To celebrate reaching 200 backers for the Characters Kickstarter we are pleased to introduce to you a half dozen of the one hundred and one characters available at your fingertips in the Fish in the Pot Characters Collection.
The Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon Collection is off to the printer and will be made available to the dice-rolling public in mere weeks. Given the impending arrival of our treasure trove of simple TTRPG oddities, it seemed a good time to reflect on the One-Page Dungeon as a tool for the table, and to perhaps offer a bit of advice on how to wring every last drop of fun out of these shortest of adventure templates.
Five Rooms and a Purpose
Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeons are a take on the popular 5-Room Dungeon design theory. The idea is that a gaming table typically only needs about five rooms in a dungeon to tell a fun and satisfying story. Five Room Dungeon design has been explored in depth in other forums (such as here and here), so this post will provide only the highlights before moving on to explore what makes the Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon design philosophy distinct from a typical Five Room Dungeon.
Designing a Five Room Dungeon begins with understanding the function of each of the five rooms. The rooms are:
- The Entrance
- The Puzzle
- The Trick
- The Battle
- The Reward
The Entrance is the first room of the dungeon explored by the Player Characters. It is often guarded or trapped. It will give clues as to themes and motifs that are likely to be experienced throughout the dungeon.
The Puzzle is either an actual puzzle to solve or a roleplaying exercise for the players (Fish in the Pot tends to avoid the former in favor of the latter). This room provides further details about the ecology, history, and philosophy of the dungeon while giving your players an opportunity to have their characters chew on some of the scenery.
The Trick is also sometimes referred to as the Setback. This room is an opportunity to spring a trap or pull “the ol’ switcharoo” on the players. This is the room with the mimic, the cursed gemstones, or the poisoned ale. Often the Trick will result in either an additional roleplaying exercise or additional combat.
The Battle is also sometimes referred to as the Climax. This room is where the protagonist meets the antagonist and initiative is rolled. It is important to remember to keep the narrative alive in this room, as there is a natural tendency for big battles to devolve into simple acts of dice rolling and task completion. Have the villain monologue about their grand plans, or describe the sights and smells of the strange gibbering beast set to devour the heroes.
The Reward is the room with the treasure chest, the magic item, or the troll hoard. Your players worked hard to maneuver through the Entrance, the Puzzle, the Trick, and the Battle and ought to be rewarded. There is also an opportunity in this room to have another Trick. A classic “the princess is in another castle” or “you haven’t even seen my final form” scenario will often work in the Reward room. That said, some caution is in order here, as too many false finishes may win you some serious side-eye from players growing weary of your increasingly stale antics.
These rooms can technically appear in any order, though it is often wise to begin with the Entrance and end with the Reward. These room styles appear throughout many of the Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeons, but often with several variations.
The Character of the Thing
The dungeon is a character you introduce to your players one room at a time. Your players will slowly get to know your dungeon as they discover its secrets and uncover its traps. Every time you present a challenge to your players you have an opportunity to make exciting memories with them. The character of your dungeon is often the difference between a fun but forgettable afternoon diversion and an epic evening of adventure long remembered.
Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeons tend to focus in on a theme or an idea and then explore that theme or idea over the course of a five (or four or six) room dungeon. The dungeons are not fashioned via a Five Room template, but nearly all of the rooms in all of the dungeons can be defined as either an Entrance, a Puzzle, a Trick, a Battle, or a Reward. What is important is that the initial theme or idea is the focus and that all of the various rooms work together to support the theme. What emerges from this exploration is a small dungeon with big character.
In exploring the central idea, the Fish in the Pot dungeons leave a lot off of the page. Let’s face it, there isn’t much room on the page anyway so we need to make the most of it. A Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon will often not present read-aloud text, detailed room descriptions, intricate back stories, reasons for the PCs to be there, or other trappings and details external to the central idea or theme of the dungeon. This means a couple of things.
First, the Gamemaster running a Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon will have a bit of work to do. The GM will need to do a bit of dungeon-dressing, filling in details about some of the sights and sounds in the various rooms, describing the floors, lighting, walls, and ceiling, and generally filling the dungeon up with stuff to make it feel like a “real” place in a shared fantasy experience. Also, the GM will need to be prepared to think on their feet to respond to questions the players will inevitably ask that are not covered by the written materials. The GM is encouraged to improvise as much detail as they feel comfortable with in responding to such questions. Having fun and letting your imagination run wild will never break a Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon, and even if you think it will, then just remember that the only canon that really matters is the Table Canon and lean right into whatever gonzo thing that is transpiring.
