Archway Paperback, $2.25, ISBN 0-671-55487-5
The Ice Dragon is set in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world of Greyhawk, which you may be familiar with if you are a tabletop gamer. No, we are not talking about the setting with Raistlin Majere and Tasslehoff Burrfoot, that’s Krynn. Greyhawk is the one with Zagyg and Iggwilv and… oh, just read the gamebook.
You are Sagard, a sixteen-year old kid from the barbarian tribe in the northern Nyrond region. The plot of this campaign is simple – you will have to go out there, explore the regions around your home, and slay enough impressive creatures and collect their, uh, “trophies” to demonstrate to your elders that you are worthy of wearing your +3 manly loincloth of doom. That’s all there is to the plot. Now be off with you – go kill things!
There isn’t much to say about the gameplay system apart from the fact that you need a four-sided die instead of the usual six-sided type. You can flip through the pages and settle for any page at random in place of the die though, because there are numbers printed at the top right corner of the pages as substitute for the die. In combat encounters, you basically roll dice, keep track of stats, and deduct the damage from your Hit Points. There is nothing too unusual or different here if you are familiar with gamebooks. The campaign itself isn’t too complicated as well. The adventure path is actually quite linear and you can actually pass the Ordeal of Courage easily if you have missed out on quite a few trophies as long as you slay the Ice Dragon. Oops, did I spoil the campaign? No, not really. You don’t think this gamebook is called The Ice Dragon without a reason, do you?
Difficulty-wise, this one is average. The combat system is very reliant on die roll, but if you are unlucky in that area, you will still find many ways to restore your Hit Points. You will only have to think a little in your quest to confront the Ice Dragon, but even then, it’s really not easy to fail unless you are feeling deliberately contrary and pick counter-intuitive paths for fun.
The Ice Dragon is a decent effort for a basic hack-and-slash gamebook. The prose is basic and serviceable, although the authors clearly perk up to put plenty of effort in pointing out how near-naked the female characters you encounter are. Maybe they are aware of how simple this campaign is and need some excuse to keep you awake. All in all, this one will do if you are up for something that don’t force you to think or keep track of details too often.