Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and The People Who Play It by David M. Ewalt

As I begin this review, I take note that 40 years ago on this date, the great J.R.R. Tolkien passed away, leaving behind a legacy that has been the staple of fantasy entertainment since Middle Earth was introduced to the world. Inspired by such works as The Lord of the Rings and the tabletop wargames that have evolved over the years, D&D has persisted since it’s humble beginnings, carrying the legacy left behind by Professor Tolkien.

This book is a celebration of that legacy. Think of this as an insider’s explanation to the outside world to the question of “Why D&D?” It covers the history of the game, what differentiates it from other games, the allure of its social aspects to the various communities of fandom, and the truth of how this simple pastime has touched the world in spite of the negative reputations and stereotypes it and its players have garnered. It shows how the “D&DNA” has sired generations of descendants through books, movies, video games, and so on. Above all, it completely demystifies the culture and holds up a big sign that reads, “We’re not so different from you.” D&D is a living, breathing entity, and the people who run in campaigns are as diverse and dedicated as any you’d find in any other walk of life.

One of the endearing points of this book is that there are whole sections of text in italics that describe the in-game stories through the view of the author’s characters. I’m also a fan of the snarky game-oriented footnotes.

For people looking for a truly in-depth and nerdy history of D&D, you won’t find that here. This book is directed largely at the outside world, though it does contain enough “geek speak” and references to keep the insiders entertained. As a longtime player myself, I found myself nodding, grinning, and frequently laughing the entire way through. There are a great number of wonderful insights and anecdotes to be had, and it all boils down to a light-hearted expression of love of the game. It’s a quick read, and well worth it.

4 stars

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