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Introduction by Ken St. Andre

The following tale of wizardly cunning was created by playing a solo dungeon authored by Scott Grant–a dungeon expressly designed for wizards, instead of those more commonly created for warriors.  Using magic well within a solo dungeon is a difficult task for a game master/scenario writer to manage, and Scott, one of the many rather brilliant members of Trollhalla, has managed it very well.

I did all the writing here, but because Scott created all the situations and characters, and because the members of Trollhalla voted to determine the hero’s next action each time, I have given them authorship credits as well.  An adventure created from a solo may or may not end happily but what I want here is fiction, not an exhaustive retelling of the game. I have decided to leave some of the game mechanics visible (usually in parenthesis) in order for those who are not familiar with Tunnels and Trolls to have some idea what is happening and why.  If I submitted the story for professional publication, I would take all the game mechanics out of the narrative.  It’s really just a short story.  Such a narrative typically only shows a small part of the total adventure. Markus was supposed to retrieve at least 9 out of 10  tokens, but . . .

I have also left in some of the commentary I  wrote while playing through the adventure the first time. This breaking of the fourth wall between narrative and readers is generally frowned upon by the literary establishment, but this tale is a kind of special case.  I am hoping that it will not only give you a few minutes of reading pleasure, but also illustrate some of the gaming principles involved in roleplaying a game like Tunnels and Trolls.

And now, on with our tale . . .

Final Exam

by Scott Grant, Ken St. Andre, and members of Trollhalla

Markus of the Myre looked good in his new dungeon delving gear. He had a complete suit of leather armor with high-topped boots and fingerless gauntlets–protection for the hand, but maximum dexterity for casting spells and fighting. A wickedly curved jambiya was thrust through the belt at his waist–he counted on his armor to keep it from cutting him–and his trusty staff was in his left hand. He kept a serious expression on his face with some difficulty as his gnarled old instructor droned on and on.

“You have one final test to complete your education,” said old Oinkenwartz. “All those who train in Cormac’s School of Wizardry, also known as the Cedar Corral Wizards Guild, must learn to use their training in a very real way. We don’t just send you out into the world with a pat on the backside and hope for the best; we want you to be truly prepared.”

“I appreciate that, Sir,” said Markus, when what he really meant was “Can we get on with this?”

“Follow me.” Oinkenwartz pushed aside a curtain and revealed a stairway heading down to the Tower’s basement. They had gone that way many times before on training exercises. The old wizard muttered a word “Tnalov” and levitated about six inches.  He then floated effortlessly down the stairs. Markus had to walk.

The young apprentice thought he knew everything that the basement had to offer, from the Library of Stone to the Practice Room to the Janitors Closet, but Oinkenwartz put his hand on a stretch of blank wall, muttered something. Then the wall shimmered and disappeared, revealing another stairway leading down into unknown depths.

“I survived this dungeon myself many years ago.  Though it has seen many changes, it is still very challenging—and very deadly.  You will need more than just your magic; you will need to be smart, clever and lucky. Less than half of our students ever make it out. Perhaps you will meet some of them down there.” Oinkenwartz snorted, making a wheezing noise that could have been a laugh, a spell, or perhaps his last breath.

The old teacher pulled a gem out of thin air—actually he reached up and pulled it from behind Markus’s ear. The apprentice wished the old coot wasn’t such a stage magician at heart. “Before you enter the dungeon, you may cast two spells. This gem will allow me to restore your kremm after each casting.  Choose your spells wisely.”

Markus looked at his instructor quizzically.  “That’s a very kind offer, Sir, but what good does it do me to cast a spell now, when I will undoubtedly need it later?”

“Good thinking, lad. Most of the spells would be useless to you now. But surely there are some that might come in handy later.”

“Hmmm, well, hocus focus might be useful, but I already have a staff ordinaire.”

“That was a wise investment on your part.”

“I’d like a Do-Over spell, then and a Ground Rule Double.”

“Excellent, Lad, excellent!” Oinkenwartz extended the jewel toward Markus.  “Cast those now, if you please.” Markus concentrated, did some finger flexing, intoned mystic syllables. The jewel cast off some unlikely glows and remained glowing brightly in the teacher’s hand. “You take it my boy! When you want the Do-Over just rub the gem and say do-over. When you want the Ground rule double, rub it and say double.”

“Thank you, Sir. May I go now?” Markus took the gem.

