Here is part 4, the final part, of my review of every single entry of this year’s one page dungeon contest.
Like the other entries, if you’ve got a link you would like me to use for your entry or want to post a correction of something I said, let me know.
Patrick Kelly & Ian Andrews – The Mollusk of Madness ………………….121
A half-submerged giant shell stuck in the sand is home to a valuable mining expedition. The place has been overrun by monstrous creatures that have no abilities listed, relative strengths given, nor description told, which is weird given the special section given to an outdoor threat in the area, Blackback the shark. This would make for a small encounter to run into on a random sea voyage or coastal adventure.
The vaguely victorian clocktower is now overrun by ratfolk with their own mysterious form of government/religion. While the rooms present challenging combinations of skills challenges and fights, the lack of an internal map of the tower means that the layout of the rooms must be created by the DM prior to running it. It also gives up the opportunity for the creator to lay out the traps in a flavorful way as well as suggest possible alternate paths for players to discover. The overweight figurehead pigeons and their worshippers make for a fun adventure.
Rats and Roosts
Pyry Qvick – Island X ……………………………………………………………….123
Island X is more of an encounter outline for a small, monster-mashup island. The random monsters and mutations make for useful fodder for filling out a creepy or dangerous place but the rest of the island is left open ended and vague for the DM to fill in their own details. The flower drawing is creepy and beautiful, but that space would have been better served by even a crude map or group of icons showing how various encounters or terrains link together rather than leave it all to random rolls.
Useful Mutation Tables
Quinn L. – Backstage Pass ………………………………………………………..124
Handwaving the starting situation of having the bard villain with a macguffin, the silly concert setting provides a somewhat linear backdrop with lots of possible means of problem solving. The room descriptions and challenges are described in an open ended but it is a shame to see that the enemy is given an automatic success on the first floor, railroading the party into the firework display boss fight. This should be listed more as what Sidewinder attempts when the players first reach him and perhaps what his backup plan if they block the ladder.
Musical Macguffin Retrieval
Confusing to first wrap my brain around, I really appreciate turning this map into a cut-out 3-d map to make it easy to represent the intertwined tunnels. The monsters would be better served with some adjectives for their relative strengths and unique combat abilities or tactics. The final puzzle is well telegraphed so I am not worried about players missing obvious clues and getting stuck.
D10 Imprisoning Cave
Richard Grzela – Golden Peak Spire…………………………………………….126
Golden Peak Spire uses a mix of images and encounter descriptions to offer up the challenges the players will face to retrieve a powerful standard. The layout is confusing in that the encounters are described from the top down, in the opposite order of how the players will face them. However, the encounters themselves are described and drawn to be evocative and mostly playable, except for the unmapped maze of caves given as a throwaway line.
Contested mountain climb
The Siege is a dungeon given as a three act outline of an adventure rather than the specifics of maps or locations. It could work this way, but almost all of the space is given to describing the background of the situation with almost none given to what sorts of ways the players have available to them to save the children or what sort of attempts the villain will take to stop them. Also, the villain is not listed with abilities or battle tactics despite how important the final battle is. The quick bullet points to describe the NPC’s is incredibly useful though, and I will likely steal both that format as well as the NPC’s themselves.
Siege and Rescue
Roger SG Sorolla – Beneath the Nameless Towers of the Kremlin ……..128
This entry is a silly, alternate historical Moscow infiltrated by a variety of different reality’s Moscows. The rooms have neat objects and trophies in them, but the entry relies heavily on either knowing the specific references or on the links contained within. The numbers listed next to the various guards are not obvious as to what they represent and they along with the leaders could use some listing of their relative strengths. Many of these entries just seem to be clever references without anything usable or playable as described.
Rose Szabo & Tamora Raze – Shannon, the Gold Dragon………………..129
Shannon the Gold Dragon is a massive star-crossed lover asking the players to delve into her digestive track to rescue her current girlfriend. The connections and mechanics of each of the rooms can be taken advantage of and researched by clever players while they try to suss out the location of the nymph. The monsters and npc’s within have motivations and abilities listed for easy use by the DM. The text on some entries is hard to read, but that could be solved with some larger text that isn’t subsumed by the bright yellow and pink.
