"Your adventure is only limited by your success in pursuing your own goals. You have no single quest to complete and there is no fixed 'story', but you will encounter many quests, missions, puzzles and mysteries throughout the book. Your journey through these becomes your 'story' and when it comes to an end, you can begin once more and explore what might have been."That's new gamebook author Martin Noutch describing his upcoming project Steam Highwayman. It sounds like it will appeal to fans of open-world gamebooks, as well as to steampunk aficionados, and if either or both of those ticks your boxes, you want to head over to Kickstarter and back the first volume in the series, Smog and Ambuscade, right now.
I've seen parallels being drawn with Fabled Lands, and certainly Steam Highwayman is an open world -- more of a solo RPG than a gamebook of the Fighting Fantasy single-quest model. But Martin has made a significant innovation. Where Fabled Lands leaves you to define your own character and goals (a degree of absolute freeform that many find too daunting), Steam Highwayman is more like a structured roleplaying campaign in which you are given a pre-defined role. You're not just presented with a world and told, "Go." You're a figure in that world and your choices fill in the character background. Kind of like being given Robin Hood to play, but whether he's a peasant or a dispossessed Saxon nobleman is left up to you. And that difference will, I think, make Steam Highwayman accessible to a lot of people who wouldn't know where to start with Fabled Lands.
Still need convincing? Then try this taste of what Martin has in store:
"Steam Highwayman is an adventure gamebook in which the reader explores an alternate 19th century England on a steam motorbike. You can choose to rob the rich, give to the poor, or to pursue and punish evil-doers. Will you side with the Compact for Workers' Equality and work to bring about revolution in England? Will you find a place in high society and become famed for your gallantry and style? Will you find your own path through the smog of the cities and beneath the branches of the quiet woods?"I detect notes of H G Wells, Keith Roberts, maybe even a dash of William Morris. It sounds like a glorious immersive adventure which Martin has enriched with a depth of characterization you just didn't get in those old '80s gamebooks. And from his proficiency with accents in that YouTube trailer, I bet his roleplaying sessions are a blast too.