“Oh, yes, go now!” The old wizard lunged forward and pushed Marcus through the portal. Caught unexpectedly, Markus staggered back a few steps and teetered on the edge of the stairway. The stone beneath his feet flattened out; the stairway turned into a spiral slide, and Markus found himself sliding down into the darkness. He barely managed to hold onto the gem, and he did drop the staff, but it didn’t matter. The staff slid down into the pit with him. Then he found himself flying through the air and falling. [L1SR on DEX—rolls 3, 3 plus 3,4 for a total of 13—makes it handily.]

Markus found himself in a dimly-lit room. One stone just above the chute that had dropped him here glowed weakly. He put the jewel in a small pouch that was tied to his belt, picked up his staff and got to his feet. There was a door in the north wall. The chute was in the south wall. There didn’t appear to be anything interesting, although there could have been something hidden on the walls—the light was really too faint to tell.

[Note: only 3 spells had any result on the gem. Hocus Focus was one of them, but it was a waste since Markus already had a great focus in his staff ordinaire. One person suggested the Ground Rule Double. Nobody suggested Do-Over. Spells like Detect Magic are inherently useless in this solo. Markus is a wizard. He detects magic automatically—he can’t help it. Sligo may think it’s a great joke to kick you out of the dungeon on the first paragraph, but I think it’s a waste of our time, so I gave Markus the only two spells that might help him. In my opinion, Vorpal Blade would have been a possibility if the player had a sword or knife. He does have a knife, but the adventure didn’t allow that to work either.]

Markus got up and looked around. It didn’t take long. Two steps in any direction brought him to the wall. Yes, the stone above the entry chute was glowing, a cool light, and not very bright, but as his eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness, he found he could see well enough. For a moment he thought about casting Will-o-Wisp to get a little more light, but why bother? This dungeon, like all the best dungeons he’d ever heard of, seemed to provide its own light. That made sense. If creatures were going to live down here, they’d have to be able to  see to get around.

He thumped on the walls as he walked, just to see if there were any hollow-sounding spots, but that just scuffed up his knuckles. Solid stone has a way of doing that when you rap on it. When he reached the door he found some markings, all done in the Dwarvish runes that everyone was using for writing these days. He stopped to read it. “Dang! Wasted an Oh There It Is. Nothing here.” And “Trrrommm was here.” And a few other comments with about as much content. It did make him wonder if he had brought anything to write with. A quick check of his delver’s pack ™ showed him that he had two large pieces of white chalk—they would do. He made his own mark by the door, M. M. and the date 6/28/1320 A.K.

Then he opened the door and looked outside. He was at a T intersection.  Dimly-lit corridors stretched off to the left, right, and straight ahead. He stepped out into the intersection and closed the door behind him. As he put his foot down, he skidded a little. Looking more carefully at the floor, he saw that he had stepped in something. Ew!

He drew an M on the door behind him and arrow indicating which way he went.

Markus turned left and set off on his explorations. He took a moment to mark his trail with a chalk arrow and an M.  He walked for a while and came to another intersection. Again he turned left, and walked until the corridor ended in a door. He put his ear to the door, and heard muffled voices. They sounded human.

Having decided to go through every door he found, Markus pushed the door open. He found himself looking into a sort of arena.  The room was a good fifty feet square and well-lighted with several open-sided oil lamps. There was a large ring painted on the floor in heavy black paint, and two armored warriors stood outside of it in opposite sides of the room. One had a sword and shield. The other carried mace and shield. Both wore full plate armor. Shield and armor showed a few dents, and both men were breathing heavily.  It appeared that the fighters were very evenly matched.

Markus stood near the northern door. There were exits to the east and west.  On the south wall was a golden podium with a small trophy upon it. The two men had been talking, but when they saw Markus enter, they lowered their visors and turned to face him.

“Good evening, Gentlemen,” said Markus. “Pardon me if I have interrupted anything important. My name is Markus of the Myre. May I ask who you are?”

The one with the sword said, “Hello, Markus, my name is Scott. Is it evening already?”

“Well, the sun had gone down when I entered this dungeon.”

The one with the mace said, “Greetings, Markus, my name is Grant. We’ll get back to our fight soon. Would you care to stay and watch, just to be sure that Scott doesn’t cheat?”

The question made Markus a bit uncomfortable. “Um, why are you two men fighting? Wouldn’t it be better to save it for the monsters in this place? I could use a bodyguard, or two.”

