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Any Port In A Storm
Below Zero Point
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A Knight's Trial
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A Strange Week For King Melchion The Despicable
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Any Port In A Storm

Robert Douglas
Thu Jan 29 04:59:58 2015
@ Lad-D,
Tnx 4 yr op. - need > 2 wrds tho m8. APIAS 1000's w/c, af all! + 2nd wrd txt short. Sry u RIP!

Thu Jan 29 08:22:50 2015

I was just deliberating whether to post under the alias "Evets Noskcaj" and say that I've read every one of your creations, but I wasn't sure if you would take the disappointment very well when you found that it
wasn't really Steve Jackson who was posting. :-)

BTW, can't you just contact Steve Jackson Games? They're a pretty big company, and I'm sure that one of their staff can help you out.


Well said, although I would like to add that, even if you were planning on selling it, as long as the original book falls under a creative commons license, you can technically still go ahead as long as you cite the original work.

Phil Sadler
Thu Jan 29 15:08:56 2015
Yeah it's funny when people give 'reviews' such as "It's bad" or "Best game ever" without saying why. I mean, what's the point? No one learns anything.
You should see some of the comments that I delete. I thought Laddie's was just about on the right side to be left there : it isn't abusive and is at least a coherent statement, though obviously I don't agree with it. Naturally there's not much to be learned from the comment, but surely it's still better than nothing at all? You must have been a little pleased to read "AAAAMMMMMMAAAAAAZZZZZZIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGG!!!!!!", "good game" and "A great read" fairly recently.

Thu Jan 29 21:18:54 2015
Makes you wonder if the author is putting those comments there to improve his status.

Also, Andy, I wouldn't delete comments from the same ISP. In my case, it's not ME commenting on my own crap.
In my opinion nobody is doing that.

The comments I delete are either spam, incoherent gibberish or abuse. The individual that they come from is irrelevant. What I meant was, though Laddie's comment didn't contain much of substance, it's still better than the ones that are no more than a load of random key presses. Just about.

Robert Douglas
Fri Jan 30 17:45:00 2015
@ Everyone,
Oh dear, I was hoping people would be impressed by my 'text' format reply. Yes, you're right, I have received some good criticism which I do appreciate. I don't mind readers bringing up negative points as long as they are both polite and explanative whilst doing so.

One thing I must ask, Andy: why do people press random keys then post them?

@ bcyy,
You must remember the time when I posted one as 'The Duke of Wellington' - although I did this during a moment of mad amusement. You're probably right about the 'creative commons licence' and Tammy gave some good advice also. I must point out that Steve Jackson Games is to do with the American Games Designer rather than the UK Fighting Fantasy Steve Jackson. Even more confusing, US Steve Jackson was commissioned to write: Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep, Robot Commando. With his style, you can normally revisit certain locations.
My guess is that the worst messages are sent in rage immediately after getting killed. I can't answer it definitively though, the motivation of visitors is one stat the web hosts don't provide.

Fri Jan 30 20:38:03 2015
Ah I see :)

Fri Jan 30 20:40:41 2015
How come I recieved a message:

Your message has been added to the Guestbook, but will be hidden until it has been checked.

Have I been banned? I didn't mean to do anything wrong. :(
Nobody is banned.

When you post a message, certain automatic checks are made on its content. The point of this is to stop spam, which has at various times in the past been a problem. The checks are not perfect unfortunately, and sometimes a perfectly good message (like yours just now) is flagged as suspicious. In such cases the message is hidden until I get round to looking at it.

Fri Jan 30 20:42:16 2015
*cries tears of great anguish!!!*

Sat Jan 31 00:31:47 2015

I get that message about half the time, so don't feel too depressed about it.

