Continuing the grand tale of tabletop RPGs this book focuses upon the 90s. This has a considerable focus upon White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast, setting both of these gaming companies up as the juggernauts of the period. While this is meant to cover the years 90-99 as with the previous books, the nine year period that this covers is exceeded. This makes Designers & Dragons the 90s the book that is most focused upon White Wolf as it goes all the way up to 2014 discussing what White Wolf has done gaming wise and put out for to rule sets and products.
This isn’t only on White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast though or solely on their rise and creations. In Part Four we have the “Prelude to d20” section, which discusses a huge number of products. This gives time and space to talk about those that are not the two giants of the 90s, but which have their place and showed the direction gaming was really headed in the period. Appelcline focuses on the major influence of White Wolf and TSR, but there are other stories that are covered.
As with the previous books, Appelcline includes an Appendix section with ‘10 Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying’ in the period. This is almost philosophical given how it covers the changing nature of gaming, and it is nestled in a place for comments and observations. There are some hard truths here like gaming losing some of the Old Guard in this period. This book also serves to mark those product lines that did not survive the passing of their founders which were clearly so essential for keeping them afloat and contributing to gaming history. Appelcline records them, so that they can be known and remembered.
This ends on a sombre note, but the book is full of the life and movement within the hobby. Acquisitions and new products of the time, personal anecdotes, what succeeded and what failed. There is also the mention (leading into the 00s) of new influences and experimentations with new influences. Take page 100 as an example, here The Legend of The Five Rings RPG and 7th Sea is discussed. Five Rings with its Rokugan setting marks for Appelcline and her encyclopaedic knowledge: “the first successful Asian-influenced RPG since ancient products from the ’80s like the aforementioned Bushido and TSR’s Oriental Adventures (1985). An astounding 30 supplements followed over the next few years, capped by a second edition of the rules (2000)”. Here we can see the time when new Asian influences for roleplaying broke into the market. While many roleplayers are against this today (I am not one of them), Appelcline clearly notes when change occurs and what successful products set it off. This is done again and again and it is why this is a great gaming history book.
[5 of 5 Stars!]