Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt | Scribner, 2013I don’t write about it often here but I love Dungeons and Dragons. I’m a relative newcomer to the D&D having picked up the game just around when the third edition of the game was released in the 90s. I played with a group of friends in high school, continuing that game through college; until life got in the way. I played and DMed throughout college enjoying a handful of different campaigns (and finally branching out beyond D&D). When I started graduate school and worked part-time at a book store I met another group and once again began to play D&D. We still have a regular game on an (almost) weekly basis. That weekly game has morphed over the years as more and more people were brought into the fold. It is often a bit of an unmanageable mess. The eleven odd players and innumerable distractions brought on by both life and 21st century technology mean it is a far cry from the game of D&D I remember from the past. Of Dice and Men describes the history of the game from early beginnings, delves a bit into the nature of role playing in its various forms, and is every inch a love letter to the game of Dungeons and Dragons.
Of Dice and Men isn’t an exhaustive, comprehensive history. A bit more focused than Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks and not as scholarly as Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World, Of Dice and the Men is none-the-less an entertaining and engaging read. In addition to covering the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, Ewalt’s takes several pit-stops along the way delving into the wargaming simulations that served to inspire Dungeon’s and Dragons and LARPing (Live Action Roleplaying) that has been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. They are interesting diversions that illustrate and illuminate fascinating communities whose enthusiasm mirror that of Dungeon’s and Dragons fans across the world.
While I already know much about D&D Of Dice and Men covers much of the history of the game that I am unfamiliar with. I’m not typically a fan of non-fiction, often quickly losing interest, but Ewalt’s interstitials describing his own home D&D game provided an engaging bit of narrative to keep me going (while simultaneously making me feel a tad guilty about how lazy and lackluster my own gaming style has become). As I said, if you are look for an exhaustive history of D&D than this isn’t the book for you, but if you are looking for a popular history of the game and some of the communities it has spawned or spawned from then Of Dice and Men is the book for you.