Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It

( 19 )

Overview

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:...

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Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Forbes editor David Ewalt offers a genial history of Dungeon & Dragons and its impact on his own geek life. In the early1970s, two Midwesterners—a college student and a cobbler—drew elements from war games and fantasy novels to create the world’s most influential role-playing game. Within a few years of its genesis, D&D had become a flashpoint in the culture wars, as practitioners were accused of leading young men to murder, suicide and the church of Satan. D&D’s star soon faded due to corporate mismanagement and the rise of video game consoles, but recent years have seen a renaissance, which Ewalt charts, along with his own guilt-ridden return to the game. He follows a number of storylines, tracing the official history of D&D, his own introduction to the game, and his adult experiences as a player and reporter. Weaving the strands together are charming tales of his cleric character in a postapocalyptic America ruled by vampires. Oddly enough, the weakest sections of the book involve Ewalt’s descriptions of his life outside the imaginary dungeons. Nevertheless, this is a highly readable account of a game that seized the imagination of a generation and maintains its grip three decades later. (Aug.)
From The Critics
“Dave Ewalt’s wit, insight and infectious love of D&D make him the perfect guide to the most significant game of the twentieth century. The book is a joy to read.”

“It's almost impossible to explain how Dungeons & Dragons works, and harder still to explain how it feels. This book comes as close as any I've ever read.”

“David Ewalt writes about the world of fantasy role-playing junkies with intelligence, dexterity, and even wisdom. (I am unable to speak to his strength, constitution, or charisma.)”

“Long before I made my mark in software, I was a pretty good Dungeon Master, and D&D has played a significant part in my life. In addition to covering much of the deep history of the game that I never knew, Of Dice and Men brought back tons of fond memories, and damned if it didn’t make me pull some dusty old rulebooks off the shelf at home.”

Booklist
“Even audiences normally indifferent to D&D’s charms will find Ewalt’s overview witty and absorbing, and the game’s devotees will discover much here to revel in and quibble with.”
Chuck Klosterman
“It's almost impossible to explain how Dungeons & Dragons works, and harder still to explain how it feels. This book comes as close as any I've ever read.”
Felicia Day
"A fascinating history of D&D written by an author who authentically loves the game. Whether you know what d20 means or not you will love this book!"
Tim Harford
“David Ewalt’s wit, insight and infectious love of D&D make him the perfect guide to the most significant game of the twentieth century. The book is a joy to read.”
Ken Jennings
“David Ewalt writes about the world of fantasy role-playing junkies with intelligence, dexterity, and even wisdom. (I am unable to speak to his strength, constitution, or charisma.)”
John Carmack
“Long before I made my mark in software, I was a pretty good Dungeon Master, and D&D has played a significant part in my life. In addition to covering much of the deep history of the game that I never knew, Of Dice and Men brought back tons of fond memories, and damned if it didn’t make me pull some dusty old rulebooks off the shelf at home.”
David X. Cohen
"The best book I've read since the Monster Manual."
Dr. Ray Muzyka
"A fascinating window into the storied history of fantasy pen and paper gaming. A must-read for anyone curious about the genre."
The Wall Street Journal
“An engaging book that fuses history and memoir. [Ewalt] tracks D&D's turbulent rise, fall and survival, from its heyday in the 1980s… to the 21st century.”
Seattle Times
"The core of Ewalt’s story is his experience of role-playing games. He explains it about as well as anyone could, short of experiencing it yourself."
Vin Diesel
“Dungeons & Dragons has been a huge part of my life. The book sheds light on the world of [D&D co-creator] Gary Gygax, and it also lets the reader into the mind of somebody questioning how cool this game is.”
Tim Harford
“Dave Ewalt’s wit, insight and infectious love of D&D make him the perfect guide to the most significant game of the twentieth century. The book is a joy to read.”
Chuck Klosterman
“It's almost impossible to explain how Dungeons & Dragons works, and harder still to explain how it feels. This book comes as close as any I've ever read.”
Ken Jennings
“David Ewalt writes about the world of fantasy role-playing junkies with intelligence, dexterity, and even wisdom. (I am unable to speak to his strength, constitution, or charisma.)”
John Carmack
“Long before I made my mark in software, I was a pretty good Dungeon Master, and D&D has played a significant part in my life. In addition to covering much of the deep history of the game that I never knew, Of Dice and Men brought back tons of fond memories, and damned if it didn’t make me pull some dusty old rulebooks off the shelf at home.”
Kirkus Reviews
A child of the polyhedral dice returns to the fantasy game of his youth in a reverential history of the innovative pastime that has launched billions of role-playing adventures. Before Dungeons & Dragons, those with a fetish for alternate time periods and a visceral need to escape the banality of everyday life would wage tabletop war against each other in meticulously rendered re-enactments of history's greatest battles. Soon, however, even these highly orchestrated military clashes began to grow a bit tiresome--until someone threw wizards and other magical entities into the mix. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson are the pioneering duo credited with merging old war simulations with a revolutionary gaming system that removed "winning" as the objective and encouraged imaginative players to keep their adventures going in perpetuity--or, at least, until their characters ran out of all-important hit points. Then again, in D&D, resurrection is never really out of the question, either. Forbes senior editor Ewalt adroitly parallels his return to D&D after years away in the "grown-up world" of journalism with the story of how Gygax and Arneson originally came together in the early 1970s to form Tactical Studies Rules, Inc.; the author also covers the ensuing split between the creators. The former thread, however, is by far the more engaging, as the rise and fall and resurgence of the D&D empire has been well-documented elsewhere. Hard-core D&D followers will find few revelations in Ewalt's personal dungeon crawl through TSR history. However, for those who don't know a Ranger from a Rogue or a Hobgoblin from a Halfling, the author's devotion to the game does much to illuminate role-playing's enduring power on mortal men and women. A serviceable history of Dungeons & Dragons coupled with an insightful look at the game's allure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451640502
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 8/20/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 194,395
  • Product dimensions: 6.25 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David M. Ewalt began playing Dungeons & Dragons when he was ten years old. Now an award-winning journalist, he writes about games for outlets like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, talks about games on television and radio, and plays games in and around his Brooklyn, New York, home. Join him or find out more at DavidMEwalt.com.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 20, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    David Ewalt has written this history of Dungeons & Dragons f

