Thursday, January 13, 2011

Your adventure ends here - the not quite Hero Quest

The gamebook endings I'm quoting have something special beyond the standard 'Your adventure ends here.' and I would like to make sure that any of my future gamebook endings should have one of these special features.

Here is an ending from The Fellowship of Four, a Heroquest multiplayer gamebook by Dave Morris. 

Some adventurers you are! If you have not even got the gumption to get involved when you see there's something wrong, how do you ever expect to be heroes?  Obviously, you would rather just stay by the comfort of the hearth with your beer.  Perhaps later on in the evening, you would be as so daring as to risk a game or two of darts?  It is clear that you are not cut out for swashbuckling, and so your adventure ends here before it's even begun.

Why I like this paragraph

This ending breaks from the norm of failure paragraphs in many ways and I like breaking from the norm. 

First of all, you don't die.  In most gamebooks, all of the failure endings end in your death.  Although you are on a dangerous quest, the non death failure is underused.  Multiple non failure endings are underused even more?  What's so bad about a good ending, a better ending and the best ending?  It will allow you to 'score' your adventure and may even provide a pleasant surprise when you try a different route and realise that there was a better way.

Second, the book berates you for behaving inappropriately.  Some gamebook authors have a set of rules based on morality, logic or common sense that the reader can work out in order to make it easier for them to make more successful choices.  Morris wants the reader to behave like action seeking, heroic characters and tells them this in the paragraph.

Third, you can get to this paragraph from paragraph 1.  Yes, you've turned to one other paragarph and you've failed.  Why such an early failure?  It's a possible choice - no one makes you go on quests.  Maybe Morris was screening his readers for characteristics such as curiosity and a desire to help others.

Fourth, Morris speaks to the reader.  Unless you are playing Grailquest, gamebook paragraphs rarely give you more than a description of your surroundings and dialogue and only break the fourth wall in failure paragraphs or when they tell you that you are a big cheat.  Morris really lays into the reader for making such an obvious mistake even to the point of sarcasm.  If you are being dissed by a gamebook, then you really know you've gone wrong.  Speaking to the reader is another underused feature in gamebooks.

 How did I get into this mess?

You are in a tavern when a worried looking man walks in and says something to the elders who shake their heads.  He then stands by the fire, looking chilled and concerned.  You decide to ignore him and carry on drinking beer. 

What have I learnt from this?

Failure endings do not just have to be a grim description of how you die.  They can still contain useful information for your next read through.  Morris is reawarding characters who want to help people in need.  If you do not do that then your adventure will be a lot harder.  A lot of gamebooks contian rules that the author has made.  He or she may make them obvious or not, but if you work them out then you will be much more successful.

Failure endings can contain useful bits of advice, so that when the reader starts again, they now feel more knowledgeable about what is expected of them.  This is something failure endings can provide - clues and hints for the reader in order to help then succeed on thier next attempt.

There is also much more to endings than just 'You die.'.  You do not have to die.  You can fail right at the beginning.  You can fail and still be told something useful.  You can have the author talk to you and tell you what an idiot you are.  All of these things are tools for writing a memorable failure ending.

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