Wednesday 27 May 2015

1PDC 2015 Finalists

I'm pretty psyched that that The Lantern of Wyv made the judges' top 9 in the 2015 One-Page Dungeon Contest. The other eight are pretty jaw-dropping, so I think I'll count my blessings now!

UPDATE: Lantern was part of a three-way tie for first place!

Anna Costa's Panopticon is gorgeous and evocative. I can hear the shrieks of the djinn, see the bloodstained sand.  I confess I'm slightly confused by the geography; I think the image is an illustration rather than a map. There's lots of cool ideas in the text to use.  In play, my concern would be the sameness of thirty-three levels of it (but perhaps visitors are expected to be able to teleport or have other powerful magic).

Lorenzo Santini's Into the Awaroth Woods has amazing graphic design and cartography. There are surprisingly many interlinked clues between the various locations; I think I could run a satisfying adventure with ten minutes' notice and a magnifying glass.  The text is tiny, and the layout crushes it even further, which makes it unnecessarily hard to absorb. The encounter table is pretty, but adds little I'd scrap it in favor of more breathing room.

A Stolen Song by P. Aaron Potter (WINNER) isn't as pretty on paper, but is a fun dungeon. I love that it starts with a capsule overview of what's going on, and it's poignant. The silence effects look like fun, and I dig the joke in room E. The telescope/banshee puzzle aspect is interesting - it would be cool to seed this with a few more noise-related items.
Will Doyle & Stacey Allan's Shambling Throne of the Death Cult King is hilarious madness. I dig the idea of a party spying on the procession for several days, trying to find a way in. I think you'd have to play the zombies as really, really stupid and unable to climb onto the boardwalks, or lethal escalation would be almost immediate.  The main question - play out the probing of the peripheral floats perceptually over several hours, or just hand the players the illustration?

Carlos Pascual's *The Heist* is refreshing, in that it's for low-level adventurers.  The illustrations are charming, make describing the place easy, and somehow the overall tone reminds me of Fighting Fantasy - I suppose it's the way each encounter is an isolated thing.  The page-ordering of the elements is a bit confusing; the dungeon is broken into needlessly many pieces, and the exterior establishing shot appears 'after' the boss fight.  I love that the final trap is the way out, as long as you're not too heavily loaded.

Edward Lockheart's Furthest Farthing's Frog Pond of Existential Ennui (WINNER) is weird and dark, a disastrous encounter between an extradimensional traveller and a hapless village. If the players get to know the villagers, this could be a truly bleak experience. This seems like a must; given the rate of death by ennui, it seems the players would need to be hooked by the pervasive emo ennui, or they might leave and miss out. The black star itself is delightful, a perfect example of a dungeon toy. But.. so many questions! How can the black star come towards you? How does the frog come into play (e.g. how can it avoid being crushed by the black star as someone approaches it)?  Fun.

Joel's Bethell's Sepulchre of the Abyss is very cleanly laid out with nice, concise descriptions. I love weird environments like this with a rationale to them, it evokes the groaning of the walls and little needles of high-pressure water squirting in everywhere. I find the randomness of it a bit disappointing; it seems like a hall stocked mostly with aggressive, wandering sea creatures. The big finale is.. lots more aggressive sea creatures! Seems like it would work best in a game with detailed time/resource tracking.

+MonkeyBlood Design's Escape the Oubliette is really cool. Props to the map, which is one of the very few dungeon maps done in three-point perspective. (Was a 3D model used as a scaffold?) This looks like a sustained dose of a play style I find really interesting. The main quandary is how to inject it into a campaign? Think-for-your-life is way more engrossing with permadeath on the line, but it seems a hefty dose GM fiat is required to inject a party's established, third-level characters into the starting spot. The question isn't whether the PCs will survive, will the GM?!

None of these micro-reviews are objective, so I'll toss one for my own Lantern of Wyv (WINNER) into the pile. I dig the concept (of course), and I think the mystery of the lantern, and the fact there's no rumours about the barge is a good choice for building player curiosity. On the other hand, it does cover a lot of sparsely-populated ground - a coastal forest, a number of empty ruins, and even the lantern itself has more rooms than it needs to for room-by-room play.

And the Winner Is..

I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Monkeyblood Design takes it for Escape the Oubliette. It's tight, it's a dungeon, it's pretty, and it's awesome.

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