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Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  3,998 ratings  ·  668 reviews
Here, there be dragons.

Ancient red dragons with 527 hit points, +44 to attack, and a 20d10 breath weapon, to be specific. In the world of fantasy role-playing, those numbers describe a winged serpent with immense strength and the ability to spit fire. There are few beasts more powerful - just like there are few games more important than Dungeons & Dragons.

Even if you’ve ne
Published August 28th 2013 by Brilliance Audio (first published August 20th 2013)
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Mike (the Paladin)
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
So...what can I say here? Reading this book I had to do what most gamers do all the time (disagree with the writer's take on the "best version of D&D [Dungeons and Dragons]). That said throughout the book I identified with the sentiments and thoughts presented. I found myself nostalgic about the games and groups I'd participated in, both as Game Master (Dungeon Master) and player.

I "discovered" D&D (from here on just think Dungeons and Dragons when you see D&D) around 1978. I bought the "Basic"
Dan Schwent
Of Dice and Men is the story of Dungeons and Dragons and David M. Ewalt's lifetime of being a player.

I got this book from Netgalley. Thank you, Netgalley.

David M. Ewalt and I have several things in common. Both of our first names start with the letter D. He writes for Forbes and I was in an infographic Forbes did about Goodreads. And both of us are tremendous nerds in that we've both been avid Dungeons and Dragons players.

Ewalt explores the history of Dungeons and Dragons, starting from its humb
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Before I even get into my feelings, first: Dude, kudos for writing this book and getting it published. It's long overdue, and I've wanted to read this book for a long, long time, even before I knew it existed, and I ripped through it in a single sitting. Now, having said that...

This never entirely comes together as a proper history of the hobby or as a demimonde-joiner narrative like Word Freak, though of the two I think he executes the history part better. He also really never seems to shake of
Hal Johnson
The fact that this book is selling better than Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World summarizes everything that’s wrong with publishing today.

Of Dice and Men isn’t so bad, but it’s breezy, light, and glib. It reads more like a magazine article than a book, including the smirking bits of “humor.” A sentence as annoying as “Paladins might make great CEOs, but you’re better off with a wizard in accounting, a couple of rogues on the sales team, and a bard handling marketing” comes one page after a com
B Schrodinger
Thanks to Netgalley and Scribner for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Cross-posted from my blog The Periodic Table of Elephants

David Ewalt is a D&D fan. And like a significant portion of D&D fans he played a lot as a youth, gave it up as a young adult and has recently come back to the game. Combine these facts with a career as an award-winning journalist and it's not surprising that the product is a warm look at the culture of D&D combined with an accurate and unbiased loo
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Challenge 10: A microhistory.

On the positive side: it was fun reading about the history of D&D.

On the negative side: everything else.

Just in terms of the writing, the whole manuscript could have used a thorough edit for brevity. It just went on and on. And on. (Like this review is about to do.) Also, for a journalist, this author had a lot of trouble with word choice. Some were just ... wrong. Not poorly selected, simply not the correct word for the thing he was describing.

Then there's the subje
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well this was a fun trip down memory lane! There was a time in my life when my biggest desire was for an awesome set of die which back in the early/mid 80's might run about $50, a fortune for me back then.

This was a fun read about the history of Dungeons and Dragons. The author interjects some scenes from one of his own D&D campaigns which I liked, but sometimes strayed a bit far from the subject and covers a lot of other role playing games which I didn't like. I was really able to identify with
Oct 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of Dice and Men sets out to be the definitive book on Dungeons & Dragons. Facing few if any serious competitors for the title, it succeeds somewhat. It also seeks to be a sympathetic ambassador, or bridge, to those who know little about the D&D world. With this, the book is probably more effective.

