Friday, April 10, 2015

The Single-Player RPG Books That Got Me Into Dungeons and Dragons

Despite my intense love of tabletop RPGs I didn't really get involved in them until I was legally an adult. I joined my first official game in my first semester of college, and despite the roller coaster of bat shit that ensued (being thrown in the deep end with 4 well-rounded power gamers was a unique experience) I was hooked. Throughout the entire game though I had the oddest sense of deja vu. It took a long time to pinpoint why, but digging through my bookshelf years later I found the reason.

It had slipped my mind that I'd been actively involved in single-player tabletop games years before I knew that 4-person parties were even a thing.

Choosing your adventure was never quite so deadly.

What The Hell Are Those?

What you're looking at are two examples of the Fighting Fantasy series. Largely created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (no not that Steve Jackson) in the 1980s these books followed the same general formula as the choose-your-own-adventure books that have been popular for decades now. The difference was that these books gave you a simplified character sheet, and presented you with ways to customize your character. In Appointment With F.E.A.R.for example you take on the role of a superhero and you get to select from a half dozen different powers from psychic control to gadgetry. In Master of Chaos you take on the role of a resourceful adventurer who must find a dangerous sorcerer and put a stop to him before he unleashes a deadly, eldritch force upon the world (and you totally get to fight that two-headed crocodile beast).

Combat is simple. You have your sheet with your bonus, and your villain has a sheet with his or her bonus. You then roll 2d6 for you, and 2d6 for the bad guy, and the loser takes a point of damage. The combat is over when someone drops.

A Crash Course in Roleplaying

I picked up Master of Chaos sight unseen for $1 from a used bookstore at a flea market, mostly for the cover. It wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd purchased something strange and unique. After I went through the game a dozen different times (It might not have been Dark Souls, but it was unforgiving for a 12-year-old) until I was sure I'd discovered every path to the end and side-quest that I could. Satisfied that I'd squeezed every drop of adventure out of the book I could, I went out to find more.

I quickly found that these books weren't for sale in regular bookstores. So I combed through re-sale bookstores and libraries, digging until I turned up a few other titles. Demons of the Deep was lurking in the back of my local library, and upon further investigation I found a ragged copy of Deathtrap Dungeon too. Both kept me occupied for weeks.

I had access to a huge variety of entertainment options, from cable TV and two or three video game consoles, but I liked nothing better than the rattling click of the dice as they decided my hero's fate. The feeling of triumph that was greater than just reading. I felt like I was part of the stories, rather than just witnessing them in passing.

So, now you know what my gateway drug was... and it's still going strong!

If you have a gaming story of your own that you'd like to tell then feel free to submit it! If you want to help support Improved Initiative then stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! If you want to make sure you don't miss any of my updates then make sure you're following me on Facebook and Tumblr as well!

No comments:

Post a Comment