Today we’re taking a look at two delightful books released by Dungeons & Dragons for kids: The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D. Intended for young children, these books offer kids a first glimpse at the world of Dungeons & Dragons while teaching the alphabet and counting to ten. Both books feature whimsical artwork by Caleb Cleveland, and catchy rhyming couplets written by Ivan Van Norman.
I recently picked up both of these books for my young nephew, who is soon to turn five. Not only does he adore them, but both of my children (a boy aged eight and a girl aged seven) also found them thoroughly entertaining. I was impressed by their quality and content. The art is perfect for kids, with colourful, whimsical illustrations that hide all kinds of secrets — clouds shaped like dice and towers made of books, for example. Delightful little tidbits that kids will discover as they get a bit older.
“I is for IMAGINATION. What’s YOUR favorite tale?”
“A is for ADVENTURE, our journey has begun.
B is for BOOK, the source of all our fun!
C is for CREATURES of every shape and size.”
Although I expected The 123s of D&D to be shorter than The ABCs of D&D, that wasn’t the case. Yes, the ABCs of D&D covers the entire alphabet, with typically a letter per page. And yes, the 123s of D&D covers the numbers one through 10, with one number per two pages. Technically that would make it shorter, but after counting to to ten there’s a lovely mini bestiary that features a sentence or two about the creatures depicted throughout the book — all written in rhyming couplets. What a pleasant surprise! I’m really happy they included it and all the kids loved it. It immediately inspired them to start making up stories of their own with the creatures. My daughter’s favourite was the almiraj, of course (she adores rabbits and rabbit-creatures of all kinds).
“We begin with ONE Dungeon Master telling a story of daring deeds, the adventure of TWO heroes and their brave and noble steeds.”
“All these monsters you can meet when playing D&D. So have fun on your adventures, and save a spot for me!”
My kids and I thought that The ABCs of D&D and The 123s of D&D were wonderful, entertaining, inspiring little books. Despite being written for young children, they’re of interest to any kids that still love a picture book. Really wonderful work!
A new series of Dungeons and Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch this summer! The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler, and published by Ten Speed Press (a part of the Crown Publishing Group). The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures‘ and ‘Warriors and Weapons,’ both of which are already available for pre-order. There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series are intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D.
Monsters and Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons and Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers (my kids can’t wait!). Creatures are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, moving up onto the surface with aquatic, field, graveyard, forest, and mountain dwelling creatures, and finally ending with airborne monsters. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. This book also features “introductory ‘Encounter’ stories so readers can practice the problem-solving skills they’ll need to fight these monsters when they play a D&D adventure of their own.” Awesome!
Warriors and Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons and Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters. It includes “sample profiles, a flowchart to help you decide what type of warrior to be, and brainstorming challenges to start you thinking like an adventurer whether on your own or in the midst of an exciting quest with friends and fellow players.” It’s important to note that this book is NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbookand does NOT contain game mechanics or rules. It lays out the major concepts in a way that easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. It’s meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules.
“These books have beautiful art, concepts, and stories to engage readers and get them thinking first and foremost about their character and the places they’re going to adventure in without any rules for them to worry about. It’s a creative toolkit focused on character and story,” Jim Zub was quoted as posting on twitter. “Give these books to a new player, get them excited about the possibilities, and then bring them to the gaming table to show them how those concepts and ideas flourish with a roll of the dice. […] We really hope that experienced Dungeon Masters will embrace these books as a way to introduce D&D to their kids or their friends and that schools/libraries will see them as a fun and engaging way to encourage creative writing!”
My kids are thrilled with this news. (Yet another reason for them to look forward to the summer! Haha!). I can’t wait to see what they look like up close.
The newest issue of Dragon+ is out, and with it details on the next D&D hardcover adventure book: Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Due out May 21, Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a collection of seven nautical and coastal themed adventures that take characters from levels 1-12. These adventures can be run separately or as one larger campaign. The adventures contained in this volume are all previously published adventures which have been lovingly adapted to fifth edition D&D (including some of the most popular first edition and Dungeon Magazine adventures). Adventures in Ghosts of Saltmarsh include:
The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1981)
Danger at Dunwater (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1982)
The Final Enemy (originally written by Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull in 1983)
Isle of the Abbey (originally written by Randy Maxwell for Dungeon Magazine #34)
Tammeraut’s Fate (originally written by Greg A. Vaughan for Dungeon Magazine #106)
The Styes (originally written by Richard Pett for Dungeon Magazine #121)
Salvage Operation (originally written by Mike Mearls for Dungeon Magazine #123)
In addition to the adventures themselves there’s details on the port of Saltmarsh, mechanics for ship-to-ship combat, new monsters, and new magic items.
