Saturday, January 15, 2011

Heart of Ice versus The Fabled Lands (The Final Chapter)

By Russ Nicholson (from Morris, 1994).
Once more, into the wilderness...
Surveying the landscape, you see only a dazzling expanse of snow under a sky of merciless metallic blue. The few other people you catch sight of are hunched anonymous figures in the distance. In these grim and desperate times, a lone traveller is well advised not to seek out company. (Morris, 1994, paragraph 400)

In the upcoming issue of Fighting Fantazine, I talk about two aspects of gamebook design (Wright, 2011a), namely:

- Structure. The physical aspect – how many paragraphs, how many encounters, and how many choices per encounter on average, among other things.

- Form. The style aspect – linear versus non-linear, one true path versus multiple paths, and so on.

We’ve already considered various aspects of a potential form for the Frozen Lands (Wright, 2011b). Essentially, we’re looking at creating a non-linear gamebook with multiple paths contributing to an overall story arc. What I want to consider here, is how do we apply this form to the physical structure of a Frozen Lands gamebook?

6. Structure versus Form. Similar to the Fabled Lands, the action of Frozen Lands occurs on a series of non-linear grids. For ease of organization, it is probably best if we group these grids in three separate tiers of gameplay, based on physical location and transportation. These tiers are:

a) The Base Tier. This is the standard tier common to any Fabled Lands gamebook, and can be further divided into two distinct areas, namely:

i) Land. The terrestrial regions through which the character treks. In our case, it can be subdivided yet again (!) into:

Wilderness. The icy wastes surrounding what used to be the Mediterranean Sea, organized in a non-linear grid format.

Settlements. Nine cities (Daralbad, Kastilan, Venis, Karthag, Tarabul, Kahira, Bezant, Maka, and Sudan), mainly set up as central hub paragraphs with returning choices, and some linear paths representing quests and adventures.

Specials. Ruins such as Marsay and Du-En, and smaller settlements including the Etruscan and Jib-and-Halter Inns with yet more linear pathways for missions to be completed.

ii) Sea. For ferry passengers, these paragraphs would be straightforward linear portals between ports such as Venis and Kahira. However, if your character is lucky enough to acquire a sea-going vessel, this would then unlock a non-linear grid of adventure choices similar to the Wilderness component of the Land section above.

Rules for ships and boats would remain the same as the Fabled Lands (e.g. Morris & Thomson, 1995a, paragraph 555), in terms of crew quality, but the types of ships and cargo would change. Some suggestions:

Ship Types
(taken from Morris, 1994, paragraphs 78 and 309)
Mud-skimmer (Capacity: 1 Cargo Unit)
Ice schooner (Capacity: 2 Cargo Units)
Hovercraft (Capacity: 3 Cargo Units)


Hazards of the various seas of the Frozen Lands world could include pirates, storms, icebergs, rocky reefs, mutant sea creatures, rogue droids, crew mutinies, engine problems, and mysterious islands, among many others.

b) The Under Tier. This is a small but important tier that connects far-flung regions with a fast and relatively safe transportation system. In the Fabled Lands, this takes the form of the Trau tunnels (Morris & Thomson, 1995b, paragraph 495), and other subterranean nexuses. In the Frozen Lands however, it is instead a continent-spanning subway system with stations in Old Marsay, Karthag, Tarabul, Kahira, Giza, and Maka. Access to the intercontinental subway could be governed by the use of a codeword which is acquired when the character first explores the ruins of Old Marsay for example.

[Amusingly, with reference to this underground system, Jorner (2007) notes: “There’s an intercontinental subway going through one of the world’s most geologically active regions. Yay?”]

Figure 1. Hover-droids
by Russ Nicholson (from Morris, 1994).
Egg-shaped but lethal!

c) The Over Tier. This tier is accessible if you acquire a Manta sky-car (see Wright, 2011c), or some other flying device or vehicle. Essentially, it’s air travel between regions or settlements, and while extremely fast and convenient, there could be dangers such as air pirates, hover-droids (see Figure 1), giant mutant birds such as teratorns (e.g. Naish, 2007), storms, vehicle malfunctions and simply running out of fuel (and then hoping you packed a parachute!).

[I’m still unsure as to whether I’d allow for the refueling of these air vehicles.]

Additionally, and probably through the use of codewords, the Over Tier would also allow access to the orbital space habitat of al-Lat (Morris, 1994, paragraphs 275 and 286 - see Figure 2), which would be a mix of linear paths with a central hub paragraph.

Figure 2. The orbital space habitat of al-Lat,
by Russ Nicholson (from Morris, 1994).

Now that we know the various tiers of gameplay, the next step would be to assign encounter lists and grid locations to each tier to give us a rough estimate of the total number of paragraphs necessary for the Frozen Lands project.

However, I’m not going to go there, yet. It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, and these are things I can’t commit to right now. Instead, I’m going to round out this final post on our Frozen Lands mash-up by tidying up a bunch of loose ends…

7. Miscellaneous Odds and Ends. In the main, the Frozen Lands system would follow that of the Fabled Lands. There are some notable changes however, and these are detailed below:

Gods and Blessings: While there may be faith and religion in the Frozen Lands, there are likely no active gods capable of bestowing blessings upon their followers in exchange for offerings. Thus these two boxes can be deleted from the Adventure Sheet as unnecessary.

