An illustrated guide to the history and evolution of the beloved role-playing game told through the paintings, sketches, illustrations, and visual ephemera behind its creation, growth, and continued popularity.
FINALIST FOR THE HUGO AWARD • FINALIST FOR THE LOCUS AWARD • NOMINATED FOR THE DIANA JONES AWARD
From one of the most iconic game brands in the world, this official DUNGEONS & DRAGONS illustrated history provides an unprecedented look at the visual evolution of the brand, showing its continued influence on the worlds of pop culture and fantasy. Inside the book, you’ll find more than seven hundred pieces of artwork—from each edition of the core role-playing books, supplements, and adventures; as well as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels; decades of
Dungeon magazines; and classic advertisements and merchandise; plus never-before-seen sketches, large-format canvases, rare photographs, one-of-a-kind drafts, and more from the now-famous designers and artists associated with DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. The superstar author team gained unparalleled access to the archives of Wizards of the Coast
and the personal collections of top collectors, as well as the designers and illustrators who created the distinctive characters, concepts, and visuals that have defined fantasy art and gameplay for generations. This is the most comprehensive collection of D&D imagery ever assembled, making this the ultimate collectible for the game''s millions of fans around the world.
“This tome invites the reader through every stage of the evolution of this wonderful game, engaging with incredible art, enlightening photos, and insightful anecdotes that both inform and inspire. Whether you got to experience the birth of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and want to relive that origin spark, or are new to the community and would love to adventure through the visual chronicle of its past, present, and future... I cannot recommend this book enough.”
—Matthew Mercer, Dungeon Master of Critical Role
“This is the most comprehensive, mind-blowing visual history ever created about DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Beyond the iconic artwork featured on nearly every page, the book actually serves as a complete history of the entire D&D universe. Both fans of the game and newcomers will be completely blown away by the countless hours of research and passion put into this book. There’s truly nothing else out there like it.”
—Adam F. Goldberg, creator of The Goldbergs
“This is the definitive collection of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
artwork we’ve been waiting for all of our lives! The images contained in this book will instantly transport you back to your childhood, and conjure up memories of long forgotten adventures shared with old friends around the gaming table. This tome is an essential addition to every lifelong D&D fan''s home library. Buy a copy right now—or make me a saving throw versus Death Magic!”
—Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One
“DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
has shaped the imaginations of millions around the world since its conception. This visual exploration delving into where it all began is a must-read for both dedicated veterans and new enthusiasts alike. A passionate homage from the biggest fans in the industry!”
—Maude Garrett, TV, radio, and online host and founder of
“I grew up during the early days of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and it’s been decades since I’ve seen the wonders that enthralled me during that magical time. At last, familiar treasures from the depths of the vault are here. They can make you cry depending on how deep you went. This is an incredible tome of power."
—John Romero, co-creator of DOOM
“This is a time machine. Poring over these images forty years after I first held the Basic Set in my hands, I’m overwhelmed by the same ineffable feelings I had back in 1977. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS unlocked something in my twelve year old brain—an exhilarating sense of possibility—that set my future course as a game designer and writer. This book inspires me all over again"
—Amy Hennig, creator of the Uncharted series
“This fascinating deep dive into the world of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will thrill both the connoisseur of role-playing games, as well as anyone interested in visual histories. I found so much information to inspire daydreams for months. I can’t wait to add this to my library of all things geeky.”
—Deborah Ann Woll, actor and D&D enthusiast
"This tome of awesomeness [...] You can only begin to imagine the amounts of hours that this team of top notch authors poured into this. They gained unparalleled access to the archives of Wizards of the Coast and the personal collection of some of the top collectors. Needless to say this book will detail and illustrate the long and wonderful journey of Dungeons and Dragons from its humble beginnings to the cult status it obtained to this day. This has never been achieved in a book before making it the must-have D&D collectible."
