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Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History

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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.


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  Dragon  and  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.

730 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 23, 2018

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About the author

Kyle Newman

6 books2 followers
Kyle Newman is an award-wining filmmaker and New York Times Bestselling, Hugo Award-nominated author.

His directorial work encompasses multiple feature films including, 'Fanboys,' the Star Wars-fueled comedy starring Kristen Bell and Seth Rogen, the action-comedy 'Barely Lethal' starring Oscar Nominees Hailee Steinfeld and Samuel L. Jackson for A24 Films, '1UP,' starring Ruby Rose for Lionsgate and Buzzfeed Studios set in the world of esports, and the upcoming official 'Dungeons & Dragons Documentary' exploring the fifty-year history of the iconic game for Entertainment One, Ltd. which he is also executive producing.

He has directed the music’s top artists including Taylor Swift (“Style”, “Clean” and 1989 World Tour content featuring Selena Gomez, Haim and more), Lana Del Rey (“Summertime Sadness”) and Cyn (“Losing Sleep” and “House with a View” guest starring Katy Perry) with his work garnering billions of views.

Newman produced the acclaimed documentaries 'Raiders: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made,' about three teenagers who set out to recreate Steven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark shot-for-shot and 'A Disturbance in the Force' which explores the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special (an official 2023 SXSW Film Festival Selection). He also crafted the story for the hit Netflix Original animated feature 'Gnome Alone' for Shrek-producer John H. Williams.

He is a New York Times bestselling author known for his work on the Hugo Award and Locus Award-nominated 'Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana,' a history of the world’s greatest roleplaying game as well as 'Heroes’ Feast: The Official Dungeons & Dragons Cookbook,' which debuted on all major bestseller lists including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly. His two new books -- 'Heroes’ Feast: Flavors of the Multiverse' and 'Lore & Legends,' which chronicles D&D’s improbable resurgence -- hit shelves in Fall of 2023.

Newman, an honors graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of Film/TV and the recipient of the esteemed ‘Martin Scorsese Award for Excellence in Directing’, has written and/or directed for clients including A24 Films, The Microsoft Corp., Interscope Records, Starz Entertainment, Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro), The Coca-Cola Company, Starwars.com, 20th Century Fox, Capitol Records, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Big Machine Records, Lionsgate, Endemol Shine, Millennium Films, Pacific Life Insurance, Lucasfilm, Ltd., NECA/WizKids, Games For Windows, Awesomeness TV, Hooters of America, Titan Publishing, Unsub Records, The Saturday Group and Universal Republic Music.

A proud member of the Director’s Guild of America, he resides in Los Angeles with his partner Cyn and his three sons James Knight, Leo Thames and Etienne Noel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 251 reviews
Profile Image for Sean Gibson.
Author 6 books5,800 followers
July 14, 2022
Dungeons & Dragons is the greatest game ever created by humans. (Snorksplat is the greatest game ever created by aliens, but that’s just because watching two wigblorps twerm a flabbertat is the most exciting thing imaginable, so it edges out D&D by a scrotumfuzz.)

Now, it’s entirely possible that you may disagree with that (factually correct) contention, which I, in my benevolence, will allow. But, what you cannot deny is the outsize influence the game, despite a relatively modest number of players in relative terms (relative to, say, Fortnite), has had on mass pop culture.

Sure, the game alone is not responsible for the dominance of the fantasy genre across movies, games, and books (some dude named Tolkien, for example, probably deserves at least a little credit), but D&D’s DNA is writ large across any number of wildly popular multiplatform creative properties—due primarily to the fact that the creators of many of those wildly popular works honed their own storytelling chops while hunched over snack-strewn tabletops covered with dice, hexagonal graph paper, and dog-eared rulebooks.

Art & Arcana celebrates an extraordinarily imaginative and collaborative game with a dazzling array of visuals that show the game’s evolution from a home-brewed labor of love to a corporate brand name to something that seems to have struck the ideal balance between money-making concern and passion-fueled platform for shared storytelling, imaginative forays into distant worlds, and social inclusion. Even for someone who thinks in words like yours truly, seeing the art of D&D evolve from moderately skilled black-and-white sketches wherein anatomical correctness was more of a guideline than a rule to magnificently drawn, masterfully painted masterpieces that you can easily get lost in made for hours of entertainment.