Launching one month later is Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! Currently available for pre-order on their website, the Sinister Silver Edition contains twelve high quality player handouts, a detailed ship map, a reusable ship map, two large scale battle maps, a map of the Styes, 30 encounter cards (which are designed to be hung over a DM screen so players can see images of the monsters they fight while the DM sees it’s statistics), custom DM screen, two objects, bonus encounters, and characters!
For Valentine’s Day my seven-year old son received the D&D Starter Set. He was pretty proud of this turn of events, as it marked the very first d20 product he has ever personally owned. He has some hand-me-down books, of course. And he reads my books all the time, but this one? This one was HIS.
Today we’re going to take quick look at the contents of the D&D Starter Set, and let you know what we thought. For more information on our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set, tune in later this week!
The D&D Starter Set comes in a high quality, really nice looking box that is deeper than necessary. Although this might seem like a waste, at first, it’s not. The box is the perfect size to also place a D&D Player’s Handbook in, which any fan of the D&D Starter Set is going to want to do pretty quick. You can also fit in a notebook and a few pens, which is also a must have. Being able to pack all of that up in the box is great.
D&D Starter Set
D&D Starter Set and the dice that come with it.
Inside the box you’ll find a set of beautiful little dice, swirled in shades of vibrant blue, with bright white numbers. The dice are really nice looking and incredibly easy to read — which is a must! I despise dice you have to squint at just to figure out what they say. Not that it matters what I think, since the dice belong to my son. Happily, he loves them, ranking them as his very favourite set of dice (he owns two sets and a variety of extra dice of all kinds). There are six dice total: a d20, d12, d10, d8, d6, and d4. There is no percentile dice in this set, or extra d20, which is a little unfortunate. It’s always nice to have a second d20 for all those advantage and disadvantage rolls.
Beneath the dice is the D&D Starter Set Rulebook. 32 pages long, this 8 1/2″ by 11″ booklet contains all the rules needed to play and run a game of Dungeons and Dragons. The first seven pages explain how to play D&D, the six ability scores, and their uses, as well as advantage, disadvantage, and so on. After that there’s six pages on combat, six pages on adventuring (including equipment), four pages on spellcasting, a description of all the spells mentioned in the D&D Starter Set, and finally, the back page is an appendix that lists conditions. The book does it’s job well, providing enough information without overwhelming players too much. That said, it doesn’t contain any information on creating your own characters, so anyone who wants to move on from the Starter Set into regular D&D will need to pick up the D&D Player’s Handbook.
The second booklet in the D&D Starter Set is an adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver. This adventure is a whopping 64 pages long — much longer than I expected from a starter set! I was really impressed. The adventure is split into four major parts: The opening ambush and a small dungeon crawl, time socializing and solving problems in the town of Phandalin, a sandboxy exploration of the surrounding wilds where your players can further investigate the quests they may have taken on, and the finale, a final large dungeon crawl. Before the adventure is an introduction, which gives a quick run down of how DMing works, and explains how to go about it. At the end of the adventure is an appendix containing all the magic times found in the adventure, and a second appendix which contains details on all the monsters and enemies found in the adventure. Finally, the back page of the booklet is a rules index, which lists different rules and the page numbers that they can be found in the Starter Set Rulebook.
Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun adventure. It’s got a simple opening premise that’s easy to attach a wide variety of characters to, and has a good balance of combat, exploration, investigation, and social encounters. The plot line is easy to follow, and contains a few twists. It’s not overly complex and will appeal to a wide audience. Throughout the adventure there are plenty of notes for DMs, which give further guidance, rules references, and advice. This is super handy for new DMs and was really well handled.
The town of Phandalin was interesting, but I found it a bit brief. The only locations detailed are those where the PCs can pick up quests, which is unfortunate. That said, this adventure isn’t made for me, it’s made for new DMs. And for new DMs? There’s more than enough details, information, and NPCs to work with. Plenty of the townsfolk have tasks and information they can give players, links to other organizations (which can be used for continuing the campaign after you’re done with the Starter Set), plus there’s some trouble in town the players can stumble into on their own. Many of these quests can be completed in the region surrounding Phandalin, in Part Three of the adventure.
There’s some nice maps in Lost Mine of Phandelver, and art representing all of the monsters that need it (although not all of the monsters total). A few humanoid enemies are also illustrated, although none of the NPCs are. I really wish there was art for at least one of them — Silas Hallwinter, for example — but despite lacking art, each NPC in the book has a line or to about their physical appearance and behaviour, so DMs aren’t adrift.
