Published Gamebooks I've worked on:

Some writing communities I'm involved with:

Kickstart My Heart!

Kickstarter - Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories
Goblin's Bounty: A Gamebook with Collectable Cards


I must admit I've never been a big fan of "glam metal" (I was more a fan of "thrash metal" growing up in the 80's and 90's) but I did like this song. I used to play Kickstart my Heart by Motley Crue (with the "metal-dots" that is) before going to school...

Not that any of that has anything to do with this blog post! No, this is meant to be a post on some of the great Kickstarter campaigns around at the moment, and why you should back them if you're into gamebooks or role-playing games. Like anything creative I guess, the success of these things depends on publicity more than anything else, so here's my effort to help others out there... Not that I can say I'm very good at publicity: I think I've won more awards and nominations for my novels in the last month or two than I've actually sold haha, but hey let's stay on topic for the moment:

 

Arcana Agency: The Thief of Memories

This is the Kickstarter campaign that comes to mind most at the moment, as not only does it look awesome, but it's currently short of its target with only a couple of days left to find funding. So here's why you should fund it:

  • It's to be a two hundred page gamebook printed in hardback in full colour!
  • Story features a team of paranormal investigators in New York in the 1930's! The same setting as featured in classic "Lovecraftian / Cthulhu Mythos" fiction if you like (I certainly do!) in the dark times of The Depression and under brooding clouds leading up to the second World War. 
  • The way the narrative is structured, you actually play the whole investigative team, actively solving a mystery and making decisions with repercussions for the rest of the story. 
  • It's written by Paul Gresty, who also wrote Ookle of the Broken Finger, which was IMHO the best written entry in the recent Windhammer Prize for short Gamebook Fiction.
  • I've read the free demo, and it's awesome. I can definitely see how fully fleshed out, this would be an intriguing detective adventure where you actually come to know and love the characters you play. You can get the demo as a free PDF file (some 13.7 MB due to the abundance of pictures!) HERE
  • It's being produced by Megara Entertainment who've previously produced iOS adaptions of the classic Fabled Lands gamebooks among other great things.
  • If it doesn't get enough money pledged in the next two or so days, it won't happen, so it needs your help to succeed!

 

 Goblin's Bounty: Gamebook / Collectable Card Game

 

A gamebook crossed with a CCG game. Brilliant! Here's another project that's short of its target and with only a few more days to go. Here's why you should back it:

  • It's a collectable card game: a genre made famous with the Magic: The Gathering card game, mixed with the story and decision-making of a gamebook. Being a big fan of Magic: The Gathering (I still have stacks of the cards, and though I haven't played for a while, I've been collecting those cards since the week they arrived in Australia) and quest-based PC adaptions of CCG games such as the PC version of MTG Duels of the Planeswalkers from 1997 and the 2003 PC game Etherlords II which was a more recent adaption (and better so I thought), Goblin's Bounty has to be good!
  • It's being written by Stuart Lloyd with assistance by Ashton Saylor, both well-known active gamebook writers and bloggers, not to mention great blokes, and who are also both writing forthcoming gamebook titles for Gamebook Adventures (and in fact I'm working with Ashton on his title).
  • You play as a goblin. Fighting for goblin glory against those "do-good" humans with their knights, mages and castles. (I do like atypical stories where you play the underdog!)
  • Strategic elements of card collecting, deck building and card playing, plus choices you make in the narrative itself, make for a highly playable (and replayable) awesome adventure!
  • It'll be all digital as an Android release, so you play it for a few minutes here and there on public transport or wherever and whenever you have time. (I look forward to the iOS version!)
  • It's being put together and released by Attic Squad Games who previously released Warlock's Bounty (which was a similar gamebook/CCG hybrid written by legendary Fighting Fantasy author Jonathan Green).
  • It too needs your help to make it happen in the next few days!

 

 YOU ARE THE HERO

If you know anything about gamebooks, you'll what Fighting Fantasy is. Fighting Fantasy catalysed the gamebook genre more than any other, and filled many a childhood throughout the eighties including mine. Without Fighting Fantasy you may not have had most other gamebooks, you wouldn't have had Games Workshop (therefore the Warhammer games including Blood Bowl that I still play), and even role-playing games themselves (such as Dungeons and Dragons) wouldn't have been successful: in the UK, Europe and Australia at least where gamebooks were often "the gateway drug" to role-playing games.

