Oliver McNeil, creator of The Storymaster’s Tales, invited myself and other gaming fan Helen Donovan, to take part in a live cam session of his latest game named Hotel Lovecraft. Thankfully my inferior internet allowed me to stay the duration, and what an incredible time we had.
The game differs tremendously from previous successes, Weirding Woods and Dracodeep Dungeon. While it is still card/book/dice based, the setup differs in that you are not building a map like in the aforementioned, but playing 6 levels (floors) of a creepy hotel based heavily with a feel of the titular name’s works. The chilling atmosphere when you explore each room is started with an accompanying soundscape and narration at the start of each scenario as usual. This works to great effect, creating a real sense of intensity and dread like in such games as the Room app series. The intensity grows tenfold as you get nearer the end of the game, say, the final two floors, where the end is in sight but you are scrambling round trying to complete your objective or avoid falling foul of any terrors out to suck you stat points away.
Even though Helen and I were the only two players, the six levels of five rooms kept the game going for two hours in total. She got away. I died in the last location. Because of her as it ultimately turned out, yet we’d been working together perfectly well until the final location. Women! 😄
Even though this game differs to Oliver’s others, it isn’t a far flung effort being traditionally easy to pick up and more importantly, great great fun. This will be the third ten on ten Oliver McNeil game when I score it on BGG. Thanks for all the fun, laughs, and games you bring to the world Mr McNeil. Originally crowdfunded on Kickstarter, you can order a late backer copy if you CLICK HERE.
So here we have it. The sublime Rhianna Pratchett enters the Fighting Fantasy franchise with her adventure Crystal Of Storms, becoming the series’ first female author, and armed with illustrator Eva Eskalinen. So how well did the pair do through the eyes of this age old fanatic of FF? Before I sink my teeth in properly, let’s have a look at the premise. A previously uncharted area of Titan, Pangaria… made up of a cluster of floating islands. Yes, floating! With this being a new area it gives Rhianna free reign to do whatever she likes. Even her own ecosystem of creatures. Clever! And she has introduced technomancy to the world, which has been created by a race of friendly Goblins within the archipelago. This is how the islands float. Don’t bicker, we’ve had friendly ones before, Giblet, Marsh Goblins etc. So one day, one of the floaty islands crystals goes pop, and it drops into the sea, sparking your thirst for adventure. It’s a great idea and I really love Rhi’s writing, comparable to Jonathan Green’s and Ian Livingstone’s. This girl is on fire.
Eva’s art is rather reminiscent of the much panned two-dimensional work of Vlado Krizan. While there is a slight improvement, most of these illustrations belong in a fairytale book for under fives. Sorry, it’s just not a met standard given the rock album cover Gods and Hollywood storyboard artists we had before. But of course, ScholasticUK know what kids like better than the six year olds of the eighties that actually read these religiously for four decades. I could moan all day but what good would it do? This is not to slate Eva or her art, it’s great, but just mismatched to this series which used to leap from the pages and tear your face off. Incidentally, I rather liked the Shark Kin illu, old creations are floating through now. Actually, I remember Jon asking for a reminder of it’s stats in the Facebook group. Superfan Victor Cheng answered like lightening. I’ll bet that’s when it was added to the mix. Speaking of which, there’s a whole lot of JG mechanisms on loan here, from creatures and codewords to settings and humour. The latter of which can sometimes get a little excessive… (you’ll see.) There are several typos – even in the intro heading – but in all fairness typos we’re always rife in the series. A couple of plot hole refs can have you flittering around the same island all day so you need to use some common sense. (investigating smoke for example, and how did I get a gold coin out of nowhere to recharge my wings?) In a place like Pangaria, I would have expected a gazillion Bird Men characters as well. Or how come The Watch members are not this species? Would’ve made sense in a suspended habitat.
All in all, this is a good book and a clever adventure. Whilst is isn’t up there with the series greats and that isn’t an Aakor on the cover, it’s certainly a great debut albeit influenced greatly by Jonathan Green whom mentored the author. Do another one Rhianna, and consult OOTP even more 😁👍
So with International Gamebook Day over, I have taken stock of people’s advice to give my gamebooks a series name. If you have been among the first to buy me debut book, you will have an extremely rare copy if they take off, as all books now will sport the Literally Immersive Gamebooks logo as seen in this pic.
I’d like to thank Mr David Tobin for my first Amazon review, and what a corker it is. Also, I can take this opportunity to tell everyone that Literally Immersive #2 is well underway, and I hope to have it available by Halloween, which will be fitting for a Horror adventure.
Fellow Fighting Fantasy fans… Well if I haven’t gone and written my own gamebook! Ok, it isn’t big and it isn’t clever, but it should be great fun on a nostalgic level. Keep your eye open on Amazon from Monday 17th August.
From the rising popular games legend Oliver McNeil, creator of Weirding Woods and Dracodeep Dungeon comes a new avenue of tabletop Horror gaming. Will your stay in Hotel Lovecraft be long…. or will you get lucky? Watch the video and CLICK HERE to get it!!
