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Deathtrap Dungeon

(original cover)
(original cover)
(American cover)
(edition packaged with video game)
(reissue cover)
Series: Fighting Fantasy #6
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #3
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 2) #3
Contained In: The Best of Fighting Fantasy (Collection)
Deathtrap Dungeon: Limited Edition (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Box Set 1 (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Box Set 3 (Collection)
Fighting Fantasy Gamebox 2 (Collection)
Translated Into: O calabouço da morte (Portuguese)
Dødens labyrint (Danish)
Fasans labyrint (Swedish)
Halállabirintus (Hungarian)
Laberinto mortal (Spanish)
Labirint Strakha [Лабиринт Страха] (Russian)
Labyrint smrti (Czech)
Das Labyrinth des Todes (German)
Le Labyrinthe de la mort (French)
A masmorra infernal (Portuguese)
De proef der kampioenen (Dutch)
Shi no wana no chika-meikyu [死のワナの地下迷宮] (Japanese)
Smartonosen labirint [Смъртоносен лабиринт] (Bulgarian)
Adapted Into: Deathtrap Dungeon (Role-Playing Material)
Deathtrap Dungeon (Video Game)
Deathtrap Dungeon (Digital Gamebook)
Deathtrap Dungeon (Merchandise Item)
Author: Livingstone, Ian
Illustrators: McCaig, Iain (original artwork)
Corben, Richard (American cover)
Grant, Melvyn (Mel) (reissue cover)
Release Dates: March 29, 1984 (original)
September, 1984 (American edition)
1997 (edition packaged with video game)
May, 2002 (reissue)
December, 2003 (American reissue)
September 3, 2009 (series 2 reissue)
ISBNs: 0140317082 / 9780140317084 (original)
0440917174 / 9780440917175 (American edition)
074347967X / 9780743479677 (American reissue)
1840463880 / 9781840463880 (reissue)
Length:400 sections
Number of Endings:31 instant failures, 1 victory, plus death by Stamina loss or bad Luck.
User Summary: Every year, the town of Fang celebrates the Trial of Champions, a special event in which adventurers are sent into Baron Sukumvit's deadly, trap-filled dungeon. The one resourceful soul capable of surviving all the way through will win a vast prize. So far, no one has won, but there's a first time for everything, and you're determined to give it a shot....
Demian's Thoughts: After a few adventures in open spaces, this book delves back into the dungeon. Interestingly enough, it features the exact same author/illustrator team as the previous volume. In any case, the dungeon presented here is quite a memorable one -- there are few Fighting Fantasy fans who don't have a certain fondness for Baron Sukumvit's unforgettable trap-filled creation. Despite the nostalgia, though, I found this book a rather mixed bag.

There are quite a few good things to be found here. Probably the best thing about the book is the way it shows the series' setting beginning to evolve into a living world. By placing Fang near Port Blacksand, the author gives the reader a first sense of the fact that these books take place in a common land, and by giving frequent signs of fellow-adventurers' activities, the book makes its dungeon seem like a more lively place than, say, Firetop Mountain. Finally, while the explanation of the Trial of Champions is rather hard to swallow, it's also a lot of fun, and one of the better excuses for a maze full of random dangerous stuff that I've come across.

There are problems, though. For one thing, it really feels, from a structural standpoint, an awful lot like a rehash of the first book in the series (though the concluding puzzle, basically a game of Mastermind, is rather more clever than the key-adding of the first volume). This sense of deja vu is not the book's biggest flaw, however. The big problem is, once again, unbelievably excessive difficulty.

I have complained in the past that the stories of most Fighting Fantasy books tend to get lost in all the mapping and note-taking that the player has to do in order to win them. This problem is particularly bad here. In most of the earlier books, whenever I would roll up a Skill 12 character, I would experience a certain amount of breathtaking suspense, since I knew I had a shot at victory, however slim. In this book, I soon realized that there were so many instant death traps that Skill didn't matter, and that I'd have no chance of winning until I knew the dungeon inside and out.

