Tuesday, August 27, 2019

2019 One Page Dungeon Contest: Part 3 - Comments on the Winning Entries (#11 - #20)

This is a continuation of my comments and notes regarding the winning entries for the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest. Part 1 discussed my approach to scoring, and in Part 2 I commented on the Top 10 winning entries. This part will focus on the #11 - #20 ranked entries. As a bonus, at the bottom, I provide two drink recipes for some stuff I drank at night while I was judging some of the entries.

As a reminder, these are my thoughts/scores only and don't reflect those of the other judges. Also, any critiques pointed out below are not intended to call anyone out or say that anyone did anything wrong, but as general advice and pointers for people looking to enter the contest in the future. All of the judges' scores are different: Out of my Top 10 scores, only half actually made it into the "official" Top 10 (although, due to ties, I had 12 "Top 10" adventures). Another four of mine Top 10 were ranked in the #11 - #20 spots, two were ranked between #20 and #30, and one of my Top 10 got an Honorable Mention (which I suspect means I was the only judge who voted for it, but I'm not sure). My point is that other judges will see things differently, and truth be told, if I were to go back and judge these today versus when I did, I might score the entries differently just based on how I felt that day. That's why I try to read every entry at least twice, and up to three times each, on different days, to make sure that I'm giving everyone a fair chance and that my fatigue or mood isn't a factor in the scoring.

Here's a look at the #11 - #20 entries:

  • Obolosk, "The Forgotten Abbey."
    • Although this just missed being in the Top 10 by averaging the scores of all of the judges, I actually ranked it higher, at #7 in my scoring. 
    • I gave this one a perfect score for Layout and also for my "Other" score (which as a reminder is a score that I give to really creative entries that just have something extra to them - I don't weight it that heavily in my rankings, but it makes a difference), and a near-perfect score in "Usefulness."
    • I gave this entry above average scores for Premise and Spelling/Grammar (there were a few spelling errors which ended up bringing down the overall score)
    • While it doesn't have a map in the traditional sense, I found the creative use of a deck of playing cards to create a dungeon on-the-fly really fun and unique. It did take a while to get the hang of it at first, requiring more than one read-through to really get it, but once I did, I thought it was really original, and something that could be used pretty easily at the table "as is." 
  • Dylan Barker, "An Awakening at the Old Well." 
    • This is a fun adventure that could be run pretty quickly with little prep on the part of the DM
    • I liked the map and accompanying drawings quite a bit, which helped the Layout get a good score from me
    • One thing that threw me off about this was remnants of the diary - there was an intriguing clue written in it, but it never seemed to really pay off elsewhere in the adventure. While the intent may have been to have the DM fill in those details him-or-herself, even a short line of "The DM can fill in the details" or something like that would have made it obvious for a first-time DM that this particular clue needs fleshing out. 
  • Stephen Thompson, "Cross My Heart, Hope to Die."
    • This was another of my top-scoring entries (I ranked it #3 in my scores)
    • I gave this one a perfect score for Spelling/Grammar and really high scores for Premise, Layout, and Usefulness, and high-above average scores for Map and Characters. 
    • One thing that I did mention in my "notes" section was that the layout was way too crowded with text (I really dislike "wall of text" entries, which fortunately are much less common than they were when I first started judging the contest), but the crowded text with this entry, combined with the background image on the margins does make it a little difficult to read, and on reflection I could have dinged it a bit more on the Layout, but overall I think what could help is just a slightly darker colored font - it's just a little too light and that makes reading difficult
    • I loved the use, and explanation, of skill checks and how to apply them in the game - that kind of stuff is really useful for first-time DMs
    • My scoring on this is a perfect example of how my weighting of the different categories affects things - although this one only received one "perfect" 10/10 score in my rankings, enough of the other categories received 7's or 8's and that drove the weighted score up to #3 overall. 
  • Eshan Mitra, "The Mad Artificer's Invention."
    • I liked the map and thought the illustrations for this entry had a fun kind of charm to them, and I gave it top marks for Spelling/Grammar.
