Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt


Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It
by David M. Ewalt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an ebook copy from Netgalley.

Description

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.

Review

What first drew me to this book was the title. Then I read the description of the book and I knew it was a book that I should read.  I consider myself a mini-geek.  I enjoy playing D&D but I'm by no means a hardcore player. I get lost easily with the rules and I know I don't play well crafted characters.  I love the storytelling aspect of the game, but I'm a horrible Dungeon Master. All this being said, I know very little about the history of the game. Of Dice and Men, is the kind of history book I like to read.  It approaches an interesting topic in an entertaining way.  David Ewalt's background in journalism helps gives this book an easy nature that made it enjoyable to read.  

David includes stories about his own game play and experiences in playing role playing games.  As someone who plays the game, I found the stories enjoyable and on some level relatable. For someone who hasn't played the game, I think the stories add to the description of the game development and play.  As discussed in the book, the game hasn't always been shown in the best light.  Many people don't understand and make stereotypical judgments about the game and the players.  Let's be honest, the players are heavily male and even though I am a female player I know I'm a minority in the make up of those who play. I think David's personal stories also show that players come from all different backgrounds and live all sorts of different lives.  David writes for Forbes, I'm a librarian, my friends work in retail, computer programming and a range of different professions. 

The history of the creation of the game was enlightening. I knew Gary Gygax is listed as the creator, the game came out in the 1970s, and it has gone through a few editions.  The history is so much more than that with a number of lawsuits, internal management issues, bad publicity and a number of other situations.  As TSR (the company that produced the game) grew so did their problems and eventually they sold the game to Wizards of the Coast.  As someone who only started playing since WotC ownership I was interested in knowing how the game progressed from it's humble start to the powerhouse game it is today.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in Dungeons & Dragons whether they are a player, a non-player, and especially those who have someone who plays and they want to know more about where their loved one disappears to on game night. 

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