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Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  1,043 ratings  ·  204 reviews
Rise of the Dungeon Master tells, in graphic form, the story of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, one of the most influential games ever made. Like the game itself, the narrative casts the reader into the adventure from a first person point of view, taking on the roles of the different characters in the story.

Gygax was the son of immigrants who grew up in Lake
ebook, 144 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Nation Books
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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Shannon Appelcline
May 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, rpgs
Despite the name, this is not a biography of Gary Gygax. Instead, it's look at the history of the D&D game, that gives some strong attention to Dave Arneson as well.

The artwork is attractive and often clearly references D&D art. The writing is also evocative, in its second-person, "You are playing" style.

Unfortunately, the history leaves a lot to be desired. To start with, the author just doesn't seem to have a great handle on what he's writing about. For example, when he talks about other games
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting enough for me to read in a sitting. I learned some stuff.
Edit: I did like the info on how Gygax dropped out of school, liked exploring tunnels under the local empty sanatorium, and came to the conclusion that the universe must've been intelligently created near the end of his life. I didn't like the bits where founders would fight, take credit, all the usual shenanigans of once-friends now business-enemies. Boo. I thought the little interlude about the public perception of D&D and sh
Peter Derk
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a really good, brief primer on what D&D is and how it came about.

It's definitely more a biography of the game than the guy.

I think I'd be willing to take a deeper dive on this one, provided there's more interesting details to explore. I'm not totally sure that there is. Gygax seemed like a nice guy and interesting, but...I don't know that his life up to the point of creating D&D is super atypical or incident-filled.

What's interesting is there's another dude involved in the creation of
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was cute. I appreciated the story; the draw for people to learn what D&D is exactly; the details from the creators' lives. The story at times was a bit repetitive and written in an unusual first person style that I was not super fond of, but overall it's a short read worth reading. ...more
Ανδρέας Μιχαηλίδης
This one is a solid 3.5, but I gave away that half-star because of sentimental reasons (I have been an RPG gamer for more than 20 years and this deals with the history of one of my favorite hobbies); also, the production is simply amazing, with matte paper which makes the greys pop out and is a treat to feel with one's fingers.

HOWEVER... there are narrative faults, most of which are conscious choices and not mistakes: the constant shift in POV, putting you in Gygax's or Arneson's shoes, then bac
Eric Piotrowski
This is an excellent look at the life of Gary Gygax and the classic game system he created with Dave Arneson. The art is clean and engaging, and the storytelling is lively without being rushed. We get plenty of depth but no wallowing in nostalgia for the sake of wallowing.

The one drawback (which costs a star in this review) is the use of second-person. It's interesting and effective in places, to match the experience of having a story related during a session of Dungeons & Dragons. But it comes
Connor Lucas
As my love for Dungeons and Dragons grows, it's only appropriate that I read a little more about where it all came from. This book was a nice foray into what was murky territory for me.

My favourite things about this book had to do with its layout - the actual design of the thing. I haven't read anything else like it, and so for that reason alone I found it enjoyable. However, I didn't feel as though I learned very much about Gary himself. I would have liked to have heard more details about the D
Anna Goldberg
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
There will be a review forthcoming on my YouTube channel. Really enjoyed this one.
Fine for what it is, but it feels like there is a lot of story being left out.
An enjoyable read.
Hmmm. A truncated version of the D&D creation story, told (successfully) in the second person. It's short, so it glosses over many of the controversies and problems Gygax, Arneson and TSR had over the years. Other reviewers claim historical inaccuracies; some of the timeline doesn't work exactly right, 'tis true. A nicely illustrated introduction to the life of Gygax and D&D, but don't expect much depth or detail. ...more
Daniel Christensen
20! Critical hit.
A tidy little graphic novel on the rise and rise of Dungeons and Dragons. Told much like a D & D adventure, this focuses heavily on E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arnson, and the games that D&D developed out of.
Rod Brown
I was surprised at how engaging I found this biography, especially since I have never played Dungeons & Dragons in my life. But I can see the game's influence in other games I have enjoyed, especially the old Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord game I played on my first Macintosh back in college and Minecraft today.

The book is laid out like the storyboards of a well-done documentary with talking heads giving insight into the dramatic re-enactments. I was initially put off on the use du
An interesting look at the history and creation of D&D. I liked the graphic novel format and the way the story was told. At times, the art was a little off-putting overall told the story well. At times, the story got a little bogged down with details of political bs and whatnot, but overall, it was interesting to see the ups and downs and everything that happened to arrive where we are today. I love playing Pathfinder and seeing how it all developed and the overarching effects the game had were ...more
Zach Fricke
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews
COUCH FACTOR (1-5): 🛋️🛋️🛋️🛋️🛋️

Remember Dungeons and Dragons, the game for geeky kids that holed up in their basement for hours on end role-playing their way through an epic quest run by a guy called the Dungeon Master.

