Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Deathtrap Dungeon - Attempts 8, 9 & 10

Deathtrap Dungeon is starting to get on my nerves.  I don't mind a difficult gamebook, but it does get a bit disheartening to fail due to nothing more than the luck of the dice.  I shouldn't complain: this is Fighting Fantasy after all, and I'm playing the book because I enjoy it.  If I wanted to avoid being killed by bad dice rolls, I should have started a Choose Your Own Adventure blog.  Time to harden up, and face the task I've set myself.

(As always, those not familiar with the book will want to read my earlier posts on Deathtrap Dungeon.  I'm skimming over a lot of details here.)


My first character for this post rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 16, and a Luck of 10.  In most other gamebooks, he'd be a solid adventurer.  Here, he's just another doomed contestant in the Trial of Champions.

Despite my less-than-great chances of surviving the dungeon, I determined to make a proper go of it.  I've finished this book before with characters of Skill 11 or 12, but never Skill 10.  It would be a feather in my cap.

As I always do when making a proper attempt to finish the book, I chose the path that leads past the rope.  I had all sorts of trouble with the Flying Guardians when it came time to collect the emerald, though.  They brought me all the way down to 2 Stamina, and I'm confident in declaring them the most irritating combat in the book.

I had little trouble after that, to a certain point.  I've learned which encounters I can skip, to speed up the process.  I don't bother getting the Ring of Wishes anymore, as it's only usable in an encounter that's off the critical path.  I also skip fighting the Giant Fly; the only benefit to it is finding a dagger, and you can loot two of those from the elf-woman's corpse.

So everything was fine, and I was progressing well through the early stages of the dungeon, until I met and teamed up with the barbarian Throm.  We fought a pair of Cave Trolls together, and despite copious abuse of my Luck score I wasn't able to influence the result of the battle.  We were evenly matched in Skill, but the Cave Troll battered me mercilessly to death.



Now this was more like it: Skill 12, Stamina 18, Luck 10.  Armed with a Potion of Fortune, I entered the dungeon.  Only a miracle could stop this guy from defeating Deathtrap Dungeon.

It's amazing what a difference just 1 or 2 points of Skill can make.  I was absolutely trucking through this adventure, just murdering everything in sight.  The vast majority of fights I got through without a scratch, and soon enough I was past Throm, and the tests of the Dwarf Trialmaster, and I was in great shape.

All that changed after the grille.  You may recall that there's a grappling iron in a hole under a grille, and if you reach down to get it a tentacle wraps around your hand and causes you to lose a point of Skill.  There are no Skill bonuses to be found after that, so the book basically forces you to do the toughest battles with a Skill of 11.  Unless you want to risk fighting the Pit Fiend, which is not something I'd recommend.

My first battle after thus damaging my hand was with the Ninja, who very nearly killed me.  Fair enough, he is a Ninja, but with a Skill of 12 I would have blocked a lot of the hits he scored on me.  Still, I was able to prevail, and restore my Stamina to maximum with copious provisions.

Next up came the Bloodbeast.  With a Skill of 12 you would think it was a difficult combat, but normally it's not too bad: you only have to hit him twice before you can escape (provided you've read the book about Bloodbeasts, and to be honest you can't miss it).  This time the dice turned on me.  My Skill was only 1 point less, but I just could not score a hit on the bastard.  I tied it a few times, but otherwise it just kept on hitting me, winning ten combat rounds to my zero.  I don't recall ever having had such a bad run with the dice, which was unfortunate for my character, who ended his days as a meal for the hideous Bloodbeast.



As badly as the dice had treated me in the last game, they came up aces here: Skill 12, Stamina 20, and Luck 10.  I was a little more sanguine about my chances after my last failure, but I was still feeling quietly confident.

Much like Attempt 9, I was in very little danger in the opening stages of the dungeon.  I copped the odd hit here and there (most notably against those bloody Flying Guardians), but at no point was my death a realistic proposition.  I was feeling so good about things that, after the death of Throm, I decided to take a swing at the Dwarf Trialmaster.  Much to my surprise he actually deigned to fight me hand-to-hand.  He wasn't tough at all (Skill 8, Stamina 6), and as I brutally murdered him I found myself wondering what he could have been thinking.  He'd just seen me take down a Minotaur and a crazed Barbarian with barely a scratch on me.  More importantly, he could just as easily have shot me with his crossbow.  Dwarven stupidity aside, though, killing this guy was very satisfying, and you can loot a chainmail coat from his body for a +1 Skill bonus.

The only other thing I did differently than usual was to fight Ivy, the lady Troll.  It's not a difficult fight for any character with a hope of finishing the book, and you don't get anything useful from it that you don't also get by talking your way out of the situation.  It's much more fun to get her talking about her brother.

After my failure in the last game, the final gauntlet of tough combats was a bit of an anticlimax.  The Ninja fell easily, and I was able to kill the Bloodbeast in two straight hits.  The Manticore gave me a bit of trouble, but I was never close to being killed.  With the final enemy slain, it was on to the final door, and Igbut the Gnome.

As you may recall, three gems are required to open the door: an emerald, a diamond and a sapphire.  The last time I reached this point (way back in Attempt 1), I only had the emerald.  This time I had found all three.  Igbut explained that the gems had to be inserted in a specific combination, and if I chose incorrectly I would be blasted by a bolt of energy.  Igbut would give me hints about how close I was, but I didn't need them: I chose correctly on the first try.  (In actuality, I have the number of the correct paragraph for this choice memorised.  177 - never forget!)

With the door open, Igbut took his chance to make a bid for freedom.  He smashed a glass orb on the floor at my feet as he ran away, releasing a cloud of gas.  I passed my Luck test, though, and was able to escape without inhaling the fumes.  Igbut was not so lucky: he had fallen victim to Deathtrap Dungeon's final trap: a crossbow bolt.  Yeah, just a crossbow bolt.  Baron Sukumvit ran out of money near the end of construction.

So that was it!  I walked out into the light, gave Sukumvit the shock of his life, and claimed my 10,000 gold piece reward.  I must say that it was more with relief than jubilation that I completed the adventure.  After all, how many weeks could I spend blogging about the same damn book?

Success has come, finally.  I was almost ready to pack it in after failing in Attempt 9; that really was an unprecedented string of bad dice rolls, and I was starting to feel like I'd be in this book forever.  Luckily for me I rolled a 12 Skill again in the next game, and my flagging spirits were renewed.

I have a couple of wrap-up posts to do before I'm completely done with Deathtrap Dungeon.  After that, it's on to Island of the Lizard King.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Deathtrap Dungeon - Attempts 5, 6 & 7

I keep playing Deathtrap Dungeon, and I keep racking up deaths.  These books were never so hard when I was in primary school.  Probably because I was a remorseless cheater.  Playing Fighting Fantasy by the rules is a mug's game, but I refuse to give in.  Onward!

(As usual, I'm going to skim over parts of the book that I've detailed in previous posts.  Those not intimately familiar with it may wish to read my previous Deathtrap Dungeon posts.)


