“Dungeons & Dragons” is a game beloved by players of all ages, from those who started with “Chainmail” and the first edition of D&D to children still learning how to add their proficiency bonus and ability modifiers. Yet for all its popularity, new time players – especially young ones – might find the massive Player’s Handbook to be an intimidating tome.
Enter the “Young Adventurer’s Guide” series – bite-sized, illustrated books for young D&D fans to learn about the ins and outs of the game and its lore. Written by Jim Zub, along with Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler, these books provide overviews of the various mechanics and world of “Dungeons & Dragons,” making them a great jumping-on point for younger players.
The “Young Adventurer’s Guide” series began in July 2019, with “Monsters & Creatures” and “Warriors & Weapons.”
As the name suggests, “Monsters & Creatures” highlights some of the most popular or iconic D&D monsters, such as Mind Flayers, Owlbears, and Flumphs. It includes short narratives for some of the creatures to show how encounters with them might go, accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
“Warriors & Weapons” provides an overview of several D&D races, as well as combat-focused classes like the Fighter and Paladin. It also includes a look at weapons, armor, and other gear, along with a section on making characters feel alive.
“Dungeons & Tombs” came out in November 2019, focusing on the lairs where players might explore and the monsters they can find within. This includes iconic locations like the Temple of Elemental Evil and famous villains like Strahd Von Zarovich. 5th edition players who have been enjoying the recent adventure books will also like the inclusion of Chult and Ras Nsi, as well as the famed Undermountain (most recently seen in “Dungeon of the Mad Mage”).
Now the “Young Adventurer’s Guide” is returning to look at the different character classes with “Wizards & Spells,” out March 10th. This covers casting classes such as the Bard, Wizard, and Cleric, with an overview of their basic abilities and character traits.
Each class includes an example character, including the renowned Wizard Mordenkainen. It does not go into the specific mechanics or abilities the characters gain when they level up, but that’s because it doesn’t need to – it serves a clear purpose of introducing the classes to young players in a way they can understand and enjoy.
A flow chart designed to help players choose the casting class for them is a nice touch as well.
After covering the character classes, “Wizards & Spells” provides a few examples of each level of spell, from cantrips to ninth level spells like Meteor Swarm. These provide good representations of what each level of power can cast, accompanied by wonderful illustrations. Rather than simply providing the game stats, it describes what the spells do – this is not only more interesting for young players, but it makes the spells easy to understand without delving into game terminology and mechanics.
(A personal favorite is the illustration showing Polymorph turning someone into a llama. Feel free to make any “Emperor’s New Groove” references you can think of when reading this.)
Finally, the book takes a look at magical items. Not all, of course, but important or iconic items like a Bag of Holding and Wand of Lightning Bolts. It even includes lore on items like the legendary Sunsword from “Curse of Strahd” and related Ravenloft adventures.
Having read through these books, I can confidently recommend them to anyone looking to introduce new players to D&D, especially younger players. The books are written to be clear and concise but not dry, carrying an informative but entertaining tone throughout. They do not speak down to the reader, but are still designed for children still learning to grasp the concept of a Saving Throw.
While the books are not mechanics-heavy, it’s clear that the writers still understand the ins and outs of each character class. For instance, the Spell Tips included in the spellcasting section includes little notes that even more experienced players can overlook, such as how Speak With Dead doesn’t translate languages or compel the dead to speak the truth.
And of course, the illustrations really bring the book together. Every page includes a drawing of a character, spell, or item to represent the subject, each drawn in loving detail. From a druid half-turned to wood through the Barkskin spell to an Owlbear hopping around via Otto’s Irresistable Dance, each illustration is an engaging work of art.
All in all, the Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Series is a great way to introduce young, new players to the game and the world of D&D. Create by a team that’s intimately familiar with the game and its lore (Jim Zub, for instance, has been writing both the official “Dungeons & Dragons” and the “Rick and Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons” comics) and backed up by excellent artwork, it provides a great jumping on or catching up point for the up-and-coming hero of the realms.
“Wizards & Spells” will be available in bookstores on March 10th.