Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lone Wolf Book 2 - Episode 12

[Because I'm a wuss, I'm going to go with the Mongoose Publishing version, in which we only lose our Weapons and the Seal of Hammerdal, except that I'm also losing the gold because that seems like a "duh" factor. (Who wouldn't take your gold?)]

To catch up on the story so far, see Book One or prior episodes of Book Two: 12345678910, or 11.

The harbor isn't any nicer at night, not with a bump the size of an eggplant on your head and the rich smell of drunks and sewage to consider. But you are a man on a mission. You will find those thieves, and no smell will stand in your way.

You scour the docks for hours. You never thought Ragadorn could have this many ships moored. You are just about to give up, when you spot a small dinghy tied up in a shadowy alcove, off the main docks.

Hurrying to it, you clearly recognize the ship you sailed here on. It's a simple matter to pull it in close enough to slip aboard. Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be any guards. Lucky for you, you turn up a Mace and 3 gold coins.

Just as you think you are out of luck, you spot a folded piece of paper that fell off a short table. Opening it, you find:

North Star Tavern—Barnacle Street
You take the Mace and Crowns and return to Stonepost Square.
If you choose to go east along Barnacle Street turn to 215.
If you choose to go south along Eastbank Wharf, turn to 303.
If you choose to head north along Booty Walk, turn to 129.

[Which way, gentlemen? Save Point 86]

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lone Wolf Book 2 - Episode 11

To catch up on the story so far, see Book One or prior episodes of Book Two: 123456789 or 10.

Despite the aching exhaustion in all your limbs, you force yourself to stay on guard and alert. You tell the sailors it's so that you can watch for any other survivors, but in truth, you're watching your travelling companions as much, if not more, as the open sea.

Not a flag or sail is to be seen, no matter how far you look. But near at hand, you notice the sailors muttering amongst themselves and glancing in your direction. You resolve to depart as swiftly as possible once you touch land.

It is nearing dark when the small fishing vessel passes into the harbor of Ragadorn. You can smell the city before you get there, the tangy, fetid spice of humanity and harbor scum.

 As the ship touches the dock, you stand by the gangplank, eager to get down. But before you can go, the men lowering it turn and fold their arms, blocking your path.

"Leaving so fast?" says the captain. "Without even a goodbye? I thought a fine dressed gentlemen would have better manners than that."

The men grin, and one of them adds, "Yeah, a little gratitude for saving your life."

You take up a defensive stance, and the faces of the men darken. Something tells you these men won't be satisfied with a tip. You put your hand on your sword and open your mouth--

when a blow to the back of your head turns your world upside down. You lose track of things for a moment, and then something huge and flat slams into your whole body, jarring you with enough force to shake teeth loose. Vaguely, you realize it was the deck. You struggle to rise, but your limbs won't cooperate. Your vision fixes blurrily on something hovering in front of your face. Slowly, you focus on it--a massive, balled up fist.

The fist comes toward you quickly, and you know no more.

* * *

When you awake, you have a splitting headache, and nothing else. You struggle to your feet, thankful you at least have your clothes. But searching through your pockets, you find that you have nothing--not even the Seal of Hammerdal.

Stifling despair, you must decide how to proceed from here. Looking around, a faded sign greets you:

Welcome to Ragadorn
You fear the rumours about this place are true. It is nearly dark and it has started to rain. You must find the Seal if you are to persuade the Durenese to give you the Sommerswerd. Looking round, you see a large market square with a stone signpost in the centre, indicating the various roads that lead off the square.
If you wish to go east along Barnacle Street turn to 215.
If you wish to go south along Eastbank Wharf, turn to 303.
If you wish to go north along Booty Walk, turn to 129.
If you would rather go west back to the jetty and search for the fishing boat, turn to 86.

[Right, this exciting part of the adventure. Where you lose everything. What next guys? Anyone have any ideas? Save point: 194. Oh... all of our beautiful gold!

Quick clarification from the group: the text says your Gold, your Backpack, your Weapons, and all your Special Items (including the Seal of Hammerdal) have been stolen by the fishermen.  It doesn't mention Armor. Does Armor count as Special Items, or do we get to hang on to the Shield and Chainmail Waistcoat? What about meals and the Crystal Pendant (which is theoretically supposed to be serving as memory that we met that one dude, for reference in a future book.)

As a point of interest, a note in the text mentions that in the Mongoose Publishing edition, you only lose your Weapons and the Seal of Hammerdal here. The note also invites the reader to follow those rules if you prefer.

Personally, I would probably vote for losing the gold, of course, but otherwise following the Mongoose Publishing version, and not worrying about special items, armor or clothing.]

Friday, October 12, 2012

Consequences in Gamebooks

A few weeks ago I started a post about death in gamebooks, and wound up writing a post about death in games. The basic conclusion I reached is that death is fun if it's part of the learning experience, moving the player one step closer to mastery, but not fun if it's just tedious.

But what I meant to talk about what what some of the other alternatives are to death. Risk of failure is an important part of any game, and consequences are an important part of failure. Death is only one possible consequence.

This week, let's look at what a few other types of consequences might be:

Loss of Items: A tried and true method of consequence, you can always dock stuff from the player. Players hate losing things, so use this method with some caution. Items, especially unique items, are a certain measure of progress for players, so taking their shit away can feel even more devastating than a death--especially if it's permanent.

Lose Everything: Even more devastating is to completely strip everything from the player. This can be a great story technique as it introduces challenge and struggle, and at the end of the day, the player can feel even more heroic when they get all their cool shit back, knowing they don't actually need it to succeed. As long as they get their cool shit back sooner or later.

Lose a Companion: This is a technique I used in Peledgathol: The Last Fortress (pronounced Peh-led-gat-hole btw; no blurring of consonants). Early on you are introduced to Ghuzdim Halfjaw, a stalwart dwarf warrior who swears to protect you, the young king, with his life. He is quite earnest, and will, in fact, protect you with his life. The first time you die in combat over the course of the story, if Ghuzdim is with you, you instead get re-directed to a section in which Ghuzdim leaps in at the last moment and takes the blow for you. He dies of course, and he isn't there to protect you next time, but it gives you one "get out of jail free" card over the course of the story, while still making the failure seem meaningful.

Fall to a Different Story Thread: This is one that I'm using in the project I'm working on now. There's one whole part of the book in which, if at any time you fail too severely, instead of dying, you get captured as a slave and must fight your way free. It's a different story thread, and it permanently bars you from succeeding at your original goals for the chapter, as such, but it also opens up some new opportunities that you might never have had otherwise, such as a new companion who you can meet in the Arenas. Also, it's cool. (I actually use this technique several times in said upcoming project...)

Future Consequences: Maybe the consequences of a player's actions won't kick in right away. Maybe you won't know until later on what really came of the decisions, or failures, that you just went through. I'm using this in my current project as well; in my case, if you fail at sneaking into a certain location and get caught, you won't get killed, but word gets around that you were doing something sneaky. Later on, you will find certain doors closed to you. This is an extremely open ended option that packs a double whammy: not only does it suffice as an alternate method of doling out consequences, but it also gives the world a sense of breathing realism. What you do has an effect, and you'll see that effect for time to come. That can be a very rewarding game experience.

Lose Points: Rather prosaic, but surprisingly effective, if your story has some measure of tracking progress (dollars, units of time, number of zombies killed/acquired) you can clearly signal success or failure to the player by manipulating the point numbers. Everybody likes their numbers to be better.

In some ways, I might even argue that a non-death consequence is more meaningful than a death scene, because in most games, what "death" actually translates to is, "try again."

What do you guys think? What have I missed?