‘Dungeonology’ — ‘D&D’ 101 for Young Players

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It’s a good time to be playing D&D right now. The 5th edition rules have been a welcome update for regular players of the game, but the rules are also bringing back waves of D&D players who may not have played the game in many years. There’s also a new group of younger players that are discovering the 40+-year-old game–count my 9-year-old as one of them.

D&D 1st Timer

Take a look at this photo I snapped during his first D&D session ever… I suspect my grin was even larger, but that is a kid who has been looking forward to playing for over a year and now has a seat at the table. Pure happiness!

He’s playing a Dragonborn Fighter with leather armor, a shield, two battle axes, a longbow, and 20 arrows. The name of this budding hero is… Dragonade. As in Dragon Grenade, not a drink. We cleared that up right after DM Sebastian asked him about the origin of the name. (I’m playing a Human Wizard.)

I’ve been looking forward to this day for some time now–after we sat down, I pulled out a hollow book  and handed it to him. Inside were a number of items: his own set of dice, a miniature (unpainted so far), a small log book for recording XP and gold and other notes, and some of DM Paul Weber’s Equipment Cards that I printed and laminated that show his armor, shield, weapons, and a few other items.


During his first game, our group encountered a Berserker tribe and a Yeti. My son and I had level 1 characters while the remaining players had level 3 characters. When the Berserkers rushed us, Dragonade didn’t flinch and rushed in to join the fight. He got in a few licks before taking a major blow that took him below 0 hit points. Thankfully, the party’s cleric was able to stabilize him so he could live and fight another day.

On the ride home, I lost track of all the questions tossed at me. He asked about XP, the Proficiency Bonus, why the Yeti got multiple attacks, why his character didn’t die when he dropped below 0 HP, and dozens more. He asked if I’d ever had a character die (plenty of times!), if I preferred playing or DMing (DMing), my favorite class (spell slingers), and whether he could play a rogue next season (he was quite taken with our rogue player’s antics). Until I got to watch my son play for the first time and then listen to his questions, I really had forgotten the joy I’d experienced myself so many decades ago when I first found D&D. And getting to play side-by-side with my boy? Priceless.

When we got home, I had two more surprises for him–one was a copy of Matt Forbeck’s new book, Dungeonology. (Matt is a former GeekDad writer–we miss you, Matt!)

dungeonologyAs I explained it to my son, the book was written by noted Forgotten Realms guide Volo Geddarm. In its pages, new D&D players would find many of their questions answered such as:

  • How do you build a party and what’s a good mix of classes?
  • What are the various player races that one might encounter during an adventure?
  • What can you typically find in an Adventurer’s Pack?
  • What are some of the more basic spells for novice spellcasters?
  • Where are some of the more famous locales in the land?
  • What kinds of traps might one find in a dungeon?
  • How can a party best carry loot and divide it up fairly?
  • Who are clerics and why are they so important?
  • What are some of the more famous (infamous?) factions?
  • For which monsters should all adventurers have some knowledge?
  • Who are some of the more dastardly villains in the land?
  • Who are some of the heroes and what have they done to earn their reputation?

There’s a LOT of information between the covers, but don’t let the 30 pages that make up this full-color hardback fool you, however; in addition to TONS of artwork and sketches, it’s also filled with secrets and bonus items:

  • An introductory letter from Elminster of Shadowdale folded and tucked away for you to discover.
  • Lots of hidden flaps with additional secrets behind them–look everywhere!
  • A small Novice Spell Book with nine spells explained inside.
  • A pop-up map in the center of the book that opens up to a 18″ x 24″ color map of the Sword Coast!
  • A dragon guards a pop-up magical container with an explanation inside for one of the more popular magic items.
  • A tiny book on dragons that will get you up to speed on the various kinds and two well-known dragons of lore.
  • A removable 14-page journal in back titled “Volo’s Guide to the Forgotten Realms” filled with wonder.
  • A lenticular image on the inside back cover that hides a surprise danger.

Matt has done an amazing job of capturing the wonders and excitement of D&D and putting it all into a format that is sure to amaze young players. But older players are also going to be amazed. I will admit that I sat down with it for a few hours and read it cover to cover–how I wish a book like this had existed back in the early ’80s! After I handed the book to my son, though… the book disappeared and I’ve only seen it a few times when he’s asked some very good questions. (Like me, he is NOT a fan of the Mindflayer, and the Beholder is something he says he does not want to ever encounter.)

realmscoloringbookI mentioned two surprises, remember? The other was a copy of Monsters and Heroes of the Realms Coloring Book. He didn’t quite know what to make of the coloring book until he actually opened it and examined its pages. Yes, it has pages to color (and the complexity of most of the coloring pages is on par with the adult-style coloring books… quite detailed!), but there’s plenty more such as a number of graph paper pages with the walls of various ruins waiting for you to fill in the inner walls, rooms, and decor. There are 69 pages to color (and a complete artist listing in the back with thumbnails of the larger pages) as well as a 16-page full-color page spreads with artwork taken from a number of the official D&D 5e books. I have a strong feeling the coloring book is going to be very popular with adult players once they discover just how incredibly detailed the pages are and that they’re in black and white and fully customizable.

My oldest son cannot wait for next week to roll around… he’s anxious to know what comes next in the adventure. And he’s already asking me if I’ll be DMing next season (yes) and whether he can be at my table (of course!).

I’m one happy GeekDad, I have to tell you.

Note: I wish to thank Candlewick Press for providing me with the two books for review.

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