Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Bones: Us and Our Dice

Another old post that got "lost" in my draft folder. This review is about a year overdue, but the book is still available.

If I hadn't read Things We Think About Games, I probably wouldn't have even considered getting The Bones: Us and Our Dice. The fact that I did read Things We Think About Games, and loved it, meant that when I heard about The Bones, I pre-ordered the limited hardcover. That's how much I now trust Will Hindmarch and Gameplayright Press to put out an interesting book dealing with gaming, and The Bones rewarded that trust.

The Bones is a book about dice. More specifically it's a collection of six articles and twenty essays by different authors about dice.

The book opens with the articles, which I think are the best part of the book, and I think it's worth listing what they cover. The first three are about the history of dice, and while there's a bit of overlap, all three are interesting. The fourth article is about all randomness in gaming, and is an excellent introduction to the role of probability in gaming. The fifth is an interview discussing randomness in online gaming, specifically the MMOG Lord of the Rings Online.

The last article is a bit of a departure from the rest as it's an interview that reveals the story behind the creation of an automatic dice roller that makes more than 1.3 million rolls per day for a play-by-email game company. That's not some computer random number generator, but a machine that physically rolls the dice!

The following twenty essays are also interesting, but I'm only going to mention the one that I was most interested in. Near the end is an essay by James Lowder. James was an editor at TSR back when the switch from 1st to 2nd Edition AD&D was being made, and the infamous Avatar Trilogy was being written to put a narrative spin on the game changes.

Those books marked the beginning of the end of my interest in the Forgotten Realms, AD&D and game fiction in general. That's how bad they were, or at least how bad I perceived them to be.

That's why I find it so interesting that at least someone at TSR at the time knew that there were issues with the books while they were being created, but that the demands of management insisted that they go forward anyway.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, then you should definitely read this book.

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