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GNAT Core — A simple gamebook rules system

Over the past year, I've been workimg hard on the development of GNAT CORE, a simple (but hopefully comprehensive) rule set for writing adventure Gamebooks (of the Choose Your Own Adventure/Fighting Fantasy style).

What is GNAT

GNAT (it's not an acronym, just one in a series of insect-related titles I developed a few decades back) attempts to provide rules for playing COYA books the way I like to play them — quick, few dice rolls, and a very minimal focus on combat. It emphasises collecting items as opposed to agonising over inventory choices, resolves most fights in one or two rolls, and has built-in mechanisms for carrying characters, equipment, and keywords, from game to game.

The other thing I was trying to achieve was a ruleset that other people could easily use, and adapt, for their own games. For that reason the GNAT core rules are covered by a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license, so that others can take them, use them, and modify them, while also being covered by the same license.

The World of Paldoria

GNAT is setting-agnostic, though the default skill list and magic rules are definitely aimed at a fantasy world, but I actaully originally developed it for my own line of game books, set in the world of Paldoria. Paldoria is a sort of post-magical-apocalypse setting, where the cataclysmic wozard's war already ended some time ago, and the world is full of the ruins left behind. Here's the Paldoria introduction that appears the start of Escape from the Tower of Stars:

Five generations ago, the War of the Wizards devastated Paldoria. Mountains cracked, rivers drowned, cities sank into the sea. The few surviving wizards retreated to their fastnesses and closed their doors against the world outside, leaving the survivors to face the aftermath alone.

One generation ago, when you were still a child, the decrepit sorcerers of Treysham, all but consumed by their decadent excesses, re-opened the doors of their citadel to the outside world. Within a handful of years the other surviving fastnesses — Heldad, Marinth, Krendar, and Jarson — followed suit. It was the dawn of a new age; an age of fresh opportunities, and ancient grudges. For those willing to leave the dubious safety of their village walls, there were fortunes to be made.

You are grown now, and have left your own birthplace in search of one of those fortunes.

The Paldoria setting had its origins in a gamebook I wrote over twenty-years ago, the rather prosaically named Seven Horses Inn. Last year, I re-wrote Seven Horses from the ground, turning it into Grave of the Kraken, a book which I have not yet released, but have nevertheless sold around twenty of.

What I have released, is Escape from the Tower of Stars, my entry for the 2023 Lindenbaum Gamebook Contenst. Escape is everything I want a Paldoria adventure to be — exploration focussed, short, weird, and steeped in magical mysteries left over from the half-forgotten past. Try it out, and see if you like it.

What next?

As you can probably tell, I am only just getting started with Paldoria. Grave of the Kraken will soon be released, and along with it I will be making City State of Treysham available here for free. City State is something I always wanted to see in gamebook series, and never did. A place to go between adventures, like the hub cities in open-world computer games. City State is designed as a place you can dip into between gamebooks, sell treasure, buy new gear, train, and delve into dozens of side-quests. Certain areas only unlock after playing other adventures, so there's a reason to come back as well.

City State is written, just not playtested or fully proofread, but hopefully those things will come soon! In the meantime, Escape is where it's at.