Wow, what a big beautiful pantload of possibility. I’m not being snide. I’m actually trying to be honest and somewhat level-headed about this, but isn’t it just like D&D to produce something which looks really good on the surface but is clunky and - dare I say - medieval beneath the frosting?
I was actually worried about going to the site. By all means it sounds a lot like what I have been doing with the Agama and what Mark Abrams has been doing with hisElthos Project. In light of it all, we’re just field mice scurrying from the shadow of a lumbering Tarrasque who for some reason or another has chosen to wander into our favorite pasture. It is a big deal, because it is D&D and like it or not, what D&D does the rest of the TTRPG world needs to react to. Honestly, I do think that what D&D Beyond is attempting to do is the future of the hobby.
But wow, what a mess.
EFFICIENCY IS MEASURED IN MOUSE CLICKS. As in a lack thereof. This is my own personal law of web design. The more mouse clicks it takes to do anything the less likely anyone will be willing to do it. D&D Beyond has you constantly clicking on needless things. There are green plus signs all over the place and these really should be something that floats downward when you mouse over them. Instead you end up clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking.
DUDE, WHERE’S MY STUFF?
It is fairly easy to switch between characters. Two clicks and you’re done. However, I created a magical item called the Abacus of Awesomeness (it’s solar powered!) and for a while I could not figure out how to get back to it. There is a menu item for “My Characters” under Characters so you would think that there would be a “My Items” link under Items where the “Create a Magic Item” link is. No. Instead you have to go to “My Homebrew Creations” under “My Content.”
So much for pattern recognition.
For the life of me I still cannot figure out how to give the Abacus of Awesomeness to Pidgeon Head, my Aaracokra (Aracokera? Arakocra? Let’s just call it what it is - a Kenku) Paladin. The manage equipment panel is laughably inept. The three green plus buttons for “Attuned Magical Items” makes about as much sense as the three shells from Demolition Man.
Adding equipment is a chore. Click. Scroll scroll scroll. Click. Click. Scroll scroll scroll. Click. Click. Scroll scroll scroll. Click. Click. Scroll scroll scroll. Click. Click. Scroll scroll scroll. Click.
How many suits of armor does there need to be in this game? Why does Armor of Vulnerability even exist? Do I sound like my dad when he first had to figure out how voice mail worked?
Yes, I guess I do.
The site is peppered with little black question marks that provide insight in the form of a pop-up hint. Kudos for that, except they never seem to be where you need them to be. Thank you D&D Beyond for defining the word “Description” I was truly lost on that one. Now how about explaining the “Other Modifier” boxes in character abilities. Or how to add the Abacus of Awesomeness to my Aarakenku?
Another thing they forgot to do is put a half second delay on the mouse-over of the hint display. This keeps tips from popping up whenever you mouse over them. Trivial detail, but these things will gang up on you.
THE STUPIDITY OF THE SMART PHONE STRIKES AGAIN.
On the whole, aside from a need to be pretty (because it’s all about being pretty these days), I think many of D&D Beyond’s design problems stem from the need to work on a smartphone as well as a laptop and in some archaic corners of the world a desktop computer (remember those?). There are just some things ill-fitted to a postage stamp sized screen and designing stuff for a role playing game definitely feels like one of them.