Introduction to the Author's Development Blog
If you are interested in the background development of the Chronicles then it is here that you can find additional notes and entries regarding the long-term evolution of the Chronicles of Arborell. I first started writing the Chronicles in 1993 and for the last twenty-two years have endeavoured to expand and improve the world setting within which the story of Arborell is set. I started with Windhammer and since the completion of that gamebook as a 260 section adventure I have found myself revisiting each of the titles that have followed; updating, improving and meshing them together into a coherent history of this fantasy world. At the time of writing this introduction there are around 40 titles available within the series, and with another 40 or so to go it is indeed still a work in progress.
It is fair to say that I never leave anything static within the Chronicles for too long. The very nature of digital publishing allows for a continuous process of improvement and I have always taken advantage of this capacity to easily change what is available when I see a need for revision. The Chronicles is a constantly changing and evolving thing and what will be found here is a log of what motivates, and in some cases inspires, those changes. It is also fair to say that I really enjoy the whole creative development process that is required by anyone striving to produce interactive fiction. It is both a challenging and sometimes frustrating process but one that ultimately leads to great satisfaction. I hope you find the information provided here to be of interest.
20 August 2015
August rolls around and with it the beginning of the busiest time of the year for the Chronicles. The development of Vaeyawch continues steadily, and apace with the writing of that gamebook comes the submission phase for the Windhammer Prize. The beginning of the competition is something I particularly look forward too and already the entries are coming in. The prize is now in its eighth year and in the years since its inception has become a focal point for many people in the gamebook community. Last year was a blast and I can only imagine what will follow in the coming competition.
Vaeyawch continues as per plan and is progressing well. As I mentioned in my last post I am experimenting with a new development process for my gamebooks and it is working very well indeed. Writing a complete narrative of the entire book prior to commencing the structural design has allowed a much more focused approach to the storyline and this should be reflected in the writing. I am very eager to getting this one finished. I believe it will be an important and enjoyable addition to the overall series.
I mentioned in my last post also that I would explain the structure of the Chronicles and a bit of the background as to how the series has developed. As most readers of the Chronicles would know the series has been in development for the last twenty-two years. I started in 1993 with the writing of the first edition of Windhammer and since that time the series has expanded into a wide-ranging, interconnected network of gamebooks and linear fiction, interconnected within a cloud of supplementary titles and mediums. Looking at it as a newcomer it must seem somewhat chaotic and it is probably good to explain in some part why everything is the way it is.
When I first started writing Windhammer I knew I wanted to write something different. All fiction series tend to follow a linear progression between books, whether they be traditional fiction series or gamebook series. It is logical and expected, and allows an author to develop and unveil their story upon a chronological timeline. Unlike most linear fiction however, gamebooks give an author the opportunity to develop multiple branches within a story, and in doing so allow the reader to make their own choices in determining the path they wish to follow. It is what makes gamebooks, and most other forms of interactive fiction for that matter, so challenging to develop. The need to produce a coherent and compelling story balanced against a reader's expectation to influence the progress of that story and change their character's destiny can be quite a trick to get right.
What I wanted to do was take that essence of reader-controlled exploration of a story and expand it to allow a free flowing exploration of the entire history of the world. The idea being that each title produced for the Chronicles should act as a small piece in a puzzle that can be put together over time to produce a coherent narrative of the history of Arborell. What should occur when all the pieces are complete is a story that can be read both in a liner, chronological manner or piecemeal, the reader taking those parts of the story that appeal, then filling in the rest as they see fit.
For the Chronicles I found my mind wandering very early in its development upon questions of why certain events come to pass and how important character's find their way into the storyline. Why does a character turn up at a certain critical point, and what is the history of the world that makes the situations encountered so important? It seemed very important to me that those questions were properly answered. It is a curious part of the process of how the Chronicles has expanded that each new title has come from questions raised within previous books. The inclusion of a new character, or the emergence of an important item has spurred ideas for new, connective storylines that draw into the main story, and from those ideas all the different components of the Chronicles of Arborell have arisen.
What will eventually come to pass will be a full and complete description of the world within which the story of Halokim Vesh is set. All the history, and all the stories of all the major characters he encounters have their own stories and together all those stories are woven into a coherent history of the world, complete with mythology, cultures and languages.
If you look at the Finding Your Way flowchart it can be seen that the Chronicles has essentially developed into seven different fiction series, those being six smaller series each interconnected to a central storyline that extends from the prehistory of Arborell to the catastrophic events of the the Jotun Wars and their aftermath. Each of the ancillary series provide an adventure that either parallels the main story or connects directly to its most important events. An example of this can be seen in the Jotun of the West series. This series tells the story of Tansen'Delving, a Jotun of Kraal Delving who becomes very important to the second core gamebook, Earth and Stone. His story explains why he appears in that gamebook and gives background to the culture and history of the Oera'dim, all of which is of great importance to the circumstances of the third core gamebook, The Jotun War, as well.
