Be prepared, that’s my first tip. There are numerous ways to prepare yourself to be a Dungeon Master, or DM. You can prepare extensive maps with every detail listed. You can setup the most mouth watering adventure. You can give hints that the wealth is so vast that it would tempt the Pope himself. What you cannot do is guarantee the players will do what you want.
So, you prepare backup plans. Granted this means a lot of your work may never see the light of day, or at least it won’t today. You can always use it another day. You can either create multiple adventures to tease your players with, and wait and see which one they choose, or you can give multiple teasers, but they all lead to the same destination. Who says the entrance to the underground labyrinth has to be in the cellar of the old abandoned tower. Keep you labyrinth idea and fully iron out the underground details, monsters, treasures, etc…., but leave your teasers open.
- Bandits have been seen north of the city.
- There have been strange disappearances out behind the abandoned monastery.
- You see two nefarious looking characters disappear behind the back stairs of the inn.
- In the middle of the night, you are awakened by a thief, who disappears into a secret panel in the corner of your room.
All four of these can lead to the same place, for instance:
- Your party scours the hills to the north of the city. You find a cave that leads to a 20 by 20 chamber that looks like it has been man made. In the far corner is a stone door with a crude lock on it.
- You checkout the abandoned monastery. Searching the graveyard behind it, you find a tomb that appears to have been recently opened. Upon entering the tomb, you find yourself in a crypt approx. 20 by 20. In the far corner is a stone door with a crude lock on it.
- You search under the stairs and find a section of wall that seems to be ever so slightly recessed. Upon pressing on the wall you find that it pivots to the side. Inside you find an opening with a ladder leading down. You climb down the ladder and find a chamber that is roughly 20 by 20. In the far corner is a stone door with a crude lock on it.
- You dash to the opening just as it closes. You can hear the thief scurrying away in the darkness. You realize it would be foolish to rush blindly after. You quickly grab your weapons and a torch and follow the thief. After traversing the narrow ways built between the walls of the Inn, you find yourself in the basement. Upon further inspection you find that one of the wine barrels is actually a concealed doorway into an underground chamber that is roughly 20 by 20. In the far corner is a stone door with a crude lock on it.
Thus by leaving the details a little vague, all story lines lead your party to a 20 by 20 chamber with a stone door and a crude lock. Your labyrinth can now be played out fully. It just means your entrance and your exit has to be adjusted slightly, and perhaps not even the exit. Each of these could possibly lead to the exact same place, though the journey from one or another might have a longer passage leading out, or what have you.
The bottom line is, go ahead and spend all of your effort on a killer dungeon, and don’t worry about just what the players will decide. In the end the dungeon itself is movable, and with a little ingenuity your players will end up right where you want them to be, and believe it was all their idea in the first place. If you lead them around by the nose, then they will lose the sense of choice. As long as your players feel they have made the choices, and they feel they were the right choices, then the game is enjoyable for all, and they will keep coming back for more.