Today I got to dive into a very old book that I used to play as a kid called ‘Trial of Champions.’ ‘Trial of Champions’ is an adventure book where players make choices and then turn to different pages based on those choices. Every choice you make has an affect on the game and you will live or die based on skill, foresight, and a good bit of luck. Before I go into the book though I want to talk about how I came by a book from 1986.
As a kid I had a hard time reading. Juggling between two languages and having undiagnosed ADD really got in my way. I don’t know if this is why my stepdad gave me his old book or if it was just because ‘Trial of Champions’ was something he liked when he was a kid. Either way as a young child it was the first piece of inheritance that I had ever received, and that book is priceless to me. The reason I am writing this is because I found this book and had a huge realization. This was my first experience roleplaying. Even if I had just two or three choices to make I had to think about what my character would do in the context of the challenges he faced. It often led to my death, but it did not matter. I was roleplaying. With that being said, let’s get into the meat of the game.
In ‘Trial of Champions’ you start as probably the unluckiest person in the world. You are a sailor who has been captured by slave traders and taken to a baron’s home where you are given the chance to survive out of forty one other slaves. If you live you then have the honor of fighting through the ultimate dungeon and, although all the gold you would win is taken, you are promised freedom. This is a great adventure arc with some awesome twists and turns. As you proceed through the game you meet monster, creatures, and other being trying to beat you for the ultimate prize. You’ll have to make moral decisions and decipher traps. You’ll also have to explore thoroughly and win great trials. And all you need is two six sided dice.
Character creation is really easy. You roll for three stats, skill determines your strength of will and general fighting skills, stamina determines your health, and luck which is an obvious trait. You can use luck to progress the narrative and also to mitigate damage. I played the game twice recently and managed to keep the whole thing, including bad guy stats, down to one page.
Playing the game is fun and fast. Each time you make a choice you flip to the corresponding number. For example if I reached a ‘T’ in the dungeon I would choose to go left and turn to outcome 20 or I could go right and turn to outcome 237. The outcomes don’t sit next to each other because it makes it harder to cheat. Actually cheating is just about the only thing that I don’t like about this book. It’s way too easy to fudge a dice roll, or keep my thumb at the last choice. All that aside I did resist the urge to cheat. FOR SCIENCE! Although as a child I had no such motivations. I found my decision making to be both important and impactful. I loved how when I chose to hide and trip my opponents in the gladiator ring I was shot and killed for cowardice.
The best part about this game though is its replayability. I have to say in deep shame that I’ve never beaten ‘Trial of Champions’ even in spite of my youthful cheating. Everytime I play I find new halls, encounters, and choices to make. The gladiator fights in the beginning of the game are pretty linear, but all of that changes when you hit the dungeon. You’ll find yourself rolling dice to frantically kill bad guys and wishing you had found that special item.
All in all I loved playing this game as an adult. If you take it seriously you’ll want to probably find stopping points and actually come back to this game. I killed a few hours and I only feel like I got halfway through the game. On top of that when I was looking up the game to get some more details about it I found out that this book was part of a series by the company ‘Fighting Fantasy.’ So now there is this epic dungeon to fight and adventure through and even more adventures to take.
I would recommend adventure books like this to anyone who wants to do some lone adventuring or if you’re on a long car trip or whatever else. It’s something that I wouldn’t pass up if someone else gave me the opportunity to play.
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and as always,