Ethan Gilsdorf gets a first-look at some incredible high-res art from the latest edition of the classic pen-and-paper role-playing game.

Will Wizards of the Coast get D&D right this time?

That's the question on the minds of adventurers young and old ever since the announcement that new rules for Dungeons & Dragons would finally be revealed this year. (At various times, this rebooted D&D has been called "D&D Next," "5th Edition D&D" and "5.0." Wizards of the Coast, D&D's publisher, is now simply calling the game "Dungeons & Dragons.")

But whether the release schedule is designed to whet or frustrate our appetites is another question. As if compressing a decade's worth of D&D iterations into six months, Wizards has planned a clever summer-into-fall roll out of this latest rule set, with many a product to buy along the way. Craftier than a mage casting a spell of Confusion, Wizards first teased us with a free PDF called Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons D&D Starter Set, a rulebook and adventure package, complete with dice and pre-generated characters, that will remind many gamers of the quick-to-learn Basic boxed sets published throughout D&D's history. Thus far, the 5th Edition rules I've seen nicely mix just-complex-enough magic and combat systems with playability, while also emphasizing character creation and roleplaying. It's a balance that veteran gamers should appreciate.

Next come three hefty hardcovers that hearken back to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks. The first one, the Player's Handbook, doesn't arrive until August 19; the Monster Manual is scheduled for September 30; and the climax and clincher, the Dungeon Master's Guide, we won't see until November 18.

Boing Boing was offered an exclusive preview of that character-building tome, the Player's Handbook, which promises to provide "Everything a player needs to create heroic characters for the world's greatest roleplaying game." And here's some of rulebook's art, as well as an exclusive reveal of a new D&D class: the Warlock. While these nibbles don't give you much of a flavor for the rules, they do show you some eye-candy that will get you into a dungeon-crawling D&D mood.

"There's an old joke in roleplaying, that people will always want to tell you about their character," said Mike Mearls, Senior Manager of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, who led the game design for 5th Edition D&D. But Mearls doesn't need to remind you that in a D&D game, "any character can die at almost any time, just because of a bad die roll."

So enjoy this brief taste from Player's Handbook, and may you roll your dice well, fellow adventurers.



Yes, D&D 5th Edition still has dragons. Here's an iconic scene, illustrated by Daren Bader, of a red dragon in its lair, perched atop its golden hoard, all Smaug-like, as it prepares to roast a party of bold adventurers. [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Daren Bader]




In this scene of an enchanted forest city, illustrated by Thom Tenery, we get a good idea how the wood elves might live (with more than a few nods to Peter Jackson's movie version of Rivendell). [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Thom Tenery]



"It slices, it dices, it makes Julienne orcs." In this scene by Wayne Reynolds, a powerful student of the renowned wizard Mordenkainen is ready to whup ass after having cast the spell Mordenkainen's sword under the watchful gaze of his owl familiar. [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Wayne Reynolds]




In this scene illustrated by Claudio Pozas, a sorcerer casts a Cloudkill spell while his dwarven adventuring pal looks on. Meanwhile, a band of bugbears coughs and wheezes as the toxic spell descends on them. You can almost hear the one in front say, "Uh … Zorg? You OK? Me feeling little funny…." [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Claudio Pozas]




A somewhat cartoonish (but thankfully not scantily-clad) high elf enchanter, as envisioned by Scott M. Fischer. [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Scott M. Fischer]




A teaser of the "Warlock" character class. In this front and back page pair from the new Player's Handbook, the in-house design team at Wizards of the Coast combines key design elements from the new rule books with art from multiple artists. The Warlock is illustrated by Rob Rey, while the warlock's accessories for her magic stuff (frog, bowl) are illustrated by Wayne England. The background is by Mark Molnar. [Photo: Wizards of the Coast/Artist: Rob Rey/ Wayne England/Mark Molnar]