A treasure trove of lore for new adventurers! The world's most beloved roleplaying game, Dungeons & Dragons, joins the legendary 'Ology series as the renowned guide Volo Geddarm takes you on an unforgettable journey through the Forgotten Realms. From the dreaming spires of Waterdeep to the frozen majesty of Drizzt Do'Urden's Icewind Dale, and from the despicable Underdark to the mysterious Underchasm, you'll learn the history, secrets, and wonders of this incredible world.
The book is narrated by the bard-like figure known as Volothamp Geddarm (or just Volo), who serves as your cavalier guide to becoming a "true Dungeonologist." The tone is pleasantly engaging, laced with old-world fantasy charm and genial fair warnings. He begins logically with the formation of a well-rounded "adventuring party," explaining hero archetypes (fighters, rogues, clerics, wizards) and their variants (barbarians, bards, druids, paladins, rangers, sorcerers, warlocks, etc.) He then breaks down the nine races of characters, building on the range of possible abilities and dispositions. From there he expounds upon equipment, magic and magical items, treasure, maps... and the monsters and villains one is likely to face in this cooperative fantasy construct.
"A group of adventurers is known as a "party," and not just because they like to celebrate their success together in the end. Your party should be as close to you as your family--assuming your family can cast spells, kill monsters, and bring you back from the edge of death." ~Volo
If you enjoyed pop-up books as a child, your matured self is in for a treat! Starting at the table of contents, every other page has some sort of animate feature--from hidden inner folds to sub-booklets to utilitarian origami. Volo's Most Wondrous Map of the Sword Coast is a supreme highlight among many engaging aspects of this work--a full color fold-out with intense detailing, which manages to expand to at least three times the area of a single page. (With each page being 10 x 12 inches, the total surface area is impressive.) From an artistic standpoint, the book is lovely--containing a range of compatible styles--all featuring dynamic scenes and poses rather than simple static figure sketches.
The font choices are sometimes a touch small and/or more challenging to read than some readers may find comfortable. The actual rules of game play are not included, though this seems to be by design. Those whose interests are sufficiently piqued by the worldbuilding elements of this book should find it a much smoother transition into the actual game mechanics if they've first utilized this introduction.
Parental Note: As with anything involving role play gaming, this reviewer recommends children introduced be at least 12 years old (or at the developmental and psychological point of being able to clearly distinguish between reality and fantasy.) This book itself, while containing plenty of colorful graphics, is non-graphic as far as violent or suggestive imagery goes. (Kudos on the refreshing lack of scantily/impractically clad females!) A few of the monsters depicted could be considered morbid or unsettling to a young reader, but I refer back to my 12-year-old rule of thumb regarding appropriate audience.
Not an exhaustive guide by any means, but beyond adequate as an introduction to tabletop role play games--suitable for both the curious-but-unversed and for longtime enthusiasts.