Half Pint
Sat Feb 21 12:21:10 2015
Sorry for late reply! Thanks for the info. I like Peter F. Hamilton, especially Fallen Dragon and the Night's Dawn Trilogy, though I like Alastair Reynolds more, (the Revelation Space series, (ancient intelligence-controlling machines awaken in the 26th/27th century), Pushing Ice; near-future where a moon of Saturn turns out to be a machine, Century Rain detective story split between the year 2266 and an alternate 1950s, Terminal World steampunk story set in the 'last city', - a place split between different technological states, House of Suns a tale set six million years in the future involving the clone-descendants of a pivotal person in space exploration and a conspiracy to wipe them out, and more recently the Poseidon's Children. Another author, - Iain M. Banks who sadly died in 2013 who wrote the incredible Culture books. I'm a fan of James Herbert, though unfortunately I really didn't enjoy his last few books, Haunted and Magic Cottage were always my favourite of his. Personally I'm a bigger fan of Stephen King. Adam Nevill does quite good (and often bleak) horror, my favourite been The Ritual which has elements of Blair Witch Project as a group of friends lost on a Arctic-Circle hiking trip soon realise they are been hunted by something ancient. Joe Donnelly wrote horror in the 1980s, my personal favourite been Bane which is similiar to Stephen King's It as a number of friends encounter something they defeated when they were kids. I remember reading Day of the Triffids when I was eight, - always sticks in my mind the very shocking imagery. As well as horror and sci-fi, I love epic-fantasy, Lord of the Rings and George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire been my all-time favourites. I'm also big on steampunk, especially China Mieville's Bas-Lag books (all his books are excellent, well worth looking up) - Alan Campbell (Deepgate Codex, Gravedigger Chronicles) are awesome too, - have a slight preference for Gravediggers, - epic tale set on a world of poisoned seas. I do like Bernard Cornwell, I think probably his Warlord Chronicles are his best. Thanks for the info on Keith Roberts, - I'll look him up. Last note, - speaking of alternate-histories one series I think is a masterpiece is Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series. Right, rambled on for long enough, good to have a natter about books anyway! Cheers

Robert Douglas
Sun Feb 22 17:20:03 2015
@ Half Pint,

Plenty food for thought! I'm aware about the existence of some, while others are something of a revelation. Like yourself, besides fantasy and sci-fi, I'm also into steampunk style worlds. Thief: Deadly Shadows was a curious blend of fantasy and steampunk, one of my favourite PC classics, very atmospheric and some memorable moments - the Shalebridge Cradle is more horror in theme. The dates in Century Rain reminds me of Fallout 3 (which is also set within an alternate timeline). Also, games such as Rage, Dishonored, and Deus Ex (IW and HR included) feature strongly in those categories to some degree or another. Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles are perhaps considered his best work to date. The trilogy encompassed elements of both fantasy and historical so it appealed to a broader fan-base. Pavane might appeal to your steampunk tastes as it's set in a 1968 England dominated by castles, steam engines, and semaphore towers.

Half Pint
Mon Feb 23 15:29:47 2015
I'll certainly look up Pavane! I'm a big fan of computer/video games, (the first one I ever had was a Dragon 32, soon progressed to the Amiga (love 'em! Though in truth it was Dad who did the 'progressing', I just used to spend hours playing Alien Breed... among many others, on it), then PC. Console-wise, me favourite's the Xbox 360, (haven't yet got an Xbox One). I agree with Thief, - very good, original setting/style, I really enjoyed 2014's Thief, I think it deserves better reviews than what it got. The Fallout series is good but I prefer Metro 2033 (and the sequel Last Light) which features more supernatural/paranormal events, it's a fair bit like the FEAR games with the moments of outright action and lingering horror-sections. Dishonored is awesome, (even better than Thief I'd say!). Another steampunk one to look up is Chris Wooding's Tales of the Ketty Jay, - very reminiscent of Firefly, - and utterly incredible. Quickly back to video games, I'd love to see someone do a Fighting Fantasy console/PC game set on Titan... the last one we had was 1998's Deathtrap Dungeon! It'd be great for the long-time fans and no doubt drag some new ones in. Furthermore, regarding Any Port in a Storm, the different time zones brought together aspects and the roaming undead reminded me of the Forbidden Siren games, (and the more recent Evil Within). Lastly, - for the past year I've been working on an adventure where the player takes the role of a mercenary working for a number of crime-lords in Blacksand who has to leave the city following the arrival of a much-more powerful gang and the assassination of the player's bosses, forcing them to sign on as a caravan-guard simply to escape the chaos for a while, only to soon learn there is something much worse than gang-warfare beyond the city. I'm using the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system for it, - have you ever used that system yourself?

