It's easy to put mazes in an adventure, but it's really hard to do it well. You can have an intricate maze as a map, but that becomes tedious to draw and boring to navigate. Worse, it doesn't feel particularly immersive for the players (as opposed to the characters), since the players can see the whole maze from a superior top-down perspective at all times. 

The best mazes in adventures give the players the wait-where-are-we-now feeling that their characters should have, and that usually means some variant of a do-you-go-left-or-do-you-go-right experience is part of play. Because choices in an adventure should matter, these choices shouldn't just lead to a series of endless corridors and repeating choices, but rather to encounters and situations within the maze that (i) are interesting, and (ii) reward the heroes for overcoming them.

Think of the movie Labyrinth. Very little of Sarah's time on-screen was spent turning left or right and that's all. The action of the movie was in her encounters: a very long passage that didn't seem much like a maze at all, a one-tells-the-truth-and-one-always-lies puzzle encounter, a roleplaying encounter with Sir Didymus, a combat encounter with the Fireys, and so on. The encounters mattered, not so much the corridors. And as she solved more encounters, the maze itself got easier, until ultimately she could reach the center. 

I've tried to do something like that for my Chapter 13 (you may recall I had a short "maze of skill checks" encounter way back in Chapter 2). I already knew it would be an adventure to find the Important NPC in his manor (that's chapter 12), but I decided he'd been kidnapped and brought into a hedge maze by a powerful fey creature who isn't entirely on Treerazer's side. The heroes would have to fight through several encounters, although skillful heroes could choose their encounters rather than just bumble into them Sarah-like. I also worked to give most of these encounters a whimsical "Alice in Wonderland" feel, due to the overt fey influence. And, as always, to be mindful of my word count. Here it is.

Chapter 13: The Thorn Prince’s Maze (13th level)

The heroes have left the rear of Koladsfar Manor seeking the retired professor Hansdirk, stolen away by a fey figure known as the Thorn Prince. The manor has always maintained a huge hedge maze that winds in and out of the forest behind the manor, but under the influence of the Thorn Prince, this hedge maze has become interwoven with the magic of the fey realm and phases in and out of reality. The heroes must overcome its dangers to face the Thorn Prince and rescue the professor.

Part 1: Navigating the Maze

When the heroes leave the rear of the manor, they see an enormous sprawling hedge maze before them. Its opening is a break in the hedge with a 10 foot gate. Through the gate, the first part of the maze leads directly to a low rise. From this rise, the heroes can see eight landmarks within the maze that all seem unusually distant. Descriptions of the landmarks precede the encounter headers below. The paths between them are obscured by haze or the tops of verdant trees, making tracing the paths by sight impossible. So long as the Thorn Prince lives, the maze is partly in and out of the real world and the fey realm, and mundane means to try to move from location to location (such as flying) only leads to other parts of the maze. The heroes must navigate its twisting passages to solve it.

Rather than map each twist and turn of the maze, the heroes navigate using their skills. One hero leading the way attempts a DC 35 Nature, Perception, or Survival check as an exploration activity that takes 1 hour. The other heroes may Aid this check. On a success, the heroes arrive at a landmark they choose (or, if they so desire, to some safe place within the twisting passages or even back to the maze’s start). On a critical success, a hero catches some sight or sign of the occupants of the landmark the heroes are about to reach. On a failure, the heroes instead arrive at a random landmark; roll 1d8 to determine which one. On a critical failure, the heroes reach a random landmark and, if the occupants of that landmark have already been defeated, they have been restored with no knowledge of meeting the heroes before (although they don’t have duplicated treasures or rose fragments).

The creatures in each landmark possess a fragment of an exquisite ruby and mithril rose. Each of the eight fragments is worth 750 gp on its own. Although nonmagical, the fragments bear faint engravings like the paths of the hedge maze; each fragment grants a cumulative +1 circumstance bonus to skill checks to navigate the maze. When the heroes have acquired all eight fragments, proceed to Part 2.

1. A Ridge of Stone: Encounter 1a (Moderate 13)

The maze here deposits the heroes along a narrow ridge; the maze resumes at the ridge’s other end. Heroes hoping for a better vantage point here discover only the same thing they saw at the rise near the start of the maze: several landmarks connected by intricate paths obscured by haze or vegetation. A crag linnorm lurks in a crevasse along the ridge along with an elemental avalanche it has befriended; the two attack aggressively, but banter back and forth with each other in Draconic (which the elemental speaks) about which of them is making the most effective attacks or racking up the most impressive kills.

2. A Huge Oak Tree with Lower Branches Forming a Nest: Encounter 1b (Moderate 13)

This oak tree is the nesting place of three cauthoojs who are immune to each other’s songs. Two hop out from behind the tree to attack, while one remains in the next 15 feet above the ground at relies upon its warbling songs. It only leaps down to attack if the other two cauthoojs are killed. The nest contains a major staff of conjuration.

