Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: M2 Maze of the Ridding Minotaur

This is a look at the second of the two Dungeons & Dragons solo modules I own - M2. I also looked at M1 Blizzard Pass. I'm aware of BSOLO Ghost of Lion Castle, but I never owned, played, or read a copy so I don't expect to review it. Hopefully someone else will step up and do so!

For more reviews, please see my consolidated reviews page.

M2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur
by Jeff Grubb
TSR 1984
A Solo Adventure for Character Levels 1-10

This module is a solo adventure for any kind of Expert D&D-level character. Although the adventure is nominally for levels 1-10, it's actually meant for a single sixth level character - all of the spell effects, pre-rolled characters, etc. are 6th level or for sixth level characters. It's hard to see how a 1st level character would survive a single encounter, or how a 10th level character would be really challenged. For a single character, level 5-7 would be about right. It's an odd designation.

The adventure starts at the beginning of the titular maze. Parts of the maze are uncovered already, others hidden by invisible ink - and as you move, you reveal the maze and the room key numbers. You've been sent to save a lost princess - you're the fourth adventurer sent in, and you're given a magic weapon and a magical owl that will fly back to the King if you die so the next adventurer can come. Basically, it's an excuse to play again if you fail without needed to discard what you know about the maze. Since it's a maze with minotaurs, there is a whole backstory that chews up and recycles the Theseus story - ships with black sails, a maze on an island, Greek-themed names, etc.

Like the previous solo adventure in the series, the adventure is an "Invisible Ink Module" and requires a special pen to reveal hidden blocks of text. There are a few key differences with other solo adventures:

- Adventuring is map-based, not choice-based. You navigate a map and then flip to the keyed entry that matches the areas you moved to. The map is also invisible ink based, at least partly. Once you've exhausted all of the options in the room, or can and choose to leave, you use the map to find the next keyed area.

- Combat is invisible ink based. As you discover traps or encounter monsters, you use the ink to reveal the monster, its stats, and its rolls in combat.

- Spells. You have a limited selection of spells and their effects are modified to fit the adventure. Even the limited versions of information spells, though, are potentially really useful as they reveal room contents without the need to go in.

- Actual riddles. You read the riddle, guess the answer - and then use the ink to reveal the answer. Get it right and move on, get it wrong and fight.

All in all, pretty interesting changes to the usual solo adventure "If you try the door, go to entry 5" approach.

As a group adventure, it adds a surface area to be explored and cleared instead of having it be pre-cleared by the King's forces. It's just more combat, really, but with some magic items you'd need to ensure you have a chance against some of the "Magic weapons to hit" monsters in the maze.

The module also has five new monsters - Obsidian Golem, Sacrol (a kind of skull-based undead), Zombie-Minotaur, Giant Hunting Spider, and Pocket Dragon.

The art is also nice, and includes this great one by Parkinson:

 photo Parkinson Stalking 001s_zpsj6oo7dbb.jpg

Invisible stalker, indeed. This is why it's better to not even look behind you in dungeons.

Oh, and hokey smoke, it has a Rocky-and-Bullwinkle reference. There's something you don't see every day. (Scroll to Chauncey and Edgar)

Notes and War Stories

Just as a note, it's interesting that TSR re-used module designations - the other M2 I have is a Master-level adventure, Vengeance of Alphaks.

Like M1 Blizzard Pass, the ink fades over the years. This is especially bad here, because there is a mostly-unreadable map you need to use the adventure at all. The group play needs the maze, and you don't even know some of the monsters and traps without the monster blocks.

I am sure I played this once. I don't know if I finished it victorious or not - I can't read 90+% of the text that was revealed. But I don't really have any strong memories of it. The difficulty of play - it's very gimmicky and annoying to color in hit rolls, then damage rolls, then hit points, etc. - surely didn't help. Also, the higher level meant it was necessarily more complex.

That said, I like a lot of the color, the monsters, and the riddles. The surface section is nice as well. Using the revealed map and text, it would make a good group adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...