Robert Douglas
Fri Feb 27 16:07:20 2015
@ Half Pint,

I'm aware of the Advanced FF system through the Dungeoneer, Blacksand, and Allansia titles - although it was really started off by Steve Jackson's 'Introduction to FF' and 'Riddling Reaver' scenarios. In fairness, many commissioned writers also contributed their own ideas as regards rules and gameplay. I've got Metro 2033 Last Light, the air filter adds that extra quality to game mechanics. FPS games are great, although I do prefer open world, i.e Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, where it involves so many aspects and exploration. I'm also a fan of Assassin's Creed, which is a cross between open world and sandbox (but the latter on a much larger scale compared to Dishonored or Deus Ex which are games with a choice of route and method), where there's a main story but also plenty of tasks and challenges to complete.

I like the sound of your adventure. Port Blacksand is a fantastic setting that offers so many opportunities for gamebook concepts. However, one piece of advice: if you're using a wide range of choice (spells, route choices, equipment, etc), you may have to contemplate a 600 entry gamebook just to accommodate the variation (think of Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series which presented a choice of four or five spell per situation). It's amazing how many entries are used up in one complex situation!

Returning to AFF, and in answer to your question, I have perhaps utiized this in Prison of Pestilence which included spells and varied weapon bonuses (with some penalties), also in Snakeland Scorpion in terms of Lore and using a Bow.

Half Pint
Mon Mar 2 10:07:49 2015
Thanks for the advice and feedback, - as I've worked on it I've rapidly become aware it's going to be a big one. I've also done a version using the standard rules partly to do a 'test-run' and make sure everything plot-wise and gameplay is fine, before doing a more complex version. As with yourself, my first encounter with the Advanced system was via Riddling Reaver, Dungeoneer and Blacksand, - probably with as with many FF gamers, my first encounter with the infamous city was with City of Thieves, (the second part of Dungeoneer offers a good continuation in the aftermath of that adventure).

I really do enjoy sandbox/open world as well, if I had to pick a preference, it'd be sandbox, - as much as I love Skyrim I feel too-much freedom can weaken the overall effect/strength of the story, - not just that but it's the way all events are held in stasis while my character is off on a none-main quest adventure. I think Red Dead Redemption gets it spot on, as in having the freedom and a real engaging story. Another fantasy game which isn't really open world/sandbox but still has large areas to explore is The Witcher series, (the soon to be-released third game is open world), - the books by Andrzej Sapkowski (which they are based on) are original and incredible, - well worth a read. Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II had a similar layout regarding the environments you explore. In truth, I do prefer Dragon Age to Elder Scrolls, - bit darker, plenty of references to fantasy classics in the 'feel' of the world, (something Skyrim manages superbly, - there were several times I'd enter a ruin/temple/cave and think back to playing a FF gamebook as a kid!), and DA's characters are impressively deep.

Going back to my Blacksand adventure I'd really like to get a version of it on this website. One of the influences for it, (aside the sprawling city), was I wanted to do a story where the player-character was more of a anti-hero, (though there are opportunities to do 'lawful' work), - having said that I suppose most of the PCs in the gamebooks could be classed as mercenaries, - a lot of them are in it for the gold, after all!

Again, thanks for feedback.

