Eye of the Dragon

“Find your own damn orcs to kill!”

Eye of the Dragon by Ian Livingstone

This one was originally a short adventure in the 1982 book Dicing with Dragons. The book itself was an introduction to role-playing games, so the adventure was really a sampling of the crazy excitement that you can get up to with some dice. I think there might be a need for explanatory materials like this today, since there’s still a general ignorance of what RPGs actually are.

I don’t know anything else about it, other than I’m playing a character who has a pathological urge to drink anything in a flask she sees, so I might as well get on with the dungeon exploring…

Statistics

Skill: 10
Stamina: 23
Luck: 11

Equipment: Er, I assume I have a sword, armour, and backpack, but it only mentions 10 provisions in the intro to the book. I get 10 gold and a fancy emerald in the background.

Onward to Adventure!

I find myself in Fang, down on my luck and in need of a change in fortunes rather fast. The Trial of Champions is happening next month, and I’m trying my best to fight the urge to enter. Contestants are given the run of the town for a month, but then I’ll get killed in the dungeon. I’m fighting the overwhelming magnetic pull of the dungeon, but it’s taking all my will. Unfortunately, with so many hired swords hanging around town for the suicidal adventurer championships, there’s not a lot of good, honest, murderous work to be had to distract me from certain doom.

I am sitting around in a tavern, pondering what to do, when a newcomer enters. I ask him what he’s been up to, and he introduces himself as Henry Delacor. He’s spent five years looking for a legendary statue of a dragon. A metre high, with gems for eyes, and wildly valuable. When he eventually found it, he saw the eyes were missing. If both eyes are not in the dragon, it is lethal to the touch. Thankfully, one of them was in the maze the dragon is hidden in. Unfortunately, he didn’t find the other. “I reckon I can find it,” I say speculatively. Delacor thinks this is an okay idea and will turn over his map and the eye to me on one condition: That I drink some slow-acting poison so I will be certain to return with the dragon within fourteen days for the antidote.

This sounds stupid, right? Well I’m an adventurer. Nothing is too stupid for me to try. I down the poison and set off immediately!

After a three-day trek to Darkwood Forest, and two days of roaming about looking for the woodcutter’s hut built over the entrance to the underground maze, I am finally set to go down there and kill some monsters. But the hut is deserted, so I quickly loot it of everything I can find. This comes to one axe head with a mysterious inscription. I figure there’s got to be an axe handle around somewhere, so I take it. Down in the dungeon, I take the first left turn I find, and run into a door. Inside, there is naught but a mirror. I have a look in it, and am wracked with pain. Oh, one of those mirrors. I smash it to pieces, take a shard as a memento of my heroic victory against a big sheet of reflective glass, and leave through the door opposite. I enter a room with a pool of water, that has some gold coins at the bottom. This is probably a trap, so I continue out the other side. Along the corridor from the obviously-a-trap room, I find a door with a window next to it. There’s a woman inside, busy with something. I knock, and get no response. I enter, and she turns around just as I notice she doesn’t so much have hair as a reptile house. I avoid looking at her, and hold up my piece of mirror. When the hissing stops, I kick over the newly-formed statue and then search the room, coming up with a skull necklace that causes me to hallucinate skeletal warriors. Nice toy, I suppose.

Further on I find a kitchen with some giant rats inside. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia for the early days of my adventuring career prompts me to walk in and slay them. A quick search of the kitchen turns up what looks like a potion. There’s only one way to find out. I sample it, and find some of the bites clearing up. It is a potion! My spirits lifted by the positive results of drinking whatever bottled liquid I come across, I search deeper into the dungeon. I come to a dead end with a door… and am trapped by a portcullis. I enter the room, and find a fancy marble floor with some foot marks inside a circle. An evil voice instructs me to step into the circle, and laughs evilly.

“No, evil laughing voice,” I say. “You show yourself first!”

