The Alexandrian

Google Reader is telling me that all the hot, hip kids of the RPG blogosphere are currently engaged in a tag team match to determine who can present a complete adventure in the absolute minimal amount of space possible: Customized monster icons, textless adventures, player handouts that that double as adventure outlines, revised old school module maps with “everything” you need annotated onto the page… It’s all amazing stuff.

I’ve decided to join in the fun by devising an alphanumeric coding system: You don’t need a map or any pictorial reference at all. The alphanumeric code in the first row tells you the size of the room, the exits and entrances, and where those exits/entrances lead. The second row codes the contents of the associated room. (A null value indicates an empty chamber.)


As you can see, this is one heck of rip-roaring dungeon.

(This may sound weird coming from a guy who just released Legends & Labyrinths, but: Minimalism for the sake of minimalism is simply self-defeating at a certain point.)

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12 Responses to “Thought of the Day – Compact Dungeon Thingies”

  1. Noumenon says:

    An M86 sniper rifle as treasure in the second row? Isn’t that kind of Monty Hall? And I’d never use three M’s in a row unless one of my PCs had favored enemy: giant spiders.

  2. heromedel says:

    How do you read the code?

  3. hudax says:

    Legends & Labyrinths DDI subscription, obviously. :)

  4. Confanity says:

    I’d say any sort of experimentalism for its own sake can get pretty silly, and most of what it produces is dross, and a novel thing tends to suffer in the long-term as imitators refine the new whatever-it-is, leaving the original innovator as nothing more than a mere low-quality milestone. (Witness: the Beatles). But that doesn’t mean that experimenting can’t ultimately lead to useful things.

    So, sure, minimalism for its own sake is a fad that can get kind of silly, but who’s to say it won’t help the hobby in the long term?

  5. ADD Grognard says:

    Ok, you’ve peaked my interest. I’ve looked about and can’t seem to find any of this stuff. Are there links to these? I’m always willing to look at anything. Hell, the game that brought me back into table top is so far out there most gamers don’t even consider it a game.

    So yeah, show me something new. I always like to see what’s going on.

  6. ADD Grognard says:

    Or are you talking about what’s going on over at ? I haven’t had a chance yet to read all of his posts on some one page stuff so I wasn’t certain.

  7. Allandaros says:

    I think you’re misreading the work that’s coming out there. Instead of minimalism for its own sake, it seems like minimalism for the sake of _efficiency_, for improved presentation and ease of use. Optimization of space.

    @ADD Grognard, check out a few of the recent Playing D&D with Porn Stars blog entries – Zak did a minimalistic presentation of the Caves of Chaos a little while back.

  8. Justin Alexander says:

    @ADD Grognard: Hadn’t seen that stuff. Looks intriguing.

    @Allandaros: My point is that this isn’t actually efficiency. Efficiency is defined as, “The ratio of effective or useful output to the total input in any system.” And the uber-minimalist schemes I’m seeing are no longer reducing the total input — they’re just stripping away the useful output.

    As surgeons, they’ve passed the point of treatment and started hacking away at the healthy tissue.

    I’ve said in the past that I think virtually all published modules today are massively over-prepped (to the point where their bloat is actually deteriorating their utility). But I think it’s just as harmful — probably more harmful — to reduce every adventure to nothing more than a featureless map and a roster of monsters.

    And when you pass by that point and start heading into the territory of presenting the monster roster in a format that is even more difficult to use in the name of minimalizing the presentation even more… Well, IMO, you’ve just gotten silly.

  9. ADD Grognard says:

    @Justin Alexander-Ok. Have to go back over. I read that blog almost everyday. Must have been when the router was down (ugh).

    Yeah, I’m still working out this cryptogram:

    thought that might be it :)

  10. Sean Wills says:

    ‘But I think it’s just as harmful — probably more harmful — to reduce every adventure to nothing more than a featureless map and a roster of monsters.’

    What adventures are you referring to ?

  11. John says:

    As mainly a Traveller GM, this seemed like a really good idea, actually, up until the part where your entries were too long. I find Trav’s use of 6-8 digit hex codes + a few text descriptors to be about right in terms of ‘volume of information encoded’. Something like a digit for room size, room type (cave, hewn stone, ice, and so forth), room hazards (traps, molds, slimes, lava, &c), room inhabitants type (as a creature type; humanoids, undead, dragon, or what-have-you), room inhabitants approximate number as a power of 2, perhaps, and room inhabitants disposition would actually be useful. Then build an undirected graph with rooms as vertices and boom, dungeon.

  12. John says:

    Ah, I forgot – also a digit for treasure horde size / quality (equating more-or-less to tech level digit in a Traveller planetary profile). That gives you 7 digits of hex to work with, yielding a total of about 270 million possible rooms, but only 112 different mappings to remember (which, if done sensibly, is not terrible; population being a power of the digit value is easy, for example), especially is some results appear much more frequently than others (rendering those others less critical to know, and the common ones easy to learn).

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