Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mazes and Monsters, cover to cover ... II


The novel Mazes and Monsters starts out in the spring of 1980, a gifted student has disappeared from Grant University in Pequod Pennsylvania. Vanishing students aren't unheard of there but this case is different. The police discovered a connection to the game Mazes & Monsters.

We find out Mazes & Monsters is a war game played in world set a medieval background using nothing a vivid imagination, dice, pencils, graph paper and an instructional manual. Players create characters that may be Fighters, Sprites, Holy-men or Charlatans who seek treasure by navigating a series of mazes (and such) run by the Maze Controller. The mazes are filled with dangers and monsters that seek to enchant, kill, maim and paralyze the players if the players are able to do so unto their foes.

What made the disappearance and it's connection to the game significant was a group of players discovered by the police seemed to acting out these fantasies in the caverns nearby the university. These caverns had been off limits for years having claimed the lives of some hapless spelunkers decades earlier. How the police discover this isn't explained in the prologue as we discover the students aren't immediately forthcoming about the game of Mazes & Monsters.

A national media frenzy is sparked and the university is painted in an ominous light by mazes and monsters. One student shares this passage in the university newspaper "I know Mazes and Monsters is a very popular game on this campus. I played it for two years. But last summer I destroyed all of my $100 worth of equipment. The game takes control of your life...quit before it's too late." The media discovers these players could be anyone's kids as Mazes and Monsters is a game that's inside everybody.

So we have discovered Mazes and Monsters is war game where the players can be controlled, maimed or killed (extreme indeed). Some kid on campus simply destroyed $100 worth of gaming gear in 1980 , that's $2654.00 in modern money , poor kid he could have unloaded all of it on ebay if only it were a couple decades later. It's all presented in a manner that is a tad melodramatic.

For those that must know there is no Pequod Pennsylvannia and of course no Grant University there, they are fictional locations, it is a novel. I suppose that means there are no caves either...


  1. I've seen the movie, but not read the book, so I'm now curious about that class system. What it looks like, to me, is that there's a certain thematic opposition going on in the class design: the physical and direct Fighter versus the ethereal and subtle Sprite, the moral and upright Holy-Man versus the dishonest and disreputable Charlatan. But of course, that doesn't really resemble the D&D class system at all; the Holy-Man and Fighter look right, but it almost looks like Jaffe took the Magic-User and Thief, split 'em both in half, and then swapped halves. Which of course means Jaffe did it on purpose, because she has Something to Say, rather than merely getting stuff wrong.

    The problem with that being that the public took Jaffe's book as being somewhat accurate instead of as a crafted message.

  2. I suspect there was about an afternoon or two worth of research into D&D and a purposeful aversion to violating copyright along with a desire to have everything fit the novel.

    It's terribly melodramatic. People thinking the actors in the film were being slanted and wooden might be off base, they were being faithful to the novel from what I can tell so far. Anyone taking this book as anything but fiction is fairly unfathomable just a few pages in.