So I basically this Kickstarter is for a "coffee table" thirty year anniversary book of Fighting Fantasy, written by the Legendary Jonathan Green who's not only written a number of Fighting Fantasy titles but a Gamebook Adventures title and at least another 30 books as well (and many of these award-winning). It too needs your support if it's to happen!

There's been some other great Kickstarter projects lately, some of which have been successful, such as the epic gamebook Maelorum, and others such as Turn to 400 - The Fighting Fantasy Documentary and Cthulhu World Combat by the iconic Sandy Petersen, which haven't. Sadly dreams can only be realised with time, money and publicity (and I personally don't have much of any of those!)

I'd like to fund my own dreams through something like Kickstarter one day too, but I consider I need a much better publicity platform than I have now for that to succeed (I'm getting there, but have a long way to go!) -But there's one more campaign I'd like to draw your attention to, that doesn't even need funding to make it happen, cos it already has:

 

 THE DARK HORDE

 

I need to flog this some more for a few reasons. Aside from it being my own self-financed work, and it just having received an Honorable Mention in the Genre Fiction category for the Writer's Digest Annual Self Published Awards, I currently have about 1000 paperback copies sitting in a UK warehouse that'll get pulped soon if I don't start selling them. So if you're in the UK you can pick a copy, mailed to you FREE for only £2.99 which is about as cheap as I can sell them for and pretty much for less than it cost me to even produce them. (And if you're in Europe, you can probably order cheap paperback copies through your nearest Amazon store for about the same cost).

Sometimes I indulge myself in the fantasy of one day being able to make a living from writing, and of even being able to make a movie based on The Dark Horde (there's at least an album in the works) but for now, I just have to sell these bloody books... Who knows? Maybe this limited edition print-run will be worth something one day as a collector's item haha

Aside from this, there's been many other exciting things happening in the Land of Brewin, but I'll have to tell you some more about that another day :)

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Brewin
Thanks to both of you for being awesome and promoting the "gamebook cause". Here's hoping both of you get the green light to proce... Read More
Wednesday, 12 December 2012 06:04
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Brewin's Gamebook Combat Simulator!

Brewin's Gamebook Combat Simulator Screenshot

Well this is something I put together for another gamebook system EDIT: which I can now announce is none other than J.H.Brennan's classic Sagas of the Demonspawn series, that is to be digitally released through Tin Man Games as announced HERE. An experience that is quite surreal for me since J.H. "Herbie" Brennan is my favourite gamebook author and a childhood idol: to say it's an honour is a massive understatement! ...So having done this work, it was a "relatively" simple thing to adapt it to other gamebook systems that I know others are/have writing/written for: namely the Fighting Fantasy and Gamebook Adventures systems. (The GA system involves quite a lot more calculation though, although from a player point of view, it's only slightly more complicated than the FF system).

So if you're ever writing for either of these systems, and want a tool to help you determine how hard a particular combat is, how long it will last for etc, then this is what you need... Or maybe you're just curious to know what your chances are of surviving a particular combat or series of them in XYZ gamebook. This tool will give you a pretty definitive answer... And yes, it also demonstrates points I've made before about how well balanced (or unbalanced) these gamebook systems can be.

I'll spare you the detailed analysis, as you're now able to crunch out the numbers yourself. With this tool, you can set Player and Enemy stats yourself, or use Max/Min/Average/Random Player stats, set a number of other variables for the combat, and then run 10, 100, 1000 or whatever number of trials you want and get a stats summary that can also be written out to a report as well if you wish.

Hopefully you can figure out how to use it (I've tried to make it a simple as possible). All you need is Excel 97 or later (maybe Open Office will work too, I haven't tried) and to enable macros...

Let me know what you think (and if you'd like additions)

Happy number crunching :)

Download Brewin's Combat Simulator - Ver 1-0

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Happy Fighting Fantasy Anniversary!

My much-loved copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain

A little under thirty years ago an event happened that was to change my life forever afterwards... As a seven or eight-year old I walked into my local bookstore and there was this book (actually there were three of them in the series by this point if I recall correctly) called Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

It wasn't just any book though. It was a book in which I got to be the hero. I was the one making the choices and battling enemies. It was still a couple of years before I got my head around Dungeons and Dragons, but it was Fighting Fantasy that was my "gateway drug" to the world of role playing games... Over the next few years I collected over a hundred gamebooks, although stupidly I sold off most of them when I started high school, but I kept my favourites: Grailquest, Lone Wolf, Duelmaster, Falcon and the one that started them all really (even if Tunnels and Trolls came out first): Fighting Fantasy.

