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General The Young Adventurers Guides Kick In The Door To Dungeons & Dragons For Kids (And Adults)

One of the strengths of Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition is how accessible it is to new players. The game mechanics have been simplified. There are a pair of boxed sets in the Starter Set and Essentials Kit that introduce the game in a wonderful way. Shows like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone have demystified the process of how to play and finding a group to play with.

The Young Adventurers’ Guides, from Jim Zub, Stacey King and Andrew Wheeler, aim at a target that’s long been fertile ground for D&D: young people who like fantasy. These gorgeous illustrated guides explain basic concepts from the game like classes, races, spells and monsters in a way to get new players excited about digging into the game.

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Warriors and Weapons digs into the martial side of things for potential players. It offers two page summaries of the non-magic user classes in 5e along with an example of someone from that class pulled from D&D lore. Each two page class summary includes a short write up on what the class does and how the class best handles combat. There are also details on the most common races in D&D, including some deeper cuts from non-PHB sourcebooks like the tabaxi and tortle.

The fantastic artwork also visualizes the many bits of weapons and gear that heroes get when they start out. This struck a chord with me as someone who struggled to visualize what a glaive guisarme was before the invention of the internet when I started playing D&D. One of the most useful pictures is this book of the various adventurer’s packs that players can choose during the creation process. It’s easier to see the difference between a burglar’s pack and an explorer’s pack than read off the list of stuff inside each one.

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Wizards and Spells takes a similar path with the magical side of player equipment. It talks about the spellcasting classes and picks a handful of spells from each level to illustrate and discuss. There are spreads of magical items that get illustrated including some of the more famous ones like the Sunsword or the Wand of Wonder.

One of the most useful things for new players in these two books is a pair of two page spreads that function as an analogue version of those What class are you? websites. Players who don’t know their warlock from their barbarian can sometimes be a little overwhelmed with choices during character creation. These simple flowcharts allow the Dungeon Master to ask two or three questions and get a choice that should fit a new player.

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Monsters & Creatures highlights some of the villains and beasts adventurers will battle during a game of Dungeons & Dragons. This first book separates the creatures by where they might be found. Each loose chapter also includes an encounter to inspire budding Dungeon Masters on how they might use a monster or prepare a player to think about how to defeat a monster outside of just fighting. Each monster type also features a legendary villain, so you better believe that Count Strahd Von Zarovich shows up in the vampire section.

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The latest book, Beasts & Behemoths, follows the same format but sorts the creatures by size rather than likely location. Each creature also gets a danger rating which feels like a small introduction to the concept of the Challenge Rating in 5e. The back of each book also encourages readers to write stories featuring the monsters within. There are some suggestions to tell stories with friends, but I know a lot of Dungeon Masters start out writing stories first and then bringing them to life when they can put together a group.

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Dungeons & Tombs also has monsters inside but shifts its focus to interesting locations for adventurers to go. It highlights classic spots like the Temple of Elemental Evil and Ravenloft, but there’s a robust section at the end for building original dungeons as well. This book is the one that feels the most focused on getting the reader to make the hop to being a Dungeon Master. The rest make this pitch in more subtle ways by introducing elements of lore from D&D’s rich collection of worlds. In this book, the authors seem to be saying “Why not make your own? You’ve already got the tools.”

This leads us to the big secret of these guides; they are also pretty useful for adults. Dungeon Masters have struggled for decades to get players to do the reading and these exist as a great way to get the Cliff Notes version on the monsters and lore of places like Ravenloft and the Forgotten Realms. The monster books contain the information a character might know in the world without needing to make a skill check or possibly even reading the info to a player if they do succeed on the check. The entries also help players figure out how tough a creature will be without giving a glimpse at their Monster Manual stats. I’ve used these books with players completely new to D&D and fantasy games and they go over much more easily than either getting them a Player’s Handbook and hoping they read it or trying to explain stuff on the fly without the rest of the players chiming in.

The series is available in hardcover individually at Amazon and your friendly local bookstore. The first four are also available in a handsome softcover set perfect for a holiday gift.
 
Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland


Matchstick

Explorer
I got the ones that were available last Christmas for my nephew and he (and I for that matter) really liked them. The monster one was a favorite; we played with it existing in-game as an inherited guide from a relative that his character carried around in his pack and consulted.
 


THEMNGMNT

Adventurer
I bought these for the boys of two different friends. (My own kids are a little too young.) They were a hit. I definitely recommend them for kids...and adults, too.
 


Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I've got all 5 "young adventurer's guides", but they are for me, an old adventurer. They are fun reads and the artwork is gorgeous!

I'm a teacher, so I MIGHT share these with interested students . . . . but they are rough on books, and these are so pretty . . .
 


Traveller

Explorer
What age group are their aimed at?
And can anyone in the "crowd" give an opnion on their sutabilty/level for English as a second language?

Thanks
 

When translated into other languages? If I want to buy one or two for my couple I will want in my mother language.
Same problem to me. I bought all the books for my sons hoping that it helps and motivate them to learn some english, but if it were in italian it was better.
Aside, I fear that this question would be better posed to spanish D&D editors.
 

I got the ones that were available last Christmas for my nephew and he (and I for that matter) really liked them. The monster one was a favorite; we played with it existing in-game as an inherited guide from a relative that his character carried around in his pack and consulted.
That's a cool idea!

Johnathan
 

What age group are their aimed at?
And can anyone in the "crowd" give an opnion on their sutabilty/level for English as a second language?
I have a 7 year old who can just about read them all comfortably on her own. I'd say age 7-10 is about right. (So, a little younger than the 3E/4E Practical Guides* series, which were organized by subject and were more of an in-world series of books.)

I think they'd be a good choice for someone who has a beginning grasp of English and an adult's ability to figure out words by context (or look them up as needed). As long as they know they're going to be encountering a few game terms, like monster names, and not to expect everything to be standard English, they'll be fine.

That said, the books offer a lot of great breakdowns for any new player, including what the classes do, typical personality of the various peoples** of D&D, some classic monsters and some of the dungeons from the published 5E adventure books.

* You can still pick these up on Amazon (I don't think they're on DMs Guild, unfortunately). I highly recommend the Practical Guide to Wizardry.

** Note that they include content beyond the core books, which is how my 7 year old discovered Tabaxi, when I had been hoping to steer her toward PHB races initially. ;)
 









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