It is my hope that a reader delving into the mythology and culture of the Oera'dim would come to appreciate the enormous changes wrought upon Tansen as he uncovers his true destiny and begins to fathom the reliance both Men and Oera'dim must place upon each other. How Tansen and Halokim become allies is a major thrust of the central gamebooks and, I believe, is only really expressed properly by the provision of an entire four-part series dedicated to Tansen alone.
A look at the series synopsis and the Finding Your Way flowchart give a good indication as to how each of the minor series connect into the main central storyline. I can say that apart from these series there are also, of course, all the supplementary materials, micro-gamebooks and other source materials provided to further expand the world setting and immerse the reader deeper within it.
A cursory look at the series synopsis shows that I have not limited the telling of the Chronicles to only gamebooks. The Chronicles is unique in the array of different formats used to tell its story and this has evolved separately as a need to use the best method to express the title being developed. Intermingled within the Chronicles can be found gamebooks, linear fiction including novellas, journals, mythologies, and full-length novels; card-based interactive adventures, large-scale wargames, fantasy languages, map-based micro-gamebooks, almanacs, glossaries, and an ever-growing Atlas of Arborell.
All these components fit together to tell the larger story of Arborell and in doing so set the stage for the last two novels, A Mentor's Last Duty and Utterer of the Word, which finalise the central storyline and tie up all the different paths within the stories. It can be said that the Chronicles are unusual in the diversity of mediums used to tell the story of Arborell. It has always been however, up to the reader to choose the path they wish to take, and it is my hope that every reader has a different experience in uncovering their own travels through my world. I hope you will enjoy the journey.
2 July 2015
June has come and gone and it has been another productive month indeed. In the continuing development of Vaeyawch I have made up both of the book covers, written the first drafts for around 80 sections, and spent time developing the main characters and the landscape within which readers will travel. I can say that it has been both a productive and interesting month for a number of reasons.
I have found the development process for Vaeyawch to have evolved into quite a different process from how I would normally put together a gamebook. As I develop gamebooks solely for digital release I am not constrained by book size. Generally whatever it takes to tell the story is how big the book becomes but with Vaeyawch I want to keep the storyline to 300 sections. There are a couple of reasons for this but mostly it has been to remain true to the vision I have for the structure of the prequel gamebooks and how they will fit into the entire series. I have to say that in doing so I have found myself being challenged by those size constraints.
What I have found is that telling a story within very defined limits makes an author think long and hard about how they structure their story, and causes them to be quite brutal about what is included and what must be excluded, about what is relevant and what is not. It requires more time and energy to properly plan, and as I have a tendency to throw more and more stuff into an adventure as I go along a lot more discipline on my part is definitely required as well.
This is not the first time however, that I have found a need to limit my enthusiasm. I found this same process in particular whilst developing the micro-gamebook series. Having only two pages to provide an entire adventure gave an opportunity to see how an interactive adventure might be told in as efficient a manner as possible and those lessons I have incorporated into this latest gamebook. There are a number of strategies that can be used to maximise the information given in a limited number of sections and I think that in the end it leads to clearer writing, a more concise plot-line and a better reader experience.
I have no doubt that when it is done Vaeyawch will have 300 sections and cover probably 200 - 250 pages. It will be large enough to tell the full story of Dellig Tull but also have a wealth of other information woven into its narrative that will make it both immersive and informative. That is my objective anyway.
On another tangent, I do find also that with interactive fiction there are real possibilities for developing characters within a storyline that are not necessarily available in linear fiction. The opportunity to give a character choices, especially those relating to ethical and moral considerations, and when confronted by purely practical situations, can send a story in so many different directions and I think that is one aspect of what I enjoy about writing gamebooks.
Being able to give those choices also opens up all new possibilities for the reader as well. A reader can overlay their own set of values upon a character and see how those values play out in a fictional setting. I believe that providing a good range of plausible choices is one of the great challenges in writing interactive fiction. A well written gamebook will give the reader reason to pause and think about what they should do and what they would do themselves in that situation. I believe the best gamebooks allow a reader to do just that, immerse them in a fantasy world and then make them think about what they must do to reach the objectives of the adventure whilst doing so in the context of their own values and judgement.
As a prequel gamebook Vaeyawch is the first in the chronological order of the Chronicles. Because of this it must fulfil a number of different objectives other than simply telling a story. In this book you will find a solid grounding in the dangers of early settlement in the New World and an appreciation of how tenuous the settler's hold on the New World was in those early years. It should be noted that the settlers of the New World are all products of the Old World and with them has been transported all the prejudices, agendas and ambitions that had so polarised the Old. This comes to the surface in Vaeyawch and to a great extent drives the urgency of Dellig's mission. The Men of the Free State wish to build for themselves a better world but to do so they will have to put aside their histories and their hatreds. Not such an easy thing.
Next month I will report again on the progress of Vaeyawch but also provide some background information on the structure of the entire series and how it evolved in the way it did. The Chronicles has come a long way since the original Windhammer was first released and since that day its expansion into a three part series and then into even wider territory is a story all in itself. One that some may find interesting.
