The Lone Wolf series of “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of books were hugely popular in their day, but recently they’ve jumped to a new medium.
Back when I was a wee lad, I had a collection of books called the Lone Wolf series. It was a series of ‘choose your own adventure’ books, but unlike I had ever seen before. The book series was initially released in 1984 and they had a heavy roleplay element to them. You had to keep track of your equipment, your skills and abilities and your health as you fought through the monsters of Magmamund. Yes, these books had a combat system. They were totally rad.
Let’s address the rhino in the room. Not quite an elephant, but still pretty big. Typically these retro articles focus on board games, which Lone Wolf is decidedly not. Still, I loved these books as a kid and there was recently some big news regarding the series. So, I think that’s enough to count.
What is Lone Wolf?
The series follows you as Lone Wolf. The first book begins with an assault on the Kai Monastery while you are away. The attack leaves no survivors making you the last Kai Lord, a group of warrior-monks who gain special powers through diligent study and training. As you travel the lands of Summerlund, gathering allies to fight back against the Darklords, who made the attack on the Kai.
The books, of which there are 28, all follow a similar structure. They play like any “Choose your own adventure” gamebook, but with added effects. Lone Wolf has an inventory, equipment, skills, money and abilities. They are all kept track of in the last few pages of each book and the series is written serially so the story continues through each book and the character progresses throughout the series. Like any other CYOA book, there are points where the reader chooses a path to follow. However, with Lone Wolf, occasionally the options will be broken down by in-game effects. “If you possess the power of Sixth Sense, Turn to Page 224”, “If you carry a Kalte Firesphere, turn to page 89”, “If you defeat the Helghast, turn to page 149”. Because the gamebooks had these roleplay game elements, it allowed a much wider range of options versus just “If you go left, go to page 8”.
What made the books uniquely special was the combat system. Admittedly, maybe it’s not unique, but I’ve never seen any other book series have a combat system, and I’m certainly not going to do any research which might conflict with any my preconceived notions. This is America.
The combat system, while conceptually very fun and exciting, was basically just a random number generator referenced against a combat score chart.
The random number was generated from a grid of randomly distributed numbers and the player was instructed to close their eyes and stab the book with the pencil in the grid to determine their random number. Simple enough. Check the random number against the difference in combat skill from Lone Wolf to the enemy and check the chart to see how much Endurance both combatants lose.
Where Can I Play Now?
The books are out of print, but the Internet is great. I’m sure you can find copies of the books on Amazon or eBay.
But if you’re looking for a more digital response, Project Aon has you covered. It is a fan created site with tons of content, including digital versions of the books and links to connect with the community. There is also mobile apps available to play the books in a more streamlined way. And, my continuing favorite thing ever, Tabletop Simulator never lets me down.
Although, as a purist, I do recommend getting your hands on the books if possible.
What’s Lone Wolf Been Up To Recently?
Back in 2015, a Kickstarter campaign was launched for a Lone Wolf board game.
The reviews are decent enough, but having never played it, I’m afraid I can’t speak too much about it. There have also been a few computer games released, but I’m skipping over that to get to the really wild news.
Just this month, Lone Wolf Augmented Reality RPG had it’s limited release. You can download it now, but it doesn’t really do anything yet. At least, not that I can tell. The game was released at Lucca Comics and Games 2018, an Italian games conference. I’m sure they had a great time with it, but as of now, I can’t do much here. The FAQ on the site says they plan for a wider release in 2019, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Thanks for reading!