Page Collection for ^2011-04

2011-04-01 Judging the One Page Dungeon Contest Entries

How do I read the One Page Dungeon Contest 2011 submissions? How do I put together my nominations?

One of the reasons for picking a diverse group of judges is that I hope to prevent the contest turning into “write what Alex likes best”. I want diverse opinions. Nevertheless, as a judge I need to form my own opinions and satisfy myself that I’m being fair. How do I do it?

  1. I write down a list of things I appreciate in an entry. The first thing I’ll do before I start reading is I’ll go over a list I wrote a while ago and see what I still agree with. :)
  2. Using this checklist of my personal preferences I start reading and take notes. Usually these notes are simple stuff like “nice map” or “cool: intelligent opposition” or “potential ally!”
  3. I also try to figure out how many entries I should be reading every day. Assuming we have three weeks for our first pass, that means I need to read and takes notes on about three entries per day. This is how I discover whether I’m ahead of whether I’m falling behind.
  4. Several authors told me they’re hoping for more qualified comments from the judges, some sort of mini-review, I guess. We’ll see about that. The 1PDC category of this blog sometimes mentions entries from previous years that I have actually used in game.


Comments on 2011-04-01 Judging the One Page Dungeon Contest Entries

I elected to go all out and read through all 71 entries yesterday. I took very brief notes on all of them; the ones I starred were either entries that really shined for one or two particular reasons, or entries that were overall solid.

I think now I need to go back and further refine my list and revisit a few ones that fell right on the fence.

Adrian 2011-04-04 17:29 UTC

Wow! You certainly put the pressure on.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-04 20:59 UTC

Haha, it is just easier for me to get it out of the way in one marathon go.

Out of curiosity, should we be aiming for a particular number of nominations? It looks like last year you had each judge go for 20 picks the first time around.

Adrian 2011-04-04 21:19 UTC

Yes, 20 is about right. We have so many prizes to distribute and I feel that there are so many good entries – there’s no need to emulate sport events where we only care about the top one or the top three. :)

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-04 22:59 UTC

Hello! I’m just curious to know how things are going with the judging. This was the first year I submitted a dungeon for review and am excited to see the winners! Thanks, !ThomW—2011-04-19 15:34 UTC
A dozen left to go! by kensanata, on Flickr

I’m old fashioned and keep my notes on paper.


AlexSchroeder 2011-04-19 22:19 UTC

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2011-04-02 Pole Arm Quiz

I think this quiz is cool: Pole Arm Quiz at the Wizards of the Coast site.

Here’s my result: You selected 12 of 22 polearms correctly.12-15: Swashbuckler. You own several pole arms. You may have even read A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and use of Arms and Armor.

I confused spetum and partisan and I confused volgue and glaive leading to several follow-up mistakes, I thought the awl-pike was nothing but a spear, I thought the pole-axe was a halberd and so on. Sadness!! :)

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Comments on 2011-04-02 Pole Arm Quiz

16 correct, no cheating! The glaive-guisarmes always get me, though.

Adrian 2011-04-02 22:53 UTC

Wow, your old school cred shines through!

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-02 23:39 UTC

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2011-04-02 Preorders and Razor Coast

I was one of the people who had preordered Razor Coast by Nicolas Logue. Today I read Sinister Adventures – Looks Like It’s Finally Dead and finally decided I’ll try to get a refund.

This makes me reconsider every time I am asked for a preorder.

Let’s just hope that the new Tome of Horrors that I preordered will get done.

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Comments on 2011-04-02 Preorders and Razor Coast

That rots. I was intrigued - very - by the ads for Razor Coast (etc.) in KQ a while back. Totally disappointing to see such an amateur, disrespectful move. There’s much classier, customer-oriented ways to say “Sorry - it’s a bust”.

Brian 2011-04-06 04:53 UTC

I did get my refund, so yay!

AlexSchroeder 2011-05-04 15:06 UTC

Did you see the Kickstarter ?

– Unbekannt 2013-01-29 22:09 UTC

Well, I was burned by the experience and I no longer play D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder RPG. That makes me very reluctant to spend any money on it. I think before I do that, I’ll run Slumbering Tsar, which I already have and which I will also not play in the foreseeable future.

AlexSchroeder 2013-01-29 22:49 UTC

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2011-04-04 Summer is back — and hay fever

Woke up the second night in a row. Spring is here. The grasses and the trees are in bloom and my eyes, too. I spent two hours awake tonight.


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2011-04-06 In Honor of the Sleep Spell

I just read How Sleep Spells Turn Adventurers Into Sadists and Executioners and was reminded of a very cool use of the sleep spell in a recent adventure.

I’m using the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, Sea of Five Winds region. The party had hired a few prostitutes in Taipur and moved south to the brigands’ keep. The brigands’ boss was Zebon – and what the party didn’t know was that Zebon was a woman and immune to the charms of prostitutes. The party arrives, the five score of people living there are goblins and humans, thieves, robbers, and all of them susceptible to the wandering brothel circus. The party dwarf even acceded to letting the goblins throw rotten apples at him for a few coins! Good fun. The only person unconvinced by all of this was Zebon.

