Sunday, 17 June 2012

Deathtrap Dungeon playthrough

Written by Ian Livingstone, Artwork by Iain McCaig

I have not had a good  few days. It's been quite a rough time, and as a result of this, my post today may be a little more bloodthirsty and cruel than it would otherwise be. Forgive me for that. I'm the type of person who works out my sadness through black comedy, and I have a lot of that to work out. So without further ado... DEATHTRAP DUNGEON!!

I asked a friend of mine what book I should review next. He said "One you can win". So I chose this one purely to spite him. DD is one of Livingstone's babies, and has a large abundance of instant-death sections which will catch pretty much anyone off-guard.

I also remember it being especially gruelling and challenging even if you used the 'keep your finger on the previous page' cheat. The book was early in the FF series, 6th if I remember right, and earned its place as a classic. I also remember a playstation video game based on it released sometime in mid-to-late 1990s.

The cheerful and happy Baron Sukumvit has built a dungeon filled with traps and monsters, and has been having great fun inviting people to come along and try to survive. My character, evidently having nothing much to live for and deciding that jumping off a nearby cliff would be too painless, has decided to volunteer. His stats are fairly nice, with a skill of 9 and stamina of 15.

Consider which is more difficult - surviving the
Hunger Games, or surviving Deathtrap Dungeon. 
He also picked up a potion that will restore his stamina to its full level, which is bound to be very helpful against monsters that can swallow you whole. There really isn't much of a storyline here, more of a vague excuse, but it's enough to get the adventure going. "Hey, some crazy man built a dungeon that'll make the Hunger Games look like playing on a bouncy castle, let's go give it a shot!"

Immediately inside, I find a box that contains a couple gold coins, and I'm shocked it doesn't explode or anything. I head east at the crossroads, and find the path obstructed by a large fungus, which I attempt to cut through, only this DOES explore and injure me. The tunnel continues until it is quickly growing to be as hot as a furnace, and I am offered the chance to drink some 'clear liquid'. Opting not to drink the obviously-acid, I press on and my high skill ensures I'm able to get through the tunnel without roasting like a christmas turkey.

Waiting room times in the
dentist surgery are out of control.
I'm able to grab a coil of rope from a nearby room, and am promptly beset by orcs. They're able to knock my sword from my hand, which seriously handicaps my skill score. I lose a full 10 stamina in this fight, so I'm feeling quite beaten by this point, but choose to press on without using any of my precious stamina potion. I should mention that according to the rules here, I can only use my provisions to recover stamina specifically when the book tells me to, so I'm hoping it will offer me this choice very soon.

The next room contains one of my fave pictures in the book - one of the rival contestants in the game impaled on a trap, having carelessly tried to grab some rather-obvious treasure. I pick his pockets and eat some of his provisions. Due to my high luck score, I'm able to grab the gem-encrusted goblet that the hapless adventurer was trying to grab without meeting a similar fate.

Venturing on, I come across a giant buddah statue that has glistening gems for eyes. The book asks if I want to try to steal them - oh yeah, as if I haven't learned anything from the dead fool in the previous room! No chance, I press on right past that obvious trap!

I enter another room, in which a booming disembodied voice demands that I pay tribute to the master of the dungeon. Given how I've been feeling after this weekend, I'm in no mood to tolerate foolish bastards who screw around with people for their own delusions of grandeur, so I reply "Sukumvit is a worm" and get ready to kick some ass. Curiously, the voice seems happy that I show such spirit, and gives me a gold ring. Shame, I was hoping to get to kick some ass again.

The next thing I encounter is even stranger - a pillar of blue light filled with laughing faces. I have the choice of stepping into it, perhaps assuming I can save my game here. But I don't quite trust all the laughing faces, so I decide to go around the thing. With some luck, I find an opal-encrusted dagger lying in a pit of worms. The book asks if I want to grab it - y'know, as a hardy and vicious adventurer,

I doubt I have any fear of worms. I grab the dagger without hesitation, and am quickly beset by a giant fly. I crush the fly without too much trouble, but the injuries I've accumulated now require me to use a swig of the healing potion. Only one swig left, I have to be careful with it!

