New Year's Adventure Design Contest - "The One-Page Adventure"


Should be playing D&D instead

Any stragglers, get your shit together and up here now, because we about to pass judgement up in this bitch.

Anybody keen to be an associate judge? 2 volunteers would be ideal. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 so we can get an aggregated score.


Should be playing D&D instead
Malrex and terribleSorcery voluntered to judge as far als i can Tell. Might have to Check If the offer still Stands.


Should be playing D&D instead
Blade of the Barbarian by Two orcs

An official gauntlet of mettle for a magic sword, done up in a Viking theme. The atmosphere of this one is quite good - the characters are nicely rounded out (you come to hate Elding effortlessly, which I consider good character writing), the theme of the adventures fits the vibe, and overall everything just feels like a Viking ceremony.

Everything fits neatly to a page without feeling cramped - half is pre-amble and the other half is the actual tests, which I admire because it keeps the in-play stuff well separated from the out-of-play stuff (which can be tough for all-text entries). Unfortunately by squeezing it all into a single column, the tests feel... abbreviated... and there's no room for a wrap-up on what to do when the players win/lose the sword.

Speaking of length, this thing seems fairly short, which one expects for a 1-page adventure, but it seems like the sort of thing that would be hard to expand into a full session of play. Barring any duels, there's no combat in this adventure, which greatly shortens the runtime. This feels like something that got squeezed out by the format, as I can totally see some dickhead like Elding immediately challenging the party to a duel if he loses, or a trial by combat as one of the events (which is bizarrely omitted considering the prize is a warrior's sword... it's like holding a pie-eating contest where the prize is a formula-1 race car). Combat would have gone a long way to padding out the adventure, and it's bit jarring to see it missing.

I like the background and the characters, but the trials faced by the party are a bit hit-and-miss, especially the "informal" tests, whose consequences are muddled (they are a tie-breaker taken before the actual test, but that seems to be the only eventuality of their existence). The informal test of wisdom is a strange poetry recital with little in the way of metrics for determining a victor. The informal test of courage asks for a story about the most dangerous monster defeated by the party, but stipulates that without proof everyone will challenge the claim - so where's everyone else's proof? Also, unless your party are morbid enough to collect trophies from each kill they make, odds are good they won't have physical proof, and perhaps checks for Deception or Persuasion (or whatever system variant) could have been outlined.

Of the formal tests, I am not exactly "wowed". The first is just straight-up "who's got the best strength?" Nobody has STR 18? Well, nobody in the party is going to win the first test. In a way it slides the party towards cheating somehow, but the entourage of hulking brutes and consequences of doing so make it a last resort option, so it strikes me as just a loss the party will have to eat to progress. The test of wisdom is ok - a riddle, with a timer. Again though, if the party can't answer in 3 minutes, they lose. There doesn't seem to be considerations for runner-ups, even though the test apparently keeps going even after someone has already answered the riddle. The test of courage is a strange "lose HP but not really" type scenario where someone shoots arrows at you until you pull away. Again, this will heavily skew towards the person with the highest hit points, favoring certain character builds over others, but at least there's the random dice-roll element to level the playing field. Elding pulls out after 23 damage, so you just have to be able to sustain your own damage before some other guy sustains 23 damage (which would be wildly different difficulties depending on systems).

I have an issue with the sword. Thematically it fits; a shield-sundering weapon sounds very Viking, but it would probably be better as a two-handed weapon for a better sense of "legend" - "one-handed sword +2" seems less badass than a claymore or big-ass greataxe. The technical mumbo-jumbo around the sword seems extensive -

"may strike shield as if unarmored, sundering it with a snap (magic shields Save versus Death+bonus). The shieldbearer must Save versus Paralysis or their shield arm is permanently lamed."

Sounds cool, but again, doesn't really fit the modus operandi of a one-handed weapon, and requiring two saving throws for an attack sounds a little mechanically "wonky" to me.