The voice laughs again, painfully loud. I figure, what the hell. When I step into the circle I am suddenly rendered unconscious. I wake in a filthy cell. I scrabble in the dirt and find a trapdoor. I then search some more and find a gold nugget and a gold bracelet. The bracelet naturally turns out to be cursed as soon as I put it on. Feeling a bit put out, I drop through the trapdoor and find a torture chamber. I loot a chest and leave. Exploring up ahead, I turn a corner and find a fountain in the shape of a hideous crone. I’m thirsty enough not to care, and am rewarded by it being a magical healing crone fountain. Further on I find a chair carved to look like hundreds of skulls. I take a seat, only to find it is a magical healing skull throne. After those two encounters with rather ugly décor, I think nothing of opening a door with rodent skeletons nailed to it. Inside is a two-headed troll. Big deal. I kill them and steal all the things in their room, including a broken dagger. I walk onward, ever deeper into the bowels of the earth. Eventually I find an underground river, plunging into the depths, with a raft conveniently tied up on the shore. I don’t know if this is such a great idea. I backtrack and go along a different route. I eventually come to a door with a woman inside chanting a strange rhyme. I am agog with wonder over what hideous creature she will turn out to be, and step inside. The occupant is just a run-of-the mill witch.

“Hello,” I say, “I don’t suppose you have seen a large and valuable emerald lying around?”

I don’t get an answer, because a pair of vampire bats attack me. I dispatch them with ease, but then she unleashes her horde of rats. Amazingly, the cursed bracelet I’m wearing has the power to repel rats. The downside is she then turns her arms into snakes and attacks me. She gets a few good bites in, and I stagger back, poisoned. I fish out that potion of healing and drink it.

“You’re stopping to drink a potion in the middle of a fight?” the witch says incredulously.

“Of course,” I reply, running her through while she’s standing there looking surprised.

At that she turns into a mouse and runs away. Suddenly, the steam from the cauldron (of course there’s a cauldron, she’s a witch) starts to form the image of the crone, holding out the twin of the emerald eye I already have. I grab for it, and the cauldron explodes. Not my best moment.

The illusion of the witch reappears, and tells me her name is Vigdis. I tell her she’s one ugly old crone, and she thinks this is a compliment. Well, okay, flaunt what you’ve got. She tells me I can have whatever is in a box on her shelf, and I grab it and get out of there. For my trouble I’ve earned some gold, some garlic, and a key with a number stamped in it. As I proceed, I consider that it’s always good to have as many objects with numbers on as possible. At the end of the passage I find a door, and when I quietly open it, I see a gleaming object in the light of a lone candle. I swipe the pendant and put it on, and saunter off. Or I would, but the floor collapses and I plunge into a spider lair. After dispatching the spider, I search the room. I find a good many things, including numbered keys, broken daggers, holiday tree ornaments, and a sharpened stick which I can use to make anything I find look like a much better discovery than is at first apparent.

I clamber out of the spider pit, and continue up the hallway that was previously a dead end. From behind a door I hear cries for help. Inside, a lavishly appointed room has at the back an iron cage with a beautiful young woman locked inside. I decide to help. This can only end well, right? The door to the cage is unlocked, and given the size of her canines, it’s not surprising. I fish out my garlic and ward her off for a few moments. What would be really handy here is a silver dagger. Let’s take stock: Silver box, silver arrowhead, two pendants on silver chains, and some broken ordinary daggers. What the hell, the trusty blade will do the job, right? I make quick work of the vampiress, and then a bat flies out of the pile of dust. It is the spirit of the fiend! According to vampire lore, she will have a new form in two night’s time, and be out to get me. If I’m still down here she’ll have to take a number and get in line. I poke around in the dust and find an emerald pendant. It’s not the right emerald, but it’s still worth coming out of this vampire business with something.

Further on I find a room full of greenery. I enter, only to be attacked by a gremlin. After killing it – the hard way, there’s no handy skylight – I find a cupboard, which has a jar of green paste in it. I decide to eat some. It’s not tasty, but at the bottom of the jar is a key with a number on it. Further on I come to a grim archway with a pair of skeletons standing in alcoves. I know how this goes, and proceed to smash them to bits. One of them has a spiffy helmet, which I steal. It causes me a brief headache, but the snake head necklace I grabbed from the gorgon counters the curse. Further along from Skeleton Arch, I find a red door. Someone is chuckling inside, so I step in, and find the room is quite small. The voice says it belongs to a wizard trapped in another dimension. I proceed to tell him about my quest to find the golden dragon, starting with my trip to Fang, and continuing through all my adventures, ending with when I found the red door.

