Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mini Review - Designers & Dragons (Historical Overview of RPGs)

Mongoose Publishing recently released Designers & Dragons on RPGNow.  I'm going to give you the "blurb" first, and then my impressions, as this is NOT an RPG, but a history of RPGs, and it requires a different approach to review.

From the blurb:

Compiled over many years from hundreds of interviews and research projects, this book is a history of the roleplaying game industry, and forms the most complete record of all the games, companies and talented individuals that have propelled roleplaying games to where they are today.

Rather than being a simple, linear history, this book takes a unique perspective on the roleplaying industry. Reflecting that it is the creation of thousands of talented individuals and scores of talented companies, this book instead devotes individual sections to describing the histories and products of almost 60 different companies that have published roleplaying games from 1974 to the present day. The companies are laid out in a chronology based on when each began publishing in the roleplaying field.

Alright, so now you know what it is.  Time for me to tell you how it is: absorbing as the best historical write-up I've ever read, and I was a history major in college.  Reading the history of TSR took me back in time to my own heyday of roleplaying.  I had a pretty good idea of the rise and fall of TSR, but this really filled in the gaps of my knowledge, both big and small.  TSR / D&D / WotC is only the beginning.

Here's the ToC:


TSR: 1973-1997 6

PART TWO: The First Wave 33
Flying Buffalo: 1970-Present 34
Games Workshop: 1975-Present 43
GDW: 1973-1996 53
Judges Guild: 1976-1983, 1999-2010 65
Fantasy Games Unlimited 1975-1991 71
Metagaming Concepts: 1975-1983 78
Chaosium: 1975-Present 82

PART THREE: The Second Wave 97
SPI: 1969-1982 98
Steve Jackson Games: 1980-Present 102
Task Force Games: 1978-1996 114
FASA: 1980-2001 119
Gamelords: 1980-1984 129
ICE: 1980-Present 133
Hero Games: 1981-Present 145
Palladium Books: 1981-Present 155
Yaquinto Publications: 1979-1983 164
Mayfair Games: 1980-Present 166
Bard Games: 1982-1990 172
Avalon Hill: 1958-1998 175
Columbia Games: 1972-Present 181
West End Games: 1974-2009 186
Pacesetter: 1984-1986

 PART FOUR: The Third Wave 200
SkyRealms Publishing: 1984-1988 201
Digest Group Publications: 1985-1993 203
R. Talsorian: 1985-Present 207
White Wolf: 1986-Present 215
Lion Rampant: 1987-1990 232
New Infinities Productions: 1986-1988 237
Creations Unlimited: 1986-1987 240
Pagan Publishing: 1990-Present 244
Atlas Games: 1990-Present 252
AEG: 1990-Present 262
Phage Press: 1991-2005 268
Dream Pod 9: 1985-Present 271

PART FIVE: The CCG Years 275
Wizards of the Coast: 1990-Present 276
Hogshead Publishing: 1994-2002 304
Kenzer & Company: 1994-Present 309
Last Unicorn Games: 1994-2000 314
Grey Ghost Press: 1995-Present 319
Holistic Design: 1992-2006 322
Pinnacle Entertainment Group: 1994-Present 325
Imperium Games: 1996-1998 330
Guardians of Order: 1997-2006 335
Eden Studios: 1997-Present 340
Fantasy Flight Games: 1995-Present 344
Margaret Weis Productions: 1998-Present 351
Green Knight Publishing: 1998-2003 356
Issaries: 1997-2004 359

PART SIX: The D20 Years 364
Necromancer Games: 2000-2009 365
Green Ronin Publishing: 2000-Present 369
Troll Lord Games: 2000-Present 378
Pelgrane Press: 1999-Present 383
Goodman Games: 2001-Present 386
Privateer Press: 2000-Present 392
Mongoose Publishing: 2001-Present 394
Adept Press: 2001-Present 403
Paizo Publishing: 2002-Present 412

Part Seven: The Indie Revolution? 419
Evil Hat Productions: 2001-Present 421
Cubicle 7 Entertainment: 2003-Present 427
Catalyst Game Labs: 2007-Present 433
Bibliography and Thanks 440
Special Thanks 442

I have games from just about every publisher on this list.  Holy crap, I think I have stuff from just about every publisher this book covers.  Right on thru Evil Hat, Cubicle 7 and Catalyst Games.

The writer's voice is very comfortable to read, the book is well laid out and the topics and insights (from my POV) are interesting as hell.  I'm sure all of this knowledge is available in thousands  of bits and pieces strewn about the internet, but it would take me years to track down most of this.  Author Shannon Appelcline has done it for me, and wrapped it up nicely on top of all that.

The only thing keeping me from giving Designers & Dragons my highest recommendation is the price of $29.99.  If you have the cash to spare and an interest in the history of the RPG industry, it is money well spent.  However, if your gaming budget is tight, this is probably a luxury you'll find yourself passing on.  That's a shame, because this is really a great read.

(edit - the PDF is neither Bookmarked nor Hyperlinked - coming in at 442 pages, it needs at least one or the other for easier navigation - still love it, but this omission is annoying)

1 comment:

  1. Applecline was one of my favorite reviewers on rpgnet, back when I used to frequent that place. If I find myself possessed of some extra cash, I might just pick this up. For now, though, it will have to go on my "list of stuff I will buy someday after I become independently wealthy."

    Thanks for sharing.


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