    • There's a lot of info in this and some of it is a bit complex (not in a bad way - it's just different from standard adventures, which can be a good thing), and I thought that a different layout could have been used to convey the information in a more clear way. 
    • The above was what caused me to rank this a bit lower - it's not something that can be picked up and run immediately without a lot of prep work, but the layout and design don't help a novice DM with doing that. 
  • Vance Atkins, "Now and When."
    • This was one of my top-scoring entries, earning a perfect score for Spelling/Grammar and very high scores for categories like the Premise, the Layout, and the Usefulness.
    • I really liked the time travel idea, which can be really fun, especially for a one-off adventure. 
    • I also liked the random time-travel effects table - there were some unique and fun ideas on there. 
    • Overall, I mentioned in my notes that the adventure could use "a little more polish" and it would have scored even higher. An example of that would have been to blow out the time travel effects table to include even more entries, with crazier time-travel ideas. 
  • David and Lauren Schirduan, "Broken Factory."
    • In my notes I mentioned that this was "fun, creative, and different." 
    • High marks for Spelling/Grammar and the Premise, and above-average scores for Layout, Map, and Usefulness
    • I liked how different this was, and also small details like notes on how to "fix" any broken parts, and including different combinations of "fixes" such as combat, feats of strength, or engineering knowledge. 
  • Luke Le Moignan, "Shub Rhadaman."
    • I loved so much about this - in my notes I wrote, "suitably evocative imagery, good descriptions, creative characters/encounters, etc." 
    • This one received perfect scores from me for "Spelling/Grammar" and "Other" and really high scores in Premise and Characters.
    • What hurt the score (from my scoring) was both the Layout, which was usable but quite utilitarian in contrast to how creative the content was, and also the lack of a Map. I realize it takes place on a train, but having an image of the train would have helped break up the text, which in turn would have probably increased the visual appeal of the entire adventure (and raised the Layout score) and also would help a novice DM be able to run the adventure quickly at the table without needing to search online for an appropriate map to use. 
  • Benjamin Rowe, "What Lies Beneath the Well."
    • This was another entry that made my "Top 10" based on its weighted score. 
    • While I didn't give this entry a perfect score in any particular category, it got a near-perfect score in one category and in three others it had a very high score, and using my weighted average, that was enough to raise it to a top-10 spot in my rankings. 
    • I liked the Premise of this a lot, as well as the Layout, the Map, and the Spelling/Grammar was also good. 
    • In my notes I mentioned that it had a really good premise (although the wizard's motivation was a little lacking), and that I liked the map and the illustrations. I also noted that a numbering system could help a novice DM be able to navigate the adventure better - not that it would be run in order, but just to help tell the different encounters apart when making notes, etc. 
  • Roger SG Sorolla, "Yesterday's Dungeon... Tomorrow." 
    • This entry has a really fun, creative premise and I gave it a high score for that category in my judging. 
    • I love the fun of time-travel adventures and Roger's execution on the theme was good. 
    • I gave this a perfect score for Spelling/Grammar.
    • I thought the descriptions were pretty well done and would make it pretty easy to run this at the table.  
    • What brought the scoring down a little bit, for me, was the layout. It's pretty good but could use a bit of improvement. I felt the map could have been bigger, but one thing that jumped out to me at the time, as well as again just now when reviewing this again, were the different names of all the different NPCs that are kind of just buried in the layout, making it difficult to read back and find out the details for each NPC. A short table with the different names and a description of who they are would have helped a lot for a DM to keep track of who everybody is. 
  • Wordman, "The Gold Canals of Irid's Vault"
    • I liked the Layout of this one, and also I gave it a perfect score for Spelling/Grammar 
    • The map is pretty good, but some of it is very small and hard to read or count the number of squares without increasing the size quite a bit
    • Overall, the concept is pretty good and it has some fun, creative ideas. 
    • For me what brought the score down was the limited information on the guards/adversaries (there's just one line mentioning that they have to be things tough enough to survive in the environment), and very limited information regarding the creator of the Vaults. 
    • Additionally, some basic set-up to get an adventuring group to the Vaults would be helpful for a novice DM, as well as some rough level guidelines. 

