A while back I became aware of Shannon Appelcline’s efforts to document the history of the roleplaying game industry. This is no small job. Our weird little hobby spans four decades of gaming, and there are a ton of stories, known and unknown, floating around out there about what’s gone before, and how we got where we are. Is that really… capturable?
Turns out it is. Our product page says it best:
If there’s one thing that the “old school” revolution has taught us, it’s that history is important to us as gamers. Our roots matter. But how much do we actually know — or remember — of the origins of this hobby of ours?
Enter Designers & Dragons.
Shannon did an incredible job and, while I was consumed with getting other things published through Evil Hat, he brought his manuscript to Mongoose Publishing. They printed the first edition of this project of his, titled Designers & Dragons, in what I’ve come to think of as the Big Black Monolith Edition. (I have a copy. Signed and numbered. Ha!) It won some accolades too — a Special Award at UK Game Expo 2012, and a Judges’ Spotlight Award at the Ennies that same year.
Thing is, I’d always wanted to be the one to help bring this to light. But I’d had too much on my hands to do, and missed the opportunity. So when the rights became available to produce an updated version — thanks to some savvy footwork by Chris Hanrahan — I jumped.
The problem for me with the Big Black Monolith Edition was one of approachability. The contents — Shannon’s words — were great, but as I spent time reading it, I found myself struggling with a number of the design choices made there. Simply put, I found it hard to read, without that being the fault of the text.
Then, sitting there on the shelf next to it, was my copy of Green Ronin’s Family Games: The 100 Best. That seemed to be more what I would want out of a history-of-roleplaying book, in terms of its size, form factor, readability in layout — all of that stuff.
So that’s the thought we had in mind coming to doing a new edition of Designers & Dragons for 2013 and beyond. We’re going to split the work up into four volumes, decade by decade, which folks can buy and read separately or in total. Each volume will work as an entry point to the wide and varied field of roleplaying history. If your heyday was in the 1980’s, you’d grab that volume first. If you were more of a White Wolf era gal, maybe grabbing the 1990’s volume be your first move.
In terms of how we’ll design and lay out the book, we’ll give the text room to breathe, and we’ll make the book comfortable to hold, whether you’re spending five minutes with one section, or in for an evening of browsing.
Each volume should be a book you’re happy to have on your desk, bookshelf, or coffee table. Something you’ll read in your library, your bathroom, or your bedroom. (On your kindle or nook or ipad, too!) In short, a book you’ll live with, comfortably.
We’ve also asked Shannon to update the material. In the 2000’s book, this will include some deeper and broader exploration of the small press and indie publishing scene, but there will be more material and more updates found throughout all four volumes.
There’s a lot of work ahead, both on the publisher and on the authorial sides of the project, but all that work is already underway, and we’re looking forward to producing the first volume by the early parts of 2013. More updates will show up here and on evilhat.com as we have them.
Whether you’re familiar with the Big Black Monolith Edition or will be a newcomer to the project in 2013, I’ve got a question for you: what do YOU want to see covered in a history of the roleplaying game industry?