Some notes on the first One Page Dungeon

Well, my Thanksgiving break is coming to an end, and I have successfully completed my first One Page Dungeon (OPD) using Central Casting: Dungeons.  The 30 by 30 square map has thirty rooms ranging from a 10′ by 10′ room (the Herbalist’s Laboratory) to a 60′ by 140” room (the Great Hall).  About half the rooms lack encounters and probably a similar number lack treasure, but not necessarily the same rooms.

Most encounters are in the “A” (unlikely to pose much of a challenge) range, but there are some “B” encounters and one “D” (several deaths likely, TPK possible) encounter, located in the giant great hall.  That single encounter will definitely fall into the “we should come back later when we’re tougher” category, but it does have a nice little bonus when the PC’s do manage it.

Central Casting: Dungeons tends toward the pragmatic.  There are entries for various logical kinds of rooms (e.g. latrines, dining halls, guard rooms, etc.) and not towards the wildly fantastic.  I may, once I get the feel for this and do some reading for inspiration, move into doing a few areas “freehand” rather than by the random charts.

I’m also holding off codifying the backstory to the dungeon.  I have some ideas, some recycled from other projects, but I thought I might see if the development of the levels provides some inspiration as well.

I am also probably going to hold off on posting much in the way of detail.  I have a (faint) hope of trying to run the dungeon, using Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry, with some friends or maybe at the FLGS.


Getting back to Megadungeons

A while back I sketched out “SV1A Slave Pits of the Overlords,” a truly skeletal outline featuring an 8.5″ by 11″ graph paper map and a room key.  Having now stumbled across the “One Page Dungeon” format over at Sham’s Grog and Blog, I now realize that I could’ve put SV1A in a OPD format with little difficulty.

It also made me realize what a handy little paradigm that OPD is.  Or rather, can be with a little tweaking.  The biggest gripe out there is that the OPD doesn’t allow for pre-designed backstories, elaborate NPC’s, or complex encounters.  But when Michael Curtis released his megadungeon Stonehell Dungeon, he did so with what can really only be called a “Two Page Dungeon” layout.  He has the classic One Page with mini-map (a shrunk down grid of 30 by 30 squares), one-line-per-room key, wandering monster list, etc.  But it also has a second page (which actually comes first) that has a brief description of the area, some NPC’s, and one or two major encounter areas.  Four of these two-page sections make up a single level of the dungeon.  Stonehell has twelve levels, meaning that Curtis has basically created 48 OPD’s.

So, I’m inspired.  I’ve got a long holiday coming up and thought I’d curl up with a table of graph paper, a pencil, a ruler, some percentile dice and a copy of Central Casting: Dungeons.  Four 30×30 square maps sounds about right (each map would be 7″ on a side on a sheet of graph paper) but I like sub-levels, perhaps one OPD each.

This morning I sat down for about an hour or so and mapped out half of level 1A, and it looks good.  Sometimes maps from Central Casting can be random, but not in that good sort of way.  This one has a nice flow to it, though.  I’ll see how far I can get.

[Review] Swords and Wizardry

Another birthday, so that means…

That’s right–treating myself to another OSR  free pdf printed and bound in a binder and plastic page pockets, in this case Swords & Wizardry by Matthew J. Finch, who also wrote “A Quick Primer to Old School Gaming.”  This goes into my collection along with Basic Fantasy RPG and Labyrinth Lord.

Review after the break

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Character death

The last player character I had die during a gaming session was shot in the back by another PC.

It was too bad, because I had successfully navigated the character across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, survived pirates and psychotic robots and watery deathtraps.  I had even, while hanging onto the side of a tossing raft, uttered the cool tough-guy phrase “gun me” before having a pistol slid over to him by another PC.

But, we were using pre-generated characters, and apparently in my PC’s past he had shot and killed another PC’s father, and the punk kid shot me in the back at the very end of the adventure.  So it goes.

I didn’t mind, not just because he was basically a one-off character not of my own creation, but also because it was a death that worked for the story.  He was a self-destructive gunslinger looking for death, and he got it.  In the matter of PC death, I don’t mind when PC’s die because they are unbelievably stupid (“yes, I will try to disable the bomb even though I lack the appropriate skill”) or take on overwhelming challenges, either heroically or foolishly.  I’m not a fan of the “oops–you stepped on a trap.  You die” where it just comes out of nowhere, but I get that it happens too.

Long story on PC death after the break.

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[books for gamers] All the Gold of Ophir

All the Gold of Ophir, written by David Drury, is half pulp detective, part hard-sci fiction story.  Private investigator Michael Flynn has been hired to look into the “accidental” death of a young man on a Jupiter space station.  The victim worked for the mega-corporation that not only owns the station and employs three-quarters of its thousands of inhabitants, but also has its own lethally-armed security force.  Flynn is assisted by corporate attorney Wendy Chadwick and opposed by Silvanus Drake, so improbably named that J.K. Rowling would even blanche.

Drury is a professor of engineering and uses his knowledge to tell the story, one laden with stereotypical characters: the Irish hard-drinking PI, the incompetent and belligerent head of the police force, even the psycho ex-girlfriend (whom I kept calling “Ira” after Spade’s ex in The Maltese Falcon).  The mystery was interesting and the action moved along well (although I had a pretty good idea of what happened fairly early on).

My only complaint, because I can let hackneyed, two-dimensional characters slide in a story like this one, is that in science fiction you have to give the reader certain boundaries of genre.  Faster-than-light travel?  Aliens?  Artificial intelligence?  You have to let the reader know what exists and what doesn’t, especially when you’re doing a mystery.  It isn’t fair to say, allow teleportation to exist in the last chapter if it is instrumental to the plot.  And Drury succumbs to this–after establishing the boundaries throughout the book he breaks one (as the underwhelming “shocker”) to tie up one of the loose ends.  Or in other words, you can get most of the mystery on your own, but you’ll never get the last ten percent because Drury breaks his own rules.  It is a frustrating end note to an otherwise fun weekend read.

From a gaming perspective, All the Gold of Ophir reminds RPG fans of how depending the gaming industry is on pulp-ish stories.  The Jupiter space station would make a fine sci-fi environs, big enough to introduce new elements but contained enough to keep players from running far off the beaten track (my biggest gripe with sci-fi RPG’s).

[Fiend Friday] Orc Subchieftan

[Editor’s Note] As an way for me to explore how easy or difficult it is to create advanced creatures using the rules in the Pathfinder Bestiary, I’ve decided to try to make one.




Orc Subchieftan
Orc Subchieftans are often found serving as leaders on raiding parties, supervising guards, or protecting the tribe’s chieftan.
CR 3
XP: 800
Orc Fighter 3
Init +0  Senses: darkvision 60 ft., lowlight vision; Perception +0; light sensitivity
AC 15, touch 10, flat-footed 15 (+5 armor)
hp 18 (3d10+2)
Fort +5, Ref +1, Will +1
Defensive Abilities: ferocity
Speed 20 ft.
Melee: Greataxe +7  (1d12+4, *3)
Ranged: javelin +3 (1d6+4)
Str 19 (+4)  Dex 11 Con 14 (+2) Int 8 (-1) Wis 10 Cha 8 (-1)
Base Atk: +3 ; CMB +7 ; CMD 17
Feats: Power Attack, Improved Bull Rush, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Stand Still
Skills: Intimidate +3
Languages: Common, Orc
Ecology (same as Orc)
Treasure: Scale Mail, greataxe, 3 javelins, regular treasure