Some Drink Recipes
Long-time readers know that when I post, I usually include a note about where I am, what I'm listening to, and what I'm drinking. My personal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are full of updates on what beers or wines I'm drinking or what cocktails I'm making while listening to whatever new vinyl I've picked up. When I tweeted about my judging the 2019 One Page Dungeon Contest, I mentioned two drinks that I made (one alcoholic, one not). Here are some recipes for you - these are really easy but can be used as a starting point to experiment with different infusions and homemade syrups if you get interested in that. 

  • Cold Brew Coffee Old Fashioned
    • Description: 
      • Many people think of an Old Fashioned as the name of a specific drink with bourbon, but it's not. It's actually a style of drink, and the proper name would be "An Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail." It's "old-fashioned" because it's how people way back used to order this specific style of drink if they didn't want any of the "new-fangled" ingredients that were being starting to be used in mixed drinks, such as Vermouth and other fortified wines. 
      • An Old Fashioned Cocktail is simply just a base spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. That's it. Maybe you add some kind of citrus twist if you're feeling fancy. And, you can make it with any spirit you want (an Old Fashioned Gin Cocktail is delicious, as is one with Tequila, for example). 
      • For this version, I subbed out the spirit for something that would help keep me more alert while I was judging. Also, rather than muddling a sugar cube with bitters and water (the traditional method), I chose to use a syrup because it incorporates quicker. 
    • Ingredients: 
      • 2 oz Cold Brew Coffee (ideally chilled already)
      • 0.25 - 0.5 oz homemade Rich Vanilla Syrup (depending on how sweet you want it)*
      • 2 dashes bitters (I used some homemade Chocolate-Cinnamon Bitters that I made, but you can use Angostura if that's all you have, or some kind of Orange Bitters would also help brighten it up a bit)
      • An orange
      • Ice
    • Equipment:
      • An Old Fashioned or Rocks Glass (or any short, but wide stubby glass)
      • Spoon
      • Vegetable peeler or a small pairing knife 
    • Method:
      • Add the bitters, syrup, and coffee into your glass, with ice (ideally one big cube or sphere if you have those; otherwise, just use whatever kind of ice you have in your freezer, but remember that the more ice you use, the longer it will take the ice to melt and diffuse your drink) and stir until well-chilled (depending on the kind of ice you're using, but about 20-30 revolutions should suffice)
      • Cut a thick peel of orange (not a slice - you don't want the flesh) and squeeze it gently over the drink to spray the oils across the top, then rub the peel across the rim of the glass and drop it in. 
    • * Homemade Rich Vanilla Simple Syrup
      • Combine 1 cup of sugar (you can use regular white granulated sugar but in my case I used Turbinado sugar; Demerara would also be good) with a half-cup of water in a small sauce pan and heat very gently until the sugar dissolves (you don't want it to boil), stirring constantly. 
      • Take off the heat and add one split vanilla bean and let it steep until the syrup cools. 
      • Remove the vanilla bean and strain the syrup through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into a glass jar with a seal (I use small flip-top bottles but a mason jar also works well). 
      • Make sure to label your syrup (masking tape and a Sharpie work great) and also date it - it will last between 2-4 weeks, but keep an eye out for floating mold once you pass the 2-week mark. 
  • Coffee-Infused Averna Amaro
    • Description: 
      • Averna Amaro is an Italian amaro, which is a bitter herbal liqueur. An amaro is a category, not a brand name, and while it specifically only refers to Italian drinks of this kind, other countries do make them (but they're called something different in those cases). 
      • This category of drinks is traditionally consumed neat after dinner as a digestif, but they are gaining popularity with bartenders for us in cocktails. 
      • Amaros come in a wide variety of different styles (light, medium, Fernet, Vermouth, China, Rhabarbaro, etc.), usually with an alcohol content of 16% - 40%. 
      • Averna falls into the "Medium" category. with an alcohol content of 29% and produced from a recipe created in Sicily in 1868. It's normally described as thick, sweet, and herbally bitter. 
      • I infused a bottle with whole coffee beans a while back to use in a riff on a deconstructed White Russian cocktail I created for a friend, and I had a bunch of the coffee-infused Averna left over, so I drank some one night while judging. 
    • Ingredients:
      • 1 750 ml bottle of Averna Amaro
      • 1/2 Cup of Whole Coffee Beans (experiment with different kinds based on what you like - dark roast, medium roast, etc. - I wouldn't use flavored beans, however - the artificial flavorings won't work well, and will most likely not even been noticeable given the bitterness of the Averna)
    • Equipment:
      • A large Mason jar or other non-reactive container with a tight-fitting lid
    • Method:
      • Pour the Averna into the jar and add the coffee beans. 
      • Cover and keep in a cool, dry place for at least 24 hours. 
      • After 24 hours, taste to determine if the coffee flavor is where you want it - you can continue doing this every 8 hours but I wouldn't let it go too much longer, as you'll start to strip out all of the really harsh, bitter parts of the coffee. 
      • Strain back into the bottle through a fine sieve, and make sure to label the bottle correctly so you don't accidentally mix it up with a regular bottle of Averna Amaro. 
    • Serving: 
      • I just drank mine neat while judging, but some people serve their Amaro with a citrus twist or a citrus wedge, on the rocks, or even with soda water. 
      • Averna Amaro is often used to make a "Black Manhattan," which swaps out the Sweet Vermouth for Averna Amaro. You can do the same thing with this coffee-infused version for a unique, coffee-inspired twist to a classic. 
Cheers! Stay tuned for my thoughts on the remaining winning entries in a future blog post, and please let me know your thoughts on the above entries, particularly if you entered this year's contest or if you have used any of these adventures in one of your gaming sessions. 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "Let It Flow (The Jazz Mix)" by Naoki Kenji
Drinking: Pasadena tap water


  1. Hi Martin,
    Thanks for your feedback on your process and reviews of the entrants - I really appreciate your insight (and it's in the back of my mind during the creation process). I'm psyched that you thought well of my entry, and yes, I need to up my random table game...

    1. Thanks so much for reading, and more importantly, for entering the contest this year. And, congrats on your Top 20 entry! That's something to be proud of, especially considering both the number and the quality of the entries this year.



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