Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Information and it's Layout

I think I've shown off this Dire Boar Den three to four times now, but it's my guinea pig and I think I've finally gotten it where I want it. It seems really easy for a boar den to end up being a bore den, and I figure that if I can pull off someplace normal in an interesting and useful way, then pulling off something more exotic will be easier. We'll see!
To breakdown my thought/idea process these are the things I like and want to stick to in some way when it comes to presenting a dungeon:
  1. The idea of the one page dungeon
  2. Room descriptions should be immediately useable at the table with no prep
  3. Remember that it's a living, breathing place. It doesn't spring to life when the party enters the room. The world doesn't give a fuck about your party.
  4. Set their brain on fire. Help the DM see not just what's there, but what's not there, and what could be there, and how the presence or absence of a thing can potentially be immediately relevant to both the gaming session and the campaign as a whole.
How'd it end up? Download the PDF and check it out.

The idea of the one page dungeon - The idea of the one page dungeon is great. It's sparked a ton of creativity (as each year's contests have shown), but I personally feel that instead of one page it should be one page spread. This way the map can get a page and the key can get a page. Also, if you're approaching it as a book by making it a one page spread, everything the DM sees is related to the place currently being explored.

Room descriptions should be immediately useable at the table with no prep. I haven't had anyone not directly involved in the project attempt to run the Dire Boar den yet, so my execution of this may crumble more quickly than I imagine. I don't think it will though since all the descriptions are about the fixed and not the mutable. I think I also managed to distill it down to the core elements and present them cleanly. My only real worry is if subscript information is too small to read. Just gonna have to test it out!

Remember that it's a living, breathing place. I can tell you where a monster lairs, and I should, but it shouldn't be presented as some sort of guaranteed encounter. That can all stay in the realm of video games thank you very much. Just because the dire boar is "home" doesn't mean it automatically at a specific, pre-determined location within its lair. It could be sleeping, or sharpening its tusks or trying to remove irritants from its hide, or rutting for truffles, or running in a big circle. This is what led to the "What's happening in the den?" table. I went with a 3d6 table because of its associated bell curve (not all situations should have an equal chance of occurring imo, and common/uncommon/rare is great when it comes to exploration/replayability). The table's also a great way to plant ideas into the head of the DM of what happens *after* the party kills the area's inhabitant.

Set their brain on fire. Easier said that done of course. Ideally the map and key themselves will do this all on their own, but to help the map has another page spread containing an illustration directly related to the location and an "overview" that's no longer than a page and attempts to do nothing more than put the map and key into a broader context.

If anyone reading this has any feedback, please sound off in the comments or hit me up on G+!


  1. Subscript is difficult to focus on. The typographical changes are too numerous for a clean paragraph.

    1. Thanks Lee! I'm definitely check out some other options with that. After letting it cool of overnight it does look a bit busy. Appreciate it :)

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  3. Neat idea. Excellent graphics. Areas 6 and 7 are switched (map location/description). 3D6 tables start at 3 (not 1), unless there's some negative situational modifier not mentioned. Nit-pick: intelligent creatures (ie. pirates) render the loot locations moot.

  4. I really dig the format myself, though Jim is right about the table. And the sketch-work and cartography are beautiful as well. Very well done I must say. I'll be following along to see what else you are up to.