Thursday, May 28, 2020

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ Different types of gamebook adventures you can create

NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here. 

Welcome back! In the first lesson, we learnt how to make a really simple gamebook with just three sections. In the second lesson, we looked at how you can combine different kinds of choices to make your gamebook longer.

This lesson will give you ideas for different genres of gamebooks, so you can create a wider variety of gamebooks and impress your friends.

Now switch your brain to Gamebook Writing Mode and let's get going!

LESSON 3: Different types of gamebook adventures you can create 

A science fiction gamebook will feature lots of exciting futuristic inventions, from  robots to weapons to vehicles to even time travel suits and body cloning machines.

If you want to write a science fiction gamebook, think about how your characters will be affected by all this technology. Will they benefit from the inventions, or will they be worse off? And then give them a tough challenge that involves this technology.

You are on a rocket, traveling to a distant planet, where you have to deliver a sealed box to a mysterious person known as Dr Roo. But there's an army of aggressive ZipperBots that want to take the box from you. How will you complete your mission?

In a horror gamebook, your character must run away from something awful. This can be a monster, or a dangerous situation, or a scary location. And if you fail, something disgusting or horrifying will happen to you. Yuck! Shudders!

Your horror gamebook could feature a big ugly monster, or a giant pool of stinky slime, or even a swarm of creepy insects that emerged from a spaceship. Create a scenario where your character is desperate to get away from this.

You go to class one day, and find that all your classmates have been turned into zombies. And they want to make you a zombie too. You try to escape them by running to the school office, but oh no, your teachers have become zombies too. Quick, you must run out of school before they get you.

A fantasy gamebook features characters that rely on their magic skills to get things done. There could also be mythical creatures like dragons, giant sea serpents, unicorns, as well as pixies and fairies and orcs, etc.

Think about how your character is affected by magic. Is she or he a really powerful magician? Or is she or he much less powerful than everyone else? How do the characters in the story use magic? Decide on a magical challenge for your character, and a reward at the end if you succeed. 

You find out that your best friend is an apprentice Shadowmaker, with the power to create giant shadow creatures that can travel to magical realms. Your friend creates a shadow dragon just to amuse you, but the shadow dragon kidnaps your friend and flies away. You need to save your friend. All you have is a small shadow spellbook that your friend dropped. It says on the front, "DO NOT OPEN UNLESS YOU ARE A TRAINED SHADOWMAKER". 

In a mystery gamebook, your character must solve a puzzle or make sense of some clues in order to learn the truth about a situation. As a reader, the mystery must really make us curious and determined to help the character solve it. 

Your main character could be a detective, or a private investigator, or a special agent working for the government, or even an ordinary kid who stumbles upon something weird. You can also add false clues or misleading information to make it more challenging for your readers. And there should be a sense of urgency to solve the mystery quickly.

You have been summoned by Mrs Kee, the richest woman in the world, because someone has kidnapped her cat Regala, and she knows you are a talented detective. She shows you the note that the kidnappers left behind. It says, "LOOK LEFT BEFORE THE GOLDEN BIRD 4541 BLINKS. TONIGHT." Huh? What does this mean? Who kidnapped Regala? How will you get Regala back? Where should you start?

In an adventure gamebook, your character receives an invitation to leave home and do something unusual, which often involves exploring unfamiliar places and meeting strange people. 

This adventure is often in the form of a quest. You are called to travel far away and look for something valuable, and you encounter challenges that test your abilities. Adventure gamebooks can be based on or inspired by historical events, or even real life experiences.

Your school organises a camping trip to Moon Island. Near the camp site, you find a huge hole in the ground with a rope ladder leading down. A woman suddenly appears and says there's an old pirate's hideout down there. Your teacher is keen to climb down and explore.  

That's it for now. Have fun, happy gamebook writing, come back soon for the next lesson. :)

NEXT LESSON: How to create a fascinating storyworld

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ Ideas for making your gamebook longer

NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here

In the last lesson, we learnt how to make a really simple gamebook, with just three sections.

Once you get the hang of this process, it's easy to keep adding sections, until you have a much longer gamebook.

Your gamebook can have 10 sections, or 200 sections, or 600, sections, it doesn't matter, as long as you're enjoying yourself as you write, and your reader has fun reading and making decisions at the end of each section.

