From the beginning Dungeons and Dragons, a table-top role-playing game is about gathering friends around a table, building a world and creating stories together. Historically the game uses a complex ruleset to create a balanced world and is managed with paper and pencil. More time is spent managing a piece of paper and doing research then telling the story. When given the opportunity to explore my own application I wanted to bring the experience back to this goal. How can a mobile app encourage the gameplay of Dungeons and Dragons? How can we bring in new players interested players? How can we promote storytelling and community play? How can we bring a 40-year-old game back to the 21-century table?
The Result is the Dragon Grimoire, your gateway into Dungeons and Dragons as a player creation tool and character manager. Regardless if you are new or experienced. The Dragon Grimoire makes the character creating process smooth and intuitive so storytelling takes the center stage. The app introduces you to the basic concepts on the characters, abilities, and strengths and follows your character along your journey keeping track of battles, treasures, and experiences along with you and your companions. Ultimately, this app is second hand to the game allowing you to focus on what is most important, The friends around you and the adventures you create.
To be used as a tool for all players I divided individuals into 3 categories: New players, Experienced players, and the Dungeon Master (DM). This first being newcomers brought in by friends and family, then more advanced players. Lastly, the Dungeon Master or DM who controls the player’s environment and acts as the “storyteller” of the adventure.
At a game of Dungeons and Dragons, players use a mix of paper & pencil, game books or applications for both player creation and information resources. This makes for a busy and overwhelming table when multiplied per player.
In applications, visual designs are all wildly unappealing to a large audience either focusing on hyper-fantasy which is not good for new players or a very simple “developer” style while functional, has little appeal beyond that and not very usable. Lastly, the complexity is very forward with little onboarding to guide new players through the games largest first pain point, character creation.
Paper Experiences are not much better while the layout is clean and legible at first. This rapidly deteriorates as managing an evolving character over many months is difficult. Erases, statistics, changing items and side notes quickly overwhelm the initial document.
Allow new users to easily uncover gameplay mechanics dietetically providing tips only when needed.
Automate as much as possble limiting math and statistics. Create a visual style that is welcoming to new players so it isn't too "dynamic".
Guide players through character development in step by step process to avoid overwhelming new players
Promote character growth as gameplay continues for months, if not years. Allowing multiple characters and evolving skillsets/abilities.
When doing early sketches I wanted to make strong use of segmenting pages into specific sections such as combat, Roleplay, and Adventure for contextual play. In addition I wanted the app to make questions and specific details diegetic where questions and answers are always available as popups but never "in your face". This focus with using a cards based metaphor, players build a hand of cards to create their character.
Reviewing the early Paper Prototype with gamers, designers, and friends both in and out of the school the reactions were very positive. many people liked the improved character creator with the primary changes asked were increasing the personalization as well as making the UI simple, and consistent with all actions.
With the user testing in mind, I moved to the final UI and Prototyping made in Sketch and Marvel respectfully. In the design process, I made sure to simplify the UI as much as possible using a diegetic information display fully to make sure the character creator has both the usability that new players demand but the same complexity the game system itself requires and many players crave for.
Below you can find the current prototype form with code development in-process. If you wish to perform a video user test, use the following
Testing the prototype with people both new to the game and those who are more experienced with the system, I found that this greatly improved the initial onboarding time with little confusion. Previous onboarding times were between 2-3 hours depending on the previous playing experience. With the Dragon Grimoire, time was cut down to 30-45 minutes, a 600% improvement.
Next steps involve expanding the character creation to management with new abilities and focus on community play how multiple players can communicate with one another sharing experience, knowledge, and treasure among each other and the Dungeon Master.
After continued development, I look to share this with Wizards of the Coast into an app you can find at your table in the near future.