Second, the Gamemaster running a Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon is free to surround the dungeon with whatever trappings are going on in their already established campaign. There are few details to change in any One Page Dungeon in order to make it fit into your fantasy world. The Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeons work from Faerun to Khorvaire and from Greyhawk to Sigil. The Gamemaster has an opportunity to dress the various dungeons in ways evocative of the factions already at play in the group’s Table Canon. By ditching the details, the One Page Dungeon grants freedom.
Fuel your imagination
Ultimately the goal of these One Page Dungeons is to fuel your imagination as a creator. Take the ideas in these small, quirky dungeons and make them your own. Fit them into your existing worlds. Make the rewards personal to your players’ characters. Rip the guts out of the entire collection and make something completely new and different. In confining ideas into five rooms on a single page, a lot of the detail present in many other types of table top adventure books is just not available in a Fish in the Pot One Page Dungeon. This is not a flaw in the design. It is a feature. Take the reigns and fill in the details. Build upon the quirky character of the dungeon and explore the idea presented. Use the encounters along with your players’ ideas to make truly memorable experiences.
The new and refreshed version of Warriors of Eternity is now LIVE over on the Fish in the Pot itch page.
New art, new GM-facing materials, a page full of tables, revisions, errata, there are so many reasons to download Warriors of Eternity QST 1.2 today!
Check it out here: QST 1.2 DevLog on itch.
The One-Page Dungeon kickstarter is rolling along. Thank you to everyone for your support! I am very grateful for your interest in my project!
I want to take a minute to write about the process of converting these dungeons from ink in a cheap journal to digital pages fit to print. Specifically, I want to highlight how the process of utilizing digital layout is expanding the content on offer from the dungeons.
If you’ve been following the kickstarter, then you may be aware that I’ve sworn off stretch goals for this campaign. Because I am not creating more work for myself, I have the luxury of being able to invest more creative time into the product that you’ve backed.
I’ve shown two digital layout preview dungeons on the kickstarter. (Check it out here!)
In this blog post, we will take a look at the material as original scanned and the way the new digital layout dungeons differ from their original source.
First, here is “Current Events” as it appears on the original page:
And here is “Current Events” in its digital layout (excuse the typos they will be corrected).
Now, here is the original “Tunnel Out of Time.”
And here is the updated version. (Again, typos…)
I won’t promise that every single dungeon will be expanded with tables, options, details, and items, but I will say that as I continue to edit and refine the dungeon layout, I am finding more and more ways to expand upon the original ideas.
So, in short, the booklet that will be published will feature dungeons with more robust options and detail than their original iterations. I am excited to improve upon the ideas in a way that expands the dungeons’ playability, narrative, and potential for fun.
I believe that over-defining or over-explaining almost any setting or prompt in a Table Top RPG effectively limits the way folks can engage with that setting or prompt. I am guarding myself from adding too much specificity and instead am focusing on offering tools that aid the imagination.
Thanks again for your interest in my collection of small dungeons! I can’t wait to get this thing into your hands and onto your table!
Fish in the Pot Kickstarter is LIVE and FUNDED!!
On October 30, 2019, Fish in the Pot launched its first ever Kickstarter Campaign. The campaign’s goal was to raise $500 so that we can print and deliver a collection of one-page dungeons in a high quality zine format. The dungeon zine features 15 different small dungeons for use with the World’s Best Selling Table Top Role Playing Game.
The $500 goal was met in less than 6 hours and by day two the campaign doubled its funding goal.
Fish in the Pot is so very, very grateful for all of the support! If you would like to pledge to the Fish in the Pot 1-Page Dungeon Kickstarter, you have until November 29th to do so. Five dollars will get you the zine in pdf and ten dollars will get you the zine in pdf and in print. Click here to check out our campaign page!
WoE is a game made up of scenes. This essay proposes that those scenes can be arranged in a manner that leads to the creation of different “episodes” of your game.
Embrace the Cartoon
The biggest inspiration for WoE is He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, a toy-line and cartoon from the early 1980s. Episodic play, as contemplated herein, embraces this inspiration and asks the Players to view their play sessions in the form of episodes of an ongoing television show. By embracing the cartoon foundations of the game, we are able to provide structure to a free-form game of world-building and adventure.
