How To Get Your Kids Into Dungeons & Dragons Without Worrying About The Rules
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As Dungeons & Dragons continues to grow in popularity, and the iconic roleplaying game readies a major, hopefully, more accessible update to the rules, more and more people are preparing to go on an epic tabletop fantasy quest. But, not everybody — or every family — is necessarily ready to start rolling d20s and wrestling with the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide or Player’s Handbook. And so, that’s where the new Young Adventurers Guides come in. It’s a book series that aims to get kids excited about the D&D’s lore and potential stories. And the slick part is, you don’t have to think about the rules at all, just the magic, and the literal dungeons and dragons. Fatherly caught up with some of the people behind these books to get a sense of how families can approach these new D&D books without having to think about playing a game.
“Long-time gamers can sometimes forget how overwhelming all those game rules and charts can feel when you’re first starting out,” explained Stacey King, one of the co-authors of the books along with Jim Zub and Andrew Wheeler. “We wanted to create something that would get new players excited about the possibilities of Dungeons & Dragons first and foremost — the world they can explore, the characters they can create, and the adventures that they can have.
“Once you know why you want to play Dungeons & Dragons, learning the how of the actual game rules becomes a lot less daunting,” King continued.
Places & Portals (Dungeons & Dragons)
The latest two books in the series, Places & Portals, and Characters & Quests, came out earlier this fall. Featuring lavish illustrations compiled from other D&D releases and brand-new text that introduces various elements of the nearly half-century-old game in an engaging, accessible way, the books familiarize readers with some of the tenants of D&D’s lore and tropes while encouraging them to get excited about what they can create in this space.
“The form factor, language, and price point are specifically built for 8–12-year-olds to discover the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and kick off their creative storytelling potential the same way it did for me in the early ‘80s,” Wheeler said.
The initial premise for the season was three books that would introduce fantasy-curious readers to the basics of heroes, monsters, and dangerous places ripe for adventure. The hero book ended up getting split into two books because, with one focusing on magic and spells, the series has been rolling (pun intended) since then.
“We’re currently working on book eight of a three-book series, so I think that speaks to how well they’ve been received in terms of readers and retailers,” Zub said.
So far, the books cover topics like Monsters & Creatures, Weapons & Warriors, Wizards & Spells, Dungeons & Tonbs, Beasts & Behemoths, Dragons & Creatures, and Artificers & Alchemy.
One of the newest books, Portals & Places, introduces readers to some of the various fantasy lands where many D&D campaigns are set, including the Forgotten Realms (the setting of the recent film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves), the beautiful eerie Feywild, and the sci-fi-infused spacefaring setting of Spelljammer. Along the way, readers get tips for ways they might play in these spaces, along with advice and prompts for how to create their very own worlds and stories.
“Readers seem to particularly enjoy prompts and details that emphasize the choices that they’ll be able to make while playing,” Zub said. “Things like the lists of “Do This / Don’t Do This” tips that feature in every creature profile, advice on creating new dungeons or magic items, anything that leans into the active aspect of role-playing games definitely strikes a chord. Being an active participant in telling a story is at the core of the Dungeons & Dragons experience, so we try to make that a central part of each book as well.”
Characters & Quests (Dungeons & Dragons)
While each title features some of the iconic aspects of D&D, like well-known creatures like the multi-eyed Beholders or the gooey Gelatinous Cube, the books are more than just a one-way encyclopedia of the game’s official lore.
“At the center of everything is the fact that our readers are going to create characters who go on adventures in a fantasy world and they get to make exciting choices. The better we show them creative possibilities and prompt them to use their imagination, the stronger a response we get from our readers,” Zub said. “Unlike a lot of fantasy worlds from fiction or other media, Dungeons & Dragons is not complete until you join in and make it your own. It’s built as a sandbox to explore, not a linear narrative with a locked-down beginning, middle, and end.”