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The Fabled Lands books are a fantasy gamebook series

23. January 2021 - Alexander Schmidt

Fabled Lands Books – What Makes This Series of Game Books? | Review


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In the Fabled Lands books, the main character is none other than yourself and you experience adventures in a fantastic world! The Legends of Harkuna series also offers different characters to choose from and can be played in any order!

Once again I have tested a gamebook series, this time actually two books in one book, because the 2nd anthology of the Fabled Lands series Legends of Harkuna combines the volumes The Sea of Terror and The Valleys of Darkness.

Unlike most gamebook series, however, the Fabled Lands Books are not chronological. So it doesn’t matter which volume you start with! Nevertheless, you can take your heroine or hero with you from one adventure to the next, with all the skills and equipment you have acquired.

If you are just wondering what we are talking about and are reading about game books for the first time – they are basically a mixture of role-playing game and fantasy novel. Have a look at our review of Destiny Quest – The Legion of Shadows, where this is explained in more detail 😉

But back to the Fabled Lands books and the Legends of Harkuna: What makes this gamebook series different? How is the adventure structured? What are the advantages and disadvantages?.

Just read on and you’ll find out…

Note: Kindly, Mantikore Publishing has provided us with a review copy of Fabled Lands – Legends of Harkuna 2 for review purposes. However, this review and our rating is uninfluenced and not agreed on content.

Fabled Lands Books – Overview

  • Game type: Fantasy role-playing game, connoisseur game
  • Age: approx. 12 years and up
  • Players: 1+ players
  • Number of pages: 725
  • Publisher: Mantikore Verlag
  • Author: Dave Morris, Jamie Thomson
  • Year of publication: 2017 (original English edition 1996)
  • Objective: Choose one of 6 heroic characters or create your own and set off on adventures in the fantastical world of Harkuna.

Fabled Lands Books – Legends of Harkuna 2

Apart from the book itself, all you need to play is 2 dice, a pencil and an eraser. Then you’re ready to go.

Select or Create a Game Character

Fabled Lands books - 2 suggested characters

2 of the 6 characters in “The Sea of Terror”

A special feature of the Fabled Lands Books is that you can choose your character or even create one from scratch.

At the beginning of each book, 6 illustrious characters are printed for you to choose from. In “The Sea of Terror” these are for example the warrior Jaluda the Black, the priestess Arcadia Ego, the mage Damontir the Mad, the bard Silas Worrier, the villain Graumalkin Blacksmith or the wanderer Varkung from Metriciens. Well, there’s something for everyone, isn’t there 😉

Each character is briefly introduced and, interestingly, they also pursue different goals, which of course has consequences for the adventure. Moreover, they are not necessarily classic, purely good heroines. Thus Jaluda is very vindictive, Damontir power-driven, Silas rather work-shy and Graumalkin cunning.

In the end, I decided to play the adventure as Damontir: a mage on the brink of madness, plagued by memories of a past life. Now that’s what I call a hero! 🙂

Professions and Skills

As I said, you can also invent your own heroine or hero, the only important thing is to choose one of the 6 professions. The profession determines the initial values of your abilities, i.e. what strengths and weaknesses you have.

Each character has 6 skills, only with different strength values. The abilities in detail:

  • Charisma: your talent for making friends
  • Combat Power: your skill in combat
  • Magic power: the art of casting spells
  • Sanctity: gift of divine power and wisdom
  • Nature Knowledge: tracking and knowledge of the wild
  • The art of thievery: Sneaking, hiding, picking locks

Action Sheet and Adventure Notebook

Action sheet in the Fabled lands books

The action sheet and a page of codewords

On your action sheet (also called hero board in other gamebooks) you pencil in your name, profession and the value of all skills. There is also a level, you start at 3 out of 12, i.e. as a “guild member”, but you usually move up in the course of the adventure.

In addition, there is of course a field for the life force. This is 16 at the beginning, but you can lose points through fights and gain them back through healing, whereby the maximum value of the life force can never be exceeded unless you gain a new level.
There are further fields for money (40 shards at the beginning), possessions (up to 12) and some other things like titles and honours.

In an adventure notebook you can also make notes so that you don’t forget anything, which is very practical, especially if you take a longer break while reading/playing. For the adventure “Sea of Terror” there is also an extra diary with section numbers to tick off.

Tip: Since this saves additional back-and-forth flipping, I usually copy these “use pages” from game books and always have the action sheet open next to the book, for example.

Evaluation and Conclusion

Map of Harkuna in the Fabled Lands books

The map of Harkuna at the beginning of the book

For me, this double volume was the first encounter with the Fabled Lands Books which is quite well-known in the gamebook cosmos and was still distributed in Germany under the name Sagaland in the 90s. The unique selling point of this series is above all the non-linear game principle. There is no big mission spanning the individual books and even the order in which the volumes are played does not matter.

Thus there is no real end, unless you die. Otherwise, you just play as long as you like, and certain decisions and sections also allow you to move on to other volumes, with each volume covering a specific geographical region of the world of Harkuna. So the series is best comparable to open-world games.

Pro and Con

What I immediately liked very much is the choice of characters and the fact that 6 new playable characters are always suggested to you per volume. I’m one of those who likes to get started as soon as possible and jump into the adventure, so this suited me very well, as did the very straightforward rules.

The open world approach was also a lot of fun for me personally. Especially because I don’t often find time to play for a long time at a stretch, the open and episodic character of these books is ideal for me.

Conversely, however, there is no Grand Quest, no “search for the Grail”, no saving the world from a sinister threat, in short no great epic framing adventure, as is usually the case in fantasy. Those who find this essential will probably miss it in the Fabled Lands books.

For Whom Are the Fabled Lands Books Worthwhile?

The Fabled Lands book Legends of Harkuna sections

A look at the Fabled Lands books.

The Fabled Lands books in the Legends of Harkuna series are excellent for gamebook beginners! The adventures are rather simple and the open world approach allows you to “dose” how much of the world of Harkuna you want to explore.

Gamebook pros and those who value a big frame quest are better advised to reach for books like The Shamutanti Hills or Lone Wolf – Escape from the Dark.

For those who were enthralled by this instalment of the Legends of Harkuna, there are then other volumes in the Fabled Lands book series to discover.

Bestseller Nr. 2
Bestseller Nr. 3
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Conclusion

Instead of an all-encompassing adventure, the focus here is on the multitude of possibilities. Harkuna is an open game world where you can develop your character and experience numerous different adventures. Ideal for gamebook beginners!

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*This article contains referral links: that means if you order a product through it, we get a small commission and you support our work without making the product more expensive.


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