I rolled a Skill of 9, a Stamina of 18 and a Luck of 7.  There was no escaping reality here: this guy was never going to make it through Deathtrap Dungeon.  I armed him with a Potion of Strength, and determined to seek a quick death in a previously unexplored portion of the dungeon.  This was a suicide mission, plain and simple.

After entering the dungeon I turned left at the first junction, and continued on straight at the next (last time I went north, and ended up with a Skill of 2).  I came to an iron bell hanging from the ceiling, and could not resist the urge to ring it. The reverberations shook the passage, and caused my own body to tremble uncontrollably (at the cost of 2 Skill and 2 Stamina).  I had the option to try to deaden the bell with my boot, but instead I chose to scream as loudly as possible.  The noise attracted two hobgoblins, who promptly ran me through.  Well, I succeeded in my goal I suppose.  Death doesn't come much faster than this one.


This time my character was far more viable: Skill 11, Stamina 17 and Luck 8.  With scores like these I stood a decent chance of completing the book, so I chose the Potion of Fortune and set off.

I went right at the first junction, and passed through the initial areas with little incident: the spore ball, the hot passage, the Flying Guardians.  The only thing to note is that, when I fought the two Orcs, it described one of their morning stars crashing on my shield.  There it is, incontrovertible proof: you do begin Deathtrap Dungeon with a shield, as there's definitely no other shield to be found before reaching this encounter.  I am vindicated.

From there I went to the room where the disembodied voice asks you to name the master of the dungeon.  With the knowledge that I wouldn't need the Ring of Wishes to complete the book, I decided to explore the alternate option, by sucking up to Lord Sukumvit.  The answer given by the voice is pretty hilarious: it insults you for being spineless, and calls you a "loathsome creep".  Then the room becomes flooded with water.  I was able to escape by rolling less then my Skill on two dice.

Continuing on, I stepped through the beam of light to hear the girl's rhyme, and fought the giant fly.  After that I came to a junction with passages heading east and west.  Straying from my usual path, I went west.

(At this point I had a Skill of 11, a Stamina of 13, and a Luck of 6. I had 8 provisions remaining, and had found a rope, a hollow tube, a dagger, and an emerald.)

As I headed west, I could hear the sound of rocks being crushed.  Suddenly the wall to my right started to collapse, and a huge Rock Grub emerged, having burrowed its way through.

I stood my ground against the Rock Grub (Skill 7, Stamina 11), and was able to kill it without taking a single hit.  I had the option of entering it's bore-hole, but I opted against crawling down a slimy tunnel with no guarantee that it would lead anywhere useful.

I continued on, and the tunnel came to a dead end.  There was a large mirror here, but for once I mastered my curiosity, and decided not to investigate.  (I remembered that this is a trap, and one of the more memorable instant death passages in the book.  Looking in the mirror causes your head to swell to the size of a pumpkin until you black out and die.)

With nothing else to explore, I returned to the junction and went east along a more familiar path.  I fell in the pit (deliberately, so that I could claim the ruby at the bottom), answered the crazy old man's riddle, and came to the door with the letter X scratched into it.  I remembered that this door leads to the room with the Skeleton, and knew I had to go this way, but I felt like exploring, so I headed north instead.  I followed a long, straight tunnel with no doors, and nothing to investigate, and grew so complacent that I failed to notice a tripwire stretched across the passage.  Tripping the wire caused a large boulder to be released, rumbling down the passage towards me.  I was forced to drop my shield (lowering my Skill to 10) as I turned to flee.  Escaping the boulder required that I roll two dice, and get a result lower than both my Skill and Stamina scores.  With 10 Skill and 12 Stamina I had little trouble, and was able to make it to the skeleton room without being crushed.  (Funnily enough, dropping my shield actually lowered my chance of escaping the boulder. The relationship between Skill as fighting ability and Skill as athletic ability is often a screwy one, and rarely helped by the way that weapons and armour interact with both.)

I made short work of the Skeleton Warrior, and the two Goblins in the room beyond.  From that room I had two doors to choose from: north and west.  The last time I was here I chose west, and missed a vital jewel, so this time I went north (after eating two provisions to return my Stamina to 14).

The tunnel beyond sloped upwards for a time, until I came to a door with a withered hand nailed on it.  Inside there was a man chained to the wall, and one of his hands was missing.  There was something familiar about this fellow, but I couldn't quite place my finger on it...

Mr. Livingstone, I presume?

He cowered away from me, pleading for mercy.  I decided to cut him free, hoping that he had some useful information to impart.  He was grateful, and explained that he had entered the Trial four years ago, but had been captured and forced to work as a slave.  He had recently tried to escape, but was recaptured by an Orc patrol, and had his hand cut off as punishment.  He had little to say that would help me survive the dungeon: all he knew was that I needed to collect gems in order to escape.  I let him go on his way, but I had little hope that he would be able to escape on his own.  Ah well, at least I killed the Orcs for him.

Further down the tunnel there was a pipe on the right-hand wall.  I decided to crawl down the pipe, and was soon in total darkness.  While I was crawling I found a wooden box, and decided to return to the tunnel so that I could look inside.  The box contained an iron key and a large sapphire, and this find raised my Luck back to 7.

I continued north, and soon met the barbarian Throm.  This time I declined his offer to join forces, and headed east on my own.  The tunnel soon came to a dead end, with a piece of parchment nailed to the wall that read "Beware the Trialmasters".  I was forced to return the way I came and join forces with Throm after all.  ("Beware the Railroaders" more like it.)

We explored together, and Throm expressed his disdain while I read some books we discovered.  We fought some Cave Trolls together (and my Stamina was reduced to 7, but restored to 10 by a magical bone ring that one of the Trolls was carrying).  Just as our camaraderie was growing, we were met by the evil Dwarf Trialmaster, and told that we could go no further together, and that we must be tested to see who was most worthy to continue.

I did well at the Trialmaster's tasks, beating him at dice and catching his cobra bare-handed (not a euphemism).  At this point he led me to an arena, and handed me two pieces of paper.  One read "NO CROP IS" and the other "RUIN MOAT".  I was told to rearrange the letters to make the names of two monsters, and choose which one I wanted to fight.  I usually translate RUIN MOAT into Minotaur, but this time I was feeling cocky, and decided to fight the NO CROP IS Scorpion.

I'd forgotten how deadly this thing is.  Its stats (Skill 10, Stamina 10) are tough, though not insurmountable.  It also has two attacks per round, but other than that we were pretty evenly matched, and I felt that by using my Luck score I'd be able to defeat it.   It has a special ability, though: if at any point it rolls a double-6 for its Attack, it instantly grabs and stings you to death.  So guess what happened to me?  Dead in the third round.

I was done in by my own stupidity.  I blame the blog.  Because I need content for a post every week, I find that I have a strong urge to explore different options, and sometimes ones that I know are detrimental to finishing the book.  I took a few of those options here: taking the path to fight the rock grub, exploring the tunnel with the boulder, abandoning Throm for a short time.  The decision to fight the Scorpion proved my undoing; I hadn't fought it years and years (probably decades), and I'd forgotten it was so deadly.  Needless to say, I won't be doing it again.  Next time I get a character with high stats, I won't be taking any chances.


