In the 80s, there were two main sorts of branching narrative books. The first stuck to the basic form of the novel, as in the Choose Your Own Adventure and Endless Quest series. The second contained their own light RPG systems that incorporated combat and chance into the stories. Of this second variety, the six-volume Golden Dragon series is one of my favorites, even if it is a bit uneven.

This is the first, Crypt of the Vampire, by Dave Morris, with Leo Hartas delivering some lovely illustrations. As these things go, Crypt is a solid start for the series, even if it is essentially a fairly straightforward dungeon crawl on a structural level.

It is super atmospheric though and more than a little weird, requiring a good deal of cleverness to overcome conflicts. And there are plenty of memorable moments, including the chess board battle, the skeleton orchestra and the vampire himself, who is a nice composite of several classic bloodsuckers.

Oh, I should mention, this is the American version of the book from 1986. The original British cover is much more traditional adventure gamebook fare. The American series made the questionable decision of signaling the books were for younger audiences by putting children with swords on the covers (despite the protagonists not being children), which, I think, ranges from comedic to disturbing as the series progresses.

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