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Gamebooks are Interactive Fiction and a paper Adventure Game. The player advances the action by reading a short passage describing a scene and choosing one of several actions. To take that action, the player reads a numbered section in the book. The eponymous Choose Your Own Adventure series is a famous and highly successful example of the gamebook genre with 250 million copies in print. The peak of the gamebook craze came in the 1980s, but the form is far from dead.

Example: You enter the marble-clad forum to discover a GHOUL feasting on a corpse. Do you want to:

  • Attack the GHOUL? (Turn to 203)
  • Use your Potion of Persuasion, if you have one? (Turn to 288)
  • Try to sneak around? (Turn to 17)

Occasionally there is a limited role for chance and player attributes in fighting and feats of skill. Mapping and note taking is often needed in more complex works. There are typically more ways of failing and/or dying than succeeding. Death sometimes comes in horribly inventive ways, yielding textual Ludicrous Gibs.

Success often depends on a combination of luck, possession of difficult to obtain items and sometimes manipulation of the entry number to reach an entry unavailable any other way. Lock And Key Puzzles abound. Sometimes these puzzles are so obscure and unintuitive they are Solve the Soup Cans puzzles.

The directed graph of entries for a book can contain alternate paths to the same destination, loops, and occasionally island entries unreachable from any legitimate point in the book. Sometimes these unreachable entries are used to humourly scold the reader for cheating. On rare occasions, these islands have included the best ending/only ending in which the PC survives, rendering the whole thing Unwinnable.

Gamebooks are a rich vein of fantasy, science fiction and RPG tropes. Illustrations are a key element in setting the mood of a gamebook world. Second Person Narration is nearly universal.

Many Tabletop RPG rulebooks include a short (under 100 scenes) example of this trope, where the reader uses the game system (and a pre-generated character) as the randomizing element, as a way of teaching the rules and RPG concepts.

Several people have written scripts for Internet gamebooks allowing the players to add new pages. The results are... interesting.

See also Cruel Twist Ending, Have a Nice Death.

Examples of Choose Your Own Adventure include:


Originators

  • Tutor-Text is the Ur Example. Unlike most later examples these were made as education material rather than fiction.
  • The Trope Maker is, depending on who you ask, the french Oulipo movement, the American author John Thomas Sladek or the English author Edmund Wallace Hildick. It's complicated.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure, the Trope Namer and Codifier. A series of over 200 books by many different authors, with varying quality. Most are known for their Cruel Twist Endings. They also include many interesting ways to die: your character gets his head bitten off by dinosaurs, smashed by glaciers, bisected by ninjas, etc.


