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The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games Paperback – 15 Oct 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc (15 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 078645895X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786458950
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,336,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Game designer, author, and artist Michael Tresca has authored numerous supplements and adventures for publishers of D20 Fantasy. An administrator at RetroMUD, he lives in Connecticut.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Flawed, yet very useful 22 Mar. 2011
By Harviainen Jussi T - Published on
Format: Paperback
Compared to earlier works on the history of role-playing games, Tresca does an admirable job. From Tolkien to tabletop to digital, as well as some other variants, he shows the main paths by which role-playing games have changed and evolved, in style and content. He even pays special attention to the way certain phenomena (particularly larps) have much more complex roots. Tresca has made a serious attempt at being inclusive, even as he concentrates on American fantasy games, and while he does not get all of the facts always right, the effort has to be applauded. Nordic immersion debates and Forgean design theorists, for example, do get discussed, so it is obvious that he has done his homework.

There are some more serious problems, though. Most prominently, the author tends to ramble. He spends loads of time explaining unnecessary things like game minutiae, quoting friends and family, and mentioning anecdotal material probably of interest to mostly just himself. Certain definitively significant games are never discussed, and several references he uses are missing from the list at the end. The effect is that the whole work comes through as ambitious and impressive in scope, yet sloppy.

Somewhat flawed as it may be, Tresca's book is nevertheless absolutely mandatory reading for all serious role-playing scholars. As far as providing an "official history" of role-playing games goes, I think he has all in all succeeded quite well.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Very informative 8 Dec. 2010
By Alexander Hinkley - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games is a great book to learn how and why certain RPG game mechanics came to exist. I was surprised to learn just how little I knew about the background of role-playing games. While incredibly informative, the book is also very interesting to read. Tresca definitely knows what he is talking about and judging by the sheer volume of references found throughout you can tell he put a lot of work into this book. Highly recommended for any and all fans of the RPG genre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Favourable but not entirely recommended. 24 Oct. 2014
By corey walden - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Tresca explores what the title of this book suggests: the evolution of FRPGs. He draws on myriad sources to tell the stories, focussing on pen & paper games, computer games and the Tolkien influence on the fantasy role-playing genre. For the average reader there is something to learn here. I found myself interested, in particular to the details around Multi-user dungeons.

For those with more than passing knowledge, there were some notable mistakes and gaps in the research. As this book was released in 2011 I suspect it reflects a commendable effort for the time. However with resources like Jon Peterson's 'Playing at the World' or Sarah Bowman's 'The Functions of Role-playing Games', the content is at times dated or slightly incorrect. For instance, Tresca discusses Gygax & Perren's 'Chainmail' as being released in 1971 (correctly) in one place, while strongly suggesting it was released in 1968 (incorrectly) on page 61. The rudiments of Chainmail may have been released in zines (which is correctly mentioned) but it was not officially published under the Guidon Games imprint until 1971. I had a few other quibbles around the history and mythology of some of Dungeons & Dragons's inspiration, but not worth detailing here. The inaccuracies though subtle, became annoying at times.

Tresca does an excellent job at discussing a wide range of topics, and covers them fairly accurately. My knowledge of computer-based role-playing is not extensive so I cannot comment specifically on that, only to say that Tresca seems very knowledgeable. There was a majority of good content, muddied with minor errors, souring me on the book as a whole. It's a good read, don't get me wrong, but it would have benefitted from further proof-reading and editing to be truly impressive. As far as cursory histories are concerned, buy Tresca's book and read it, but for the more insatiable reader, my recommendation would go to the likes of Peterson who is a truly thorough author.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
OK, not four FULL stars 9 Jun. 2013
By William Reich - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good attempt to summarize the history of RPG. When he writes about tabletop games, the only ones that really interest me, he is knowledgable about most of the field and seems open-minded,not a follower of One True Way.
Still, his choices of items to discuss seems constrained by the commercially successful. He seems to miss the fact that games such as RuneQuest, The Arduin Grimoire and others influenced gamers all over the country even though they didn't sell like AD & D.
His discussion of online gaming and LARPS was interesting for someone who doesn't do the former and only does the latter on occasion.
This is a good effort on a large subject.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating stroll through history 18 Jan. 2011
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
Fantasy role playing games are the ancestors of modern video games, and their family line runs deep. "The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games" looks at the history of these games, drawing back to Tolkien's book and his massive construction of his world. These books spawned war games, card games, Dungeons & Dragons, modern massively online role playing games, and much more on top of that. A fascinating stroll through history, "The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games" is an excellent pick and is highly recommended.
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