I haven't followed Year of the Dungeon closely, I've stumbled across it a few times in my blogoramblings. But a recent compilation of Tony Dowler's microdungeons is really something worth looking at.
These dungeons are small and uncomplicated. In the past some of them have seemed more like puns or more lighthearted than is to my taste. But the dungeon above, The Old Crypt, caught my eye.
First, the way each room has a word or two as a description fits the One Page Dungeon philosophy to a T. Only what needs to be said is said: screams here, this is sealed, candles here. That makes sense and I'm sure you have maps that have similar notations to remind yourself.
I think the "Here" and "There" above is a wonderful example of this. I imagine it means the doorway at "There" leads to the isolated room at "Here." But it's such a clean way to note it. How would I have done it? Numbers, letters, matching symbols if I was particularly thoughtful. So these dungeons have this efficient evocativeness about them.
But what led me to write this post was something more. Do you see the word "brittle" in the Old Crypt? Maybe Tony has a clear sense of what that means. Maybe in the terseness of the notes it just doesn't get translated to me, the reader. But whatever caused it I don't know what the hell "brittle" means here, and I love it.
Maybe this is all pretty obvious, but I think it might be a great spur to me as a DM to have that kind of brief abstract note about dungeon chambers to help me generate or improvise. Maybe what that would look like wouldn't be much different than the dungeon dressing tables in the 1e DMG appendix I.
But in those, each table was for a specific subset of descriptors (sounds, container contents, clothes). I'm thinking of more general adjective; "brittle" in my mind could apply to scrolls in the room, to a crust or ice over a pool characters have to walk across, or even to the tension in the air.
Anyway enough of that, go check out Tony's microdungeons. Here's the compilation of a month of them.