Of course I cannot conclude this post without mentioning that the Windhammer Prize is only one month away. There is always a lot of work involved in putting the competition together but it is always worth it. If you have an interest in the competition everything you need can be found at the Windhammer Prize homepage.
May Glory and Renown follow all who enter.
1 June 2015
Welcome fellow travellers. This month sees the commencement of an exciting new phase in the Chronicles series. As mentioned in last month's post I have started work on the first of the Prequel Gamebook series, Vaeyawch. This gamebook is set in the thirteenth year of settlement of Men upon the island of Dromannion and tells a tale of great loyalty and deep mystery. Shalen'gael, the last of the Gaels of the Old World has gone missing and his friend Dellig Tull is tasked by the Civil Authority to find him. It is however, no easy mission. Dellig's loyalty to his friend leads him on a hunt through the settlements of the Free State and then into the wilds of the New World, and in doing so he will encounter all the dangers of a world that is both foreign and mysterious. Here will be seen the first contact between Men and Oera'dim and the first signs that Arborell is far more than it seems.
Vaeyawch is an important gamebook within the overall series as it introduces, for the first time, a number of important undercurrents to the ongoing story of Arborell. The first is the emergence of an extremist group thought to have been left behind in the Old World. Known as the Charters of Reason they play an important part in the early history of Arborell and arise as key players in this adventure.
The second is the plight of the NomDruse. Used by Shalen'gael to breach the Ashgard the children have had to endure the lingering effects of their use as vessels to store his power, and the consequences of that contact with the Hev'duil figures heavily in the motivations of the Gael and his subsequent disappearance.
The third is the need for the Kalboreans of the Free state to leave their island home and colonise the mainland. It is their impatience that leads to much of the conflict that plagues Man in the New World but also is instrumental in the development of the Four Nations and their dominion of Arborell. Whilst Men live within the borders of the Free State they remain unnoticed by the Oera'dim but it will be the incursions by the Kalboreans upon the mainland that will set the flame for all the wars to come.
The fourth is the nature of the New World itself. At the time of first settlement Arborell is a forest world, the plains and open wildlands that we come to know in later books not yet in existence. It is a dark and unpredictable landscape, strewn with the Kraals of the Oera'dim and resident to a variety of predatory creatures only found in later books in the farthest reaches of the known world. In Vaeyawch this tangled and claustrophobic landscape provides the main challenge to Dellig Tull and will prove the greatest impediment to the finding of his friend.
So far I have completed the entire introductory section, drafted a full narrative for the story and begun drafting the individual sections. I spent some time redrawing the map of eastern Arborell relevant to the year YS13, have produced new character and combat record sheets, and have been experimenting with a more graphically pleasing page layout. All in all it has been a productive month, I expect that with the general layout and foundation of the gamebook now put to paper the writing of the individual sections will flow relatively quickly.
On another note, it should be mentioned that there remains now only two months until the submission phase begins for the 2015 Windhammer Prize. Very much looking forward to what comes from this year's competition.
More news regarding the development of Vaeyawch will follow next month. If you have any questions regarding the development of this gamebook please contact me using the comments link given below.
29 April 2015
Time certainly flies when you're having fun and a lot of time has passed since the last post to my Author Development Blog. More than two years in fact and I am amazed at how remiss I have been with its upkeep. Of course much has happened in the intervening years, we have had two successful Windhammer competitions and the Chronicles has grown by another sixteen titles (although a good ten of them were microgamebooks and their attendant compilation editions). It has been a busy time for a number of reasons and all has been tempered by a serious illness in the family. The Chronicles however, continue to grow and develop and it is how the Chronicles shall progress into the future that I have decided to make the subject of this blog entry.
It is a truth that in the development of the series I have taken a very disordered approach. Anyone looking at the downloads page can see an irregular disposition of titles, spread across many of the different branches of the story that make up its ongoing narrative. I can admit that I have concentrated mostly on the aspects of the Chronicles that relate to its history over the past few years, and in doing that have experimented with a range of different approaches to telling those stories.
The most unusual of those experiments has been the two-page microgamebooks and I have had a great deal of fun putting them together. The ability to tell a wide range of short stories in that format has provided an even greater level of depth to the history of Arborell whilst not detracting from the wider narrative of the Chronicles themselves. I have come to realise however, that following such a development path has led to myself being constantly diverted from the main development agenda, and that is to tell the overall story in a cogent and structured manner.
I cannot say that I woke up one morning and thought to myself, today's the day I get back to writing the Chronicles properly, but after some careful review of what I have done in the last few years it has become very apparent that I need to get organised and do the series in an orderly and structured fashion.
Something that struck me as I looked through my half-finished projects was the status of Honour Amongst Thieves, the next in the Windhammer companion series of novellas. I first started it in 2005 and as I thumbed through the notes and initial thirty pages that I had actually finished, it became clear that I had been spending too much time experimenting on the different facets of the Chronicles and not enough time actually writing the series. That will now change.
You will notice also that I have recently released the completed PDF edition of Honour Amongst Thieves. After seeing how long I had kept it unfinished I felt obliged to write the rest and I can say that I really enjoyed getting it all done. I hope readers will find it an intriguing addition to the chronicles.