All in all, the flavor and premise of this is good but the execution could be better (and I don't mean execution as a one-pager product, but rather the way in which the adventure plays out). Seems a bit short, content-wise. The sword prize could be better. Characters and environment are conveyed well. There's a little room for improvisation, and I'd wager it's expected, but it'd be nice to know where that flexibility is required.

Final Verdict: 6.5 out of 10


Should be playing D&D instead
The Cloak of Splendor by Grutzi

An abbreviated adventure locale around a the roost-dungeon of a Roc. This could use some design polish (unless you're a diehard fan of the "handcrafted" look), but has some interesting ideas. The story is pretty straightforward (stop the beast + rescue mission), and there seems to be just enough here to run a session or two without needing all the holes to be filled-in. Like Two orcs' entry, there's a distinct split between the background stuff and the at-table stuff, though this entry devotes more to play rather than to information.

FIrst, I'm impressed at how much Grutzi was able to jam into one page. You've got an overland map, a dungeon lair map, random encounter tables, a loot index, rumors, NPCs and stat blocks... all on just two-thirds of a single page, and surprisingly in a way that's not too difficult to read/use. There's a good splash of color to catch the eye, though the way the tables are all laid out, while functional, is not especially pleasing aesthetically.

The background is a bit long for what it is; in a one-pager, all space matters, and extraneous details the party will never encounter (most of the background) should probably be omitted. Same goes for the usual "you're the DM so feel free to change whatever you want" clause, which should be kept in "DM trainer" modules rather than on one-pagers. I did like the bit about weaknesses for the big bad boss though, and the timeline is appreciated since it's kept nice and compact. The lair stuff would be better-suited right next to the lair map for simplicity sake, and there could be a better differentiator used to show the difference between lair and overland stuff, but that's a small design gripe.

Let's talk about the overland map. It's done differently, and I don't know if I like it better or not. Essentially, descriptive words are used instead of geography, making a word-art map whose scale is delineated by color code. What I don't quite jive with is the scale: I assume "8 hours travel > full" in red areas means you go the full distance over 8 hours, and "1/3" in the brown areas means you travel only a third of your max distance in 8 hours, but I'm just assuming. It could also mean that you advance past all the sentences in the red area but only one sentence of area in the brown? This could be clearer. I understand the attempt to fuse mundane map shapes with descriptive text, but I don't think this quite nailed it.

The lair map is interesting, if a bit crude (magic markers - what can ya do?). Gruzi captured as much info on the map as possible, and it helps. At a glance you can see where enemies are, where treasure is, and get a good general vibe of the room, which bypasses the need for room keys - always a smart move in a one-pager. Little side routes like the one south of the factory with "jump!" as a hint are also good ways to expand player options without taking up space.

Tables, so many tables. Rumors were a good add considering the overland part of the adventure, though without a fleshed-out town their use is questionable; they could also stand to be a little more "call to action" rather than just background information, especially since there's a lack of distinct hooks to get the party going. I like the nested random encounter tables for overland travel, with some encounters overlapping other biomes - a good approach in such a condensed adventure. I feel like the lair encounters table didn't need to exist - I'd just put the stuff on the map like everything else, and use the free space to make the map bigger or expand the starting village or something.

Interestingly, there are really only two opponents to fight in this - a ton of feathered-men, and the giant bird they worship (who will absolutely obliterate a lvl1 party). I understand the space that stat blocks take up, but this could stand to have some other kind of enemy involved. Also I'm not certain if Katrak's stats really needed to be included, since the party won't be aiming to kill him.

Lastly I question the endgame of this one. I doubt the party will be able to put up much fight against a roc, even with a few obscure weaknesses... so what happens when they realize they can't defeat it? Are they expected to find a way to get the factory back into town? What reward do they get if they succeed? This could use a wrap-up section. Also, the big treasure should be the actual cloak of splendor that the adventure is named after, but here's nothing in there about what it's worth or what magic it may hold (I guess it's not assembled yet?) - seems like a missed opportunity, considering the adventure is literally named "The Cloak of Splendor".

