The One Page Dungeon Contest (1PDC) was first announced on Musings of the Chatty DM, Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog, Sham's Grog'n Blog, The Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope, and Critical Hits in April 2009. If you’re looking for some background, check out Dave’s One Page Dungeons retrospective. If you’re looking for a project that really dug into the concept early on, check out Mike’s Stonehell.

2020-07-23 Improvising Dungeons

@Yoric was looking for hints:

Does anyone have experience on improvising dungeons? I’ll be running a (largely narrative) campaign soon and it’s likely that a dungeon will be involved at some point. I feel comfortable about all the colonialism, politicking, backstabbing and losing illusions this campaigns revolves around, but I have never been into dungeoneering, so I’m a bit lost there. Any hints?

I said:

I think if you need to improvise it, start with a bunch of lists: a bunch of themes (roll once per dungeon); a bunch of encounters that you can adapt to the theme on the fly (prepare maybe ten, enough for two sessions), some traps (six?), some tricks (stuff people can figure out), some lore (for players to discover), and some cool one-off treasure items (possibly named). One page max, I’d say. Then keep adding as you scratch stuff off.

Then I decided to put by foot where my mouth is and give it a try, and I got two pages. I used Hex Describe for inspiration, of course.

(Sadly, two pages make this a bad fit for the One Page Dungeon Contest.)

OK, let’s try this.

I think the important part is that you can’t roll too many dice, look at too many tables because you’re improvising at the table. That allows me to make two or three rolls, at most? And then off we go!

Map Let’s take the first map, pick the first theme (bandits), no mission because the players stumbled upon it while hex crawling, but they’re on the way north to the temple of Orcus, uh... time to roll some dice!

Monsters? 2! Giants, surrounded by friends. OK, bandits and giants? Troll? No, can’t be befriended. Ogres? Too easy. Let’s go with wood golem. A kind of mech, but for fantasy bandits. It’s large. Inside is a Fernton “the poker” Feneath, operating the golem. 4 HD, AC 4, 1d10 damage with it’s maul. Boss monster, surrounded by ten bandits. 1 HD, AC 7, 1d6.

Next one. Tricks and Traps. 1! A big monster from the old days. One of those garbage eating puddings or compost heaps. Intelligent. Malevolent. Can infect people. Fernton avoided infection but has used it infect people, to make them talk, to turn them into spies. It doesn’t always work. But people are talking about a curse turning people to plant zombies in the two neighbouring villages. The compost Barblefarf will attempt to charm you if you’re within 30 ft. Let’s place it in room 11. In the top left is a pit, with a steep incline leading down there. Fernton avoids coming too close. Not sure what room 12 is. A prison cell? Somebody Fernton wants to talk to. An rider for a merchant. Filibus. Not F again. Lidibus the messenger, carrying a letter for Ydia (not Lydia), informing her of the death of her son Egekil.

Magic items... should I roll? No, I’ll pick. The necklace of dharma. Should Fernton wear it? How about a number two. Uglus the minor mage. His spells are... magic missile, mediocrity (a 60ft ray of clumsiness reducing a target’s Dex to 3, adjusting AC and ranged attacks appropriately), tar pit (turn a 10ft × 10ft area into sticky black slime, immobilizing 1d4 people, save vs. spells to jump out of the area before you’re affected), 3d4 hp. I just made those spells up, they look OK.

OK room, rooms. Look at the map again. I see... a hideout under a ruined stone tower. The ingress to room 1 is inside the tower. The ingress to room 8 is a hidden path through some thorny bushes at the foot of the hill. It’s the favourite entrance for the halfling brothers... Uh... Borneo, Bamoler, Isaan, Kolered. These are the bandit spies. Accomplished sneaks. They’re keeping guard outside. Chances are they saw the party and weren’t seen by them (remember 5 in 6 to hide outside). They live in room 9. So, write that down... four halfling beds in 9, dirt and thorny branches in 8, straw and some shelves for wet boots in 1.

3 is where they keep the wooden golem. The passage from 1 to 3 is big. Room 2 is huge weapons for the golem. Mech lances to spear a coach. A ballista. Room 3 has the giant maul. All the work space stuff to work on wood. Vials. Glass. The book on wood golem construction. Needs the capture and staking of a dryad. This is fucked up.

4 is the place where Fernton sleeps. Secret door into the workspace.

5 & 6 could belong to Ferton. What the hell is he keeping in there? His lover? Uglus the minor mage? Is Uglus his childhood friend, the one who came back to rescue him from serfdom after running away from wizardry school? I think so… Two best friends forever. Perhaps they have a relationship, perhaps not. So let’s make 5 the lab and library and 6 is where Uglus sleeps.

Uhm. 13 is the common hall. This is where they eat and sleep and roast their meat. 14 is the kitchen and larder.

