D&D 5e App Review: Digital D20
If the name Digital D20 sounds familiar to you, that’s because they’ve actually translated a few of my articles into Spanish on their website. They recently approached me about doing a review of their app, likewise named Digital D20, which has recently undergone some updates and will be adding some new content in the near future.
Their app is essentially a hub for some hand-picked and edited D&D 5e adventures while also hosting a few other features for both players and DMs to use while playing through the adventures on the app.
If all that sounds good to you, you can find Digital D20 on the Google Play Store or the App Store. Now, let’s jump into the review for the rest of you that want to learn some more before you download the app!
For reference, I used my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S9 for this review. Your experience may differ based on what you use the app with!
What is Digital D20?
Digital D20 is an all-in-one app for D&D 5e adventure modules. You can download individual adventure modules from the app’s home menu, create and manage your characters, and read through the 5e SRD all through the app. Currently, all of the adventures on Digital D20 are free, but that may not always be the case.
Once you’ve downloaded a module you can tap the module’s icon in the home screen and get started. Modules on Digital D20 are essentially enhanced versions of a typical PDF adventure module. The app has maps, handouts, references, and tips that you can easily navigate through as you play the adventure.
As of right now the app only hosts a handful of modules in English and Spanish, but the team at Digital D20 have been working had to acquire (and translate!) new modules for the app.
There is a quick tutorial that can be accessed by clicking the drop-down menu in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. It’s only a quick 5-step tutorial, but it does a good job of teaching you the ins-and-outs of the app.
Honestly, the app was fairly self-explanatory already which I consider being a good thing. However, it’s nice that they included a quick tutorial regardless.
There is presently a bug with the app where clicking the tutorial page will bring you to a “page not found” error. Digital D20 said that this bug will be patched out in the next release, but the current workaround is to download The Siege of Sâlorium and you can then access the tutorial after. I confirmed that this does work.
The character sheet portion of the app needs work. Little things like automatically calculating the modifiers when you put in an ability score should honestly be a given at this point for these types of apps.
Personally, I would just stick to using a paper and pencil character sheet instead or maybe something like D&D Beyond. It was honestly a bit of a hassle to use this on my phone due to the size of the window and the lack of features.
A tablet would probably be considerably better for this portion of the app, but it’s still missing features compared to other apps on the market.
With that being said, this is clearly an extra feature and by no means the focal point of Digital D20. However, this is really one of the only features that players particularly will utilize during a session. The app, in its present state, is definitely geared more towards DMs.
The initial main menu layout needs a bit of work, but this was a convenient feature in the app. If you take a look at the screenshot of this menu above you’ll notice that all of the links are cramped together when there’s plenty of open whitespace surrounding them. Increasing the font size a bit and spacing everything out would be a huge improvement.
Regardless, it’s quicker and more convenient to look up rules in this manner as opposed to opening up your PHB in the middle of the game. Honestly, I found this to be much more convenient than I had first anticipated it being. You can reference pretty much anything within 2-3 taps of your screen.
The formatting in the sections past the initial menu of the SRD is considerably better. Everything is easy to read and I had no issues navigating through this portion of the app.
Keep in mind that these are the rules from the 5e SRD and not the PHB or core books. However, in most cases, these rules are similar if not the exact same.
The adventure modules are the real meat of the app. Digital D20 boasts two modules written in English and six written in Spanish!
All of these modules have been converted into the app and stuffed with additional features such as tips for the DM, summaries, a storyboard menu, and pop-ups that offer quick-references for the DM as the game is in progress.
Personally, I tend to stick to PDFs or paper books when I DM. I love being able to write my own notes so I tend to avoid things like interactive versions of adventure modules even if they come with some additional features.
However, Digital D20 is one of the exceptions. I found that the features included in the app’s version of the adventure modules were both worthwhile and convenient. The quick references were especially awesome.
Tapping a link within an adventure module brings up a non-intrusive window full of the information you need about that particular portion of the adventure. You don’t need to flip between pages and slow down the game in order to refresh your memory on a particular part of the adventure during the session.
Revisiting Beastmaster’s Daughter with Digital D20
I’ve actually already done a full review on Beastmaster’s Daughter by Dave B. Stevens. It’s a free module that was a very fun time for my table when we played through it as a one-shot. It’s still one of our favorites!
Digital D20 and Dave collaborated to bring Beastmaster’s Daughter to the app as the first module only available in English on Digital D20.
Since I’ve already read, reviewed, and played Beastmaster’s Daughter, I figured it was the best choice to showcase the app. It was also nice to see the enhancements and changes that the Digital D20 team made when converting the adventure to their app.
The Main Menu
The module’s main menu gives you the introduction of the module on the right-hand side of the screen. This contains information such as what the appropriate size of the party and level of the characters is for this module.
