Review: Dungeons & Tombs

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new entry in the ‘Young Adventurer’s Guide‘ series of children books from Dungeons & Dragons is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of an advance copy of this delightful book, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series began with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ (For full details on these two books, check out our previous review here). On November 26th, ‘Dungeons & Tombs‘ will be released! There is one more book in development, scheduled for Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is 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. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Adventurer's Guides

Like previous entries in this series, Dungeons & Tombs looks and feels great! It has a high quality hard cover, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. This book feels like it’s a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like this book, and previous ones in the series, is just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

young-adventurers-guides-2.jpgTaken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. Both my son and daughter had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything they read. My daughter, understandably, had a bit more trouble than her older brother, having to sound out a tricky word or two once or twice a chapter. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. That said, there were very few names my kids had trouble with, which is really nice to see. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across one location and one creature she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. My son has started drawing maps of his own, and my daughter’s already created a whole adventure featuring some of the advice and new creatures in this book. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that Dungeons & Tombs (and the other Young Adventurer’s Guides) are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. They do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, gear, locations, monsters, and roles in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging; and they provide a lot of great advice for storytelling of all kinds. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


dungeons-and-tombs.jpg
Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide
 is an illustrated guide to six famous dungeons and locations in Dungeons & Dragons, and some creatures that call these places home. It also contains advice on mapmaking and dungeon crafting. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for each of its showcased locations and monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers.

This book begins with a short, three page introduction, which gives the book some context, then discusses how to prepare for a dungeon delve and the major classes of D&D. From there, it hops right into the star of this book: a profile of six famous dungeons. Each dungeon has an introduction and overview, to set the stage for the dungeon, a list of a few important locations in that dungeon, a more detailed look at one of the locations within that dungeon (along with story prompts to engage the reader’s imagination), and an ‘encounter,’ which is a short, one-page story that takes place in that dungeon, and encourages readers to decide how they would react to the events. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

dungeons-and-tombs-2.jpg

There are six dungeons covered in this book, and each is very different — which I love! Dungeons aren’t always enclosed spaces or underground, so I’m thrilled this book showcases that. The six dungeons examined in this book shouldn’t surprise fans of D&D. They’re famous, of course, but they’re also locations visited in D&D 5e adventures. These include Chult, Ironslag, Ravenloft, The Sea Ghost, The Temple of Elemental Evil, and Undermountain. My kids love knowing that the places they’ve read about are out there, in a D&D campaign, waiting for them to explore one day. For those of you curious, Chult is explored in Tomb of Annihilation, Ironslag is explored in Storm King’s Thunder, Ravenloft is explored in Curse of Strahd, The Sea Ghost is featured in Ghosts of Saltmarsh,  The Temple of Elemental Evil is a part of Princes of the Apocalypse, and Undermountain is showcased in Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage . (Note: These locations have been showcased many times before in previous editions, stories, and adventures as well). Even more exciting to my kids, they already knew the names of some of these locations, as the Endless Quest series of Dungeons & Dragons children’s novels by Matt Forbeck also visits some of these locations. (For more information on Endless Quest, check out our review on the first four here and the newest two here).

Both of my children agreed that their favourite dungeon was Chult, the island of dinosaurs. My daughter’s second favourite was the Temple of Elemental Evil, while my son’s second favourite was The Sea Ghost. Both of my children agreed that Ravenloft was by far the spookiest location in the book. My son enjoyed it, but my daughter saw the word ‘werewolf,’ shrieked in panic, and flipped right past the rest of that dungeon. (She has a fear of werewolves). Preferences aside, they both really enjoyed the dungeon profiles and, just as  importantly, came up with a bunch of ideas for adventures and stories they want to create in the various dungeons. It really sparked their imagination, which was nice to see. The dungeon profiles take up half of the book.

The next chapter of this book is a bestiary, which begins with a short, one page introduction. This introduction also explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

The creatures in this book are sorted alphabetically, with the ooze entry containing four different oozes. Creatures showcased are the basilisk, flameskull, gibbering mouther, grung, iron golem, lizardfolk, mimic, ooze (black pudding, gelatinous cube, gray ooze, ochre jelly), roper, sea elf, water elemental myrmidon, and yikaria. Once again, my kids both really enjoyed this section. My son read it all, but my daughter found one creature ‘too spooky’ for her. She saw the gibbering mouther… and promptly flipped right past it. Haha. Both of my kids decided the basilisk was the coolest monster in the bestiary, followed by the grung. My son also enjoyed the roper a lot, while my daughter preferred the sea elf.