Its centerpiece is an offering of a quick paced history of the development of war gaming, role playing and it’s preeminent game, and the shockingly bizarre rise and fall of the company – TSR – that ori
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Came for the history of D&D, struggled through the author's stories of his own life/experiences with the game, but made it through anyway. The history stuff was really interesting! But also very stereotypically male-focused (with occasional & unfortunate asides of the "women! playing RPGs! Can you imagine!" and "maybe game conventions are full of middle-aged straight white dudes because they just like this sort of thing more??" variety). And, as to be expected, with those attitudes comes a simil ...more
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious and entertaining history of Dungeons and Dragons, and the people who play the game around the world. I loved the author's personal inclusion of his own characters and games, brought back memories for me. Full review to come.
Stewart Tame
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This makes a nice companion volume to Shannon Applecline’s Designers & Dragons books. It's basically a closer look at the D&D history from those books, mixed with details about the history of wargames--from whence modern RPGs sprang--and larded with personal memoir. I found it quite enjoyable, but then, I’ve lived through a fair amount of this history, discovering D&D in the early 80's.

Ewalt is a bit too defensive about being branded a nerd--some trauma from his school days, perhaps?--but he's p
Aug 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 lots 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 TS ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not exhaustively complete, this book is an excellent overview of the history and culture of fantasy role-playing games in American culture, focusing mostly on Dungeons and Dragons.
The writing style was very approachable, with brief narrative inserts of events within a particular game, to give the casual reader a better understanding of the game itself without lots of nuts-and-bolts rules explanations.
Some of the controversial aspects of the business problems of Gary Gygax and TSR were cov
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I have never played dungeons and dragons, I know absolutely nothing about the game its history or how it is even played. However I picked this book up off a display at Chapters and 20 minutes later I was 40 pages in and lost track of time and location. I knew it was worth my while to purchase and finish off the book. I must admit that I fall into the category of people who assumed D&D was played by socially inept teens who couldn't fit in with normal society. Obviously I have grown up much since ...more
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most of this book is pretty much what you would expect from the subtitle: a history of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and the people who created it, with an eye towards how pop culture entertainment borrowed many of its fundamental concepts from the game. David Ewalt actually layers on three stories, though, and the effect is pretty compelling even if you only have a passing interest in the topic.

The first layer is the history of the game itself, including its prehistory in the tableto
Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
From my website:

Of Dice and Men is essentially three-books-in-one. It is a history of the role playing game hobby, with a spotlight on early days of Dungeons & Dragons. It is an investigative report on the gamer community. And finally, it is the fascinating journey of one man’s return to the hobby. And while all three tasks are performed adequately and even entertainingly, none are particularly handled with a great degree of depth. Like the similar Fantasy Freak
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
Just not very informative. Unless maybe you know absolutely nothing about nerd culture...but, in that case, why read up on it now?
As for myself, I have played D&D only once. Even with such limited experience, the first couple chapters of the book told me nothing that I didn't already know. When I first picked up the book, I was under the impression that the author was one of the original creators of D&D or something, but it turns out his only connection to D&D is as a long-time player. Mr. Ewalt
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You do not have to have been a nerd, geek, played D &D, read Conan the Barbarian, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or other sword and sorcery books to appreciate Of Dice and Men. But it does help with the jokes.

David Ewalt takes the reader on an enjoyable, whirlwind tour of Dungeons and Dragons from the beginning in 1974 to the introduction of the newest rule set in 2012. Along the way, he introduces you to all the major personalities in the evolution of the role-playing system. This is a book of ho
Stephen Newton
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an interesting mix of the history of role playing games (and D&D in particular) and the author's very personal experiences with gaming, and how it has affected his life. It's a pretty fast read and interesting to anyone who likes to know about the "backstory" of how Gygax, Arneson and others introduced the game.
Victor Hugo
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such a nice book... Ewalt's journey rekindled my desire to return to play Dungeons & Dragons. ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Role-players, grognards, journalism students
Recommended to Michael by: Serendipity
In a review of a different work, I wrote this book off as a “breezy, journalistic account with a lot of irrelevant personal data about the author’s gaming.” That’s the one-sentence summary, and it more or less still stands. And yet…

