Friday, April 4, 2014

Tunnels & Trolls: Computer Solo Adventure

The game map. The starting island is in the lower left. I don't think the Dragon Continent looks as much like a dragon after all. More like a bird.

My last posting prompted some fond remembrances and discussions of game books. I had suggested that the nature of Crusaders of Khazan's encounters reminded me of these options, and I drew a parallel between "page-scumming" in game books and "encounter-scumming" in the game: saving one's place and testing all the options before deciding on the preferred ending, versus simply making your choice and seeing where it takes you.

If I'd waited a little longer to write that post, I would have drawn a more direct link between gamebooks and Khazan, because it turns out that the game is based on gamebooks, called "solo adventures" by Tunnels & Trolls' publisher. Fiendishgames mentions a couple of them in this comment: Sewers of Oblivion (covering the Gull sewers) and City of Terrors. I'd be surprised if Arena of Khazan and Sea of Mystery didn't also contribute a lot of material. The problem is that playing the game is starting to feel a lot like a literal gamebook, with copious text in the window and a series of branching encounter choices in just about every visitable location. At times, the other parts of the game seem almost superfluous, as if the creator just typed the gamebooks into the computer and then created a half-assed interface to make it seem like the player was playing a computer RPG.

"But Chet!" I hear you sputtering, "You love copious encounters and choices in your games!" This is true, but I like them when they're role-playing choices, or at least character-based choices in which success is determined by character attributes rather than hitting upon the "right" option. Too many of the choices in Khazan--not all, but too many--feel more like standard CYOA book choices, where the plot unfolds in ways that you couldn't have possibly foreseen from the nature of the choices.

Note that the game has me choose whether to hike or more in a particular direction rather than letting me actually walk across a map. Just one of many ways in which it feels like a gamebook that happens to have a CRPG-like interface.
But the larger problem is that there simply isn't a good balance between text and actual gameplay. Envision a typical RPG dungeon. At one end of a hallway, you have a chat with an NPC. Then you walk ten steps down an empty corridor and fight a combat with a party of orcs. The challenge for a game is to make those 10 steps feel necessary, or at least not useless, even though they're empty. It could be done by using the space to build up a sense of suspense about the impending encounter, perhaps with some atmospheric messages every couple of steps. Maybe there's a chance of a random encounter along the way. Perhaps the navigation itself is a puzzle, and the encounter at the "end" of the corridor is actually behind a secret door that the player wouldn't know is there until he maps the rest of the level. A modern game might feature interesting graphics and sound to enhance all of these possibilities. Whatever the case, you don't want the player to reach the next encounter feeling like the game simply wasted his time in the meantime.

Khazan often makes me feel that the 20 steps I walk between the gates of a city and its docks or a shop are its way of simulating the gamebook choice of "if you want to go to the docks, turn to page 91; if you want to go to the shop, turn to page 54." I've felt this way in only a few other games. The overland map in Champions of Krynn comes to mind. It was just wasted space, and the game would have been better off offering a menu of travel options, like Curse of the Azure Bonds did. A lot of other games have featured so many interminable dungeon levels, with no interesting geography, that I'd rather they'd just lined up their combats and let me chug through them in a row. But for the most part, games manage to do a good job--a surprisingly good job--of giving the sense that the space they occupy, and the physical process of moving through it, is somehow necessary, or even fun.
Khazan's problem is that the amount of text and the sheer number of options in the fixed encounters just contrasts too sharply with the paucity of graphics in the space in between. It's a little like reading a physical gamebook but forcing yourself to do a lap around the block every time you make a choice (which, come to think of it, would be a pretty good exercise plan). Still, almost all computer RPGs are, in effect, computer "solo adventures," so much of what makes Crusaders of Khazan notable, and a little unsatisfying, in this regard is somewhat ineffable.