You can use the index on the left-hand side of this menu to navigate through the module. Tap the section of the module you wish to read and you will be brought to it.
You can return to this menu at any time by tapping the book icon.
There are multiple ways of navigating around an adventure module in Digital D20. One such way is by using this handy flowchart view as opposed to the map. Your players will go through the module’s story and based on their decisions you can follow along to where they will navigate next.
This view is excellent for showing the DM how the story can/will naturally progress. Beastmaster’s Daughter is a fairly linear adventure so there aren’t a whole lot of different twists and turns that the players will be up to, but I love how it’s visualized in the app regardless.
Whenever you tap one of the bubbles you will go to that respective portion of the module. It’s just a different method of navigation compared to the module’s map or its index. If you wish to return to this menu, simply tap the hourglass icon.
I’m not sure if it was just my phone, but the formatting is a bit messy on this screen. This doesn’t affect the usability at all though, and I do really like this feature regardless of the graphical issues.
Individual Parts of the Module
Each adventure module on Digital D20 is carefully broken down into sections. These sections could be key parts of the module’s story or a section could be an individual room within a dungeon. Beastmaster’s Daughter consists of both of these types of sections.
The right-hand side of the screen contains all of the information needed to understand what can or should happen when the players are at this portion of the module. This could mean what traps or creatures they may interact with, or what items could be found in this specific location.
This portion of the screen also describes any unique mechanics, story information, and physical description of the location and/or people that the party is interacting with. It’s basically as if you were just reading the module from a PDF.
However, if you tap any of the links in red font a new pop-up will appear on the left-hand side. This pop-up tends to have information such as creature statistics or mechanical information about whatever it is you tapped.
Each section of the adventure also boasts an At a Glance, Body, and Conclusion section that is unique to Digital D20. You can tap any of these and change the view of the left-hand side of the screen. These menus contain condensed information about this part of the module for the DM to reference as reminders during the game.
If you click that icon of the silhouette of a person holding a sword you’ll be brought to the menu that houses all of the unique creatures in the module. In the case of Beastmaster’s Daughter, these are all reskinned creatures from the SRD, but for other modules, this could be homebrewed creature statblocks.
Simply tap on the desired creature’s portrait and you’ll bring up their statblock on the right-hand side of the screen.
One of my biggest pet peeves with playing an adventure module by using a PDF or a physical book is having to flip back and forth to see the map. My solution usually is to print out the map on a separate sheet of paper, but it’s still a minor annoyance.
The cool thing about Digital D20 is that if you click the treasure map icon that is on every single page, you can bring up the map. Not only that, but you can tap either the numbers on the map or the named rooms in the list on the right and bring up a popup that brings up a description of the room.
It’s a quick way to visually follow along with the players and navigate to the next room that they’re traveling to.
General UI Usability and Design
The Character Sheet UI on my phone was particularly difficult to navigate. I had to constantly scroll through the sheet and I couldn’t just use my phone’s back button to return to the Main Menu.
I also noticed a few formatting errors in regards to text placement when using the app.
It’s possible that a lot of the issues I had with the UI were due to the fact that I used a phone and not a tablet. If that’s the case, I hope that there are some quality of life improvements coming for the phone versions of Digital D20.
There are also a noticeable amount of spelling and grammatical issues throughout the app. There are also instances where the original Spanish translation hasn’t been fully translated into the English version. This isn’t a difficult problem to fix, especially from the talented translation team at Digital D20, but I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I neglected to mention that.
With all that said and done, I think the app really shines when utilizing its core feature, the adventures. The UI in this portion of the app is responsive, intuitive, and has a ton of excellent artwork.
The text is perfectly legible and the pop-up menus are handy references to utilize as you play through an adventure with the app. I’d love to see a feature for DMs to add their own notes and pop-ups to the adventures in the future!
Digital D20’s adventure modules are easy to use and in the case of Beastmaster’s Daughter, it feels like an enhanced experience when using the app to play through them.
The pop-ups, links, and notes added to each of these adventures are clearly created for the convenience of DMs as they’re running the adventures included in Digital D20. DMs can effortlessly reference rules using the SRD included in the app as well.
My one major gripe with the app is the Character Sheet portion of it. It definitely needs some improvements and additional work to compete with other apps on the market. As-is there isn’t much in the app for players outside of the SRD content.
There are additional adventure modules that are available only in Spanish. While I’m not a Spanish speaker, from my perspective, Spanish translated modules and content is an area that is sorely lacking in D&D 5e and TTRPGs in general. Digital D20 is a spectacular addition for this portion of the community!
All in all, Digital D20 is a solid free app for D&D 5e DMs. You gain access to a couple of adventure modules that have quite a few additional features compared to a traditional adventure module. Check out Digital D20 on the Google Play Store or the App Store!