2019 - On My Shelf Of Dice And Men

Recently on a trip to Half Price Books, I found an older tabletop RPG-related book, Of Dice And Men by David M. Ewalt.

In Of Dice and Men, David Ewalt describes the development of Dungeons & Dragons from the game’s origins 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 lasting impact, Ewalt weaves laser-sharp subculture analysis with his own present-day gaming experiences, “writing about the world of fantasy role-playing junkies with intelligence, dexterity, and even wisdom” (Ken Jennings). 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.

Reading this is 2019 was rather jarring. If I had read this book back when it was released in 2013, the tone and information would have fit better the gaming culture and the view of D&D to the general public. Instead, reading this today felt very out of context. Don’t get me wrong, the history of D&D is very accurate, as well as the depiction of the cultural struggles the hobby had during the 70s and 80s with the Satanic Panic. But the tone of the book, its attempt to main stream rpg understanding for the uninitiated, and its depiction of how roleplayers are viewed was out of place in today’s culture.

D&D 5e was released the year after this book was published, and it changed the gaming world and opened the general public up to roleplaying, D&D specifically, as an acceptable hobby. Today popular TV shows, movies, podcasts, video streams, and Twitch channels are devoted to D&D and other rpgs. Famous personalities open discuss their love of the roleplaying hobby and encourage others to play. This book depicts D&D as the hidden hobby that few discuss publicly, and tries to explain it in a common language. Thus, this book did not age well, as soon after its publication, a renaissance of roleplaying occurred. Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon all now stock D&D 5e books and accessories. Game convention attendance is at an all-time high. Public opinion has changed dramatically about rpgs.

So, if you are ok with a rather self referential book and interested in reading a story that depicts roleplaying as it was pre-2014 (pre-D&D 5e), then Of Dice And Men might interest you. If you already enjoy gaming and are more interested in the history of the hobby, there are other books I would recommend more highly for rpg history.

On My Shelf: Of Dice And Men

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4 thoughts on “On My Shelf: Of Dice And Men

  1. Haven’t read the book but ” father of the modern video-game industry.” Really?!? While the -paragraph on a computer screen- may be part of the start, I think a LOT of other industries added to D&D’s start and development. Say arcade game morphing to video based play and becoming more acceptable for one of the more major influences…

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