This does not mean that each session of play should be one episode of your “show.” Instead, episodes should be dictated by the plot points introduced and resolved by your players at the table. Some groups may finish two or more episodes during a session, while others will complete only one episode at a session.
The Four-Scene Episode
An episode of play will typically consist of four scenes: 1. The Opening Scene, 2. The Exploration Scene, 3. The Reveal, and 4. The Conclusion. Each of the four scenes is discussed below. Additionally, each episode should have an Epilogue wherein the episode is recapped, the next thing is teased, and each of the PCs receives a Bond Point for starring in the episode.
The Opening Scene
The opening scene sets the Players up for adventure. Often it will recap what has occurred in prior episodes, but it does not have to. What is important in an opening scene is that time, place, and characters are established for the episode and that there is some call-to-action that gets the characters moving away from comfort zones and toward trouble and adventure.
A good opening scene gives the Players room to give their characters some personality, or to explore some of the downtime activities in which the characters invest their time when they are not adventuring. Once this is established and all of the Players have had their fill chewing on the scenery, a good opening scene will present a strong call-to-action. Some disaster should befall an ally or some mystery should present itself. A villain can make themself known to the Characters or a Maguffin could be requested by a quest giver.
In any event, it is important that the conclusion of the opening scene sees our characters leaving their present space in order to go accomplish something in the greater world.
The Exploration Scene
The exploration scene grants the Players the power to establish working theories about the causes and ramifications of the call-to-action. Some exploration scenes will involve investigation. Some exploration scenes will have the characters traveling great distances to confront the causes of the call-to-action.
A good exploration scene will provide the Players ample opportunity to describe the world and its inhabitants. A ton of world-building can be accomplished during the exploration scene. As a GM, don’t be afraid to say “yes” to the other Players’ thoughts and ideas as they try to make sense of the mysteries they encounter. More specifically, don’t be afraid to say yes to ideas that seem to contradict with one another. The truth is not meant to be revealed in the exploration scene. Instead, the exploration scene provides the Players with the information necessary to act in the forthcoming scenes.
Sometimes combat occurs in an exploration scene. This combat often takes the form of random travel encounters or clashes with a villain’s scouts or goons on patrol. Combat should not be the focus of the exploration scene, but can be a method through which the characters are clued in on what is really happening in the world around them.
The reveal is a pay-off to the exploration scene. In the reveal, the Players and their characters learn something new that progresses the story forward in a major way. Sometimes the reveal can actually be a red-herring, although GMs are cautioned not to rely on this old trick too often. The reveal will show the Players which theories are correct and what information can be trusted. Often, the reveal includes a maniacal monologue from whatever villainous personality was behind the original call-to-action.
The reveal will often involve combat. The characters are powerful heroes with fantastic resources at their disposal. Putting their powers to work to stop the villain’s plan should be a focus of the reveal. Of course, if the characters can find non-violent solutions to the issues presented, then all the better.
The goal is to work toward the reveal in both the opening scene and the exploration scene. The reveal should make sense to all of the Players who have paid attention to what happened previously in the narrative. There are many different ways to achieve an internal consistency between scenes, but the main thing to remember is to listen to the Players and then cater the reveal to the fiction that has been established at the table.
The final scene is the conclusion. The conclusion resolves the actions of the reveal and leads our characters to learn something new about ongoing plots, characters, locations, technologies, magics, items, or anything else that makes its way into this fantasy world.
The conclusion is a great opportunity for the Players to do some character development. They can discuss the strategies employed, what worked and what didn’t work, or how their teamwork saved the day. Be on the look out for class prompts and other less-utilized prompts during the conclusion.
The conclusion doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up. In fact, it probably shouldn’t. A good conclusion resolves the pending concerns and issues that were made manifest in the previous scenes while preserving some new or greater mystery for the next episode. Sometimes a conclusion can be a cliff-hanger, though you’ll want to save your cliff-hangers for big events and season finales.
At the conclusion of a He-Man cartoon, the audience would be treated to a brief lesson to be learned from the episode. Similarly, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe the audience is treated to a quick scene after all of the credits have rolled. These epilogues should be used as inspiration for your gaming table.
Include an epilogue at the conclusion of your episode. Highlight the play of your Players and recap what they learned. Alternatively, tease the next big thing in the campaign. The epilogue should be almost entirely controlled by the GM. Keep it short and make it snappy.
Importantly, award the entire table of PCs a Bond point for starring in the episode. The epilogue is a fun way to keep some of you administrative tasks in-world and on-brand.