Sunday, November 25, 2018

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, John Peterson and Sam Witwer

Image result for art and arcana

Why I Read It: 
The old Dungeon Master inside me was powerless to resist when I saw it on the shelf.

Summary: The history of the Dungeons & Dragons brand told mostly through imagery.

My Thoughts: I have no idea of whether or not I can relate to the modern, 5th edition, of Dungeons & Dragons. All I know is that it took me no time at all to flip through the pages of this massive, beautiful book and find my zone.

I started around 10 or 11 years old, with the first edition. Yes, as stated above, I was the Dungeon Master, the King of the Geeks. I had to study up before each adventure. I had to know every nook and cranny of the dungeon module. I had to know the tendencies and capabilities of each and every monster the party would come across. I read the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II and the Fiend Folio from end to end.

I generally played with my friends Dan and Mike, but also with my brother and sister and at least two other groups of kids around town I can think of today. At that time, in the early 1980s, D & D was everywhere.

This book, from the cover inward, brought back waves of memories. It created cravings for a return to not only those days, but those worlds. And, as I dove into the material, I realized how much I've retained. I can rattle off the names of the modules - that was the classic era of the dungeon module - and tell you their backstories, where the traps were, what the final bosses were. We - Mike, Dan and I - had all of the hardcovers, stacks of dungeons, and reams of generated characters through which we lived and died.

We had a general idea of the game's history, of Gary Gygax and his group of friends. I wasn't old enough to really pay attention to the corporate side of things, to understand power struggles and declining revenues and corporate buyouts. Quite frankly, I didn't know there would be future editions of the game; it was perfect as it was. Besides, life went on. My parents divorced. I moved out of town, lost touch with Danny and Mikey, was forced to mature faster than I should have. D & D faded out of my life. In later years I read a few novels, but basically stopped reading fiction when I became a historian, later a naturalist, now both.

This book brought it all back, in those waves I mentioned. My heart has been confused for several days now. Isn't this where I belong? Can I somehow get back?

The power of the artwork is incredible. The book is huge, with vivid imagery on every page, with explanations behind their origins, and a running history of the brand. If you've ever had a D & D zone, like I did, you'll find it in this book, and you may start to understand how this game has affected your outlook on life in general. We learned a lot of skills through D & D, from basic teamwork  to critical thinking on up. I've written fifty books. Fifty books, by 47 years old! Can I really say that the way Dungeons & Dragons inspired my imagination, it had no impact on my chosen path?

No way.

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