FF38: Vault of the Vampire

David Anderson
Andrew Whittingham


[David Anderson]

The people of a tiny village turn to you when one of their own is carried off by an evil vampire.

As I reviewed dueling werewolf books from two series earlier in the month, here I am now reviewing dueling vampire books from the same series (the other being Master of Ravenloft, if you missed it). In premise they're all but identical: you, a hardy warrior, must explore the decrepit castle inhabited by a powerful vampire and his army of the living dead. You need to assemble an arsenal of magic doodads to achieve this lofty task, and if you're not careful bad things can happen to you. In Vault, unlike Master of Ravenloft, these bad things don't manifest as the loss of experience levels, but as various Afflictions. One for instance, is lycanthropy, but this is Vault of the Vampire, not Howl of the Werewolf. This was an interesting thing to include, although there's just so many possible afflictions in the castle it starts to feel silly after you discover the third or fourth one.

There's also the Faith score, which is how you defend against fear and mind-control attacks. For a book where your enemies are predominantly undead and ghostly in nature, this was a pretty good idea. It's like your Luck stat, but it only goes down if you fail, which makes sense.

Ultimately, Vault feels simplistic, but I found it satisfying anyway. I enjoyed hunting for the lost arsenal, slaying the undead guards and learning who was and who wasn't worthy of my trust. The main thing I don't like is the lack of replay value. Once you've conquered the vault, you've seen it all.



One need only read the title and gaze upon the gruesome cover to realize the main idea of this book. The adventure takes place in the gothic land of Mauristatia, The Olde World's answer for Transylvania. You, brave hero as you are have resigned yourself to freeing the beautiful Natassia from the evil Count's clutches. In addition to Skill, Stamina and Luck your character also has a faith score which represents your purity and resistance against undead attackers. The main part of the adventure takes place in the dreaded Castle Heydrich (if anything this gamebook has excellent names!), the path to which is fraught with danger. The castle is realistically set-out in the shape of a castle (4 towers, steps leading to higher levels, a courtyard, etc) with access to certain places restricted until you have gained certain items or knowledge. The inhabitants of the Castle are an eerie lot, some friendly, others not. All are intelligently thought up, with varying personalities. The entire book is illustrated in beautiful detail, with paragraph 313's picture truly one of the most horrendous pictures I have seen in a Fighting Fantasy. Thinking carefully and logically is the key to success in this book, doing foolhardy things such as drinking red wine is not a good idea! (Though I was so curious to see what the effects would be I did it anyway!) Many powerful artifacts such as a holy sword and suit of armour lie in wait - though it will take more than a few attempts to find them all. One particularly fine element to this gamebook is that if you find every hidden item, think carefully and have a bit of good luck it is quite possible to win the book with SKILL 9, despite the vampire count possessing a SKILL of 13 (you may need a certain hidden item however!). The end battle is very enjoyable, with the vampire using his innate vampire skills to his advantage. You are also able to enlist a number of powerful magiks to aid you near the end of the game. Another interesting aspect is the various afflictions which can belay you, such curses as lycanthropy and the 'curse of the bat' await those unlucky enough to fall prey to such things. This is a book which gets easier the more you play, and I highly recommend it to those at home alone on a dark scary night... rated number 10 in my collection.

Rating: 8.2/10


[Andrew Whittingham]

Everyone's heard of Count Dracula. He was the evil Vampire created by Bram Stoker and to this day that is what all vampire stories aspire to. The story of the Transylvanian count is now so popular that vampires are known to everybody, and almost anyone could tell you what a vampire hates. Vault of the Vampire is Dracula for Fighting Fantasy. Although the story follows a different line, the aim is essentially the same. The goal of the story is to find and kill the Count. In this journey, your enemy is the Count Heydrich, but the parallels between him and Dracula are obvious.

The adventure takes you to the distant mountains of Mauristatia in search of glory. Like any adventurer, your pedigree depends on your achievements and wealth, and Mauristatia is your latest destination. It is there that you discover the hideous secret that is kept within the town. People vanish from the village, and the villagers easily infer that their destination is Castle Heydrich, where they succumb to the bloodthirsty Count's evil ways.

