Dungeons & Dragons has experienced a massive renaissance with 5th Edition, one that has expanded beyond the game books and beyond accessories. One of the additional categories D&D has expanded into is books (or maybe I should say expanded back into, because there were plenty of D&D novels and other books back in the day). That includes novels, like the recently-released Timeless, and a more varied sort of book (like Dungeonology). Among that more varied selection of books are three I wanted to take a look at today:
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures Outlined – I’ve had to assemble the thoughts of several folks to try to assess Adventures Outlined, which is a Dungeons & Dragons adult coloring book. For example, my wife (who has done adult coloring books from time to time) informs me that some of the images lack the high level of detail typically present in many adult coloring books. My D&D über-geekdom quickly informed me that the art is not entirely “accurate,” as the beholder on the front cover doesn’t have the correct number of eyestalks. So, while there is (obviously) a Dungeons & Dragons hook for Adventures Outlined, what that’s being combined with is the contemporary artist Todd James (a.k.a. REAS) hook. That is, if you like Dungeons & Dragons and the stylings of Mr. James (who, I am given to understand, played D&D back in the 1980s), then you’ll probably love Adventures Outlined. You may also love it if you are my eight-year-old, but despite my best efforts I could not get him to articulate why he liked it so much, so I have a hard time turning that into a concrete recommendation. But he did let me know that the manticore was his favorite illustration. Other iconic monsters depicted include beholders, blink dogs, mimics, mind flayers, displacer beasts, owlbears, umber hulks, minotaurs, gnolls, death knights, lichs, dragons, driders, ettins, giants, a gelatinous cube, and the almighty terrasque. Each illustration is accompanied by a pithy ditty or other piece of flavor text – for example, about how the barbarian keeps trying to eat the black pudding for dessert.
Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest (series) – This is definitely one of those “expanded back into” categories, because a series of D&D Endless Quest books were released in the 1980s and a few more in the 1990s. The Endless Quest series is similar to the more familiar Choose Your Own Adventure books (and, in a display of synchronicity, the CYOA books have now been made into a pretty good board game) – you read the story, make a decision every so often, and the decisions you make result in you being directed off to a particular page to continue that particular plot. The newest set of Endless Quest books, from Candlewick Entertainment, consists of four quests aimed at middle grades (ages 8-12), each paired with a classic character class – Into the Jungle (cleric), Big Trouble (wizard), Escape the Underdark (fighter), and To Catch a Thief (rogue … duh). The Endless Quest books, unlike the traditional CYOA books, feature a particular character – for example, Into the Jungle (the one of the four I’ve read) is still written in second person, but the “you” is specifically a dwarven cleric of Clangeddin Silverbeard. There’s also more of a feel of making sense to the Endless Quest books – while the CYOA books traditionally abound with nonsensical consequences, those in Endless Quest make sense (that doesn’t mean you know which choice is “right,” but at least what happens isn’t always a bolt out of the blue). There is also only one “correct” path (or, at least, there was in Into the Jungle) – the other endings aren’t all created equal, but there’s really only the one where you succeed at your quest. And that quest is to find Artus Cimber and secure the Ring of Winter. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because that’s how the Tomb of Annihilation campaign begins. Indeed, familiarity with that campaign can help in completing the quest more quickly, because a few of your decisions can be influenced by knowledge of the characters in Chult. Those who liked Dungeonology may be interested to know that the new D&D Endless Quest books were also written by Matt Forbeck.
Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana: A Visual History – This one doesn’t release until late October, and I haven’t read it, but I’m so excited I wanted to include it here anyway. Art & Arcana is a historical guide to Dungeons & Dragons, but most importantly (to me, at least), it is a 448-page trove of art and illustrations from decades of not just game books (the most significant part, to be fair), but also advertisements, Dungeon and Dragon magazine, and merchandise. This isn’t the first D&D art book. I’ve got the big Larry Elmore art book that funded on Kickstarter in 2012 (he did the illustration that’s on the cover of Art & Arcana). The Worlds of TSR art book, for those of us who remember the pre-WotC days. There was a collection released a decade ago that had collected art from Dragon magazine. So the notion of a book full of D&D art – or even D&D art with some history – is not unique. But I don’t think it’s ever been done with the scale or the thoroughness of Art & Arcana, which comes with a page count that far exceeds any of the other D&D art books. And in addition to the normal edition (pictured next to this paragraph), there’s a special edition box set – it costs more than twice as much, so it’s a bit of a luxury item, but it comes with 10 (small) posters of classic D&D artwork ready to be framed. Some might get excited about the alternate cover or the pamphlet version of Tomb of Horrors (also recently seen in a revised version in Tales from the Yawning Portal), but I’ve been getting into geeking out the decoration in my house lately, so it’s the extra prints that get me pumped.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to go buy something from Wayne Reynolds to tide me over for the next month.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of review copies.