From this point forward the development of the series will be prosecuted in its proper chronological order. Regardless of all the half-finished projects at hand I will be releasing titles from now on as they are listed in the Finding Your Way flowchart. To this end I am now in development of Vaeyawch (pronounced Vay-ah-wek for those who speak the Common Anglish) the first of the Prequel gamebooks and a direct follow on from the Song of the Dromannion journal. This gamebook is set in the Year of Settlement 13 and details the adventures of Dellig Tull as he searches for the whereabouts of Shalen'gael. Much will be written in this blog of how the adventure progresses, but suffice to say at this time that it will be an introduction to the world of Arborell in its wild state. It should be a great ride and a fitting start to the gamebooks in this series.
After Vaeyawch I will continue to The Halls of Elanna and then complete Adamant. With those Prequel gamebooks out of the way I can then complete all the attendant unfinished gamebooks and novellas associated with Windhammer. After that the story will progress as listed on the flowchart, each new release following the chronological flow of the story. In this way I can finally get the structure it deserves and I think a better deal for all the committed readers of the Chronicles. In the end that is what matters and that will be how the development of the series will progress.
To this end I will be posting a new entry each month on this blog, outlining all that has been done and anything else of interest in gamebooks. If you are interested in this year's Windhammer Prize I should remind you that the entry guidelines for this year are now out. Some things have changed so a quick perusal will be of value.
2 January 2013
It has been a while since I have had an opportunity to post to the author's devblog and with the commencement of 2013 it is important to document what has happened since August of last year. Of the greatest import has been the overwhelming success of the 2012 Windhammer Prize. With more than 22 entries the prize exceeded all expectations and proved to be an amazing compilation of gamebook talent and ideas. I had a great time putting on the competition and look forward to its 2013 successor. It should be said that the increase in size of the competition will necessitate a number of important changes to the rules, especially regarding voting and the presentation of the entry list on the Windhammer Prize homepage. I can also say that there will be major changes to the number of awards given and the size of the cash prizes offered. Although I have done so before I would like to say thanks once again to everyone who participated in the competition. The authors did a great job and voters worked their way through a huge amount of gamebook goodness to provide both votes and feedback. Well done all round.
As far as gamebook development goes the second half of 2012 was very busy. The ongoing design and writing of A Murder of Crows continues. The Windhammer Prize did take up a lot of the time available but there has been significant advances on this large and complex story. Also completed during 2012 was a number of micro-gamebooks. These two-page adventures are the product of an article I read on one of Stuart Lloyd's blogs about small, compact adventures that still provided a full gamebook experience. I thought it would be a great challenge to try and put together such an adventure and enjoyed the process so much that I put together five stories, all set within the realms of Arborell and all highlighting a small part of the overall history of Arborell.
These five adventures can be found at the chronicle's download page and are presented in a PDF format for easy printing and use. I must say that I really like these small adventures. Most of the stories included in the Chronicles of Arborell are wide in scope and cover important aspects of the history of Arborell. The micro-adventures are a different beast, providing a focused glimpse at very specific events within that history. I have no doubt that I will produce many more of these two-page gamebooks. They serve to introduce new characters and differing perspectives of the larger world of Arborell and I find that very cool.
On another gamebook related note the Well of Shadows PDF adventure has done very well, and was released late in the year also in both an online and downloadable HTML format. All of these versions of this adventure can be found at the download page.
That's it for the moment. As I write this I am revisiting the Song of the Dromannion journal to update its writing and give it a more polished PDF presentation. This will include new graphics and a substantial rewrite of the journal entries themselves. As soon as this is completed I will then be returning to the A Murder of Crows gamebook. More than enough, I think, to keep me busy for a while.
1 August 2012
From today the 2012 Windhammer competition begins and I am looking forward to reading the gamebooks it will produce. Last year there were eight titles submitted and all proved of high quality and diverse theme and content. This year the inclusion of publication of the winners' entries will no doubt widen the scope of entries submitted and it is going to be very interesting to see what is forwarded.
On another note I received a very interesting question from Dark regarding the astronomy of Arborell. My responses and his follow-up questions I have posted at the Q&A page for anyone interested in how the physical world represented in the books is mirrorred in the creation myths of the Oera'dim. My thanks again to Dark for giving me further reason to refine the consistency of the world within which the Chronicles of Arborell is set.
This month sees the release of the Well of Shadows, a new gamebook adventure from the Chronicles of Arborell and a companion adventure to the first Torchlight series gamebook, Quest for the Orncryst. This new gamebook outlines the attempts by the Deep Guild of Das Vallendor to find the whereabouts of the Orncryst of the Trell'sara and the mission undertaken to gain this knowledge within the deep ruins of Allas'nerig. As an adventure it takes a Brother of the Deep Guild far below ground and into a world wholly different from anything he has previously encountered. I believe it is going to be an important addition to the Chronicles and I am looking forward to its release in August in PDF format. Both a html and online release will follow shortly thereafter.
