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One Page Dungeon Last Night
Last night was gaming night, and several of the players couldn't make it. For the two that could, I offered to run an unrelated one-shot for our gaming fix. We even got BJ to join us as guest player for a reasonable minimum of players. So what to run?

I downloaded recently the winners from the One Page Dungeon Contest and have been reading them. While I only like a few of the submissions, I'm quite taken by the format, and couldn't help by try writing one myself. So armed with that and my Labyrinth Lord book, we had our adventure.

All told it ran pretty well. I think for context it would help to have a brief synopsis of the game:

  1. The adventure began with the party sleeping in the common room of Bridgefair, my Lankhmar-esque city. They woke up in the middle of the night to discover a group of goblin thieves making off with their purses. The goblins scattered, and the party gave hot pursuit.

  2. Observing one slide into a sewer grate, the party descending after the thief and discovered a system of caves dug into the sewer walls. They begin exploring the caverns, and eventually come across the goblin band's main living area. Battle ensues.

  3. Many goblins are killed and the party loses one of their hirelings in the combat. One goblin is taken captive, and others are observed to flee through a northern tunnel. The party finds one of their purses amongst the goblins, and thus follows their quarry north.

  4. The party comes into the goblin chief's room, where he hides behind his harem and a few goblin guards. More combat is had, and the party managed to kill the goblin chief despite his attempts to evade them with some well placed archery. They find some more of their missing purses, and the harem escapes through another passage.

  5. Searching for the harem and their purses, the party fights a large viper, and then emerges into more worked passages. They stumble upon a trapped door behind which is a strange workshop full of gnomish gem cutters. They extort some gems from the gnomes for protection from the goblins to the north.

  6. Retracing their steps back into the goblin warren, the party finally discovers their treasure room and the remaining purses. Still no sign of the harem, and so they press on.

  7. The party fights some giant crab spiders, and realizes the underground complex is much larger than they anticipated. The players note that we're nearly out of time, and thus decide to return to the surface.


The game was a lot of fun, there was plenty of combat and a good NPC interaction scene (the gnomes). There were some great moments with their captive goblin (whom they nailed into a barrel), and a little bawdy humor when one of the players had a tender broke-back moment with his hireling. On the downside, I think the flow of the game was off. The ending fizzled a bit, there was no exciting climactic end scene, and the party had enough time towards the end to debate why they were down here in the first place.

I think my main failing was what I identified as the final part in my convention game post:

Finally, watch carefully for what becomes the second major event, and be as prepared as possible to interpret the third event (with the second for context) into some kind of climax.

The players had a pretty obvious goal: reclaim their stolen money (there were other hooks to sub-plots that could have evolved into a different goal, but this is what the party focused on). I should have realized this, and played it out longer. I could have decided that the goblin chief heard the battle, and being the coward he was, snuck off with his harem and guards with the treasure in tow. They could then lead the party on a merry chase through the underground, giving the players ample opportunity to still encounter minor events (the gnomes, teh pit viper, the spiders, etc.) until they were finally caught at a climactic moment.

I think ultimately I just wasn't paying attention, and thus lazily fell back on going with exactly what was written on the page. In future, perhaps I should write myself a note and hang it on the inside of my screen that reads:

Identify the party's goals, and formulate a climax.

The three event thing is nice in retrospect, I could say that the chase above ground was event one, and the fight with the main force of goblins is event two, but it's hard to identify this stuff during play. The chase felt like intro, thus during play I would have been hard pressed to call it an event. That would have meant the goblin chief encounter was event two, and where do you go from there for a climax? The gnomes were fun and took a chunk of time to play out, but do they count as a major event, or are they just a minor encounter along the way?

Ultimately, I think it doesn't matter. The only real indicator I think is real time. Identify the party's goal, and keep an eye on the clock. If they're too close to their goal and there's too much time left, add some more impediments. If they're far away from their goal and there's not much time left, start cutting.

I think the ultimate challenge is to write enough content that allows the party to formulate their own goal, and be observant enough during play to figure out what they chose. From there, I think it should be reasonably easy to manipulate the adventure during play into something that flows well.

I'm not going to share my one page dungeon yet. I think I can get a fair bit more use out of it, and some of my readers are likely to be my players. Eventually though, I will post it.
November 12th, 2009 - 07:57 am | Comments (1) | PERMALINK

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