Overall, Lost Mine of Phandelver is a fun beginner’s adventure with lots for player’s to do. It showcases the major types and styles of D&D, and weaves it all together in an entertaining and coherent story. I was really pleased with the adventure’s length. Groups will get more than a few play sessions out of this one, which is really nice to see.
Contents of the D&D Starter Set
This brings us to the final components contained in the D&D Starter Set: pre-generated characters. This box contains five already made characters. A neutral good hill dwarf cleric soldier, a lawful good human fighter folk hero, a lawful neutral human fighter noble, a neutral lightfoot halfling rogue criminal, and a chaotic good high elf wizard acolyte. The character sheets are easy to read and understand. Abilities are explained right on them, with more information on each one’s race, class, and background on the back of the sheet. Each of these characters has their own personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws which is simple to understand and really useful for roleplaying the characters. As the adventure will allow you to get multiple level ups, the back also has detailed information on what each character gains at each level. The best part? Each of the characters feels unique and fun, and none of them have names or genders. Which is great! Each player gets to decide their personal identity, and add those finishing touches themselves. I thought the characters were all really nicely done. The only downside? Whoever plays the wizard will need to make use of the Starter Set Rulebook to find information on their spells.
Contents of the D&D Starter Set
Pre-generated characters from the D&D Starter Set
Which is it! The entire contents of the D&D Starter Set! This little box is packed full of fun, with everything you need to get started playing D&D. The dice are gorgeous, the rulebook is useful but not overwhelming, the adventure is fun, varied, and much longer than I expected, and the characters are well-made and enjoyable to use. The only thing this starter set lacks? A play mat and minis, but technically you don’t need those to play D&D. They really add to the game, though, so player’s who continue on to play D&D are likely to wish they had some. But, the best part of the D&D Starter Set? The cost! This box is an amazing value! We picked ours up for only $15 Canadian, which is only a few dollars more than the cost of a set of dice. Getting the rules and a good sized adventure in there, as well, makes this a great deal. I highly recommend the D&D Starter Set for anyone interested in learning how to play D&D, or for anyone who just wants a nifty new adventure and some cool dice. Well worth the investment!
Thanks for joining us today. We’ll talk again soon when we discuss our experiences playing through the D&D Starter Set adventure: Lost Mine of Phandelver.
Last night marked the first episode of the exciting new fantasy role-playing game series: Relics and Rarities! Hosted and DMed by the delightful Deborah Ann Woll who you might (should!) recognize from the shows True Blood, Daredevil, Defenders, and Punisher, or the new movie Escape Room, this show features the talents of Julia Dennis, Tommy Walker, Xander Jeanneret, and Jasmine Bhullar. In addition, each episode features a special celebrity guest which includes Sam Richardson, Janina Gavankah, Simone Missick, Kevin Smith, Matthew Lillard, and Charlie Cox. Relics and Rarities is presented by Geek & Sundry and streams weekly on Alpha (ProjectAlpha.com). They’ll be playing Dungeons & Dragons, set in a world created by Deborah Ann Woll.
Honestly? I’ve been excited about this show since it was announced! And with the recent reveal of the special guest line-up? Well, how could I resist?
“I’m so excited to finally announce my new show, Relics and Rarities,” Woll said in a statement. “We’ve assembled a stellar creative team, along with amazingly intricate set design, props and puzzles, a hilarious and surprising cast – and an original world and campaign of my own creation.” She added, “You’ll have to watch to see what tricks I have up my sleeve.”
“Welcoming fans who have not yet experienced collaborative storytelling is an established mission of Geek & Sundry,” said Legendary Digital Networks (LDN) SVP of Production and Programming, Jason Corey in a statement. Corey added, “Partnering with Deborah Ann Woll has been a dream come true for us. We’re thrilled to be able to elevate and broaden the platform for a female Dungeon Master and to expand the fandom for this unique and exciting genre.”
Relics and Rarities begins in the town of Bellbrook when four adventurers receive a mysterious letter and are summoned to an unassuming curio shop, Relics and Rarities, by Professor Roundland. The good professor informs the team that strange occurrences have been plaguing Bellbrook, and she’d like to hire them to investigate. The first stop? Professor Roundland contacted a seer who has recently helped the R&R (Relics and Rarities) Brigade before only to discover that she was plagued by something… supernatural. The team is dispatched to visit the seer at her home, Benthem Manor, and hopefully put things right. But, the mystery behind this manor is just the beginning. By the end of the episode it’s clear that our heroes will need to foil an unholy prophecy before it can come to fruition. They have their work cut out for them!
