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Book Review: Lore & Legends: A Visual Celebration of the Fifth Edition of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game
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Dungeons & Dragons: Lore & Legends
A Visual Celebration of the Fifth Edition of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game
Hardcover | Kindle
By Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer
Foreword by Tom Morello
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Release Date: October 3, 2023

Well met, readers! I hope you are having the best of days and find success in all that you do. How goes my day, you ask? Splendidly, I must say, for I get the distinct pleasure of raving about a beautiful tome that found its way to my home just days ago. It was accompanied by many of its friends, but I will concentrate solely on this book, Lore & Legends: A Visual Celebration of the Fifth Edition of the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game. This references, of course, the game of Dungeons & Dragons, a franchise of gaming that has helped my interests, passion, and some small fortune of mine that I have invested in supplies and whatnot. Time, effort, and money well spent, I must say.

Unlike many of my reviews, this is not a source book, but rather a compendium of all things 5e (that’s Fifth Edition, if you did not already know). But it gives more than the occasional nod to its root materials and previous incarnations, so even folks like me can reminisce while still loving the new materials. In fact, after four decades of playing different editions of D&D, I can say that it has improved with age and so many people have found it more accessible than it once was. The diversity of players has never been better and the overall inclusion of everyone makes old nerds like me very happy. But enough of the maudlin speech, on to the party!

First off, they got freaking Tom Morello to do the introduction. And as he and others mention, before shows like Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory, this was a small niche community of people who played this game. Making it more mainstream is tantamount to creating a bigger and better game, even without the changes. And knowing that musical celebrities and Hollywood stars share the same love gives it more clout, more legitimacy. I hate to say it that way, but many of us were outcasts, maybe not because of our love for D&D but it certainly did not improve the situation. But with respect to how the game has changed, Wizards of the Coast got more than 175,000 of us to playtest the alpha version of 5e with amazing results. Having players work through the testing enabled the publisher to make the game people wanted and it was, if you will pardon the pun, a game changer. Fifty million people now play this game and it shows no sign of stopping.

The meat of the book is based around exploring all of the releases from the Player’s Handbook and onward. Each release is given several pages to break down what made it unique and interesting, especially with the introduction of mega-modules. These were more than adventures, they held a plethora of new items, classes, creatures, and more. So instead of buying the adventure in multiple modules, a common occurrence in the early editions, this allows the DM to get everything at once and even more than normally available. This is the sort of extra material that we used to source out of Dragon Magazine to add in for new monsters and NPCs. The Ravenloft source book, Curse of Strahd, is probably the one that stands out the most since they brought my favorite setting back to life and even gathered original creators for the release in 5e format. The sheer quantity of extras in the deluxe release was overwhelming and made my geeky little heart so happy.

We also get to explore D&D Next, D&D Adventurers League, and how the illustrations and graphics within the books has changed over the years. Beautiful artwork exists not just on the cover, but throughout each release. The stunning pictures are a far cry from early editions and it is possibly one of my favorite changes I have seen. New miniatures, board games, and tie-in books really expand on these newly reimagined worlds. Many old friends and fiends are back in new adventures or rebuilt ones that add new pizzazz to the game play. There is even a new motion picture that finally does justice to our favorite franchise. Additionally, I enjoyed seeing the foreign language versions of the core rule books, in French, Spanish, German, Japanese, and Italian. This book explores it all and every thing you can imagine.

Crossovers with Penny Arcade and Rick & Morty in game and comic book form were fun, as was the fusion with Magic The Gathering. Exploring how to reach out to new potential players is an important part of how this game has expanded so much in such little time. The children’s books are also something that became important to me as I have read them to all of my grandchildren, something I started when they first released, as you can see here. Coloring books, card games, Funko POPs, and so many other releases that brought people into the fold. The sheer diversity of products is mind boggling. Don’t even get me started on the live gaming and vlogging that has taken the online community by storm; Critical Role has its own massive following and could be an article all its own.

I could go on and on, as I have barely scraped the surface of what is in the 400-plus pages of this massive book. I was reminded of the official D&D cookbook, Heroes’ Feast, and I am about to go cook something yummy from its pages, the Dragonlance-inspired spiced potatoes from the Inn of the Last Home. I wish I could express the joy that I am feeling right now, as we approach the decade mark of this fifth edition of my favorite game. If you have made it this far, then you are a fan, no doubt about it. Is the game perfect? No. But is it better and more widely available to find a gaming group? Absolutely. As more and more new releases arrive that are pulled from the past, I urge you to see the beauty in it and embrace the love with which it is made. This book is a must-have for those that have been through the changes of this role playing juggernaut. I have no doubt this will be a hot item for tabletop gamers this holiday season, if you can get them to wait that long for it. In a world that seems to want to divide us, this game brings people together every single day; that alone is worth celebrating. Have a great day and may your d20 never roll a fumble.

An illustrated guide to Dungeons & Dragons’ beloved fifth edition told through interviews, artwork, and visual ephemera from the designers, storytellers, and artists who bring it to life.

When the reimagined fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons debuted in the summer of 2014, the game was on the brink of obsolescence. But within a few short years, D&D found greater success than it had ever enjoyed before, even surpassing its 1980s golden age. How did an analog game nearly a half century old become a star in a digital world? For the first time, Lore & Legends reveals the incredible ongoing story of Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition from the perspective of the designers, artists, and players who bring it to life. This comprehensive visual guide illuminates contemporary D&D—its development, evolution, cultural relevance, and popularity—through exclusive interviews and more than 900 pieces of artwork, photography, and advertising curated and analyzed by the authors of the bestselling and Hugo Award–nominated Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana.

416 pages; Book Dimensions: 9.37 x 1.37 x 12.15 inches

Dungeons and Dragons Lore and Legends book cover

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