The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #370: A Look Back at 80s Choose Your Own Adventure/Endless Quest Style Books, DnD, and Dragon Fall Reading Part 5

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #370: A Look Back at 80s Choose Your Own Adventure/Endless Quest Style Books, DnD, and Dragon Fall Reading Part 5

This week, I’m taking a little trip down memory lane, talking about some of the Choose Your Own Adventure style books I recall liking as a kid. 

Endless Quest Series OneTime Machine #06: Rings of Saturn: Cover, Arthur: 9780553244243: BooksBattleblade Warrior - Fighting Fantasy Books 31: Ian Livingstone, Steve  Jackson, Marc Gascoigne: 9780140324129: Books

One of the show’s previous guests, Chad Derdowski (on episodes 107, 108, and 119), wrote and illustrated his own (hilarious, I might add) 80s inspired Choose Your Own Adventure style fantasy books, Fortune Favors the Bold and its sequel that are brilliant.  Look up his work on IG here!

I’ve been reminded of books like these since I’ve been working on something specific for Patreon members – a Thirteenth Hour specific Dungeons & Dragons style series of scenarios.  I’m modding an existing rpg platform called Quest and adding some additions to the combat system to allow for more nuance there and hopefully make it less dependent on pure luck.  Patreon members – stay tuned.

My brother, Jeremy, wrote an article on his blog about the one issue of Dragon magazine we had as kids.  We read it often (even though we didn’t understand what it was about) due to the great fantasy art and the fact we knew it was about games, and though we couldn’t really comprehend what role playing games were, the game books, the imagery, the rep (Satanic panic and all), and the miniatures all made it an alluring mystery.

And another Jeremy!  Shout out also to a different Jeremy – Jeremy Lesniak from Whistlekick.  We’ll be recording a show this week about his martial arts-themed novel, Faith.  Maybe we’ll even get to discuss some of these things in the context of his story.

In the second part of the pod, we are starting Chapter 4 in Dragon Fall (1984) by Lee J Hindle.  


More from Dragon Fall next week!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #353: Welcome My Brother, Jeremy, as We Talk About Mazes and Monsters (1982)

The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #353: Welcome My Brother, Jeremy, as We Talk About Mazes and Monsters (1982)

This week, Jeremy and I are tackling the 1982 TV movie, Mazes and Monsters!  This was a movie (based on a novel by Rona Jaffe) released in the midst of the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons as well as the public fear/backlash of the Satanic panic and all that.  Not surprisingly, it’s a bit of a shlock fest, but we have a surprisingly nuanced discussion on a variety of topics related to the film, role playing games and adjacent activities, distant parents, 80s social panics, steam tunnels, and more.  You can watch the film for free on Tubi (click on the VHS cover below to watch) 

Mazes and Monsters (TV Movie 1982) - IMDb

Ironically, the showing of this TV movie was sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, who acquired the stomach discomfort drug Pepto Bismo also in 1982!

Mazes and Monsters (TV Movie 1982) - IMDb

Mazes and Monsters (TV Movie 1982) - IMDb

The main cast of Mazes and Monsters with their characters and game paraphernalia.  Below, the article about the book the film is based on from the 7/1983 issue of Dragon magazine is below.


There are a few things that are notably positive about the film that I think deserve some mention.  I liked the scene where two of the characters are painting their miniatures.  I liked the fact they had game notebooks.  Then there’s the interesting subject of gender, which has an interesting history in DnD.

I think it was notable that the story actually included a female character at all, and she took a more active role in the story (the fact the book was written by a woman may have had something to do with it).  Glacia (Kate Finch) was the party’s only fighter, which I think is notable since Dungeons and Dragons was still fairly overtly unbalanced in its gender roles.  At the time of the filming of this game, DnD was still in its first edition, where female characters of different races had lower stats (e.g. lower strength) and the game was generally written using only male pronouns (e.g. “fighting men”).  Although the female : male player ratio is more even today (about 60% male : 40 % female), it was apparently much more male dominated at the time (estimated around 10 % female in one source I found). 

As we talk about in the episode, DnD drew heavily from earlier (more male dominated) historical wargames, so it’s interesting to hear what female players of the time thought of it (here’s a interview with RPG pioneer Jean Wells, the first woman hired by TSR).  However, my main exposure to DnD as a kid in the 80s came not from the actual game but from TSR’s Endless Quest books, many of whom were written by a woman, Rose Estes, a TSR employee who, like many other women of the time, was frustrated at the male centric nature of the game and the play – centered around stats, dungeon crawls, and combat – which she felt took away from the telling of a cohesive story. 

So I think it is admirable that this film gave the fighter class role to a woman, who, though she does feature in a requisite love triangle, is not passive in her involvement in the main story.  She seems to be the only one for most of the film that actually owns a car, and the movie does not relegate her to passenger status in favor of having one of the male characters drive it.  Again, perhaps the film was just staying true to the original source material, but in that case, good on them for not changing it. 

Also, as mentioned in the episode, my interpretation of the film’s ending differed from most of thoughts found in the reviews I read at the time or since.  As much as the game was depicted as an experience potentially blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, I thought they also seemed to be saying that this was a way, separate from the world of distant adults, where four lonely young adults could connect with each other.  Such is the power of make believe (normally relegated to the word of children), even, in the end, cutting through psychosis.   When I saw it, the ending seemed to be saying that while aspects of day to day adult reality can be drab, disconnected, and limiting, it doesn’t have to be that way as long as there is still a human connection that binds people together.

Check out Jeremy‘s work over at Pixel Grotto,, and Classic Batman Panels on IG.  You can support his work on Ko-fi and get access to in-depth, exclusive Batman content here.   If you are of the DnD persuasion, his articles on DnD Beyond may be right up your alley.  Thanks, Jeremy, for coming on the show!  We will be back with another look at another fine piece of cinema!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #17: Books That Influenced The Thirteenth Hour

Episode #17: Books That Influenced the Writing of The Thirteenth Hour

This episode talks about literary influences to The Thirteenth Hour, partly based on a post which can be found here:

I also refer to the TSR Endless Quest series of gamebooks, similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the time.

Image courtesy of Elfsteaks and Halfling Bacon

Here is a link on Goodreads to the historical gothic romance adventure books written by Madeline Brent, pseudonym for author and comic book written Peter O’Donnell.  He was creating great independent female characters before it was as trendy to do so as it is now.

“When You don’t know what to do, just do whatever comes next and go from there.”
Madeleine Brent, Moonraker’s Bride

Although not mentioned in the podcast, another book that I remember enjoying in grade school that is somewhat similar to books like The Neverending Story (but written for a somewhat younger audience) is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.

The Phantom Tollbooth

Episode 18 will talk more about comic books and illustrations.

Thanks for listening!  Feel free to leave comments below!


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