Designers & Dragons by Shannon Appelcline

It is not often that I’ll call a book ‘fascinating’. If I’m reading fiction I’ll usually say ‘cool’ or ‘really cool’, this book is different and it fascinates me. Actually, it would be more accurate to call this a series because that’s what it is: a four book series of the history of gaming. Shannon started this as a labor of love, and he’s done an amazing job. It’s being published by Fred Hicks and the folks at Evil Hat Productions, and for $15 you can get an ebook edition of the entire series (epub, Kindle, PDF, etc.), higher pledges will get you physical copies. Each volume covers a decade: the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s and current, I don’t know how late the last volume goes.

The first volume is available immediately with your pledge, and I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks now. The first third of the book is the story of TSR and Dungeons & Dragons, and it is an amazing story. The second chapter is my proverbial alma mater, Flying Buffalo, followed by Games Workshop and GDW. I’m maybe half way through the book, and though I can’t say ‘I can’t put it down!’ or ‘It’s a page-turner!’, I think it’s an amazing retrospective on the gaming industry.

If you’re a gamer, and I don’t know why you’d be reading my blog and Twitter feed and weren’t, and are interested in the history of the gaming industry, this book is a must-have. I started gaming at the dawn of the industry in the late ’70s when TSR released the white box 3-book edition of D&D, along came Traveller and Tunnels & Trolls and others. I worked for Flying Buffalo during their hey-day in the early ’80s, and what was cool about that was that the owner, Rick Loomis, approached me and asked me if I wanted a job. He needed someone with good typing skills, and he’d seen me with my TRS-80 Model 100 doing some coding or editing or whatnot and needed someone to enter literally thousands of addresses in to his mailing list. Good times for many values of good. I’ve played an uncountable number of games and met a lot of great people, many of whom I’m still in contact with and are still friends.

Obviously this series has a lot of personal resonance with me, and the stories are quite interesting. If you have any interest in this history, this is a fantastic value for $15.

The Kickstarter is running for another 22 days and is already fully-funded, they were seeking $7,500 and are over $70,000. In fact, they launched the Kickstarter some 12 hours before they announced it via email etc., and made their funding goal before the announcement. They’re now busily blowing through stretch goals.

And for those who enjoy it, they’re also crowd-sourcing the editing of the project, so you can participate at yet another level if you have the time, skill, and inclination.

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