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D&D General Win The Title of D&D's Best DM

WotC is running a competition called the Dungeon Master Challenge. Similar to Paizo's old RPG Superstar contest, it features various design rounds which whittle down the contenders until only one remains.

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The winner gets a trophy and some D&D products worth just over $2K.

Note: your entry becomes the property of WotC, which can use it in any way it wishes, even if you don't win. They don't even have to credit you for it. Be sure to consider this when deciding whether to enter.
  • The first design challenge for a 1,000-word entry is Thursday June 17th, and contestants have three days to submit their entries. This round is open to everybody who qualifies (18+, in one of a list of countries).
  • 10 contestants will then proceed to the next round in July, which is an elimination stage with various weekly 1,000-word design challenges.
  • Three of those will go on to the final challenge in September, which involved being a DM on a livestream, judged by a panel.
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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Nice! Nicely done. How did you approach the bit about being evaluated for lore?
I wasn't going to -- I was going to make a dungeon room/trap that could be dropped in anywhere -- but because of your question, I went back and looked over the guidelines. I still think including the lore is optional, but decided to make a new location for an existing D&D mega-dungeon.

Just submitted mine. A total of 983 words.

I'm not sure that the initiative system for complex traps makes sense in all cases, although I appreciate the ticking time clock element it adds to proceedings.

Big shoutout to Jim Guthrie, whose Below soundtrack I listened to while writing, to get me in the dungeon-crawling state of mind without distracting lyrics to interfere with my writing.

Good luck, everyone!
 
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Reynard

Legend
I hear ya. I'm actually going to be running a Zoom game for my dad and son in a little bit, and would have liked it if this had been announced and due a week earlier.
They don't want your carefully curated and playtested publishable product. If they had, they would have given us a week or two. They want to see our DM guts.
 

They don't want your carefully curated and playtested publishable product. If they had, they would have given us a week or two. They want to see our DM guts.
I wasn't asking for more time. I was asking for this whole process to have not taken place on Fathers Day weekend. Just shift it back a week -- and coincidentally give the poor folks at WotC who have to look through probably thousands of submissions more time.
 

J-H

Adventurer
I looked at map of the Underdark and picked what looked like a likely spot for a Beholder Mage to have his laboratory and residence. With the low word-count, I couldn't get too detailed on that front, as I wanted to adequately cover different ways to deal with different trap components.

MSWord says my wordcount was 980-something. I included a random roll table as an image, so if they count those words, I may get disqualified. I wasn't going to say "See the Beholder entry in the MM for the effects of the rays." That'd be too user-unfriendly.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Submitted! Only used 789 words, as I wanted to keep the length comparable to the complex traps examples in the Xanathar's Guide (they're around that length).

It is too bad that they want you to fit the format as shown in Xanathar's (what if a contestant doesn't own Xanathar's?)

Also, it's possible if they get too many submissions, the contest may be "first come first serve," to a degree.

All Entries will be reviewed in the order received and may be limited due to resource capacity (or availability).
 

I looked at map of the Underdark and picked what looked like a likely spot for a Beholder Mage to have his laboratory and residence. With the low word-count, I couldn't get too detailed on that front, as I wanted to adequately cover different ways to deal with different trap components.

MSWord says my wordcount was 980-something. I included a random roll table as an image, so if they count those words, I may get disqualified. I wasn't going to say "See the Beholder entry in the MM for the effects of the rays." That'd be too user-unfriendly.
If you're including a beholder and replicated their eye beam chart, it's probably not going to be counted against you.

If you have a trap that uses the beholder eye rays, but not a beholder itself, I can see them going either way.
 





Quickleaf

Legend
Submitted! Only used 789 words, as I wanted to keep the length comparable to the complex traps examples in the Xanathar's Guide (they're around that length).

It is too bad that they want you to fit the format as shown in Xanathar's (what if a contestant doesn't own Xanathar's?)

Also, it's possible if they get too many submissions, the contest may be "first come first serve," to a degree.

All Entries will be reviewed in the order received and may be limited due to resource capacity (or availability).
Actually, there's a underlined red link when you go to D&D Celebration 2021 that says "Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Chapter 2: Dungeon Master’s Tools", and when you click it you are asked to agree to the following:

By clicking "Accept", I agree that the provided content will be used solely in conjunction with the Dungeon Master Challenge and that Wizards of the Coast grants limited use of the content solely for this purpose. The content will not be copied, distributed or re-sold.

Then it shows you the relevant section for Complex Traps from XGtE.

Unfortunately, that's missing a key table (trap damage, save DCs, attack bonus) that appears in the Simple Traps section of XGtE.

Fortunately, the UA on Complex Traps has the exact same table that appears in XGtE.

So strictly speaking, XGtE is not necessary.
 

I hope we find out how many entries were submitted. Given that it's almost certainly in the thousands, I have to imagine everyone's introductory paragraphs will be a big part of what gets read and what doesn't.

I wonder if they're going to use software to cull the slush pile some. Maybe if an entry doesn't include the keywords "trigger," "initiative," "dynamic element" and "countermeasures," they'll consider that as not adhering to the Xanathar's guidelines and insta-reject those.
 

Reynard

Legend
So if we can't or shouldn't share our specific entries, let's talk about the challenge in general.

I went for 2nd tier, deadly because it offered the most versatility in effects and damage for me. At the lower tier it felt like the PCs would be pretty boxed in as far as countermeasure options went. At higher tiers it almost seemed pointless since PCs have so many avenues open to them.

Also, unused idea: a necro-alchemical machine that pumped out more and more powerful undead every round until disabled. I decided it relied too much on fighting monsters to be a good example of the form, but I will definitely use it in another project.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I wasn't going to -- I was going to make a dungeon room/trap that could be dropped in anywhere -- but because of your question, I went back and looked over the guidelines. I still think including the lore is optional, but decided to make a new location for an existing D&D mega-dungeon.

Just submitted mine. A total of 983 words.

I'm not sure that the initiative system for complex traps makes sense in all cases, although I appreciate the ticking time clock element it adds to proceedings.

Big shoutout to Jim Guthrie, whose Below soundtrack I listened to while writing, to get me in the dungeon-crawling state of mind without distracting lyrics to interfere with my writing.

Good luck, everyone!
Nice soundtrack!

Yeah, I started on Thursday night with a "Steam Mephit Baths" trap that I'd halfway worked up for another manuscript I've been hacking away at. Then I realized that (a) it was not tied to current D&D lore, and (b) I might want to use that for my own project (which has a couple fun complex traps).

So I started without any preconceptions, rolling on the complex trap tables in Matt Finch's Tome of Adventure Design, and then once the specific setting site from Mordenkainen's popped into my head, I was off designing my own thing. Glad that I worked it from the ground up – I don't think I'd have come up with the trap I did without going through the whole process with a fresh start.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
So if we can't or shouldn't share our specific entries, let's talk about the challenge in general.

I went for 2nd tier, deadly because it offered the most versatility in effects and damage for me. At the lower tier it felt like the PCs would be pretty boxed in as far as countermeasure options went. At higher tiers it almost seemed pointless since PCs have so many avenues open to them.

Also, unused idea: a necro-alchemical machine that pumped out more and more powerful undead every round until disabled. I decided it relied too much on fighting monsters to be a good example of the form, but I will definitely use it in another project.
Nice! I went all out with a level 11-16 deadly threat. That was a little crazy, but I liked how it encouraged me to be right at the edge of my DM comfort zone (which stops at about 13th/14th level).
 

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