Magic the gathering auras I would really like to have cast upon me

It deosn’t help when
some of them are
just rubbish anyway.

Auras (formerly known as local enchantments) have lost out a bit in Magic.  The main reason is the rule that if you attach an aura to a permanent in order to make it stronger and that permanent leaves the battlefield for some reason, then you lose the aura.  If the permanent is put in the graveyard, you lose two cards.  For this reason, the only auras that are usually played are auras that overcome this card disadvantage or auras that can be used as removal.

Even the sets which focus on enchantments (the Urza Block where auras go back to your hand if they go to the graveyard), the enchantments were overshadowed by other spells which were broken such as Tolarian Academy and Memory Jar.  Unlucky.

Build your own hero.

While auras that boost creatures can be risky for the planeswalker casting them, they are cool for the creature as it gets loads of cool new powers to use.  Here are ten auras that I would like to have cast on me if I were an adventurer.  I may be being vain, but I do not want any enchantments that change my appearance so I can’t pass unharmed in civilised lands.  Enchantments like Serpent Skin and Sleeper’s Guile would leave me looking like something a band of ignorant peasants would lynch.


Spending a whole card to give a creature flying is a pretty poor deal in Magic the Gathering, but in the real world, flying can get you out of all kinds of problems.  This first one is a bit of a no brainer.  Don’t have the winged helmet in Trial of the Champions?  Fall down the pit on Forest of Doom? Need to escape from Mampang in Crown of the Kings?  The ability to fly solves all of these problems and more.


It will be cool to have quick reflexes as I can easily chase down fleeing monsters or avoid traps.  In terms of Magic the Gathering, I would weaken creatures blocking me.  In gamebook terms, you no longer have to rely on your luck to avoid traps and projectiles, unless of course, you don’t want to such as in Black Vein Prophecy.

Giant Strength

Strength is another no brainer.  The good thing about this power is that it does not make you giant sized so if any passing giants would challenge you to a wrestling match or a shaman wants to test you before he helps you then you would have a nice surprise waiting for them.

Hero’s Resolve

Some powers aren’t bought on by magic but by a state of mind.  Gerrard has his back to the wall in this picture, but he’s still not going to give up.  That’s the kind of thinking a hero needs.  It would certainly be good when you’re exploring Neuberg Keep or the House of Hell.

Street Savvy

Most fantasy gamebook worlds contain cities which are inherantly lethal to naive visitors – Blacksand, Khare, Helgedad, Blackhaven, The City of the Runes of Doom.  This enchantment will bestow the knowledge to defend yourself in a city and to notice thieves and worse sneaking around in the shadows, ready to pounce.

Battle Mastery

Fighting is inevitable for an adventurer and I would not go on a great quest without thorough training and the best weaponry.  With these skills, I will make short work of bandits, goblins and crazed animals.


Battles with mooks will slow me down and weaken me eventually, so sometimes, it would be better to just intimidate them into submission so that I can move on to the real power.  An aura of fear around me would make those orcs cower before me as I walk past them.  The picture on the card reminds me of a jib-jib.

Power of Fire

If combat is not the answer, then I can turn to magic.  Nothing gets rid of a problem better than a blast of flame and you never know, you might cross paths magical serpent whose weakness is fire.  This power could also have mundane uses such as starting a fire on a cold desert night or lighting a lantern.

Instill Energy

Being an adventurer requires quick action so I cannot stand around taking stock of a situation.  I need to move now.  It is also exhausting what with all the fighting and running, so I am able to energise myself once in a while.  It is good if you have a time limit to your quest.


If I meet an opponent that is too much for my skills and magic, I have this power to run back on.  Forget just being invulnerable to sword strike, here I’m invulnerable to (almost) everything as if I’d received one of Leesha’s rings.  Acording to the Kamigawa story, being indestructable also means immortality, so it would also be like receiving the blessing from the giant in Necklace of Skulls.

