Gamebook Showcase, week 3
I'll be highlighting a new gamebook from the world of hold in the hand printed works every week on this pinned post. These are books which I consider to be important in terms of bringing the gamebook format back to mainstream consciousness as well as being books you can find in book stores, libraries and so on. These books deserve our support!
Week 3: The Fabled Lands series, by Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson.
Originally published by Pan books in the mid 90s, the first two books were also printed under the name Quest in the U.S. by publishers Price Stern Sloan. A Kickstarter campaign to fund completion of Book Seven was launched in 2015 and funded within 45 minutes of launch. The original books have been reprinted under Fabled Lands Publishing (also responsible for last week's showcase, Heart of Ice) and Megara Entertainment launched a series of apps set in the Fabled Lands realm, though these are no longer available due to a change in IP ownership.
Fabled Lands differ from standard gamebook formats in the way you can jump from one book to another, using the same character sheet throughout and improving your character, increasing their stats and their gear. In this sense FL does for roleplayers what Destiny Quest does for fans of online roleplaying games like World of Warcraft. Here is a distilled and concise version of a tabletop roleplaying campaign contained in a series of books.
Some elements are lost in translation, the depth and scope of RPG and the detail of most conventional gamebooks, for example, cannot be crushed into such an expansive and ambitious set of books. Nevertheless there's plenty of atmosphere and you'll soon feel like you've stepped into a living, breathing fantasy realm, albeit one requiring more imagination, perhaps, on the part of the reader than most roleplay settings.
Cover art was by Kevin Jenkins with the epic Russ Nicholson and Arun Pottier providing illustrations and maps respectively. There's plenty of artwork too, with Russ providing city scapes and jaunty fillerstrations in his usual unique style, though the lines seem thicker than his fine Warlock of Firetop Mountain work and some of the images do seem a little rushed (possibly a result of the sheer quantity of artwork contained in each book).
And these are big books, printed in the same size format as the FF Dungeoneer and Blacksand titles, each has 600 references, almost all of which you'll struggle to visit until you've built up your gear, amped up your stats and buffed up your combat ability to a decent level.
Some advice: don't gamble. Spend your shards wisely and pick your fights. Explore plenty and if a quest is offered, take it, because they are surprisingly scant at times. You can usually tell if a quest is beyond your capabilities early on as a kind of 'you must be this tall to ride' task will require you make a successful skill based roll before you can get into the meat of the adventure.
Another Dave Morris! I'm aware that this is becoming the Morris Fan Club here and will endeavour to fix it next week with a different author. To his credit, Dave has been involved in some great gamebook projects (and I hear from him by messenger this week that he is working on a new one, of a more grown up nature, but no more details. Interesting!)