Tag Archives: gaming

From the Gamer’s File: The Invisible Maze Trap

Imagine, if you would, your brave party of adventurers enters a one hundred foot by one hundred foot square room. It appears to be empty. As your party looks across the empty space, a door on the far side opens and a minotaur in plate mail (because if you’re going to use a minotaur to intimidate a party, you might as well put him in plate mail 🙂 ) walks through. While you watch in fear, the minotaur takes a step forward and taps his axe on the floor in front of him. Immediately, a ten foot by ten foot square on the floor swings down like a trap door and then swings back up. The minotaur turns to his right, taps the floor with his axe and nothing happens. He moves to the right. The warrior in your group draws his sword and charges. He only goes ten feet before a ten foot by ten foot section of the floor swings down like a trap door, dumping him in a pit of acid below. You can hear his screams through the floor. Do you understand what’s going on? Can you outwit the trap?


I used this trap on one of my gaming groups many years ago. It was actually inspired by an encounter in another DM’s game where I misinterpreted the use of a cube of force in AD&D. In any event, my gaming group never did figure out what was going on. They managed to cross the room and I think they may have dumped the minotaur in the acid himself (which is a weakness of the trap), but they never fully grasped the concept. It was an invisible maze.


Basically, as a DM I had a map of the room. On that map, the one hundred foot by one hundred foot room was represented by a drawing of a ten square by ten square room where each square represented a ten foot by ten foot square. That’s a little confusing, but it’s basically how most DM maps work. Anyway, on the map I had drawn a maze where every wall in the maze was drawn on a line separating two squares on the map. They were never drawn across the square, only on one or more of its borders. So the maze was there, but it was invisible. Whenever the plane of a “wall” in the maze was broken, that activated the trap door that dropped whatever had entered the square into the pit of acid below. I was kind with the acid. There was an exit down below so that the characters could crawl out of the acid and return back up to the maze atop. So, basically, if you crossed a wall, you fell into the acid. If you moved diagonally between two squares, you fell into the acid. The only way through the maze was to “find” the correct pathway through the walls. Like I said above, there is a flaw in this trap. Basically, when the minotaur got too close to the party, if I recall correctly, they just tapped his square and dumped the minotaur into the acid. I’m not sure if I permitted that to work or not. I don’t remember.


Anyway, the party never did figure out what the trap was or quite how it worked. They got through it, but it was largely from dumb luck, if I recall. This trap remains one of my favorite self-designed D&D traps of all time. I’m quite proud of this one.


The Labyrinth and the Maze

I figured I would post on my blog something interesting that is loosely related to fantasy. I learned something new the other day, while I was reading a book on Sacred Geometry and again in a book on Crop Circles (yes, I read several books on the two subjects—got intrigued in the matter by watching the History Channel’s program “Ancient Aliens”). Apparently, a labyrinth is not the same thing as a maze, nor is a maze the same thing as a labyrinth. I never knew this. I played AD&D for years and in the process killed my share of minotaurs. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), I never encountered a minotaur in a labyrinth, only in a maze. What is the difference? Funny you should ask. A labyrinth is unicursal; that is, there is only one path in a labyrinth. No choices. No decisions. You walk along the path twisting and turning about, and, assuming you don’t collapse from exhaustion, you will find the center—or the exit, if you are leaving. A maze, on the other hand, is what I always thought a labyrinth was supposed to be. A complicated interconnected series of paths, sometimes even rooms, in which it is very easy to get lost. They were a favorite pastime of the nobility of Europe. They would cut their hedges in the pattern of a maze to delight themselves and their noble visitors for hours on end. On the other hand, labyrinths were used as a form of meditation. One would walk on the path of a labyrinth in contemplative thought. They could be found in churches and other holy places. Of course, there is the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. And it is my understanding that that legend confuses the two terms (so I don’t feel so bad). They always referred to it as the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, but it was, in fact, a maze. The Minotaur hunted its victims in a mind-boggling maze, always killing and devouring them, until along came Theseus one day who put an end to his predations. Yeah! Anyway, that was my random thought for the day.


World-building Athron: The Magic System: Some Basics

In the gaming system I used in Athron while world-building, I spent a considerable amount of time on the magic system. The nuts and bolts are formed by the spellcraft, rune lore, and alchemy skills augmented with the energy skills. But there is more. Not much more, but a few additional skills I feel are worth mentioning. Specifically, scholars in my system have access to a Scroll Lore skill, Command Item skill, and Item Lore skill.


Scroll Lore allows wizards to create their own scrolls. Basically, the wizard inscribes a spell from a specific spellcraft on a piece of parchment or vellum or what-have-you. Thereafter, the wizard may use the scroll in lieu of casting an actual spell. The advantage comes in the form of an energy savings. A scroll only requires the expenditure of as few as one energy point when it is used. Casting a spell with spellcraft requires far many more. The initial construction of the scroll, of course, requires the same amount of energy as casting the spell, but then the wizard may rest as many days as he likes and restore his energy levels. Such will give him more access to more spells when in the depths of a dungeon with a bevy of scrolls at hand.


Command Item is a skill that allows a wizard (or anyone else with the skill) to summon up and control the magical abilities of an enchanted item. If your sword bursts into flames upon command, it requires an effort of will to activate that function. There is not a guaranteed success to such an activity. No, it is based on a character’s or creature’s Command Item skill or its equivalent. Increasing the skill increases the chance of success.


Item Lore is a skill that allows a wizard (or anyone else with such a skill) to study a magic item that he or she has found over the course of adventuring or in the course of a novel. It requires a certain period of time to examine and study the item in question. If the character does this successfully, he or she will unlock the mysteries of the item and learn all its special abilities and powers.


The final skill in the system is a skill called Magical Lore. This does not translate well into a novel; it is more specifically a gaming skill. Basically, it increases the modifiers bestowed on other skills. For example, a high Magical Lore skill will increase the effectiveness of a character’s Rune Lore or Scroll Lore or what-have-you.


Lastly, the system allows for minor access to the spellcrafts through two additional minor skills. With these skills, the character can gain limited spell abilities. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for a warrior character to gain access to a limited form of flamecraft, or some other spellcraft. Theoretically, a warrior could have normal access to flamecraft, but it is prohibitively expensive in terms of experience and skill slots, so it is almost unheard of. These minor skills are a little easier for non-scholar classes to use than full-fledged full access major skills.