Writing brings me great pleasure. i don’t mean the sort of writing here at The Long Shot or over at Nerdarchy.com. Or the kind to prep for a Dungeon & Dragons game. Or the writing i’ve done as a journalist, either.
Not exactly anyway.
Most times, writing takes place on a computer, like i’m doing right now. And while i certainly enjoy this immensely, what i’m talking about is the physical act of writing. Putting pen or pencil to page is a soothing experience.
Whether jotting notes for any of the above activities, making to-do lists or creating a nightly checklist for tasks to accomplish at my muggle job as a page designer it’s relaxing to commit words to paper. Watching the pen flow across a blank sheet, translating my thoughts to symbols, is kinda Zen-like for me.
Late night impulse buys
So it was without hesitation that i snatched up a couple of Adventure Journals from Table Titans when i stumbled upon them late one evening. If i recall correct i saw a photo of one on Twitter and immediately thought “oooh, what’s that?” The sharp little hardcover journal is designed with space and pages to chronicle the adventures of three fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons characters.
It took a little bit of Google-fu to track them down, eventually discovering them through Table Titans, a Scott Kurtz endeavor. The site features several D&D-themed comics and written tales like the eponymous Table Titans and the continuing adventures of Kurtz’s character Binwin Bronzebottom of Acquisitions Inc. fame.
In addition, Table Titans has a shop with comics, books, gaming accessories and bric-a-brac. That’s where i ordered two Adventure Journals from and they arrived just a few days ago.
Despite my great admiration and appreciation for D&D Beyond and the totally awesome digital toolset it provides for D&D – including terrific character creation and management features – i love getting a pencil and filling out a character sheet. The eternal quest for the perfect D&D character sheet has been ongoing for decades.
Chronicling your D&D characters’ journey
The Adventure Journal comes real close to being the one. It’s compact and durable, the former property i was surprised to discover upon arrival. The item description clearly shows the dimensions of the 5″ x 8.25″ journal but frankly it didn’t register for me. The size isn’t a complaint though, but worth mentioning.
What i really dig about the Adventure Journal is what it includes aside from character sheet information. There’s several blank, lined pages for notes, and beyond that several more pages of graph paper gridded sheets for sketching maps. Normally i’m not much of a mapmaker, either as a player of DM, but i do make rough sketches of areas in both roles as visual references. And i’m certainly a note taker. So having all of these features contained in the same bound journal is really cool. The notion that this is the actual D&D character’s journal lends an immersive quality to it that i really glommed onto.
Coming up a little short
However, therein lies some of the Adventure Journal’s flaws. It’s too short to accommodate three characters appropriately. Like the dimensions, i did not succeed on the reading comprehension check and thought it was designed to hold information for two characters instead of three. Not a huge deal, but if i’m honest i’d prefer it were a single character, or two at the most.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First off, assuming the page count remained the same, focusing the entire journal on a single character would mean more pages for notes, more pages for maps, and more pages for character information. i write pretty small and compact, and even still the area for traits and features is way too limited. A 1st level character’s race and class abilities would push the limit of the space.
Also related to space, the spellcasting pages have some drawbacks. The most noticeable is there’s only sections going up to 7th level spells! Granted, most campaigns fizzle out or simply end before reaching Tier 4 when characters start getting 8th and 9th level spells. But still, it would be nice to have space for them.
The other thing with the spellcasting pages is within each spell level section there’s only space for four spells. My guess is this is intended to reflect spell slots, since four is the limit on any particular level. On the other hand, if that’s the case then there ought to only be three, two or one space for higher level spells. Beyond that limitation, there’s no space for the rest of caster’s known spells. You could certainly use the notes section to record thm, but still, i’d have liked to see a dedicated section for spells known.
The design for spell-related information i imagine was pretty tricky the more i think about it. Spellcasters have quite a bit of variety in spell management. Sorcerers, for example, know significantly less spells than they have slots to use. By 20th level they only know a total of 15 spells, but have 22 slots. A sorcerer might know several more 1st level spells than the allotted four spaces in the Adventure Journal.
These quibbles are mostly forgivable. There’s space to record spells and you’ll probably use it for the most commonly-cast ones your spellcaster uses. Whatever doesn’t fit you can put in the notes. A workaround to account for spellcaster variety would have been removing the level-specific sections and just leave blank boxes to note a spell’s level.
Wow i spent a lot of time examining the spellcasting pages!
There should be only one
Overall, the drawbacks of the Adventure Journal are all related to layout and space, which i feel could have been alleviated by designing it for a single character. Keeping the same page count, there would be more space for character traits and information, spellcasting, notes and maps. i could certainly see accumulating several Adventure Journals, one for each character chronicling their campaigns, arranged smartly on a bookshelf and each holding fond memories of exciting adventures.
Imperfect doesn’t mean unusable
At the end of the day i really like the Adventure Journal. The concept is solid, the typography is clean, and it has neat features like space for a character’s business, family, and last will & testament. There’s also nice artistic flourishes throughout by Scott Kurtz, who also designed the journal.
Despite my issues with the spell sections and small/limited space for character information, i am definitely going to use the Adventure Journal. More often than not i’m the Dungeon Master but two players in my group are stepping up to the plate (or DM screen) to run games. One is taking us to the jungles of Chult for Tomb of Annihilation, which i’m super excited about playing. The other is planning a Monster Hunter-themed game that i’m equally looking forward to experiencing.
On a side note, i gifted one of the two Adventure Journals to my great friend, D&D player and Long Shot contributor Brett for his birthday. He’s a huge fan of digital tools and resources for D&D gaming, but he also enjoys taking notes, mapmaking and D&D accessories so i figured he’d like the Adventure Journal.
“A long term player’s own little biographical novel just waiting to be written. The addition of grid pages was a huge plus for this amateur cartographer! I’m looking forward to filling up the pages.” – Brett Bennett
To get, or not to get?
i would recommend the Adventure Journal to any D&D player who likes the idea of commemorating their characters’ journey in a special way. Even though i feel the design could be better, it’s still a great product to bring to the gaming table and when the journey is complete it will be a wonderful keepsake on your bookshelf.
The shipments that went out mid-September 2017, which included the two copies i got, were the last of the pre-orders through Table Titans. i contacted them and here’s what they had to say about future availability beyond the pre-order shipments:
“Once that’s done we’ll get a count of what’s left and make sure we’ve got good stock. We should have them available for a couple more months before we start running out, and we’ve got a new printing in the works now. Let us know what you think of the Adventure Journal when it arrives. We love feedback!”