Let's just pretend that she was in
the video game for other 'assets'...
I head to the west, and get the chance to fight a rock grub, which is essentially a giant dungeon centipede. The game asks if I want to run away. Run away? Don't be ridiculous! Sure enough, I beat it down and only sustain a single injury. No problem. The book then asks if I wish to explore the grub's tunnel. I hop on in, and am immediately eaten by the grub's friend, who is sitting waiting in the tunnel. Hm, there's a certain irony there.

Yes, that was one of the book's many sudden-death sections. Warned you about them, didn't I?

There's a lot more crazy things in this book than I remember, like the furnace tunnel, the beam of light with laughing faces and so on. It's all quite odd, but also imaginative. There's really very little in the way of storyline here, it's a classic old-fashioned dungeon crawl. I'm also not sure I got the rules for the provisions right - the rules say that you can eat them when the book instructs you that you can, but I never came across any such mentions in the text! Very odd.

Anyway, hope that was an enjoyable ride for everyone.


  1. Great playthrough. I hope you got all the anger out of your system while writing it.

    The bit in the rules saying that you an only eat provisions when told must have been copied from the Warlock of Firetop Mountain which does tell you where you can eat provisions. Later books did not and the rule was that you can eat provisions when not in combat (so you can eat them in a boiling hot tunnel or climbing on a statue but definately not in combat). I think one of the editions just copied and pasted the rules from WOFM without anyone checking whether they worked.

    From now on, assume that you can eat food when not in combat.

    1. It's always fun to get anger out by chopping up orcs :)

      I knew the rules had to be wrong, but because they're the rules in this copy of the book, and I've got a rule in my blog about playing properly by the rules, I stuck with them. I didn't really think it'd help me anyway due to the number of instant-death sections in the book... sure enough, it was one of them that got me!

  2. Yeah, there were errors in certain prints;

    1. Yeah, after this I decided that in future games I'll avoid obvious errors like that. Which will be pretty much mandatory if I ever get to some of the later (more error-filled) books.

  3. Note to self: If I'm ever reincarnated as a non-black elf in Allansia, don't enter the Trial of Champions. In both books the elf cops it and helps the reader survive (potentially).

  4. The backstory of this one was actually very good... the premise fits the game and the fighting fantasy genre very well. Player characters do come across as suicidal fools and the labyrinth all makes perfect sense. Every trap and every one of the mismatched collection of outlandish monsters had a reason to be there, hindering progress - they were PUT there for that purpose.

  5. The backstory of Deathtrap Dungeon makes perfect sense except for one minor issue, that it's supposed to be this massive Hunger-Games-esque spectator event, but it takes place entirely in an enclosed environment.

    So crowds of thousands show up in Fang just to watch eight people walk through a door.

  6. Three major flaws with this one:
    1) Far too many situations where you are killed instantly by unforeseeable hazards.
    2) Too many compulsory battles against opponents with high skill. If you don't roll strong initial scores then you are pretty much doomed from the start.
    3) Only one route yields the critical diamond. This makes large sections of the dungeon effectively redundant. Why couldn't they just provide an attainable diamond on every route?

  7. There is only one diamond because the contest is unfair and the contestants are not supposed to prevail. That's the premise.

  8. You're being weird. The whole point is that to ALL the books, like in life, there is only ONE true way through-as it should be! What would be the point if diamonds popped up round every corner!? Sukumvit planned it to be almost impossible to win-why'd ya think the prize is so huge? The flaws mentioned are irrelevant-they aren't really flaws. If they are, then ALL the books have them-and so stupid computer games! I've done this book enough to know you can do it with high scores, but tweak a little. For instance, the Ring of Wishes is useless-it's existence is not clear.

