My Complete and Utter Cthulhu Bibliography

July 1, 2015 1 comment

Call_of_Cthulhu_RPG_1st_ed_1981

I had been playing AD&D for about four years when the first edition of Call of Cthulhu was published in 1981. Although I wasn’t terribly familiar with Lovecraft’s work at the time, I liked the fact that it was a horror game set in the real world of the 20th century. Initially I thought it could be used to play Hammer-horror style games, but as I read more Lovecraft I quickly came to realize how perfectly Call of Cthulhu was designed for Lovecraft’s more cerebral style of horror – and most importantly, I think, how first edition Call of Cthulhu forced players to think beyond combat as a first response.

Although my college gaming group continued to focus mainly on AD&D, I started to run an occasional Call of Cthulhu campaign. Another member of the group picked up Bushido. This was right around the time that the Shogun mini-series and the theatrical release of Kurosawa’s Kagemusha propelled feudal Japan to 80s geek prominence, and – though you young’uns might not credit it – it was about the first that most folks in the West had ever heard of ninjas. My friend’s Bushido campaign focused as much on etiquette and social interaction as it did on combat.

As I’ve already said in various places (including the previous post), Call of Cthulhu went on to become a major influence on my own writing for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Arguably, Bushido was an equally strong influence on my later writing for Vampire: The Masquerade, where players had to negotiate the minefield of vampire society and politics – but that’s a subject for another time.

Although Games Workshop published various titles for Call of Cthulhu during my time there (the best, in my opinion, was the hardback rulebook with bestiary art by Tony Ackland), I only got to work on one GW CoC product, and that was before I joined the staff. At work my time was fully taken up, at first by WFRP and later by other games, so everything I wrote for Call of Cthulhu, I wrote on my own time. I did send an adventure to Chaosium around 1986-87, and I got a very nice letter back from Sandy Petersen saying he wanted to use it in the Cthulhu Companion, but it was cut at the last minute and it’s languished ever since in a to-be-developed pile. Only last month I looked at it again, and I think I have a plan for what to do with it. Watch this space.

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Strangely, 2015 has been a very Cthulhu-ful year so far. I finally finished the Colonial Gothic Lovecraft supplement (once again illustrated by Tony Ackland, which makes me very happy indeed): it’s due for release in September. I submitted a story for a Lovecraftian anthology by Stone Skin Press: it didn’t make the cut (although the editors were kind enough to say it came very close), so it’s on the pile for a gentle reworking before I start trying to find it a home elsewhere. I wrote my first ever adventure for Achtung! Cthulhu: it’s still under NDA so all I’ll say is that while there may be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover, there’s something underneath that’s altogether stranger.

But I digress. What I started out to say is that although my bibliography for Call of Cthulhu is shorter than for most other games, I still regard it as one of my favorites. Although opportunities to write for it didn’t come my way very often, it’s still a great game and, as I’ve said before, a milestone in the history of tabletop RPG design. I think of it as the first game of the second generation, when RPG design crawled out of the dungeon, stood upright, and began to do more than just hit things with swords.

Products
Green & Pleasant Land, Games Workshop 1987 – contributing author

Articles
“Out of the Ordinary,” Shadis #41, Oct 1996
“Mind Over Matter,” Shadis #38, Jul 1996
“Spirit of the Mountain,” White Dwarf #99, Apr 1988
“Trilogy of Terror,” White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“The Worm Stones,” Fantasy Chronicles #5, November 1986 – co-author
“Ghost Jackal Kill,” White Dwarf #79, Aug 1986
“Crawling Chaos,” White Dwarf #68, Sep 1985 – contributor
“Haunters of the Dark,” White Dwarf #67, Aug 1985

Video Games
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Bethesda Softworks 2005 – pickup writer (in-game documents)

Other Bibliography Posts

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)

Warhammer Prehistory: Find the Lady

June 8, 2015 14 comments

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A few weeks ago, I had occasion to scan the last AD&D adventure I wrote before I started work on the game that would become Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You can find it here.

The adventure was called Find the Lady, and it was published in issue 2 of Paul Cockburn’s AD&D magazine GameMaster Publications, which came out in December 1985, shortly before he joined Games Workshop. Paul started GM Pubs after the closure of Imagine magazine and the rest of TSR UK’s publications department; it was written by various Imagine regulars – and several former TSR UK staffers – and lasted for five issues before Paul took over as editor of White Dwarf. Like Imagine, GM Pubs only bought first rights, which is why I feel comfortable making it available online now.