The bloom has come off the rose for a few other reasons, including some undocumented menu choices (I missed out on a lot of items in shops because I didn't realize that F9 and F10, of all things, scrolled through the selections) and weird gameplay elements that I'm not sure if they're bugs or what. Shops randomly stop selling food (often when I most need it), for instance. Resting abruptly stopped healing wounds on my dwarf (I don't think he was afflicted by any other conditions) and I had to reload a much earlier save. A lot of combats plunge me into darkness even when they're initiated in lit places. Occasionally, one of my characters will get no experience from combat for no reason that I can see. The continent, which I had assumed was open and fully explorable, has a bunch of features that artificially restrict movement, such as the characters taking damage for every step they take when walking in what looks like desert terrain, sea currents that prevent landing in all but a a few areas, and in the entire northern half of the map, a banshee who attacks every time you stray off a narrow path.

Most of my playing since last post has been on a series of islands. I first bought a ship from the docks in Gull, then headed out into the sea.

Can I rename it?

I made due east for the mainland, expecting that I'd explore from the south to the north, as I'd been warned by everyone that the northern areas of the continent (above a cliff wall known as the "Great Escarpment") are dominated by monsters. However, the moment I landed, I got a message that it was "too hot!" and started taking damage. I'm not sure what this is about, but I later discovered that it happens every time you walk on an open area of the continent, although you can periodically rest (even in the "too hot!" zone) to recover hit points.

Am I wandering across the sand with no shoes or something?

With that plan temporarily shot, I decided to visit the nearby islands before hitting the continent. The first was a small one called Thorn, just north of Phoron. There was a small town called Anthelios in its one explorable square, and I entered.

As I wandered the hallways, I found myself attacked repeatedly by demon apes. At last, I came across some villagers (there were some encounter options where I had the choice to attack them) who explained that the townsfolk were followers of a sea goddess named Goloe, but she had cursed them for impiety and sin and was sending the demon apes to attack them every month. They asked if I would kill the 30 demon apes currently wandering the city, which would put them in good shape for at least the rest of the month.

I agreed, of course. The demon apes weren't terribly hard, as long as I kept Linn the Wizard away from their clutches, although there weren't 30 of them in the city. I had to keep leaving the city and re-entering, allowing the random encounters to reset, before I could meet the quota. When I did, I got a message that the townsfolk came out of their homes and resumed their business, though I got no more options for helping them in the long term, nor any reward. Meanwhile, I seemed to have made an enemy of the goddess:

Much later in my sea explorations, I came across a "castaway" in a raft. I ignored a crewmember's advice to keep away from the "sea witch," went out to help her, and discovered that she was none other than Goloe herself. She deemed me "worthy of crusading for the great wizard" and blessed me with sea water. Some time after that, I thought of going back to Anthelios to see if the encounter had made any difference, and it had. When I approached the altar, instead of getting a rebuke for helping the villagers, I was allowed to plead their cause. Goloe agreed that she'd punished them enough and called off the demon apes. She also gave me some gold and a bit of verse that I can't quite interpret yet:

When second greatest you do face [the empress's wizard, Khara Khang?]
Khazan's binder in a silver place [probably refers to some artifact I've yet to find]
Teach a rogue to teach a rogue [okay...]
Answer then in ogres' brogue! [a reference to the language system, I guess]
The spender's name in words so bright [clueless from here out]
Clever thief is demon wight
To vanquish wizard this complete
Else second's master must defeat

On another island, inhabited by Amazons, the queen wanted me to retrieve a stolen ring from a dragon on the isle of Khazad. I accepted the quest, but when I got to the island, I found that the dragon was too powerful to defeat in combat for my low-level party. Instead, I had a series of encounter options where I ran into a cave and met a hermit named Briah who had been trapped there for years. He came up with a plan by which I distracted the dragon while Briah opened a secret "trap door" on the beach.

As with the rat battle in the sewers beneath Gull, I had to choose the same options over and over again, suspecting that I was just wasting time, before the encounter finally paid off, with all of us escaping into some secret tunnels beneath the island. The tunnels led under the ocean to another island, called Res (heck of a feat of engineering, that), where I constructed a new ship from some pods--after first fighting a battle against pod people/zombies that escaped from the pods.

When I returned to the queen of the Amazons, she gave me detailed instructions for finding Goloe's temple on an island in the "dragon's maw" ("currents" keep me from reaching it otherwise). I had to land in a particular place on the coast and walk a certain number of steps in various directions before boarding a ferry to the island. Again, what I took to be desert kept damaging me, and if I strayed from the path, I got attacked by a banshee.

