My Friday night group is delving DEEP.

My Friday night group is delving DEEP.

My Friday night group is delving DEEP. They’re five levels down in a ten level megadungeon. A section on one of the levels is a nasty maze of twisting passages, all alike. We improvised a mini-game and I’ve written it up here for you to enjoy:

(Note: we play with 2d12. If you’re playing with 2d6, a CRIT is 12+, a HIT is 10-11, a SPLIT is 7-9, a MISS is 3-6 and a FLOP is 2-.) ——————————————————————-

Maze of Twisting Passages

When you try to make it through the maze, ask the GM how many True Paths each party member needs to mark and what ability to test, then roll +that ability:

You mark a True Path and all allies take +1 forward

You mark a True Path.

You mark a True Path but burn 1 in the tested ability.

The GM chooses one from the list below:

[ ] You burn 1 in the tested ability.

[ ] You must un-mark a True Path.

[ ] The maze takes a toll on your resources.

[ ] A dungeon danger manifests. Stay sharp!

Mark XP. The GM chooses two from the list above.

When everyone has marked all the required True Paths, your party escapes the maze.


Here are some sample mazes:

1. Every player must mark 3 True Paths of Roll+WIS.

2. Every player must mark 2 True Paths, one Roll+STR and one Roll+INT.

3. Every player must mark 1 True Path by testing their worst ability (excluding Luck).

4. Every player must mark 3 True Paths by rolling +two different abilities of their choosing.

5. The group must mark 5 True Paths total by rolling +their choice of abilities, but at least one of the abilities tested must be Luck.

20 thoughts on “My Friday night group is delving DEEP.”

  1. Hm. This seems pretty heavy on the mechanics, assuming that your players will wrap the outcomes in the appropriate fiction. Have you seen/heard Jason Cordova’s Labyrinth move from Episode 16 of the Discern Realities podcast? It has a nice dial built in whereby you can ratchet maze size by playing with the hold required. Also, flexibility for discoveries and dangers a la Perilous Wilds. Check it out. – So that I can link to it easily, here is +Jason Cordova’s labyrinth custom mo…

  2. Suggest on Crit – you mark a True Path and one ally you choose takes +2 Forward until this maze is defeated.

    Also would like to see the option for a discovery in there somewhere.

  3. Ok, I see that, but isn’t DW supposed to be fiction first? If the players ask the GM what they see around them, shouldn’t the GM tell them? All I’m saying is that some players prefer to solve problems with player skill rather than PC skill, and that abstracting things to this degree might make some players feel more alienated from the fiction rather than immersed in it. Others might not feel this way, though.

  4. Yeah DW and by extension FotF, are not player-skill-centric. Despite FotF being OSR-esque, that aspect is not a focus; it is still firmly PbtA.

    If the fiction is “a maze of twisty passages, all alike” then the fiction is not “on your left theres a passage that twists to the left a bit, out of sight 20 feet ahead, in front of you blah blah blah. You head down the middle tunnel and after a while you end up at an intersection that looks basically identical. Did you get those measurements written down?”

    There’s certainly fun to be had in that fiction, but that’s what B/X and Maze Rats is for 🙂

  5. That’s not to say the players aren’t mapping every other level of this particular dungeon. It’s just that it seems that the fiction of this level is about it being too tedious to map IRL (or maybe even in fiction). Hence the abstraction.

  6. What would you say is the core OSR-ness of FotF, if not player skill? In my experience, player skill is probably one of the fundamental thing that makes a game OSR. That sense of immersion and thinking your way out of problems.

  7. I’d say FotF is to OSR as DW is to “D&D”.

    Thinking your way out of problems is still a focus, as recovered coinage is still the main source of XP. It’s just that you’re not going on exact details of the environment and piecing to together atomic components of a solution – you’re suggesting that a solution would potentially work, then you roll dice to see whether it actually does, in-action, with the GM or handwaving filling in some blanks. In a way, this makes the solution space even wider (and the opportunity for players to be clever even greater) than it is in a pre-written, detailed environment.

    All that said, half of the playtime I’ve had of FotF was in the Caverns of Thracia, and it was great.

    And of course, you have the Core Four, random stats, low-ish HP, in contrast to DW’s more modern approaches, all of which encourages clever solutions.

    So, I don’t know. I guess we’re thinking of different aspects of “Player Skill”.

