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Fabled Lands (Windows)

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Published from 1995-96, the Fabled Lands series of gamebooks offered something previously unknown; an enormous, modular fantasy gamebook system offering sandbox-style open play rather than railroading the player from the beginning to the end of one monolithic quest. Instead, players could choose from dozens of characters strewn across six basic classes, and decide to undertake hundreds of minor quests as best befit their abilities and play interest -- side-quests could be doggedly pursued to the bitter end or casually abandoned in favor of grinding up one's stats or personal fortune, so as to be better prepared for later, tougher quests on the different continents found in later books. Individual gamebooks spelled out largely self-contained urban intrigues, rural adventures and random encounters within proscribed geographic boundaries, but also left openings for players to seamlessly transition from locations within one book into locations in another, often with an implied reward of unresolved plot hooks. Whether or not there was a grand overarching story was largely irrelevant to the player who could quite happily while away hours merely living, thriving and surviving in this half-familiar, half-strange collection of medieval fantasy kingdoms without ever stumbling across the story the author wanted to convey. The author understood: it's not about the storyteller, it's about the game player choosing a gameplay narrative to their own liking. Hardly a revolution on computers where taking alternate approaches on simulation replay is practically their raison d'etre, but in the world of gamebooks where every non-mission-critical paragraph was extra ink and paper the publisher was shelling out for, to say that this approach was novel would be an understatement. (Each book averages well over 700 sections, almost double the 400 standard for Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.)

The grand tragedy is that the gamebook series was canceled after only six books ran, leaving fully half of the game world inaccessible. The good news is that there still remains a heaping helping of play in the interlocking six books that squeaked out. The great news is that their text and illustrations have been processed into computer form, including a rigorous algorithm for bookkeeping -- and there's a lot of it. In addition to the typical stats management (CHARISMA, COMBAT, MAGIC, SANCTITY, SCOUTING, and THIEVERY for basic abilities, plus Stamina for hit points) and the random die-rolling to check against them, the game scrupulously tracks up to 12 inventory items, Rank, combat, and Codewords -- a series of several dozen (per book) flags with long memories indicating quests-in-progress, knowledge gained and serious plot events (such as which side a player backed in a civil war), noting choices made 5 minutes ago or on the other side of the planet. This is just the tip of the iceberg, however, whose frosty fundament includes the worship of one of a whole pantheon of deities, procuration of divine blessings allowing rerolls against stat checks, hedging one's bets by purchasing a convenient resurrection site, property ownership in dozens of cities, investment of Shards (the local currency) in mercantile exchanges or directly conducting naval commerce with various sizes of ships and various qualities of crew (supposing the player successfully navigates the web of storms, pirates and outright monsters preying on shipping), plus gradually brokering social status in several factional courts in numerous grand regional capitals... and managing the opportunities that come with said status. Something that made for mind-blowing gamebook play may deliver only "good" gameplay on a computer -- but considering that it lingers in a state of protracted half-completion, that's more than most computer games could say!

The Fabled Lands application compiles the contents of all published books in the series, including:
  1. The War Torn Kingdom, concerning itself with the civil war in Sokara, its cities of Marlock and Yellowport, and the nearby Druid's Isle;
  2. Cities of Gold and Glory, dealing with Golnir, a typical fantasy realm in the British vein, questing for the Baroness Ravayn and her sorcerer Estragon;
  3. Over the Blood-Dark Sea, full of nautical adventures in an inner sea;
  4. The Plains of Howling Darkness, containing struggles against harsh nature in the northerly Great Steppes;
  5. The Court of Hidden Faces, dealing with intrigues in and around Aku, the cruel imperial capital of Uttaku and Old Harkuna;
  6. and Lords of the Rising Sun, engaging warring Oriental-patterned states in the islands of Akatsurai.
(We are left to speculate what could be found in the verdant jungles of eastern Ankon-Konu in The Serpent King's Domain, in the Arabian deserts of western Ankon-Konu in The Lone and Level Sands, the Indian isle of Chrysoprais in The Isle of a Thousand Spires, among the living classical antiquities on Atticala in Legions of the Labyrinth, amidst the gutters, alleyways, balconies and plazas of the Forbidden Realm's city-state Dangor in The City in the Clouds, and beneath this whole superficial upper layer in the final volume, Into the Underworld.)


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Alternate Titles

  • "FLApp" -- abbreviation of Fabled Lands Application

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The game runs under Java 5 and can be run on numerous platforms -- it just comes ready-to-run for Windows.


The gamebooks' original authors have authorized PDF distribution of the original gamebooks to drum up interest in the series and, ideally, demonstrate to some financier that sufficient demand remains to reprint the series and pay them to finally write the remaining six books. This application, though not itself specifically authorized, takes that authorization and runs with it.

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Pseudo_Intellectual (61239) added Fabled Lands (Windows) on Jan 11, 2010