As much as I enjoyed the art, however, I may have enjoyed the narrative even more, tracing the arc of D&D’s development from Gary Gygax’s basement to the hallowed halls of Wizards of the Coast. With hand-drawn maps from Gygax’s own game complementing the chronicle of how D&D slowly made its way across the country and around the world, I couldn’t help but get nostalgic for the days before cable and the internet when a game like D&D provided the kind of creative, fantastical escapism you couldn’t get anywhere else, even if I never, you know, actually lived through such days* (I mean, I lived before the days of the interwebs, of course, but by the time I became a savvy connoisseur of pop culture in the mid-80s, technology had advanced leaps and bounds from the days of D&D’s infancy).

An absolutely essential read for all D&D enthusiasts, and highly recommended for those thinking about dipping a toe in the shimmering waters of pen-and-paper RPGs: if this doesn’t fire your desire to break out some polyhedral dice and slay some orcs, nothing will.

*I really do have a bad habit of getting wistful about stuff I’ve never experienced. I’ve even been known to get nostalgic thinking about first menstrual cycles.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
January 1, 2021
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History chronicles the history and evolution of Dungeons & Dragons, specifically the art.

I was a heavy D&D player from ages 14 to about 25 so this piqued my interest. Fortunately, my wife bought it for me for Christmas.

This weighty tome chronicles the history of Dungeons and Dragons, from the original pamphlets printed up by Gary Gygax in the 1970s through the most recent edition. It's not an in depth history, focusing more on the look and feel of the art over the years, from high school chuckleheads Gygax knew in Lake Geneva to heavy hitters like Larry Elmore and Erol Otus and beyond.

I knew most of the behind the scenes stuff from other books up until 3.5. Fourth edition's resemblance to World of Warcraft makes a lot more sense now. Is fifth edition still hung up on using miniatures? This book wasn't clear...

Anyway, the art is the star of the show, as it should be in a book of this type. The book is easily two thirds artwork spanning the lifetime of the game. Some of it was new to me but other pieces were as familiar as a ragged character sheet. I recently watched Eye of the Beholder, a documentary covering a lot of the same territory on Prime Video. I recommend watching that as well.

To be honest, my only gripe with this book is that it could have easily been 1000 pages bigger. There are a lot of memorable pieces from 2nd and 3rd edition that didn't make the cut. Hell, Spelljammer and Planescape got 2-3 pages apiece and Dark Sun fared about the same.

Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History is an essential coffee table book for any longtime Dungeons and Dragons fan. Five out of five dragons.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,847 reviews398 followers
January 7, 2019
Don't let the visual history fool you, this is a fairly thorough history of Gary Gygax, D&D, TSR, etc. From basement game play to corporation to being bought out with all the rollercoaster ride that implies. The compilation of visuals include illustrations from the various guides from the onset booklets to the hardcovers to the floppy disks to the CD Roms and all the editions as well as some fun odd bits like a belt buckle to a pin. So, from an information and chronicle approach this works well, and you can really see the different trends just from the artwork. That said, I think you probably need to have some emotional connection to D&D or gaming history interest to get into this.

Personally, I hit D&D in the second wave when an older sibling brought it back from college. So, I had the first set of harcover manuals. I thought the origin of the game out of military miniatures and warfare super interesting since I had no knowlege of it. I also found the later manifestation of the rules bizarre as TSR went through growth, expansion, and finally being bought out by the founders of Magic, which is a clear derivative of D&D.

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana Special Edition, Boxed Book & Ephemera Set A Visual History by Michael Witwer

While reading this I got to see the hardcover collectors' edition, and it is spectacular. Far more satisfying than an ebook and worth the money with all the extras: prints and the infamous Tomb of Horrors. This then turned into the discussion of which versions everyone in the room was familiar with, unearthing of hand-painted figures and guides from eons ago, confessions of favorite parts of the game and challenges--getting everyone to commit to a time and place. I guess the online forums have helped people with that. For me, the cartography was my favorite part.