Then something strange happened: Zebon’s reaction rolls for the dwarf came up with a 2. Her reaction roll for the bard came up with an adjusted 1. I ruled that Zebon had in fact fallen in love with the bard and they spent the night together. The pimp proceeded to take the keep and organize a big party while the bard and Zebon were upstairs having fun.

The next session the bard’s player wasn’t there and the pimp’s player decided he would drill a hole through the wooden door to Zebon’s bedroom and allow the village’s peeping toms to take a look, for a price.

I gave Zebon a 1 in 6 chance of spotting it, which she made, and so we had a sixth level naked fighting-woman with a sword storming out and killing peeping toms, prostitutes and customers. The pimp came in with guards and wanted to kill her. The guards saw their former boss but made their loyalty roll and fought with the pimp. Zebon is a 6th level fighter but she had no armor on. Soon enough she was dropped to zero hit-points and I rolled “knocked out” for a few rounds on the Death and Dismemberment table.

In the mean time the two elves showed up. Disgusted with their party member turned pimp and the bloody mess they just cast sleep on everybody. As Zebon regained consciousness, one of the elves kicked away her sword, and told her that it would be best for everybody involved if she just left. And so she did, taking her bard lover with her.

The sleep spell cast at party members had saved us from a massacre! 👌

I also get to have a high-level enemy for the party! 👌

The elves, the bard, and the pimp are all first level player characters. This will be good.

There’s also a bitter pill in all of this. The bard’s player decided that this was a good point to take a break from the campaign. :(


Comments on 2011-04-06 In Honor of the Sleep Spell

Sounds like a very interesting couple of adventures. Pimps and Prostitutes, sounds like the old retro clone in the world. That little event really set up a nice back story for the next levels of the party.

Tim Shorts 2011-04-06 11:31 UTC

I think there’s also going to be a little element of player conflict, since not all of them seem to be comfortable with the level of P&P in this D&D game. :D

Personally, I think some players enjoy experimenting with the world and their fellow players to see what consequences their actions will have. As a referee I think it is my duty to bring it on, and I think the players should have their characters react accordingly as well. Including kicking the other player character out of the party, if necessary.

I’ll be happy to accept a new NPC into my ranks.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-06 15:51 UTC

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2011-04-06 Yoga is the new Wisdom

I recently started to do a little bit of Yoga. I feel good about it, and I hope it’ll get rid of some of my occasional back pain and all that.

Plus, I keep thinking about Blair’s New Skill - Yoga. I just got my wife started on reading Frank Herbert’s Dune. The Bene Gesserit and their prana-bindu training were also mentioned by Blair.

Thus, in the spirit of Jeff Rient’s simple thought experiment, I think I should rename Wisdom to Yoga.

Immediately, the balding clerics with their crusader outfit and their maces start looking like the warriors of the Mahabharata by Grant Morrison and Mukesh Singh.


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2011-04-11 Game Music

Vagrant Story Here’s what I’ve been using for my games lately:

Do you know of anything similar that I could use for low-maintenance iPod play during my games?

I’ve recently bought a few tracks from Sonic Legends but haven’t used them, yet. We’ll see how that works out. :)


Comments on 2011-04-11 Game Music

I’m not sure how much this’d fit your game or music tastes or whatever, but I find the Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2 soundtrack to be spectacular all around action music. Relic released it for free:

Wyatt 2011-04-12 02:22 UTC

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-12 09:59 UTC

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2011-04-11 Rise of the Rune Lords Campaign End

Whew! The D&D 3.5 campaign Rise of the Runelords ended today!

Dani quit because he moved to another city. Marcel quit because they got a child. James quit because he had too much going on. Marco missed out on the last four months because he was abroad, but he returned just in time for the last session. Jonas and Oliver joined mid campaign. Harald and Florian joined for the last few sessions only. Moni played through the entire campaign as a paladin, finally got a Holy Avenger and slew the Runelord in the very end.

Thank you all, fellow players!! :)

We played our first session December 2008 and played nearly every second Monday for over two years.

Before we started the campaign, I tried to convince my players to use some rules light system like M20 or Labyrinth Lord but they wouldn’t have it. I decided I was going to give D&D 3.5 another try. Now I know I don’t want to play D&D 3.5 past level 10 or thereabouts. And there will be no more splat books with new feats and spells.

Right now our plans are as follows:

Harald will run a weekly six-shot of Burning Wheel for us. After that the Monday slot will be taken by Florian who will run some Barbarians of Lemuria for us.

I will continue to run my other D&D 3.5 sandbox on two Sundays a month as well as my Labyrinth Lord campaigns on two Wednesdays, a Tuesday and a Friday a month. I’ll continue to play in a Pathfinder RPG on one Sunday a month. And there will be more Indie games in the other Monday slot.

