New series, new settings, computer software: the publishing world is really buzzing with role-playing adventures.
Here’s a round-up of what is happening to keep you in the picture.
Yet More from Puffin
Puffin, the leaders in the field, have published two more Fighting Fantasy books and a do-it-yourself guide to scenario writing. They have also launched a quarterly magazine and are busy bringing out Steve Jackson’s Sorcery epic (originally in Penguin) in Puffin. And then there’s the software packages and… and…
Ian Livingstone, 0 14 03.1743 0, £1.50
The sixth book in the series sees the young adventurer taking up the challenge thrown down by Baron Sukumit. A reward of 10,000 gold pieces and the freedom of the town is offered to the successful warrior who survives the monsters, creatures and traps in the labyrinth of Fang. Other would-be heroes may be encountered in the labyrinth and co-operation will often take place but only one adventurer will win through and be successful. Overall a difficult adventure with nasty traps and monsters which will be much enjoyed by young adventurers everywhere.
Island of the Lizard King
Ian Livingstone, 0 14 03.1708 2, £1.50
The seventh adventure in the series is set on a volcanic island, and the inhabitants have had strange voodoo experiments carried out on them by the Lizard King and his followers. The young adventurer has to rescue the young men who are held as captives. Quicksand, swamps, mutant creatures and giant crabs are just a few of the obstacles which tend to spoil the picnic.
Both titles will be enjoyed by children from the age of nine upwards.
Puffin have developed a very successful formula; but it would be good to see variations on the theme in the books which will follow over the next couple of years.
Steve Jackson, 0 14 03.1709 0, £1.75
In this do-it-yourself guide book to Fighting Fantasy. Steve Jackson explains how anyone can write and set up a gaming scenario. Anyone can become a competent Gamesmaster by following the succinct instructions. Combat situations, map planning and a host of other rules grace the pages. Strongly recommended for teachers who wish to write their own scenarios for either class lessons or club sessions.
Two role play scenarios are included to show how it all works and both proved very popular with my 2nd year English class.
A must for all enthusiasts of the solo adventure series who have always wanted to write their own adventures for others to enjoy. Certainly a good way of stretching the creative imagination. Suitable for top junior children and above.
Puffin Adventure Gamebooks
The Sorcery Epic
The Shamoutanti Hills
0 14 03.1807 0
Khare – Cityport of Traps
0 14 03.1808 9
The Seven Serpents
0 14 03.1809 7
(All published 30th August, £1.95 each)
The Crown of Kings
The hero in this series can be either a wizard or a fighter. The story is ongoing and clues amassed in one volume prove valuable in the next. The spell book, originally published separately in Penguin is incorporated into Sorcery 3 (The Seven Serpents) in Puffin.
Puffin Personal Computer Collection Software
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Book and tape package, 0 14 095 240 3, £6.95
Tape only, 0 14 088 098 4, £5.50
The computer game bears little resemblance to the solo adventure in the book. The player sends a little stick man through a maze to find 15 keys to unlock the Warlock’s chest. The maze is different each time you play. Reviewers report that it is ‘great’.
The Korth Trilogy
T. K. McBride
Escape from Arkaron
0 14 095 232 2
0 14 095 233 0
Into the Empire
0 14 095 234 9 All £4.95 inc VAT
Book and cassette package which can be used with a Sinclair Spectrum 16K and 48K. Purists tell us it’s not a `true Adventure product’ more a ‘zap and strategy’ game.
Grail Quest from Armada
The Castle of Darkness
J. H. Brennan, 0 00 692307 0, £1.50
The Den of Dragons
J. H. Brennan, 0 00 692344 5, £1.50
The first two volumes of the Grail Quest Trilogy. Set in the realm of Avalon the would-be adventurer takes on the role of Pip the adopted son of a Freeman farmer, and is guided by his mentor Merlin.
In The Castle of Darkness he has the task of rescuing Queen Guinivere from the evil clutches of the Wizard Absalom.
In The Den of Dragons he has the task of tracking down and slaying a rampaging dragon which is threatening to destroy the court of Camelot. Members of my gaming club thought that Merlin was talking down to them throughout the two books, and none of them was impressed with the name of Pip. All agreed that the introduction was far too long and that 156 sections in Book One and 173 in Book Two weren’t enough.
Some of the sections take up to 2 sides before the options are presented: I am of the opinion that young adventurers will skip much of the reading to get to the options quickly.
Overall. although the spell book and the combat situations with fireballs and lightning bolts are enjoyable the books are disappointing.
To a purist the idea of an Avalonian meeting Medusa and the Minotaur is an anachronism hard to swallow. Suitable for top juniors and above, and perhaps best for beginners.
Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Published by Puffin as a Quarterly Magazine. First Issue April, 95p
Devoted solely to Fighting Fantasy this magazine contains articles, competitions. maps and a gaming scenario. The artwork is of a high standard and it will prove a popular addition to the magazine shelf in the school library. A very good introduction for those who have never tried the books. The first issues contain a revised version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. A new adventure scenario in each issue would provide better value for money!
Lone Wolf from Sparrow
Flight from the Dark
Joe Dever, 0 09 935890 5, £1.50
Fire on the Water
Joe Dever, 0 09 935900 6, £1.50
The best books in the solo adventure genre I’ve kept until last.
