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Book Review—Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt

Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It came to me in the bookdrop at the library, and I was interested enough to take it home to read. I have played a few games of D&D, but I don’t have a regular campaign. I knew a bit of the history and was interested in learning more.

I really enjoyed how this book details the origins of D&D (as closely as it can from someone who wasn’t there at the time) while interspersing details about the writer’s campaigns. I came for the history of the creation of complex gameplay, its rise and fall and rise again, and different types of related games. This history is told with so much heart and backed up by the sort of research a trained researcher is good at. There’s a bit of bias at times, but everyone has people they root for and their own favorite version of RPGs, so I can’t blame the writer for that. It came across as more factual than I was expecting while still paying homage to those involved in D&D’s origins. How amazing it would have been to have been part of one of those early games with the DM hidden behind filing cabinet drawers and the newness of the adventure ahead.

I was not expecting the book to be so personal, but I loved that it was. The author juxtaposes parts of his campaigns both in exposition and actual narrative with what’s happening in the history. This both serves as an example while also entertaining. I enjoy playing D&D, but I think I like watching D&D and other RPGs even more. Being part of the action is great, but it’s also a great responsibility. I love watching people collaborate to create a story all their own. So I did like many of the adventures the author shares with us, from wargaming to LARPing to his weekly D&D campaign. His passion for D&D easily jumped from the pages. As a nerd as well, I appreciated all the references, from Monty Python to Doctor Who to Star Trek: TNG. Finding what’s in a nerd’s heart, what really makes a fanboy or fangirl happy, is one of my favorite things. This book is 100% that.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Habitica

Confession: I am going through Asana withdrawal. No offense to my glorious bullet journal, but it just wasn’t the same to finish tasks and not get a sudden unicorn or phoenix with which to celebrate the accomplishment. In May 2019, I signed up for Habitica and used it all of one day. So after I realized I was spending too much time on phone games each morning, I decided I needed structure by way of electronic tasks. Habitica jumped to mind, so I spent some time building it out to give it a proper try.

Habitica transforms your life into a fantasy game— sort of a combination of Dungeons & Dragons and The Legend of Zelda. You can set up one-time to do tasks, daily repeating routine tasks, and often-accomplished tasks. You can also set up rewards. I’ve got mine populated with everything from career work to flossing. Completing tasks earns you coins you can spend to equip yourself, enjoy rewards, or feed your virtual pets. Right now I wield an axe, I’ve got a growing bear to master, and I ride a purple gryphon mount. I’m living my best 8-bit warrior life!

An icon of me, as a warrior, wearing a helmet, riding a purple gryphon next to a little brown bear.

After one week, I am now a Level Ten Warrior. I really wanted to go for Healer class, but the sorts of rewards (and penalties) for tasks Warriors get are much more suited to what I need in my life now. Earning surprise rewards like eggs and potions for completing tasks is almost like seeing that elusive Asana unicorn. Whispers: I miss you, unicorn.

Unicorn flies across the screen with a rainbow tail.
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Top Ten: RPG Shows I Enjoy

Photo by Ian Gonzalez on Unsplash

I find watching good RPG shows to be just as entertaining as produced television shows, if not more. The episodes can be long (some are more than 5 hours), but that just means more time to develop and explore the characters and adventures. I end up falling behind easily, then binging to catch up. Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

10 RPG Shows I Enjoy

  1. Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana – This was actually the first RPG show I ever watched, and I was immediately drawn into it, eager for a new episode to launch. All I really knew going in was that it was Wil Wheaton and Hank Green, and that it would be a mix of classic fantasy D&D but in a sci-fi setting. 5 gold and a party!

  2. Critical Role Campaign 1: Vox Machena – An amazing cast of voice actors and run by a masterful DM, this is widely considered to be one of the best RPG shows ever. We join this campaign in progress, so relationships and stories have already been established and developed, but there are still more than a hundred episodes, one shots, comics, fan art, and an entire world to explore.

  3. Critical Role Campaign 2 – I have only seen a few episodes of this so far, as I work my way slowly through the more than hundred episodes of new characters and stories but the same, familiar faces I grew to love during Campaign 1.

  4. Wildcards – Similarly, I’m still making my way through this series. Using the Savage Worlds system, this adventure set in the Deadlands: Reloaded setting. Jordan Caves-Callarman is maybe my favorite GM ever.

  5. Wildcards: East Texas University (ETU) – I was lucky enough to get to see this campaign from the beginning, and I loved the mix of college life plus supernatural. Being able to craft an episode narrative plus overarching story arc plus university studies/pursuits was magical. And following the study group’s discussions with each other on Twitter between episodes made it feel all the more real.

  6. Prickly Tallstag and the Danger Seekers, Pears – In-between Wildcard seasons, the cast relaxed with one-shot episodes following the adventures of four over-the-top fantastic stereotyped characters gone wrong. The episodes were zany but so much fun. This is the first RPG show I ever bought merch for, and will proudly wear my Prickly Tallstag and the Danger Seekers, Pears shirt to this day.

