Thursday, February 25, 2016

Third Time's a Charm: One Page Dungeon Contest

Thanks to the kindness of All-Around Cool Cat Random Wizard, I will be one of the judges again this year for the One Page Dungeon Contest. This will be my third time being a judge, so hopefully I'm getting the hang of it by now. I'd like to thank good old RW for this opportunity, and also thank the other judges (several of whom are also returning from last year, as well as a brand new judge this year) for their time and effort in coordinating and judging the event. It actually is quite a bit of work, but it's "fun" work and really idea-inspiring.

I've written a few columns here on the blog about the One Page Dungeon Contest - here are a few of the more relevant ones for people who are planning to submit an entry in this year's contest or just wanted to learn more about the contest itself.

  • My Judging Criteria for 2014
    • My thoughts on the things I was looking for when judging for the first time
  • The Other Judges' Criteria for 2014
    • I interviewed many of the other judges of the 2014 contest via email to find out what their criteria was and why they chose the winners they chose
    • Coincidentally, this has been one of the most viewed posts on my blog, partly because Random Wizard has linked to it from the official One Page Dungeon Contest webpage
  • My Thoughts on the 2015 Contest
    • This is mainly an overview of "Why Do We Need a One Page Dungeon Contest" wherein I chat about what I like about the contest and why I think it's "important"

One thing I never really got around to doing last year was recapping my thoughts on the entries in 2015 and how they were different from 2014. I keep all of my judging notes in Evernote so I was able to go back and look at what I said. Here were my topline thoughts on the contest as a whole in 2015:

  • Spelling and grammar are much better this year than last year - HUGE improvement
    • However - some work needs to be done on "it's" versus "its"
  • Layouts so far have been better for the most part - not as many "wall of text" entries
  • Some layouts though are just too clever for their own sake - it's very important to use a legible font and to not have such a dark background that the font can't be read.
    • This was a big problem this year for many entries
    • [This is a new note I'm writing as I write this post on the blog, but there was one specific entry last year that was hand-drawn and the design was so difficult to read that I ended up not being able to actually read it, so I couldn't even score it. I felt horrible and I tried so many different ways - I printed it out, I enlarged it on my screen, I viewed it on my large monitor (32")... nothing worked. PLEASE have a friend, or better yet, someone who knows NOTHING about RPGs look at your entry before you turn it in to make sure it's legible, to catch spelling and grammatical errors, etc.]
  • A few entries this year that aren't actually adventures - more like board/card games that don't rely on any kind of player or character skill
  • These should ideally be "pick up and play" not "here are some rough notes for you to spend hours fleshing out to run."
  • A nice looking map with just a list of some random encounters is not a "dungeon"
  • The map should not be an "after-thought" - in a one page scenario, the map should really be more prominent
  • Lots of mini-campaign settings (essentially just a setting idea, an overview/summary, and a map - that's not an adventure that a DM can just run on a moment's notice)
  • Adventures should at least mention a rough idea of party level/experience (low-level, beginner, average, advanced, etc.)

I have notes like that for every single adventure - for a peak into how I picked my winners as well as the judging process for me and the other judges, you can watch an interview that we recorded on Google Plus last year after the contest was over. All of the judges used a fairly similar process to picking the winners, but to differing degrees (I score mine on a basis of "Yes," "Maybe," and "No" on the first round, then I go back and re-read all of my "Maybes" and "Yes" qualifiers and start narrowing them down to pick my Top 10, whereas other judges actually assign numerical scores for a variety of things like layout, theme, map, etc. and then weight the scores to get a total). 

Anyone out there planning to enter this year's contest? Have you participated in the past (Kelvin, I know you have!).

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: 2010 Bordeaux, Lafite Barons de Rothschild Collection
Listening: "Star People" by Blue Six

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