Welcome to Blackburgh
We always knew you'd be passing through!
It's always fun here
So you should come here
Welcome to Blackburgh! We love you!
—Blackburgh's official theme song
We're puzzle fanatics at Lone Shark Games. We make all sorts of puzzles for all sorts of puzzlers. We've published crosswords in the New York Times, constructed puzzle escape rooms and giant puzzle hunts, and we even have a 10-foot crossword wall at a bagel restaurant in Seattle. We've published a few puzzle books, most notably a solve-your-own-adventure puzzle novel called The Maze of Games. Gaby, Tanis, and I worked with artist Pete Venters and graphic designer Elisa Teague to create the most intricate series of puzzle mazes you've ever seen. We're the kind of designers about whom people say, "Oh, I bet you think you're pretty clever."
And we do! One of our slogans is "We make puzzles for people who like games and games for people who like puzzles." Most of our games are often viewed as puzzles. When you play the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, the designers are presenting you with a puzzle: Can you defeat this Runelord before time runs out? What about rescuing this many civilians from the flood? Stopping that bomber before all your ships get sunk? We've laid down the gauntlet, and we'll see if you can run it.
But we've shied away from using actual puzzles. You won't find a palindrome on the walls or a code in the flavortext. You might find a few puzzly in-jokes—for example, I came up with the Skull & Shackles location name "Scar Bay" while watching this college basketball game. But we never made you a real puzzle—until the Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth Adventure Deck, that is. Now, as with The Maze of Games, we've made you a maze.
Now, making a maze in a game is challenging. James Jacobs said so in his introduction to the RPG version of this adventure. He professed his undying love for mazes, and then continued: "But the shameful truth, I fear, is that mazes just aren't usually fun to play out in modern tabletop game sessions. In fact, I've never played in or run a tabletop game involving a significant maze that didn't outstay its welcome past the first few corners and dead ends and didn't end up with the GM simply hand-waving the exploration of the twists and turns so that everyone could get on with the next encounter or story development."
Been there, done that. So we weren't going to fall into that trap. While the other designers figured out how to make a worksite performance review into a great scenario, Gaby and I set about to designing a maze that would be fun in the adventure card game. And we might've been a little bit... evil.
This is Part of a Maze of Twisty Little Passages, All Alike
The demon prince Baphomet, the Lord of the Minotaurs, was our go-to goat-guy for our labyrinthine extravaganza. The adventure takes place in the Ivory Labyrinth, his home plane in the Abyss. It is a giant maze of dark corridors and confusing twists and turns. The characters come here to find the kidnapped Herald of Iomedae because Baphomet has cloistered him in an Ineluctable Prison. It's a crazy place, and we wanted to make you feel lost and confused about where you were going. So we did.
The second and third scenarios of this adventure are your journey through the maze to reach the Ineluctable Prison. There are some tricks here that instantly bollix up your plans. The citizens of Blackburgh are real friendly types, so they want you to come visit them over and over again.
In Welcome to Blackburgh, when you move to a location, you shuffle its deck. The mere act of moving makes you lose your place. Along the way, you'll leave some breadcrumbs: You can always shuffle a card from your hand into your location deck to explore it. No more discarding that ally to explore—just fling him into the maze! You'll see him again, probably. Maybe.
In Twisty Passages, if you close a location, you reassign the location cards to different location decks. So here we make you move without making you move. When you encounter a blessing, you'll conjure up the weird base set location Middle of Nowhere, sticking you in a dead end at the very time you expect to feel like you're making progress. That cardless location stops you from helping folks at other locations and drains cards from the blessings deck when you want to leave. So far, so fun, right?
The plane's capital city is Blackburgh, home to Baphomet's tower. The Ivory Labyrinth extends out from it, and the Lightless Maze is its scariest section. These three cards make up the heart of the maze engine. The first three locations of these scenarios form a mind-boggling triptych.
Blackburgh is like the entrance to the maze. In Blackburgh, when you encounter a Cultist or Demon (hint: all the time), you move everyone else. Everyone moves whenever you fight something, so you can't count on folks to be lined up where they can help you the most. When you close Blackburgh—even when you do so temporarily—you pop over to that other weird base set location, Maze, where if you're not really smart, you'll always end up back there. So you get used to finding dead ends around Blackburgh.
Ivory Labyrinth and Lightless Maze are even more brain-melting. When you encounter one of the two types of cards that are in these location decks, you go to Blackburgh... always go to Blackburgh... never go to anywhere else other than Blackburgh. Except when you close one of these locations, in which case either you or your friends go somewhere random. Possibly to Maze or Middle of Nowhere. Maybe back to Blackburgh! You never know.
The things you encounter kick you around, too. These Minotaurs have nasty variations on the "first encounter" power seen on other Minotaurs. Now they're summoning up your favorite locations and sending your characters there. The Maze Tapestry is another bad penny, as you get to see Middle of Nowhere again and again. And so it goes. The motto of this place should just be "get lost."
A Little Ball of Twine Shall Guide You
So what makes all that fun? You get to puzzle your way out! You're going brain-to-brain against us. We've figured out lots of little ways to beat this dilemma—tricks with certain boons and certain banes—and we're gonna share them with you now.
Nah, just kidding. You should find them by yourselves. But hey, we wouldn't chuck you into a maze without some ways to help you get out.
The best way to control your destiny in this maze is not to trigger any of the disorienting things that can happen. The Evocation Staff pins monsters to the Ivory Labyrinth until you're ready to go to Blackburgh; the imprisoned devil Suurlahetas lets you snatch boons without encountering them and triggering Lightless Maze; and the item Iron Shackles holds you fast in place when one of these traps wants to move you somewhere.
And nothing is better in this byzantine world-dungeon than Baphomet's most treasured possession: a humble ball of twine. We're not sure why he loves this silver-a-dozen item so much. Maybe he killed Theseus in another life. But love it he does, which is why you steal it from him at the end of Welcome to Blackburgh.
While it charges you up from pounding all these Minotaurs, Ball of Twine can get you out of Middle of Nowhere and Maze. But it can also move you to those places, and that can be very helpful at times. Don't want to deal with the Lightless Maze? Go to Middle of Nowhere. Heck, it's probably there already. Why not visit?
But other than those little perks, you're on your own against our devious little brains. When you finish these scenarios, we'll be saying to you, "Oh, I bet you think you're pretty clever."
And you will think just that.
Adventure Card Game Designer