1 May 2012
A couple of days ago I received a very nice email from a new gamebook development studio called Epnuke Studios. Apart from the positive comments they put forward regarding the Chronicles they asked also if they might place some banners at Arborell.com to promote their new gamebook app, Saint George. I had no problem doing this for them, as anything that promotes gamebooks is both good for the advertiser and also good for the Chronicles as well. I mention it here in passing because it is further evidence of how gamebooks and particularly gamebook apps, are growing and expanding into new media and taking their place besides more established forms of entertainment and gaming.
It was only five years ago that nobody was publishing new gamebook titles. There was a large number of amateur gamebook titles, and thankfully this is an energetic and growing part of the gamebook genre, but few publishers were prepared to put down hard cash to develop and distribute new interactive fiction. With the advent of the growth of hand held devices that all changed. A number of app development studios started that were interested in the gamebook concept and how it might be translated into the new technologies. At first most were only interested in taking old gamebook titles and porting them to a digital form but with the success of studios such as Tin Man Games and their wholly original and new Gamebook Adventures that has all changed. Since then new studios have put forward new and exciting gamebook ideas and paper-based gamebooks have started to reappear as well. The Destiny Quest gamebooks are a great example of how authors are now taking gamebooks in new directions, and we can only hope that this emergence of great original talent will continue.
There is of course the huge wealth of gamebook interest that is also growing on the internet itself. Whether it be fan forums or gamebook blogs, roleplaying news sites or the huge number of app sites that now take gamebook apps very seriously, it all indicates a resurgence of interest in the genre that goes far beyond simple nostalgia or just passing interest. Hard core gamebook fans kept the interest alive in the years when it appeared gamebooks had died, but the digital age has brought it all back to life and given the genre a new injection of enthusiasm and talent.
It is great to see new authors bringing that new energy to both paper and digital gamebooks. The Windhammer Prize was started to showcase new talent and it has proven that real talent resides out there and that authors are prepared to put in the effort to produce great interactive adventures. I am glad to see how well some of those authors have done and am always excited about what new talent might be uncovered with each succeeding year's comp. Exciting times indeed for a genre that deserves even greater success.
On another note I can report that my own gamebook development continues unabated. I should have the next title out before mid year. Watch this space...
24 March 2012
I remember some years ago reading an article about an author of Wild West pulp fiction. The author had been very well known in the US and had written a huge number of books, I think more than eighty in total. What I remember most about the article was firstly that the writer was Australian and as far as I could tell from the article had never been to the US. It was a testament to how much he had researched that period of US history, and how much the author must have immersed himself into the setting he wanted to create for his readers. The other thing that struck me was that he was also very well known for not reviewing his old material before starting on a new book. Apparently it was not unusual for old characters that had been killed off in previous titles to spring up alive and well in future storylines. He had forgotten that he had killed off the characters and needless to say it did cause some confusion amongst his avid readers.
I remember the article because it highlighted that in any long term writing project it is important to review what you have done on a regular basis, and to ensure the continuity of the world setting you are creating. Although I have over the years reviewed and updated every title in the Chronicles at least three times there are circumstances when even small changes can have large effects upon the consistency of a world setting and those effects can sometimes go wholly unnoticed to the author. I was reminded of this again recently after posting my last blog entry here. The Ten Top Tips for Survival in Arborell was well received but some questions from Dark, a long-time friend and reader of the Chronicles gave me reason to pause and think.
The questions came down to two particular issues, the proper handling of Sharyah, and the real value of gold. With the first question on Sharyah the observation was made that even though the rules regarding these talismans state that no more than three of the these can be held at any one time there were instances within the Torchlight adventure game that required the collection of more. The most obvious contravention being in the section of the Players Guide giving ideas for Free Play Mode objectives that proposes a mission to collect a total of six of these talismans. In the world setting as it is formulated this could only lead to a devastating explosion and obviously was not a good outcome to pursue. When I read Dark's question on this I went back to my Torchlight notes and saw the obvious discrepancy.
Fortunately I have one advantage that my fellow Australian author of Wild West fiction did not have. Whereas he would have been unable to change anything about his books once they were published I can easily make the changes required and upload new download files. This I did straight away but in the process also found a number of other small issues that I changed at the same time. The updated Torchlight pdf and html downloads are now available for anyone wanting the revised titles.
The second question regarding gold was far more problematic. Dark had found an inconsistency in the idea that because Dragons are addicted to gold it is impossible to have the metal in your possession and not be killed for it. Because of this gold had come to have no value in Arborell and therefore was a worthless metal. The inconsistency comes in the question that if gold has no real value then why was it in abundance as a part of the StoneKing's treasure trove in the Deep Vault at Stoneholme? According to the storyline the gold had to be present to draw out the Dragon from its egg and to then sustain it for the long years of its incarceration in the Vault, but ultimately it did not make sense that the gold should be there at all. And this left me with a problem to solve.
In reply to Dark's questions it became apparent that to maintain the idea, which is very important for an upcoming storyline within the Chronicles, that gold is a dangerous commodity to possess above ground I was missing something of great importance. It is true that treasure can take many forms, be it precious gems, works of art, great sculpture, or any number of other things that humanity places high value upon. The only problem was that in many different ways I had included gold as a part of many aspects of life in Arborell including as treasure, woven in fine garments and in decorative items and room furnishings. What was I to do?
