Sunday, December 9, 2018

Art & Arcana review Barnes & Noble version

This review of the "exclusive" Barnes & Noble edition of Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History supplements Trent Foster's detailed review of the (different) Deluxe Version. Go read his review if don't already know what this book is, because I'm not going to cover the basics.

Overall, the exclusive edition has plusses and minuses. It adds some content—cool! But it adds it in an unfortunate way that visually disrupts some of the other content—blah! Is it worth it? Well, I bought it, but I also have the (IMO much better) Deluxe version that Trent's review showed; if I could only have one, I would choose the Deluxe version, not the B&N exclusive edition.

The "exclusive" edition's red cover differentiates it from the two different black covers used in the regular and Deluxe versions.
Back cover of the "exclusive" edition.
Exclusive? Yeah, meaning you can only get it at Barnes & Noble. And it has extra stuff not available in the other two versions. According to the B&N web site:
"The Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition features a unique cover, plus six full size gate-folds including additional game maps, draft sketches, panels from past adventures, non-player character illustrations, and additional levels of iconic dungeons."
The gate-folds are interspersed throughout the book, and have extra details about whatever topic the book is covering at that point.
Gate-fold #1: Tomb of Horrors.
Left panel shows art from the 1975 tournament version, that isn't in the A&A regular edition, but is in the deluxe edition.
Gate-fold #1 pt 1: Illustrations from Keep on the Borderlands, where the bottom one is from the French edition.
Gate-fold #1 pt 2: More from Keep on the Borderlands

The Unfortunate Part...

The extra content is fine enough by itself, but they stuck it into the book in a way that sorta wrecks the surrounding content. Case in point: That Keep on the Borderlands gate-fold sits right in the middle of a two-page depiction of a preliminary cover illustration, making it kind of hard to appreciate the preliminary illo in its full glory:

The gate-fold section blocks an all-at-once view of the Jim Roslof preliminary B2 cover illustration 
For comparison, here's the same spread in the Deluxe version:
NOT the the "exclusive" edition—you can see the preliminary illustration as it was intended.
The Keep on the Borderlands gate-fold is the worst offender, but the 5th gate-fold (Labyrinth of Madness) has a similar issue, in that it splits a depiction of the maps from the inside cover of that module. (I'm not taking a picture of that one, mainly because I don't really care about Labyrinth of Madness, but also because the interrupted content is normal "released" content from that module, not preliminary art like in the B2 interruption, so it's not as annoying in a historical preservation sense.)

Back to the Gate-folds...

For completeness, here are the rest of the gate-fold sections:
Gate-fold #3: Illustrations from Village of Hommlet and Temple of Elemental Evil
Gate-fold #4: The rest of the maps from the first Undermountain set. (The main book already shows the Undermountain level 1 map.)
Gate-fold #5: Illustrations from Labyrinth of Madness
Gate-fold #6: From some later edition thing that I didn't care enough to try to remember.


  1. Agreed completely, Guy: it sure looks like whoever did layout for the B&N edition just slapped the content into the books without regard for context. I did flip around the insert pages, and in some cases there wasn't a good place to put them without rejiggering the layout, which is why I assume they're just slapped in where they are.


  2. So is that the only added content for the B&N edition? I could see myself picking it up on deep discount some day, the layout aside those are nice value I'd have a bedside reading copy :)