Friday, October 16, 2015

Joe Dever's Lone Wolf

In Junior High School I went to my school's book fair and I found Book 1 Joe Dever's Adventure Gamebook series Lone Wolf: Flight from the Dark.  I had already been a fan of Choose Your Own Adventure books, but this was a step beyond that--rather than simply making decisions, you created a character, with skills and equipment you chose at the beginning of the book, and used them throughout the story.

One of things that attracted my attention was the colorful maps that formed the inside cover of each book.  Like the maps in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the maps captured my imagination.

The stories were engaging and exciting, with a real risk of failure that added, and they were replayable--the next time you read them, you just made different decisions and explored new avenues in the story that you previously didn't know existed.

Lone Wolf wasn't the only Choose You Own Adventure series, there was also the Zork gamebooks, based on the computer game at the time, but in my opinion (then and now), Zork never could hold a candle compared to Lone Wolf.

The map for Flight from the Dark and Fire on the Water, courtesy Project Aon and Joe Dever
After rapidly consuming the first three books, I would eagerly look for the next book in the series every time I went to the bookstore.  With each new book would come a new map, and I would excitedly pore over the map, wanting to see what new lands Lone Wolf would explore in each new adventure. My love of maps, which wasn't restricted to Lone Wolf but was certainly encouraged by it, in part inspired me to make my own maps, which contributed in its own way to the creation of my own world, which is now the world of my novels The Pirates of Alnari and The Grand Masquerade.

I also bought the Magnamund Companion, which was an excellent supplement to the series, but I had a major complaint--it was way too short.  I wanted more.
Within the pages of The Magnamund Companion was a section called "Modelling Magnamund", which had a cool diorama of the Kai Monastery under attack by an army of Giaks led by a wizard.  There was a little note mentioning that parts of the model were made by a company called "Citadel Miniatures" that had a worldwide mailing service.  I sent in a letter...and within months I got into this crazy wargaming hobby, with my first purchase of some Chaos Warrior miniatures and Warhammer Fantasy Battle, 3rd edition.

In later years, long after I had played through the books multiple times, I would read the books just for their story value alone, which made them worth the read.  But by the mid-90s, I had a hard time finding any of the books after Book 12.  With the rise of computer roleplaying games, it seemed like the Lone Wolf books were petering out.

Fortunately, Lone Wolf's adventures did not end there.  Years later, while looking online to see if any Lone Wolf stuff might exist on the web, I stumbled upon Project Aon.  To my astonishment, Joe Dever was still around and kicking (great news), and more than that, he had generously allowed some of his books to be published online by the project, and thereafter to be downloaded free of charge.  Talk about awesome. Twenty-five to thirty years after the series first appeared, I would get to be able to read the most recent books in the series.  What's more, the nature of the books, with the reader jumping from numbered section to section in pursuit of the story, was ideally suited to modern ereaders.  I had always intended, and now I have the chance to do it with both the original books, and with ebooks.

But that's not all.  Joe Dever has teamed up with Cubicle 7 to create the Lone Wolf Adventure Game, a tabletop RPG inspired by the original gamebooks. The game system incorporates the original gamebook rules and expands upon them, resulting in an a very simple game system suitable for beginners, but can also be made more complex for more experienced gamers (more on this in future post).  This is brilliant, as it allows old time Lone Wolf fans to use the game as a fantastic way to introduce their kids to tabletop RPGs, but its expandability gives it life as a game for when the kids get more experienced, or as a game between adults. I plan on taking my kids on their first (simple) tabletop adventure soon, and once I do, I'll post a recap here.

For Sommerlund and the Kai!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Childhood fan as well, and like you, it was the gateway to a whole world of roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This is awesome news, thanks for the post!