The first episode, Haunting at Bentham Manor, was absolutely amazing! The set was spectacular, the adventure was both enthralling and suspenseful, and the props were above and beyond what I imagined they would be. Deborah was a wonderful Dungeon Master, full of enthusiasm and a love of the game. She was an absolute joy to watch. The cast is great. They’ve got enjoyable characters, great chemistry, and every single one of them was hilarious. Guest star, Matthew Lillard, was a wonderful choice for the first episode. As the owner of Beadle & Grimm’s Pandemonium warehouse he’s no stranger to role-playing game, of course, but honestly, he was also just… amazing. Engaging, amusing, the whole deal.
Relics and Rarities was well-planned, inventive, and atmospheric. There was mystery, suspense, problem solving, and some delightful puzzles (my young kids and I particularly loved the puzzle door). The props made my kids gasp in jealousy at every single one (and there were a lot!). The cast was entertaining, and the set was very rich in detail. Best of all, the story was engaging — we laughed a lot, shed some tears (yes, I cried), and my daughter ran away in terror during the first battle. Oh, that creative ghost sound use. Way to give her nightmares, guys! Poor thing. Haha. As for my son, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so amazed with anything he’s watched before. He was amazed and literally captivated the entire time. We were absolutely blown away! Not sure I can stress that enough, actually.
But, in summary: it’s awesome. I honestly can’t think of a single thing to complain about.
Want to check out Relics and Rarities yourself? You really, really should! Episodes air Mondays at 6pm PT on Alpha, but its also available on demand. Not a member of Alpha? Neither was I! New members can sign up for a free seven day trial with the code RELICS. After that Alpha membership costs $4.99 American per month, or $49.99 every 12 months.
I have always loved ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. Whenever I see one that my kids might like I let them give it a look-see or check it out from the library. Both of my kids enjoy them, particularly the ‘You Choose: Scooby-Doo‘ series. There’s plenty of others they’ve read. Choose your own adventure style books featuring Superman, Batman, the Justice League, LEGO® Batman, and even Pokemon (ReaderActive). And, of course, my son’s tried the official ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books. My daughter’s too young to read them, and my son could, but he just doesn’t like reading small letters.
So this past holiday season when I realized that Dungeons and Dragons had put out a series of choose your own adventure style kids novels, I immediately looked them up online, put them on hold at my local bookstore, and took a trip out to pick them up. I stood there in the bookstore, opened them up, and was… IMPRESSED! They’re really high quality, with lots of cool artwork and a bigger sized font my son will be happy with. So I brought them home, wrapped them up, and that was that. When my son opened them he was amazed. Absolutely thrilled. He started reading them almost right away.
After about ten minutes he stopped and said: “Mom, I just died. Actually DIED! This is… This is… This book is dangerous! Poisoned mushrooms killed me!”
I laughed and he went on reading.
“Okay, now I got squished by a giant!”
Which got me thinking. Death was a pretty common occurrence in the ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ series of books I read as a kid. So was failure. But in the ‘choose your own’ books my kids have read? Not a thing that happens. Batman doesn’t die. Superman doesn’t die. Scooby-Doo doesn’t die (okay, once Fred dies). Ash obviously doesn’t die, either. Not every ending is a ‘win’ — although most are — but losing isn’t quite so final.
I watched my son for a while, curious if he would get frustrated and put the books down.
He read them, read them again, and read them a few more times. Then he moved onto a different one. In the weeks since he’s read them all a lot. Finally, just yesterday, he let me pick them up and give them a read myself. Now, I’m a bit of a completionist when it comes to this style of book. I read through the way I want to, then go back and try out the different options, then go back further and do the same again, and again, until I’ve got to experience most (if not all) of the book within a day or so.
And you know what I’ve come to realize?
My son makes horrible decisions! Hahaha. It’s not that there’s no way to ‘win,’ because there is. There’s plenty of ways to lose but survive, as well. But my son? Nope! He dies every time.
Curious, my daughter gave one a try. It was ‘Into the Jungle,’ one of the books that has a lot of ways to die, a lot of ways to survive, but I hadn’t yet found the ‘perfect ending’ where you live and achieve all your objectives. So, there was my daughter, sitting there and reading the book aloud. It took her a while, since the books are a bit above her reading level. But an hour or so later she smiled, put down the book, and said: “That was good.” I sat down beside her to see how her story had ended. Much to my surprise she had found the ‘perfect ending.’ Hahaha. My son was so jealous! Heck, I was jealous!
We’ve had a ton of fun with these books. So, today we’re shining a light on them and spreading the word!
Endless Quest is a series of four ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds, although my kids are six and seven years old and both enjoyed them). Written by Matt Forbeck, each official Dungeons and Dragons book casts you in the role of a different class. Endless Quest: To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a female halfling rogue, Endless Quest: Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a male dwarf cleric, Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark lets you play as a male human fighter, and Endless Quest: Big Trouble lets you play as an female elf wizard. While reading the book your character’s gender has no bearing on perspective or story. It’s invisible, honestly. Only the image on the front reveals your gender. Which is awesome! Both of my kids immediately assumed the character was just like them, irrelevant of the cover image, slipping into the role without hesitation.