The obvious thing to do was to change everything and remove the use of gold in most of the settings that it had been described from the Chronicles, especially from the Windhammer Core gamebook where it figures most prominently. In some cases this was easy, in others not so much. Gold still has its part to play in the Deep Vault but it became necessary to create something that could take the place of the metal in other settings. I decided the best thing would be to create a new precious metal called Azuril. It would be something unique to Arborell and as valuable as gold might be in the real world. Blue in colour it is mined along the borders of the Colderai mountains in the south-west of the world and in the far west of the Krodestaag Mountains. Also known as Elanna's Tears it is a malleable metal that has the unusual property of glimmering slightly in low-light settings. This has made it highly prized by craftsmen, jewellers and garment makers.
Having created Azuril as a precious metal does not however, answer the original question as to why there was so much gold in the Deep Vault. What follows is the answer.
The treasure trove itself was the accumulated wealth of hundreds of years of Dwarvendim commerce and consisted of vast quantities of precious metals, gems and valuable objects. The gold however, was included in the structure of the Deep Vault not for its value but for its decorative properties alone. Deep below ground it was believed that the gold would be safe from any Dragon's notice and the Dwarvendim took the opportunity to include the metal in a series of large wall panels, statues and ornate archways that lined the walls of the Vault. In its heyday the Deep Vault had been a richly adorned chamber and the Dwarvendim used the accumulated gold at their disposal to enhance its visual splendour. It was this gold that coaxed the Dragon from its egg.
All the changes required for the Windhammer Core gamebook have been addressed and now there are also new pdf and html download files that reflect these changes. As with Torchlight I also adjusted a few other things as well and the new files can be found at the Chronicles download page.
It is fair to say that maintaining the world of Arborell as a consistent and logical fantasy setting can have its difficulties. Over the years Dark has brought many issues to my attention and I think the Chronicles are a much better series because of it. I hope he continues to delve deep into the world I have created.
8 March 2012
In the midst of writing my way through a ruin known to the Jotun of the West as the Wells of Light it occurred to me that like the real world there are certain rules for survival in Arborell that remain true no matter the circumstances that they are applied to. Just as we do not willingly put our hands into fire, hold up a metal rod in a lightning storm or walk with our eyes closed into traffic, there reside with the practicalities of living in Arborell certain truths that can help a traveller avoid many of the dangers of the world and go safely on their way. After looking at the series as a whole the following ten tips for survival have been formulated. Some are self-evident, some not so much. No matter the circumstances however, these ten rules of conduct will help a player negotiate the world of Arborell and probably keep them alive until adventure's end.
The Top Ten Tips For Survival In Arborell
- Kill anything that tries to kill you.
Self evident to some extent but an important factor to take into account whenever considering your options. Arborell is filled with combatants, predators and creatures of malice that do not see the world in any shade of grey. For them it is kill or be killed and the same level of commitment must be maintained by any traveller wishing to survive their attentions. And don't think it is only the animal life you have to be worried about. The plants and the insects can get pretty testy sometimes as well.
- Leave EarthMagic to those that understand it.
This is a basic truth of Arborell and applies to anyone thinking about picking up any talisman and activating it. EarthMagic governs itself, it cannot be harnessed and it cannot be manipulated. You use it only at the behest of the Three Powers of the World and the results of its use will never be exactly what you expect. Having said this the use of Sharyah is less problematic if you understand the consequences of possessing them. They will activate on their own on many occasions and always they will use whatever power is required to do the job asked of them. Be careful what you ask for as there will be many times when the results will be overwhelmingly destructive.
- Do not face the Treachersa in the open.
The Treachersa is a storm of lethal power that should not be weathered in the open. Many travellers have disappeared in such storms and no Being that finds themselves in their grasp comes away unscathed. It is fortunate that the Treachersa generally give plenty of warning of their approach and even a major detour to proper shelter is worth the time lost.
- Do not look upon the face of the Shan'duil.
This is of most importance to the Oera'dim as it is a condition of their existence that they cannot look upon the physical form of the River of Life and survive the encounter. To do so leads to immediate dissolution not only of their bodily form but also of the otherwise eternal spark of their existence. For Men as well contact with the Shan'duil can be problematic. Many Men have had their wits taken from them and many more have become mindless Shamblers, walking the dark places of the world until their bodies literally fall apart. In its power the Shan'duil is overwhelming and nothing that comes into contact with it can remain unchanged.
- Never carry gold above ground.
It is common knowledge amongst both Men and Oera'dim that to carry gold is a death sentence. Since their creation Dragons have coveted the shining metal and no traveller can have it in their possession without bringing themselves to the attention of those great serpents. It must always be remembered that Dragons can sense gold at any distance and even the smallest piece will bring them out. Only gold that has remained below ground can elude their addiction and it is better left there.
- Do not activate magical items that are damaged.
