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What to Read if You Love Dungeons and Dragons

cropped image of the cover of Critical Role depicting the main characters

If you’re missing D&D or your gaming group, Henrico Library’s collection has you covered. Between books, audiobooks, and graphic novels, there are plenty of fantastic stories featuring swords and sorcery to choose from. If you want to lose yourself in an epic story about a distant land, delve into forgotten crypts, or get inspiration for your own games, keep reading and take a look at the titles below.

Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy edited by Jon Cogburn and Mark Silcox – If you’ve ever asked the question “but what does it all mean,” then Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy is the perfect title for you. This collection of essays contends that D&D’s growing popularity is a uniquely exciting phenomenon in the pop cultural landscape. While every writer has a different perspective, each of them love D&D and think it brought something unique and special to their life. If you want to know how D&D can help you become a better person, spark your curiosity about real-world history and science, and discover how a game can help you create a story, this volume has the answers you’re looking for.

Guards, Guards! by Terry Pratchett – The Night Watch in the metropolis of Ankh-Morpork is generally seen as a collection of incompetents and deadbeats- and generally, that’s an accurate assumption. Captain Sam Vimes had given up on reforming the Watch, but sees a chance when Carrot, a goodhearted 6’6” ginger raised by dwarves, joins the squad and insists on actually doing his job by helping people. But they need to act fast: A secret society is using an ancient dragon to terrorize the city and take over the government. With their trusty regulation-order helmets and their wits, the Night Watch must contend with exploding swamp dragons, a dark conspiracy, and human greed to save their filthy, yet beloved, city.

Dungeons and Dragons: Days of Endless Adventure by Jim Zub – A compilation of three different graphic novel adventures set in the world of the Forgotten Realms, Days of Endless Adventure is a great choice for anyone looking to get the most out of a single Hoopla loan. Jim Zub’s three stories follow a team of heroes as they do their best to protect the city of Baldur’s Gate, but their adventures take them far and wide, from the eternal night of Ravenloft to frost-giant strongholds at the Spine of the World. Whether you’re looking for something to inspire your own game or just want to read original stories of high fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons: Days of Endless Adventure is worth checking out. The volume collects Legends of Baldur’s Gate, Shadows of the Vampire, and Frost Giant’s Fury.

Dungeons and Dragons: A Darkened Wish by B. Dave Walters – War looms on the horizon for the Moonshae Isles, and heroes must unite to defeat an unthinkable foe. As the young wizard Helene and her friends learn and grow from raw recruits to powerful heroes, they will change the fate of the Forgotten Realms. With a focus on character development and featuring beautiful art from Tess Fowler, Dungeons and Dragons: A Darkened Wish is a graphic novel totally suited to scratching your fantasy adventure itch.

Realms: The Roleplaying Art of Tony DiTerlizzi by Tony DiTerlizzi – Tony DiTerlizzi has a distinctive art style and is known for depicting fantastical creatures, horrific monsters, and courageous heroes- especially in art for various games like Magic: the Gathering and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, as well as books like The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black. Realms includes exclusive art, photographs, and commentary by the artist and makes for excellent inspirational browsing for your own creations. Beyond that, the book includes an introduction from Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon, and features additional commentary by various creators who have been inspired by DiTerlizzi’s work, such as Guillermo del Toro and Jane Yolen. Between these commentaries and DiTerlizzi’s art depicting strange and fantastic creatures, Realms is a great title to pick up for creative inspiration.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol 1 by Matthew Mercer and Matthew Colville – A graphic novel based off the incredibly successful web show Critical Role, where a cast of professional voice actors play D&D, led by Matthew Mercer as the Dungeon Master. If you know D&D at all, you probably know Critical Role- but you might not know that Matt Mercer collaborated with Matthew Colville to write a graphic adaptation of the backstory for Vox Machina, the team of player characters in Critical Role’s first broadcast campaign. Vox Machina Origins depicts the team getting together to solve a mysterious plague in a swampy trading town. The unfolding mystery uses familiar D&D monsters and tropes to create a story which is surprising and perfect to use as inspiration for your own games. That said, the on-page violence and language makes this title suitable for older teens.

Homerooms and Hall Passes by Tom O’Donnell – The brave and bold in Bríandalör make regular expeditions to ancient temples and dangerous dungeons for hidden treasure, but what do they do in their free time? In the case of Thromdurr the barbarian, Devis the thief, Vela the paladin, Sorrowshade the assassin, and Albiorix the wizard, they play Homerooms and Hallpasses every week, where they relax into the role of average American eighth-graders. When an ancient curse transports them into the roles of their game characters, they discover that slaying ogres and navigating trapped necropolises might be easier than dealing with middle school.

NPCs by Drew Hayes – They fill the streets, they staff the shops, offer quests to heroes, and yet adventurers rarely give these Non-Player Characters any real respect. The night a group of adventurers arrive in the tavern in Maplebark, a small crowd of NPCs is set to fade into the background- until a fatal mistake. These NPCs realize that they have a choice: pretend to be adventurers and take on a dangerous quest or see their town and loved ones destroyed. With only salvaged gear and secondhand knowledge, these untrained background characters have to take the lead and convince everyone else they’re heroes if they want to survive. A comedic parody of the assumptions of tabletop RPGs, NPCs is the first book in the "Spells, Swords, & Stealth" series and is available as an audiobook on Hoopla.

 

Don’t have dice on hand? Don’t worry! There are plenty of digital alternatives, or you can print and make your own. From your computer, you can go to Roll Dice Online (http://www.roll-dice-online.com/), which will let you select how many dice you want to roll, along with how many sides they have. If you prefer to use your phone, there are many free apps available on your preferred platforms. Using one of these alternatives to traditional dice will let you play many different kinds of RPGs, beyond the ones listed below!
Lasers and Feelings
If you want to start with something quick and simple, Lasers and Feelings is the perfect one-page RPG for you. Players take on the role of the crew of the Raptor, an interstellar scout ship, while their Captain is resting in a medical pod after the attack of the psychic entity known as Something Else. Together, players will explore uncharted space, encounter hostile and friendly aliens, and probably save the day.
Each character has a style and a role, which allows them to be something like a Dangerous Engineer or an Android Pilot. Each character also has a number, between 2 and 5. A character with a high number is better at LASERS, while one with a low number is better at FEELINGS. You either want to roll over or under your number when you attempt something risky, depending on how rational or intuitive that thing is- and complications always make things more interesting.
Pick up Lasers and Feelings here: http://www.onesevendesign.com/laserfeelings/
Risus, the Anything RPG
Risus, The Anything RPG, is exactly what it sounds like: an RPG that lets you, essentially, play anything. The instructions are only four pages long but has an open, flexible system for enabling pretty much any style of game. While Risus can easily be used as an emergency backup RPG, it is also solid enough to run multiple games or even a campaign.
Characters stats are made up of their “clichés,” which afford them a number of dice, from one to six, depending on how good they are at being that cliché. The cliché includes physical and social effects of that role- if your main cliché is Viking, for example, you could roll that cliché for searching for shiny things, rowing a boat, or getting along with other Vikings. Any cliché that sounds interesting is an option- you could be a Detective, a Starpilot, or Spectral Butler if it suits you.
Once you have some six-sided dice, you can grab Risus for free from this link: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/170294
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