Friday, January 14, 2011

Microdungeons, art, writing

This post is one of those occasional gaming pieces, although curiously, I think it bears on writing and fiction as well.
A few months ago, I came across Tony Dowler's intriguing blog Year of the Dungeon, and in particular Dowler's collection of what he calls microdungeons.
I've dabbled in scenario design for roleplaying games, and published one for BRP Adventures. Dowler's microdungeons are hand-drawn sketches for these scenarios, comprising a small map, some suggestive text and labels, sometimes a random table, and very little else in terms of rules, descriptions or directions.
The microdungeons can be literal dungeons, tombs, small mazes, or they can be libraries, quarters of fantasy cities, or even abstractions, devices, mundane objects reinterpreted.
From a gaming point of view, they are like the sketch of a scenario or location, with a great deal of room left for conjecture and development. Inspirations rather than handbooks for play, they can be adapted to any rules that are at hand.
From a writer's point of view, they are almost like a new literary form. They are short stories without plot or character, resolved into setting and perhaps a hint of incident. Or they are primarily a visual form: illustrations or diagrams with a suggestive gloss. They're intriguing because if you think of them in a particular way, they really do create a space for the play of imagination.