Dolmenwood: Adventure Layout In Progress

A new Dolmenwood adventure looms before publication! I've been working this week on finishing up the text and have got started on the layout.

Continuing on from my recent work on B/X Essentials, my focus is firmly on ease of quick reference. The layout concept for adventure locations breaks things down as follows:

  • Each important feature of an area is broken out in its own heading.
  • Monsters and NPCs are treated likewise.
  • A short description appears after each heading. These consist of bolded keywords, with finer detail in parentheses. (Yeah, this was inspired by Hot Springs Island.)
  • Bullet points note any actions, reactions, or events related to the heading.
  • Monster or NPC combat stats are broken out in sidebars.

That probably all sounds a bit dry. Here's an example of what it looks like in practice -- the first two encounter areas in the adventure, as PCs wander through the forest and approach a burial mound.

As always, feedback is most welcome!


  1. Oooh, I really like the direction your taking! I've recently got back into playing Interactive Fiction, and it makes so much sense to present adventure material in a similar fashion (especially in exploration-heavy games).

    It also reminds me of Courtney Campbell's (am I the only one who still wants to simply call him "-C"?) approach, only with more words instead of symbols and such.

  2. Excellent. Just never include any read out loud text and you are golden.

  3. The Hot Springs Island-style formatting is effective, but I wonder if the bracketed information should be *all* further detail (as in HSI) or focus on detail that isn't immediately apparent.

    curved silver knife (held aloft by one)
    shining knife held aloft (curved, silver, sacrificial)

    1. Yeah, when you look into each individual noted features in great detail like that, it gets very tricky to decide which words are most important to be bolded and which can be in the parentheses.

      That said, I think I don't really get the distinction you're pointing out -- "*all* further detail" vs "detail that isn't immediately apparent".

    2. (Though in that specific instance, I agree that the fact that the knife is held aloft is probably more important than it being curved.)

  4. Does this mean that all prose/flavor text of the type found in the location/encounter descriptions in The Weird that Befell Drigbolton would be replaced by these types of entries?

    This sort of kills the vibe of the entire setting for me, if so. While there are hints at the tone and flavor of Dolmenwood in the entry above, it lacks the details that made this setting so vibrant and interesting. For example, in The Weird that Befell Drigbolton, you described Willow the water nymph at The Pike Pond as only manifesting "as a form which may be seen by mortal eyes--that of a lithe, grey-haired silver-eyed maid, tall as a knight and supple as willow branch--in the springtime, when she requires the seed of human men to fertilise her brood." In comparison, the entry above is incredibly dry and sacrifices your previous prose style, which went far in distinguishing the setting, for pure function (and a minimalist hint at flavor).

    I understand the desire and need to make adventures easy to use at the table, but for it to become purely functional, as above, undermines the essential qualities that set Dolmenwood, and your writing, apart form other settings/adventures. Please, do not take this criticism negatively; I just wanted to voice my point of view and disappointment at this shift toward a "focus ... firmly on ease of quick reference."

    1. Indeed. The main focus is on usability. Personally, I no longer have much interest in prose-based adventures. Case in point: I ran The Weird That Befell Drigbolton for my group (after its publication -- oops!) and found it very difficult to run. And that as the author. There's just way too much text.

      To take the example you give, it could be translated into the condensed format something like this:

      Lithe maid (grey-haired silver-eyed). Tall (as a knight). Supple (as a willow branch). Manifests in the springtime (to mate with human men to fertilise her brood).

      -- all the same info, all the same flavour, much easier to parse quickly.

      The condensed form definitely has less "poetry" or something about it, but I don't think the flavour itself is altered.

    2. To clarify: I do not disagree with you re: the utility of the new layout; I believe it is effective in its goals and looks great on the page. I'm simply attached to the style, I should say, and the parataxis doesn't evoke the same tone as the syntax. I still look forward to the adventure and Dolmenwood books, but as well, if you ever decide to write fiction, I'll be first in line!

    3. Thanks for the vote of confidence in my prose! :)

      I have thought about dabbling in fiction, but it's a big pool to jump into. Who knows, maybe at some point...