Digest Format: What's the appeal?

squeen

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
I might be running a one-off game this Friday, and thought I'd try either Hole in the Oak or The Mere Beneath from the "Saving Throw" fundraiser magazine. When I went to print the former, I discovered it was digest (A5) format! Ack!

I noticed the new Swords & Wizardry boxed set is also digest format.

What is the reason behind the surge in popularity of this awkward format?
I understand you can "fold-your-own", but it seriously goes against the grain for density of information.

No? Just me?
 

DangerousPuhson

Should be playing D&D instead
Convenience at the table, mostly. One less giant book to haul around.

I can see the appeal of it, but personally I'm with you vis-à-vis info density.
 

grodog

*eyeroll*
More importantly from my POV, a digest-sized map is basically useless in terms of the areas/space covered, assuming the full two-page spread isn't used instead for the maps.

I loathe one page dungeon formats too for their tiny maps.

If you run Mere Beneath, I'm definitely curious to hear how it goes! I've been working up more of the Mephitic Geysers of the Intaglio Rift so that I have it avialable when I insert Mere Beneath into my Greyhawk campaign sandbox.

Allan.
 

squeen

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Yeas. One pages are just a curiosity for me---nothing attracts me too them other than the innovation of adding more data than pure numbers to the DM's map.

I like a nice Tabloid-sized 2-page map (or at least facing Letter-sized pages) for the overview and then smaller inset maps near the keyed text.

The map in The Mere Beneath is very attractive. I absorbed the dungeon topology at a glance, and it immediately drew me to the product. If I end up running it Friday, I will post some feedback. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too high a level for my intended players. We'll see.

All in all, you guys did a wonderful thing with the Saving Throw magazine.
 
Last edited:

grodog

*eyeroll*
Yeas. One pages are just a curiosity for me---nothing attracts me too them other than the innovation of adding more data than pure numbers to the DM's map.
Agreed, the map utility there is definitely high, but actually having the entire map and key text on a single sheet probably reduces the requirement for a highly-usabile map compared to a standard multi-page module's map, due to the immediate proximity of the content and the map.

For my Iounic Caverns map, I've been redesigning and expanding the level, but I'm also planning to publish it on an inside cover of the module, so it'll be an 11x17 rendering of the 8.5x11 map. I'm hoping that size increase will offer sufficient sheet space to provide more on-map detailing, better color differentiation, more granular door symbols, etc.:



(Original-size at http://greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle_grodog_level-worked-caverns2-02.jpg if you want a closer look).

The map in The Mere Beneath is very attractive. I absorbed the dungeon topology at a glance, and it immediately attracted me to the product. If I end up running it Friday, I will post some feedback. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too high a level for my intended players. We'll see.

All in all, you guys did a wonderful thing with the Saving Throw magazine.
Thank you, it was a lot of fun to work on. Guy took one of my level maps and hacked a big chunk of it out, then I retouched the caverns area, which he then folded in the final map. I'm really looking forward to the print version of the book being available (perhaps at GaryCon if we're lucky!) =)

Allan.
 

Grützi

Should be playing D&D instead
grodog said:
I loathe one page dungeon formats too for their tiny maps.
squeen said:
Yeas. One pages are just a curiosity for me---nothing attracts me too them other than the innovation of adding more data than pure numbers to the DM's map.
As I am right now finishing up the last bits of my submission to DPs One-Page contest I'm curious to hear what you think about the wilderness map I drew for it?
Karte Splendor jpg.jpg

Instead of drawing a map and putting the descriptions elsewhere I tried to let the descriptions BE the map.
Thoughts?
The map will take up about 1/6 of a roughly letter sized paper.

@DP: Hope posting this here is Ok. the map won't change for the contest ;) I will probably get this done on saturday and upload it then.

As for the original topic:
I own some zines in Digest format ... Megadungeon, the Mothership system + Adventures and so on.
It is not that big a dealbreaker for me, but the smaller size makes it harder to put maps and the like in ... so i can see that this qould be an issue for some.
Then again I DMed some good Mothership adventures and the small size makes it easier to get everyhting organized at the table.
 
Last edited:

squeen

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Grutzi: That map is innovative as all heck...

...but I'm a bit too conservative in my love of cartagraphy to lean that way.

Ignore me. Keep pushing the envelope man!
 

EOTB

Should be playing D&D instead
Digest isn't my preferred format either. 'Zines have that format built into the name, but I prefer full-size for other than articles.
 

grodog

*eyeroll*
As I am right now finishing up the last bits of my submission to DPs One-Page contest I'm curious to hear what you think about the wilderness map I drew for it?
Instead of drawing a map and putting the descriptions elsewhere I tried to let the descriptions BE the map.
Thoughts?
I like the concept a lot---sort of mix of a picture poem and a map key.

