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The Ice Dragon

(American cover)
(British cover)
Series: Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian #1
Authors: Gygax, Gary
Dille, Flint
Illustrators: Corben, Richard (American cover)
Morrill, Leslie (interior)
Release Date: September, 1985
ISBN: 0671554875 / 9780671554873 (American edition)
Length:121 sections
Number of Endings:3 (not including death by combat)
User Summary: You must pass the Ordeal of Courage to prove that you are a warrior. The Ordeal involves going off on an adventure and bringing back various trophies to prove that you were successful in combat.
Demian's Thoughts: This is a good gamebook. There's definitely strategy to it. You need to collect enough trophies to win the game, but you also need to survive. This dilemma makes for an interesting challenge.

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts: This book is set in the northern region of Nyrond from the Greyhawk campaign setting, which in turn forms part of the Dungeons and Dragons mythos. The setting is a mountainous, alpine tundra and, as expected, the story contains the basic cornerstones and clichés of the Conan the Barbarian genre. It also includes science fiction elements, which are probably an influence from early D&D settings such as Blackmoor. The objective is to hunt for as many trophies as possible, which are won by fighting battles. However, achieving the objective will require following a major quest all the way to the end and completing it. The book has rather few sections, but they are longer on average than they would be in a Fighting Fantasy book, without being nearly as long as is the case in other American series like Swordquest or Crossroads.

The design of this book is very elementary. Although the player is offered different paths and alternatives to try, the book's events follow the same general path no matter which choices are made (except towards the end, where it's possible to choose some paths which lead to failure). Choices are for the most part rather obvious or in some cases, inconsequential (the most notorious exception is one point where the player has to choose among several caves to explore). The adventure is one of the most pure incarnations of the "hack-and-slash" style one can find in gamebooks: hardly two sections go by without a combat, and the system is designed so that the player will almost certainly lose several hit points even in a battle against a weak opponent. Combat, however, is the book's main downfall. Most of the fights in the book are rather easy to win, and there are so many opportunities to replenish the player's hit points and obtain power-up items that s/he is unlikely to ever feel really in danger. Tough battles only come as a result of really foolish or cowardly choices, so proceeding all the way to the end is not very hard. The choices do not impact the difficulty of the adventure much, either. As a result, collecting the needed trophies and completing the adventure successfully is practically a cakewalk. Achieving an optimal score is not too difficult, with only a few not-too-hard choices towards the end making the difference.

It should be noted that some people agree with me about the low difficulty of the die rolls, while other people disagree. A possible explanation is that I use a computer program as a randomizer, thus implying a different probability function than is the case when using dice or flipping the book's pages. Considering that the computer program is less likely to introduce biases into the probabilities, I suppose my comments on the difficulty stand.

The illustrations are mostly okay. One curious fact is that the interior artist, Leslie Morrill, illustrated many Choose Your Own Adventure books, but never came around to illustrating another gamebook series with a full game system.

Completing this book will leave you with a more powerful character, which will only make the next one easier, so I can't recommend it even for character advancement, which many people are fond of.

I found the book a fun - if short - read in spite of its flaws, but overall there is little in here to challenge experienced gamebook readers. The book introduces the reader to a detailed, non-Tolkienesque setting however, and for this reason alone it may be worth a look.

More reviews by Guillermo

Kveto's Thoughts: Ever want to read Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons and Dragons) write a Conan the Barbarian knock off book? This is the book for you, then.

I think Gygax was out of D&D at this point, but I imagine his name attached to this was a big draw.

Sagard is a northern barbarian, Conan in everything but name. He's even morose and looks for barbarian babes. The writing is at times atmospheric, at other times underdeveloped. Some sections are long and others brief but interestingly, each section has a title which basically describes what happens in it.

The combat system is fairly meh. Lots of dice rolling (or page flipping if you are a weirdo who doesn't own a four sided die), which makes the fights feel dragged out, Fighting Fantasy style.

This is the first book in the series, which is basically one of those barbarian boy on a manhood quest stories, with no real purpose to the adventure.

It's okay, but the series will get better.

More reviews by Kveto

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Related Documents

Play Aid

Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian #1 - #2 Character Sheet