Friday, August 9, 2013

My Attempt At Telecanter's Visual Dungeon Challenge

Yesterday, as his 999th post, Telecanter issued the following challenge:
Make a one page dungeon that uses only images
and visual devices. No words. No abbreviations.
I think the challenge is interesting, and it did give me an opportunity to come back from my recent slacking and get some new things posted to this blog. I think the format has both disadvantages and advantages. As for the former: 1) it's hard to do anything too complex for fear of being misunderstood/misinterpreted, 2) #1 seems to drive the content toward familiar clichés, and 3) it feels a little cookie cutter (but maybe that's because I didn't spend too long trying to push the format). As for the latter: 1) it really leaves a lot of things open to interpretation by the DM, and 2) it really does allow flexibility for strength and number of monsters, as well as type and amount of treasure.

I think mine (at bottom of post) is particularly stripped down from Telecanter's intention, since I have absolutely no stats included. But honestly, if you've run enough zombies, rats, bats, and spiders, you can wing it (even if you don't remember exact ACs for example).

What I really miss not having in this format is the detail. Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, but there are some times when I'd rather have the perfect three or four words, than the other 997 or 997. It was a fun exercise, and something I may re-attempt in the future, but I'm much more of a fan of the single-page format. But maybe that's because it's much easier to do something with only the most minimal of visual needs (like my Tomb of Ludor single-pager).


  1. This is the first I've come across this challenge, but the first thing I wondered was: If you use more evocative imagery, do you get more subtle and interesting results?

    e.g., a specific rat image might suggest something subtle and clever as a way for a GM to use the rats... Like if the rat image were a photo or illustration of drooling rats, you might have the idea pop into your head "rats that spit acid!", rather than just a simple "there are rats here", which could be ho-hum, or repeat previously-played rat encounters.

    Telecanter's own example is pretty simple, but there's nothing in his rules that say, for instance, that you have to use silhouettes...

  2. I completely agree. I was already thinking about some of those things (after I completed this one). I think I hopped on the bus before I thought about where I wanted to go (the challenge was only issued yesterday). I think I may take an additional crack at a new one of these with those kinds of thoughts in mind (more ambiguous, more evocative, more open to interpretation). I know they don't have to be silhouettes, but I do love the look of them. I think the above attempt ended up being just too... "literal."

  3. Sihouettes have power, do doubt. But it's like the pedestrian figure on the sign walking across the street -- it doesn't suggest that you could *dance* across the street, too. You know instantly what the symbol is, but it doesn't suggest anything more than it's basic intent.

    And in the GMing game, novel ideas are the currency.

    I suppose grouping two or more silhouettes that don't obviously go together could also evoke unique responses from multiple GMs... Like rolling Rory's Story Cubes and having to interpret what they mean together.

  4. I like the dice silhouettes
    ... and the grand piano.

    (oh wait, ... books)

  5. Cool beans! Here are some thoughts:

    It's interesting that you went with a vertical map, which is certainly much easier to show depth relationships than my shades of grey.

    I'm not sure what the dice mean. Does the number of dice represent the number of creatures and the type of dice their hit die type?

    The keys are interesting because like with JDJarvis' I'm curious which key goes to which lock. Or are they all interchangeable?

    As for the restriction of just being visual, I think there is a common assumption that this visual stuff: the map, the relation of the rooms to each other, is all very easy and it's the details of what's in rooms that matters. But there can be important information cooked in to the map too. For example. It looks like almost half of this dungeon is hidden behind a secret door (that's what the dotted lines are, right?). And if the players need the key in the deepest cave to get to the vampire, but never find it, that could be problematic.

    Or something I noticed about players choosing paths in the dungeon (door priority, I call it). So, if my players came to a room with just two doors and one led to a room full of webs but the other didn't, I'm pretty sure they would leave the webs alone at first. So as a DM it seems pretty likely they'll explore that spur of the dungeon. Maybe the key at the end of that is the vital one.

    Hmm, I wonder if it would be good to hear from folks "This is what I really wanted to include but couldn't find a way to." I guess you did that when you mentioned details, but I'm not sure what exactly you mean by details. Maybe monster reactions to certain player actions? Or setting description? I'll look back over the tomb you linked to see what you included there. Thanks for sharing!