Writers, Gamebooks and Readers

Sylvia Finali, co-author of Narborion Saga

Sylvia Finali, co-author of Narborion Saga

How did you become interested in a fantasy genre? Was it traditional D&D games, fantasy novels or something else got you hooked?

[Sylvia] The Lord of the Rings was the first fantasy novel I read and it left a huge impact on me. Before that I was interested mostly in classic French and British literature (Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, Jane Austen, Bronte, sisters, Thomas Hardy), so fantasy books opened the door to a whole new world that I fell in love with right away. A few years later I discovered Neil Gaiman’s books which showed me yet another dimension of what this genre can offer. To this day, Neil Gaiman’s books inspire me to become a better writer and a more avid and perceptive reader.

[Tom] Started with The Hobbit, then The Lord of the Rings, then came the orinigal first edition D&D Boxed Set. I am an old-timer, for me everything has started forty years ago and I’m and addict ever since. I read anything and everything, both novels and game accessories.

Similar to most choice-driven narrative experiences, a large part of Narborion Saga will be missed by an individual player. Do you find this annoying, or do you think it gives your story replay/re-read value?

[Sylvia] I think it’s super exciting to have a medium where you can pick one possible road walk on it and see how it works out. If something tragic happens along the way, you can replay the scenario and pick another path when you get to the same crossroads. Sometimes I wish it were possible in real life…

[Tom] Humans are curious by nature, RPG fans especially! They don’t like to play a predestined story. They much better like to explore the story. I know player-readers who try all the choices, even those which are obviously lethal, just to know what happens there. So I don’t think that the alternative ways are a waste to write. In our Fame Contest, more than one players reached the absolute maximum of fame points, which can happen only if they read the whole book.

Dr. Tom Pollak, Head Author of the Narborion Saga

What is your writing style? Do you make an outline of a chapter or just “go with a flow”?

[Sylvia] I usually go with the flow. Also, I like inserting sarcastic or witty remarks into my writing. Call it comic relief. To me, it not only adds another layer to the character, but it also makes them more fun and relatable.

[Tom] Tough question! Both require the same amount of creativity, but in the case of a gamebook, you actually write more books simultaneously so you need to make an outline and be able to go with the flow at the same time. It’s actually more work, but more fun, too.

What’s the main difference between writing a novel and a gamebook app story? Which one do you prefer better?

[Sylvia] Writing a gamebook app story has to be more to the point. Fewer descriptions and adjectives. It has to drive the action at a much faster pace than a novel, where the writer has the freedom to linger and let the reader immerse themselves in long, vivid descriptions. I find both of these genres fascinating, as they pose different challenges and opportunities to both the reader and the writer. I am a huge fan of adjectives, though so I had to restrain myself while contributing to the Narborion Saga 🙂

[Tom] I met gamebooks for the first time as a reader, obviously. It was Steve Jackson’s and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy series. In the same time I participated in the development of an awesome adventure game for Commodore, ZX Spectrum, Amiga and Enterprise minicomputers. Yes, I am actually that old… The storyline of that game was written by Steve and Ian, too. So I could learn from the greatest masters of the genre and therefore I love this writing style!

Who is your favorite character in Book II? Why?

[Sylvia] Mossfoot, hands down. He cracks me up.

[Tom] I love all of them! Danyilo, perhaps…

Tom, when did you start working on Narborion Saga?

[Tom] The concept of Narborion Saga was born many, many years ago. Originaly it was a tabletop RPG campaign, but it was never played. When we launched the Narborion Saga project, I have had the complete storyline ready, from the beginning to the ultimate goal, the milestones of character development, maps, monsters, NPC’s, languages, etc. But the details are created at the very moment when Dan and I discuss the next book or next chapter. We played a lot together in the past, so we understand each other with few words. Sometimes even without words. That’s very scary, actually…