YOU are the hero – writing for The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Tin Man Games’ 3D gamebook version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was my first professional game gig, and looking back, I did a lot of quite diverse writing tasks for this beloved IP. (I posted a pic of the book to my Facebook to announce the new job, and was immediately inundated with messages saying things like “I learned to read with this book!”. No pressure!)

I was hired to flesh out the new playable characters introduced by the game (the original gamebook refers only to “you”). I used game bibles and reference materials to create fun missions and backstories for characters from all over Allansia, writing unique dialogue and descriptions for each playable character. I also designed sub-quests for each character on top of their ambition to slay Zagor and free Firetop Mountain from his torment.

I chose and developed the starting characters from across the Fighting Fantasy universe, selected from a huge book of references to hundreds of NPCs. The one I’m most proud of, Hannabellah Dehab, was a pregenerated character from Eye of the Dragon, who had exactly one line of description and an icon created by our artist. From that information, and poring over the lore bibles, I devised an appropriate quest – finding a valuable dwarven icon in keeping with her role as a treasure hunter – and wrote her as a flirty charmer, based on her high Stamina and Luck skills, to strongly distinguish her from the other starting characters who were more combat oriented.

Another enjoyable aspect of this role was naming things! I pored over Into The Pit and Titan obsessively, harvesting names of gods, monsters, cities and countries to invent items like the Compendium Stultitia and the Icon of Verlang. This got very nerdy – my boss turned to me once to confirm that “Femphreyan stallions” were from the lore and not just something I made up!

LandovLowanbio-200Not only did I learn valuable things about game logic, using a narrative engine and the importance of Excel spreadsheets, it has also been extremely educational to see what was done to my writing after I handed it over. Some of it survived almost unchanged – the introduction of warhammer-wielding cleric Landov Lowan here is all mine – but, for instance, the mission for Lunika Ekaadi, the search for the Amulet of Ashra, had several steps added to it to make it both longer and more complex.

I also learned about working in a small studio with skilled specialists, consulting with our artist and combat designer to ensure what I wrote didn’t just match the game art and mechanics but used them in fun and immersive ways.