Time passes… ChattyDM says: “Just give us a few more weeks and we’ll give you a killer PDF for the winners and a nice fat Zip file of all the entries.”  I shrunk the larger entries, I have converted the Word files into PDF files, I have prepared a BitTorrent file to help share all the entries. ChattyDM says: “Believe me, one of the judges is probably thinking about going rogue and posting them all.” – I know who he’s thinking of! And now you know, too!
Life goes on. Let me focus on a more positive aspect and talk about another batch of entries I liked enough to nominate them. Remember, we each nominated about twenty entries to get started. I’ve written about the first five and another six of my favorite One Page Dungeon Contest entries. Here is the third batch (in alphabetical order of the author names, not in order of preference).
Halls of the Mad Mage by Justin Alexander: This entry got four nominations in the first round. On my own list, it didn’t get the best vote (3½ instead of 4 points). My notes say “fantastic Escher-like maps with Moebius rooms” and “needs work to add a point” – the dungeon is just a series of weird rooms, but there is no goal per se. You need to add it yourself. The simplest solution would probably be some item or document to find. I nominated this dungeon for the Geometry category.
There were a variety of other entries featuring teleportation traps to confuse a party. This dungeon managed to take this sort of mapping puzzle to the next level because most of the elements are essentially small, in-your-face riddles: How to get to the ceiling of the room? Why are we now on the gallery of the room we just left? How do we manage to reach the lower level?
The Singing Cave by Mark Allen: My notes say that this dungeon should be nominated for the “Caves” category. There were many competing entries. I already mentioned the Gray Goblin Warrens and the Foetid Pit. The Singing Cave did not have a map as beautiful as the other two entries, but it had a good ol’ natural caves dungeon crawl with lots of vermin, some intelligent opposition (lizard men), and a tough harpy cave. The charming song of the harpies is heard in surrounding caves, the nest itself is protected by a little underground river, there is a stern warning at the very dungeon entrance – nice!
I guess this is what I imagine a short “old-school” dungeon or sublevel to be. Nothing fancy, something that can be solved in a single session if you know what you’re looking for, without deadly traps (since I personally don’t like traps very much).
I also like the presentation. It’s not pretty, but it’s very functional. Room names, monsters, treasure, it’s all highlighted one way or another, making the entire page easy to skim. I like that. It’s very useful at the table.
Prozlim’s Labyrinth by Mark Lawrence: I nominated this entry because it picked slimes instead of undead or goblinoids for the opposition. And it’s one of the very few entries that features a romance, no matter how unhappy. That’s it. Slime. Love. Genius!
I nominated it for the “slime” category.
(If you are Mark Lawrence, let me know if I could host the entry for you.)
Maze of Namcap by Patrick Riley: When I looked at this entry, the mind boggled. W00t? Then I chuckled. Hehe, what a clever idea. After all, it’s just a labyrinth and some monsters, right?
There were a number of entries that were humorous. Most of them involved the dungeon map looking like a face, a humanoid, or even a word. Somehow those entries did not work for me. But Pacman worked for me, even though I never played Pacman in the arcades. It made me laugh, and it wasn’t something I’d be using in my games. And yet many entries tried to be funny. I picked this entry as my nomination for the “Arcade” category. In fact, my notes read “Pacman! Gonzo!” – I was happy with the suggestion to put this entry in the “silly” category.
The Foetid Pit Beneath the Abandoned Shrine by Sean Morris: I already mentioned the Foetid Pit before. It has a beautiful map. The map was so beautiful, in fact, that I nominated this entry for the “hand-drawn” category, eventhough I had only given it three instead of four points.
As far as I’m concerned, this dungeon lacks allies, a goal, intelligent opposition, riddles, anything. It’s just a nice map with a note saying that undead creatures “lurk throughout the caverns”. I’d need a bit more to actually use it at the table. On the positive side, the map also features evocative names and little hints like “stiff breeze” or “foul smelling” which make the dungeon easier to describe.
Lessons learnt: I’m not sure. I think I learnt that drawing a nice map with lots of extra bits of information right into the map instead of putting it into the key will make a dungeon much easier to run at the table. And I also learnt that this is not enough. I want some NPC interaction. Some interesting and understandable reason for a person to do something, be it love, revenge, or greed. Setting up a situation so that the players can then figure the Why without being too obvious about it is an art that I still need to master. And finally, a lair should never just be a lair. The environment leading up to the terrain can be used to make the approach more interesting and more challenging. That’s what I’m going to take away from the entries I’ve looked at.
Continued with 2009-08-23 The Last Bunch Of Favorites.