Ancient Scroll’s Secret Room: An Interview with Alex Schroeder from 1PDC

Since 2009, the One Page Dungeon Contest (or 1PDC for short) offers designers a chance to describe a dungeon, village, or cave to be used during a roleplaying game session, but only using one side of an A4 sheet of paper. Over time, many of the submissions described standalone adventures more than a single map. I’d encourage you to check out the 2011 contest here to check out all the great submissions for this year.

The 1PDC project combines two things – attractive layout and an intriguing story idea. Some of them look so professional that they would look great framed and hung on the wall as art. (Editor’s Note: I have a copy of the book made from the 2009 contest and it’s a veritable font of ideas. You can still find it at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow and get a copy of the PDF!)

I had a chance to talk to 1PDC co-author Alex Schroeder. (Note that this interview originally appeared at and has been shared with Game Knight Reviews readers.)

Where did the idea for 1PDC come from? Who started 1PDC? Just you or did you have help?

The first person to blog about the one page format was Dave Bowman. Michael ”Chgowiz” Shorten then made a simple to use template and Michael ”Amityville Mike” Curtis started publishing levels for his ”Stonehell” dungeon on his blog. Philippe-Antoine ”ChattyDM” Menard discovered Michael’s template soon enough, liked it a lot, contacted him, and together they organized the very first “One Page Dungeon Creation Contest”.

What is more important in this kind of project: story or layout?

The way the contests have worked until now is that judges volunteer for the contest, and whatever they like turns out to be important. More variety is good!

How many people have taken part in One Page Dungeon Contests so far?

During three editions of 1PDC we have received almost 250 submissions.

What is the hardest part in making this kind of project?

There are several hard things.

Reaching out to new people and convincing them to submit an entry is very hard. Every year I spend a lot of time posting on the various forums (more than twenty) trying to spread the word.

Reading all of the submissions is also hard. You really need the time. Assume you get 60 submissions and it takes you 10 minutes to read and rate each submission. 600 minutes is ten hours.

I have found that asking sponsors for prizes is surprisingly easy.

Does every story can be designed for 1PDC? For example, can you imagine making The Lord of The Rings a One Page Dungeon?

Well, yes. For example in LoTR you can find inspiration almost everywhere. Rivendell, the Barrow Wights, Moria, Isengard, Mordor and many more locations, characters and plots are excellent inspiration for adventures. Unfortunately the names and descriptions are not free – I doubt that the Tolkien Estate will give you the necessary license to publish any One Page Dungeon Contest submission using their intellectual property.

Unfortunately, copyright laws have been changed all over the world in order to protect these works for an incredible amount of time. That’s why you need to go back to classics like Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne and all other other authors whose works are in the public domain at last.

Can you name one single 1PDC project that surprised you the most?

The one I was most surprised with was probably Maze of Namcap by Patrick Riley – a dungeon based on Pacman!

Why didn’t you copyright the idea of 1PDC?

Ideas are only protected by patents. Patents are costly and in Europe they require industrial applicability. Clearly, the contest does not qualify. I guess I could register a trademark for the name One Page Dungeon Contest or the 1PDC acronym, but since this costs money, I would have to ask for money as well, somewhere. I think that would suck the fun out of it, as far as I am concerned.

What is your favorite RPG? Name one older game and a new one…

I use Labyrinth Lord in many of my own games. As for newer games, I liked Mountain Witch, Western City, Solar System (the rules used for The Shadow of Yesterday), various FATE variants (these days I like to run a game with its own custom-tailored rules) and Lady Blackbird and it’s various hacks.

Do you think classic RPGs can compete with Internet games like MMORPGs?

Of course I do because I don’t play any MMORPG. I think that role-playing games can offer a completely different experience, which is why I don’t think RPG designers should try to mimic MMORPGs. It’s OK to use their language and their conventions in order to make it easy for MMORPG players to make the transition, but there is so much more that is interesting about classic RPGs played face to face, sitting around a table: dice, inspiration, improvisation, your own creations, house rules, human drama and more.

For more about this year’s One Page Dungeon Contest, be sure to check out their site and peruse some of the great submissions!

(Editor’s Note: A big thank you goes out to Robert Oglodzinksi for sharing this interview with the GKR audience! If you want to help Robert’s own game about the French Resistance during World War II, check out his IndieGoGo campaign for Resistance: Cross of Lorraine!)

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