After last week’s extremely informative introduction to the game system, we get a shot, from one of the players’ point of view, of a character sheet and a corner of the game board.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to read the character sheet. So much valuable rules information, lost, just because of lousy screen resolution! Squinting, I can sort of convince myself that the second word on the character sheet (after the character’s name?) is “strength”. The fourth word seems to end with “ing” (cunning?) and the fifth word looks like it ends with “ge” (courage?)
You know what’s interesting about these attributes (strength, cunning, etc)? They don’t have numbers next to them! The character sheet doesn’t say, for instance, “strength 18”; it just says “strength.” Therefore, “strength” is an attribute that can be present or absent on a character’s sheet. It’s reminiscent of Aspects in the FATE RPG system, where characters can make up their own non-numeric attributes, except of course that Mazes and Monsters did it first.
Further down on the character sheet, I also see what looks like “HP 181”. That’s a lot of HP for a level 9 character! There are also two other stats that I can’t make out (AC? MP?) except that the top one might be “2”. Can anyone else read anything on this character sheet?
Besides the character sheet, this screenshot confirms that the players have no dice! All they have is a binder full of papers, pencils, candles, and — minis! Furthermore, I think the game board/coffee table is definitely a game board, because it seems to have been drawn on with pen. Unless that’s part of the inherent risk in Mazes and Monsters that this movie is warning us about: “Beware! Play Mazes and Monsters and your friends will doodle on your coffee table!”
And finally, we get to the first player dialogue! Each player introduces their character. After each introduction, the player ceremoniously places their mini on the board (in the starting area?)
Girl: I am Iglacia the Fighter. I have great strength and courage, strong armor, many weapons, and I won the mighty Talking Sword of Logri.
JJ: I am Frelik, the Frenetic of Glosomir. The cleverest of all sprites. Not so strong, with enough tricks and powers to take me far and keep me safe.
Tom Hanks: William Pardieux, the Holy Man. In reaching the 9th level I have acquired many magic spells and charms, the greatest of which is the Graven Eye of Timur. But I also have a sword, which I only use should my magic fail me.
(By the way, I wish I could express how SERIOUS everyone is, while listening to the DM’s opening ego trip and especially while introducing their characters. It’s like they’re introducing Hitler.)
So now we’ve got character class AND race information! Most of the classes/races look pretty similar to D&D classes. We have fighters. We have “holy men”, which are probably analagous to the cleric, although Holy Men are not prohibited from using edged weapons. (Also the Holy Man class is far more sexist than Cleric.) And finally we have the “frenetic”, which may map onto either the wizard or the rogue class, or perhaps it’s a bard-like character. The class name “frenetic” doesn’t suggest much, meaning as it does “wildly excited or active; frantic; frenzied.” It’s derived from the Greek phrenitis, brain disease. Not a promising name for a class. However, eerily prescient, considering that this is the game that drove Tom Hanks mad – a lingering insanity that eventually drove him to take the role of Professor Robert Langden in The Da Vinci Code.
Jay Jay also says that his character is a “sprite”, which I take to be analogous to D&D elves.
Let’s write up some class/race rules!
Fighter: A fighter is able to use any weapons and the strongest of armor. A fighter’s recommended attributes are Strength and Courage.
Frenetic: A frenetic does not rely on strength and weapons: instead, he relies on Tricks and Powers. A frenetic’s recommended attributes are Cleverness and Freneticism.
Holy man: A Holy Man’s main strengths are his Spells and Charms. He also has reasonable combat abilities, should his magic fail him. Holy Men are able to use one-handed weapons; they cannot use armor or shields.
Human: Most characters are human. They gain no special abilities.
Sprite: Sprites gain the bonus attribute “Clever” and the negative attribute “not so strong”.
Magic items were mentioned too, so I’ve taken the liberty to assign them powers.
Note that, while my magic-item powers are speculative, they’re based on some solid suppositions. As I don’t believe I need to remind you, Mazes and Monsters is a “kind of a psychodrama, you might say, where these people deal with problems in their lives by acting them out”. Therefore, the powers of each character’s key magic item are probably related to their real-life problems.
Luckily, the movie sets up personal problems for all of the Mazes and Monsters players. Tom Hank’s problem is that he is unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. The girl’s problem is that she has “writer’s block” (she’s a writer apparently) and she has difficulty with relationships.
Talking Sword of Logri: Identical to a normal sword, but the character is immune to the dangerous conditions “Lonely” and “Voiceless.”
Graven Eye of Timur: 9th level charm. The Graven Eye of Timur allows its bearer to identify when he is Mazed or trapped in a Fantasy. This gives a +5 bonus to the RONA (Roll-Over Number for Achievement) for escaping a Maze Prison.
After the introductions, the Maze Controller introduces the adventure:
“There is a wasteland of gnarled hills, covered with withered trees and dried grass. Beneath these hills is the entrance to the forbidden mazes of the Generai. It is rumored that within these mazes are Mutated People. Once human, they are now unspeakably vicious. It is also known that there are wondrous treasures in these mazes for those brave and clever enough to find them. Thus warned, shall ye enter?”
As one, the players cry, “Aye!”
The Maze Controller nods. “Let the journey begin.”
A couple of monsters are mentioned here, so we can start on the bestiary:
GENERAI: An ancient species of maze-builders, whose underground labyrinths often contain the wondrous treasures of their occult civilization. They usually rely on their fiendish traps and hordes of monsters to take them far and keep them safe. When seen, they appear to be incredibly elderly humans who attack as a Normal Human of levels 1d12+1. However, they can use Tricks and Powers as a Frenetic of the same level.
MUTATED PEOPLE: Once human, Mutated People are now unspeakably vicious. They range in level from 1-12, and attack as a Normal Human. Anyone captured by Mutated People will be subject to unspeakable tortures. The character must make a RONA check of 10 or be Mazed. Any player with a real-life problem related to physical abuse will have a -5 penalty on the roll.
From the total lack of non-maze gameplay, as well as some of the formalized responses, we learn a few other rules as well:
Mazes and Monsters is a game about being in Mazes and fighting Monsters. While the characters may spend time in town, and in the countryside traveling from maze to maze, that time is outside of the purview of the game. All equipment, treasures, and Levels are to be found within the various Mazes run by the crafty Maze Controller.
Every adventure (or “campaign”) starts with the players at the entrance to the Maze. The Maze Controller, after describing the dungeon, asks the players “Shall ye enter?” If all players say “Aye”, the game begins. If consent is not unanimous, everyone goes home.