* NOTE: This rating reflects the ebook media which just isn't satisfying for art books in general. Art history, yes. Art, no. I'd easily add a star for the hardcover edition, if not two, which has good paper and color quality.
Profile Image for Jonathan Hicks.
62 reviews6 followers
October 17, 2018
When I hit the D&D hobby in 1984 there was one image that burned into my brain, an image that called out to my imagination and set the tone for my fantasy tabletop gaming for years to come. It was the Larry Elmore cover of the Red Box D&D Basic Set. The warrior lunging forward as the dragon protected its hoard; it was colourful, dynamic and inspirational.

The interior art of the game was just as good, with Elmore and Jeff Easley adding flavour to the content. I read the books over and over again and the artwork as well as the game itself became a huge part of my first few steps into the larger gaming hobby.

As I progressed through the game, moving on to 2nd edition rules, the artwork was always fluid and dynamic. I played in the worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft and Spelljammer and the art style changed with the settings. Even during my incredibly long hiatus from D&D I still purchased Dragon magazine to keep myself updated and inspired as even in these pages the artwork shone. The rules and the worlds were the driving force behind the game but it was the art that bought it to life.

From the early small books to the colourful volumes on gaming store shelves today, the artwork of Dungeons & Dragons has always been dominant and the images that graced the covers of many of the products have become iconic in the hobby. It changed and morphed over the years with many different artists bringing their own style and imagination to the mix, changing as the game did over the decades.

Obviously, there was a story to tell.

Enter writer Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination), director Kyle Newman (Fanboys), writer Jon Peterson (Playing at the World) and actor Sam Witwer (Battlestar Galactica). They all have a history with and a love for the game, so what happens when you get four D&D fans with a passion for the father of all RPGs together?

You get Art & Arcana: A Visual History. A glorious coffee-table tome detailing the history of the artwork of the game, the game itself, and the people, products and points if interest that pepper it’s long illustrious reign.

After a heartfelt and eager forward from actor Joe Manganiello, the book begins with a brief description of the hobby, a quick guide to what the book covers and how it will cover it, and then it dives straight into the action with the original edition books, how they came about and the artwork that went into them. Did you read the books and wonder why certain drawings seemed familiar? This book answers those questions and more, you find out about the artists and their art, and you discover more details about the history and the creation of the game as you drink in the visuals.

And this is where the book shines; it’s not just a pages of random artwork with notes about where they appeared, who created them and maybe an anecdote or two. 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. While it’s not a biographical story with touches of drama as per Michael Witwer’s book ‘Empire of Imagination’, it tells a story about the drive, passion, high moments and pitfalls the game and the company endured over the decades. So, while you’re marvelling at the artwork and getting all misty-eyed and nostaligic over images from your childhood – or even experiencing the art for the first time if you’re new to the hobby – there’s an amazing story being told that puts everything into context. The artwork changes with the fortunes of the company as well as the times, and it’s all here to see.

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. Are you an old grognard who remembers the glory years of the 1970s? There’s something in here for you. 2nd edition player? This book has got you covered. Perhaps you just like the peripheral products like the novels and other games? There’s material in here for you, as well as an insight as to how it all came about. Paintings, sketches, photographs, old advertisements, posters, covers… it’s all here and it’s quite, quite glorious to behold. With the accompanying story detailing a history with just as much adventure as the game itself, this is an excellent read with plenty to offer time and time again.

Whether you’re an old-school gamer or you’ve just hit the hobby with 5th edition, Art & Arcana: A Visual History is a book that any player of D&D 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 a must-have book for any fan of D&D or even the roleplaying hobby in general.

Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for Malum.
2,296 reviews131 followers
November 16, 2018
This is exactly what it says it is: a history of Dungeons and Dragons with loads and loads of art.

The history itself was ok. Anyone that is involved in the hobby probably won't find too much here that will surprise them, although it is extremely comprehensive. Gary Gygax, the satanic panic, the oversaturation of settings in the 90s, the edition wars, the magazines, software, dice games, card games, cartoons, toys, PC games, handheld games, etc. etc. etc. It's all here. Something that I did learn from all of this history, however, is that actor and notable cool dude Peter Cushing was an avid miniatures painter and wargamer. I guess that's how Grand Moff Tarkin was so good at strategy.