Each softcover book is exactly 122 pages long. Most of the pages are filled completely with text and images (no wasted pages here!), and both of my kids found the font size comfortable. All of the books contain a lot of awesome artwork. Some images are in full colour — typically locations or a main character/villain — while the rest are in sepia tones. You’ll find images of allies, enemies, items, equipment, maps, scenery, and locations. Some of the images are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining. Two of the images are on the gory side (a zombie with his insides hanging out from ‘Into the Jungle‘, and a grotesque female hill giant devouring hunks of questionable pink meat from ‘Big Trouble‘). Each of the books follows a different kind of story, features different main characters with unique motivations and personality traits, involves different situations and enemies, and takes place in vastly different locations. You’ll get to visit actual places from the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, both on a large and small scale, which fans of D&D will love. Each book also has cameos from known D&D personalities (including Elminster, Volo, and Xanathar, to name a few). The decisions you get to make are important. Common choices include deciding which way to go, how you choose to deal with other characters, and how you react to situations. Each of the books has ways to ‘win,’ to happily survive but fail, to survive but fail horribly, and to die. The number of these outcomes varies between each book, with the most deadly having about half of its endings fatal. None of the deaths are graphic, and many are suggested more than described. Some of the endings are quite abrupt, and if you make poor decisions right from the start your story could be over in only a few pages. But, that’s to be expected in books of this kind. My biggest complaint? Names! A lot of characters and places have difficult to pronounce names which the vast majority of kids will just skip over instead of bothering to sound out. Some of them I even stumbled over on first glance. For my kids? Those words are just Sli-jibberjabber or Nya-somethingsomething. Also? Battle is nearly always fatal. Fair! But, at the same time, battle is a big part of RPGs, and some of these characters — the cleric and the fighter particularly — seem like they should be capable combatants. That they die so easily and so often in a fight is a little jarring. For me, anyway. My kids didn’t mind too much.
It should also be noted that these books very often intersect with other D&D books and products. Two books directly mention Volo’s Guide to Monsters and one mentions the kids book Dungeonology (also penned in lore by the infamous Volo). Characters and events from some of the other books also connect to major campaigns, as noted below. My kids and I thought this was awesome! But, not all parents will. Particuarly if it makes your kids want those (pricy) books. Haha.
So what exactly are these books?
My son’s favourite book was ‘Into the Jungle,’ which lets you play as a male dwarf cleric of the god Clangeddin Silverbeard, the dwarven god of honourable battle. Your character was given a mission by the Harpers, to track down an ex-member of their order by the name of Artus Cimber and retrieve a powerful magical ring that is in his possession, the Ring of Winter. In the wrong hands this ring could bring about an eternal winter, and the Harpers want the ring to remain in their possession. Artus has disappeared in the jungles of Chult, and its up to you to track him down, retrieve the ring, and bring it back. This was the most deadly of the books, with only one ‘perfect ending’ (which my daughter discovered on her first try), a heavy amount of ‘survive but fail’ (only two of which have a happy tone), and a whole lot of fatal endings. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it. There’s a pair of lovable characters you can befriend (Qawasha the druid and Kupalué the friendly vegepygmy), a wide variety of exciting locations to explore (from dinosaur races to ancient ruins), tons of cool enemies to encounter (including a stone golem, froghemoth, zombie tyrannosaurs rex, green hag, and the witch Nanny Pu’Pu), and a variety of interesting races to interact with (like pterafolk, grungs, aarakocra, and goblins). Famous cameos include Volo, the Harpers, Artus Cimber, and the Red Wizards of Thay. The majority of the book deals with the hazards of the jungle, and the undead which are rampant throughout it — particularly zombies. My son’s favourite part of the book was the variety of cool places you visit, and a timely rescue from stone golems by an aarakocra (eagle-people). My daughter’s favourite part was when she read the book for the second time and was killed by eating a tasty (but poisonous) dinner with a tribe of adorable grungs (humanoid poisonous tree-frogs). My favourite part? Your side-kicks! Qawasha and Kupalué are wonderful guides and great fun. As an added bonus, certain circumstances can make them turn against you, which gives your decisions extra weight. There’s also a series of lovely interactions with the witch Nanny Pu’Pu which will force you to choose between your morals and survival. Your character will then have to deal with the ramifications of that decision. Awesome! The downsides? I found that the main character doubts his faith a lot. He’s he’s in a bad situation he often wonders why his god is displeased with him or has abandoned him. Now, I’m not saying it’s not alright to have a crisis of faith, but he has them a LOT, which is a strange character trait to give a devoted cleric. My other complaint? As previously mentioned, if you get into a fight chances are you lose. Which is unfortunate when you’re playing a cleric who gets to fight against undead and worships a god of honourable battle. That’s not to say he never wins a fight — cause he does. It just doesn’t often happen. I’m totally fine with him dying against a stone golem, or a froghemoth, or a swarm of pterafolk who drop him to his death. But against a few zombies? Or a few goblin and some zombies? It makes him feel a little lame. Overall, we all really enjoyed ‘Into the Jungle.’ My kids loved it most and both give it a rating of “Awesome,” while I really enjoyed it. The characters and events in this book are tightly intertwined with the Tomb of Annihilation campaign and Board Game. Artus Cimber also appears in the books Realms of Valor: The Family Business, and The Ring of Winter (which I can’t seem to find available online, but I could find as an audio book).
