Sunday, June 3, 2012

Orphan paragraphs and why they are used.

Paragraph 1 is purple, meaning that it is an
orphan paragraph.
Orphan paragraph is a term I've borrowed from the gamebook program ADVELH.  It refers to a paragraph where there is no instruction in the text to turn to that paragraph.  However, there are many reasons why a gamebook would have an orphan paragraph and here they are.

You start at the paragraph

You are not told to turn to a paragraph because you start at that paragraph (OK, you might have been told in the background but you haven't been told to turn there from another paragraph).  However, you may have to choose to turn to a paragraph from a choice of more than one paragraph in the background and also, your starting paragraph may not be an orphan paragraph due to time travel shennanigans.  For examples of this, see Black Vein Prophecy, Necklace of Skulls and Crown of the Kings.

You go to them due to an instruction from a previous scene in the gamebook or an earlier gamebook in a series

If you complete book 1,
you can turn to
paragraph 12.
This strategy is used to make sure that players do not realise that they need an item to succeed.  For example, in Deathtrap Dungeon, you are asked if you have an emerald at the end.  Now you know that you need an emerald.  In Creature of Havoc, you may get a pendant that detects secret doors.  It tells you that when you see the phrase 'You cannot see a thing...' you should subtract 20 from the paragraph number and turn to the new paragraph.  This means that a player without the pendant is none the wiser that they need it.  Of course, this being Creature of Havoc, even having the pendant is the not the end of it, but that's another story.

Puzzle from Island of the Undead.

You go to them as they are the solution to a puzzle

You may be presented with a puzzle where the answer is a number or you may have to convert a word into numbers (usually using the formula A =1, B = 2, C = 3 etc).  The solution will be the paragraph that you turn to.

Seppuku is not
a good thing.
You go to them when a condition is met with your abilities

In some books, you may be given a statistic which may do something if it reaches a certain score.  For example, in the Crimson Tide, if your ferocity is reduced to 0, you turn to 200.  In Sword of the Samurai, if your honour is reduced to 0, you commit seppuku.  In Outsider!, if your psychic score goes to 13 or more, you turn to 103 to explore your new psychic powers.

It's a false unreachable paragraph

Paragraph 192 in the Warlock of Firetop Mountain (See errors) is an orphan paragraph, added to bring the number of paragraphs up to 400.

Paragraph 258 of the Citadel of Chaos (see errors) is also an orphan paragraph, possibly because of a missing option.

Where's my paragraph?!


  1. I seem to remember finding one paragraph in a book somewhere that read "How did you get here? None of the other pages instruct you to come here. You're obviously cheating" or something along those lines. It was pretty excellent.

  2. I think I remember the same thing. I was never a big fan of CYOA books but I'm sure it was in one of those. The only way to win was to find the 'unreachable' paragraph. Come on, Stuart, if anyone knows what it was called, it's you!

    1. This one is Inside UFO 54-40.

  3. Yes! That's the one. It's interesting that so many readers seemed to dislike the gimmick. I remember it blew my mind (although, admittedly, I would have been about seven at the time...).