Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It.
At this point let me stop and offer a bit of friendly advice. If you are someone who is still caught up in the hysteria of the 80's that painted Dungeons & Dragons as a satanic plot that led to kids murdering their families and killing themselves, please stop reading and go elsewhere. If you are fixin' to wag your finger at me for such a worldly waste of time, same thing. Take your SEC football jersey and foam finger and hit the road.
Still here? OK, on with the review!
Of Dice and Men, ODM from here out, is not a deep read. It isn't going to give earth-shattering insight to people who have played D&D for any length of time. It is a pretty lightweight introduction for those unfamiliar with Role Playing Games. It still was so much fun to read. I also learned quite a lot about the history of this game. I was born in 1971 and started with D&D when I was in middle school if I recall correctly but I was into fantasy and sci-fi long before that. I was an early reader and read books like the Lord of the Rings when other kids were struggling with Dick and Jane books. As with most of my family I was always with my nose in a book: in the car, at the dinner table, before bed, on vacation. I would go to northern Michigan on the shores of a beautiful lake and sit inside and read. Those books were almost always a fantasy or sci-fi novel. When I started getting into D&D it opened a new world for me. No longer was I restricted to the world created for me by the author, as amazing as the world of Tolkien and others might be. I could create my own world and boy did I ever. I actually rarely played the game with others, for me the joy came in creation even if no one else ever saw it. As I grew older, D&D got to be a social liability and it was boxed away but those books were always there. Even as someone who is by most accounts an ultra-conservative fundamentalist, I love the world and adventure creating that goes on in role playing games, whether D&D or a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) like Eve Online (I am too awesome to play World of Warcraft) where I play as a character with a name derived from my favorite childhood elven character in D&D.
This is a similar story to David Ewalt, the author of ODM who is also a journalist writing for Forbes. He was a D&D guy back in the heyday like me, although a little younger, who moved away from the game but also kept a lot of his old stuff. ODM is his story of rediscovery as much as it is a history of D&D but I still learned a lot. As a middle-schooler I didn't see the turmoil that rocked the founders of D&D and TSR, Inc. I just loved new stuff coming out. ODM helped fill in the blanks for me. It also served to give me a crash course on what has happened since I stepped away from the game although a lot of the details of the ill-fated editions is left out. I mostly enjoyed his own personal journey back into the game. Like David I have a spouse who is pretty much supportive of my weird habit and that has made a ton of difference in my life (in a lot of ways not related to gaming as well).
ODM provides a look at what happens when a game played in the basement becomes a world-wide phenomena and the subsequent squabbles over money and control that would ultimately lead to founder Gary Gygax losing control of his own creation. The game has gone through a lot of struggles but with the latest iteration described in ODM it might be posed for a comeback.
I don't know if many (any) people who frequent my blog would find this book interesting. I kind of suspect more might than you would think. If you share some secret, closeted geek street cred give this book a shot. There is some colorful language but the story is a fun one and well told. Who knows, you might want to try your hand at being a half-orc or gnome with some local nerds!