I rolled some perfect luck and stamina, which was just as well, as I was entering the tournament with the fighting skills of an animate wet paper bag. It probably didn't help that according to the introduction, I spent the week or so before entering the dungeon in a state of Bacchanalian indulgence, and had to pass through Blacksand. I've been killed, or nearly, by both of those things so far in the series if I recall correctly.
So there's a dungeon, created as a tourism investment, no one's ever escaped, riches on offer etc etc. What I don't get is that everyone in town turns out to watch the bounty hunters enter the maze, while none to date have ever returned - it seems kind of boring, doesn't it? Annually turning out to watch a bunch of doomed delusionals wander into a cave? All the action happens on the inside, after all.
And what action - the titular Deathtrap Dungeon is chocked with danger, disaster awaits at almost every turn. One website I came across in my brief post-death (oops, gave away the ending there...) research stated there were something like 31 possible instantaneous ways to die - meaning every time you look up a new page/paragraph, there's literally a one-in-13 chance you're gonna die. I quickly realised the book contains so many random deaths for no apparent reason - "You turned left! Bad choice. You die," kind of things - I took a little liberty in re-choosing which direction in which to walk. Not something I've done at all so far, but Deathtrap Dungeon so lives up to its billing, it'd be impossible to review after one dip without doing so.
Anyway. Highlights? Okay, well, on entering, you come across six boxes, one for each of the competitors in this year's competition, including yourself. Your first decision pretty much is should you open the one with your name on it or not? The book makes it out to be pretty dramatic... till you realise there's no option to check out the boxes already opened, and whether footprints healthily led away from them.
Continuing my FF habit of eating/drinking pretty much anything I come across, I drank some water I found in a bamboo stick. It's not like I'm going to get the chance to do that in real life now is it? Without much subtlety, or planning, the book then checked whether I'd drunk the bamboo water on the very next page I turned to... see what I mean? Brutal.
At one point in the maze I was asked whether I wanted to pick up a goblet. Now, at this point in the series, there was no penalty for carrying insane loads of trinkets and shit. I can't remember if there ever was a limit, but it seems pretty silly to say no, doesn't it? Rarely will an item you're carrying ever be the death of you in FF.
Later in the book, I came within a stamina point of dying, during a fight, while abseiling from a giant Buddha-esque statue... a scene which contains one of the book's 50/50 death points, which nothing you've rolled or discovered can save you from. Annoying, cause you probably need one of those eye-gems to finish the book, given the level of detail the sequence entails, though I can't really recall.
I eventually died while hanging out and forming an 'alliance' with a fellow contestant. My death involved a pit I shouldn't have tried to jump, but a quick check of the alternative scenarios (as I explained above) showed that not even the 'right' decision or rolls could have saved me - another random sequence which may mirror the reality of the situation quite well (whatever reality there could be), but is a bitch for gameplay.
All in all, it didn't quite spark with me in the same way as I remembered it - perhaps then I was less put-off by instant deaths and less averse to 'reloads' from arbitrary save points (the last page number I could remember where I was alive!).
Perhaps Trial Of Champions, the sequel-in-spirit, will survive the past 15 years a bit better.
My copy is very much identical to the one pictured above, but with the Puffin branding. There were still only seven published at the time. I know this doesn't mean nothing to no one, but I'm totally looking forward to the day I get up to whichever one of mine it is that is the earliest with the super-flashy logo and stuff with Jackson and Livingstone's names, and the actual author acknowledged on page 185 or something.