Here, there be dragons.
Ancient red dragons with 527 hit points, +44 to attack, and a 20d10 breath weapon, to be specific. In the world of fantasy role-playing, those numbers describe a winged serpent with immense strength and the ability to spit fire. There are few beasts more powerful - just like there are few games more important than Dungeons & Dragons.
Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, you probably know someone who has: the game has had a profound influence on our culture. Released in 1974 - decades before the Internet and social media - Dungeons & Dragons inspired one of the original nerd subcultures, and is still revered by millions of fans around the world. Now the authoritative history and magic of the game are revealed by an award-winning journalist and lifelong D&D player.
In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt recounts the development of Dungeons & Dragons from the game’s roots on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, to its apotheosis as father of the modern video-game industry. As he chronicles the surprising history of the game’s origins (a history largely unknown even to hardcore players) and examines D&D’s profound impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences. An enticing blend of history, journalism, narrative, and memoir, Of Dice and Men sheds light on America’s most popular (and widely misunderstood) form of collaborative entertainment.
(P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
This is a very informative and well-researched book. However, seemingly in an attempt to make it more entertaining, it jumps around a lot, frequently shifting back and forth. I found that a bit confusing, distracting, and annoying.
The content itself is great, but the manner in which it is presented and organized leaves something to be desired.
If you ever played the game, or still do, this book is awesome. I mainly enjoyed the detailed story about the invention of the game and the rise and fall of TSR as a company. A fascinating look at the birth of something that shaped my childhood. Also interesting is the author's exploration of their own gaming past and future, where RPGs are headed.
During the mid 1970's I played D and D and enjoyed the game very much, so the first 75% or so of this book was a trip down memory lane for me. I never understood why TSR, a company that from the outside looked to be growing like crazy and very profitable, suddenly went bust. This book explains that, albeit not in a lot of detail.
I was enjoying the book right up until the author choose to spend a very large chapter describing his LARPing (live action role playing) experience in detail, that is where it went off the rails for me. Very tedious and boring, then... as he exited the tales of his LARPing he choose to spend the last portion of the book shilling and gushing over D&D Next (version 5 of the game), it all came off as a lame sales pitch, an attempt to convince the D&D community (most of whom are still angry about the AWFUL 4th version of the game) that 5 was great.
If you enjoy D&D or are just curious about the game and the people who play it, this is a decent introduction, it's not a bad read (or listen as is the case here). The narrative device of bouncing the reader between a history lesson of the game and his own D&D adventures becomes tedious at about the same time as the the live action role play chapter making that part bog down all the more, but all in all not bad.
I have not read the print version.
The story is fascinating and the tale is told interestingly. The author weaves historic notes and details with bits of story telling, bringing the games he is discussing to life. He is a real good old D&D player himself and the journey back in time to go over the birth of the game and its historic impact was entertaining, educational, and full of nostalgia for those who were there. For those that have never played D&D this book could be the key to understanding what it is and why people enjoy it so much.
Never. I really found the narrator annoying. He completely missed the bus on what could have been an interesting history of Dungeons & Dragons. His story is not interesting, yet he seemed to decide his personal D&D history should be the primary focus. Seriously, there are long stretches of the author explaining how he named his characters when he was a kid and a chapter describing a weekend retreat that was only vaguely related to D&D (LARP). Spent most of the book just shaking my head, trying to figure out if this was a self published blog excerpt.
Done some research beyond Wikipedia, maybe realize that the journey of a novice D&D player to a somewhat less novice D&D player wasn't that interesting. Possibly not have an arrogant sounding narrator constantly interrupt the story with a completely unnecessary old lore exposition. Maybe not end compete sections with snarky, unfunny jokes (example: it's not the size of the sword, octopuses are cool, etc.). Really the book just rubbed me the wrong way start to finish. Needed an editor to step in and add some focus to the story. Spoiler: Near the end he gets a chance to play with various co-creators of the game, and in each instance comes off as unimpressed by them, yet marvels at the old yellow tape on a ping pong table. I typically don't write reviews and read dozens of books each year, but this book was terrible.
It won't -- don't worry.
Let me know if anyone finds an interesting book on this subject. It sounds fascinating.
Loved when he described the break up of the two founders, and just glossed over the reason explaining, "no one seems to know". Seemed like he tried real hard to get to the bottom of that.
It's very clear that this book was written, and narrated if you got yourself the audiobook, by a man that deeply loves the tabletop role playing hobby. David M. Ewalt shows his love for Dungeons & Dragons, and the people that helped make it the influential powerhouse that is today, with every story he tells and anecdote he shares with us.
If you are a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, this book is a wonderful read/listen. If you don't, perhaps it's better, for it'll help you understand us, lovers of the hobby, a little bit better.
Ewalt does a fantastic job showing the reader how D&D found its beginning. He starts all the way back at D&D's first inspiration, war games. he is much more detailed than I could've hoped. if you are a fan of d&d, this is an emotional ride that will make you eager to return to the game table for your next session.
Enjoyable life breathed into the telling with dual narrators.
Many of the quotes and insights into the appeal and culture of the game and its 'people' did a great job of striking the balance of introducing an outsider to the idea while resonating with poignancy to the experienced player. One of my favorites: “Players are both audience and authors in D&D. They consume the DM’s fiction but re-write the story with their own actions and as author’s they are free to make their own decisions. If a troll is trying to eat you: you can hit him with a sword, shoot him with an arrow or run away. It’s up to you. For that matter you could sing him a song, try to recruit him into scientology or lie down for a nap. Your choice might be a dumb one, but it’s still yours to make.”
The use of two narrators, one of them being the author was a great choice in sharing this well written, informative and charming book about a popular role playing game and its origins, culture and appeal. Game play scenarios that add a storytelling flare and style to the non-fiction work are given dramatic contrast to the humble and almost confessional tone of the body. Both narrators have good tone performance and inflection and bring the words off the page in an enjoyable conversational way.
The book was well titled and needed no additional flourish
The research and details of origins and parallel interests was informative and constructed a timeline and context that was enjoyably non-fiction - but the author's own involvement and perspective through it all wove a narrative that held and developed like a good story and kept the facts from drying out the book. I enjoyed it and the added dimension it gave to my own exploration into role playing games.
This is a very niche subject matter to start with, keep that in mind before you buy. I found it interesting but there were many times where the story was interrupted for excerpts from D&D or just for a bit of narration (I guess). While this might be effective for the written book, it was distracting for audio. I had to force myself to finish and that is never a good sign. This is nearly my 30th audio book in the last few years and it was one of the less interesting.
If you are a die hard D&D fan you will probably like it more than me. I would call myself an interested outsider. But I love fantasy and I like audio books. Would not really recommend.
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