New D&D Player's Handbook art is a promising start to the game's big update

The D&D cover art, as shown on Game Informer
(Image credit: Game Informer)

The new D&D Player's Handbook cover is out in the wild, along with a dragon's hoard of artwork from inside.

Whereas previous editions of the book showed off nameless adventurers, this version of the D&D Player's Handbook depicts established heroes from across the game's 50-year history. Warriors that started life as 1980s action figures stand shoulder to shoulder with a character from one of its first settings, for example.

As seen in an exclusive reveal by Game Informer, the revised book features members of the band known as Valor's Call (who recently appeared in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight campaign, but started life as toys in 1983) fighting alongside Yolande the Elven Queen. The latter got her start in Greyhawk, which was an early campaign world for D&D created in 1972. In a nod to the game's 50th 'gold' anniversary, these warriors are also being protected by a gold dragon as the party faces off against kobolds and a villainous red dragon. And before you ask, yes: it appears they are in a dungeon.

The cover artwork for Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook

(Image credit: Game Informer)

If the style looks familiar, that's because players have seen the artist's work many times before. The front and rear covers were handled by Tyler Jacobson, a longtime D&D illustrator who's been working on the game since 2009 (they were responsible for the previous Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide).

Speaking of the rear cover, that has also been unveiled. Even though it features original adventurers going on a quest (as is only right for one of the best tabletop RPGs), the new Player's Handbook seems more intent on spotlighting characters we know. According to Game Informer's piece, many of the chapter openers throughout the book will include iconic heroes. As D&D studio art director Josh Hartman says, "a lot of our chapter openers are famous heroes… Almost every chapter opening features a different hero, or group of heroes in a different setting. So, you've got Dragonlance, and other ones, like Ravenloft; you’ve got a whole suite of them."

As a case in point, one page depicts grown-up versions of the 1980s D&D cartoon characters exploring a ruin as well-known monsters lurk nearby.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the artwork and the core rulebooks' more cohesive aesthetic in general - judging by what we've seen so far, at least. Besides celebrating the game's long history with characters fans have come to love, the focus on worlds other than the Forgotten Realms (a traditional fantasy universe which became something of a default setting for D&D during the last couple of editions) is no bad thing. Don't get me wrong, I love the Forgotten Realms. But when you have a multiverse full of astral oceans with flying galleons, gothic kingdoms plagued by Dracula-esque vampires, and steampunk robots, why not show them off? D&D doesn't have to be classic swords 'n' sorcery, so underlining the diverse backdrops on offer reminds players that they have options.  

The heroes used here better reflect the game's incredibly diverse player-base as well. That's a refreshing contrast to previous editions, or even the last Player's Handbook, so does a good job of letting everyone who sees it know that D&D is for everyone.

This article revealed some details about the other core rulebooks, too. While the Player's Handbook focuses on heroes to better represent the player experience, the Dungeon Master's Guide will instead look at the game's many villains. DMs spend a lot of time working out what their parties will cross blades with, after all, so that makes sense.

As for the Monster Manual, the new core rulebooks offered an opportunity to revise beloved monsters. For instance, Herman tells Game Informer that "we went through all 10 [dragon types]. We have new designs for all of those and there will be a lot of that in the Monster Manual for sure. We are trying to update those designs to be something in which players could see that dragon's personality or what biome they live in, or where they fit in the cast of all of the dragons.”

You'll be able to pre-order the new core rulebooks as of June 18, and each book will apparently cost $49.99. Alternate covers are going to be available for these, and while we don't know much about them, the Player's Handbook variant will apparently feature "a gorgeous scene of elves and a sinuous gold dragon, all printed in a gold foil treatment."

With the core rulebooks starting to arrive in September, hopefully we'll get a better look at the Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual soon. As soon as details emerge, you'll find them here!

For an idea of what to play while you wait for the new rulebooks, check out our guide to the best Dungeons and Dragons books and the best board games.

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to the latest Lego news. I've been writing about games in one form or another since 2012, and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.