“You may leave the village along one of two paths. One leads up into the hills…The other takes a downhill route…turn to page # to follow your path.”
In the 1980s, Choose Your Own Adventures with their second-person point of view engaged thousands of young kids—and me—with a wide variety of mystery, fantasy, and scifi adventures. We could read these stories multiple times and achieve differnt outcomes. At the height of their popularity, one choose your own adventure in particular stood out.
“You are about to embark on an epic adventure! Your quest will take you from Analand, your homelands, across the unruly territories of Kakhabad to Mampang Fortress wherein lies the Crown of Kings.” This tagline for the first in a four book series, introduced Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!, a fantasy role-playing gamebook. The books, published in 1983 to 1985, reached a new pinnacle in what’s known as interactive fiction.
In the first book, The Shamutanti Hills, you set out from your village on a quest to retrieve the stolen crown. You adventure through rolling hills meeting strange creatures and wondrous things on your way to Khare. Along the way you battle monsters and outwit tricksters. Will your adventure end before it has begun?
Discover the treacherous city of Khare in book two, Khare – Cityport of Traps. Use your wits to make your way through this byzantine maze of a city. Explore sewers, back alleys, inns and temples in your mission to escape the city alive and continue your ultimate goal of retrieving the Crown of Kings.
Book three—and my absolute favorite—is The Seven Serpents. Seven serpents, servants of the evil archmage who stole the crown, speed ahead of you to warn their master of your coming. You must hunt them down and stop them as you risk the dangers of the Baklands, an uncivilized region “inhabited by nomadic tribes and solitary creatures.”
Finally, in book four, The Crown of Kings, you near the forboding fortress where your epic quest will ultimately end in death or glory. Make your way through the low and high Xamen mountains and enter Mampang Fortress. There, traverse dungeons and twisted corridors, evade guards and traps, and seek out the crown.
This series was more than just a reading experience; it was also a role-playing game. Each book contains an Adventure Sheet to keep track of your skill, stamina and luck as you explore the dangerous world of land of Kakhabad. All you really need is a pencil (no pens please if you desire to replay with ease). A pair of dice are recommended but not required. A quick flip through the book’s pages with roll “dice” (printed at the bottom of each right hand page) for you. Books Three and Four contain the extra spell book tome that was originally sold separately. This added layer of play only added to the reading experience!
Excellent and plentiful pen and ink artwork enhances the immersion in this strange world. A world worth exploring more than once. After all, each read through is guaranteed to be a unique experience from battling creatures, choosing wrong turns, or scraping by to the glorious conclusion of obtaining the Crown of Kings.
Unfortunately, new copies of this pinnacle of choose your own adventures are not currently available. Though one could pick up used copies from Amazon. However, this series has received a fresh release for the ipad and iphone in electronic format. See here. Although it doesn’t appear to be available in the United States yet.