Dungeons & Dragons is making a major comeback right now, and the “hobby gaming” industry is looking healthier than it has in years. At forty years on, the game is still a major influence in popular culture.
Countless movies, games, books, and other products wouldn’t exist had it not been for Dungeons & Dragons, but how well do you know the history of the world’s first fantasy role-playing game and the industry it spawned?
Here’s a few suggestions for anyone who wants to know a little bit more about the world’s first fantasy role-playing game and the world it made:
Of Dice and Men – David M. Ewalt
Of Dice and Men focuses heavily on the business of Dungeon & Dragons, but it’s hardly a dry read. The rise and fall of D&D’s original publishers TSR is a fascinating story, and Ewalt does a great job capturing all of the drama that happened behind the scenes. That’s not everything, though: There’s plenty of gaming history and anecdotal content here that even seasoned gamers may not know.
Playing at the World – Jon Peterson
If you’re looking for an exhaustive history history of role-playing games then Jon Peterson’s Playing at the World is exactly what you need. It’s a thick read aimed at an academic audience, but if you’re a researcher or serious student of gaming culture, then this is your book. It’s absolutely essential. (Medium recently published an article by Peterson on Gary Gygax and how he lost control of TSR. Check it out here!)
Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks – Ethan Gilsdorf
Gilsdorf’s memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in a general overview of fantasy fandom in all its permutations. Gilsdorf dives head-first into pastimes like LARPING, D&D, World of Warcraft, and even goes to New Zealand for a Lord of the Rings pilgrimage.
Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress and Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons – Shelly Mazzanoble
Shelly Mazzanoble came to Dungeons & Dragons a little later in life than most gamers, and in Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress she shares her experiences as a grown woman learning about her new hobby with humor and plenty of style. In Everything I Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons, Shelly returns to the game in search of life lessons. What she found will be valuable for anyone, gamer or not. While neither book is a history of D&D, they’re useful looks at a male-dominated hobby from a woman’s perspective – and not just any woman, either: Shelly is a brand manager at Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast.
The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games by Michael Tresca
Tresca’s Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games is a relatively straight-forward exploration of the origin and evolution of fantasy role-playing games, and is written for the casual reader.
Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons (various)
This isn’t a history book, per se, but it’s a fun trip back down memory lane, with plenty of great art and short anecdotes from famous D&D fans and industry veterans alike.
Hawk & Moor: The Golden Age of Fantasy Role-Playing Games: Books I through III – Kent David Kelly
Kent David Kelly is writing a detailed history of Dungeons & Dragons, and so far he’s finished three volumes.
Designers & Dragons – A History of the Roleplaying Industry Told One Company at at Time – Shannon Appelcline
Rather than just focusing on individual creators, RPG.NET moderator and co-owner Shannon Appelcline tells the story of the industry through its companies, not just TSR and Wizards of the Coast, but hosts of others. It is considered a definitive reference by many. Copies of the original book printed by Mongoose Publishing are hard to come by, but a more affordable, multi-volume edition from Evil Hat productions is supposed to be in the works.