Paperback Fighter: Revisiting Adventure Gamebooks

My first proper encounter with gaming of the non-board variety, or gaming where there was a clear plot, was Adventure Game books by GW founders Livingstone and Jackson. Being in a nostalgic frame of mind I got to thinking about them recently. With myself and Ed planning on trying a bit of 2nd edition Warhammer 40,000, I also began wondering how these Gamebooks would stand up 20 years later. One book I was also fond of was the Mad Max-alike Freeway Fighter. I ordered myself a copy and decided to give it a try.

I thought it would also be more fun to play as myself, or rather at least and try to make the decisions as if I were there (well, sort of). This may be boring for you as it will probably involve a lot of me running away from things, but means I can put my own twist on the story rather than just retelling it.

I also wanted to see if I could survive, and dare I say it - win, without the Magical Dice that Always Roll What You Need, ort the Thumb of Time Travel carefully marking the previous page before a particularly risky decision.

Well prepared for a Sunday drive through the apocalypse

The Background

The year is 2022. All was dandy and few were hungry. The world was living in perfect harmony, like ebony and ivory on Paul McCartney's piano.

But then disaster struck. The population was been devastated by a mysterious deadly virus. It probably started in our old University flat. In that frying pan. Eurgh. After 4 days, 85% of the world were dead. Riots, looting, destruction and apparently (verbatim quote) drunkenness were rife. So just a British Friday night out then.

6 months later the surviving populace had divided: the first group to rebuild civilisation and culture. They formed new fortified settlements and outposts. The other group just wanted to carry on pratting about in the wastelands and being a bit maim-y. On motorbikes and spikey cars. Being maim-y sounds like too much hard work. And I wouldn't have much street (road?) cred. Paladin of civilisation it is then, and a deluxe wriggly tin* apartment for me in the fortified town called New Hope.

The Story begins

One morning I get a visit from a bunch of rather excited town councillors. They have taken a break from debating the merits of pedestrianising the city centre to pay me a visit. They've picked up a radio message from distant San Anglo saying they have a ton of fuel they are willing to exchange for some of our apparently famous grain. Bargain! (I wonder if the local petrol station will start taking seed packets as payment?)
Some unbelievably jammy rolls...  Yum. Jam rolls.
The town council (in their infinite wisdom) have picked me - a person who has never had a single driving lesson in their life, to take charge of a Dodge Interceptor so kitted out that it makes the participants of Pimp My Ride look like masters of understated subtlety. With this beast of an automobile I am to drive to San Anglo and bring back a petrol tanker, and forge links between our two great settlements. I mean I can't really say no can I. And since there's nothing but pre-Disaster reruns of Gardener's Question Time on the radio, I might as well go.

So I climb in, put on my seat belt (the book irresponsibly neglects this part), adjust the rear view mirror, and get the string-backed leather driving gloves from the glove box (that's what it's for). Now I mean business. Squinting through the narrow armoured visor of a windscreen, I start the car and almost immediately stall it. Second time lucky. Phew. San Anglo, here we come!

The Game begins. Page 1...
It quickly becomes apparent that everything has fallen into decay and ruin, and wild dogs roam the wastelands. In order to lift my spirits after seeing this once incredible landscape turned to grey wasteland I bang some tunes on the radio and turn the speakers up to 11. Time to get my jam on.

After travelling about 9 miles I reach a small town, but just as we get there my bag of Mint Imperials spill out from the glove box forcing me to stop the car lest a few get stuck under the pedals (well, the book gave no clear reason to why the hell I would want to stop). Just as I'm about to get back on the road, what sounds remarkably like a shotgun rings through the air. Do I do the sensible thing and drive on, or do I act like an absolute idiot and get out to investigate...

After checking (twice) that the car door is locked, I move slowly towards the nearest building. I'm bloody crapping myself and wondering why the hell I decided this was a good idea. Wiping nervous sweat from my forehead with the string back of the driving gloves, I half expect another shot in my direction. But there's nobody down this narrow street at all. I step round the corner, but as I do an unseen voice warns me that I'll resemble a colander if I move. Not wishing to resemble any kitchen utensil I do as I'm told. "Where are you from?" the voice barks. Now I can either claim to be a lone, badass nomadic warrior or tell the truth. Well honesty is always the best policy (so they say) and looking at myself neither badass nor warrior comes to mind...

