Many moons ago, I was given a free copy of both Dungeonology and the Monsters & Heroes of the Realms: A Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Book. (Thank you, Wizards of the Coast and Greg Tito!) Since there are already a bounty of useful reviews about Dungeonolgy, which is a nifty book to be sure, I decided to write an article about the later while incorporating some psychological concepts.
It’s what I do.
The adult coloring book industry has mushroomed in recent years and many book stores have entire sections devoted to this activity. Coloring is often marketed as a relaxation device to adults, which seems intuitively accurate. Engaging in a hobby that requires attention – anything form woodworking to knitting to painting miniatures – forces us to tune out extraneous variables and lock in to one thing.
Save Versus Multitasking
Multitasking is a bane of my existence. Earlier in life, I thought I was truly proficient in multitasking. I doodled in notebooks in high school while taking notes and listening to the teacher during classes. I achieved good grades (except for that one Biology class), and figured this was evidence that I could juggle multiple cognitive tasks well. As recently as this week, I get up before work to walk on the treadmill while watching a hockey game on the television AND playing Hearthstone on my cell phone. The good news is this never ended in an injury. The bad news is I probably do all of those things poorly.
I miss a lot of details from the hockey game.
I make countless misplays in Hearthstone.
And my posture is likely terrible because I look down at my phone for the better part of 30-45 minutes while walking.
One could say that I was multitasking well because I combined exercise with my enjoyment of professional ice hockey and video games. Another point of view is that I’m doing a disservice to all three activities because I’m not focused on any of them.
Now that I have a newborn in the house, multitasking is even less effective. I’ve tried to balance feeding him while doing other things.
It doesn’t go well!
Coloring as Stress Management?
Coloring is an activity that is difficult to combine with something else. Perhaps one can listen to music or have a show or movie on in the background, but coloring requires you to stay in one place and focus on filling in spaces with different pens or pencils. Many of the coloring pages have intricate shapes and tiny details that encourage the artist to concentrate on his or her coloring efforts. This level of strict concentration on one activity can be soothing.
I performed a shallow dive into the research on art therapy, and found that there is little evidence (so far) to suggest that adult coloring books are beneficial for stress management. A study of 84 undergraduate students at Knox College found that “structured coloring of a reasonably complex geometric pattern may induce a meditative state that benefits individuals suffering from anxiety.” The study clearly supported the hypothesis that coloring geometric patterns for 20 minutes was more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms than free-form coloring for the same amount of time.
Another study out of Boston College argued that the mood elevating effects of creating art are stronger when the task is used to distract rather than to vent. In other words, if one is feeling depressed then coloring a picture of a dragon sleeping on a pile of treasure may be more beneficial to mood than coloring a picture of something that directly relates to the depressed mood.
So, it is possible that focusing on a page from the Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Book might provide a bonus to your next relaxation skill check, but those bonuses are not guaranteed. What is closer to a guarantee is the fun to be had from finding a page in the book to work on with some colored pencils or markers!
Color Me Like One of Your French Dragons
The Monsters & Heroes of the Realms: A Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Bookis 96 pages. The first 70 pages feature black-and-white images that can be colored, and there is quite a variety of options to select. Most are elaborate scenes with spells being cast and combat raging. Others are single characters in a pose with a weapon or equipment. A few pages are devoted to top-down maps, which can be illustrated for those that would like to tip his or her toes in cartography. And the final category are pages devoted to one image that repeats in a pattern all over the page, such as a flaming skull, spider web, or dragon face.
The second section of the book (pages 71-80) is devoted to giving credit to each piece of art that appeared in the first 70 pages. Each piece of art is labeled by its Title, Artist, and which product it was first featured in. For example, this dashing Halfling appears on page 46; the Title of the art is Regis, and the artist is Randy Gallegos. Folks that have followed me on Twitter may recall that this character was widely discussed when he first appeared in Player’s Handbook for 5th Edition in 2014.
I mean, just LOOK at him!
He should be a prominent NPC in every D&D campaign.
The final section of the book (pages 81-96) are glossy stock and display full-color versions of the original art for 32 of illustrations in the book. These pages cannot be colored, though they certainly look pretty. They also provide some inspiration if you are experiencing a difficult time selecting colors or getting started on coloring a page.
The book itself is sturdy with a glossy, cardstock cover. The pages are bound in a way that does not lend itself to being easily removed, which is a double-edged sword. The good news is that pages will not be flying out of the book by accident. The unfortunate news for some is the lack of a perforated seam in the pages if one would like to remove a page once it has been colored. The 70 pages devoted to coloring are thick enough that using colored pencils on one side of the page does not interfere with the illustration on the other side of the page. However, I imagine markers could bleed through the page if used too vigorously – so I would advise to skip the markers and stick with pencils.
One aspect of the book that was a bit surprising is the majority of the images are complex to color. For example, the image of the mind flayer battling a barbarian (page 25) is a typical level of intricacy for the art in the book. There are not “clean lines” to indicate to a novice where one color should begin and the other should end. For experienced artists and those who are not looking for simplistic images to color, this will not likely be a bother. However, I imagine some users might feel intimidated by the complexity within some pages. The book is not a “color by number” project, and certainly requires some skill and creativity.
There are images that are more simplistic, such as the frost giant (page 37) pictured below, but those are the exception and not the rule.
By comparison, a quick Google search leads to countless coloring pages like this lovely Stormtrooper helmet. Notice that the lines clearly indicate where colors can separate. In theory, the lines make the helmet easier to color because the task is simpler – select a color and stay within the lines. The D&D Coloring book requires the person coloring to make more decisions during the process of coloring. Depending on your level of artistic skill (or desire for a challenge), this could either be a positive or negative aspect of the book. Personally, I would enjoy a few more “simple” pages to color in the book.
But then again, I just want to relax and be lazy while coloring!
Overall, I think the book is a great value – as you can find it on Amazon for $11. It should provide multiple hours of entertainment (possibly even some relaxation!), and would also be a good purchase for those in the the recommended age range of 10 and up. Paging through and working on pages in the book could provide a DM with some inspiration for future adventures; the DM could even use one of the pages as a prop at some point in a campaign.
The page I started on before my son was born remains unfinished. I liked this page because many areas of the page had the “paint-by-number” fell to the objects in the workshop. It seems that if I spent a little time here and there coloring one area of the workshop, it will all come together nicely – eventually.
I’ll let you know if I ever complete the page….