If there is going to be a new monarch on the adventure throne then Joe Dever will be the man to depose Kings Jackson and Livingstone. In the first two books, of a projected series of twelve. this young man brings a very refreshing breath into the world of gaming books. The books are further enhanced by the superb black and white illustrations and full colour map by artist Gary Chalk.
Set in the world of Magnamund. Lone Wolf. a student warrior at the monastery of the Kai Lords, is the sole survivor when the monastery is razed to the ground by the Dark Lords. In Flight from the Dark his task is to reach the capital and warn the king of the impending doom. In Fire on the Water he is sent on a quest by the king to retrieve the weapon Sommerswerd – the sword of the sun. Only by finding this weapon can Lone Wolf hope to save his people.
The books move along at a terrific pace and the reader actually feels involved in the fate of the land, its people and its hero. The decisions taken in the first two volumes will have far reaching consequences in the books which follow.
Lone Wolf is going to become Gregarious Lupus over the next few months. Certainly not another series pumped out to sate a public demand for adventure gaming books – Joe Dever has been working on the series for seven years.
In another original innovation dice aren’t used to decide the outcome of combat: but you’ll have to buy the books to see how it works.
Book 3: The Caverns of Kaltie will be published in October 1984.
Book and cassette packages will be available in September.
Flight from the Dark
0 09 938720 4
Fire on the Water
0 09 938730 1
These are not yet available for review.•
Reviews by David Hill.
Meet Joe Dever – creator of LONE WOLF
The Lone Wolf series is the culmination of seven years research by Essex born twenty-eight year old Joe Dever. ‘1977 was when I discovered Dungeons and Dragons and I’m still actively involved in campaigning when time permits – organising and running sessions. I’ve documented every game and campaign that I’ve organised, and my books have developed from those scenarios.’ Writing though is a fairly recent occupation. He was originally a musician – a double bass player. He worked with Mike Oldfield and was a studio engineer with Virgin Records. ‘I got out of the music scene when Punk came in!’
Unlike any other gaming books for children the Lone Wolf adventures take place in a unique fantasy world, in this case the land of Magnamund. ‘Everything about the books, I hope, is totally original – myths, cults, heroes of the different ages, formation of creatures, migrations of races and the languages – none are borrowed from any other mythos although there are bound to be similarities.’ Like Alan Garner, he is the first to admit that all too often something which the writer thinks is an original creation can be found cropping up in a volume of ancient folklore at a later date.
‘My favourite myths come from the Nordic, Mexican and Aztec civilizations. Japanese stories have also provided ideas for the combat situations and techniques.’ By creating a new land Joe hopes ‘to give the series as much depth as possible’. He even makes it more authentic by developing his own Magnamund language. ‘The language gives an extra dimension to the characters. It actually works and plays an important part in the story. It has its own syntax and grammar and it can be broken down into its component parts of subject, verb and object.’
What Joe has created is a world as vast and as complex as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. ‘Two writers who inspired me were Tolkien and Michael Moorcock. In fact my English teacher switched me on to The Hobbit when I was thirteen and that’s when it all started. After that I moved onto The Lord of the Rings and the seeds of an ambition to produce something comparable were sown.’
Whilst preparing the eight remaining books he is also working on a huge compendium based on the world of Magnamund. ‘It’s going to contain the mythos behind the series plus information on the land. the weapons, the language, the flora and fauna – a real background to the series with additional gaming scenarios.’
Playing an important part in the Lone Wolf books is the illustrator Gary Chalk. ‘I first came across his work in a version of Beowulf that he’d illustrated. Now we work well as a team. The illustrations are based on my guidelines. We bounce ideas off each other. I write the books but we get ideas from one another.’
Both Gary and Joe share a love for wargaming and military history, and at school Joe was lucky to have an enlightened history teacher. ‘He made the period he was telling us about come alive. That aspect of history teaching is very important.’
The Napoleonic era and the American civil war are two of his favourite historical eras and they contribute to another of his hobbies — model figures. ‘I started my collection when I was twelve. It now numbers between sixteen and seventeen thousand. They’re all stored in a room full of cabinets which are full of shelves, which are full of figures which are one inch tall.’ Photos of his armies are often featured in the gaming magazine White Dwarf. As well as historical figures the collection consists of ancient Red Indian armies, Sci-Fi and Fantasy creatures.
Joe also realizes the enormous part that the computer is playing in the lives of young people and is very involved in rewriting the Lone Wolf adventures for the Spectrum 48K. ‘A tape will be available to back up each book and one innovation is that we will be using both sides of the tape. The graphics are going to be very advanced – a text adventure, text mixed with animation and real time combat that is very sophisticated. It’s linked with the keyboard and the faster and more dextrous you are at the keyboard the higher the chance you will have of defeating the creature.’
To write he likes to be alone. ‘I leave my wife and two-year-old son at home in Essex and go down to Cornwall for a month where I do nothing but eat, sleep and write. I write in longhand, check and revise it and then type the final version. I get a book written in’ about 21 days.’ In the future he hopes to move into the world of film animation where he sees tremendous scope for his creative ideas.