Can you imagine trying to DM this thing?

Big Effing Maze

Big Effing Maze
(Click to make even effing bigger)

Mazes are a staple of mythology and fantasy literature, but they sure are a pain in the axe to play effectively, in my experience, using traditional tabletop paper and pencil games. Which is too bad.

I keep thinking that some sort of computer display system would make this workable and fun. Maybe one screen showing the players their PCs and another for the DM with encounter keys and info. Basically half computer game and half tabletop RPG.

Are there better ways to handle mazes? And I don’t necessarily mean huge ones like this, either. Even smaller mazes quickly degenerate into unplayability.

(I found this image online somewhere last week. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten where.)

11 Comments to “Enter the Megamaze”

  1. JDjarvis says:

    I’d imagine it’d be as much fun to DM that as being pelted to death by 3 or 4 guys throwing pounds of dice at me.

    Mazes can be a problem because they deal with the great bottle neck of RPG…mapping.
    One way to deal with it could be to let the players see a portion of the maze (almost the whole thing) every 3rd to 5th turn. Don’t tell them where they are on it and don’t allow them to mark the map itself. Make sure to hand it to them with the “top” on a different side every now and then.

    • Kilgore says:

      Yes, describing the corridor for mapping purposes, and then having to map it, are always so tough for mazes. This example is obviously an extreme one, but I’ve had trouble with even relatively simple ones.

  2. Grendelwulf says:

    I would hate to use THAT map because I’d have to work out the correct path first!

    I sometimes dread to describe step-by-step what characters see every 10-feet or show entire maps to players, because you know they try to eyeball the correct path before telling you what direction they head in. I used a four page (2×2) map once where the players started on one page and never saw the exit. To add further delight, I created a “window” page, a simple sheet of paper with a 3″ square window cut in it. They could have the page in front of them in order to slowly progress through. I had green dots marked at random points throughout the map. When the characters reached a dot, I rolled if there was an “encounter/trap/etc” of some sort. Initiative would have to be rolled to see if they noticed anything they weren’t already watching out for.

    It still went abit better than walking it through step-by-step.

    Ciao!
    GW

    • Kilgore says:

      I had been trying to think of a way to simulate the “window” of a computer screen using physical props. The cut-out idea occurred to me, but I was stumped about how to keep a “in sync” using a keyed DM map. The green dot idea is a good one.

  3. Capheind says:

    I imagine a pinboard with many labeled and multicolor pins for the GM, as well as a random encounter table the size of War and Peace… actually sounds kinda fun.

    Where did the map come from?

  4. Grendelwulf says:

    Another method I used to keep things interesting was to use the ol’ shifting wall trick. As characters traveled, they would hear rumbling stone (as the walls shifted) but not see any visible change after the third such occurence, walls would then be seen to shift. Mapping was still necessary (although many players would discard the idea) as the walls would shift back eventually.

    Theoretically, the maze could end anytime the referee wanted, as a wall/floor/ceiling could open to reveal a pathway continuing into the rest of the dungeon.

    Ciao!

  5. I’ve got some vague inklings of an idea. It seems to me that mazes primarily do two things: (1) add distance, because you can’t travel in a straight line; and, (2) introduce the possibility of getting lost. The second part could be implemented with the rules for getting lost in the wilderness; the only question is: do you treat it as being in the woods (+1 difficulty,) or as being in a swamp (+2 difficulty?) I’m not sure what would be the simple way to determine how much distance a maze adds.

  6. bighara says:

    Unless the maze is fairly small, I often handle things like this and twisting corridors with INT checks (rolling INT score or less on a d20). i.e. “It will take the party 3 successful INT checks to get through the maze, making one check per turn (or hour, or whatever interval).” Only one player can make the roll. Dwarfs get a bonus for stonework or subterranean passages. Elves get a bonus for wilderness situations.

  7. ze Bulette says:

    It’s a good question, how to make maze crawling more interesting. Maybe by its nature it can’t be. Turn left. Turn left. Turn right. Aish. I like the idea of NPCs in the maze that can help you through it a la Labyrinth (the movie) with a riddle or some such thing. Then it’s about them and that, with the maze just being the wallpaper.

    By the way, that image looks like it was generated with GIMP. Filter > Render > Patter > Maze. Behold!

  8. bat says:

    And at the center of the maze sits Xarzi the Winged One, lord of the minotaurs of the Great Labyrinth of Halakip. Xarzi sits upon a throne of skulls when he is not flying over the “hot spots” of the great maze.