Lone Wolf

Tabletop Tuesdays: "Which-Way" Adventures For Free

Tabletop (Free)
Joe Dever

Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series of "which-way" (or, if you prefer, "choose-your-own-ending") books were part of an efflorescence of such works in the 80s. (The other two most popular series were the Bantam Choose Your Own Adventure books, and the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks from Ian Livingstone and the UK Steve Jackson [not to be confused with the Texan Steve Jackson], both of whom have gone on to stellar careers in digital games).

The basic schema of these books is this: You read a paragraph or two, and at the end are asked to make a decision, and told to turn to one page or another, depending on what you decide. Many are as simple as that, but some have a rudimentary game system, along RPG lines, with character stats, skills, and dice rolls.

This game style is related to text adventures, to solitaire tabletop roleplaying adventures, and "paragraph-system" boardgames such as Eric Goldberg's Tales of the Arabian Nights -- as well as to hypertext fiction -- because all ultimately depend on a network of text passages connected by player decisions, and sometimes with gameplay to open or close connections.

I've argued in the past that game books are important to an understanding of the often complex interaction between game and story, and of the evolution of story-driven games.

It's cool, therefore, that Dever has released a whole series of his books for free download. (Some are also available, in reprint editions, from Mongoose Publishing [who, incidentally, also publish my game Paranoia.])

If you've never experienced this type of game, it's worthwhile to download and play one, to see how they work; this type of game is severely limited, in many ways, and there is, I think, a reason why the genre is no longer commercially successful. And for those who remember the games, there may be a nostalgic appeal, of course.


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On copyright permissions

Well, it's more Project Aon asked Joe Dever and he said "ok". They're very careful about copyright over there; they individual permission from every artist and have gone to great lengths to hunt them down. There's a calligrapher they never did find (for only two pages the Magnamund Companion), so they used a substitute font.

They also spend a *long* time in editing, and if you pay attention to footnotes you'll notice some extra-geeky attention to rules details.

Anyhow, glad you have a gamebook series on here. It'd be nice to see some of the other (in my mind) seminal series converted, like GrailQuest or The Cretan Chronicles, but judging how much work the Project Aon group has had to put in it'd take some very dedicated volunteers.

and there is, I think, a

and there is, I think, a reason why the genre is no longer commercially successful. And for those who remember the games, there may be a nostalgic appeal, of course.

As a former grade school kid that got a ton of mileage out of the Lone Wolf series, I can definitely attest to the nostalgic appeal, at least.

There was something really interesting going on with this series of gamebooks. I remember that I would cheat incessantly, but if anything this would motivate me more to replay the books to get a 'perfect' (non-cheating) playthrough.

Another good series as I recall was Way of the Tiger; LW and WotT were a cut above all the other series in terms of the game mechanics and the world development I think.

Did computer (and particularly console) games bury the allure of these books eventually?

Paranoia is _your_ game!? I

Paranoia is _your_ game!? I KNEW there had to be a reason why I liked this blog so much!


1st ed.: Dan Gelber, me, Eric Goldberg
2nd ed.: + Ken Rolston & Paul Murphy
"XP": + Allen Varney

I won't claim exclusive authorship, and everyone else in that last made real contributions, and there's a reason Dan Gelber gets listed first. But yes, I had something to do with it.