2010-01-25 One Page Notes

I’ve been running Rise of the Runelords for my biweekly Monday campaign for a while, now. Last year, I already mentioned how I felt that the adventure paths were providing too much detail. They are overwhelming me with notes!

I looked at old school dungeons, and started to like what I saw: a lot less text! At first I thought these dungeons were boring hack-n-slay expeditions, but I started to realize that this doesn’t have to be true. The most important points were the monster reaction table where you roll 2d6 and add a Charisma modifier, and morale checks where you roll 2d6 at appropriate times to see whether the enemies retreat or flee. That changes many combat situation into social situations! And suddenly the referee has to do a lot of improvisation.

I was scared of the improvisation, but two things converted me anyway. Taking notes after the game instead of preparing notes before the game, and the one page dungeon phenomenon of 2009.

I was listening to the Fear the Boot episode on GM and player notes and got reminded of a blog post I had written last year suggesting the opposite of preparation: postparation. :)

As a referee, preparing less material, taking notes during the game, and writing them up on a Campaign Wiki has opened my eyes. The world ends up being rich and detailed, but I don’t have to prepare ahead of time and railroad my players through the detailed plot. I can wing it, react to my players, and write it up afterwards.

Notes I take for two sessions I decided to try and prepare less. I set myself limits, such as not preparing more than one hour for a four hour session, or not writing more than two pages in my notebook (3.5” x 5.5”).

Then the second thing happened: One Page Dungeon Contest 2009. I discovered that other people were doing just the same. I wasn’t alone! Until then, I had felt bad. I had felt lazy. I had set myself limits because I was too lazy to spend more time on it. Suddenly everything came together:

And with more than a hundred entries to the One Page Dungeon Contest, I could learn from other people. I saw that other people were drawing maps just as I was. They had dungeons just as I had. Some did not fit my style. Others I loved. I could learn from these, and be a better referee.

That’s why I started organizing another contest. One Page Dungeon Contest 2010!

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