What I came to see, however, was the art, and this big cinder block of a book doesn't disappoint. Of course you are going to get the standard art pieces that are in every D&D art book: the covers of the books/boxed sets, the interior pieces, etc. This art, of course, covers all editions of D&D from when it was being hand assembled in small batches all the way to 5th edition.

What you also get, however, is draft pieces and sketches, advertisements, photos (including one of famous Van Helsing enthusiast Peter Cushing playing with his miniatures), notes and scrawlings from artists and designers, and so much more.

So, if you are looking for history, art, behind the scenes goodies, or nostalgia, you will likely find it in here.
Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,069 followers
November 15, 2018
Great book. A mesmerizing trip down memory lane for myself. The amount of historical details here is quite astonishing. Every lover of D&D will devour and adore this history of the rpg, which leaves no stone unturned in its effort to fully tell the story of Dungeon & Dragons from its early days to the present. Especially memorable are the multitude of wonderful pictures of favorite modules and artwork from back in the 1980s. Truly, a book which should be on every D&D lovers bookshelf forever!
Profile Image for Mattia Ravasi.
Author 5 books3,553 followers
May 31, 2020
I was expecting this to be excessively self-celebratory, but in fact it offers a very insightful history of the game's evolution, and a modicum of criticism (from a "gamer's" if not cultural perspective) of its most puzzling choices. But hey, nobody's going to buy this for the words - it's the art that makes it, and it's as splendid as you may expect, even - especially - when it's frankly kind of awful. Took me back to middle school.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,232 reviews
June 16, 2019
Okay without a further ado I will say this was a massive nostalgia trip - I was introduced to advanced D&D at uni and I was able to play through the Temple of the Elemental Evil model - not realising that this was a seminal story and one which I think many people cut their first D&D teeth on.

So when the book came out - and yes I first thought it was more a celebration of the artwork more than anything - the fact you have in the pages the history of TSR and the game - but also the story of the various games and my goodness there were so many I recognised but didnt realise their significance until now. But you also have the story of fantasy gaming through the ages as well including guest spots from our very own Games Workshop.

This book will not appeal to all in fact I think it will really only appeal to those who have had some sort of contact with D&D in one form or another - however those that do recognise what is printed on those pages will love it. There is so much you realise you recognise - I will be honest at times I felt while reading the book I was actually participating in the story itself (I know I really was not) but I think that is actually part of the secret of tabletop gaming - it includes everyone who is willing to stop and take part.
Profile Image for Shannon Appelcline.
Author 22 books141 followers
April 2, 2019
Art & Arcana is a stunning visual history of Dungeons and Dragons. It's got all of the famous art that you'd expect to see, much of it drawn from the original sources, without branding. It's also got beautiful comparisons of a variety of sorts and great art drawn from many licensed materials, from comics and cartoons to miniatures and computer games. The gorgeous, careful layout and the high-quality printing show all of this off perfectly.

There's also a written history here that's good. It doesn't go into great depth, but it certainly does a great job of hitting every major point in the history of D&D and covers lots of things that the average D&D player won't know. It really shines (unsurprisingly) when talking about the artists, revealing who these people that helped to create the game were. I also found the later parts of the book, covering 3e, 4e, and 5e, quite insightful in their analytical analyses of why Wizards made their decisions for those editions.

This is certainly the best art book ever released for D&D and one of the best history books. I'd label it as a "must-buy" for anyone with more than casual interest in the hobby.
Profile Image for Scott Summerton.
21 reviews3 followers
January 2, 2022
A monstrous look at 45 years of Dungeons & Dragons art, everything from the historic predecessors to components from every version up through today, along with virtually every aspect of the licensing it's seen the entire time.

Not only do we get a history of D&D as a product and how it evolved and was both directed by and from it's artwork, but we get insights on the creators, modern stewards, and companies themselves. Being a licensed book this isn't just a glowing representation of how awesome things are, they wax nostalgic about the heydays and deride low points of course, but also never shy away from competitors that they influenced and were influenced by. Pathfinder, World of Warcraft and yes, Wizards of the Coast taking over TSR are all given lengthy discussion, but so is how detailed the maps can be and how wacky those monsters are.