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Rereading it thirty years later, I can see it has many of the qualities that would later become characteristic of WFRP: in fact, it wouldn’t require much work to covert it to any edition of that game, with the action set in Altdorf, Middenheim or Marienburg rather than the Pellinore setting that was born in Imagine and continued in GM Pubs. Three years ago, Coop over at the Fighting Fantasist blog made some very astute observations about Pellinore and the development of WFRP, and Phil Gallagher and I both weighed in with comments.

Like many of the early Enemy Within adventures, Find the Lady is primarily a city investigation. As with much of WFRP, I had too much fun creating colorful NPCs. I had been playing a lot of Bushido in the few years before I wrote it, and had fallen in love with the trickster fox-spirits called kitsune. I had also been running a first-edition Call of Cthulhu campaign which involved a great deal of investigation and NPC interaction and very little combat: after all, taking a D&D approach to Call of Cthulhu combat made for very short adventures! Both of these games were an influence on Find the Lady, and of course Call of Cthulhu would be a significant influence on the Enemy Within adventures.

Looking back, it’s easy to see Find the Lady as an intermediate step between AD&D and WFRP as far as my own work is concerned, but it’s also a reflection of roleplaying in general – especially, I think, British roleplaying – as it stood in the mid-80s. Several London-based fanzines led the “rolegaming” movement, which emphasized character interaction over combat and decried commercial success – including the success of WFRP – as somehow having Betrayed Art. Less vocally, roleplayers across the UK were drawn to Call of Cthulhu for the way it supported options other than combat. AD&D was still in its first edition at that time, and had a notable lack of non-combat skills.

Warhammer, of course, was – and remains – a miniatures combat game, so it is perhaps surprising that its roleplaying spinoff should have taken such a different course. Partly it’s because the WFRP combat system turned out to be so deadly and there was little time to fine-tune it, but in large measure, I think, it was a product of its time: a time when Call of Cthulhu had shown the way, and other tabletop RPGs were looking beyond the dungeon. Find the Lady is another sign of those times, and although it’s not as polished as it might be, I hope you enjoy it.

My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography

June 3, 2015 6 comments

Here’s the second instalment in my “Complete and Utter Bibliography” project. The first one covered Warhammer Fantasy, and now its time to move on to the 40th Millenium.

The plan is to post a new instalment at the beginning of each month. Next up: Call of Cthulhu and other Mythos-related projects.

I was never as closely involved with 40K as I was with Warhammer Fantasy, but like everyone in the Games Workshop Design Studio at that time I pitched in as needed. I worked fairly closely with Jervis Johnson on Adeptus Titanicus and Space Marine, acting as editor/developer and writing color text as well as a few White Dwarf articles to support new releases in the Epic Scale range.

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Products
Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader (1987) – Color text
Warhammer Siege (1988) – Colour text
Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (1988) – Contributing writer
Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned (1990) – Contributing writer

Articles
“Sentinel,” White Dwarf #113, Jun 1989
“Imperial Guard,” White Dwarf #113, Jun 1989
“Conqueror,” White Dwarf #112, May 1989
“Predator,” White Dwarf #112, May 1989
“Rough Riders,” White Dwarf #111, Apr 1989
“Whiteshields,” White Dwarf # 111, Apr 1989
“Squats,” White Dwarf #111, Apr 1989
“Ork Wartrak & Field Gun,” White Dwarf #112, May 1989
“Imperial Guard,” White Dwarf #109, Feb 1989
“Harlequins,” White Dwarf #105, Oct 1988
“Land Raider,” White Dwarf #105, Oct 1988

Adeptus Titanicus logo

Products
Adeptus Titanicus (1988) – Editing, color text
Codex Titanicus (1989) – Editing, color text
Space Marine (1989) – Editing, color text

Articles
“Ork Gargants,” White Dwarf #116, Sep 1989
“Imperial Vehicles,” White Dwarf #116, Sep 1989
“Epic Battle Damage,” White Dwarf #116, Sep 1989
“Death Blow!,” White Dwarf #114, Jul 1989
“Craters,” White Dwarf #111, Apr 1989
“Chain Fist!,” White Dwarf #111, Apr 1989
“Eldar,” White Dwarf #110, Mar 1989
“Reaver and Warhound,” White Dwarf #109, Feb 1989

The Future of Gamebooks?

May 14, 2015 10 comments

Someone from a Fighting Fantasy Facebook group just asked me whether I thought there could ever be a gamebook resurgence. Is it possible to capture the same lightning in a bottle, 30 years on? Branching novels? Other applications for the numbered-paragraph format? It’s a question I come back to every so often myself.

Here’s what I told him, based on my own experience. What does anyone else think?