  8. For example, I kind of want the “Situations, Not Plots” OSR principle to be embraced, possibly even through a GM mechanic. Perhaps some kind of Thread-Grid, where you have threads interacting with each other.

  9. David Perry and Ben Milton, Maezar’s approach as exemplified here is very much the way he is running his home campaign, taking certain narrative/mechanical aspects of Fotf/PbtA and running with them.

    When I run Freebooters, the emphasis falls more on the “player skill” side. Much of the time it’s “how do you search the wall, exactly?” For me it’s definitely a “Situations, Not Plots” game, which I tend to describe as “emergent.” The content grows out of the combination of player contribution, random inputs, and Judge fiat, with us drilling down to explore/describe exactly how the characters navigate that content. We usually use die rolls to resolve negotiation with NPCs, but not to solve puzzles (although character knowledge can often prove helpful in that department). We often map out dungeons OSR-style, but don’t go hex-by-hex on the overland map.

    That being said, I think there’s sweet spot of play philosophy that can allow for a range of approaches. I absolutely love the way Maezar has taken the mechanics so far in a particular direction, and I’m loathe to dictate one particular style of play at the expense of another. One interesting thing that’s happened with Freebooters is that Judges and players of my generation, for whom OD&D/1e was a formative experience, have filled in the gaps with their own memories and experiences of how the game was played back in the day, when each RPG group was its own microculture with its own interpretation of the rules. I think the open structure of PbtA games allows for more of that kind of thing to happen, and I love that.

    I don’t personally feel a need to “nip this in the bud,” because my Freebooters play philosophy is still evolving. It’s very much a mashup game, but it’s been gradually developing its own identity week to week and year to year as I continue playing with my group, taking notes, and listening to feedback. Tonight, for instance, the dungeon crawling will be point-to-point or “Maezar Node Mode” instead of mapped by the 10′ square, with each area written on a note card.

    I’m looking for that sweet spot between simulationist resource-management and narrative economy. I recognize the importance of setting clear guidelines in the written rules, but I’ll be aiming for a level of play advice and mechanical coherence that will hold the door open for individual interpretation.

  10. David Perry, In this game, we began with marking threads, but the story quickly wove itself into a full-blown mind map. Here’s a PDF of the thing: – CITY OF HIND.pdf

    Everything here grew from exactly the type of “emergent” situational gaming that Jason describes above—GM-less in our case, and all driven by the fiction and the dice. When a DISCOVERY occurs, we determine randomly whether it relates—and what to. Plots then literally appear before your eyes like faces from richly grained wood. What you see here is just the story outline… there are lots of notes and narratives, not to mention the many records of “Node Mode” that this has all built itself upon.

    I love your comment,Jason Lutes about how “open structure” allows different micro-cultural interpretations. That’s true WITHIN games as well as between them. I’ve never met a group of players who didn’t —across games, generations and other gaps—settle right in to comfort and creativity within one session, or not ask to come back for more!

    I evangelize your game for exactly this reason.

  11. Neat, Maezar! Can you tell me how you guys utilize that? Is it mainly for tracking relationships between elements session to session, or do you draw from it actively somehow during play? Does everyone have it pulled up on their personal devices, or do you guys refer to a central tablet or something?

    Also, what’s the meaning of the different colors? I notice each god has their own color; do those correspond to the same colors when they show up elsewhere on the map?

    Watching my own campaign world expand and evolve over time, I’m super-interested in how other people keep track of stuff.

  12. Sorry, I thought I answered this but I guess it didn’t post…

    The mind map is a way of keeping notes about our games. During a session, we keep it around the table running on an iPad Pro (the big one). When the dice indicate a discovery, we determine what that is, and then either decide or roll to determine whether or not it might relate to an existing plot line/mystery/faction. If it does, we go around the table and take turns coming up with ideas about how and why it relates, then randomly choose between the various propositions. Updating the map is super quick and easy: touch, type, and back to the game!

    Colors are assigned by the app as nodes are born and grow, but I will change them to highlight distinctions and differences (such as between the many gods).

    This tool has really added a new dimension to our play. It sure beats umpteen yellow stickies in my opinion. It allows you to attach icons too, and I’m working on a set to show node type (person, place, settlement, thing, discovery, danger, etc.) as well as traits like alignment, etc.

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