This week I’m excited to review something that brings some of my favourite things together, books, Dungeons and Dragons and Choose your own adventure. These style of interactive gamebooks rose to popularity in the ’70s and ’80s, such as Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy and Find your Fate as well as the most well known, Choose Your Own Adventure books. The idea was that not everyone had the friend or means to be able to play Dungeons and Dragons and other RPG’s like it but still longed for that style of personal, decision-based storytelling that has become so addictive and these books were a great way to capture some of that magic.
In 1982, the original publishers of Dungeons and Dragons saw these books as an opportunity to bring in new players and so they too released their own series of books, titled Endless Quest, which were more about the story than combat like the Lone Wolf books for example. Now with the rising popularity of Dungeons and Dragons (and other tabletop roleplaying games) thanks, in part, to the success of shows like Critical Role and High Rollers as well as the more open “geek culture” we enjoy today the Endless Quest books have returned! Penned by American writer and game designer, Matt Forbeck, new books were released in September last year as hardbacks aimed mainly at a middle-grade audience, although easily accessible and enjoyable by anyone with an interest in Dungeons and Dragons. The four books feature unique storylines in a multitude of popular D&D settings such as the dangerous, winding Underdark and the murky streets of Waterdeep while each one also focuses on a particular class, these four in particular star a fighter, a cleric, a wizard and a rogue.
Two of our friends gifted us the set as a Christmas present and I’ve loved reading through them multiple times! They feature brilliant art like that you find throughout the source books for D&D and although they seem small each adventure is packed with choices giving the reader multiple outcomes, not all of which are good.
To Catch a Thief – Rogue
When you tried to pick the pocket of a civilar in the night-shrouded streets of Waterdeep, you never thought she’d catch you — and you never dreamed she’d force you into her service. Now you must find the baby griffon stolen by the beholder Xanathar, leader of the city’s powerful Thieves’ Guild. And if you should fail . . . you can count on spending the rest of your life behind bars, rogue.
To Catch a Thief was the first of the four I read as I play/have played a good few Rogues in my time and it seemed a good place to start. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of art inside these books and reading about some of the popular characters from the Waterdeep campaign was a lot of fun. In my first read, I made it about three quarters through before I met my untimely demise but made it through the second time fairly easily. The story didn’t feel especially limited to a Rogue to me but enjoyable nether the less.
Big Trouble – Wizard
When evil giants attack your home in Ardeep Forest, your parents think you’re dead and they go hunting for your missing little brother. You wake up and set out after them, helped by a giant wizard who lives in a flying tower. You don’t know where they’ve gone, but you know that if you don’t find them, you’re all in big trouble. Wield your magic wisely against the giants, wizard.
I died pretty early on in Big trouble to my absolute shock. I don’t play a lot of spell caster classes in the game and I often tend to forget just how squishy some of them can be. I found this one to be the hardest by far and died about four or five times, I did manage to survive twice but with unsatisfactory endings and a pretty good one. Despite having now read through Big Trouble at least eight times I’m fairly certain there’s still more to discover and plan to give it a few more tries still! This one felt a lot more suited to the chosen class of Wizard, although I definitely think it would fit an arcane trickster rogue too and as my favourite rogue archetype, this made me pretty happy.
Escape the Underdark – Fighter
You awaken in an underground cell, stripped of your armor and your sword. Your fellow prisoners inform you that you’re trapped in the Underdark, soon to be taken to the great drowcity of Menzoberranzan and sold off as a slave. But word is that demons are stirring in the underworld’s depth. Perhaps you can use that to break free, fighter.
I love all things Underdark and as expected this is one of my favourites, unlike with the first two I read I found I actually got attached to the two characters who accompanied me which I hadn’t expected and after making two choices that led to my death it was third time lucky and got the best ending of any of the four books I’ve experienced. Although this is the Fighter book though I really didn’t think there was much that was hugely fighter specific to it but it was hugely entertaining even still.
Into the Jungle – Cleric
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.
I’m not really a fan of dwarves and I’ve never been too sure of clerics but Into the Jungle totally won me over and is my favourite of the bunch. In one of the games of D&D, I play with friends we’ve had our fair share of run-ins with undead creatures and necromancy which I think added another level to this story for me. I only had to go back on one choice to accomplish the task my character had set out to complete but the journey there was heartbreaking and done so very well,. Into the Jungle definitely fit my style of storytelling more and not only had a brilliant and evocative storyline (in my playthrough at least) but also felt the most right and fitting for it’s chosen class.
In conclusion, I found the new series of Endless Quest books to be well worth the read and are a great way to dip your toe into the world of Dungeons and Dragons or to get you by until your next game session. Published by Studio Press Books, all four of these are available now and I’m hoping we’ll get some more classes in the near future. I would especially love to see Ranger, Warlock and Bard ones in particular!