Robe of Mirrors

Finally, I would don this robe so that I could not be targeted by any other spells or enchantments.  This covers targeted remove from the game effects and targeted effects that give me negative toughness.  I would have to don this last as I would not be able to receive any other enchantments as they are targeted.  Some aura enchantments are portrayed as clothes such as this one.  You can also get other objects such as veils or clasps.

So if you take me as a 0/1 creature, after receiving these enchantments, I would look like this:

I would be a 4/11 creature with flying, flanking, fear, haste, doublestrike, indestructibility and shroud.  I can block creatures with landwalk abilities as if they did not have them and untap once a turn.  I could also tap to deal 1 damage to a creature or player.

The only spells that can deal with me are non targeted effects that exile creatures (such as Apocalypse and Apocalypse Chime) and non targeted effects that will give me -11 toughness.  There is no one effect that can do that but it would require several.

What auras would you want on you?

Magic the Gathering – the planes

I love the descriptions of the planes in Magic the Gathering.  They are one of the great strengths of the card game.  Every few sets, we usually visit a new plane in the multiverse, each one with its own unique character.  
Here, I will describe my three favourite planes and some ideas for adventures on them.
Imagine a world where every woodland is as hostile as the forest of Snatta, every hill is as dangerous as the Shamutanti hills and every plain holds a dark dungeon beneath it.  This is Zendikar, a place where nature is extremely hostile and even the largest settlements are no bigger than Kaad or Stonebridge.  
However, the land holds many treasures, artefacts left over from an ancient and powerful civilisation which still influences the land with its large magical monuments known as hedrons.  Where the magic is strong, natural laws are overturned and it can sometimes cause tectonic upheaval and storms.  This is known as the Roil.   
It is basically as if every inch of the land was like Darkwood Forest – full of hostile creatures and plants but also containing powerful magical items and lots of gold with its own dungeon underneath.  
If you are brave enough to face the dangers of the plane then great material and magical rewards are yours and may people do.  This is why there are many allies in Zendikar, who, when they work in teams, get stronger.  
Adventure hook:  You are approached by a shady wizard who has a map to a horde of treasure.  However,  you can keep most of it – the wizard just wants a hedron in order to unlock its secrets.  There will be dangers of all kinds – deadly storms, carnivorous plants, huge cliff faces to climb and an uderground cave that suffers from quakes every few hours.  Can you get the wizard to the treasure?
From one extreme to another.  The plane of Ravnica is one big city.  Nature forces its way through ruins, but there is no place that has not been built upon.  
On this plane, ten rival guilds vie for power, money and knowledge using different approaches and abilities.  For example, the Boros guild is an army warlike and fanatical vigilantes who mete out swift punishment to those who break the law whereas the Orzhov guild is a huge crime family which operates behind the respectable front of religion.  Think Port Blacksand but with about three times the intrigue and many hundred times the size.  
Adventure hook:  An apparently abandoned neighbourhood that you are squatting in suddenly becomes overrun by soldiers from at least three guilds.  Within minutes, the whole place is a war zone.  The first thing you have to do is get out before you end up on the wrong end of a sword.  When you are safe, you think about what could have caused such a conflict.  You have been there for a few days now and know the area and the sewers underneath it well.  Do you hire yourself out to one of the factions or try to find the object of their desires on your own?
This is a realm of pure metal created by a silver golem planeswalker.  However, it used to be uninhabited before his servant went a bit mad and summoned loads of creatures to the plane in order to find a ‘planeswalkers’ spark’ within one and take it for himself.  He is killed and the creatures he bought here are sent to their homes, but their children stay.  In the latest set, the plane is becoming corrupted and they must fight for it.
Adventure hook:  You parents have disappeared along with the rest of the elders.  You need to recreate the community on Mirrodin and prevent your tribe falling apart.
Another adventure hook:  You have spent several years surviving on a metal plane.  You have changed so that you are part metal yourself.  Suddenly, you find yourself on your own plane and have to learn to fit in again, even with your radically altered appearance.  
What’s your favourite Magic the Gathering plane?  Have any planes inspired your own settings?
Have a good week!  