Life is good. :)

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Comments on 2011-04-11 Rise of the Rune Lords Campaign End

Well done! And special congradulations to Moni, playing a paladin is especially challenging.

Sean Holland 2011-04-11 23:31 UTC

Go Moni!

Adrian 2011-04-11 23:36 UTC

Congratulations! Actually finishing a campaign is always an achievement to be commended!

NiTessine 2011-04-12 09:08 UTC

The final fight was almost anti-climactic, Moni killing off the BBEG saved that for me.

– Harald 2011-04-12 09:13 UTC

Climatic endings are tricky to pull off, since players and dice have agency. I think a perfect climax worthy of a movie director implies very little agency for players (they should be actors instead) and dice (there should be no random events messing up the vision). Basically I aim and wish for a climatic ending but factors essential to a role-playing game experience conspire against it. :)

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-12 11:39 UTC

I’m not complaining much, but after the fight against the Lamias and the second/third in command, Karzouk seemed to be massively outmatched. But then, “Yay us!”. BTW I like that you try to get an epilogue for every PC ever in the group, that is a nice touch.

– Harald 2011-04-12 12:43 UTC

You are right in that the final fight did not challenge everybody equally. Consider how slow the rogue was flying up. By the time he came close, the fight was already over.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-12 13:28 UTC

There’s probably some good reason why Karzoun is a single opponent in the final match – I can see a dramatic reason (nobody wants to be killed by the BBEG’s flunkies in the final fight), and an in-game reason (he keeps the rune well for himself) … the rogue could have dimension-doored up, no?

Well, I don’t want to discuss this to death (-: it was a fun couple sessions!

– Harald 2011-04-12 17:29 UTC

Now I’m left wondering whether I should attempt to sell the six printed volumes on EBay. Should I ever run it again, I’d probably use the PDF stuff and I don’t want to be a collector even though it looks like I am.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-12 22:18 UTC

Well, you’ll get about 80$ for #1, not so much for the rest. Still - i’d say, keep it. Because you are a collector (did you have a look at your own bookshelves lately?) ;)

– Jonas 2011-04-12 22:48 UTC

Yeah, I guess I am. But I don’t want to be! :dead:

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-12 23:06 UTC

I regret getting rid of my D&D books after high school. Don’t make the same mistake as me!

Adrian 2011-04-13 13:10 UTC

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2011-04-14 What I Want From Adventures

Greg Christopher asks What do you wish that modules could do, but which you haven't seen done before?

I’ve mentioned before what I don’t like: I want less detail, less pages, less words. I also don’t like riddles too much.

But what is it that I want instead? In a way I could just copy and paste the list of things I like in a One Page Dungeon. I’m not going to repeat them here. If the adventure has more than one page, here’s how I’d like to see them used:

  1. choices and multiple avenues – Vault of Larin Karr provided a little mini-campaign where the various problems could be tackled in a different order
  2. cool scenery and atmosphere and matching evocative artwork – things outside the vanilla medieval, fantastic landscapes, rooms, artwork, buildings, people; I know my players always pay attention if I show them a picture – and that means I don’t need fancy maps and art that I cannot show to my players
  3. a useful map that reduces the time I have to spend leafing through the book itself – if there is space on the map, use it
  4. credible one-sentence motivations for the various factions – these should be very simple and they should enable me to improvise people’s reactions and their plans
  5. in order to make things easy to find, you don’t need a table of contents and an index; if you think you’d benefit, consider shortening the text instead
  6. add bold keywords and headings to make the text easy to skim; write the adventure as if you were writing for the attention span challenged audience on the web: Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines (advice from 1998)

One of these days I should eat my own dog food and actually write an adventure that follows my own suggestions. :)


Comments on 2011-04-14 What I Want From Adventures

Thanks for the cool answers Alex.

This project I am working on will be a sandbox campaign, so it should satisfy most of these demands. :)

Greg Christopher 2011-04-15 21:42 UTC

As for using a map, I can point to my own Water Temple. The adventure itself and the dungeon aren’t too cool, but the way text and map are interwoven are an example of what I like.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-16 16:32 UTC

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2011-04-15 Quantität und Qualität

Auf dem IRC Kanal vom Tanelorn Forum hat Callisto mich auf den Artikel Quantität geht vor Qualität aufmerksam gemacht. Der Artikel ist kurz, die Kommentare länger – kann man sich bei dem provokativen Titel ja denken. Selber verstehe ich die Aufregung nicht. Mit ist klar, dass “Qualität” verschiedene Dimensionen hat und die Dichotomie Quantität gegen Qualität nicht der Rede Wert ist.

