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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Guest post: David Walters on The Way of the Tiger

Starting a series about contributors to the upcoming Way of the Tiger Kickstarter campaign from Megara Entertainment, today we have a guest post by fantasy author David Walters, who is writing the prequel book Ninja and has come up with a corker of a plotline for the eagerly awaited seventh book, Redeemer:

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Back in the mid-eighties, when I was just a boy, I got to read an epic quest about a ninja out to avenge the death of his foster father, and it has influenced my writing ever since.

The series was The Way of the Tiger, set on the world of Orb, and it was in my opinion the best gamebook series of its time, combining a strong narrative and interesting characterisation in a genre that was typically weak at both. From these books I learned about distilling key information into short paragraphs, about creating interesting and varied characters, about building a seemingly straight forward situation into an epic quest, and about building a deep and varied world.

In the main character called Avenger, the reader gets to play as a powerful ninja, the master of his art. Such a character would typically be too powerful to evoke much empathy, but Avenger lived in a world that contained monstrous evil, and had such a difficult task ahead of him that even with his all his power he was still vulnerable. His quest was also deeply personal, and it was easy to get caught up in his story and want him to succeed, quite regardless of the game element of the book. Crucially though you still got to feel (and more importantly enjoy) the sense of power in the character, who could dispatch minor henchmen easily or slip past guards like a shadow.

Without a doubt the many eastern influences of ninja and samurai in the series influenced me in writing my Samurai’s Apprentice series. The Way of the Tiger also introduced a spiritual aspect to the books, where Avenger would receive dream visions from the gods, or have a spiritual battle with a demon in a meditative trance. Simply put, it was deeper than other gamebooks of the time. This influenced me in my book Dragonwarrior: Tao of Shadow, where warrior monks fought a spiritual battle against corruption in their use of chi powers.

It was only in writing my own fantasy novel City of Masks that I came to realise how difficult it is to create a detailed and believable fantasy world. This led me to be even more impressed that Mark Smith created the detailed Way of the Tiger world of Orb whilst still at school, and it was used as a compelling backdrop to a dozen or so gamebooks. Orb was a fun place to explore and a good place to spend time in.

Lastly, as a reader, it is hard to ignore the quality of the writing in the Way of the Tiger series. It had a use of language that did not appear in many other commercially successful gamebooks of the time that I read.


Here you did not just get a god of Time, but a ‘Snowfather; Eldest Father, Youngest Son; He From Whose Ravages None is Immune’. Avenger’s god Kwon wasn’t just the god of monks, but the ‘Ineffable Master of Unarmed Combat’. You got to travel to cities such as ‘the Spires of Foreshadowing’, and you got to fight an Elder God whose ‘smell of putrefaction suggests that its thick hide is sloughing off in great dead patches’. You got to experience first-hand the heart-pounding tension of being a ninja on a secret mission. ‘As the wind whistles around the turrets of the Great Keep there is a sudden keening howl. For an instant the hairs on the back of your neck prickle with fear, until you realise that it is only the wind howling through an arrow-slit in one of the turrets’.

I came to the realisation quite young that however much I wanted to be like Avenger, I could not become a ninja in real life. Instead though I became the next best thing – a writer who writes about ninja.

17 comments:

  1. Good review David ! The orld of Orb is so good that it can inspire other fantasy authors. I have recently read an excellent sequel to "the Talisman of Death", it is "Retour à Griseguilde", in French, by Voyageur Solitaire : http://litteraction.fr/livre-jeu/retour-griseguilde

    Olivier

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    1. Hopefully somebody will do an English translation of that. Personally I am not much interested in ninja, but I think Orb is a fascinating world for gamebook adventures and there's a need for more non-WOTT adventures set there.

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  2. I want to see Bloodsword!

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    1. We'll get there. In fact, I think there will be two editions of Bloodsword. One "classic" with all the fiddly tactical maps and Britannica-length rules (maybe as a full-color hardcover set, who knows?) and also a paperback with a much simpler system.

      Incidentally, you posted successfully but I hear that a lot of people's comments are being eaten by Blogger. If anyone tried to comment and got a "bx-" error message, please email us (see sidebar) as this seems to be a common problem. I may have to bite the bullet and switch over to Wordpress - sigh.

