Sagas of the Demonspawn
Akumazoku no hanran [悪魔族の叛乱] (Japanese)
Il barbaro ribelle (Italian)
La Horde des démons (French)
Lobo de fuego (Spanish)
Mødet med djævlefolket (Danish)
The Complete Sagas of Fire*Wolf (Digital Gamebook)
Brennan, J. H. (Herbie)
(cover and interior)
Lewis, Ken (cartography)
Sagas of the Demonspawn is something a little different compared to most standard gamebooks, with this series placing much more focus and importance on character and story. Sections are written in an engaging style that closely resembles a novel, featuring detailed descriptions of the unfolding story and of Fire*Wolf's internal thoughts and reactions to the circumstances he finds himself in and the subsequent decisions required of him. The story arc spans all four books in the series, so the journey within your character is central to the ongoing adventure, creating deeper links into the mind and soul of this outcast barbarian.
Book one isn't overly complex or difficult, with a slight amount of what could be described as 'adult' content, and is an enjoyable tale starting with a specific task that soon becomes just a small piece in the overall broader storyline. Having never read this series as a teenager back when it was released, thirty years later I'm impressed by the world created and presented here, and by the quality of Brennan's heroic pulp-style writing. It's not your usual gamebook content or structure, which I found refreshingly different and of a very decent standard.
Unfortunately the good story is almost completely undone by the extremely annoying and unnecessarily complex stat generation and fighting mechanics. For no logical reason the player is forced to compute large quantities of numbers, causing elevated levels of confusion and frustration that should simply not be present in a solo adventure. Modifiers are neither new nor generally troublesome by themselves, but their implementation within this system is just another level of unwanted bookkeeping. Any gamebook system requiring the use of a calculator just halts the story and isn't a whole lot of fun.
Added to this annoyance is the lack of clarification regarding the rules for health regeneration, which isn't detailed and is therefore left totally to player interpretation. Not ideal for an element that's critical to a functioning gamebook system. Also, there are a few sections missing their link to the next, causing you to spend time searching backwards to find the likely intended section -- which although quite easily solved, is annoying.
Note that the recent app version of the series from Tin Man Games features a revised and simplified fighting system, which of course is also assisted by the fact that it's not you doing all the calculations anyway!
So, even though the the mechanics behind the story are poorly devised and highly questionable, the story itself is of merit and more than worthy of a read, particularly for fans of sword & sorcery style adventures. The infrequent interior illustrations by Geoff Taylor are also worthy of a mention, as they perfectly suit the uncomplicated nature of Fire*Wolf and the various scenes depicted.
Book one is a good start from my perspective, so it will be interesting to see how the following books develop and evolve.
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Sagas of the Demonspawn #1 Character Sheet
Thanks to Ben Nelson for providing this file.