Sep 19, 2013

Dungeons and Dragons - Hitting the Books

I recently had the pleasure of starting a new book (all the while with plenty of other half-finished books scattered around me). The book in question was "Of Dice and Men", by David M. Ewalt. I was eager to read this once I learned it was a non-fiction book about the history of role playing games, specifically focusing on D&D, but also touching on others.

As a notoriously slow reader, and with plenty of time during my daily commutes to and from work, I picked this book up from Audible.com which not only offered the book in Unabridged format, but also indicated that the book was read, in part, by the author himself.

I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book, but I'm really enjoying. The book starts off a bit clunky, with the first part focusing on the author's gaming group and the characters each plays. There's also a heavy bit of rules detail, that as a long time D&D player, I didn't need to sit through. If this was a printed or e-book, I would have probably skimmed through those parts.

Likewise, there is a great deal of what I can only think of as "flavor text", literary translations of gaming sessions. This is where the second voice actor comes in. He reads those passages with all the exaggerated histrionic performance of the disembodied DM from the old Dragonstrike video. This too, I could do a bit less with. While I understand how the rules info is needed for the uninitiated, I think these "dramatic' cut scenes do the game and the hobby a disservice. These scenes are presented with such over the top drama as to be cringe worthy.

But this is not to say that this is a bad book. Once you get over the basics, and get around those cut scenes, the book takes on the history of the game, as well as the author's own history of D&D and various other games. Here the book is a great learning lesson, I had no idea of the details of how Arneson and Gygax developed the game, the details behind their own individual Greyhawk and Blackmoor campaigns. Also, hearing about the author's own past characters, or creating his own character sheets brought back delight at my own similar experiences.

I can't help listen to this book as a gamer, as a long time player of D&D, and as a geek. Outsiders listening or reading it may certainly have a different experience depending on how little or how much they can relate to, but for me, this is part history, and part memory lane. I look forward the the rest of the book, and you may well too. I heartily recommend it for anyone who's playing the game now, or played the game in the past and still has fond memories of it.