I tell the unseen gunman that I'm from New Hope. At this the figure steps out from the shadows I see that he's a cyclist. A cyclist?! Good god, this man has balls. That's one charity bike ride I would definitely sponsor. His manners leave a little to be desired - he keeps his gun pointed at me whilst telling me his life story. He claims he and his family were ambushed whilst driving their station wagon last week (is this any time to be going on a family trip?) and his wife and kid killed (I feel bad for my levity now). He was looking for some tins of beans and sausages in the supermarket when he was attacked by rabid dogs, hence the shotgun. I decide to believe him. He finally puts the gun down, and says his name is Johnson. He says he's heading to New Hope, so I give him directions. He tells me not to stop at Joe's Garage - they don't have any petrol, but are quick to rob anyone that stops there. I wish him well on his journey and toodle back to the car, and as that honesty really is the best policy it's one I'll be following from here on in when it arises. Time for more tunes on the car radio...

Hell yeah, this is the life. I feel invigorated. Ah what's this coming up at the side of the road. Well I'll never. It's Joe's Garage. I decide to stop to see if Johnson was telling the truth. From afar. I'm not letting the sense of heroics get to my head again. A 'hot rod', clearly with one careful owner, is parked round the side. Whilst I'm having a nosy, a girl comes out from the office in t-shirt and blue jeans (there's even a picture in the book), she gives a disarming smile and ask if she can help. I'm sure she's being a bit flirty, I mean she clearly knows a man of substance when she sees one - the black framed specs, the way my hands are at 10-2 on the steering wheel, my sports casual clothes and the dulcet notes of 99 Red Balloons in the background signifies true masculinity. As lovely as she seems, and I'm sure we'd hit it off, I decide not to take the risk - and stay on the path of the lone road warrior that I must become... 

Click here for Part 2!


  1. What a corker! Really enjoyed reading that, I heartily agree with the 'playing yourself' mentality rather than acting up a part as you might do in a group RPG. And apart from being interesting it is very comically written and a genuinely good read.

    Always interesting to go back to basics and revisit the reason we started the hobby.

    You should slam your foot on the accelerator next. Box the girl in at the squash courts and drop your price!

    1. Thanks very much my good man, will finally post part 2 this week - I wrote most of it a month ago. Shocking laziness I know.

      Definitely agree there, and it was rather enjoyable to play through it again, definitely stood the test of time even if it hasn't dated too well.

      Haha, I knew that you at least would get the Partridge-isms.

  2. Oh, man - what an absolute corker of a read: thank you!

    [nice title too].

    Although my brother had this very book, I never did the road warrior stories; I did try some fantasy ones, which I very much enjoyed. In fact, I enjoyed them so much that about 6 years ago I actually wrote and handmade (my wife helped with the making) a choose-your-own-adventure book for my friend's birthday: a proper adventure with a little over 100 pages and a real range of routes andd outcomes. It was a labour of love (pre-children, obviously) and probably one of the artefacts I'm most proud of creating...

    ...Pre-children, obviously!

    - Drax.

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words Drax, apologies for the horrendously delayed response (I'm not sure horrendously is even a word though).

      Haha, my word now that is utterly outstanding, and what a present!

  3. Looking forward to part 2.

    1. Thanks very much, part 2 will finally be up on Thursday this week

  4. Nice stuff Kieran - brings back lots of memories from my childhood sitting in the school library reading books like this.

    The amount of times the Magical Dice that Always Roll What You Need, and the Thumb of Time Travel saved my characters bacon went uncounted!! As aten year old you need such devices to keep the interest going.

    1. Same here, many happy hours were spent doing just that. Seems to be a bit of a common theme with gamers. And good point there, I never really thought of it like that!

  5. These books were also my intro to the gaming life. From Warlock of Firetop Mountain, all the way to..... Sheesh, I don't even remember the last one I got - maybe number 25 (What ever that was titled.)?

    This read has been thoroughly entertaining, I expect the next installment sooner than later, so I don't lose my page. ~_^

    1. Apparently #25 was "Sword of the Samurai"... don't remember that one. Sorry to let you down on the 2nd part Dai, given that this is the first chance I've had to reply and it's now a month later... That said the second post will be going out this Thursday! With page numbers this time ;)

  6. Just found your blog, so this is obviously a very late comment, but I enjoyed your walkthrough report of the book so much, that I felt I had to say something.

    I laughed out loud a few times :D

    There, that was my "something" comment.

    On to part two.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks very much for taking the time to comment! Apologies for the late response, part 3 is in the works now


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