The Tesseract Maze or the Hypercube Dungeon

One of my favorite modules as a kid was S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, so I've got a thing for meshing weird sci-fi into my ToY games. The "tesseract maze" is a go-to of mine when I'm running these kinds of adventures. I like to insert them into "dungeons" populated by something alien, like the Priests of Syrinx (p. 318).



A tesseract or hypercube is the 4th dimensional analogue of the cube, a strange Outsider construct. It's usually represented like so:


Here's a gif of someone "unfurling" this 4d object:

From a game mechanics point of view, the main difference between a Cubic maze and a Hypercubic maze is essentially the difference between a 6-room dungeon and an 8-room dungeon.  A Cubic maze would looks something like this:

While a Hypercubic maze looks something like this:

 Essentially, you are adding an additional dimension of "up/down" to the Cubic Dungeon.  Rooms G and H exist outside of 3-dimensional space - though they have identical exits out of their space back into the 3-dimensional cube, they exist independently of one another.  If you isolate the midpoint of that gif above, it would model a dungeon that would look something like this in a 3-dimensional sense:

Navigating the Tesseract

Each room is a cube of exactly the same size (30x30x30 or what-have-you), with 6 ways in and out - four doors in the center of the four walls, a door in the center of the floor, and another door in the center of the ceiling.  To reduce your (that is, the Arbiter's) amount of work tracking things, you can make each door look identical - I prefer those cool sci-fi iris doors to give things a suitably alien feel:

From instructables.com

Each room should have something that makes it different from the other rooms (unless you're feeling particularly cruel), otherwise navigating the maze is going to be extremely difficult unless the Band does something like mark walls, etc. I confess that one time I did every room differently except two rooms which were identical, that was a lark. I suppose it depends on how much you want the Band to hate you.

The connections between the rooms should be hallways that exist "outside of TIME AND SPACE."  They may or may not contain ladders. The hallways matter for areas G and H, in that gravity should reorient itself when you get halfway down the hallway.  For instance, if you were in area A and dropped a rope down the door in the floor to area G, you would end up coming in through the north door of G - so Adventurers who were climbing down a rope would suddenly find they are able to walk down the wall.  Going up is much more difficult, particularly without a ladder, but the same effect applies.

Example of this gravitational effect from the movie Arrival


Again, I like to use the Priests of Syrinx in this kind of maze, assuming that they can just levitate up or down and have no need of those disgusting human ladders. They put their filthy hands on those.


Getting Out

The Band obviously need a way out; they'll be traipsing through the tesseract for eternity until they collapse back to 3 dimensional space. How they're able to  accomplish this is up to you, but a few ideas:

  • The Hypercube only exists for as long as the aliens / demons / whatever inside maintain concentration, so they need to be killed / distracted / bribed to end the effect.
  • The Hypercube only exists until levers are thrown in the right order / buttons in certain rooms are pressed (right order or no) / a control panel puzzle is figured out, etc.
  • The Hypercube only exists until the central brain in destroyed / the insane A.I. is tamed / the gate to Hell is closed, etc.

 Once the technology / magic / etc. of the Hypercube is broken, the Adventurers can just leave through the north door of Area A if you want to maintain a sense of linearity. The Hypercube collapses to a regular Cube that can be navigated using the Cubic maze image above, but the north door of Area A and the south door of Area F don't connect - they just spit you out in the correct direction.

The Final Word

Read the room, obviously (no pun intended). If your Band doesn't like puzzles and mazes, definitely give this one a pass as it can become maddening. But some of the best player creativity I've seen has come out of navigation the Hypercube Dungeon. 

May your Band always stay together.


The Totality of Ygg OSR Rules

It was before the pandemic, I think ...

The Mobos were a Band making a run through a modified Deep Carbon Observatory using modified Dungeon Crawl Classics rules; on the other side of the dam, in a cave beneath the waters of the profundal zone, I put a big fucking dragon.

At this point in the campaign, the Mobos were averaging maybe 6th level or so, fairly powerful in the DCCRPG world at any rate.  They had their share of demons and devils, orcs and goblins, and I figured ... you know, it's dragon time. Maybe it's just me or my age but I always felt the real measure of a character was whether or not they went toe to toe with the classics. Could you survive a run through a gauntlet of Tucker's Kobolds?  Tangle with a tarrasque? Could you throw down with an Huge-Ancient of the red variety?

Anyway, the Mobos are coming out along the dam trying to make their way down to the profundal zone, when they encounter this dragon I had made up for them. Can't remember the color, not that it mattered anyway since the poor bastard literally lasted one round.  The cleric blessed the wizard and rolled something ungodly, the wizard spellburned himself back to the stone age - long and short, my creation caught a magic missile turned tactical nuke in the face for something north of 100 points of damage, and that was that.

Now ... I wasn't mad. It was fucking epic, as playing these games should be.  But when the dust settled I found myself back to trying to figure out how to balance things.  I kept coming up with house rule after house rule, tweaking and fiddling to the point where my players were getting pissed off.  Finally one of my players broke down and just said "... why don't you just write your own rules?"

The player who told me this had also been making the rounds with New York Red Box, much to my eternal envy, and he had run myself and a few other friends (breaking my Forever GM run) through Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze using the old red box. This was also around the time of the absolute embarrassment of riches of OSR players and writers and artists on Google+; there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't read something that set my whole head on fire with ideas. 

All of these things were kind of swimming around in the background when I first started writing my "fantasy heartbreaker."  I loved Arnold Kemp's Goblin Law's of Gaming and stole liberally from there, as well as from Skerple's Many Rats on Sticks edition of the same. I think I must have read Logan Knight's Last Gasp Grimoire a few dozen times, no exaggeration. And I couldn't stop myself. Patrick Stuart. Scrap Princess. Emmy Allen. Luka Rejec. Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk. Gus L. David Black. On and on and on ...

End to end, I think I have been writing these rules for going on 4 years. It's kind of hard to believe looking back at it. 403 pages, written in LaTeX. My version and vision of the Goblin Laws of Gaming, and a dozen other things beside.

I'm glad to have finally gotten it all out of my head. They're free and published under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. 

I hope you'll check them out.