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Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History

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4.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,103 ratings  ·  173 reviews
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
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Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Ten Speed Press
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Average rating 4.60  · 
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 ·  1,103 ratings  ·  173 reviews


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Sean Gibson
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 playe
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Vivian
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, art, 2019-odyssey
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, ...more
Jonathan Hicks
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Malum
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: games, art
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 lear
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Bookwraiths
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-freebie, rpg
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! ...more
Mattia Ravasi
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Andrew
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 v
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11811 (Eleven)
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This had me in full throttle geek mode from start to finish. It's probably the best book in the world.
Shannon Appelcline
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rpgs
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
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Diz
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, rpg
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.
Scott Summerton
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rpgs, art, fantasy, favourites
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
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Julian
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Allie Vera
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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. ...more
Mary Catelli
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.
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Jay
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
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Patrick St-Denis
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 oversiz
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Beth Cato
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, fantasy, nonfiction
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 s
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Ethan
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
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). ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Tobias Asplund
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Brilliant and beautiful history of the world's greatest role playing game.
Itamar
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
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Aidan Hennessy
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Fantastic visual look at the history of D&D. ...more
Phinehas
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
They rolled a perfect twenty on this one.
Zedsdead
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zedsdead by: Robert Rodriguez
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
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Adam Whitehead
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 al ...more
Benjamin
You should know, just from the title, whether this is a book you're interested in, and if you're interested in this book, you're going to like it.

The authors have a good angle here, to review the history of D&D art, which is also the history of D&D. Each chapter is an edition or phase in the life of D&D (from OD&D to 5e, from the Game Wizards at TSR to WotC to Hasbro), with some sidebars on special topics -- the recurring attempt to crossover into video games, the cartoon show (and movies). They
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Michael
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gamers, Art Students, Gaming Historians
Recommended to Michael by: Michael Santora
Although I enjoyed it, I wasn’t super-impressed by Michael Witwer’s biography of Gary Gygax, Empire of Imagination. It seems to me that with this book, and the collaboration of his illustrious co-authors, that Witwer has leveled up as an author. This is a simply beautiful work of visual history, a coffee table book for geeks to pore over, with a carefully crafted, convincing narrative tracking the artistic style of the best game ever designed. I read it slowly, taking time to enjoy each individu ...more
Colin
A work of astonishing beauty and tremendous (for me) nostalgia, this book constitutes a visual history of the world's first and most popular role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. From its earliest roots, this book traces the art that accompanied the first iterations of D&D (sometimes now called "OD&D" for "Original D&D"), the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Game (sometimes now called "1st edition", which is where I started), through 2nd edition, 3rd edition, "3.5", 4th edition, and the current "5 ...more
Matthew Pennell
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely beautiful retrospective of both the art and the business of Dungeons & Dragons, this massive book takes you from the very early hand-drawn notes and maps of the founder Gary Gygax, through the Napoleon Dynamite-esque creature sketches of the first teenaged amateur artists, right up to the modern day. While it could have easily just been an art book, the accompanying story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the D&D brand, detailing all of the missteps they took along the way, is a fa ...more
Hesper
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teh-gamez, history
Pros:
-exactly as advertised: a visual history
-heaps of terrible old D&D art
-tight rundowns of all major turning points in D&D history

Cons:
-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
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