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  3. Richard S Hetley17 August 2013 at 08:34

    I agree with David on the issue of language use: "Eldest Father, Youngest Son" and all that. I recall that the Ars Magica roleplaying game made a point of more creative phrasing than that of standard fantasy gaming. No more "Fireball"; it's a "Ball of Abyssal Flame" for you.

    Similarly, The Way of the Tiger has spells like "The Cleansing Fire." Not only does that mean a more interesting name than boring old "Fireball," but it wouldn't look the slightest bit the same if you saw it in person, with the fire described as silver in color.

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    1. There's a very EPT flavour to all those names of spells - and the Legion of the Sword of Doom, etc. That's not surprising as Mark and Jamie role-played in Tekumel for many years, and Professor Barker's evocative names are hard not to imitate.

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    2. For example: "Ksarul, Ancient Lord of Secrets, Doomed Prince of the Blue Room, Master of Magic and Grammarie", who I mention here as an excuse to point to a Tekumel scenario of mine:
      http://www.tekumel.com/gaming_advTOTDP.html

      If you like those baroque titles, try Deeds of the Ever-Glorious (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/1764/Deeds-of-the-Ever-Glorious?it=1) and Barker's masterwork The Book of Ebon Bindings (http://www.amazon.com/Book-Bindings-Tekumel-M-A-R-Barker/dp/B000CRHNFG).

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  4. A sequel for Talisman of Death? I never knew, thanks cafaristeir.
    The prequel for the Way of the Tiger books is actually nearly done - an exciting time to be a fan!

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  5. Michael Spencelayh19 August 2013 at 02:14

    Hello - I'm Michael, also part of the Orb project team. I've been play-testing the first half of David's Way of the Tiger prequel gamebook "Ninja!" and can reveal that it's amazing! David has really captured the style of the original books, with some top-notch ninja action!

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    1. I'm not much qualified to speak on the existing books, but I've seen David's storyline for Book 7 and it is brilliant. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the way BSG came back with a reboot that made appropriate nods to the original but that moved it on for a new generation.

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  6. It's great to see the old books coming back to life. I've seen plenty of the full colour pictures as well and they look pretty amazing too. Also, it's an opportunity for us to tidy the books up, clarify the rules,fix any 'bugs' and stuff like that. And to write the 7th book in the series which is going to be great!

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    1. While I was getting an upcoming post ready, I used the word "tora-do" (cf judo, aikido, etc) and I wondered if that term was ever used in the books? I assume the language spoken is Japanese because there are terms like ninja-no-chigiri for "vow of the ninja". So "torado" could be used for "way of the tiger"?

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    2. If so btw, then Way of the Scorpion would be sasorido :-)

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  7. Can't wait for the new books, especially book 7. But I thought Avenger died at the end of book 6, so will the new book resurrect him or is it a new character, like WOTT:TNG?

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    1. Spoilers here... as I recall it ended with him about to die so it's open for a last minute save by someone else down there with him.

      It seemed like the very end of book 6 shortcut a lot of the Rift's lower levels. I wondered if the original intent of book 7 was to take the longer way down.

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    2. I don't think there was *any* intent for book 7. Mark and Jamie originally intended that to be Avenger's demise. That was partly because they had fallen out with the publishers over a (supposedly) competing series, but mainly because it was the '80s and downbeat was in. Compare the Falcon series, which doesn't actually kill the hero off but hardly ends on a triumphant note.

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  8. Oh... My... GOD!

    Do you realize how long I've been waiting for someone to do this? Do you have ANY idea?! I absolutely LOVE the original series! My books are worn, tattered, dog eared and read to bits but they are still amongst my most treasured possessions. I am still in love with the writing, the world, the characters... I've often entertained thoughts over the years of what an anime series would look like, or how cool a movie adaptations might be.
    You have my eternal thanks for doing this. I will be waiting for an update on your site to get book 7, have no doubt. Probably pick up the prequel while I'm at it too. Finally! The most epic gamebook series I ever followed (close 2nd was Blood Sword) is going to have a conclusion! Thank you, thank you... THANK YOU!

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