In this lesson, we'll look at the different kinds of choices you can offer your readers at the end of each section. Once you master this, you'll be able to add more and more new sections to your simple gamebook, and make it even more fun.

Ready? Let's begin.

LESSON 2: Ideas for making your gamebook longer

There are four main types of decisions you can offer your readers.

What action should your reader take next? What should she or he do? This is the most basic decision that drives the adventure forward.

If you want to create a fast-paced, thrilling gamebook experience, your gamebook sections should end mostly in action choices.


You rush over and push the door open. Turn to section 5.

You tiptoe to the door and listen first. Turn to section 3.

You could even write a superhero story where your reader has to decide whether to fly to another planet, shrink to the size of a pea, or transform into a unicorn. Your readers will be so impressed with your creativity.

Your choices could be about your character having a conversation with other characters.

This will be good when your character has to get some important information, or find out what the other character wants, or negotiate with another character.


You say, "Tell me quick, where's the key?" Turn to 6.

You say, "Never mind, I'll look for it myself." Turn to 9.

And it's not just humans. You could have your character talking to robots, dinosaurs, monsters, zombies, talking goldfish, and so on, whatever makes your story more fascinating. 

These choices are about physically moving in a particular direction.

You can use these options when your character is exploring a space, or walking somewhere, or running away.


You decide to enter the left corridor. Turn to 4. 

You decide to enter the right corridor. Turn to 7. 

Besides walking or running, your character can ride an animal, be in a vehicle, or even travel on a flying carpet. Wheeeee!

This is for scenes where your character is analysing something, or searching for something.

This is good for detective stories, where your character has to hunt for clues in order to solve a mystery.


You look inside the pot. Turn to 2.

You search behind the stove. Turn to 6.

When you have a scene where your character is looking for something, it often slows down the action. So try not to have too many of these in a sequence. Keep your character moving around, or talking with other characters.

That's it for this lesson! Now you have ideas for turning your simple gamebook into a much longer reading experience. See if you can make a gamebook that has at least 10 sections. And have fun!

NEXT LESSON: Different types of gamebook adventures you can create 

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ How to create your first really simple gamebook

NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here

Back when I tried to make my first gamebook, The Secret of the Chatter Blocks, I didn’t even know how to get started. There were lots of helpful tips online, but they seemed to be written for more experienced gamebook creators. At that point, I didn’t want to know how to make a perfect and elaborate gamebook, I just wanted to make a really simple gamebook, with my two sons, just for the fun and learning experience. And so I had to figure this out myself.

This post is about sharing what I learnt, so that you can get started faster and start making your own gamebooks too. It’s a lot of fun!

LESSON 1: How to create your first really simple gamebook 

What is a gamebook?

It's an interactive story that follows a main character through an adventure, and the text is divided into sections, and at the end of each section you choose what happens next. These choices affect how your story progresses. Based on your choices, the character will either succeed or fail. And so it’s like playing a game and making choices that lead your character to a happy ending.

These choices are often based on simple decisions you can make (eg, turn left or turn right). There are other ways to make your choices, and some of these involve rolling dice. We’ll cover those much later. But for now, in making your first simple gamebook, we’ll only use simple decisions.

STEP 1: Come up with an idea
Your idea will involve these five elements:

1. Main character:
What is your main character’s name? Who is this person? Make this as fun and cool as possible. Your readers will be role-playing as this character when they read your gamebook.

2. Location:
Where will the action take place? An old castle? A gigantic spaceship? Deep inside a pirate’s cave? 

3. Task:
What is the one important challenge that your main character will have to tackle? Eg, deliver a message, find a lost object, catch a thief, etc. 

4. Succeed:
What will your main character need to do in order to succeed? 

5. Fail:
What will cause your main character to fail?

STEP 2: Write your gamebook sections
Each section should contain the following information:

1. Location
Tell your readers where the action is taking place.

2. What your main character is up to
Is she or he making good progress, and likely to Win? Or on the contrary, is she or he messing up and likely to Lose? 

3. The options for what happens next
These options will take your reader to a new section. But of course, if this is the end of a story path, you won’t need options here, you can just declare whether or not your reader has managed to complete the Task, and then say, “THE END”.