“..and then I thought, this door would be a lot better if it was painted black, so I came in here to suggest it.”

“I agree,” says the disembodied voice, and then makes a numbered key appear in thanks for the story. I travel onward, and come to a T-junction.

Most T-junctions offer no dilemma for me, but this one has some arrows chalked to the wall pointing right. This might be a trick, or maybe I’m meant to think it’s a trick and go in the other direction to my doom. But what if this is a trick to… You know what? I’ll just follow the arrows. I walk onward, and find another junction with more arrows leading off in one direction. The other is a room full of sand. There’s several objects sticking out, and a convenient shovel.

Hey, free shovel!

I go into the room to do some digging, but a giant sandworm springs from the ground. A voice in my head tells me to try out that crystal dagger I found, and with one stab the sandworm dissolves into sand. I proceed to dig for victory. I turn up a veritable treasure trove of junk, including a broken chair, a torn flag, a chest of gold, a tattered book, and a staff. I strike the staff on the ground and am knocked over. It’s a staff of thunder. The book has some rhymes in it. One of them encases me in iron bars. This seems to be a problem, but the green paste has also given me super strength, but only when trapped by iron bars.

I return to following the arrows, and eventually find a rope hanging through a hole in the ceiling. I give it a tug and a bell rings out. I can’t imagine that’s good, but try to climb through the hole anyway. Above I see a treasure trove of stolen goods… and also three Niblicks, who start to beat the snot out of me while I clamber up. What is with tiny people and being sadistic tricksters, thieves, and murderers? I do battle with this dungeon’s resident midgets, and then loot their loot. I grab yet another shield, and scoff some apples, a scroll with a spell for blasting holes in walls, and pick up a sword with a showy pommel stone.

The sword promptly tries to cut my throat! I stare down at it in shock, noting the name “Razaak” engraved in it. As I struggle to stop the blade, my cursed bracelet overcomes the power of the sword, much to my relief. I sit down and try to relax by appreciating a lovely painting of a dragon. The dragon comes to life and tries to attack me too! I slay the tiny painted dragon and decide it’s time to leave before the rest of the objects of art try to murder me. On the way back past the junctions I find some silver coins. These are not normally worth picking up, but I’m already carrying a broken chair, several kinds of dried leaves, and a shovel. What’s some small change?

Back on the path I come to a door where some people are eating loudly. I open the door, only to find some green and ugly creatures that are clearly orcs. Every adventurer has to kill some orcs at some point. I kill one, and in the middle of my battle with the second someone walks in and offers to help out for some gold. The orc and I stop and stare at this blatant money grubbing. “Look, I think I’ve got this one,” I say. The mercenary shrugs and walks out. The orc, infuriated at the interruption, smacks his skull open as he walks away. I use the opportunity to skewer the orc. Searching the disgusting mess the orcs lived in, I find a blue bottle. On opening a beturbaned man is suddenly floating in the air. He gives me a magical brooch, and disappears. I search the bodies and come up with a fish hook, bell, and some buttons. The quality of treasure in here varies wildly.

I carry on, finding a trail of blood. I follow it to a door, and enter to find a Dwarf chained to the wall. It turns out his name is Littlebig, and he’s been looking for the emerald eye as well, and has been tortured by someone called Sharcle for information. I figure teaming up might be a good idea. We proceed through the dungeon. As we walk, Littlebig tells me he’s actually named for his uncle Bigleg, who died a hero trying to save the town of Stonebridge. I listen to the rambling, and am nearly killed by a fireball from an evil wizard.

“Oh come on,” I say. “Why is it always fireballs?” and smack the staff of thunder on the ground, blasting the wizard to pieces. We carry on, and find a wizened old man. I try talking to him, but he ignores me. Okay, old man, I’m not playing along. We turn right, and come to a store room, which is full of maggot-ridden food. Further on the corridor becomes cold and dank, and a cyclops comes out of the mist armed with an axe. It’s not a very big cyclops, though, so I kill it with ease and Littlebig swipes the axe.

