What do I personally like about small dungeons? The kind that keep us busy for a session or two? The kind that would make appropriate entries into the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010?
- A handfull of named NPCs with goals and quirks to interact with.
- Potential allies for the more politically inclined players.
- Maybe even a third party beyond the party and the enemies.
- Relations between these NPCs in a sentence or two. A is hiding from B. C really hates D. E escaped from the prison run by F.
- Factions that these NPCs belong to. Actions will have long term consequences if factions are involved.
- Intelligent opposition. If the monsters are too stupid, no amount of trickery will help.
- If monsters are not intelligent, make them interesting. Slimes are more interesting than low-level undead because we’ve seen so many of those.
- Good looking maps. A good looking map appeals to the referee and says “Pick me! Pick me!”
- Notes on the map itself make it easier to get an overview of the place.
- Multiple entrances for players to choose from.
- Multiple exits for referees to append to.
- A map that suggests multiple goals. Rescue prisoner here, kill boss there, find hidden treasure over there. That adds replayability.
- A map key that is easy to skim by using bold keywords for monsters and other stuff of prime importance to players.
- A setup that can be exploited in combat by tactically minded players. A bottleneck, a ledge, a bridge, a fortified position, a sally port.
- An opportunity to spy on enemies for the stealthily minded players. A murder hole, a grate, a tiny tunnel, a scrying ball.
- A map that could potentially work as the beginning of a campaign. It suggests greater things beyond its edge.
- Memorable magic items. A rod of thunder and lightning is better than a something +1
- Stuff to interact with for players who like to experiment. Add suggestions for possible reactions.
- Traps that trick players such as finding amulets from a faction and the suggestion to wear them somewhere, and then realizing that an opposing faction built a trap for fools just like that.
- Opportunity for long-term change to the player characters. Getting a title, an extra arm, the blessing of a god, a fancy familiar.
These thoughts culled from my comments on some of my favorite submissions in last year’s contest: 2009-07-01 Personal Favorites, 2009-07-02 More of my 1PDC Favorites, 2009-07-19 One Page Dungeon Contest Favorites, and 2009-08-23 The Last Bunch Of Favorites.
Do you agree? Do you have other preferences?
PS: There’s still time to submit your entry to the One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 – we have tons of prizes and I have only received two submissions until now. You still have a bit more than three weeks to work on it. Deadline is the first second of March 1, 0:00 GMT (careful about the timezone!)
PPS: Don’t let the list intimidate you. I’m just one of the seven judges. And my own submission to last year’s contest was in no way close
Tags: RPG maps 1PDC advice