7 is already harder to reach. Hm. Not sure. Secret stuff to be determined later. What else? Number 10 is still empty. Maybe something weird to protect people from Barblefarf the compost heap’s singing charms… A leather helmet with dark goggles and covering the wearer’s ears. There are four such masks, here. If you don’t wear them, you’re going to roll a save vs. spells as you open the door to 11.

Allright… That didn’t take too long. Probably too long for improvisation at the table. Gah! This makes me unhappy.

How many bandits in total? 20 bandits encountered in groups of 1d6 unless the alarm is raised, the Uglus the minor mage, the Fernton “the poker” Feneath and his wood golem, Barblefarf the compost heap, Lidibus the messenger, the halfling brothers Borneo, Bamoler, Isaan, Kolered.


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2019-04-13 One Page Dungeon Contest

“Submit your entries for the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest between now and May 1st.” – Dungeon Contest

The date keeps coming closer but I have a hard time focusing on writing an actual dungeon. I guess my Greyheim campaign and the seven levels of the The Castle the Mad Marchmage we explored have satisfied my dungeon curiosity. I’m no longer inspired by them. Last year, I submitted the The Pagoda of Pazuzu which is the kind of location I’d write up these days.


Comments on 2019-04-13 One Page Dungeon Contest

Entries for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2019.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-07-28 00:24 UTC

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2018-04-28 The Pagoda of Pazuzu

OK, I think I’m going to submit another entry to the One Page Dungeon Contest.

It uses the Neris font. “A display sans for one paragraph (or shorter) length text: quotes, openings, titles, etc. Sure, you could use it for body copy and get away with it, but that’s not where the typeface shines.”

It still workes for this one page document, though. Neris Black for the title, Neris Light for the body.

Inspired by my visit to Miyajima and seeing the Five-Tiered Pagoda at Itsukushima, as well as visiting Sanjūsangen-dō and seeing the 1000 statues of of the 1000-armed Kannon.

The color scheme is the same powerful scheme I used with all the pictures I painted using Zen Brush 2. Black and white, and red for colour accents. Too bad this trio has been popular with all sorts of people I am not associated with, including some particularly evil dudes. Yikes!

Well, in this case the picture is based on a photograph I took in Miyajima and then I made a sketch on top of it using Procreate on the iPad. But I still want it to look like some sort of ink painting.

You’ll notice that once again, I’m falling far short of my own guidelines for quality dungeons. Why is that? I don’t really want to spend too many hours on a dungeon that is going to be used at the table in a 3h segment. Spending more than 1h for prep in this context is already wasting my time. So it can’t be pretty and I have to rely on people being able to draw their own inferences:

  • If Eron is a “rabble rouser” then maybe he’s not a nice person by can be manipulated into storming the pagoda?
  • If one of the scrolls the librarians want is the Psalm of the Fourth Silence owned by a certain Enron, then clearly there must be tensions between the two groups.
  • If the 1000 statues require you to say their name as you pass them by, clearly you must have convinced one of the Eron, one of the monks or one of the librarians to help you.
  • The image of the pagoda supposedly implies that you can fly up to the upper levels and bypass the lower levels. Hopefully the list of spells available to the seven librarians, two sword masters and the demon are enough inspiration for a referee to turn this into a different kind of challenge.

And why no map? Well, what is it for? I don’t have the time to make something nice for the referee since that’s me myself and I. If there is a map, do the measurements matter? If they don’t, can the map be represented by a flow diagram? And if the flow diagram is simple – if it is linear, or has very few nodes, or very few branches – then we can simply omit the map and write some text. That’s what I wanted to do here. The picture lets you know all there is to know: there are a bunch of rooms on top of each other. If you can’t climb or fly, it’s a linear dungeon. As most of my wilderness encounters involve small lairs – and by that I mean one to five rooms at most – I practically stopped making maps.


Please let me know if you ever use it in one of your campaigns.


Anybody wondering how I would rule +1/+3 vs children: I’d say almost all creatures are children of their parents. Except for the undead, demons, devils, slimes, golems, robots, clockwork bots, and the like.


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2017-05-01 Darkloch

I decided to create a submission for the One Page Dungeon Contest after all. I wanted to see how useful Gridmapper would be in such a situation.

And once again I tried to find a good solution for publishing. I tried to write a Markdown document and convert it to PDF using Pandoc. It worked, but it also generated four pages. Instead of trying to fiddle with all the options, I instead opted to use Libre Office and it was relatively quick and easy.

Also, as getting everything on one page, I just don’t have the time and energy to make it nice.

It’s not very original. But I guess that’s just what it is. I read all the cool and fantastic mind blowing stuff other people are doing online, but my own campaigns are far more pedestrian.


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2014-05-31 One Page Dungeon Contest 2014

The One Page Dungeon Contest 2014 page has a link to all the PDF files.