Robert Douglas
Mon Mar 2 23:22:21 2015
@ Half Pint,

Regarding sandbox versus open world genres, you raise a fair point: sandbox compacts as many encounters, treats, and surprises within a smaller area, whereas open world is much more scenic yet the missions and features are more spread out. The latter is really more suited to those gamers who wish to search and explore on a long-term basis. Certain castles, towns, and ruins become huge sandboxes within themselves. However, the downside to a sandbox-style game is that it doesn't take all that long to reconnoitre - and once the main story ends, that's it. But with Fallout, Skyrim, etc, you can continue exploring for as many hours as you like (Hint: Fallout New Vegas is an exception to this rule, once the main story is concluded, you can't continue thereafter, so leave off completing it until you've explored every nook and cranny, fulfilled every side-mission).

I've heard of the Witcher (actually the third title was previewed in this month's PC Gamer). I've hear about many other RPG style fantasy games: Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights...

I forgot to mention 'Titan' and 'Out of the Pit' which are both now officially part of the AFF system. You'll find a map of Port Blacksand in the former, besides some background on the sinister Lord Azzur. 'Blacksand' will certainly give you some important information regards the shops, inhabitants, guilds, gameplay and story ideas. 'Midnight Rogue' may also contribute some useful people and locations from which you'd be able to borrow. All these should provide some authentic consistency, however there's nothing to stop you adding some Blacksand history of your own. As for the character, you could provide the player with a choice. Their choice would then limit or broaden choices available, affect types of weapon and equipment favoured, key contacts, friends, finances available within the city, etc.

Good luck in your writing and hope you finish it!

Half Pint
Fri Mar 6 09:26:45 2015
Good points, as I say, I've got nothing against open world, I love the sense of 'living' in the world especially like with Elder Scrolls and Fallout when the developers go to such length to get all the little details as much as the big ones. With you mentioning the 'definitive end' of New Vegas, they did a similiar thing with Fallout 3 until they released the DLC, (Broken Steel picked up after the main quest conclusion). I do prefer having a final conclusion to a game, - in my previous comment I listed Red Dead Redemption which has a gripping finale and a revenge-killing by your character's son years later, - this was such a brilliant ending, after which the player can complete any unfinished missions as the son, - I feel it would have been better off without this segment, not that it hurts the game in any way. Several times in Bethesda's game manuals it says how they made the game to be experienced the way the player wants, - whether they wish to do everything possible or complete the main quest and any side ones they think pertain to their character/story and that's a great sense of freedom.

Thanks for the reminder, - I had seen last year that Titan and Out of the Pit had been updated, though I've yet to buy them. Taken on board what you've said about choice, I decided early on that there will be several times in my adventure where the player can choose exactly what jobs they take, I was even contemplating a 'Fame and Crime' system which affects how people respond depending on what jobs you take, (work too much for criminals and if you get caught by the City Watch bigger penalties... or maybe a job offer unavailable to a 'honest' character from a corrupt watch chief). Talking of influences, going back to the Thief games, one early mission I've planned involves the player sent by their criminal employer to hunt down a gang-member suspected of betrayal and ends up chasing them to an abandoned house with several ghouls lurking within, I've deliberately not directly revealed the reason why there's a family of ghouls, (with most of them locked in a room, unwisely opened by the man they're (the player) chasing), the first encountered is slumped unmoving in a chair besides a table covered in ruined meat while a meagre fire flickers in the hearth, (showing whatever happened to these people occured only recently), as soon as the player bursts in, their intrusion awakens the ghoul which has fresh wounds on it from its encounter with the fleeing man. After the player has completed this opening mission, if they choose they can explore the house and find scraps of information regarding what happened to the family. The inspiration came from a mission, I think in Thief: Deadly Shadows where you go to the docks to track down a (jewel?) only to find zombies crawling about the place and a captain's journal detailing his retrieval of this jewel which cursed them with undeath. Sorry about vagueness, been a while since I've played it.