“Monsters?” Both men looked at Markus like he was crazy and burst out laughing.

“Grant is the only monster around here,” said Scott. “He wants to keep me from the prize I deserve.” He pointed almost reverently at the small gold trophy.

“What makes you think you deserve it?” asked Markus.

Scott puffed out his chest. “It should be mine because I am a gallant and brave fighter, and the trophy would make a nice addition to the long list of honors and awards I have received.”

“You, Scott, are a pompous braggart,” sneered Grant, “and you deserve to be taken down a notch. If I win the trophy, I’ll sell it for gold, and give half the money to the poor.”

“I don’t trust you, Grant. I think you lie, and you would do anything to take away the honors that I deserve.”

Grant shrugged and looked at Markus. “See how he is. Who can trust a man who knows no humility? Someone like him would think it’s honorable to cheat, because he thinks it’s his right to win.”

“Cheat! Me? I would never do such a thing!”

“Hah! You would take every advantage you could get, because you know that a dead foe will never complain about your underhanded tactics.”

“Are you calling me dishonorable and a liar?”

“I only speak the truth. It’s not my fault you can’t deal with it.”

The swordsman raised his blade and rushed into the ring toward his foe. “I’ll show you how I deal with those who challenge my honor.”

The mace wielder charged also. They came together with a clang of armor. Grant blocked the swordsman’s swing easily with his shield and then countered with a blow of his own. The fight was on again.

“Hmph!” snorted Markus to himself. “These guys act like jealous brothers. Well, they are going to fight. What am I going to do?” He paused to think for a moment.

It was a very long fight—it lasted a full hour. (30 combat rounds—I fought it out.) Markus took a seat near the door and watched—one would normally have to pay for this kind of entertainment back on the surface. The fighters were indeed fairly even, but it became obvious after a while that the swordsman Scott had more skill, or perhaps the sword was simply the superior weapon. He seemed to get past Grant’s shield more often, and when he scored, he left a bleeding wound behind. The mace dealt crushing blows that sometimes staggered the swordsman, but he wasn’t bleeding much.

(GM’s note: Scott won 18 rounds, Grant won 8, there were 4 ties.)

For the first half hour it appeared that Scott was oh so slowly winning, and then for about fifteen minutes the tide turned—Grant beat his foe back and back. Then it looked like the mace wielder simply ran out of energy. His blows lacked force. He staggered from side to side. His parries missed. Scott saw his chance, and with a final blow to the helm, smashed Grant to the floor, where he lay motionless—perhaps dead, perhaps too weak to go on.

“Ha! Victory!” gasped Scott. “I told you the trophy was rightfully mine.”  He kicked his fallen opponent, and staggered off toward the trophy. He seemed to have completely forgotten that Markus was even in the room.

Scott sheathed his sword. “That was a glorious fight! I shall now claim my prize.” He went over and picked up the trophy.

Markus thought how easy it would be to cast a Take That You Fiend spell on Scott. Then he could take the gold trophy, and anything else these losers had.

“That wasn’t so glorious,” he muttered. “You had him beat for the last five  minutes, but you had to finish beating him to death.”

“That’s what warriors do,” sneered Scott. “He tried to steal my trophy. He deserved to die.”

Markus could feel the spell forming in his mind.  How easy it would be to take him down.  Then he heard the groan. It was very faint, but Grant still lived. The young wizard turned away from the swordsman and went over and knelt beside the defeated. He pulled off the man’s helmet.

Scott took his trophy and staggered out of the room.

Markus opened his pack and took out his first aid kit. He had a couple of vials of healing potion inside it. He opened  one and carefully dribbled the fluid down Grant’s throat. The part he spilled he rubbed into the nearest cut on Grant’s neck. The man’s breathing, which had been  very weak, strengthened a bit.

Grant opened his eyes. He looked a bit surprised to see the stranger bending over him.  “I lost, didn’t I?”

“You almost died,” Markus answered. “You were on your last gasp when I got a little healing potion into you.”

“Thank you, Markus. If you ever need a friend, I’m yours to command.”

“You’re not saved yet, friend. I am a wizard, but healing isn’t one of my talents. That’s why I carry the potions.”

“Just get me to a door, and I’ll be alright. I have a little magic of my own.”

Markus dragged Grant toward the eastern door. The man seemed to get stronger by the second,  and he managed to pull himself to his feet before they reached the side of the room. As they lurched through the door there was a flash of light and Grant was gone. Markus found himself alone in a short corridor. The hall continued straight ahead, and also went right, with the door behind him.