All things considered, this is a solid effort. It's innovative in some ways, and yet still has a few rough patches. I'd say it's not meant for 1st level characters, but might be better suited if it turns out the roc were made of wicker, or had a more glaring weakness or whatever. There's also most of the elements for a sandbox here, albeit without many details about other sites in the area (Katrak's Abode & Brechtingen). The design is admirable though - you certainly get a lot of adventure crammed into a single page.

Final Verdict: 7.5 out of 10


So ... slow work day? Every day?
I will try to read and vote today--but it will be quick write-up. Slammed.


So ... slow work day? Every day?
Blade of the Barbarian

The Good:

Great visuals and descriptions. I FELT like I was in a barbarian camp and I wanted to sit on the antlered stool.

I liked the fog riddle and I want to steal it since I suck at riddles.

I like that there was effort in the situation to include combat, roleplay, and puzzles.

There were good descriptions of the other contestants—enough to run with.


Don’t write stats in a sentence structure—just label them. Level 7 Fighter, 16 str, hp 30 each. Easier to scan and would of maybe given you more room for the 1 page requirement.

Descriptions of the barbarians are great (king, brothers, etc.), but I would of liked to see some personality traits to help me run them better sorta like what was done with the contestants.

Be consistent with using bold or italics for magic items. For Shieldbreaker…its italics..then bold/italics, then nothing (on Struck-Lars)

Tests out of order?—1st morning, 2nd night, 2nd morning…3rd night, 3rd morning…shouldn’t the mornings be first?

Formal Test of Strength….does everyone have to roll their strength or under to win? Or just based on their strength score?

Seer-Sister plot is either unnecessary or needs a little more development. Yeah…I know..its a 1 page dungeon so not a lot of room. Was her doom-saying accurate to Bertachar or part of the ruse? Maybe she could of attempted to skew a contest if she fancied someone to marry…I like the idea of the twist here—just needed a little more to work with.

Is there some chances that players will notice some of the contenders using potions?

The archery contest needs a little work. For example, it sounds like you stand there and wait to get pelted by the blind archer—how many rolls would a DM need to do for all the contestants and bog down the game. I like the idea of the contest, it just needs a little work.

Overall: Tests can be hard in an adventure. This product attempts to bypass that by having a series of tests where even if you fail at one, you may still win—which I think is good. I’m not sure if I would call this an adventure, but more of an encounter. I personally like the premise of it and thought the writing was wonderful to portray the visuals and the vibe. Without the challenge of it being only one page I think a second page could help flesh it out even more—i.e. maybe more development on the sister plot, more randomness on the table for the drinking contest, a little more clarity on the contests, and/or maybe if they are gifted the sword—Surprise—you got to go and take out a giant now or be branded a coward or something (a drawback).

Going to give it a 6.


So ... slow work day? Every day?
The Cloak of Splendor

The Good:

Aldaric THE six-wing Roc of the Broken Skull Mountains….oh shit…things about to get real up in here! Reading that immediately got me hooked.

There is enough to work with to run a full adventure. Wilderness, dungeon, and building. The tables all break down the adventure nicely to help the DM out AND it has interesting stuff going on.

There are some twists—dwarf crafter Katrak wants to stay to finish the cloak—needs to be convinced to be rescued! Cool roleplay opportunity.

I like the flavor---eating grass makes you move faster, weird treasures…creative stuff

The wilderness map is interesting. I go back and forth on whether I like it or not. On one hand, with space limitations—it’s brilliant. It gives the vibe of the area the characters will be traveling through. Colors help break up the areas. On the other hand, it can be a little hard to read—I’m looking at the green writing especially.

Rooms on the lair map immediately help picture the room—Bunk Room, Hearth, etc.


