Here's the real story behind the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books

Originally published at: Here's the real story behind the "Choose Your Own Adventure" books | Boing Boing


Here’s the real story

I prefer to imagine the backstory behind the books goes differently every time Packard and Montgomery’s children tell it.


Cool, although I preferred the Fighting Fantasy books, basically solo D&D adventures:


If you choose believe the story ‘as is’, go to page 6.

If you choose to believe an alternate origin story of your own design, go to page 12.

If you choose to believe that Choose Your Own Adventure books are awesome either way, go to page 19.


Interesting use of “quaint-but-enchanting”. I would have thought, quaint and therefore enchanting.


Quaint and therefore enchanting? That’ll be page 41.


Some sources say novelist Raymond Queneau was slightly ahead of them with his 1967 “A Story As You Like It”, but they probably didn’t know about it. And even if they did know about it he had options like, “Do you wish to hear the story of the three alert peas? If yes, go to 4; if no, go to 2” so they definitely improved on the idea.


D&D had both Choose Your Own Adventure type books called “Endless quest books”. And another version where you actually rolled dice.

Holy crap - looking up the name I see one that I have (had?) called Conan the Outlaw is worth $80-100 bucks!

Anyway - my favorite book in this genre was Space Assassin by Steve Jackson Games. I loaned it to a friend, and never got it back. I should go find a copy. Though I need to make sure I get THIS cover because it is awesome.


I gave my collection of Choise your own Adenture and other similar books to my nephews a few years ago. They thought the CYOAs were OK but they really loved the Steve Jackson series. That is a fantastic cover.

Was it “Third Planet From Altair” I had trouble getting the good ending? It took me a long time to figure out the solution. The reward was worth it.


I used to get nervous about a choice, so I’d save the spot with my finger. Eventually I’d have 6 fingers jammed into various spots in the books. I now do the same thing with saves in video games.


Was it Starship Traveler? You were lost in space and had to figure out the coordinates to get back home, by putting the numbers in turning to the page. That was the only other Steve Jackson game book I had, and it was awesome BUT I could not figure out how to get home!

I think I still have it, I should try it as an adult.

I did the same thing, so I could find all the threads in the story!


Still pissed off all these years later that there was no way to get the optimal ending to Inside UFO 54-40 without cheating:


Edward Gorey wrote a choose your own adventure style book, The Raging Tide: or, The Black Doll’s Imbroglio. It was everything you’d expect from an Edward Gorey choose your own adventure book.


Definitely page 19 for me!
Though, to expose a nerdy truth, I used to re-read them trying out every possible combination of decisions. It was a real learning journey, how sometimes you end up in the same sticky situation but through different avenues.
Reminds me a bit of Nell reading her primer on the beach in Diamond Age.


Those books could get confusing because some of them were written by British Steve Jackson (from Games Workshop), and others were written by American Steve Jackson. All of them only say Steve Jackson on the cover.

Starship Traveller was a British Steve Jackson book.

@Torlygid, if your nephews are still interested, the Lone Wolf book series is mostly online now (the site doesn’t have the rights to the last book AFAIK). They are the British versions, not the butchered US versions which were not a success.


D&D also had the Fantasy Forest books, which were aimed at kids. My daughter and had a good time reading through those a few years ago.


The Fighting Fantasy books weren’t related to D&D, but they were created in the spirit of Choose Your Own Adventure books by Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games fame). They were great fun. You could even play them without dice in a pinch. They had random dice patterns printed at the bottom of every page and you could flip through to a random spot and read that as your dice roll. All you really needed was a pencil to track your stats and inventory on the built-in character sheet in the front of the book. Such a fun idea.

The first one was Warlock Of Firetop Mountain, which many of us remember fondly. My personal favourite was the Mad-Max-esque Freeway Fighter.


Space Patrol, top of the stack in the illustration, was my absolute favourite. That and some space Lego and I was a happy little kid.


I had always assumed Steve Jackson of Fighting Fantasy was the same as Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson games.



I LOVED those books when I was a kid. Those and “Encyclopedia Brown” were pretty much the only things I had any interest in reading at the time.

I remember one of the CYOA books; the “goal” of the book was to get to Utopia. And there was a page in the book where you made it! Except that there was literally no way in the story to get there; there was no choice, on any page, to “Turn to Page 72” or wherever the Utopia page was located.