Many a popular fantasy novel has, in the more recent history of the genre, been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons.
Whether it’s a novelization of a campaign, or a play on the tropes that come with tabletop gaming specifically (like one of my favorite novels, Eve Forward’s Villains by Necessity), the activity of getting together and playing out a story serves as inspiration for many authors. It’s not hard to see why – DMs already do a great deal of story writing when they craft the game on its own.
If you’re looking to read something more directly related to your favorite DnD settings, you’re also in luck. For decades, the publishers behind DnD have been releasing novels, set in their campaign settings, that you can easily get your hands on.
Here’s a brief overview, and a few recommendations.
The First Dungeons and Dragons Novel: Quag Keep
Quag Keep, while not an official DnD novel, is cited as the first fantasy novel set in one of the many campaign settings. The author, Andre [Alice Mary] Norton, was a veteran of science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction writing, who later became the first woman inducted to various genre fiction clubs and halls of fame! It’s (mostly) set in Grayhawk, following the adventures of a group of real-world people who find themselves brought into the fantasy world.
It’s sequel, Return to Quag Keep, was published posthumously in 2005, although she worked on it for a long time before her passing.
If you’re interested in the history of Dungeons and Dragons, these novels are a fantastic place to immerse yourself.
Official Dungeons and Dragons Novels
When TSR Games published Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2e), they quickly found that the rulebooks themselves weren’t much of a money maker (this is still true, since a one-time purchase of a Players’ Handbook allows a customer to play for decades, lengthened by the ability to make their own custom content). In order to supplement this, and to market the game overall, TSR hired authors and began to print full novels set in their new setting, Dragonlance. These novels sold amazingly well. They then began publishing books in most of their other campaign settings, including Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Eberron, Ravenloft, Forgotten Realms, and more.
Eventually, these novels spread around the world. They were published in multiple languages, and charted on the New York Times Bestseller List. Some authors gained massive popularity from this DnD novelizations. Characters became so iconic that they circled back around and were included as iconic NPCs and legends within their campaign settings.
Notable series include:
Icewind Dale, and the Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore’s best-known series, these books follow Drizzt Do’Urden, a drow ranger, as he journeys from the Underdark to the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale. While I’m not personally much of a fan of the character himself, these books are well-written and beloved by almost the entirety of the DnD community.
Even if you’re like me, and don’t enjoy the main character, most of this series’ side characters are wonderful as well. You’re likely to spot some familiar faces amongst the bunch!
T.H. Lain Novels (Forgotten Realms Adventures)
These novels are actually written by a variety of authors using a singe pseudonym. They feature the cast of ‘example characters’ found throughout the 3/3.5e sourcebooks (Redgar the Human Fighter, Lidda the Halfling Druid, etc.).
They’re pretty short, and independent from each other, so each one can be found and read on their own. In terms of storytelling, they focus heavily on each encounter and the combat therewithin, so it really feels like you’re reading someone’s DnD session.
If you’re looking for some campaign ideas of your own, these are a great reading choice.
The Ravenloft novels are less fantasy, more horror. Starting with Vampire of the Mists, these novels are set in the Dungeon Dimensions found in the Curse of Strahd campaign setting known as Ravenloft.
If you’re looking to add some well-developed lore to your Curse of Strahd campaign, or if you’re just looking for something a little Halloween themed (its that time of year at the moment!), these novels are overall pretty good.
They’re also known as some of the best places to start for Dungeons and Dragons novels.
Dungeons and Dragons Comics
Just like written novels, there have been a number of comic books set in the campaign settings of DnD. The first released comic was actually a Spanish language adaptation of the 1980s cartoon, but there are plenty that follow their own plot, with unique characters in various campaign settings.
If you have a local comic shop, or secondhand bookstore, older comics usually go for around a dollar apiece. It’s more than worth doing some digging around to see if you can find the older ones, which have some great stories. If you’re looking for more current art and stories, you can find plenty of official release here on the Wizards of the Coast website.
Recently, there has been a string of extremely popular live-play web shows and podcasts, where watchers and listeners can be immersed in other people’s campaign. Some of the larger ones (Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, etc) have even released comics, graphic novels, and various media content for their campaigns.
You can find these pretty easily online, or at your local bookstore. And if you’re into those campaigns it’s a great way to find something you’re fairly sure that you can enjoy. Plus, there are large communities of people who also have an interest in these, especially online. It’s not hard at all to find people to share your reading with!
Do you have a favorite Dungeons and Dragons novel? How about a favorite character? We’d love to hear them, or some book reviews, below!