Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lone Wolf

I have blogged before about how the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks had a massive influence on me as a gamer. Of nearly equal importance is the Lone Wolf gamebook series by Joe Dever.

The major difference between Lone Wolf and Fighting Fantasy is the former's emphasis on the continuing story. Where every FF book was stand-alone, in Lone Wolf you carry your character forward through the books, keeping your stats and abilities, and any equipment you've gathered along the way. You can play each book as a stand-alone as well, but in general you'll be better off if you've completed the previous installments.

The story is fairly basic yet compelling. Lone Wolf is a low-ranked member of the Kai Lords, a group of warrior monks with mad skills and psychic abilities. They've all gathered together for the annual Feast of Fehmarn, and that's when the evil Darklords of Helgedad make their attack and wipe out the Kai. With the Kai out of they way, the Darklords are all set to conquer the world. Except - Lone Wolf survived. As the last of the Kai, he has to reach the King and then find a way to defeat the evil armies. From there it branches out into tracking down a war criminal, investigating a missing gold shipment, a diplomatic mission, and a bunch of other stuff that gets more and more epic as time goes on.

Besides the gameplay, which is about as good as gamebooks get, Joe Dever's Magnamund is an excellent example of a fantasy world created using very few of the standard elements. You won't find orcs or elves in Magnamund (though you will find shotgun-wielding dwarves in flying ships). It's a great setting that comes more and more alive with each book.

The best part? The majority of the series is available for free right here. Joe Dever has very graciously made the books free for download on the internet, and there's even a lovely interface so you can play them while on-line. If you've ever enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure style books, or any other gamebooks, you should give it a go. They're pretty awesome.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I too cut my RPG teeth with gamebooks. D&D Endless Quest, Fighting Fantasy, as well as Lone Wolf & The World of Lone Wolf. I also recently found "The Magnamund Companion" at a second-hand bookstore for REAL cheap. I never owned it when I was a wee lad, & pretty much forgot about it all these years. It's in fair shape, but does contain all the cut-outs, & is free of pen or pencil. With a little work (& patience), I've brought it up to pretty decent condition. I still proudly own my gamebook collection, & pick a FF title to play now & again (much to my wife's chagrin...). I haven't adventured in Magnamund for quite some time, so I might have to take a trip back there soon.

I too agree that Mr. Dever & his world had a profound effect on my RPG development. Project AON is a great site, & it's very generous of him to share his books at no cost. I know that he has started to re-release the Lone Wolf series (starting with an expanded hardcover edition of *Flight From The Dark*) over the past year or two, but unfortunately, they're not available here in the States (at least not where I live).

Great blog, by the way. I'm enjoying your posts on Holmes Basic immensely. Although I'm kind of an outcast around these parts (I'm a dedicated AD&D2E fan, as well as a Dragonlance nut), I enjoy all the TSR iterations of D&D, & have amassed quite a collection of material, from 1E to "Classic" (Moldvay/Cook & Mentzer). I'd love to get my hands on a copy of the Holmes Basic Set, but times are tough all over. I'm sure there will be one set out there for me someday!


Nathan P. Mahney said...

Hey, you're no outcast here, mate - 2nd edition is the version of D&D I had the most fun with, and I like Dragonlance a lot as well.

Mike said...

Awesome. I didn't realize these were freely available on the internet. I played through a number of the Lone Wolf books (have a character sheet for a CYOA book blew my teenage mind).

I'll definitely be checking out the site.

J P Barnett said...

I concur. The first gamebook (not including CYOA) I read at age 12 was the FF Sorcery series - Book 2 - Khare - Cityport of Traps, another series that involved a continuing story. There's something about a continuing story (or at least a continuing timeline in a world) that has something that the standalone stories do not.

Hence, why I also like the Lord of The Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia series (ongoing story).

I've only read the first book of Lone Wolf, and even that was reasonably recently (within the past five years). I'll get to having a look at the others some day. I like very much the comparatively advanced gamebook system that Lone Wolf has compared to FF.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

JPBarnett: You should definitely try out the later Lone Wolf books. The first one has by far the least depth, both in writing and world-building terms.

J P Barnett said...

