Why do mazes exist? Looking for some ideas :-)

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Hello all! I am looking for a cool backstory for a maze I want to put in a game. Any suggestions?

You could always draw inspiration from mythology and/or real life. In greek mythology The original minotaur was placed in a maze as a sort of prison/home. Perhaps this maze was constructed to be the home/prison of some other terrible entity.

For real life inspiration, you could do something like the Winchester mystery house. The owner felt that she was being haunted by the ghosts of people killed by guns sold by the family business. She was informed that the ghosts would be kept at bay so long as the home was under construction. So, she started building and continued to have additions added for years. The resulting house has stairs that lead to no where, windows that open to walls, etc.

In a fantasy setting, where magical means of building are available you could see this easily creating a maze even without it being the creator's original intent.

I'm sure doing a little research on hedge mazes will yield similar interesting stories that could be developed/modified for a fantasy setting.

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Defense in depth: Just because it's a maze for the attacker (the PCs) doesn't make it so for the defenders. Countless fortresses and walled cities throughout history and the world were designed to be impossible for non-natives to navigate as it stalled an split invading forces while leaving them open to ambush.

Natural erosion can leave some pretty interesting and complex mazes in the form of caves.

An ant colony probably seems like a maze to anyone without the proper senses to follow the trails of pheromones.

As mentioned, confusing layouts have been used as defense.

And, of course, the classic Minotaur prison from Greek mythology.

Purpose built mazes are a distraction. They are time consuming and disorienting. Whoever is in the maze is at a disadvantage to whomever built the maze. That is their purpose.

For a long time, hedge mazes were a popular luxury for the rich and influential. The more cleaver, beautiful and charming the maze the better. Some mazes were designed so that they could be observed from a certain position to entertain the host.

A more fantasy reason could be to act as a magic circle to reinforce certain enchantments, or to allow people to enter a permanent circle without compromising the protection.

Three examples:

The Maze reinforces a powerful Magic Circle that binds an ancient Demon to the Maze as an unwilling guardian. The demon is under no compunction to serve, but is unable to harm or leave the maze. After decades in the Maze it has discovered the artifact housed in the maze and now carries it as his own possession. The demon never stops to bargain, but always vents his rage on any trespassers into his territory.

A separate maze created by a different wizard takes advantage of a certain regions instability to create multiple permanent portals to different planes. The maze itself shifts in accordance to the ebbing tide of the Astral Sea. The entire maze is under the influence of a naturally occurring Misdirection spell. KS: Planes can be used to find minute clues to find portals leading to the desired location. Otherwise randomly roll which of the various portals are discovered with each trip.

The followers of Norburger reconstructed the sewers under Magnimar to hide their activities. The now maze like warrens lead to random dead ends, circular pathways, locked grates, completely submerged chambers, an untold number of privately owned basements, secret passages, and deep caves that lead to unexplored depths. The cults have various hidden rooms contained within the crumbling mortar. The entire sewer is protected by overlapping permanent nondetection spells of various strength. A large number of sewer dwelling monsters hide through the entire network, as well as more mundane workmen in the better maintained areas.

A survival of the fittest test for recruits or prisoners of an organization. Not necessarily just for cruelty, but to actually winnow out (fatally or otherwise) those who aren't clever or strong enough to find their way out of the maze.

Many years ago, a powerful (wizard/noble/etc.) was corrupted by an alien intelligence to build a portal that would summon the being to the moral world (think Ivo Shandor from the first Ghostbusters movie).

Before the final ritual could be enacted to bring the being into existance, the designer died. Since then, others have found the maze and have taken residence, without any knowledge of its intended purpose.

You could even throw in that the architect is out there somewhere, maybe as a spirit, that is trying to influence others to finish his design to bring out the end of the world.

Another idea could be that it was used as a burial site. Whether it was built to protect their final resting place, or to protect the world from the dead rising... well...

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It was supposed to be a simple and straightforward set of hallways, but it was designed by a committee.

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Well, to keep it simple... basically this.

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Undead masons.

A castle was being built around a mining town, but it was attacked by a necromancer and everyone inside died due to a curse. As a result of the curse, they have all turned undead.

However, that was not the end of it. The undead were not the lazy shambling masses, or the intelligent and crafty powers in the shadows. Instead, they are follow shadows that go through the motions of their daily life, never realizing that they are dead.

The miners still mined out stones, the soldiers still patrolled the streets and walls... and the masons still built more and more defenses. However, these actions were not made with the forethought created by an intelligent mind. Instead, they just meander and aimlessly work until they can go no further- then they just wander somewhere else to continue their work.