Literature

  • In Time Machine the reader had to search through a historical era to discover artifacts or lost knowledge. The books only had one ending, but also included inventories that affected your choices.
  • Fighting Fantasy, a wildly popular British series that included simple Tabletop RPG elements, with dice as randomizers.
  • Sorcery brought Fighting Fantasy to an older audience; its books featured very dark artwork influenced by Goya.
  • Lone Wolf, featuring an epic swords-and-sorcery world and a continuing story line. You can read most of them all open-sourced and legal, complete with author approval, at www.projectaon.org.
  • Crossroads Adventure.
  • Choose Your Own Mind Fuck Fest, a parody successor to the beloved childhood series. All endings are losing situations.
  • Grail Quest, written by J.H. Brennan, is a series set in the King Arthur universe. Despite its dark and edgy-looking covers and book titles, the series is mainly comedy and parody, inspired by Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
  • Blood Sword, a series of five books by Oliver Johnson and Dave Morris created for multiple players. Set in a world very much resembling Medieval Europe (in fact, the same as that of their RPG Dragon Warriors), the series dealt with the reawakening of five evil entities, the True Magi, and the coming end of the Millennium.
  • Virtual Reality, a series of six books from the early nineties. Notable for having much more exotic plots than the average gamebook and for using a unique, non-random rule system. The four books by Dave Morris, including Heart of Ice, are some of the most interesting and intricate gamebooks written.
  • Way Of Th eTiger, written and illustrated by FF alumni is an especially well written series featuring a Ninja. Unlike many similar books, this series spends pages describing its world while telling an exciting and atmospheric story with a lot of variety that involves the player not only fighting but also have to deal diplomacy, politics and command strategy.
  • Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks, a short but atmospheric series with a simple playing system.
  • Endless Quest and Super Endless Quest (later Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Gamebooks) were TSR's official lines of game books, and included novels set in the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms continuities. Some early books even drew from TSR's non-fantasy games like Top Secret, Gamma World and Star Frontiers.
  • Wizards, Warriors and You.
  • Give Yourself Goosebumps, a spinoff of RL Stine's Goosebumps novels. The "game over" endings were often as gruesome as they were creative, giving many young readers their first direct encounters with horrific imagery. These also have the unusual structure of having the story branch off into two distinct storylines completely cut off from each other, with an earlyish choice in each book determining which one the reader followed. This pivotal choice wasn't exactly pointed out either, so in the early stages of each book, the reader was left in suspense as to which choice would suddenly set them down a distinct path for the rest of the adventure.
  • Steven Brust authorized one when starting the Dragaera series; it stands as a possible case of Old Shame.
  • Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure.
  • The Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny books. These aren't the first ones done for the show.
  • The Narnia Solo Games.
  • Nintendo released some "Nintendo Adventure Books", which were essentially Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books starring either Link or Mario and/or Luigi. Unlike many examples of this trope, in each book there was only one good ending, with the bad endings having "GAME OVER!" written at the end.
  • Not a game, exactly, but Edward Gorey's The Raging Tide or The Black Doll's Imbroglio is a non-linear story using the Choose Your Own Adventure technique.
  • Les Messagers du Temps (The Messengers of Time), a French gamebook series that was marketed as being written by some guy called "James Campbell" despite being a totally French production (including the illustrators) and "being translated from English". HA! Nevertheless, the gamebooks focus more on the storytelling and the universe than the actual gameplay (which is quite linear).
  • Life's Lottery by Kim Newman uses the CYOA format to take you through a fairly ordinary life (or extraordinary, it depends on you) from birth in the '70s till death, and the small choices you make may have great impact on your life - in the playground, do you like Illya Kuryakin or Napoleon Solo better?. The first choice you have to make is whether or not to draw breath after being born. If not, "go to 0". It can also be read straight through, to reveal a very different story. The main character later appears in the Diogenes Club stories, in which he has the power to shift between different Alternate Universe versions of himself.
  • Be An Interplanetary Spy was an interesting variation where you had to solve puzzles (analogues to your current situation) instead of simply making a choice. Essentially a multiple-choice visual logic test with a plot.