Die verschiedenen Dimensionen der Qualität im Bereich der Rollenspielprodukte:

  1. Der Text ist unterhaltsam zu lesen
  2. Der Text ist kurz und übersichtlich
  3. Die Karte ist schön und inspirierend
  4. Die Karte ist klar und nützlich
  5. Die Bilder sind stimmungsvoll und atmosphärisch
  6. Der Metaplot ist spannend
  7. Neue Produkte erscheinen regelmässig
  8. Das Setting ist riesig und bietet allen Platz
  9. Das Setting ist speziell und abgefahren
  10. Über die Jahre hat sich eine grosse Menge von Produkten angesammelt
  11. Die Abenteuer bleiben lange in Erinnerung
  12. Die Monster und Gegner sind einzigartig
  13. Die Foren des Verlages bieten eine freundliche Gemeinschaft
  14. Auf dem Web findet man jede Menge Material

Und so weiter! Klar, das sind Qualitäten des ganzen Rollenspielproduktes: Der Linie, der Spiels, des Spielerlebnisses, und nicht Qualitäten des einzelnen Textes, des einzelnen Buches.

Nicht alle Punkte sind mir gleich wichtig. Aber ich respektiere natürlich eine andere Meinung bezüglich der Bewertung dieser Punkte. Selber muss ich ja auch ständig darum kämpfen! Eigentlich habe ich intellektuell schon lange beschlossen, dass ich die Pathfinder Adventure Path Produkte nicht mehr so cool finde, aber emotional hänge ich dran und bin immer noch Abonnent erster Stunde – weil es so verdammt viel gut aussehendes Material gibt.

Der One Page Dungeon Contest hat mir aber die Augen geöffnet: Eigentlich hätte ich lieber ganz andere Produkte. Kurz gesagt, in der Kürze liegt die Würze. Aber eben, das sind halt einfach nur meine Prioritäten.

Zurück zum Quantität geht vor Qualität Artikel: Selbst im D&D alter Schule, dem ich im Moment mit Vorliebe fröhne, gibt es diese Einstellung. Matt Finch nennt dies in seiner Retrospektive Why I might not want you to play the game I published den living game factor: “Many people want the community of a game as well as just the rules. They want to play a game that is in print, that has modules and supplements coming out.”

Für mich halt ein Qualitätskriterium unter vielen. Und wie gesagt, ich bin selber nicht immun dagegen.

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Comments on 2011-04-15 Quantität und Qualität

So, wie Du das hier kommunizierst ist das mit dem ‘living game factor’ ja auch nix Schlimmes ;-) . Im Artikel Quantität geht vor Qualität kommt das aber so nicht ‘rüber. Nicht nur, das der ‘l-g-f’ als beinahe schon entscheidendes Kriterium für die Qualität eines RPGs herangezogen wird (was für mich auch irgendwie impliziert, das Quantität nicht nur vor Qualität geht, sondern Quantität sogar Qualität erzeugt …), sondern das auf dieser Basis die anderen aufgezählten “Nerd-Spiele” noch eins übergebraten bekommen. Zwar nur kurz und wenig emotional - aber doch deutlich. Diesbezüglich kann ich die kontroversen Kommentare durchaus nachvollziehen.

– Praesi 2011-04-16 19:30 UTC

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2011-04-17 Making It Easy To Add Links To Wisdom

Links To Wisdom Remember the wiki Links To Wisdom? It’s where people can add links to their favorite old school D&D house rules, hopefully adding some sort of memory to our little corner of the blogosphere.

As the wiki seems to have settled on a format, I invested a few hours to write a simple web page that makes adding a link even easier: Submit a new link!

Note that there is a bookmarklet at the very bottom of the page: That’s a link which you can drag on to your browser’s toolbar to create a bookmark. If you click the bookmark, it’ll submit the page you’re currently looking at.

I think that’s pretty cool. :)

The only thing that bugs me is that the list of sections is so damn long. But I guess that’s a positive problem to have.


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2011-04-20 Computer RPG To Play List

I want to play all these games – except when I’m at home there’s table top role-playing games prepare and run and play and when I finally have some time off there’s also blogs to read, books to read, DVDs to watch, and sunny weather and coffee houses and bike rides and all the rest of it.

Thus, the current state of affairs is this:

  • I haven’t finished Mass Effect. I’d like to buy and play Mass Effect 2.
  • I haven’t finished Fable II. I’d like to buy and play Fable III.
  • I haven’t finished Dragon Age. I’d like to buy and play Dragon Age 2.
  • I haven’t finished Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, nor Elder Scrolls III: Oblivion. I’d like to buy and play Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim.

This is hopeless!


Comments on 2011-04-20 Computer RPG To Play List

You should also play Planescape: Torment, though that probably requires an inferior computer to what you now possess.

Mass Effect 2 is lots of fun, better than the original I think. Combat and character progression in Dragon Age 2 is better, but I don’t think the story is as cohesive.

