do you have some favorite IF (other than your own) you want to rave about to me?

I really love the work of Chandler Groover, which is dark and fairy tale-ish. He started writing in the last few years and has
already produced a bunch of remarkable pieces, my favorite being “Midnight. Swordfight.” I’d also like to mention “With Those We Love Alive” by Porpentine and Brenda Neotenomie, which is mind-blowing and heart-breaking, even if you don’t follow its directions to draw sigils on yourself with a marker (though it really does add something kind of special).

What are you working on next for us?

I want to write another story set in Meropa! It would be very different from Cannonfire, and I now that I’m a little more familiar with how a long-form ChoiceScript story can be constructed, I have some ideas for making the focus a little different. It would explore a place that’s mentioned in Meropa but not visited, Rabami (heavily inspired by Finland), and I’d like to make it a thriller.

Proust style/Pivot-style Questionnaire questions:

What is your favorite word?

Picaresque.

Your favorite color and flower?

Green, very dark purple iris.

Your favorite composer?

Michael Nyman. His piece “Chasing sheep is best left to shepherds”, first used in the movie The Draughtsman’s Contract, is the unofficial theme song of Cannonfire Concerto.

 What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I used to imagine being a scientist. Assuming I could magically become better at math, I’d like to attempt it.

What profession would you not like to do?

Being a professional athlete seems to me to be the perfectly wrong proportions of stressful, dangerous, unfair, and ego-boostingly overpaid.

Take-out: Chinese or Mexican?

Chinese, probably? I think it survives the take-out box more intact.





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December 6, 2016 at 02:54PM

Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2 • Re: Dragon meet 2016 AFF2

Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2 • Re: Dragon meet 2016 AFF2

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Here are my impressions about the convention: http://ift.tt/2gPjFTg

Statistics: Posted by Hullalla — Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:32 pm






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December 6, 2016 at 02:21PM

Goat Kin of the Shindarian Coast (Tunnels & Trolls)

Goat Kin of the Shindarian Coast (Tunnels & Trolls)

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The Shindarian Coast is known for two things: it's unwillingness to let travellers find their way and the Goat Kin.

Goat Kin
MR 24 (3+12)
Spite: 1/1
Special: Horn blow - Goat Kin within 30ft gain 5 combat adds next turn.
Treasure: Gusk Horn (10gp), Szit Spear (2d6).

Goat Kin hunt in herds of 3-6, moving quickly over open ground and using the reach of their spears to overcome their quarry. The leader of a Goat Kin herd is called the Gruff, identified by having the largest, most gnarled horns.

At the break of spring, the Goat mother's gather at the megalith ring called the Loom where they hope to give birth to warriors, or Hoofgord. It is said only the blessed goats birth Hoofgord, who become the most respected and richest members of the herd, some even worshipped.

The Gruff invokes the Goat god Baathonet, the grazing god through elaborate chants called trots. They must have specific ingredients, including the roots of the spinnet flower which are found across the doomswamps to the east. Chewing on these roots triggers a trance that allows the Gruff to dance for days straight. The longest trot on record is four weeks.

Reaction table (d6)
1-2 They pay no heed, having sated themselves on a recent kill
3-4. They menace the party, but are open to bribery
5-6. They assault the party with the idea of roasting them over a spit








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December 6, 2016 at 02:08PM

Christmas Explained: G is for Grandfather Frost

Christmas Explained: G is for Grandfather Frost

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Today, 6th December, is the Feast of Saint Nicholas, of whom you can find out all sorts of interesting things in Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts.

However, it is on this day that children in Poland, and other Slavic countries, are visited by Ded Moroz, or 'Grandfather Frost', an ancient Russian deity given a more secular twist by Russia's Communist regime during the 20th Century.

Check out the horns on that get-up!

You can find out more about Ded Moroz here and here.

Ded Moroz in his troika pulled by three steeds, accompanied by his granddaughter Snegurochka.

Ded Moroz and his granddaughter Snegurochka traditionally wear blue.

Ded Moroz gives Sputnik a run for its money, by the look of things.





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December 6, 2016 at 08:00AM

Christmas Explained - The perfect stocking filler this Christmas!

Christmas Explained - The perfect stocking filler this Christmas!

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The Good Book Guide described my book on the history and origins of Christmas as being, "As welcome as a warm glass of mulled wine on a wintry night, Green's guide to Christmas enhances the pleasures of the festive season, offering a witty cornucopia of Christmas facts and folklore."

It would make the ideal gift for a trivia fan, an elderly relative, or for your works Secret Santa. And what could be better than having is signed and personalised by the author too?

The book is in a hardback format and comes with a gold ribbon bookmark too.

For £15* I will send you a signed and personlised copy of Christmas Explained: Robins, Kings and Brussel Sprouts, via Royal Mail second class and signed for, to make sure it reaches you safely.

So don't delay, drop me a line today via info@jonathangreenauthor.com!


* This price covers postage and packing within the UK.



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December 6, 2016 at 02:54AM