I very rarely get a jump on the One Page Dungeon contest and finish an entry more than a couple of days before the deadline, but this year I have so many other things I ought to be focusing on that I found a nice relief taking a few hours over the weekend to pull an entry together. I am, as my previous OPDs demonstrate, pretty bad at drawing decent maps, so this year I found a public domain image to annotate. Writing it up went surprisingly fast. I am not expecting to win anything with this one, since the level of competition has really gotten steep in the OPD contest (maybe it’s time to introduce a master’s class or something so people who’ve won in the past aren’t competing with newbies?). Still, I enjoy the challenge of creating a usable adventure that fits on one page, and I think my “dungeon” is something that hasn’t been done before. So apart from the execution, I think I have pretty good entry.🙂
The principal inspirations for the design are two things: one, the concept of the “Bridge of dread” mentioned in Lyke Wake Dirge, and two, the surprisingly developed and fortified bridges of the middle ages (old London Bridge, a sketch of which I used for my “map,” being an extreme example). Bridges had defenses like gate houses and towers, and being high-traffic spots attracted peddlers and shopkeepers. Because upkeep for them was expensive and not provided by the crown, some collected tolls (or tribute or bribes, if occupied by bandits) and some even had attractions like shrines and chapels, the offerings gathered at them helping pay for upkeep as well. The folks who earned a living via bridge traffic, officials who were responsible for it, and merchants even built their homes on the bridges, creating miniature cities. It’s not such a wonder that old London Bridge eventually fell down.
Below is the original sketch (after a 1616 engraving by Claes Van Visscher) I used for my OPD, taken from a nineteenth century book scanned by the New York Public library for the Internet Archive.
I’ll post the finished PDF in my files area once the contest is closed.
Bonus: viewing the text of this book at Project Gutenberg, I saw a transcription of the “advertisement” page for other books in the series, and one that jumped out at me was “Famous frosts and frost friars”. I was intrigued by the idea of a “Frost Friar” (which evokes Bellairs’ “The face in the frost”) but sadly it was just a typo, and the book is about frost FAIRS — festivals held when a river ices over.
HD: 4; AC: leather; MV: 12” walking, 24” on ice; attacks: by weapon or special; SV: Cleric 4
Frost friars are evil spirits that emerge from the depths of the earth in or around winter. They look like mendicant friars, except that their skin is pallid white and their clothes are dusted with ice. They gather at rivers (the number appearing will depend on the river, generally d6 per 20’ breadth) and freeze it over, interrupting commerce and travel, and often inspiring the local populace to hold “frost fairs,” taking advantage of the unusual conditions. However their goal is to lure unsuspecting mortals onto thin ice, for those who die of exposure or drowning in icy waters become their slaves of the frost friars in the underworld. Frost friars can cast cold and ice-related spells (or reversed fire-related spells) as if they were 5th level magic users. They often hoard the valuables of their victims in caches buried in river banks.