Adventure hooks are there…but scattered. Maybe better to see them in one place in their own table. For example, Katrak’s apprentice looking for his teacher, etc. It’s just a little nit as that’s a decent encounter too. But why would the party (a 1st level party at that) care to go retrieve the workers inside the building? I’m 1st level and you want me to go up against a roc? No thanks….I also debate with myself here—does it need to be another table? Maybe not. The tables are useful—but not as aesthetically pleasing in the layout…like the middle tables..maybe make them all line up.

The stream gives rumors? The 4th rumor is sorta weird for the river to say then…

I wasn’t clear on the green box with 3 dots—dice. Took me a second to notice it was for Lair Encounters. Maybe could of color coded the 1-6 numbers in the table or something. The idea of it is cool, it just took me a minute to figure it out because of all the stuff crammed in here.

I think that’s my main gripe actually….there is a TON of information on this 1 pager. I understand that it’s a 1 pager restriction but there is a lot of cool little details in here that could potentially be missed because it’s crammed in there. There was effort to organize that though—with tables, and yet…there is still a crapload of info in here.

The blizzard…is that 1d4+1 damage per round?

Alright…so the party gets there…they save the workers, but the building is still there as they can’t move it…what now? Will the roc keep coming down to pick up laborers? They may make the roc flee but wont it come back? How can the problem/adventure be resolved if the roc doesn’t want to negotiate? How much is the Cloak of Splendor worth…what happens if the party snags it and bails? Needs some sort of wrap-up or maybe an opportunity where the town and roc learn to live peacefully together.

Overall: I think this is a pretty creative piece of work. The beauty of it is that it’s not just a mini-dungeon, but a whole area—town, wilderness, dungeon with a enough umph to wing it a little bit with some of the details….pretty impressive if you think about it for a 1 page adventure. Drawing the ‘monsters’ on the map, providing some details to help the DM run the encounter, having some interesting loot—it’s all there and put in a place that’s pretty helpful—but it still feels a little crammed in there. The wilderness map is creative as hell, but I did find some of it hard to read. This feels like an adventure….and just has some interesting tidbits that could lead on to something else to build upon.

I expect another go at it—with all the words from the entire adventure forming a picture of a 6 winged roc including colored letters for the colorful feathers…..ok I’m kidding…I think…

Ill settle on an 8.


Should be playing D&D instead
First of all: Thanks to the DP and Malrex for the review/criticism :)

I'm gonna comment on some of the stuff now ;)

I love the handcrafted look very much ;)
The tables were made in excel, the maps hand-drawn and everything put topgether in word and converted to a pdf.

I put that much background in to give the DM all the informations he/she needs to run it and make decisions for themselves. Could of course be shorter ;) The timeline was meant as a reminder basically ... you read the background and then only need the timeline to get things straight.

DM Hints
Yeah ... the "do what you want" part is not needed.
I should probably use that space to make Aldarics weaknesses and tactics clearer.

Overland Map
I tried something new here (though I'm not so vain that I think I'm the fiorst to do something like this ... I just can't remember if I ever saw something like that)
Put as much information as possible in a halfway pleasing and usable shape.
The travel times are for the colored regions. So you move your full rate on the plains (red), 2/3 of your movement in the forest(green) and only 1/3 of your movement in the mountains(brown). Though I find the idea of basing the movement on the sentences used in the map fascinating ... will think on that.
@Malrex: Is the green hard to read because of the color or because of my bad handwriting?

Lair map
Again ... up the information density without outright killing the map.
I tried to imply ideas and tactics on the map (Jump!)

The main source of rumors is the whispering river ... which I did in an attempt to introduce some fairy tale vibe into the whole thing.
Rumor 4 is basically there to fuck with the players ... make them question the truthfullness of stuff the river whispers them. Don't know if that was so clever :/
I used the rumors here more to set the mood and vibe of the region and the current situation.

I left these out because I didn't want to flesh out Brechtingen and I think these can be done by the DM her/himself. With the background any DM can decide for themselves what kind of hooks their group needs to get involved.
I put the possible hooks and ideas everywhere because I think reading a one-page adventure once before play is a given.
so you red the whole thing and this (hopefully) coherent picture of plot, region, mood and stuff forms in your head. The hooks for your party follow naturally then.