Skill 10, Stamina 16, Luck 12.  My Skill score was in the lower bounds of what I need to finish the book, but I decided to make a decent go of it this time.  Finishing the book with a Skill of 10 would be something to boast of.

I took much the same path that I had taken during Attempt 6, though I opted not to fight the Giant Fly, as I'm pretty sure that I don't need the dagger to win.  I had a close call with the Flying Guardians, who reduced my Stamina to 2.  By the time I got to the Trialmaster I had a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 11 and a Luck of 10.  I had 8 provisions left, and had found a rope, a hollow tube, a ring of wishes, a piece of parchment, a wooden mallet, 10 iron spikes, an iron key, an amulet of strength, a bone ring, an emerald, a sapphire, and 3 gold pieces.

Just for curiosity's sake, I decided to see what would happen if I joined Throm in attacking the Dwarf Trialmaster.  He paralyzed both of us with poisoned darts (reducing my Stamina to 9), and simply waited until we recovered to force us to take part in his trials.

When faced once again with the choice of which monster to fight, naturally I chose the Minotaur this time.  Although it did come within a hairsbreadth of kill me (reducing my Stamina to 1, and forcing me to use a Luck point) I found it a pleasant alternative to the Scorpion.  The follow-up battle with the crazed Throm was much easier.  I had restored my Stamina back to 15 with provisions beforehand, and he only hit me once despite our Skill scores being equal.

I took my leave of the Trialmaster, and when I came to a junction I headed west to investigate the sound of buzzing.  I came to the room that was full of insects behind a pane of glass, but I didn't investigate.  I also didn't return to the junction, as I'd done in Attempt 1; that way led to failure, so I continued west.

I could hear footsteps in the tunnel ahead, but I stood my ground to wait for whatever was coming.  A man appeared, his feet shackled, carrying a tray of bread and water.  He wasn't hostile, so I spoke to him.  He was another of the Trialmasters' slaves, and was hoping one day to gather enough gold to bribe his way to freedom.  I slipped him a gold piece (leaving me with two) hoping he would have some information for me.  He told me that, in a chair shaped like a demon-bird, I would find a secret compartment containing a Doppelganger Potion.  I thanked him for the information, an we parted ways.  Arriving at a junction, I headed north, and soon found the chair he had spoken of.

I took a seat in the chair, found the secret compartment with no trouble, and retrieved the potion from within.  It was a Doppelganger Potion as he had said, with the power to create an illusion disguising me as a nearby creature.

Continuing on, I came to a dead end.  There was a deep pool at the end of the tunnel, and I was reminded of the spirit girl's poem.  (If you'll recall my earlier posts, there's a beam of light with laughing faces that is found earlier in the dungeon.  If you step inside, a spirit girl recites a poem that tells you that "If corridor doth water meet/do not make a quick retreat/hold your breath and jump deep in/if your Trial you hope to win".)  I dove underwater, and swam through a submerged tunnel to surface in a passage on the other side of the wall.  At this point I had to Test My Luck to determine what had happened to the equipment in my backpack.  I was Lucky, and all that I lost were two of my provisions (leaving me with 3 provisions, and a Luck score of 8).

Further along the tunnel, I heard cries for help coming from a cavern to the left.  I rushed to investigate, and saw a female elf being crushed to death by a Boa Constrictor.  It was one of the other contestants in the Trial.  Should I save her, or let her die and take her out of the Trial?

(There should be an image here, but amazingly, of all the illustrations in this book, the one I couldn't find was the one with the elf maiden being squeezed by a Boa Constrictor,  I thought I knew you, internet.)

My good nature won out (or perhaps my desire to take her stuff), and I beheaded the snake with a swipe from my sword.  I tried to resuscitate her (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it), but she was too far gone.  Before she died, she told me that I would need a diamond to pass the final door leading out of the dungeon.  With her safely dead, I set about looting her corpse, and found two daggers (meaning that I definitely don't need to bother fighting the Giant Fly), some bread, a mirror and a bone charm in the shape of a monkey.  I ate the bread (restoring my Stamina back to 16), took the other items, and continued north.  (Funnily enough, even though the bread contains special elven healing herbs, it's still not as effective as my provisions.  What the hell is in those things?  Wolverine?)

I soon came to an iron grille in the floor.  I wanted to investigate it, but I was feeling uneasy about my current Luck score of 8, so I drank my Potion of Fortune (raising my score to 12).  Bursting with good fortune I investigated the grille, and saw a grappling iron and a leather pouch at the bottom of a hole.  I reached down to retrieve them, and was horrified when a tentacle wrapped around my arm.  I was able to cut myself free, but had to Test My Luck to determine which arm I had used.  I was Lucky (reducing my score to 11), and had not used my sword arm.  My Skill was still reduced to 9, but it could have been much worse.  I took the grappling iron, and opened the pouch to find a tiny brass bell.

I soon came to another door, and could hear nothing from behind it.  Inside was a dusty room with a chest on the far wall.  The dust was thick with footprints, possibly from one of the Trialmasters, or perhaps another of the contestants in the Trial (I'm pretty sure that the Ninja is the only one left by this point).

I was about to open the chest, but because of the magic potion I had drank earlier in my quest I was warned of a trap.  (It's the potion you find inside the book while you're paired up with Throm.)  Forewarned, I opened the chest from a distance with my sword, and was thus protected from the gas trap inside.  Unfortunately, there was nothing in the chest but a pendant chain.  The chain had once held a gemstone, but the stone had been taken from its setting.  That bloody ninja!

I continued on, and the tunnel soon widened into an enormous cavern.  Inside the cavern there were a score of tiny Troglodytes, dancing around a large golden effigy.  I wasn't about to talk to them: people who dance around effigies are rarely hospitable.  I decided to drink my Doppelganger Potion, and cross the cavern while thus disguised.

The potion created the illusion that I was a Troglodyte, and I was able to cross the cavern unmolested.  Unfortunately it wore off too early, and the Troglodytes spotted me. I fled, crossing a bridge over an underground river, but my path was blocked by a heavy wooden door.  I hastily tried my iron key, was relieved when it worked, and I was able to scramble through the door to safety.

In the tunnel beyond, I could hear a voice beckoning me on, telling me that I was on the right track.  I followed it, and was greeted my a bearded old man standing behind a large wicker basket.

He reassured me that he posed no threat, and offered to raise me to the upper level in his basket in exchange for an item from my backpack.  I gave him my hollow wooden tube (hope you enjoy it, mate), and climbed into his basket.  He pulled on the rope to raise me up, but when I got to the top a female Troll grabbed me around the neck and demanded payment as well.  I decided to talk my way out of it, and diverted her attention to a painting of another Troll on the wall.  While she waxed rhapsodic about the virtues of her brother, Sourbelly, I slipped up behind her and knocked her out with a broken stool.  (Sourbelly, of course, is one of the Troll guards you encounter in City of Thieves.  This really is the book where Allansia begins to be formed.)  In her cupboards I found an old bone, which came in handy in the passage beyond, as I used it to distract a pair of Guard Dogs.