Adrian 2011-04-20 22:04 UTC

Planescape: Torment has been on my list for a while now, but I don’t know of any cool sequels that are upcoming, so it didn’t fit the pattern. :)

In addition to everything else, the problem is that the thing ought to run on Mac…

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-20 22:27 UTC

Hm, some people play Planescape via CodeWeaver on a Mac. No Windows license required since it works via Wine. That sounds very cool.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-20 22:38 UTC

I was really disappointed from the Dragon Age 2 Demo, I couldn’t even get myself to finish it…
Skyrim looks and sounds great but I guess one will need a rather powerful PC to play it.

– Florian 2011-04-21 07:29 UTC

Planescape runs nicely in parallels, otherwise. I have a much nicer experience with parallels than with wine.

And I didn’t like DA2 at all. Many conversations are completely immersion-breaking and not fitting a fantasy setting, and the fight mechanics are completely broken and stupid. Using any kind of strategy instead of spamming the 2 or 3 combos that give you +600% dmg actually makes your fights last longer. And bossfights….Yay, hit x button for 400 times until the boss is dead. :(

I did like the original DA, though, and ME2 is great.

– Jonas 2011-04-21 16:09 UTC

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2011-04-20 The Passage Of Time In Your Campaign

I’m running two groups in the same campaign region. At least, I try to when they don’t cancel! So basically the two groups share the same Campaign Wiki. That means that the first group can sell a treasure map at the inn and the second group will be able to buy it for a price at the same inn. A hireling can be found at the inn talking about the adventures he had with the other group. Stuff like that.

This necessitates a certain amount of synching between the two parties.

I’m not using the Table of Despair. That would make the synchronization very easy: Every session is a trip to a dungeon. Those who don’t make it back out by the end of the session must roll on the table—and despair. 😈

Worse, I use the Death and Dismemberment table. That means I sometimes have characters with broken bones that need to rest for many weeks. When the players return to the table and feel like playing these characters again, this assumes a big gaps in the time line.

The solution I’m using right now is that the party sitting down at the table implicitly determines how much time has passed.

I generally use weeks as a unit: Travel to a dungeon, explore for a day or two, return to base: it takes a week.

Here’s an example of how it works:

  1. Party 1 goes on a trip, the elf breaks his arm and needs to rest for 14 weeks.
  2. Party 2 goes to the Ancient Academy. We assume this happens in the same week.
  3. Party 1 explores a little dungeon without the elf. We assume this happens in the next week.
  4. Party 1 meets again, and the elf player is playing the elf. Thus, implicitly, 13 weeks must have passed!
  5. Party 2 wants to return to the Ancient Academy. 14 weeks have passed!

I just need to remember to announce the jump in time at the beginning of the session and ask: “So, what has your character been up to all this time?”

Alternatively, I ask them via email. I create a Google Group for every campaign. Sometimes players will post their plans for the next few games in-game.

This has worked for me so far, but I don’t have any long term experience.

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Comments on 2011-04-20 The Passage Of Time In Your Campaign

That means that the first group can sell a treasure map at the inn and the second group will be able to buy it for a price at the same inn.

I like that idea! Feels like the world is growing organically and logically (as in the “real” world).

Jensan 2011-04-20 14:07 UTC

To make it easier on myself, I make it so there is never more than one adventure per “season” and rarely more than two per year. I average out at 1.5 adventures to 2.5 adventures per year. So instead of tracking weeks, I track months and years.

The other upside is it prevents the whole “I started adventuring at 16, three months ago, and am now the master of the local thieve’s guild…”

Dyson Logos 2011-04-20 15:20 UTC

Dyson, do you use some of the house rules like easy scroll creation for magic users for 250 gp/1 week per level that floats around the OSR? If so, given enough cash magic users could become inordinately powerful.

Any ideas on that?

– Restless 2011-04-20 21:18 UTC

Interesting question… I guess I’d try to figure out a way to run the game without this problem – either by talking to players or creating a house rule adapted to my campaign world. Now that I think about it, I’m glad that no specific rules exist because if they did they’d determine how powerful mages are or how frequently the party has to go on adventure to balance things out. As it stands, I can figure it out when I get there.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-20 21:26 UTC

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2011-04-22 Wir gehen an die RPC

Nachdem Claudia sich überraschenderweise für die Role-Play Convention (RPC) in Köln Anfang Mai interessiert hat, haven wir beschlossen hinzufahren. Hotel ist gebucht. Zug ist gebucht.

Falls jemand diesen Blog liest, und auch dort ist, meldet euch doch und wir treffen uns dort. 👌


Comments on 2011-04-22 Wir gehen an die RPC

Ich bin am fraglichen Wochenende in Familiendingen unterwegs …

– Harald 2011-04-22 23:16 UTC

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2011-04-24 My One Page Dungeon Contest Nominations

I’m old fashioned and kept my notes on paper! :)

The judges had three weeks time to read the entries. The time has come for the next step: “Every judge nominates their favorite entries and proposes a category for each.” Tricky!

