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Literature / Deathtrap Dungeon

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Deathtrap Dungeon is the sixth entry in the Fighting Fantasy line of Gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone.

The devilish baron Sukumvit revived the city of Fang by building Deathtrap Dungeon, a deadly maze filled with terrible monsters and fiendish traps, both physical and magical in nature. However, it is said that a huge reward is waiting for the adventurer who will face the perils of the "Walk" and leave the labyrinth victorious. Armed with courage, wits and a sharp sword, you'll face the perils of this diabolical maze.

The gameplay follows the basic rules of many others in the series, and features a single possible path to victory, as expected. In 1998 it received a video game adaptation. For that, see Deathtrap Dungeon.

The subsequent book Trial of Champions is a spiritual successor to Deathtrap Dungeon, visiting the same location albeit with a different hero and different perils ahead. Island of the Lizard King seemingly features the same protagonist as this book and is considered a direct sequel.

Besides being one of the most popular of the Fighting Fantasy series, Deathtrap Dungeon also marked the first shift towards building a consistent setting for the books, with mentions in the background of Port Blacksand, the main location of Ian Livingstone's previous book City of Thieves.

Deathtrap Dungeon provides examples of:

  • Achilles' Heel: The Bloodbeast seemingly has a large number of eyes, but only two of them are real. If you fight it and know this weakness, you can test your Luck every time you land a hit to see if you manage to strike its real eyes.
  • Action Girl: The only female participant is an Elf lady. She makes it quite far in the Dungeon before being crushed to death by a massive snake. If you kill the snake fast enough, she will give you a clue with her last breath.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted. From crossbow traps to amazingly accurate Troglodytes, arrows are a threat in this dungeon.
  • Anti-Villain: Baron Sukumvit built Deathrap Dungeon as a twisted game to induce people to risk their lives for his amusement. On the other hand, he never forces anyone to compete in the Trial of Champions, and everyone who enters does so of their own free choice. And if anybody actually wins the Trial, Baron Sukumvit is honorable enough to pay the staggering prize he offers. The town of Fang also prospered greatly from the attention the Trial of Champions attracts every year, especially since no one's ever survived it.
  • Bread and Circuses: One of the reasons why Deathtrap Dungeon was built by Sukumvit, to the point that challengers for the Trial of Champions are given a hero's welcome when they arrive in town and even a ceremony as they enter the dungeon itself.
  • Continuity Nod: One of the many dangers you'll face is a burly female orc named Poison Ivy, who turns out to be the sister of Sourbelly from City of Thieves.
  • Epic Flail: One of the early threats is a couple of Orcs wielding big spiked balls on long chains. You fight them with a malus because they use their weapons to whip your sword from your grasp.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Oh boy, monsters and traps at every step and in every room. Except for the ghost girl who gives you precious advice and the mysterious cone of light. Justified, because it was specifically designed to be nearly unwinnable by Sukumvit.
  • Expanding Thrown Weapon: When facing the Pit Fiend, one of the dungeons' toughest monsters, instead of fighting it directly you can throw a Monkeybone Charm (depending if you have it or not) into its jaw as the Fiend tries chomping you down. The charm will magically expand and choke the monster, allowing you to flee without a fight by passing a LUCK test.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Mirror Demon can grab you and drag you through the mirror, permanently trapping you in another dimension.
  • Fighting Your Friend: The Trialmaster will force you to duel Throm, the barbarian you befriended, in a Duel to the Death in order to proceed. It's rather cruel, though even right after you team up, it's mentioned it would have happened sooner or later.
  • Final Boss: The last mandatory boss you can fight fair and square is a massive Manticore found at the very end of the Dungeon, before the last door.
  • For the Evulz: One of the reasons Sukumvit built Deathtrap Dungeon was to attract interest to Fang, and it was a massive success. The other reason is that he gets a sick pleasure from watching people risk their lives and typically get killed for his amusement.
  • Gorgeous Gorgon: Averted. The Gorgon you can encounter in the cage covered with drapes looks like an old, snake-haired crone.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: One of the contestants, which later ambushes you in the Dungeon (he carries one of the gems needed to win). While Titan has a fantasy counterpart to Japan, it's on a whole other continent entirely.
  • Helpless with Laughter: One section has you partnering with another contestant of the dungeon walk, Throm the barbarian, where both of you decide to rest in a cavern after defeating a pair of trolls together. Unfortunately, in the process, a stray rat runs across Throm's fingers, tickling him into laughing uncontrollably... which is loud enough to cause a cave-in that the two of you must outrun.
  • Indy Escape: Do you really think that Sukumvit would have neglected the chance to install a giant rolling boulder trap?
