Armour rules in gamebooks

So if you play most Fighting Fantasy books, you usually get told htat you are wearing some leather armour when you start.  There you go, what more needs to be said about armour in gamebooks?

Ok, more I guess.  Armour seems to get an inconsistent approach in gamebooks, if it is not completely ignored.  I guess the writers are following the tenet that in a gamebook you do not want to create more rules or mechanics where necessary.  If a situation comes up rarely, then you should just assign a random die roll, give some common sense consequences and forget about it rather than trying to come up with a new rule.

Which is great until you realise that armour is not a situation that comes up rarely.

Now that I’m thinking (and writing) about it, it seems strange to me that a situation that comes up quite commonly does not actually get a clear rule for it.  In Fighting Fantasy, armour could add to your skill (leading to the question that since the rules say that you cannot go over your initial skill, does it do nothing if you are at your initial skill?), it could reduce damage in certain situations, it could increase your attack strength, it could reduce your opponent’s attack strength, it could reduce damage on a die roll, reduce damage for certain or reduce damage for certain, but wear out after x hits.

So armour does come up a lot, in any gamebook series that involves a system for determining combat at any rate.  So it does need a system.  Which one could we use?

Armour makes you harder to hit

Works quite well in Fabled Lands – you have to get over your opponent’s defence score with 2d6 + your combat score to hit them.  Defence is based on combat + rank + armour.  This is a good system as long as it is not too hard to hit people as it will lead to stalls.  Also makes logical sense that armour makes you harder to hit and damage.  Tin Man Games has an armour system which makes you harder to hit, but does not reduce damage.  Space Assassin has a system where armour makes you ahrder to hit, but every hit it absorbs makes it weaker.

Armour as damage reduction

it makes sense that armour reduces damage and that is find when you are dealing d12 damage a blow to an opponent and plate armour reduces it by 4, but when you do 2 damage with every hit, you have very little room to play with.  You can reduce 50% of the damage or 100% of the damage.  Not really an option.  It is possible in a system where you could lose a lot a hit points in one hit (Lone Wolf could have used this system, but decided to do something else).  Ways to get around this include a limited number of uses or damage reduction only occurs on a certain die roll.  Good ways around it with a bit more book keeping.

Armour as a skill or attack strength bonus

As long as the skill bonus applies, this makes sense.  If you are harder to damage, it will make combat easier and so you will be more likely to win.  A shield can be used offensively, which is another reason it can increase your attack strength.  Increasing skill is a little unrealistic – if you can’t go above your initial skill, then wearing armour has no effect (?).  If it can, then for some reason, armour makes you better at all the other things skill covers in Fighting Fantasy including jumping, sneaking and climbing.  Things that armour should hinder.

But a helmet is no use here :S

Armour that has a benefit in story

A more realistic approach, but one that requires more effort.  Your helmet prevents damage to the head, your shield blocks an arrow etc.  Adds a nice touch if you can be bothered to use it.

Armour as hit points

Used in Lone Wolf (combined with armour as Combat Skill increase).  A chain coat adds 4 to your endurance for example.  At first, I couldn’t see how that would make sense, but there is a reason to it.

If for example, you have 20 endurance points and you lose 10, you have lost 50% of your endurance.

If you wear armour that increases it by 5, and lose 10 endurance, you have lost 40% of your endurance.  The armour has not magically made you gain 5 points of endurance – it has reduced the damage you received by 10%.  Of course, there are flaws – it reduces damage from hunger and other things that it shouldn’t.  And also healing becomes less effective as it is restoring a smaller proportion of your endurance.  however, it is super simple and no more die rolling or maths is required beyond adding two numbers.

So there you are.  What’s your favourite armour system for gamebooks?


RPG – Sword Noir

I like Sword Noir – it is a combination of sword and sorcery and film noir (hence the name).  It is a system
where characters are good at what they do, but they cannot do everything and they do not become super human like high level DnD characters.  Characters have attributes and the game makes tests against them.  A character’s background, faculties and flaws gives bonuses and penalties to those tests.  All characters must have a background, some faculties and a flaw.  They can choose what these are and call them what they like, allowing some extra individuality to to characters.