I had given one to five points to every entry, vaguely keeping my list of features for quality dungeons my in mind. I put the entries with one or two points away. Those just didn’t fit what I expected from a one page dungeon. Don’t get me wrong, some of them contained cool ideas, but usually they just had one thing that was cool about them. I liked the idea of The Great Lunar Staircase by Jonathan Walton, for example. But the entry didn’t contain anything else – that makes it hard for me to use as-is at the table. I’m also no friend of meta elements like humanoid shaped dungeons, dungeons that have rooms connected like the sides of a cube, dungeons that require the collection of keys to proceed (reminds me of the first Doom I played) and procedural dungeons (where the adventure or map is generated by rules instead of providing me with a map.

The rest of this page has my nominations and some comments. The comments will contain ⚠ ⚠ ⚠ spoilers! ⚠ ⚠ ⚠

For best mini-campaign I nominate The Forgotten Depths by Michael Gibbons (blog post). Every hex has something in it. The setting has silver dirigibles and shark men wearing space suits.

There were two other contenders in this category: Ancient Ark of the Atlanteans by J. E. Geoffrey (blog post) and Wilderlands of Dire Omen by Roland Volz (blog post). I felt that The Ark of the Atlanteans was a close second with its post-apocalyptic scenario, but I felt that it would require more work to run it: It was lacking encounter-level details which The Forgotten Depths provided.

For best monster lair I nominate The Bastion of the Boglings by Greg Gillespie. I felt it lacked some potential allies but in the end what I really liked about it was the possibility to change the future of a cleric player character – the reconstitution of the faith of Solis sounds like a great character development hook to me. I also liked the idea of the water weird being a god and the zombies slowly rising from the water during the fight. These added elements made the entry more interesting than the various other kobold and goblin lairs competing in this category. But then again, some of them will show up in other categories.

For best classic dungeon I nominate Rails in the Ruins by John Laviolette (blog post). I liked the reskinning of monsters (goat-headed ogers), their use of giant ants, and their middle man, the halfling-sized ogre with antennas instead of a goat head – let’s not think about this too much. I also liked the reservoir and the panicked dwarf berserker at the entrance.

Another contender in this category was Into the Worm’s Gullet by Dyson Logos (blog post). The great worm that swallowed a cockatrice is a great idea, and the map looks very nice, but in the end the goat-headed ogres just offered more stuff to do.

Citadel of Evil by Stuart Robertson (blog post) was also in this category. I thought the idea of folding and cutting the thing into a pocketmod was cute, but given that I found my way back to role-playing in 2006 after a very long hiatus due to Greywulf’s M20 which came with very strong pocketmod support, that alone was not enough to move it to the top. I liked how you basically started in a cave and had to find a way up into the actual dungeon.

For best one-shot I nominate Meckwick’s Revenge by Aaron Frost & Mundi King (blog post). This is not an entry I’d use for my regular game but as a one-shot reverse dungeon it might work. Buy monsters and use them to boost your defense of the dungeon! One problem remains: You’ll have to design a NPC party to use against your players.

Another entry that would have worked well in this category is Mystery of Godzina House by Jeff R. (blog post). It’s is a time travel adventure. I like the idea but at the same time I don’t like the idea of being locked in a house as the premise of an adventure. I also don’t think that I’d want such a house in an existing campaign of mine. If it were in fact a chronological nexus, I feel that it should be much more important than just a big time riddle. Perhaps this makes it more appropriate as a one-shot.

For best cultists I nominate Vermin Hollow by Rob. It has a halfling turned cultist, many reskinned monsters that look awesome – giant slug with bovine skeleton armor! – and an inspiring map with labels on the map itself, bold highlighting of monsters in the text, and character and monster sketches. I love it!

Other contenders in this category: The Hall of the Goblin Lord by Iain Jones has an interesting goblin lair with cultists on the second level trying to raise a the god of vengeance. I like the premise! Perhaps this would work well as a campaign starter with the manifestation of the god of vengeance as a campaign villain if the party fails. The Obsidian God Mace and the Void Pendant are cool items in this context, but I’m not sure whether these would work with a typical group of players. Swamp Chaos by Dennis Filipiak was also interesting in that the “cultist” is actually a good guy who acted in desperation and is now faced with undead minions that defend him against the remaining goblins (yes, another goblin lair!) but will also attack him if he rejects his new found dark powers.

But that’s not all. I also liked the following two cultist entries: The Ruined Cult of Vorlos by Tom Livak deals with cultists trying to raise a demon. This time the twist is that all of this has happened once before, so there are new cultists, and crypts of the old cultists, and the parts the new cultists lack are found in parts of the dungeon inhabited by a troll and gricks. I also wanted to like The Heart of the Minotaur by Joe Sarnowski which has cultists sacrificing a woman to a minotaur that is in fact an enchanted human. It has a wonderful map. But it also has two things that give it a fairy-tale logic with potentially fatal consequences for the player characters: “If the player goes through the door…” and “If the player grants mercy…” I don’t know. That just doesn’t work well for me.

For best science fiction I nominate Crime and Punishment by Paul Cunningham (website). It’s a series of characters, all of which described in true Traveller style with six options to choose from (or to roll on), a planet, a city, an ocean “wilderness”, and a research station. I don’t play Traveller anymore, but if I still did, I’d consider giving it a try.

This setup worked much better for me than a Tempest in a Teaspoon by Todd Mitchell (blog post). Tempest in a Teaspoon is also a science fiction adventure concerned with travel into a gravity well along a sequence of ten encounters. This linearity didn’t quite work for me, even if some of the encounters were interesting.

This reminds me of another entry that doesn’t quite work for me. The Sinister Puppetee by Brian Leet has a wonderful map that makes me want to play immediately, it has an interesting, dream logic to it – usually not something that I look for – but the main drawback was that it all followed a perfectly linear plot. I understand that the dream sequence works quite well, with the music swelling, the ominous signs, the theater references – but at the same time, that’s not how I want to run my adventures.

If there are a lot of excellent entries, then picking the best of the best gets harder and harder!

There are also many entries that I’d support if one of the other judges felt like nominating them.

There are a few more entries that made three points, but I’m tired now and I need to see what the other judges nominated…

Just one more recommendation: If you want to recharge your dungeon master batteries with pure nitro turned to eleven, check out The Malevolent Ultimate Dungeon of Doom by Brad Everman (blog post). Awesome! Maybe I should nominate it for best parody? :)

I also saw that a fellow judge Shane Mangus posted My Thoughts On Designing a One Page Adventure on his blog. Good stuff.


Comments on 2011-04-24 My One Page Dungeon Contest Nominations

I would definitely support a Best Parody or Best Humor entry :) Any dungeon shaped like a guitar and featuring not one, but multiple demon lords, deserves some sort of recognition.

Adrian 2011-04-24 18:30 UTC

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2011-04-27 The Island

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.

Update: As you’ll see in the comments it turns out that I did not know about Gilligan's Island.

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…

You might also be interested in the following:


Comments on 2011-04-27 The Island

Did you recognize the pop culture reference? I am guessing not, since Gilligan's Island probably never have made it to Switzerland. All of the undead are, in fact, undead versions of the iconic series’ characters. If you have seen the show, it immediately provides some inspiration on what is happening, and, if noticed by the players, is a cool Easter egg.

Adrian 2011-04-27 22:17 UTC

this is the sound of head desk :)

No, I did not! I had never even heard of the show.

AlexSchroeder 2011-04-27 22:22 UTC

Thanks very much for sharing your feedback!

I am learning as I go and I will definitely add some more bang next time around.

ShaneKnysh 2011-04-28 01:53 UTC

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2011-04-28 My Sandbox Starts With A Mission

I posted the following as a comment to Rob Conley’s blog post How to manage a sandbox campaign which itself is a reply to other recommended posts regarding sandbox play. Basically, Rob suggest a one on one session with every player before the campaign starts in order to provide players with backgrounds, connections, and thereby with personal goals.

I discovered sandbox play to be my favorite style but I also intensely dislike front-loading characters with info (except rolling on the B/X Headgear table, perhaps, or my Character Generation Shortcuts table) and the one time a GM asked me for a one on one session that basically sent me into a two week mental freeze. I just could not imagine an hour or two with a one on one session before the “real” game starts. I’m there for the table full of RPG nerds talking and laughing—and talking an hour about my character seemed like homework in comparison.

I quit that campaign before it started for other reasons, but friends tell me the one on one session they had was not awkward. I guess this is a very personal dislike of mine. But the fact remains that I feel my sandbox campaigns (one group in the Lenap region and two groups in the Sea of Five Winds region) work without providing my players with this sort of one on one character front-loading context.

I think the reason is that I start the campaign with a mission for the party. The sandbox nature then allows the players to do it, reject it, rebel against it, subvert it, etc. And if they don’t, well there will be another mission until they start pursuing their own goals. I just need to avoid the time pressure of impending doom that pulls players onto rails even if they’d prefer not to.

In my Alder King campaign, the game started with the Alder King asking the players to do something against the human loggers tearing into his forest, and he suggested three missions: investigate the village Delan in the west, spy on the evil local lord in his Forest Bight Fortress in the east, or visit the newly arrived flying monkeys in the north in order to turn them into allies. I had just prepared a little something for the six surrounding hexes in true Microlight Campaign fashion, with the opening scene basically reducing the options down to three.


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2011-04-30 Map Drawing Using Polygons

I’m currently working on randomly generating islands using the ideas presented in Polygonal Map Generation by Amit. Check out his Flash demo! I am nowhere as far, yet. I’m writing my code in Perl and producing SVG output.

