Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Keeping it Small

So I only recently came across this concept, but it's just so awesome:

The One-Page Dungeon

So amazingly awesome. Apparently it originated with this character David Bowman ("Dave? What are you doing, Dave?"), and this year's version of the contest is being run by a gentleman name of Alex Schroeder.

It's such a fantastic idea. I love everything about this. Constraints are essential to creativity, but so often, the only constraint on a GM is time. You've got a game on Saturday, you gotta get things ready, so there's your constraint. But something more formal, even if it's as ad-hoc as "you have to fit everything on one page", really strikes a chord with me. I find it so much harder to be creative if I don't put some constraints on my thinking. Inspiration so often comes out of limitations.

Now, you can take the whole idea a little further than I would, but it's still a brilliantly useful tool.

So brilliant, that we're pleased to announce that Scratch Factory Productions will be donating a copy of SLAVE QUEEN OF THE RUINED CITY as a prize for the contest winners. So break out the pencils, or the Photoshop, or whatever, and put down a page. On the left I've done up one of my own -- Flintwater's Lair, a secret grotto where the dread pirate Flintwater keeps his sloop of war, his hearty crew, and his booty. Yar. I've added Flintwater's lair to the burgeoning DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND setting wiki, which hasn't been announced yet but is gonna be soon, 'cause it's awesome.

What other creative constraints strike you as useful for DMs looking for inspiration?


  1. The types of constraints that I seem to work with tend to be around genre and setting.

    I.e., this setting can't feature element X which is common in fantasy roleplaying gaming, because, hey, it's been done to death and I want to do something else. For instance. Or, I want to find a way to make a roleplaying scenario specifically mirror certain genre standards. How, for instance, do you do The Shadow Over Innnesmouth in fantasy roleplaying?

    I've never really set myself up with constraints other than that. I do like the one-page dungeon idea, though. Huh. Intriguing. I agree that for me, having constraints makes it easier to work creatively. I guess I get a bit paralyzed with too many options or something, so in my own work, I subconsciously start whacking away at options right off the bat.

  2. I'm always fascinated by formal constraints. One reason why I like writing sonnets much more than "modern" "poetry" -- it's just way more fun to work within those kinds of rules.

    Of course, any game includes a formal set of constraints just by nature of the ruleset, but I find this one-page concept pretty nifty.