Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Trial of Champions

Go To

Trial of Champions is the 21st entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Ian Livingstone and acting as a sequel to the events of Deathtrap Dungeon.

You start as a slave, sold to the evil and cruel Lord Carnuss, brother of Baron Sukumvit from Fang, and forced to undergo harsh gladiator training for one purpose: after the victory of a nameless adventurer over the dangers of Deathtrap Dungeon, Sukumvit has rebuilt his personal deathtrap from scratch, making it even deadlier than before, and has issued a new challenge. Carnuss is jealous of his brother's success, and wishes to humiliate his brother by having one of his own slaves compete in the Walk and triumph, winning fame and gold. And that slave could be you, if you survive the deadly training regimen and the treacherous depths of the revamped Deathtrap Dungeon. Will you be another corpse lost in the pits, or will you triumph over impossible odds and get your revenge?

As with the first book, you have to venture forth into the confusing, deadly dungeon — if you can manage to survive your training — trying to distinguish between traps and useful items that will allow you to win the trial. In short, it's even harder than the first.

Continued in the gamebook Armies of Death.

Trial Of Champions provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: According to the D20 manual of the book, the Chaos Champion who partakes in the trial (and shows up rather late in the adventure as an unavoidable boss battle) is named Lord Kurgash.
  • And I Must Scream: The Dwarven noble competitor gets absorbed into a cursed box and becomes part of the box's carving. If you choose to open the box, then this fate can happen to you too...
  • Always Someone Better: Sukumvit to Carnuss, which is way the latter is so determined to humiliate the former.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Implied with the Chaos Champions, who are raised from birth to be merciless, cruel warriors.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: You can encouter a massive, fleshy "tongue" emerging from a hole in a stone face carving.
  • Big Bad: Sukumvit's brother Carnuss, who's much more of a direct threat and a gratuitous dick.
  • Butterface: The Liche Queen in the picture is rather attractive, if you ignore the claw-like hands or the hideously rotten face.
  • Cain and Abel: Carnuss and Sukumvit. Granted, Sukumvit is no saint himself, but at least he cares for Fang and keeps his word.
  • Carry a Big Stick: The Chaos Champion that serves as a penultimate boss uses a gigantic, dangerous spiked mace as his weapon, hence his high Skill score.
  • Chest Monster: If you go the wrong way, you run into a massive pile of gold which is an illusion created by a massive monster who proceeds to devour you whole.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted. At one point you encounter a horde of Zombies which are so numerous that you're forced to run away.
  • Continuity Nod: Again, the five contestants include an elf who's crushed to death by a serpentine being (though in his case it's a giant tongue instead of a snake like in the first book) and a warrior from the east who attacks you.
  • Cool Sword: The dungeon contains an enchanted Broadsword which allows you to fight certain enemies, like the Living Idol.
  • Creepily Long Arms: The Strider has arms nearly as long as he's tall.
  • Dem Bones: One room hosts a Bone Devil (a skeleton animated by a dust devil) and later on you have to fight the Skeleton King.
  • Double Weapon: The Strider's weapon of choice seems to be a double-headed Sovnya which he has no trouble wielding, despite his long arms and being in an underground tunnel.
  • Duel to the Death: Two that form Book Ends - The Gladiator Games section has you face off against the only other remaining slave, and fittingly enough, the game ends in one which pits you against Carnuss.
  • Epic Flail: The second-to-last gladiatorial test involves a blindfolded battle with flails. It's as frustratingly hard as it implies.
  • Evil Is Petty: Carnuss has sent dozens of slaves to their deaths, all because he never got over his ridiculous jealousy of Sukumvit from when they were children.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Lexus, the last Trialmaster, is an elderly wizard, and ready to kill you if you don't have all the required stuff. Even if you do, he summons a demon for you to fight and later tries to kill you with a trap.
  • Eye Scream: Losing against the Chaos Champion results in a blow to the face that damages your eyesight.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When you and a black man from the south are the only two slaves still alive, you duel to see which of you will represent Carnuss in Deathtrap Dungeon. If you win, the southerner commends you for winning and asks you to remember everyone who died in the arena if you get a chance for revenge on Carnuss.
  • Failure Is the Only Option:
