This is something I never expected to see, and it shows you how far gaming has come. One of a four-part series this focuses on the 70s but actually goes beyond that and discusses the pre-70s as well. You get the sense that this was a massive project by Shannon Appelcline, and once you check the appendix, the bibliography and the credits it is confirmed. This is the type of book so rich in gaming history, that it frankly made me nervous and excited.
The recounts (personal and objective) are easy to read and this is book is not hard to grasp, even as it covers so much across a great span of years. Greg Stafford offers a great foreword and some gossip on the beginning of Games Workshop and reveals the debts roleplayers owe to people like Lou Zocchi. This is history, but it is also history touched with the personal as some of those from the “primordial days” are still with us.
To help the reader make sense of it all Appelcline has broken the history of roleplaying into periods, like the “Cyberpunk Revolution” and “CCG Boom” and the reader is helped across a great deal of time and changing fortunes. The periods are very helpful ways to keep a sense of the changing times and the book is well organised and has been thoroughly edited to a fine finished product. For providing information I especially likes the small informative points such as: “TSR founded the roleplaying industry and ruled it for almost 25 years.” So that the reader gets a strong sense of what happened from even just a quick reading. Beyond that, there is a great deal of detail for the reader.
It is quite clear when it says that: “Before 1974 there was no roleplaying industry. The hobbyist game industry existed, but it centered on a different type of game: the wargame”. TSR and the other early companies are given a lot of attention, but most central is the people that were involved in the earliest days. Their journey includes what they were up to, how they were making ends meet, their first projects and how they came together or struck out on their own or in small groups. There is too much for me to fully discuss here, but how the name Dungeons & Dragons came about, and how it could have easily been called something completely different is revealed for the reader.
Money was important to the hobby even before it became an industry. It is noted that it was Brian Blume that helped the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association publish the first 1000 copies of D&D, and the money he gave secured his place in the company. Whereas Dave Arneson, a co-author of D&D was not welcomed into the company until 1976. In the early days Appelcline reveals there was rivalry, disagreement, winners and losers. There is also mention of gossip and legal disputes, specifically the legal threats and lawsuits that have been launched and leveled as gaming companies have grown.
It has a very nice and comprehensive index. A lot of work has been done here: Drang nach Osten is on page 157 and Flashing Blades is on page 241. You will be able to find what you are looking for.
Simply, I recommend the book. It is excellent, thorough and a fitting start to the grand project of presenting roleplaying’s history up to the present. As this reveals, roleplaying came from wargaming and the breadth that is covered is amazing—this isn’t only on roleplaying’s history and wargamers will get a lot from this. It strides across years while also taking time for personal points and amusing recounts. It is not dry, it is not dull and it is on a still living history. The history of gaming.
[5 of 5 Stars!]