Dragon Gut Delve
A small cave is now occupied by an artifact controlled dwarven wizard with a few secrets within. The idea of a magic item controlling the supposed villain is a nice touch, as are the clues hiding the treasure trove of the dungeon. It would be interesting if the magic staff required some special tactics or else it becomes much harder to destroy, but that would also require leaving clues and hints around as well. While the stats are given for the staff and wizard, the useful information like what types of spell the wizard or staff use to attack with are missing.
Artifact Dominated Wizard Cave
Ryan MacKenzie – A Witch Can Wish…………………………………………..131
While I disagree with author’s intended use of punishing wandering players back on to the intended plot train-tracks, this dungeon is nicely designed as an example to over-curious players that not every tomb or cave is profitable to explore. Having some counterweights to slow down their rush to plunder makes investigating or being cautious more profitable. Everything in this place hints at not proceeding further, although players in greed might gain some money and investigate further, the end result punishes that incautious greed.
The dungeon itself is the trap
Sadhbh Brennan – The Abandoned Plane…………………………………….132
This plane map has little to do with planes or dungeons. It effectively functions as a partially stocked random door picking game. There are no clues available to help the players decide on any given door, so they may as well be randomly rolled. Nor is there any reason for any of it to be on a plane that is somehow next to the floating rock the players start on. If this had some airplanes themed enemies (gremlins on a plane anyone?) and ways for the players to make even poorly-informed choices (pictures on the doors or claw marks/tracks on the floor) this could work as a wacky one-shot or be reskinned for use elsewhere.
Random door-kicker airplane
Spaghetti Quester – The Mage in his Tower…………………………………..133
A detailed color illustration of a wizard’s tower where the players have the mission to deliver a message to the focused wizard within. The various encounters stuffed into this small tower and cave make for a wide array of challenges, although the various monster encounters should have some descriptors regarding the relative strengths and tactics of each of them. If I have need of an eccentric, reclusive wizard, I will pull this tower right up.
Eccentric Isolationist Tower Delivery
The Oak of Mother Bones is a monster occupied giant tree. Climbing the tree is opposed by straight forward monstrous guards of various types with listed tactics and treasures. That pattern is unfortunately not continued with Mother Bones who has no listed attack strategy or abilities should the party not be swayed by her cajoling (or if they are long enough for her giant zombie to be finished). It also strikes me as weird that the giant zombie is undefeatable except by falling from the tree, which is exactly where it is being created with no easy way down. Mother Bones needs to read up on her villainy 101.
Scott Marcley – Elf-Bane …………………………………………………………..135
An old orcish tomb is being incompetently searched by some bumbling orcs. Better let the bumbling players take a crack at it, they might eventually stumble on what I feel are too few clues for the main eye puzzle, which could have used maybe a separate hint at the end of each of the dangerous side-chambers so players that do not get it immediately would, through suffering, gain additional context clues. It is nice that explorative players are rewarded, granted they survive extra traps, with a secret vault of treasure, but wisely nothing of vital importance is hidden within this vault. While orcs and manticores are very well staples, it would have been nice to see some descriptors given for their tactics and abilities, maybe giving them some uniqueness in either how they use the tomb to their advantage or something slightly different from the standard mold for their species. For the orcs it would also help flesh out why this tribe was feared and powerful.
Unplundered Orc Tomb
SM Hillman – The Tree of Sunken Yesterdays………………………………..136
A multi-path cave system conceals a bundle of caverns hiding a number of talismans that must be collected to summon the great evil creature they are tasked with defeating. Despite this dungeon being themed around time-reversal, there is only a short description of such an effect on the way down into it and a random effect that happens every ten minutes. Without any time based magic to interact with or make any choices about, it basically works out to just a random boon or penalty every few minutes. I do like the idea of having players deal with groundhog day style repeating encounters, especially if they are ones that are very difficult unless memorized or done with foreknowledge and will likely steal that idea. The main altar could use some description so that the players are clued into needing the three talisman pieces and definitely needs to give a description, some abilities, and the tactics of the main boss the whole dungeon revolved around defeating.
