Thursday, September 3, 2015

Daddy and Daughter Dungeon Delve

On Sunday, I took my daughter to the Skyline Caverns, about an hour from my house. To a certain extent the whole setup is a tourist trap. In addition to the cavern tour, they have a dragon themed mirror maze, and a small train ride. There is a large gift shop, which mostly sells junk and the inevitable polished “gemstones”. All of that said, it is a very fun tourist trap and a great place to take a three-year-old.

The mirror maze and the caverns themselves are of interest to this blog. I you have never been to a mirror maze before, it is a maze where all the walls are mirrors. This creates the illusion that the maze is infinite and creates enough confusion that the maze feels much bigger, and more complicated than it actually is. At first a mirror maze feels like one of those dungeon tricks (like spinners, teleporters, or sloping passages) that are neat in theory, or in a Wizardry game, but come unglued at the table. But, I do think that you could make use of a mirror maze in a dungeon if you abstracted it enough mechanically.

One of my strictest, self-imposed rules for running a dungeon is that I always have to describe the dungeon accurately. There are very few exceptions to this rule, most are the result of a saving throw failure or an illusion. This is very important because of the way I run dungeon games, the player map is a very important artifact, so it is important that I play fair with it. While I have to describe the dungeon accurately, I do not have to describe it completely and the description can be hazy. I do not think that a mirror maze would be all that effective at short range. The movement rules assume that the characters are moving through the dungeon slowly, while mapping, and paying very close attention to details. I think they are likely to notice the mirrors, especially if they are carrying a light source.

I think the mirrors will really come into play in two circumstances, when the characters look down a long hallway or across a big room, and when they are running away and aren't moving carefully. The first instance is easy to handle, I just tell them the hallway looks really long or the room looks really big. This can actually have a big impact on the game. My players spend most of their time exploring, and they are constantly trying to figure out how things might connect, or if they have enough resources to explore an area. As a result, they look down far more hallways than they actually go down. The second circumstance would be handled by a check to avoid getting lost when running away through a mirrored area. Since I play Castles & Crusades, this would probably just be a Wisdom check. This is the kind of thing that comes up a lot in my games. Three of the last four sessions of Stonehell I ran ended in the characters running back to the surface.

The cavern itself was more interesting from an inspiration standpoint. One of the interesting things was that it is actually set up like a dungeon. It has lots of fairly good sized rooms connected by windy passageways. By the way, my daughter loved it. She just charged after the tour guide every time we moved on into another room. Here are some pictures from 260 feet under the earth.