The tunnel soon came to an end at a high wall,  There was a door in the wall, and a loud roaring could be heard.  Using my rope and grappling iron, I climbed the wall to investigate.  Thrashing about in a sand-covered pit was a huge dinosaur-like creature: a Pit Fiend.  If I was to reach the door leading onwards, I would have to lower myself into the pit to get past.

Lacking any other good ideas, I threw my bone monkey charm at the Pit Fiend.  The Pit Fiend snatched it in its mouth, and to my surprise the charm grew larger, forcing its jaws apart.  While the creature was distracted I tried to lower myself to the ground, but it tried to crush me against the wall.  With a successful Luck test (reducing my score to 10) I was able to avoid the blow and escape through the doors.

Further along the tunnel there was a line drawn across the floor, and a sign reading "No weapons beyond this point".  I ignored these instructions and continued on.  Soon I came to a large room full of pillars, and unbeknownst to me I was being watched by the Ninja.  He stepped forth and launched a throwing star at my back.  I successfully Tested My Luck (reducing my Luck to 9), and the throwing star sailed over my shoulder.

The Ninja advanced (Skill 11, Stamina 9), and we did battle.  This one got very hairy, as he reduced me all the way down to 1 Stamina.  I had to use my Luck to save my life by reducing the damage on the final blow, and I used it again to try to kill the Ninja more quickly.  By the end I had a Luck score of 7.

The ninja had some rice and water (which restored 1 point of Stamina) and a healing ointment (which restored a further 3 points).  He also had the diamond I was searching for.  Before leaving the chamber, I ate two provisions, leaving me with one, and a Stamina of 13.

(At this point we should stop to consider the actions of the ninja.  He probably left the backpack with the black widow spider in it.  He definitely set up the gas trap in the chest that he stole the diamond from.  He wrote a sign telling people to leave their weapons behind, and then he lay in wait to ambush any other contestant that came by.  This guy is a proper ninja.  Sometimes, if he kills me, I like to continue on using his stats to try and finish the book.)

The only way onwards was by a chute, which I slid down to emerge into a room filled with noxious vapours.  Wallowing in a pool of fetid slime was a bulbous creature with many eyes upon its head: a Bloodbeast.  Luckily I had read about the Bloodbeast in a book earlier, so I knew to cover my mouth to ward away the poisonous fumes.  It flicked its tongue at me, but I cut it off with my sword, and closed in to fight it.  The Bloodbeast was strong (Skill 12, Stamina 10), but I also knew its other secret: most of the eyes on its head were fake, and it could be killed by piercing its true eyes.  It struck me four times (reducing my Stamina to 5), but on my second blow I was able to pierce its eyes and kill it.

I wasted no time in running away from the creature's lair, but in the next room I encountered another terrifying beast: a Manticore.  Forewarned by the Skeleton's parchment I was able to block its spikes with my shield, but fighting the Manticore up close proved more difficult.  With Skill 11 and Stamina 11, it was much stronger than me, and I didn't have a high enough Luck score to offset the difference.  I was killed by the Manticore, and my adventure was over.

Of the three games I played, there was only one where I could have changed the result: I shouldn't have fought the Scorpion during Attempt 6.  I did nothing wrong in the other games: I just didn't have high enough stats.  I might have beaten the Manticore in Attempt 7 with my Initial Skill of 10, but the encounter with the Pit Fiend makes that difficult: you either take the Skill hit when retrieving the grappling iron, or you have to fight the Pit Fiend hand-to-hand.  My chances of surviving that encounter would have been minuscule, so I opted for the grapple.  The only other thing I could have done was to take the Potion of Skill, but again, if you fail a Luck test at the Pit Fiend you have to fight the thing.  It's a bad situation, and it makes completing the book without a high Skill and Luck an iffy proposition.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Deathtrap Dungeon - Attempts 3 & 4

So far, Deathtrap Dungeon has been living up to its name.  My first death came through forgetfulness, and my second through carelessness.  This time around, I blame the dice.

With a Skill of 7, a Stamina of 23 and a Luck of 7, I knew that there was only the slightest mathematical hope of success.  A low Stamina can be worked with, a low Luck is problematic but survivable.  Low Skill?  Forget it.  For this game I determined to explore off the beaten path, and find a quick and glorious death.  I chose the Potion of Strength, but it barely mattered; failure was inevitable no matter which potion I took.

At the first junction, I went left instead of right, following the majority of the wet footprints.  (I think you can actually finish the book by going this way, but you miss the rope, which is vital for skipping one super-lethal combat).  I soon came to another junction, where two sets of footprints went west, and one went north; I followed the latter.

With little warning, and no chance to avoid combat, I was attacked by a Caveman (Skill 7, Stamina 7).  It was an even combat, and he was able to hit me five times with his club before I killed him (leaving me with 13 Stamina).  (This is the sort of encounter that Ian Livingstone uses a lot: a monster that appears as nothing more than an unavoidable combat.  It's not interesting, and it's not fun.  At best they're an irritation, and at worst they simply serve to make the book needlessly difficult.  It's one of Ian's worst tendencies.)

The Caveman was wearing a leather wristband adorned with four rat skulls.  I put it on, and to my dismay I discovered that it had been cursed by a Hag.  The bracelet slowed my reactions and dulled my senses, causing me to lose 4 Skill points.  (At this point, my Skill was reduced to 3.  Keep reading, it gets worse.  I also wonder: does this mean that the Caveman's true Skill was 11?  Guy was badass.)

Further north I found a backpack propped against the tunnel wall.  I looked inside and saw a single gold piece lying at the bottom.  Against my better judgment (i.e. the book gave me no choice) I reached inside, and was bitten by a Black Widow Spider (reducing my Stamina from 13 to 7).  Not only that, but my Skill was reduced by a further point (leaving me with 2; and no, it still gets worse).  It wasn't all bad though: I had an extra gold piece!  Huzzah!  Totally worth it.  (I've always thought that this was a trap set by the ninja, one of my rivals in the Trial.  The book brings up the possibility that one of the other contestants left it there, and he does set some traps later.  It fits pretty well.)

I passed a couple of junctions, but kept following the footprints north until I emerged in the cavern with the statue and the Flying Guardians.  I was ready for the game to be over, so I decided to climb the statue and pry out its jewelled eyes.  Without a rope the climb was difficult: I had to successfully Test my Luck to get to the top.  Once there I set about taking the jewel on the left, and the Flying Guardians attacked as expected.  Usually I climb the statue using the rope, and suffer a -2 penalty during this fight.  In this game, without the rope, the penalty is increased to -3.  This meant that my effective Skill for this battle was an extraordinary -1.

Needless to say, I lost, without striking a single blow upon my enemies.  The rules don't take into account the possibility of your Skill slipping into the negatives, so I had to use my own judgment.  I went with it, because why not?  I wouldn't have won with a Skill of 0, or even 1, and what makes for a better story?  I'll certainly never forget it.

My results were a little more respectable this time: Skill 9, Stamina 17, and Luck 12.  My chances of success were still slim, but with a bit of luck (and also my hefty Luck score), I might make it.  I decided to make a proper go of it, but also to do some things that I usually avoid.  I took the Potion of Fortune, and started my quest.