“Nice trick,” Markus muttered. “I wish I knew it.” He continued down the hall until he reached a four-way intersection. Then he turned left. That left him in a short corridor with a closed door at the end. Markus walked up to it. When he got up close to it, he found a small sign near the handle that said, “If you like adventure, please come in.’

“I love adventure,” Markus told himself. He turned the handle and  pushed the door open. The room was about 20 feet square, and much brighter inside than outside; several of the glow stones bedecked the walls. A handsome young man stood in the center, dressed in chain mail, and with a broadsword on his hip, looking into the mirror and smiling.  When he heard the door open, he turned to look at Markus.

“Come in, my new friend,” said the stranger. “My name is Tragan, and it was foretold that you would come to help me with my quest.”

Markus stepped into the room. “My name is Markus. What quest are you talking about?”

“This portal leads to an ogre’s lair. I must go through and steal its treasure. Perhaps you would be willing to help me.”

Markus looked at the young fool so eager to rush off and try his luck against an ogre. “Well, what kind of help do you want from me?” he asked.

Tragan thought about it for just a second. “Maybe you could teach me a spell to help me vanquish the ogre,” he suggested.

Markus looked at Tragan dubiously. Something about the handsome rogue bothered him. At first he seemed so eager for help, but he didn’t  really offer very much information. Markus throught about where he was—in the Wizards Guild Dungeon. One of the Guild’s most important rules was DO NOT TEACH MAGIC TO OUTSIDERS AND NON-GUILD MEMBERS. Could this just be a trap to see if he would break the rule?

“I’m sorry, Friend,” said Markus. “I have no idea what spell would help you best, and it is against my vows to share my magical knowledge with others. But, I might be able to help by . . .

Markus was wondering if this magic mirror could be his way out of the dungeon. There was only one way to find out.

“I can’t teach you a spell, Tragan, but I’m willing to go along and help you rob this ogre. What are we waiting for? Let’s go.”

The offer didn’t get quite the reaction Markus was expecting. “You can’t go through the portal with me,” barked Tragan, “not even if we’re holding hands.” The expression of disgusted disappointment on his face was very clear now. “Since you don’t seem very smart, just leave this room. Someone else will come along and help me sooner or later.”

Markus felt his anger starting to rise.

Markus seriously thought about seeing how ready for combat this Tragan fellow really was. A Take That You Fiend spell might teach him a little courtesy. On the other hand, it might just make him mad. He decided to write the whole thing off to experience  and simply leave.

There were three doors in the room. Markus had entered by the one on the north wall, and determined to leave via the one on the south wall. He was already near the center of the room, talking to Tragan. He said, “Good luck with the ogre, Mr. Nimblebrains.”

Then he quickly walked to the south door, pulled it open and stepped through. He found himself in another dimly-lit corridor running north and south. He continued in his southward direction. He walked until he reached another 4-way intersection. Once again he turned left and walked on. When the straight tunnel ended, he turned left again.  This eventually led to a door that blocked his path. Listening proved futile, and when he was ready, he cautiously opened it.

The chamber inside consisted chiefly of a pit that extended from wall to wall blocking his passage. On the far side of the pit about 20 feet away there was another door. Markus stood on a narrow ledge next to a free-standing pole—the kind of pole that would be ideal for tying a rope to, Being a well-equpped young delver, Markus looked in his pack to see what he had for such situations. He found 30 feet of silk rope, a piton hammer, and ten pitons.

Markus moved over to the right side of the room, located a seam in the mortal between stone blocks, took out piton hammer and piton, and pounded the piton into the wall. (12 a.p.) Then he tested it to see if it would hold his weight.  (4 a.p.) The mortar crumbled and the small piece of metal came out of the wall and fell into the pit. Markus almost fell in with it, but managed to catch himself in time.

“This is a stupid idea,” said Markus. He put his pitons and hammer back in his pack. Then he looked at his rope. He could easily tie it to the pole on this side of the pit, but how could he attach it to the pole on the other side of the pit. The rope was made of silk. Light. Extremely strong. He couldn’t throw it worth a darn. It was too light. And he was supposed to lasso the top of a pole higher than his head more than 20 feet away. No. That wasn’t going to happen either.

“This would be easy enough if I could fly,” he muttered. He checked his spell book. No. There was nothing there that would enable him to fly.  “Oh, well, no flying today.”

