Puffin Books, £3.50, ISBN 0-14-036407-2
Like all foolish heroes, you are a bored warrior who seeks out a mighty challenge worth your time in Port Blacksand. You are drinking in the Hemlock tavern when a Dark Elf approaches you with a quest. A Night Dragon is stirring in the Dragon Reaches up north, and he will decimate everything and everyone in its path unless you can stop him. The Night Dragon used to serve the evil god Death in his army until he was consigned to the Dreamtime… but now he is about to awaken. Already, his Stalkers are roaming the lands. Alas, the Dragons of Titan are bound by an ancient oath to never harm the Night Dragon, so now they seek a hero to do their dirty deed for them.
While the combat system in Night Dragon is the same as any other Fighting Fantasy gamebook, here you also have to keep track of your Honour score and Nemesis points. Your Honour score reflect how much of a goody-two-shoes you are, while the Nemesis points reflect how much your enemies are aware of your antics. Oh yes, you also need to keep track of your Time score too, but that one isn’t that important as the final boss is already tough in the first place and a bad Time score only serves to make him stronger in a negligible quantity. More importantly, you have to keep track of Special Items, some of which are crucial for victory, and numerical features associated with them along with names. Keep a calculator around, as you will need to convert words to numbers (A is 1, B is 2, and so forth) and add up these numbers.
But while the overwhelming need to juggle with numbers can be tad unnecessary – Honour and Time don’t really affect the campaign that much – there is an excellent storytelling element in this campaign that makes the often frustrating retries to find the one true path to victory worth the agony. And make no mistake, this is a tough campaign due to the sheer number of overpowered opponents you will be facing, and we aren’t just talking about the final boss. You also need some Special Items to get to the finish line. But while the conditions for victory are pretty rigid, finding ways to get there are too much fun. There are memorable encounters with interesting characters, intriguing scenarios, and an epic feel to savor. By the time you are done, you’d be tempted to replay the whole thing now and then just to soak in the majesty of this campaign.