The Lair of the Shaggy Beast

By Nobboc

This is a one page dungeon from, it looks like, a book on monsters from folklore. While I don’t normally review one pagers anymore, Nobboc asked and Nobboc is not a git, so, a review it is! I assume the book is about the folklore monsters and they are includin a short adventure for some and/or all of the entries. This is the one for the Velue “the shaggy beast.” 

This is landscape formatted, a one pager. The left colum, maybe ¼ or 1/5th of the page, has the monster description and stats. The rest of the page is taken up by a small map of around eight rooms of a cave complex, it’s lair, and the keys for it as well as a minimal hook and instructions for running the monster.

The map is a pretty good one, for its size. Essentially two paths running parallel to each other, as a cave system. The effect is a long snarky path, essentially one hallway running to chambers. I’d normall call this liner, except for the cave features throughout, like the overpasses, underpasses, rivers, and the other parallel tunnel system. Things are made more interesting by making one of the paths too small for the Velue to fit in to. Hit & run tactics then become available … which may in and of itself be a problem for the DM. There’s also a short system to determine if the Velue is at home in its lair and where it is, as well as a way for it to flood certain parts of the system using its water control powers. Overall, it does a lot in a small space with the map and its features.It’s a good cave system with the vertical represented.

The descriptions are terse, as one would expect in a one pager, and relatively evocative. “Pebble beach by a river” is the first location … notice how the room title adds additional context to the encounter. We’ve already got a brief description that “1” alone just doesn’t convey. On top of that there’s “a pestilent small forming from inside the cave.” Great! We’ve got a little bit of foreshadowing, a little bit of a hint that something lives here, and little bit of the mythic underworld, if played that way, implying things are about to get weird. The second line is a strange crow on a rock that says “She’ll give me your eyes! Before flying off. Nice scene, but, “strange” is a poor word choice. HOW is it strange? Strange is a conclusion, you see. You want the description to convey to the players “oh, thats strange”, not tell them its strange. 

I know it’s a one pager, and sospace is limited, but this whole “give me your eyes” thing could have been touched on again via a callback. It’s the only time it’s mentioned.

Room two is a stinky cavern. I’d prefer a sulferous cavern, or something to convey the smell of death, as the room title, since the caracasses of many rotting creatures lie within. There’s rando cave paintings showing men coming down from flying ship. A “very old” cave painting. A better word could have been found for this, and the cave painting has no impact on the adventure. I would have liked to see it contribute. There IS a dead gnome body in a crack … wearing a ring of invisibility. Nice way to hide treasure; I approve!

Room three is a foggy cave, with a knee high mist hiding a troll in a pit … the mist coming from a hot spring in the bottom of the pit. Interesting. I like the trap/trick aspect of the room, as well as “knee high” to describe the mist. Maybe one more line about the troll and how he interacts? The rooms continue like this, generally some interactivity with some decent writing that could be better. The treasure is book, but it’s also one page.

So, it’s a decent little adventure that suffers from all of the usual problems of one-pagers: its too constrained. I can see how a little lair dungeon would buff up the monster entries in a folklore book, but … I’m not sure that the mythic nature, or even the specific aspects of folklore, are captured in the entry. The usual issues, it’s too constrained. I don’t think you need to go all 100 Bushels of Rye on the thing, but, there must be a happy medium here. It’s about as good as you can do, in a one page format for a lair, but … in a one page format. 

Nobboc posted this over ath reddit in the OSR group, so, it’s free:

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8 Responses to The Lair of the Shaggy Beast

  1. Anonymous says:

    I know OPD have been looked at with neglect as of late but the concept holds weight as people keep making them often for their own games.

    I still believe / want to see the ideal OPD. It has to exist, is the issue you don’t do too much to make sure everything is fleshed out enough?

  2. Reason says:

    I’ve said elsewhere recently that 2 page dungeons (you can still print it on a single sheet if you are a zealot, people!) can solve a lot of these OPD issues. Trilemma at his blog has made some real doozies over 2 pages. Plenty of good reviews on his stuff out there.

  3. Ken McKinney says:

    I don’t understand the disdain for the OPD, although I agree that a second page would be preferable. As a DM, small lairs like the one reviewed are really useful for me, because I can essentially use them to flesh out wandering encounters generated during exploration. Big set piece dungeons are more fun to read and ultimately more fun to play in, but require vastly more prep and often require a campaign tailored to them. The reviewed dungeon is nice because it isn’t terribly gonzo, the details in it that are can easily be changed, and its strong point is its map..

  4. PrinceofNothing says:

    There’s something about most OPD that goes beyond a certain compression ratio and the vast bulk has a potemkin feel, but there IS a sweet spot for tight, well-crafted dungeons in the 2-4 page range, Lichway comes to mind. Presumably you could squeeze decent room keying onto a single page.

    The disdain for OPDs might have something to do with that they seem at first glance to take less effort and thus are a fertile breeding ground for novice experimentation, but in practice it might take more skill to compress a good adventure into such a small format, not less.

  5. Gnarley Bones says:

    I find One Page Dungeons to be good scenario seeds. They are (pretty much by definition) not fleshed out, require a bit of work for the DM, but the good ones can be great ice breakers for the Dm’s imagination.

    I’ve used the Temple of the Moon Priests, as an example,

    I like to dual tracks in this one. What is a better Old-School element than including water?

  6. Nobboc says:

    Thanks for the review! I was interested to know what you could think and say about this stuff (maybe I should have just sent it privately…). I think OPD is more a good and useful formal exercise for the designer (that could help for designing normal-sized adventures) than a cool stuff to play or use. Thanks!
    note: I stole the idea of the gnome lightning the room with his lantern from Stuart Robertson’s Citadel of Evil, maybe the best OPD on this planet (that your reviewed years ago)

  7. Jacob72 says:

    So the one page dungeon is a haiku problem?

    I’m of the view that the one page dungeon works as an evening’s entertainment, but that it does need that extra half page or full page for the keys.

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