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Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It Hardcover – August 20, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gaming expert and Forbes senior editor Ewalt freely admits at the outset of this fascinating expedition into the world of Dungeons & Dragons that aficionados of the role-playing game don’t exactly enjoy a stellar reputation in the larger public eye. Geeks and math fanatics are often viewed as D&D’s main adherents, and the game’s subculture is still tainted by false stories from the 1980s linking it to suicide and Satanism. Yet, despite the current market rage of Xbox and multiplayer Internet games, D&D remains immensely popular, with fans numbering in the tens of millions. Drawing on his journalistic skill and lifelong passion for D&D, Ewalt walks readers through the game’s eclectic rules, sheds light on its surprising origins, and introduces some of its quirky celebrities. From the author’s own years of experience designing D&D scenarios, he also reveals some choice secrets behind becoming a Dungeon Master. 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. --Carl Hays

Review

“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.” (Vin Diesel)

“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.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“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.” (Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist)

“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.” (Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs and I Wear the Black Hat)

“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.)” (Ken Jennings, author of Maphead and Because I Said So!)

“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.” (John Carmack, co-founder of Id Software)

"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!" (Felicia Day, actress, producer, creator of The Guild and Geek & Sundry)

"The best book I've read since the Monster Manual." (David X. Cohen, executive producer of Futurama)

"A fascinating window into the storied history of fantasy pen and paper gaming. A must-read for anyone curious about the genre." (Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare)

“David Ewalt offers a genial history of Dungeons and Dragons and its impact on his own geek life…. A highly readable account of a game that seized the imagination of a generation and maintains its grip three decades later.” (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Booklist)

"The author’s devotion to the game does much to illuminate role-playing’s enduring power on mortal men and women." (Kirkus)

"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." (Seattle Times)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451640501
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451640502
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David M. Ewalt is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a contributing editor to Forbes Magazine, writes about games and technology for a variety of print and online outlets, and frequently appears as an expert guest on TV, radio and podcasts. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

Ended up a quick read, but I enjoyed it.
rbiddle
It chronicles the history of Dungeons and Dragons as well as the story of the author's return to the game as an adult.
Jason Enright
This will be a fun, fast and informative read for anyone who loves role-playing games.
Matthew Herper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By James Palmer on August 21, 2013
Format: Audio CD
This is a good book, but at points I wondered whether it wasn't really two potentially better books fused into one. It's well-written, funny, and when it comes to the difficult task of capturing exactly what goes on in a gaming session, and why it's awesome, it does it very well. But it has to tackle too much; it is, simultaneously, an introduction to tabletop gaming and the state of the industry nowadays *and* a history of TSR and the creation of D&D itself. Honestly, TSR's history, complete with the backstabbing, culture clashes, and the genial weirdness of the small-town Midwest that spawned early gaming culture, could really be a full-length business classic itself, and there's only intriguing hints of that here.

I'm not certain how much value experienced gamers will get out of this, other than a "Hey, I know those guys!" But it's definitely a perfect gift for befuddled significant others.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Wulfstan TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover
David M Evalt is like me- a gaming geek. Yes, we both play D&D (well, not so much anymore for me, but...). Here he has penned an exciting, readable, and fun history of Dungeons & Dragons along with quite a bit on how it FEELS to play it, as opposed to HOW to play it.

Now, yes, this has been done before- in the comprehensive giant volume called Playing at the World (which is so complete it even covers my little contribution to gaming history.). But, even tho that book is scholarly and encyclopedic it is mostly of interest to super fans and it is not a fast read by any means.

David's book is the opposite- not comprehensive but a fast and fun page turner. It cover the high-lights (and some of the low-lights, David is not afraid to dish some dirt) of the History of D&D and also throws in some interesting tidbits about how the game feels to play and how it feels to be a player, including the authors personal journey as a D&D geek.

This book is perfect for someone who's son/husband/granddaughter etc is into D&D and who wants to know more about what they are so into and why. It's also a good read for a gamer who just wants a fun and fast overview of how D&D came to be.

Readable, entertaining.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By William A Powell Jr. on August 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An 11 is a solid roll if you have some additional abilities to bump it, but by itself it isn't going to hit anything of consequence. It is a book that could have been much better had it stuck to one story or another. It alternates between the author reconnecting with the game, and also a brief history of D&D. I was hoping for much more substance in the history of the game sections, and less about the actual game play.

If you have never played the game and have a curiosity about what goes on at a gaming table, this book will be entertaining. If you have played for any length of time however, it comes off as that guy at the gaming convention that has to share tales of his last game he played to everyone at the table even though you had to be there to really enjoy it.

This was a light read, glad I bought the cheaper kindle version but I am really disappointed in the content.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Tom Braun on August 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a difficult book for me to review, because as a D&D nerd it's hard not to have a lot of Opinions on it. My inner geek found plenty of nits to pick with this book: annoyance with the casual dismissals of the versions of the game the author didn't personally play (2nd and 4th edition, primarily) and a wish that the author would have dived deeper into some of the historical bits (the whys and hows of the 'satanic panic' of the 80's are skimmed) are chief among them. The post-Gygax years of TSR and the release of 2nd Edition or any setting the author hasn't played (Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Eberron) are also conspicuous by their absence.

So let me review this as a writer. From that perspective I also found this book somewhat lacking. The author centers the book around his own personal journey with tabletop roleplaying games. Chapters alternate between the history and business of the game and the author's own stories. The latter are interspersed with dramatic prose-style descriptions of games the he has played in. At first this is fun, but it quickly wears out its welcome to the point where I found myself skipping the endless paragraphs of italicized purple prose. What works well for, say, the read-aloud text for a D&D campaign is tiresome in a non-fiction book.

And while I understand the David Ewalt is using his personal experiences to make the topic accessible, it has the result of making him the main character of this book. And he's one I tired of quickly.

There are also the cliched 'lessons to be learned' from every single experience, something that really annoys me in non-fiction books. In life not every event is pregnant with meaning.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Ewalt's book isn't really aimed at gamer's, though they are the people most likely to buy it. The intended reader is the friend or spouse of a D&D (or other role playing game)gamer a little about the world, to show we are not wearing cloaks and sitting in candle lit rooms performing strange rites. An admirable goal, but one where he falls short.

Ewalt's book is really two concurrent stories, one of which is the professional journalist exploring the history and culture of Dungeons and Dragons the other is a player of Dungeons and Dragons exploring his own conflicted feelings about that same culture. David Ewalt the journalist is engaging, entertaining and objective. If his history isn't comprehensive, it captures what is relevant and captivating about the rise and fall of the game's creators. The author's tone is warm and his enthusiasm for the subject is obvious. Sadly, David Ewalt the D&D player is more problematic. Throughout the story, he describes himself as embarrassed or ashamed to be playing the very game he is attempting to make less "geeky". He goes further to describe the game as "addictive" and characterize his interest in the game "obsessive". These are not new stereotypes to the game, and one's gamer have battled over the four decades since the release of the game. In a book trying to push back against those misconceptions, the author really shouldn't feature them as part of his own experience. Also, and this purely a personal quibble, you can't tell the reader that D&D players aren't as nerdy as society makes them out to be and then make a joke about how nerdy we are in the next breath.
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