Monday, May 25, 2009

My "One Page Dungeon" entry

Recently, an old-school tabletop roleplaying site hosted a one page dungeon design challenge. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to craft an entry, and the deadline passed.

However, due to some confusion, the deadline was extended, and I was able to scrape together some time to make an entry of my own: The Poseidon Adventure. It's released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

The dungeon itself is a much abbreviated version of an adventure I ran quite a while ago (one of the first I ran using third edition). Some might accuse it of being a device to deliver the punch line of a terrible, terrible joke (it certainly got some mighty groans from my players when I said, as we were putting away the game table, "thanks for playing...the Poseidon adventure."). But really, I think the adventure stands on its own, too. The bad joke is gravy.

If there is interest, I might post what I have from the original adventure, but the primary macguffins from the original adventure are retained in the one-page-dungeon entry itself: the good magic gone bad, the impending rise of a new evil demigod, the drastic change to the dungeon environment halfway through the adventure, and the final race against time to escape the ruins. (And the terrible joke, natch.)

The changing environment in particular made a one-page presentation difficult, since I had to present the environment in both contexts, one in each orientation. As a result, I went more "new school" and kept things short and more plot-oriented than some of the other entries I've seen, but I think the thrill of such a dynamic environment is worth the space devoted to it. We'll see if the judges agree.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


bgardner said...

I really like this submission. The thing I really like is that there's an interesting turn of events that occurs towards the end. The rooms and monsters are all connected as well - you have a theme running through it.

Comments, with Spoilers.
* None of the rooms are labelled on the map, so it's a little hard to match them up.
* Use a slightly smaller font and add a couple of extra rooms. There not a lot of meat but what's there is good.
* Introduction: the villagers are having dreams - how does this relate to a sea god? I would go a more traditional route and either have a village priest receive a vision from their god or maybe some of the evil algae/slime is leaking out of the temple and destroying the villages fishing boats.
* ENTRY CHAMBER: I like the magical "moving water" effect and would love to see this written up as having more of an effect on the party. Perhaps as a trap (to compliment the animated statues) or as an obstacle for the PCs to overcome.
* WORSHIP CHAMBER: Would like to see a one sentance explantion on the "magical drowing trap". Something descriptive to make the trap sound really cool.
* THE ESCAPE: What if the PCs have water breathing? This would break the twist. Is there some additional effect that would limit the use of water breathing?
* CONCLUSION: ".. they'll know they have spared the world much pain" - how do they know this? I would drop this part since its not clear how'd they'd know this. I would think about building in a room or something to convey to the PCs that this may not be an isolated incident. Show, don't tell. I would definitely include some vague hint as to why the gestation of a god is occuring now; something that can be translated to other proto-gods (see Plot Hooks).
* PLOT HOOKS: The last sentance is pretty awesome. It inspires me to want to run with this idea as a set of linked adventures or even a mini-campaign. That's exactly what you should be aiming to do. I would suggest that you downgrade the god to some other term - "demi-god" or "proto-god" perhaps. Most campaigns don't want you messing with their established gods. Downgrading the threat slightly to a lower tier of god gives you a bit more room to maneuver.

Final Thoughts: I like this adventure even better now that I've reviewed it.


CC said...

Thanks for the comments, bgardner. All are really good suggestions. Some responses:

* The villagers having dreams was my attempt to evoke "The Call of Cthulhu" (the story, not the game system) for those familiar with it. I agree, though, that some of your other suggestions might be a more direct plot hook. I especially like your idea of the destroyed fishing boats because it starts off less sinister and more innocuous in scope, which would only make the discovery of a demigod all the more surprising.

* The effect of the moving water comes into play after the temple shifts - instead of nicely flowing out the entrance, it comes pouring down on the adventurers as they try to climb the slippery shaft. Still, that's just a difficulty penalty in most systems, so perhaps a more strident effect would be a worthwhile addition.

* Water breathing does make escape less urgent, and if the party were forward-thinking enough to come prepared with that, or spent party or character resources earlier to gain that ability in the past, I would say they should be rewarded accordingly by making it easier to escape. I wouldn't want to insert some nullifying effect for that. There's still plenty of danger to keep the pressure on - the frescoes, the strangleweed, the slime, the ruins cracking and collapsing around them. And presumably, they don't all have indefinite water breathing, so they still need to get out before the spire slips down into the depths of the ocean; it's a rare party that can all breathe underwater at will.

Thanks for the insightful comments!

The Malum said...

This one's a personal favorite of my from the 2009 contest as well! If you still remember, I'd love to know the additional details you mention in your post. Hearing how other people have handled a scenario usually helps me improve my own run!

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