Deathtrap Dungeon: You Never Forget Your First.
Not the first FF that I played, but the first time I was compelled to map the game. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s got a lovely flow that hits the sweet spot between having enough freedom and options to explore and being prompted to go in the right direction.
I particularly loved the part where I’d gone up one corridor, bought stilts and crossed the toxic ooze and, because I then died by being crushed in the room with the descending ceiling – like you do - played again. This different route took me past Ivy’s basket and when I reached the junction and looked right, could see the toxic ooze in the distance. Clever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The maps need to work and show connections. It allows the player to inhabit the world and feel that this is a well-thought out location. Even if it’s a much later realisation of ‘Oh yeah, that’s the place where I……’
It had a satisfying variety of questions to pit your wits against – a maths puzzle and the gem endgame was a good call-back to the code-breaking board game ‘Mastermind’. Who needed expensive computer games when you had black and white pegs? The required items were nicely spread out and not the easiest to find. I was convinced that the locked door was a red herring and completely impassable because I just couldn’t get the iron key. Until I happened across the pipe, that is.
The death quota had really been ratcheted up – pity the poor contender who ended up on the door – and I even felt sorry for the Gnome at the end. Yes, I know he was planning to trick you out of your final glory but a crossbow bolt through the skull. Really? And they were so worried that we were being corrupted by video nasties in the 80s…..
It was an interesting twist to have the Barbarian as a partner in crime for a while, even though he had to come to a cruel end eventually. We will avenge you, Throm!
And indeed we do, by winning the Trial of Champions, collecting the prize of 10000 gold pieces and a laurel crown, not to mention the enormous pleasure of infuriating the sore loser known as Baron Sukumvit.
Still, anyone who routinely sits under a colourful bamboo umbrella deserves it in my opinion.
#1 Tip for my own gamebooks:
Tricky to pick just one because this was a good source of inspiration but in the end, I’ll go for the 2-stage structure. Just as TV series these days often have a mid-season finale, I think it hits the mark when FF funnels you towards a mid-game point. It’s a tactic that gives you a sense of achievement and keeps you motivated and excited for the rest. In Deathtrap, it’s the Dwarf’s tests that you have to go through before the game opens up again for the 2nd stage.
Best Map Notation that I Wrote:
There was definitely a lot of food in this one and also a tendency of showing a remarkable lack of empathy in the pursuit of feasting. Such as: ‘Try to save Elf. Eat bread’ Anyone else getting the impression that I really just did the bare minimum of resuscitation before tucking into the loaf? Or how about: ‘Dead Barbarian. Search. Eat meat.’ Oh yes, I’m not going to let a little thing like a corpse put me off having a good nosh!
Best illustration from the book:
I was tempted to have the fist-door picture because WTF? A door that punches you? In the end though, and keeping with the food theme, I went for the Mirror Demon, simply because she reminds me of me when I’m ‘hangry’. For the love of God, someone get that demon an omelette!
I did like the Alice in Wonderland-esque deaths with both the mushrooms in the cellar making you grow so large that you’re trapped AND the other mirror (no relation to the Demon) which makes your head expand to the size of a pumpkin. However, Star Wars obviously had a deep and long-lasting effect on me and the idea of being digested over many years has haunted me ever since. The Pit of Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi has a lot to answer for and I was triggered by this too when playing Dead Space 3! Call me a snowflake but I just don’t like the thought of being inside a stomach, so I picked the Bloodbeast with its long slimy tongue.
End game rating:
9/10 and I’d put this in my Top 3, however……
I felt that the multiple appearances of the chute down to the Bloodbeast’s lair was a little bit lazy. It was a nice idea but over-used, and I would have preferred different and inventive dead ends. I also wanted the clues and items to pose a bit more of a challenge. I did find the iron key but I could’ve lied about it as there was nothing to prove I had it. What about the good ol’ Warlock days when keys had numbers embossed on them?
Greg Allensworth https://www.fightingfantasyfan.info/deathtrap-dungeon/