I do, in fact, I was one of those kids. Reluctant at first, then really into it, then reluctant again, then a closet fantasy fan. Why so many reversals? Well, because D&D was dorky and the girls that went to D&D games were not the girls that interested me as a boy. So, I grew big
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This accessible graphic novel format presents an overview of the creation of D&D and the people involved in the creation. The text doesn't romanticize the business elements or personal conflicts of game design but tactfully tells the story of the changes to the development and evolution of the game over time. The controversy about the game is also documented. The inclusion of players and fans in various was also interesting. For added flavor, the story is styled to feel like a Dungeon Master is ...more
I read this in one sitting while at the dentist. :) When I bought it I had no idea it was a graphic novel, and even though I read a lot of graphic novels, I was disappointed because this is the kind of information I would like to learn about in book form. When it started it seemed like it was going to a really bad fictional story that included Gary Gygax as the main character. Instead it turned into the true story of Gary Gygax (and others).

The perspective change was often confusing. They tried
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short and sweet story on the origins of the game that has been one of the biggest influences in my life so far. I always thought of Gygax as the ultimate nerd who was born with magical powers and everything that determined his success came naturally, but digging a bit more into his life revealed another truth: he was just a regular guy with a passion for games. It took him a number of odd jobs and flunking college to set his mind onto becoming a game designer. It might not seem much, but for m ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the few books in 2nd person that I feel can actually pull it off. It made me feel like I was jumping into one of the D&D campaign guides in preparation for the next session I would run with my group. I enjoyed reading about the creation of not just D&D but also GenCon, since I'll be going to GenCon in a couple months. I suppose the only sad part I had with this book is when it spoke of the success of D&D now it mentioned shows like Stranger Things or the rise of fantasy shows like ...more
Tony Calder
This graphic is a basic (but fairly accurate) history of D&D, from its genesis, through the controversial days, and up to its current status as a pop culture behemoth. Obviously, in a 136-page graphic novel, the author can't cover much more than the highlights, but he seems to have done his research, and presents the story in a generally unbiased fashion. There were a couple of inaccuracies, such as listing the rogue as an original character class (the thief wasn't introduced until the first sup ...more
Nathan Hipple
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm not really sure who this one's for. It's a very basic primer of what DnD is and how it came to be. It's a little too basic for most fans, but insular enough that I'm not sure it's going to grab readers outside of people already familiar with the game. While the 2nd person storytelling was cute, the overall plot reads exactly like a graphic novel adaptation of an article (which it is). The art does the job, but has a very "indie comics" feel to it and rarely feels particularly dynamic (which, ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of speculation going on in this! It seemed more fantasy than actual fact! I’ve been around playing D&D since the 70’s so some of the internal issues and timeframes seemed out of whack. I didn’t know Gary, nor did I have the pleasure of meeting him. I did meet Dave Arneson though and chatted with him. I’m glad this book included him. Some fun imagining going on in this, especially at the end and maybe that’s the best way to remember by the fantasy of it all. Isn’t that what D&D is all about?
Brooke Bianchi-Pennington
This was brief and interesting, and I enjoyed how the style and use of POV was meant to reflect the game. However, I think in being brief there wasn't a lot of character development, and this honestly made everyone come off as stereotypically 70s sexist. I understand that that was probably the reality, but I wish that it had been addressed or problematized a bit. ...more
Tyler Kroon
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive biography of Gary Gygax (a co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons), and the history of D&D itself, in the form of a graphic novel. I especially liked that they showed how the game influenced other instances of pop culture, including tv shows, video games, and computer programming, to name a few.
Sophie Ligaya dela Cruz
I love Dungeons & Dragons (my brothers and I have a campaign that absolutely slaps), so it was cool to see its origin story!! this graphic novel was more of an overview than an in-depth look into D&D and its history, which is what I would have preferred. still, it’s a good read to go through in one sitting
I thought the narrative choice in this was very clever.
Overall I liked this one quite a bit. Some of the information I knew, but other little details I didn't. Definitely worth picking up if you're a long time D&D fan or just getting started.
Tony Thomas
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this graphic novel was so good. what a great read! i loved it!!
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Entertaining and informative. Easy way to learn about the origins of DND
May 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Often cute, maybe overly so, it's a fair and interesting read that has some strange issues with some of the details, but these problems are relatively small. ...more
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Never played it, and have actually refused to do so because I'm afraid I'd like it too much and get sucked into some nerd wormhole that I'd be too ashamed to talk about publicly . . .

This book presents D&D in a nutshell, and that's about all I need. Don't tempt me into becoming more invested than that!

Recommended for those who play D&D and those who are trying not to play D&D.
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David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a contributing editor of Wired, Rolling Stone, and Spectrum and is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

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