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Choose-your-own-adventure board game. Does one exist already?

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christof
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I'm in the very early stages of developing a board game which would feel somewhat like a choose-your-own-adventure book. Now, before I spend too much more time on it, I'd like to make sure that I'm not creating something that already exists. I'm counting on you fair readers and the vast number of games that you all have collectively encountered. Are there games like this that already exist?

The rough concept

The game would include perhaps a couple dozen different scenarios--some may be cooperative, some may be pvp (some may switch in the middle of the game, depending on the players' decisions). In each scenario, there would be a main series of quests that the players will complete, creating a coherent storyline. Additionally, there would be shorter unrelated quests that the players can find and complete to gain loot, swag, etc needed for the main quest at hand (somewhat like in Skyrim, where there is a "main" series of quests which drives the central plot forward).

The twist is that the main storyline has multiple branches, resulting in completely different stories and endings, depending on the choices of the players. This is the similarity to choose-your-own-adventure books (CYOA?)-- players can choose to complete a quest in one of a few different ways, and each decision will drive the story in a different direction, resulting in a different quest that the players get next.

In CYOA books I've played, your decisions don't typically take you far from the main plot...most paths either lead you to a quick death, or merge back into the main storyline, and there is only one "right" ending. This is where I want my game to differ--I want multiple "right" endings so a single scenario can be replayed multiple times.

I'd like to stay away from complicated character sheets, fighting mechanics, rolling lots of dice, heavy reliance on strategy, etc. I'm striving for a more accessible game driven by story and the choices players make to alter the story.

Details

Setting: Currently I'm imagining the standard fantasy world.

The board: Depending on the scenario, a randomized or semi-randomized hex tile board. Each hex would be forest, plains, desert, mountains, hills, etc. Some tiles would have points of interest, like a town, castle, cave, ruins, etc. Players move their characters around the board to complete quests and gain skills and loot.

Player characters: Each player's character has certain attributes (i.e. strength, magic, speed, intelligence, charisma, good/evil alignment etc). Attributes may be at a high or low value, and can be increased or decreased. Players can gain items or spells which give them extra abilities or bonuses to their attributes.

Tile encounters: Similar to Eldritch Horror, when a player ends his turn, he gets a random "encounter" based on where he is. This would be like a paragraph taken from a CYOA book. Something like

Quote:
A caravan approaches you. You can: (a) Attack them (b) Rob them if you have stealth of at least 5 (c) Pay 20 gold to get a ride anywhere up to 5 spaces away (d) Get a free ride up to 5 spaces away if you have charisma of at least 3
Each decision would result in a small amount of additional story text and possibly rewards or penalties.

Main quest: At any given moment, there will be one main quest, which may be able to be completed in one of a few different ways. Completing the main quest gives the player a new main quest, until they've reached the end of the storyline and finished the game. To create a sense of urgency, there could be bad events which would happen on a semi-regular basis (similar to epidemics in Pandemic). The details of the bad event depends on where the players are in the main plot. If too many of these happen, the players lose.

Side quests: Players can spend time at a town searching for side quests. These would involve traveling somewhere and performing some action, or delivering some item, etc, and would result in a good reward.

Similarities to other games

I haven't played any D&D... is this just basically a simplified and board-ified version of a pre-made D&D adventure?

In my brief amount of research, I haven't found any games which look quite like what I'm envisioning. The closest I've found is Tales of Arabian Nights, which is essentially a bunch of random CYOA-like encounters, and doesn't have a cohesive storyline.

So what do you say? Do you know of a game like this?
Thank you for your time.

Hook
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open world questing

Probably others had similar ideas. If you should stumble on those ideaclones don't worry your own idea will be more unique if you keep working on it. http://www.greenhookgames.com/thats-my-game-idea-what-to-do-when-my-game...

I think this game I saw on Essen Spiel is very different from your theme -but it could be worth looking at since it is a exploration / quest game. The 7th continent:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1926712971/the-7th-continent-explor...

I guess the difficult part is to create a consistent storyline - this is where an companion app could come handy .-)

//Cheers

Casamyr
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Hey bud. I've been thinking

Hey bud. I've been thinking about doing something similar myself in creating a CYOA board game. I think the closest that I can think of off the top of my head would be 7th Continent which is up on kickstarter at the moment. 7th Continent is really like a CYOA in that each tile you visit is linked to a set number. so tile 1 might lead to tile 3 and tile 20. Each has a little flavour text on it. Looks cool, but is quite expensive unfortunately.