As soon as it's finished, I will certainly get it on the website.

Robert Douglas
Fri Mar 6 16:11:33 2015
@ Half Pint,

With regards to Fallout 3, that's the beauty of DLCs and patches. Rome II Total War was very much improved with the use of 'update' patches (tweaking graphics, gameplay issues, introducing new factions and units, etc). Although, I can't understand why many fans still gnash their teeth upon mention of the game. Armies have to be led by a general, and there's a limited number of these (max quota increases upon conquest of further provinces) and, although I initially struggled to master such a change in TW style, I'm carving out a powerful empire for Octavian. I would beware of installing/using fan-made patches, however, as these can prove somewhat unstable.

I had no idea Titan and Out of the Pit had been updated - but with hordes of new monsters and demons added to FF since its initial publication, hardly surprising, and long overdue. The Thief: Deadly Shadows mission to which you're referring takes place aboard the Abysmal Gale. Captain Robert Moira had discovered on one voyage (not a jewel but) a strange golden slab. SPOILER: It soon becomes obvious that this artefact is purely evil and transformed the ship's crew into zombies. Garrett has to infiltrate this nightmarish place and search for clues as to the artefact's whereabouts. For me, Thief: Deadly Shadows was a true gaming classic and atmospheric beyond measure!

I like your idea of a 'Fame and Crime' aspect to gameplay in your gamebook. A similar idea features in 'Night Dragon' (FF#52 Puffin series) called Notoriety. But your idea goes into a little more depth and complexity. In Port Blacksand, both scores can serve to bonus or penalise the player. I'm wondering if you would use ideas from other games, such as fences (Thief, ES Oblivion) and certain contacts - depending on your character - to help with missions (Dishonored: Brigmore Witches)?

Half Pint
Sat Mar 7 10:19:07 2015
Like the sound of Rome: Total War, like Medieval stuff a lot but my bigger interest is anything from Ancient Egypt through to the (early) Viking Era, (before they largely turned to Christianity, (nothing against Christians, I just prefer the tales of the old gods when it comes to mythology/belief with the Vikings), the only Total War game I've played was the console spin-off Spartan: Total Warrior which featured a host of monstrous enemies as well as human armies, (I'm sure the same company made Viking: Battle for Asgard on the Xbox 360, - very good game).

Thanks for info on Thief mission, I'm usually very good at remembering... well, anything, but it was one of those mornings when I seemed to have a blank. I'd vaguely got part of the ship's name in mind.

Yup, I remember Night Dragon, bought it about twenty years ago! The Concave of Dragons sticks in my mind with that one. In fact there's a fight in my gamebook in a nod to a battle with two skeletons in Night Dragon, - when you defeat them, their skulls rise up and attack, - I've, well, copied that as a nod to that gamebook. I have scribbled out ideas for fences and informants with options after completing missions to visit them, buy equipment and keep an ear out for work opportunities. One of the weapons the player has is a crossbow, and there's various alchemical bolts they can by, (like Thief), although with my game they come from the first 'version' where the player was a demon-hunter and along with various spells, runes, and trinkets had two additional stats 'Purity' and 'Corruption', 'Purity' enabled them to use spells and blessed weapons, 'Corruption' was gained not just by items but by selfish acts, and in a nod to Dishonored's DLC corrupt bone charms, some of the more 'tainted' weaponry was more powerful, but at a price. Bit of a cliche I know but it offered the player a choice on their character development. Back to the current version, I've sketched out some ideas for allowing the player to take part in a mass-battle, (similar to Seas of Blood), though here it's a city riot. I know I've crammed plenty of ideas in, and considering the part set in Blacksand is only the beginning, this adventure is going to be a big... and hopefully enjoying/gripping one.

Half Pint
Sat Mar 7 10:53:22 2015
(Forgot to add this bit... talk about having a good memory, ha!)

