If you're a younger kid and you first discover Dungeons & Dragons, trying to get into the game and understanding it can be intimidating. I myself, as a person who loves the game and has been playing it for over two decades, can fully admit that I don't always understand every little thing, not do I know everything there is to know about everything in the game. Few do, and even many of those who boast that they do probably forget stuff from time to time. It's a rich game with deep lore and a lot of aspects to cover, and when you first start out, consuming it and understanding it can be a task. But it doesn't need to be, and thankfully, Wizards of the Coast and Ten Speed Press came together to form a new set of D&D books called the Young Adventurer's Guides.
These books serve as a beginner's guide to the game without specifically putting the game's rules in front of you like the Player's Handbook or the Dungeon Master's Guide would do. Each of these books is written by Jim Zub, who has been writing the D&D comic book series for IDW since 5th Edition was released back in 2014. But Zub isn't alone in these books as he is working with Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler to bring portions of the guides to life in a much more narrative and near encyclopedia format. When I first picked these up for the review, they reminded me a bit of the old Scholastic guides you could order at school. The kind that would have a ton of info about a subject broken down so that it was easy for someone to take in and digest, and I absolutely loved those kinds of books. So to see that here was a treat on a subject matter I already know well.
The first book in the series is on Monsters & Creatures. As you can see from the pages above and below this paragraph, each page takes a very specific subject and gives you a simplified version of the facts and information you need to know about them. Using the Beholder page above as an example, they go into why the creature looks the way it does and what each of the eye's beams can do if they use it. They also go into details about what the creature can do, where it lives, how big it is, and advice on what to do when encountering said creature. Not every page is like this, as you see from the Skeleton page it's simply an overall talk about what it is and why you encounter them from time to time. But it is helpful knowledge that you learn in the game over time compounded into a couple of paragraphs.
I enjoyed the first book a lot because it reminded me of having a pocket version of the Monster Manual. They cover the basic creatures you need to be aware of both on the fearsome side as well as the playful. They threw in some knowledge about the Pegasus and the Giant Turtle, as well as entire chapters on Vampires and Dragons. The Creatures & Monsters book makes for some mighty fine reading and helpful tips on what not to do when you come across one in the game.
The second book for Dungeons & Dragons: Young Adventurer's Guides is focused on Warriors & Weapons. This book, while filled with info, focuses on some very specific material and leaves some of it out (which we'll get to why later on). The first part of the book focuses on the various fantasy races in D&D. They do their best to give you an overview on everything from Humans to Tabaxi, Elf to Halfling, Orc to Tortle, Dragonborn to Kenku. Basically why each of them is super cool and worth your time to get to know them and what makes them tick as a creature. The second areas focuses on character classes, but it primarily focuses on those who use weapons and armor, since this guide is mainly about weapons as well. So roles like Barbarian, Ranger, Monk, and Rogue are covered in this section.
The third area goes over equipment. As you can see from the photo above, they go over everything you'll need in different forms of clothing, armor, and weaponry to help your character survive in a world where there are a lot of things that may kill your average adventurer. It's all basic equipment, no magical items or abilities as they're saving all of that fun stuff for another book on the way. One of the fun things about this is that there are character flowcharts to help you decide what kind of character you might like to play as, along with a small guide to helping develop your backstory within the D&D guidelines. Basically, by the time you're done reading this book, you'll have an idea of a character you'll like and may want to play as without having to scan over 200 pages in the Player's Handbook.
I really dug the Warriors & Weapons book as well, mainly for the fact that it's the kind of book that you give a kid and their imagination starts coming up with all sorts of ideas. And if they're a budding artist, there's a pretty good chance they'll start making a mock-up of their character or many other characters. Basically, this book is creative idea fuel. WotC and Ten Speed really hit it out of the park with these books and it makes me happy to see Dungeons & Dragons approached in a different manner that kids between the ages of 8-14 could grab this and pick up on very easily. And once they have an understanding of these materials, it wouldn't be too hard for them to eventually upgrade to one of the gamebooks and get more in-depth knowledge. I look forward to seeing more books in the series as time goes on. If you have kids who like the concept of D&D but you're not sure if they're ready for the game yet, this is a great stepping stone.