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Series Energy [was Lone Wolf complaining]

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  • S. John Ross
    ... Well ... I have a semi-related question that might spark some discussion: Is it unavoidable that a gamebook series will start to feel like a re-tread of
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 5, 2001
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      > I hope this kind of strand continues... it's a lot more interesting than
      > reading adverts all the time... 8oÞ

      Well ... I have a semi-related question that might spark some discussion: Is
      it unavoidable that a gamebook series will start to feel like a re-tread of
      itself after a while?

      I think it happened to Lone Wolf pretty early on (although I know that's far
      from a consensus opinion). Even Grey Star, which kept things pretty tight
      and atmospheric, lagged a little in the final book, where what had once been
      an interesting story of going places and encountering people became a series
      of little battles leading up to a big one.

      I never got far enough into Way of the Tiger to tell. I don't remember
      Sorcery! well enough. I never did get around to the Freeway Warrior (?)
      books.

      This is a question that concerns me personally, since I have every intention
      of writing a large number of Lucas Marks and Patricia Meadows gamebooks over
      time (for those who don't know what that is, see
      www.io.com/~sjohn/thieves.htm).

      I think the biggest pitfall lies in the scale of a story. If you've got a
      tale about Taking Down the Big Bad Evil, and that's what you're building
      toward for an entire series, then, ultimately, the bit where you finally
      take down the Big Bad Evil is almost certain to be less surprising than the
      kinds of adventures you can have along the way while collecting the Seven
      Parts of the Bigass Gun or the Fourteen Scrolls of Magic Phrases or
      whatever.

      I'll be taking a different tack with Lucas and Patricia. Specifically:

      (1) The only continuing story will be the subplots, rather than the
      mainplot. Every story will explore Lucas and Patricia's relationship with
      one another and with their past, but there is no Big Biblical Destiny
      they're after. There is no Big Bad Evil. Rather, there will be new (and
      hopefully very different) challenges in each episode.
      (2) There will be stories from each character's point of view. I've even got
      one pair plotted out where two entirely different gamebooks can derive from
      the same few days in their lives - but from each character's unique
      perspective on a twisty little story.

      I'm hoping that by keeping the recurring storyline as the skeleton and the
      adventure du jour as the "meat," that I'll be keeping the tail from wagging
      the dog (and other mixed metaphors).

      What other methods could be applied to keep a long-term gamebook series
      fresh? Refusal to fall back on formula is good ... Completely derailing
      expectations about the projected climax might work, too, but it might also
      cheese off the player something fierce unless it's handled VERY well. :)

      || S. John Ross
      || Husband · Cook · Writer
      || In That Order
      || http://www.io.com/~sjohn
    • Demian Katz
      ... Well, I don t see any reason why gamebooks would necessarily have to suffer from re-tread syndrome more than any other type of fiction, though whether or
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 5, 2001
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        > Well ... I have a semi-related question that might spark some discussion: Is
        > it unavoidable that a gamebook series will start to feel like a re-tread of
        > itself after a while?

        Well, I don't see any reason why gamebooks would necessarily have to
        suffer from re-tread syndrome more than any other type of fiction, though
        whether or not all fiction is victim of that problem is a larger topic
        than I'd care to debate. :)

        I think, though, that it's possible that many gamebooks feel like retreads
        of the same old storyline because they're all set in the fantasy genre
        (which, while I love it, is infamous for almost always using the same
        storyline and plot devices) and, even worse, are frequently based on
        role-playing sessions (which, even more than the fantasy genre itself,
        can tend to bear a disturbing similarity to one another).

        Now, before anyone attacks me, note that I'm not saying that all fantasy
        stories are the same or that there is no creativity in role-playing...
        But at the time that many gamebooks were written, I think a lot of the
        inspiration was coming from AD&D, which at the time was still firmly set
        in the dungeon. Good stuff, of course, but a bit repetitious.