It is not that big a dealbreaker for me, but the smaller size makes it harder to put maps and the like in ... so i can see that this qould be an issue for some.
That's my primary gripe with them: they propagate small dungeon designs. I've toyed with entering a full-sized dungeon level map but without shrinking the map image there's not a good way to allow for space for even minimal keying. (Which hasn't prevented me from continuing to ponder that as an option/format).

Allan.
 

Melan

*eyeroll*
I quite like digest-sized products. As a customer, they are easy to print and bind using a home printer/stapler, and handy at the table due to their smaller space requirements. As a publisher, they are post-friendly, and do not get bent into odd shapes so often during transit.

I am not sure they really affect dungeon design. Certainly not mine.
 

grodog

*eyeroll*
I quite like digest-sized products. As a customer, they are easy to print and bind using a home printer/stapler, and handy at the table due to their smaller space requirements. As a publisher, they are post-friendly, and do not get bent into odd shapes so often during transit.

I am not sure they really affect dungeon design. Certainly not mine.
I thought about your work and why it doesn't bother me like one-page dungeon formats do, Gabor. I think part of it is that while you're able to shrink a map to fit to the digest size very well, with the maps still being easy to read, etc. (or you just draw them natively at a small size, perhaps?)---and I'm thinking of ones like the Smuggler's Walk below Gont or The Gallery of Rising Tombs as good examples here---you still convey a great sense of scale and depth in your maps, and despite the digest-format page size, your levels are not tiny little affairs by any means.

Allan.
 

Melan

*eyeroll*
Well, one-page dungeons are a cute gimmick that got taken as gospel and turned into a creative straightjacket. I don't think they are much to discuss.

I draw my maps in standard size on regular (A4) printer paper, so shrinking them has been a concern - but so far, most have been able to read them. It may help that they are not in a busy or over-dense style, so they stay legible at a relatively small scale. One of the cases where simplicity trumps flourish.
 

DangerousPuhson

Should be playing D&D instead
Well, one-page dungeons are a cute gimmick that got taken as gospel and turned into a creative straightjacket. I don't think they are much to discuss.
Debatable, and I plan to debate.

Creativity varies from author to author, and I've seen some one-page dungeons with more creativity in them than some 50-page modules. I'll admit you sacrifice some creative space to accommodate, but really all the OPD format does is tip the scale more towards ease-of-use by eliminating page-flipping, cross-indexing, needless details, etc. It's meant to be used situationally - if you have a dungeon/adventure that can be communicated on one page, then it should be. If not, then it shouldn't. Problem is, most authors don't know where to draw the line.

As for "taken as gospel"... Where? By whom? I only ever see them in that famed One-Page Dungeon Contest... was DTRPG being flooded with them or something? Was Matt Coleville or Matt Mercer (or whatever game evangelical is in vogue right now) preaching the format in some form of super-dorky sermon on the mount?
 

Melan

*eyeroll*
DangerousPuhson: I have previously written on this at length, so here is the digest-sized (one-page!) version.

Certainly, the hoary chestnut of"creative terseness" is a useful design principle. Like every principle, it turns limiting when it becomes dogma. The one-page format, in particular, is sufficient for lair-sized dungeons, but it simply does not have sufficient space to accommodate creative complexity. Either breadth or depth will have to be sacrificed. Most of the one-page dungeons I have seen are either inconsequential, or lacking in creative fibre. They are terse but not expressive. They usually have no colour, and no challenges beyond the elementary.

(I will not go into another popular strand of the same trend, which combines a fancy illustration with a bare minimum of content - these are not real adventures per se, they are "adventure simulacra", the detritus of the geekosphere.)

Has it been taken as gospel in some quarters? Yes. I have seen many efforts to produce one-page dungeons, or distill dungeons down to the barest bits of text, on both blogs and DriveThruRPG (I don't review them, because there is nothing to review). In most of these cases, the form defeats the function. I have seen fewer attempts to use the idea less dogmatically - as the "facing spread" style, or in - God forbid! - three-, even five-page dungeons, even though these would be a better overall concept to follow. In this sense, I see it as a creative dead end.

That said, the next issue of my zine has two mini-adventures in it, and I managed to distill one into a one-pager with a bit of juggling. Here are the results, for your convenience (see attachment). I think it is neat and playable. But I also think it is limited by the format. It is a side dish, not a full course. You will come away hungry if this is all there is on the table.
 

Attachments

DangerousPuhson

Should be playing D&D instead
I'm aware of the limitations of the medium, but I'd hardly call it dogmatic to the field. OPD's are one-offs (hence the format); there's no slavish loyalty to the format, there's no mass push of OPD products, and there's no cannibalism of the industry. OPDs are to the RPG industry what candy bars are to the food industry - easy snacks, but never considered a full meal by anyone, and certainly not revered as the gold standard.
 

squeen

My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
I think there was a period---about 10 years ago---when uber-minimalism was placed on a pedestal in the (social-media) OSR movement (before its "Death" as per Melan).

@Melan: Thanks for sharing your one-pager. You are insanely prolific!
 
Top