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The question you’re considering is one I wrestled with myself back in the 80s. The gamebook phenomenon was so huge that I was sure that there were endless applications for interactive-lit-based learning, fiction, and just about everything else. I tried a few things, from short Choose-Your-Owns for my university museum through training aids for various things, but nothing ever made it past the prototype stage.

At the time, I was mystified, and convinced that I’d missed something. Looking back, I think now that I was focusing on too small a part of the picture. Like the American rail barons who felt safe because there were no other railways but didn’t realize that railways were just one part of the transport industry, and ended up being destroyed by the growing interstates and airlines. We’re really talking about interactive storytelling.

As far as books go, I don’t think gamebooks will ever escape their origins in the young adult section. That mark will stay with them forever, and make it hard – if not impossible – for the format to be taken seriously as a form of adult literature. It’s possible to conceive of Choose-Your-Own-Adventures for adults, but I can’t escape the worry that adult readers would feel they were playing rather than reading, and that would ultimately thin the market for an interactive adult book, no matter its other qualities. But then, books are dying, or so we’re told once a year or more. With that said, though, the trusty Choose-Your-Own format is still used in some educational books for kids: for example, Capstone Press in the States has a line of “Interactive History Adventure” books. I’ve heard nothing about whether kids prefer them to standard format books, though.

Capstone Pearl Harbor

Interactive storytelling is well established in the computer games world, of course, and that’s where it’s flourishing right now. Just the other day I was doing some stuff for a game developer using a program called Twine, which is basically a whiz-bang flowchart system that makes writing interactive stories a doddle. Hypertext-stack text games are an artisan-filled niche these days, but a lot of games still rely on story trees and such.

Back in the 90s, “interactive movie” was a buzzword. As well as theatrical releases, the term was also applied to computer games with a high story content, a branching narrative structure, and ambitions to artistic recognition. We never hear of them now. In games the term was tainted by overuse and frequent association with ambitious and costly failures. In movies, no one could quite get the interface right: I heard stories about cinemas fitted with voting buttons in the seat arms, but either people voted for the wierdest option just to see what would happen (or to try and break the movie), or kids rampaged up and down the aisles pressing every button they could find. Those bugs might have shaken out once the novelty wore off the format, but there was one other problem that I still can’t see a way around, and it applies to all media: in providing options, you have to create a lot more content than any one-time user will ever see. This isn’t too expensive when it’s words in a book or on a hypercard stack, but when you start talking about TV and movies it quickly becomes ruinous. You have to count on people coming back and back to try different options on a movie they’ve already seen rather than choosing to see a new movie, and it’s a very big, very expensive risk.

As to a gamebook resurgence, I think there is one currently under way, but I’m not sure that there’s a new market for gamebooks out there. What I’ve seen has been driven largely by nostalgia (including the heartwarming sight of kids enjoying the same books their parents grew up with) enabled by the community-building ability of social media and the ease of collecting offered by Ebay and other online marketplaces. Plus, of course, the ease of publishing interactive titles on ebook platforms. For a true resurgence to take place and for the medium to evolve into its next phase, gamebooks and interactive fiction/education/whatever will have to do something that makes them truly novel and interesting all over again so they can catch the imaginations of a new generation. That’s going to be a challenge, and in all honesty I haven’t a clue how that might be achieved. I’m intrigued by location-based interactives delivered via mobile devices (imagine a tour of Roman Bath, for example, with the screen showing your current location recreated in Steam or whatever, and NPCs to question about life back then), but that may just be the archaeology graduate in me. The same idea could be applied to all kinds of ARGs, and I think those may be the true successors to gamebooks, rather than a strictly literary or cinematic experience.

Imagine 22 cover

If you’re just talking about books, though, I can’t say I’m optimistic. Although gamebooks did exist (just about) before the 80s, the “perfect storm” of D&D/RPG frenzy, game system, and portability is what launched the phenomenon – and also made them a kid-teen product rather than an adult one. (If you can get hold of a copy or a scan of Imagine #22, there’s an article by me and Colin Greenland analyzing the gamebook phenomenon as it stood in 1985 – it might have some pointers.) Today, there are better ways to do everything gamebooks can do, and none of them involves books. To create a true gamebook resurgence – in any market – you’d need that same combination of zeitgeist-driven content, ease of use, and novelty of presentation. Whatever that might look like, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be on paper.

My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography

May 1, 2015 10 comments

I recently had occasion to put together a complete bibliography of all my work on Warhammer, WFRP, and Advanced HeroQuest, so I thought I’d post a copy here for anyone who’s interested.

If I have time later on, I might add my work on Warhammer 40,000, Epic Scale, and related games, but for now this is just the Warhammer Fantasy related work.

