Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (Review)

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer. Published October 23rd 2018 by Ten Speed Press, 448 pages.

It was the eighties and Dungeons and Dragons was the game everyone was talking about. My cousin, who I idolized, already owned it and had been talking it up. I was quite young when I first started playing D&D. I played with older kids, who knew what they were doing. They got to play the difficult (and fun) classes, like the wizards and thieves. I played the simple ones, the warriors and priests. The warriors hacked and slashed the monsters with weapons. The priests generally sat back and healed the wounded. There wasn’t a lot of intricacies going on there for me in the early going.

Later I got to play a Bard and in my opinion…the BEST character class. This musician-adventurer was such a late-comer to this edition of D&D that he was included in the appendixes at the back of the book. The Bard was a combination of fighter, thief, and druid (nature-based spell caster) who played an instrument with magical affect. Oh yes, and he/she also automatically acquired new languages when advancing every few levels. This jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none was such a ridiculous hodge-podge that some dungeon masters (the game referee) refused to allow it in the game.

I fought orcs, kobolds, gelatinous cubes, trolls, displacer beasts, and black pudding. I fought with spells and with the help of brave companions … though the thief did not detect the trap which ended my poor characters career. This is where it all began. This is where my imagination was encouraged to run wild. Thank you Gary Gygax (RIP).

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson and Sam Witwer is a masterwork. A glorious coffee-table tome detailing the history of the artwork of the game, the game itself, and the people, products and points of interest.

Witwer and his team have done an incredible job assembling and researching all things Dungeons and Dragons. It’s not just a pages of random artwork with notes about where they appeared, who created them and maybe an anecdote or two. There are some incredible images in the book, some I have never seen before myself, and no matter which edition you used to enter the hobby there’s something here for everyone. Within every section of the book, from the original editions to 5th edition and everything in between (including computer games, novels and the even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon), Art & Arcana illuminates the reader with facts and details about the development of the game, the routes it took during it’s life, the decisions that were made and the effect it had on the companies that produced the work.

Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a book that any player of Dungeons and Dragons can’t do without. If you want to relive your passion for the game’s art or experience it for the first time it doesn’t matter; this is an excellent read with plenty to offer time and time again. If you were and still are a fan of D&D and it’s art, buy this book. I can’t recommend it enough. Dungeons & Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History is out now. Pick up a copy at your local booksellers or online retailers. 


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