Did you know there’s an adventure game book inspired by Dungeon Saga? Rise of the Shadow King is a Dungeon Saga Adventure Gamebook in which YOU are the Hero. Set in the fantasy world of Mantica, you can immerse yourself in a quest to defeat the Shadow King, master of undeath. This is a classic adventure where you have plenty of opportunity to battle the undead denizens of Mantica, travel across plains, swamps, forests and an ancient fortress as you journey towards your ultimate goal. You might even stumble upon a Zombie Troll!
To find out more about the story behind Rise of the Shadow King, we spoke to the author Matt Gilbert about his inspiration… and even found out he’s a secret He-Man fan. By the Power of Greyskull!
How did you get the idea for an Adventure Game book based on Dungeon Saga?
It was Fighting Fantasy gamebooks that introduced me to the world of RPGs and war-gaming. From there I progressed to games like Heroquest, Warhammer, BattleTech and Kings of War. I dabbled with my own gamebooks as a kid (I wrote one for He-Man!) but always wanted to write a “proper” one. When I originally proposed the idea to Ronnie, it was going to be produced as an introduction to the Kings or War world of gaming, which readers will see reflected in the Character profiles and skills. The idea was to have that crossover to make the book and Kings of War familiar and part of the same family. It took me a while to write though and I was only halfway through when the Dungeon Saga Kickstarter launched. We agreed it would make a cool bonus for backers and was a natural fit for a Dungeon Crawling game (which is set in the same world setting anyway so that was easy!). At that point I then had to complete it!
Can you tell us a little bit about the story and does it tie in with the main Dungeon Saga campaign?
The story is focused around the re-emergence of an ancient necromancer and the awakening of his undead army. For more replay value, I also give the reader the choice of character type before they begin (human, dwarf or elf). Already having an undead theme fitted neatly into the Dungeon Saga core game, which was great. I made a little adjustment to make reference to the story being told in Dungeon Saga but mostly, the book is stand-alone.
Have you always been a fan of adventure game books? Why do you think they still have such an appeal?
Yes absolutely – a big fan. People love to read and “normal” books get re-read so having a book that can be different every time you read it is very exciting. I also think that having limited, but evocative artwork throughout, combined with the reader’s own imagination and decisions filling in the blanks, makes for a very compelling and absorbing experience. It’s also a great way for kids to get involved in the hobby.
How difficult is it to keep track of all the page numbers that people have to turn to? Was it an enjoyable experience?
Not too hard actually. Lots of people when reading gamebooks like to map them out and if they are anything like me, love to make a proper fantasy map! I wrote this book in reverse – starting with some cool maps and then populating them in order as I wrote. I mimicked the 400 sections that the classic gamebooks had from the start which was probably not the most efficient way of writing as it gave me a fixed number of contact points with the story and the reader to fit everything into. While there are some apps available to write these kind of books, I kept it very traditional and did it all on paper… and in my head! My original maps now contain lots of scribbles, section references and extra bits I realised I needed as I got near the end. Working out all the possible items to pick up, when and how they are used and pacing them correctly was probably the trickiest part of the process.
Are there some particularly gruesome ways to meet your demise in the book?
One or two but I tried to keep automatic deaths to a minimum and to obviously silly decisions! Mostly it’s going to be a player suffering from taking the hard routes, below average dice rolls and not managing their health.
Will you be writing more adventure game books?
I’d love to but it’s a question of finding the time. I always have ideas for them though. I was due to write a second for the Dungeon Saga Kickstarter but due to other commitments Tom Pike has taken over that book from me and it’s in playtesting right now. Tom’s book introduces magic for characters to use if they wish, expanding on the mechanics I wrote for the first book. I’d love to see the books develop into an ongoing series so we will have to see how popular they become!