An expert set solitaire adventure.
For a long time you have heard legends about the Island of Vacros; when you were only a child, the stories about evil minotaurs were used to scare you into behaving. Now you are grown, and you no longer believe children's stories.
But King Trueon of Cathos is worried: his daughter Princess Lydora has been kidnapped, and he has found clues that she has been taken to the ancient and evil island of Vacros. You have heard rumors that a large and dangerous mazework lies beneath the surface of the island - a mazework that is guarded by minotaurs. Of course many rumors are false, but then again ...
M2: "Maze of the Riddling Minotaur" (1983), by Jeff Grubb, is the second invisible-ink solo adventure for Basic D&D. It was published in July 1983.
About the Module Code. TSR would later call this adventure "MSOLO2" because of the publication of the Master-level adventure M2: "Vengeance of Alphaks" (1986). However, the adventure was never actually printed with that designation.
Sources: The Greek Myths. M2: "Maze of the Riddling Minotaur" (1983) is heavily based on Greek myths, as made obvious by the heavy use of Greek-sounding names. It's based on the story of Theseus and the minotaur: in it, Theseus (the SOLO player) is called upon by King Aegeus (King Trueon) to go to the island of Minos (Vacros) and slay the Minotaur (a monster). The silver owl the player is given to signal his failure both references a then-modern look at Greek myth, Clash of the Titans (1981), and recalls the black sails that were to report Theseus' death in the original story.
Origins (I): A New Designer. Jeff Grubb started playing Avalon Hill wargames in high school, but during his first year in college he wandered by a group of D&D players, and was told they needed a cleric. He soon began to GM his own campaign, set in the world of Toril; it would eventually influence both the Forgotten Realms and Krynn.
Grubb was volunteered to write the AD&D Open for Gen Con. In the end, he coordinated the whole tournament! After that, he applied for a job of TSR, but didn't get any traction until he stopped by the TSR Personnel Office in person, at which point Allen Hammack said to hire him. He began work in July 1982.
Grubb's first project for TSR was BH4: "Burned Bush Wells" (1983) for Boot Hill, but it appears that it was beaten to press by his second project, M2: "Maze of the Riddling Minotaur" (1983). Though TSR was almost a decade old when Grubb was designing "Maze", it was still a young company. Grubb recalls writing the adventure on a typewriter above the Dungeon Hobby Shop, because the Sheridian Springs Office wasn't ready yet and the company's computers were in high demand.
Origins (II): Spilling More Invisible Ink. Basic D&D's second solo adventure repeated the use of invisible ink and a special pen, following on M1: "Blizzard Pass" (1983). However, the line's invisible-ink pens was quite problematic.
That was partially a physical problem: the pens had to be velcroed to the outside of the modules. As a result, the modules wouldn't lie flat, and sometimes the pens would break the shrink wrap — often resulting in pens that were stolen or less.
The ink itself didn't work that well either. It meant that the adventure could only be run once. Worse, you could run out of ink while playing the adventure, either from overuse or non-use. Various reports also suggest that over time inked passages might fade or that uninked passages might appear, making the modules even more troublesome as artifacts. However, black (ultraviolet) light may be used to reveal the hidden information, even without a pen. The hidden text is also available on multiple web sites today.
The next Basic D&D Solo, XSOLO: "Lathan's Gold" (1984) would present all of its information in plain text. When Basic D&D returned to hidden text in CM5: "Mystery of the Snow Pearls" (1985), they would instead use a red-tinged "magic viewer". Obviously, the invisible ink technology was substandard, because when "Maze" was republished in German as ES2: "Im Rätsellabyrinth des Minotaurus", it used a magic viewer, not the invisible-ink pen.
Mapping Tropes. "Maze" features an invisible-ink map. Much of it is laid out in plain text, but various junctures, corridors, and rooms must instead be revealed with invisible ink.
Adventure Tropes: Choose Your Own Adventures. Rather than being a traditional "choose your own adventure" story, "Maze" is instead a location-based adventure. The player wanders across the map, revealing rooms. Only then does he go to the corresponding text.
"Maze" also includes diceless trap and combat systems. Whenever entering a new area, a player must reveal aa percentage to see if he detected any traps. In combat he similarly reveals boxes to see what armor class he hits and how much damage he does. He then applies that damage to a monster block which was previously hidden by invisible ink.
(As with many of the SOLO adventures, this also has a corresponding group adventure … which is particularly important with the invisible-ink adventures, because you can use up their solo play!
Exploring the Known World. This is one of the few Basic D&D adventures with no official (or even widely accepted) placement in the Known World. The Sea of Dread is, unsurprisingly, a favorite place for the adventure. However one of the favorite theories, by fan LoZompatore, uses "Maze" to fill a cartographic hole in the Known World by placing it amidst the Pearl Islands archipelago, with the islands of Vacros and Cathos replacing two islands that appear on some maps of the Known World, but not others. That nicely connects these Greek isles with the Roman-influenced Thyatis Empire.
Monsters of Note. The new monsters of "Maze" include a few fun variants of standard types including an obsidian golem, a pocket dragon, and a zombie-minotaur. A few of the "Maze" monsters even reappear in later Basic D&D "X" adventures.
As for non-zombified minotaurs: there are fewer than you'd expect. Changing up that expectation was one of the things that Grubb particularly liked about the module.
About the Designer: Grubb would soon move on to a dream project, the design of a whole new roleplaying game, Marvel Super Heroes (1984).
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons — a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to email@example.com.