Once you learn of your quest, you naturally head up to the castle to try and deal with the Count. This involves a trek along a similar note to that featured in Dracula. One there you go inside. No locks on the door to stop brave adventurers like yourself of course! Then you enter the castle's court and start to look around the various areas of the castle. There are about five doors to choose from, but once you've been to one, two of them suddenly become unavailable. A few growling noises behind them scare you and you decide not to try them. When reading this I thought, surely it should be up to the adventurer to choose whether they avoid the growling. Naturally, it's irrelevant in the long run.

One of the big plus points of this book is the faith skill. Your aim is to build this up as much as possible before the final encounter so that you aren't scared off. It can go up and down, but depending on the situation it can either have a good or bad effect. The problem arises when you believe that everything you see is true, when otherwise you could just walk past a rather irritating ghoul or wraith. Still, it allows you to face up to tough battles that would otherwise have you scampering for cover. The actual story thereon is rather obvious if you know anything about vampires. You have to collect a magic sword and then you require the usual assortment of garlic, crucifix and holy water. These aren't hard to find, and in many places if you miss something you can return to the last corridor. There are also some special magic items that can be used to help your quest. Littered around the various rooms of the castle are Siegfried Heydrich's armour, shield and sword. Siegfried is the former Count of the castle and tells you to find these items if you can as they have special powers against vampires.

Apart from Siegfried many of the Count's family are also to be found in the castle. These take the form of anything from weird to sly, and although some are good acquaintances, all can not be trusted. Eventually you come to the final battle with the Count. This is where you will need all the things that you have collected and in the end there are two ways in which he can be beaten. You need a combination of the magic items to finish him off, providing you can overcome his super-human strength. He has a skill of 13, so he's an opponent not to be taken lightly. However, he is not easy to get to. Count Heydrich has some guardians called the Minor and Major Thassaloss. Neither are easy opponents and can get most heroes in to a bloody battle. There are ways of avoiding them with a combination of magic and skill, but there are advantages to be gained from killing them, that's if you're clever enough to work out the riddle.

By the riddle I mean a really easy problem. The fact that it took me an hour to work it out is shameful. The riddle looks like a cryptogram, and I took it as much. The fact that in my notes I had something saying backwards and forwards for an hour fully escaped my attention. Doh! The actual ending may turn out to be a surprise. The final battle is certainly a classic encounter, but you still have to face Katarina if you manage to kill the Count. All very tough and quite complex at the end, but it is rather exciting and the author deserves credit for this part for sure.

The book is actually very well written and there are very few hitches. The story is very good, but the problem is that it's generally obvious. Anyone who has read Dracula will no what to expect before they get to paragraph 1. You hunt out the Count, collect the garlic etc, and there you go. He's dead. Well you know what I mean! You also have to destroy some of his coffins which is a nice touch, but again it's in Dracula. Although keeping to a story of such classic proportions it not a bad idea, it does quash the originality of it. Count Heydrich is not developed well enough to get a legendary status in Fighting Fantasy circles in this book alone, although he does return in the sequel Revenge of the Vampire. Unfortunately he's just a plain vampire with super-human strength, still I like vampires so I liked the book.

The other problem this book has is its linearity. Every journey sees you going along a similar path. It's obvious where to go next, and it really is hard to get lost. It's pretty direct, sending you past all the items needed which unfortunately makes it an easier job completing it than other Fighting Fantasy books. I mean, if I managed it...

Apart from the linearity and obviousness of the story, the book is excellent. It is probably one of the better adventures, although not quite good enough to make it into the top 10 books. It is readable, there is no difficulty with the language, and most important of all it is thoroughly enjoyable. It took me five goes to complete it with a skill of 12 on my fifth turn, after never having more than skill 8 on my first four tries. I almost dies against the two Thessaloss' but the battle with the Count was not too taxing due to the goodies I had in my possession. Anyway, it's well worth the read and you certainly won't regret spending time with it.

Rating: 8/10
Challenge: 7/10
Story: 9/10