Confessions of a Lone Wolf
Posted by docbelmont
Life sucks. No matter what your situation is, there’s always something about it that keeps making you wish for “simpler or happier times.” More and more we keep using the expression that “real life is getting in the way” of the things we’d rather be doing. Some are plagued with financial difficulties, some with love/marital problems, some are in politics, religion, or any other list of ideologies that never fail to start blood feuds with friends and family. We start looking for escapes to take us away from our everyday problems. Some might find release in simple pleasures, like watching a favorite sport or TV show, some might find it in saying “to Hell with my diet! Ben & Jerry will take away my troubles!” Still others may find release in the darker and more destructive things in life; like the bottom of a bottle.
I think nerds have it a bit easier than most folk, as we tend to look to our hobbies for comfort. We take great pleasure in finding anything nostalgic. Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can get just about any nostalgic fix you want. All of your favorite cartoons are most likely out on DVD already, and it isn’t hard to find old games at any used game store. There are, however, a few things that are a bit harder to find. Can money really buy your childhood back? Can true magic be bottled up and sold in a store? I suppose that answer is a little different for everyone. We all have different experiences, but I can tell you a little about what I consider childhood.
When I was a lad, I can remember being one of those types of kids that really didn’t need a huge circle of friends to keep happy or entertained. I always measured my company by their quality rather than their quantity. The friends I made as a boy remain my friends today. When I didn’t have my friends, I had a myriad of other distractions in my life. I don’t think my parents ever had to suffer hearing the words “mom (or dad), I’m BORED!” This may have a bit to do with the fact that I was a part of the Nintendo generation, but it also had a bit to do with the fact that I don’t think I really have lived much of those years on this planet. When all of the other kids went to the playgrounds to play kickball, football, or soccer, my friends and I journeyed through forests and dungeons, slaying dragons, and battling dark wizards. Why throw a football when you had a shining steel blade, or a mighty wizard’s staff rippling with arcane power? Sure, both were little more than a stout piece of wood and some clever use of leather straps, but to us, they were the weapons of heroes!
We strapped on our weapons, donned our cloaks and armor, and I was sure to pack all of the essentials into my backpack; my “iron rations” (usually a pack of RITZ crackers and a sandwich or two), my “spellbook” (a notebook I scrawled imaginary spells in), and my “decanter of healing elixir” (funny; ‘elixir’ looks a lot like a thermos of apple cider). We’d quest out into the Dark Forest from sunup to sundown, and sometimes through the night, if good King Dad gave us leave with the royal tent and ever-burning lantern. We did battle with ferocious goblins and saved Princess Gwaelin from Sorcerer Malkil’s tower in a time where we were still young enough to LARP without the stigma of being shunned as a bunch of weirdos…okay, so people thought we were weird anyways.
When we played inside during the winter months or rainy days, our adventures continued with the Dungeons & Dragons Boxed Set. Sometimes, we’d bring out the HeroQuest board game for a change of pace. It didn’t matter that the weapons weren’t “real,” and the spells were little more than a notation on a character sheet, and the monsters were just a collection of statistics. The quest must go on!
You can’t always have your friends around, though, and that’s where most kids got bored. Not me. When I had no one around, my adventures didn’t end. It just meant that I had to quest solo for awhile. Now, the first thing one might think when I say that is that I “retreated into a good book, and read the adventures of other great heroes.” Well, that’s only half right. I WAS reading a book…
…the adventure, however, was entirely my own.
“You raise your golden sword just in time to deflect the bolt of raw energy. It screams from your blade and explodes into the chamber wall, gouging a hole several feet deep into the steel-hard rock. The impact jars the Sommerswerd from your hand; the blade arcs through the dust-choked air and imbeds itself, upright, in the stone floor. You roll across the floor and take cover behind a pillar.
“Your doom, Kai Lord,” spits Haakon, “is but seconds away.”
If you wish to try to retrieve the Sommerswerd, turn to 278.
If you wish to try to move to a new hiding place, under cover of the swirling dust, turn to 350.
If you wish to stay where you are, turn to 230.
