Any idea how to set up a Choose your own adventure round robin story?

Once upon a time there was a site called I Hate Jenn, with message boards and other goodies for fans of Dawson’s Creek. The very best feature on the site was the Choose Your Own Adventure stories.

It was like those books we had as children, you pick choice A or B (or maybe C if there was on) and it would lead you to the next part of the story. The thing that was unusual was that this feature also allowed you to add the choices people could pick when they got to the end of the story so far. Thus it was a CYOA-RR hybrid.

I’m fairly sure I could either:

  • write a choose your own adventure story for people to read, since it wouldn’t be too hard to do with web pages and HTML. But people wouldn’t be able to add to it since it’d be on my webpages.

  • or write a round-robin story with people on a message board. But threading wouldn’t allow for their to be choices to go to next without starting a hundred different threads and confusing everyone.

But I’d like to combine both of these things. Any advice on how to set something up that would act as both CYOA and an interactive fic? It’s obviously possible, but is there any practical way to do it? Unfortunately, I Hate Jenn closed 3 years ago, so I can’t ask the webmaster how he did it.

This sounds like the perfect job for a specialised CGI or PHP script and a database. This project actually sounds incredibly easy to implement, and I’m tempted to do it myself if only because it’s not too ambititous and I might actually get around to finishing it (unlike most - OK, all - of my past PHP projects). Alas, I have exams coming up, and I shouldn’t even be on this message board, let alone making PHP scripts.

Basically, each ‘page’ of the story will be stored in a database, along with an ID number (think of it as a page number). The PHP script would load the text from the database and display it. The URL of each page would just be the URL of the script, plus the page’s ID number (a GET variable). For example, page 1 might be “story.php?page=1” and page 32 would be “story.php?page=32”. Adding to the story is simply a matter of making an HTML form that adds a new entry to the database.

The biggest problem (apart from learning PHP if you don’t already know it) is finding a web host that supports PHP and gives you a database. These hosts are easy to find if you’re willing to pay a bit of money, but you don’t really have many choices when it comes to free hosts. I believe SpacePorts ( supports PHP and supplies a MySQL database.

If you don’t know PHP, a good starting place is the official PHP website ( Note that you don’t actually have to download anything to use PHP (unless you’re hosting the site on your own computer). I don’t really know anything about CGI, but I hear that it isn’t any easier than PHP (although you might have better luck finding something that hosts CGI scripts). MySQL information can be found at, although you don’t really need to know too much about it to do what you want to do. Again, you don’t have to download anything to use MySQL.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any other solutions that don’t involve learning a scripting language.

Actually, I just thought of a solution that doesn’t involve learning a scripting language. You could have an administrator (i.e. you) to whom people send the pages, and the administrator updates the web pages. Unfortunately, this solution places a huge burden on the administrator.

You could ask Valerie Mates .

That’s exactly what the I Hate Jenn stories looked like. She even offers the program for download as freeware, but it looks like it only runs on Unix and Windows NT :frowning: Not to mention I have no idea what the instuctions mean (ftp to your server? who has their own server? The only things I have to ftp to are my geocities and 50 megs directories, and that doesn’t sound like what she means)

I’d thought of Mbossa’s second idea as well, and I was hoping for something more immediate. I guess it will have to do if I pursue this idea.

That program is pretty much what my first idea is about, except that it’s already written for you. Also, it doesn’t appear to use a database, which opens up quite a few more options when it comes to choosing web hosts.

Nah, it only runs on Unix and Windows NT servers. It shouldn’t matter what you’ve got on your computer, cos the program actually runs on whatever computer is hosting the web pages (which, in your case, will be some huge computer somewhere in the Geocities building). Pretty much every web host uses either Windows NT or Unix (or something similar, like Linux), because hosting a web site with a ‘personal’ operating system (like Windows 98 or something) is akin to leaving your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition and a sign on the windscreen saying “Steal Me”.

That’s exactly what she means :D. The only problem is that a few web hosts won’t let you run your own CGI scripts (which is what this program is). I’m not sure what Geocities’ policy on the matter is, but if they don’t let you run your own CGI scripts, you may need to find some other host. Probably the easiest way to find out is to just try it and see if it works.

This program actually looks quite easy to set up - she just seems to be a bit too technical with her instructions. Basically, what you need to do is upload the files the same way you’d upload a web page.