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Riders Of The Storm
Bodies In The Docks
House Of Horror
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Midnight Deep
Lair Of The Troglodytes
Outsider!
The Trial Of Allibor's Tomb
Hellfire

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Phil Sadler On Riders Of The Storm



This is a sequel to a horror book, so is it still horror in itself?
It is more chiller really in that, rather than bombard the reader with constant buckets of blood, I sought to be rather more subtle with the 'nasty' bits. I did this because I had the sneaking suspicion that people could have grown used to the gore during my first book and may have become almost immune to its 'shocks'. That's not to say that this book can't get gory now and again, it's just that this time I wanted to go for the more unsettling aspects of certain matters rather than out and out blood and guts.


This new aspect may help to explain the strange change of scene?
Yes, possibly. This new book is set in a forest - not an underground labyrinth! This is not because I was inspired by Forest of Doom! Despite the fact that I am sure you are now all thinking I was. Well, it may have had the odd bit of influence, just like every other FF book. However, the real reason for setting it in a forest is twofold: firstly, seeing as how the first book was set in a dark underground place I wanted to do the opposite for the sequel and set it in a bright over ground place. Secondly, I wanted to see if I could take one of the most beautiful settings I could think of and still fill it with very nasty things.


OK, we believe you, but what of the difficulty level? Is it as ball-breakingly tough as the first one?
I doubt it. Those of you who have already experienced Hellfire will know that, unlike certain books I could mention, it did not owe its difficulty to powerful monsters, preferring instead to hit the reader with puzzles, riddles and devious traps. This new book follows a similar vein, but only in that I have still refused to fall into the old trap of just creating ridiculously overpowered enemies and calling the adventure 'difficult' because of them. That's more or less where the similarity (in terms of adventure construction) ends, though. I say that because I am now well aware that it's perfectly possible to create a quest that, powerful enemies or not, can still prove too difficult for most! So, whilst the aforementioned puzzles, riddles and traps still do exist, they are no longer as prevalent or as complex as they were before. I have, instead, concentrated on making a more 'free flowing' game, with less instant deaths, less essential items to collect and a less linear route through.


Surely if there's less instant deaths then the adventure may run the risk of becoming too easy?
Not at all, especially if it's constructed correctly. I mean, sure, there aren't as many 'death passages' as before, but they're still there, as are dangerous enemies, tricks, traps and red herrings. Oh, and one last point on this 'deaths' subject: you may, now and again, come across a situation that ends in a particularly 'heavy' loss. The reason for these is not to merely annoy the reader, but to actually avoid having to put a 'Your adventure ends here' message at that point. What this means is, rather than just killing the reader outright, he or she at least has a chance to continue, albeit somewhat the worse for wear. Having said that, there's at least one of these places where you still gain an item...


Sounds pretty good. I noticed that you mentioned enemies just then, fancy telling us a few things about the foes that populate this adventure?
Alright then, but first, going back to Hellfire for a moment and regarding its creation and placement of creatures, I must be honest and say I was delighted to populate it with old enemies I myself had faced in other books I had read and loved. Now, despite the fact that the creatures were placed fairly well and their stats were not too overpowering, I now can't help thinking that a lot of the combat suffered from the fact that it was still just like most FF combat - not very interesting. OK, sure, there were new enemies with new abilities within its pages, but they were pretty few and far between. This is a pity when, let's face it, the FF combat system was never very good in the first place and could even be accused of being a bit dull if one was faced with to many foes in too quick a succession.


Riders of the Storm is not like that?
No, it's not. Firstly, just like Hellfire, it still features the Deadlock option and, secondly, it now features an Instant Death skill (read the 'Battles' and 'Instant Death' sections to learn about these abilities). Not only that, but just about every fight with every foe features creatures with some unusual skill or ability that breaks from the norm: there are creatures that can damage your luck or your skill or even your initial values. There are others who can grow more powerful during a fight or weaken you just by being in your presence. And there are still others who can alter their stats during combat or even take some of yours and add it to theirs! There are many other weird fights that put a new twist on the norm and I hope you'll enjoy finding and experiencing them.


The new creatures sound interesting, but are there any old favourites?
There most certainly are! Witness the Messenger of Death, Hell Demon, Gangees and a good few others.


I look forward to meeting them (I think), but what of item collection before I even get that far? Will I still need a shopping list?
No, you will not. In Hellfire, for instance, you needed a veritable hoard of items to complete it. That wouldn't have been so bad in itself if it weren't for the fact that a lot of these items were only known to have been needed right at the end of the book, resulting in death and failure if you didn't have every last one of them! Now, I know that it wasn't quite as bad as I've just made it sound (there were clues throughout the book and, I'm sure, that certain patterns could have been spotted by a astute reader) but, nevertheless, it's just possible that I still went over the top in some respects.