Several years ago I had the privilege of reading an embryo-stage version of this excellent dungeon crawl adventure by Destiny’s Role gamebook creator Mark Lain, who is now entering it into the series as Book2. Of course, the defining dungeon gamebook would be Ian Livingstone’s Deathtrap Dungeon but this isn’t anything like that. With some extraordinary beasts in it and clever conundrums to appease ones wit, this deviates from the very dark Mistress Of Sorrows into a more sword and sandals style romp. If you would like to back this project on Kickstarter, CLICK HERE
Well it seems the Fighting Fantasy franchise has been completely sold out to ScholasticUK. It’s with deep regret I have to post this as the cover of the brand new Fighting Fantasy adventure. How twee, and how mocking of everything good up to now… and that’s been sparse!
For all those who might say… ‘but these books are now aimed at 5-8 year olds’… screw you! We was also that age when we started collecting and we got the likes of this.
Fighting Fantasy art is one half of the glory, and now its been handed to people who do not know the series nor have the style to suit. While there is every possibility Rhianna (yes, his daughter) has turned out a good story, I strongly believe we will have another Higson-esque adventure that just doesn’t capture the feel of Titan. And hey, another coverstyle. Scholastic ripping completist collectors off once again no doubt to make this ailing experiment with a legendary series a bit of profit. Which begs me to ask once again… I wonder what proportion of the profits come from old school collectors and how much comes from modern youth, not including those who buy them for their kids to relive their own youth? Scholastic have decided to ignore die hard fans once more, and I say fuck them.
Up until now, I only purchased new adventures in the Scholastic range. This hideous travesty of a cover sees me divorcing from any modern FF releases that are not from classic talent. It breaks my heart to say this, but everything Scholastic has done to this point apart from Assassins Of Allansia is either fatally flawed or absolute and utter trash, trumped by the modern generation of authors who actually know the genre such as Mark Lain, Victoria Hancox, James Schannep and Dane Barrett to name a few.
There have been countless depictions of vampires throughout time, differing from culture to culture and watered down even more by the film and book industry. So what have I learned about it if we was to discover vampires actually existed as depicted in lore? What intolerances do they have, which tools can help me? Can an atheist protect themself?
Silver. There is a belief that silver exists on both the material and spiritual world which gave rise to the use of silver weapons being effective against vampires. This has many a time been stressed solid silver, the electroplated stuff being ineffective. I’m not sure why… it’s still silver isn’t it? Maybe it needs to be in purest form to hurt the impure? It seems to some cultures just the touch of silver is efficient enough to scorch a vampire, thus a knife or silver bullet, through the heart or not, have been depicted countless times.
Stakes. This is a sure way to rid yourself of a vampire if you can get close enough. Staking it through the heart will stop it from rising again. It is thought by some the stake needs to stay in place, for if it is removed the vampire may rise again. Your best stake material will be wood given its availability , preferably hawthorn but oak and ash are also popular. (It is thought Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of hawthorn. Some religions claim he wasn’t put on a cross either but a torture stake.) The majority of lore accepts any wood will do. A few may suggest a mis-aimed stake may still harm the creature but not destroy it. A silver spike will have the same effect, and iron is thought to follow suit as well given this metal’s link to the fae, but has been rather forgotten in lore after silver.
Garlic There are many blood loving parasites out there and quite a few are said to be repelled by garlic not only because of its strong flavour but also its unmistakable strong scent. With a vampire having heightened senses including smell, it is quite believable that garlic will stifle those extra strong senses, weakening the creature maybe to a point of suffocation. Some sources have suggested it’s touch is harmful as well in the same way a Holy symbol would be. Given how easy it is to obtain, surely it can’t hurt having a piece to hand. Garlic is also usually stuffed into the mouths of decapitated vampires as an extra precaution to prevent it rising again.
Cross You’d have to have led a pretty sheltered life to not know of the vampires aversion of crosses or crucifixes. These Holy icons must have featured in 99% of vampire stories, but along the way certain rules have come to light. For example, apparently it’ll only work if you have absolute faith in it. With that, the atheists usually end up becoming vamps meal that night. But this begs the questions “Faith in what exactly? Does it have to be a God? ” The Doctor Who story The Curse Of Fenric featured haemovores which were weakened by faith. A soldier used his army emblem to repel them because of his faith they would defeat the opposition. I have noticed many reference silver crosses. We already know vampires are harmed silver so this is probably a combination of two weapons it one, and once again they are said to burn at the touch of a cross. I recently looked at a chart of religions appearing over time. The second oldest – Wuism – has the first cross symbol associated with it and dates back dozens of millenia before Christianity. It is also a solar cross, a circle surrounding it representing the sun…its light is a vampires greatest threat. In modern Christianity the Celtic cross has this sun integrated into its design. I personally have every faith the sun will rise each morning, so hey atheists it appears we can use a cross of a certain style. It just needs that sun integration. The solar cross is a pagan protective symbol, the four divisions of the sun made by the cross itself representing the four seasons of the year. Suicide victims used to be buried in the center of crossroads to stop them rising as vampires.