    • Really, what are the odds you'd manage to escape from Lord Carnuss by punching the guard that brings you food - on the very first paragraph of the gamebook? All that gets you is a flogging.
    • If you're dumb enough to eat the rotting food scraps you find on the body of the Cave Troll, you're doomed even if you somehow manage to get through the dungeon, as the scraps are infested with the parasitic Grub Worms, which will eat their way out of your stomach and painfully kill you.
  • Feel No Pain: The Chaos Champion ignores a dagger to the shoulder, which just makes him angrier.
  • Gladiator Games: The first part of the game, in order to determine which slave earns the dubious honor of entering Deathtrap Dungeon.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Carnuss is ultimately outwitted by Sukumvit and killed by the very gladiator he kidnapped and put through hell for his own personal gain.
  • An Ice Person: The Coldclaw is a monstrous beast that chills everything around it, decreasing your Skill in combat.
  • It's Personal: Just about the only thing Lord Carnuss doesn't do as part of your ordeal is enslave you in the first place. What he does do is put you through dozens of deadly Gladiator Games for his own amusement, force you to kill over and over again, and shove you into a deadly deathtrap challenge just so he can upstage his hated brother - and as a kicker, the only thing you're promised at the end is your freedom; he gets to keep the 20,000 gold grand prize! So, coupled with a promise from the last slave you were forced to kill, challenging Lord Carnuss after you get out of the dungeon, win or lose, is incredibly cathartic.
  • Jail Bake: One of the essential items for completing the Trial is a metal file, hidden in a loaf of bread you can find in a larder.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Lord Carnuss put dozens of gladiator slaves through hell for his amusement, shoved the sole survivor into his brother's supposedly unbeatable challenge dungeon, and when the champion walks out against all odds, Carnuss thinks he can simply yank the prize away? No dice; Sukumvit allows the champion one wish, and Carnuss finds himself in a fight to the death with the warrior who just conquered Deathtrap Dungeon, and has a very big bone to pick with him.
  • Logical Weakness: Despite the Bonecrusher's enormous strength and nigh-invulnerable skin, it has one major weakness: its Top-Heavy Guy stature means that losing its balance is a death sentence, as it's almost impossible for it to get back up. You can do it the easy way by snaring it with a net, or the hard way by hamstringing it with a sword.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Arguably the worst in the entire run, giving you NO PROVISIONS or potions at the start (meaning your health pool is EXTREMELY limited), then immediately starting off with multiple Skill Checks in a row where failure equals instant death, taking a Skill Check on a 3d6 (only a 74% success rate with maximum skill 12) or fight an extremely hard against a tough monster with a huge penalty, and at one point simply rolling a D6 and a 1-2 effectively means death because the only way to survive at that point is to fail a regular Skill Check, which is literally impossible if you have max Skill. The luck requirement is so bad that even on the Golden Path, a max rank Stamina, Skill and Luck hero has only a calculated 25% chance of beating the book.
  • Made of Iron: The Bonecrusher's skin is so hard and tough that swords are next to useless against it.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Idol will come to life if you try to take her lamp. This is bad news if you didn't find the magical Broadsword earlier.
  • Nintendo Hard: The beginning alone requires a high number of Skill and Luck tests, along with many battles and the dreaded blindfolded flail combat. And all of this is before you even get to the dungeon, which means that if you die while trying to find all the items you need in the convoluted maze, you have to go through the training sequence again. The dungeon itself has no shortage of very hard opponents to fight either. Oh, and you don't have any Provisions this time around. The book even Lampshades how ill-prepared you feel when going into the labyrinth.
  • No Fair Cheating: Try to claim you have more gold rings than is possible, and the final Trialmaster will proclaim there is only one way to deal with liars.
  • One-Winged Angel: When you defeat the Fire Imp, it will grow into the bigger, Balrog-like Fire Demon.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: You encounter a singing siren in a dungeon room who tries to stun you long enough for the giant octopus-like monster living in her lake to kill you. If you get past it, but are still under her spell, she has a dagger to kill you with.
  • Out-Gambitted: When you emerge victorious from the dungeon, Carnuss demands the prize since you won the challenge as his proxy, but Sukumvit offers to grant you any wish you like as a reward. Naturally, you ask to duel Carnuss one-on-one, which spoils Carnuss's plans and allows Sukumvit the chance of getting rid of his brother.
