Friday, May 11, 2018

Maze of Peril Ch 1, Scene 6: "A Map of the Dungeons Explored So Far"

This post is part of the Tales of Peril Book Club, indexed here.

After deciding on a direction, the party heads east for their first bout of dungeon crawling.
Zereth and Olaf remain in the front, with the others following in a slightly different order. Zereth strings his bow (a realistic touch) and draws a "black feathered arrow", and holds them together in his left hand, ready.

They reach the first north-south cross corridor previously reported by Zereth (scouting ahead) as being 70' from the entrance stairs. Nothing can be seen down these passages. They continue east and pass another "broad side corridor" where "dried slime covered the floor and even the walls". Holmes' original playing map for these adventures indicates the reason for this - this passage leads south to the Purple Worm's lair. I love that there is a Purple Worm lair so close to the entrance of a first level dungeon.

Continuing east, Olaf then tumbles into a covered pit trap, ten feet deep, and is attacked by a grey speckled and fanged serpent, seemingly of ordinary size but presumably poisonous. It fails to bite through Olaf's leather boots and he quickly dispatches it with his sword.

They haul Olaf out with one of their ropes, and the trap door swings back into place. Bardan comments on the trap maintenance (oiled hinges and a fed snake), and then is moved to front of the party because of his "innate familiarity with the Underground made him more likely to detect pits and traps". This is an ability of dwarves straight out of OD&D, Vol 1: "they note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground seetings". Bardan doesn't just "sense" these traps, but taps the ground ahead with the butt of a short spear from supplies carried by the mule.

Boinger starts mapping the dungeon, using charcoal on parchment. If we could see this map, it might look something like this:


Detail from a map by J. Eric Holmes, scan by Tristan Holmes
This is a detail from one of Holmes' original maps for the games that this story was drawn from, shown with permission from his son Tristan, who made the scan. Each square represents 5', with the main east-west passage being exactly 25' wide as noted in the previous entry of this series. On the left can be seen "Stairs Down" and "Stair to Level 2" (which was not noted by Boinger and company). The north-south passage in the middle is the first cross corridor. The wide passage from the south wall is the slimy area, which leads to the Purple Worm's lair. Finally, on the right is the pit trap, with "Trap Door live cobra" noted beside it. So at this point in the story Holmes is following his original map fairly closely.

Moving east again, the party passes more "dark side corridors, some less than five feet wide" on the north. They approach an interesting intersection with a large "round pit" at the center, illuminated by light from a hole in the ceiling extending back up to the surface.

A group of orcs comes up behind them, but they hear a cry and are not surprised. Boinger has time to get out his "short horn bow". Boinger and Zereth fire arrows at the orcs before melee is joined, much like the order of combat that Holmes gives in the Basic rulebook: "...This is followed by any missile fire, if the distance to the monsters permits, and then melee is joined..." 

This is the first combat of the book, and is told from Boinger's perspective. He fires two arrows, the first killing one orc, and then engages in melee with another orc that he defeats after some tense exchanges. Holmes' combat descriptions are vivid - the orc's breath is foul, its blood hits Boinger's face, he feels nauseated after killing it.

The orcs are Tolkien-esque, even more so than D&D as they are also referred to as "goblin-creatures" (Tolkien primarily calls them goblins in the Hobbit and orcs in the Lord of the Rings). The orcs have hog-like faces with thick red tongues, and are armed with wide-bladed falchions, iron and leather helmets and chainmail. They cry out  "Nyah-gastur", which appears to be made up by Holmes, but to me has echoes of the Lovecraftian names Nylarathotep and Hastur.

Descriptions:
Zereth: Black Feathered Arrows

Olaf: Thick Leather Boots

Boinger: Short Horn Bow