I will admit that Ewalt drew me in, and that on a closer look, those “irrelevant” details seem to me to be the more successful part of the book. He’s certainly no historian, although at least he was lucky enough to have Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wa
Jul 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Author David Ewalt describes himself (right on the front cover) as a level-fifteen cleric, so you know from the outset that this book is going to be a regular geekgasm over D&D. It doesn't disappoint in this regard. The book covers the history of war games, the founding of tabletop roleplaying games, the crazy success of D&D in the '70s and early '80s, the odd moral panic about Satanism, and the current renaissance of tabletop gaming. The first few chapters start out slow, but things pick up aft ...more
Kressel Housman
I’m not a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons, but I did play in high school and college, which tells you something about the kinds of guys I dated. Apparently, the kind of girl who dates D&D players grows up to become the mother of D&D players because my two youngest sons are playing now, and middle kid is especially into it. (If you read my review of Reality Is Broken, written about two years ago, it won’t be surprising to see that things have shaped up this way.) I’ve played a little with my son, ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, games
I would probably give this 3.5 stars? I don't know. For one thing, I have no idea if this would appeal to someone who wasn't already deeply interested in the subject - I share the author's self-described preoccupation with the game (I cracked the cover on this book about D&D to give myself a distraction from... thinking too much about D&D) and I still found myself glazing over and skipping paragraphs during lengthy descriptions of historical miniatures wargaming. Though the fact that I blazed th ...more
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who plays D&D or role-playing games. This is a love letter to fans.
Shelves: memoir
It's wildly difficult to write a first-person account of a phenomenon. The reason: Authors-as-characters only work when they become surrogates for the reader. Too often writers inject themselves into the story, which breaks the narrative flow by separating the reader from the action of the book.

When Of Dice and Men is at its best, David M. Ewalt paints an interesting tale that follows the birth, demise, and rebirth of both Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop role-playing. While the territory of the
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Ewalt has written this history of Dungeons & Dragons for a mainstream audience - a point he explains with humor at the start of the book, to ward off any nitpicking by hardcore fans. He stresses the fun of cooperative (as opposed to competitive) gaming, the allure of tapping into the collective imagination and having an open-ended and unlimited experience, and shows how RPGs can be a great way to make friends.

Ewalt also debunks some of the myths that keep people away from the game (for man
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Geeks, and the people that love and want to understand them
Recommended to Eric by: Dan Schwent
This book is part introduction to gaming history, part chronicle of Gary Gygax and TSR, part fictional multiverse travelogue, part anthropological narrative of nerd culture, and part explanatory discourse for those unfortunate souls who have yet to experience the magic of paper and dice gaming.

The story begins with war gaming, then chronicles D&D from its very first days, touches on other TSR games (including early video games), and details the myriad versions and updates of D&D (from the Basic
Jan 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't played Dungeons & Dragons since middle school but reading this made me miss those days. David Ewalt does a fantastic job explaining what it means to play D&D and why fans (whether children, teenagers or adults) enjoy playing it. Admitting you play D&D still carries a strange stigma, marking you as an irredeemable nerd even when being a nerd is starting to be a cool thing. I liked that Ewalt makes it clear that fans play the game because they have a drive for adventure no different than ...more
This book was provided to me through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm just going to say up front that I really enjoyed this book. I'm not a D&D player, but I found this look in to the history of the game, the way it evolved, and its players fascinating. I think the choice to have a D&D player write this was an excellent one. He was in the perfect position to give a fairly objective take on things. He could criticize without sounding harsh, though the book was mostly positive.

I may
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This is a good introduction to D&D for those who are unfamiliar with it. As someone who knows a few of the protagonists mentioned in the book, and as someone who's played the game off and on since 1979, it didn't work quite as well (though that's not really the author's fault).

Ewalt clearly loves the topic and has done extensive research on the history of wargaming and how fantasy RPGs grew out of them. I had to smile at some of my own memories of the TSR days (I hung out at the Hotel Clair sit
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Casual Readers: Of Dice and (Wo)Men 2 18 Nov 14, 2013 04:40AM  

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“Every rule, every chart, every geeky statistic in a game book or module feeds into this impulse. All those details allow us to take apart existence, look at the individual parts, figure out how they work, and put them back together. Some people relieve stress by getting drunk or high and losing control; nerds find comfort by taking control and applying structure. Logic is like a warm blanket.” 4 likes
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