PORTLAND, Ore.— The Center for Biological Diversity is partnering with Mage Hand Press and creator Lucas Zellers to resurrect the histories of extinct animals in a surprising new way: through the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
A newly launched project called The Book of Extinction tells the stranger-than-fiction true stories of animals now lost, alongside game statistics as fantasy monsters. Readers can pay what they want for the first three monsters — the Tasmanian tiger, great auk and passenger pigeon. All proceeds will be donated to support the Center’s work protecting endangered species and wild places.
“The Center’s track record of success makes them the perfect partner for this project,” says Book of Extinction author Lucas Zellers. “They’re positioned to make the most of D&D’s unique ability to give these extinct animals a second life through storytelling.”
The Book of Extinction will contain more than 70 species when it comes to Kickstarter in summer 2022. The featured species will include the Pyrenean ibex, Carolina parakeet, Yangtze River dolphin and, of course, the dodo.
“I’m hopeful that The Book of Extinction will engage the passionate and resourceful D&D community in solving the extinction crisis. Their creativity could be a cultural tipping point to help end extinction,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist and the campaign director of the Center’s Saving Life on Earth campaign.
The project comes at a critical time as Earth’s extinction crisis accelerates, with 1 million species now at risk of extinction globally. Last year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that 23 protected species had been lost, the largest group of U.S. species designated as extinct since the Endangered Species Act went into effect in 1973.
“Ordinarily animals become fabulous mythical monsters over hundreds or thousands of years,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “Restoring these lost animals to modern culture in this way is a fascinating and pivotal step forward in our relationship with the natural world.”
A companion podcast called “Making a Monster: Extinction” will expand on the strange and inspiring stories behind these real-world animals and the monsters inspired by them.
“I have all these riveting stories I can’t fit into the 1,000 words or so I’ll have for each animal in the book,” said Zellers, who also hosts and produces the podcast. “The podcast is a way to explore how tragic and urgent the extinction crisis is while sharing things the D&D community will love: fossilized cyclops remains, the natural history of the griffin, and the housecat who ended a species.”
From its humble beginning as two friends writing a blog called “Middle Finger of Vecna”, Mage Hand Press has grown into an international team of writers and artists creating top-of-the-line content for D&D 5th Edition. The team has produced some of the most successful expansions of the last decade, including Dark Matter and Valda’s Spire of Secrets.
Mike Holik does the writing, editing and graphic design for all Mage Hand Press books, while Alexander Binns helps with writing and logistics. Samantha Muir serves as the team’s community manager, Twitter personality and “con-mom.” Longtime artists include Martin Kirby-Jackson, Lucas Ferreira CM and Agustín Marceillac.