Published on January 17th, 2013 | by PJ Montgomery1
Deathtrap Dungeon – A Fighting Fantasy Flashback part 2
During yesterday’s visit to Deathtrap Dungeon, I made it all the way to the dungeon exit, only to be stumped by not having the right gems. Bit annoying. Will a second attempt yield more rewards, or just kill me? Read on, faithful Sidekicks, and find out…
Skill’s still good, stamina’s an improvement, luck… could be worse. Let’s go back into the dungeon and get those gems! I once more retrieve my gold and head west, but then take the north route at the second junction. I’m soon in a fight with a caveman, which I win pretty easily, and am given the option to take his leather wristband, adorned with rat skulls. Figuring any bonus given to a caveman probably wouldn’t help me much, I ignore it. Further along the corridor, I find an abandoned backpack on the floor. I reach inside and find a gold piece. Nice! And a black widow spider which bites my hand, causing me to lose one skill point and six stamina points. Less nice.
Continuing north, I find myself back in the idol room, and once more ropeless, have to test my luck to climb it. I succeed again, but once more have to fight the flying guardians with my skill reduced. Unfortunately, they prove too much for me on this occasion and kill me dead.
Skill’s getting lower every time, but my stamina and luck scores are pretty good this time out. So, once again, into the dungeon, collect the gold, arrive at the junction. This time, I go against the flow and ignore the arrow, following the solitary set of footprints east. The east passage is obstructed by some kind of spongy boulder, but this is climbed over easily enough. As I continue onwards, I notice the corridor getting hotter, and soon come to a piece of bamboo, stood on its end with a clear liquid in it. I drink the liquid, and find I am now protected against high temperatures. Which is handy, as the further down the corridor I go, the hotter it gets. However, thanks to the liquid in the bamboo, I navigate the corridor easily enough.
I then come to my first door, which has an iron plate in it. I slide the plate, and see a room with a pit in it, and some rope on a hook on the other side. Experience has told me I need some rope, so I open the door, leap over the pit, and take the rope. Giddy with my find, I’m surprised when I turn a corner and run into two orcs with morning stars. Morning stars which they swing at me. Morning stars which really hurt when they hit you. Morning stars which hit me for three stamina points of damage. Bloody morning stars. I battle the orcs, who have much lower skill scores than me, but roll much higher dice totals, and nearly kill me. However, I just prevail, and get a gold piece and a wooden tube for my troubles.
The next door I come to opens up into a room where I see one of my rivals, the barbarian who isn’t Throm, fell for a nasty trap and got impaled on several spikes. Careless. Figuring no one else will need it, I raid his body and eat his food, gaining three stamina. He’d want me to, I’m sure. On the other side of the room is a silver goblet containing a red liquid. I fancy drinking that, so lift the goblet, springing another trap. A successful luck test means I avoid the dart which shoots out of the plinth, but I do spill the liquid. Now I’ll never know what it did. Still, shiny silver goblet. Yeah, I’ll take that.
I leave the room and turn north, ending up once more in the idol room. Having rope this time, I don’t need to test my luck to climb it, but I do still need to reduce my skill against the flying guardians. This time, I kill them dead and nick the emerald, before climbing back down and, thanks to a successful luck test, retrieve my rope. After this, my adventure proceeds much as it did the first time for a while. I insult Sukumvit, get the wishing ring, walk through the faces, get the dagger from the worms, kill the giant fly (this time without it dropping me from a great height), try and swing over the gap, fall in, find the ruby, answer the crazy mans maths question, fight the skeleton, read the manticore parchment, burst through the trapdoor and kill the goblins. It’s at this point my adventure deviates, and I head north.
I arrive at a door with what appears to be a human hand nailed to it. Opening the door reveals a man chained to the wall, coincidentally missing a hand. He begs me to set him free, and being the kindly sort, I oblige. He tells me that he was a contestant in the Trial of Champions four years ago, but he was captured by the Trial Master’s orc guards. He just wants to get out of here as quickly as possible, but does tell me I’ll need to collect gemstones if I’m to be successful. Yeah, I’d pretty much worked that out.