Ultimately, I ended up sending dozens of adventurers to horrible fates just to get a rough idea of what I'd have to do to emerge victorious. I wasn't trying to win, even when I rolled Skill 12 characters; I was just mapping. I knew I stood no chance of victory without loads of foreknowledge. This reduced the book from an adventure to a mechanical exercise, which is a shame. It was also rather displeasing that even after all this work, there was no easy path available -- it's very frustrating when you have mapped every inch of a gamebook and still can't win without a certain amount of dice-fudging.

In the end, I'm not quite sure what to conclude about the book. It's a classic, but it's a rather flawed one (like most of the early entries in this series). It has some good writing and entertaining ideas, but if you play to win, you're likely to be too busy scribbling notes to actually appreciate the tale too much. The more I return to these books, the more I realize that the style of early Fighting Fantasy adventures just isn't to my taste; it will be interesting to see how I feel about the later volumes, though!

More reviews by Demian

lewstherin's Thoughts: This is one of the first Fighting Fantasy books I ever read. I'm just now getting back into these books as a bit of a nostalgic hobby of sorts. This and City of Thieves were the first two Ian Livingstone books I read so needless to say, when I picked up others by him later on I found that his books varied in quality from really good to not good at all. I have yet to go through all of them again, but I recall Forest of Doom and Temple of Terror being quite boring and unimaginative. For some reason though ol' Ian occasionally cranks out a pretty good thread and Deathtrap Dungeon is one of those threads.

I'm sure there are many much better game books I've yet to read and I'm sure this one has it's flaws but it is one of my favorites out of the Fighting Fantasy books I've read. Rereading it again after all these years I expected it to be not quite as cool as I remembered it, but overall, it was still very good.

The presentation and the atmosphere works here. It's interesting to run into the other warriors who are also competing in the Trail of Champions and the temporary alliance with the barbarian adds a bit of companionship, humor, and ultimately emotional impact due to the fact that only one can emerge victorious. The dungeon is well designed with a feeling of being vast, but other than a few key choices that could cost you one of the 3 precious gems you need to win, it is actually quite linear. Many tunnels are automatically discarded without the option of exploring them and others are dead ends that route you back to the other path. Once you know the dungeon, getting the gems really isn't too hard although there are plenty of ways to die along the way. Also, there are gems that you will see, but die trying to obtain so there are a few areas that will lure you into a gruesome fate. Not an easy book, but worth the effort.

More reviews by lewstherin

utfanatic's Thoughts: Ahh, another Ian Livingstone classic. Having heard tell of the legendary "Tournament of Champions," our would-be hero craves a challenge and decides to test his luck where all others have failed. Taking a boat up from Port Blacksand, and then a raft to Fang, you arrive just in time for the Tournament.

Ian does a nice job in the prologue setting the scene, building the sense of drama, excitement, and revelry which envelopes Fang, pre-Tournament. The reader is dropped into this simmering pot of delirium, introduced to his/her fellow contestants, and... off you go!

I rolled up Skill: 10, Stamina: 16, Luck: 12. This ended up helping quite a bit, and I nearly made it through without dying, wonder of wonders.

When reading Deathtrap Dungeon, one must keep in mind that this is truly a game, a tournament, a competition, and adjust expectations accordingly. This book is not one for heavy characterization, plot, motivations, or the like. No, this is one random encounter after another, one seemingly disconnected dungeon inhabitant after another, with no sense of cohesion, unless keeping in mind the nature of this "competition."

Too many times, the reader is prodded along down a corridor whilst being told he is choosing to disregard other options. Inquisitive, intrepid minds are both rewarded and punished. Rewarded by possibly finding the items mandated for survival, and punished by the numerous possibilities of sudden death. This is fine, considering the title of the book, but let's at least have a modicum of predictability and logical consistency. For instance, when one is given the option to toss your shield (which you are not told you have until this point) across a chasm, and you take said choice, you are told that your shield slips from your hand into the chasm as you attempt to toss it. Uh-huh. Fine.

