Not long ago I had the pleasure to get my hands on the first volume of the D&D First Encounters saga, the Shadowplague volume. It was a treat!
Just in case you haven’t seen that review (you should) or have the book (you should too), this is a graphic novel published by IDW and featuring a D&D adventure. Or part of one at least.
IDW is well known. They have done TONS of stuff for various franchises, including also Dragon Age, and is a well seasoned publishing company capable of producing truly stunning work.
This is indeed one very good example.
The plot is simple. Our group of adventurers, after various happenings and mishaps in the first volume, end up in the Feywild. Since that is far a safe place to live in, they start to look to find a way back home. Hopefully in time too, we all know how dodgy time is in the Feywild.
The artwork is GORGEOUS. Not just nice, or lovely, or even great. No. It us truly stunning. Absolutely lovely illustration throughout, the inking is great, the colours vivid with terrific lighting and detail, the attention to detail just fine… this book oozes professionalism from cover to cover.
To make matters even better, the illustrations used to mark the chapters, mainly from Tyler Walpole are just fantastic. Also the ones by Jorge Lucas, very much in the style of early Jack Kirby and Stan Lee comics, are extremely well crafted. Although they are not my cup of tea, I cant deny the quality of those illustrations.
The script is terrific. The characters come alive easily. The personalities and idiosyncrasies making up for the obvious clichéd used when creating the gang of adventurers. One Human (Fighter), One halfling (Rogue, of course) , one Dwarf (Cleric. Of Morodin, no less!), one Elf (have a guess…. yep!.. a ranger!), one Tiefling (no… this is the Warlock). I told you it was clichéd!
Still, the characters genuinely feel real and have tremendous dynamics around them. The typical cheekiness and recklessness of the Halfling contrasts with the more uptight and sombre mood of the Tiefling; while the fighter and the ranger have more of a “been there, done that, and got the chainmail” attitude. And they are funny. Some of the lines in that book are just absolutely incredible and had me laughing in the bus on my way to work, much to the annoyance of the half awaken people around me.
At the end of the book there is the “adventure”. This is a somewhat short collection of some of the encounters in the graphic novel. It is not a step-by-step, or encounter-by-encounter recollection of the whole comic book, though, which is a shame because if that were the case, you’d have the best presented and quickest to prepare adventure ever. And I mean EVER!
Regardless, the encounters are very well planned, the cartography by Jonathan Roberts (Fantastic Maps) and the layout make this an absolutely perfect starting point for a set of adventurers. If you are a newcomer to being a GM, you want to buy this book and start here. It truly is perfect for that.
To say that I liked this product is an understatement. I genuinely love it. But not just because it looks lovely and all the other virtues I have mentioned at in my review.
The main reason I like this product is because it is quintessentially Dungeons & Dragons with all the good bits. There are lot of encounters in here, with the right amount of storytelling between them to provide continuity. Add to it a good dose of characterisation, and you have the perfect gaming session translated to paper in the shape of a comic book.
The way it manages to actually “feel” D&D is very exciting indeed, and, unless I am the only one feeling that way, it comes to show that the old game still has a lot to offer to the old gamers. And to the new ones too!
5 stars for this excellent book!
You can buy Dungeons & Dragons First Encounters – Vol. 2 in: