Tabletop and Video Games

Making a One Page Dungeon

by Rachel

One page dungeons are a great source for low preparation, one session adventures, and there is a wealth of them to be found thanks to the annual one page dungeon contest. It can be quite a challenge to cram an entire adventure onto one page, but limits enable creativity and there is no shortage of creativity in this contest!

The deadline for entries is July 31st, and I am going to put together an entry for the contest this year while sharing the process of making an adventure and getting it into the one page format.

I find the hardest thing is to look at a blank page and hope for inspiration, so the first thing I will do is randomly generate some features that the adventure could include by randomly flipping through the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide to find things that intrigue me. I came up with the following:

Monsters

  • Medusa (MM 214)
  • Doppelgänger (MM 82)
  • Will-o-wisp (MM 301)

Magic Items

  • Cape of the Mountebank (DMG 157)
  • Folding Boat (DMG 170)
  • Iron Flask (DMG 178)

Rooms/Dungeon Features

I used the roll charts in Appendix A of the Dungeon Master’s Guide to create dungeon feature ideas. I chose three from each category.

  • Planar Gate: classroom for use by initiates learning about the portal’s secrets, Armoury used by the portals guardians, Crypt when the remains of those guarding the portal are kept
  • Stronghold: a waiting room where guests are held before receiving an audience, a library with an extensive collection of rare books, bath outfitted with marble floor and other luxurious accoutrements
  • Shrine: workshop for repairing or creating weapons, religious items and tools, divination room inscribed with runes and stocked with soothsaying implements, trophy room where art celebrating key figures from mythology are displayed
  • Tomb: chapel dedicated to the deities that watch over the dead and protect their resting places
  • Current state: Furniture wrecked but still present
  • Obstacles: Blade barrier, Flooding, Antilife aura (can’t regain HP)
  • Traps: hidden pit, steel or stone jaws that restrain, clanging noise that attracts attention
  • Tricks (pertaining to objects): contains an imprisoned creature, Confusion targeting all creatures within 10 ft, Induces greed

NPC

  • Gnoll
  • Deep Gnome
  • Drow

Other rewards

  • Blessing of Valhalla
  • Charm of animal conjuring
  • Boon of immortality

I don’t need to use every thing on this list but will try to include as much as I can. 

What are your thoughts? What kind of adventure would you make out of these elements?

My initial idea:

Medusa is the primary monster and the thing the players have been sent to destroy. I imagine the adventure starts at a broken planar gate. Perhaps it’s been forgotten; the last surviving member of the order tasked to keep the medusa from escaping is dying and seeks help. There is a puzzle to fix the gate to get access, with clues in the classroom and armoury about what faces them and maybe some weapons that help. I will put the Iron flask here as a way to contain the medusa. However, it already contains a creature.

Through the gate is Medusa’s prison. It’s nice, but she is short tempered and has wrecked some areas in a rage. She has a workshop deeper in the area where the folding boat can be found. Medusa will bargain for her freedom; she has the cape and if the players refuse to set her free, she will use it to escape and release the doppelgangers to hunt the party. The party will find the stone remnants of the NPCs (Gnoll, Deep Gnome and Drow) around the prison area. The area is trapped with things that aid the medusa’s hunt. 

Upon killing the medusa, the deity of the protection order bestows a blessing of Valhalla – they can call forth the fallen warriors to aid them in battle in the future. If they agree to set the Medusa free she will backstab the party so anyone who knew about her prison is dead and she can never be made to go back there.

Next, I will sketch a quick layout of the various parts of the adventure without worrying too much about space yet. The adventure will change quite significantly from my initial idea as I start laying it out and get a better idea of how the elements fit together.

This is the side of the gate still on the material plane. A hero of the order of Aegis is petrified in the main entrance hall, and I have the idea for the puzzle to open the gate mostly worked out.

On the other side of the gate is Medusa’s prison. The petrified NPCs are now members of the order who did not survive Medusa’s last escape attempt. 

Next, I will get the adventure text written. I will try to be as concise as I can, but this will definitely need revision once I start laying it out on the page. 

When I know how much text I have and how it divides up into sections, I sketch out a couple of ideas for layout. There is an ancient Greek theme here, so I tried to include something Greek to structure the adventure.

Now that I have an idea of what I want the page to look like, I will move into GIMP (a free version of Photoshop) to put everything together. I’m going to try streaming the process on Twitch Monday July 26th and Tuesday the 27th so drop in and see how the adventure is shaping up!

1 comment on “Making a One Page Dungeon

  1. Pingback: 2021 One Page Dungeon Entry: Medusa’s Prison – Roar Cat Reads

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