Stop the Demon Sacrifice
Sean Ritner & Lisa Healey – Tower of the Thunder Wizard ………………137
This wizard’s tower is populated by stereotypically wizardish traps and guardians, and looks fairly easy to run with the key parts of room descriptions being bolded or italicized. I am unsure how the players are supposed to figure out the lock combination, but with no penalty for failure, they could just keep guessing until they get it right. Also, none of the monsters, including the main wizard and air elementals, are given any combat abilities or tactics that would tell me how the writer intends them to be run.
Wizardly Wizard Tower
Sean Smith – Hove South Recyc Center……………………………………….138
A modern or sci-fi compatible map for the players to investigate. The map is somewhat confusing especially with the map key labels being in such tiny words with their letters spaced apart so my brain cannot do the automatic word processing thing based on word shapes. Also, all the chest and monsters are randomized, meaning I either cannot explain to players anything beyond what they’ve explore or I have to do the extra work of rolling up the maps ahead of time and turning the random tables into a map key. The monsters within also need descriptions and some abilities and tactics, even if it is just keywords on what sort of attacks or strategies they will use. The map has a nice simplicity though that makes it easy to track the floor to floor connections.
An elaborate map detailing the ruins, squatters, squatter traps, and monster infestation all taking place in the crumbling remains of an old fort. The picture of the black maw is awesome and would be slightly improved if they were given some strength ranking versus either the kobold squatters or the players. This place is interesting as the infestation of rats brought long kobolds to hunt them and squat here, which in turn are being displaced by insectile horrors.
Seth Piercey – City on a Coin……………………………………………………..140
This city is being brought low by newly empowered thugs and gangs running rampant. The premise of the city being linked to its parallel self in other dimensions, and gangs have discovered this to their advantage, there is no mention of what is causing this phenomenon nor what types of cities those other two sister cities are. This means that as the DM I would have to come up with the factions/political powers in both other cities, plus this original one and figure out what magic creating this power so that I can describe the happenings in a way that gives my players an idea of where to even start. This sort of concept deserves and needs way more space to flesh out that can probably fit into a single page.
Parallel Dimension Panic
Shane Starkey – Goblin Grotto …………………………………………………..141
Goblin’s Grotto is a small cave network of three and a half sort-of factions trying to make a living. The rooms are quite barren with only name descriptions to give them any character so they feel empty just looking at the map. The font choice is cool and the simple map is ready to deploy right to players without giving too much away. I would have liked to see more descriptions of the various goblinoids in this cave system or some sort of narrative tying the place together like how the tribes might react to player incursion.
Cave System of Goblinoids
More of a surreal adventure, this lair is a dimensional nook housing a dream-eating spider. The idea of invading and solving dreams is quite interesting and the concise descriptions of each dream give me enough, as a DM, to run them as small skill or roleplaying challenges for the players. It will require some injected character knowledge about dreams to tell them that they should be seeking to resolve the dreams to escape as well as a reason for them to go inside them. The main thing lacking from this dream hunting side-quest is a hook or reason why the players are dream delving, as well as a description of how the oneirovore responds to trespassers or how it and the other denizens might fight and with what abilities.
Dream Delving Sidequest
Simone Biagini – D4 Dungeon……………………………………………………143
D4 Dungeon functions as a one page dungeon delving game on its own. The mechanics and strengths of different classes are distilled down nicely but the room generating mechanic is a little confusing, but once I wrapped my brain around it, it works passably for procedurally generating more rooms. The simplistic delving game leaves no room for building a story or theme, unless you brainstorm one yourself, and weave the random events into a story. Is room depth how many rooms deep the given room is compared to the starting point or is it some floor based mechanic?
One Page Delving Game
Simon Forster – Don’t Wake the Dragon!………………………………………144
Functioning like a long-form skill challenge, this dungeon is a mini-game where the goal is sneakiness and silence. I enjoyed the mechanic of noisy encounters but for the lepers and wolves, there doesn’t seem to be any listed leverage for the players to use to get past them without causing them to raise the alarm. They either need a possible solution presented or to list some hints the players might be able to find in order to clue them in to possible solutions are avenues of attack, or perhaps just a warning so that they can make informed choices about what alarms to trip versus their costs to avoid.
Noise Trap Dungeon
A whorl of text describes a looping series of mindstates/encounters that a player could be trapped in. The premise is neat, in that players keep looping through having to solve the same encounters until they find the way to break the cycle. However, it is not shown how the players are supposed to figure out how to progress to the next cycle, and what does connecting to a person in each dream state mean, let alone how they are supposed to clue in to the fact that the raven was once a man and their only ticket out.