The second most-deadly of the Endless Quest books is ‘Escape the Underdark.’ In this book you play as a male human fighter who is captured by drow. You begin the book by waking up in a prison cell (classic!) alongside a motley crew of other prisoners. It’s up to you to escape or die trying! But, as you’ll soon learn, escaping isn’t the hardest part. Getting back to the surface alive is. Depending on your choices you’ll get to face off against a wide variety of underground hazards and enemies. Much to my surprise the fighter can make a lot of allies. In addition to the other prisoners you start the book alongside, you can befriend myconids, and ally with an opportunistic kuo-toa, duergar, a dangerous red dragon, and even an intelligent gelatinous cube named Glabbagool. My favourite of your allies are a pair of quirky goblins named Spiderbait and Yuk Yuk. They were both adorable and hilarious. I love them! The locations you visit are surprisingly varied, including cities, underground lakes, and even a crevasse filled with spider webs that acts as a kind of highway for adventuresome locals. In addition to the prison located in Velkynvelve, which is where you start the book, you can travel to the famous drow city of Menzoberranzan and the duergar city of Gracklstugh. Although Menzoberranzan has no happy endings, visiting the duergar can lead to a variety of adventure, some of which can lead to back to the surface. There’s plenty of foes for you to face off against, although nearly every single fight you get yourself into will end in death (even more so than the cleric) which is an odd choice since your playing as a FIGHTER. You’ll need to rely on your wits more than your fists. The most terrifying foe you encounter? Demogorgon. Yup! The demon lord himself! Yikes! Despite its lethality, this was my favourite of the Endless Quest books. The large cast of characters is a lot of fun to interact with and, if I’m being honest, I’ve always been a sucker for drow. It also has some of the most satisfying endings out of the Endless Quest books. Even some of the deaths and failures where you never escape the Underdark are surprisingly satisfying. It was great fun. This book, its overarching events, and its characters are intertwined with the D&D campaign Out of the Abyss and the Rage of Demons storyline.
Next up is ‘To Catch a Thief‘ which places you in the role of a female halfling rogue who picks the wrong pocket! After being caught by Lord Laeral Silverhand, the Open Hand of Waterdeep and a contingent of the City Watch you’ll need to use to wits to escape jail time. This will lead you to either trying to flee or taking on a dangerous task for Lord Silverhand. Recently her pet griffin was stolen by the Thieve’s Guild and she wants you to retrieve it for her. Sound easy? Not so! The Thieve’s Guild is incredibly powerful and far-reaching. It’s leader, The Xanathar, is a powerful beholder. Not someone to trifle with! Stuck in an impossible situation, its your wits, adaptability, and shifting allegiances that will see you out of this whole. That and fleeing! Running away is a common ending in this one, and you often have the chance to abandon your mission — whatever it may be at the moment — and skip town. Which is awesome, actually! Very in character for a rogue. I also really enjoyed that you have plenty of chances to change sides, trick, and betray someone. This book takes place in both the city of Waterdeep, and the underground city of Skullport. You get to visit some famous places, and interact with a few well-known characters. You may also get to disguise yourself as some famous characters including Marune the Masked, and the infamous Drizzt Do’Urden. Surprisingly, the wily rogue manages to survive most of the fights you can get into, and dies rarely. Most often she survives by fleeing, but sometimes finds herself beholden to one faction or another. Likely for life. It’s probably that however you ‘win’ this book you’ll make enemies, meaning even victory can be dangerous. By far the most satisfying endings involve rescuing the griffon, which lets you take on the role of hero. But that’s not necessary. Not everyone wants to tangle with a beholder, after all. Another wonderful ending involves saving a group of slaves from their bugbear kidnappers and leaving town with them. Other than a beholder, bugbears slavers, and bandits and thieves of all kinds, you can also face off against pirates, assassins, thugs, guards, a demilich, and even start a bar brawl! Lots of danger in this one! All in all, my kids liked this book least (although they still enjoyed it a lot) due to the lack of scenery changes. You’re in a city and you might move to another city. Not much in the way of far-flung and exotic locations, here. However, it was my second favourite of the Endless Quest books. I thought it was lots of fun. Waterdeep, Undermountain, and Skullport are the main locations in a variety of adventures, including Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, and Tales From the Yawning Portal.