Sunlight. The likelihood of catching a vampire out in this way is very slim given it will retreat back to its resting place long before dawn. However direct sunlight is fatal to a vampire, those intense rays of light burning through its every atom turning it to ash, or if very old turning it to dust as its ages crumble to the floor. It is emphasised in moderm vampire mythology that it is the ultraviolet content of sunlight that causes this effect, just like it burns us if we are in it too long. Indeed, in my short story Quasar Zone, a vampire met his end witlessly entering a lazertag arena filled with UV lights and disintegrating infront of the players. I have already covered a few crosses along the religious spectrum have sun symbols blended within them so it is indeed a big hand to non-theists.
Mirrors. This is a fairly modern component in vampire hunting lore. It is said they will cast no relection in a mirror which is a great way to expose them. Mirrors are also said to cause vampires discomfort when looking into them, this may only work when the mirror is silverbacked. Another interesting use is that mirrors can reflect sunlight, so its no wonder they cause panic among the vampire community. This particular method was wonderfully demonstrated in the film Dracula 1973AD in a fight between Van Hellsing and Johnny Alucard.
Plants I already covered the bit on harlic seperately, and also mentioned hawthorn. Wild roses aka Dog Roses are frequented in vampire legend as well. And why not? Thorns are like miniature wooden stakes afterall. The Dog Rose is written to be placed on coffin lids to prevent the vampires from rising at all. It’s also depicted that the touch from the petals will burn vampire skin. Other thorned plants that turn up as a defence against vampire include, buckthorn, blackthorn and aspen holly and linden for more stakes.
Holy Items If you manage to obtain an item blessed by the clergy you are quite armed for facing a vampire. Holy water will act like a strong acid or poison. The touch of consecrated soil (graveyard dirt etc), or even a blessed weapon or item of clothing if you can convince a priest or reverend etc to do so. Holy text such as a bible is supposed to have the same effect as a cross, although I’m guessing the faith must be solely in the associated religion in this case.
Beheading/Fire Our heads contain our minds and as such, our very spirits. Thus the decapitation of a vampire sends its very soul back to rest in the hereafter. Extra precautions usually involve stuffing its mouth with garlic. Some will even go as far as cremation so that everything is burned away. Of course, maybe you’d get lucky enough to set it ablaze while its still active with a flaming torch or molotov cocktail perhaps.
Running Water This weakness has always fascinated me and it’s another one that extends to several unholy creatures. A couple of theories as to why this is a weakness is that running water is purer than the rest, or the biblical stance is that Jesus was baptised in a river taking him closer to God, so no wonder a vamp would go nuts. Rain is sometimes not thought to be enough, rather like silver plated stuff versus solid silver quarm. Vampires cannot pass running water and are supposedly destroyed if immersed in it.
So to round off, this is a subjective topic and we all interpret things in our own ways. But I hope you have enjoyed my little page dedicated to one of our most well known creatures of the night.
Who remembers all those great classic TV programs of the 80s? The Box Of Delights? The Chronicles Of Narnia? Knightmare? The Adventure Game? These were shows that boosted the imaginations of an entire generation, and inspired many. One of those inspired was Mr Oliver McNeil, who has managed to carve himself a career out of said inspirations, creating games, and interactive theatrical performances. Now YOU can join in as he takes the show live online.
Oliver’s latest venture was a hybrid RPG boardgame named The Storymaster’s Tales – Weirding Woods and it’s already became something of a cult hit in the gaming community, with a second game Dracodeep Dungeon currently funding on Kickstarter. However, combining the elements of theatre, game, visual FX and internet you are all able to watch and take part in a LIVE interactive version on his Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/groups/339654010167488/?ref=share
Hosted by Oliver himself alongside other actors and clever puppetry, he brings the Grimm Brothers-esque setting of Weirding Woods to life and you get to explore and take part in subplots as you strive to fulfill your primary mission be it slaying Evil Sorcerer’s or saving the world from a plague of living dead. With an ever expanding land, equipment, foes and treasure, this is a great way to spend time and liven up the pandemic lockdown. If you’d like to take part in one of the upcoming shows, click here and join the group for performance times https://www.facebook.com/groups/339654010167488/?ref=share
Today my dear friend Oliver McNeil launches his new Kickstarter campaign for the sequel to his award winning ( 😉 ) tabletop RPG, The Storymaster’s Tales Weirding Woods. The new adventure sees you as a hero trying to gain glory from the perilous Dracodeep Dungeon. New magic, new monsters and new characters abound in this fantasy Grimm-esque world. Having play-testing it live recently, I can tell you that it has all the makings of another masterpiece like it’s predecessor and it is great to see The Storymaster’s Tales universe expanding with another game in the pipeline even now. If you haven’t gone so yet, check out Mr McNeil’s Kickstarter by clicking this link The StoryMaster’s Tales “Dracodeep Dungeon” Hybrid RPG, via @Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/legendphotography/the-storymasters-tales-dracodeep-dungeon-hybrid-rpg?ref=android_project_share