For your first really simple gamebook, you’ll only need to come up with these three sections:

Section 1: introduce the Character, Setting and Task. At the end of this, give your readers two options, A and B. A will lead to a Succeed outcome, and B will lead to a Fail outcome.

Section 2: what happens if the reader chooses A and succeeds. The End.

Section 3: what happens if the reader chooses B and fails. The End.

In future lessons we'll look at expanding your gamebook with many more sections.

STEP 3: Design your gamebook
Give your gamebook an exciting title, and create a front cover. Write or print each section on a new page, so that your reader can’t cheat by reading the later sections before they make their choice. Also, add illustrations, to make your gamebook look fabulous. You could collaborate with a friend or family member for this.

Congratulations, now you have a really simple gamebook that will thrill your friends! Share your gamebook with some readers, and ask for their suggestions on how to improve it.


Here’s a short example I came up with, using the main character from Sherlock Hong Adventures, a book series I wrote. This could help you understand the whole process better. To enlarge, click on the image and zoom in. You could also print it out.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please do get in touch!

NEXT LESSON: Ideas for options at the end of each section 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

GAMEBOOK ACADEMY _____ Meet STUART LLOYD, he developed a FREE online course that helps 10-14 year olds write gamebooks, find out what inspires him

NOTE: This is part of a series that explains how to create your own simple gamebooks. More articles here. 

Nice photo! Please introduce yourself.
My name is Stuart Lloyd. I have been reading gamebooks since 1990 and writing them since 2008. In 2010, I began a blog on gamebooks with the aim of analysing them to improve my own writing. I post there very rarely now as I have lots more real life responsibilities but my friend Peter Agapov also posts there. Almost all of my work is available for free or Pay-What-You-Want here. The only one that isn’t is an app I did with Tin Man Games.

Tell us about your free gamebook authoring course for kids, what it is and how it came about.
I am a former science teacher who now does science tutoring. I also tutor home educated children. One place I do that is on a website called Thinkers Meet Up. When we went into lockdown, the owner of the website asked her tutors if they could make any video courses to help children at home.

I had written several blog posts on how to write a gamebook. I also made a list of blog posts written by other people about how to write a gamebook which I wanted to put into an ebook about how to write a gamebook. I decided to put them to good use and turn them into a video course. 

Why teach kids to write gamebooks?
I loved gamebooks when I was a kid and many kids I have taught love them too. Apart from the fact that they get to create something they love, they can think about stories in ways that they may never done so before. They can realise that stories don’t have to be linear things that someone else lays out for you, but something that you can co-create with the author. they can also practise both their English skills by writing gamebooks and their maths skills by coming up with game systems.

Summarise your main learning points in under 30 words.
Use a flow diagram to plan, think about the types of choices you give readers, think about how you measure success, make sure the die rolls are fair.

How did you first get interested in gamebooks as a kid?
The first time I came across gamebooks was when I bought Talisman of Death from a school jumble sale at the age of 7. I was hooked from the moment I read it. I spent a lot of my childhood hunting for gamebooks and reading as many as I could find. Gamebooks were able to transport me to the fantasy and sci-fi worlds that I had seen on TV in a way that I had never experienced before and combine them with the excitement of trying to win. Gamebooks really have something for everyone.

How will gamebook authoring skills be useful for kids in the future?
Writing a gamebook is an exercise in empathy to some degree. You have to think about what the character has to do in the situation you have put them in.

Gamebook authoring also provides an introduction to the idea of logic and programming. A gamebook can be seen as a series of IF statements with different outcomes.

If there are random elements in a gamebook, then writing a gamebook is a great exercise in risk assessment. The author needs to playtest the book and assess whether the probability of success is high enough for a good chance of success but low enough to provide tension for the player.

Check out Stuart Lloyd's 
Gamebooks FREE course for 10-14 year olds

"This is a 10 video series which starts with explaining what a gamebook is and encouraging you to read examples of gamebooks online to get a feel of the many and varied world of gamebooks. It explains how to plan a gamebook an write a gamebook. It also involves a little bit of maths that is important for anyone who wants to design a game and finally explains what your readers might want from gamebooks and how to accommodate them."

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Don Bosco's Gamebook Academy: read all posts here