  • Knight in Shining Armor: One of the contestants. He dies deep inside the Dungeon, turned into a statue by a crazed old wizard.
  • Leprechaun: You'll come across a group of them running down one of the hallways. Don't follow them, as they'll trap you in a net and steal the items from your pack, making the game unwinnable.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Unlocking the door out of the dungeon. It's not just enough that you have to have found the three gemstones that act as keys. You then have to guess what order they're inserted. The gnome overseeing this test will tell you how many are inserted correctly, but not which ones, and you'll get electrocuted for hefty damage every time you don't make a perfect guess.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me:
    • You can find one hidden under the floor if you kill the Pit Fiend. It'll save you from being perforated before you fight the Manticore at the end of the dungeon.
    • Whether you start with one is handled confusingly, though. Supposedly you only start the game with your sword, armor and a potion of your choice. Flavor text while fighting a pair of orcs early on can mention their morning stars bouncing off your shield, though. Later when you need to jump a gap, you have the option of lightening your load by throwing your shield across first, which makes it roll into the pit and slap you with a Skill point loss.
  • Magic Potion: While the dungeon has its fair share of deadly traps, it also contains all kinds of magical items that aid you in your adventure, the most helpful which is a potion that helps you detect traps.
  • Merchandising the Monster: Deathtrap Dungeon is also Tourist Trap Dungeon. The various horrors down there were gathered by the local baron basically to make money off of the notoriety it brings to his town.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The three gemstones that open the final door.
  • Mirror Monster: The hideous Mirror Demon is a four-faced demoness encountered in a mirror-plated room, and is a rather worrisome enemy.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Let's just say that Deathtrap Dungeon's name is well-earned and self-explanatory in nature.
  • Our Manticores Are Spinier: The last portion of the Dungeon includes a Manticore that you must kill. It opens the combat by shooting a mass of spikes at you, forcing you to rely on a shield to avoid being pin-cushioned.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Upon completing the trials of the Trialmaster, you're free to turn around and kill the bastard who put you through hell and forced you to kill Throm. He's significantly easier than Throm, and he nets you a suit of armour awarding a +1 skill bonus.
  • Pinned to the Wall: The other barbarian hero met such an end, pinned like a butterfly to a massive wooden board.
  • Plot Coupon: The three precious gemstones you need to unlock the gate to the exit. To make things harder, while the emerald and the diamond are in a guarded room, the second gem, the sapphire, is hidden in a random hole in the wall halfway through, with no hint at all that it's there. Oh, and starting off, you're aren't TOLD you'll need gems at all.
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies: Somewhat justified in-universe, but from a gameplay perspective it happens several times and is annoying, resulting in quite a bit of Trial-and-Error Gameplay. Most notably with things like the giant statue with two gems for eyes: the left eye is the Plot Coupon required to win, while the right eye is instant death, with absolutely no indication in-story of which is correct.
  • Route Boss: In order to bypass the Dwarf Trialmaster's test, you must enter an arena and, depending on the choices you make, fight either a giant scorpion or a Minotaur, as one of two optional bosses, before completing the challenge.
  • Schmuck Bait: Pretty much every single room or encounter you make has one. Sometimes there are wild subversions, like the dagger embedded in the worm-filled hole, which is safe to recover, and the chance to insult Sukumvit, which actually helps you.
  • Significant Anagram: During the Trialmaster's test, you have to choose between two sentences which are anagrams of the creatures you'll have to face. One is a Minotaur, the other a Giant Scorpion. The former is far easier to fight.
  • Skippable Boss: The Pit Fiend is huge and fearsome, with Skill on par with the Blood Beast and no weakness... but since it's, you know, confined to a pit, if you have the right items you can make your way across the pit and avoid the beast entirely (which is for the best).
  • Sole Survivor: Six adventurers (including yourself) brave the Dungeon, but only one can make out of it alive ... and even that is by no means guaranteed.
  • Taken for Granite: One room hosts a crazy sorcerer who likes to turn people to stone (notably, this is how the Knight at the start of the dungeon meets his end). However, if you answer his riddle correctly, he'll be happy and bless you with a bonus to all your stats before letting you go.
  • T. Rexpy: The "Pit Fiend" encountered late in the maze can be described as a more upright T. rex popular with gladiator arenas, hence its name. (It should be noted that the actual Tyrannosaurus rex has a separate entry in the Out of the Pit supplement, and it does have stronger stats than a Pit Fiend.)
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The Troglodytes, busy dancing around a massive golden rock and ready to make you do the "Run of the Arrow" if you run afoul of them.