Goloe's temple was full of combats with water creatures like merfolk, sharks, and kelpies. Some of them were nearly impossible, causing me to reload multiple times. I ultimately didn't find anything useful here. There was a lagoon in which I could swim and dive to some underwater caverns, but even when I took pains to fully explore them despite taking "choking" damage every move, I didn't find anything to continue the story. I made a note to return later.

Fighting a bunch of "nix waterhorses" in the temple.

Continuing my exploration of the islands, I found:

  • Peleki's island, occupied by a guy named Peleki and his large family. He offered both food and gossip for a price, and in the latter category told me a number of things, including that Empress Lerotra'hh's favorite story is "The Arrogant Knight," that I can only approach "the unicorn guardian" if I'm not wielding any weapons, and that "the best gem to bear a soul is a diamond of golden hue." I dutifully wrote everything down but left before I spent all of my money.

One of Peleki's bits of gossip. I'm sure its meaning will become clear later.

  • An island composed entirely of bones of the dead, with living skeletons controlled by a skeletal hand bearing a black ring. I had numerous options to flee, but I kept investigating and found myself in a very long battle with "living skeletons"--very long because neither of us seemed to be capable of hitting the other. It was very weird. My attacks only connected with them about 1 in 30 times, and they never hit me at all. I eventually had to set the combat to "auto" and go run some errands while the battle finished up. When it was over--my party still unscathed--I had various options to take the ring or flee. Everything but fleeing resulted in the death of at least one of my characters. Maybe I'll return when I have more constitution.

Part of my endless battle with skeletons.

  • The island of Garr, which had a store in the middle of nowhere.
As I sailed, the game occasionally gave me messages from my "captain" and noted the presence of crewmembers on my ship. I have no idea where they came from. Did they come with the ship when I bought it? If so, what did they do when I wrecked it on the dragon's island?
As I close, I've finished what I can do on the islands, and I've pulled in to the city of Knorr on the coast of the continent. Maybe here I'll get more of a trail on the main quest. I've barely explored the spell system at all, so I really need to purchase some magic for my wizard and rogue and start testing it out. More on that, and combat and equipment, next time.


  1. Wow... that overworld map looks like a total ripoff of the Might & Magic maps. Not that M&M had some kind of exclusive right to overworld maps, but just that, stylistically, it's almost identical. It's kind of embarrassing, really.

    1. They are both New World Computing, probably had the same artist do it.

      I really like the art for the first five might and magic games, this makes me wonder how many other games have the same artist.

    2. a bloke named Jim Krogel did the MM2 map, no mention of the map illustrator in the manual for T&T


    3. Regardless of the lack of credit, it seems impossible that the maps weren't done by the same illustrator.

    4. Most likely by Mike Winterbauer, who did the illustrations for M&M4 and 5

    5. D'oh! Totally forgot that T&T was a New World game. That makes sense, now.

    6. Hello,
      I saw this blog and thought I would mention that I did the cover art for many games in the past;

      Might and Magic Clouds of Xeen 1992, and interior map
      Might and Magic DarkSide of Xeen 1993, and interior map
      Wing Commander, Super Nintendo 1992
      WolfChild, Sega 1992
      PowerBlade, Ninetendo 1992
      Solstice, Nintendo 1990
      Ninja Taro, Game Boy 1992
      and many others...

      My cover art is seen at:


      Mike Winterbauer

    7. The Solstice theme was pretty much the pinnacle of 8-bit music.

    8. Thank you Mike! Solstice was an amazing game. I loved it so much that I actually beat it. Such a feat would not have been possible without that wonderful poster sized map.

  2. Oh my. I've been waiting two years to leave this comment.
    (Full disclosure: I'm building a digital version of a gamebook, DestinyQuest, written in 2012, and I would absolutely love to get people here to try it.)

    This is true, but I like them when they're role-playing choices, or at least character-based choices in which success is determined by character attributes rather than hitting upon the "right" option. Too many of the choices in Khazan--not all, but too many--feel more like standard CYOA book choices, where the plot unfolds in ways that you couldn't have possibly foreseen from the nature of the choices.