Turning Magic the Gathering creatures into AFF characters

Here are six Advanced Fighting Fantasy character sheets of Magic the Gathering creatures.  Three of them are common creatures and so I have built them from scratch.  The other three are legendary creatures and so I have given them 750 experience points worth of skills, spells and abilities on top of their starting stats.  I have used my conversion table and have tried to stick faithfully to it, but it doesn’t work with toughness – stamina conversions.

Captain Sisay

Here ability revolves around finding other legends so I have her skills in leadership, con and etiquette.  She is also an accomplished ship’s captain and scout so I have given her sea lore, awareness and world lore.  To see the character sheet, click here.

Ertai, Wizard Adept

His ability revolves around countering spells, so I have put most of his points into magic and spells that either directly disrupt other wizards’ spellcasting (such as counterspell) or indirectly (such as tongue twister, pucker and restrain).  The stamina was a problem here.  In AFF, you start with a stamina of 8, which translates to a toughness of 2, so I lowered it in return for 15 extra experience points.  To see the character sheet, click here.

Kahmal, Pit Fighter

I have given him a high skill (which would reflect his power) and combat reflexes (which reflects his haste).  His damage dealing ability is reflected in his sorcery spells.  I can imagine Kamahl using ZAP and HOT on his enemies while smiting them with his sword.  I think his low toughness can be explained by the fact that he is using his stamina draining spells on his opponents.  To see the character sheet, click here.

Youthful Knight

I have given this creature the knighted talent (obviously) and given him the skills that 14th century knights would learn.  His conversion was pretty straightforward.  Another stamina problem, which I ignored in this case.    To see the character sheet, click here.

Samite Healer

Another straightforward conversion where I make him a cleric with the healing power.  Another stamina problem, which I ignored in this case.  To see the character sheet, click here.

Talas Warriors

Since these warriors are unblockable, I gave them sneak, hide and locks skills.  Since they are pirates, I gave them sea lore and fishing skills.  Another stamina problem, which I ignored in this case.  To see the character sheet, click here.

Ten places from Magic the Gathering that I would like to visit

Basic lands

In Magic the Gathering, you summon creatures and cast spells with mana and you get the mana from lands.  There are five basic lands in Magic the Gathering, but there are many other lands that have other utilities as well as producing mana.  Here are ten places that I would like to visit as an adventurer.

Library of Alexandria

First, I’ll start up with a real life place, the Library of Alexandria.  This magnificent place once apparently had a volume of every book ever written at the time.  It would be amazing to walk through the corridors lined with scrolls and books and uncover all of the great secrets locked within.  Places like this are usually needed to advanced the plot in gamebooks, usually as a means for fining how to kill the big villain.  For example, Codex Mortis may come in handy in Night of the Necromancer and joining the Wizards’ College in Fabled Lands allows you to gain a lot of knowledge about your travels.  However, as the mechanics of this card suggest, you need to have a certain level of knowledge to make use of the knowledge stored here.  An illiterate barbarian would get nothing from this place.

Bazaar of Baghdad

A good adventurer always needs to prepare and this is generally where they find the food and equipment they need for their travels.  Of course, you will need some money to get started and in terms of value, you generally end up on the losing end.  After all, merchants need to make a profit to survive.  However, you can’t  cross a desert and break into a treasure laden tomb with silver coins.  The important thing is what you do with the items you have obtained.

Cabal Coffers

When you have obtained your new equipment, you could do worse than to break into this vault and loot it.  In this story, the cabal rule a city and raise hordes of treasure by hosting arena battles.  This money has all been raised through corruption and bloodshed.

Gemstone Mine

The ground is full of treasures.  If you return from a quest with some gems or precious metals, then you may start a huge rush as miners and opportunists seek to share in your success.  This may lead to the expansion of civilisation.