Before I was able to be a Dungeon Master for D&D, I was "Dungeon Master" for Fighting Fantasy: reading out Warlock of Firetop Mountain to my friends and having them make the choices... Here is a photo of my battered copy, a book which I must have read at least twenty times:

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone became my idols and inspired me to write and want to be like them one day. And all these years later, it is a special and unbelievable privilege that I am able to be doing just that. :D

And yesterday was the 30 year anniversary of the day that the first Fighting Fantasy book, Warlock of Firetop Mountain, went on sale. Thank you Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson for enriching my childhood and life ever since with your magic.

To commemorate the anniversary, Ian Livingstone has blessed us with a new Fighting Fantasy book: Blood of the Zombies. You can read about it and lots more here.

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Probabilities in the Gamebook Adventures system

Probability Meme
Odds Meme
Chance of Success (not including FIT checks)
Average Damage when hit (not including FIT checks)
Average Damage per Round (not including FIT checks)
Chance of success for consecutive FIT checks
Chance of Success (including FIT checks)
Average Damage per Round (including FIT checks)
Impact of Fitness Checks on Chance to hit and Average Damage per Round
Adjusted Average Damage per Round (factoring in consecutive FIT checks)

Today’s article is all about probabilities in the Gamebook Adventures system (with some limited comparison to other systems, particularly Fighting Fantasy). Statistics can be a bit of a dry topic haha, so I’ll try to reduce it to the important elements for you… Well important that is if you’re writing for such a system or are interested to know what the game odds are… Beware though, there’s a lot of tables and charts incoming :)

                 

 

Calculating probabilities for a system such as Fighting Fantasy is reasonably straight forward: (In a typical battle) you roll two six-sided dice for each combatant and add a given Skill score to each combatant’s roll, with the highest score dealing 2 Stamina damage to the other combatant. Use of Luck rolls makes it a little more complicated but not by much. You can “Test your Luck”; by attempting to roll two dice equal to or under your current Luck; in order to do one more Stamina damage, but failing this roll means you do one less Stamina. Skill and Luck scores vary, resulting in an exponential scale where even a few points of Skill difference make it unlikely for one side to win, even with far more Stamina.

For example, if your Skill is 3 lower than your opponent’s, then your opponent is roughly five times more likely than you are, to be the one making a hit in a given combat round, not including the Luck factor. In other words, if your hero has Skill 9 Stamina 24 and your opponent Skill 12 Stamina 5, then you both have about the same chance of winning…

                               

 

The Gamebook Adventures system is considerably more complicated to calculate probabilities for (even though the rules themselves are of a similar level of complexity) and shares a similar but less extreme exponential scale, such that the outcome of a combat is not as much of a sure thing. Combatants roll between one and six six-sided dice to attack (as determined by their Offence rating) and between one and six six-sided dice to defend (as determined by their Defence rating). If the attacker’s highest roll is higher than the defender’s highest roll, then they do damage equal to the sum of all their dice. (And in the case of tied rolls, the two tied dice are removed and the next two highest rolls are compared, until no dice are left). In addition, the hero can make a “Fitness check” on any given combat round by rolling two dice under their current Fitness. This is similar to “Testing your Luck” in the Fighting Fantasy system, except that the advantage given is to add 1 to their highest roll, significantly increasing the chance of hitting or defending.

In the extreme case of 6 dice in Offence against an opponent with 6 dice in Defence, and including the two additional dice rolled for a Fitness check, there are 6^14 possible dice combinations for any given round (that’s 78,364,164,096 combinations). And to calculate the highest roll and damage inflicted for each of these combinations, is quite a task… But I’ve done this (well kind of; I had to take some short cuts, but the end conclusions are about the same) and this is what I present below.