    We recently had a gamebook fair where we invited people to hang out and play through the actual physical Fighting Fantasy books and others. One thing that becomes really obvious through playing FF and similar gamebooks is that they work best when played through repeatedly and quickly, like a roguelike, because the conceit is "find the right combination of skills and pages to survive, by making all the wrong choices the first few times because how could you possibly know there were bees in that direction."

    When done well (I think Heart of Ice's take was pretty good), this is roguelike and great. Unfortunately with that, you get the issue where the story is going to get boring if you have to read through it repeatedly (the equivalent of having to watch the same cutscene in a game over and over again). One of the difficulties with really great story-driven games is that it's hard to chew that fruit over again, whereas with a shooter or ARPG the clicking's what drives it, and my love for clicking never leaves me.

    I'd assume that's how games ended up with cutscene pacing, where the bulkiest parts of the story lie at the ends of chapters, when the save/reload cycle is over.

    On the gamebook side: I've been struggling with what is required to make a great game and fit it into a book. One of the things that's very prominent throughout every single CRPG on Chet's list is that they are ALL spatial - every last one relies not on just choices, but on the ideas of maps and movement. How do you make a great modern day game(book) that doesn't rely on visual space?

    (Footnote: I think there's a Lord of the Rings gamebook, something Nazgul, that has a map built in...)

    and...I'll stop thinking about gamebooks now :D

    1. I have to be honest: I feel about gamebooks the way that some tabletop RPG players feel about computer RPGs. They're so scripted, so restricted in meaningful choices, that I can't imagine preferring them unless I didn't have access to a CRPG at the time.

      In the era that they first started to come out, they offered much better narratives than contemporary CRPGs, of course, but today it's almost impossible to envision picking up a gamebook instead of a host of CRPGs from 1990 onwards that I have or haven't played.

      So change my view: what particular rewards do gamebooks offer that a reader can't get from an RPG?

    2. For me roguelikes are typically more strategic. You do have to find defences against threats that are likely to turn up, but generally the map is different each time, and it's fairly random what threats appear. For example, in one game you die of poison - in the next game you will look out for a poison cure, but absent a cure you can ideally run from poisonous monsters, avoid areas where they congregate, just bring a ton of healing potions if you have to fight one, etc.

      You have to develop knowledge of strategy and tactics to meet the challenges of a particular game.

      Of course there are many different roguelikes and they differ considerably in style and in what and how much is randomised from game to game.

    3. > what particular rewards do gamebooks offer that a reader can't get from an RPG?

      Actually...I agree with your view. Gamebooks of the past don't offer as many meaningful choices as story-driven video games do today. I get a far more satisfying experience out of a couple of hours of KOTOR than I would out of the vast majority, if not all, of gamebooks.

      I think that's a consequence of the medium. You could, imaginably, rework the entire text of Planescape: Torment into a bound book, but the number of pages you'd have to flip through would quickly become physically prohibitive, not to mention all the things that are easy in code that you'd have to emulate via keywords and tables and other nonsense. Technology's changed, but T&T still lives with the mechanisms it was designed with.

      At this point, I think digital gamebooks have potential, but it's largely unrealized. I haven't seen anyone try and tell a CRPG-scale story using a gamebook (well, maybe DQ? but even with a book I'm publishing, I feel a bit bold making that claim). Hypothetically, it should be possible, and it should be much easier than doing all the 100-person dev team work that goes into a Skyrim.

      That, I suspect, is actually the potential of gamebooks - the fact that, hypothetically, we could create immersive story-worlds at a fraction of the cost (and thus create many more of them). They would also read much faster than many CRPGs. I really do not know the answer to this question though, so I'd be interested in some perspective.

    4. Chris:

      There exists the predominantly Japanese phenomenon of the "Visual Novel", which are essentially electronic CYOA games in which there are a large number of individual scenes (generally still pictures with text (silent in older games, voiced in newer ones) and simple animations, although some use video) in which the player picks one of two or three options, which determine what scenes play out. The genre never made much of an impact over here (although this may be changing), probably due to the fact that a sizable minority of the games are rather explicitly sexual, and those are the only ones anyone over here heard about, usually as part of a "you won't believe how perverted Japan is" rant.

