I think you'll enjoy this interview as much as I did. David had some great insights to share with us!
Thanks for joining us today, David. I've heard a lot about the upcoming Way of the Tiger gamebooks (and the accompanying Kickstarter--congratulations by the way!) There's a lot of excitement about these books, so I'm really glad to have the chance to ask you a few questions.
Yes, there were six books released back in the 1980s that formed the Way of the Tiger series. More books were released that were set on Orb, but not as part of that particular ninja series.
Was there a plan, originally, to release more of them? I know with the Fabled Lands series, it was originally supposed to be 12 books, but only six were ever created. Is the same true of Way of the Tiger?
Yes, there were originally supposed to be more Way of the Tiger books in the series, but it didn't happen in the end. That is really for Mark Smith to cover, i have been sworn to secrecy or the ninja will come for me. Mark and Jamie did have a longer term vision for the main character Avenger.
This may be covering old ground, but what would you say sets Way of the Tiger apart, compared to other fantasy gamebooks?
Firstly the setting of Orb is richly detailed. The gods and the cities are very intricate and interesting, and it all feels real.
Secondly, you get to play as a ninja. Not only is this a fun character type to play, but you get to feel like you are a powerful character right from the outset, which is unusual. Grunt level enemies can simply be felled, and even powerful ones can be garrotted when their back is turned...
Thirdly, there were some wonderful characters in the series, really fleshed out from years of Mark's role playing game sessions. Fans to this day still talk about Foxglove, and characters such as Tyutchev who goes all the way back to Talisman of Death and appears in Way of the Tiger.
Finally the gamebook rules are wonderfully slick: simple but with depth. For example the combat felt like a martial arts fight: you can choose which martial arts move to use, whether you add your 'chi' inner force for extra damage, and also you can try to block counterattacks on you.
I understand Way of the Tiger is set in the world of Orb, the same world that the old book Talisman of Death was set in. Full disclosure: I LOVED Talisman of Death as a kid; that's basically the book that ignited my passion for gamebooks. Will there be any tie in to Talisman of Death, or are they in completely different parts of the world?
Talisman of Death was my first ever gamebook (same for others I know too), and it was set in the same world as Way of the Tiger. The Way of the Tiger series did not go to the city of Greyguilds like Talisman of Death, but you could interact with the same gods, classes and characters in both. For example you fight a monk of the Scarlet Mantis in Talisman of Death, and the same sect of monks play a key role in Way of the Tiger. Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum are in both series as well.
You'll just have to wait and see if book 7 of Way of the Tiger goes to Greyguilds.
Are there any other books set in the world of Orb that we should know about?
The Duelmaster series was set there, plus Coils of Hate and Falcon book 4. Orb is a big, detailed world and has hosted many gamebooks by the original authors. By supporting the Way of the Tiger series you may be able to convince the original authors it is worth re-releasing those, if not expanding them.
How much have you, as a contributing author, had a chance to further develop the world of Orb? Are you creating new material within that world, or was it already pretty well fleshed out before you got there?
I have set the prequel on the Island of Plenty on Orb, which is an island with a strong Japanese theme. This was visited by Avenger in the series before, but only in passing, so I have been able to really flesh it out from what we already knew and Mark's notes. You will be able to journey across the whole island in quite some detail, and on repeated play through can visit every city on the island.
Like the other books in the series, there is a strong story at the heart of the book, and because this is a prequel you can get to know (and interact with) old and new characters a lot more.
What would you say you love most about the world of Orb? Why should we go there?
There are lots of reasons, but as a fan and a writer I'm going to say the characters. There are some fabulous personalities there, and they really drive the story and make the world a more interesting place. These characters came out of thousands if hours of role playing in that world.
The gods are wonderfully complex too, and how the beliefs of the characters affect them is interesting and believable to me.
I understand Way of the Tiger has a very Far Eastern flavor, which is your specialty, as the author of the Samurai's Apprentice series. How does this series differ from your own works in Samurai's Apprentice? How is it similar?
