Japanese Versions of Original Dungeons & Dragons Guides Had Some Amazing Artwork

The Japanese versions of several classic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set featured some impressive artwork. Dungeons & Dragons has always featured impressive artwork, even during the earliest days of the game. Recently, fans re-discovered some especially cool art used for the Japanese versions of some early D&D guides. TSR (the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons) had two pieces of art commissioned by Japanese artists that were used for Beginner's Guides of the Basic and Expert versions of the game. As you can see below, the art looks like it was pulled straight out of a manga, although several classic D&D monsters also make an appearance. One critical difference is that both Beginner's Guides feature female player characters, which stands in contrast to the male-focused marketing used in the United States.

jp-begin
(Photo: TSR Inc.)
jp-expert
(Photo: TSR Inc.)

While TSR usually used the same artwork for the rulebooks published in English and in Japanese, there were a few other exceptions. The Japanese versions of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, for instance, also featured unique art specifically made for Japanese audiences. More recently, Hobby Japan commissioned unique art for a set of three Japanese guides that explained Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition.

Dungeons & Dragons has inspired several popular fantasy series. Record of Lodoss War, for instance, started off as a D&D "replay" but quickly morphed into a series of fantasy novels, manga, and more. More recently, Goblin Slayer has featured its own take on popular D&D tropes and creatures, with a beholder-like creature even making an appearance in one episode of the anime series.

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You can check out other old Japanese covers of D&D manuals over on the TSR Archive website. Most of the covers are identical to their English counterparts, but you might spot a couple of difference if you look carefully.