  • The Fabled Lands are a fantasy series of gamebooks written by Dave Morris and Jamie Thomson that have recently been republished in 2010. During its initial release in the 90s, only the first six were ever released. In addition, only the first two were ever published in the USA, under the name Quest. Despite all this, they are amazingly fun to play, mainly because of their open-ended style. While most other gamebooks had a definite objective, the Fabled Lands books just plonked you down in a random place and said, "have fun whatever you do." Other cool features were six unique character classes, the ability to buy ships and houses, and a huge number of quests you can do whenever you want, or not at all. To give you an idea of the scope of these books, I've played them for years, and still occasionally discover new things.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has a new Choose Your Own Adventure booklet each year at Comic-Con, often parodying and lampshading tropes common in Choose Your Own Adventure books.
  • Der Schatz im Ötscher]] (German for "The treasure in Mt. Oetscher") is an Austrian "Choose your adventure book". You're traveling through the caves of the Oetscher (one of Austria's highest and mythological most important mountains) and search for a treasure, while being hindered by traps and monsters from folklore and myths. One especially memorable ending had the protagonist being slowly and explicitly transformed into a toad by an old witch.
  • There were three or four of these based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer called Stake Your Destiny, each set in different spots in the series. It doesn't specifically say where, the first is presumably during Season 1 and two more in Season 2.
  • Animorphs had a pair of CYOA spinoffs, which were not well received. Perhaps it was the fact that the story did not actually branch at all, and making the wrong choice simply got you killed on the very next page.
  • Badlands O fHark and Invaders Of Hark, where the titular Death World offered so many wacky ways to die it made Shadowgate look benign.
  • Lemmings was adapted into two, based loosely on the storyline introduced in Lemmings 2: The Tribes. In the first, you took control of eight Lemmings tribes in an attempt to regain eight pieces of the broken medallion. The second took on a more linear narrative where a small band of Lemmings has to go out to battle an unknown enemy, which is making the Lemmings act against their natures (eg, Shadow Lemmings setting up bright floodlights or Highland Lemmings turning English).
  • A series of these type of books were also published in the Carmen Sandiego franchise which follow the premise of the computer games.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog had a series at the height of his phenomenal popularity in the UK, written by the authors of the novel series but not belonging to that continuity. One was an Adaptation Expansion of the second Mega Drive game, in which Robotnik has built Metal Sonic to rampage around and destroy the real Sonic's reputation (any similarity to the plot of the nineteenth Lone Wolf book Wolf's Bane, published the previous year, is entirely coincidental - the book, and sometimes Metal Sonic himself, still have the nickname "Hedgehog's Bane" in some circles) and Sonic has to hunt him down through the game's levels.
  • Find Your Fate was a series of interactive books based almost entirely on licensed properties. There were books based on G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Transformers, Jem, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Doctor Who...
    • They weren't the only ones to do such a thing. Endless Quest (a series mainly set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons) had books about Conan and Tarzan, and Which Way Books had a pair of Star Trek books and a spinoff mini-series based on DC Comics heroes.
    • The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew also had their own choose-your-own Crossover series called "Be A Detective", which ran for six books.
  • In Inside UFO 54-40 the best ending is deliberately unreachable through regular gameplay (or, as the game puts it, by "making a choice or following directions").
  • Steve Jackson Games licensed their popular Car Wars tactical combat game as a series of six books published by TSR (several being expanded adaptations of adventures previously published in their house organ Autoduel Quarterly), with some random die rolling to simulate combat.
  • When Super Mario Advance was first released, a Choose Your Own Adventure book that corresponded with the game's events was released by Scholastic. Each of the four characters went through one of the various worlds on their own and came together to fight Wart, and at the same time, it was something of a guide for advice.
  • The Panurgic Adventures series, of which the best known is Heart of Ice, by Dave Morris (of Fabled Lands fame). Heart of Ice is a slightly different take on After the End; inspired in part by Jack Vance's Dying Earth, it's a quest set in a world where an insane AI has triggered global weather changes and turned the Sahara into a desert.
  • The old Polish gamebook Dreszcz ("Shiver") from the 90s; it emulated Fighting Fantasy, and is mostly memorable for being horribly error-ridden (and Unwinnable By Mistake many times over).
  • Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? is a more adult twist on the genre, and is Exactly What It Says on the Tin - your choices determine how well you do in the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Fahrenheit (2005 video game) and Spiritual Successor Heavy Rain are two high-profile videogame examples of this trope, but are more accurately described as Visual Novels.
  • Pretty Little Mistakes and Million Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton are meant to be "adult" variations on the format. Both have a realistic, present-day setting, but it doesn't preclude some very fanciful things from happening to the main character.