What you just read is an excerpt from a “game book;” a piece of literature that allows the reader to participate by making effective choices. The narrative moves along a branching path by making the reader turn to specific pages or numbered paragraphs depending on their story choices. You might know them as “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, even though the name itself is only one series of these game books. It was the closest thing I had to solo role-playing games. I remember participating in all of the tales woven by such game book series’ as: Choose Your Own Adventure, D&D’s “Endless Quest” books, and Tolkien Quest, but there is one series that truly sticks out in my mind…
Oh, yes. The Lone Wolf series, by Joe Dever. I have many memories of the world of Magnamund, both wonderful and horrible. I remember battling evil creatures and shadow lords, and mastering the paths of the great Kai Warriors. Due to my love for wizards, my favorite Lone Wolf books by far were part of the “World of Lone Wolf” series, starring Grey Star the wizard. I remember well saying goodbye to my Shianti masters from the Isle of Lorn, my duel of wills with the despicable Mother Magri and her devilish Kazim stone. I remember my budding romance with the beautiful young apprentice witch, Tanith, and my fellowship with the lovable merchant Shan. I remember the remorse I felt when I lost Shan to the mouth of a venomous frog-like Quoku, and Tanith to the clutches of the Kleasa shadow demon. I remember running for my life from the pincer grip and acid venom of the Mantiz insect warriors, before being rescued by the peaceful but primitive Kundi people in the Azanam jungles…and those were the adventures of a SINGLE book!
There are over twenty books in the Lone Wolf series, and each one can be read as a solo scenario, or you can watch your character grow over time from book one and beyond…you heard that correctly; the Lone Wolf books are part role-playing game. You have a record sheet in the book that lists the powers and skills that you have chosen to take, as well as keeping record of items in your backpack, weapons you have, as well as endurance and combat skill points. All of those things carry over to the next book, with a bonus discipline for the experience!
Other Lone Wolf books, particularly the ones in which you are a magic-user, had magical disciplines instead of Kai disciplines, and an additional stat of “Willpower points” to fuel those abilities. Combat in the book was done by subtracting the opponent’s combat skill from your own, and picking a number from the random number table each round. When you pick your number, you consult the combat chart in the back of the book, and it showed you how many endurance points you and your opponent lose. Being a D&D veteran, I always thought it was better to just roll a 10-sided die for the random number, as it was really just a table of numbers from 1 to 10.
These books were a treat when I was a boy, and sometimes I’ll still pull them off the shelf to go on those adventures again.
I suppose this is the part where I say “These books are great, and I highly recommend giving them a read! Sadly, however, you’ll have to peruse ebay because they’ve been out of print for a long time.”
…enter “Mongoose Publishing;” a Swindon, United Kingdom-based game publishing company that has some great products available. A few years back, before Dungeons & Dragons went tits up with 4th edition, they published a D20-based Lone Wolf RPG. It was nothing short of awesome! Included in this line, was a plan to re-release all of the Lone Wolf gamebooks in beautiful hardcover editions.
My Lone Wolf books are well-loved to the point where you can barely read the spine anymore, and the pages are dog-eared. This collector’s edition of the books are perfect! They use high-quality paper and are, as mentioned before, hardbound, with beautiful new artwork. Whether you are a Grandmaster Kai Lord who wants to turn back time and quest once more, or you are an interested fledgling willing to take up the Sommerswerd and mantle of the Kai, these books are a must for your shelf. As of the writing of this article, Mongoose has released up to book 17. Mongoose even has plans to release the fabled 3 books that never saw print!
Now, I just have to cross my fingers in hopes that Mongoose Publishing will grant my wish and re-release the World of Lone Wolf series, so I can relive the adventures of Grey Star the Wizard!
Make it happen, Mongoose! THIS wizard DEMANDS it!
…still reading? Good, because Mongoose didn’t stop there. They also released a set of Lone Wolf “Multiplayer game books.” You heard that right; MULTI-PLAYER GAME BOOKS! They went ahead and turned the solo game experience into a tabletop RPG to play with friends. The rules are deliciously simple, but the feel of having that solo book adventure remains, and what makes it even better is that you can share the experience with friends!
The Lone Wolf solo and multiplayer game books (and their supplements) are available through Mongoose Publishing or amazon.com. Check them out!!!