Review: Empire of Imagination

Last week was my birthday and I got a great gift from my lovely girlfriend, Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons by Michael Witwer. I also at the time was enduring a bout of salmonella poisoning, so there was ample time for me to devour this book.

The author, Michael Witwer, was upfront about his style of presentation, that the story would be told in a narrative focused style, with some bit dramatized when needed. I think on the whole the style worked. It got me as the reader into the story, investing in knowing what happened next in the path of Gary Gygax’s career, even though as a long time gamer I knew the rough details.

There were some surprises and a frankness that I think also kept the engagement up. As for any sort of pro-Gary bias, I think it was minimal. Gary Gygax come off neither as a hero or a villain, but as a man who liked to invent and play games. He was flawed, like all of us, but he strove to learn from his mistakes.

The only assertions from the author I would take umbrage with concerns the success or lack of success of 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I think this might be the one place where a pro-Gygax bias might be shown, as this edition came out after Gygax’s departure from TSR and was a complete change from a lot of the rules that governed Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. This edition persisted for more than a decade and was the system that brought such diverse settings to life like Dark Sun, Planescape, and Spelljammer.

All in all, this is an enjoyable read and shines a bright light on the founder of our hobby, creator of one of the most enduring RPGs, and as proclaimed elsewhere, the King of the Nerds. Definitely worth the read.

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