Those were busy times. I had to turn down designing the PC game “Eureka by Ian Livingstone” because of all my magazine and book commitments. Maybe that was a mistake, as my friend Steve Foster, who wrote it in my place, told me he bought his first house on the proceeds. (The picture below, that's us back then in our slimmer days. I'm the one reading Captain America.) But at least with Golden Dragon I got my name on the title page. The road that’s grassy and wants for wear, you see.
Crypt and the later books nearly didn’t happen. In spring of 1984, while I was writing the first instalments of Castle of Lost Souls, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson offered me a contract to do a series of gamebooks for Games Workshop. I’d done bags of work for GW before – an entire role-playing game in 1980 called Adventure (never published; GW acquired the RuneQuest rights) and then in 1983 an entire Questworld campaign pack with Oliver Johnson (never published; GW lost the RQ rights). In the case of the gamebooks, though, they seemed to be serious. They were willing to pay an advance, and that was a first.
Except… it was £350 per book, which was a pittance even in the ‘80s. And it would have been an exclusive contract, meaning I couldn’t work with any other publisher. “Why would Ian and Steve want to compete with Fighting Fantasy?” I wondered. For whatever reason, I dragged my heels about signing and was mighty glad I did, as a matter of weeks later I went to see Angela Sheehan at Dragon Books, had a nice long chat, and walked out with a two-book deal.
Originally Temple of Flame was down as the first book in the series, and the contract describes the other as “Dungeon of the Undead”. I think it was probably my dad who said, “Put ‘vampire’ in the title, it’ll grab people more than ‘undead’.” The publishers wanted to call it Crypt of Dracula, but I wasn’t having that. These books would be read by kids, and I didn’t want their first experience of Bram Stoker’s creation to be in a gamebook. Dracula was already in public domain, Stoker having died seventy-two years earlier, but I believe writers owe a creative courtesy to each other that lasts a lot longer than the term of copyright – though, regrettably, not everyone shares that view.
For the new edition, I’ve revised the text slightly to excise the trad fantasy elements (a hobgoblin, an elf) that seemed most intrusive. Now the atmosphere is very slightly more Gothic, the setting less definitely medieval. “Ah!” the DW players will say, “but isn’t Wistren Wood in Ellesland?” And so it is, but my Legend games have moved on – past the Last Trump at the end of The Walls of Spyte, even – to a time of matchlocks and sabres.
But that’s getting close to a foolish consistency. Whether or not Crypt of the Vampire is set in Legend, at heart it belongs to the lurid fairytale world of Hammer horror, where Cushing’s alert, flashing gaze locked with the fiery brooding in the eyes of Lee, and dark ivy-choked halls waited in the depths of darker woods. I like what Johnny S Geddes said about Crypt on Demian Katz’s gamebook page:
“Every now and then around midnight, and especially when there's thunder outside, I go back and take another tread through the enchanted forest leading to a dark mansion.”That’s how I like to think of it being enjoyed. And, with Halloween almost upon us, here’s the chance to curl up with something creepy. The new edition also has Leo Hartas’s illustrations, incidentally – it was Leo’s first book as well as mine. Start as you mean to go on, that's our motto.