As a collection of art, it's fantastic, but the extra details about it and story within just elevates it all into one of the best art related books of it's kind I can recall, though the history aspect alone does most of that legwork.

The only knocks against it are the unfortunate aspect that many of the originators have passed, something the book acknowledges but attempts to contextualize none the less, and that my favourite piece of D&D art, an AD&D 2nd Edition piece of an adventuring party with a small red dragon strung up over a small chest, isn't in there. Neither of these come even close to dissuading how much I loved this book though. Highly recommended for fans but also for those unfamiliar because the history within is expertly told.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,607 reviews100 followers
May 8, 2019
This book is a treasure of Dungeons and Dragons art and history. It covers the game from its inception up to the fifth edition that is currently being played. What I really enjoyed about the book was having the opportunity to see how the art style of the game has changed so much over the years. Fans of Dungeons and Dragons really should have a copy of this in their library.
168 reviews3 followers
February 11, 2019
The commentary on the early days of D&D, including detailed commentary on the art (and where they stole it) were fascinating and better than several other accounts I've read. Toward the end, it lapsed into a pean to 5th Edition D&D which happens to be (surprise!) a major product of the book's publisher. Overall it's a fun book for completists and those who really care about the 70s and 80s of D&D, particularly the art. A deeper discussion of trends, influences and styles since the 1990s would have been interesting.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Allie Vera.
84 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2019
One of the few 'coffee table' size I'd love to own someday. This book caught me up on the origins and story of D&D in the most beautiful fashion and gave me a new appreciation for both the game and its history.
Profile Image for Mary Catelli.
Author 52 books172 followers
October 27, 2018
A history of D&D. Heavy emphasis on the visual elements.

Man, that early art was cheap and amateurish. Sometimes fun, to be sure. Picks up as it goes on. Also, there are maps, which gives me deep philosophical thoughts about the way dungeon crawls would be hard to make a novel out of. . . you would have to write a trilogy to cover every room in a single page.
Profile Image for Jay.
451 reviews22 followers
January 4, 2019
This is a tricky one to review. As an artistic history of D&D, it's almost flawless, but the text is a dry and cursory telling of the story thus far. For what is essentially the biography of a game, there are almost no discussions of the mechanics and ideas of its gameplay. while the crunchy stuff may not mean much to a casual consumer, I don't think this book is aimed at the casual market: Big, expensive coffee-table/conversation-piece books rarely are.
While the text is lacking, this is an art book. As such, it's amazing. While the early D&D art was crude, the evolution is great to see, piece by piece. The layout, with its asides and showcases, also delivers mightily.
This is a book that nails its goal without being its best self. I absolutely recommend it to die-hards, but the average reader or art fan may want to keep walking.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 114 books563 followers
September 13, 2019
This massive tome delves into the history of D&D through its visual form: the stunning fantasy artwork throughout the years (though perhaps less stunning early on). The quality of the book itself is incredible. I bought the B&N exclusive edition and I forget how exactly it was supposed to vary from the standard, but I loved the color throughout and the fold-out pages that often had things like dungeon maps were a nice touch.

Dragonlance was my big obsession through my teens, and I was happy to see it given necessary attention--and especially that much of that went to Larry Elmore. I have adored his art since I was 12 and own a number of his prints. I was irked by mixed up character names at one point in the Dragonlance section (mix up Caramon and Tanis? How?!), but that was the only such error that stood out to me.
Profile Image for Derek.
1,259 reviews8 followers
October 2, 2023
It's an art history inseparable from the history of the company itself, from scrappy basement project to a boutique house of a toy megaconglomerate and from being an unreasonable victim of persecution to major cultural touchstone. This means that you have to take the whole of it, including the periodic management shakeups and attempted inroads in order to grow the brand, some inspired and some baffling (needlepoint sets, anyone?)

So a lot of this retreads familiar beats. Familiar for me, anyways: I find the history of TSR Inc. to be endlessly fascinating, from that basement-room shoestring operation to the tragic debt overreach, and all the stock buyouts and abrupt corporate changes in between. It's a story with echoes throughout American business.

