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Elements of a Good Game Part 3 (Final)

Written by Expy - Published on March 28, 2010

Puzzles and Mazes and Riddles oh my!

Puzzles and Mazes can be implemented in so many ways, we’ll start with mazes. A lot of people hear maze and imagine large shrubs and a minotaur hiding somewhere, or a series of stone walls in confusing settings or something similar to the Labyrinth. Remember, a maze can be just too many halls and confusing turns within a castle you are unfamiliar with, or a rogues den with twists and turns. An ordinary building can be considered a maze if it’s large and you have no idea where you are going, a maze can even be a forest that is over grown with a few choices of direction.

Mazes can be a series of rooms with doors but every room looks the exact same as the last so you have no idea if you’ve been in that room before or not making it difficult to backtrack, maybe there are only about a dozen rooms or even less but so many different choices and back tracking, have a few connected so you never know if you are in a new room or not (unless otherwise cleverly foiled by marking it with chalk or some other equally clever device.) perhaps the rooms are magical and if someone marks it with chalk they -all- become marked the exact same way (or go back to it’s original state whence the pc leaves it.) again your imagination is the limit, and don’t let it stop there! But remember, if a player is stuck in a maze too long with no encounters and nothing but fumbling around lost, the player will lose interest and become bored. Keep them interested with traps, monsters, or other ‘hazards’.

As for puzzles these are very diverse situations, a riddle can be considered a verbal puzzle, or perhaps it’s something similar to a trap! A puzzle can be closely rooted into many situations, it could be a trap needed to be solved or the players will ultimately meet their doom! And it could be the traps aren’t set off until you make the wrong decision. Could be setting up a series of runes in sequences, or having every party member stand in a certain area and each doing a different thing. Or perhaps it involves the elements and using them to open a puzzle box (similarly as The Fifth Element ), you can even make the puzzle turning stones to connect all the pieces so light or other such things can connect from one area to another (as done similarly in the Dungeons and Dragons Online game in one of the quests, or a lot like the hacking in Bioshock.). So many possibilities lie in the tip of your fingers, you simply must create them!

Eye Candy

I’m going to keep this one brief as I’m sure I’m taking up a lot of time today, but this is -any one- of the items described here that helps the person imagine something that is pleasing to them, so that when they envision something it can stick in their mind and they can rehash it later as if seen on a movie, find things the players particularly enjoy. It’s like watching a movie with good graphics and special effects, make it a dynamic experience for them.

Items, Plot, Story, and Combat.

For the sake of trying not to totally bore you, we are going to condense these into one category — even though I could probably talk all day about each of these things. First off, Items. Item’s play a big part in games too, people love getting new items, sharing them, creating them, and showing them off. Don’t be a Monty Haul! But let your characters work towards something (even if they never get it, or can’t use it whence they make it to said item) but always give them a fantastical goal, let them upgrade items, later on let them get intelligent weapons with fun, quirky personalities from the stuck up finely crafted blade, to the fierce, might war hammer! Treat them as NPC’s…only shinier?

Plot and Story

Something very commonly discussed, I won’t go into too much here as this is meant to help enhance your plot and story but remember that this IS a vital part of a DnD game, as well as the atmosphere you create the plot and story are things that will continue to keep players interested. It will give them a reason to continue to come back, like a good story book with a rich plot, or a tv series you watch every night it’s on fearing if you don’t you’ll miss something grand happening or suspenseful. Create a level of suspense, relief, excitement, sorrow, and every other emotion in the book. If players get extremely emotional because of events happening in game to their characters that can often be a good thing, that means you as a DM are keeping there interest — so keep it up!

Combat

I feel this is very well explained in most the handbooks you possess, my only tips (in this article) are remember your extra terrain, dynamics, and personality to combat. Taunts, rude gestures, and mocking moves from enemies can be fun little extra’s to throw into any combat as well as tactics, terrain advantages, terrain hazards, traps, and what ever other clever little schemes you can come up with. With that note, I hope you all have a happy gaming and good luck!

Remember, be creative — and dynamic! And note that not ALL of these need to be placed into a situation or story to make it good, these are only simple tips and extras you can use on your own terms.