Buried Ruin

There are also treasures in the far flung corners of the world.  If you discover a ruin, there is no knowing what lost treasures you might uncover.  It could be art beyond price or a powerful magical item, its means of construction having been lost in time.  Of course, that might be a bad thing…

Halimar Depths

The ground is not the only place that hides treasures.  The sea is home to many cities, sunken ships and caves which could hide treasure beyond measure.  Of course, you need to find a way to explore the depths without drowning.

Undiscovered Paradise

Some great treasures are not physical.  Exploration and discovery is a good enough reason for some to face the unknown dangers of the world on a quest and it may lead to a place beyond your wildest dreams.

Mouth of Ronom

Beautiful landscapes do not have to be tropical paradises teeming with life.  There is also much beauty to be found in the snow capped mountains and the tundra as you can see in Tower of Destruction and The Caverns of Kalte.  Of course, these inhospitable places are full of dangers.  Beyond the obvious dangers of cold, avalanches and snow blindness, there are many snow monsters.  It would be wise not to anger the local population either as they will probably be pretty tough to survive out there.

Ancient Ziggurat

One reason to explore inhospitable areas is that you may find the remains of great civilisations and unearth their treasures and knowledge.  I would love to see such an ancient temple.  As an adventurer, you may also end up in such a temple to stop some evil cult from raising a powerful creature.

Mirrodin’s Core

Finally, there may be great wonders to be seen in the centre of a world rather than just on the surface.  Descending into a simple cave may lead to a place full of magic and strange creatures.

As well as the basic lands, these are the places that I would like to visit the most.  Adventure takes you to many strange and beautiful places and these ten are only the start of the adventure.

Ten Magic the Gathering pieces of equipment I would use if I were an adventurer

If I were an adventurer, however, I would take different items than if I were a wizard.  All of these items are equipment cards from Magic the Gathering.
Everything but the
kitchen sink.
Every adventurer needs adventuring gear.  you know the stuff.  Ten provisions, a waterskin, rope, a mirror (how many times do they come in useful?), a warm cloak and a bag of gold in order to see them through their journey.  

Adventurers also need sturdy and adaptable clothes to see them through their long overland travels.  If they are able to go through the lesser known harder trails, they will be able to avoid hostile encounters.

Bob was prepared for
power cuts.
If you’re not trading these with gnomes for dragon artefacts, a good telescope will show you that you are heading in the right direction or give you plenty of warning that something is approaching.

As an adventurer, you will explore many dark places that may be infested with undead.  The bright light of your blazing torch will keep them at bay.  If you get desperate, you can fling it at an opponent in an attempt to kill them.

Adventurers always need to scale things and a grappling hook can help them do that.  They can also use it as an extra weapon in order to ensnare and wound opponents.
Every warrior hopes for a mighty sword and you don’t get much mightier than this.  Plus what is cooler than attacking someone with fire and ice at the same time?

You will need a bow for hunting or in order to inflict damage on enemies from a long distance.  

This is a dagger that every adventurer hopes for.  If it is thrown it will never miss.  Chadda Darkmane definitely found a similar dagger useful in his adventures.  
Comes with fairy lights.
Every adventurer appreciates good armour and you don’t get much better than darksteel.  

Finally, adventurers always have to sneak around places and a cloak of invisibility is just what they need.  

There we go.  So if we take me as a 0/1 Creature – human, after equipping myself with all those goodies, I am now a 4/4 indestructable, unblockable creature with double strike and shroud.  In addition, I can tap to deal 1 damage to a creature or player, unnattach the heartseeker to kill a creature, or sacrifice my torch to deal 2 damage to a creature or player.

When I attack, I have the chance of finding and new land and I can select a creature that can block me, or, if I decide to not be blocked, I can draw a card and deal 2 damage to target creature or player, putting my opponent on a 2 turn clock (4 first strike damage, 4 regular damage, 2 damage from the Sword of Fire and Ice).  Nice.  I can’t be killed by anything other than sacrifice effects or non targeted effects that remove me from the game.

