Josh Christofferson, $11.99, ISBN 978-1460911857
It’s a shame that Josh Christofferson decided to put a slew of rules that, while would make any rules lawyer moist with joy, would also have most other people running for the hills. Aside from the standard combat rules involving picking random numbers and comparing them, there are also rules for spellcasting, eating, and resting, all involving number crunching. It’s a good thing there is some restraint and there is no rule for taking a dump. Items don’t just occupy a slot – they occupy certain number of slots, which means you have more numbers to take note of. There are even more rules that would not be touched on here, in addition to “game modes” that would earn you special titles if you meet certain conditions. For example, completing this campaign without getting involved in any combat encounter earns you the special Magical Pacifist title. Titles would play a role in future gamebooks, according to the rules.
With so many rules thrown to your face even before the campaign begins, you may miss out on that part where Mr Christofferson says that you can always make up your own rules if you wish. Why make so many rules, then, many of them don’t add anything more than number-crunching to the whole proceeding? There is something very self-indulgent in a rules lawyer gone wild manner here, and it won’t come as a shock if there are people out there who put down this gamebook because of the initial bombardment of so many rules.
This is a pity because the actual campaign is pretty fun. Despite all the scary numbers in the rules, casting spell turns out to be easier to figure out than expected, and the whole campaign is actually far less complex than the number of rules may suggest.
Anyway, you are a wizard, of course. Your name is Blackstaff. At only 25, you are already an outstanding member of the Order, an organization devoted to guiding magic users and other light armor class professions down the path of good. However, the campaign opens with you in prison and with no apparent memory of how or why you end up in there. Breaking out of the prison in Spellspire is simple. The hard part is figuring out what happened to you and how you can sort out the mess you are in.
The story is actually very interesting, with a nice twist at the end. However, perhaps the story is better off delivered as a conventional fantasy novel, since the story forces the character of Blackstaff into a set type of personality traits for the twist to work, and these traits are generally not the sort that make a compelling blank slate protagonist in a gamebook. In fact, Blackstaff as a character seems almost… repulsive at times, which make it hard to invest so much time and effort into his adventure.
Wizard Outcast has an interesting story and a gameplay system that is simple enough to make up for the frequent monotonous number crunching and note taking it requires one to do. Still, much of its strengths are better suited for a novel. As a gamebook, it has its share of hits and misses.