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.
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.
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.
David gives a wonderful overview of the history and roots of the rpg and of dungeons and dragons. Entertaining and inspiring for players of dnd or other rpgs. A book that can be enjoyed again and again.
David takes you on a journey from his embarrassment from his nerdy pastimes, to his full fledged support for the game. He comes to terms with himself and I helped me, personally, understand myself. Thanks, David! The book was completely worth the read. May your adventures treat you well, and the wind always be at your back.
I loved this book immensely. It was informative and entertaining. I just finished it and I'm about to start it again. If you are a fan of RPGs, be they Shadow Run, Dungeons and Dragons, or Call of Cthulhu you need to read this book to give you clear picture of your gaming heritage.
Thirty-something geek who loves sci fi and fantasy.
Are you an old school grognard? Or are you the spouse/child/parent/friend of one, and have never been able to wrap your head around this hobby they put so much time and effort into? Then you'll get a lot out of this book.
This book is the story of a man's experiences playing Dungeons & Dragons, and his obsessive quest to understand its history, legacy, and enduring appeal. Much of the info about the history of the game may not be new to old school players who lived through the fevered fad of D&D in the late 70s and early 80s, but for younger folks, like myself, it's a fascinating look back. I had no idea there was so much history, bad blood, and stupid decisions involved in D&D's evolution from hand-written rules in a Lake Geneva basement to the most popular fantasy roleplaying game ever. Ewalt also spends a good amount of time defining what roleplaying games are, an important point to make, even going so far as to trace their evolution all the way back to strategic war simulation games of the 1600s. Very interesting stuff.
A lot of the narrative of the book is told from Ewalt's own personal experiences and anecdotes. Unfortunately, at the time of writing both Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, the two principle creators of D&D, had passed away, so Ewalt wasn't able to interview them. He doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time on objectively fleshing out the history of the game; rather, he uses personal memories from others, including himself, to demonstrate his larger points. This is not a hard-hitting, deeply-delving documentary or expose on D&D. Ewalt barely even covers any of the game's, and its player's more well-known flaws. Instead, think of this book as a somewhat starry-eyed, but exceedingly sincere and loving, retrospective of the hobby.
Ewalt focuses on the earlier editions of the editions of the game primarily, which is fine, especially since I had not played those versions and needed the history lesson. But he spends surprisingly little time on the newer editions, including 3rd Edition, which was the one I spent the most time with. Similarly, he very quickly glosses over the controversial 4th Edition without going into why it was so controversial. Nor does he discuss Paizo and Pathfinder, which I can buy since it's supposed to be about D&D, but it seems like an important footnote nonetheless. Several reviewers have said the chapter on 5th edition D&D (still called D&D Next at the time of this book's writing, which has thankfully been changed since) reads like an extended commercial for the new system. I wholly disagree. Ewalt spends very, very little time on what 5E is actually LIKE, and only repeats what WOTC told him. At the time of writing, the game was not even completed yet so Ewalt could not claim to have much experience with it, nor does he. He is hopeful about the new edition, certainly, but he is no shill either.
If you're not a D&D player, you probably won't get a lot out of this book, although one hopes it might inspire you to give it a try. But if the terms "character sheet," "d20," "you all meet in a tavern" are comfortably familiar to you, you'll find a lot to love here, especially if you weren't around for the birth of the hobby in the 70s and 80s.
Ewalt is the primary narrator, and he is not a professional obviously. Still, he does a competent enough job, and his enthusiasm for his subject is undeniable. Throughout the book are also sections where a second narrator takes over, describing "in-character" scenes which read more like a fantasy novel than the nonfictional essay style of the main narrative. Some readers have claimed these asides were jarring or made no sense, but I enjoyed them. Often, the "in-character" action would mirror and mythologize what Ewalt was talking about in the main narrative. It was a perfect way of framing what D&D actually is, between the "real" world of people playing games and the imaginary world they're creating in their minds as the game plays out.
This book has two narrators, one is the author who provides history of D&D as well as the saga of his own return to role playing. The other narrator reads fictional bits from the authors role playing adventures. The two complement each other very well. The history of D&D and TSR is interesting until it gets to the modern era.
The only reason this book didn't get 5 stars is it has no real ending. He visits some kind of LARP and then goes into what amounts to an add for D&D Next. Its interesting but not as much as the previous 80% of the book and never feels like it properly wraps up.
Still as an old role player from the day I highly, highly enjoyed this book and will probably listen to it again at some point when I feel nostalgic.
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.
Fantasy geek, literature lover!
As I am both a great D&D nerd and an escapist, the reason should be self-explanatory!
The last chapter. Our hero is now wiser and still plays on. In particular, the frank description of the disappointment he felt while playing with Gygax's son and his realization that style of play does matter and that all of them have the same right to be played.
Ewalt's reading is surprisingly nice after you get accustomed to his strong American accent (!). The narrative performer was more "typical" from what to expect from a fantasy audiobook performer. Still, the ensemble is not that bad. ;-)
David's visit to the old TSR strore, the shop-girls not knowing the history of the place and the old lady who vaguely remembers it.
If you love D&D, you should listen to it. If you hate D&D, you should listen to it. If you used to think that D&D was somewhat linked to the occult and satanism, you should definitely listen to it. Long live D&D! :-)
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