  • Pig Man: The Tusker is a small, cavern-dwelling boar-thing which attacks you if you enter a tunnel hidden in the ceiling.
  • Plot Coupon: This time you have to recover a series of numbered rings and the three instructions on which combinations to use. This being an Ian Livingstone adventure, you must find all of them in order to win. There's also a set of clock hands for the final gate, but they're not technically vital, as you have a 1-in-4 chance of getting it right anyway.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Carnuss has elements of this. The whole reason Carnuss wants to show up Sukumvit is because the latter was their parents' favorite when they were kids and got to rule Fang. Carnuss never got over the jealousy and resentment he felt, and he gets dozens of people killed to avenge his childhood grudge.
  • Samurai: The "Eastern Warlord" is clearly one, as a shout out to the Ninja in the previous Deathtrap Dungeon. He too is hostile, and seemingly walked a long way from Hachiman (which, again, is in a different continent).
  • Scary Black Man: By the end of Carnuss's depraved competition, the only surviving slaves are you and a black man from the south. The two of you duel to decide which of you will be Carnuss's contestant in Deathtrap Dungeon. The southern slave qualifies as this trope since he was the only person besides you to survive everything Carnuss put the slaves through. It's also subverted in that he's the one who asks you to remember the slaves who died in Carnuss's arena if you ever get a chance at Carnuss.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Again, Sukumvit really loves his "traps-that-looks-like-useful-stuff" routine.
    • It's also inverted with pseudo-traps that can trick you into thinking you need to give up a gold ring to survive but are actually harmless. The real danger is in giving up the ring, which leads to instant death if you make it to the last Trialmaster.
  • Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: One of the most horrible Game Overs you might be subjected to; by using the old crone's dust, you can teleport yourself in a sealed room without any windows, the only apparent way out being a locked door. If you didn't retrieve an iron key by solving the skeleton's riddle, you will be trapped in that room for eternity.
  • Sequel Hook: In the end, after emerging from the Dungeon and killing Carnuss, you ponder on what to do with all the massive amount of gold you just obtained, and the option to hire some mercenaries for a personal army is mentioned. This is expanded upon in Armies of Death.
  • Sole Survivor: You, among Carnuss's gladiator candidates for the Dungeon.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Chaos Champion is covered in spikes from head to weapon.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • Just about the only good thing that Carnuss does to his champion for Deathtrap Dungeon is treat them in luxury for a week and make sure they're in top condition for the challenge. Still drags them to Fang in chains, though.
    • The greeters for Deathtrap Dungeon bandage and heal your wounds if you make it out. And you'll probably need the health for the final battle against Lord Carnuss.
  • Tin Tyrant: Lord Carnuss seems to be one, if he's the man dressed in heavy armor and a masked helmet in the illustration where you fight the only other surviving slave.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: The Bonecrusher beast is such a monster with an enormous torso and arms and comparatively short legs. This also displays its Logical Weakness: swords are useless against its tough hide and armour, but upsetting its delicate balance with a net is heaps easier.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The impish being trapped in a glass bell will curse you and steal one of your items if you release him.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Chaos Champion, who works himself into a berserk frenzy before your battle.
  • Unwinnable by Design:
    • If you eat the weird meat you find on the Hill Troll, Grub Worms will start burrowing through your stomach, making you lose 1 Stamina each time you turn to a new paragraph, which likely means you won't make it to the exit alive even if you have all the rings.
    • There are nine golden rings in the adventure. To win, you must find all of them, and all of them are missable.
  • With This Herring: Carnuss really wants to show up his hated brother by having his entrant win the contest. He even holds vicious gladiator games to make sure only the strongest slave will survive to represent him — who he then kicks into the maze with nothing but a sword, belt pouch, and the rags they'd been wearing since being captured.
  • Yellow Peril: You're forced to fight a pair of extremely nasty Asian opponents in the course of the book. One is a fellow contestant in the dungeon portion. The other one's a fellow slave who you end up with when the jailers lock all the remaining slaves up two to a cell and say that only one of them can be alive by the next morning.