Thursday, June 20, 2013

Solo Play: Memories of Game Books -- Part I

When someone mentions solo play -- not RPG play where there's a GM and one player, but an RPG played by one player and some module or book only -- I immediately think of three things: the Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Lone Wolf, and some old D&D modules by TSR.

But I must admit that the first one that comes to mind is the Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone -- the version before it become #1 in the Fantasy Fighting Gamebook series.

Just remove the "25th
Anniversary Edition" tag
and this is pretty much the
cover of the book that my
late grandmother bought
for me many, many years ago
I think the reason that this really worked for me and hooked me is the cover. It was very different from nearly all the covers beside it, and when I looked closer, it said somewhere on the cover or in the book or on the back cover: "Part story, part game, this is a book in which YOU become the hero!"

Because I'd been unable, at that point in my young life, to actually play D&D with anyone other than my sister (and I didn't quite get the rules either), this was a fascinating opportunity for me.

I remember that the combination of the simple rules, the occasional illustrations, and the encouragement to map the place really helped reinforce that feel of playing in a dungeon game by myself. Puzzles, traps, and strange monsters and room were all part of the wonder.

The fact that I died quite a lot before finishing also helped with the re-play value.

I clearly remember getting my classmates hooked on this same series of books back in high school, and we all compared maps and strategies until people started solving them on their own -- and they all returned to Apple computer games.

When more gamebooks in this series started to appear, I was overjoyed and picked them up right away. Though a bit disappointed that I didn't get to bring my gear and character over from the prior books, I was happy to remain in that space for a time.

Until Lone Wolf and the Magnamund-set series came about, but that's another story.

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