What equipment would you like to use?


Everyone cheats in gamebooks.  It’s just so easy.

How was he supposed to know about the boulder?

“Oh, really, I’m dead after opening that nondescript door.  I guess I’ll just pop right back to the previous paragraph and open the other one.”

“I’ve fought this combat four times now and lost.  I’m just gonna pretend I beat this Razaak guy.”

How many times has that thought, with minor variations, rattle around in our heads?  And how many times do we act on them?  If it’s me then the answer to both questions is ‘All the time.’

Do we feel guilty about this.  I mean, surely it’s cheating isn’t it?  We’re not playing by the rules.

Well, I’ve decided to throw away my guilt and tell the world that ‘cheating’ in gamebooks is more than OK – it should be encouraged.

First of all, lets look at cheating.  What do people cheat at?  They cheat at games, they cheat on their partners, they cheat on exams, they can cheat themselves if they are trying to keep up with an exercise regime or diet.  All of these things have something in common – the person is trying to maintain a level of behaviour in order to keep someone happy or make someone else’s life better (everyone has to abide by the same rules to make the game work, stay faithful to keep their partners happy, get a mark that reflects their ability on an exam or they will end up in over their head at some point and stick to their regime if they want to stay fit).

However, with a gamebook, it’s just you and the book.  And the book doesn’t care about what you do
with it.  Sure, the author might care, but they’re not there and they will probably never find out what you are doing with their book.  So, if your die ‘tips over’ onto a 6 when you roll for skill, you haven’t upset anyone.  You’re happy because you have a skill of 12 and there’s no one else around to mind.  And will it affect you badly in the long term, because you cheated then?  No, it doesn’t.  You’re not playing a gamebook to get fit, you’re playing it for entertainment purposes.  If you have a skill of 12, you’re probably going to be more entertained because that skill 10 wyvern that just ambushed you about 20 paragraphs in won’t kill you off before your adventure has even begun.

Who cares if you read all the paragraphs in numerical order or every paragraph ending in 5?  If that’s what makes you happy, that’s what you can do.

There’s a reason why Brad Pitt’s face is blocking your
view to Edward Norton’s face in this scene.

I regularly don’t approach books and films in the way that they are intended – I like to know everything that is going on in them before I read or see them.  I like to read the last pages of a book before the first.  Why?  Because if I know what is going on, I can appreciate the other aspects of the book or the film, such as how it leads up to the ending (which is an  interesting puzzle in itself), the description, the characters, the jokes.  I don’t have to spend ages focusing on where the plot is going.

It’s basically like I’m watching Fight Club the second time round (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading this immediately and watch Fight Club twice before you go back to your cave).

If you want a gamebook version of Fight Club, you should read The Evil Eye by S.J Bell.

Gamebook people have caught on with this.  Early Tin Man games versions of their apps did not haveJon Green’s  Fighting Fantasy books from the 90s with the ones from the 00s, you will find out that they are less hard, because, as Jon said once, that his motives became less about beating the cheats and more with entertaining people.
options to heal or go back to previous paragraphs, but they quickly worked out that it is what gamebook people want.  If you compare

In a funny way, if loopholes are too obvious, then it kind of destroys the desire to exploit them.  For example, I found a really cool way to level grind in Fabled Lands.  I would play as a warrior, complete some easy quest, and, when I was established, I would buy a boat, get the best crew I could and sail up and down.

It is a big and beautiful world.

The reason being that, eventually I would be attacked by pirates.  Since I was a warrior, I could roll 3 dice instead of 2 to fight the pirates off, increasing my chance of a decisive victory, which would lead to lots of loot and also an increase in rank, which would make it even more likely for me to do the same thing next time I encountered some pirates.  However, people would not consider that fair, and anyway, it is a pretty boring thing to do, especially when you have a whole world of wonders to explore.  Doing it would make exploring more boring as you would easily win every combat you came across.  It would take all the tension away.

