08 May 2017
This fast-paced pictorial tour through the RPG icon's life captures his inventive and welcoming legacy
In the world of tabletop gaming, there’s perhaps no greater story than that of Dungeons & Dragons. Initially rejected by publishers, vilified by the press and mired by the legal clash between its co-creators, D&D fought through to become perhaps the most important tabletop title ever made, influencing not only future tabletop designers but writers, artists, video game programmers, TV and movie stars, and more.
Rise of the Dungeon Master takes D&D’s imaginative nature in its stride, adopting a second-person narration that places the reader in the shoes of co-creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson as they first come up with the concept for the seminal RPG, as well as some of the individuals influenced by the game.
It’s a whistlestop tour from Gygax’s birth to the modern day during the book’s 136 pages, but author David Kushner’s writing does an effective job of delving into the major events during the lives of Gygax, Arneson and D&D, offering enough characterisation to provide insight into the pair’s inspiration for the game and eventual falling-out.
The expressive monochrome illustrations of Koren Shadmi are a perfect complement, blending fantasy elements with real-life depictions in dynamic and inventive framing to propel the story along and capture what made – and continues to make – D&D so extraordinary.
Kushner opts to bookend the story of D&D’s creation with one of Gygax’s final games at Gen Con (an event he founded in the late 1960s) in 2007, which provides the tale with a touching finale that pays respect both to Gygax and his magnum opus.
The book itself takes a surface-level approach to explaining D&D and its significance in its prologue, assuming no prior knowledge of the game or RPGs – with the ‘everyone welcome’ philosophy perhaps serving as the finest expression of Gygax and Arneson’s lasting legacy.
Author: David Kushner
Illustrator: Koren Shadmi
Publisher: Nation Books
This review originally appeared in the April/May 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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