Mazes and Monsters: mystery in the caves

This entry is part 10 of 34 in the series Mazes and Monsters

Remember the caves? They were featured, ominously, in the first shot of the film, and then Jay Jay was going to commit suicide there, but didn’t, and then the players LARPED there without incident. It seems that something is finally happening there!

Katie drives by the cave and sees a car parked nearby. Panicked, she rushes in to save … Blondie? He confesses that he has been mapping the caves between official game sessions. “”I wanted to figure out where Jay Jay hid the treasure.”

Katie and Blondie get home safe. Another fake-out where no one gets lost in caves. Something is going to happen there soon, though, I can just feel it!

What we learn from Blondie’s confession about “the treasure”, though, is that there is just one treasure at the heart of every maze! It sounds like when you find the treasure, you win the maze. Players have a lot of motivation to find the best possible route to the treasure, avoiding unnecessary dangers and obstacles.

This is how early editions of D&D worked too. Most of players’ XP was earned from treasure; wandering monsters were things to be avoided. By third edition D&D, though, character advancement came primarily from combat. If you skipped the combats, you’d never level up.

We’d better codify this in our Mazes and Monsters rules.

The maze treasure

At the center of every Maze in Mazes and Monsters is a treasure! The object of Mazes and Monsters is to find this treasure. Only by finding the treasure will the characters gain the wealth, powers, and spells they need to gain Levels and defeat their personal problems. Be wary, though: every treasure will be guarded by formidable obstacles!

I think that, while the bulk of XP in Mazes and Monsters comes from finding the Treasure, you must also get some XP from incidental encounters. After all, everyone was excited when the party met a dozen bloodthirsty undead!

How long to level 9?

I have another question about gaining levels. All the players are so proud of having level 9 characters. How hard is this? How long does it take to get to Level 9?

I believe that the Mazes and Monsters movie starts with most of the characters returning to school at the beginning of their sophomore year. Assume that they started a M&M group pretty early on in their freshman year, and they all started with brand new level 1 characters. We also know that they play about 2-3 times a week. Given college schedules, they’ve likely played, say, 60-70 sessions. So they level up about once every 7-8 sessions.

How many mazes did the players do last year? Without any evidence on this point, I think it sounds reasonable that the players average about one maze per game level.


I’ve been talking about “XP”, or Experience, which is a term never mentioned in the Mazes and Monsters movie. Remember when JJ died in the trap?

Blondie: Cheer up, JJ, you can start again as a new character.
Kate: Oh, it’ll take him forever to gather power.

Kate talks about “power”, not “experience” or “levels” (though we know that Mazes and Monsters has levels).

Let’s also look back at the Mazes and Monsters character sheet and see if we can see where character XP is written.

click for larger version

We never figured out what all these numbers were. To me, it looks like we have

WT 2
(HP?) 131 (or 181)
? T 10
P of T 15115
Ex 12000

I now think “Ex 12000” means Experience 12000.

“P of T 15115” is puzzling: but we should be able to make an educated guess. What’s a number of this magnitude doing on a character sheet? In Mazes and Monsters, a game about accumulating wealth, it could be the amount of money the character has collected. I bet that “P of T” means “Pieces of Treasure”, and that P of T is the name of the Mazes and Monsters currency, as GP is for Dungeons and Dragons.

Interestingly, this character sheet shows that the character has more money (P of T) than experience (Ex). So there can’t be, as in D&D, a one-for-one experience point bonus for every coin earned.

I do think, though, that we’re on reasonably solid ground when we say that the bulk of Experience must come from finding the maze treasure. What if we say that every two Pieces of Treasure grants one Experience?

The character sheet shows that the character currently has 15115 PofT, but it’s reasonable to believe that the character has spent some as well: potions, equipment, spells and powers may cost money in Mazes and Monsters. A tightfisted character who had earned 20,000 coins might reasonably have around 15,000 left. At 2 PofT per Ex, that would give the character 10,000 Ex from treasure, which would mean that the character earned an additional 2,000 Ex from monsters, traps, fantasies, and whatever else grants Experience in Mazes and Monsters.