This isn’t meant to be a rigorous statistics paper, so I’ll spare you comprehensive details of how I came up with these numbers… But basically I listed every dice combination out on a spreadsheet, so that I could be sure I was calculating correct averages etc, until the number of possible combinations became too unwieldy. I listed all combinations up to seven dice, which is 6^7 or 279,936 combinations. The numbers for the remaining eight to fourteen dice combinations I estimated using a “best fit” exponential regression equation. In other words, I took the half-finished set of values I had manually calculated and used them to apply a formula to estimate the rest…

First of all, we’ll ignore the impact of Fitness checks, and just focus on the chance of success (success being an attack that hits the defender) for each Offence / Defence combination:

                 

 

So to interpret what these numbers mean, it’s saying that if your Offence value was 6, and your opponent had a Defence value of 1, then (not including Fitness checks) your chance of success (i.e. hitting) is 76.00%, and if their Defence was 2, your chance is *about* 57.77% and so on…

The yellow cells in the above table are where I had to cut corners as the number of combinations was too large to individually analyse. These are the values I extrapolated based on the trend already shown. This trend (as you can see in the above graph) is an exponential decline, where the degree to which your chances drop lessens as Defence values increase.

Here are some interesting conclusions from these numbers:

  • Even at maximum Offence (6) versus minimum Defence (1), you have at best a 76% chance of hitting. This compares to a 100% chance for a similarly extreme matchup in the Fighting Fantasy system, and to many other dice-based game systems where the best odds tend to be 95% (anything but a roll of one on a twenty-sided dice), 97% (anything but double-one or double-six on two six-sided dice) or 99% in percentile-based systems.
  • Conversely though, even at minimum Offence (1) versus maximum Defence (6), you still have a 7.33% chance of hitting (more once you consider Fitness checks), which typically compares to between 0% and 5% in other systems.
  • Typically your chance of hitting; without including Fitness checks; is lower in the Gamebook Adventures system than that for other systems such as Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, Dungeons and Dragons and the Basic Role Playing system. (However when you do hit, your damage is typically higher than what occurs in these systems).
  • Increasing Offence or Defence has an increasingly smaller impact. For instance, you’ll see that Offence 6 is only slightly better than Offence 5, particularly against high Defence values. (Although I suspect it’s not quite a close as shown, since the values in the yellow cells were those obtained from extrapolation).


Now let’s look at the average damage inflicted when you hit:

              

It’s actually difficult to draw much from these numbers since you need to factor in the chance of hitting to say how much damage is done on average each round… The amount of damage done for any given Offence rating only increases slightly with increasing Defence (based on the fact that the higher the Defence value you’re trying to hit, the more likely that a successful hit was based on a high roll).

By multiplying the chance to hit, by the average damage done when hit, we come to this table (which is very useful from a design / game-balancing point of view):

                

 

So now we can start to see exactly how hard any given combat is. For instance, if you have an Offence of 4 and a Defence of 2, and are fighting an enemy with an Offence and Defence value of 3, then you inflict an average of 6.08 damage per attack, whilst your opponent inflicts an average of 5.44 damage per attack… Pretty useful huh?

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AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF BREWIN’ – PART TWO











So where was I? Ah yes I was telling you about who I am, well at least in terms of my history. Why am I doing this? Well aside from it helping you to understand my works I’m promoting through this site (and hopefully being an entertaining read!) it also helps you understand who I am. Which is in short, a freak haha…

 

A “limited” edition version of the cover for one of my books; limited to one copy!

 

I can actually recall thinking at the age of eight that I wasn’t remotely like anyone else and that what’s more, I didn’t want to be. Being “normal” or “like others” seemed so boring, the internal universe I predominantly lived in creating stories and games in my head, was so much more interesting… And in many ways, I haven’t really changed; I’m still the kid wrapped up in his world creating stuff, it’s just that I’m starting to release some of it now.

But rather than attempting to qualify the above statements much for now (that can come later maybe if there’s sufficient interest), I’ll just tell you about some of the cool stuff I’ve created over the years and post some interesting pictures:

This is a review of one of the more popular games I made (in the style of the Zzap 64 magazine) from 1989… It featured robot ninjas!

 

My childhood, like my life, was anything but normal. By the time I was eight, I was devouring gamebooks and role playing games and had started to write my own. Before I turned eleven at the end of 1985, I was running RPG, gamebook and “creepy-crawly” clubs, had written many stories (some over a hundred pages long albeit smaller pages than a typical book), gamebooks, games, club magazines and was selling and distributing them.

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Brewin
Don't spoil Part 3 Nikos! You'll give the punch line away!
Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:13
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