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Series - La Saga du Prêtre Jean

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Publisher: Hachette -- France
Categories: Complexity Level : Advanced (Full Game System)
Format : Paperback
Game System : Character Advancement
Game System : Combat
Game System : Inventory Management
Game System : Randomization Method : Dice
Game System : Scores
Genre : Fantasy
Genre : Historical Fiction
Translated Into: Misteri d'Oriente (Italian)
La saga del cruzado (Spanish)
Die Saga von Bruder John (German)

This series casts the reader as Prester John the Crusader as he searches for the secret to immortality in Shangri-La, traveling around the world and through time in the process. The game system is fairly familiar, with two randomly-generated attributes (Strength Points and Life Points), a limited inventory, the need to keep track of gold and food, and a straightforward "roll the dice, add your Strength and compare the results" combat system made more dangerous by the possibility of instant death on certain rolls. The reader can carry Prester John's attributes and possessions from book to book, but because publication ceased before the last three books were finished, it is impossible to complete his mission. Despite being incomplete, this is one of the most successful gamebook series to be written in a language other than English; translations into many languages were made, though English editions never appeared.


1. La forteresse d'Alamuth
2. L'œil du Sphinx
3. Les mines du roi Salomon
4. Les mysteres de Babylone
5. Les adorateurs du Mal
6. Au pays des Dragons
7. Le desert de la Mort
8. Shangri-La!

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In this series, you take on the role of Prester John (Prêtre Jean in the original French), a faithful follower of Richard Lionheart engaged in the holy crusades in Saint Jean d'Acre (end of the 12th century). You hear about a famed city called Shangri-La which has the power to make people immortal and give them eternal happiness. You'll have to journey through eight books to reach Shangri-La, or at least that was what the authors wanted. In France, the popularity of gamebooks came to an end a little too soon, and the series never made it past book five. Thus, Prester John will never reach Shangri-La.

The series features a fairly typical system of rules. Your character has "Strength Points" (SP) and "Life Points" (LP) which are similar to SKILL and STAMINA in the Fighting Fantasy series. Your SP are equal to 6+2d6, your LP = 18+d26. You start with 4d6 gold coins and, last but not least, a bag which can hold 10 items, including the 4 rations you start with.

The fighting system isn't very original; you roll the dice, add your SP, roll again for your opponent, and the greater score wins and deals damage (higher SP minus lower SP). Thus, the fights can be very quick if you're stronger than your opponent. With a good dice roll and a better SP score, you can easily deal 8 or 10 damage points which is more than most monsters can handle. There are two special combat rules, one interesting, and one simply annoying. The interesting rule is the "conversion power," which can be used once per game to avoid a fight by talking to an opponent and using your charisma. Of course, this only works against intelligent opponents, but when it does work, it can yield extra information. The annoying rule is this -- if you roll a 12, you instantly kill your enemy, and if he rolls a 2, he instantly kills you! At first, I thought this wouldn't be a problem since you don't often roll those scores. However, on my first attempt at play, my first fight, second round, I was instantly killed by an opponent I could otherwise have handled without breaking a sweat.


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