“Maybe I could just jump across,” suggested his daredevil self.

“And maybe you’d fall short of the other side. It’s a long way down. I think I’ll save that attempt for some time when I’m being pursued by the hordes of hell,” wisely counseled his more prudent self.

That only left one reasonable thing to do—turn around and depart the way he had come. He wandered the halls for a good long time, trying not to retrace his steps. Once he heard what sounded like distant roaring. He didn’t go that way.  Finally, he came to another hall that dead-ended at a door.  He opened the door and found . . . a library.

The walls were lined with shelves, and the shelves held hundreds of books. The door was in the north wall and across from it on the south wall was a marble-framed fireplace containing a cheery fire. Near the fireplace was a large, overstuffed easy chair, the perfect place to sit and read. A lovely mahogany table graced the center of the room, and on the table were various covered containers. Something smelled delicious.

Markus investigated the table and found there were a variety of foods available, and a plate, knife, fork, and goblet. He suddenly felt voraciously hungry. He detected magic of some sort, seemingly all around him in this room.  There was no one else in the room with him.

Markus felt amazingly hungry all of a sudden, but he didn’t trust a meal laid out by someone else.  He reached into his pack, got a couple of strips of lizard jerky, took a swig from his canteen, and gnawed off a bite of meat.  As he chewed on that his hunger came under control, and he began looking at the closest shelf full of books.  He was a bit surprised to see a library in a dungeon, and he wondered what kind of books it would contain.

He closed his eyes, reached out and grabbed a book at random, pulled it off the shelf, and then looked at the cover.  He read the title: Curses, and saw a crudely drawn eye squinting at him.  The eye winked at him. He felt a cold shudder move through his body, felt malevolent magic, and knew that he had just been cursed. However, he had no idea what the curse was.

So much for the idea that reading is good for you!  He hastily dropped the book and kicked it across the room.

Then found himself in the same situation as he was before.

Markus continued to ignore the food. He thought it was a trap. He wasn’t ready to give up on reading yet. Libraries are wonderful places, and he was sure there was a book here for him. He picked another book. This one was called THE WIZARD’S DILEMMA. He settled down in the comfy chair. The tale grabbed him immediately—it was about a young wizard named Slip who indentured himself to a mad philosopher. The philosopher set him on one task after another, each involving some sort of moral choice that Slip had to make. Indeed, the book was written so cunningly that it seemed like Slip could not make a choice until Markus made his.  As Markus read, he felt ever more strongly that Slip’s perilous choices were his own. When he finally finished the book, and the hero, Slip lay dead at the feet of the Mad Philosopher, he felt that he had somehow failed, and that both he and Slip had suffered for it. Slip certainly had.  He had a terrible headache.

(In game terms Markus had to make a L2SR on WIZ.  He rolled a 7. With a WIZ score of 17, and a character level of 1, that would have been just enough to make the saving roll, but Markus is under a curse to miss his next 3 saving rolls. He does not get his level bonus of 1. 17 + 7 = 24. He needed 25. He missed the saving roll.  That’s one.  The effect of missing the saving roll is that he has taken permanent brain damage, but not very much. His INT fell from 33 to 31.)

Markus put the book back on the shelf upside down. He walked around the room and admired the paintings on the walls. He gnawed on another strip of beef jerky. It had been hours since he last ate. He thought about how this room seemed like a place where one could stay forever—if only there was a bathroom attached. Just after he had that thought, he discovered a clean chamber pot, discreetly hidden in a corner.  The room definitely had a magical aura to it. He wondered if that were the trap.  A person could just lose himself in a life of reading in this room.  Hundreds of books, a magical food supply, a comfy chair that one could easily fall asleep in—what more could a person want?

“This is all cozy enough,” mumbled Markus. He had been in this library so long now that he talked just to hear the sound of his own voice, “but I didn’t come down here to get stuck in a library. On the other hand, I am kind of tired. A nap wouldn’t hurt.”

He went over and cast lock tight on the entrance to the room. “No point in letting someone or something surprise me while I’m asleep.” Then he made himself as comfortable as possible in the comfy chair and closed his eyes.  In a short time he fell asleep, and he had a strange dream.

But he couldn’t remember it when he woke up. He felt rested. He took an apple out of his pack and ate it. Then went to the door and cast Knock-Knock to unlock it.  Click. He wet his palm from his canteen and scrubbed the sleep out of his eyes, noting that the canteen was now half empty. He needed to find a safe water source. He could take the wine from the table, but he didn’t trust it. It made him think that someone ought to invent a purify spell for such situations to eliminate drugs, poisons, dirt, etc.

