Advanced Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master (Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D)

Fear not: Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat

Even stuck in the North East of the UK during the early to mid 80’s wasn’t enough of an insulated experience to avoid Dungeons & Dragons and their ilk.  With very few stores around, a lot of the focus came from “Fighting Fantasy” books and Diceman, a comic come game book from the publishers of 2000AD.  Still, D&D was the high ground, the daddy, the big dog with its almost mystical rules, gameplay and odd-shaped dice only adding to the subtlety and perplexity of the game.

This book is a celebration of everything that is D&D, following its creator Gary Gygax as he meanders through life, working the usual after jobs reserved for those that drop out after their junior year.  A culmination of fascinations, from Tom Sayer and Huck Finn, H.G. Wells Little Wars and Robert E. Howard’s Conan The Barbarian are all inherent in D&D although it is the 20 sided die that seals the deal.

Written by David Kushner, the flow of the book follows a dungeon crusade of sorts, albeit without the choices.  As such we get to see the ideas behind D&D form, tweaks and changes to the model leading to start of the game playing giant of TSR.  Still  every quest needs a villain or Tiamat.  In this case it could be argued that Dave Arneson fills that character well, or it could be the negative press that D&D received or it could even be that the excesses of the eighties along with the advent of different ways to enjoy similar games all contributed to tarnish the brand.

The art is provided by one of my favourite indie creators and overall great guy, Koren Shadmi.  Shadmi’s books include The Abbadon and the excellent Love Addict.  In this book, his art is a little less experimental than previously seen.  This may be due to that fact there has to be a level of character recognition, after all the book is almost a biography.  Regardless, the quality of the art is beyond question, even if that damn Uni makes an appearance.

Nation Books have done a great job with this book; the writing, art and production practically screams quality throughout.  A must read if you have ever been a fan of the original D&D or any of the subsequent games that have since been built on its dice rolling, adventure questing foundations.

Writing – 5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars

Journalist and author David Kushner, best known for his book Masters of Doom, is adapting his 2008 profile of Gary Gygax into a graphic novel. Called Rise of the Dungeon Master and illustrated by Koren Shadmi, the 144-page book is scheduled for release on May 9


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