Examples in other media:

Comicbooks

  • The 3rd Ren and Stimpy comic book special, Masters of Time and Space, was a comic book version of this. Notable for its time travel plot, which made some of the storylines several pages longer than the comic itself. Also notable for having 2 endings that couldn't be accessed at all unless you skipped to them.
  • Mike Carey's comic book The Unwritten features an issue told as a "Pick-A-Story" book, which tells the backstory of one of the characters. The choices are mostly used to create Alternative Character Interpretation, but there's also a Temporal Paradox ending where the protagonist ends up drugged up to her eyeballs in a mental institution.


Films -- Live-Action


Live-Action TV

  • There was a televised example on UK children's TV in the 80s hosted by Sylvester McCoy called "What's your Story?" where viewers phoned in after each episode to suggest what happened next.


Music

  • The Canadian rapper Classified did this with his "Self Explanatory" CD. The tracks were, aptly named, CYOA 1 - 6. Another music-related example is the electronic music collective Gescom's Minidisc, which has 88 tracks ranging from mere seconds to few minutes. The record is supposed to be played on shuffle, with a different hour-long consistent piece being played each time. (At the time of its release, only the obscure Minidisc format allowed gapless playback between tracks.)
  • From Neil Cicierega of Lemon Demon and Potter Puppet Pals, Haircut, A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Song! May be the only musical example of the form.


Tabletop Games

  • The original Paranoia Tabletop RPG rulebook featured a remarkably edgy and sour short example to teach basic game concepts, mechanics and help confuse the tone of the game.
    • It's probably a different one that was in the Jan/Feb issue (No 77) of Fantasy Gamer magazine, which is now available in the Python programming language. Just search for "doesn't exist. Can't happen with computer version," and compile. It's the Paranoia Christmas Special! Contains Stupidity Is the Only Option, But Thou Must!, and You Can't Thwart Stage One, I think?
  • Several other RPG's include a short solo adventure to give you a chance to see the game's mechanics in action. Like Ghostbusters, Champions, Teenagers From Outer Space...
  • There was once a two-player example called 1 On 1, with one player playing the heroes and the other playing the villains; naturally, there was a combat system and stats so the players could interact. The Combat Heroes series by Joe Dever (of Lone Wolf fame) is another example of this concept. Also, the Lost Worlds gamebooks; each character in the system had his/her own book, and any two players could battle by exchanging books. The series was franchised to Marvel Comics and Star Wars; right now, arguably the most famous version is the Queen's Blade series, which is basically Lost Worlds WITH HOT ACTION GIRLS IN TINY OUTFITS!
  • The Tabletop RPG Tunnels and Trolls had a line of "Solo Adventures", which were essentially gamebooks with the game's rules and dice added as a randomizing element.


Video Games


Webcomics

  • The sprite comic Metroid: Third Derivative once used a 12-panel example as filler.
  • Jason Shiga has a few gamebook Web Comics on his website. Meanwhile is the longest and best of these.
  • Ctrl+Alt+Del did an Alternate Universe Choose Your Own Adventure story-arc in April of 2008, a second arc in December 2008, and a third in mid-2010. At particular points in the story line, readers were given a choice between different actions that the main character Ethan could take and were encouraged to send an email to a special account to indicate their selection. The choice with the most votes was illustrated for the next installment of the comic. Counts as a CYOA because Tim Buckley had already scripted out where each choice would lead ahead of time, and did not change "bad endings" even if they won the popular vote. The first story ended halfway through with the main character dying horribly due to a failed Air Vent Passageway escape. Following this, the structure was modified so the narrative would have fewer "dying horribly" options and more "Ethan gets screwed but the story can continue" choices. Though [1] is still pretty bloodthirsty, the voters managed to get through it alive.
  • City of Reality ran an arc which essentially functioned as this, run by a snarky time-reversal device.
  • Dinosaur Comics once had a "CYOA" that amusingly features a But Thou Must!. A later guest strip by Andrew Hussie features T-Rex attempting to do an animated strip version of a CYOA, with Dromiceiominus and Utahraptor discussing with him about the problems with handling a CYOA in said format. It falls apart in the fifth panel, where T-Rex and Utahraptor end up carrying their conversation through the panel shifts.
    • In case you want to read the whole thing at your own pace, here you go. Click the image (actually the .swf) after clicking the link and then use the left and right arrow keys (on your keyboard) to navigate.
  • The second MS Paint Adventure, BardQuest, was in this format, but it was abandoned pretty quickly for being too complicated to do as a serial.
  • Buttersafe has one, called "Choose Your Own Adventure", but loses the will part way through...


