Magnus, Zoey, Pickles, and Tonka are four doggy pals who are playing their first game of Dungeons & Dragons. They’ve made their characters: Zoey plays a thoughtful cleric, Pickles a swaggering fighter, and Tonka a playful bard. As game master, Magnus sets the scene and plays all the other characters, like villains and townsfolk.
The adventure is off to a great start. After retrieving a lost magical collar, they are the toast of the town of Tail’s Bend. (The town is, of course, also populated with dogs, so they toast with hot dog water.) But Tail’s Bend has another problem: all the squeaky toys in town have disappeared, and the mayor’s son Squish—who is just a puppy—has run off to look for them. Sounds like a job for the DnDoggos! With the real-life players rolling dice, getting creative, and taking plenty of snack breaks, their characters brave a creepy forest, magical monsters, and a doggy gang that is up to no good.
This cute, funny story doesn’t require readers to understand Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, the players in the book are new to the game, so Magnus sometimes gives a brief, beginner-friendly explanation of how something works. Readers who are familiar with D&D, however, will get an extra kick out of some jokes, like the fact that the players keep asking random villagers their names, forcing Magnus to scramble to name them.
Because D&D includes combat, there are a few battle scenes in the in-game portion of this book. They are totally bloodless, and often a bit silly, with the only harm done to a couple of supernatural monsters. There is never a real sense that any dogs might get seriously hurt. (And if they get a little hurt, well, that’s what the cleric is for.)
The art is colorful and active. Each of the DnDoggos looks similar to the dog playing them, but the fantasy world and its characters are far more detailed than the players at their gaming table. This makes it easy to remember which character goes with which player, but also easy to tell whether a given panel is set inside or outside the game. It also helps that the DnDoggos are outfitted as adventurers, dressed in medieval tunics, cloaks, armor, and such, while the doggy players do not wear clothes. There is lots of variety in the page layouts, with regular panels interspersed with borderless panels that spill across whole sections of the page, giving a sense of uncontained exuberance and movement.
Silly jokes abound, both in the fantasy world and at the gaming table. Some of the humor is based on the characters and their personalities—Tonka plays a bard with a magic kazoo, Pickles has very little tact, and Zoey can’t lie even to the bad guys—while some is about D&D or about dogs. The jokes keep things light, which works well given the overall feeling of friends having fun together, inside and outside the game.
This is a fun, silly romp with cute dogs and an accessible introduction to what a session of Dungeons & Dragons looks like. Hand it to anyone with an interest in D&D, whether or not they have played before.
DnDoggos vol. 1: Get the Party Started
By Scout Underhill
Art by Scout Underhill
Feiwel and Friends, 2024
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Queer, Nonbinary