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Dungeonaday.com – Awesome In Any System

Posted By John Arcadian On March 11, 2010 @ 11:44 pm In Reviews | 8 Comments

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This past weekend I just finished running a medium length campaign for my group. The game had been a play test and world-building project. The group travelled far and wide across the world and grew to great heights of notoriousness . . . uh, I meant fame.  A couple of sessions before the projected finish of the campaign, a few members of the group told me how much they would have liked to have done a big dungeon with these characters. Since I’m not the type of Game Master to run huge amounts of Dungeon Crawls I figured I would pick up an interesting dungeon from my FLGS or Drive Thru RPG. Then I saw on Facebook that it was Monte Cook’s birthday. Every time I saw or heard something about Dungeon-a-Day I had thought that I should sign up for it, if only I ran more dungeons . . . Bang. Problem solved. I immediately signed up for a subscription and set about running it once the group finished up their current adventure.

The Experience
One of the very first things that has to be noted about Dungeonaday.com is that it is incredibly easy to use. Signing on for the first time I came across the handy  “Getting Started” section, replete with links to resources that are useful for the GM. Things like “History of Dragon’s Delve” or “Dungeon Design Assumptions“. There is even a separate section for “Dragon’s Delve Resources, which includes a whole plethora of things that are useful to the Game master. Sections like Secrets and Rumors of Dragon’s Delve provide great adventure hooks, GM only information, and even false rumors to throw your players off with.

imageDungeonaday really leverages the power of the internet to change the way dungeons are written. Links from within articles and room descriptions let  you easily access relevant information directly in a new window. You can click, read what you need, close out the window or drag it away, and jump right back into playing.

Aside from links in the articles, the level maps are a piece of html wizardry. Clicking on a room opens its summary in a new window. This makes the level map an excellent central location to work from. While reading ahead is a decent idea, information about links to a room are always contained within a room. For instance, if a 4 bugbears (20 hp) were going to going to burst through the secret door from 2a and ambush the PCs in this room, that information is placed within the summary for room 4. Links to the bugbears stats (if available on the site or from D20srd.org) will be included so that all the Game Master has to do is click the links and game from the screen.

I really can’t say enough about how Dungeonaday uses some really simple but elegant web technology to create an easy to use adventure.

Full Featured
Aside from the unique and easy to use layout the room summaries are full of information. While the site has a section for the general history of the dungeon, each section has information (or a link to where to find information) about the history or necessary motivations for a room’s inhabitants. Pictures from various fantasy artists adorn many of the summaries. Layouts of various rooms using Dwarven Forge rooms are done for most of the rooms. Links to printouts and game aids are provided where necessary and they come in incredibly handy. A few times I came across one that I had forgotten to print out beforehand. All I had to do was hit print, ask a player to grab it from the printer downstairs, and weave the handout into the story.  Many of the illustrations for elements unique to the dungeon were provided in this way, so all I had to do was turn the screen or print out the “sketching in an old journal” that they found to include a visual element for the players. While I might have to take pains to cover the section title “AMBUSH THAT WILL KILL YOU INSTANTLY” in a printed book, all I have to do with Dungeonaday is click view in a new window and the players only get to see the image that I want them to see.

Size And Continual Content
The Dragon’s Delve dungeon is huge. The site states that when finished it will have 20 levels. Currently (after one year) the dungeon is written into the 7th level with two outside areas. This isn’t the type of dungeon you “clear out”, as it says in the Dungeon Design Assumptions section.  While you might worry about getting to the end of it too quickly, I’ll say this: You won’t. Every room has an encounter or special factor to it. There aren’t any “empty” dungeon rooms. The dungeon is also more than an instance for adventurers to kill monsters. Most rooms contain a “Revisit” section that details what happens if the party returns to the area.There are also random encounter tables for each level and a unique history that can provide for a fairly complex social experience. In one room my group decided to try to “party with the gnolls” instead of attacking. A few good rolls and some interesting roleplaying and a fairly large section was played out as a negotiation and aiding in a clan war. No matter what, you are going to find something to use within this dungeon. Even using the dungeon (or a section of it) as an element in another adventure is going to provide you lots of well thought out material to modify.

Do I Need My Laptop At The Table?
I’ll say this. Having a laptop at the table increases the awesomeness of Dungeonaday.com exponentially. However, you don’t need it. PDFs of completed levels are available to subscribers. Yearly subscribers get these free, quarterly and monthly subscribers pay a small fee. This is only to prevent people from signing up for one month, downloading all the PDFs and then cancelling.