WFB logo

Warhammer
Products
Warhammer rulebook, 3rd ed. (1987) – Colour text
Warhammer Siege (1988) – Colour text
Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (1988) – Contributing writer
Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned (1990) – Contributing writer

Articles
“Crush, Crumble and Chop,” White Dwarf #103, Aug 1988
“The Crude, the Mad and the Rusty,” White Dwarf #83, Dec 1986

Box Backs
Skull Crusher Goblin Trebuchet
Lead Belcher Goblin Organ Gun
Great Fire Dragon
Green Dragon
Blue Dragon
Elven Attack Chariot
Harboth’s Orc Archers
Man-Mangler Orc Mangonel
Great Imperial Dragon
The Nightmare Legion
Bugman’s Dwarf Rangers
The Skeleton Horde
Orc War Wyvern
Goblin Battle Chariots
The Dragon Masters
Skarloc’s Wood Elf Scouts
Gob-Lobber Dwarf Onager
Roglud’s Armoured Orcs
Prince Ulther’s Imperial Dwarfs
Skeleton War Machines
Snotling Pump Wagon (magazine ad)

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Products

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3rd Edition
The Enemy Within (2012) – Co-author
The Edge of Night (2010) – Author

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2nd Edition
Plundered Vaults (2005) – Contributor (reprint)
Paths of the Damned: Ashes of Middenheim (2005) – Author
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Second Edition (2005) – Contributor (adventure)

Wfrp_logo

1st Edition
Fear the Worst (2002: Hogshead) – Developer
Dwarfs: Stone and Steel (2002: Hogshead) – Developer
Corrupting Influence (2002: Hogshead/Warpstone) – Contributor (reprint)
Apocrypha 2 (2000: Hogshead) – Editor/contributor
Gamemaster’s Screen (1997: Hogshead) – Author (insert booklet)
Apocrypha Now (1995: Hogshead) – Contributor (reprint)
Castle Drachenfels (1991: Flame) – Developer
Death’s Dark Shadow (1991: Flame) – Developer
Warhammer Companion (1990: Flame) – Editor/contributor
Doomstones: Dwarf Wars (1990: Flame) – Developer
Doomstones: Death Rock (1990: Flame) – Developer
Doomstones: Blood in Darkness (1990: Flame) – Developer
Character Pack, 2nd edition (1990: Flame) – Author (insert booklet)
Doomstones: Fire in the Mountains (1989: Flame) – Developer
Lichemaster (1989: Flame) – Developer
Empire in Flames (1989: GW) – Contributor (author brief)
The Restless Dead (1989: GW) – Contributor (reprint)
Something Rotten in Kislev (1988: GW) – Developer/co-author
Dungeon Lairs (1987: GW) – Developer (insert booklet)
Warhammer City (1987: GW) – Contributor
Character Pack, 1st edition (1990: Flame) – Developer (insert booklet)
Death on the Reik (1987: GW) – Co-author/developer
Shadows over Bogenhafen (1986: GW) – Author
The Enemy Within (1986: GW) – Developer
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1986: GW) – Co-author/developer

Articles

“The Gong Farmer,” personal blog (https://graemedavis.wordpress.com), August 2013
“Secrets of the WFRP Writers, Part 2,” Warpstone #15, Winter 2000-2001
“Secrets of the WFRP Writers, Part 1,” Warpstone #14, Summer 2000
“Secrets of the Warhammer Artists,” Warpstone #6, Summer 1997
“The Warpstone Interview,” Warpstone #5, Spring 1997
“Nastassia’s Wedding,” Pyramid #19, May/June 1996
“Pit Fighting,” White Wolf Inphobia #57, August 1995
“Social Level Rules,” White Dwarf #138, Jul 1991
“The King Beneath the Hill,” White Wolf #26, Apr 1991
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #135, Apr 1991
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #133, Feb 1991
“Ironstone Pass,” White Dwarf #132, Jan 1991
“The Great Hospice,” White Dwarf #130, Nov 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #128, Sep 1990
“The Emperor Luitpold,” White Dwarf #122, Mar 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #121, Feb 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #120, Jan 1990
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #119, Dec 1989
“Marienburg” (ed.),White Dwarf #118, Nov 1989
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #103, Aug 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #102, Jul 1988
“Fimir,” White Dwarf #102, Jul 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #98, Mar 1988
“On the Boil” (ed.),White Dwarf #97, Feb 1988
“A Rough Night at the Three Feathers,” White Dwarf #94, Nov 1987
“A Fistful of Misprunts,” White Dwarf #92, Sept 1987
“Oops!,” White Dwarf #91, Aug 1987
“Onwards & Upwards,” White Dwarf #89, Jun 1987
“Hand of Destiny,” White Dwarf #88, May 1987
“On the Road,” White Dwarf #85, Feb 1987

