Friday, December 17, 2010

Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson's Fabled Lands Adventure Gamebooks Return

In the mid-90s during the dwindling days of the vibrant Fantasy Adventure Gamebook phenomenon, Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson released their Fabled Lands series. It was a "mythical" and much talked about series among gamebook fans, but one that wasn't often seen in the United States. Dave Morris was one of the authors responsible for the Dragon Warriors role playing game (one of the most narratively driven role playing games of its time) and the books featured artwork from Fighting Fantasy artist Russ Nicholson, so the difficulty in finding the books was frustrating to many gamebook fans. I personally wondered if I would ever be able to find copies of the books, and thankfully my wait is over. Fabled Lands Publishing has recently published the first four books in the Fabled Lands series and has eight more listed on their publication schedule.

The adventure gamebook was a genre created by Ian Livingstone and Steven Jackson in 1982, with the publication of the classic Warlock of Firetop Mountain adventure. The genre combined the gaming experience of role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons with the narrative choice pathing of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. For over a decade publishers released a wide variety of these gamebooks.

The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, being the first, set the standard for the industry. The vast majority of the Fighting Fantasy series were entertaining and inventive, but they didn't contain epic narratives that used the same character that traveled from book to book. The majority of the Fighting Fantasy series were episodic, and they failed to capture the feel of a role playing game campaign. The first series to truly capture the campaign feeling was Joe Dever's Lone Wolf series, where a player could use the same character for over 20 books as that character changed and grew and faced increasingly challenging foes.

Like the Dever books, the Fabled Lands series contains innovations that separate them from the typical gamebook. In Fabled Lands players have a wider array of character choices to play from than are typically offered. In your standard gamebook, players are typically limited to one "character class." There are books that allow you to play fighters, wizards, superheroes, kai disciples, and more, but each volume typically offers only one archetype. Steve Jackson's Sorcery is one exception, as are the Fabled Lands books. In Fabled Lands, players can choose from one of six professions which cover the majority of fantasy archetypes a player might find interesting. Additionally, Morris and Thomson included a "keyword" mechanic where players acquire keywords as they progress through the series. Possessing these keywords will affect future encounters and shape the playing experience. For ease of play, all keywords within a particular volume begin with the same letter. In The War-Torn Kingdom all keywords begin with A and the progression continues in later volumes. Fabled Lands uses a quick and effective combat system that allows for more variety in results than the Fighting Fantasy series without the use of a chart like in Lone Wolf.

My books came in the mail today, and I am eagerly anticipating my first foray into Sokara and the rest of the Fabled Lands

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