Seventh Sense

Tabletop Tuesdays: Lone Wolf Gamebook Player

Seventh sense screen shot
Free Download
David Olsen

Seventh Sense is a gamebook reader by David Olsen of the Project Aon, a Lone Wolf gamebook fan volunteer group. Seventh Sense uses Project Aon's digital depository of Lone Wolf gamebooks and adds rich features such as bookkeeping, savepoints, dice rolling, commentaries, and more. As you recall Lone Wolf is an award winning which-way gamebook series by Joe Dever. After winning the 1982 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tournament at the Origins Game Fair in Baltimore, Dever left the music business for gamebook design and writing. He wrote Flight from the Dark in 1983, which would become the first out of 28 Lone Wolf gamebooks, spanning more than 14 years. Flight from the Dark sold 100,000 copies in the first month, while the entire Lone Wolf series sold over 9 million copies in 18 languages until it went out print in 1988. However, the entire Lone Wolf series is available online via Project Aon with Dever's blessings, and books 1-17 are being reprinted by Mongoose Publishing with bonus materials.

The Lone Wolf series utilizes a full-featured game system with inventory, skills, combat, and more. You start from book one and take your character through the series gaining skills and gear. In essence, the Lone Wolf series plays like a computer JRPG with 28 mini, one-hour quests. What makes Lone Wolf perennially popular is that Dever makes you feel like a hero in a compelling epic journey. While many gamebooks say that "you are the hero," Joe Dever makes you feel like a hero. Dever's writing genuinely draws you into the role, the hero, and his journey. Although this makes for a great story, there is a tradeoff in game design. Like many JRPGs, one cannot choose to be a wizard, thief, or other typical RPG classes; rather you are always the psionic monk/ranger Lone Wolf. Furthermore, the story is also linear and full of well crafted illusions of choices. If you map the choices, you will realize that exploration is difficult because there are numerous one-way paths. Although you can make choices, since they all funnel into the same conclusion, choices are illusions. This is reasonable and expected because it is impractically lengthy and difficult to create multiple compelling conclusions to a story.

While the storytelling is great, the combat system is dated. In the Lone Wolf series, you get your base Combat Skill with modifiers (weapons, skill, situation, and such), and subtract the result from the opponent's Combat Skill to obtain the Combat Ratio. Then use a random number generator chart (or roll a d10) and reference the random number with the Combat Ratio on a combat results table to see how much damage you inflict and receive. Compare this with Fable Lands which uses a more elegant combat system. Your combat skills with modifiers create a difficulty number, if you roll equal or higher than the difficulty number you score a hit. The numbers you score above the difficulty number is how much damage you inflict. Thus one 2d6 roll determines hit and damage without charts. A similar, but more complex combat system is used by modern RPGs such as Fudge, Fate, and [paper] Dragon Age.

The Seventh Sense has 12 of the 28 gamebooks ready as of now. Comparing the first book and last book available on Seventh Sense, the quality of the writing and the game design improves over the series. In Flight from the Dark, the first book, one design issues is a blind choice in section 235:

The Prince's horse is indeed a magnificent animal, fast and sure of foot. You gallop along the twisting track as if it were a straight highway, until the noise of battle has disappeared far behind you.
You are hungry and must eat a Meal during your ride.
After several miles, the path stops abruptly at a junction. There is a signpost, but it has been hacked down.
If you wish to use your Kai Discipline of Tracking, turn to 254.
If you wish to turn left, go to 32.
If you wish to turn right, go to 146.

If you turn right, you get ambushed and die and unless you have Tracking ability; there is no warning. Tracking ability is a skill that one picks before the game begins and in no way a player can anticipate section 235. A death from a blind choice, without warning, is bad design. As Dever gained more experience with the medium, becoming an award wining author, his writing and design improved. In The Masters of Darkness, twelfth book in the series the story is full of rich descriptions, clever plot twists and there are no blind choices.

Seventh Sense is a free application and allows an easy way to play one of the best paper JRPG adventures ever penned.


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Where is my android version?

This would be a phone or tablet "killer app."

A death from a blind choice,

A death from a blind choice, without warning, is bad design.

Okay, my usual break from what is probably mainstream designer culture: No, it's not bad design. Not in a medium where the combination of turns can be memorised - it simply becomes a memory game (or a mapping game). Further the hook with calling this bad design is that it creates a poor sport attitude to any life death gamble aspect. Ie, you gamble and win, okay, but gamble and lose and the person starts complaining they had no warning about that fight, etc. Which makes the gamble/dice rolling pointless (gamble is always a blind choice. Either embrace it or go diceless).