Be my distributed memory: an old published game with Vampires, Rubber ducky and Pip?

edited March 2006 in Story Games
My mind has been awhirl today following an oh-too-Freudian dream where I had to behead a serpent that was nesting in my pants; yes, you too would worry.

Somehow my thoughts took me back in time to sometime in the late 80s when I did a lot of choose-yer-own adventure books, and to a particular series that I have the haziest of fond memories. You always played the named character Pip, and the action was a mix of fantasy, horror and some modern-day stuff, laced with some very knowing humour and delivered through confident, involving writing. (No, probably no Elmore Leonard. But definitely a cut-above most of the genre, and I lapped it up.) The only elements I remember well are whimsical and sinister villains, bizarre magic items (the rubber ducky being one) and the way the book spoke directly to you in this matey, conspiratorial way.

My googlefu is weak and fails me. But dammit, I have to know! It's that, or reflect on my issues, so I'm begging you: anyone's brain have a longer reach than mine?


  • Not Pip and Flinx, based off of the Alan Dean Foster books?
  • Alex,

    I remember those books, but I'm afraid I can't remember anything that would help you track them down.

    But they did exist, anyhow. That's something, right?
  • I remember them too. I also remember not liking the name "Pip."

    Here is a marginally related question: O Literary Theorist Types of Story Games Test Community, explicate unto me -- what's the deal with those Choose Your Own Adventure books? What are they called? Why did they suddenly flourish, and just as suddenly die off? Do you "read" them? If so, what's that say about reg'lar readin'? If not, what are you doing? And, what's the relationship between roleplaying games (either mainstream or newfangled story games)?

    There's totally an MLA paper, possibly even an honors thesis, in those books somewhere.
  • There's totally an MLA paper, possibly even an honors thesis, in those books somewhere.

    Yeah, I found that. When Tessalaria says that she's the best one to climb the column and bring back the ring, you instead "Go Back to the Library, turn to page 83" and it's all right there, in tiny little type.

    I thought it was odd at the time.

    In seriousness, though: They are a lovely extension of Participationist practice. You know better than to think that the book is [b]responding[/b] to you, but you willfully suspend your knowledge of that in order to enjoy the well (or poorly) crafted illusion of responsiveness.

  • Also, James, I don't think they ever went away, and that some are still being published.
  • Joshua,

    That link leads nowhere.
  • James, the relationship these books had to rpgs for me was very direct: I bought my first rpg because I mistook it for a CYOA book (the game was Dragon Warriors, published in a handy pocket paperback format). At this point, I had never seen D&D, as I was buying my books from chain newsagents, and that game didn't have the oomph to get it's bulky books on the shelves.

    Now, although it was mindblowing that I could be playing these games with other people, it never struck me at the time that it would necessarily be a different kind of game tfrom what I'd been doing alone. And looking back on it now, my early years of gaming felt like an advanced variant on what I had cut my teeth on.

    Hmm. Does that mean, as GM, that I was attempting to emulate a book?
  • I grew up reading and *writing* CYOA books - God, I wish I still had the ones I put together in middle school. They were, of course, much better than the store-bought ones - more killing, explosions, and general awesome.

    There's a connection to RPGs for sure - the text is your GM and you can immerse yourself (to a point) in your character. The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks make this more explicit, in that you have what we'd identify as a character, and random events, and monsters and stuff.
  • edited March 2006
    Would it be fair to say that CYOA books are closer cousins to a CRPG than a pen & paper RPG?

    Also, I'll add another data point that I'm pretty sure it was my experience with CYOAs that allowed me to grok D&D when I first encountered it with no external context.
  • I'd say so, certainly.
  • Well they pretty much were "If/Then/Goto" in design. Albeit a bit more flexible in some ways than early CRPGs (Rather Text Adventure games) they really have no real relation to modern CRPG's (notably MMORPGs) which have more in common with wargames/Checkers (I reach X point--King me!--i.e power up.)