Dungeons and Tombs - Basilisk

The final chapter of this book was my personal favourite: building your own dungeon. This chapter is a simple, but really helpful guide that discusses how to build a dungeon that is exciting, memorable, and actually makes sense. It’s got a lot of wonderful questions and writing prompts, concepts for kids to think about, and fun ideas to spark their creativity. (Many adult D&D players would benefit from reading this short chapter, as well). The dungeon creation process covers coming up with the dungeon concept (the location, creator, and purpose), populating your dungeon (ecology, inhabitants, and traps), mapmaking (which include map symbols and sample maps), explorations and quests (essentially the goal of your adventures in this dungeon), and treasure. Finally, it discusses how to use dungeons to tell a story — either written, spoken, or as an adventure.

My kids both agreed that the mapmaking section of this chapter was the greatest part of not only this chapter, but also the entire book. They absolutely adored it! And you know what? So did I. I like the map symbols key, particularly. I was also really impressed with the opening discussion on the purpose and context of a dungeon, as I believe this is a hugely important, and often overlooked, component of adventure creation. I’m SO happy its in here. Haha.


The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the diversity of locations and creatures featured in this book. These are cool, exciting places to adventure and imagine, that showcase a wide variety of environments, locations, and play styles. The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. My favourite section is the ‘Building Your Own Dungeon’ chapter, which is a simple but surprisingly helpful guide to making adventures, maps, and worldbuilding.

The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the places and creatures inside, and I loved watching them immediately reach for some paper and pencils, to make stories and adventures of their own. Dungeons & Tombs is another wonderful entry in the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series. It’s a refreshing, fun, exciting read, sure to spark the imagination of young readers and inspire them to tell stories of their own.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was exciting, fun, and I even made a whole adventure right away because I loved the basilisk so much. It helped me make maps, too, which is really great! I want to ask Santa for my own copy, because I think my brother and I will both want to use it all the time!”

My son: “I loved it, like my sister did. The book was so amazing it gave me all kinds of cool ideas. It is my favourite book on my shelf right now. I recommend it to kids of all ages, even if they don’t know about D&D.”

“Dungeons & Tombs is another wonderful entry in the D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series. It’s a refreshing, fun, exciting read, sure to spark the imagination of young readers and inspire them to tell stories of their own.”


My family and I had an absolute blast reading Dungeons & Tombs, and I expect the book to continue to see heavy use in the future. They’re very excited to hear there’s another Young Adventurer’s Guide on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) Wizards & Spells when it comes out in the spring.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us an advance copy for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy

I’ve always loved interactive books that let the reader make decisions, so last year when Dungeons & Dragons released a series of four ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style children’s books, successfully relaunching the ‘Endless Quest’ series, I picked them up for my children right away. Written by Matt Forbeck, each of these four books cast you in the role of different classes, explored different iconic locations, and tied in with other Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They were fun, exciting, filled with colourful characters, and featured a bigger sized font perfect for my children. My kids and I were impressed with the quality and content of these books.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series is expanding on September 3rd, 2019 to include two more releases, Escape from Castle Ravenloft and The Mad Mage’s Academy! We are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

But first, what is Endless Quest?

Endless Quest 2

Endless Quest is a series of six ‘choose your own adventure’ style novels aimed at middle-grade readers (eight to twelve year olds). My kids are seven and eight years old, placing them at the young end of the intended audience. To Catch a Thief lets your kids (or you!) be a halfling rogue, Into the Jungle casts you in the role of a dwarf cleric, Escape the Underdark lets you play as a human fighter, Big Trouble lets you play as an elf wizard, Escape from Castle Ravenloft lets you play as a cleric, and The Mad Mage’s Academy lets you play as a rogue. While reading the book your character’s gender — and often their race — 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 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, scenery, and locations. Some of the images in the earlier books are even tactical maps, which everyone in the house enjoyed examining, although the two newest books do not contain any maps. Some of the images are on the gory or creepy side, and both of the new books are quite suspenseful.

