"For you are now the last of the Kai—you are now the Lone Wolf"
November 30, 2016 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Joe Dever, best known as the author of the Lone Wolf fantasy gamebooks, has died. For those looking to remember his legacy, Project Aon has a wealth of Lone Wolf material including the Grey Star series and the once-rare Magnamund Companion. It also contains some of Dever's other gamebooks.

The Lone Wolf series, which had gone out of print in the late 90s, saw a resurgence of popularity over the last 10 years, leading to an pen-and-paper RPG adaptation, a video game combining RPG elements and a visual novel, adaptations for Kindle, and culminating in the long-awaited publication of book 29, The Storms of Chai, earlier this year. (Previously)
posted by Copronymus (31 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

Can we flip back to the last choice (you kept your thumb on the page, right?) and take the other path?
posted by tocts at 11:36 AM on November 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


I loved those things.
posted by Artw at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2016

posted by crocomancer at 11:50 AM on November 30, 2016

I've been thinking about running a Lone Wolf campaign for a while, possibly using FATE. I was reading plot summaries of the books to refresh my memory only last night.

Sometimes in life there's a helghast in the tunnel and you didn't get the magic spear.

posted by howfar at 11:53 AM on November 30, 2016

posted by radwolf76 at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2016

I was only sorta into Lone Wolf, but I was big on Dever's Freeway Warrior series, which was my childhood intro to the aesthetics of Mad Max and post-apocalyptic literature and cinema.

posted by Strange Interlude at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by JamesD at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2016

:( .
posted by plep at 1:03 PM on November 30, 2016

Lots of memories are being shared on his Facebook page.
posted by plep at 1:13 PM on November 30, 2016

oh no!
posted by Blienmeis at 1:14 PM on November 30, 2016

I very much enjoyed the Lone Wolf game/interactive fiction thing for iOS.

posted by gauche at 1:15 PM on November 30, 2016

Out of all of tragic deaths this year, his hit me the hardest. The Lone Wolf books are directly responsible for making me a reader. No one else in my family reads. I'm reasonably positive without him and his books, I wouldn't be nearly as educated as I am.
posted by khaibit at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by eclectist at 1:19 PM on November 30, 2016

My fondest childhood memory of this was actually getting them in Malay language as a kid! And then later being surprised there was an English version, and that in fact it was the original one... we gave them away when I outgrew them and I suspect it's going to be really difficult to get my hands on those translation ever again. (also: Mallory Towers and St Claire's)
posted by xdvesper at 1:34 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've still got my original set of books, plus the Grey Star books, on their own shelf. 1st book lost its cover years ago from being read and re-read; it also has a pretty gnarly bug juice stain from YMCA summer camp on some of the pages. My original Magnamund Companion got lost in a move somewhere over the years.

I've spent a lot of time over the years reading and rereading these books. The first five are really great, though it tends to suffer from power creep as you go on. If anyone's interested in checking them out, I'd say do 1-5, and then 6-12 if you're still interested.

So many great, evocative locations in his world, and the artwork is its own kind of iconic.
posted by curious nu at 1:39 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think that 2 is probably the best place to start, as it covers lots of ground and gives a good feel for the world, although (as my comment above refers to) there is an annoying chokepoint which can occur towards the end of the book. My advice is to make sure you pick Animal Kinship as a starting skill, which should stop you from hitting the worst dead-end.
posted by howfar at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow, I only owned the first two books as a kid and didn't know there were any more. It's remarkable how our knowledge of the world depended on local retailers and local media in pre-Internet days.

Lots of catching up to do now!
posted by Triplanetary at 2:31 PM on November 30, 2016

posted by Kattullus at 3:23 PM on November 30, 2016

The Lone Wolf series were a huge part of my childhood and teenage years. I loved the creepy bleakness and proto-steampunk New-Weird-itude of the world, and of that era of British gaming in general (before GW ruined it all...)

I'm really saddened by this.
posted by prismatic7 at 4:02 PM on November 30, 2016

posted by smoke at 4:41 PM on November 30, 2016

posted by juv3nal at 4:57 PM on November 30, 2016

Wow. Yeah, these were huge for me.

I came up reading those basic and kind of silly choose your own adventure novels. I saw a couple of primitive D&D ones at a school book fair with rudimentary character sheet. Lone Wolf added a tremendous amount of sophistication on top of that, including some pretty clever RNG systems that filled some of the void that existed in all of us who had started to buy D&D sourcebooks but had no one to play with. I chased these through high school, even after I'd started wrangling my own groups. When I got my car, I'd regularly stop in local used book stores hoping to find new ones.