    5. I'm not sure about a plus side but there's definitely a few things that gamebooks have which the PC can never provide:
      1) The smell of paper.
      2) You can use a pencil to jot down notes on the pages.
      3) You can doodle on the illustrations.
      4) You "save" the game with a bookmark or a dog-ear.

    6. I think certain Visual Novels and Interactive Fictions are doing something similar to that. I don't know if they actually read faster, though; some of them can be rather lengthy.

      Most interactive fiction have choices made step-by-step (LOOK AT LEAFLET, GO NORTH, GO WEST, EXAMINE TREE, etc), but there is a subset of them where you're given a list of choices to make. It mostly depends on the engine, I think, but probably an IF author could make any given game more gamebook-like if they knew how, because I've seen examples of it.

      On hand, I have David Whyld's "Choose Your Own...", made with ADRIFT. The first choice prompt you're given is this:

      It isn’t until you come to in your seat, the papers you were reading scattered about the carriage, that you even realise you were asleep. Blinking away the sleepiness, you look around the carriage but can see nothing to indicate what woke you so suddenly. [...]

      [1] Remain in your seat.
      [2] Go and investigate.

      Once in a while you're given a prompt like "Press either [1] or [2]", where you have no idea what either choice 1 or 2 will do (unless you've played the game before).

      It's a short game, but I think it illustrates that gamebooks can be made on the computer.

      Visual Novels have been doing it for a while, but not all of them have choices. Just noted here for context's sake: some of them can be read straight through like a normal book, and have just as much content as your typical novel.

      But speaking of the typical VN, they usually have stories with choices that create branches that move you towards a specific ending. How some of them handle it is to tally up the choices the player makes and check if those qualify them for a specific set of scenes (sometimes with additional choices) from Branch A.

      It's sometimes possible to switch branches mid-story but it depends on the VN. Once you've cleared Branch A, you get Ending A. If you switched over to Branch B, you get Ending B. Some VNs want you to be perfectionist and stick to all the correct choices for a certain branch, though, so if you switched mid-story sometimes they give you Ending K, which is the catch-all ending.

      "Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors" handles it by having you pick what doors your POV character advances through. Beyond a door a specific sequence of events plays out (interlaced with puzzles) and sometimes choices (which can only be made beyond specific doors). If you pick the correct combination of doors you will eventually get to the final ending, but you do have to play the game more than once to get there, and the game does keep track of which doors you've already picked.

      I could come up with more examples (for both VNs and IFs), but I have to go.

    7. I think the line between choice-based text adventures (I don't like the moniker "interactive fiction" because it always struck me as somewhat pretentious, and implied favoring story over gameplay) and visual novels is drawn by the degree of interactivity. The former gives you new choices constantly, more or less, and thus the emphasis is in making choices. In the latter, choices punctuate long stretches of passive reading, and the emphasis is in following the story.

    8. One thing that occurs to me is that gamebooks don't do synthesized, slightly-modified endings very well. In a computer RPG, all branches might lead to the same basic ending, but colored slightly differently depending on your NPCs, your alignment, and your choices during the adventure. A physical gamebook can't make on-the-fly modifications like that and would thus feature completely separate endings, and fewer possibilities among them. A digital gamebook, on the other hand, could make subtle changes to the text based on reader choices without having to go down an entirely separate branch. Of course, at that point, the distinction between a digital gamebook and a CRPG becomes quite blurred.

    9. (By the way, if any of you would be interested in looking at the book I'm working on before it goes public, I'd love to discuss. My email's anything at

      Gerry: I find roguelikes fascinating. I think there's some potential for translating a roguelike into a gamebook, though...not quite sure how that would go.

      Visual novels are definitely one of the things that keep popping up on my radar. I'd be game for any recommendations, though I'm actually not familiar with many VN that would fall into the sort of fantasy/sword and magic genre. If I wanted to get my fix for something conventional like that, any suggestions?

      > A digital gamebook, on the other hand, could make subtle changes to the text based on reader choices without having to go down an entirely separate branch. Of course, at that point, the distinction between a digital gamebook and a CRPG becomes quite blurred.

      That would be very interesting. I haven't seen most text-based games of any kind do that, but it's well within the realm of technology to do it. Personally I think digital gamebooks ought to have been blurring that line ages ago, but I suppose the development of computer graphics at the same time as gamebooks pulled a lot of game developers into bigger, mass-market graphical projects.