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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10 Responses to “Elements of a Good Game Part 3 (Final)”
  1. TheWhite says:

    Mazes are (IMO) the hardest thing to get right, a lot of work needs to be done to ensure the PC’s get lost but can have fun while being lost and still end up in the right spot. It’s especially hard if your player like to make a map to keep track of where they are. Magic is a very handy tool in these situations. On trick I have used to add a maze like quality to a dungeon(stolen directly from Tad Williams’ book The War of the Flowers) is as follows
    1: Set up a standard dungeon with a definite goal (the great necromancer’s library or something)
    2: Have no normal way to get to the goal
    3: In one room have the party find a note/engraving/whatever saying “To reach the go to the end of the souther corridor and turn right then right again immediately”
    4: The party will go out the south door, follow the corridor to the end and then start looking for the next right (thinking of instructions they have had IRL where turn right then turn right again immediately means look for the next right) only to find that there isn’t one.
    5: The instructions literally mean turn right immediately, if they take even one step after turning right the first time then everything is normal if the turn right without taking a step the doorway to the library has appeared.

    Any attempt to detect magic will show that the entire doorway has a slight aura of alteration magic (could be a clue or not depending on the situation)

  2. Elderon Analas says:

    @TheWhite
    Great maze tips. If I get a chance that will be great to use or some form of it. if anything It is something I’ll have to put in my cave, (i’ve been thinking of hideing my hoard better) This will be great.

    @Krystal
    Glad to find something about mazes. i was working on makeing mazes by winding them in kids books. looking for the ones with right angle turns and makeing modifications by adding large rooms with some monsters or treasure, then i would just roll a d20and that would be how many traps are on that floor. if it is really big. or feeper floors i may roll more than one. but if i keep this up i’m going to give away all my secrets. so I guess that’s all today.

    PS. Hope to see some article from you on my blog Krystal. or if anything at least a little introduction, a short about me thing, something like that.

    Your Friendly Brass Dragon,
    Elderon Analas

  3. Tourq says:

    I’ve decided, I’m going to design a 4-week adventure around a maze… If I could only find the entrance…

    -Tourq

  4. kocho says:

    Just wondering, what happened to the reader articles?

  5. Brian says:

    Still have some to post up, but they’ll likely be sprinkled on to the blog randomly

  6. Elderon Analas says:

    @Brian
    Thanks for keeping my hope alive.

  7. Toph says:

    There’s a great maze in an old “basic” D&D module, Rahasia (B7, for those of you who remember those). It was only a few corridor segments on different levels of a temple, some of them intersecting, but the ends of a few were one-way portals that connected to another corridor segment. You could see through the portals, so at some intersections you could look down a hallway that seemed to go on forever, but if you turned around you’d often find a blank wall in the direction you’d come from.

    Because the portals didn’t maintain their compass orientation (you could be going north, go through a portal, and then be going south without knowing it) it was a great curse to map-making players (where did we get turned around? why is my map starting to look like a Celtic knot?). And with this way of twisting back on themselves, there were even points where PCs could see themselves as shadowy figures with flickering lights at a very great distance. I’ve used this idea (with a few extra portals or corridors) to delightfully maddening results. Players can even get where they want to be without having a clue how to get back out, which is also fun.

    I’ve also used the “dense jungle island with winding paths” thing in a module in which ship-wrecked PCs must escape a monstrous tribe looking for the survivors. They must find their way to (and into) the one safe spot on the island (an abandoned wizard’s tower they saw from shore) before the critters sniff them out and track them down. Hacking through the undergrowth may be more direct, but it’s slower and a telltale alert to pursuers!

    I also like puzzles that have to be solved by hands-onexperimenting. Re: a shrine that they know leads into a larger complex (be it a tomb, temple, etc.) with a spiral staircase leading up one one side and down on the other. However, a visual illusion switching which is which has the added effect of disorienting their senses — so that taking the apparent “down” staircase leads them to eventually crack their heads on the unseen roof (perhaps tumbling to the foot of the stairs they thought they went DOWN). Going “up” leads to an apparent roof, which must be stepped through — it is actually an illusion (at the foot of the real down staircase) disguising the entrance into the larger complex.

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