Just out of the mist is a door which says “Pia’s Potions” – a shop in a dungeon? I figure it’s worth checking out. The proprietress is an astonishingly beautiful woman, in her own clichéd harem pants and midriff baring top way. I wave some garlic at her just to be on the safe side, and then try the sample healing potion she’s offering. It turns out to work just fine,so I buy up some more potions and try to chat her up.

“I guess you should know, I’m really eighty,” she says.

“What?”

“I’m eighty, but the potions generally keep me looking younger.”

“I can live with that,” I say, truthfully. After all, it’s been how many years? Besides, she’s hot. “I can swing by after I sort out this whole dragon statue business and we can go get something to eat in Stonebridge.”

The Dwarf is not impressed with my picking up strange women in the dungeon. “Look, you have plenty of time to chat up pensioners later,” he drags me out of the room. “Dragon statue!” We walk on, with me speculating on what kind of music she likes and where she’d like to eat. “How would I know?! I’m a Dwarf, you’re human women!” Thankfully a skulking figure with a sack distracts me from planning a date. I give chase, and run into more black-robed dagger carrying people. I guess they’re thieves. The thing about thieves is, whatever they have on them is not theirs in the first place, so it’s okay to take it all from them. Of course you have to kill them first. They have some more fish hooks. I’m not sure what these fish hooks will be good for, but I suppose I can carry a lot of them. After all, these items have no appreciable weight and should not be considered for encumbrance unless hundreds are carried.

Further on Littlebig finds a secret door, which turns out to be a hidden area built by Dwarves to rest in. I guess they must come down here every few months and try to clear out whatever monsters have taken up residence. We devour all the food, and I find a map. Further on we find a body lying on the ground, which I loot of all its possessions, including a sword called Skullsplitter. This sounds like a rather useful sword, to be honest. Oh, look, there’s also, another potion! I throw it back in one go, and then start to convulse and cough up blood. Poisoned! I suppose that was going to happen sooner or later…

Wrapup

That’s what happens when you drink every vial of liquid you find.

This is the most fun dungeon crawl book I’ve read so far. The combat is easy enough and even some of the cursed items turn out okay. Some of the gimmicks are ones I recognise from earlier books, like the arrows on the wall, and the numbered keys. It was astonishingly easy apart from the unnecessary vampire encounter, but if I hadn’t died there were at least three difficult combats coming, one of which is against an opponent that deals twice the normal damage.

Having a sidekick to provide exposition is a nice touch, but a Skill of 8 makes him almost completely useless. Littlebig also serves to give a second chance for some of the dangers in the book, though

Suspension of Disbelief Shattered: A mercenary walks into my fight and asks me to pay him to help out? What? No, I don’t think so.

Ridiculous Battle: The Gigantus, which is a Skill 12 monster that deals 4 damage instead of 2 when it hits. Not even a remotely fair fight for the average adventurer. The dragon just outside the chamber with the objective is bigger and tougher, but you can walk right past it.

Victory: You leave the villain of the story bleeding to death, find out the poison was a lie, and party with the Dwarves in Stonebridge, and possibly some woman with a ridiculous taste in headgear. The statue is apparently worth around 335,000 gold pieces, making it the largest haul I’ve seen.

What Was I Thinking? Using magical items to deal with the evil wizard. Adventurers kill wizards! Kill the wizard, take their stuff, and I would have made it. That’s what I get for not sticking to the basics.

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2 Responses to Eye of the Dragon

  1. cityman1984 says:

    And one wonders, who on Titan pays such vast sums for pieces of kitsch, such as the dragon statue and the skeleton statuette?

    The prize for the original Deathtrap Dungeon was about 3% of the price of the dragon statue. I never could fathom why the prize for Deathtrap Dungeon was so small. Really it should be 100,000 gold pieces for the first one at absolute bare minimum – and that’s taking into account that it would have to start smaller in order to multiply with each deadlier redesign of the dungeon.

    • The prize went up after the first winner due to inflation. As for the dragon statue, I suspect it makes for a great paperweight. You stick your secret documents under it, remove the eyes, and it kills anyone who tries to read them. Just try not to forget.

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