There are a few other games that could fit into this mould as well. You mentioned Eldritch Horror (and Arkham as well), even Runebound would fit into this as a game driven by narrative. But for pure CYOA, the best I have seen so far is 7th Continent.

My stumbling blocks aroudn this is how to create a game where you actually have meaningful choices, something that allows replayability and something co-operative for players. Although, if the game was set up right, if could be race style game or competitive. I prefer co-op as I'm more likely to get wife to play.

It's possible you go could down the route of D&D games like Legend of Drizzt or Wrath of Ashardalon, and make it a little more complex in that each 'room' you enter gains you a random CYOA style encounter, however this makes it hard to tell a story. The only option would be that each CYOA adventure card makes those choices for you - perhaps it gives you the next tile's you head to and which adventure card you will be drawing from.

I would be keen to nut out some ideas with you bud if you are interested. Just send me a PM and we can discuss it further. Maybe get a google doc going or something.

let-off studios
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Barbarian Prince

You may want to look into Barbarian Prince and see how that solo game plays out. Here's a link to the downloadable version, while there are reviews and YouTube videos for more details:

http://dwarfstar.brainiac.com/ds_barbarianprince.html

christof
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It seems as though games like

It seems as though games like 7th Continent, Barbarian Prince, etc. have a "storyline" which is made up of random encounters.

Hook wrote:
I guess the difficult part is to create a consistent storyline

Casamyr wrote:
My stumbling blocks aroudn this is how to create a game where you actually have meaningful choices, something that allows replayability and something co-operative for players.

Indeed, the core of what I'd like to make is a game with consistent storyline combined with meaningful player choices and repayability. The only ways I've thought of to do this are:
1. A D&D type game, where the players have near unlimited options, and a game master reacts to what the players do and creatively improvises the storyline. (Lots of work for the game master).
2. A large pre-made decision tree, where players have a limited set of options at each step, but the tree is large enough to offer repayability (lots of work for the developer).

let-off studios
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Consistent Storyline = Goal

The Barbarian Prince isn't just wandering around in the wilderness. The player character in 7th Continent isn't just ambling wherever the wind blows. In both games, there's a very clear reason why the player is facing all these seemingly random obstacles.

Furthermore, the encounters are organized, not random. In Barbarian Prince, there are encounters organized into subsets based on terrain. Also, if the player has been joined by certain party members or has certain items in their possession, they are suggested to go to certain places or regions of the map. I don't want to stray too far from my point, but I caution you in thinking that games like this are simply just a bunch of random encounters scribbled over a three-day weekend in some guy's basement. :) Encountering them is randomly-determined, but I am sure that every encounter was deliberately designed.

Meanwhile... As long as you have a clear-cut goal in mind, then each random encounter is viewed within that context. For 7th Continent, it appears that eliminating the curse is the main goal (I assume there's a time limit, though I've not seen that explicitly spelled-out in the material I've seen). For Barbarian Prince, the main goal is to recruit an army within 70 days/turns.

The benefit of having an overarching mission for the game is that a random encounter is seen as either more of a significant obstacle, or chance at edging you closer to success. In context, even an encounter that depends on a die roll modified by the player character's Ability Scores is worth considering (particularly in the case of games where a player may set Ability Scores at the outset of the game).

If you've not played or heard of Chainsaw Warrior, I recommend you at least have a look at it. It's an intensely challenging solo game, with lots of drama and tense moments, but it could also be seen as a "game on rails" simulation because many of the enemy encounters are not too difficult to overcome (and many of the significant decisions are made at the outset of the game, such as when choosing equipment). However, there's always the time limit that pushes the player forward to the clearly-defined objective: defeating Darkness.

My recommendation for anyone considering these types of games is to provide a clearly-defined, significant main objective to accomplish or attain, and then take that straight path and put lots of wrinkles, twists, and turns in it...Including a time limit.

Dralius
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I worked on a haunted house

I worked on a haunted house style horror game with a choose your own adventure engine called Abandoned that could be played by multiple players with the possibility of players splitting up.

