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These books, co-authored by Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax, are set in the world of Greyhawk and cast the reader as a young barbarian who must first prove his manhood and then set out on various adventures. The game system is very simple, and the books are designed to allow the reader to dive right in to the story, being directed to instructions only as they are needed. Whenever an enemy is encountered, a brief table is presented to facilitate combat; combatants take turns generating random numbers and doing damage to one another based on the appropriate tables. When a character runs out of hit points, it is dead. During his adventures, Sagard gains experience marks (which can be used to raise his level and thus improve his combat tables) along with various powers and types of equipment. All of these things carry from book to book. Randomization is achieved either with four-sided dice or by flipping through the book and using numbers printed on the page corners. The books were first released in the United States by Archway, then reprinted in England by Corgi with new (but uncredited) cover art.
Gamebooks1. The Ice Dragon
2. The Green Hydra
3. The Crimson Sea
4. The Fire Demon
Sagard the Barbarian ad (version 1)
This advertisement for Sagard the Barbarian comes from Computer Gamer issue 11, page 51. Thanks to Ryan Lynch for sharing the image.
Sagard the Barbarian ad (version 2)
This advertisement for Sagard the Barbarian comes from Computer Gamer issue 20, page 16. Thanks to Ryan Lynch for sharing the image.
Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian #1 - #2 Character Sheet
Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian #2 Hydra Tomb Map
Bibliography of Items About "Hero's Challenge: Sagard the Barbarian"
Reference/Non-Fiction BooksThe Gamesmaster: My Life in the '80s Geek Culture Trenches with G.I. Joe, Dungeons & Dragons, and The Transformers
This series was co-authored by prolific RPG designer Gary Gygax. While Mr. Gygax is the Grandfather of the RPG, he was less successful as a fantasy author. This series is meant to be a pastiche of Conan the Barbarian, but set in his fantasy world of Greyhawk.
The combat system is fairly basic, using a four-sided die, or the numbers 1-4 printed in the top corners of the book's pages. Most other challenges are either automatic successes if you decide to attempt them, or your success is random, or they result in a combat.
The books are fun, but not terribly deep. The plotline is extremely familiar, being the same as the aforementioned Conan the Barbarian. There are some nice action sequences, but things get bogged down in the combats, which take some time to complete. In addition, some of the unavoidable fights are extremely difficult if not impossible; the text usually gives you a chance to Run Away from the tougher opponents.
All in all, this rates a B-. The worldbuilding isn't as engaging as some of the better-known and loved series but it has some charm, and a good heaping of the nostalgia factor.
This series, heavily inspired by sword-and-sorcery in the vein of Conan the Barbarian, is among the less interesting series I've read (I would call it the worst full-system gamebook series if I hadn't read anything by Stephen Thraves).
The series is designed so that you can carry your character from book to book. There are only three stats: hit points, experience marks, and experience level. Fighting ability increases as you reach a new level. And pretty much everything you do in this series is fight: in all the books hardly two sections go by without a combat. I think I may have run across one puzzle in the entire series (and if you can't solve it the story solves it for you immediately afterwards). There are almost no abrupt endings, just fighting and more fighting until you reach the end. This wouldn't be that bad if it weren't for the fact that at least 98 percent of the battles are extremely easy to win. Things may be slightly more challenging if you play each book with a character with no items or experience from previous adventures; perhaps one day I might care to find out.
Of course some people assume that this series has to be good just because one of the authors is the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, but this is definitely not the case. Even the AD&D Adventure Gamebooks, which could be described more as souped-up versions of Endless Quest than as full-fledged gamebooks, had better gameplay than this. It's a shame, because it's obvious that the authors took care to develop a detailed setting for this series. These books are passable reads for the most part, but those wanting a 'Hero's Challenge' would do better to look elsewhere.
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