The framework of product and marketing artwork reveals broad trends. Cabalistic images purloined from the pulp magazines of the creators' youth, as well as the thematic suggestions that later became the word "murderhobo", were replaced with displays of heroism. Action scenes became ornate became frenetic with MMO-style, over-the-top displays of outsized weaponry and preposterous combat, and then back again. Improvised concepts purloined from comics and dime-store monsters became tightly focused playtest and market research. The raw never-before-seen creativity becomes itself referenced in call-backs as simple as a map of the Tomb of Horrors on a table in a bar fight, to a repositioning and revamp of that said tomb with massive expansion for the latest edition. Monochrome booklets become a media force with not just a tie-in novel but an entire legion of live play videos.

The upbeat ending is perhaps inevitable, even if the implications of that ending remain: of a passion project that, for all its enthusiasts, is as much of the marketing and product machinery as everything else, and is financially successful because of that machinery.
Profile Image for Patrick St-Denis.
365 reviews44 followers
October 31, 2018
I knew that Ten Speed Press were working on an illustrated tribute to Dungeons and Dragons. But I must have been sleeping at the wheel, for I had totally forgotten that Dungeons and Dragons: Art and Arcana was about to be released. It's only when the package showed up in my mailbox that I remembered. And what a pleasant surprise that was!

I immediately began to peruse the book and throughout it has been an amazing trip down memory lane. As I mentioned in previous posts, this is a gorgeous oversized high quality production with lots of illustrations. A "must own" title for anyone who, like me, grew up with Dungeons and Dragons and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I was taken back to my first year of junior high, way back when I was first introduced to the game by other students. That first foray into role-playing games opened up a world of possibilities and led to my becoming a speculative fiction book reviewer down the line. Without Dungeons and Dragons when I was twelve years old, I'm not sure just how my life would have turned out to be.

Here's the blurb:

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.

From one of the most iconic game brands in the world, this official DUNGEONS AND 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 Dragon and 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 AND 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 DandD imagery ever assembled, making this the ultimate collectible for the game’s millions of fans around the world.

Dungeons and Dragons: Art and Arcana is an illustrated history which provides an unprecedented look at the visual evolution of the game and its influence on the fantasy genre and pop culture. Within its 450 pages, the book looks back on over forty years of history and features over 700 pieces of artwork from all edition of the game's rulebooks, modules, and supplements, from Dragon and Dungeons magazines, as well as ads and licensed merchandise. You'll also find never-before-seen sketches and rare photos, making this book a visual archive that should be please all Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts!

Beyond being a visual history of the game, it's also the untold history of how Dungeons and Dragons was born and how it changed over the years. From the creation of TSR to its financial woes, ending with being bought by Wizards of the Coast, who were later acquired by Hasbro, and everything else in between. I particularly liked the trade ads and the in-house memos featured in the book. Like many people from my generation, I bought the now classic Dungeons and Dragons basic rules boxset, the infamous red box, back in 1986. Hence, I relished the opportunity to go back in time and relive the modest beginnings of Gary Gygax and his team and how TSR was born. This brought back so many memories, not all of them fond ones. I had forgotten that our high school forbade us to set up a club to play Dungeons and Dragons during our lunch breaks, all due to the rumors of satanism surrounding the game during the 80s. My classmates and I still played, but we were never able to recruit more people to join us. In no time we all "graduated" to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and proceeded to buy basically every core rulebooks graced with those beautiful Jeff Easley covers. The piece on the Temple of Elemental Evil module brought a chuckle out me. Our band of adventurers tried at least a dozen times to complete that module, but alas we all died in the attempt every single time. The World of Greyhawk campaign setting, and then came Dragonlance. Started playing that campaign in 8th grade and Sturm Brightblade was my character. Reading Weis and Hickman's Dragons of Autumn Twilight changed my life that year. And imagine my shock when I discovered that Sturm died in the second volume! But my DM said that I wouldn't necessarily die in the modules, which made it all right. I guess. Then came the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, with its myriad books that kept me awake past my bedtime for many a night. The Pool of Radiance computer game that we spent hours playing on my friend Martin's Commodore. The game evolving with the release of the 2nd edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and new settings like Spelljammer and Dark Sun. All told, the book covers the game's history all the way to the 5th edition and is a veritable encyclopedia.