I'll have to dig out the first one and the stats I had when I finished it so I can continue. ;-). How would you compare the writing and world building depth of Lone Wolf compared with the FF Sorcery Series?

Akiyama said...

Hi, I just discovered you blog, and I've been trying to explore it, but I can't figure out how to navigate it. The most annoying thing is that if I click (for example), February 2008, I just get the later posts from that month - and there's no "older posts" link! But then, there's no "older posts" link on any part of your blog. So there's no way to read many of your blog posts.

Also, clicking the post title doesn't bring up that individual post with comments, and clicking your blog title doesn't take me "home".

I've experimented with a different browser, but nothing changed. And I can navigate everyone else's blog normally, so it seems like you have a weird blog. Can you fix this? I would like to read all of your sandbox posts.

Also . . . white on black . . . uurgh!

Nathan P. Mahney said...

JPBarnett: In terms of writing and world-building, I would rate Lone Wolf ahead of Sorcery. It's got more consistency, whereas Sorcery thrives on a sort of chaotic, anything-goes vibe.

Akiyama: Thanks for the feedback, I'll look into all of those problems. Hopefully I can fix them up for you.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Akiyama, that should have sorted out all of the problems. Let me know if you notice any more.

Akiyama said...

Thankyou very much! Now I can read through your whole blog, from beginning to end . . .

I was also hooked on gamebooks when I was a kid. The Sorcery books were my favourite - I preferred the "chaotic, anything goes vibe", and I loved the illustrations, but I also really liked the other FF books, the Lone Wolf books and the Grail Quest books. I also had some Cretan Chronicles and Greystar the Wizard books, but as a result of never cheating, I never got beyond the first book in those series.

If you've never played them, I recommend checking out the Grail Quest gamebooks. They are a bit stupid, but in a fun way.

J P Barnett said...

Akiyama, which FF book do you think was written the best? I read plenty of the series as a teen and found "Creature of Havoc" as the most interesting and revolutionary. "Temple of Terror" is another one of the more 'run of the mill' FF books I feel was done well. I also liked how the first part of "Trial of Champions" was done, from the main character being a slave to the entrance to the dungeon at Fang.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Akiyama: I like all the series you mentioned above. I finished them as a cheating kid, but am having much more trouble now as a non-cheating adult. And yes, Grail Quest is awesome.

As for FF, I agree with JPBarnett - Creature of Havoc is the pinnacle. Some of my other favourites: Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Citadel of Chaos, House of Hell, City of Thieves, Deathtrap Dungeon. The early ones, mostly.

J P Barnett said...

It's interesting that when most people talk about their favourite FF books, it is almost always from the 'early set' especially The first dozen or so. (I think CoH was number 24 from memory) If I remember rightly there were 59 in the original series, I can rarely remember a favourite being mentioned from the last 30 released.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

You're correct on all counts. Certainly, I think the faddish rise-and-fall of gamebooks had something to do with it - the most popular books are the ones that were out when the fad was it its height. I also think it's telling that Steve Jackson stopped writing them at book 24. He was by far the best game designer of the FF writers, and most of his books are tons of fun with a lot of replay value. I do love Ian's books as well, but most of them are poorly designed, linear and overly-difficult. There are some excellent writers in the later crop (notably Keith Martin). Certainly, Vault of the Vampire is right up there with my favourites.

J P Barnett said...


Your comments about Steve Jackson got me thinking. I had a look to see what books he did write in the series and the results were interesting. If you consider that he co-wrote Warlock with Ian Livingstone, the number of books in the series that he wrote himself were surprisingly few:

- Citadel of Chaos
- Starship Traveller
- House of Hell
- Appointment with F.E.A.R
- Creature of Havoc

I personally didn't like ST much, which leaves only 4 contributions to the series, of which only 2 that you would classify in the Fantasy genre.

The above showed me:

a) His willingness and confidence to vary his genre writing (and do it well). I certainly don't have the confidence to attempt a Sci-Fi or SuperHero gamebook, myself.

b) To contribute so few books to the series but have such a high reputation shows the ability he has. It's a pity he didn't contribute more to the general series.

Nathan P. Mahney said...

Starship Traveller is not a favourite of mine either, but other than that the Jackson books are all worth a look. And the Sorcery series really is quite brilliant in its execution.