    You get it easily but it only comes up as a defence against the Mirror Demon-but SHE is down a corridor that is NOT the correct way to go-otherwise you miss out 2 important things-whereupon you will die by not having one of them certainly! But the text says when the ring is given it will "grant a wish but one only"! Now is Livingstone taking the piss?
    Or did he forget to use it down the RIGHT route at a point-there's ceratin encounters it would be lovely to wish away with!
    Or was it Sukumvit's cheeky revenge for being called a worm-the next best thing to a false treasure that doesn't work is one that ONLY works for ONE thing down a route you SHOULDN'T go if you want to win. So I use it to get near to the Manticore near the end to make me invisible so I can strike him with a blow before he gets me to take 2 off his STAM and then I'll use LUCK to take another 4 off him-if Lucky of course!

    Be fair. Only one route reveals ALL treasures. There are other gems there too-the Opal studded knife, Topaz eyes in skulls, Golden Goblet, but they're not called for, except perhaps for one certain old basket case if you know what I mean...

    1. Unfortunately a single gold piece has only very small spending power on Titan, thus 10000 gold pieces is still not huge. The prize should have been a lot bigger, since the trial is all but impossible for any player character attempting it the first time. Even knowing beforehand and playing the one correct route, it takes a skill 12 character with a high luck score to stand better than 50% chance.

  9. My biggest affront is this-I HATE the gorgeous (Wood? Mountain?) Elf girl dying, she got SO FAR-and presumably just feet away from where the Diamond was! I HATE I couldn't save her-there's always been a few books where someone/something reaslly sweet "has to die" if your vile enough to make that "choice" or you can't save and this is one of the worst! But it's also absurd how you and Barb Throm HAVE to fight/kill each other-that's sick and makes me think Sukumvit's fmaily should be thrown in here and made to kill each other-and then him! It's thick. Throm can't win-he's got no gems-doesn't even know he should get any! and he refuses to read important books/drink important potions/take healing rings, so he wouldn't get out of there anyway-certainly wouldn't jump into the submerged tunnel-the cleverest part of the book, along with the Diamond thief, basket smoozer and tunnel with the box that ends in a death drop, plus the insect room with a golden crown with paste-and of course where the Diamond is!

    I also enjoy seeing how far and where the other contestants get. It's quite funny. The arrogant Knight would die wher he did-how embarrasing-and not even by a great monster. I can imagine him spulttering: "Don't talk to a Knight like that you impertient old..." and he transmutes to stone. Dope! Also the first Barb throwing caution to the wind-and dying for a Goblet of nothing-yet he was the only one that went the right way at the start. Though how the heavily armoured Knight got over that pit is beyond me! He shouldn't have bothered. But how dumb are all of them to leave that Emerald eye in the Buddha statue.

    Justin you made so many wrong choices-you ARE supposed to climb the Buddha! And to think you went the right way from the entrance instead of the dodgy other way. But you've got many attempts to get it right. I guess we know where the Diamond must have been BEFORE it was taken. Clue is in the text and the pic.

    1. Baron Sukumvit and Lord Carnus are horrible characters. That's part of the premise. The Dungeon is Sukumvit's sadisitic hobby. It is the way he exorcises his sadism without having to antagonise his subjects.

  10. So Dungeonmaster Livingstone went back to dungeons for this one. Overall I don't like it as much as most of the previous books. It's a perfectly decent idea. I liked your friendship with Throm the barbarian(did he get his name from "Crom", Conan's god?) and how it turns out and I like that Ian made one of the other contestants a ninja(funny how much later in Armies of Death, Ian had a ninja, but called him an "elite fanatic", possibly because the word "ninja" was banned in England for a time). Still, for all the nice ideas, I think it felt a bit limited compared to book 1 or book 2. I wonder if it would've been a good idea to have you actually fight Baron Sukumvit at the end, not to the death, just in some form, as the final challenge.

  11. Incidentally, this particular reprinting of Deathtrap Dungeon (with the skeleton on the front) has the wrong rules. They lazily copied and pasted the rules of Warlock of Firetop mountain at the beginning of them all for that print run, and these were different to the rest.

    In Deathtrap Dungeon, the original rules were that the player character can eat provisions at any time, except during battle. The provisions are very healing as well. Even more so than the elven bread with secret elven healing herbs.