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Literature / Vault of the Vampire

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Classics never die... sometimes too literally

Vault of the Vampire is the 38th entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Keith Martin.

You are a bold and daring adventurer travelling across the Old World of Titan: in the haunted lands of Mauristania you reach the village of Leverhelven, whose inhabitants are plagued by the presence of a terrible and ancient evil in the shape of Count Reiner Heydrich, a vampire lord. After hearing that he recently kidnapped a young girl from the village and took her to his castle, you decide to help the villagers and rid the world of this monster, facing the dark perils of the Vampire's castle.

The book is a standard, well-written horror adventure: in addition to your usual Skill, Stamina, and Luck scores, you also have a fourth score, Faith, which can be used to repel certain opponents and acts like a sort of Karma Meter. Of course, you can also get certain Afflictions which may give you maluses or outright cost you your life during your quest. Furthermore, since most of the quest takes part inside the castle, you have a slightly bigger chance of exploration and can sometimes revisit certain locations. Martin would later write a direct sequel to this story, albeit with a different hero, titled Revenge of the Vampire.

Vault of the Vampire provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: The female ranger is more than capable of fighting, though she only accompanies you for a little while.
  • Affably Evil: Katarina Heydrich, despite being Reiner's sister, will offer you some food and wine if you stumble into her room, as well as offering help. And also mesmerize you into finding and killing Lothar.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the very final showdown, there are two possible combinations of items you must use to slay Reiner, one for staking him and one for the cross symbol. Thankfully, you only need one of each type, no matter which, to proceed.
  • Armor Is Useless: Zigzagged. Siegfrid's Chaimail Armor and Crossed Shield aren't completely mandatory to complete the book, but they do provide a fine series of bonuses if you pick them up.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Admit it, being attacked by a living Tiger Rug is unusual even for this type of story.
  • Barrier Warrior: You, possibly, if you manage to learn the Forcewall Spell.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted. The only bear you encounter is the Ranger's companion, and will attack you only in self defense.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Too bad for you, she's a Baobhan Sith, waiting for some sucker to fall for her trap.
  • Big Bad: The lord of the castle, the Vampire Count Reiner Heydrich, whose tyranny plagues the region.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: It eventually appears that Reiner's sister Katarina is as much of a threat to you and to the country as him, and serves as the True Final Boss.
  • Blob Monster: Doctor Faustus' remains take the form of a disgustingly creepy Necrotic Jelly, which holds his rotten visage in its mass. It can worsen any Affliction you may have if it lands a hit on you, making it a dangerous foe.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Averted with Nastassia: If you lose too many Stamina points fighting Katarina, she will grab a dagger and fight by your side, giving you a boost.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • The heroic paragon of virtue that was Siegfrid Heydrich, and his utterly evil brother Reiner.
    • Katarina the evil and haughty witch, and the humble and generous healer Gunthar.
  • Cool Sword: You can find a Magic Sword in at least two locations, which allows you to fight against certain undead enemies. There's also Siegfrid's own sword "Nightstar", which was hidden away inside the Book of Swords and is the best weapon you can obtain.
  • Charm Person: Katarina will seduce your character into becoming her personal killer to assassinate Lothar the Castellan.
  • Chaste Hero: Averted. You are clearly mesmerized and seduced by Katarina if you enter her room, and you can kiss the sleeping Baobhan Sith on the lips to awaken her.
  • Classical Movie Vampire : Count Reiner Heydrich is clearly an hmmage to Hammer movies and the like, complete with Villainous Widow's Peak, fancy clothes, and black cape with High Collar of Doom. He has most of the powers and weaknesses associated with Vampires, including Hypnotic Eyes, domain over wolves and beasts, Super-Strength, Voluntary Shapeshifting into a wolf, a bat or Super Smoke mist. When it comes to weaknesses, he is highly vulnerable to Holy Water, he has a Missing Reflection, he Cannot Cross Running Water, he cannot stand garlic, and he must be staked to be fully destroyed... Long story short, he fulfills pretty much the entire list of Vampire Tropes.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Wilhelm Heydrich is an insane, talkative loony who may be friendly to you or attack you on sight with his cavalry saber, but is not evil. That being said, you're not penalized if you kill him in self-defense.
  • Cool Sword: Nightstar, if you manage to find it. It gives an attack strength bonus in all combats, it is magical and allows you to fight enemies immune to normal weapons, and against Reiner it gives a double attack strength bonus. It can also be used to stake him once you've put him down, assuming you've destroyed enough of his coffins.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Snivel the Gnome ferryman is actually a thrall of Count Heydrich, and likely to backstab you if the Ranger is not with you.
  • Distressed Damsel: Nastassia, the girl from the village Reiner kidnapped and locked in the Crypt. There's a twist, though: he was preparing to give her to Katarina, instead of draining her blood like he does to most of his captives.
