Thursday, July 4, 2013

Natural 20

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

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. 

Summary: The Hobbit meets Moneyball in this definitive book on Dungeons & Dragons—from its origins and rise to cultural prominence to the continued effects on popular culture today. 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 is one of the original ultimate nerd subcultures, and is still revered by more than thirty million fans. Now, the authoritative history and magic of the game is revealed by an award-winning journalist and life-long dungeon master.

From its origins on the battlefields of ancient Europe, through the hysteria that linked it to satanic rituals and teen suicides, and to its apotheosis as father of the modern video game industry, Of Dice and Men recounts the development of a game played by some of the most fascinating people in the world. Chronicling the surprising history of D&D’s origins (one largely unknown even to hardcore players) while examining the game’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: An interesting tale of the history of Dungeons and Dragons with some role playing stories thrown in.

I was interested to read this book because I am a nerd along with my husband and our friends. I’ve been witness to a number of Dungeons and Dragons games along with other role playing games like Dark Heresy (a Warhammer 40k role playing game). I’ve tried D&D, but it wasn’t for me. I still love the idea of the game and I do enjoy reading the novels that take place in D&D settings like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms. Who doesn’t love wizards, magic, and dragons?

The book itself is on the short side and is as much of a story of the author’s experience with D&D as it is the story of D&D. The story of D&D had more turns than I expected. I really enjoyed learning a little about the history of games, especially war games. Beyond the author’s experiences with D&D, he includes stories of D&D campaigns. While those are interesting, they add very little to the book although the book would be even shorter without them. I also didn’t like how the author was so quick to bring up stereotypes and assuming something of every nerd. Also, obsession is unhealthy, regardless of what the obsession is.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in "nerd culture", Dungeons and Dragons, or tabletop role playing games.

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