Review: Dungeon Master Jam #1
Hey everyone! Today I have an interesting review for you that features a collection of adventures for 5th Edition. This product was developed as a little bit of a competition and judged by a couple DMs from the community. The competition would result in a small monetary prize for the winner and the adventures would be included in a bundle on the DM’s Guild. The guidelines included a few things that had to be in the adventure and a two week time period to prepare the adventure. Below I review the bundle that was the final product!
I want to start by covering the concept of the DM Jam a little more clearly. The idea of the competition seems pretty basic and quite fun. Entrants have two weeks to put together an adventure ready for publishing. Now, being for a final product that shows up on the DMs Guild it is obviously going to be for the 5th Edition of D&D. However, limitations were nowhere to be found other than the time and a few key ingredients that the developers had to fit in. It was almost like an AU episode of Chopped where the judges pull out character sheets and dice instead of forks and knives. Anyways, for this first one the requirements consisted of the following: the arrival of an empty ship, an NPC who was a crazy zealot, and a pig (just for randomness). What I love about this whole thing is that devs may all have to have the same couple things and be working from the same set of rules, but the results could be vastly different. The themes you need to pull from are specific enough that you aren’t asking questions and vague enough to be included in any of thousands of different ways. The time limit is, truly, the only thing that might hold someone back. Having a finished product that was a start to finish adventure and included all these things in the allotted time sounds pretty challenging, but is an awesome idea.
Before I touch on the adventures, I want to talk about the bundle. I was asked to review that specifically, so I want it to be the focus of what I critique. I am not going to talk about whether I agree with the winner or what the individual adventures did right or could do better. Instead I want to take what I have already proclaimed an awesome idea and see how it developed. First off, the concept and execution seems to have worked out pretty well. I cannot be sure if there were only 6 entries or if only a few chosen were included. My inkling is toward the former. Given that this is the first of these competitions I would say it succeeded wonderfully. Getting a couple judges, six whole entries, working through the process, and actually having a bundle to show for it is impressive. The bundle itself is even a copper best seller as of this writing.
That being said the final product has room for improvement. The cover is pretty good and fits the theme of the contest and adventures. There is a nice intro page that summarizes the event and the adventurers well. The various adventures included shout outs and the names of who were involved in writing them. All in all, the product is pretty good with a wonderful set of adventures that proved to be quite diverse in concept, level, and approach. Now here is where the tough choices come in. This bundle appears to have taken each individual adventure, as presented, and tied it all together into one product. I don’t have a problem with that at all. However, I think there are a couple better ways of approaching this to give it a cleaner feel because some of the formatting varies so wildly I cannot tell if the writer missed formatting missteps in the adventures or if it was the bundler.
I would suggest one of two things for the next bundle. First you could individually package each adventure as its own PDF as given to you by the entrants with a nice document that summarizes the event, themes, judges, entrants, and adventures themselves. This would probably be the easiest thing to do. It would also make navigating the bundle a bit easier. The other option would be to maintain the single PDF style but to homogenize the design and layout so that the product as a whole looked slick. This would have to include numbering the whole document together with a symbol or note in the corner or edge (perhaps) to denote each adventure. Mainly, I think it would be of service to chose a holistic, collected approach OR and individualistic, as-is approach. One certainly requires more work than the other. Aside from that though it is clear that a few of the entrants are not just great adventure writers but good with the design element as well. I am impressed with this product and everything that was put into it, especially as a first go. I look forward to seeing a sequel and hope I hear about it early so that I might make some time to enter!
Adventure Quick Note
While this review is for the bundle I do want to make a note of some awesome adventure elements I noticed within it. First is the fact that the levels of these range from 1-10 or so and there is even an un-leveled adventure that acts more as a guide than your traditional D&D adventure is written. Second the entrants were really clever. The types of ships and their point for being there came in all sorts of flavors. I especially liked the one featuring a ghost ship that phase spiders lurked around and was actually something far worse. I mean a farmer sees a ghost ship and suddenly the party is heading straight for the deep part of the ethereal plane?! Awesome. Other adventures were more traditional and simple, but no less fun or well developed. The winner, in fact, was a wonderfully well done adventure that easily could have stood on its own two feet or as part of a much larger campaign or adventure scenario. Honestly, well done writers, well done.
If your wondering whether this is worth getting I would say hells yes. At only $2 this is 60 pages worth of ideas if nothing else. Even if you only use one of the adventures you will have gotten your money’s worth. With some refining, future iterations could absolutely be worth more! If you are always looking for adventures to keep in your back pocket this is a wonderful product, for sure.