D&D 5E Dungeonscape Beta: First Impressions

Dungeonscape, the official 5th Edition D&D electronic tools, opened up betas yesterday, and we’re in! We had a look around and see whether it’s really going to live up to our expectations. The following are our thoughts on what is very beta software. There will obviously be huge changes between now and release, so please keep this in mind. The following are our thoughts and an early review on what the software will be when finished, and whether or not it will suit your game.

The Good

Dungeonscape is ambitious. They’re clearing aiming to support everything in 5E D&D. It’s got all the classes, races, skills, spells, everything. There are going to be tools for managing adventures, campaigns, parties, and more. There are early hints of customizing not only the rules, but the arrangement of character sheet itself.

Dungeonscape - Character

Your character is presented as panels that can be rearranged

Multiple characters are well-supported, and easy to switch between. Changes are saved automatically to the cloud, and thus synced between devices. Handy for those of you who will build on a desktop or laptop and then want to keep track of your character on a tablet or phone at the table.

As expected, using an electronic tool speeds up character creation dramatically. It took me a little bit of time to work out how to use some of the pages, but once past that I could quickly create an entire party of characters in the time it would take to make just one by hand.

The Bad

Let’s be clear about something: it’s very beta right now.

There are plenty of features still in development. Modifying a character after creation is limited. They deactivated the level-up module because it was too buggy. Campaign and party management aren’t there yet. There is a lot of work to go just to finish anything, so even if the other problems are solved, it’s got a way to go.

There are piles of bugs. Characters can be got into uncompletable states. I think one of my characters disappeared without me deleting it, and then I got all my characters appearing twice. It has the tendency to crash iOS Safari. I also somehow created like 40 incomplete level 0 characters.

There are serious usability problems. Using the mouse, I feel like it’s designed for tablets, but tablet users have reported it feels designed for mouse. They’re aiming to support both, but at the moment it’s just bad for both. The information density is really low: not much is shown on the screen at any one time. A lot of information and options are only findable through scrolling in areas that don’t look scrollable.

Dungeonscape - Attributes

Initially (left) it looks like the section ends after Successes, but it scrolls (right)

In fact, considering how much was wrong, I was prepared to give up. I hunted for the feedback form (hidden in the settings menu), submitted some comments, and then resigned to coming back in a few months and hoping they’d fixed things.

Then I met Rachael.

The Ugly Bright Future

Rachael is the Customer Support Manager for Dungeonscape. In less than an hour after submitting my support issues, she emailed me back. In all the products and betas I’ve used before, I’ve never had responses as fast or helpful. And they’re in Colorado, I’m in Australia: she was up at like 11pm answering the silly questions of a crazy nerd on the other side of the planet.

Rachael linked me to the feedback system they’re using for Dungeonscape, as the link in the webpage was broken. What I saw revived my hope about the entire tool. There are bugs. There are usability issues. But they know. And they care.

Dungeonscape - Feedback

A sample Idea in the feedback system

Beta testers can report on bugs or suggestions, and vote on them to allow the devs to know what the testers feel is important. Many of the bugs and ideas are marked by the customer support representatives as reported, in progress, and so on. The system provides full feedback on where in the workflow each idea and bug is.

This whole process changed my attitude. I went back to Dungeonscape today, and they’re already making improvements. There are bug fixes, there’s more guidance when you open the app, there are usability fixes.

It’s still going to take time. There are lots of issues to solve. But they care, and that’s what matters. They want to make a good application that does everything that everyone wants and needs, and I have confidence that in a couple of months Dungeonscape will be exactly the electronic tool that we want for D&D 5E.


About Duncan

Ellisthion is currently loving 5E D&D, whilst still running the original 1st Ed AD&D Temple of Elemental Evil. He's also spending way too much time playing Dota 2.
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