Tracking the information necessary and keeping them in sync without giving away plot details to the other players when they are not present is daunting. Also tracking progress like items that can be picked up was an issue. I never worked it out to my satisfaction.

christof
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Of course, a game without a

Of course, a game without a goal is rather pointless. Forgive me for not being clear---yes, games that are heavier on story tend to have encounters or events which fit into the main theme, which could have interplay with your current statuses, items, or location, and always either help or hinder your main goal. This creates nice flavor in the game, and builds a story, and the variable nature of these events makes the story different each time. Of course events aren't completely random--you're not going to find pikachu in a haunted house, and it clearly wouldn't make sense to experience an avalanche in the middle of the plains.

But here's the thing--for games I've played, the backstory and goal are always the same on every playthrough, and the elements in the middle of the story are disjointed; it doesn't make a difference to the overall plot whether event xx happens at the beginning of the game or near the end (other than affecting how long you enjoy the lasting benefits or suffer the ongoing detriments of the event). The goal remains the same, and the main characters remain static. Even though events do fit into the main theme and your current location/status, since any given event is allowed to happen at any point during the game, each event is loosely related to the next one at best, and this is the "random" nature of it.

I'm not discounting any games, and if Barbarian Prince deviates from the kinds of games I've described above, then I seriously need to give it a couple playthroughs. What I'm doing here is exploring the possible story-space of board games. A good book or movie can have a coherent storyline with each event directly leading to the next, as well as dynamic characters, plot twists, and changing goals. How can we collide this with our games, and have our games remain player-driven? Challenging, yes, as it often seems that the more variability is allowed in a game, the less of a well tied-together story the game can tell.

I have not heard of Chainsaw Warrior. Thanks for the recommendation.

let-off studios
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Chainsaw Warrior, Story-Game Engine

christof wrote:
I have not heard of *Chainsaw Warrior*. Thanks for the recommendation.

I never played the board game version, but from what I've heard and seen the digital version is faithful to the original, and I love it. :) The sequel they created is not as entertaining and slows down the frenetic pace, in my opinion. While it adds some interesting aspects to the core game, it's just not as fun as the original.

http://www.chainsawwarrior.net/

...Regarding the idea of exploring storytelling in games, I think there have been a few more attempts worth your investigation. Betrayal at House on the Hill seems the most variable of the board games I've experienced, although the end result is eventually the same (one player versus the rest, in most cases). The Quiet Year, Fiasco, Cosmic Patrol, and other storytelling games try to bridge this gap as well.

I just picked up a copy of Cthulhu's Vault, but I've yet to play it. It adds a light-storytelling aspect to a card game, and eventually ends up similar to Betrayal.

Maybe what you want to make is a generic storytelling engine: establish the scene, rising action, climax, falling action, etc. That seems rather broad, but I assume it's still doable.

Casamyr
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I do like Betrayal. It does

I do like Betrayal. It does have a great, light storytelling element to the game as you explore this dusty old house and finally uncover the plot of something dastardly.

If you are looking at more of a GM based game, there are lots out there - Mansions of Madness, Descent and Imperial Assault spring to mind.

DarkDream
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Some Ideas

I played an interesting video game called "Hand of Fate" which has some board game elements. Every level was a set of face down cards, where the starting card was the entrance. The adventurer would then move to an adjacent card. The card was revealed which resulted in various things occurring. But mostly the card had choices like -- do you try to explore the cave, or keep moving. Do you try to escape the bandits or fight them. Do you give the hermit food or ignore hime?

Based on these small choices, something would occur. Something like Eldritch Horror.

If you take the basis of this idea it seems to me that you can expand upon it to create something what I think you are looking for:

- Have a category of different cards. Forests, dungeons, hills, towns and so on.
- When enter a certain area that will deal X amount of cards which need to be explored.
- Depending on the adventure (claim a talisman), special cards can be added to these mini exploration decks thus creating unique encounters.
- With the unique set of cards, it can have prerequisites like. If have ruby of doom can do X if not, then y occurs.
- Cards can be numbered so can specify possibly a chain of other cards occurring.
- Some cards when revealed can create a random event or encounter.

By the way there are some board games already out there that may have already done this choose your own adventure thing. Here are some I know of:

http://www.fightingfantasy.com/index.php?%20option=com_content&view=arti...

http://fightingfantasy.com/index.php?%20option=com_content&view=article&...

