Monday, August 22, 2011

Endless Quest Flowchart -- Dragon of Doom

I was visiting my folks' house this past weekend, and took this as an opportunity to dig up some of my old Endless Quest books (D&D's answer to the popular Choose Your Own Adventure books of the era).

It occurred to me that a nice analytic tool would be to see one of these adventures mapped out completely in flowchart form; a quick Google search turned up nothing, so I figured I'd do one myself. Above you'll see my flowchart for Endless Quest Book #13: Dragon of Doom by Rose Estes. Likely not the best example of the series, but it's the first one that I grabbed. (If you can't read my handwriting, hopefully at least the overall shape of the adventure is apparent.)


The first thing we see here is that this adventure has two distinct and totally separate paths based on the first decision point (broadly left-vs-right in the image above). There is no way to switch back from one to the other after the initial decision is made. You trigger one of two incompatible plot designs based on that decision (in one, the evil wizard & dragon plan to meet at the Edge of the World; in the other, the meeting point is Dragon Castle).

The paths are fairly linear; in general there's a pretty obvious "throughline" from the top to one of the two bottom victory points, with several danger zones along the way which might result in premature endings. This is more true on the left branch; less true on the right branch (which has a few crossover/back points, and actually two different successful endings).

My overall sense of this adventure (#13 in the line) is that it's more juvenile and rather "gentler" than some of the adventures that came earlier. The protagonist is a child-wizard with an intelligent and cuddly pet pseudo-dragon; most of the failure endings avoid directly saying that he's killed, usually leaving it ambiguous and off-screen. This impression is reinforced by the flowchart structure; there are numerous seeming hazard points where the decisions turn out to not be at-risk at all, with most or all of the options being success, or at worst returning back to the decision point (see prime examples on the lower left branch, like "53 shambler attack" and "22-24 over lava").

Edit: One other thing that strikes me as a bit odd is the very-long narrative endings for 2 of the 3 possible victories, after the last decision point has been passed. For example, at the bottom of the left branch you have "79-86 victory!", that is, an 8-page stretch of narration (including 2-page splash illustration) to conclude the adventure. On the right branch, one ending features "148-152 feed room & pearl", followed automatically by "102-107 dragon throne victory!", constituting an 11-page block of text without any decision point (the entire book being only 157 pages total). Hypothesis: I bet earlier books didn't have such long, author-centric, narrative "climaxes" like this very much.

Total number of variant endings: 13. Failure endings: 10. Victory endings: 3.


  1. Yeah, I came to similar conclusions when I re-read it. I didn't draw a flow-chart, but its linear nature and the 'no matter what you choose, you choose right' stuff definitely made this one seem less cool, even if a lot of the imagery and scenes are nicely evocative.

    And this is a nice reminder to me that I've still got a couple more to read and comment on...

  2. If you want to see a pretty cool flowchart of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, check this out:


  3. Matthew W. Schmeer: Wow, fantastic link! Thanks so much for that.

    The color-based comparisons are spectacular (lesson: high number of choices/endings early-on were reduced over time in favor of long narrative stuff -- what does that sound like?).

    And wonderful look at the end at the special ending to "Inside UFO 54-40". That made an enormous impact on me as a kid, although I couldn't remember the exact book, and you just saved me big search time trying to track it down.

    Highly recommended!

  4. @ Delta: Very cool. Dragon of Doom is one of the few EQ books I never owned/read as a child, but now I want to use this exercise with all the ones I DID read.

    Unfortunately, it's been tough finding any EQ books...I've been searching used bookstores for 'em the last couple months, 'cause I'd like 'em for my infant son. May have to go back to my parents' house, too!
    ; )