I’ve played Dungeons and Dragons ever since I purchased the first AD&D books from a friend,
paid for with a zip-lock full of quarters that he was all too happy to get. He was going to the arcade later that day. I know, I’m practically carbon-dating myself here, but I digress. At first all the of the campaigns and stories I had my players go through were based on whatever I was reading at the time. So we had Dark Elf Adventures, Wheel of Time adventures, Sapphire Rose Adventures and so on. I barely paid any attention to the rules, just enough to make characters, roll dice, and break our minds on whatever I could come up with in the next minute. It was fast, furious, and made absolutely no sense whatsoever; but I still remember that first sleepless night.
As I got older, purchased more books and actually read through them. I began to immerse myself into the minutiae of the details, but one thing always stuck with me — The rule of cool. That even if something went against the rules as they were written or intended, if it was cool, I often let it stand; and if it lent itself to the story, I often let it succeed. Because I wanted the players to be heroes, and snatching victory from defeat is part of that. I made sure they failed too, because struggle is inevitable and also necessary.
As outsiders and geeks on the fringes of entertainment, we sought out the cool. The things that made us wander and want. As we got older and those things changed, we transformed with them. But somewhere along the lines of escapism and entertainment, these companies cast many of us aside to pursue a very specific agenda. In truth, that’s fine, however, why couldn’t you keep what made us happy, and do your own thing for whatever new audience you’re courting too?
That brings me to the ‘Young Adventurer’s Guide’ series
This is a series that came about as a way to introduce kids, particularly ages 8-12, to the ‘cool’ of role playing games. The emphasis is on role playing instead of the nuts and bolts of rules and statistics. Every codified entry is curated in prose and pallet to be easily digested for anyone.
What Jim Zub found in trying to introduce kids to role playing games, was that they often lost interest because of the amount of rules that had to be learned before they could play. He seems to have approached it somewhat like a video game. A video game often has many skills to learn, but little to no initial investment to begin. That’s because it teaches you as you go, within the game itself, and that’s how these new manuals have been put together. The new mission style advancement allows for players to learn as they progress, and advance their understanding of the rules, and the truths of the world, while getting the chance to ‘play’ their character and be ‘cool’ right away.
You can tell in the art direction and how every entry is written, that special care was put into making each section not only informative, but interesting and fun to read. There is humor, nuance, and rhythm put into every paragraph. This is deliberate in design, and the result is something new, fun, and not better, but certainly complimentary to any book that has come before it.
Even with all this new, Dungeons and Dragons and Jim Zub, manage to walk the tightrope of producing something for kids, that isn’t patronizing. In fact, It’s more like paying homage to the generations before. Even going so far as to include old favorites like this well loved character from the Baldur’s Gate series.
The critical response to the series has been overwhelmingly positive, and I can see why. With so many companies willing to throw away their old customer base in exchange for another, it’s refreshing to see the main RPG company in the market taking a different tact. Usually, it’s not smart to remake your own brand within itself for kids, or anyone else. But this time, they did it right, because they followed the ‘rule of cool’.
This series is cool, so I say let it stand, and let it succeed.