Each of the Endless Quest 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, with the new books featuring Count Strahd von Zarovich and Halaster, the Mad Mage). 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 more than 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. The first four books in the series feature some very hard to pronounce names, although the two newest didn’t, which my kids found an improvement. In the earlier books battle was nearly always fatal, although the two newest books allow you to fight and win at least half the time, which made your adventurer seem much more capable. My kids loved this! Particularly because one of the two newest books are the spookiest of the series, and being able to overpower some of the opponents made my kids feel more in control, and less scared.

endless-quest.jpg

Escape from Castle Ravenloft is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Adam Paquette, Autumn Rain Turkel, Ben Oliver, Brynn Metheney, Chris Seaman, Claudio Pozas, Conceptopolis, Baarken, Eric Belisle, Jedd Chevrier, Jesper Ejsing, Kiernan Yanner, Lake Hurwitz, Lars Grant-West, Mark Behm, Milivoj Ceran, Richard Whitters, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Vincent Dutrait, Vincent Proce, Wayne England, Zack Strella, and Zoltan Boros. Cover illustrations are by Eric Belisle, Mark Behm, and Ben Oliver.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric of Tyr, god of justice. Originally from Waterdeep, you character finds themselves in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft where you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich. The story begins with you awakening in a bedroom in his castle, bereft of all your gear except for your holy symbol. Count Strahd welcomes you to his castle, informing you that you’ll be staying indefinitely as his guest. Not wanting to become his vampire spawn or dominated thrall, your character will need to find a way to escape Castle Ravenloft alive. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

My kids both agreed that this was the spookiest of the books. They were on the edge of their seats the entire time, slinking through eerily silent halls, peeking into dark chambers, and desperately hoping they don’t run into any vampires or werewolves. They squealed in surprise quite a bit — in a good way — and decided they did not want to read this book near bedtime. Haha. It’s a light horror story that my kids really enjoyed. However, it is definitely the scariest Endless Quest book to date, so it will not be for everyone.

This was a bit of a deadly book, but also had quite a few ‘successful’ endings. The majority of the endings involving dying trapped within the castle, a good number involving dying during or after your escape, a few endings leave you trapped within the castle but alive, and a good number result in your escape and survival. Despite its lethality, both of my kids adored it.

There’s a few different characters for you to interact with during the course of the book, two of which my kids really enjoyed — the clockwork jester Pidlwick and a naive young woman called Gertruda. Most of the time my kids were invested in trying to save themselves and figure out which characters were trustworthy and which would betray them. But, after the introduction of Gertruda, their priorities changed, and they became determined to save both her and themselves. Some of the endings involving Gertruda give you difficult decisions to make, such as putting yourself in danger and potentially missing your chance to escape in order to save an innocent — or not! My kids agonized over that a bit, but never chose to abandon the girl — unless they were sifting through the book to try to find the endings they missed.

Although there’s a lot of cool places to explore in this book, it all takes place in and around Castle Ravenloft, meaning there is very little drastic changes of scenery. My son’s favourite part of the book involved combating minor undead with his holy symbol and strength of faith, which always made him feel very proud. He also really liked an ending where you escape the castle but get transformed into a werewolf. My daughter, who has a terrible fear of werewolves, did NOT like that ending at all. Instead, her favourite parts of the book involved interacting with the traitorous Pidlwick!

The Mad Mage’s Academy is written by Matt Forbeck, designed by Wendy Bartlett, and edited by Kirsty Walters. The art in this book was created by Allen Douglas, Andrew Mar, Bryan Syme, Chris Seaman, Christopher Moeller, Clint Cearley, Conceptopolis, Cynthia Sheppard, Cyril Van Der Haegen, David Palumbo, David Vargo, Emily Fiegenschuh, Eric Belisle, Ilya Shipkin, Jason Juta, Jim Pavelec, John Stanko, Kiernan Yanner, Kurt Higgins, Michael Berube, Olga Drebas, Scott Murphy, Sidharth Chaturvedi, Wayne England, and Zelda Devon. Cover illustrations are by Cynthia Sheppard, Jesper Ejsing, and Titus Lunter.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at Halaster’s magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons & Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

This book involves a lot of subterfuge, interacting with other characters, lies, and betrayal — both from you and the people you meet along the way! My kids really enjoyed this, and were often surprised at the results of their choices. There were lots of interesting characters to interact with, including the mind flayer Cephalossk, tiefling sisters Violence and Turbulence, and the night hag Wormriddle. Both of my kids favourite character was Spite, a child wizard protected by a half-ogre named Dumara (or so they first appear…).

Of all the Endless Quest books to date, The Mad Mage’s Academy felt like the least deadly. Although over half of the endings left you dead and without one of the multiple spell books hidden throughout the academy, the rest all involved your survival, with about half of those also letting you escape with one of the spell books. Much like Escape from Castle Ravenloft, this book all takes place within a single complex, so there’s not much variation in the locations you can visit.

