Friday, May 15, 2009

The One-Page Dungeon Contest ended, and now some self scrutiny

UPDATE! THE DEADLINE IS EXTENDED! New deadline is May 21st at 8:00 AM Eastern Standard Time (US)

The time is up, folks! I was thinking a lot about this contest, and as I was sketching more of the third level of my Dungeon of Voorand, I realized that I probably wouldn't be making it.

Much have been said about dungeon design, and many words of praise have been heaped upon the one-page template. For some it seems to work like a catalyst for the imagination, but apparently not for me. Now, it's not just the 30 x 30 one page limitation that hinders me. Frankly, I think I have understood some of the limitations of my own attitude toward game mastering and crafting adventures.

I began my career behind the screen mostly by chance. We had decided a couple of friends to share game mastering duties, but since I started I kind of got stuck at it. One thing which have struck me as I've read about other people's campaigns, is that the classic campaign which is home grown from character generation and onward, is not really my thing.

While the idea of creating a world is interesting, I have always worked mostly from "canned" adventures and settings. Laziness aside, I think the reason it has worked well for me is because I am fairly good at adapting stuff and wing it, if I have a starting point! I am better at patching together a "story" of adventure and exploration from a pre-packaged adventure and the meanderings and wild goose chases that players let themselves get carried away by, than preparing stuff whole cloth. I'm not creative if I have to be original, but if I get to take all that buzz around in my head from other sources and just throw it all against the wall and see what sticks, I usually pick fairly sticky stuff.

I sat there with a 30 x 30 grid and wondered what I should do. Having started a few chambers and corridors I realized that if I just connected those by 10 feet passages I would have a dungeon that's as good looking at a map of downtown Toronto, or a chessboard. It's obvious that I create my dungeons in a different way. Now I'm getting curious how!

When I think back to how I've done my megadungeon, I've basically taken all the kind of weird shit I've ever read of, and just thrown them together. Dungeon ecology really isn't my thing, since I don't have the ability to focus on more than one room at a time! Maybe it would be a good idea to get some grasp of how ones creativity works. I've read many times of writer's block, and this small contest have given me new insights about how I write and design. Scary, and hopefully useful later on. Maybe it's something worth thinking about for you, dear reader? If you one day sit there with a 30 x 30 grid and don't know what to put down, it might help to know by what process it used to work.


  1. You could try:
    - starting with an existing map and adding to it.
    - connect parts of existing maps to your map.
    - try drawing features that are naturally not straight. eg draw a river on the page. You will naturally draw it so that it curves. Maybe add a lake. Then add in the straight tunnels and rooms. See how they interact with the river.
    - try using other geometric shapes for rooms. They could build a hexagonal or triangle room. Try combining these shapes. eg an L shaped room, a U with a circle at one end. Then make the tunnels come off some of the sides and they will naturally be at strange angles.
    - try dropping some dice or other small things onto the paper to show the placement of rooms. This will naturally make it random. If you use d6's, then make the room face the way the dice lands so that they are all facing different directions.



  2. Interesting suggestions to get the creativity going. Thanks!


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