Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Designers & Dragons

I first saw a blurb on Designers & Dragons on (which shouldn't be surprising, as Shannon Appelcline is one of the bigwigs there). Hmm, I thought, that could be interesting. But it's likely to be a long dry read.

Then I saw it on Amazon. Fifty bucks? Who would pay fifty bucks for a book of gaming history? But I wishlisted it - in part to keep track of its availability. See I have a large wishlist. Terrifyingly so, at times.

It's also available as a PDF from DriveThru. Yet again, the price put me off from buying it.

Then, a few weeks back, my good friend Wade showed up at my house for a planned day of hanging out. "Have you seen this?" He pulled the book out of the trunk of his car.

The first thing I had to say was, "Wow. That thing's a tome." Followed almost immediately by, "I see why it's fifty bucks!"

It's big. And it's beautiful. And, at that point, I knew I had to own it.

Wade graciously allowed me to flip through it for a few.

It's few weeks later, and I now own a copy.  This book reminds me of the Hero system's core book from the 5th Edition - the one everyone called FRED?  It's massive.

Rather than writing in a strictly chronological order, Appelcline wrote his history publisher-by-publisher. He separated them into a number of different eras, and then handled each era in roughly chronological order.

The entries are well-researched and filled with interesting information. And Appelcline's writing style is very approachable (with occasional bits of snark, where appropriate).

The real beauty of this book doens't become clear until you hit the end of an entry. You see, Appelcline didn't write this book to be read straight through.  You can if you want to, but you'll miss out on the ability to follow a single thread - Gary Gygax's career, for example. Game Publishers which Sue Their Fans. The Future Publisher(s) of RuneQuest.

It's a very different way to read the book, and it's oddly engrossing. My only complaint with this is minor - a page reference would be helpful for this thread-jumping.

I have caught a fair number of editing hiccups - wrong words, missing words, misspellings, and the like. It's a bit distracting at points, but doesn't detract hugely from the book itself.

It's clear Appelcline loves his hobby, and a lot of research went into this volume.

The book won't be for everyone. If you aren't a hardcore gamer, this book isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you know someone who is hardcore, then this would be an excellent gift, provided they don't already own it.

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