Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master by D. Kushner et al.

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D written by David Kushner and illustrated by Koren Shadmi

Dungeons and Dragons is, alongside with The Lord of the Rings, one of the seminal works in the fantasy genre, giving the genre both popularity and eventually respectability in the later half of the twentieth century. The game system's story is told along with the life of Gary Gygax, one of the creators of D&D. He had his gaming start playing war games. He played various games and even started a convention in his home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He had the idea for a medieval-era game where some of the miniatures represented an individual hero who would take multiple hits to be eliminated. The game slowly morphed as he collaborated with Dave Arneson into a role playing adventure game. Getting the game published was so challenging that they formed their own company, TSR, to release the game. Dungeons and Dragons became an underground hit, eventually hitting the mainstream, though not always for the best reasons. James Egbert's disappearance and eventual suicide was blamed on the game even though Egbert had plenty of emotional issues that were more significant contributors to his choice. The book continues through to the deaths of Arneson (who had become estranged from Gygax and D&D) and Gygax.

The book is told as if the reader is playing a role playing game. Various chapters are seen from the perspectives of Gygax, Arneson, William Dear (the private investigator in the Egbert case), and others. The style is fun and engaging. The art is fairly standard comic book art and works well to tell the story.


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