So go ahead – flick through the book, fudge dice rolls, pretend you have items when you don’t, give
yourself a few more life points and use that five fingered bookmark like it’s going out of fashion (so if you’re playing Crypt of the Sorcerer, you might as well just read paragraph 400) – It’s not hurting anyone, so if it makes your experience richer, then cheat away!

Conan RPG

I don’t remember where I first came across the Conan RPG, but it was the RPG that really opened up my
mind to the idea of a world where magic is not just a tool for flinging fireballs, there does not have to be a clear definition between good and evil and heroes do not have to be world saving noble warriors and wizards who all work together well.

I did not know anything about Conan or Lovecraft at the time, so it really opened up my eyes to a new world.

The game uses the D20 system, but most classes are combat oriented with the scholar being the only magic using class (though not all scholars have to become magic users) and magic being quite limited – there are few spells and most of them come with a heavy cost, such as human sacrifice, demonic pacts, allowing yourself to be brainwashed by a cult or corruption of the caster until they become possessed by a demon.  Magic is not the flash bang type either – there are offensive spells but they do things like draw the heart out of someone’s body.

While I think sticking the D20 system onto it wasn’t perfect (it seems more apparent to me that the mechanics of a game should fit the flavour and sticking a generic system onto it loses some of the flavour.  Engel is another example, where the German version used something that sounds way cooler than D20),
the Conan RPG really opened me up to other genres of writing and other ways to play an RPG.

It seems that the Conan RPG is not for sale any more, but you could probably find it second hand from somewhere.

Happy gamebooking!

Making challenging options

Gamebooks run on giving a player choices to take and then telling them what the consequences of

Unless its this which door choice,
where it’s best to change your mind.

those choices are and  there is a fine art to getting the choices and the consequences right.  If the consequences to your choices cannot be predicted (the which door choice), then it might get frustrating, especially if one or more of the choices leads to sudden death.  However, if all of the options have consequences that are logical and easy to predict, and one of the consequences is better than the other(s) then there is no real choice, as this essay states.  However, I get annoyed if something that should be done reasonably to me is not an option as it makes me think that the author has not thought the options through.

So there is a very fine line with making options that are not too obvious yet also provide enough information for you to make the best decision with some thought.  So how can we do that?

And you’ve just lost.  THE GAME!
There does not have to be a ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ paragraph in some gamebook choices – this would be more apparent in gameBOOKs where the main aim is to create an interesting story and if the story is interesting, even if your character dies, it might feel like a satisfying end.  This kind of gamebook would have a different feel to a lot of gamebooks, however, which would appeal to some people (people who want to create stories), but not people who want to win at something, or beat a challenge.
If you see this, you can’t learn magic.
Another way to make all choices equally valid is to have them mean different things to characters who have made different past choices.  For example, in a dungeon where you know you have to fight either a gang of orcs or a dragon, the character who picks up a sword of orc slaying is going to mind fighting the orcs less than the character who picks up the spear of dragon slaying.  This approach is done very well in Slaves of Rema where the first choice you make determines which path is best for you later on in the game.
Finally, there is an approach which I have found Dave Morris is very good at.  He sometimes presents you with options which seemingly make no sense, but when you choose them, you realise that the consequences fit into the logic of the world that Dave has set out.  Dave’s method involves 2 steps – the first one is to create and communicate the ‘rules’ of the world – for example, most of his books have a very medieval approach to fey, elves, etc., so you have to know that they are tricky to deal with.  He communicates this through how the world looks as well as how these creatures act.  Sometimes, he is just explicit about his rules (like in the Knightmare books).  The next stage involves having people do things that are consistent with those rules, but framing the options so that it is not entirely explicit as to what exactly the reasoning is.  The reasoning is left up to you as the reader.  This requires a deceptively large amount of work as the world has to be consistent.  If it is not, it will just devolve into a ‘which door’ choice or a ‘guess what the author was thinking’ choice.
For example, in Blood Sword book 1, you have the task of identifying a magi in a masked ball.  You can summon a fey like creature to do so.  It will ask you if you want it to find the magi.  The options you have are ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  The correct answer is ‘no’ because you have to be more explicit with your instructions to fey as they will exploit every loophole you give them.
Another good one is in Castle of Lost Souls, you have to get a crystal ball from a fortune teller.  The options are:  Ask her to read your fortune, ask her to read her fortune or take her to the fair.  The best choice is to take her to the fair as you will then dance with her, get her drunk and then sneak back to her tent to take the crystal ball easily.
A subset of this method is something I have seen in some gamebooks, which is when you have a list of actions that you could take to overcome a problem, one of them being to try ‘something else’.  You really don’t know what this something else could be so it is a bit of a gamble as to whether it will work or not, but it always intrigues me as to what this ‘something else’ could be.  It is not quite like what Dave Morris does because there is no insight afterwards as to how the action was logical (as you never knew what it was in the first place) but I find it good for a different reason as it provides me with a thrill of a gamble.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop all of these types of options being in a single gamebook.  Their effectiveness depends on the type of gamebook you want (and there’s nothing wrong with gamebooks that kill you off in a few paragraphs or arbitrary choices if they’re entertaining and that’s what the reader expects).