Sterling Heibeck – Lava Clock…………………………………………………….146
The central conceit of this dungeon is that players have to take care how long they spend within as the lava blasts continue regularly with time, while the hand of the central clock moves as well. It does fall a little flat in that if the players get let behind by the clock arm, they have no way of leaving the platform they are on until a full hour, and six lava waves, passes. It would work better to punish players taking too long in any individual room rather than cut them off completely, perhaps there is a thin walkway just above the magma level that can be walked at the cost of taking heat damage from the proximity to the magma. Each of the rooms individually though is a full and engaging dungeon room for the players to explore, although it is confusing that the explosions mentions players needing full cover but only one room mentions having a lack of cover.
Fiery Punishment for the Overcurious or Slow
Steve Kilian – One Page: A Dungeon ……………………………………………147
A literal play on the contest, this dungeon is, in game, contained on a single magical piece of paper. The players are trapped here for some reason related to messing with magical runes on papers they shouldn’t be. Taking the theme in hand, the players are given hints that they can erase or modify some sections of the paper or otherwise play with the concept of being trapped on a 2-d dungeon. Puzzles and traps incorporate stereotypical elements like light reflection or darkness-spawning monsters in a refreshing way and the monsters are nicely given small descriptions of their combat abilities and tactics.
Paper Trap Dungeon
Useful for that random jaunt the players might take or inadvertently suffer, this is a small section of a hellish place. Filled with demonic beings of various motivations, the players must find a way back. It presents a simple task of trying to force their way past a good collection of vile creatures, with a few places they can attempt to get some backup or even indulge in some good old greed. I would have liked to see some ability keywords or battle tactics to go with the monster-mashup style demons, but their creative names at least help me brainstorm what they might fight like.
Quick Jaunt Through Hell
Stuart Kehoe – Crimson Rock Prison…………………………………………..149
Crimson Rock is a high security fantasy prison. Within is the player’s goal, a macguffin, and while their connection can get them in, they will have to get themselves out. It is confusing on this point where they get inserted into the prison, perhaps this was intended for them to come in as prisoners? There are plenty of different challenges to overcome and prisoners they can recruit to help them do so. The lack of abilities or keywords for the guards and prisoners will make this harder to run although at least they are functionally nameless mooks. I appreciated the multiple views and angles of the complex map, otherwise I would have been hopelessly confused by the layout. Also, what sort of schedule does the prison run on, as that would be the most obvious way the players could take advantage of things to stage distractions or move about when there are few observers.
Prison Vault Heist
theinfamousmrmeow – The Green King’s War ……………………………….150
The Green King’s War is a one page grand strategy game that can overlay on top of another roleplaying game for a short campaign. The players must rally enough troops to the defense of a town, while exploring the nearby area, defeating other threats, or depriving the goblin king of his own reinforcements. The battle mechanics are fairly solid and allow for mass combat without bogging the game down in endless dice rolling for individual units. The sub-encounters are fun and complex in the best way, describing their outline while leaving them open to being modified by the DM while being usable as written.
Miniature Grand Strategy Campaign Overlay
Theo Olsen – Soul Firm…………………………………………………………….151
A town has made a deal with devils and run a hellish equivalent of a law firm. The players are tasked with dealing with the devils. The various demons and devils within make for fun and thematic soul firm encounters where the players have to work against the stereotypical types of demons. It would help if the demons were given descriptors of their abilities and tactics, especially the ones that will be attacking the players like the interns, human guards, and security demon.
Tim Shorts – Requiem for a Hag …………………………………………………152
A previous tragedy and evil is continuing to be perpetuated by an evil witch within this basement. The players have to find their way through ruined rooms, deal with a devil hoping to turn the hag, and the trapped souls that keep the hag alive. This dungeon will need some work to prepare it, as the main two enemies are both magic users without any description or keywords about what types of spells they will use. How quickly is the hag supposed to return if she is not banished permanently?