—Fabienne Payet, Outright Geekery
“In the early 1980s, I spent lots of time working and gaming with D&D co-creator Gary Gygax during his ‘lost Los Angeles period;’ I went on to work closely with TSR until its end. For me, this is more than a book. It’s a time machine back to a fantastic, fabulous time when anything was possible. For anyone who wants to understand the pure magic of
D&D and where it came from, get this book at all costs.”
—Flint Dille, Screenwriter/Game Designer
"Can’t give a higher recommendation than the highest for this amazing book! I’ve seen the preview and I was blown away page after Page! GET THIS BOOK!"
—Stefan Pokorny, Founder and CEO of Dwarven Forge
“This book is an exotic, magical, and fun trip into the world of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS whether you’ve ever held a twelve-sided die or not.”
—James Gunn, writer-director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series
“This is no simple art book. Authors Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Petersen, and Sam Witwer have combined their lifetimes of love and experience with DUNGEONS & DRAGONS to create a comprehensive history of both the role-playing game and its legendary creators… The visual history does, of course, include all artwork you’ve dreamed of.”
“With over 400 pages,
Art and Arcana is the most comprehensive D&D history you will find anywhere. Like a treasure-filled cavern, it''s packed (and we mean
PACKED) with enough facts, quotes, images, and behind-the-scenes anecdotes to choke a fully grown Demogorgon.”
—Josh Weiss, SyFy.com
incredible . . . this thing is a gateway into another dimension.”
Michael Witwer is a bestselling author known for his work on the Hugo-nominated
Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana, the critically acclaimed
Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons, and
Heroes'' Feast: The Official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook. Widely considered an expert on
D&D history, Michael has spoken on the topic at a variety of venues such as Google, Pixar, Lucasfilm, top gaming conventions and book festivals, and on NPR’s
All Things Considered. His books have won many honors, including being selected as a Hugo Award finalist, an Amazon "Best Book of the Month," a Diana Jones Award nominee, a Locus Award finalist, and a GeekDad "Best Book of the Year."
Kyle Newman is a writer/director whose directorial work includes
Fanboys written by Ernie Cline, starring Kristen Bell and Seth Rogen;
Barely Lethal, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Jessica Alba; and music videos for artists including Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift. Newman also produced the critically acclaimed documentary
Raiders: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made. His clients include Microsoft, Interscope Records, Starz, Coca Cola,
Entertainment Weekly, and Lucasfilm.
Jon Peterson is a widely recognized authority on the history of games. His book
Playing at the World was called "the first serious history of the development of
Dungeons & Dragons" by
The Village Voice. He has contributed to academic anthologies on games including
Zones of Control and the forthcoming
Role-playing Game Studies: Transmedia Foundations. Jon also writes for gaming and geek culture websites including BoingBoing, the Escapist, and GamaSutra, as well as his popular RPG history blog, playingattheworld.blogspot.com.
Sam Witwer is an actor whose work includes leading roles in the SyFy series
Being Human, for which he was nominated for a Gemini Award, and the
Star Wars Saga, where he brings various characters to life in video games, film, and television—including an Emmy-nominated performance as the voice of Darth Maul. He has also been featured on
Once Upon a Time,
Battlestar Galactica, Stephen King’s
The Mist, and
Dexter. He has been an avid
Dungeons & Dragons player since age 11.
From the INTRODUCTION
If it''s true that we live in an era when it is “chic to be geek,” then Dungeons & Dragons is just about the coolest thing out there. It was, it is, and it always will be the game of the geeks, but its fandom is no longer so neatly contained. Once an esoteric diversion known only to a small but passionate group of wargamers, the game and the foundational concepts that it brought forth became among the most influential phenomena of the Information Age. The reason? The game’s earliest adopters happened to share an interest in other “geeky” things like computers, electronics, digital technologies, visual effects, filmmaking, performing arts, and beyond. These geeks grew up to develop the social and business infrastructure of the twenty-first century using concepts they had once learned on poorly lit tabletops set in dining rooms and basements. Dungeons & Dragons, according to
Wired editor Adam Rogers, “allowed geeks to venture out of our dungeons, blinking against the light, just in time to create the present age of electronic miracles.” It is indeed chic to be geek, and the prophesy has finally been fulfilled: the geek shall inherit the Earth (and the parallel D&D world of Oerth).
