The lights are on
The new 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons has just released, and already many are excited about the long-in-production role-playing game, which nudges the design in a few new directions while embracing many of the tenets of past editions. Even as the traditional structure of play remains central, Wizards of the Coast has partnered with Trapdoor Technologies to create a full digital toolset for the new edition, one that includes everything from a character creator tool to the option to buy searchable, digital versions of the game books and adventures. Ultimately, the Dungeonscape app should allow a gaming group to optionally run a whole game from the app without any outside paper, dice, or paper books.
We interviewed the team at Trapdoor Technologies about their new project, and got some additional detail about what players can expect. We talked with Chris Matney, managing director and founder of Trapdoor, producer Evan Newton, and Rachael Bowen, community and customer support manager.
What is the DungeonScape app, and what top level tools will it eventually include for players and DMs?
Rachael Bowen: DungeonScape is the Official Companion to the Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop RPG. It is the only licensed digital toolset for fifth edition D&D and is developed by us, Trapdoor Technologies, in partnership with Wizards of the Coast. DungeonScape’s aim is to provide a full-featured set of tools for playing fifth edition D&D. We have features for both pre-game role playing (character generation, creating DM notes, maps and monsters, etc.), and actual gameplay (character and adventure tracking, in-game document sharing, party chat, secret DM messaging).
Being new to D&D myself, I’ve been astounded at the amount of information contained in the physical D&D books. One of the coolest things DungeonScape will provide at the top level is a fully searchable Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide. This includes all images, maps, rules, spells, races, armor classes, etc. This tool is incredibly powerful and on its own stands to change the way that role-players play D&D.
The character creator aspect of the app seems like it is the farthest along – what are some of the features of the character creator that you’re especially proud of and excited about?
Chris Matney: There are two things here that I think are really cool. The initial design idea behind character creation was to make it faster in order to facilitate more play time. We’ve taken the process of rolling up a character and provided all the info you need to do so at your fingertips - this takes the pain of creating characters out of the equation and turns it into something that is fast, easy and fun.
The second thing that I’m really excited about is something we’ve begun implementing recently. We’ve included a lot of features to move the app toward bringing creativity back to the forefront in character building. In an effort to try and get the creative juices really flowing, we’ve made it easy to make a character that’s going to be memorable; one that you’ll play for a long time and provide you with many challenges and opportunities for role play. Basic characters are a pile of numbers which is great for combat, but if you really want to role play, it’s about being able to understand your characters motivations, flaws, background: It’s about the things that make them tick and really make them interesting and exciting. When you talk to people about what characters in the past they’ve been excited about, it’s not the all 18 ability score character – it’s the one that had a tragic flaw that made them fun or challenging to play from a roleplaying perspective. I’m really excited about the way we’ve implemented this in DungeonScape. If you don’t want to dive into the creative process, you don’t have to - you can hit ‘random’ and go.
For many D&D players, the analog experience of rolling dice and using paper is a key part of the experience. In what ways can DungeonScape be an additive and more enjoyable experience for players who are hesitant to integrate digital components into their approach to play?
Evan Newton: Well, the answer is that for some people, we simply can’t replace the pencil and paper experience. With that in mind, however, we are designing DungeonScape with face-to-face gameplay as a priority. To us, the game is about living in the world you’ve created with your friends. It’s not about spending a half hour pouring over rulebooks to find the correct calculations for breaking down a door (for example). We’re trying our best to make information easily accessible.
Matney: One of the key things to note here is that the creative player doesn’t like to roll electronic dice! I like to use paper and roll dice; I like the old time experience of D&D. With DungeonScape, you could use the app simply as a giant reference book, never for your character or for rolling dice. People that are hesitant to make that change can gently transition. When they realize the not so fun parts like bookkeeping and rule finding are made much more accessible using the app, it becomes easy. Some will get into the dice rollers, some won’t. The point is we can all play together using the technology or not. It’s not something where everyone has to be playing at the same level of integration with the tool. There is a path for those who want to make the transition slowly; once you realize you’ll never lose a character and that looking up spells isn’t integral to the fun of the game, the app becomes pretty indispensable pretty quickly.
[Next Page: How much of a full D&D game can be played exclusively using the app?]
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.