Finally, we have ‘Big Trouble.’ This is both the least lethal, but the saddest of the books. In it you take on the role of a female elf wizard whose home is attacked by an army of hill giants. During the attack you’re told to take your younger brother and flee, though whether you listen to that sound advice is entirely up to you. Although its possible you get out with your brother, it’s most likely you end up alone. Lost and worried about your family you set out on a quest to find them and bring them home. Along the way you (very likely) meet up with a cloud giant wizard named Zephyros who travels around in a flying tower and is a friend of your parents. With his help you can choose to track down either your father, or your mother and brother. Both choices lead you on a variety of adventures to some far flung locations. The quest for your father can take you to the Eye of the All-Father in the frozen north and pit you against bandits, giants, a blue dragon, and a dragon cult. The quest for your mother and brother will lead you to Grudd Haug, a hill giant settlement where they have been taken prisoner by the disgusting Guh, a female hill giant that believes if she is the fattest hill giant her gods will give her their blessings. She’s gross. There’s plenty of ways for things to go awry on your journey, and a surprisingly large number of ways you can rescue some of your family. However, there are no endings where you can rescue everyone. You might save your brother, or your mother, or your father, or your mother and brother — or no one — but you can never save them all. That means that even the happy endings are bittersweet. Surprisingly, this determined wizard gets into a lot of fights throughout the book, and can even take down (or help take down) some very powerful enemies with low-level magic. She proves that even the young and inexperienced can make a difference. This was a really wonderful, welcome change from the previous books, which often end with you dying in such circumstances. It was also really unexpected. Some important locations you can visit in this book include Ardeep Forest, the Eye of the All-Father, and Grudd Haug, and some famous characters include Harshnag, Claugiyliamatar, Zephyros, and the infamous wizard Elminster! Events and characters in this book directly intersect with the Storm King’s Thunder campaign. Some of the characters can also be found in the old Heroes’ Lorebook, and the old City of Splendors: Waterdeep. Elminster, of course, can be found in a LOT. It was a lot of fun!
Both my kids and I really enjoyed the Endless Quests books. I highly recommend them for any kids who have an interest in fantasy novels, adventure novels, choose your own adventures, or tabletop RPGs. They’re engaging, variable, and a ton of fun. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? Each one is very different.
Well done, Matt Forbeck! My family is sending you a round of applause for writing these delightful kids novels!
As for everyone else? I hope some of you have the chance to share these books with the kids in your life. They’re great fun and well-worth the money.
The holidays are on their way! For many of us that means its time to buy the people around you gifts. But, what do you buy for those d20 gamers on your list? Well, read on! We’re sharing our top picks for gift giving!
First off: books! More specifically: new books that those gamers in your life probably don’t have yet. Our favourites?
Endless Quest by Matt Forbeck. A series of four ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers. Each casts you in the role of a different class. Endless Quest: To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Endless Quest: Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, and Endless Quest: Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard. I’ve already picked these up for my son, and I have to mention how impressed I was with the quality. The books look awesome, feature a ton of cool artwork, and are a blast! I’m kind of jealous, honestly.
D&D Dungeon Mayhem
The ABCs of D&D
The 123s of D&D
Endless Quest: Big Trouble
Endless Quest: To Catch a Thief
Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark
Endless Quest: Into the Jungle
Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures Outlined
My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria
We hope you enjoyed our top picks for holiday gift giving!
Whew! Another busy week has come and gone and I feel like I’ve barely come up for air! This month is flying by! But, enough about chores, work, and responsibility! Let’s talk about something fun.
d20 games in the media.
(Around my house).