Today, if you are one of the millions of subscribers to an MMO (massively multiplayer online game)such as
World of Warcraft; a tourist in the exotic worlds of a computer role-playing franchise such as
Final Fantasy or
The Elder Scrolls; a virtual marksman in any first-person-shooter video game; a lover of modern fantasy television, films, or literature such as
Game of Thrones; or even anyone who has ever “leveled up” in a game or rewards program, then you have Dungeons & Dragons to thank. Simply put, D&D has either directly or indirectly influenced them all. John Romero, co-creatorof the seminal first-person-shooter
Doom, attributes his success to D&D, calling it “the most influential game,” adding that “the gaming concepts put forth by D&D inspired the earliest groups of gamers and computer programmers, and set into motion a revolution of creative and technical innovation.” The numbers of actors and directors who credit the game with providing them inspiration is immense, from Vin Diesel and Stephen Colbert to Rainn Wilson and the late Robin Williams. Celebrated director Jon Favreau suggested the game gave him “a really strong background in imagination, storytelling,understanding how to create tone and a sense of balance.” National Book Award–winner Ta-Nehisi Coates agrees, suggesting the game helped introduce him to “the powers of imagination.” All this is to say, the story of D&D is as important now as it has ever been, and with the recent success of 5th edition and an array of D&D-inspired blockbuster books, shows, and films surfacing, from
Ready Player One to
Stranger Things, its history will become increasingly visible and relevant.
Nothing conveys the story of D&D better than its visuals. At a time when fantasy and science fiction were, at best, fringe diversions, D&D was creating a culture of do-it-yourself fantasy world-building through its immersive narrative environments, given life by its ever-evolving illustrations and artwork. It depicted monsters, magic, swords, and sorcery in a way that taught fans a visual vocabulary of the unreal, fixing in the minds of a whole generation how to picture the fantastic. The relationship between Dungeons & Dragons and its artwork goes beyond symbiosis, but to outright reliance—one simply couldn’t exist without the other. The art informed the game, and the game informed the art. Beginning as amateur, homebrew sketches used to illustrate to the initiated simple concepts such as maps and the physical appearance of monsters, characters, and weapons, the art of D&D rapidly became an essential teaching tool as the game reached wider audiences less familiar with some of its fundamental concepts. The illustrations quickly had to become instructional in nature, helping players to not only conceptualize the landscapes, inhabitants, and equipment of the imagined world, but even how to use them in the context of the game. Soon the game and its fandom demanded even greater levels of sophistication—ful lcolor artwork with higher and higher levels of character andcomposition. This movement gave way to a wave of master artists who eventually developed the most important and influential fantasy art from the late 1970s to today—a collection simply unsurpassed in the fantasy genre.
The book you are holding is the dynamic story of this incredible game as told through its incomparable imagery, as well as the story of the visuals themselves. It is a carefully curated selection of art, advertising, and ephemera that we feel best represents D&D’s incredible forty-plus-year journey—a visual archive that tells a remarkable story of evolution, innovation, turmoil, perseverance, and ultimately triumph. While we expect that much of the enclosed imagery will be at least remotely familiar to D&D aficionados, the collection that follows includes numerous one-of-a-kind rarities, many of which have never been released to the public. We truly hope that you enjoy what you read and see, and that you as readers might approach this piece the same way we did—with unadulterated passion and a taste for adventure. After all, this is an adventure module of sorts, one that is intended for you personally, just as it has been for each of us. “So enjoy, and may the dice be good to you!”