Dungeons and Dragons: "Monsters and Creatures" and "Weapons and Warriors" review
I’ll admit that Dungeons & Dragons is a bit of a blind spot for me. While I love the idea of getting together with friends, creating your own characters, and hashing out fantasy campaigns, it’s not anything I’ve ever taken part in.
Not to say I haven’t role-played before, mind you. If it counts, I’ve played plenty of video game RPGs, and even racked up an insane AOL bill in the early days of the platform by playing the text-based Gemstone: DragonRealms for hours and hours. I did… not know that it charged by the minute, but it was fun while it lasted.
As for D&D, it’s one of those social experiences that any true nerd can appreciate, even if they don’t take part in it themselves. After all, nothing is for everyone, but everything’s for someone, you know?
That’s why I was a bit surprised when Penguin Random House sent me two Dungeons & Dragons themed books for review, and all the more delighted to brush up on a property that I only have a passing familiarity with. Aimed at younger readers (and role-players) Dungeons & Dragons: Monsters & Creatures - A Young Adventurer’s Guide and Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors & Weapons - A Young Adventurer’s Guide are excellent resources for young readers who are just getting into role-playing, as well as serving as easy to read, handy resources for even the most experienced of players.
Both books are written by Jim Zub, with Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler providing support, and contain illustrations by Conceptopolis. Weapons & Warriors details the man character types you’ll encounter in D&D, along with common items and weapons, while Monsters & Creatures covers the different… well, monsters and creatures you’re bound to come across on your quest.
Each entry is impressively in-depth, with tons of helpful information for each of the different characters, weapons, and other items that are profiled. Monsters, for instance, will have a description of the race, along with the areas they are most commonly encountered, their special attributes and skills, and even helpful tips on what to do (and what not to do) when you encounter one in a campaign. Warrior entries, meanwhile, have questions about your own personality and gameplaying style, so you can pick the best character for you. Do you value hard work and family? You might enjoy being a Dwarf. Are you fascinated by the beauty and variety of nature? Then friend, you just might be a Tortle.
I was also impressed with the inclusion of hypothetical gameplay scenarios in the Monsters & Creatures volume. There are “Encounters” spread throughout, worded in a way that a Dungeon Master might recite, and they’re there to help young players strengthen their own narratives. These Encounters lay out a scenario where, say, a character encounters a unicorn, describing how the character reacts to the creature and how the creature reacts in turn. At the end it asks how you would have reacted in this scenario, which is a great way to get younger players thinking about hypothetical situations so they can improve their storytelling skills.
The illustrations are absolutely stunning as well, with clear representations of each respective subject along with accompanying notes, like a monster’s weak point or the special skill of a warrior. The Encounter pages are particularly stunning, with great depictions of action and even a bit of horror.
These books strike a great balance, in that they’re aimed at younger readers but are still great resources for older fans as well. They have enough information contained within their pages that you could easily jump into a D&D game after you’ve finished reading, but they’re not so dense and esoteric as to come across as dry and encyclopedic. Whether you know a young reader who is wanting to play some campaigns with their friends, or you want to brush up on this type of fantasy yourself, you can’t go wrong with either of these books.