Further on up the corridor, I find a large pipe in the wall. It’s probably something’s lair, but it could also contain treasure… Let’s investigate! I climb in, and find a wooden box which rattles around, as if something is inside. Deciding I’ve pushed my luck far enough, I back out of the pipe and open the box, finding the precious sapphire I needed, as well as an iron key. Continuing north, I come across Throm’s orc victims, and once more, my adventure takes a familiar turn.
I opt to travel with Throm straight away, get lowered down the pit, read about the bloodbeast, drink the trap detection potion, fight the cave troll, choose to not explore the cavern this time, and arrive at the dwarven Trial Master. This time, I’m successful in the dice test, and once again win the cobra test. I choose to fight the minotaur again, then kill poor Throm.
Figuring that I’m doing better this time around at this point, and that the dwarf may have something of use, I throw a punch at him on my way out, and have to fight him to the death. This proves to be a foolish move, as although I prevail, my fatigued state means a skill reduction for the fight, and he does me plenty of damage. I take his chainmail, and eat the last of my provisions.
Heading west, I find a room behind a panel of glass, containing a crown studded with jewels, and a load of giant insects. I need jewels, so I break the glass and enter the room. However, the insects sting me for some damage, and the crown and jewels are fake. Well, don’t I feel silly. And in pain. I’m going to die soon if I don’t get some more stamina. I continue west, and hear someone coming towards me. An old, miserable looking man is shuffling towards me carrying a tray of food. I decide to be nice, in the hope that he’ll give me some, but he doesn’t. He does, however, tell me that he’s a servant of the Trial Masters, and is trying to save money to bribe his way out of Deathtrap Dungeon. If I give him a gold piece, he’ll tell me where I can find some treasure. I accept his offer, and am informed that a potion is hidden in a wooden panel on a chair to the north.
I head north, and find a chair. Hmmm… Something about a chair to the north… It was ages ago… What was it? Oh, yes. I open the panel, and get a doppelgänger potion. Sounds like that could be handy. Further along the corridor, I arrive at a part of the dungeon which is full of water. Remembering a poem I’ve heard a couple of times now, I dive in and swim for it. Making it to the other side, I have to test my luck to make sure my possessions haven’t been ruined. Thankfully, luck is with me on this occasion.
Continuing on, I come to an opening, through which I can see someone rolling around on the floor. Thinking that looks fun, I approach the figure, only to find that it’s one of my rivals, the elf lady, being crushed by a large boa constrictor. I kill the snake for her, but she’s still looking a bit peaky. She tells me, as so many others have, that I need gemstones, but she also knows that one of the gems I need is a diamond. But… I don’t have a diamond! There’d better be a diamond between me and the exit. While I’m moaning about not having a diamond, elf lady dies, so I take some daggers, a mirror and a charm off her, then eat her food, gaining three precious stamina points.
Carrying on my way, I come to an iron grille in the floor. Iron grilles always hide useful treasures. Fact! I lift the grille, and spot a grappling iron and a leather pouch, which I reach for greedily. Sometimes diamonds come in leather pouches! Unfortunately, as I pull my arm out of the hole, it gets grabbed by a random tentacle. I manage to cut my arm free, but there is damage, and I lose a skill point. However, I get the grappling iron, and the pouch, which contains a small bell, not the diamond I was hoping for. I’m naturally suspicious of bells after my last encounter with one too. Oh, well. Onwards!
It’s not long before I arrive at another door, behind which is a big ol’ chest, with footprints leading towards, and away from it. Could one of my rivals still be ahead of me? Could it be the ninja, given the first barbarian was killed by spikes, the knight was turned to stone, I knocked off Throm, and the elf lady was killed by a snake? Probably. But for now, I suddenly become aware of a trap in the chest, thanks to the potion I drank earlier, which I avoid. I find a pendant in the chest, but where there was a stone clearly set in it, there is now nothing. Who wants to bet there used to be a diamond in that pendant?
Continuing along my way, I soon encounter a group of troglodytes dancing around some kind of altar. There are too many of them for me to fight, or sneak passed unnoticed, but I do have that doppelgänger potion. I drink the potion, and become a troglodyte. This allows me to get by the little creatures, but the potion soon wears off, and they spot me. The angry troglodytes then chase me over a bridge, where I come to a locked door. Thankfully, I have the key, and quickly walk through the door to escape my tiny pursuers.
