Friday, May 1, 2009

The Labyrinth

Thunderspire Labyrinth's titular maze may well not meet player expectations. Those who have seen the module's title may be imagining a kind of classic mega-dungeon, with level upon level of sprawling, mappable corridors. In the alternative, it would seem reasonable for the Labyrinth to pose some kind of direct challenge to the ingenuity of players and their characters.

In practice, the Labyrinth has little to no mechanical effect. It "covers nearly a square mile, with hundreds of chambers and passages", and "is too convoluted to be completely mapped". A rough outline (above) is provided to the DM, although it bears no relationship to any of the descriptions of distance and location scattered throughout the module. Moreover, "hundreds of small chambers and halls [...] aren't shown", and "even the major roads include countless intersections and smaller passages".

The way this works in practice is that players will need guides or accurate directions to reach a destination. Much like a computer game, players can visit new areas only once they are "added to the map".

If players try to explore without guidance, they risk wandering lost for hours before eventually ending up at a random choice of one of the module's major quest destinations. Interestingly, this can have the effect of bringing them straight to the penultimate mini-dungeon, bypassing the majority of the module's content. That's probably an effect of the module as-written that DMs should feel free to completely ignore.


Maelora said...

Ouch. Another nail in the coffin for 'classic' play. There doesn't seem to be a lot of mapping or exploration in 4E. And many of the modules seem very linear.

And there was me thinking that the 'selling point' of dungeons as a setting was supposed to be that they were not a railroad, and encouraged player exporation...

Greg Tannahill said...

Keep was map-friendly, and Pyramid of Shadows aggressively so. Thunderspire is a wierd little lacuna set between those two dungeon-crawling epics.

Thunderspire also encourages player exploration - just not literal, physical exploration. Once we get to looking at Seven-Pillared Hall and the way the module uses random encounters, I'll be talking about how it's potentially a much more open ended module than the ones on either side of it.

Anders Hällzon said...

Well, personally, running a huge maze like that abstracted, with skill checks or guides needed to find your way to specific locations, is precisely how I'd do it.* Sound like WOTC messed up the execution, though.

*) I've entertained thoughts of the Underdark run mostly how you describe the Labyrinth.

Greg Tannahill said...

It's not actually a bad set-up; it works just fine for what Thunderspire wants to do. It's just that I don't think it meets the expectation that the title of the module creates.

Colmarr said...

"Expectations the title creates".

Is that a generational thing.

I'm 31, but I never got a chance to play the great "bring your graph paper and a lifetime's supply of pencils" modules.

For me, Labyrinth means 'don't go out there alone or without some surefire way of finding your way back'.

A skill challenge is a much better way of handling that IMO than an arbitrary map that turns an "adventure" into a cartography exercise.