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Item - Night Dragon

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Series: Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin) — no. 52
Translated Into: Le dragon de la nuit (French)
Author: Martin, Keith (pseudonym used by Sargent, Carl)
Illustrator: Hough, Tony
Date: January 27, 1994
ISBN: 0140364072 / 9780140364071
Length: 400 sections
MasterChief's Thoughts:

Bold Statement: This is quite possibly the finest Fighting Fantasy book ever written.

The whole experience is so in depth, involving and atmospheric I have trouble finding a FF book that can beat it. At heart, the plot is as simple as they come: An evil dragon is awakening and will destroy the whole of Allansia and possibly the rest of Titan with it unless someone stops it. That someone is, of course, YOU!

The plot obviously doesn't set this book apart from crowd; the gameplay however is where the book comes into its own. With Keith Martin at the helm it will come as no surprise to any FF fans that the main system of SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK is supported with a number of extra rules and stats to keep things fresh and interesting. In this case, we have NEMESIS points (to keep track of the Night Dragon's servants in turn keeping track on you) and a TIME score (as you have a limited amount of time to reach and destroy the book's namesake before it draws its full strength and starts destroying everything).

The writing style is one that a more mature audience may appreciate. As the 52nd book in the Fighting Fantasy series it reads far more adult in fashion than many other FF books; especially the earlier ones such as Forest of Doom and The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which avoid complex vocabulary altogether.

Keith Martin isn't afraid of drawing the book towards a more mature audience, and the atmoshpere generated whilst doing so is matched only by the equally excellent Martin penned story, Revenge of the Vampire. Paragraphs are of a suitable length to be able to flesh out the story without generating boredom during repeated play, and the high quality of the writing remains consistent all the way through to the famous 'paragraph 400.'

One other way that this book is handled by Martin sees Night Dragon set apart from Fighting Fantasy crowd: the incredibly clever use of numbers and puzzles. We've seen similar puzzles explored in other FF books; for example basic statements such as 'you find a copper key with the number 111 engraved on it.' Chances are, at some point you will be asked if you have the key; if you do, subtract the number on the key from the paragraph you are on at the time and turn to this reference.

Night Dragon approaches this in similar fashion in its heart, but on the surface of things it's done in a much more open and fun style for puzzle lovers.

As a FICTICIOUS example in order not to give anything away: You may have picked up a book called The Sixty-Six Tales of the Demonic Plane given to you by an old wizard called Yaztromo. When the book comes into play later in the adventure, you will be asked to convert the Wizard's name into numbers using the 'A=1, B=2, C=3.......Z=26' formula, adding the letters together. Subtract the number in the title from the number you have just converted and turn to this paragraph.

Night Dragon proves to be a great book that is expertly crafted, meticulously designed and is a pleasure to play through again and again. Proof that Fighting Fantasy never lost its way, and arguably got stronger and stronger right until the end of the Puffin publications in 1995.

Revenge of the Vampire (Keith Martin, FF book #58). Another fine example of how gamebooks should be written, from the same author as Night Dragon.

MY SCORE: 10 out of 10

More reviews by MasterChief

Special Thanks:Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the cover scan and Ben Nelson for the character sheet.
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Play Aid

Fighting Fantasy #52 Character Sheet