I was always impressed how, multiple books later, if you had manged to grab the Sommerswerd in book two, occasionally you could just blow past some otherwise quite difficult dead end. It was also, I think, my first experience in my emerging fantasy fandom of going "Sommerswerd? Really? You too good for Summersword?"

posted by absalom at 6:58 PM on November 30, 2016

I am also someone who discovered Lone Wolf as a pre-teen and followed the franchise well into my teen years. I started with Fire on The Water (Book 2), but my all time faves were Shadows on the Sand and Kingdoms of Terror (Books 5 and 6 respectively). I had already been deep into gamebooks then with a healthy library of CYOA, Fighting Fantasy, and D&D's Endless Quest books, but Lone Wolf hooked me like no other. The basic concept of reading through the adventures of a hero that evolved from title to title based on your own choices was really compelling.

I lost most of those books when I left them behind to move to university and my parents sold off the house while I was away and purged all of the stuff we had. For reasons that I no longer remember, the only objects I retained from that past was my Magnamund Companion and The World of Titan (the world encyclopedia for the Fighting Fantasy books). They're pretty sketchy compared to the sourcebooks that have accompanied 'real' RPGs from, say, TSR/WoTC/World of Darkness, but as one-man labors of love, they're still amazing artifacts.

All the same, I hadn't thought about them for ages, but then downloaded the Project Aon mobile app a couple of years ago, and then reopening Shadows on the Sand and being on a magical flying skyship or rubbing shoulders with some soldiers of fortune at a grubby tavern while sitting down to a dinner of black bread and roasted meat in Kingdoms of Terror ... it was like prose comfort food.

I feel like neither Joe Dever nor Steve Jackson (of Fighting Fantasy, not Steve Jackson Games) will ever get the respect of a literary sci-fi author because the prose in their gamebooks was too lowbrow and as gaming icons they're still overshadowed by Gygax or the other Steve Jackson, but I know for myself that I feel just as much loss over this passing than I did Gygax's.

Gygax's death was the loss of an icon who crafted a hobby that binds me to many of my friends, present and past. Joe Dever created an outlet for my imagination when I was still too shy to make those friends in the first place.
posted by bl1nk at 7:17 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I started with Fire on The Water (Book 2), but my all time faves were Shadows on the Sand and Kingdoms of Terror (Books 5 and 6 respectively)

I loved Kingdoms of Terror so much, it embedded the nearly nonsense phrase "Amory cess" in my young brain. Damn you, Roark! Damn you!
posted by tocts at 8:37 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

I remember the "Previously" linked above -- thanks to Kattullus making that post (I can't believe it's been six years already), I downloaded the Seventh Sense client to play Lone Wolf and eventually played all the books that were available at the time (I see there are lots more now). I still have six of the books from the '80s, but not books 3 and 4, so it was wonderful to be able to read/play those and other books for free.

One year in school during the mandatory reading period (where students had to bring in a non-textbook to read), I was able to read through some of the books. I recall getting some weird looks on the first day of doing this, because every so often I would flip to the back of the book and point at a number in the random number table, and then flip back to my place. So I ended up bringing a ten-sided die to class. Every time I needed a random number, I'd try to roll (as quietly as possible) the die, shielded by my book. Surprisingly, nobody seemed to notice, not even the teacher. I love books and the mandatory reading period was fine, but it was a real treat when I had a Lone Wolf book to read in class.

Books, generally speaking, can be wonderful escapes of course, but actually being the protagonist, making (sometimes difficult) decisions to change the story, exploring new landscapes, doing all those cool things, and having those cool skills -- that was something else, especially at that age when I couldn't find any other books that had a similar effect like that.

posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:55 PM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Chasm of Doom was my introduction to RPGs.

posted by PenDevil at 2:09 AM on December 1, 2016

Fire on the Water

It's silly, but I was probably about nine when I read that, and my whole life since I've always associated that book and the cover art with a certain song.
posted by Pryde at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2016

ooh that Roark was a jerk
posted by jcruelty at 10:19 AM on December 2, 2016

and the Chaosmaster was so unfair. good thing i had no compunction about cheating!
posted by jcruelty at 10:19 AM on December 2, 2016

i loved how elaborate the powers got from kai to magnakai to grand master kai. by the end though there wasn't much left to do. "you have total immunity to all elements, can planes walk, can cast numerous spells, have perfect weapon mastery, can smell an enemy from a mile away, regenerate continuously, no longer need food or water to survive..."
posted by jcruelty at 10:20 AM on December 2, 2016

I seem to recall that the original Healing discipline (Kai, not the Magnakai one) was basically an auto-take. Heal 1 per book section that doesn't involve combat? Do you know how much money / potions of laumspur that's gonna save you?
posted by tocts at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2016

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