    10. >though I'm actually not familiar with many VN that would fall into the sort of fantasy/sword and magic genre. If I wanted to get my fix for something conventional like that, any suggestions?

      "Fate/stay night" is the first thing that comes to mind but it doesn't have any official releases outside of Japan far as I can tell. It's not a conventional take on sword and magic fantasy-- and it's urban fantasy-- but it works, I think. But yeah, they definitely exist, though the only barrier would be whether any given game's been released in English and if not, whether you're willing to fuss around with fan translation patches. The catalogue opens up just a bit more if you're willing to do the latter.

      One I'll be looking at playing someday is "Gensou Suikogaiden", which requires patching and an emulator. Though now that I look at the Wikipedia page, it seems to say (on the screenshot of its packaging) it's a text adventure. For the Playstation. That's kind of mind-boggling and neat at the same time.

      Actually, I spent some time looking around for free or demo VNs that would fit your criteria (as I was wondering that myself) and didn't come up with much. But maybe you will have more luck than I will. I mean, I did find some fan translated demos, but the links were effectively dead.

    11. Since that didn't work out so well, I'll fall back on this:

      It's not a terribly long game, and it's a VN with no branches (and no explicit content).

    12. There's also Radical Dreamers. A VN based on Chrono Trigger (a SNES RPG).

    13. Radical Dreamers bears more resemblance to an adventure game - dungeon crawler combination, to be honest. It's reminds me of Zork, actually, as strange as that sounds.

    14. I suppose I could be jumping the gun a little there. Some VNs come with RPG or minigame segments, or else are blend of multiple genres, so it's not always easy to make a distinction.

      "Riviera: The Promised Land" for example has adventure game elements in that you can poke around locations on a map and find things to interact with. It has conversations you can have with characters with choices that affect how they react to the protagonist, and determine who he ends up with in the end -- something that a certain subset of VNs are well known for. It's also an RPG with its stats and combats.

      Actually, I don't know what point I'm trying to make here -- I just felt kind of bad for not being able to really find anything.

    15. I've noticed a few visual novels popping up on to Steam as of late: Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos, Go! Go! Nippon! ~My First Trip to Japan~, Long Live The Queen (That one is borderline, has had a playthrough of it.), and Analogue: A Hate Story.

      Interestingly, most of those are very obviously influenced by Japanese asthetics or style, if not ports of Japanese games themselves, but one of them is based on a book by a former Canadian governor general: The 39 Steps.

    16. Oh, sure. Computers do it way better, you all say.

      Tell me that when there is no power.

  3. Well, it's not like you know what the maps hold right from the start and can see an encounter coming from miles away.

  4. I had a feeling that you wouldn't enjoy the game... you took too long to update your review.
    In somewhat related news... I will probably delay my purchase of Elder Scrolls Online until I have finished Baldur's Gate II, which I am playing for the first time.

    1. The delay in updates was more due to a business trip. I often feel like I do the opposite--blow quickly through games I don't much like.

      I wish I could play BGII for the first time again. I'm hoping by the time I get back to 2000, I'll have forgotten most of it.

  5. Presumably the damage from deserts represents heatstroke and dehydration. It happened in Wasteland if you didn't equip all your characters with Canteens (and also much later in Fallout, though most people didn't realize that because your armor blocked the dehydration damage for some reason). I mean, that makes way more sense to me than being poisoned because you stepped on a swamp square without boots (you know what I'm talking about).

    1. I'm just not 100% sure that those tiles are supposed to represent desert. If so, I agree there's some defensible explanation for the mechanic. That doesn't make it any less annoying.

    2. Looks more like lava to me, and the world map kinda supports that if I'm reading it correctly, though it doesn't make a lot of sense geologically...

  6. Computer Solitaire Adventure?! Doy, it's embarrassing to have missed that obvious connection in my comment on your previous entry. I own several of Flying Buffalo's solitaire gamebooks as part of my "addict"-calibre gamebook collection, and probably at least a couple containing portions of this CRPG. But yes, of course, it makes lots of sense. (Since they'd been sitting on so much of this material already in-the-can for years by this point, it begs the question: why did they wait so long?)