Toby Lancaster (Dark Realm Maps) – White Mesa Waterworks …………153
White Mesa Waterworks starts as a run of the mill job to clear out vermin from a sewer-adjacent waterworks. However, the twist in this dungeon is that the players are being set up as the murderers of one of the victims in the waterworks. The ankheg is well described for anyone not familiar with the monster but it is a shame that the dungeon ends right as the interesting part begins, with the local constables waiting outside for the “murderers”. I assume the victim was not killed by the Ankheg, otherwise it would be easy for the players to honestly believe that the victim was killed by it and just cooperate with the police. The layout could also use a little more spacing between entries or some bolding/italicizing to break up the large blocks of text for easier reading.
Vermin Extermination Turned Framing
The Hoard of Odemus utilizes teleportation doors to swap between different versions of the same room, requiring the players to carefully backtrack and figure out the patterns so that they can get the treasure they seek and get out. The magic trapping the players in this hoard has the feeling of a “gotcha” in that it isn’t well foreshadowed and results in a trap that is explicitly built to resist their attempts to problem solve it. I like that some of its tricks are effectively empty rooms that waste the players time if they ignore the hints that nothing is happening while stubbornly trying to solve everything.
Venus-Fly-Trap-Style Loot Lure Dungeon
An insane witch has turned to using her powers over needlework to create evil abberations that are now wreaking havoc such that the players have been called in to stop her. I will likely ignore the small hex map and just use those encounters as random encounters around the area where the witch is active. I like how the monsters are given some descriptions of how they fight, especially the main villain. Her lair is well-fitted with thematic traps, minions, and even door knobs that will challenge the players to get to her without allowing her forewarning, although it is unstated what preparations she will make if she has it.
Stitch Witch Lair
Trenton Anderson – Hideout at the Temple …………………………………..156
Hideout at the Temple encourages the players to take a nonviolent approach to finding their target, who is currently hiding out in the main temple with the help of sympathetic monks. While it encourages the nonviolent, it is very useful that it includes the intended relative strengths of the various inhabitants in case the players decide to take another approach. There are also multiple avenues to learn of their target’s location and to gain access to the temple itself. This would be the perfect prelude to either discovering that a villain is not what they seem or to serve as a classic good vs good showdown.
Nonviolent Temple Infiltration
The Dragon’s Lantern starts as the players take the role of henchmen trying to save the fighter that hired them. By crawling through the tunnels and dealing with the low-level threats beyond, they can get the trinket the dragon wants so they can escape with their lives. This makes for a useful mini-game for the players should they all perish while leaving minions behind, and is easily reskinned to fit many scenarios.
Rescue by Henchmen
Vincent Raitt – The Controlled Goblins………………………………………..158
This is a small dungeon where goblins have taken up residence in the ruins of a tiny jail or cave. The cultist could use some description as to their abilities or magic outside of being able to control the goblins. It would also help to foreshadow the control even more than just having a few goblins caged up, presumably the goblins that resisted the cultist’s control.
Goblin Controlling Cultist
Wilmer Dahl – Light of the Lifeless………………………………………………159
A tomb houses the remains of a wealthy family and is protected by a slow, creeping, unstoppable guardian. Selling the unstoppable nature of the tomb’s maid golem would be made better by having the first encounter leave a player paralyzed but able to be rescued by their allies before they all must flee, so that they are aware of the stakes involved. The treasure listings of all the items is quite evocative and playable as written. The cursed comet is an awesome take on cursed treasure, something that if they try to explore it they suffer its curse.
Guardian Avoiding Tomb Looting
Childish joke aside, this tower houses a fire themed gnome settlement with things for the players to loot, fight, and explore. It is nice that the creator thought of how the players might escape with their treasures, I am confused how they would get to this tower in the middle of the lava without having a built in way to escape the same way. As steam engines require a supply of water, that would have served as a way for players to ride in using those water pipes that would be difficult if not impossible to swim back out of.
Lava and Steam Powered Gnome Tower
A small moonshine distillery has been abandoned and now houses some verminous residents. The players are searching this place to discover a long-lost recipe for a potent alcoholic brew, but it could easily be modified to just be something they discover while wandering the wilds and upon discovering one portion of the recipe will want to get all the pieces. The room descriptions are nicely parsed into clues, descriptions, story/plot relevance, and other portions of the room so the DM can reference them during play quickly.
Moonshine Recipe Archaeology