Engel RPG

Engel was a game that I found in Waterstones, but, unfortunately, I did not buy the book.  I do, however
have the pdf.  The illustrations are gorgeous although the font of the text sometimes makes it a bit hard to read.

The setting, however, is excellently detailed and very imaginative.

Engel is set in a post-apocalyptic real world where everything has gone wrong – lands have been flooded, pillars of fire stalk the Earth annihilating everything in their way and hostile insectoid creatures called the Dreamseed are constantly invading and threatening what remains of humanity.

The human race has sunk into some kind of neo-christian facist state where an ageless pope wages war on the Dreemseed and heretics.  The backbone of their defence are the Engel – angelic creatures with special powers.  However, it is disturbing to find out where these creatures come from (something I won’t say here).

You play an Engel, whose powers are determined based on which one of the five orders of archangels they are a member – Michael (leadership), Uriel (scouting), Gabriel (fighting), Ramiel (knowledge) and Raphael (healing)

The game was originally from Germay and it used a deck of cards to determine the outcomes of decisions.  The English version eschewed this for some reason and just chucked in the D20 rules where humans are warriors, experts, aristocrats, commoners, fighters or rogues.  To be honest, I think the D20 mechanics are a bit forced and I don’t understand why a straight translation of the original game wouldn’t work (maybe the publishers thought that a D20 system would appeal more than a deck of cards to Englist speakers).

However, it is the setting that makes Engel stand out – there is much for the players to explore, and there are
plenty of enemies to fight.  And eventually, they might realise that the pope is not all he’s cracked up to be.  That is another great thing about Engel – the twists in the story will make it hard for you to trust anyone as you realise what’s been going on behind the scenes.  would you stand against the pope, or would you follow his orders as he is the best hope humanity has against the hordes of Dreamseed?

You can buy Engel (both the Englist and German versions) from here.

You can read a review of it here.

Computer games and me

This is me.

I’m a computer game addict.  Which is why I don’t play them any more.  I used to play games for hours on end and despite the lack of enjoyment, the tiredness, the headaches and the feeling of emptiness I felt after finished them, I would still come back for more.

Eventually, I decided that there were far more good things in my life that I should focus on – my wife, my friends, learning things and creating things of value.  They all contributed to a lasting feeling of happiness.  

It all started when I was very young and I was visiting my aunty and uncle, who had a computer.  This was a big thing for me at the time because the only other computer I had seen was my primary school’s one RM nimbus which could play the game Snake.

Naturally, there was always a big rush to use this amazing machine.

However, this tape based computer that my aunty and uncle owned could play this great game called Tachyon Fighter.  I’m no neuroscientist, but I can imagine that the game probably gave the biggest input of information I had ever had – the lights, the colours, the sounds, the need to win.  It was hypnotic and it gave me a great rush.

