Gamebooks That Aren’t Dungeon Crawls

Recommend any good gamebooks that aren’t dungeon crawls? I’ve been getting back into this genre of solo gaming but start to lose interest the moment it becomes a dungeon crawl.


I’m not here with any recommendations (sorry), but I’m curious what you’ve been exploring.

I actually recently purchased the Tunnels & Trolls Bundle of Holding, so I ordered the deluxe rulebook from Flying Buffalo. Have you been playing T&T solos? I hear those are (mostly) dungeon crawls; I haven’t crawled in yet.

Out of nostalgia I have reacquired the Tolkien Quest and Middle-Earth Quest gamebooks of my youth. I haven’t got back into them, just collected them, but, if memory serves, those aren’t dungeons. There are hex maps, though!

Lone Wolf? I remember liking those a lot. I think they’re all available for free and clear, somewhere online. You remind me; I should play through all those.

Edit: not all of them.

I get back into them every couple of years for a brief period. Right now, I’ve been playing gamebook apps because they track everything for me and it’s much easier to play sparingly on the fly. The current one I’m on is called WarQuest and the first chapters were really tight.

Did try Lone Wolf last time around… that is a good one to get back into.

I actually wrote one years back that’s bounced between prospective publishers but never published. During my vacation, I started another one based on my High Plains Samurai setting using a format that doesn’t rely on any hit points or equipment tracking. The lead character’s Qi power brings them back in time when they die; basically creating a meta structure where the character can learn from their mistakes and adapt, much like how players experience most gamebooks.

“Hmm, I’ll go left.”

“No, you idiot! There’s a pit trap in there and now you’re dead.”

(This is why dungeon crawl gamebooks don’t appeal to me. In many ways, they feel like well-intentioned RPG adventures run by a bad GM.)


I think the “contained” nature of the dungeon crawl makes these easier to develop so that may be why they are the majority (this is a guess on my part so I could be wrong). I’m honestly not up to speed on solo RPG books. I know that there are games like Cthulhu Confidential that are 1:1 gaming experiences (one GM and one Player), but that doesn’t sound like what you’re looking for.

Just recently I was fiddling around trying to turn a Conan 2d20 adventure of mine into a gamebook, but the experiment has become tedious. So many possible character choices! And one knows one can’t cover them all.

Still, I think there are good opportunities with hyperlinked PDFs, these days, to expedite the gamebook experience. I might keep plucking away at my project.

Otherwise, there are solo and GM-less systems, and you’ve probably heard of them. Ironsworn might have the most collective love, but I haven’t tried it yet.

And in the board game front, Gloomhaven gets a lot of praise. But I’ve heard it’s a dungeon crawl (though awesome).

Here’s a philosophical question for gamebook design: do you think it’s best to pre-construct a protagonist for the game book player, so that the range of narrative choices proceeds organically from that character’s perspective and abilities; or is it possible to provide a satisfying, single game book experience for a wide variety of character options? In Lone Wolf, the player embodies a pre-constructed personality. In Tolkien/Middle-Earth Quest, the player may create an original character. But—especially with an array of race and culture options—not all of those choices make sense. For example, I randomly generated a Dwarf character for… Treason in Isengard? :upside_down_face:

Heard a lot of great things about Ironsworn, though yet to check it out myself. It’s on my list.

As for your question, I think it’s very possible to write an open character gamebook though the options for those characters may be limited. My first one allowed the reader to choose a class for their character that would give abilities, bonuses, and open up certain choices at certain points in the book. However, those gamebooks with an existing character tend to make for better interactive fiction versus a gamebook adventure with open characters.

Now I’m wondering… are there any out there where you play an adventuring party?

I have been looking through my T&T PDFs, supposing that some of them were for parties. But I haven’t found any.

There is this game, however:

Haven’t even bought this, but I’ve had it in my curiosity/wishlist for awhile. I’m always skeptical of these “GM-less” games. They usually rely on an “oracle.” I don’t need that. I can determine for myself or through any die roll the probability of a certain thing happening.

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at only $8 I think I might have to grab a copy of that just to see what it’s about in more depth.

Me thinks there be a show topic here.

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I just need to snag a copy, read it, and then I can discuss it with some (albeit rather low) level of intelligence :slight_smile:

Looks like the same crew that put out that game also made this one about solo horror :

Uh oh! That rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper, for $8 at every turn. Four Against Mars, Four Against Ragnarok… When does this tunnel end?

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