My son’s favourite part about this book was interacting with Cephalossk, and seeing all of the cool traps and magical defences you can come up against your quest for the spell books. My daughter’s favourite parts of this book was interacting with Spite, a wide variety of the ‘escape with the spell book’ endings, and an ending that allows you to take over the academy, which she thought was amazing.

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, with each book very different from the others. Fans of D&D will particularly enjoy all the famous places you can visit and people you can meet. Best of all? My kids have read and re-read these books over and over again. They’re going to see a lot of use.

Endless Quest: Escape from Castle Ravenloft and Endless Quest: The Mad Mage’s Academy are scheduled for release on September 3rd, 2019.

My family and I would like to give a special thank you to Penguin Randomhouse Canada, for providing us with advance copies for review.

Jessica

 

Review: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons!

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new series of Dungeons & Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures’ and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is 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. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Advendturer's Guide

Before we take an in depth look at each of the books individually, let’s talk first impressions…

These books look and feel great! They have high quality hard covers, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. These books feel like they’re a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like these books are just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

Taken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

Young Adventurers Guides

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. My son had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything he read. My daughter, understandably, had more trouble, having to sound out a tricky word or two with each flip of the page, and often asking for definitions of words. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books, and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across a few creatures she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that these books are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. The Young Adventurer’s Guides do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, roles, gear, and monsters in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


Monsters & CreaturesMonsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons & 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. This book begins with a short, one page introduction which gives the book some context and explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

Monsters & Creatures - Inside Cover

The creatures in this book are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, which are found in ‘Caverns & Dark Places,’ moving up onto the surface with ‘Forests, Mountains, & Other Terrain’ dwelling creatures (which also includes a special sub-chapter on giants of all kinds). Following this is ‘Moors, Bogs, and Boneyards,’ a chapter which primarily focuses on undead creatures with a special sub-chapter on vampires, and ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways,’ which is packed full of aquatic creatures. Finally, airborne monsters can be found in ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky,’ which also contains a special sub-chapter on dragons. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. There’s also lore, special abilities and powers, typical tactics, and a handy list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with these beasts. Finally, new art! This book is packed full of it!

Monsters & Creatures also features encounters, which are short, one page stories that introduce a famous D&D character, place them in a perilous situation involving one of the described creatures, and then ends, leaving each opening scene with a cliffhanger ending. Following this is questions that ask the reader what they think the characters should do next, what would happen in response to those actions, and what the characters should do afterwards. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

The book ends with a short chapter on how to use monsters to tell stories, and important questions to contemplate for kids who decide to make stories or engage in RPGs on their own. Things like, ‘who are your characters,’ ‘where does your story take place,’ ‘how do things change as the story proceeds,’ and so on. Finally, there’s a short blurb about Dungeons & Dragons, and how to get into the game.

So what creatures, exactly, are featured in Monsters & Creatures? Plenty! ‘Caverns & Dark Places’ includes the beholder, bugbear, carrion crawler, flumph, goblin, mind flayer, myconid, and the legendary Demogorgon. ‘Forests, Mountains & Other Terrain’ includes the centaur, displacer beast, owlbear, sprite, treant, unicorn, hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant, storm giant, and the legendary fire giant Duke Zalto. ‘Moors, Bogs & Boneyards’ includes the banshee, skeleton, vampire lord, vampire spawn, and the legendary vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich. ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways’ includes the aboleth, dragon turtle, and merrow. ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky’ includes the griffon, pegasus, white dragon, green dragon, black dragon, blue dragon, red dragon, and the legendary Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons! Encounters are included for the frost giant, green dragon, myconid, skeleton, and unicorn. My son most enjoyed reading about unicorns, flumphs, blue dragons, and vampires. My daughter most enjoyed reading about the beholder, flumph, dragon turtle, dragons, and Tiamat. My daughter also came across a few creatures that she decided, either from the art or after reading the first few sentences, were ‘too spooky’ for her. She promptly skipped those monsters and moved on with the book. The monsters she skipped were the carrion crawler (she’s afraid of bugs), the aboleth (she thought it looked creepy), and the mind flayer (it had a giant brain behind it and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to know why).

