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ANYTHING NICE: The Cretan Chronicles (Butterfield, Honigmann and Parker)

By Failbetter, October 3, 2014 · Anything Nice

In the long gamebook summer of the 1980s, Puffin published something unusual. The Cretan Chronicles was a trilogy about an alternate myth in which the Minotaur killed Theseus, and his younger brother was called by the gods to take revenge. They were written in a kind of Homeric pastiche-prose. They were by turns haunting, funny and incoherent. They had a Shame mechanic that worked sort of like radiation poisoning.

Here’s one of the many interesting oddities in the Chronicles. As gamebooks, they were built out of numbered paragraphs (‘turn to…’). If you noticed a paragraph number was in italics, you could ‘take a hint’ and do something not specifically available as a choice – act outside the box. You’d add 20 to the current paragraph number, go there, and something different would happen. Sometimes this worked beautifully – allowing you to recall and use an earlier clue, without trying too hard. Sometimes it was bizarre, unexpected, and unsuccessful. But for a mythic context where proper observation of ritual was vitally important, and where forgetful heroes meet appalling fates – don’t perform that atonement ritual if you’ve forgotten to lay aside your knife! – it was a fascinating idea. I haven’t seen anything quite like it since.


‘Anything Nice’ is is a series of very short posts highlighting things I liked about the treatment of narrative in other people’s games. It’s a deliberately magpie, grab-bag approach. Some of these games I adore, some I don’t even like, but I learnt from all of them.

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