As a Forever DM, I’m always on the lookout for new tools, modules, and goodies to help bring my campaigns to life. Having good maps is probably one of the top things you can do to enhance the immersion of your players, so when I saw Dungeon Alchemist and it’s AI map building, I was kinda excited. I always love playing with table-top tools and anything that gets my players into the groove is aces in my book, so this seemed like a no-brainer.
Dungeon Alchemist boasts an AI map-making feature that lets you click and drag to map out a room which the program automatically fills out based on the themes you select. It allows for quick and easy dungeon crafting that lets you to tinker for hours or quickly throw something together when your party decides they really need to investigate that cabin on the edge of town you threw in for flavor text. So, how does it all shake out? Grab your d20s and let’s roll that investigation check together.
Dungeon Alchemist is available on Steam for $44.99.
What Is It? – Roll Perception Check
Dungeon Alchemist is an AI driven map-making program that allows you to quickly and easily make maps for your players. It’s a bit like The Sims home builder, really. When you want to make something – say a tavern where your party might get into a fight – just open a blank map, select “tavern,” and drag out some squares. The program automatically drops in appropriate furnishing for the room like tables and chairs, a bar, and maybe a dice game. Need bedrooms for would-be assassins to lie in wait for your party in? Switch the theme from “grand hall” to “bedroom,” then click and drag. Doors, windows, and walls all pop up like magic. Change your mind about that bedroom? Click on it and select “kitchen” and watch the beds turn to shelves and stoves.
You can alter weather, lighting, time of day, and even add in NPCs. If you don’t like what they have on hand, you can bring in models from Hero Forge and even drop in your own artwork to spice up the world.
Once your map is made and you’re ready to use it, click export and you can print that out for use on a real table top. The program offers a number of sizes, from standard printer paper up to poster boards. If your games are more on the virtual side, export it in a number of formats to use online on sites like Roll20.
Features – Roll Investigation Check
Boiling Dungeon Alchemist down to its core, you really have to focus on three features: the AI, the customizing, and the exporting.
The AI is more or less the backbone of the entire program. After all, there’s a ton of free mapmakers online, so if they want to entice players and DMs to buy this, it has to do something better. Unlike most online options, Dungeon Alchemist populates your dungeons and castles with everything you need to get started. You can use it as-is most of the time or get creative. The AI can lay out pleasing landscapes, figure out where to put doors and windows, and even drop in little touches you might not think of.
Of course, once you have the basics laid out, you still need to be able to make it your own. The customization tools allow you to place, resize, change color, and otherwise alter objects to your heart’s content. If you have a specific image in your mind of what you want your players to face, this is imperative. But it doesn’t end with furniture; weather effects, time of day, lighting, and even being able to light things on fire really allow you to mold the map into your vision.
Lastly, the map is useless if you can’t play on it. I was impressed to see how many different sizes of maps were ready to go on the export screen. On top of that, you can change the viewpoint of the map to three different modes, letting you choose the aesthetic for your game. Best of all, it easily exports digitally for online and virtual use.
Usability – Roll Performance Check
Having a ton of features is all well and good, but how do they actually perform? I won’t say the program is perfect by any means, but it more or less does everything it sets out to do. That said, there are certainly some areas where it could use a little tweaking.
I don’t want to keep comparing this to The Sims, but I did find myself automatically looking for tools that game had that this one doesn’t. A simple eyedropper tool would do wonders for me when trying to get a good, matching aesthetic for my maps. If I drop a certain door in the front but I forget to favorite it, I have to scroll through the abundant options to figure out which one I used previously. It would also be nice if you could alter the objects a little more. You can grow and shrink most objects in Dungeon Alchemist, but you can’t change the ratio of their dimensions. Sometimes I’d like a table that’s tall enough to be useful, but not so wide that it takes up the rest of the room.
The AI is the biggest draw of this program, and while it does magnificently most of the time, it often needs a little help. I found myself laying out great maps but having to reposition doors that pointed off a cliff. If I decide I want to expand one room into another, Dungeon Alchemist often treats this as a new room, even if I have the same themes selected. And without the aforementioned eye-dropper, it’s a bit of a hassle to remove the new walls and hunt down the same floor tiles from the first room to correct this mistake.
Despite having stairs and even elevators, the program doesn’t seem to have a way to make second floors or basements. If my party wants to go upstairs I’ll have to copy the entire map and build a new layout, making sure to remove all those pesky second-floor doors. Dungeon Alchemist does let you build separate buildings at different heights, but this doesn’t really address the situation. Hopefully something will come in future updates.
Lastly, I know it’s a little thing, but I feel like some music would help immensely. When I’m building a map for an hour or two, tinkering with just how to position my bowl of pears on the table, I can’t stand all the silence. Having a YouTube video on in the background is fine, but even just a little royalty-free tavern music would do wonders for getting me in the right mindset.
So, copying doors and windows is easy, find the one you like and there’s a + sign to copy it and move it over the one you don’t like. Although, flooring doesn’t currently have that bonus.
Honestly, I really don’t need some 2nd tier music. Silence is nice in something like this – I buy more vinyl than I can realistically listen to – it’s nice to not have something vying for domination of my ears that isn’t of my choosing. So hard disagree on the music option. I play most computer audio “off” if it’s something like this or a game.