One idea I did have, as a substitute for blessings, was to include a sort of ‘luck virus’ that would allow dice rerolls when imbibed. This would likely be sold by somebody such as Malengin (Morris, 1994, paragraph 434). It’s inspired by the luck virus used by Lister in the Red Dwarf episode ‘Quarantine’ (Grant & Naylor, 1992).

Resurrection Arrangements: Although there are no gods or temples in the Frozen Lands, resurrection could possibly be arranged for by including clone vats, similar to the life-vats of Argon the Alchemist (Morris & Thomson, 1995b, paragraphs 192, 244, and 428).

Possessions: Possessions would be limited to a maximum of 12, like the Fabled Lands, and unlike the limit of eight possessions from Heart of Ice.

Codewords: There would be a list of codewords with tick boxes, similar to the Fabled Lands series, but these would not all start with the same letter of the alphabet. Frozen Lands is a projected one volume gamebook adventure, and does not need to distinguish between codewords from different books in the series, unlike the Fabled Lands.

Rank: Because it is only one book, is there any need for Rank, or the Rank titles, or can they be scrapped completely? If this was done, the downside would be that Defence and Stamina wouldn’t increase at all. Perhaps only six ranks should be allowed, as follows:

Rank          Title
1st             Outcast
2nd            Loner
3rd              Wanderer
4th             Adventurer
5th                Hero
6th             Lord

Titles and Honours: These could surely be included and encompass events such as being a member of the Compass Society, joining one of the myriad weird cults and sects (the Seventh Seal Cult, the Church of Gaia, the remains of the Volentine Cult, the Hamadan ascetics, etc. etc.), becoming a Lord of Bezant, and other such professional opportunities.

Money: Money is measured in a currency known as scads, which are recorded on card-like money tokens. Transferring funds is done by touching one money card to another (Morris, 1994, paragraphs 117 and 328).

This is it for our Frozen Lands mash-up of Heart of Ice and the Fabled Lands. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these notes as much as I’ve enjoyed developing them. This adventure may not be written now, but, one day, who knows? Unless of course someone beats me to it…


Grant, R. (Writer & Director), & Naylor, D (Writer & Director). (1992). Quarantine [Television series episode]. In H. Bevan-Jones (Producer), Red Dwarf. London: BBC Two.

Jorner, P. (2007, May 31). Reviews part 18: The future’s so bright I gotta wear polarized goggles. Message posted to

Morris, D. (1994). Heart of Ice. London: Mammoth.

Morris, D. & Thomson, J. (1995a). Fabled Lands: The War-Torn Kingdom. London: Macmillan.

Morris, D. & Thomson, J. (1995b). Fabled Lands: The Plains of Howling Darkness. London: Macmillan.

Naish, D. (2007, November 1). Life-size two-dimensional condors and teratorns. Message posted to

Wright, A. (2011a). The Adventure Game Part 2. Fighting Fantazine 5(January, 2011). Unpublished (but not for long!).

Wright, A. (2011b, January 10). Heart of Ice versus The Fabled Lands. Message posted to

Wright, A. (2011c, January 15). Heart of Ice versus The Fabled Lands (Beasts, Steeds and Transport). Message posted to


  1. Good set of blogs Andy. Interesting reading, oh if only I was a multi millionaire and could devote my time to developing such things :)

  2. Great posts on Heart of Ice vs Fabled Lands.

    The Fabled Lands system seems to have immense potential. I have just got my new Fabled Lands books and I downloaded Heart of Ice ages ago (you could say an ice age ago). I need to read them both as you are one of the huge numbers of people who are saying how great they are.

    Will you be writing this mash up book up?

  3. Glad you guys liked 'em!

    @Andre: You and me both. I would like nothing better than to take a year off work and develop some of these ideas and other! :-)

    @Stu: Hope you enjoy Fabled Lands (there's some good downloads on the Yahoo Fabled Lands group that Sarven McClinton has just put up so you don't have to mark your copy of the book), and Heart of Ice! In fact I envy as I still remember reading them for the first time and going "woooowww". They're good!

    As for writing the mash-up, not yet. It's an idea I like, I've shared my notes with all you people, but there's too much happening right now in my life to commit to the time necessary to make it happen. On the other hand, if I became a multi millionaire like Andre is wishing for himself, and didn't have to work, I'd write it in a flash! :-) One day, maybe...



  4. You've started a really excellent series of articles on here, Andrew - well done and keep it up!

  5. Glad you like it! Plenty more to follow, and hopefully I'll get some different stuff posted up this evening...



  6. Hi Andy,

    It's been a very long time since I read Heart of Ice, but I'm grateful that your posts have refreshed my memory considerably. Anyway, I happen to know a smattering of Arabic, and I notice that many of the city names you mentioned in your post sound very Arabic, particularly al-Lat (al in Arabic means "the", and I don't know if Lat is an Arabic word or not). Is there a reason for this given in the plot, or do you think that the Middle-Eastern sounding names were a random decision of Dave's?

  7. Hi Hamza, al-Lat is definitely an Islamic space habitat as the symbol on the tail-fin for the flyer that takes you there is a crescent moon and star. As for the others, they're all derivations of modern or historical cities, so Kahira = Cairo, Maka = Mecca, Tarabul = Tripoli, Jib-and-Halter = Gibraltar, Bezant = Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul, Karthag = Carthage/Tunis, Daralbad = Rabat. I think, anyway!