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Paths of Doom: Sete-Ka’s Dream Quest
Adventure Book
Reviewed by Matthew Pook, © 2007

Format: Game
By:   James M. Ward
Genre:   Choose Your Own Fantasy Adventure
Review Date:   May 29, 2007
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

Paths of Doom: Sete-Ka's Dream Quest describes itself as an Adventure Book, which it is, and is not. It is an Adventure Book in that the reader chooses multiple paths to determine the outcome of the book; but it is not, because in reading it, it does not feel like you are on adventure. The problem is I bring my own very English and historical prejudices to this review.

My own experiences with the solo adventure style books owes more to roleplaying with the famous Fighting Fantasy Solo Adventure books and the many solo adventures for the early fantasy RPG, Tunnels & Trolls. These involved the dice-rolling mechanics familiar to the RPG that added a random element to fighting monsters and overcoming challenges.

Sete-Ka's Dream Quest is much more a "choose your own story" book. The sections that make up its various story strands are longer, between one and three pages in length. Each section ends with one of two things. Either a pair of options that each sends the reader to a page elsewhere in the book where he may continue the story, or the simple phrase, "The End." This indicates that for the reader the story is complete and the adventure over.

As the reader progresses from one paragraph to the next, he constructs a linear story just as in any other story, even though the book is not organised in that fashion, consisting of a beginning, a middle, and an end. The aim of a book like this is to create multiple linear stories, each with the same beginning, different middles, and totally different endings.

This Paths of Doom book has an Ancient Egyptian theme. The young Prince of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sete-Ka, has fallen into a sleep from which he cannot be awoken. In truth, his spirit has been separated from his body by the goddess Bast, who sets him tests of rulership that he must pass if he is to become Pharaoh like his father. Over fifty sections, the adventure provides a similar number of options, with half of the entries ending in the ominous words, "The End."

In the process, Sete-Ka will find himself training with spirit warriors, rescuing imprisoned spirits, facing the enemies of Egypt in battle on land and at sea, and making choices, all the while being tempted by the evil god, Set.

Although the singular aim is for Sete-Ka to survive and pass the tests set by Bast so that he will awaken and follow in his father's footsteps, the sections that finish with "The End" and complete the adventure are not always fatal. Often, Sete-Ka will die but have his spirit serve Bast and Egypt.

Yet the choices presented in the options at the end of each section often feel random, there often being very little clue as which is the best option to select out of two equally poor choices. The result is that very quickly, the reading becomes a frustrating experience. Interesting, but frustrating.

Published by margaret weis productions, ltd., better known for Serenity: The Roleplaying Game and the most recent roleplaying incarnation of the Dragonlance property, and penned by James M. Ward, better known as the designer of the post-apocalypse themed RPGs, Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma Worlds, Paths of Doom: Sete-Ka's Dream Quest is nicely illustrated with Egyptian themed monsters and locations, and as a story would be an enjoyable and informative experience. As a "choose your own adventure" book, Paths of Doom: Sete-Ka's Dream Quest is not quite as enjoyable as you might wish and lacks the options enough to warrant repeat play.

Just this once, Matthew Pook, Revolution SF's Games Editor refuses to make any Solo Adventure Book jokes. He suggests that you choose your own.

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