Every time I visited, I would spend most of my time in front of this computer, waiting for several minutes in the hope that the tape would work and load the game properly this time.  As time went on, the tape based computer was replaced by an Atari ST with floppy discs and a wider range of games with better graphics and more addictive gameplay.

Then came the day that they upgraded to an Apple Mac.  And I got the Atari.

I remember that within ten minutes, I had put a lead in a socket incorrectly and almost broken it.  However, it was fixed and that’s when my gameplaying started in earnest.

My uncle had collected all of the ST format magazines which I had read cover to cover before, but then I also got to play every game from the cover discs.  I played them all, spending thousands of hours perfecting my game playing skills.  Many school holidays would fly by in front of the little green desktop.  Sometimes, I would have a platform game day and sometimes I would have an RPG day.  I have a bit of an obsessive nature where I want to explore everything to its fullest extent and this made me a sucker for most computer games like the roguelike game Moria. 

I had the ST for about three years before it ran down and it was replaced for a really old second hand Atari cartridge console which had games with terrible graphics and simplistic gameplay before that also broke down and I received the Mac in 1999 when my uncle upgraded again.

This computer only had a couple of games, but that’s when there were plenty of games on the internet.  I played a game called Archmage and a cute little RPG called Dragon Court.  I was definitely showing signs of addictive behaviour.  I never had the internet in my home, so I would spend half an hour walking into town, just to use a library or internet cafe computer to play Dragon Court.  Then I would have to walk back.  I wasted money on an internet cafe if I couldn’t book a free library computer just so I could get access to my game accounts.

I never realised that I was addicted until my final year of university when I would stay up until two in the morning playing Command and Conquer, not realy enjoying it and going through the motions.  I had done this before with the game Civilization IV when I was a teenager but I could stay up all night once in a while and it didn’t affect me at school etc.  This was affecting my grades and social life at university.

It never got to the stage where I missed lectures or never came out of my room for days on end, but I could have done a lot better in all fields if I hadn’t been playing computer games.

NWN:  10% action,
90% trudging back and forth

After my degree, I started training as a teacher, which took up huge amounts of time.  However, I still played games.  I was now playing and creating maps for Battle for Wesnoth and trying to complete the adventure in Neverwinter Nights.

It was not until I moved in with my girlfriend (now my wife) and I was teaching as a job, that I realised that I had to prioritise my time.  I couldn’t do my job well if I was playing Neverwinter Nights for two hours a night, mostly involving level grinding and getting an item in one far corner of the city and transporting it to another far corner of the city in order to get to the next stage.

She didn’t mind the gaming but it
he went too far when he started
doing a poo at the console.

My girlfriend did not appreciate it either although she is too tolerant to go to extreme lengths.  I had to cut something out.  All I had to think about was how I felt after saving a game in Neverwinter Nights.  I would always think to myself ‘What have I got to show for this?  A file with some code in it, a headache and a feeling of tiredness.  This is no way to spend your free time.’

Computer games did nothing for me and I had other, more fulfilling things in my life.  After a few weeks without computer games, I felt much better and I’ve not wanted to go back.

I put hours of effort into
getting a picture on a screen.

I find computer games to be a waste of my life.  I sunk hours into controlling some graphics on a screen, desperate to see the consequences of my actions.

For the most part, I don’t remember feeling much satisfaction, I just felt a compulsion to ‘get through it’.

However, there was always another level (and if the game had a level editor then I would be on that for hours too), another way of winning, another challenge I could set myself and there were an infinite number of other games to play.

The only way that I would get out of this gaming habit was that if I just said no.

Originally, I intended this post to be an introduction to how certain computer games have given me material for gamebooks, but instead, it was an account of all the hours I wasted playing them when because I couldn’t get away from them.  However, I am glad that I wrote about it.

In future posts, I will write about specific computer games and what they have added to my gamebook writing and why gamebooks are better for me than computer games.