The Young Adventurer’s Guide series is a huge hit in our household! My son is thirteen, my daughter is five, and all three of us love thumbing through these books. They’ve been a really great way for my son to learn more about Dungeons and Dragons and reading the guides actually encouraged him to join a group at our local library. We talk a lot about the game and it’s been really cool to hear him talk about it and to share our experiences with Dungeons and Dragons with each other.
I’ve recommended these books to a bunch of friends as their kids have started showing an interest in D&D and I’m sure I will be recommending them for a long time to come. The Young Adventurer’s Guide books are a great way to make D&D more approachable to kids (and even adults) who might feel a little overwhelmed starting out.
We appreciate that Jim took the time to talk with my son, Dash, and I about the series!
Sam Wildman: What has been your favorite part about working on The Young Adventurer’s Guide series so far?
Jim Zub: Characters are at the center of every great D&D game and creating new characters has been the most fun part of building these Young Adventurer’s Guides too. Some of the legendary heroes we show in the Guides are from classic D&D stories and video games, but creating brand new ones has been a blast. We hope readers like them and want to see more of them down the road.
SW: How do you go about deciding what kind of content to include in the various books?
JZ: When the original proposal for the series was being put together, we thought we might do a “monster book” and a “hero book” but, as work started on breaking down what would go in each, we realized that magic was a big enough subject that it deserved its own book and that talking about adventurous locations needed more room too, which is why we built Dungeons & Tombs.
SW: How has working on this series differed from the other D&D projects you’ve worked on?
JZ: These guides are quite unique compared to the comics [or] other adventure writing I’ve done. We’ve tried to streamline what D&D and role-playing games are – using your imagination and collaboratively creating a story with your friends. These books are meant to give brand new players an easy way to understand the options available when they start to play. Imagination and enthusiasm are more important than a deep dive into the rules, especially when you’re first starting out.
SW: What can you tell us about what it has been like working with Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler on the series and your collaborative process?
JZ: Stacy and Andrew are two professional writers who also happen to be in my D&D group. They each came to D&D at a different time, so getting their feedback on what excited them about discovering the game and how to explain those ideas in a simple and straight forward way has been invaluable. We’re all channeling our enthusiasm for the game into these guides and I think that shows in each one.
SW: What has been the most challenging part of developing The Young Adventurer’s Guides?
JZ: Talking about the concepts of D&D without falling back on rules is a challenge. I’m so used to those die rolls and statistics as a way to measure power or talk about execution, so stripping that out and focusing it entirely on storytelling took some practice. It’s easy to take the rules for granted when you’ve been playing for 30 years. Reminding myself about the enthusiasm I had when I first discovered D&D and that feeling that anything was possible has been nice.
SW: Is there a book in the series, an entry, or a section in one of the books that you’ve been particularly proud of your work on?
JZ: The flow charts and “call and response”-style questions we use on the class and race pages are something I’m quite proud of. They’re a different way to focus new players and help them decide what they want to play, an approach I haven’t seen in D&D before. It was something I felt really strongly about when we were developing the series and hearing that our readers have really taken to it is a great feeling.
SW: Now that the books have been out for a little while, what has been like to meet the kids who have been reading The Young Adventurer’s Guides?
JZ: It’s the greatest! Seeing photos of kids with the books and having them at the table as they play has been so inspiring to me and the rest of the team. On some level we knew these books would bring in new players, but seeing it happening and hearing so much positive feedback has been an absolute thrill. I hope it never stops.
Speaking of kids, my son, Dash, had a few of questions for you, too, when I told him we would be discussing the series.
Dash Wildman: When did you start playing D&D?
JZ: I started playing D&D with first edition when I was 8 years old. My older brother and cousins received a copy of the D&D Basic Set and I convinced them I needed to play too. D&D gave me confidence and ignited my enthusiasm for telling stories. I wouldn’t be a writer today if it wasn’t for D&D.
DW: What was your first character? What are your favorite classes and races to play? Has that changed since you were a kid?
JZ: My first character was a dwarf named Rolf who wanted to become a warlord and gather his own army. He didn’t always pay attention and made a lot of mistakes, but he kept things entertaining at the table. After he passed away, I of course brought in Rolf II and Rolf III…it was a bit ridiculous. I recommend that if you do lose a character in the game you should make a brand new one instead of just doing the same thing over and over again.When I was a kid I tended toward burly Fighters and Barbarians, but nowadays I really like fast-talking troublemakers who are more dexterous than strong, so I usually fall back on Rogues, Bards or Rangers.
DW: What advice do you have for kids like me who are just getting into D&D?
JZ: The game will never go the way you expect but that’s okay. Remember that there’s no “wrong” way to play D&D as long as you and everyone else at the table are having fun.
Once again, we really appreciated the opportunity to talk with Jim Zub about this great kid-friendly series. Dungeons and Dragons can be an intimidating hobby to break into but it’s also an incredibly rewarding experience for those who do. I love that The Young Adventurer’s Guide books give kids like my son an easy way to ease into things so they can learn to love the game without the pressure of the more detailed manuals.
If you want to learn more about the series, you can check out our earlier review or learn more here. So far there are four books in the series including Wizards & Warriors, Monsters & Creatures, Dungeons & Tombs, and the latest release, Wizards & Spells which just came out last week! There’s also a fifth one on the way: Beasts & Behemoths.
Whether you’re an adult who doesn’t know where to get started or you have a young reader in your life who is just getting interested in Dungeons and Dragons, this is a great series to check out. We can’t recommend it enough!