I entered the dungeon, opened the box left by Sukumvit containing two gold pieces, and turned right at the first junction.  I came to the spongy obstruction (which I usually climb over), and decided to hack it open with my sword.  It released a cloud of spores, that stuck to my skin and itched horribly (reducing my Stamina to 15).

I continued on, drinking the magic water to pass safely through the hot tunnel (and restoring my Stamina to 16 in the process).  Soon I came to the door with the sliding window plate, and rather than open the plate to look inside I opened the door and barged in.  I fell into a pit, and lost 4 Stamina (reducing my total to 12), but there were enough handholds that I could easily climb out.  I took the rope I found in the room and continued.

Further on I encountered a pair of Orcs, who disarmed me, and I was forced to fight them bare-handed.  The fight went badly for me, and my Stamina was reduced to 4;  I was forced to Test my Luck twice to defeat them.

I continued west, finding the barbarian's corpse and eating his rations.  I ate a pair of my own rations as well, and in total my Stamina was restored to 15.  It didn't matter.  In the cavern with the Flying Guardians I once again climbed the statue (this time using the rope) and tried to pry out its left eye.  The Skill penalty for my precarious perch was my undoing, as once again I fell prey to the Flying Guardians.

There wasn't much I could do this time, as my scores just weren't good enough.  Still, I did some exploration, and refreshed my memory on some options I rarely choose.  It was worth it just to get that -1 Skill score.  I said it in Fighting Fantazine, and I'll say it again here: in gamebooks, a glorious death can be just as satisfying as a victory.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Deathtrap Dungeon - Attempt 2

It's time for me to take a second crack at Deathtrap Dungeon.  Last time, despite my certainty that I knew the way through, I took a couple of wrong turns and missed some vital items.  Now I'm certain certain that I know which way to go, so the only trouble I should have will be related to my stats and the luck of the dice.

I rolled a Skill of 10, a Stamina of 23 and a Luck of 7.  The dice have been kind to me so far, though that Luck score is going to give me some problems.  I chose the Potion of Fortune to try and off-set that bad score.

This isn't going to take long.  I chose the exact same path as in my last attempt; you may wish to read that post if you're not familiar with the book.  I had an easier battle with the two Orcs, as they didn't disarm me this time.  Conversely, I had all sorts of trouble with the Flying Guardians, who hit me six times and dropped me to 11 Stamina.  I failed the Luck test after that encounter to retrieve my rope as well, which is never a good sign; that rope comes in very handy later in the book.

I pressed on quickly through the book; I was trying to get to the bits I hadn't played last time.  Rushing in this way made me careless, and I forgot to restore my Stamina with provisions.  My Stamina got whittled down piece by piece, and by the time I fought the Skeleton Warrior I only had 6 points left.  I had the Skill advantage, and was sure that I would win, but the dice were against me.  The Skeleton Warrior killed me, and I failed in my quest.

It's obvious where I messed up, really: I should have eaten some provisions.  That's what I get for rushing, and being over-confident.  Next time I'll know better.  (At least it made for a quick post; I didn't even have to scan any images.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Deathtrap Dungeon - Attempt 1

With my initial foray into the Sorcery! epic done, it's time to return to the main series.  It's a return I'm happy to make, because Deathtrap Dungeon is a hell of a book.  Written by Ian Livingstone and illustrated by Iain McCaig, this may very well be the quintessential Fighting Fantasy gamebook.  This is FF boiled down to it's essence, and it embodies the sadistic nature of the series perhaps better than any other.  I've been looking forward to it.

It doesn't get much more basic than this.  Baron Sukumvit, ruler of the town of Fang, built a giant labyrinth and filled it with monsters and traps.  Every year, in a contest dubbed the Trial of Champions, he offers 10,000 gold pieces to anyone who can enter this dungeon and come out the other side alive.  No-one has yet succeeded.  The reader plays a foolish adventurer who has decided to try his luck with the Trial, and there's not much more to it than that.  No evil wizards, no maidens to rescue, no earth-shattering crises.  Just a dungeon to survive, and treasure to claim.  Sweet.

(I'll get more into this later, when I do the Exploring Titan post for this book, but this is where the series starts to inter-connect.  The hero passes through Port Blacksand on his way to Fang.  It's a brief thing, but it does a lot to give texture to the books, and the feel of a greater world.)

Deathtrap Dungeon reinforces its status as the iconic Fighting Fantasy gamebook by sticking to the core rules.  Skill, Stamina and Luck are determined in the usual manner, and there aren't any new rules to worry about.  You begin with the standard gear: a sword, leather armour, a backpack, ten provisions, and the choice of one of the standard array of potions (Skill, Strength or Fortune).  For a more detailed explanation of the rules, go here.

You should also probably begin with a shield.  There's at least one place that assumes you have one, even though it's not listed in your starting equipment.  It could be considered cheating, because having a shield comes in rather handy at the end of the book, but I always give myself one at the beginning, because there are passages in the book that make no sense otherwise.  Besides, the Wizard reprints list a shield in your starting gear.  I know it's because they just did a lazy cut-and-paste on the instructions from The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, but I still take it as vindication.

The rules section ends with the standard reassurance that any adventurer, regardless of stats, can complete this adventure.  This, as all Fighting Fantasy veterans will know, is bullshit.

I did quite well, rolling a Skill of 11, a Stamina of 22 and a Luck of 9.  These are respectable scores, and if the dice roll my way I could complete the book.  I chose the Potion of Fortune, as I usually do.  That was my lowest score, and I knew I'd need to boost it if I was going to survive.

I reached Fang a few days before the beginning of the Trial of Champions (or "The Walk", as it is otherwise known), and found that the town was in a state of great excitement.  I was given a violet scarf to wear, identifying me as a contestant, and for the next three days I was "treated like a demigod".  (I wonder if Fang gets many fake entrants, who just show up for a few awesome days of demigod action, then run away the night before the Trial begins?)

On the morning of the Trial I was led to Deathtrap Dungeon amid cheering crowds and many flowers thrown in my path.  The entrance was a dark tunnel that disappeared into the hillside, with two pillars at either side carved with demons and writhing serpents.  There were five other contestants awaiting the beginning of the Trial: two muscular barbarians, an elven woman, an armour-clad knight, and a ninja.  (Obviously, the ninja is the one to look out for.)

Baron Sukumvit stepped forth, holding six bamboo sticks.  I took one from him, as did the others; mine had the word "fifth" written on it.  I watched as the other entrants made their way inside: first the knight, followed half an hour later by the elf.  One of the barbarians went next, then the ninja.  I went after him, holding my scarf aloft to the crowd as I stepped through the pillars and into the darkness.

I was surprised to see that the tunnel was lit at intervals by glowing crystals in the ceiling.  (Seriously, what was the hero of this book expecting?  He didn't even bring a lantern.)  After about five minutes, I arrived at a table with six boxes.  One of the boxes had my name on the lid, so I decided to open it.  It contained two gold pieces and a note from Sukumvit, telling me that I would need to collect "several items" if I was to pass successfully through the dungeon.  (Thanks for nothing Sukumvit, I know how Ian Livingstone's mind works.)  I tore the note up and continued on.