-DarkDream

let-off studios
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Fighting Fantasy

@DarkDream:

Those Fighting Fantasy books look great! I remember playing books like them when I was younger (Lone Wolf was the series I played the most, and there was also a collection of two-book sets made by TSR where two players took turns reading their own book, occasionally facing off with one another depending on where they were in the scenario). One of the coolest things is that there is a template for someone to write their own FF adventure, as well as a collection of no-cost amateur Fighting Fantasy books already on the site. Lots of fun.

Thanks for passing along the links. :)

questccg
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Fantasy Flight

I had a question regarding these books. When I was young (16-20) I used to collect these books. I think I have 30 of them.

My question is: "Is the Steve Jackson the same person as the Munchkin game maker???"

If so, I owe props to Steve Jackson - those Fighting Fantasy books were my life (back then)... I also had choose your own adventure (maybe like 60 books) and Hardy Boys mysteries (another 50 of those).

They also had FRENCH books called: "Les livres dont vous etes l'Hero." Translated to English "The books in which you are the Hero." They had stuff like "Quest for the Holy Grail" and translations of the Fighting Fantasy books...

Anyhow I just wanted to know if the "Steve Jackson" was the same person...

let-off studios
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Steve Jackson =/= Steve Jackson

I assumed that it was the same person, but after checking out the biography of Jackson on the Fighting Fantasy website, it seems they're not.

http://www.fightingfantasy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article...

DarkDream
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Steve Jackson

It's a funny thing. I had the exact same question myself. If I remember my research correctly, the English Steve Jackson that wrote the first Fighting Fantasy book is *not* the same American Steve Jackson that owns Steve Jackson's games who is known for Munchkin, Car Wars, Ogre and so on.

However, just to confuse things, the American Steve Jackson actually did write one or more of the latter Fighting Fantasy books!

Pretty amazing.

-DarkDream

Casamyr
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Wow, I had just assumed that

Wow, I had just assumed that they were one and the same. I grew up on Fighting Fantasy books, Lone Wolf and have discovered a new series called Destiny Quest which took the genre to a whole different level.

questccg
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US Author AND Designer

Casamyr wrote:
Wow, I had just assumed that they were one and the same.

Well although the UK Steve Jackson was co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy series, the US Steve Jackson ALSO wrote three (3) books in the series:

  • Scorpion Swamp
  • Demons of the Deep
  • Robot Commando

This is AMAZING... I'm surprised that the US Steve Jackson doesn't advertise that he wrote those books on his website. But indeed the US Steve Jackson wrote some Fighting Fantasy books ALSO!

Pretty cool stuff!

questccg
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Loved 'em all

Casamyr wrote:
I grew up on Fighting Fantasy books, Lone Wolf and have discovered a new series called Destiny Quest which took the genre to a whole different level.

I took to things like Dungeon & Dragons (DragonLance series), Forgotten Realms (Legend of Drizzt) and Terry Brooks (Shannara series) after the Fighting Fantasy series.

As an adult, I haven't read many books (Fiction). I used to love those adventure books (20 years ago). My interests in Computers took over my life after college... Working in the field of IT, consulting, web design, starting my own company, etc.

If my Kickstarter gets some traction, I might add a "division" to my company ("K2 Consulting Group"). I won't disclose the name just yet - but it might be necessary if the campaign results are positive...

Casamyr
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Fighting Fantasy books really

Fighting Fantasy books really opened my eyes up to high fantasy and lead me to find the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as well as many others and I still love reading Fantasy, but it has to be good. I need to read to relax, whether it is a book, RPG Rules (I still play DnD 25 years after I started), or even a board game manual. Jsut something to chill out and relax before sleep.

Sounds like things are going cool for you bud.

pelle
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Christof, the game you want

Christof, the game you want to look at if you want to see the most complete (and complex) CYOA-style boardgame is Ambush!. It doesn't have extreme amounts of story or branching, but I see no problem adding that layer. What it does have is a very powerful system for managing events in a random but scripted way. There is some micro-branching going on in that you keep track of what Sightings have occurred and the missions will play in different ways depending on when and where you trigger various Sightings. Still that is the game you most definitely want to have a look at.

If you want to find a few more games the keywords to search for are "paragraph-driven boardgame". There are a few, but most of them probably are from around 1980.

Regarding gamebooks in general and branching stories, there are books that allow for more different stories.

