Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maze of the Minotaur

Recently (inspired by Dyson at A Character for Every Game), I've been experimenting with geomorphs. I remember seeing them in my hobby store as a kid, but never bought them nor ever used them in all the years that I've played RPGs. Until now, I've never had much use for them. It wasn't until I embraced the model of building dungeons expressed by Moldvay and modeled in B1 In Search of the Unknown that I have grown to have any appreciation for them.

For those who do not fully embrace the Moldvay/B1 style, I do have a wonderfully nasty way to use them as a large encounter area to be dropped into your favorite megadungeon or even as a stand alone adventure. In an homage to the Greek myth, I call it the Maze of the Minotaur.

At its most basic, it uses 10 geomorphs (though one could expand it if one wanted to be really nasty). At the center of the maze, represented by one geomorph, is the actual minotaur lair. Of the remaining geomorphs, eight are arranged around the lair so that a 3x3 grid is created:

Anytime any character sets foot in the area of any part of a new geomorph, one turn later, the maze will shift. In a 3x3 grid, where the center geomorph never moves, there are eight possible ways for the maze to shift. Thus, a simple roll of a d8 can be used to determine the direction of the next shift. This is where the leftover geomorph comes into play. The new tile will shift one column or row of the maze, pushing one geomorph off the map. In the following example, a '1' is rolled to see which direction the maze shifts:

There are two exceptions to this, however. As mentioned above, the Minotaur's lair never shifts, so the center column and row are never moved. In addition, if a column or row is shifted one direction, it cannot be shifted in the opposite direction the very next time the maze shifts (and thus restoring the maze to its previous formation). Using the example above, the next time the maze shifts, any roll of '4' needs to be re-rolled:

There are two additional rules necessary for the maze to function to prevent parties from being trapped forever inside the maze (or until the next group of adventurers shows up to shift the maze):
  1. The maze will periodically shift of its own accord. Whenever a wondering monster encounter is indicated, the maze shifts.
  2. When the adventurers are on the geomorph that gets pushed off the map there are two possible ways of handling this. The first is to keep them on the ousted geomorph, with all exits off the section blocked by rock/steel/some kind of magic force. The adventurers will have to wait for the maze to move on its own. The other possibility is to teleport them onto the geomorph that just replaced the one pushed off the map.
If anyone happens to use this concept in play, I'd like to hear how it goes.


David The Archmage said...

You could stick with 9 geomorphs, roll a d12, and just shift things around the middle.

Like this:

Erin Smale said...

These are great-looking geomorphs - can you tell us who made them/where we can obtain them?

FrDave said...

David (nice name, that..),

Sure! My family has a board game called Labyrinth which uses a similar approach to move around the maze as what I outlined above. It has several static pieces which prevent you from moving that column or row...I just lifted this mechanism. It works very well when you physically have these pieces in front of you. However, the d12 method should work just as well (plus, it is probably a little nastier on the players than the d8 method...)

FrDave said...


I come from a graphic design background and maps are one of my favorite parts of the hobby. As a result, I make a lot of my own maps, including the ones above (thanks for the compliment, btw). At the moment, I don't have any place where I've made my stuff available (not a lot of demand and not enough research on my part). If you have any suggestions, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Erin Smale said...

Your graphic design skills are mighty - these are professional-grade geomorphs. Great design - very smooth, uncluttered, and I'm a sucker for the "cyan dungeon" look. I can't really suggest any improvements for the examples above, except perhaps that you consider making them commercially available - I'm ready to buy a set now!

Norman J. Harman Jr. said...

Or you could follow Hollywood's lead and go 3d, Geomorph Cube Dungeon

FrDave said...


That is just mean. I like it.