Starting #Dungeon23

I started #Dungeon23 a little early, hoping to hit the ground running on New Year’s Day.

Blogged a bit about my intentions.

Took some notes to help me visualize the big picture.

Sought inspiration from locations and maps for Dark Souls and Elden Ring.

Read articles (and started reading books) on dungeon and adventure design. (See Ben Milton’s helpful recommendations.)

Bought a fancy planner. What a pretty cover!

Tried the fancy planner; didn’t like it. I don’t need “portable” when I don’t go anywhere. (Thanks, long covid!) Bought a different notebook that’s so nice to write in that I’ll be happy to use it over 300 times.

Wrote a page for practice, attempting to recreate the adventure from Exhumed.

Took some notes on why that practice run was a failure. Just as 2400 has been for me, #Dungeon23 will need to be an exercise in brevity. I can’t actually fit a week’s worth of content in a spread if I write to my heart’s content, and I probably can’t sustain that pace every day for a year.

Did another practice page, rewriting the same material as before, striving for brevity and a sustainable pace. (Still too wordy, but more in the right direction.) And then another page, and then another, reproducing and revising the whole tutorial adventure from Exhumed, so I can start on new material in 2023.

And stalled out. Just words, as of December 30th, 2022. No maps, no sketches, no doodles. I have a hang-up about drawing, and that hang-up got worse as I I saw what other people were doing for #Dungeon23. Looking at some really lovely maps, I despaired over how good they were, and how not-good my own work will be. I was nervous about returning to my (other) fancy notebook.

But that anxiety is exactly what has held me up from even starting so many projects before. And to me, #Dungeon23 is an excuse to finally start a thing I know I could put off forever if I obsess over perfection. So I sucked it up and forced myself to sketch some messy doodles and hard-to-read maps on New Year’s Eve.

Notebook spread of "Catacombs," with text on left page, roughly sketched map on right page.
Notebook spread of Vanda, an undead merchant. Text on left page notes inventory and dialog; sketch on right-hand page is of a hooded, old woman with glowing eyes.

(Most NPCs don’t get their own spread, but I figured I could make an exception for the merchant, blacksmith, and primary GM mouthpieces to explain how crafting and leveling up work.)

This afternoon, as I was sitting down to write today’s entry, I got Sean McCoy’s newsletter. Today’s is titled: “Slow down, you’re doing fine.” It’s about how you do not need to get sucked in by all the hype, or worry about the big picture, or stress over publication on day 1 of 365. You just need to do the thing, if you’re going to do it. Sean posted his own keys from some rooms he’s been working on. And I felt reassured that my cruddy maps, brief notes, and rough sketches are just fine for today.

My first #Dungeon23 entry of 2023 is an empty room, and that feels about right. We’ll get to the petrified titan and the clockwork citadel in a few weeks. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

4 responses to “Starting #Dungeon23”

  1. Love it. Good job at overcoming the anxiety. I’m all too familiar with that and know that it’s no small feat.

    I held off on participating myself, simply because I knew I’d have work obligations. However, I’d decided to be a bit of a cheerleader of folks along the way. This is going to be a long haul.

    Hang tough. There’s nothing wrong with your map at all. That’s just anxiety talking. Keep up the good work.

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