3. An Ominous Tower: Encounter 1c (Moderate 13)

This old, crumbling tower protrudes from the hedge maze like a gnarled finger. A rusted metal sign jutting from above the old iron door reads, “Doctor Quietus, Physician for Hire.” The tower’s lower floor is a bloody-stained surgical laboratory, including the components for a bleeding spines snare and a viper’s fang. Before the heroes can do much looking around, the doctor’s assistants, two elite gimmerlings who resembled hunchbacked old men, demand the heroes “leave the doctor to his work” and become violent if the heroes don’t depart right away. In the tower’s upper level (as a separate encounter), a quelaunt wearing a three-armed lab coat makes notes in its study. After defeating the quelaunt, the heroes can find a scroll of true target among its neat but cryptic notes about humanoid brains.

4. A Humanoid Statue Bearing a Burning Lantern: Encounter 1d (Moderate 13)

A large clearing in the hedge maze bears a statue of some long-forgotten Koladsfar ancestor standing some 50 feet high. Standing on a platform in the middle of a shallow pool 40 feet across, the glowering statue holds out a lantern that burns brightly. When the heroes approach, a gust of wind ripples the water and makes the flame roar forth. These energies produce two firewyrms, two stone maulers, two storm lords, and two tidal masters. These elementals fight until destroyed.

5. A Long, Straight Path Covered by an Archway of Greenery: Encounter 1e (Severe 13)

This long, straight bower is shadowy because of the branches that arch overhead, but its ground is painted in lanes like a racetrack. Two beautiful and androgynous fey creatures named Talissian and Orinni, each a chaotic evil dryad queen, ride atop enormous, regal unicorns that are actually greater nightmares (each wears a greater hat of disguise that appears to be its horn). The fey riders offer to race the heroes down the 800-foot track in exchange for a favor. Although they’re genuine about the race (during which the nightmares fly low to the ground rather than walk), but their offered reward is a ruse; win or lose, they attack when the race is over and fight to the death. (Hopefully, while some heroes are at the finish line and others are back at the starting line.) Talissian carries a marble elephant wondrous figurine as a back-up mount if something happens to their nightmare.

6. An Enormous Banyan with Blood Red Leaves: Encounter 1f (Moderate 13)

The intertwining roots of this tree provide good spots to hide, but a few of what appear to be branches are the limbs of four deadly mantises with crimson coloration that blend in with the leaves. The massive insects fight to the death. A halfling corpse wearing a mail of luck is stashed in the crook of the tree.

7. A Clocktower with Eight Numbers Rather Than Twelve: Encounter 1g (Moderate 13)

This tall clocktower stands in a shady dell. The complex mechanics all along its face turn gears that cause the hands 30 feet above to turn with mechanical precision. The wardens of the clocktower are three kolyaruts; although not evil, they consider the functioning of the clocktower to of extreme importance and won’t give up the rose fragment (which forms a vital piece of its workings) without a fight. A mending lattice is also part of the clocktower’s intricate machinery.

8. A Yawning Cave Mouth: Encounter 1h (Moderate 13)

This cave mouth is carved to resemble a lolling, open mouth, complete with a “tongue” of soft lichen. Deep in the mouth is the lair of a single mukradi, hiding among huge stalagmites and stalactites that resemble teeth. The creature fights until slain. An undamaged ghost bolt is lodged in the creature’s flank.  

Part 2: Heart of the Maze

Once the heroes have acquired and assembled all eight rose fragments, the haze parts enough to allow a view of a glass palace that seems just a few twists and turns away; the heroes can reach this palace without making any skill checks, as the etchings on the assembled rose lead right there.

Encounter 2a (Moderate 13)

The wide entry hall of the palace is buffeted by winds and illuminated by lightning dancing between great pillars. An uthul and an elemental hurricane manifest to face heroes who linger here. Elegant stairs of glass and crystal lead upward.

Encounter 2b (Moderate 13)

The upper level of the palace is a beautiful, overgrown garden bursting with vibrant colors and plants of every kind. Crystal walls reflect bright, dazzling light throughout the area. A wemmuth lurks in this garden, woven around chunks of crystal rather than boulders. Paths leading through the garden twist and turn; the heroes might notice these garden paths mimic the paths of the hedge maze they just traversed, although no skill checks are required to navigate these paths. A vaulted gazebo decorated with images of roses stands at the garden’s center, although creeping rosebushes growing up its sides block the view of its interior.

Encounter 2c (Severe 13)

Within the gazebo is the Thorn Prince himself, a neutral evil elite dryad queen who looks every inch the faerie prince he styles himself to be. A thorny mass of rosebushes and crystal, a weak wemmuth that is Large in size, fights alongside him. The Thorn Prince carries a storm flash, but rarely remembers to use it in combat. The gazebo contains nine bottles of wine worth 150 gp each, an iron equalizer in the shape of an elaborate iron wedding ring, and, in a large chest, the bound and gagged professor Hansdirk Koladsfar. 


The elderly Professor Koladsfar is grateful to be rescued. He overheard that Treereaver had commanded the Thorn Prince to kill him, but the sly fey instead decided to keep the man as a bargaining chip against the demon lord. Professor Koladsfar is quick to understand the need for the breaching rune, particularly if the heroes talk about how the Heartwood has been magically sealed. He can not only provide the necessary paper (if the heroes acquired it in Chapter 12; otherwise, he returns to his manor to get it), but he agrees to create the rune if the heroes acquire the necessary ink from the Lake of Eyes.