There’s just one thing that bothers me: one XP per two coins?? So clunky! Why would the game be designed this way?

Maybe “P of T” doesn’t stand for “Pieces of Treasure” at all? Maybe it stands for “Pieces of Two”, a half-coin analagous to the the bit coin. Two Pieces of Two make up one Gold Coin, which is worth one XP each. For whatever reason, though, the economy is based on Pieces of Two. It’s as if all prices in the AD&D books were given in electrum.

With all this provisional data, let’s write some experience and leveling rules!

Money, Experience and Levels

When the party finds any treasure, they should split it evenly! Each player gets one Ex point per gold coin received (or one Ex point per two Pieces of Two).

Also, players get bonus Ex points for overcoming monsters, traps, and fantasies. Each monster, trap, or fantasy that is successfully overcome grants 5 Ex per monster, trap, or fantasy level. For example, a level 9 Mutated Person grants 45 Ex (to be split evenly among the party members).

Monsters need not be killed to grant Ex points. A Holy Man might reason with the creature, while a Frenetic might trick it. Similarly, a trap grants Ex points if it is cleverly disarmed or cautiously avoided, and a Fantasy grants Ex points if it is concluded without the character dying or going mad.

When players reach certain Ex thresholds, they gain level, according to the following chart:

0: level 1
300: level 2
1000: level 3
2000: level 4
3300: level 5
5000: level 6
7000: level 7
9300: level 8
12000: level 9
15000: level 10

That’s enough rules for now. Next episode: Jay Jay throws a Halloween party!

Series Navigation<< Mazes and Monsters: leveling rulesMazes and Monsters: Halloween Episode >>


10 Responses to “Mazes and Monsters: mystery in the caves”

  1. Epikkism says:

    N-no more updates… ?

  2. paul says:

    This Monday, I promise!

  3. Epikkism says:

    Alllright. I’m counting on you.
    After all, this has helped me live through Mondays.

  4. […] Jay Jay is throwing a Halloween party! Jay Jay is dressed as Noel Coward. Blondie is a naval officer. Kate is, uh, the naval officer's girlfriend? (I forgot to mention, Blondie and Kate hooked up at the end of the last scene.) […]

  5. Baxil says:

    Given the game’s d12 usage, maybe it’s “Pieces of Twelve” instead? This would also mean, given the numbers on the character sheet, that the characters have spent the vast majority of their treasure – which is a much more realistic portrayal of gamers.

  6. paul says:

    SUCH a good idea, Baxil.

  7. […] times is a character attacked between level 1 and level 9? Well, earlier we decided that it takes 70 game sessions to get to level 9. Let's conservatively guess that there are two combats per session. Unarmored […]

  8. […] Next session, we'll talk about XP! Series NavigationMazes and Monsters: mystery in the caves >>Share: […]

  9. Matt says:

    The number of XP needed per level seems to have no pattern.

  10. John says:

    Why does “I wanted to figure out where JJ hid the treasure” imply that there’s only one treasure? “Treasure” can be a mass noun (“some treasure”/”much treasure”) as well as — less commonly — a count noun (“one treasure”/”two treasures”/”many treasures”), and can take the definite article in either case. Thus “the treasure” can refer to any bounded amount of treasure; in context, “all the treasure the maze contains”. Even in the case of all the treasure being located in one place, it seems more likely that “the treasure” would be “some treasure” (for instance, a chest of coins and gems) than “a treasure” (e.g. the lost Diadem of Phanastacoria, over which the players would then have to squabble).

    If we substituted in a plural noun; say, “I wanted to figure out where JJ hid the easter eggs”, you wouldn’t assume all the eggs were in the same place. JJ could have hidden a bit of treasure here, a bit there, etc. This seems to be both a more likely scenario and a more likely interpretation of Blondie’s line.

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