[RPG] How to run a maze scenario without using a map


Inspired by a question on another site, what's the best way to add a labyrinth to an adventure scenario without making the challenges contingent upon player skill at mapping or navigation?

I'd like to keep the tension of potentially getting delayed or lost, coming across hazards (both active and passive), and having difficulty returning to safety, but without the need to create a physical battle-map or a spatial correspondence that serves the same function — "you reach the end of a thirty-foot corridor that branches left and right." I'm already aware of skill challenges in games like the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons and extended rolls in systems like Storyteller, where the goal is to accrue successes until the challenge is considered "complete." I'm looking for something more creative and better able to keep the players' attention.

Best Answer

Similar to yhw42 I'd suggest using an abstract graph of the labyrinth instead of drawing out the whole thing. However, I'd recommend using something like a flowchart or a data flow diagram or a state diagram for that purpose.

The result could look like this:

Flowchart-style map of Blackrock Depths in World of Warcraft
Flowchart Map of Blackrock Depths” by M3ss3ng3r is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

You can then go on and detail each “node” in the graph as you wish. Perhaps each “corridor” node has a % chance for a random encounter or a trap. Perhaps each skill challenge does not only have “success” or “failure” but also additional routes for a “perfect success” (e.g., success without a single failure) or a “complete failure” (e.g., failure without a single success).

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