D&D 5E Running a Maze: Is there a better way to do it?


Magic Wordsmith
Skill challenge. This allows you to describe the scene rather than focus on the tedium of map drawing. Failures lead to lost time or fights, requires 3 successes in a row to find the end. Time should be essential to make it important enough for the players to want to complete!

^ This.

Just make a list of complications related to maze tropes and present them as challenges to be overcome. Leave the map abstract. Failure leads to a dead end which requires backtracking (time lost) or puts the characters in a perilous position (risk of death or dismemberment).

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So Warden hasn't been along yet and seen this thread?

In the early days of 3rd edition, a little known pdf publishing company called Emerald Press released a sourcebook titled Campaign Options: Mazes. I had a look on rpgnow and could not find the pdf there, so it looks like it was taken down awhile back.

I still have my comp copy of the book and would have recommended that, even though the rules are 3e specific, it should not be too much work to convert.


I ran a "kobold proving grounds" maze in 4e, but the lessons I learned could be extrapolated to any edition.

Basically, escaping the maze required leaving thru the portal one last used. Then there were a bunch of puzzles/tricks for players to solve, based on their knowledge of kobold traps. It was actually pretty fun.


I'm curious if there is a better way to run a maze. Are there any tips or tricks to make it more mechanically interesting?
Or does it really just boil down to slowly drawing a map as the players navigate, adding some traps.. maybe a teleporter?
There HAS to be a way to make it more interesting.
Why is your group mapping the maze? Are they enjoying mapping the maze? If they are, why are you punishing them for mapping the maze?

Ed Greenwood ran Undermountain for his players more than once. Apparently he never drew a single map for it and simply had rooms that were linked that they went through. There's nothing wrong with running a giant maze and hand-waiving the navigation component of the maze.

I have a labyrinth planned for part of my campaign, the boss will entrap the players within a djinn's realm, and the djinn will alter reality by making the players into something they are not...I plan on creating a few extra characters and handing them out to the players, but before I do the players will need to figure out what character they have became. Only by accepting their role will they be able to defeat the djinn and return to their true reality.



All this talk of mazes makes me want to run a classic Minotaur in a maze encounter hmmm my pcs did let a gnoll escape maybe he grabs some of his gnoll friends and captures the pcs at night and throws them in an ancient labyrinth with a Minotaur and a mcguffin. Sorry about that i got an idea and just ended up running with it.


A maze is basically a puzzle for your players to solve. So consider the possible ways to solve the puzzle, and build from there. (And remember that while you don't want the puzzle to be too easy, you also don't want it to be too difficult - frustration is a terrible thing in a game!)

So, consider the obvious routes through the maze: what happens if the PCs just follow the leftmost wall? What happens if they use chalk to mark their paths, or lay out string behind them? What happens if one PC has a really good sense of direction? (At least one of these should probably be answered with "they get out, but it is a somehow suboptimal route"; and at least one probably wants to be opposed somehow, because someone moves the chalk markers, or whatever.)

Then consider ways they can short-circuit the maze. Maybe the maze has statues of a man dotted throughout that gradually get older the closer you get to the exit. Or maybe there are signs from some previous adventurer who came through the maze. Or whatever.

And next, and perhaps crucially, you need to come up with some stuff to break up the tedium in the maze. As a rule of thumb, for every fifteen minutes of real-world time spent navigating the maze, something should happen - maybe the minotaur catches up with them and has to be dealt with, or the maze reconfigures itself, or they learn someone has been moving their chalk marks, or... (Perhaps the best "somethings" to have happen are things that force the PCs to abandon their meticulous search - the minotaur is too powerful to fight, so they have to run, or their treasure gets stolen by goblins who have to be chased down, or a slide trap moves them to another part of the maze, or... Otherwise, they're likely to just methodically plod through, leading to a really easy but also really dull time.)

Finally, be sure to have an "escape clause" - as soon as it stops being fun, be sure to say "after X hours of searching, you finally come to the exit. At which point..."


First Post
My big problem with doing a maze is how to present it. Just draw the maze on a giant grid makes navigating the maze trivial. On the other hand, my players and I have weak theater of the mind skills and doing a maze that way would just be frustrating to them. My compromise is drawing a dungeon across a series of sheets so that I can easily show the players one room at a time, but the exact layout of the dungeon can trick them.

I haven't tried this yet but I should get a chance in a few days.

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