The newest installment of Dungeons & Dragons' Young Adventurer's Guide series gives young readers a great look into the nuances of magic. Earlier this week, Ten Speed Press released Wizards & Spells, the fourth volume of the publisher's Young Adventurer's Guide series. As with past volumes, the new book seeks to introduce readers to an aspect of D&D - Wizards & Spells focuses on spellcasting classes and magic spells. With vivid illustrations and writing that cuts down spellcasting to its core essentials without "dumbing down" the subject, Wizards & Spells is another enchanting introduction to Dungeons & Dragons and is the perfect starting step for anyone, young or old, that is interested in the venerable tabletop game.
To celebrate Wizards & Spells' release, we spoke with co-author Jim Zub about the book, its unique challenges, and what comes next for the Young Adventurers' series.
ComicBook.com: Magic is one of the most complicated aspects of D&D. Were there any unique challenges that you and the other writers faced when trying to explain the game's magic system to children?
Jim Zub: Magic is definitely an exhaustive subject in D&D, so striking a balance between summarizing the key elements and giving a sense of the rich possibilities in the magic-wielding classes, spells, and enchanted items without getting overly detailed or going into rules systems was tough.
I loved that you provided an example of a Warlock with a dark patron that was very much a "good" character, which seems very different than how most players treat that class. Why didn't you go with the more sinister approach to warlocks? Were you looking to provide a positive example that broke the stereotypes of warlocks, or was there another reason?
In general we wanted to have heroic examples for our legendary characters rather than evil ones, but that didn't mean they couldn't have conflicted back stories or motivations. Zanizyre, our warlock, is definitely the most complex because her patron is Tiamat, a creature D&D fans know is incredibly evil. We wanted to show that player characters don't have to be a "typical" version of any race or class. Player characters drive stories in unexpected ways and one way to make them interesting and engaging is to build them as an the exception to the norm.
Do you have any suggestions for young players who want to jump into D&D as a spellcaster? All of the kids I've DMed for have shied away from magic users after taking a glimpse at what goes into preparing spells.
I know that as a new player it can feel more manageable to focus on melee characters because in combat the choices seem far more straight forward, but magic-casting classes offer so much in terms of flexibility, storytelling and support that I encourage everyone to try out a caster at some point.
Spellcasters are amazing at low levels and the depth and breadth of what they can do just keeps improving as they level up. On top of that, there are so many ways to get creative with spells to surprise your Dungeon Master. When one of my players uses a spell in a way I never expected and it changes the course of a game session, it's always a ton of fun.
One of my favorite parts of Wizards & Spells is the illustrations in the spells section, including illustrations for unique spells like Polymorph and Otto's Irresistible Dance. How did you pick which spells to feature in the book, and did you have any input on the art direction?
We knew we couldn't cover every spell, so it was about choosing the ones that were iconic, interesting, and also imaginative so that by the time a reader finishes that spell section they understand the possibilities magic has as part of their D&D stories.
In addition to the text you see on each page, our writing team also puts together art direction notes, suggesting the imagery to go on each page. Seeing those raw ideas become beautifully illustrated pieces done by the Jetpack-7 studio is one of the most enjoyable parts of working on the series.
I've seen Young Adventurer's Guides all over the place, even in stores like Target alongside stuff like Harry Potter. Do you have a particular favorite story from readers who have reached out after reading one of the books?
The photos we receive from parents and librarians are the best. I love seeing kids clutching these books, holding them tight because they love them so much. I love photos of kids who are so focused on reading the books that they don't even look up when the photo is being taken.
A teacher reached out to me begging to get an advance look at the spellcaster selection flowchart, the same kind we had for martial classes in Warriors & Weapons. He's running a D&D club at school and found that chart incredibly helpful when getting the kids to pick their character class, so he wanted to make sure he had it for spellcasters as well and promised he would be buying multiple copies of Wizards & Spells. Knowing that we've made such a strong impact on a new generation of players is so incredible. It reminds me why I love this hobby so much.
What's next for the Young Adventurer's Guide series?
Our original plan was for only four books in the series, but the response has been so strong that Wizards of the Coast and Ten Speed Press asked if we'd like to do more and we leapt at the chance. Book 5 is called Beasts & Behemoths and it profiles more iconic and strange creatures from the depths of the D&D canon that we didn't get to Monsters & Creatures, but this time organizing them in terms of size, from Tiny all the way up to Gargantuan. We're also planning a Book 6, but I'll keep details on that under wraps for now...suffice to say that there's more to come from our Young Adventurer's line and I couldn't be happier.
Wizards & Spells, written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler, is available now at major booksellers, retailers, and game stores.