David Ewalt was a gamer when he was young, but as he got older he stopped gaming. He thought it was what an adult was supposed to do. He took up up journalism and left the gaming behind. Role-playing games made their way back into his life.
Ewalt intersperses his relationship with gaming with the history of Dungeons and Dragons. From its historic antecedents to the pre-release of D&D, 5th Edition.
Even though D&D isn’t my system, Ewalt’s telling of its history immersed me. As the book went on, I wanted to jump into these games, to play in these worlds, to make them my own.
It probably helped that I read this in audio. Ewalt read the majority of the book—the action scenes were read by a more dramatic actor. The author’s narration and the actor’s dramatic readings worked for me. Maybe more than if I read the book visually.
With its focus on D&D, the book was a rough start for me. My first RPG was Top Secret S.I, followed by GURPS. I only came to D&D years later when a friend of mine ran a house-ruled variant of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D). This friend happened to be a railroading sort of DM and not the best person outside of gaming. You can see why D&D has bad connotations for me.
But this book came at the same time as my return to gaming and my exposure to OSR. Even if I have quibbles with Ewalt—the hard statements he makes about who gamers are contradicts my own experience and the dramatic actor gets a little hammy at times—his passion for the game and its history is contagious.
While reading this book I was also looking heavily into OSR. That reading fueled this reading and vice versa. I still haven’t found anyone to play Old-School D&D or its descendants with, but I have returned to other RPGs with friends and family.
And, when I finished with the book, I immediately recommended it to my mom.
If you’re interested in RPGs, niche history, sociological case-studies of subcultures, or engaging reads, give this book a try.