I soon came to a junction, with paths heading east and west.  A white arrow on the wall pointed west, and I could see the wet footprints of the contestants who went before me.  It looked like three of them followed the arrow, and one ignored it and went east.  Deciding that I would rather avoid the other contestants at this point, I headed east.  (It's small touches like the arrow and the footprints that make Deathtrap Dungeon great.  So many other gamebooks - many of them written by Ian Livingstone - would present this junction as a simple east-west choice, but this one gives you something to go on.)

In the tunnel ahead I could see a large object blocking the tunnel, and I decided to investigate.  It looked like a boulder, but was soft and spongy to the touch.  I considered cutting it open with my sword, but instead I decided to climb over it.  It was difficult, as my limbs sank into the soft surface of the boulder, but eventually I made it to the other side.

The tunnel turned left, and started to grow hot.  I was becoming thirsty, and in a wall recess I found a section of bamboo filled with clear liquid.  It could have been a trap, but for some reason it seemed that I hadn't brought any water with me, so I decided to drink it.  Not only was it refreshing (it would have restored 1 Stamina if I'd needed any) but it also contained magic that would protect me from extreme heat.  Thus shielded, I was able to pass through the hot tunnel unharmed.

On the left was a closed door, with a sliding iron plate upon it.  I moved the plate to the side, and was able to peer through a hole to the room beyond.  There was a deep pit in the floor, but hanging on a hook on the opposite wall was a coil of rope.  I opened the door, jumped the pit, took the rope and jumped back to the passage.

The tunnel ahead turned to the left, but as I was rounding the corner I bumped into a pair of Orcs.  One of them swung a morningstar at me, and I had to roll a die to determine the effect of this attack.  I rolled a 1, and my sword was knocked from my hand.  I had to fight both Orcs bare-handed, giving me a -4 penalty to Skill.  This left me with Skill 7 for this battle, against Orcs with Skill 5 and 6 respectively.  They hit me twice before I could kill them, reducing my Stamina to 18.

A search of the Orcs' pockets revealed one gold piece and a hollow wooden tube.  I took both, retrieved my sword, and continued west.

I came to an iron door, and the footprints I was following indicated that one of the contestants had gone inside.  I opened the door into a room strewn with trash, and saw a grisly scene: one of the barbarians had been impaled on a spike trap.

Mercifully, it appears his genitals were spared.

The silver goblet in the alcove looked tempting, but first I decided to loot the barbarian's corpse.  I found some meat that looked strange, but when I ate it the herbs it contained increased my strength and restored 3 Stamina (raising me back to 21).  I then walked over to the goblet, and saw that it was filled with a red liquid.  I decided to push my luck by drinking it, and sure enough when I lifted the goblet a dart fired at me.  I succeeded in my Luck test to avoid the dart (reducing my Luck to 8), but I still dropped the goblet and spilled the liquid.  Even so, I'd still found a silver goblet, and I stowed it in my backpack before leaving the room.

Continuing west, I came to a junction with footprints on the floor heading west.  I decided to follow them (more accurately, the book forced me to follow them.  I guess this is where the previous branches meet up).  The passage opened into a wide cavern.  At the far end was a huge idol with emeralds for eyes, flanked by a pair of stuffed birds.

What about the one on his forehead?

Like any self-respecting adventurer, I decided to climb the idol and take the jewels.  The idol was too smooth to climb safely, so I tied my rope into a lasso and threw it around the idol's neck.  This made the climb easier, and soon I was at the top, deciding which of the emeralds to prise out first.  I chose the left eye, but as soon as I touched it with my sword the birds came alive and flew up to attack me.  As I was hanging precariously, I had to reduce my Skill by 2 for the duration of the combat.  The Flying Guardians were Skill 7 and 8 respectively and each had 8 Stamina.  I fought them with a Skill of 9, and they were able to hit me five times before I killed them both (leaving me with a meager 11 Stamina).

With the Flying Guardians dead I was able to pry the emerald loose.  I decided to quit while I was ahead, and left the other emerald behind.  (Obviously because I know it's a trap from previous play-throughs.  It's pretty great how McCaig gives a hint to the correct eye in his illustration.)  I climbed back down, and was luckily able to shake my rope loose from the idol's neck (requiring a successful Luck test, which left me with a Luck of 7.)

I left the cavern by a passage on the far wall, and soon came to a closed door on the left.  I opened the door and entered, finding the room empty, but the door slammed shut behind me.  A voice boomed out of nowhere, asking me to pay my respects to the master of Deathtrap Dungeon by shouting his name.  I knew that his name was Sukumvit, but I had two options: would I be respectful by shouting "Hail Sukumvit", or contemptuous by shouting "Sukumvit is a worm?"  The latter option was, of course, too intriguing to resist, and I was rewarded for my spirit with a ring that will grant me one wish.  (Seriously, this ring.  It's used in one super-specific place in the book, that's not even on the winning path.  There should be any number of ways it can be used, not least being "I wish I was at the exit of the dungeon".  If not that, then wishing for one of the jewels needed at the finale, or simply wishing certain monsters dead.  It should be the most useful item in the game, but it's virtually worthless.)

I followed the twisting tunnel north, until I was stopped by the sight of a thin shaft of blue light shining from ceiling to floor.  Inside the shaft I could see images of smiling and laughing faces.


Despite a firm case of the willies, I stepped inside the beam.  As soon as I entered the faces changed from happy to sad, and I was confronted by the spirit of a young girl.  I listened intently as she recited a poem:

"When corridor doth water meet,
Do not make a quick retreat.
Take a breath and jump deep in,
If your Trial you hope to win."

Despite the mediocre poetry, and the not particularly deep advice, I memorised the rhyme before stepping out of the light and continuing north.  On the right hand wall I came to a stone door, which I opened to investigate.  It opened into a large cavern, which was moist and covered in algae, and filled with a strange humming sound.  In a shallow pit, in the midst of a mass of writhing worms, was a magnificent dagger.


The worms may have been disgusting, but even that wasn't enough to stop me from claiming the dagger; any item in the dungeon could mean the difference between life and death (I'm on to you, Livingstone).  I pulled it free with no trouble, and was about to saunter out of the cavern when the humming increased in intensity.  A Giant Fly swooped down from the ceiling and tried to grab me, but I was able to avoid and kill it with my sword with little trouble.

The tunnel soon came to a T-junction, and I headed east, only to find that the way was blocked by a pit.  I could see that the tunnel continued on the other side, and there was a rope hanging down from the ceiling.  I wasn't sure if I could jump over carrying all of my gear, but rather than toss my shield over first I decided to swing across using the rope.  Alas, it seems that someone had cut halfway through the rope; it broke, and I was sent tumbling down into the darkness.