Then there is of course Fabled Lands that is 6 (soon 7) books interconnected to form an open world that you can explore and take on various quests, and where there is also a bit of interaction between what the player does and what goes on in the world. For instance in one country you can travel to there is a rebellion going on, and the player can choose sides and try to help one side or the other to the throne. No huge world-changing things of course, but at least a bit of nice branching to make it more fun to explore the world.

I rediscovered gamebooks about 2 years ago and have been buying both old and new ones. There are new ones showing up on kickstarter a lot and I have a few of those. Many of the more modern books are more interesting story-wise than for instance the old Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf ever were. If you have not already done so you probably want to have a look at books like the Virtual Reality Series and the annual Windhammer Prize gamebook writing contest (the latter site has an archive of old entries/winners where you can find many interesting gamebooks, although no boardgames).

pelle
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OP might also find a free

OP might also find a free application I wrote useful:

https://github.com/lifelike/gamebookformat

There are many, many other tools out there to help you create gamebooks (google), but I think mine is the only one created with boardgames in mind. When the book is formatted (and paragraphs automatically shuffled and numbered etc) there is a file generated that contains all the information about what paragraph ended up with what number etc in JSON format. If you know some programming/scripting (or know someone who can help out) you can use that to automatically update numbers on other game components (for instance if you put paragraph-numbers on the map like some games do, or on cards or elsewhere). There is no reason to do all that tedious work with making sure numbers match up manually, so don't (even if you find a solution you like better than mine).

I have also two cancelled attempts to make paragraph-driven boardgames (both for the bgg solitaire game design contest). One day I will complete one...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/651902/wip-solitaire-pnp-contest-operat...

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1014484/not-really-wip-solo-pnp-2014-de...

Masacroso
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Why you need a board? Take in

Why you need a board? Take in account that if you put too much elements/mechanics in a game this game tend to become less deeper.

In this case I think that any kind of very explicit space, like a board, its overcomplicating the game and hurting them... at least if you really want to create some kind of story-telling/adventure game.

This is the reason why role games tend to not use too much boards.

What I want to say is... it is really necessary or good for the game that it take place in a board?

I think you have a lot of more options with a classic role game or some kind of simplification or limitation of concepts and situations using cards instead of a board... spatial position generally is not necessary on many games, just my opinion (I dont want to be too critic but I need to comment it, dont take it bad).

By example with decks you can create any kind of story-telling game, with any kind of random situations... and with a lot more freedom and replayability than in a book like choose your own adventure.

christof
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Thanks again

Thanks again for the references, folks. Lots of games for me to check out here.

pelle wrote:
OP might also find a free application I wrote useful:

https://github.com/lifelike/gamebookformat

Nice. I'm a programmer by profession, so I'll definitely give this a go when I ramp up my game development.

Masacroso wrote:
Why you need a board? Take in account that if you put too much elements/mechanics in a game this game tend to become less deeper.

In this case I think that any kind of very explicit space, like a board, its overcomplicating the game and hurting them... at least if you really want to create some kind of story-telling/adventure game.

A quick clarification on terms-- rather than a story-telling game, I'm aiming for a story-playing game. Many gamers lack the creativity required to invent stories, so I'd like the game to tell the story instead. This does mean that every part of the story has to be pre-written, and the story won't be as open-ended as with RPGs, but I can control exactly where I want the story to go. Of course, with standard RPGs, the story can take any path, and so a board just adds constraint. I feel like using a board for what I have in mind can allow for easy variability in the game (esp. with randomized tiles), and give the players additional meaningful choices to make, as they must factor in how long it takes to travel in order to accomplish certain tasks.

Then again, I haven't yet done an initial playtest, and indeed we should question the inclusion of every element in our games.

Masacroso
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Yes, i understand... I

Yes, i understand... I supposed the same when I said "story-telling", this is why I said something about cards.

By example you can create a dungeon-crawling game with cards very easily without the need to tell some complex story, just explore rooms, kill monsters and take rewards.

Maybe you can mix environments more than just dungeons, etc...

An example that come to my mind: in a card of monster or room or whatever you can put a lot of information to make that the monster will be different depending the previous card or the scenario or the thrown of a dice or many other things.

You can try to do the same kind of story-telling of a book-game but with cards... Maybe you can take some literary ideas from Rayuela of Cortázar.

So you dont need necessarily a lot of cards, in this example, just some ones well-designed and efficient. The game can take some ideas from some kind of solitaire game to balance or explore mechanics (just come to my mind by example Friday).

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