I hadn’t planned on writing this post, but a cunning new gamebook (available for free) by a splendid, if silly, fellow I know has spurred me to it. It’s available in pdf form here, though as it’s a largeish file (60 odd megabytes) you might prefer to right click and save that way.
The 200 section adventure included above is no walk in the park. In my first attempt (admittedly with rolls that stunk like a skunk) I got killed in my second section. My second attempt was better, I got quite a long way in only to find myself defeated by the death traps.
When I was younger I played a number of gamebooks. For the uninitiated, the genre (aka ‘choose your own adventure’) involves making decisions as you read, and then turning to a given numbered section of the book. Complexity can vary from doing only that to having a full-fledged character with numerous attributes and skills and participating in combat.
Ah, the joy of Lemmings. Not only did they have staggering success with computer games, there were also a few gamebooks about the green-haired lunatics. Given the nature of the lemmings (they each specialised in a given skill/ability) they were strangely well-adapted to gamebooks. Sonic the Hedgehog had some too, and likewise Asterix.
However, my favourites were easily the Lone Wolf books by Joe Dever. Crammed with fantasy staples such as implacable Darklord enemies, being the sole survivor of a massacre and so forth, the adventures took place in a wide range of locations, even in the hellish realm of Naar, god of chaos, itself. It was an advantage to have played previous books (you could keep certain especially good items and get extra skills) but not necessary to succeed in any given adventure. I must still have about a score of them.
Unlike an ordinary book, you can get killed whilst reading. If this happens, you have to start again from the beginning. Deaths can occur in combat, or sometimes from stupid choices. Likewise, there will almost always be certain sections that must be read (bottlenecks, if you like), the start and the end being most obvious (although alternate endings can be included).
Of course, with RPG games becoming more popular, it could be difficult for a concept such as the gamebook to survive. However, when flitting through Amazon (almost a reflex reaction) I saw that there was a new book by Michael J. Ward out, entitled DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow. It’s a gamebook, with 17 reviews, and every single one gave it a cracking five stars.
As my retro-review of Phantasy Star IV showed, a fantastic story can sear itself into the memory of the reader or player. Graphics, computing power and improving technology can help, but the beating heart of an RPG, whether tabletop, on the computer or in book form is the story.
Speaking of which, I managed to navigate my unorthodox and Byzantine folder system to find two documents: an old sample chapter and character creation plan for a gamebook. The test chapter was deliberately short (49 sections, which probably means 15-20 are needed to get from the start to the finish). I might see about lengthening it a little and maybe submitting it to the same fanzine that Sunil got published in. The character creation is much more complicated (I’d intended to write a full-on story and there are multiple races and classes), but I rather like it.
For those interested, there’s not only Mr. Prasannan’s challenging story available for free. Thanks to Project Aon, many of Joe Dever’s excellent Lone Wolf books are available for free, here: http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/FAQ
Please bear in mind that the work done by Project Aon cannot be redistributed and must be for personal use only (http://www.projectaon.org/en/Main/License).