Banished from the world centuries ago, the True Magi have been gathering their occult forces in the space beyond the stars. Now they are ready to return to life as evil demigods. The only force that can stop them is the fabled Sword of Life. You must find and wield it on the final day or all humanity will become the Magi's eternal slaves.
Blood Sword is a gamebook series that was originally published in 1987 and 1988. The five books comprise a single epic adventure almost 3000 sections long. That wasn’t unique – Steve Jackson’s Sorcery and Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf books had also been continuous sagas – but what's different about Blood Sword is that you can play solo or in a team of up to four players.
In 2014, Fabled Lands Publishing issued new revised editions of the first four Blood Sword books. Why not the fifth and final book too? We'll come back to that...
The character classes are: warrior, trickster, sage and enchanter. Each class has unique strengths and abilities. If you play in a team, you get to read sections that the other players don't see. This makes Blood Sword more like a roleplaying campaign than any gamebooks before or since.
There is also a tabletop boardgame element, as battles are fought out on a tactical grid. And these books are meaty; at a time when most gamebooks were 30,000 words or less, each volume in the Blood Sword series weighed in at more than twice that. Players get to meet an array of memorable characters, both friends and foes and some in the grey area in-between.
- “A beautifully wrought and utterly fantastic epic quest.”
- "Real effort has gone into the world-building and characterisation of this series."
- "There are multiple paths to victory, and each path will provide you with differing challenges."
- "The atmosphere is fantastic. From the snow-capped landscape to the fear of constantly being stalked by minions of the True Magi, this campaign is very gripping, with great evocations of the senses of claustrophobia and urgency."
- "Without exaggeration, the best ongoing story gamebook series ever crafted."
Why a Kickstarter?
It was the fifth book, The Walls of Spyte, that was the problem. When I edited the series for republication in 2014, it soon became clear that the last book was going to take a lot more effort. The original ‘80s version suffered from having multiple authors working with different themes and tones. Worse, there had been minimal editorial oversight. The tactical maps were printed far too small to be usable, character abilities had been forgotten, and there were missing numbers that made the book almost unplayable.
So I re-released books one through four and put the last one aside as a project to return to when I had a chunk of spare time. A BIG chunk. And that’s what this Kickstarter is about.
What will backers receive?
There will be a special hardcover edition of The Walls of Spyte. This hardcover is a true collector's item as a maximum of 200 copies will be printed (or as many as required by Kickstarter backers, if that's greater). The tactical maps will be in colour and there will also be colour plates of the new edition covers.
There will also be a PDF copy. Hyperlinked? Of course. What use is a PDF gamebook without hyperlinks?
The Kickstarter funds will pay for the editing and typesetting of the new edition. Once the hardcover copies have shipped, a black-&-white paperback edition will go on sale to the public.
The first stretch goal will kick in if we can get to £4000. At that stage I'm going to create an A4-sized booklet with just the tactical maps from all five Blood Sword books. The maps in the new edition are printed bigger than they were in the 1980s paperbacks, but it can still be fiddly to use them while reading the book at the same time. So the idea of The Blood Sword Battle Boards will be to put all those maps together in one large-format book.
If the goal is met, everyone who pledges at the Hatuli reward level or above will also get a PDF copy of The Blood Sword Battle Boards. Because it's a stretch goal, I can't include a physical copy in this Kickstarter, but I will put a copy for sale on a site such as Lulu.com where it'll be priced at cost (ie as low as I can set it) for anyone to buy. Or you can just print it out yourself from the PDF, of course.
Then if we get to £6000 we'll unlock the second stretch goal. This is for a new edition of the entire Blood Sword series with simplified rules and (are you sitting down?) no tactical maps.
OK, I know some people love the tactical maps. And that's fine, the classic edition isn't going away. But you've got to admit that playing the Blood Sword books as they are is quite a hardcore gaming experience, and I'm very aware that these days many readers would prefer a more casual experience.
So this new edition would dispense with the maps and I'd probably use a modified version of the Fabled Lands game mechanics. The plan is to release it as a single omnibus volume of all five books in one 8" by 10" book (the same size as Fabled Lands). Note that that's not one of the things you can pledge for here -- it'll take me a year or so to revise the entire series with new rules. But if we reach that goal then I'll keep all the backers updated as to progress with "Blood Sword Lite" and that omnibus book would include an acknowledgement page listing the backers. Also, if there's a way to allow backers of the Walls of Spyte campaign to buy copies of the omnibus edition at a discount, I'll let you know how you can do that.
Beyond that... Well, let's see if we can hit these first couple of stretch goals to start with.
Risks and challenges
There's no real risk that the editing work on The Walls of Spyte won't get done, because I've already got started on it and I'll be working to finalize it while the Kickstarter campaign is running. So if some project or eventuality looked like interrupting that for a significant time, I'd pull the plug before the end date.
That's not likely. So then there are the imponderable risks -- I lose my memory, I fall under a bus, I get the chance to join the first Mars colony. I don't think any of those are likely either, but you want to know about the risks so there they are.
Stretch goals are much more of a risk, because they involve more work over a longer period of time. Balanced against that, any project that interrupts work on a stretch goal is unlikely to last forever, so the risk is only that it delays those. And neither of the stretch goals delivers a reward; they're just ongoing projects. No backer would miss out from getting what they pledged for.
Currently I'm working freelance, but if I got a full-time job (if a publisher picked up my Mirabilis comic for example) then, yes, I would devote the next few years exclusively to that. The stretch goals would have to wait. But even Mirabilis has a planned end (issue #38) so eventually I'd get back to the stretch goals. And it's all academic anyway as I don't really expect we'll reach the second stretch goal -- though it'll be great if we do.
If you want to read Mirabilis, incidentally, Leo Hartas and I are putting all the existing issues online here: http://mirabilis-yearofwonders.com/
The other risk is that Brexit (the UK's departure from the European Union) makes it impossible to post to some parts of the world. Still, I think that's highly unlikely. More probably, a drop in sterling and a hike in postage costs caused by a no-deal Brexit will wipe out any profit. But that's my risk, not yours. If I have to fund these copies out of my own pocket then I will.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)