Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gamebook player types

In my attempt to work out what players want from gamebooks, I'm going to research some RPG players types, apply them to gamebooks and come up with a set of gamebook player archetypes.

My first stop off point was the fount of all knowledge that it  It has a list of player archetypes for pretty much any game you can think of.  I took the ones from 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

The Dungeon Master's Guide for Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition identifies eight player types:

  • The Actor, who has fun by developing and acting out a fictional character

This archetype sounds like they would rather perform deeds and interact with characters in a gamebook rather than collect items and slay beasts.  The developing part implies that the actor would like their character to go through changes over the time they play them.  To me, gamebooks that would appeal to the actor would be the Lone Wolf series, The Crimson Tide (where you play a teenager over a period of years) and Night of the Necromancer (where you play a ghost and discover new powers as well as trying to interact with others as a ghost)

  • The Explorer, who has fun by immersing in a large and detailed fictional world

Fabled Lands is perfect for  this archetype.  Destiny Quest is also a good choice for the explorer as you are given a large area and you can choose where to go.  The Sorcery! series would also be a good option as you travel over a large area and meet many new people.  All gamebooks cater to an explorer to a degree, but the best ones would be a sandbox style gamebook where you can travel anywhere over a large area.

  • The Instigator, who has fun by making something happen, regardless of if it would be logical or in-character.

The Instigator would like gamebooks where they are given lots of different choices when they meet a character.  City of Thieves is a good example, as when you meet someone you either have the choice of talking to them or attacking them, which allows very different consequences.  The number of different actions you are  allowed to take in a gamebook, however is limited by the number of paragraphs and gamebboks with a big mission usually have death as a consequence of doing something radical (such as using the crystal charge to blow up the ironclad ship in Masters of Darkness, where you have to use it at the end).

  • The Power Gamer, who has fun by Min Maxing a powerful character

Any gamebook system with lots of stats which can be manipulated many ways will appeal to the power gamer.  Destiny Quest is a power gamer's dream as you can choose several careers and then find the items that are optimum for those careers.  Fabled Lands could also be good for a power gamer as you could use items that maximise your abilities for your profession.  

  • The Slayer, who has fun by killing things in combat encounters

Most gamebooks would be able to cater to the slayer's needs by adding options of attacking people as well as talking to them or killing guards instead of trying to sneak by them.  It would also help to have lots of combat based items which will aid the slayer in getting a high body count.  Warlock of Firetop Mountain is good with this as you have the option of attacking pretty much everyone except for the sleeping guard at the entrance.  We need an option to attack him.

On a side note, I had a slayer phase when I used to set myself a 'lets see how many monsters I can kill' challenge when I played gamebooks and I would attack monsters even if it were just a hindrance.    

  • The Storyteller, who has fun when the game sessions tell a continuous and engaging story

There are two ways that a storyteller can have a session with a gamebook which tells a continuing and engaging story.  The first is if the gamebook itself tells the story, in which case The Lone Wolf series is the best choice for this storyteller.  The other way is if the storyteller makes up their own story from what the character does in the gamebook.  This requires a lot more effort as you are writing a story as well as playing a gamebook, but it would be good is it would be your story.  Any gamebook would fit the second type.
  • The Thinker, who has fun by solving challenges through strategy and planning

Gamebooks can have plenty of material for a thinker.  They could have puzzles or a situation where they know what is coming and so they can serach an area for an item they need or they can have a situation as in The Shattered Realm Duelmaster books where they have to fight a battle.  Most gamebooks contain thinker elements rather than just being thinker gamebooks.

  • The Watcher, who doesn't care so much about the game itself but about having fun hanging out with his/her friends.

Solo gamebooks won't cater to the watcher.  That leaves the multiplayer ones then - The Fellowship of Four, the Duelmaster Series, The Combat Heroes series or the Blood Sword series.

So it seems that in order to cater to the Dungeons and Dragons archetypes in a gamebook, you can:

1)  Have many options for things to say or do when you meet a character including attacking them (caters to actor, instigator, slayer, storyteller).

2)  Have many paths in order to achieve the goal of the book or have no goal to the book (caters to the explorer, instigator, slayer).

3)  Have paths where a different strategy will be needed to achieve  the goal, including one with puzzle based challenges or challenges based on logical thought (caters to the thinker and explorer).

4)  Have lots of bold characters and good narrative (caters to the actor and storyteller).

5)  Have a game system which gives the characters a chance to develop their stats and also gives them options in scenarios that depend on their stats such as combat (caters to the power gamer and the thinker).

Finally, the only way to appeal to a watcher is to make a multiplayer gamebook.  

How would this translate into gamebook player archetypes?  Right.  I've come up with four characteristics of a gamebook player with help from the DnD 4th edition player archetypes.  These values can also be applied to gamebooks.  for example, the Fabled Lands series has a high explorer value.  They are: 


Explorers want options.  They want to be able to go to many places and do many things in scenarios, including behaving completely erratically if they wish, such as going into a village, attacking the mayor and requesting the ogre's hand in marriage.  This covers the explorer, instigator, slayer and sometimes the actor in the DnD archetypes.  