This book is not like that?
It certainly isn't. There are still items to collect though, that's for sure, but there are no longer as many and they are no longer as essential. In fact, a lot of the time, you will have the choice whether to go for an item or not (whether it be it guarded by a foe or a trap or the answer to a puzzle or whatever). Quite simply, a lot of artefacts will be useful to you, but few are absolutely vital.


So, it's not all that linear then?
No, well not as much as the previous book or most of the other Fighting Fantasy adventures. You have to understand though that this is a game book and not a fully-fledged tabletop board game. There's only so much you can do.


Less linear than the first book you wrote though?
Yes, definitely less. Back to Hellfire again then and let us regard its linearity. OK, it probably wasn't as linear as most, but it's possible that more could have been done. 'Riders' is certainly a bit of a different beast in that respect. You can definitely try new routes and new paths, without always missing something essential. This should make fresh attempts at the adventure feel just that bit different from the last. Also, just like Hellfire, there are quite a few 'toss of the die' moments where something good may be awarded or something bad may be avoided. These too will help keep the game alive.


Talking of keeping things 'alive', are there any new rules?
There sure are. I have already noted the changes in combat and referred you to the appropriate rules section, but I haven't mentioned everything. Firstly, Healing Potions have been replaced Health Potions. These will restore your stamina by 1 die rather than the usual 4 points and you will start the each adventure with a random amount of these (see 'Stamina'). Secondly, you will now have a random special item at the start of each adventure, you will also have a Help Ring and a new kind of potion (see 'Equipment, Special Items, Help Rings and Potions'). The new potions are of particular note in that, rather than just restoring a statistic to its initial value, it will now involve rolling a certain amount of dice to determine how many points you reclaim. There is also a way to try get a friend to help you (see 'Background'). All these things will do their part to keep each new adventure fresh.


You certainly seem to talk a lot more than you used to?
I guess my style has changed. I mean, I now write in 'proper' paragraphs and implement speech correctly. It must be all those books I've been reading! This may explain how this book, despite being almost 100 references shorter than my first, actually has a much higher page count! Talking of pages, this document is 'paged' correctly for printing.


Interesting. You talked of reading books; did anyone you read influence you whilst writing this one?
Steve Jackson (too many to mention)
Ian Livingstone (too many to mention)
Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson (Way of the Tiger)
Joe Dever (Lone Wolf)
Keith Martin (Vault/Revenge of the Vampire, Night Dragon)
Jim Bambra and Steven Hand (Dead of Night)
HP Lovecraft (Cthulhu mythos)
EA Poe (too many to mention)
Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time)
Clive Barker (Books of blood)
And many others, but I'd be here all day if I mentioned them all...


Phew, that's a lot of people. Exactly how long did it take you to write this thing?
A bloody long time. In fact, a bloody, bloody long time. I started writing it years ago, right after I finished Hellfire. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of starting up without any sort of map (although I did have a few notes), and the lack of said map made things very difficult for a very long time. Not only that, but it was an even longer time before I even new what I wanted to make a map of. I mean, I knew it was of an island and I knew there were certain foes I wanted to place and certain events I wanted to create, but it took a long time before it all started to hang together and actually start to make sense.


So it was more difficult to write than the first?
You bet your bottom it was. It was tougher to write by a factor of about ten. I think the first mistake I made was, quite simply, that I started it far too soon after I ended the first one and had almost no ideas left! I mean, where as the first book was a culmination of about 15 years of reading FF, the second was more akin to 15 minutes and I had almost nothing left to give. So I put the book to one side for a very long time until I actually got some semblance of ideas together. Even then it proved difficult. I think this was due to a couple of reasons, the first of which was that I wrote Hellfire assuming that it had at least some small chance of being published. I wrote the sequel knowing full well it never had any. Secondly, I think (like I've already said) that my style has now changed and I have begun to find game books somewhat more restrictive than I used to.


So that's why this book is the 'first and only sequel' to Hellfire?
Absolutely! I'm now one of a very small group of amateurs who have written two of these things and I have no intention of writing a third.


Is it at least set up for the possibility of a sequel though?
Absolutely not. This is the final FF book I intend to write and I didn't want to leave any loose ends. To put things more simply, there could never be a sequel because everything is resolved right here in this book.