        > This is a question that concerns me personally, since I have every intention
        > of writing a large number of Lucas Marks and Patricia Meadows gamebooks over
        > time (for those who don't know what that is, see
        > www.io.com/~sjohn/thieves.htm).

        Well, I encourage you to act on your intentions. ;)

        > I think the biggest pitfall lies in the scale of a story. If you've got a
        > tale about Taking Down the Big Bad Evil, and that's what you're building
        > toward for an entire series, then, ultimately, the bit where you finally
        > take down the Big Bad Evil is almost certain to be less surprising than the
        > kinds of adventures you can have along the way while collecting the Seven
        > Parts of the Bigass Gun or the Fourteen Scrolls of Magic Phrases or
        > whatever.

        This is definitely a very important point, and one that I would have made
        if you hadn't beaten me to it. ;)

        > (1) The only continuing story will be the subplots, rather than the
        > mainplot. Every story will explore Lucas and Patricia's relationship with
        > one another and with their past, but there is no Big Biblical Destiny
        > they're after. There is no Big Bad Evil. Rather, there will be new (and
        > hopefully very different) challenges in each episode.

        This is a wise plan, as long as it doesn't suffer from TV syndrome (things
        are in the same state at the end of the story that they were at the
        beginning). Character development is good. But I doubt I need to tell
        you that. :)

        > (2) There will be stories from each character's point of view. I've even got
        > one pair plotted out where two entirely different gamebooks can derive from
        > the same few days in their lives - but from each character's unique
        > perspective on a twisty little story.

        I have a friend who's working on a gamebook series, and he's constantly
        complaining that people steal his ideas before he has a chance to
        implement them. If he read this e-mail, he'd start ranting again. ;)

        > What other methods could be applied to keep a long-term gamebook series
        > fresh? Refusal to fall back on formula is good ... Completely derailing
        > expectations about the projected climax might work, too, but it might also
        > cheese off the player something fierce unless it's handled VERY well. :)

        Well, let's see...

        - Humor is good. Very few gamebooks are funny. I think this is a crime.

        - Using special mechanics for certain adventures can maintain interest.
        While most people don't like tons of rules, well-used mechanics can make
        the adventure more engaging. I love the way that the Sorcery series
        works; memorizing spells is much more real-feeling than picking them
        before the game and subtracting points when casting them. It also means
        that spell-casting abilities increase with the *player's* real experience
        rather than with the *character's* artificial experience. I'm also a big
        fan of games-within-the-game, though these are rarely done cleverly.

        - When in doubt, bend the genre. As you've probably noticed, I'm a big
        Doctor Who fan; that series lasted 26 years because it could visit any
        genre it wanted without breaking continuity (which is not to say that
        Doctor Who had perfect continuity, 'cause it didn't). I'm still annoyed
        that Sliders never began to approach its potential... but I'm wandering
        off-topic. :)

        - Demian (oh dear, my signature looks like a point on my list!)
      • mrtemp0ral@aol.com
        In a message dated 3/5/01 5:35:25 AM Eastern Standard Time, sjohn@io.com writes:
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 5, 2001
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          In a message dated 3/5/01 5:35:25 AM Eastern Standard Time, sjohn@...
          writes:

          << I never got far enough into Way of the Tiger to tell. I don't remember
          Sorcery! well enough. I never did get around to the Freeway Warrior (?)
          books. >>

          Ohhh..mannnn!!! While the ending to Way of the Tiger book 6 (Inferno isn't
          it?)was rather interesting and different, that was another TOTAL letdown but
          not for the same reasons :) Am I right in assuming that was the last of them?
          There isn't like New Order Way of the Tiger books in just the UK is there?
          (If there is I'll scream) I thought book 4 was great...isn't that the one
          where you pick a cabinet of 4 advisors? I must've played that over and over
          just to repick them and see what they advised :)

          Sorcery was great! It was my first intro to Fighting Fantasy...Playable as a
          warrior or wizard(much better as a wizard in my opinion) it had an
          interesting storyline and setting. Book one was a little weak to me but Book
          Four more than makes up for it..that thing's a monster!! It had tons of
          tricks to keep me entertained too...the Khare riddle and catching all 7
          snakes for example.