Then he pushed open the door and headed out.

The crowette attacked. Markus didn’t realize it, but he had been secretly hoping for a fight ever since he entered the dungeon. He just had time to point his staff and shout “Take that you fiend!” He visualized a bolt of purple lightning.

And got nothing. (L1SR on INT. Rolled 7. Failed because of the curse) The crowette tore into him in a fury of raking claws, flapping wings, and pecking beak. Markus’s leather armor served him well—indeed it saved his life, but he was still hideously wounded. Blood poured off him from a dozen wounds. (Crowette has a monster rating of 12. 2D6 + 6. Rolled a 5 for a total of 11. Leather armor absorbed 6 hits; thus Markus takes 5 points of damage. His CON drops from 13 to 8.)

His magic had failed him. As the crowette broke free of him and circled up towards the ceiling preparing for another attack, Markus wondered what to do next.

The idea of being knocked down from behind caused Markus to discount the idea of fleeing. Although badly hurt, he didn’t want to be beaten by a crow.  As the huge bird dived at him once again he got ready to smack it with his staff.

(Combat roll: Crowette rolled 2D6 + 6 = 12. Markus rolled 2D6 + 7 = 14.  Markus needed a L1SR on DEX to hit. He did no damage.)

The giant crow nimbly avoided Markus swing, but it did not manage to sink its talons into the wizard that time. As he flailed at it, and missed, Markus felt like a heavy burden was lifted off his spirit. He thought he heard a voice saying “The curse has expired.” But there was no one nearby.

The bird flapped its way back up into the upper reaches of the room again.   It landed on a projecting stone and cocked its head at Markus. The man thought the bird might be actually considering whether to attack again or not.

The crowette perched up near the ceiling on a small outcropping of stone. Markus thought maybe it would leave him alone now, having failed twice to take him down. He could feel himself bleeding, and knew he had to administer some first aid to himself quickly. He pulled off his pack and reached for both bandages and the half a healing potion he had left.

When he took his eyes off the crowette for a second, it attacked again. He had been expecting it, and the harsh caw croaking sound the bird couldn’t help but make also alerted him. He closed his eyes for just a second, visualized the purple lighting, and tried his Take That You Fiend spell one more time. (L1SR on INT to cast. Rolled 8, gets 8 a.p. Succeeds.) Purple lighting shot from his staff to the body of the diving black bird and enveloped it in purple flame. The crowing noise abruptly stopped as the bird died instantly. Its dive fell short, and it impacted the floor at Markus’s feet. (12 a.p. for killing it.)

Markus kicked the bird once just to make sure it was dead. Yep. He then finished digging bandages and healing potion out of his pack, and fixed himself up as best he could. The healing potion brought his Constitution back up to its normal value (13). The bandages and astringent stopped the bleeding.  He ate and drank from his supplies, and rested, and in about two hours he felt ready to go on.

Markus took a crowette feather as a trophy.  Then he headed for the west door.  He walked through an intersection and continued down his narrow corridor until it finally ended in another door. He listened and heard nothing, tried the door, and walked in. The first thing he noticed was a very bright, hot light set in the ceiling far above him. The room was so hot that he immediately broke into a sweat.  In the center of the room was a short pedestal made of an unknown material, but glowing redly—perhaps from the heat. Sitting atop the pedestal was an orange token.

Markus looked at the token. His mentor hadn’t said anything about needing tokens, but he had a feeling that he needed this one. He sensed for magic. The strongest source was the light in the ceiling, but the pillar also seemed a bit more than ordinary. The sweat trickled down his face in hot little streams.

“I’m pretty sure this is a trap of some sort,” Markus mused. “But what can I do about it?

Of the 36 spells that Markus knew only a few of them seemed useful in this situation. Finally he narrowed his choices down to five:

  1. Call Water. Costs 8. Briefly summons a forceful dash of water.
  2. Cloud o Dust. Costs 4. Raises a 10 foot wide cloud of dust, obscuring vision.
  3. Complete Drip. Costs 3. Drops 20 gallons of water on the target.
  4. Spit in your eyes. Costs 2. Produces a drop of mildly stinging liquid in the eye of a foe.)
  5. Call Ice. Costs 8. Briefly summons an icy blast of frost.

