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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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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

Quote013

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

Wildcard Wednesday: Waiting

I’m not good at waiting week to week for things. This is why I can’t seem to watch Supernatural when it airs and have to wait for it all at one time to binge. It’s only a seven day wait, but it can be painful!

titansgraveSmall-241x160I’m currently experiencing this pain with Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. I am utterly and helplessly addicted to this show. Wil Wheaton as GM does a great (read: terrible) job of stopping an episode just when some big discovery is going to happen. I love that the players groan as much as the viewers when he does this. But what I really love is watching the story unfold. I don’t play D&D, and I’m sure role playing is so much fun, but I think I’m getting just as much out of just watching. It’s a world and story I enjoy diving into every week and characters I quickly grew to care about: Aankia (and Jeremy!), Lemley, S’lethkk, and Kiliel are all well-played and rich with drama and detail.

And how much do I love the new “Five Gold and a Party” shirt available at DFTBA? Well done, people. Well done.

Anyway, if you’re not watching it, you MUST START. Even though the wait is painful from week to week, it’s so worth it… says the addict. But be sure to start with Episode 0.

Titansgrave-WATCH
br/>Seriously: WATCH IT!