Under the Hill

so tired…

The Art of Dungeoncraft

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I should be doing something entirely else really. Actually I should be finishing the last few things for my MA. But what do I do? Writing an One Page Dungeon.
For the uninitiated: dungeons are the natural habitat of player characters and monsters. For some reason the best and easiest setting to set roleplaying games in was and is an underground lair or something like that. Room after room of monsters, treasures, and traps. Yay! Adventure! Moria for all!
For some reason RPGs never really managed to get away from those. And in many cases they never really tried. (there is a reason the most famous RPG is called Dungeons&Dragons…)
Retroclones, as mentioned before, try to emulate a lot of those old times, and dungeons are a big part of that.
So it comes as kind of a surprise that they, with that, actually are embracing a special sort dungeons, treating dungeons as a sort of art form: dungeons limited to one page only, with map and everything.¹

How much story and adventure can one relate on only one page?

A lot.
Building a dungeon becomes minimalistic art: short sentences, only the most needed of comments, and the dungeon’s map as part of this storytelling. Is it a 70s style TSR-blue dungeon? Is it handdrawn? What’s on the map, what isn’t? And so these dungeons can range from bad to good, and sometimes they move into sheer excellency (look at this guys OPDs for example!).
So why the sudden interest in this kind of dungeon? The One Page Dungeon Contest 2010 has it’s submission date this weekend, and I want to take part. I would have liked to playtest the dungeon before handing it in, but well, that will have to wait until next week or so.

———-

¹ There is actually another contender for the title “dungeon as art”: Megadungeons. Where OPDs try to limit itself megadungeons go into baroque splendor with dozens of levels, hundreds, if not thousands of rooms and a living, breathing ecology in them, but that is for another article…

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Written by G. Neuner

25. February 2010 at 6:07 am

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