There was a book I had in the mid 80s that I'd love to find again. I don't remember the title or author, but I'm almost sure it wasn't part of any of the more well-known gamebook series like Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, etc. It most likely was published between 1984 and 1989.

I think part of the book (I could be wrong about this) was a general explanation of how rpgs work and the rest was a solo adventure. I don't remember anything about the mechanics, but here was certainly some dice rolling involved.

The cover that I'm picturing in my mind is black with a stone stairway on it. The text may have been red. It was bigger than a standard paperback book; something closer to "trade" size. The interior art consisted of simple black and white illustrations.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I've been trying to find this book for years.

Perhaps it is a book called Dicing with Dragons by Ian Livingstone?

• “Most likely published 1984 to 1989”: it was first published in 1982, and there were several later editions with the last one being published in 1986.
• “Part of the book was a general explanation of how RPGs work”: Dicing with Dragons contained a section to introduce people unfamiliar with the concept of role-playing games to them. This section included a transcript of a small portion of what playing in an RPG can be like (as many introduction to RPG sections in player handbooks have these days). It also contained a section with synopses of the popular RPGs at the time, including D&D, Traveller, RuneQuest, Tunnels and Trolls, and others.
• “The rest was a solo adventure”: A large portion of the book is a solo adventure that uses a 3d6 system and you navigate to the different parts of the adventure in a choose-your-own-adventure style with numbered paragraphs. Other sections in the book that I can remember (as I do not have my copy on hand) were some brief chapters on miniature painting, computer gaming and RPGs, as well as a couple of live-action ways of RPing.
• “The cover is black with a stone stairway and red text”: A couple of the covers are predominantly black, one with a red banner with text on it and the other with some red text. Although there are no stone stairways one does feature some stone texture dungeon tiles with minis on them.
• “Trade size”: The copy I have (first UK edition) is definitely larger than a mass-market paperback, though I don't believe it is full trade size (if I understand a brief wiki-ing of paperback sizes correctly). I haven't seen physical copies of other editions so I cannot speak about their size.
• “Black and white illustrations”: Absolutely. Generally as the cover page for each new chapter. Some of the more notable paragraphs of the solo adventure had accompanying illustrations (though not always on the same page as the paragraphs itself).

Below are images of the different covers and some illustrations (all found thanks to Google Image Search):

Covers:

Illustrations:

(More illustrations can be found by Google Image Searching for Dicing with Dragons. I just picked these ones arbitrarily.)

• I THINK THAT'S IT! This is amazing. Thank you so much. My father bought this book for me when I was first getting into D&D. My copy was lost long ago and I've been trying to remember the title for many years now. I'm not sure where I got the stone stairway from. Maybe one of the interior illustrations. Thanks again. I'm off to find a copy (with this cover!). – Penn Weizen Mar 28 '17 at 19:45
• No worries, I thought your description sounded similar enough to be worth throwing it out there. I stumbled across my Dad's copy many, many years ago back in primary school and it is what first got me interested in RPGs. – Magnetude Mar 30 '17 at 1:07
• Also huge props to @SevenSidedDie for editing the answer to look so good. Rest assured I will be going through the revision history to learn for future answers. – Magnetude Mar 30 '17 at 1:08