The Alexandrian

Halls of the Mad Mage

July 24th, 2009

Halls of the Mad Mage - Map

Awhile back, ChattyDM (Philippe-Antonie Menard) announced the One Page Dungeon Contest. For those not familiar with the One Page Dungeon Concept, the idea was originally conceived by David Bowman (Sham’s Grog & Blog) and then developed by Chgowiz (Old Guy RPG Blog) and Amityville Mike (Society of Torch, Pole, and Rope). Basically, the One Page Dungeon is a template for designing a complete dungeon in one page.

To a certain extent, the point of the template is to emphasize that you don’t need a lot of laborious prep to run a successful adventure: With nothing more than a dungeon map and a couple of pertinent notes, a GM can use his creativity at the game table to take care of everything else. I think a lot of us fall into the trap of thinking that our adventure notes need to be rigorous documents, but the reality is that, when we embrace our own ability to improvise creatively, that level of detail is more than over-kill.

If you’re willing to embrace that lighter design ethos, the One Page Dungeon is not only great for its ease of prep. It’s also great for ease of running. With a One Page Dungeon you don’t have any notes to flip through: You have your rulebook, a single sheet of paper, and your dice. The entire dungeon is literally laid out in front of you. This isn’t just simple, it’s usable.

Of course, there are a lot of things the One Page Dungeon can’t do. And thus, for me, its value is primarily in its use as an exercise: The artificial strictures of the form force you to become more creative while reminding you that simplicity has its value.

So, long story short, there was a contest. And for this contest I was inspired to whip out a One Page Dungeon of my own: The Halls of the Mad Mage.

The design of the Halls was inspired by M.C. Escher:

Escher Escher Escher Escher


The Halls of the Mad Mage twist back on themselves in impossible spatial contortions. Here you’ll find everfalling rivers, endless stairs, and mobius chambers.

So I was quite happy when I received an Honorable Mention in the One Page Dungeon Contest:


Those of you interested in taking a tour of the Halls of the Mad Mage should feel free to download the PDF:


Map made with Dundjinni software,

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8 Responses to “Halls of the Mad Mage”

  1. Justin Alexander says:


    Justin Alexander
    Thanks, Todd! I love the idea of having the dancers follow the pattern of the dungeon. That kind of emergent quality and disconnected collaboration is one of the things I really love about RPGs.

    I really enjoy reading play reports from people running my material. Thanks for sharing!
    Saturday, August 22, 2009, 1:42:05 AM

    I ran your adventure for a few friends of mine on Tuesday night, and they enjoyed it. They were 2nd level 4.0 edition characters, I only used 6 Goblins instead of 8, 3 Imps, but the best fun was the roleplaying.

    The first time they went from area 1 to 3, and found themselves swapped, was the most wonderful facial expressions ever. Corridor 4 was perceived as a type of mirror, so they had to go back and forth until they were on the ‘right side’ of the mirror.

    For area 3, when the marionettes were dancing, I made it so they danced in a pattern of the dungeon, giving rough clues about which way to go. They would dance a rough square in the center, with loops at the upper left and right corners.

    The Mobius corridor was fun when they entered 14A from 19, and when one of them looked up at the ceiling in 14, and saw the lily pads in the lake there.

    One of the party kept trying to pin down specifics about the Pit fiend, so I just made it a generic magic circle, but without the name of the fiend present. In room 18, I had my two other portraits be one connected to a Sci-fi battle, the other overlooked Manhattan.

    16 was fun, as I told of images about the Pit Fiend leaving the circle, slaughtering the one that stayed behind, then proceeding to follow the party. The next illusion was a wave of new order spreading out from the halls, corrupting the land. Another was the ceiling of the room coming down to crush the party.

    For 14A, since the party already knew that water fairies are tricky, I just had her tell the truth.

    They went into the room with the black snake, but never fought it. They never engaged the poltergeist in 13, or the tentacle thing in 11, or the water elementals in 12.

    There was one PC kill in 3, when one of the party wanted to examine one of the mithril hearts, and the dancers began moving to attack. The other party member quickly killed the one examining, and I had them go back to the dance.

    It was a very fun adventure, and all of us enjoyed it. Well done.
    Thursday, August 13, 2009, 6:38:59 AM

    That is a really really cool dungeon!
    Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6:34:06 AM

    Congratulations, Justin!

    Reading through the PDF I couldn’t help thinking about “—And_He_Built_a_Crooked_House—” by RA Heinlein.
    Friday, July 24, 2009, 6:25:16 PM

  2. Louis says:

    Because of this dungeon being on one page I was able to quickly decided if I wanted to use it or not and become familiar enough too run it within minutes. Unlike many other dungeons that seam to require 2+ hours of reading to be familiar with.

    Also sine it was only one page I simply printed it and put it inside my Keep on the borderlands that I started running for the first time recently. So now when the PC’s explore around the keep I can them stumble across the Halls of the Mad mage.

    After I run it I will try to comeback here and tell you how it goes.

  3. Louis says:

    I meant to ask, have you made anymore one page dungeons.

  4. Leland J. Tankersley says:

    You’re right; one big advantage of the format from a consumer standpoint is you can review them quickly. About a month ago I looked through probably 50 or so one-page dungeons in the course of an hour or so, finding one that fit what I needed (with a bit of tweaking).

    I also found a somewhat similar meme: the “Five Room Dungeon” ( from which I found a good seed I built into a small encounter area.

    These are good for my game because I’m running a campaign based around a large dungeon, but I want to have some smaller adventures available to spice things up a bit. Something the size of a one-page dungeon can often be dealt with in one session, or even part of a session.

  5. Louis says:

    Yesterday I found and downloaded the 2009 codex of winners from the one page dungeon contest. I think at least half of them will get used at some point although “halls of the mad mage” ranks as one of my favorites.

  6. Daniel says:

    This is awesome. I’m probably going to run this as a one-shot at some point. Escher is one of my favorite artists, and I have a poster of his staircases in my room. That and I really love trippy sort of surreal mage situations that are very puzzle-y. Nice work!

  7. — #Теория — Подземелья в стиле Жако, ч.2 Техники Жако says:

    […] Моё использование неевклидовой геометрии в подземельях вы можете оценить на примере The Lost Hunt и Halls of the Mad Mage.. […]

  8. yukiomo says:

    I ran this dungeon for my ACKS campaign. It went over quite well. Upon the group’s escape from the halls, one of my players said to me “I hated every single moment we spent in that area; it was so stressful”, which, remarkably, he meant as a compliment. It made for a nice break from the more standard dungeon crawling we had been doing.

    I wrote up the two sessions they spent in the halls as part of my ongoing campaign journal:
    Halls of the Mad Mage were explored in sessions eleven and twelve. It’s a campaign journal, so it may or may not be enjoyable for anyone other than the people involved in its creation to read. But the link is there just in case.

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