6-2 | Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It

Book Review

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

David M. Ewalt
New York: Scribner, 2013. Contents, notes, index. 288 pp. $26.00 cloth. ISBN: 9781451640502.

by Andrew Chappell

First Paragraph:

A few pages into David Ewalt’s autoethnography of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), I learned what to expect. “I am not a wizard,” Ewalt writes, “but I play one every Tuesday night” (p. 4). Technically, Ewalt plays a cleric, a divine spell caster as opposed to an arcane spell caster like a wizard, but his point is clear: playing D&D is a you-and-not-you proposition; like acting, it occupies a place between true life and delusion, reality and fantasy. In Of Dice and Men, Ewalt takes on several tasks: he documents the history of D&D, joins and describes multiple gaming sessions, and (most interestingly to me) analyzes the reasons he and other people play the game. He approaches this task in a journalistic fashion, getting the facts and seeking out people and places close to the phenomenon. The book is structured as a journey, or a series of chapters about episodes leading from Ewalt’s rediscovery of D&D to his pilgrimage closer to its source. Ewalt puts himself into the story in autoethnographic fashion, including moments where he cites his own gaming adventures and writes about the actions and choices of his characters and the characters of his fellow players. These segments are interspersed with the journalistic and reflective passages and are intended to bolster Ewalt’s findings and analysis with in situ examples from the game.