  • Early-Bird Boss: You can pick a fight with Katarina as soon as you meet her early on, either through deliberately attacking or mentioning that you want to save the girl. You need to have a magic sword, and after hitting her in combat four times, she vanishes after a last ditch effort of Charm Person (implying you were Fighting a Shadow).
  • Evil Versus Evil: Katarina will be openly delighted if you admit that you're here to slay her brother.
  • Expy: Count Reiner Heydrich is essentially Dracula transposed into the world of Titan. The sequel's cover art even depicts him wearing Bela Lugosi's outfit, from the movie adaptation of the thirties.
  • Eye Beams: Both Thassallos(es?) can shoot damaging green rays of sheer cold from their eyes.
  • Final Boss: Count Reiner Heydrich: Far and away the mightiest and deadliest foe ever faced in the story, with 13 Skill and 21 Stamina. He's only the final boss if you failed to get the Golden Ending.
  • Forced Transformation: One of the possible game overs has you turning into a mindless werebeast. You can also get turned into a bat if you're under the Bat's curse and are hit by the Necrotic Jelly.
  • Gamebook Cruelty Punishment: In this game you're given the choice of attacking and killing helpful people such as the forester, Lothar the Castellan, and Gunthar the Healer, but you are penalized for doing so. In the case of Wilhelm, if he is insane when you come across him and he attacks you first, you will not be penalized, but if he was lucid or you made the first attack, you do get penalized.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The story explicitly states that it's not possible to kill Count Heydrich without a Magic Sword, even making it an instant loss if you don't have one when starting combat with him. However, if you use the right items and roll the best possible scores, the Count can be killed without needing a magic sword at all — he has a fixed amount of Stamina and you can reduce it well below zero by using items before the actual fight starts. Then, you only need a stake to finish him off in his coffin.
  • "Get Back Here!" Boss: When Reiner's health drops below a certain point, he will turn into a bat and try to run away to catch his breath and heal himself. You can prevent him from doing this with the Forcewall spell.
  • Ghostly Advisor: Siegfrid, Reiner's good brother, will appear as a ghost to help you in your quest.
  • Golem: A Wooden Golem pretending to be a statue in the Count's art room. It even resembles the iconic Golem from the Paul Wegener silent films (instead of the usual featureless elemental brutes).
  • Hellish Horse: A demonic fire-breathing steed can be found in the stables. It's stated to be Reiner's favourite horse.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The spell Jandor's Bolt casts a brilliant bolt of light that deals damage to the undead. You can also find some Holy Water you can use.
  • Ignored Enemy: At the very beginning, the Count's headless coachman comes to Leverhelven to take you to the castle. If you don't trust him, you can pretend that he isn't there and ask the villagers about another path to the castle.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: In another case of Anti-Frustration Features, if you failed to find the Nightstar sword, Siegfrid reveals you the location of another Magic Sword in the Crypt which will allow you to fight against Reiner, albeit with a slightly lower Skill bonus.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Siegfrid's sword "Nightstar" gives you a bigger bonus than any other Magic Sword, and can wound and kill Reiner. It is sealed inside the Book of Swords and only Siegfrid's ghost can release it.
  • It Only Works Once: When Katarina appears in the finale, if you were seduced by her once, you remember her methods and resist her second attempt, which means you can attack first and wound her.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: In the Count's chambers, you're attacked by a massive Horned Bat and a small, blood-sucking weasel. You can only attack the Bat; when you kill it, the weasel runs away.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Siegfrid was one back when he was alive, and you can possibly follow in his footsteps — quite literally, if you manage to recover all his equipment.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: Inside the castle, some rooms include a monster guarding something useful. You can encounter a Wraith, a Ghoul, and a dangerous Baobhan Sith in the Tower where Siegfrid's Shield is held, the Lesser Thassallos guarding Siegfrid's Chainmail, the powerful Specter guardian of Reiner's personal coffin, and the very dangerous Major Thassallos guarding the way into the deeper levels of the Crypt.
  • Mad Scientist: Doktor Faustus was highly implied to be one in life, and somehow managed to turn his own carcass into a nightmarish Necrotic Jelly.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Both Reiner and Katarina Heydrich live in lavish quarters, surrounded with works of art.
  • The Medic: Gunthar the Healer, who can help you with any Afflictions you may have, especially if you give him back the Book of Healing stolen by the Count.
  • Missing Reflection: Being a Vampire, Reiner casts no reflection and will be weakened if exposed to a Silver Mirror. Averted with Katarina, who's not a vampire.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Katarina Heydrich unless her real age is revealed and the Baobhan Sith are both enthralling pale beauties.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Thassallos (either Lesser or Major) is a massive, four-armed undead skeleton wielding a scythe and shooting green Eye Beams from its eyesockets.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • A subtle yet horrifying one. Reiner Heydrich is named after Reinhard Heydrich, one of the highest, most fanatical dignitaries of the third Reich.