Magical items maintain there potency only when they remain whole and undamaged. An artifact or construct of EarthMagic that has been broken in any way can lose its capacity to perform its function or may perform that function congruent to the nature of the damage it has sustained. In many cases the device will simply run out of control and then detonate when the power it is summoning cannot be properly restrained. The first rule of using artifacts is that they must be inspected before use and in doing so confirmed that they remain undamaged.
- Never knowingly walk into an Arachnari nest.
Of all the creatures that infest the dark places of Arborell the Arachnari provide the most lethal danger. It is a truth of Arborell that no Arachnari ventures from its nest alone, and that even one of these spider-like monsters can kill a fully armoured Jotun. Any Man or Oera'dim that ventures into a nest will not survive the encounter and the only way to ensure safety is to give them a wide berth.
- Never place two Sharyah of the same type together.
When the Sharyah of the Trell'sara were created in the Ancient World they were used by Mutan overseers as tools to supplement the efficiency of their slave hordes. Mindful however, that the Trell did not trust even their own Mutan they built into the devices an incapacity to co-exist in close proximity with any other Sharyah. This meant that a Mutan could safely carry only one of the devices and this limited the power that could be wielded by any one Mutan. In the millenia that have passed the Sharyah have slowly lost their power, and even though they are still potent devices they have less capacity than they previously delivered. In these modern times this means that up to three Sharyah can be carried by any one individual, but it has been proven with devastating results that no two Sharyah of the same type can ever be placed together. To do so leads to an uncontrolled eruption of power that builds quickly into a detonation of overwhelming destructive force.
- Always watch your back at sunsrise and sunsset.
For a traveller of the wilds of Arborell the most dangerous of times have always been at the rising and the setting of the suns. It is when the suns are low in the sky that the predators of Arborell are most active and of all these predators it is the Kreel that are the most dangerous. These winged reptiles glide at high altitude, watching for long shadows upon the ground at dusk and dawn that signpost possible prey. When found they begin a wide arcing descent that builds speed and sets up the Kreel for its attack. When almost at ground level the reptile levels out and skims the ground, racing towards its intended victim. Death usually comes as a moment of tearing flesh and breaking bone as the Kreel's talons tear across its prey's upper body. They are killers possessed of great strength and considerable ferocity and will always press an attack if their initial assault is unsuccessful.
- Be aware that things left behind are not necessarily abandoned.
Many times a traveller of Arborell will come upon an item that appears to have been left behind or abandoned. This is not always the case and such items are frequently booby-trapped or are vessels for the transport of particularly nasty entities. In either case to pick up such an item is a calculated risk and one that a traveller should consider carefully. Many unsuspecting Beings have been blown apart when searching booby-trapped sacks, crates or bodies and more than one victim has been killed by a creature that lies concealed as an everyday implement or artifact.
These ten tips for survival are not all that a traveller within Arborell should be mindful of, but certainly have proven themselves the most useful. The more you journey within Arborell the more evident these rules will appear. Keep them in mind and you will be better prepared.
1 March 2012
The rules are out and the prizes for this year have been announced. It is a real boon to the Windhammer Prize that we can now offer publication of the winning entries as a gamebook app. Thanks go to Tin Man Games for their very generous offer. All other prizes are being maintained and I believe that this new addition to the prize pool will greatly increase the exposure of the competition to prospective entrants and readers.
As I have mentioned in other parts of the site all prospective entrants should read the new comp guidelines carefully. Issues such as length of entry and original content will be of greater importance this year and the quality of entries regarding spell checking and play-testing will be given greater weight when accepting submissions. May Glory and Renown follow all who enter.
23 February 2012
Its now only a week until the competition guidelines are posted for this year's Windhammer Prize. Last year's was a total blast and its going to be great to see what is forwarded this year. Although not a lot can be said at the moment there is going to be an addition to the winners' prize pool that will really kick the whole competition along and give authors a serious reason to submit. I started the competition because it was evident that there were a lot of authors out there, writing gamebooks and in a lot of cases writing really good ones. It seemed long overdue that there be a proper international competition that could showcase those authors and it has been very pleasing to see the quality of the entries that have been submitted. It is harder to believe that we're already on the cusp of the fifth competition, and the way interest has been spiking pre-comp it will no doubt be a very good year indeed.
For anyone that is interested in entering, the new guidelines will be up on the 1st of March. Because of a number of important changes that have been made it will be essential that entrants read the new rules carefully. Most notably the tightening of the rule regarding original works and the details on the new prize addition should not be overlooked.
14 February 2012
Today I spent some time looking through all the notes and development materials for my current gamebook, A Murder of Crows. What struck me first was how much the project has changed since its first inception and secondly the amount of time I have spent on it. When I first began the Jotun of the West series the main intention was to provide an adventure based on the Jotun Tansen'Delving, that would trace his story from first becoming a warrior to his meeting with Halokim Vesh in the second core gamebook, Earth and Stone. It was intended to be a series of short gamebooks and the first book, Shards of Moonlight was no more than 120 sections, short enough by any gamebook standard. What I have found however, is that I cannot restrict a story once it starts to develop, and with A Murder of Crows the story of Tansen'Delving has indeed evolved. Of greatest interest to me has been the development of the cultural rules and the mythology by which the Oera'dim measure their lives and how their culture serves to keep violent and chaotic Beings in check. I have found that creating that culture has allowed the story to develop in surprising ways and to some extent it has taken on a life of its own. It is something that I have had to be very mindful of in the last few months and it certainly has lead me to redefine the story and in some aspects redraft it.