But as interesting as all that information turned out to be, it's the illustrations that are the main draw. For me, it was mostly the pieces from my teenage years by such masters as Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Jeff Easley, Clyde Caldwell, and Brom. Gorgeous high resolution images, some of them two-page spreads, are what makes this book worth every penny. Every era is covered, so there is definitely something for everyone, no matter when you fell in love with Dungeons and Dragons.

Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer did an amazing job compiling everything. Dungeons and Dragons: Art and Arcana is both a tribute and a love letter to the game cherished by millions of fans around the world. This visual history is a "must own" item that should be part of all Dungeons and Dragons aficionados' collection.

Dungeons and Dragons: Art and Arcana is everything you want it to be and then some!

For more reviews, check out www.fantasyhotlist.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Ethan.
562 reviews17 followers
January 14, 2019
A bit hagiographic (well, a lot hagiographic) but a good crash course in some of this history. If you hang around dnd nerds often enough you probably know a lot of this stuff, but there's a lot of primary sources and a boatload of art to make the repeat info not totally worthless. As a browsing art book, really spectacular. I have a soft spot for a lot of the amateur old art, and it's amazing to see the splash pages of iconic monsters renditions in each version of the game (lmao at 1e beholder). Loved it.
Profile Image for Brandon Forsyth.
899 reviews150 followers
January 1, 2019
I absolutely loved flipping through this gorgeous book of art from the 40+ year history of D & D. It does an amazing job of highlighting the contributions that hundreds of people have made to this game, and the ways it has sparked so many people’s imaginations. I’m very interested in this game as a creativity engine, and I’m looking forward to playing more in this world next year.
Profile Image for Itamar.
249 reviews2 followers
January 17, 2019
A beautiful book, full of D&D art and some of the game's history. The history part is not very deep and does not go into a lot of detail or human stories, but this is less of D&D's biography and more of "look at the pretty pictures" within context.

Highly recommended for those interested in the Art of D&D.
Profile Image for Ryan.
67 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2023
What a rich, nostalgic, and comprehensive journey through the history of D & D. So many of my own faded memories of trying to get my own unenthusiastic friend group to play were rekindled by the handbook descriptions and images from the 80s. This was a much needed subject change, lightening up from other recent books in the stack. Thanks for the loan, Jamie!
Profile Image for Zedsdead.
1,124 reviews69 followers
January 14, 2019
Thorough history of the creation and evolution of D&D, from its roots in wargames through acquisitions by WotC and Hasbro, and responses to an ever growing and changing geek culture landscape. With tons of classic artwork, ads, pictures, and spreads showing the many iterations of this or that creature, logo, or character type.

I've never gone fully down the rabbit hole; I just poke my head in and look around from time to time (a couple partial campaigns over the years, read some Forgotten Realms novels, played the video games, follow along on friends' campaigns, etc.) So I was surprised how interesting I found this to be.

There's a lot of biographical info about key players: Gygax and Arneson of course but also artists, rivals, and important designers and developers.

D&D: A&A explores in depth the factors that drove and shaped the various editions and associated products. Fourth edition was very much a reaction to the stunning success of World of Warcraft, and the art reflected this (oversized weapons and armor, cartoonish monsters). It's widely considered a failure. Fifth edition represented a proactive return to fantasy realism and collected the most successful bits of previous editions. It's considered a huge success. Etc.
Profile Image for Hesper.
392 reviews50 followers
December 29, 2018
-exactly as advertised: a visual history
-heaps of terrible old D&D art
-tight rundowns of all major turning points in D&D history

-scant depth to the accompanying commentary
-unironically hagiographic tone (extended to said terrible art, even)
-the concluding chapter homily on the virtues of 5e might as well be ad copy

