Being a Dungeon Master is hard work. You’ve got to build a world, populate it with believable characters, and make your players feel like their characters matter. It’s not for everyone.
But ever since the early days of netbooks, technology has been making it easier. And as much fun as it is to discover a printed module in your Friendly Local Game Store, sites like Kickstarter allow fans of role-playing games to produce their own creations and share them with the world.
Earlier this year, Dan Coleman launched his Dungeons On Demand project, which offered pre-made, customizable scenarios for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. Within days of the Kickstarter campaign’s conclusion, Coleman had PDFs in the inboxes of backers. And they were fantastic: easy to follow, highly modular, and professionally designed.
Now Coleman is back with another round of Dungeons On Demand, and it’s very much more of the same. Which is not a bad thing at all. He sent over a review copy of the No Laughing Matter adventure and a few things jumped out at me.
It’s not just hack and slash. A lot of these drop-in modules are just combat scenarios. This particular adventure is about a disease that causes its sufferers to laugh uncontrollably. Good luck defeating that with your Vorpal Blade, Mr. Fighter.
It’s your world. There’s nothing that strongly ties this adventure to any specific campaign world. Coleman includes some clever hooks to connect it to your own campaign. You could easily fold this into an ongoing storyline and your players would be none the wiser.
But it still has great characters. And the included NPC Codex is really impressive, including some cool original art.
Clarity of design. The encounters are well-designed, sure, but so are the PDFs. It’s easy to find what you’re looking for, whether you print out the module or reference it on your tablet. I love the iconography: a chest indicates treasure, a skull warns that combat is likely, and the jigsaw piece says that the PCs are about to use their noggins on a puzzle.
Simple maps. I love cartography, and the insanely detailed maps included with some of Wizards’ and Paizo’s products are astonishing. But I’m running a theater-of-the-mind campaign, and too much detail can be distracting. I can easily transfer Coleman’s maps to my Battle Graph mats, or I can print out the player-only versions (which leave out all the spoilers!) and hand them out.
Is there anything I don’t like about Dungeons on Demand? Not really. I kinda wish the PDFs were hyperlinked, which the excellent Lost Dungeons of Xon did particularly well. But the modules are easy enough to browse, so it’s not a huge deal, really.
And the price is right. $5 for one of the modules, $15 for all four all five (thanks to the bonus stretch goal module). $25 if you want all of Volume 1 and Volume 2.
It’s an absurd amount of adventure, all for less than a single core D&D book. If you’re tempted, head over to Kickstarter pronto, because the campaign ends this Thursday night.
And if you’re not sure, at least head over to the campaign page and download the free Bandit’s Nest adventure. You have nothing at all to lose. Except for, perhaps, hours upon hours of your own time in creating RPG adventures from scratch.
I received free PDF copies of the No Laughing Matter module and Dungeons On Demand Volume 1 for this review.