    David Ewalt has written this history of Dungeons & Dragons for a mainstream audience - a point he explains with humor at the start of the book, to ward off any nitpicking by hardcore fans. He stresses the fun of cooperative (as opposed to competitive) gaming, the allure of tapping into the collective imagination and having an open-ended and unlimited experience, and shows how RPGs can be a great way to make friends.

    Ewalt also debunks some of the myths that keep people away from the game (for many years, myself included). He gives examples showing how D&D is not playacting, how gameplay is fairly normal with players taking turns, and how you aren't "constrained to a standard medieval setting."

    Of Dice and Men is more than a history of D&D. It explores why people play games in the first place, their purpose, and what RPGs have in common with board or playground games. The book talks about how D&D influenced the evolution of future games, including video games. In many sections, the book reads like a memoir as Ewalt reminisces about his own gaming adventures.

    I did feel bogged down by the historical miniatures war games and felt those sections could have been abbreviated a bit, but I realize it was important in order to show how RPGs have evolved, and how D&D came about.

    Throughout the book Ewalt intersperses storylines of past games, as well as a sketch for a future game. Here he completely embraces his nerd side and displays it without embarrassment. I loved that.

    I'm a fairly new RPGer. I was glad to see a shout-out to Traveller (the "most complete and most epic" sci-fi RPG), since MegaTraveller has been my introduction to the RPG world. I finished Of Dice and Men with a better understanding of role-playing games overall, as well as a deeper appreciation and respect for the work of our GM (game master).

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2013

    I work at a bookstore in Los Angeles, a smaller bookstore than t

    I work at a bookstore in Los Angeles, a smaller bookstore than the usual one for this large chain of stores. Consequently we don't have a RPG section and I lament this fact every week (I'm not completely crazy...) We received Of Dice & Men into our store and found ourselves with no placement, no 'home' for this book and thus had to create a section in the store for it to go.
    I think that if David Ewalt knew his book caused the birth of an RPG section in a bookstore he would be very pleased.
    At first I was dubious about this book. I've seen & read many histories of Dungeons & Dragons, roleplaying and the culture that surrounds it. Most are not that good. So it was with extreme skepticism I picked up this title and started reading. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside. The book is well written and interesting and does not bog you down with minutia of jargon or endless lists of definitions that veteran gamers find tedious and newbies find perplexing. Mr. Ewalt’s writing reads like a proper D&D game should (in the opinion of this humble level 10 dwarven fighter): Interesting, fast paced and with some small digretions before getting right back to the main bulk of the story. It is clear that Mr. Ewalt has a deep love & understanding of roleplaying games. It’s also clear he’s a big nerd, but this is something the author points out himself on several occasions. 
    What I found most compelling about the book was Mr. Ewalt’s own personal experiences as a gamer and writer. He describes several gaming sessions with his main group in both the language of real world ‘mechanics’, the rules that propel the game forward, but also in little snippets of story that make his character and his friends come to life. I don’t know Mr. Ewalt or his friends but at the same time I think I do because I see them every week across the gaming table during my own exploits in far away lands. 
    And ultimately thats what’s so refreshing about this book. It shows the core precept behind D&D, and at its heart all roleplaying games. That there is more that unites us than sets us apart and if we work together towards a common goal we can overcome any obstacle and slay dragons. Or at least agree on going halfies on the snacks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2013

    Richie

    ...

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I just finished Of Dice and Men and it was a fantastic book!  I

    I just finished Of Dice and Men and it was a fantastic book!  I knew a lot about the history of my favorite pastime, but this book dug deeper and taught me even more.  Ewalt spins a good tale, making what could have been dry facts fun and engaging - and making me eager to read the next chapter.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2014

    Good but

    I really enjoyed most of the book. I unfortunately felt it should have ended about twenty pages sooner.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Firai

    Total Drama Nook. It's at cross over res 1-11, and you can be whatever you want to be.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Blaze

    What rp Fariri (sorry if i didnt spell it right

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Guaru

    Eat fire freak!!!! *she takes 3 flaming arrows and shoots them at the dm all at the same time* *one he dodges one he blocks, but one gets shot into his stomach*

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Rosalyn OOC

    ((Nord is a human race, just like Asian or African Amercan, if a Nord were a real race.))

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Elenia

    Me i am

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2013

    Pierce

    No I'm Good guy. These guys was robbing the bartender

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Bryce

    Kk.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2013

    The dm

    Both land center mass on each man. They fall and the bar goes quiet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    A gaoo A good read especially for old time fans and players,dnd changed a lot of lives including my own,this book brought ba ck fond memories and new insights

    A fine summer read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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