Gamebooks that appeal to high explorer types have many paths to victory or no criteria to victory. 

Gamebooks that would appeal to high explorer types would be the Fabled Lands series.

 Puzzle solver

Puzzle solvers like to work out the solutions to scenarios.  These problems can come in many forms such as puzzles, battle tactics (both personal battles and and mass battles) or apply information given to their advantage.  

A problem or obstacle does not appeal to a puzzle solver if:

1)  You cannot solve the problem unless you find the answer from a random spot in the book.  
2)  You can only get the right answer through trial and error.

Therefore working out which gems to put in the Arm of Telak in Battleblade Warrior does count as a puzzle whereas getting the right combination of gems in Deathtrap Dungeon does not.  This archetype covers the DnD thinker.  

Gamebooks that would appeal to puzzle solver types include the Shattered Realm in the Duelmaster series  Most gamebooks however, use puzzle solving in small doses and are not all about puzzle solving.

The Champion

The champion is all about winning.  The champion's aims include getting to winning paragraph, maximising their character's stats and getting as many great items as possible.  This is a complex thing to measure.  A difficult gamebook wouldn't please a champion but neither would an easy one as it would not give the champion an opportunity to show how amazing they are.  A gamebook would also need a lot of quantitative stats for the champion to show how amazing they are.   This archetype covers the power gamer in the DnD archetypes.

Gamebooks that appeal to champions include Seas of Blood (get lots of gold), Andrew Wright's RAMPAGE! (get rampage points by causing havoc) and The Seven Serpents (kill all the serpents).

The Storyteller

This player likes narrative and interesting characters.  A storyteller is less about achieving victory and more about getting a good experience.  Choose Your Own Adventure books with multiple endings  are good for storytellers, especially if there is not one best ending and the ending you want depends on your personality (see Outlaws of Sherwood Forest).  Books with skills (skills do not have a value - they are either 'Do you have spellcasting or not?') appeal to storytellers as having a skill opens up a new narrative as long as the skills are all balanced - if they are not it becomes the territory of the champion.  This archetype covers the storyteller and actor DnD archetype.  

Gamebooks that would appeal to the storyteller archetype are Virtual Reality books (a choice of skills.  Heart of Ice also has multiple endings with not one best ending),  the Lone Wolf series (a choice of skills and a huge epic narrative with many characters) and choose your own adventure books (may endings where there is not one best ending).

The only DnD archetype I have not covered is the watcher, but that only applies to multiplayer books.  

In my next post, I will rate gamebooks according to their appeal to the four archetypes.  If you feel that there is something that I need to add or have any comments about the system, please leave them.


  1. Interesting classification, LLoyd. I really want to see how it works!
    Instead of D&D, you really should look at Elder Scrolls (a Video game)


  2. Great post. I think I'm a storyteller/explorer.

  3. @Ikaros - Thanks for the comment. does Elder scrolls do a player type breakdown? Is there a link to it online?

    @Scott M - Thanks for the comment, Scott. I'm thinking of doing a questionaire to help people determine what gamebook player type they are in a future post. What kind of things did you consider for you to come to your conclusion?

  4. Hey, you should also look at Gamebook Adventures on the iPhone/iPod/iPad for your next edition - they certainly cater to many if not all of these player types!

  5. Hi Lloyd! It has a website ( You can even download for free the older versions (Arena and Daggerfall). You can do watever you want in this kind of game: follow the main story, explore, or change the world at your whim. For a videogame, It actually works for the all kind of players (Explorer, Puzzle solver, The Champion, and a bit of The Storyteller).

    By the way, I wonder how a multiplayer gamebook works and if you know any example.

  6. @Ikaros - thanks for the link.

    There are two main types of multi player gamebooks - one where two players compete and one where the players co-operate.

    The competitive ones include The Scarlet Sorcerer books by Joe Dever and the Duelmaster books, The Shattered Realm by Mark Smith and Jamie Thompson.

    Both of these had two different books, one for each competitor. In the shattered REalm, you had to go to different countries to win their alleigence but if your opponent chose the same one, then you had to duel. The second half of the book was a bit like a board game.

    With the Scarlett Sorcerer, you were both wizards with airships where you made different maneuvers to beat your opponent. They also had a solo adventure in the back where you picked a reference number based on where you wanted to go on a map, like Destiny Quest.

    With the co-operative gamebooks such as Blood Sword and Heroquest: The Fellowship of Four, both by Dave Morris, a group of you would each get a book and make decisions just like in a solo gamebook. However the book had options based on who was in the party. You could, however, play on your own as all the party members if you wished.

  7. How about "The Realist," who plays the game exactly as their person is in real life? I left my last role-playing group because two people who knew the DM (strangers to me) joined mid-campaign and I found out just how friggin' selfish and egocentric they were in real life. They didn't care about the world, they didn't care about the mission, they didn't care about their mates, they didn't even try to play a different role -- their whole purpose was to leech. Bleah.