Welcome to the second Creator’s Corner post! I’m getting slightly ahead of the generally-weekly posting schedule because of a short time-frame involved in the post content 🙂
This is where we let another small RPG publisher or freelancer let loose on the blog in the spirit of supporting each other and spreading the word. The RPG scene is filled with amazing creatives and products and this is me doing my part by trying to help ‘rise the tide to lift all boats’.
Please support these folks if you can, check out what they do, and if you can’t support directly, please help share this post. Thank you for stopping by and supporting the creatives in the scene, Glynn
Without further ado, over to James Pozenel. A look at what he is up to and a look at his first Kickstarter – The House of Red Doors, a 0-Level DCC Funnel, which ends pretty soon (4 days as I post this).
Designing the One Player Dungeon
by James Pozenel
A couple years ago I heard about a solo funnel tournament taking place at Gamehole. There was this photo of people seated along a wall waiting for a turn to play. How can that work? I had never seen or heard of such a thing. I was also pretty new to DCC RPG. I did not know these sort of multiplayer solo scoring tournaments were fashionable for a time in the community.
My imagination went wild trying to figure how a solo tournament would actually work. I took the term solo quite literally. One player and one judge. An intimate small table experience with two people telling a story. I thought about all the times I could get only one or two people interested in playing and I knew I had an interesting idea for an adventure at the very least. A year ago I ran that solo tournament funnel, The House of the Red Doors, at U-Con in Ypsilanti, MI, USA.
A one player adventure brings some design challenges. It doesn’t lend itself to a combat driven story. A design can grant lots fighting opportunities, but will the PC survive? Not without counter mechanics to increase survivability. Fighting takes a lot of time compared to other activities and, depending on the system, can be quite long and arcane. The counter mechanics of healing up or finding ways to regenerate lost health or abilities also becomes a time sink. A solo story (and especially a solo tournament) probably shouldn’t take hours.
Without a heavy combat focus the designer needs to bring other tools to the table. Puzzles and traps are long time tools of the trade and hazards to the adventurer. Puzzles often bar the way to some sort of success or objective. Traps are often used to protect things or areas. Both tend to be railroads to success or failure. I wanted to change that. Puzzles and traps do not have to have a single linear solution. Like your dungeons, the traps and puzzles can provide multiple avenues for success that conclude with more or less advantageous results for the player. Besides your players are going to do something weird anyway. Why not be semi-prepared for some grey area solutions from them.
I’ve talked in generalities about the lessons learned of designing a different sort of adventure. Now you can back one if you want. Queue the Kickstarter Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lectrotext/the-house-of-the-red-doors-dcc-rpg
The House of the Red Doors takes place in an imaginary place of dreams and wishes — not at all unlike that ancient TV show, Fantasy Island. The three parts of The House of the Red Doors are untethered and not narratively linear. The parts don’t have to make sense as in a “real world” dungeon. I think you’ll find that the adventure can easily be slipped into pretty much any genre.
In The House of the Red Doors there’s certainly times for dice rolling, but it is more about paying attention to detail and solving puzzles. Combat is available, but a player almost never needs to violently confront what is barring their way.
The endings have several solutions. That was a conscious design choice. All the puzzles in The House of the Red Doors have multiple solutions. However, your PC may not survive some of them… Picking the best solution at any given juncture is the main objective.
Last thing I want to talk about is the final stretch goal and its design. The player handout is a venerable method of giving visual information to the players. They’re usually large and intended to be held up to the group, or passed around. Since I tend towards ‘theatre of the mind’ as a judge and as a writer, I’m accustomed to players asking clarifying questions in order to make decisions. The House of the Red Doors has many instances where a visual handout could assist the player and moreover, you, the judge. However, handouts for this adventure don’t merit the big format.
I started to think about all the times I ran The House of the Red Doors and how close you are in a physical sense to the player. Instead of a big handout or the ceremony of drawing a map, the information exchange with a tiny booklet handout seems more appropriate. Maybe there’s a map. Maybe there’s an image of a scene outlined in the italics text. Regardless of the visual content, the artifact can be passed back and forth as the adventure progresses.