See below for source code used. I’d install it on a public server, but unfortunately there are quite some dependencies…


#! /usr/bin/perl -w
# Copyright (C) 2011  Alex Schroeder <>
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it under
# the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
# Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or (at your option) any later
# version.
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT
# ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS
# FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with
# this program. If not, see <>.

use strict;
use CGI qw(:standard);
use SVG;
use Math::Geometry::Voronoi;
use Class::Struct;
use Math::Fractal::Noisemaker;
use List::Util qw(min max);
use Data::Dumper;

my $points = 3000;
my $width  = 1000;
my $height =  550;
my $center_x = $width / 2;
my $center_y = $height / 2;
my $radius = 500;

my %color = (beach => '#a09077',
	     ocean => '#44447a',);

struct World => { points => '@',
		  centroids => '@',
		  voronoi => '$',
		  height => '@',

sub add_random_points {
  my ($world) = @_;
  for (my $i = 0; $i < $points; $i++) {
    push(@{$world->points}, [rand($width), rand($height)]);
  # print(join("\n", map {join(",", $_->[0], $_->[1])} @{$world->points}));
  return $world;

sub add_voronoi {
  my ($world) = @_;
  $world->voronoi(Math::Geometry::Voronoi->new(points => $world->points));

sub add_centroids {
  my ($world) = @_;
  $world->centroids([]); # clear
  foreach my $polygon ($world->voronoi->polygons) {
    push(@{$world->centroids}, centroid($polygon));

sub centroid {
  my ($cx, $cy) = (0, 0);
  my $A = 0;
  my $polygon = shift;
  my ($point_index, @points) = @$polygon; # see Math::Geometry::Voronoi
  my $point = $points[$#points];
  my ($x0, $y0) = ($point->[0], $point->[1]);
  for $point (@points) {
    my ($x1, $y1) = ($point->[0], $point->[1]);
    $cx += ($x0 + $x1) * ($x0 * $y1 - $x1 * $y0);
    $cy += ($y0 + $y1) * ($x0 * $y1 - $x1 * $y0);
    $A += ($x0 * $y1 - $x1 * $y0);
    ($x0, $y0) = ($x1, $y1);
  $A /= 2;
  $cx /= 6 * $A;
  $cy /= 6 * $A;
  return [$cx, $cy, $point_index];

sub add_height {
  my $world = shift;
  $Math::Fractal::Noisemaker::QUIET = 1;
  my $grid = Math::Fractal::Noisemaker::square();
  $world->height([]); # clear
  my $scale = max($height, $width); # grid is a square
  foreach my $point (@{$world->points}) {
    my $x = int($point->[0]*255/$scale);
    my $y = int($point->[1]*255/$scale);
    my $h = 0; # we must not skip any points!
    $h = $grid->[$x]->get($y) / 255
      unless $x < 0 or $y < 0 or $x > 255 or $y > 255;
    push(@{$world->height}, $h);

sub raise_point {
  my ($world, $x, $y, $radius) = @_;
  my $i = 0;
  foreach my $point (@{$world->points}) {
    my $dx = $point->[0] - $x;
    my $dy = $point->[1] - $y;
    my $d = sqrt($dx * $dx + $dy * $dy);
    my $v = max(0, $world->height->[$i] - $d / $radius);
    $world->height($i, $v);

sub svg {
  my $world = shift;
  my $svg = new SVG(-width => $width,
		    -height => $height, );
  foreach my $polygon ($world->voronoi->polygons) {
    my ($point_index, @points) = @$polygon; # see Math::Geometry::Voronoi
    my $x = $world->points->[$point_index]->[0];
    my $y = $world->points->[$point_index]->[1];
    next if $x < 0 or $y < 0 or $x > $width or $y > $height;
    my $z = int($world->height->[$point_index] * 255);
    my $color = $z == 0 ? $color{ocean} : "rgb($z,$z,$z)";
    my $path = join(",", map { map { int } @$_ } @points);
    $svg->polygon(points => $path,
		  fill => $color,
		  style => { 'stroke-width' => 1,
			     'stroke' => 'black'});
  return $svg->xmlify();

sub response {
  print header(-type=>'image/svg+xml');
  print shift;

sub main {
  if (path_info eq '/source') {
    seek DATA, 0, 0;
    print "Content-type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8\r\n\r\n", <DATA>;
  } else {
    srand(param('seed') || time);
    my $world = new World;
    add_random_points($world, $points);
    for (my $i = 2; $i--; ) {
      # Lloyd Relaxation
    # skip corner improvement
    # skip Delaunay triangulation
    raise_point($world, $center_x, $center_y, $radius);
    # draw

main ();


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2011-04 Book Club

What: The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

When: NEW DATE → April 27, 19:30 – RSVP on Meetup (optional ;))

Where: Aquarium

There’s an audio feature about this book on BBC’s Forum.

Wikipedia about the author: Sheena Iyengar

Tags: RSS

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