Thank you all for the feedback. I'll be sure to avoid making things like the forest maze in future designs.
A few things that I think might improve such a design:
- The random combat events weren't bad per se, the first two were actually fun. It's only when they started repeating that I lost interest in them. I mean they weren't quite the same, the number of opponents was different, but the text and the species were nothing new anymore, and for me personally that matters more in UA than slight variations in the composition of a combat. In my opinion, random combat is less frustrating, if it doesn't feel that random, if I don't feel that I got unlucky for having to go through another of these familiar events, but feel that I got lucky for stumbling into a new adventure. So make every encounter special and different, with new pictures and/or descriptions, and possibly new, unfamiliar situations, even if triggered randomly. Avoid repetition. It's a bit more work, but also more rewarding for players.
- Making the players find their way through unfamiliar terrain is fine, too, even with the map turned off. But it's more fun if the layout of the dungeon is such that there are more reference points, clear landmarks, and not too many dead ends looking alike.
- The trap/damage events could be replaced by encounters with choices, e.g. describe the impending doom and let the player choose how to try and evade the trap, giving them a chance to avoid harm.
- If the dungeon is bigger, harder to navigate through and/or features several combat events (especially random ones, so that as a designer you don't quite have control over how many of them the players will run into), how about allowing the party to make camp in specific spots, e.g. a clearing or a small cave in a forest? Or maybe you already did that and I just didn't find the spot?