Hi everyone! I have recently just finished reading Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons and Dragons, by Michael Witwer, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
I really enjoyed this book. It was written in a engaging style, really attempting to depict Gygax’s personality, as well as his actions. Each section is broken up by D&D styled descriptions, with a character that clearly represents Gary Gygax in each scene. At first these short narrations were jarring; however, once I grew used to them, they provided a nice start to new chapters of Gygax’s life.
Like many D&D players (or even modern gamers) I have always been aware Gygax helped create my modern gaming lifestyle; however, I knew very little about Gygax himself, where D&D came from, or how it evolved. This book was the answer to my ignorance.
The first half of the book discusses Gygax’s childhood, his gaming life, and the threads which eventually led to the creation of Dungeons and Dragons. A great deal of detail is given to specifically the processes and concepts that created original D&D, and how that evolved into Dungeons and Dragons Advanced. This was completely fascinating, and even gave me some nice reflection on the original concepts of DMing and D&D.
Later details of Gygax’s life are given in a whirlwind, almost like snippets into specific moments in his life, rather then the indepth coverage given to the early years of gaming and creation of D&D. While I would have loved to hear more about Gygax’s later life and career, the title of the book really makes it clear where the focus is going to be. Be prepared to only gain glimpses into what Gygax’s life was like during the glory days of D&D, and his later downfall.
Rather then go further into the details Witwer does an excellent job covering, I will say that this book is an excellent read, and anyone interested in the birth of roleplaying games, and arguably modern gaming, should give this a read. Gygax’s life had controversies, betrayals, hardship, but also great friendships and creativity, the perfect formula for a riveting biography. Rather then getting bored and skipping over parts I found myself looking up additional information after finishing the book, always a sign of great writing!
I would love to hear thoughts on this book. If you have read it did you like it? Are you considering reading it?