Endless Quest: Into The Jungle is a D&D-For-One novel that introduces newer readers to the worlds of Dungeons and Dragons. Find myriad ways to die, lose all your wealth, or end up in service to the Red Wizards of Thay in this D&D + CYOA book now available from Candlekeep Press.
Endless Quest – INto The if you’ve never heard of it, is basically Dungeons and Dragons but presented in a format that has you choose your own adventure instead of rolling dice or dealing with a Dungeon Master. Back in the 80s, TSR first experimented with their gamebooks, leaning into the solitary fun of the game with a series of 36 different books under their Endless Quest series, starting with the Dungeon of Dread.
If you’ve ever encountered a Choose Your Own Adventure before you have an idea what you’re in for. If you have managed to make it to the year of Our Lord two thousand and eighteen without encountering a Choose Your Own Adventure book, then congratulations on the cryogenic freezing process working, Mr. Disney, welcome to the world of tomorrow today. You own Marvel and Star Wars now–which, I understand you probably also don’t understand, but basically you’ve got a monopoly on everyone’s childhood and dreams, like you always wanted.
Also there’s Kingdom Hearts, but you really just gotta experience that one.
But while it’s fair to compare these two, the Endless Quest series do actually stand out a bit more from the Choose Your Own Adventures you might be familiar with. There’s a little more meat to them–in Into the Jungle, you aren’t just a random kid who’s been sent to stay with his uncle for the summer when aliens decide to come kidnap you but you just want to go to the dance with your sweetheart; you aren’t even just a Cleric. You are a Dwarven Cleric of Clangeddin Silverbeard who never managed to get their sea legs. Who works for the Harpers but also misses their home in Mithral Hall, far from the dark, zombie-haunted jungles of Chult.
This is where the Endless Quest series truly shines. There’s so much personality in this book. As you make decisions for the Dwarven Cleric, you get a sense of their personality. You get to see how they look at the world, how they feel about the characters they meet, and it’s delightful. It’s so charming to read a passage like:
Dwarves, in your opinion, were never meant to travel by sea, and you had never expected life as a cleric to ever put you upon the water. Is there not enough work to be done on your own shores after all?
Or this passage, which is one of the highlights of the book, and illustrates the beauty of D&D:
When you collect on your bet, you gasp at your winnings. You’ve never seen so much money at once. You take his as a sign from Clangeddin and decide to use the cash not to find Artus Cimber for the Harpers, but to start a chapel for your generous god instead. You’re sure the Harpers will understand.
Which brings me to one of the best and worst things about the book. As you might have surmised by now, the book takes place in the same setting as the Tomb of Annihilation, taking readers to far off Port Nyanzaru and Chult as they explore the locations outlined in the adventure–you’ll find the Firefinger, Camp Righteous, the Goblin village of Yellyark, complete with its catapult trap which players can see in action–even the characters of the adventure are present. The Cleric is there to find Artus Cimber and his Ring of Winter, they might hire various Guides from the first chapter of the book, and they can run afoul of the twisted magics of Nanny Pu’pu deep in the jungle. There’s so much to sink your teeth into.
And a lot that will try and sink it’s teeth into you…
But. It runs afoul of the same Choose Your Own Adventure trap. There’s only one way that sees you to the end of your mission successfully. And that’s fine–maybe a little short-sighted because there are so many times you get so close to finishing only to have victory snatched away because of a tiny “mistake”–but there are plenty of times where a decision like going South instead of East can mean the difference between not just success and failure, but life and death. There’s that trap of being dead no matter what you pick on this branch, which seems to punish the player instead of encouraging exploration.
You don’t really have any failing forwards–which is a crying shame, because that moment I quoted before was one of the most genuinely amusing mooments in the book. They do a good job of telegraphing how much of a bad idea it is to follow Faroul and Gondolo, who will take you to the Dinosaur Races–and then you find that you make enough money to retire and start a shrine. It’s a fantastic, very D&D kind of moment.
Counter that with the numerous deaths and real sad endings you can run into and you’ve got yourself the recipe for more–and while the repeated deaths are inventive, it does tend to be a little counter to D&D’s ethos, where mistakes and exploration are meant to be encouraged. Admittedly, this is a return to Gygaxian form, where anything but the intended solution means instant deaths for hapless adventurers. Which is charming in its own way. But it does seem like a missed opportunity to show off the inventiveness of the game. Characters die all the time, sure, but let us get distracted from our mission and lead a goblin rebellion against the undead. Or let us get captured by Grungs and somehow escape, failing our mission, perhaps, but earning our lives.
Dying every time–especially when the book promises something for even experienced adventurers who would understand that a Cleric should, in theory be decent against the undead, but no, at every turn you’re overwhelmed by your enemies, and despite being a Cleric of a war god, running from battle is the right time at least 70% of the time. But that’s me nitpicking the mechanics of a novel, so, that doesn’t really hold much weight.
As a solo adventure, I’m not sure I’d recommend this book. But as a way to bring new players into the fold, or to get readers interested in the worlds in the book, there’s so much to glean from here. The book does what it sets out to do–and if you’re thinking about getting your child into Dungeons and Dragons, this book is decently advanced in terms of reading level, with large, easy-to-read print. All in all, worth checking out, as long as you know why you’re doing it.
Welcome to the Forgotten Realms Endless Quest books, where you don’t just read a fantastic tale. You become the hero—and choose your own fate.
The Harpers have lost one of their own, a legendary adventurer named Artus Cimber, keeper of the artifact known as the Ring of Winter. They’ve hired you to travel to the jungle-clad land of Chult to find him. If only you can manage to find Cimber before the frost giants do—or the zombies that infest the land get you first. You’re in the jungle now, cleric.
You can find this and other Endless Quest books out in stores and online today–we only reviewed the Cleric book, but you can find one for Wizard, Rogue, and Fighter as well.