We’ve come a long way in our exploration of the Mazes and Monsters rules. The old rules. The old, boring, sit-around-the-table rules. But now it’s time for the next stage of the game:
As I mentioned last week, JayJay (the guy who wears the hats) had a brain wave while looking for a quiet place to commit suicide: he invented the “next evolution of the game”, which turns out to be LARPing in a cave. This is an event as momentous as the D&D rules branching into Basic and Advanced D&D, and therefore deserves its own section of the rules, if not its own rule book.
Evolved Mazes and Monsters
Read this book second!
At some point, the psychic danger of the terrifying world of Mazes and Monsters, and the physical danger of death by candlefire, may not provide enough of a thrill for you. You and your players will be ready for an evolution of mazes and monsters, at a more sophisticated level.
WARNING: Evolved Mazes and Monsters is only for the most advanced players! If you have never played Mazes and Monsters at at least Level 9, CLOSE THIS BOOK NOW as its contents will certainly drive you into a mental state from which you may never recover!
There. Now that the less advanced players are gone, we can reveal the terrifying secrets of Evolved Mazes and Monsters: players dress in costumes and stand in a cave.
JayJay acquires all the ingredients necessary for a really blood-curdling LARP:
- costumes, from the university’s theater department
- one skeleton, from the anatomy department
- local caves: forbidden, unmapped, unused by teens who want to drink beer and have campfires, but totally accessible to anyone who wants to walk in
Side note: One skeleton seems kind of a letdown after last week’s pen-and-paper encounter with “a dozen bloodthirsty undead”. I guess the emphasis in EM&M (Evolved Mazes and Monsters) is more on exploration than on combat.
Evolved Mazes and Monsters is a live-action game of adventure, and the primary activity in adventures is exploration. Exploration in mazes. Evolved Mazes and Monsters is a LAME game (a Live Action Maze Exploration game).
Come to think of it, Mazes and Monsters is an admirable candidate for conversion to a LARP. Most games have a central mechanic that involves players rolling dice, which really does not translate well to full-contact roleplaying. The dice must be replaced with clumsy alternatives, such as playing rock-paper-scissors. In Mazes and Monsters, though, only the Maze Controller has dice, so the players can devote themselves fully to roleplaying.
We don’t know how the live-action combat mechanic will work in Evolved Mazes and Monsters, but come to think of it, we haven’t actually seen any combat in regular Mazes and Monsters either. Hopefully we’ll get to that in the coming scenes.Once Jay Jay has constructed his LAME, and dressed his players in costumes, he ushers them into the local caverns. To inaugurate the game, he delivers his now-familiar ritual invocation:
You are entering the secret mazes of the evil Voracians. Somewhere within dwells Ack Oga, the most fiendish monster of them all. His awesome wickedness is matched only by the greatness of his treasure. Shall ye enter?
to which the players reply:
I guess that, despite the changes in the new edition, the pre-game catechism was not one of the sacred cows slaughtered.
Of note in this picture are the excellent costume choices made available by the university theater department. They must have recently done some medieval plays.
Blondie looks very Shakespearean wearing his black velvet number: it could easily have been the costume for Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or Prince Hal in Henry IV. Since we don’t yet know Blondie’s character class, let’s put him down tentatively as “prince”.
Hanks is wearing a Friar Tuck outfit, very appropriate for his Holy Man character. I don’t know which play in the average college theater repertoire calls for a Friar Tuck costume: maybe there was a recent production of Tuck Everlasting with a very literal design concept?
In the picture above, Kate does appear to be wearing a toucan on her head, but rest assured that in other shots, it looks marginally more like a helmet.
So, what are we to make of Jay Jay’s speech? He mentions the evil Voracians and the fiendish monster Ack Oga. At first i was prepared to write off Ack Oga as a NPC specific to Jay Jay’s gameworld, because he has a name, but the fact that he is “the most fiendish monster of them all” gave me pause. That sounds like he may have a monster writeup, even though he is an individual, much like Tiamat or Asmodeus in the D&D Monster Manual. Also, if he actually is “the most fiendish monster of them all”, that implies that he is the highest-level creature in the game. If the level-9 PCs are potentially able to face the highest-level monster, then they must be at or near the level cap. Let’s tentatively put the Mazes and Monsters level cap at a nice round 10.
Players may advance as high as Level 10, at which point they will have worked out all of their psychodramatic problems.
Jay Jay scuttles into some unseen room in the caves, from which he can observe the other players no matter where they are, and from which everyone can hear him at all times. I’m not sure how he discovered the magical property of this room on his solitary explorations, but I’m not an expert spelunker: perhaps it is common knowledge that every cave system has such a room.
Jay Jay’s voice rolls from the Magical Maze Controller Chamber: “Your Maze Controller is with you… unseen to your eyes. now, let the journey begin.”
Tom Hanks, ever resourceful, whines, “Well, which way do we go?”
The Maze Controller replies, “Your decision.”
Blondie, ever courageous, decides, “We’ll let Glacia lead; she’ll protect us.”
The three adventurers start into the depths of the unmapped caverns. They haven’t gone very far when they reach Jay Jay’s first set-piece encounter:
A skeleton, gripping a flashlight in its teeth, drops from the ceiling!
After a startled silence, the players decide, apparently, that they aren’t supposed to fight the skeleton. They take it instead as a Roleplaying Opportunity.
Girl: perhaps he was on a mission such as ours.
Blondie: Be careful, it could be a trick! Some skeletons possess mystical powers.
Yay, rules information!
Skeleton: Some skeletons possess mystical powers.
JJ: you have two questions.
Blondie: Is the skeleton evil?
Hanks: Is it helpful?
JJ: Time will tell.
From time to time, a Maze Controller may challenge his players with a puzzle. Because players aren’t very smart, the Maze Controller must allow the players to ask some number of questions about the puzzle, which they may ask directly of the Maze Controller. The number of questions should be determined by the difficulty of the puzzle, and should be announced to the players. Once the questions are asked, however, the Maze Controller should feel free to answer in ways that are generic, equivocal, or goddamn useless.
This seems like a great place to end for this week: right in the middle of a cliffhanger! Is the anatomy skeleton evil? Is it helpful? Time will tell! Next post, we’ll learn the answers to those questions, and we’ll also see Tom Hanks fight a REAL MONSTER!