We've all been there a hundred times. An elaborite maze, with dozens of traps ranging from pits to magical fireballs. Secret passages, random teleportations, and a host of creatures that seem to live there, yet never wander their home. They seem content to just live in a room till a random party opens the door.
This beg's the question; who builds such elaborate dungeons to the point where it seems almost impracticle that anyone could make use of it. Who sets and resets all those traps? How do the Orcs eat? Where is the bathrooms?
Spring this on your players. A realistic Dungeon. Here's how you prep it.
1. Backstory: "Legend tells of a (insert quest item of moderate to high temptation) That lies at the center of a Labyrinth. None who have entered have ever come out alive. They say a great (add a single encounter creature, yet keep it vague) lives there guarding the (quest item).
2. Warning: Upon entering the labyrinth for the first time, there needs to be a warning, perhaps etched in stone above the entrance. "Be warned, once you enter, you cannot leave until you reach the center of the maze/labyrinth/dungeon, etc."
3. Inventory; Once the party enters, the entrance seals behind them. It becomes indistinquishable from any other hallway/dead end. In the center, they can trigger a magic stone or simple lever to re-open it. At this moment, call for a comprehensive list of EVERTHING the party is carrying with them. Pay careful attention to food/water supplies. If they don't mention it, they don't have it, and here in lies the danger. Also, how many torches do they carry? How long do they burn for?
4. Encounters: Not a damn thing. No orcs, beholders, trolls, zombies or lizard people. No pit traps,magic missles, fireballs, poison darts or collapsing ceilings. Nothing, save the single encounter monster near the center of the labyrinth.
5. Setting; It's dark, very dark. Even with torches, one can barely see no more than 20 feet ahead. a dense layer of fog covers the ground up to the knees.
I guarantee you this will be the most dangerous maze they've encountered. Why? because of realism. First, you might get that player who wants you to draw the map out as they go along. Don't. Just descibe the scene, and any forks or intersections they come across.
Another player may take the inititive to map it out. He'll pull out a sheet of graph paper and insist his character will map it out. If a player does this, refer to the inventory sheet. Are they carrying parchement and writing tools? If not, too bad. Yet, a player may still insist it's part of his "rogues kit" or something. Fine. Ask him how he intends to map it out. Perhaps a tried and true method. He walks the length of a cooridor, walking heel to toe to measure it out, then returns to his parchment to draw it out. That's fine, as it will only serve to slow the party down.
Realistically, it still isn't that easy. When he draws it out, have him make skill checks against an undisclosed DC#. if he fails, he fails. Tell him the cooridor is 6 squares long when it's only 5, or something. Eventually, his map will start leading to dead ends and not make any sense.
How's the food and water holding up? What? They forgot to pack rations? Perhaps CON checks are needed and penalties applied as malnutrition and dehydration sets in.
What about sleep? Perhaps, as a means to set a mood, occasionally the great beast's cries can be heard echoing off of the walls. Even those on watch will wake the others for fear it may be close. Again more penalties and CON checks as fear, paranoia, restlessness and fatigue set in.
I think you see where I'm going with this. The real challenge is the maze itself. Why treat dungeons as cash cows of XP and magic items, when the real challenge lies in just surviving the encounter? I'tll be a long time before they willingly trapes off into another crawl without proper planning and supplies.
NEXT: A Realistic Dragon Encounter