The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the array of creatures featured in this book. There’s a lot of iconic monsters in here, a ton of fantasy staples, and some quirky creatures that most kids will be discovering for the first time. Some of the choices were a bit gutsy for a kids book — the mind flayer and demogorgon, for example — but I’m thrilled to see them included. I’m pleased to see that not all of the monsters are evil creatures, there’s plenty that can be befriended or negotiated with.  The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the creatures inside. Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was fun to read and the pictures were beautiful! I give it two thumbs up! I think I will read it again and again. I really loved the flumph! It was the best creature in the book. That’s what I think.”

My son: “I think that I love this book. All kinds of kids should read it. I think most would love it, too! Especially if they already like D&D and RPGs and things. I think that it is fun and I’m going to read it a lot!”

“Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.”

Warriors & Weapons


Warriors & Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons & 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.

Warriors & Weapons begins with a quick introduction that makes it clear that this book is meant to help the reader and their friends make characters of their own. The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: fantasy races, character classes, and equipment. There’s a large array of fantasy races covered in this book — most I expected to see included, but a few were surprises that I knew of but didn’t expect to make the cut. Each race is covered in two side-by-side pages. It starts with new art and a few questions that can help kids figure out if they’ll like playing that race. You’ll also find information on their age, size, attributes, and a few paragraphs about the race and how they act or fit into the world. The races included in this book are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling, and tortle.

Gnome

Warriors & Weapons is a book about warriors. It should come as no surprise then, that not all of the character classes are covered in this book. The martial classes are included. That means there are six classes covered in the chapter on classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue. Each class entry contains a few questions that can help kids figure out if they would enjoy making a character of that class, information on the class, its major low level abilities, and the weapons, armour, and gear they’re capable of using. Many also include information on the various archetypes, paths, and specializations available to those classes. After each class entry is a two page spread that takes a look at a famous example of that character class. These ‘legendary heroes’ include Wulfgar the Warhammer, Bruenor Battlehammer, Whey-Shu, Redclay, Minsc the Mighty, and Shandie Freefoot. The class section also includes a little flowchart that can tell kids what class they’re most like, and a short section on character backgrounds, attire, details, inspiration, and flaws.

The Equipment section takes a quick look at weapons (swords, polearms, other melee weapons, ranged weapons, and special weapons), armour (light, medium, heavy, and shields), survival gear, adventuring gear, tools, and some special packs for more specialized endeavours (burglar’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, and vampire hunter’s pack). All of the weapon and armour entries talk about the pros and cons of utilizing items of that types, and showcases a few popular versions. The other equipment entries talk about the purpose of different kinds of gear, being prepared for your adventures, and why selecting the right equipment for your character is important. Finally, this section also contains a quick monster entry about the terrifying… rust monster!

Survival Gear

The book ends with a few comments about how you can use your characters to tell stories of your own, and a quick blurb about Dungeons & Dragons and how to get involved in the game. Most of the information on these back few pages is the same as that contained at the end of Monsters & Creatures.

The verdict: 

My kids both adored this book. They love flipping through the races and classes, answering the questions, and making up characters. My daughter particularly enjoys the flowchart that helps you pick out the class you’re most like, and has spent a lot of time making up her own quizzes to determine our race and class. She often sits down beside me, flips open her book, and announces, “Mama! Pick a race!” I cannot stress enough how much she enjoys using this book to make characters and character concepts. My son really enjoys reading about the legendary heroes, with both of my kids agreeing Minsc the Mighty and his hamster Boo are the coolest characters in the book. (I’m pretty sure Boo the hamster would win in a popularity contest between the two of them around here, haha). When it comes down to it, I think they enjoy the sections on races and classes more than the section on equipment. Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.

My daughter: “I loved this book! Especially the little chart! It’s so much fun! It was a great book and I give it two thumbs up!”

My son: “Warriors & Weapons was pretty much as good as Monsters & Creatures, but I liked Monsters & Creatures better. I love how it lets you make your own characters with races and classes. The legendary characters were the coolest part. Especially Whey-Shu and Boo.”

“Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.”


My family and I had an absolute blast with these books. Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons have both been read a lot by my kids, and I expect them to continue to see heavy use in the future. My kids have already decided they would each like their own copies, so they’re saving up their money to pick up an extra copy of each book. We’re very excited to hear there’s more Young Adventurer’s Guides on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) of Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells when they come out.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us advance copies for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica

 

July New Releases

Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! Summer is here and a plethora of new gaming products are hitting shelves! Check out this month’s new d20 releases!