Inside the room, a voice calls out to me, and I meet an old man with a basket attached to a length of rope. He offers to get me into the dungeon’s upper level in return for something from my backpack, so I give him the mirror, and he shouts up to someone named Ivy to pull me up. At the top of the ascent, I find myself face to face with Ivy, who turns out to be a troll. She demands payment too, but I decide to try and talk my way out of it. I look around her room, and see a painting of a familiar looking troll on the wall. I ask Ivy about it, and her tone suddenly changes as she starts to tell me about her beloved Sourbelly, one of Lord Azzur’s city guards in Port Blacksand, who she’s very proud of. Suddenly glad I didn’t kill Sourbelly when I met him on my visit to the City of Thieves, I keep Ivy talking, then smash a stool over her head, knocking her unconscious. I think Deathtrap Dungeon has successfully, beaten any honour out of my system.
I take an old bone from Ivy’s chamber, and leave, arriving in a room with a bunch of angry looking dogs. Good thing I have a bone to throw. Getting passed the dogs, I come to a high wall, on the other side of which I can hear a loud roaring. I use my rope and grappling iron to climb the wall, finding myself looking into the lair of a gigantic pit fiend. This guy looks like he’d easily crush me in a fight, but luckily, I have the bone monkey charm I took off the orcs Throm killed earlier. I throw the charm at the pit fiend, which catches it in its gargantuan mouth. The charm suddenly expands to fill said maw, and the fiend begins thrashing around. A successful test of my luck gets me passed the giant monster without injury.
As I head northwards, I see a sign which says “No weapons beyond this point.” Um… Yeah, have you seen the monsters in this place? I’m ignoring that. Good thing too, as I’m soon attacked by my ninja shaped rival. There’ll be no teaming up with this one, so I kill the ninja. Though not as easily as I just made it sound. As suspected, the ninja has the diamond I’m after, as well as some rice and bread, and a healing ointment, which all gives me precious, precious stamina.
After the ninja, I encounter the bloodbeast and the manticore again, with my battles reducing my stamina to a total of three points. The gnome jumps out at me, but this time, I have the emerald. And the sapphire. And, yes, the diamond. I now have to place the gems in the exit door in the right order in order to get out. First, I try sapphire, diamond, emerald… And get hit by a blast of energy. I get lucky, and only lose two stamina points. The gnome also tells me that I had one of the gems in the right place, but another wrong answer is definitely going to kill me. I guess I had the sapphire right (nothing more than intuition), and go sapphire, emerald, diamond… Which turns out to be the correct answer! Joy!
However, before I can exit the dungeon, the gnome chucks a ball of gas at my feet. A successful test of my luck means I avoid any damage, and I follow him to the exit. Just before I get out, I find the gnome dead with a crossbow bolt sticking out of him. Seems Baron Sukumvit had one more trap in store on the Walk. But only one, as I soon leave Deathtrap Dungeon to the roar of a jubilant crowd, who were gathered there despite no one having ever beaten the Trial of Champions. I guess they saw how awesome I was before I went in. Victory!
So, Deathtrap Dungeon is a deeply unfair book, but as discussed previously, there’s something fair about the fact that it’s unfair, given the nature of the quest, and it means that when you do best it, you get a real sense of achievement. Livingstone’s descriptions of the dungeons various locales are descriptive, atmospheric and claustrophobic, while Iain McCaig’s illustrations are among the best in the entire Fighting Fantasy series. It’s a real shame that, aside from a few covers, his work wouldn’t be seen inside another FF book. The dungeon itself forces you to explore to track down those pesky gems, and it’s impossible to predict what’s going to help you and what’s going to hurt you. Deathtrap Dungeon also brings something new into the FF series, in Throm. This is first time a book would give you a companion to adventure with, if even only for a brief period. It’s a fun part of the book, and something Livingstone would run with in both Caverns of the Snow Witch and Crypt of the Sorceror, in which you get two companions for good chunks of the books, and Armies of Death, in which you have an entire army travelling with you. If I were to describe Deathtrap Dungeon in one word, that word would be “fiendish”. Then I’d add “fun” as a second word. It’s a wonderfully put together book, and if you’ve never read an FF adventure before, I’d honestly tell you to think about starting with Deathtrap Dungeon over The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. It’s brilliant.
Coming soon: Island of the Lizard King