From Game of Thrones to Mass Effect, many a popular franchise has been turned into coloring books meant more for adults than children. Occasionally, though, everyone can join in on the fun of relaxing with a good coloring book inspired by our favorite shows or games. Dungeons & Dragons is no exception.
The latest crayon-friendly iteration of the tabletop RPG is Adventures Outlined, which features some of the game's most familiar monsters and brings them to life in a unique art style that includes captivating stories along the way.
Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Outlined from Wizards of the Coast is illustrated by artist Todd James, aka REAS, who has a bold, unforgettable style. Flipping through the book we received, SYFY WIRE found displacer beasts, beholders, giants, and more monsters as we've never seen them before along with some adventurers brave (or foolish) enough to face them. Each illustration is accompanied by a short description on the opposite page that sets the scene for what's happening in the picture. Combined with the art, it manages to immerse you in a fantastical story that leaves you wondering what happens on the next page.
The short blurbs come from Dungeons & Dragons writer Adam Lee, who started working on the book after James created his illustrations. When Lee was asked to fill in the blank pages facing the art with copy, he accepted and took some time to think about what he would do. Each image inspired a fun little story or little fact about the monster.
"I figured this was probably going to be for a younger crowd or maybe people who didn't know that much about D&D," Lee told SYFY WIRE. "I remember when I was a kid and I saw the first D&D coloring book that came out, which still kind of sticks in my mind to this day. I was still learning about D&D and still learning about the monsters and the stories behind them."
Lee's work has appeared in many of the main Dungeons & Dragons adventures, such as Tomb of Annihilation. He's involved in the process of coming up with stories and outlines with lead designer Chris Perkins and the creative team. His fantasy background doesn't stop there, though — before working with D&D he also worked on Magic: The Gathering.
While Lee and James didn't originally discuss how their work would connect in the book, exactly, Lee says it was clear they were on the same wavelength; James' work reminded Lee of his childhood and the black and white drawings in the old Monster Manual. Lee wanted his writing to not only tell a cool story about the monsters depicted and detail their D&D connection, but also to inspire the imagination so people might get ideas for using the monster in their own stories.
That doesn't mean it was a simple task coming up with what to feature next to James' stunning work. In addition to everything else, Lee also considered whether he should link stories together in the copy. For example, there's a beholder at the beginning of the book in a battle and then on the next page, the beholder's in an undead army. Lee linked the two in a short story. For most though, linking creatures and stories became too difficult. Instead, he just settled on doing vignettes that had their own little tales.
"Some were super easy for me. Some I saw and instantly the funny thing or the cool idea or insight into the Dungeons & Dragons world [was there]," Lee says. "Others... took a little massaging or playing around with different things where I might have an idea that was workable, but it didn't make me laugh or it didn't give me insight into the monster. I was trying to squeeze every last drop of either cool story, something to inspire the imagination, or insight into monsters, what they're about, and what they do."
For many of the vignettes, Lee created characters to match the illustrations. As Lee is both a dungeon master and a D&D insider, he automatically started creating from the ground up. In one instance, he says, there's an image of the merrow king and Skulldark Lake, so he started to build a world around that. The description reads that King Gluurblelurb had a palace under the lake and while legend mentioned a treasure, "none have ever laid eyes upon Gluurblelurb's magnificent hoard."
"Now I'd love to write a story about that. I'd love to do a whole coloring book just on King Gluurblelurb, the merrow kingdom, all the treasure, and the adventuring party that goes in to try to get it," Lee says. "Each one can definitely just spawn a whole adventure and that's another one of the points I was trying to do when I was writing this. When I think of kids doing this coloring book, they might know a little bit about D&D, [so] they can read one of these things and then from that go, 'Oh, I can do this whole minotaur maze and my monster's going to be the big main minotaur like in the coloring book.' Todd did this cool floating minotaur maze so you can do that. Each page you can look at it and create your own adventure from it."
But Lee also tried to make the book accessible to people who may not know about these monsters and the world of D&D. For those that know D&D already, he wants them to have that moment of fun recognition with the monsters on each page. For those who don't know D&D, Lee tried to inspire imaginations so readers would be curious about what's going on with the crazy monsters and the fantasy.
"At that point for those people, I want them to be kind of in that sense of wonder where they're like 'I want to know more about this world. I want to know what's going on here. What are these things?'" he says. "That way that kind of leads them into learning about Dungeons & Dragons and reading the books and then saying this game is just about inspiring your imagination and telling stories and having fun with your friends. That way I kind of want to draw your mind into this world."
There's more to come from Lee in D&D within the next year, but until then, Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Outlined offers a fun way to enjoy the tabletop game's world in your spare time. It gives you a way to add your own colorful design twist to iconicD&D monsters and just might make you view some of the scariest creatures in a different light.