Magic is present, but it carries a huge cost and will almost lead to madness and demonic possession (PCs might end up being NPCs).  This all fits in with the setting creed, which is broken down and explained in detail to show how Sword Noir adventures should work.  It shows that the system and setting of an adventure can be entwined to enhance the whole experience.  Magic is not just a set of tools, but something dangerous and corrupting, in keeping with the nihilistic nature of this world.  Characters are not ultra competent at everything, increasing the sense of danger.

  • Characters can be made up of more than just attributes 
  • It is better when the system and the setting are entwined.

Tunnels and Trolls RPG

What’s not to love about Tunnels and Trolls?

The game does not ignore this thing called balance.  Instead, it cheerfully pushes balance to the floor then kicks it in the nuts while it is down.  There is the DARO and TARO rules – if you roll a double with 2d6 or a triple with 3d6, you roll again and add them to the original roll.  Unless you roll a double or triple again, in which case you roll again and add both values to them and so on, leading to obscene values for stats.  On top of that non-human races can double certain stats.  And what’s more, it’s all dandy with Trollgod (Ken St Andre, the creator of Tunnels and Trolls).

Yes, it’s the game that spits in the face of logic in the name of enjoyment.  Who cares why there are dungeons full of gold and monsters scattered all over the place and that some people are mighty warrior, powerful wizard or all rounders who are quite good at both, or, if your stats are high enough, get to be the paragon class where you enjoy about 3/4 the benefits of warriors and 3/4 the benefits of wizards?  It’s fun!

And what adds to the fun is that the rules are not overly complex.  D6s only are needed (although you might need a few of them!), monsters generally do not need a ton of stats, but a single value called a monster rating which determines how much damage they deal and their hit points.  Stalls in combat are broken by a rule called spite damage.

In combat, you roll a certain number of d6s depending on your weapon, and add a number to that value.  The monster does the same.  The one who rolls the highest deals the difference in damage – any armour that the defender is wearing.  However, for every 6 anyone rolls, they also deal 1 point of damage ‘in spite of’ (hence the name spite damage) armour or who won, and this can really add up when you are rolling 10d6 for a weapon (which you might – I told you about lots of d6s).

Magic is pretty useful, using a points system to cast spells (in 7.5, you use WIZ points to cast spells) and the
spells are useful, despite having ‘comedy’ names.

And then there are the solos.  Tunnels and Trolls has tons of solos as it’s been doing them pretty much since it started.  I’ve written a few myself , so has Scott Malthouse and you can try some quick ones out here.  A lot of the older ones are quite deadly (Ed Jolley has put a lot of TnT posts in his blog and you can find them in the index here. Only one is highlighted yellow, meaning he beat it), but they are quite fun to read.    

And finally, another thing I love about Tunnels and Trolls is the aesthetic.  It hasn’t lost its old school charm.  I don’t know what it is, but I find the whole old school feel comforting.

Want to delve deeper into Tunnels and Trolls?

You can visit Trollhalla.

You can read the Zine for free.

There will be a new edition of Tunnels and Trolls out soon (it is probably out when you rad this).  Take a look!

Computer Games – Colossal Cave Adventure

Colossal Cave Adventure (shortened to Adventure on my Atari ST) was the first interactive fiction computer game I played.  According to Wikipedia, it was also the first adventure game to be written.

The premise was simple enough – you had to enter a colossal cave (based on the real life Mammoth Cave in Kentucky) and bring all of the treasure you find back to a small building outside.  You controlled your character by moving the around with the compass points and other commands such as ‘kill’, ‘feed’, ‘drop’, ‘get’  and ‘look’ amongst others.

I always enjoyed wandering around the Colossal cave and enjoying the strange and funny encounters.  It had everything – a pirate, a troll, a dragon, dwarves, a bear and much more.  I never won this game.  My highest score was something rubbish like 76/350.  The decisions were a little arbitrary and required trial and error and I never had the patience to try everything.  There were some good tricks that you needed to learn such as learning how to kill the dragon, transporting the vase back to your house safely and getting that elusive final point.  I didn’t find most of these things out until I read a walkththrough but the things I did find out I felt very smug about.

Colossal Cave has been an inspiration to other interactive fiction in various ways, not least the use of the phrase ‘Xyzzy‘.  There are even Xyzzy awards for interactive fiction.

The good thing about Colossal Cave now is that you can get it and play it for free in various ways and if you get stuck, you could find a walkthrough.  If you have an Android phone, you can get a Colossal Cave app for free.

You can play the Colossal Cave Adventure here

You can download Colossal Cave Adventure here.

You can buy a book about interactive fiction here.  The title, Twisty Little Passages, is another nod to a phrase from Colossal cave.

Twelve forces of destruction inspired by Magic the Gathering

Here re twelve absolutely unstoppable monsters (around Tarrasque level) that would cause worldwide devastation if a band of valiant heroes do not stop them in time.  Usually, these forces of nature are locked away and the heroes may be able to keep the door of their prison closed or sometimes, they may have to come up with another way of stopping the creature (like there are ways of stopping the Tarrasque).  However, as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Davill-Evans and Dave Morris has shown us, entities this powerful cannot be destroyed for good.

Hellkite Overlord

Even smaller dragons cause havoc in the lands of humans, but this one really takes the biscuit.  It fits the criteria of dragons – flying and firebreathing but it is also larger than most dragons and it can attack as soon as it is summoned, trampling anything in its path.  If by some miracle, it is dealt lethal damage, if it has access to some green mana, the mana of nature, it can regenerate itself so it will start the whole cycle of destruction again.

Hydra Omnivore

Just as big as the Hellkite Overlord and capable of damaging any number of opponents with its multitude of heads.  This monster not only causes massive damage.  It causes massive damage to everyone at once so even ganging up on it isn’t that effective.  Good luck.

Stormtide Leviathan

This creature is so big that it displaces enough water to flood the rest of the lands.  It also surrounds you with plenty of water so that creatures who cannot traverse it or fly over it cannot attack you.  what is more, it is impossible to defend against it if you are on an island so it will be coming to swallow you up soon.


This is the beast of beasts.  It is huge and can attack and summon another beast just like it in the same turn.  You aren’t just dealing with one massive force of nature – you are dealing with a steady stream of monsters all just as hard to kill and there will be no end to the assault unless you kill the original Godsire.

Avatar of Slaughter

This is a huge nasty creature, but the death and destruction it will cause is nothing compared to the damage caused by the rage it incites. It makes everyone simultaneously bloodthirstry and deadly and they will not stop until they are dead or all of their enemies are.  This creature can start a huge world wide bloodbath.  Beware its release.


This creature is the physical manifestation of the darkest thoughts of twisted wizards. Its presence is enough to wipe your mind of all of its spells and more through the sheer terror of its appearance.  Left mentally defenceless, this nightmare will crush you like a bug.

Gaea’s Revenge

The world itself is angry and it is now fighting back.  Nature herself has assembled an elemental to destroy anything that is not like itself and it will not stop until the artifice and corruption that blights it has been layed low.  Cheap tricks and dark magic are not going to stop this elemental.

Demon of Death’s Gate

Mighty demons require mighty sacrifices.  You can summon this demon with mana or you can summon it with blood.  Wither way, it will crush your enemies.

Vengeful Archon

As well as being a powerful creature, this archon will definitely avenge you by reflecting any hostile magic against its perpetrator.

Blightsteel Colossus

It’s huge.  It can’t be destroyed and it will kill you with its corrupting disease.  Only a sick and twisted world could come up with such a sick and twisted artefact.

Dark Depths

Marit Lage is imprisoned under the ice.  If it is released, its 20/20 flying indestructable form will make short work of even the most powerful planeswalker.
Whatever you do, make sure that the ice stays thick.

Emrakul, The Aons Torn

Finally, we have a huge beast that goes further than the previous eleven.  They were only content to destroy a world.  This thing destroys worlds.  It is almost unstoppable.  It is huge.  It flies.  It can manipulate time so that it seems to move twice as fast and every time it attacks, it devours creatures or even lands.  Finally, it will never truly die.  If the Eldrazi come for your plane, you find a way to get off that plane.  Or you try to imprison them.  or you get devoured.

Only one of these creatures is enough to overturn the world, but they can do so in many different ways.

Until next week…

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?

from Lloyd of Gamebooks