What If I Don’t Play D&D
So, I have to confess that I didn’t run my games in anything resembling D&D. While Dungeonaday is definitely geared towards running in D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder (D&D 3.75) it doesn’t need to be. I converted things on the fly and had no issues whatsoever. I could easily see running Savage Worlds, Gurps, Besm Dungeon, or any other fantasy game or setting out of Dungeonaday. A small amount of prep would be needed, but not much.

Final Conclusions

  • I am highly enamored of the layout and internal linking done by Dungeonaday.
  • I loved the ease of use factor. I didn’t need to go digging for anything, it was all provided off of the summary for the room that my group was currently in.
  • Many of the rooms are made to challenge traditional parties and work well to counterbalance too powerful parties.
  • The dungeon itself is incredibly well thought-out. Nothing in the back-story, history, monsters, NPCs, or any other factor felt half done.
  • Every possible step to make things easy on the Game Master seems to have been taken. Even when it is just a photo of a papercraft model to show how a 4 dimensional level (that’s right, you heard me, there is a freaky and fun 4D level) is arranged it is done.

I loved running from Dungeonaday.com. When we finished out the adventure (and two sessions later the campaign) my group kept talking about wanting to see what else was in the dungeon. Our next game is going to be a troupe-style game with each player running a different level or two. If it seems like I am gushing about Dungeonaday, that is solely because it is so awesome. I received no compensation, free access, nor back alley threats from Halflings (stupid Halflings) to do the review. If you are looking for a great site to mine for individual rooms, looking for a huge mega dungeon to run your group through as they level up, or just looking for a great example of adventure design then Dungeonaday is something you should definitely check out.

So, does anyone currently run from Dungeonaday? Got any fun stories about it? Have you seen any examples of adventures online that work like this? I’m interested in the use of interactive media to run adventures and might be building my next adventures like this. Share your thoughts and go check out Dungeonaday. Its worth a look.

About  John Arcadian

John Arcadian is the head of Silvervine Games, a freelance writer and art director, a website developer, a builder of sonic screwdrivers, and a purveyor of kilted mayhem. When he isn't out causing trouble in his kilt... Well, no, that is pretty much what he does when he isn't running RPGs or or trying to take over the world.




8 Comments (Open | Close)

8 Comments To "Dungeonaday.com – Awesome In Any System"

#1 Comment By corwin On March 12, 2010 @ 2:27 am

Thanks for this article. I’ve always been meaning to check out Dungeon-a-day, but wasn’t sure if a subscription was worth it – I definitely need to rethink it now that I see how well everything works together. The links are a brilliant idea!

#2 Comment By jaydot On March 12, 2010 @ 8:47 am

It sounds totally awesome. I’m sad I didn’t think of doing this before they did.

#3 Comment By John Arcadian On March 12, 2010 @ 9:29 am

@jaydot – I was just like you. The idea sounded intriguing to me and I waffled on how much I would use it. Once I got it, I was not disappointed. It was well worth the money.

@corwin – When you think about the core ideas behind this, it is fairly simple. One of my paying jobs is as a web-designer, so I have a basic understanding of how everything works in regards to the linking and coding. I may have to start writing my adventures this way. Having experienced adventure design like this it feels odd to go back to printed materials.

#4 Comment By The Bearded Goose On March 12, 2010 @ 10:02 am

@John – I also have been on the fence. And I have to admit now that, yes, I’m opening a new browser window to subscribe. Thanks for the review, sir.

#5 Comment By Scott Martin On March 12, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

This never sounded that interesting to me– a big dungeon, no tie to the characters stories? But I can see how this would be perfect for some characters– it’d be a huge delve, something huge to brag about about. I may just have to jump on this bandwagon after all…

#6 Comment By John Arcadian On March 12, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

@Scott Martin – Like any published adventure it has the drawback of not being connected to the characters stories. However, there are many places where the characters could be hooked into the dungeon once inside.

One thing I’d definitely say about the hugeness of the dungeon is that it can easily be cut up for use other places. Each level is individual enough to use on its own with a little tweaking. I could easily see finding the dungeon level that fits the characters’ levels and using that for a single adventure.

#7 Comment By Lavachild On March 12, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

I’m dming a group just below the 5th level, and I LOVE it. I work 6 days a week and am waaay to busy to make up a full campaign, so DAD allows me to run a game and continue to work the hours I work. The look on the face of my player when the T-rex swallowed him whole – priceless. The levels have very different feels and there is a enough “out of dungeon” adventures to keep it really fresh.

Currently, my party wants to use a magic item that steals special abilities to steal the T-rex ability to swallow whole, then return to town, enlarge the half-orc party member, and have him swallow a lying, cheating gnome rival whole. The half-orc will spit the gnome up after its learned a lesson.

Anyway, I really recommmend the site.

#8 Pingback By Starting Over… | Moebius Adventures On March 17, 2010 @ 10:06 am

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