    One of my most valued gamebook possessions is a computer-generated random CYOA dungeon from Flying Buffalo, no doubt cranked out using unallocated-but-paid-for time on a rented mainframe they used to calculate player turns for their play-by-mail games (which are still ongoing!) It's... pretty random, but its mere existence points to an amazing confluence of gaming and computing history, a gaming "what if" alternate history as though Germany had won WWII.

    1. You just made me realize that "Computer Solo Adventure" was a much better post title. I don't often make changes later, but I did in this case.

  7. "It's a little like reading a physical gamebook but forcing yourself to do a lap around the block every time you make a choice (which, come to think of it, would be a pretty good exercise plan)."

    My favorite way to exercise is to go to the gym and play a portable RPG (usually on the 3DS) while on a recumbent exercycle. I've seen people use their iPads on exercise equipment too. It's a great way to make physical fitness less boring, and squeeze some extra RPG playtime into a busy day.

    I also use a Gazelle to exercise while playing console games (ideally on systems with wireless controllers) that can't be brough to the gym.

    1. For a while, I tried something like every time I die in the current game, I have to go walk for 15 minutes on the treadmill. I figured it would both increase my exercise and make death more meaningful in whatever game I was playing. I ultimately didn't stick with it, but maybe I should revive it. I bought Dark Souls a few months ago, and under this plan, I ought to be able to run the Boston Marathon next year.

  8. Chet, have you considered giving a brief look at FLAPP? It's a javascript adaptation of the Fabled Lands gamebooks, which would have been released in print form at around this time. The books formed a huge, linke dup sandbox world, and the java app makes them pretty quick and painless to play, and they're a startlingly detailed and indepth world and adventure. Could be an interesting counterpoint to the CRPG's of the time, traditional media trying to keep up with the scope of the new technology and all. There's no "win state", but you could have a pretty good impression of them after a nights play. - Bobbledog

    1. No, I'd never even heard of it before. It would be an interesting side-posting, but then again, so would a billion other things.

    2. For anyone reading this 9+ years later like I am, I went looking for FLAPP and found it surprisingly hard to Goog in a post-Flappy Birds world, particularly as there are seemingly at least two other things called FLAPP. ... BUT! There is an honest-to-goodness Fabled Lands game that released on Steam in 2022, seemingly doing precisely the thing being discussed here, merging a choose-your-own-adventure game with CRPG mechanics, and it looks to have done so pretty seamlessly.

  9. I think a few CYOA pages would add to a CRPG experience without taking much effort.

    Imagine if BG2 20 CYOA pages instead of random encounters while travelling?

    They could afford experience rewards, treasure, reveal locations or quest info, alter your reputation, or apply a buff or debuff that persisted x days (reduce your maximum party size? cause your spells to misfire?)

    1. I think it could be an interesting contrast if done well, but a lot of players would hate it. I myself often don't like it when a game drastically shifts its mechanics. I guess I'd have to see it in action to know for sure. It certainly would allow a developer to cheaply add content to a game.

    2. RoA and Darklands do that sort of thing. Though Darklands is even more of a "Computer gamebook" than T&T.

    3. But combat in Darklands is way more entertaining and the gameplay a lot more open-world.

    4. To each his own I guess. I found Darklands' combat annoying as hell.

    5. To play that damn game for 20 years tells you how un-annoying it is to me. XD

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. bots are evolving and now making it past the normal spam filter... although posted in the wrong post.

    2. Then again, we've had real posters who commented in the wrong post too. But... now I'm not so sure if THEY are real too. In fact, how would I know if YOU are real? Oh shit... Am I myself real?

  11. Hey all, I was glancing through some zines and found some for Choose Your Own Adventures:

    Kai Grand Sentinel:
    Lone Wolf Club Newsletters:

  12. Funny thing that Obsidian realised the CYOA sequences within a real Crpg in Pillars of Eternity 2 to the T, isn't it?

    1. They had them in 1, too! But yeah they were probably more rewarding overall in 2. Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous had side adventures following that general vibe, too, and I did enjoy them in all four of these games as a fun mechanical alternative to the standard gameplay.


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