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on 9 August 2012
The Golden Dragon series are similar to the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf series, featuring a story/game split into parts, where the player's choices and dice rolls determine the outcome. The main difference from the better-known series is in the combat system, which uses only one statistic, Vigour (Endurance/Stamina). Dice rolls are used to determine combat outcomes, but the outcome is set by the text (e.g. a roll of 2-5 means the monster hits you, 6-12 means you hit the monster). Since the rolls usually favour the player, this is rather like playing a Fighting Fantasy book with a very high Skill score. The gamebook also uses Psi (magic) and Agility scores, which are both rolled at one dice plus three (hence 4-9). Since they are tested with rolls of two dice, rolls are difficult to make about half the time. This doesn't affect the experience much, as rolls of this type are rarely made and usually only to compensate for bad choices.

Like most gamebooks, the story is like a puzzle. The player's success will probably depend on finding the right items. It is easier than most gamebooks I've encountered, for three reasons. Firstly, it doesn't generally rely on luck. It does not require success in difficult combat situations, difficult dice rolls, lucky blind choices or the right selection of which random items to keep. Unlucky choices are usually survivable, and missed items don't generally mean later death. Secondly, most of the choices are surprisingly intuitive. In contrast to many gamebooks, doing the sensible thing usually pays off (with a couple of exceptions). Thirdly, the combat situations are rarely "to the death", and can often be avoided. It is also considerably shorter than most gamebooks, at 300 sections (compared to 350 for Lone Wolf and 400 for Fighting Fantasy). This brevity and simplicity means the gamebook is unlikely to survive more than a few runs at the hands of a seasoned gamebook reader. This said, it's fun to read, with lots of items to collect and some unusual scenarios to negotiate. My main criticism is that the structure is too linear. Most choices lead back fairly quickly onto the main pathway, which limits replay value.

As a story, the narrative is basic but functional; it's a typical dungeon crawl, with nearly all the action taking place in the crypts below the vampire's house. The atmosphere is somewhere between the pervasive creepiness of a horror gamebook and the standard D&D-style fantasy scenario. Many of the adversaries are undead or horror-themed creatures such as bats, witches, zombies and skeletons, but there are also fantasy villains such as a hobgoblin, and many scenarios based on magical illusion or hypnosis. There are also pockets of serenity within the dungeon, the survival of which is really rather mysterious. I feel the vampiric horror atmosphere is more effectively conveyed in Fighting Fantasy: Revenge of the Vampire, which creates more unusual and challenging situations and adversaries while remaining within a horror atmosphere throughout. However, this is a worthwhile gamebook to read/play, particularly as a casual read which will not take weeks to solve.
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on 18 February 2014
Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks were one of many adventure gamebook series to appear in the mid-eighties. ‘Crypt of the Vampire’ was the first to be released for the range and as you might expect from the title it is based around quite a traditional idea.

The storyline leaves a lot to be desired. There really isn’t much of one and the adventure relies on the vampire slaying idea with very little embellishment. There is no real explanation as to why you would be hunting down this vampire or what you are doing near his atypical estate with spooky house and crypt. It seems as if you wander in there by chance. The lack of a background/prologue section (remedied by all the following books in the series) probably makes this seem worse.
There are also no plot twists or developments within the adventure. The reader merely travels through the house and the crypt overcoming obstacles until they can find and slay the vampire. Likewise, the eponymous vampire, Lord Tenebron, is utterly the stereotypical, Dracula style portrayal. A bit more uniqueness to his character and some more interaction with the adventurer would have given the final confrontation a greater impact.

However, the passages are fairly well written and the adventure is structured quite well, albeit simplistically. It creates a reasonable level of atmosphere but this is varied and a little irregular. There are a couple of very memorable moments in the skeleton band, the unicorn battle against zombies and the strange chess game. Although just incidents in the adventure that don’t really effect the story overly much they are probably the book’s highlights and are certainly more interesting than facing Tenebron.

The biggest problem with the adventure (and all Golden Dragon books) is probably with the combat system. It is far too simple and based entirely on chance. It basically involves rolling two dice; a low score wounds you and a high score your opponent. There is no consideration of combat skill/ability or choice of weapon. A fully armoured warrior with a magic sword has no more advantage than a defenceless goblin. This can be very frustrating as rolling a few ones in a row can easily kill you. It is also quite tricky to find any way of restoring your VIGOUR once injured. There are few opportunities for this.

The other statistics, PSI and AGILITY, seem to be a bit better though out but there really isn’t a great deal of use for them in this adventure and you will rarely find them being tested.

This is a fairly easy adventure to overcome and most readers with some experience of gamebooks could probably complete this on the first read through. It is a pretty standard approach and there is little to be caught out by. It is certainly the easiest of the Golden Dragon range.
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on 19 December 2015
The Golden Dragon series was one of my favourite of the era. I missed Crypt Of The Vampire when it was first published and had to barter most of my magazine collection to convince someone to part with it, to be able to complete my collection. Although having significantly culled my gamebook collection some years back (not sure what I was thinking), this series survived and the originals still sit proudly on my shelf.

The story is a simple and relatively linear one, with the plot line evident from the title of the book. The author was clearly aiming at a younger audience to those reading Fighting Fantasy and other such series. Having just re-read the book some 30 years on from the last time, it is also evident he was cutting his teeth within the genre. However, the writing is excellent and the story, whilst short and sweet, is enjoyable.

I would recommend this book to any parent for children of around Junior school age, and would recommend some of the author's later gamebook and non-gamebook work for the parents, as well as the children.
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on 18 December 2015
Whilst it is not not David Morris's greatest work, this gamebook is nonetheless a worthy read. Simple enough to not be frustrating, but with enough of a non-linear path to allow replays, and no horrific one true path approach like some gamebooks I can think of. There is little back story, which remarkably makes it more immersive as you Fashion your own as you read. Add to that a real hammer horror feel, though perhaps it does drift into generic dungeon crawl matter in places. Recommended to any fan of his work, or any new to gamebooks as a good starting point.
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on 19 December 2015
These books deserve to be more famous, as they are at least as good as any of the best Fighting Fantasy books and have the beautiful prose of Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson which gives them a flavour unique, rich and colourful.

Any fan of gamebooks (interactive fiction is the politically correct term I believe) would enjoy these, and for the younger reader they are an excellent stepping stone to the Blood Sword and Fabled Lands series.
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on 22 December 2015
Great early effort by Mr. Morris.
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