Roger the GS has posted a set of reviews for contestants of the One Page Dungeon Contest. I presume its Roger's contest - I don't see any other links. I'm not a regular reader of Roger's site, so I'm not up on the rules or how that contest works.
I've looked over most of the entries listed there and I admit, there is a considerable amount of creativity there. I should reach out and say well done; they are a fine set of puzzles. I feel certain I could not match their inventiveness.
Thankfully, I don't have to ... because I play Dungeons and Dragons. And D&D is not puzzle solving. It is not maze-solving.
This isn't going to be a rant. I have no desire to disparage the efforts of the participants on Roger's site. But I cannot help but point out that the principles behind the 'contest' per se represent one of the saddest elements in the gaming community ... the idea that somehow, competing with one another in an activity which is primarily done solo - on your own table, by yourself, in so-called preparation for the game - is a part of the game. It is not. It is no more a part of the game than the fellow who is picked from the crowd to attempt a three-point shot from the corner, or all the people playing baseball pools this summer, or the guy who this fall will paint himself green for Green Bay. These are all fun things; we do them because they are fun. And the make the audience experience interesting. But it must be noted that while they reflect the game, that's as far as it goes. The game is played by the participants, not the fellow in the stands, not the people at the office, and not the audience.
Very often the audience does not know this. But make no mistake: the players do.
Two days ago I posted a 'module' that shatters the illusion that the DM ought to control the events of the game. In the light of that, I would be amiss not to point out that one page dungeons created out of the game's context are useless compliments to the game. IF the players needed to enter a particular dungeon, and IF that dungeon is tailor-made to match the ongoing game according to the events of the game that have occurred up to that time, then yes, said dungeon has a purpose. Just as the problem is not that 3-pointers aren't part of the game, it is that 3-pointers thrown by audience members in half-time aren't part of the game.
Random dungeons are useless. A specific dungeon designed for a specific instance, where both players and DM know why its there and how it fits in the campaign, are useful.
For some, it's almost impossible to see that distinction. The certainty that someday will be the right day to use this dungeon is a pervasive, even addictive justification to DM solo-produced, solo-conceived dungeons until doomsday. But such dungeons demand shoehorning the players into the DM's headspace, and do not recognize the need for the DM to apply their dungeon-making skills to the player's headspace.
Again, a difficult distinction. Difficult primarily because it just seems wrong, somehow, not to view the dungeon - or any adventure - as a work of art to be hung on the wall of the campaign, where it can be recognized as a work of art. In fact, it may be said, the DM's creation of the adventure is the 'point' ... the game is the applause.
I think that's terrible. And I think contests to make puzzles are festivals to celebrate DMs while subtly discarding the value and importance of the player. Continued aggrandizement towards DMs and not players has long been a sickness within the community, and will not end until players stop applauding and start demanding a piece of the action.