Graphic Novel Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master


Earlier I reviewed Empire of the Imagination, one of the more recent biographies of Gary Gygax. Well, David Kushner, the author of Masters of Doom, has co-written a graphic novel Biography of Gygax. I gave it a read, and thought I’d give my thoughts.

The first thing that bears mentioning is that if you’ve read Empire of the Imagination, there isn’t much new material here. Kushner has based the graphic novel off of his interviews with Gygax & Arneson that he did for Wired. Consequently, the material we get here that isn’t covered in the earlier book is primarily focused on Arneson.

Even still, there are some very important gaps. The relationship between Gygax and the Blumes is somewhat fundamental to the history of TSR, Dungeons & Dragons, and Gygax’s biography. Gary went into business with Brian Blume, a friend and part of his Dungeons & Dragons group. In order to get the funds needed to start the company, Gary went to Brian’s family, and in return for their assistance, they received shares of the company – and while Gary, Tim, Brian and Dave had a passion for D&D, Brian’s family (especially his parents) did not. When Brian died and his shares passed to his family, TSR and D&D were now in the care of people who didn’t care. The book doesn’t get that across. It sets up that TSR’s finances were in terrible shape due to financial mismanagement when Lorraine Williams was brought in by Gary, but without the larger context of the Blume family it’s not clear why. The book also gives us a little more information from detective William Dear’s view about the James Dallas Egbert III incident that isn’t present in the earlier book, and in a better context than reading Dear’s own book.

Now, what is really unique about the book is that it is presented in the Second Person – the usual presentation for choose-your-own adventure games and for the flavor text in tabletop RPG adventures. Nobody’s really written a book like this before, and Kushner manages to make it work. The art the book is also good – with the various people looking true to themselves, and with a methodical pace to the book.

That said, considering how in-depth Empire of the Imagination is, and considering that it’s not like that book is out of print or anything, I can’t recommend this book over the other, unless you simply don’t like reading prose fiction and prefer the flow of graphic novels.

Rise of the Dungeon Master is available from Amazon.com, should you choose to pick up a copy.

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