Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Vault of the Vampire vs. Wychwood Pumpking

As the nights draw in and the wheel of the year turns, Samhain, The Eve of All Hallows, Dia de los Muertos is nearly upon again and what better way to celebrate but to pick up two dice, a pencil and an eraser and do another of our infrequent Beer vs. Gamebook series!

What's in your backpack?
Fighting Fantasy 38: Vault of the Vampire
Wychwood Breweries Pumpking

Fortunately for the premise, the adventure actually starts in a tavern, so we order a bottle of Pumpking from the barman. Pour into a glass and admire the clear coppery amber colour.  Some old crone in rags and frayed shawl moans on at length about villagers going missing and being taken up to the local castle, raising an eyebrow and twirling our moustache at the mention of her 17 year old grand-daughter of beauteous repute. Alas, the promise of rescuing fair damsel from some ill defined fate at the the hands of the local night-haunting gentry does not inspire us to action. Oh no. Not this hard-boiled adventurer, we've got a bar tab as long as our arm and some means of clearing it is all we care about. It is only when a a local one armed man offers us the lure of cold, hard, cash, as offered by that we finally take the bait and decide to go on the quest. Swigging a hoppy mouthful of Pumpking and wiping ones gob on the sleeve we spit and shake on it, confirming the deal.

By some dark magics a black carriage arrives directly on cue, and the headless driver beckons us to enter. Yeah, why not? Short cut to the castle, might as well get on with it and see if we can get back to the Harts Blood in time for last orders. Grabbing me bottle of beer, I lurch into the carriage as it trundles off to yonder tower of terror.  Sit back, enjoy the ride through the moonlit gnarled forested countryside and take a few sips, pleasant light caramel flavour with a slightly disappointing watery finish, not bad, but feels like it could have had its middle-notes beefed up a little.  There are some strange dealings with FAITH - that's not the name of the presumably buxom peasant girl whose virtue we mean to, erm, rescue, but a measure of religious devotion and ability to withstand the grisly supernatural horrors of the night.  It may be that the beer is having an odd perceptual affects but it's only 3.8% so we decide the ghostly apparition that appears in the seat opposite, grinning inanely and offering little in the way of help or hindrance is an actual apparition. Strange things ghosts.

Finally the coach arrives at the castle gate and we stagger around a bit outside, some windows in the towers are lit up, but no back door or secret entrance presents itself, and the windows are too high up, so creeping in stealth mode seems out of the question, so decide to go for the main gate. Once inside we look around for the wine cellar, poke around in a storage cupboard and marvel at the endless identical corridor-door door-corridor combinations.

Alchemists Home Brew Eqipment | Martin McKenna

Utterly bewildered by the labyrinthine nature of Mauristatian architecture, we burst into an alchemists laboratory. The old duffer has a friendly homunculus to introduce guests, and he seems to be concocting some home brew he claims is capable of lifting Lycanthropic Affliction. Kind of feel guilty we hadn't contracted any of that, thus making the old duffers complicated alchemical experiments all a bit pointless. As we wander around we keep being prompted that I should have a Magic Sword, maybe cadging a lift off the headless horseman wasn't such a good idea after all, seems an awful lot of stuff to have missed out on, werewolfery, magic swords. Still at least I have my bottle of Pumpking to keep me going, another swig reveals the whisper of musty spices, maybe a ghost of cinnamon or a shade of cloves, but not really a full on taste of pumpkin one might expect from a pumpkin ale.

Barely escaping a WRAITH by running up the wooden stairs (one expects it's some kind of Dalek Wraith). Also getting a bit tetchy about my lack or abundance of FAITH determining ones fate. Less decision making, more dice rolling.  More doors, corridors, corridors and doors. Open one or other of them and discover some delicately cobwebbed femme fatale conked out in a chair. Doesn't look too much like a 17 year old village wench in need of rescuing so poke around looking for a trap or something then oh no! she wakes up gasping for a drink, gallantly I offer fair maid her a swig of the old Pumpking ale, but she emphatically declines before sinking her teeth into the old tie-holder and draining the life out of this old soak.... oh well, better luck next time.

Faith! Girls! Drink! | Martin McKenna

There is no doubt Vault of the Vampire is in decidedly Hammer Horror territory. If Fighting Fantasy 10: House of Hell was a Dennis Wheatley adaptation about modern covens of Satanists in stately homes, then this feels more of a mid-70s quasi-historical Hammer classic (given the number of female vampires, perhaps the Karnstein Trilogy, but with less heaving of bosoms - it is a Puffin book after all) .  It's hard to judge the book given my very short run through before death, but the heavy reliance on the FAITH mechanic to decide the outcome of events seemed a little overly mechanical. The beer was rather good, quaffable and inoffensive, a workman-like light amber bitter rather than a strong Pumpkin brew, a decent enough drink, but not nearly as spirited or interesting as hoped from a seasonal Halloween themed ale.

Pumpking was brewed by Wychwood Breweries. Vault of the Vampire was written by Keith Martin, illustrated by Martin McKenna and published by Puffin in 1989 and was the 38th book in the Fighting Fantasy series.

Beer: 2
Gamebook: 2


  1. Is that a BBC micro in the background? The colours seem to match!

    The corridor bits are dull, but Vault of the Vampire does have some interesting aspects. There are multiple different ways to defeat the Count and the members of the Heydrich family are memorable and full of personality.

    1. Well spotted! Yes indeed that's my trusty BBC Model B next to 'Steve' the pumpkin at the back there,

      Shame that I didn't manage to break into the depths of Castle Heydrich and discover the family, memorable NPC personalities are reasonably thin on the ground in FF (poor old Mungo...). The 'maze' parts looked like they'd be a fun to map as well. Maybe next time.

  2. Well, I don't want to suggest it's a great work of family drama, but the Heydriches are an interesting lot. The poor old Count comes across as a bit of a loser -- rather than the grand villain he thinks he is -- when compared with the rest of his family, and Sargent/Martin leaves enough in the way of hints that you start to wonder what happened to make this family the way they are.

  3. Huzzah! for the (albeit fleating) return of the Gamebook/Beer Review mash up! :)

    1. Hey! Glad you liked it.

      I do keep thinking about playing [i]Deathtrap Dungeon[/i] for the 200th time, maybe a quick session with ale involved might start the ball rolling. Someday.

    2. That would be excellent - they are most welcomely diverting posts :)