I’m currently reading through the One Page Dungeon Contest 2012 submissions and just finished #21. It takes a while!
I’m just one of the judges and we don’t have an agreed upon list of criteria. I’m hoping this will better reflect the breadth of our hobby. Based on an earlier blog post, I prepared a list of things I would be looking for:
- NPCs with names, motivations, mannerisms or whatever else makes me want to role-play with them
- third parties, allies, factions (simply having prisoners doesn’t qualify, there must be some extra information that will make me care about them, eg. a name, a family, looks)
- relationships between any of the above (basically a bonus point!)
- intelligent opposition (humanoids instead of undead or slimes, for example)
- interesting abilities for enemies (eg. a dust wight controlling four hell hounds or wall climbing enemies in a flooded area)
- a beautiful map (as I’ve said before, a nice map helps but isn’t a guaranteed win)
- notes on the map itself (a separate key is the standard, but I prefer map and key to be as integrated as possible)
- map key with bold keywords (I usually don’t care about the room names being bold: I need my attention drawn to monsters, traps or treasure instead)
- multiple exits or entrances (specially obvious entrances and hidden back entrances that a party may discover if appropriate measures are taken)
- multiple goals (the reservation regarding prisoners I made above also applies here)
- a secret to discover about the dungeon (eg. a strange obelisk behind in a temple with a hidden inscription that will summon something)
- interesting terrain that complicates movement or combat (eg. slippery floor or flooded areas)
- opportunities for tactical players (since I’m a tactical doofus, these opportunities must be at least hinted at in the text, eg. if it says that the goblins can shoot from this room across the shaft into another room 20 ft. below, I will be reminded of the fact that players can do the same)
- opportunities for sneaky players (since I’m also a sneaky doofus, these opportunities must also be at least hinted at in the text, eg. if it says that dogs will recognize strangers, I will be reminded of the opportunity for player characters disguise themselves as cultists)
- memorable magic items (a ring of protection is not enough, a lance of law has potential)
- rewarding experimentation or practical riddles (eg. activating certain levers will flood certain parts of the dungeon)
- interesting traps (pit traps are not enough but a falling portculis with skeleton archers or an illusionary cave in would qualify)
- long term change (eg. a construction manual for golems, a rewiring of a character’s brain)
- a nice theme (eg. undead guarding a necromancer, various scenes due to a rift in time and space, a museum)
- a potential campaign starter scenario (a little goblin lair is not enough, it has to be something more interesting such as the trigger of an undead uprising; it’s difficult to pull off, I know)
As you will notice from the list above, I’m not a big friend of random dungeon generators and mini-games. Maybe some of the other judges are?
Ok, given all the above, which of the entries are looking good? Here’s what I’m liking so far. All of these entries got five points from the above list.
And now I’m going back to reading some more!
Tags: RPG 1PDC