I’ve written before about my childhood love of 80’s adventure game books, and I certainly bought my fair share of them. Choose Your Own Adventure, Which-Way, Endless Quest, Fighting Fantasy, Interplanetary Spy, and Find Your Fate, are just a few of the series I enjoyed. In a previous article I covered some of my favorite horror-based game books ( This time I want to examine some of my favorites from the fantasy genre. I’ve read and reread these three over the years, and I think they deserve some recognition.

1. TALISMAN OF DEATH by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone – BOOK 11 of THE FIGHTING FANTASY SERIES (1985) – Man I loved this book! So much so, I can’t help but smile each time my eye catches it on the shelf. You start off by rolling up a few character attributes (Skills, Stamina, and Luck) using two 6 sided dice. These stats are used to resolve combat with monsters and completing tasks along the way. You’re equipped with leather armor, a sword and your choice of one magic potion before being teleported to the land of Orb where you immediately encounter a party of adventurers. They give you the powerful Talisman of Death which evil creatures are trying to attain so they can unleash a death god upon the realm. Just before sacrificing themselves so you can escape a charging horde of monsters, they tell you the Talisman can’t be destroyed, but if you can take it back with you to your world then it would be out of reach from those who seek it. This won’t be an easy task, however, as dark forces rally to stop you and steal the Talisman. You’ll be pitted against Dragons, Demons, a wide variety of Undead, an evil Priestess, and much more. Not everyone is against you however, as you’ll encounter some helpful allies as well. The evocative artwork throughout this book by Bob Harvey does a good job setting the mood, too. This is a rip-roaringly fun overland/city adventure with some great horror elements to it.

2. THE HAUNTED CASTLE OF RAVENCURSE by Lynn Beach BOOK 5 of WIZARDS, WARRIORS & YOU SERIES (1985) – This is a much shorter, more straight forward adventure than the other two covered here but still a lot of fun. Here you get to chose to go through the adventure as either a Wizard, where you have a book of 12 spells at your disposal, or a Warrior, which grants you access to 12 different weapons to attain your goals. Both the wizard and the warrior are asked by their King to travel to the mountaintop castle known as Caste Ravencurse. The place has been cursed ever since the sorceress who lived there went mad and conjured up terrible creatures that killed her family before taking up permeant residence. With the kingdom in desperate need of money and the knowledge that a vast amount of treasure lies unclaimed inside, he wants you to attain it. It’ll be up to you to defeat the monsters guarding these riches however which count Trolls, Cyclops, Zombies, and Giant Spiders among them. Contains nice artwork by Earl Norem throughout.

3. REALM OF CHAOS by J.H. Brennan BOOK 6 of the GRAIL QUEST SERIES (1986) – Another favorite, this one has a slightly more psychedelic bent to it. Set in the Avalon of Arthurian legend, you fill out a sparser character sheet than most at the beginning but face no less exciting an adventure. You find yourself inhabiting the body of a warrior named Pip carrying his intelligent sword EJ, at the behest of Merlin the Magician. He wants you to find the mysterious being who’s cast a powerful blight on Camelot and kill them to break the curse. To do so, you’ll have to solve some mind teaser-style puzzles, fight some monsters (or bribe them, as that is occasionally an option here), while surviving deadly traps. Even though the book has a lot of spooky moments, it’s told with a wry sense of humor that actually enhances the experience. I think I like this one so much because of the many weird things you encounter, such as exploring the Astral Plane, coming across a stone hand growing out of a wall, finding a statue whose head has been removed, and facing the threat of seven demonic, apixie-ish girls in flower print dresses. I love weirdness in anything I read as I feel it keeps the imagination churning. The interior art by John Higgins is great as well.



Article by Matt Cowan


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