Every once in a while I mention we’ve seen an episode of a show or movie that references D&D in some way. Stranger Things is and obvious (and amazing) example. iZombie has a wonderful set of episodes that feature Dungeons and Dragons, and my kids had a blast watching Voltron’s ode to the game. Just the other day we saw another on one of our family’s favourite kids cartoons: Teen Titans GO! In case you’re unaware, the Teen Titans are a teenage super hero team created by DC comics. Back in 2003 they had an awesome cartoon that played on the Cartoon Network, and a few years ago they re-released a spin-off of the show as… well an inane comedy. They’re the same characters and the same voice actors, but the show is goofy, irreverent, and rarely features any actual crime fighting. It’s a comedy above all else, and my whole family loves it. Seriously! My favourite episode, ‘And the Award for Sound Design Goes to Rob’ (Season Two, Episode 48) involves silence taking over the world, and the Teen Titans making their own sound effects for everything. When dolphins say ‘Booya!’ and Beast Boy makes punches sound like a fart, you know you’re about to have some laughs. My kids were rolling on the ground in laughter. (Seriously). Anyway, there we were, enjoying some Teen Titans Go! when the episode ‘Riding the Dragon’ (Season 3 Episode 51) started. (Most of) The Teen Titans are enjoying a fantasy game where they attempt to ride a dragon, only to have Robin appear and tell them they’re not playing by the rules. He proceeds to force them to, and spends the entire episode sucking all the fun out of their D&D style game. It’s hilarious.
And then today? My kids had the chance to have their weird and wacky characters ride a dragon in game. They were so excited! They even started singing a song from the Teen Titans episode. The look of absolute joy on their faces was truly a delight. Special thanks to GM Dennis for giving them the opportunity! (Thanks!)
On a similar note, my kids finally discovered the glory of Critical Role! How? Why? …Beastmaster!
My kids saw a picture online of Terry Crews holding up a fake warhammer and roaring. Immediately they exclaimed: “Hey! I know that guy! He was a judge on Beastmaster! Let’s watch that!” (My daughter LOVES Ultimate Beastmaster). So we clicked play.
It was an episode of World of Warcraft themed CelebriD&D starring Terry Crews. (I imagine more than a few of you have watched it!). Long story short we gave it a try and my kids were enthralled! They thought it was hilarious. My son thought that Terry Crews’ character ‘Thodak the Blacksmith’ was the coolest, but my daughter loved Marisha Ray’s goblin ‘The Ritz.’ If you haven’t watched it (or any of the other CelebriD&D episodes) and you like that sort of thing I suggest you give it a shot. It was great fun. Of course, my kids have never played World of Warcraft, so when we finally finished watching all the CelebriD&D episodes we watched the World of Warcraft movie, which is currently on Netflix. My husband fell asleep (he’s recently given up coffee, so I wouldn’t hold that against the film), but the rest of us liked it.
We’ve been watching Paizo’s Twitch Channel recently. The Doomsday Dawn live play episodes look interesting, but I’ve yet to give them a try. Admittedly, I don’t have the time to watch them. Haha. I don’t watch anything live, but when I can find the time (usually while preparing vegetables for dinner or something) I put on a shorter video. I regularly watch the Pathfinder Friday episodes (which are a whole lot of Deconstructing Doomsday Dawn recently!). But my favourite? I ADORE Starfinder Wednesdays! May of the recent episodes preview the Against the Aeon Throne adventure path (and information related to it). Recently they started making episodes about different planets in the Pact Worlds. Eox was first. Then Aucturn. And tonight they’re going further afield to the planet Daimalko. Awesome! My kids even love sitting down to watch these ones. It’s such a great way to get the feel for the many planets across in an engaging way. I hope they keep it up!
Speaking of making gaming engaging, I recently stumbled upon the work of Craig Bailey, a GM who makes props to go along with his games. Most of them are from Starfinder’s Dead Suns adventure path and WOW! Are they ever amazing! Field notes, passports, news clips, and even mock websites where the players can attempt to sift through an NPCs emails! AWESOME! If you haven’t heard of him (and especially if you’re GMing Dead Suns) be sure to look him up on twitter or youtube!
I can’t even imagine the effort put into these ‘handouts.’
In other news (sort of) I read the Dragon+ Magazine whenever I have the time (which is rarely. Did I mention I’ve been busy lately? Haha). For those of you who don’t know it’s a free Dungeons and Dragons web-magazine you can view online or through the Dragon+ app. But, this last issue I made sure to make the time to give it a read. Why? RAVNICA!
As some of you may be aware, I don’t just plat d20 games. I love all kinds of games. Including collectible card games. And, although my kids love Pokemon, my game of choice is Magic: The Gathering. By far. Love it. I love the game, the art, the lore, the worlds… Everything except the COST! Haha. So when I heard that Dungeons and Dragons was joining forces with Magic: the Gathering and releasing a Ravnica campaign sourcebook I squealed in glee. Then I thought: “It’s about time!” Cause, really! They’re both Wizards of the Coast! Why did this take so long?!? D&D: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica is due out near the end of November, but is already available for preorder on amazon. Even better? At the time of posting it’s twenty dollars off the regular price. If only I had someone to buy it for! (Other than myself…).