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

I had to settle for making an endless series of characters until I was finally able to put together a gaming group in high school (I think I was 8 when someone gave me the red dragon box starter set).


First of all:
Which is fun (but not for kids) and the author went on to make some truly great comics

Then ‘Ace of Aces’ which I regret no longer having was like a choose your own adventure real time dogfight:
Bonkers. There were western showdowns and Pern thread fighting too! Now there was a game mechanic that broke my young mind.


There was a series of 1-on-1 adventure gamebooks like the dogfighting gamebook you pictured. Each player had a book and they’d tell their opponent what page they were on; if your page listed the opponent’s page it meant you were in the same place and could fight it out.

I think I still have a couple of them, including Battle for the Ancient Robot (a science fiction one) and Dragonsword of Lankhmar (fantasy, where one player plays Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser), in my storage locker.

I wish more of these old and out of print (sadly likely also out of license) books were available in electronic editions. I’d pay a couple bucks for a PDF of these books.

Before Fighting Fantasy there was Tunnels and Trolls solo dungeons


I have something like that!

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I used to love Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf gamebooks as a kid.


Was just checking that no one else had mentioned them before I did :stuck_out_tongue:

I loved the Lone Wolf books. Although they did suffer a bit from power creep as you advanced through the series

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Please tell me they kept the interior illustrations at least?

The art style was so characteristic of the series.

Just a minor nitpick, but there are two game authors named Steve Jackson.

  • One is British, and worked for Games Workshop. He wrote the Fighting Fantasy series together with Ian Livingstone.
  • The other is American, started off as a game designer at Metagaming where he made Melee, Wizard and The Fantasy Trip, then founded Steve Jackson Games to release Illuminati, Car Wars, Ogre and other pocket box games that were available for only five bucks. Now best known for GURPS and Munchkin.

Somewhere in a box I still have an old copy of White Dwarf with a photo of the two Steve Jacksons meeting.


Between the US and UK editions? Gary Chalk is listed as illustrator for both of them, so I believe so.

UK edition cover:


I would like to hear the story of the three alert peas.


It me

You’re in luck! And as with any story of its kind you can go back and choose to hear the story of the three big skinny beanpoles instead.


Haha, thank you!

Naked Doom was absolutely brutal.


I have a chart that looks similar when I started a CYOA story a few years ago, except I stopped after completing one full story path and the rest is just planned. It’s fun as a writer to be able to pursue those different paths because that’s what you already sort of do when you plot it out, except know you have to remember what you changed and keep it straight when writing the subsequential steps.



Check my earlier comment


It’s interesting they should have those particular books in the picture for this article:

  • The Cave of Time - This was the first Choose Your Own Adventure I read. A girl several years older (in retrospect clearly a fellow geek) who went to the same babysitter as me was reading it when I was young. And the concept fascinated me. When I got a little older I tracked it down in our local library. And, of the few of these books I’ve read, I think it is one of the quirkier ones. Still has an odd fascination for me.

  • Space Patrol - This was the first one my parents bought for me. Not as generally odd as Cave of Time, but I was really into space stuff so it was still quite a hit.

The couple other Choose Your Owns I’ve read over the years didn’t really stand out much for me, but those two still stick prominently in my memory.


there was also a Stainless Steel Rat CYOA. I don’t remember it being particularly good, but hey, Slippery Jim.