793: Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt

by Gerard


793.93: Ewalt, David M. Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. New York: Scribner, 2013. 253 pp. ISBN 978-1-4516-4050-2.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 700: Fine Arts
  • 790: Recreational and performing arts
  • 793: Indoor games and amusements
  • 793.9: Other indoor diversions
  • 793.93: Adventure games

In 1974, there was no other game  on the planet like Dungeons & Dragons. Conceived as an imaginative role-playing game by Tactical Studies Rules, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s D&D was rooted not in historical fact, but in the world of fantasy, the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, and Michael Moorcock. There was no board, just a character sheet and a lot of dice. Players were free to explore the world of the game with gentle guidance from the Dungeon Master, facing adventures, monsters, and their own imagination. David M. Ewalt’s Of Dice and Men tells of tale of TSR’s creation and how it changed both the world of gaming and the lives of those who played it.

Ewalt’s book ties together the parallel stories of the author’s adventures in gaming and the history of Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. He traces the origin of turn-based tactical games back to chess and the German game Kriegsspiel. As gamers got hungrier for a game that was markedly different from the traditional war stories, Dungeons & Dragons opened up a new world. Through each of its new editions, gamers have come and gone, but the game has essentially remained the same. Those who played in the early days never really lost their connection, and each year, new players are welcomed to go on new adventures.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Even though I’ve never played D&D, I could instantly connect with the joy that games can bring to their players. Ewalt is a self-confessed avid D&D player, having played since he was 10 years old. His enthusiasm for the game is both unbridled and infectious. He does a very good job of explaining the mechanics, lingo, and rules of the game. He takes the readers through the main campaign he’s on as well as a few side games he joins in his travels. He even joins a live-action weekend to help the reader get past the stigma associated with LARPing (he names his character Dewey, so his adventure gets a big thumbs-up from me!). All in all, this book was a lot of fun and may even convert a few holdouts to the game.