I landed hard at the bottom of the pit, but my backpack cushioned my fall (I lost 1 Skill, leaving me at 10, and 2 Stamina leaving me at 9).  As I scrabbled around in the dark my hand found a hard, smooth object, and I pocketed it before climbing out of the pit.  (By cutting hand-holds in the stone with my sword, I might add, without blunting it at all.  I can't decide if this is more or less ridiculous than the bit in Caverns of the Snow Witch where you use your sword to carve an igloo.)  Luck was with me, as the object I had found was a magnificent ruby.

The tunnel turned north again, and soon came to a door on the left-hand wall.  Inside was a room filled with surprisingly life-like statues.  A crazy old man stepped forth, and told me that if I couldn't answer his riddle correctly, he would turn me to stone.

I decided to wait for his question rather than attack, and he gestured to one of the statues; it was the knight who had been one of my rivals in the Trial.  The old man asked his question: "This man weighs 100 pounds plus half his weight.  How much does he weigh?"  The answer, of course, was 200 pounds.  The old man rewarded my correct answer by raising my Skill, Stamina and Luck by 1 point each (leaving me with Skill 11, Stamina 10 and Luck 7).  (I was a dumb kid the first time I ever read this book, and naturally I got this riddle wrong.  I've never forgotten it since.  I've always wondered about the bonus the old guy gives you; it feels like the sort of thing that should raise your initial scores, and if ever a gamebook needed such a bonus it's this one.  It's not specifically stated though, so I just play it like a normal bonus.)

Further along the tunnel was a door with an X scratched in the centre.  I went inside, and found a room with an alcove in the west wall and a skeletal figure sitting on a throne.  Clutched in the skeleton's fingers was a roll of parchment.

Skeletons are rarely as scary as they look, so I snatched the parchment from its hand.  As expected, the Skeleton Warrior (Skill 8, Stamina 6) lurched forward to attack, but just as quickly I smashed it into fragments.  On the parchment was a map with a drawing of a monster called a Manticore, and a rhyme warning me to shield myself against its tail spikes.  I put the parchment in my backpack and stepped over to the alcove.

Inside the alcove were stairs that led down to a cellar that was overgrown with mushrooms.  I ignored them, and stepped through an archway on the far side of the room.  The tunnel eventually came to some steps leading up to a trapdoor.  I could hear muffled voices from above.  Keeping the element of surprise, I burst through the trapdoor with my sword drawn.  Two Goblins were there sharpening their swords (both had Skill 5, the first had Stamina 4 and the second had Stamina 5), but before they could effectively retaliate I killed them both.  The only thing of interest in the Goblins' room was a cupboard, from which I looted a wooden mallet and ten iron spikes.

There were two doors leading from the room, and I chose the one to the west.  I soon came to a door, which I opened.  Inside was a small room, with a skull sitting on a plinth.  The eyes of the skull were of topaz, but a line of crossbows along the wall deterred me from entering.  There were two wooden balls on the floor.

The solution seemed obvious: I picked up one of the balls and lobbed it at the skull.  This required a successful roll under my Skill with two dice, at which I succeeded, and knocked the skull to the floor.  The crossbows didn't fire, so I picked up the skull, took both topaz eyes, and left without replacing the skull on the plinth.

The tunnel took a sharp right turn into a gallery lined with mirrors.  A grotesque, four-armed female figure emerged from one of the mirrors, barring my way ahead.  It was a Mirror Demon, intent on dragging my spirit to its own dimensional plane.

Sensing extreme danger, I used my Ring of Wishes to send the Mirror Demon back to its own plane, and was able to continue unharmed.

Ahead of me were two flights of stairs separated by a banister of rat skulls.  (Rad.)

I chose the right-hand stairs, but as I was climbing the fourth step gave way and my foot sunk into a deep hole.  Before I could pull myself free, my foot was attacked by hungry rats, and I lost 2 Stamina (leaving me with 8). They were tenacious buggers, and I had to kick them against the banister before they would let go.

At the top of the stairs the tunnel took a sharp right, then came to a junction.  I could see two dead bodies to the north, so I decided to investigate.  (Again, the book made this decision for me.)  The bodies were both Orcs, presumably killed by one of the other contestants in the Trial.  I looted their bodies and found a necklace of teeth.  I had little patience for squeamishness, so I placed it around my own neck, and felt a surge of power.  It was an amulet of strength, and it gave me a bonus of 1 Skill and 1 Stamina (raising my Stamina to 9).  At this point I started to grow concerned about what might lie ahead, so I rested and ate two of my Provisions (further raising my Stamina to 17).

The tunnel ended at a junction, but of more interest was the figure who stood contemplating which direction to take.  It was one of the barbarians, and he stood watching me coldly with his axe at the ready.  I asked which way he was heading, and he warily told me that he was headed west, and that I could go with him if I wished.

I decided to go with the barbarian, who I learned was named Throm; I could always murder him later, when his back was turned.  Eventually we came to a wide pit, and Throm offered to lower me to the bottom.  Rather foolishly I accepted, but he lowered me down with no foul play.  At the bottom of the pit there was a tunnel heading north; I shouted that fact to Throm, and he followed me down.

Further along the tunnel was a stone table with two books upon it.  Throm wanted nothing to do with them, but I was eager to investigate.  I opened the red book, and although it quickly turned to dust in my hands I was able to save a scrap that described the dreaded Bloodbeast, which disguised its real eyes with a number of fake ones on its forehead.  I memorised this information, and turned to the black book.

The pages of the black book were stuck together (oo-er), but a recess was cut inside to hold a vial of clear liquid.  Despite Throm's distaste I drank the liquid, and was delighted to realise that it was a potion that would allow me to detect hidden traps (this gave me a bonus of 2 Luck, raising my total back to my maximum of 9).

The tunnel turned right, and continued for a long way. Throm stopped, warning me that he could hear footsteps ahead.  We hid in wait, and soon a pair of Cave Trolls came into sight.  We ambushed them, but it was still a tough fight (the Cave Troll I fought had Skill 10, Stamina 11).  It hit me six times before I could kill it (reducing my Stamina to 5), and Throm was wounded in his battle as well.  I sat and ate two more Provisions (raising my Stamina to 13) before searching the bodies of the Trolls.

One of the Trolls had a bone ring hanging from a cord around its neck.  Throm recognised the symbol as belonging to the druids of the north, and explained that the ring would grant increased power if my body could accept it.  Again Throm was wary, but I put it on anyway.  My body started shaking, and I had to roll under my Skill with two dice.  I was successful, and the ring restored 3 Stamina (raising my total to 16).  Throm seemed worried about me; what a swell guy.

The tunnel led to a large cavern, with many stalactites and an archway carved into the shape of a demon's mouth.  I decided to search the chamber, but found nothing more than a mouse.  Throm laughed as the mouse slipped through his fingers, causing the stalactites to fall from the ceiling.  Stupid Throm.  I successfully tested my Luck (reducing my total to 8), and was able to escape the cavern without being impaled.  Throm escaped as well, and we laughed about the whole affair (had we learned nothing?).  What a beautiful friendship we were developing!  I hoped it would never end.

