I’m old fashioned and kept my notes on paper!
The judges had three weeks time to read the entries. The time has come for the next step: “Every judge nominates their favorite entries and proposes a category for each.” Tricky!
I had given one to five points to every entry, vaguely keeping my list of features for quality dungeons my in mind. I put the entries with one or two points away. Those just didn’t fit what I expected from a one page dungeon. Don’t get me wrong, some of them contained cool ideas, but usually they just had one thing that was cool about them. I liked the idea of The Great Lunar Staircase by Jonathan Walton, for example. But the entry didn’t contain anything else – that makes it hard for me to use as-is at the table. I’m also no friend of meta elements like humanoid shaped dungeons, dungeons that have rooms connected like the sides of a cube, dungeons that require the collection of keys to proceed (reminds me of the first Doom I played) and procedural dungeons (where the adventure or map is generated by rules instead of providing me with a map.
The rest of this page has my nominations and some comments. The comments will contain spoilers!
There were two other contenders in this category: Ancient Ark of the Atlanteans by J. E. Geoffrey (blog post) and Wilderlands of Dire Omen by Roland Volz (blog post). I felt that The Ark of the Atlanteans was a close second with its post-apocalyptic scenario, but I felt that it would require more work to run it: It was lacking encounter-level details which The Forgotten Depths provided.
For best monster lair I nominate The Bastion of the Boglings by Greg Gillespie. I felt it lacked some potential allies but in the end what I really liked about it was the possibility to change the future of a cleric player character – the reconstitution of the faith of Solis sounds like a great character development hook to me. I also liked the idea of the water weird being a god and the zombies slowly rising from the water during the fight. These added elements made the entry more interesting than the various other kobold and goblin lairs competing in this category. But then again, some of them will show up in other categories.
For best classic dungeon I nominate Rails in the Ruins by John Laviolette (blog post). I liked the reskinning of monsters (goat-headed ogers), their use of giant ants, and their middle man, the halfling-sized ogre with antennas instead of a goat head – let’s not think about this too much. I also liked the reservoir and the panicked dwarf berserker at the entrance.
Another contender in this category was Into the Worm’s Gullet by Dyson Logos (blog post). The great worm that swallowed a cockatrice is a great idea, and the map looks very nice, but in the end the goat-headed ogres just offered more stuff to do.
Citadel of Evil by Stuart Robertson (blog post) was also in this category. I thought the idea of folding and cutting the thing into a pocketmod was cute, but given that I found my way back to role-playing in 2006 after a very long hiatus due to Greywulf’s M20 which came with very strong pocketmod support, that alone was not enough to move it to the top. I liked how you basically started in a cave and had to find a way up into the actual dungeon.
For best one-shot I nominate Meckwick’s Revenge by Aaron Frost & Mundi King (blog post). This is not an entry I’d use for my regular game but as a one-shot reverse dungeon it might work. Buy monsters and use them to boost your defense of the dungeon! One problem remains: You’ll have to design a NPC party to use against your players.
Another entry that would have worked well in this category is Mystery of Godzina House by Jeff R. (blog post). It’s is a time travel adventure. I like the idea but at the same time I don’t like the idea of being locked in a house as the premise of an adventure. I also don’t think that I’d want such a house in an existing campaign of mine. If it were in fact a chronological nexus, I feel that it should be much more important than just a big time riddle. Perhaps this makes it more appropriate as a one-shot.
For best cultists I nominate Vermin Hollow by Rob. It has a halfling turned cultist, many reskinned monsters that look awesome – giant slug with bovine skeleton armor! – and an inspiring map with labels on the map itself, bold highlighting of monsters in the text, and character and monster sketches. I love it!
Other contenders in this category: The Hall of the Goblin Lord by Iain Jones has an interesting goblin lair with cultists on the second level trying to raise a the god of vengeance. I like the premise! Perhaps this would work well as a campaign starter with the manifestation of the god of vengeance as a campaign villain if the party fails. The Obsidian God Mace and the Void Pendant are cool items in this context, but I’m not sure whether these would work with a typical group of players. Swamp Chaos by Dennis Filipiak was also interesting in that the “cultist” is actually a good guy who acted in desperation and is now faced with undead minions that defend him against the remaining goblins (yes, another goblin lair!) but will also attack him if he rejects his new found dark powers.
But that’s not all. I also liked the following two cultist entries: The Ruined Cult of Vorlos by Tom Livak deals with cultists trying to raise a demon. This time the twist is that all of this has happened once before, so there are new cultists, and crypts of the old cultists, and the parts the new cultists lack are found in parts of the dungeon inhabited by a troll and gricks. I also wanted to like The Heart of the Minotaur by Joe Sarnowski which has cultists sacrificing a woman to a minotaur that is in fact an enchanted human. It has a wonderful map. But it also has two things that give it a fairy-tale logic with potentially fatal consequences for the player characters: “If the player goes through the door…” and “If the player grants mercy…” I don’t know. That just doesn’t work well for me.
For best science fiction I nominate Crime and Punishment by Paul Cunningham (website). It’s a series of characters, all of which described in true Traveller style with six options to choose from (or to roll on), a planet, a city, an ocean “wilderness”, and a research station. I don’t play Traveller anymore, but if I still did, I’d consider giving it a try.
This setup worked much better for me than a Tempest in a Teaspoon by Todd Mitchell (blog post). Tempest in a Teaspoon is also a science fiction adventure concerned with travel into a gravity well along a sequence of ten encounters. This linearity didn’t quite work for me, even if some of the encounters were interesting.
This reminds me of another entry that doesn’t quite work for me. The Sinister Puppetee by Brian Leet has a wonderful map that makes me want to play immediately, it has an interesting, dream logic to it – usually not something that I look for – but the main drawback was that it all followed a perfectly linear plot. I understand that the dream sequence works quite well, with the music swelling, the ominous signs, the theater references – but at the same time, that’s not how I want to run my adventures.
If there are a lot of excellent entries, then picking the best of the best gets harder and harder!
There are also many entries that I’d support if one of the other judges felt like nominating them.
There are a few more entries that made three points, but I’m tired now and I need to see what the other judges nominated…
Just one more recommendation: If you want to recharge your dungeon master batteries with pure nitro turned to eleven, check out The Malevolent Ultimate Dungeon of Doom by Brad Everman (blog post). Awesome! Maybe I should nominate it for best parody?
I also saw that a fellow judge Shane Mangus posted My Thoughts On Designing a One Page Adventure on his blog. Good stuff.