I’m an incredibly nostalgic person.
In order to feed my ever-ravenous nostalgia, I’ve spent many an afternoon on eBay tracking down copies of the old tabletop role-playing games I used to own as a kid: MERP, the TMNT role-playing game, Pendragon.
I loved RPGs as a kid. Every time I went to Waldenbooks, I seemed to leave with another game tucked under my arm. But buying and reading a role-playing game is very different from actually playing one. I learned early on that RPGs only work when there are other people interested in playing them with you.
This became a problem for me. Occasionally, I could rope my brother or some of my cousins into a game. Other times, my brother and his friends down the street would play Battletech and I’d try to shoehorn my way in (unsuccessfully). Most of the time though, I just sat in my bedroom and re-read the rule books. I made up various adventures, characters, and campaigns that I never got to play.
Then, on a day I cannot remember with any clarity, I stumbled upon the Lone Wolf Adventure books. It must’ve been in a Waldenbooks, but honestly, I can’t remember.
The Lone Wolf books were perfect: Choose Your Own Adventure meets solo-RPGing.
Unlike a typical Choose Your Own Adventure, I got to make choices even before the page-flipping began. I could “create” my character: choose his skills, his items, his weapons.
Perhaps best of all, there was a method for combat. The Random Number table served the same function as the twenty-and-twelve-and-ten-sided dice of normal tabletop role-playing. It was far more interactive than a typical CYOA, and it was high fantasy with a dark, D&D-kinda feel. I felt very grown-up playing the Lone Wolf books; almost like I was a teenager. They helped satisfy my desire to play a “real” role-playing game. I still longed to find someone willing to play RuneQuest with me, but Lone Wolf was enough to keep me happy.
Unfortunately, in the pre-Internet age, it was hard to find many Lone Wolf books. I’m not sure I ever found more than two. Just as quickly as I had found them and loved them, I had met a dead-end.
Flash-forward to today: I had completely forgotten about the Lone Wolf books.
Then my husband came home from work carrying three rough-edged mass market paperbacks on top of his stack of paperwork. (Important note: my husband works for a charity that runs a bunch of resale stores.)
“Found these in one of the thrift stores today,” he said. “Thought you’d like them.”
I looked at the books. The dawning realization that I’d seen them before — somewhere in the distant reaches of my childhood — overwhelmed me.
“I know those books,” I said, awed.
They were the Lone Wolf Adventure books.
Then I laughed almost hysterically. It was like seeing a long-lost best friend while standing in line at the DMV.
Books 3, 14, and 17.
I started with Book 3. Every page was dripping with nostalgic memories: the map at the front, the “Action Chart,” the “Combat Results Table.” I resisted the urge to look up anything on the Internet about how to “win” the adventure. I wanted my experience to be fresh, untainted.
I started the adventure on a Saturday afternoon, and by Saturday evening I had fought with ice barbarians, survived the attack of a crystal frostwyrm, made my way through the underground depths of Kalte, and defeated the evil wizard Vonotar without once having to start over. I was stoked. I immediately went to Amazon.com and ordered Books 4 & 5.
Even though I had scoured the interwebs to find copies of the old RPGs I used to own, I still hadn’t been able to find anyone else to play them with me (the story of my life, alas). That’s the trouble with tabletop RPGs: they aren’t made for solos. But the Lone Wolf Adventure books are the antidote for the lonely RPG-enthusiast. They fed my need for role-playing as a kid, and now as an adult, they’ve nourished my ever-hungry nostalgia.
I’ve got Book 4, The Chasm of Doom all queued up, and frankly, I can’t wait.