Monday, March 31, 2014

No Joke Deadline in 30 Days

I feel that today is a good demarcation point to let all the people out there know that the deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest is April 30th. Today is the last day in March, and tomorrow is April Fool's Day, which may be a bit unfortunate for people who have never heard of the contest. Rest assured that the contest is a very real contest. It has occurred for the previous five years, and every entry, every winner, every judge has been kept at the dedicated website (

There are a lot of prizes for would be winners of the contest this year. One lucky, or should I say creative, individual is going to win $500 via paypal. But an even cooler prize, to me, is one of the winners of this years contest is going to be published in Gygax Magazine. There are even more prizes than that; the full list can be seen on the sponsor page here (

While looking over the pdf prizes, I noticed that several key companies in the RPG industry have offered their core rulebook as a prize. More than just offering prizes, I am just impressed with how so many companies have gotten behind the contest; Paizo, Pelgrane Press, Steve Jackson Games, Troll Lord Games, and many more. I can't say thanks enough for the support of these companies.

So, if you have not entered the contest, why not? You have nothing to lose! And a lot of prizes to win.

And if you have friends, circles, a blog, or any outlet to get the word out there -- feel free to reshare this post or make your own. The more people that enter the contest, the more people win. Every entry gets put up in the gallery for the world to look upon, gaze in amazement or just to use at their game table.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Judging Creativity

By now, I expect most of you have probably already seen that I wrote an article over at GeekNative describing 5 traits from winning entries of the previous One Page Dungeon Contests. At first, I was very hesitant to write such an article. My overriding thought on the topic was that creativity can not be reduced to a formula, so what is there to write?

I still believe that is a core principal to keep in mind. Once something has been "figured out" by human beings in general, it then becomes routine. It becomes incorporated into the base knowledge; history, patterns, techniques, and the next generation starts seeking new ways to expand upon (usually in very small increments) that which came before.

I also had to do my interpretation of the trends and patterns of the previous five years of the contest. I did not write this in the original article, but I am sure that my observations are not the only interpretation of the data. One might very well come up with a "Purple Worm Word Count" and determine that purple worms are the way to go to win the contest. I merely wanted to put something out there to give new contestants a general idea of just a few of the things they could look at.

And, finally, I decided that I did not want to personally be a judge in the contest so I could focus my attention on promotion and organizing. I may still end up being judge if one of the slotted judges has to pull out of the contest at the last minute and I can not find a replacements, but I suspect that the chances of that happening are very low.

I recently saw some questions and commentary about what, exactly, the judging process will be for this years contest, and, consequently, how the prizes will be awarded, and so, I thought it might be a good idea to go over my thought process on the subject.

The first task at hand was to find high quality judges and I like to think I have succeeded in that task. I couldn’t think of a better line up of judges. The instructions I have passed along to the judges when I made first contact boils down to the following...

Judging Instructions and Guidelines


The deadline for the contest is April 30th. At the time, we estimate the number of submissions will be in the 100 to 150 range. A judge will have to look over all the submissions and send in a list of the top ten that they consider the best by May 14th. This allows 2 weeks to go over the entries and put together a top ten list.


As the reader may note, there are no instructions about criteria of how to pick a top ten entry. Each of the judges have a long line of notable accomplishments; several, in fact, have been editors, writers, testers for professional roleplaying game products. There is also the question of how to define what is “great” about the one page dungeon contest. Instead of providing detailed guidelines, each judge will have their own thoughts and judgements about what they believe to be “great”.

From my own personal experience, there is no formula for greatness. I have worked in the software development industry for over 15 years. There is a “hunch” among computer scientists that P does not equal NP, basically that, although, very complex problems can be verified very quickly once the answer is known,  there is still no quick and easy way to “find” the answer if it is NOT known.

And I think, art, creativity, progress is of a similar nature. It is very difficult to push the envelope of what has come before. But building on what has come before (sometimes just going in the opposite direction of what has come before) leads to new discoveries. And if I attempted to provide some formula of what is considered “great” to hand over to the judges as a guide, I would feel, however good the intentions, that it would be too limiting. To paraphrase Potter Stewart, I do not know if I could ever intelligibly describe what is “greatness” for the contest, but I will know it when I see it.

So, if you are entering the contest this year, you are going to have to pass the gauntlet of judges; Ernie Gygax, Steve Winter, Sean K Reynolds, Brendan S, Martin Thomas, and Dan “Delta” Collins. The entries that get the most votes will be declared winners. The more votes an entry gets, the better the prizes it will receive.

I have done some “random voting” simulations using a short program I wrote. If the judges were lazy and just picked entries at random, the distribution would look something like this

3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 (with about 35 entries getting 1 vote)

If all the judges were clones and picked the same entries it would, of course, look like this

6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6

I have a feeling the actual, final, vote tally is going to lie somewhere between the two. The general idea is that there will be around 10 winners (though there could be more or less). There could be a situation where the votes end up being

6, 2 (with 58 other entries getting 1 vote)

I have a feeling that outcome is unlikely, but if it does, I will ask the judges to pick 1 entry out of their list that is has not already won 2 or more votes. That will add 6 entries to the winning circle. Again, the general idea is to have 8 to 14 winning entries (which is around the 10% mark).

Friday, March 21, 2014


I was thinking over old 80's movies with a fantasy theme again. I feel as though the fantasy genre was not appreciated as much as science fiction back in those days, but I could be mistaken. I wrote about the Princess Bride and now that I think about it some more, there were quite a few fantasy themed movies back in the day. Labyrinth was another fairy tale like movie that I enjoyed.

I would say that Princess Bride has more wit and verbal banter (almost an overabundance of repeatable phrases). As a youngster, I avoided both films thinking they were more for girl's looking to find prince charming. Little did I know that the Goblin King was quite the dark prince. And Jennifer Connelly makes her first mark on the film industry in this film in the role of Sarah.

And if you had any doubt about Sarah's credentials, check out the game box sitting on her shelf in her bedroom (next to the number 18 in this frame). You can click the image to get a larger view.

Found on twitter (

What gives Labyrinth a unique look is the use of Jim Henson's muppets. Much like Ray Harryhausen's visual effects, there is something good about animations and settings that do not use computer techniques. The landscape of the Labyrinth were elaborate sets with black cloth paintings.

So maybe the 80s did have a lot of fantasy themed movies; The Dark Crystal, Krull, Conan the Barbarian, Willow, Dragonslayer, The Never Ending Story, Legend, Time Bandits, The Clash of the Titans, The Princess Bride, and, of course, Labyrinth. It just seemed more subdued, more "in the background" than today's Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc...