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Series - Grailquest

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Publishers: Armada -- United Kingdom
Dell (Laurel Leaf imprint) -- United States
Categories: Complexity Level : Advanced (Full Game System)
Format : Paperback
Game System : Character Advancement
Game System : Combat
Game System : Inventory Management
Game System : Magic
Game System : Randomization Method : Dice
Game System : Scores
Genre : Fantasy
Genre : Humor
Target Age Group : Older Children
Writing Style : Present Tense
Writing Style : Second Person
Translated Into: Alla corte di re Artu (Italian)
La búsqueda del Grial (Spanish)
Grailquest (Czech)
Magt og magi (Danish)
La Quête du Graal (French)
Sara bukkusu doragon fantajii [サラ・ブックスドラゴン・ファンタジー] (Japanese)

This series casts the reader as Pip, a youth chosen by Merlin to perform quests in the service of King Arthur. The books are notable for a number of reasons: their sense of humor (brought out by Merlin's eccentricity and various strange foes), their bonus features (many include instructions on how to build things like noisemakers and paper boats), their use of "dreamtime" sections which are read whenever Pip sleeps, and various other quirks which set them apart from the run-of-the-mill gamebook. For all their unusual features, the rules are pretty typical, with Pip having to keep track of Life Points, Experience Points (which can be used to gain permanent Life Points), inventory items and spells. Eight books were published in England, with only the first six reprinted in the United States, some with different covers and all with inferior quality (smaller format, cardstock character and rule sheets reduced to regular paper, thinner paper, etc.).


Grailquest Boxed Set


1. The Castle of Darkness
2. The Den of Dragons
3. The Gateway of Doom
4. Voyage of Terror
5. Kingdom of Horror
6. Realm of Chaos
7. Tomb of Nightmares
8. Legion of the Dead

Related Documents

Play Aid

Grailquest #1 Character Sheet (back)

Grailquest #1 Character Sheet (front)

Grailquest #1 Rules Reference (back)

Grailquest #1 Rules Reference (front)

Grailquest #2 Character Sheet (back)

Grailquest #2 Character Sheet (front)

Grailquest #2 Rules Reference (back)

Grailquest #2 Rules Reference (front)

Grailquest #2 Village Map

Grailquest #3 Character Sheet
Thanks to Ben Nelson for providing this file.

Grailquest #3 Map 4

Grailquest #3 Rules Reference
Thanks to Ben Nelson for providing this file.

Grailquest #5 / #6 / #7 Character Sheet (back)

Grailquest #5 / #6 / #7 Character Sheet (front)

Grailquest #5 Magic Door

Grailquest #6 Rules Reference (back)

Grailquest #6 Rules Reference (front)

Grailquest #7 Deathometer

Grailquest #7 Rules Reference (back)

Grailquest #7 Rules Reference (front)

Structure Diagram

Grailquest #1 Map
This flowchart of the book was contributed by Christopher McGeorge.

Bibliography of Items About "Grailquest"


Linefeed: Computer Books, Game Books, Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Reviewed

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User Comments

The first three or four books in the GrailQuest series are excellent - they're well-written and have lots of humour, but also good stories. The use of maps allows the books to feel a lot bigger than their 200 or so sections, and there's a good combat system that allows for a lot more variety than, say, Fighting Fantasy's system did. Game mechanics such as the Dreamtime also add some more entertainment. The books get steadily harder from the fairly easy Castle of Darkness to the pinnacle of the series that is Gateway of Doom. As mentioned above, though, the big appeal of these books is the comedy. Running gags such as Merlin's homes and the Poetic Fiend, plus some wonderfully surreal situations such as the Vampire Carrot - if you're looking for funny gamebooks, I think these would be the obvious choice.

Unfortunately, after the halfway point, the books go noticeably downhill. Books 6 and 7 in particular have large errors that could well make them unplayable (sections that don't link up properly, instructions for fighting the boss that aren't mentioned when you meet him, and an important item it's impossible to actually obtain), almost as if they were rushed without play-testing, but whilst they're still fun I feel the second half of the series just lacked some of the sparkle and wit the first four books did. Legion of the Dead is a worthy finale to a generally enjoyable series, though.


This was a series I read in my youth and had fair memories of it. It was probably the first "humourous" take on fantasy gamebooks I ever read, so it felt original at the time. Nowadays, I have a bit less patience for irreverent takes on the genre. It can feel a bit smug. But I can appreciate that the author was trying to offer an alternative to Fighting Fantasy which had dominated British gamebooks up to that point.

You play a real world transplanted character who goes by the unheroic name of Pip. You are called upon by Merlin to serve King Arthur in various adventures, because any British fantasy book set in the past seems to be contractually obligated to feature either King Arthur or Robin Hood in some way or another. I guess all of the knights of the round table were otherwise occupied so Merlin was forced to call upon an untried youth from another world. Pip carries a talking sword, EJ (Excalibur junior), to provide a sidekick to banter with (similar to Rose Estes' talking animal companions in early Endless Quest books) and the combat system is nothing to write home about. The impossibility of some of the tasks basically requires the reader to cheat to succeed.

The writing style is quite personal, as if the author is speaking to the reader, which can feel interesting after the impersonal style of Fighting Fantasy, so it has a definite uniqueness about it.

There are also a number running gags, such as Merlin's constantly changing lairs and an annoying recurring monster called the poetic fiend.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this style, as it feels less immersive, when character deaths are treated as a joke. The stakes are missing and I find the humour vexing in this format, but I can see why this series has its fans due to its (at the time) original approach. But I've never been tempted to return to the series.


Admittedly, I hadn't initially been all that interested in delving into the "Grailquest" series - but once I did, it wasn't all too disappointing. Knowing what it expects - and wants - of its readers, the series takes off in a surprisingly decent, mythologically-Arthurian-sound-enough way (and was actually recommended to me by a medievalist professor). In fact, the introductory sequence(s) and non-interactive sections are the clear highlight here; the obvious research is used with sparing creative liberties and open-endedness. Unfortunately, on a personal level I'll admit I found the primary adventures to be surprisingly difficult, and progressively so - and the actual "gamebook" parts of these gamebooks don't manage to stir up anything special (not to mention several continuity errors in each title). I was right in believing the series wasn't my cup of tea, and while these stories aren't anything more than a one-off way to spend an afternoon, there are also a solid number of reasons other readers might enjoy these books. Not holistically recommended by me, though keep in mind some readers can definitely be pleasantly surprised by these books.


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