Wilderness encounters
Thanks :) I like my special encounter tables you know.
I tried to imply tactics and ideas with the encounter also ... Chance to disguise oneself, encounter with Algrad, Background about the feahtered men...

Lair Encounters
Didn't want to press this onto the lair map.

Same as Lair encounters

The bandits started as an Orc tribe but then I remembered how Bryce always gripes about how designers should use more humans ... so here we are.
Katraks stats were included because he could be part of some fight ... and because I needed some space to include his twist (doesn't want to leave)

Yeah .. I see your points.
I should probably put in more possbile tactics to "disable" Aldaric without fighting him head on.

Yeah ... That thing needs a wrap up to clarify how things can end. Factory stays in the mountains? maybe ... could be a plot for the next time. One of the ideas was to give the DM enough to start something here.

The whole thing was also intended as a little bit of a possible sandbox. More than just a dungeon somewhere. That's why nearly every region has a little mechanical effect or some tidbit defined. Gives the DM enough to start and extrapolate from.


So ... slow work day? Every day?
The breathing takes effort....the air feels heavy.. Does the 'air feels heavy' part go with the 'breathing takes effort' or the 'all sound is muffled'. My eyes took a little twirl is all so I noted it


Should be playing D&D instead
Ah ok.
All these sentence snippets stand for themselves but shoul form a coherent whole.
You get the picture of a dark, old forest, the air is heavy with earthen smells, you have to actually concentrate on your breathing and that makes it harder to fight (thus the -1 on attack rolls)
The only reason the "all sound is muffled" part isstanding apart from the rest, is that I wanted to have a natural locking map. The forest curls around the mountains ...

Two orcs

Officially better than you, according to PoN
Blade of the Barbarian is available for $0 at now that the competition is over (Congratulations to Grützi!) I might expand it to 2 pages... check out the cover image!

I appreciate the feedback, as I did on the previous page of this thread I'll leave a "defense" of my choices. I think the Informal test of Wisdom is the weakest part, everything else would lead to tense or funny moments at least at my table. As for the length, I never intended this to be a full session adventure, perhaps half a session, as it necessarily gives a single character the spot light!

I design all my adventures so that players who sleep walk through them never prosper and often die. The challenges are set up so that a fair approach is likely to fail (especially because of Elding's cheating) but I assume that the DM will telegraph the challenges so that players can tackle them meaningfully. The evenings are an opportunity to "scout" the upcoming day by gossiping and bullshitting, casting secret spells and giving secret poisons. The "correct" play for the 1st test is to figure out the strength of your opponents by setting up arm-wrestling + spurring your opponents to overdrink (Ulvstark is noted to always fall for this) and I'm sure you can all figure out sneaky ways to drink someone under the table. That Elding "claims thirst" is the cue that something is up, especially if you've figured out that he's not that strong to start with. The paranoid will demand to inspect his drinking horn. If he's challenged because of alleged cheating he'll be eager to fight it out right away before the potion wears off.

The informal tests are not just tie breakers for 1st position but also 2nd place etc. Combat is always an option, come up with or provoke imagined slights and you can fight all the contenders man-to-man and force them out that way, even after failing all challenges. Even if you lose the competition you can always stalk and rob the winner (which is why they brought retinues) or even steal it from the knee of the King.

As for the sword itself, it is one handed for historic accuracy, the Germanic peoples did not use larger swords. Two rolls only come into play if you attempt to sunder a magic shield, other shields are always sundered with a successful attack roll against [unarmored AC] if the wielder makes a called shot. If you don't aim for the shield it's just a regular sword+2.

The reason the riddling competiton seemingly keeps going is if the NPC with the first correct answer has been taken out before the competition.


Should be playing D&D instead
I'll call it closed.

Gold medal winner: Grutzi
(that's gold #2 for Grutzi, congrats!)
Silver medal winner: Two orcs (first showing, strong effort)