My samurai work is based on the real world Edo period Japan. For Way of the Tiger I was able to bring all of the mythological elements to bear on the work that I could not use in the real world setting. The Japanese psyche has created some truly horrific monsters in their legends, and I've been able to tap into that for the Way of the Tiger prequel book, to use all that mythology I have come across in my research.
The similarity is you need to have a strong, interesting story, with complex characters and fast paced action. Although in the case of a gamebook you need to have multiple stories, and I've been able to see interesting facts and references in all kinds of areas, even the dead ends...
I've heard murmurings of a Way of the Tiger roleplaying game to be released as well, in addition to the gamebooks. Is that still in the works? Any updates?
The RPG is very much alive and progressing, hopefully out next year. I've written two adventures for it, and others in the team have been expanding the gods section and other areas from Mark's notes. For the RPG we have a whole history and geography for the Island of Plenty, which I was able to use for the prequel book. As well as the prequel being part of the gamebook series, it also links to the separate RPG adventures I wrote, so it forms a seamless whole. It all builds to the civil war we see in book 2 of the Way of the Tiger, and I give signs and portents all the way, and can show through different stories how it all builds to culminate at that point.
Anyone wanting more background on the setting of the prequel should consider the RPG as it will have all the source material in it.
If the Way of the Tiger RPG is happening, what would you say sets apart the Way of the Tiger RPG from other popular fantasy RPGs on the market today?
It has had Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson role playing in that world for 35+ years, building and refining the history and characters of the place. It also has a dozen or so quality gamebooks out there as source material, which are adored by fans to this day.
Finally, can you clarify exactly what your role is as a contributing author with the Way of the Tiger books? I understand you're involved with both the prequel and book 7, but I've heard different things about how much you'll be writing of each of these.
The prequel is written solely by me, under the strict supervision of Mark and Jamie. Book 7 is being co authored by all three of us. I'm equally excited about both!
Any word of whether there will be additional books beyond 7, and whether you may be involved in those?
The Kickstarter is clear in the stretch goals that the higher we reach the more able we are to look at producing more books. Jamie is an award winning author with his Dark Lord series, and Mark is the director of his own company, so they have to be sure that the demand is there first before they commit to more books in the series as their time really is at a premium.
As for me, I'd love to do at least one more Way of the Tiger gamebook. I do have an interesting idea for book 8... I have a lot of projects on though, and am in the fortunate position of turning work away, so we'll see how it goes.
I'm delighted to see that the Kickstarter has met it's core funding goal and is working on stretch goals. What's your favorite stretch goal of the ones still upcoming? What do you really hope we'll get to?
As a minimum I'd like to see us hit $35,000 so we can get the stretch goal of a map of Irsmuncast by famous fantasy author Leo Hartas. Irsmuncast is a highly political city full of intrigue and religious schism, so I'd love to see it get the beautiful map it deserves. In book 4 of Way of the Tiger you get to run the city, something of a first for a gamebook, really groundbreaking stuff for its day.
At higher pledge levels, there are even greater things to unlock.
For readers who haven't come across your works before, but would like to check out what else you've done, where would you suggest they start?
I'd recommend they give Samurai's Apprentice a go and see if you like it. It is a relatively quick read and it is available on Amazon for little over a dollar. There are plenty more books in that series if you do want more.
My other books cater to different settings, but all with a far eastern theme. City of Masks is set on a fantasy world, whereas Dragonwarrior: Tao of Shadow is set in the modern world and ancient China.
What do you have coming up next, after Way of the Tiger? Anything exciting we should be looking forward to?
I've completed the prequel, so there is Way of the Tiger book 7 and the role playing game.
I'm producing an exclusive print run of Samurai's Apprentice which will be illustrated, with a foreword and a new chapter. Look for this pre-Christmas.
I'm also writing Samurai's Apprentice 5 at the moment, likely due next year now.
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
It is nice to be important, but more important to be nice.