    • Wilhelm and Katharina Heydrich, who share the Count's surname. By the time you meet them, you already know that the Count is bad news, and have some idea of what to expect from the rest of the family.
    • Played with with Wilhelm though, as he is only dangerous in an Ax-Crazy mood, but is most often a nice and friendly Cloud Cuckoolander.
    • Totally averted with Gunthar, a benevolent and helpful man with very powerful Healing hands magic.
  • Nice Guy: Lothar the Castellan is the most helpful and courteous person you come across in the castle. Gunthar Heydrich as well, though he is understandably afraid of his evil siblings and hesitant to help. Finally, Wilhelm Heydrich can be this, but only on a good day.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Most of the Count's servants are undead, with Zombies serving as standard guardsmen and servants.
  • No-Sell: If you try to attack the Headless Coachman, your sword will phase harmlessly through him, which makes you lose a Faith point. Many of the castle's monsters are only vulnerable to a Magic Sword, and trying to attack them with a mundane weapon will result in this. In the final battle, Katarina laughs off your Jandor's Bolt and your Holy Water since she's not an undead.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Two of them near the end: if you failed to destroy enough coffins, the Count will escape you upon defeat, leaving you with no way to know where he is going to reform. If you did destroy the coffins, but lack the means to stake the Count, you'll have no choice but to leave the castle with Nastassia alive but the evil still at large.
  • Older Than He Looks: Believe it or not, but Katarina is well over seventy years old. She uses Blood Magic to retain her youth and beauty, and plans to sacrifice Nastassia for it.
  • Only in It for the Money: The Sage is perfectly willing to reveal you everything he knows about the castle and his masters for a small price.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: A Huge Ghoul inhabits a room in the mansion's tower and can be repelled with enough Faith. A second, festering Ghoul hides in the Crypt and cannot be repelled.
  • Permanently Missable Content: If you give Katarina the Book of Swords, you will never be able to obtain the sword "Nightstar" that's hidden inside it.
  • Plot Coupon: You'll need a Magic Sword to survive most enemies, along with numerous keys and the items required to stake the Count for good (a Silver-plated Stake or Nightstar, along with either a Cross or Siegfrid's Shield).
  • Rapid Aging: Katarina Heydrich upon her defeat.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: A huge one the size of a dog, called a Great Rat, attacks you in the castle.
  • Savage Wolves: Ferocious wolves are found in the Castle's stables, and Werewolves roam the forest.
  • Schmuck Bait: Did you really think that you would find red wine and edible biscuits in a Vampire's castle? Averted with the white wine though, it's very good.
  • Shout-Out: Possibly a coincidence, but your death at the hands of the Sage (he summons a Dragon's head from a Crystal Ball to burn you to a crisp) recalls the first cover of the first book of the series, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: One of the ways to destroy Reiner permanently is by using a special Silver-plated Stake.
  • Skippable Boss: It is possible to use the newly-acquired spells to deal with the Major Thassallos instead of fighting it.
  • The Starscream: Katarina is perfectly content living in luxury in the castle and is on pretty good terms with her brother, but she would gladly seize any opportunity to have him killed so that she can claim the title of countess.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Highly implied with Reiner by a journal you can find in the library: the concerns of his grandfather over the rumors of Reiner's vampirism are interrupted by his writing where he claims to have finally reached this "blessed" state of existence.
  • True Final Boss: Katarina Heydrich, who shows up after you kill her brother to get rid of you and claim the title of Countess.
  • Turns Red: In an unusual example, Reiner will grow more feral and try to bite your throat when his Stamina is closer to 0. It's an instant death if he manages to score two hits.
  • Turn Undead: Some of the undead monsters you come across can be repelled by you if your Faith is strong enough. Zigzagged with the Huge Ghoul: you can turn him back with Faith, but he will fight back if you attack him.
  • Vain Sorceress: Katarina Heydrich is vain, beautiful and flirtatious, and she uses the female victims of her brother to fuel her youth and unnaturally long life.
  • The Vamp: Both Katarina Heydrich and the skippable Baobhan Sith will try to mesmerize the hero with their beauty.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Katarina is drop dead gorgeous. Averted with Reiner, who is noted to have been very handsome as a human, but lost much of his beauty after becoming a vampire.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: The Forester can give you some Garlic that comes in handy when Reiner tries to bite you.
  • Vampires Sleep in Coffins: The vampire you are hunting, Count Reiner Heydrich, keeps several coffins in various locations around his castle. A major part of your quest is destroying them so he does not have anywhere else to flee to but the nearest coffin during the final battle.
  • Walking Ossuary: The dreaded Thassaloss (major and minor) are guardians to items crucial in beating Count Heydrich. They are presumably each cobbled together from the bones of two giants, as they are individually four armed giant skeletons that wield a scythe in each pair and shoot cold fire from their eyes.
  • Wooden Stake: Of course, you can use one to finish Reiner off, but the one you need has a silver-plated point. For some reason it's changed into a Silver Dagger in the Italian translation of the book. You can also use Nightstar this way if you lack the Stake.