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AHQ logo


HeroQuest/Advanced HeroQuest

Products
HeroQuest (Milton Bradley, 1989) – Contributor (initial consulting)
Advanced Heroquest (1989) – Developer
Terror in the Dark (1991) – Author

Articles

“Treasure,” White Dwarf #139, Aug 1991
“Henchmen,” White Dwarf #138, Jul 1991

New Resumes

April 27, 2015 Leave a comment

The next couple of months will see me finishing a batch of projects, and I still have some availability in the second half of the year. I’ve updated my resumes (link at the top of the page) so get in touch with your needs or leads.

I am particularly interested in projects involving history,  myth/folklore, and historical fantasy. As well as games,  I am looking to expand my work in fiction and nonfiction.  I will consider tabletop game projects, but only if they pay exceptionally well. As much as I still love tabletop games, I have found it’s a very tough way to make a living.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll be back with something more interesting in a little while.

Categories: writing

Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Werewolves

March 31, 2015 Leave a comment

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My Osprey book Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide was released last week. To celebrate, I’ll be posting and tweeting a fact a day for ten days: just a few of the things I discovered while researching and writing it. I’ll also be updating this post each day with a new fact. You’ll find more information in the book itself, and you may never look at this stock horror monster in quite the same way once you’ve read it. I know I don’t.

Like its companion volumes on Zombies and Vampires, Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide collects a lot of deeply-researched information gathered from all times and places and presents it in an accessible and well-organized form for gamers and general readers alike.

For more on this book:
The first review (scroll down to the Comments section for more links as I find them).
A post about Werewolves and my most recent Osprey Myths and Legends book, Theseus and the Minotaur.

1. There are five distinct types of werewolf
As I read various ancient myths and medieval trial reports, I discovered something completely unexpected: not all werewolves are the same. I finally counted five distinct types, all of which I’ve covered in detail with histories, detailed descriptions, and case studies.
The five types are:
1. Viral Werewolves;
2. Cursed Werewolves;
3. Shamanic Werewolves;
4. Sorcerous Werewolves;
5. Obsessive Werewolves.

2. The Roman Empire helped spread lycanthropy across Europe
Until the first century, viral lycanthropy was confined to a small area of eastern Europe which became the Roman provinces of Moesia and Dacia. As Roman officials, merchants, and tax gatherers opened up the region, some of them contracted the virus and spread it throughout the Roman world.

3. St. Patrick may have rid Ireland of snakes, but he created the first documented Irish werewolves
The snakes of Patrick’s legend are a metaphor for Druidism, according to some writers. Another legend tells of certain pagans who drowned out his preaching by howling like wolves – whereupon he cursed them in the name of God, and they became the first recorded werewolves in Ireland.

4. Suleiman the Magnificent purged Constantinople of werewolves in 1542
The city was so overrun with werewolves that the Ottoman Emperor called out his Janissaries to deal with the situation. Over 150 werewolves were killed in one hunt alone.

5. Russia used werewolves to destabilize Sweden in 1790
The Swedish province of Calmar was overrun by a plague of wolves in 1790. Russia and Sweden were at war, and it was rumored that at least some of the creatures were werewolves that the Russians had created using Swedish prisoners. Sweden eventually sued for peace.

6. Buffalo Bill encountered a werewolf in 1906
According to the dime novel The Wolf Demon: Or Buffalo Bill and the Barge Mystery, the great scout and showman battled a wolf-like creature in Wyoming’s Wolf River Canyon. Cody claimed it was a werewolf, though some scholars believe it was actually a skinwalker from the local Arapahoe people.

7. The “Hounds of God” were an order of werewolf witch-hunters
At his trial in 1691, one Thiess of Kaltenbrun claimed to be a Hound of God, dedicated to protecting his community from supernatural threats. The Hounds were said to conduct raids into Hell itself on three nights of the year.

8. Britain and Germany both developed werewolf special forces in WWII
Germany’s Werwulf guerillas are fairly well-known, but Britain’s Talbot Group was founded in 1941 near Llanwelly, Wales and served throughout the rest of the war.

9. Vampires may be undead werewolves
According to a Greek tradition, a dead werewolf can rise from the grave as a vampire. However, the Greek word vrykolaka can mean both werewolf and vampire, which confuses matters somewhat.

10. Benjamin Franklin organized a werewolf militia
During the American Revolution, Patriot werewolves used their wolf forms to bring back valuable intelligence on British movements and troop strengths.

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