Markus had figured out that the token itself was superheated. He cast Complete Drip (10 a.p.) and 20 gallons of water materialized and splashed over the token. A flash of steam arose when the water hit  the hot token. He had hoped that the water would wash the token off the pedestal but that didn’t happen. Perhaps it was stuck or attached to the pedestal in some way. The big splash of water cooled it off for a few moments, but because of the extremely bright light overhead, it started to steam and heated up again immediately.

It occurred to him that he would have to do something about the light overhead. There was some kind of magical reaction going on between the light and the token that produced enough heat to make it glow.  It would certainly hurt him to grab the token while it was red hot. Yes, the light up above was hot, but it couldn’t be hot enough to have that kind of effect without magic being involved.

Markus thought about the trap a bit more, and decided that the Cloud o Dust spell might obscure the light enough to allow him to get the token. He had never thought that spell would be good for anything, and he had a hard time remembering how to cast it, but finally he managed to get it right. (4 a.p.) The room filled with a big cloud of dust, making everything kind of hard to see.

As he approached the token, Markus could see that it was still glowing with heat. It occurred to him that perhaps he could knock the token off the pedestal with his staff, and push it out of the room to get it out of the light, but he decided against trying that. This was meant to be a magical test, and if his instructors were watching him, he wouldn’t get any points with them by figuring out a non-magical way of beating the test.

The Complete Drip spell had seemed to work before, and it was the least expensive of the ways available to cool the token. Markus stood far enough away that no steam would hit him, and cast it again. (7 a.p.) The deluge cooled the token enough for Markus to grab it and stuff it in his pouch.

As the dust settled, he noticed that the room seemed to be heating up again, and he decided to make a rapid exit. He saw a door other than the one he had entered by and headed for it. He came out into another hallway.

Closing the door behind him, he sat down, had a meal and a drink, and rested for more than an hour until his kremm was completely restored. He also examined the token. It was a curious coin made of iron—perhaps it was magnetism that held it to the pillar. Markus had noticed that it was difficult to pull it away from its resting place. One side of the coin had a small picture of a well on it. The other side showed a hill with a fortified village on top.  He wondered if the token had a secret message for him.

Markus continued to wander through the walls until he reached another door. Entering it, he found himself in the exit room. On the opposite wall was a portal, and beyond the portal, a fiery pit. In the wall next to the pit were a number of slots of curious shapes meant to hold tokens. Each slot was a different shape and color.

Also inside the room were five of his classmates. They all seemed to be in a trance. One of them held a piece of paper, and on it was a message.

“We have assembled 8 of the 9 tokens necessary to leave this place. If you have brought the 9th, please insert it in its slot, waken us, and let us all leave together.”

“I do have the ninth,” Markus mumbled. He searched the walls until he found a slot where the token would fit.  Before he put his coin in its place he thought, “I haven’t really seen that much of this dungeon. Perhaps I should just keep the coin and wander around a bit more.”

(Khenn’s commentary: having reached the exit room completely randomly, and learning that you need 9 of a possible 10 tokens to get out, I have to say, Scott, that I consider this challenge way too tough.  Three tokens would be fair; five would be tough but perhaps do-able. Nine out of ten?  Yikes!

By all means, O Ye Elite who love a challenge, be sure to get your own copy of Final Exam. It is mappable, and should make you think a lot. If you manage to find the exit room with any tokens in hand, I do think you should give yourself the option of escaping.)

Markus put his token in the slot designed for it. For a moment nothing happened, and then the portal shimmered and changed. The other side now showed an examination room in the tower of the Wizards Guild.

Markus shook his classmates awake. They snapped out of the trance fairly easily.  Holding hands they all stepped through the portal together. They felt an electrical shock that made every hair on their bodies stand up, and heard a loud zapping noise. The portal vanished behind them.

Old Professor Oinkenwartz had been dozing in his chair. He woke with a start when the loud zapping noise told him that someone had found the way out of the training dungeon. He opened his rheumy old eyes to see Markus and five other students beaming at him.

“Here! What’s this?” he snarled. “You’re supposed to get out one at a time, not in gaggles.”

“Why is that, Sir?” asked Markus. “Don’t you think that cooperation is a viable survival strategy in the outside world?”

“NO!” snarled the professor. “Er, well, um, maybe it could be once in a while, but in my day, we wouldn’t . . .”

The sound of Markus and the other students laughing at him further ruined the old professor’s day.

The end.