Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon (1977)

This is Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon, the second Tunnels & Trolls adventure module, and one that saw several printings. The first two pictures are from the spiral bound 1977 edition, the second set of two from the revised 1981 edition. It is cool to see both the Flying Buffalo production value increase and to see how Liz Danforth’s skill as an illustrator evolved over the four years between the two versions.

I said adventure module, but really, this is an adventure gamebook meant for solo play. It is, I believe, the first “teleport” adventure, in which a quest master—in this case the demon, Umslopagaas of the Shiny Teeth, the fellow on the cover—blinks you in, around and out dungeon situations, rather than adhering to more prosaic methods of exploration and traversal. There are two modes, the frog trail and the lion trail. Frog adventurers dip in to test themselves in a single encounter, where lions proceed through the gauntlet of all sixteen.

The encounters offer a variety of challenges, many of which break the conventional rules of the game (hence the “equalizer” in the title). I don’t really know what to make of it. Characters were supposed to move through a series of solos in T&T, growing as they go, but the teleportation here seems at odds with, say, exploring the City of Terrors or even taking part in the battles of Arena of Khazan. You can use the frog ring multiple times to minimize risk and maximize reward, sort of a gamebook version of save scumming or XP farming. S’weird. On the other hand, this is literally the second adventure gamebook published, after Buffalo Castle, so it seems wrong to hold it a super high standard.

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