          Freeway Warrior is a little fuzzy in my brain. I think I read book 1-3 but it
          just didn't capture my interest like Lone Wolf did.
        • Simon Osborne
          ... but ... them? ... over ... No, Way Of The Tiger only ever had 6 books ;) Interestingly, the Duel Master gamebooks and Fighting Fantasy #11: Talisman Of
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 6, 2001
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            > << I never got far enough into Way of the Tiger to tell. I don't remember
            > Sorcery! well enough. I never did get around to the Freeway Warrior (?)
            > books. >>
            >
            > Ohhh..mannnn!!! While the ending to Way of the Tiger book 6 (Inferno isn't
            > it?)was rather interesting and different, that was another TOTAL letdown
            but
            > not for the same reasons :) Am I right in assuming that was the last of
            them?
            > There isn't like New Order Way of the Tiger books in just the UK is there?
            > (If there is I'll scream) I thought book 4 was great...isn't that the one
            > where you pick a cabinet of 4 advisors? I must've played that over and
            over
            > just to repick them and see what they advised :)

            No, Way Of The Tiger only ever had 6 books ;)

            Interestingly, the Duel Master gamebooks and Fighting Fantasy #11: Talisman
            Of Death are all set in the same world as Way Of The Tiger - Orb.

            I must disagree about the end of Inferno! though... I thought it was really
            cool! [no spoilers here]

            > Sorcery was great! It was my first intro to Fighting Fantasy...Playable as
            a
            > warrior or wizard(much better as a wizard in my opinion) it had an
            > interesting storyline and setting. Book one was a little weak to me but
            Book
            > Four more than makes up for it..that thing's a monster!! It had tons of
            > tricks to keep me entertained too...the Khare riddle and catching all 7
            > snakes for example.

            Book 1 was good in that it presented a diversity of ways to reach your goal:
            the Svinn village. It's possible to read it many times and take different
            routes each time. The Wizard / Warrior thing was also a great idea... of
            course the Wizard is better! It's more fun, even if you sometimes end up
            losing STAMINA because you forgot to bring along a Sun Gem etc. :)

            > Freeway Warrior is a little fuzzy in my brain. I think I read book 1-3 but
            it
            > just didn't capture my interest like Lone Wolf did.

            Hmmm... Here's my view: Freeway warrior was a very interesting foray into
            post-apocalyptic anarchy, and I think it worked very well. Yes, the first
            book is a little repetitive, but it sets up the scenario for the following
            three. Book 3 is certainly the best, being pursued by that assassin, Helmut
            Varken. And in Mad Dog Michigan, Dever created a villain to rival the
            gangleader in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Strangely, it always seems to me
            very similar in structure to a western, and I'm a fan of Sergio Leone
            "spaghetti westerns". No, not as good as Lone Wolf, but, then again, it
            wasn't ever going to be, was it? A good series nevertheless.

            --
            Simon Osborne
            ICQ: 72644514
          • Demian Katz
            ... I definitely enjoyed the Freeway Warrior books (though my recent inability to finish book 1 has prevented me from reviewing them yet). The biggest
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 6, 2001
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              > Hmmm... Here's my view: Freeway warrior was a very interesting foray into
              > post-apocalyptic anarchy, and I think it worked very well.

              I definitely enjoyed the Freeway Warrior books (though my recent inability
              to finish book 1 has prevented me from reviewing them yet). The biggest
              complaint I have is that there's no skill list; I think a big part of the
              fun of Joe Dever books is selecting nifty abilities, and I kind of missed
              that in Freeway Warrior... Selecting different kinds of ammo just isn't
              the same as Kai Disciplines. ;) Of course, it's probably a bit more
              appropriate to the theme. :)

              - Demian
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