The tunnel ended in a door, and Throm wasted no time in opening it.  Inside was a Dwarf, waiting for us on his throne.  He congratulated us on our progress, but explained that we weren't allowed to team up, and so would have to compete in a number of tests to determine who was the most able.  There were no apparent exits from the room, and the Dwarf told us that only he knew the way forward.  Throm was ready to split the Dwarf's head open, but I persuaded him that we should go through with the tests, and kill the Dwarf once we knew the way onward.


Throm reluctantly agreed, and I was led away through a secret door.  The Dwarf told me to roll a pair of dice, and a got a result of 8.  He then told me to roll again, but this time to predict whether I would roll higher, lower or the same as my previous total.  I decided to play the odds, and predicted that I would roll lower.  I scored a 7, so my prediction was correct.

For the second stage of the test, the Dwarf grabbed a wicker basket and tipped out a cobra.  My task was to grab the cobra with my bare hands, which I did by rolling less than my Skill on two dice.  (The way my character waves the cobra in the Dwarf's face never fails to amuse me.)

I was then led through a series of secret doors (passing an impatient Throm), and into an arena.  The Dwarf climbed up to a balcony overhead and threw me down two sheets of paper: on one was written NO CROP IS and on the other RUIN MOAT.  I was told to rearrange the letters to get the names of two creatures, and choose which one I would like to fight.  The answers, of course, were SCORPION and MINOTAUR.  I decided against the Scorpion, because I don't mess with venomous monsters.  I called out that I wanted to fight the Minotaur.  (It's interesting that the book doesn't really require you to solve the puzzle.  If you choose an option, it automatically has you giving the answer, so you can take a guess if you want and hope you picked the right one.  It's technically cheating, but on the lower end of the scale.)

The Minotaur (Skill 9, Stamina 9) stepped into the arena and attacked me with an axe.  It hit me once before I was able to kill it (dropping my Stamina to 14).  The Dwarf congratulated me on my victory and threw down a chicken and some wine, which I ate (raising my Stamina back to 16).  He left me to wait for my final test, and when he returned some time later he told me that I had one final opponent to battle: Throm!  (Oh well, I never did trust him anyway.)

Throm was wounded and delirious; apparently he had not done so well in catching the cobra.  He staggered forward to attack me (Skill 10, Stamina 12).  It was a tough battle, and he managed to take me down to 6 Stamina before I killed him.  There was little time to mourn, however, or loot Throm's corpse.  The Dwarf appeared, with a crossbow leveled at my chest, and guided me to the secret exit that led onwards.  I considered turning to punch the Dwarf in the face (so tempting), but with my many wounds I didn't want to risk it, and I stepped through the door and into the tunnel.  I sat and ate two provisions (leaving me with 4 meals, and raising my Stamina to 14).

The tunnel soon branched west and north, and I could hear a buzzing from the west.  I investigated the noise and saw - through a large pane of glass - a room swarming with insects.  There was also a crown with a large diamond on top.  I probably really needed it, but I decided against breaking the glass.  Insects give me the willies.


Rather than continue west, I returned to the junction and went north.  It led to a dark chamber covered in cobwebs, where I found A wooden casket.  Inside was a large pearl, and finding it restored 1 Luck point (raising my total to 9).  There were two doors at the far end of the chamber.  I went through the door to the right and continued north.  There were two fountains shaped like cherubs on ether side of the tunnel.  The first one I drank from had been cursed by a Hag; while it was refreshing (and restored my Stamina to 15) it also caused my Luck to drop by 2 (leaving me with 7).  I tried the other fountain with greater success: it had been sprinkle with pixie dust, and not only did it raise my Stamina to 16, it would have restored 2 Skill points if I had needed any.

Further on I found a pair of stilts, securely chained and padlocked.  A sign said that the stilts were 1 Gold Piece to purchase, so I placed a coin in the padlock (leaving me with two) and took the stilts.  It was lucky that I did, because the tunnel ahead was completely covered in acidic green slime.  I walked across the slime on my stilts, and although the slime ate away at them I was able to make it to the other side.

The tunnel on the far side came to a junction, where I headed north.  At a door in the left hand wall I peered through, and saw a warrior lying face down on the floor in a small chamber.  A large diamond lay near his hand.  I was about to enter the room and take the jewel, but a premonition of danger warned me against it: the potion that I had drank earlier was warning me of a trap.  I continued north instead.

The tunnel soon came to a dead end, with a chute in the western wall the only way on.  With no other option (aside from the impossible-in-Fighting-Fantasy option of turning back) I slid down the chute.  The room I emerged in was filled with a noxious vapour.  Wallowing in a pool of fetid slime was a bloated creature that I recognised as a Bloodbeast from the book I had read earlier (it's pictured on the cover of Deathtrap Dungeon, at the top of this post).  Armed with this knowledge, I covered my mouth to protect myself from the vapours, and drew my sword.  I was expecting the Bloodbeast to attack with its tongue, and when it did so I cut it off.  It was a tough opponent (Skill 12, Stamina 10).  It was able to bite me once (reducing my Stamina to 14), but on my second blow I pierced its true eyes, and fled while it thrashed around in pain.

The tunnel led into a large columned room.  A strange creature prowled forward, with the body of a lion, bat wings, a scorpion's tail, and the head of a  man.  It was a Manticore, and I recognised it's description from the parchment I had pried from the Skeleton Warrior's hand.  I watched for it's tail spikes, and when it fired them I deflected them with my shield.  (This is the contentious bit with the shield that I mentioned earlier.  Should I have one here?  It's difficult to say.  The rules say no, but at least one encounter in the book assumes yes.  To be honest, I'm not even sure that you can find a shield anywhere in the book.)

The Manticore was very strong (Skill 11, Stamina 11), and the battle was a close one.  I used up 2 Luck points trying to minimise the wounds that the Manticore was inflicting on me, and it still took me down to 3 Stamina.  I killed it in the end, but it took almost every resource I had.

A gnome jumped out from behind a pillar, and introduced himself as Igbut, the Trialmaster for my final test.  He gestured to an iron door - the exit of Deathtrap Dungeon.  My quest was almost at an end!

 Unfortunately, I was told that I would need three gems to unlock the door.  Igbut asked if I had an emerald, and I was pleased to say that I did.  Then he asked if I had a sapphire, and alas I did not.  The gnome shook his head, informed me that I had failed, and that I would have to spend the rest of my days as his servant, preparing the dungeon for future contestants.  Ah well, at least I wasn't dead, and I did have job security.  But unfortunately, I had failed in my quest to defeat Deathtrap Dungeon.

So close, but I really did screw up.  I was sure that I had the exact path through Deathtrap Dungeon memorised, but it seems that I was wrong.  I took pretty much every wrong turn, and paid for it by missing the sapphire.  I didn't find the diamond either, and I know that's the final one that's required.

So next time I know: go north after fighting the Goblins, and keep going west from the insects.  I knew as soon as I met the Mirror Demon that I'd gone the wrong way, and was doomed to failure, but I pressed on anyway because I was enjoying the book.  It made for a longer post, but that just means I can skim over certain bits later on.  It's a trade-off.  Anyway, I should be able to win next time, provided that I roll high enough stats.  I must remember to drink my Potion of Fortune as well; it could have saved me a lot of angst in the final battle.