    CYOA were pretty much a hybrid idea to give people choice, I've heard people say a million times "I wouldn't have done THAT!" in response to tv's, movies, novels, and this was essentially a "put your money where your mouth was." they flourished because they aimed them at kids, and did them well enough at that time to gain recurring popularity. The problem is the generation of kids they first struck gold with, were a generation who didn't have pretty electronic video games that gave such freedoms (being pretty much common in the 80's before Nintento and Sega for the most part.) the generation AFTER their fandom was one who'd not known a world without at least Atari/Coleco, and often not one without Sega/Nintendo. Video games had reached a intrusive enough in youth to pull away the interest from reading. The Goosebumps books became the (albeit some years later) big multi gender interest and it even did a few CYOA style books. CYOA had lost relevance to youth--attempts to recapture it continued, but just never managed to "catch" (the last ones I recall were less fantastic/fanciful published in the 90's, making people junior newscasters/reporters and similar roles with less of the wild SF/fantasy tropes of before.)
  • As another point of data, Flying Buffalo put out a number of "programmed dungeons" for Tunnels and Trolls, which combined the CYOA with T&T mechanics. City of Terrors (1978) "simulates 23 possible adventures in a full-fledged city". It also mentions in its preface, "Another thing that could be done with it, is for one person to run the city like a dungeon and for a party of two or more characters to go through is as a team.", so there is some crossover.

    I never had the rules to T&T, so I never played the city properly.
  • I remember playing some of those T&T adventures, both solo and with one or two others, way back then. I seem to remember them being about the same amount of fun as red box D&D was.
  • Alex, I hope you find the title to that book. It sounds interesting.

    Melee/Wizard/The Fantasy Trip (Metagaming) also had solo adventures that used the "turn to paragraph XXX" format, combined with RPG mechanics. Also noteworthy are "Barbarian Prince", "Voyage of the BSM Pandora", and a few other games from wargame publishers that used the programmed adventure approach combined with streamlined simulationist mechanics.
  • edited March 2006
    Alex, is it possible you're remembering a series of books called "Grail Quest" by J.H. Brennan? Titles included:

    1 The Castle of Darkness
    2 The Den of Dragons
    3 The Gateway of Doom
    4 Voyage of Terror
    5 Kingdom of Terror
    6 Realm of Chaos
    7 Tomb of Nightmares
    8 Legion of the Dead

    Several people on Usenet and commented very favorably on this series, and it features a protagonist named Pip.

    EDIT: Even better, here's a page with the covers and teasers. Click here. Also wikipedia entry here. More info and summaries here.

    Coincidentally, one of the best of the Metagaming solo adventures was also titled Grailquest.
  • Elliot: yes! Yes! Those are they. Ooooh... I'm getting a spiffy nostalgia wave just gazing at the covers! Thank you!

    One Wikipedia later...damn these books were cool! Paragraph 14 was always the "you're dead" page, and they managed to build it into an institution - the text would mock you about it's ever-present possibility, to the extent that the number 14 had as much resonance as 101 or 666. And the spells were hilarious.

    It's just possible that these are hidden out in my mums attic. If I can get hold of them...well, let's just say that the pages are going to become even more thumbed and soiled.

    Wait, wait! I mean cheeto dust, or something!
  • God, total nostalgitis. When I was in the 8th grade I was eyeball deep in RPGs and a total social outcast in a school filled with farmboys. My one retreat was the library, where we had a complete, multiple-copy set of CYOA books. Not only did I read every one, but I hung out in there so often (Honors' Pass!) that I was the unofficial Assistant Librarian.

    I had to make a rotating checkout system for the CYOA books so that people wouldn't renew them into oblivion.

    Ok. I'm 13 again and life sucks. Sweet, but sucky.
  • edited March 2006
    Hey, Alex. You're welcome!

    Also, anyone who's interested in trying (or reliving) this genre, the third link I posted is from a website which is a massive encyclopedia of "game books". From it I found a link to Project Aon, which has online and downloadable versions of what was apparently one of the more acclaimed series, "Lone Wolf".
  • edited March 2006
    For whatever it's worth:

    My first exposure to the term "Dungeons & Dragons" came from the CYOA books TSR published. The first one in the series. I don't remember the name now.

    But! It included somewhere in the early part of the text, a mention of a "basilisk." So here's 6 year old me, asking my mom what a basilisk is. And she did not know. The closest we could find in the dictionary was "obelisk," and I'm trying to think of how the Washington Monument could steal someone's treasure.

    Ah. Six years old was the time, my friends. It was a mistake to leave it behind.

    PS. Also it mentioned "elven" which also wasn't in our dictionary. ("Elfin" is the more common term.) Nearest we could think up, it was a typo for eleven. Why someone would want to wear eleven pairs of boots, I don't know.
Sign In or Register to comment.