Basically, excellent as a coffee table book (are coffee tables still a thing? I don't use mine so idk), but not particularly robust as a history of anything other than the brand's visual development. It sells on nostalgia, and I'm glad I got my copy on some kind of extreme sale from Amazon, bc I wouldn't pay any more than $20 for what it contains.
Profile Image for Nicole Westen.
953 reviews33 followers
January 3, 2019
This wasn't so much a tour of the art of Dungeons and Dragons, although it says it in the title and a lot of art is included, but a history of the game through it's material culture. No only was the art discussed but also other trappings of material culture such as candy (sure as hell didn't see that coming), card games, tv shows, dice games, even a pinball machine! Although what I found the most fascinating, and what I really wished there was more of, was the evolution of the monsters for the game. There were some pages that showed how the visuals of the monsters changed from their inception in the 70's up to the 5th edition. Hell, if there was a book of just that I'd certainly read it!
Profile Image for Ross Kitson.
Author 12 books25 followers
November 3, 2021
An astounding book. The collection of art, and it's evolution from scrappy line drawings to incredible compositions, is only one aspect of this huge tome. The narrative of the game from its roots and through the ups and downs of TSR and WOTC is equally as engaging; there's definitely more enthusiasm and details on certain eras (notably the first decade), which coincided nicely with the parts I was really interested in. Never realised the chaos of TSR during the period I got into RPGs (1983-1990). My only slight quibble is the gushing narrative about 5th edition, which I personally love, but was rather OTT. A minor quibble, as overall this book is incredible.
Profile Image for Adam Whitehead.
554 reviews135 followers
December 9, 2018
In 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created a different type of tabletop game. Dungeons and Dragons became the world's first and most popular roleplaying game. For thirty-four years it ruled supreme and unchallenged, until a problematic fourth edition and the rise of the rival Pathfinder game knocked it off its perch. However, with its fifth edition the game has regained its crown. A key ingredient to the game's success has been the phenomenal roster of artists who have worked on the game for almost forty-five years.

Art & Arcana is a visual history of the Dungeons and Dragons game, taking in every edition and campaign setting the game has produced, as well as many of its novels, calendars and video games. Artwork from the very first prototypes right through the latest 5th Edition expansions and modules is featured, along with lengthy histories and interviews with key personnel.

Arts & Arcana is massive: more than 440 pages in length, it features over 700 separate pieces of artwork along with a significant amount of text detailing the history of the game in some depth. It starts with Gygax and Arneson playing miniatures wargames in Wisconsin in the late 1960s and rapidly hitting on the idea of moving from large armies of lots of figures to small parties of just a few figures exploring dungeons, and later wilderness and towns. Dungeons and Dragons was born, with Gygax and Arneson founding the company TSR to sell it all over the world.

From there the game exploded, selling millions of copies and inspiring spin-off novels, board games and a TV show. Several times the management of the game became fraught and complicated, with Gygax forced out in a corporate takeover and TSR later collapsing before being rescued by Wizards of the Coast. The game's struggles in the face of competition from video games and card games such as Magic: The Gathering are also documented, not to mention the attacks on the game in the press by fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s. The book brushes over arguably the game's nadir, the problematic 4th Edition (2008-13) and the rise of rival products to challenge the game's supremacy, but it does end strongly with the game's return to recent prominence in a new era of podcasts, YouTube videos and Twitch streams.

The one constant throughout the book is artwork. The initial artwork for the game was simplistic, sourced for very little money from whatever artists were on hand. As the game boomed in sales, so the quality of the artwork increased dramatically, with iconic artists like Larry Elmore, Clyde Caldwell and Keith Parkinson joining the company. Later on younger artists arrived with radically different styles, ready to reassess the game for its later editions. As well as artwork for the core game, they also produced art for tie-in novels and video games.

The result is a splendid coffee table book and the perfect gift for a fan of Dungeons and Dragons specifically or fantasy artwork in general. In fact, it's a tribute to the artistic strength of Dungeons and Dragons that so many brilliant pieces of artwork aren't even in the book, as there wasn't enough room.

In fact, that's probably the book's biggest weakness (along with the somewhat dry and mostly controversy-ducking text): the sheer amount of material produced for D&D over the past forty-five years means that some elements get fairly short shrift in this book. Ravenloft feels a bit hard-done by in particular. There's also, somewhat bemusingly given their prevalence in and for the game, very little material on maps, although perhaps there's enough material there for a completely separate book later on.

If you can accept the fact that the book isn't exhaustively complete (and isn't meant to be, and would be far too unwieldy even if it was), there's still a huge amount to enjoy here, and the book forms probably the best and most concise history of the D&D game to date for the beginner.
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