The Ninjabot

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

Posted on August 31, 2013 at 9:00 am by Jeff Mueller

Of Dice and MenI started (and finished) David M. Ewalt’s Of Dice and Men last night not knowing exactly what I was going to be reading. Okay; I knew it was going to be related to Dungeons & Dragons but other than that, and a few snippets from other reviews, I was going in blind.

What I got was a charming tome that is equal parts self-discovery, examination of the sociology of gamer culture, explanation of the game itself, business study and nostalgia piece aimed at anyone who has ever cracked open a game made or been inspired by the works of Gary Gygax (he’s one of the founders of this revolutionary game #TSRprotip).

The book is not a definitive history of D&D sporting loads of “never before heard” insider information nor does it contain an in-depth examination of the game itself. It straddles the middle ground rather adeptly though, and provides anyone who has ever thought “What is Dungeons & Dragons?” or “Why is Dungeons & Dragons so popular?” a clear, positive and easy to follow picture of the game (and culture) so many people love so very much.

D&D means different things to different people: Some folks want action, others want drama.” – David Ewalt

Of Dice and Men chronicles author, and Forbes editor, David Ewalt’s rekindling of his love for a game that shaped his (and millions of other people’s) childhood after a 10 year hiatus from the game. The book explores not only the game of Dungeons & Dragons itself, but also the people who shaped the game from it’s very humble beginnings, the role-playing game culture at large and a lot of the behind the scenes business dealings that turned this very niche hobby into a world-wide phenomenon. All of this is interspersed with very introspective looks at himself and his group of gaming friends; done so in a way that keeps the reader’s attention quite well.

Fascinated how this bootstrap start-up out of Gary Gygax’s basement turned into a multi-million dollar empire but don’t care about the difference between a Griffon and a Pegasus is? Just wait a few pages. Basking in gamer nostalgia as you relate to David and his group of friends but don’t care abut all of TSR’s copyright infringement issues? Just read on a few more paragraphs.

The best part about this book isn’t the individual insights that the author lays forth on the page, rather it is the mufti-faceted examination of the game from so many different angles that makes it a very fun read.

The prime mover in a nerd brain is the need to understand how things are put together. My mood-regulating neurotransmitters do the tango when I find a way to impose order on chaos. Biochemically, it’s no different than the pleasure a jock gets sinking a free throw.” – David Ewalt

Now I might be looking at the book through nostalgia lensed glasses, I admit it. I lived through the rise of Dungeons & Dragons, I played the game in my youth and was subjected to the silliness of the cries of Satanism in the 80s (I think I would have turned on this book had it not included a reference to Tom Hank’s ‘masterful’ performance in the made-for-TV movie “Mazes and Monsters”) and I watched the empire almost tumble. So while the author weaved the tale of his fascination with this gaming phenomenon I was supplanting myself into the story, it was if David Ewalt was the Dungeon-Master and I was experiencing the story he laid forth as a participant of sorts.

I always knew Dungeons & Dragons, once you got past the stereo-types and the over-zealous fans who gave it a bad rap, was a wonderful game but I had never really looked at it in a way that made it clear as to why. This book put it all together for me in a way that both gamers and non-gamers alike can understand.

Tabletop gaming has seen quite a large resurgence of late and Of Dice and Men is a great piece of literature that coincides well with the public’s new-found interest in non-digital gaming. Hopefully readers come out of this with an appreciation for the game and some honest interest in checking it out.

D&D helped create video games; video games almost destroyed D&D; and now video games were leading people back to Dungeons & Dragons.” – David Ewalt

I want to wrap this up this with two statements:

  • I rarely do reviews, product or otherwise, so when I do it is always something I really believe in. I really enjoyed this book.
  • There are definitely Amazon affiliate links to this awesome book in the article. If you are considering picking it up on our recommendation, it would be great if you helped support the site. If not, that’s okay and keep enjoying all the free geeky insight we bring your way!

Signed by the Jerd




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