Web Originals

  • Choice of Games is a website designed to host these types of stories.
  • Lore F. Sjoberg's "Choose Your Own Damn Adventure" on the website Brunching Shuttlecocks. In stark contrast to the usual escapist fare, a sardonic take on Real Life is played out in the form. It was later followed up with four sequels, "Choose Your Own Damn Serial Murder", "Choose Your Own Damn Sex Act", "Choose Your Own Damn Pokémon Adventure", and "Choose Your Own Damn Harry Potter Adventure".
  • Homestar Runner's 2005 Halloween cartoon was the interactive animation Halloween Potion-ma-jig. It actually featured a bit of bait-and-switch, presenting the viewer with one adventure in the intro (helping Homestar find his costume and escape a haunted mansion) and then giving them another (helping Homestar find ingredients for Marzipan's Halloween potion... after he had doodled all over her recipe).
  • Brad: the Game is just one big Mind Screw. One gross, perverted, strangely attractive mindscrew (it's also written by a Reverend).
  • The Addventure series and spin-offs took the concept, put it online, and did the obvious thing of allowing readers to write their own chapters to add to them... How well this worked varied considerably, although those moderated for spelling and sanity (or at least consistency) tended towards being decent.
  • The 4chan Web Original known as Ruby Quest was a Choose Your Own Adventure operated via Wild Mass Guessing, played out over the course of two months by an author/artist known only as Weaver. It has spawned various other so-called "collective games", varying in quality. Most were trolled to death, while Dorf Quest (based off Dwarf Fortress, which is very popular on the /tg/ board of 4chan) and Joan's Quest are still running.
    • However, the "Quest Threads" have not stopped appearing, and have now become a main staple of /tg/, with multiple different settings and gameplay rules to choose from. Just look up the "Quest Threads" or "Collective Games" tags in the /tg/ archives.
    • The /m/ board has also seen three major Quest Threads, with the largest being Super Robot Wars Quest (based off Super Robot Wars). There's also Musou Quest (a Gundam / .hack mix), and /m/ Quest.
  • There is an X Wing Series fanfiction called Flight School which fills this trope. It's pretty short, but also quite decent. Note that while some endings are better or worse than others, impressing or not impressing the famous pilots, none result in death. Or maiming. Or worse, expulsion.
  • Some of the aforementioned Internet gamebooks includes the Unending BE Addventure, Anime Addventure, and one on a site called Vampyou.com.
  • Neo-Adventures allow players of the website Neopets to create their own Choose Your Own Adventure stories. They can then be shown to other players, who go through them by clicking a series of links in a pop-up window. There's even an option to add 'Turn to page __' at the end of each link!
  • Tub Adventure, as seen on Something Awful's Flash Tub.
  • As seen with Haircut above, link annotations in YouTube videos can be used to make CYOA videos like A Heavy's 2fort Adventure.
  • Mike Kayatta, of The Escapist, created a Mass Effect Pick Your Own Adventure.
  • Writing Dot Com has an entire section devoted to these, simply calling them "Interactives" and allowing the readers to not only choose their adventure, but add to it as well.


Western Animation

  • Choose Your Own Adventure has released an animated DVD game, The Abominable Snowman.
  • An episode of Family Guy had Peter reading one in bed.

 Peter: Hmm, to follow the ghost into the cave, turn to page 32. Okay, we'll just go on over to- AH! AH! AH!!! Wait! It doesn't count because I kept my finger on the page! You seen it, Lois! You seen my finger on the page!

Lois: [sighs] Yeah, Peter, I seen it.


Other

  • The Thrill Ride Edition of Final Destination 3 on DVD features "Choose Their Fate", in which the viewer gets to determine the fates of some characters. Subverted in that each person would be killed in a different fashion immediately after they were saved by your choice. This is sort of in keeping with the predestination ideas of the movie.
  • She Loves The Moon is a strange cross between gamebooks, ARGs, and graffiti, as it was drawn on the sidewalks of San Francisco.
  • Scrubs has the "code blue" game on their website, in which your choices of lines of speech can dramatically alter your first day at the hospital.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure has branched out into real life, as a cult of "dice living" has developed. People make real-life decisions, ranging from where to go on Saturday night to what career to choose, based on rolls of the dice. Dice living was inspired by the novel The Dice Man and other works by Luke Rhinehart.
  • There's Choices: a poem, a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure poem.
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