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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most comprehensive exploration of early roleplaying games
As the editor of wargaming books (some mentioned in the bibliography), I was asked by the author to do a review of this new book.

The book is Jon Peterson's magnum opus (great work) about the development of roleplaying up to the 1980s when the roleplaying games started to spread onto various computer platforms. The chapters explore the detailed chronology of...
Published 21 months ago by Mr. J. Curry

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1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid
Over written and rather boring to read.

As both a wargamer and role-player -I found both in the late 70s playing WRG 'modern' rules and 'Runequest'- I should find the history of both fascinating.

But the author manages to completely suck all of the interest and excitement over what is for me an interesting and exciting subject. His writing style is...
Published 5 months ago by Edward Kenworthy


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most comprehensive exploration of early roleplaying games, 7 Oct 2012
This review is from: Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games (Paperback)
As the editor of wargaming books (some mentioned in the bibliography), I was asked by the author to do a review of this new book.

The book is Jon Peterson's magnum opus (great work) about the development of roleplaying up to the 1980s when the roleplaying games started to spread onto various computer platforms. The chapters explore the detailed chronology of wargaming events prior to the publication of Dungeons and Dragons (D+D), the development of the medieval fantasy game genre, the origin of the D+D rules and what happened in roleplaying after D+D was published.

The source of much of the material is various archives of fanzines held in American, publically and in private collections. The list of games and magazines alone covers nine pages in the bibliography. The intellectual effort to pull together this vast plethora of material was a staggering undertaking.

The result is a substantial book at 698 pages, with the section on the development of wargaming rules and their influence in the development of roleplaying games having approximately 100 pages. Due to the length and depth of the book, it is no easy read. Some of the ins and outs of development are covered in great detail, for example the material shedding light and investigating the D+D clerics is eight pages. Saying that, the material is fascinating to anyone interested in the murky origins of roleplaying games.

The book delves into such mysteries as the issues of copyright and intellectual property for the creation of D+D (a most curious tale), the development of the magic user, dungeon settings and role of thieves in the game. It was new to me that Tony Bath, the UK wargamer who started ancient and medieval wargames and was well known for his Hyborian campaign, was given credit by Gary Gygax for the inspiration for his Chainmail rules.

The book also has a most interesting section on early wargames of Hellwig, Venturini, Reiswitz, etc, based on translations of the some of their pioneering work. Some of this work has never, to my knowledge, been available in English before.

With a book of this length, it is not surprising that I have some different interpretations in a few areas, particularly in the discussion about the history of wargaming. Donald Featherstone, one of the dozen or so people who made wargaming a popular past-time, is rightly given credit, but his main job was a physiotherapist. Perhaps I would have included more about the advent of live-roleplaying, where people borrowed the idea from historical re-enactors and started to play out D+D adventures in full costume and padded weapons, but exploring the origin of that subject would have added more pages to this book.

I can say with some certainty that no-one else is likely to write a book about the development of roleplaying that will ever match the scope and depth of this book. Whilst the book is targeted at a specialist audience, if a wargamer is interested in the origins of the D+D genre, this is the book. There is no other to compare.

John Curry, Editor of the History of Wargaming Project.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating piece of research, 28 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games (Paperback)
This is a fascinating look at the development of role-playing games from their origin in war-gaming, focusing particularly on the seminal Dungeons & Dragons. In his astoundingly thorough piece of research, Jon Peterson considers all the influences and factors that led to the creation of D&D, and the subsequent rapid growth in this style of gaming. The book would have benefited from another copy-editing pass, as it still contains a number of typos and infelicities of expression, but this is a minor criticism of an impressive book that I enthusiastically recommend to anyone interested in the history of role-playing games.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Turgid, 21 Feb 2014
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Edward Kenworthy (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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Over written and rather boring to read.

As both a wargamer and role-player -I found both in the late 70s playing WRG 'modern' rules and 'Runequest'- I should find the history of both fascinating.

But the author manages to completely suck all of the interest and excitement over what is for me an interesting and exciting subject. His writing style is tedious and inflated.

Avoid.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and in-depth analysis, 4 April 2013
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Mr. N. S. Marsh (Totnes, Devon) - See all my reviews
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A wonderful and extremely thorough exploration of the early development of Dungeons and Dragons. Although the middle chapters are interesting and incredibly detailed - including more than I ever thought I might need to know about Prussian war games - it is the book ending chapters, describing the invention of D&D and the rise of TSR, where the book really shines.

The prose is dry, as befits an academic work, but the story is interesting, and the level of research incredible. Thoroughly enjoyed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 3 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games (Paperback)
Definitive review of wargaming from its infancy, and particularly appealing to followers of the Dungeons & Dragons game, and how it all came to be. A must read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of D&D, 18 Dec 2012
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I read this book to find out more about the history of Dungeons & Dragons, and I was extremely satisfied with the result! Each chapter provides a different angle, and a remarkably full picture emerges.

Chapter one deals with the amateur wargaming community out of which D&D grew, including valuable information about Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax's activities before they co-created the game. The second chapter covers literary influences on D&D characters and monsters, ranging far beyond Tolkien into pre-war 'pulp' literature, as well as classical sources and medieval bestiaries. Chapter three follows the development of wargaming rules from chess through German Kriegsspiele and the wargames of Robert Louis Stevenson and H.G. Wells, ending with the particular rules of D&D. The next chapter provides an overview of different 'roleplaying' practices, from psychology, child's play, and various sci-fi and fantasy fan activities which may not have influenced D&D's creation, but certainly modified its reception. The fifth and final chapter deals with this reception and modification by the fan community, and early struggles for copyright and control. Last of all the epilogue plot some trajectories of D&D including its acquisition of countercultural connotations - doing wonders for sales! - and its influence on computer games.

Throughout, Peterson is careful to separate historically verifiable facts from later embellishments, and to untie the Gordian knot of influence or coincidence. Yet there is an intrinsic sense of drama which drives the history on. I found it hard to put down, except to go off on some 'side quest' to investigate something the author mentioned for myself. My only disappointment was that the chapter on roleplaying (chapter 4) dealt predominantly with 20th century material, as I was looking forward to a similarly far-reaching coverage as was given for the history of wargaming rules (chapter 3).
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful in some areas, worthless in others., 26 Sep 2012
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This review is from: Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games (Paperback)
Jon Peterson has written a huge, very ambitious tome. As far as historical data goes, the work is incredibly devoted, including almost-unnecessary minutiae, but there is good reason to include it all, in order to give credit where due and to debunk myths in other places. The author has done a massive amount of work to provide as much information as possible.

However, the minute Peterson starts speaking of the influence of rules on play, narrative, and especially immersion, the fact that he is almost totally ignorant of existing research shows through. I therefore found the book very valuable (5 stars) on some parts, harmfully oblivious on others (barely even one star).

For anything beyond exacting details of the early years, Michael J. Tresca's "The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games" is the weapon of choice. For the precise history of how and why it all began (and that alone), Peterson's absolutely great.
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