The greater surprise was that I laid down the first draft of the gamebook in 2005, and with that discovery spent some time trying to work out why it has taken so long. This has led to the realisation that I can be very easily distracted, having written roughly ten other titles since starting Murder and always finding something else to divert my attention. To fix this is easy enough. I have decided that I will not be starting any new projects until Murder is finished and although I have a number of new titles planned for this year I must finish this first. It will be interesting to see if I can keep that promise...
18 January 2012
Its 2012 and it looks very positive for the gamebooks genre. The new gamebook apps that have become a part of the interactive fiction scene in the last few years are proving a great boost to the genre overall, and certainly increasing interest in game-books in general. Kudos have to go to Gamebook Adventures for their commitment to new and original gamebooks and their capacity to take interactive fiction to places it may not necessarily have been before. The new Judge Dredd gamebook series is a really exciting develop-ment and it is good to see sci-fi is now taking off. Infinite Universe and Gun Dogs are new series that should really increase gamebook interest as well.
For the Chronicles of course this is nothing but good news. The interest generated by all the new players in this genre has left readers/players with a hankering for everything game-book that might be out there and this has translated into a huge increase in the number of downloads taken through the Chronicles website. In this coming year a number of new titles will be added to the series catalogue and I can only see good things happening in the genre in general. It does indeed look like 2012 will be a good year for gamebooks.
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1 January 2012 - A Review of 2011
Its summer down here in OZ and once again its time to recap the major news events of the year for the Chronicles of Arborell. The year that has passed has been a fantastic one for the series and in the last twelve months a number of important new releases, as well as a load of updates and revisions, has extended the Chronicles into new areas, and increased the overall depth of titles and supplementary documentation now available to readers. What follows is a review of all these major developments.
Early in the year came the new Windhammer Enhanced Combat System, a combat rule-set designed to allow players using the gamebooks in the Chronicles of Arborell series the capacity to develop their own individual fighting styles. This title has proven very popular with players who enjoy a greater level of combat control than is available in the standard combat rules.
Around mid-year we released Warriors of the March. This new wargame from the Chronicles has been provided as a table-top wargaming system that allows players the ability to recreate and fight the Horde Wars of Arborell. Using card tiles to represent fighting units an entire battlefield can be developed and played out. This large-scale strategy game includes all fighting units used by the Grand Army of the Four Nations and the Oera'dim Army of the March. A new Sixth Horde War campaign guide is currently in the wind and will be available during 2012. Future additions to this wargame will also include the War of Tree and Leaf and the Great Insurrection.
At year's end came the Quest for the Orncryst 2011 Edition. Whilst not a brand new title it was a major redevelopment of the original game with a complete redo of the gamebook sections and the inclusion of a number of rule additions. This card-based gamebook has proven to be one of the Chronicle's most popular titles and it has been well worth the work required to give it a new polish.
During the course of 2011 a number of titles were updated. These titles mostly were revised and then reformatted as printable PDF files. Most important of these additions were the Blood and Iron PDF edition, the Windhammer Core Gamebook PDF Edition, and the release of a new instalment of the A Murder of Crows Online gamebook. Of these updates the Windhammer Core Gamebook was the most involved, including not only a wide range of improvements but also the incorporation of a number of additional supplementary documents including the Visualising Windhammer appendix. At this time the full A Murder of Crows gamebook is under development and should also be released in 2012.
Of considerable note in 2011 was the successful completion of this year's Windhammer Prize. Easily the most successful to date, congratulations should once again go to Andrew Wright and his entry, Sea of Madness and to the Merit Award winners, Ashton Saylor and Zachary Carango. It was a tough competition and all who participated should be proud of the high quality of the entries submitted. I am seriously looking forward to 2012's comp.
As is always the case 2011 saw a wide range of necessary improvements and updates to the Chronicles of Arborell website and its huge amount of supplementary documentation. Apart from the revision and updating of all the core pages and more than 350 other content pages I also included a new Q&A page to archive some interesting questions posed to the author, plus a new access page for visitors who use screen readers to access the chronicles. This year also saw the inclusion of an Author's Development Blog and the creation of a Facebook page for the Chronicles titled, "Chronicles of Arborell Gamebooks".
For the year ahead the Chronicles has two main objectives. The first is the completion of the Murder of Crows gamebook and the delivery of the Sixth Horde War campaign guide for the Warriors of the March Wargaming system. If time allows the third gamebook in the Jotun of the West series, The Horns of Gorgoroth, will also be commenced.
2011 proved a most successful year for the Chronicles. Thanks to all who have visited and downloaded the series. May 2012 be a happy and prosperous year for us all.