When I listed my nominations for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2011, I added a few sentences to every nomination. I was later contacted by Shane Knysh and asked for feedback on his submission. When I asked, he said I could post it on my website as well. I love giving this sort of feedback!
So, The Island by Shane Knysh. My first impression is that the font is big enough for me to read without squinting, so that’s positive.
The map is very nice and light, so that’s another positive. The drawings of the four cabins are detailed with beds, tables, chairs, doors, windows—everything!
The most interesting aspect of the entry was the list of seven undead creatures “living” on the island. They are distinctive, they wear specific clothing, they have my attention—but unfortunately there is no more space, so there are no names, there are no clues to past events that I could figure out. What I would have loved to see: names, goals, personality quirks? Are they enemies, are they mindless or intelligent, are they perhaps friendly? Do they need saving? I want to know more about them, the secrets they are guarding, the necromancers or woes that created them. I want there to be more to it than flight or fight mindless undead.
I think that generally speaking the entry is good—it has an interesting location and interesting undead—but it could be so much better, so much tighter, so much more action packed. I like action packed.
Since there is not much space available, every sentence has to be either something to read to the players, or something for the players to interact with. I’m thinking of verbs like explore, investigate, fight, talk, plot, lie, exploit, help, read, etc. To give you an example, here’s a paragraph:
Near the center of the island is a small clearing. Simple tables surround a large cooking fire pit and a pair of earth and clay ovens.
It’s nice, it has detail, it’s short. But if I were the editor, I’d delete this paragraph. Instead, let there be a letter from a grief-struck father lost at sea with his daughter and no help coming, writing a last letter to his wife, sealed. Have the bloated zombie following the skinny one wear a signet ring. This creates a possible adventure hook where they players get to track down the wife or family and hand over the signet ring. Perhaps the letter also contains a secret to involve players in an intrigue. Replace all the non-essential descriptions with things the players can act on.
Long paragraphs have an addition drawback. I won’t be reading them to the players, and I won’t learn them by heart. As it stands, I’m afraid the party will enter a room, followed by ten seconds of silence as I need to read the two paragraphs again before describing the room to them. If everything were shorter, that’d be no problem.
What do you think—too harsh? Too particular to my taste? Perhaps your players enjoy rummaging through old decaying cabins…
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