Over the course of several centuries, this has resulted in countless walls that effectively make countless corridor. The construction has long invade the inside of the town, and has begun to reach the outer countryside. As a result, the party will often encounter individuals such as undead merchants or farmers within the halls, willing to trade their goods without ever realizing their fields and shops have long been enclosed in stone.

You can use this as a larger setting- the walls of the castle grow ever outwards like an infestation... and these walls end up acting like a canal for the undead curse, causing it to endlessly expand outward (fun suggestion- the necromancer himself died as an early victim to the unexpected sprawl).

In one game playing a sorcerer with wall of stone and illusionary wall as spells known I came this close to making a labyrinth to protect my home, just because I could. But the game died first.

In Eberron dragonmarks could be terrain features, manifestations of the Draconic Prophecy, as well as magical tattoos. Some force in your world might twist the terrain in a similar fashion.

Or a maze could be formed by mining, whether by (probably) sapient humans or dwarves or kobolds, or nonsapient burrowing monsters, hunting out veins of precious ore.

Scarab Sages

Mazes can be used to keep people from getting in, to keep people from getting out, or as a form of entertainment.

Recently recovered legend has it that in days long, long ago before Earthfall, the rich and powerful spellcasters would design mazes for entertainment.

Oh, but not the entertainment you might think. Only superficially similar to garden mazes, these constructions were built for entertainment and challenge alike. Filled with terrible creatures, and deadly traps, each maze held somewhere within it a prize of great power and value.

Participants would flock to the mazes, pitting themselves against each other and the deadly traps alike in search for that treasure, and for the pride and prestige that came from success. Indeed, if the recently recovered texts are to be believed, this hobby was the inspiration for the maze spell itself.

Nowadays, these mazes are rare, and at times in in disrepair. Ten thousand years is a long time even for magically reinforced construction, after all.

But for today's adventurer's that question from long ago still holds temptation... for what, if anything, may still reside in the heart of one of these labyrinths? Danger, for sure. But could ancient treasures still lay untouched after so long, just waiting for someone to take them away?

Not sure if you watch the Sherlock show with Benedict Cumberbatch, but in one of those episodes he had to deal with a serial killer who owned a hospital that had secret passageways going throughout the entire hospital. When the serial killer built the hospital, he kept firing the architect so that the passageways would be completely undetected. Not exactly a maze per se, but it could be a motive/backstory for why a maze would exist?

Ryze Kuja wrote:
Not sure if you watch the Sherlock show with Benedict Cumberbatch, but in one of those episodes he had to deal with a serial killer who owned a hospital that had secret passageways going throughout the entire hospital. When the serial killer built the hospital, he kept firing the architect so that the passageways would be completely undetected. Not exactly a maze per se, but it could be a motive/backstory for why a maze would exist?

That was loosely based on Herman Mudgett (also known as H. H. Holmes), a serial killer who built a hotel where he would rent rooms to tourists and kill them in his maze.

The maze itself is a large summoning rune in epic proportions, maybe the creator got it right, but the entity is now lost to history (or not?) or MAYBE... it was done incorrectly to no result and the architects followers turned on the architect in anger over their decades of toil wasted.

In the AP Mummy's Mask, there is a, "wonders of the world," sized maze that until the AP revealed its purpose was a mystery to everyone through centuries (The Slave Trenches.) Turns out it is a magical engine needing a few complex triggers completed to activate its purpose.

An abandoned theme park that was built to delight children, but the attractions fell into disrepair and/or had other ideas for entertainment. Sort of a Five Nights at Freddy's meets Disneyland.

The previously well-maintained landscape has since overgrown, with the only paths created by the wandering attractions... places where once the sounds of laughter filled the air, now the occasional creak and muffled scream can be heard. A once merry sign adorns the entrance, covered in dust and cobwebs and a few random brown specks of dried blood...

Casinos are designed to be labyrinths on purpose to keep drunk people from escaping with their winnings :P

As a variant of the defense thing I already mentioned, tombs of all sorts (pyramid, mausoleum ect.) also benefit from being maze. This is also historical (though something fantasy has exaggerated a good deal), as the sheer number of "false tombs", as well as the traps and secret passages in Egyptian pyramids, indicate. As a bonus, since your tomb raiders are likely operating alone or small groups, it's quite possible they get so horribly lost they eventually starve to death.

This is why ever PC should spend the silver piece to get an assortment of chalk and wooden box for it at character generation and leave a trail.

Awesome responses, thanks all!! Enough great idea’s, but more are always welcome :-) Some are really original!

Also, Dungeon Dragons are known to make mazes and fill them with treasure to lure adventurers in while watching for their own amusement. o wo


And lest you think I'm kidding, they are an actual thing in the Tome of Horrors Complete, pages 227-229. o wo Led by none other than Gargax the Mighty, Master of the Dungeon Dragons.

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