The kids have always wanted to sit around the table with you and roll the dice in an adventure, but getting started with Dungeons & Dragons can be daunting when all the books weigh more than you do! That’s where the new Young Adventurer’s Guides, out this summer from Ten Speed Press and Wizards of the Coast, come in. With all-new illustrations and explanations of Dungeons & Dragons‘ rules, character creation, monsters, and more for ages 8 and up, there’s never been a better time to bring your kids to the table.
We chatted with lead writer and architect of the series Jim Zub and co-writers Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler about how and why the book series came together, what you’ll find inside the pages, tips for playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids, and more.
What was the inspiration behind the Young Adventurer’s Guides?
Jim: When I was at the Wizards of the Coast office in late 2017 consulting on the adventure material that would become Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, we talked a lot about how I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was 8 years old and the elements of D&D and roleplaying that ignited my imagination at that crucial age. That discussion would come up again a few months later when the crew at Wizards introduced me to Aaron Wehner, an editor from Ten Speed Press, and plans started to develop around the kind of book that could engage new players without overwhelming them with rules or game-specific terminologies.
As experienced Dungeon Masters or players, it’s easy to forget how intimidating tabletop RPGs can be for people who haven’t ever played them before. These guides lay out the major concepts (class, race, equipment, creatures) in a way anyone can understand while encouraging them to create their own stories. Readers can use the material in these books to brainstorm a character and imagine their role in an adventuring party. They’re meant to get new players excited about the possibilities, so they’re ready to head to the gaming table and learn how those initial ideas can really flourish with a roll of the dice.
Stacy: Working on the series, I was inspired by my own memories of playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. My brother and I loved playing the game, but we found even the old Basic rules to be pretty complex, especially since we didn’t have an older player to mentor us. This series represents the storytelling, character development and world-building details I would have loved to have when I was getting started!
How did the project get started?
Jim: In early 2018 I worked with D&D Narrative Designer Adam Lee on a proposal for the books that would eventually be called the Young Adventurer’s Guides. The original concept was one book, but that quick blossomed into two, three, and now four different books that cover the core storytelling ingredients that make up Dungeons & Dragons: monsters, heroes, magic, and dungeons.
Once I realized the size and scope of the project would be too much for me to handle on my own, I brought on board Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler to help co-write the material in each book and contribute to art direction. It’s been an absolute team effort throughout the process.
Andrew: I’ve been a player in Jim’s own D&D campaign for the past several years, and we’ve worked together before on comics, so he knew I’d bring a strong understanding of the material and could rise to the specific challenges of bringing D&D to this audience. It’s been a real pleasure digging into these fantastic worlds to capture the magic of D&D!
Stacy: Jim and I have collaborated before; I copy-edited his creator comic Wayward (published through Image) and we worked together on a variety of client projects for UDON Entertainment. When he approached me about co-writing the Young Adventurer’s Guides, I jumped at the chance to delve into the amazing world of D&D.
What tips do you have for parents playing as Dungeon Masters for their kids for the first time?
Stacy: Talk to your kids about the kind of game they think they’d enjoy before you start playing. Dungeons & Dragons can encompass a wide spectrum of stories, from serious to silly, small-scale to epic. There’s no right or wrong approach, just what works for each gaming group. Once you’re at the table and things are rolling, watch for the moments that make their eyes light up – and the ones that make them reach for their phone or other distractions.
Jim: This advice is true for kids, but also for every gaming group: Give the general adventure/story some structure, but be prepared to improvise and lean in on the elements that are most entertaining to your players. Challenge your group with unexpected turns and problems to solve, and watch carefully to see which parts of the adventure engage them the most. A nice part of running games for kids and teens is they don’t hold back on letting you know what they like and don’t like.
Andrew: I think flexibility is so important, because you’re going to learn what sort of players your kids are when you start gaming with them, and they may surprise you. They may even surprise themselves! I think DMs should always lean into the unpredictability because that’s where a lot of the fun comes from.
Are these books only for helping kids learn how to play, or is there a section or book dedicated to helping them learn to DM as well?
Jim: The Monsters & Creatures guide talks a bit about setting up challenges for the story, but the first two books are primarily about approaching the material as a player. The Dungeons & Tombs guide (arriving in October) has a section about making your own dungeons, a legend of common dungeon map symbology and ideas for using traps and monsters within that helps get readers thinking about what it could be like to be on the other side of the table.
Stacy: Because these guides focus on building stories with your friends over rules, I think there’s material in all the books that would help aspiring Dungeon Masters get started on guiding their friends and parents through a first adventure. That said, we’d love to approach the topic more in-depth in a future book.
What do you hope young readers take away from these books?
Stacy: The self-assurance to jump in and start telling their own stories. D&D teaches such great skills – creative problem solving, collaboration, empathy, and confidence – all within the framework of a fun, social game. I hope this series inspires kids everywhere to give it a try!
Jim: The worlds of Dungeons & Dragons are filled with creative potential. You can build any kind of story you like on your own or while spending time with your friends.
Andrew: I hope this is the start of many wonderful adventures! Inspiring the imaginations of young readers is so important because it teaches us how to dream big.
Do you have any tips for playing D&D with kids? Share them in the comments.
All Images: Ten Speed Press / Wizards of the Coast