All in all, entertaining read if you are in the mood and set your expectations accordingly. Moves quickly. Truly a "game" book. And of course, being the classic that it is, this is a gamebook not to be missed, for no other reason than to witness many of the themes and tools later books built upon.

Rating: 6

More reviews by utfanatic

Errata:In section 242, you fall unconscious to the floor, but if you make a good enough roll to get to 48, you're informed that you avoid falling unconscious to the floor. Hmm. Also an art/text inconsistency: in 164, you follow boot prints, but when you see the person who made them in the illustration by 299, he's barefoot.
Special Thanks:Thanks to Ed Jolley for the errata, Ben Nelson for the dragon logo cover scan and Nicholas Campbell for the early British cover scan.
Users Who Own This Item: aehalpin, Alarion, AlHazred, allofthetrash (reissue), Aniline, Ardennes (reissue), Asmoderan, auximenes, B0N0V0X, badboybaggins, BarefootJimmy, Barker1952, Belgarath, bigcobra, bonhomme, bookwormjeff (US), Braldt, Braxus, cayh_dilg, Citadel1963, convict7421, crazydave, CSquared, Cyan, c_wickham, dArtagnan, Darth Rabbitt, dave2002a, dblizzard72, demon of the deep lt, desdichado66, devilsboy, Dirk Omnivore, domj29, Dronak (1st reissue in FF Box Set 3), drystan, Dunkin48423, eadric, Ed, edwebb, EegahInc, egokun, evilspoon, Ffghtermedic, Fido815, firefoxpdm, frosty88 (reissue), Fullerton (US, UK), Gallicus (Limited Edition; Standard Edition), Gamebook, Gamebook Collector, Gartax, Gibraltar (green band original cover), gnomeza, Graham, greyarea13, Grifter, Gurvo, Haoie, hoops4ever, horrorbusiness, Ian2405, Icedlake, jeff3333, JiPi, Jonman99, jr, juski, katzcollection, khaxzan, killagarilla, killagirilla, kinderstef, knginatl (US orig., UK jagged, UK orig., UK orig. numbered, UK reissue (S1), video game edition/signed) (US orig., UK jagged, UK orig., UK orig. numbered, UK reissue (S1), video game edition/signed ) (US orig., UK jagged, UK orig., UK orig. numbered, UK reissue (S1), video game edition/signed ), Lambchop, le maudit, lewstherin, liam0404, M.Marangio, MacbthPSW, Malthus Dire, MarcusP, marnaudo, MasterChief, mattender, mir1812, mlvoss, nelsondesign, NEMO (American cover), nerelax, Nich, nicolau (Spanish ed. Timun Mas), Nomad, odo_ital, Office Linebacker_, Osirian08, outspaced, Pessimeister (With spare original version for trade), peterm2, Pirrakas, plowboy, Pol_K, Pseudo_Intellectual, qazplm (Golden Dragon), Radjabov, redpiper05, requiescat (Structurally tough, but lackluster world and treasures make me reluctant to spend more time on this.), Rozo, ryderark (Spanish Altea Version), Sabreman, sebastian, sick_boy, Sir Olli (UK & US), sireeyore, skeleton, smdiabla, snakefire77, Soul Reaver, spragmatic, StagQuests (US & UK-original 1st cover), strawberry_brite, terrysalt, thevagrant, Treguard, Tremendez, Trompe-l Oeil, truce57, twar, Twoflower, umbra682000, Uraniborg, Vampireman, Virtua Sinner, Wardog, xinuz, Yalius, Zolika
Users Who Want This Item: bookwormjeff (UK), Ebichuman (original/reissue cover), exaquint, Grifter, Househeart, jeremydouglass, Jubal, Morthynmir, mrwalker, NEMO (original) (reissue), ThisIslandEarth, twar, Von Scotty, Waluigi Freak 99, yermither, zat
Users with Extra Copies: Braldt
CSquared
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dArtagnan - Poor condition
devilsboy
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Ian2405 - Green 'Banner' Cover
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Pessimeister - Good reading copy of original "blue" version

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