One Page Dungeons

05 Nov

I don’t hear much about One Page Dungeons these days.

They’re still out there and the annual One Page Dungeon Contest continues to rock along each year, but there seems to be less attention on them than there used to be. For a while you couldn’t open your RSS feed without seeing posts discussing the format or showing off the latest offering. Maybe that’s the way of things, maybe everything worth saying has already been said.

Still, the OSR is all about revisiting the past, including its own.

When One Page Dungeons first showed up on the scene these small adventures had a big impact, and with good reason. They demonstrated that you could strip a module down to the essentials without draining away the sense of adventure. In many ways they represent a lot of the Old School Renaissance’s attitudes; do it yourself, less is more, and unburdening creativity through simplifying.

I was skeptical of the format at first, they seemed too small. I still have big dungeons stuck in my imagination, the kind we ran back in school where we’d play for eight hours every weekend. However the flexibility of the format won me over thanks in no small part to three particular adventures.

The first One Page Dungeon that made an impact on me was Dungeon From a Distant Star by Stuart Robertson. This fantastic (in every sense of the word) pay-what-you-want adventure shows the amount of creativity and fun you can pack into a single page, presenting a game suitable not just for D&D retro-clones, but any genre you want to toss a little sci-fi into, from Mutant Futures to Delta Green. It’s perfect to pull out for a one shot game and it will present your players with a truly alien realm to explore and dangerous challenges to face. I used Dungeon From a Distant Star for my first session of Stars Without Number and it was perfect both for letting me get a handle on the session and for setting the stage for my players.

The next offering that won me over is Dyson’s DelveThis “mini-megadungeon” is the product of the OSR’s Patron Saint of Maps, Dyson Logos, who literally took the format to the next level. Taking advantage of their compact nature Dyson stacked them on top of each other creating an 11 level dungeon crawl. Dyson’s Delve is a free offering and there is plenty of adventure packed into it’s tight space. Dyson’s Delve would be excellent for sporadic games or as a good sized secondary site in a campaign with a tentpole dungeon.

The triumph of the One Page Dungeon format is realized in Michael Curtis’ spectacular Stonehell Dungeon. While it does not use the One Page format in its pure form, the influence is clear. Stonehell is my favorite of the new megadungeons and a great deal of why is the innovative presentation that has its roots firmly planted in the One Page format. To get a glimpse of Stonehell take a look at the free sample, Level 1A: Hell’s AntichamberMy love for Stonehell runs deep, as deep as the dungeon itself will be once volume two comes out.

Which I’m waiting for.

Patiently. See how patient I am?

We wantsssss it. Precioussss megadungeon….

The One Page Dungeon format has several advantages. It allows a DM to pack a lot of game in a little space. They’re good for quick pickup games or to seed adventure sites through a hexcrawl region. They can be built on to make larger games or left to stand on their own. They’re also great to mine for ideas, letting the DM pick up gems from different sources to drop into their own dungeons. The One Page Dungeon format is also accessible, particularly for a novice DM, by allowing him or her to focus on getting the essentials onto the page.

Have you seen any new One Page Dungeons that you really liked? Any old ones that captured your imagination? I’d love to hear about them.

Dungeon Distant Star Cover


Posted by on November 5, 2014 in Fantasy, Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming


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3 responses to “One Page Dungeons

  1. mikemonaco

    November 5, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    Of all the OSR modules and whatnot out there, the OPDs are by the most useful, IMO. I have run many a session when I had no prep time with no more than an OPD. The lack of detail and back story is a good thing for me.
    I think with the contest, there was tipping point in 2012 where the entries were getting to be so professional-looking that by 2014 I was a little embarrassed to enter such a crude entry. Not a bad thing but maybe the prizes upped the ante too much? IDK, I shouldn’t be complaining that these free dungeons are too high quality, huh?

    • Fractalbat

      November 5, 2014 at 7:16 PM

      Yup, people have definitely upped their game on production. Which is cool.

      Any that really stand out for you that you’ve run? Or want to run?


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