Another addition I've added are a few monsters which are far too tough to beat (Stamina wise) in a single battle, the player is given the option when to escape when they wish, other times they must endure a set number of Attack Rounds before escaping, after which they keep track of the monster's current Stamina for when/if they meet again. The player can find talismans and runes effective against certain creatures, as well as some magic (I'm not putting a lot of magic spells in this adventure, for one thing I'm much more of the Tolkien take on magic, making it esoteric and not widely used, I find it lessens the danger of combat in some games when after a big fight and suffering horrendous wounds, a spellcaster chants and everybody's healed, I'm not criticising those who prefer a 'high-magic' approach, the gamebooks feature plenty of healing potions and of course, they will be widely available, (while in Blacksand at least)), furthermore, they don't have to defeat every tough monster they encounter. Mentioning the crossbow, in most fights the player will be allowed to use it at least once, (sometimes more, depending on the enemy), and this deals at least double the standard damage. I've also thought about adding an Armour rating, - most gamebooks mention the player character wearing armour but it never seems to have an effect on combat, so what I decided is that the armour has a protection rating and in combat takes half the damage received but looses one point with each hit, (so in the standard system a enemy's successful hit deducts only one point of Stamina, - in a similar way in which Luck can affect battle). An example of a powerful monster is an early encounter after leaving Blacksand, crossing Allansia in the middle of a long, hot summer the player soon realises something is very wrong with nearby trees and crops tainted and rotting. Further along, they come across a field where the earth is frozen, and a thick patch of freezing air is moving towards them. In the centre is the horrific form of a spectre, once a loyal knight, something has awoken him and turned him into a tormented, evil thing. At this stage it is impossible to fight him, not having any magic or blessed weapons, but upon gaining them and returning, the spectre is still a deadly foe, - the player can gain several talismans that will weaken the spectre in terms of Skill and Stamina.

Upon leaving Blacksand, the overall feel with this spreading taint is similar to Vault of the Vampire, Spellbreaker, Knights of Doom and the more recent Howl of the Werewolf which inspired me to do a dark-fantasy adventure, though the sequel (I hope!) will be a more like the main bulk of the FF series. Speaking of inspiration, what (if any) of the gamebooks inspired you most with your adventures?

Robert Douglas
Sun Mar 8 18:44:28 2015
You make a good point where 'over-using' magic is concerned. In Prison of Pestilence, I purposefully kept the more powerful spells as a one-shot instance (and the player still needed a particular item to cast each one, thus demanding backpack space), while the lesser ones required Magic points. As regards Lord of the Rings, there aren't many wizards to match Gandalf the Grey or the evil power of Sauron. SPOILER: I've often wondered if Tolkien purposefully put that ring into the Hobbit story, or if the inspiration for LOTR trilogy came later? Mystery.

Steve Jackson (the commissioned author, not the FF co-founder) allowed the player to return to a previous location - but to cater this he had to write (in italic): 'If you have been here before turn to ....' Scorpion Swamp, Demons of the Deep, and Robot Commando all possessed this style.

Dark-fantasy and gothic style to the story and environment is perhaps a very popular choice. Speaking of which, in answer to your last question, I'd say most FF gamebooks contributed in one sense or another to my inspiration, but also Joe Dever's legendary Lone Wolf franchise and Freeway Warrior mini-series. It was around the time the latter came out that I started playing around with gamebook ideas and plots (although by no means at the level of competence I've attained now!) besides which the Sharpe and Night's Dawn titles helped to 'mature' and improve upon my writing style, characterisation, plot-building, etc. I owe a lot to Bladerunner and Peter F Hamilton for giving me some excellent sci-fi ideas. 24 (Jack Bauer) recently introduced me to a complex plot and conspiracy flavour which will feature in Sean Calibre Book 2. I'm also fond of a variety of sci-fi, dystopian, and post-apocalypse (though the latter can prove too depressing) movies. In short, the pool that is my inspiration is fed by a rich variety of sources.

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