The instructions I have seen to download all the files where these:

  1. Visit the folder view.
  2. Click the blue Add to Drive button.
  3. The button changes to an Open in Drive button. Click it again.
  4. Then click on the “1pdc-2014-entries-pdf” folder itself and see the little triangle.
  5. Click it and click on the Download… menu item.
  • -If that doesn’t work for you (if you don’t have Google Drive, for example), you can also get the 1PDC 2014 zip file and all the individual entries from my Wuala account.


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2014-04-28 The Village

OK, time to give my entry for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2014 a spin!

The entry grew out of my Recovering from a lame session blog post. You can get the SVG sources from my GitHub account. I’ve used the Noticia Text font by JM Solé (downloaded it from Google Fonts – click Add “Noticia Text” to your collection, then click the ⬇ down arrow, and choose to download the zip file). I’ve used Jez Gordon’s DungeonFu to create the three little maps.

Right, got my 3d6 and I’m ready to roll.

Inn: Delikatessen. Remember the movie? Clearly something fishy is going on in this red-orange inn. Rumors of cannibalism, I say!

Name: Gorknok. Sounds like an orc to me. Too obvious? A redcap disguised as a gnome. He calls himself “Gorki”, of course.

The faction leaders, traits, goals:

  1. Spider Ali, a magic user, careful, has escape planned, defend HQ
  2. Silent Sereina, a cleric, funny, friendly (join her faction?), return my book
  3. Patra the Good, a fighter, well educated (might help us later?), defend HQ

Looks like an all female cast to me, and all the positive traits. Androgynous Ali in her spider webs, white Sereine, lost in thought, and Patra the Good, the good ... fighter? I’m thinking a strong, bulky woman. No nonsense. Thinking of the magic item with the Set connection, I’m going to say Sereina is a protegé of Set, maybe the campaign can find inspiration from the Legend of the White Snake? I guess Sereina is in love with a man that is currently imprisoned somewhere. A potential lead for where the campaign might go: “My husband has left to study a the Seven Harmonies monastery and not returned...”

The goals are weird. I guess Silent Sereina is the active one. She really wants back her book. I guess the two others are on the defensive. The first scene should be agents of Set attacking minions of Spider Ali, at Delikatessen, where the party is meeting up.

Who else is there? Rolling for a conspicuous person... Ælvig, a singing huldra looking for a man (HD 3). Another woman! She has a fox tail, but hides it. Of course the party members will spot it. Mentioning it, however, is a grave insult. Remember that a huldra is somehow hollow inside and lined with bark, open at the back. It’s weird, and terrible. If any of the players is interested in the weirdness of faerie love and faerie courtship, this would be an opportunity.

Let’s look at the magic items. I get:

  1. elven sword
  2. bane cards
  3. ring of djinn mastery

Clearly, the book is not amongst the magic items! How about the The Investigation into the True Names and Habits of the Lords of Air. The person with the ring of djinn mastery – Ali — borrowed the book because it was necessary to learn more about the ring. A close encounter with a djinn resulted in great damage to the book. Spider Ali thinks its disgraceful to return this book and sent ample gold instead. Sereina feels there is more to this and decides to up the ante. So, Spider Ali has the ring.

Patra the fighter owns the elven sword and realizes that it might grant access to elven lands. But this would require some elves. Make a not for later. If one of the players is interested in elves, the campaign could go there. We need some elves nearby! The elves of Red Acorn forest are at war with pig men. Will you join them, hoping to win their favor?

That leaves the bane cards. They are in the hands of the redcap Gorki. Should the players spend too much time at the inn, the redcap will use the cards on one of the characters when they’re alone and kill them, and prepare a cannibal feast for any who would join him. Uncovering these shape shifting recap is going to be a side quest.

I guess we’re done? Get a monster book and write down some stats? As for maps, I’m not going to use the tower twice.

Spider Ali keeps tamed war spiders instead of animated objects in her tower. Let’s say he has has the spell charm spider instead of charm object. The spiders’ poison is not lethal. It paralyzes victims for an hour. Oh, and give Ali a web spell instead of read thoughts.

Silent Sereina is running a little temple and has ten followers and two acolytes (C1) with light spells they’ll use to blind foes. Patra the Good has taken up residence in an old bakery and running a little protection racket in order to finance her visit to the Red Acorn forest. You’ll have to bring gifts for the elven lords, right?

The thing took me a bit less than an hour. What do you think? A useful tool? Not efficient enough? It’s probably faster if you don’t spend time googling for images and writing it up as a blog post. 😏


Comments on 2014-04-28 The Village

I’m getting a 404 on the Download PDF link.

Paul Gorman 2014-12-14 16:47 UTC

Whoops! Fixed. Thanks for the heads up.

AlexSchroeder 2014-12-14 19:40 UTC

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