Monday, November 26, 2018

Maze of Peril Ch 1, Scene 7: "The Grisly Business of Swallowing the Corpses"

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

The party wins their first combat, and Zereth directs them in standard D&D post-melee activities  searching the corpses (no treasure is mentioned), retrieving arrows, guarding the passage, checking for injuries (none are noted). Murray dissuades them from hiding the corpses as a waste of time, which proves prescient.

The area where they fought the battle was described in the previous section:
"More dark side corridors, some less than five feet wide, opened to the north. A glow of light ahead resolved, as they approached, into a diffuse beam of sunlight coming down a shaft in the ceiling which illuminated a round pit in the floor. Two thick wooden doors in the south wall were visible by the sunlight, both tight shut. At the lighted shaft, Boinger noted, there was a broad cross corridor and a narrow, darker passage intersecting the tunnel they were in."
These details closely match one of Holmes' original dungeon maps, a sheet adjacent to the one shown in my previous post. In fact, the details match this map so closely that I feel Holmes must have been consulting it while writing this part of the story. Below is the relevant portion with color annotations added by myself. The main corridor runs east-west, 25' wide at a scale of 5' per square. Narrow side corridors open to the north, two doors are in the south wall, and "The Pit" is at the intersection with a broad cross corridor. The orcs attacked while the party was examining the Pit, coming up behind them from the west ("Orc Battle").

Detail from a map by J. Eric Holmes, scan by Tristan Holmes
Boinger suggests investigating the two doors, which are the first doors they've found in the dungeon. They handle these in typical OD&D fashion  Bardan and the two men-at-arms bash one open, finding nothing (room above labeled "Empty"), and Boinger listens at the other. He hears nothing, but on bashing this one open they are are surprised by an "orange mass". Zereth recognizes this an Ochre Jelly, which is a "giant amoeba" member of the "cleanup crew" of Vol 2 of OD&D, and Holmes has it attack accordingly in a nice bit of description  a "long pseudopod of glistening, translucent orange tissue thrust through the gap as the door was pulled shut". The closing door severs this pseduopod, which continues to attack, and a further slash with a sword similarly divides it into two smaller globs, in accord with OD&D ("hits by weaponry ... will merely make them into several smaller Ochre Jellies"). Bardan wisely suggests burning it with a torch, which is successful, and also in accord with the original description ("can be killed by fire or cold"). Thus they survive their second melee.

Next, Boinger's "keen ears" detect an approaching sound. While in OD&D, Vol 3, Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits all have an increased chance to hear noise (1-2 in 6 versus 1 in 6), here Boinger clearly has better hearing than the elf or dwarf in the party. In Greyhawk, Hobbit thieves get an extra +1 to Hear Noise, which advances the idea that Hobbits have the best hearing of the non-humans. The sound resolves into a grating noise like someone "dragging a sack of heavy rocks down the tunnel", disturbing enough that Murray suggests they head down a side corridor. They then double back "into another corridor, this one only ten feet wide and black as pitch", where they put out their torches and wait ("Hiding Place" marked above).

Here Zereth they find a "a narrow passageway" that Zereth believes will lead "back toward the intersection", so he and Boinger use this to investigate the noise further. On the map above, this is the five-foot passage paralleling the wider north-south passage. Back at the intersection, our two heroes spy a huge Purple Worm, now in the "grisly business of swallowing the corpses" of the orcs, armor and all. Per OD&D Vol 2, Purple Worms are sufficiently large enough to swallow opponents in combat. The party had earlier noted the worm's trail throughout the main corridor, and now they have found it. They quickly head back to the party.

The original illustration of a Purple Worm from OD&D Vol 2, page 5, possibly by Dave Arneson.

Next up, we finally reach the last scene of Chapter 1!


  1. This section followed the map and the game very closely. Just think in the second chapter you already get two monsters. It's neat to see Arnsons crude little drawing. Anyone know why the worms are purple?

  2. Gygax seems to have picked it as a spare dragon color. Chainmail mentions the flightless, stinging Purple Dragon in the entry on Dragons, and this was just after he had a series in a zine about the different colored dragons that also describes it. By the time of D&D it had been separated out from the Dragons but kept its color. See this thread on ODD74: "Gygax Dragons Pre-Chainmail 1969-1970"