Dungeons & Dragons

Last month’s exciting releases include Dungeons & Dragons: Acquisitions Incorporated and Beadle & Grimm’s Sinister Silver Edition for Ghosts of Saltmarsh! The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit is scheduled to release at Target this month, but other retailers won’t be selling it until September.

A new series of Dungeons and Dragons books aimed at children is launching this month. 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 & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons. 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 is 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. My kids and I are incredibly excited to be in possession of advance copies of both of these books, which we’ll be posting a full review on within the next few days. We can’t wait to share them with you!


Pathfinder

Highlights from last month’s releases include Pathfinder Adventure Path 143: Borne by the Sun’s Grace (Tyrant’s Grasp 5 of 6) by Luis Loza and Pathfinder Pawns: Enemy Encounters Pawn Collection. This month’s most exciting Pathfinder release is Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death (Tyrant’s Grasp 6 of 6) by John Compton. This adventure wraps up the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path and is the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. Also out this month is  Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Druma: Profit and Prophecy.

This month’s Pathfinder Society Scenario is #10-23—Passing the Torch, Part 2: Who Speaks for the Ten, a Tier 12-18 scenario that is the sequel to last month’s  #10-22—Passing the Torch, Part 1: Who Wears the Mask. Together with Pathfinder Society Special #10-98: Siege of Gallowspire, these three scenarios are the grand finale to Pathfinder Society Organized Play for Pathfinder First Edition.


Starfinder

Last month’s Starfinder releases include Starfinder Adventure Path: Solar Strike (Dawn of Flame 5 of 6) by Mark Moreland and the Starfinder Rules Reference Cards Deck. Although I expected Starfinder Adventure Path: Assault on the Crucible (Dawn of Flame 6 of 6) to release this month, it’s been delayed until August.

Last month marked the start of the second season of the Starfinder Society, Year of a Thousand Bites, with #2-01: The Pact World Warriors and #2-02: Waking the Past. This month’s scenarios are #2-03: The Withering World and #2-04: Future’s Fall. #2-03: The Withering World is a series of five repeatable quests for Tier 1-4. The quests are written by Arc Riley, Jennifer Povey, Rigby Bendele, Shahreena Shahrani, and myself! This project was an absolute blast to be a part of and I can’t wait to see it hit game tables at the end of the month! #2-04: Future’s Fall is a Tier 7-10 scenario by Matt Duvall that takes players back to Salvation’s End!


And that’s it for this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!

Happy shopping!

Jessica

 

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

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.

The ABCs and 123s of D&D

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

“I is for IMAGINATION. What’s YOUR favorite tale?”

B is for Book

“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).

123s of D&D

“We begin with ONE Dungeon Master telling a story of daring deeds, the adventure of TWO heroes and their brave and noble steeds.”

Bestiary

“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!

Jessica

The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guides

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.

Dungeons & Dragons - Monsters & Creatures - A Young Adventurer's Guide
Monsters and Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide

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!

Dungeons & Dragons - Warriors & Weapons - A Young Aventurer's Guide
Warriors and Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide

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.

Jessica

 

Endless Quest Continues

After the successful relaunch of the Endless Quest choose-your-own-adventure style kids novels set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, author Matt Forbeck is bringing us two more! My family and I are thrilled to hear this, as we own all four of the previous books, and really enjoyed them. Fun, detailed, and filled with colourful characters, each novel explores different iconic locations, casts you in the role of different classes, and ties in with other Dungeons and Dragons campaigns! For detailed information on the previous Endless Quest books, check out this blog post.

Currently consisting of four books — Big TroubleEscape the UnderdarkInto the Jungle, and To Catch a Thief — the Endless Quest series will expand to include two more releases in September.

Escape from Castle Ravenloft casts you in the role of a cleric in the mist-shrouded, gothic realm of Ravenloft. There you catch the eye of the infamous vampire Count Strahd and are turned into his vampire spawn. You’ll need to find a way to escape the his castle (and his control!) or be doomed to serve him for the rest of your immortal life. This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Curse of Strahd.

The Mad Mage’s Academy casts you in the role of a thief tasked with stealing the spell book of the Mad Mage himself, Halaster Blackcloak. You’ll need to pose as a student at a magic academy, locate and steal the spell book, and escape — all without getting caught! This book coincides with and features characters from the Dungeons and Dragons adventure, Dungeon of the Mad Mage.

We can’t wait to get our hands on more of these delightful little books!

Jessica