  7. Mysterium – Based on the board game of the same name, Meghan Caves put together this game of psychics investigating the paranormal. It consists of several short arcs with characters played by different cast members at Saving Throw. As I love the game and RPGs, this one was an insta-watch for me, and I was glad it returned for more story arcs.

  8. Tempting Fate – Using the Fate Core (season 1) and hacks of Lasers & Feelings (season 2 onward) systems, the current episodes are DMed by Rick Budd, who is amazing. I have not seen all of it, but I have watched many of the fandom-specific arcs such as the Breakfast Club, Star Wars, and Into the Spiderverse. My favorite fandoms + amazing RPG fun + talented players = I’m there for it! I might also have a bit of a crush on Sam de Leve, but who doesn’t, really?

  9. RPG Exploration Society – Another non-regular series, this one uses different systems including pathfinder, Roll for Shoes, and various home brews. Some of the adventures have included adventures in the worlds of Harry Potter, Supernatural, and Ghostbusters. Again, I can’t resist my fandom loves combined with good RPG playing.

  10. New Pantheon – I have only seen a few episodes of this, but the concept is fascinating and the characters are epic. It’s the stories of ancient gods and goddesses (from various cultures) in modern day society.

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Quote Friday: Titansgrave


“You will have and will continue to weather the storm.”
~GM, Titansgrave: the Ashes of Valcana

Tabletop Tuesday: Firefly

I love watching tabletop games being played. It’s entertaining, fun, and drama-filled. That’s probably why I enjoy the Tabletop series so much. I enjoy playing them, as well, but not as much as watching. Still, ever since the Firefly board game came out, I’ve wanted to play it. It made an appearance at the DADA meetup group’s annual Game Day event, but there wasn’t time enough to play it then.


So when a friend bought it, we made plans to play one Friday evening. It terrified us a bit. So we abandoned it after about 5 minutes and played a round of Lord of the Rings DVD Trivial Pursuit instead. Then we felt braver and gave the setup a more serious try.

I’d like to say the hardest part trying to figure out the size of the table we’d need to play it. We tried a coffee table then the dining room table then ended up on the floor in front of the television playing an episode of Firefly we had to pause after 10 minutes because we needed all of our brain cells just to set the game up. But, unfortunately, setup and understanding the rules was the hardest part. For two people not used to some of these game matrices (is that even the correct term?). Setting up the game and reading through the instruction book took us hours. Literally. There was one point where I was willing to PAY someone to explain the game to me.

But we finally got there in the end and STARTED the game late into the evening. I was still a little terrified as we began playing, not sure I was doing it right, not sure what move to make. And I definitely made a couple stupid mistakes. I ran an entire mission I didn’t need. Luckily, our crews were pretty evenly matched and it came down to the luck of the draw when we were misbehaving in illegal jobs we were working. I got some good cards and my captain came out victorious with a win.

From start to finish, I want to say it took us around 5 hours to set up and run a game that should have taken 1-2 hours. But I’m confident that next time we attempt it, even if it’s a different story card, we’ll be a lot better. Maybe we’ll even manage a 2-hour game in less than 4 hours!

Thing Thursday: The Longest Road

Is it possible to honeymoon (play on repeat with obsessive love) just a single song and not seem crazy? I’ve loved this song about Settlers of Catan and life when I heard Sarah sing it in concert last year and, finally, it’s available for purchase online! Kristen S. found it for me in part of one of the Doubleclicks’ livestream concerts (Halloween 2014) but downloading it is a much more convenient way of enjoying it. Plus I always like being able to support the people who make songs that make me so happy!

I’ve only played Settlers of Catan a few times (the first time in college, many many moons ago) and I thought I was the only one single-mindedly in love with building the longest road to the detriment of the rest of my strategy. Not only is there a song about it now, but it’s an amazing and beautiful song (metaphor!).

The Longest Road by Sarah Donner

LongestRoad-smallSo you head to the hills and the forest, but still
You’re just building the longest road
The mountains are far,
but you know where you are
When you’re starting the longest road

Buy it…

Cards Against Humanity Win

One of my favorite memories from Mario Marathon this year was playing Cards Against Humanity with some of the fellow viewers. I won the first game I played and was 7 points above everyone else in the second game before many others eclipsed me and I lost. It was so much fun (the game definitely depends on who you’re playing with, and they were a damn fun bunch).

For those who don’t know, CAH is a game where you have a subject/statement (black card) and you pick the best fill for that using one of the (white) cards in your hand. If played correctly, the game is raunchy and naughty and hilariously wrong and as politically incorrect as possible. People say it’s an adult version of Apples to Apples but I’ve never played Apples to Apples so I have no idea.

Anyway, there were some great moments, like when I was card czar and suggested my anti-drug be a certain Harry Potter fanfiction card and someone wrote it in as one of the blanks. Win! Another time, I was forced to choose between Star Wars and Star Trek… I ended up choosing a different card altogether. Also, there was LOTS of elf ***.

But this was my favorite moment, even though it made me tear up a little… and I’m going to put it behind a cut because CAH can get explicit, though I don’t see anything too “wrong” with this one. The question was: What’s there a ton of in heaven?
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