I’ve always thought technology had much to offer tabletop RPGs. I love incorporating as much tech into my play as I can. There are all sorts of great apps out there for many popular systems, including character creators, mapping systems, and even online table tops–a few of which are finally hitting their stride. My regular group and I play our campaigns on Roll20.net even if we’re all sitting in the same room. Among other things, I love its ability to properly enforce lighting and line-of-sight.
However, until now there haven’t been that many attempts at changing pre-made modules to incorporate tech. The Lost Dungeons of Xon Kickstarter intends to change that. It’s a module that will come to your tablet or laptop as in interactive PDF. It’s playable for D&D 5, D&D Classic, and Pathifnder, and it’s cheap. A mere $1.00 gets you the module for your favorite gaming system, and $5.00 gets you the module plus all the stretch goals.
So what can an interactive PDF give to a GM? To start, the module includes some really fun professional narration for scene setting. I always tend to fumble when trying to set up a scene. The danger is that you end up saying too much and distracting your players. (Is that really just a cow standing in the field?) Here there is none of that as the scene is set for you.
Another great feature are hot links which lead you instantly to the stat blocks you need to bring to life the NPCs and the monsters in the game. For me that’s a great time saver, as I hate flipping through bestiaries or modules to find the information I need to run an encounter.
In the final version there will also be secrets stored on the web which can be given to players with a password, although the review copy I received didn’t have these activated. There are some great opportunities here to reveal information piece by piece.
One major problem with most tabletop mapping systems is that they don’t allow for an easy way to hide the dungeon from the players. Without spoiling the fun, let’s just say that the makers of The Lost Dungeons of Xon have taken this weakness into account.
The module is built to take advantage of Reaper Miniatures Bones figures and the Dwarven Forge dungeon tiles. There is a downloadable map, which is print and play for those who don’t have access to the tiles. I would object that the map seems to be nothing more than a picture of the Dwarven Forge tiles, but they already passed a stretch goal in which they will produce maps for Roll20 along with tokens, so I can live with that. I have to say, it was kind of fun to get out the flip board and roll real dice when trying this out.
I also liked the scenario because right from the beginning it encouraged players to move forward without pulling out their weapons. To me that’s good game-craft because later on it allows the GM more options. The party will be used to using diplomacy and other means of problem solving. I won’t claim that the storyline is earth-shattering. It follows some familiar tropes. However, it is interesting and allows the players a fair amount of control for the future.
Bottom line: Is it worth a fiver? Definitely, the module alone is worth that. However as of today (April 2nd), you will receive not only the module but also a guide to running a barroom brawl, pre-generated characters, information on the surrounding area, Roll20 maps and tokens, a prequel adventure, an upgraded dungeon, plus an add-on town that you can purchase for an extra $5.00. Even if you don’t play the actual campaign there is plenty there which can be cannibalized for your own adventures.