Review: THE BONES: Us and Our Dice

I guess it was sort of inevitable that I’d end up a gamer.  When I was little, my older, cooler, drinking-age cousins were partial to Crown Royal.  When my parents threw a party, the twins would arrive with their bottle of whiskey, and I’d ask them if I could have the bag it came in.  Back then, I didn’t even know what I’d do with it, just that it held some kind of mysterious potential, and as soon as I figured out what to put in there, the magic would happen.

It wasn’t until years later, when I was in college, that I understood precisely what those bags were for.

That’s when I met Greg and was invited to sit in on a few gaming sessions with his group.  Someone pulled out a Crown Royal bag full of dice.

Finally, I understood what those velvety purple bags were truly destined to hold.  Not whiskey, but dice.

When *cough*-edyteen years later** Gameplaywright announced they’d be publishing a book about gamers and their dice, I knew I’d have to have it.

Last week, I finally got my grimy little paws on The Bones: Us and Our Dice.  And lo, it is awesome.  If you’ll pardon my clumsy attempt at a review, I’m going to ramble a bit about it here.

There’s a little something for every gamer geek in The Bones. Want a history of dice and ancient games?  It’s there.  Prefer the same in comic form?  John Kovalic of Dork Tower delivers, and shows us how little our relationships with the dice have changed over the millennia.  In every article and essay, I found myself nodding and grinning along in the spirit of shared experience (as Will Hindmarch says in his introduction, “Welcome home, nerd.”)

I read the interview with GamesByEmail’s  Scott Nesin on the train ride home, and within five minutes of walking in the door, had the video of his Dice-O-Matic up so I could see it in action.  

In his essay “The Unrollable,” Pat Harrigan puts voice to all the anxieties I’ve had as a GM, and makes me feel like maybe I was doing it right, after all, when it came to my relationship with dice.  I was never a very dice-heavy GM because, well, my dice hated me. Remind me to tell you the story of how I had to suddenly pull the hidden villain out of the shadows several sessions early because a player’s lucky (really lucky.  Like, a handful of d10s coming up 10s lucky) roll killed off his right-hand man mid-dramatic escape arrrrgh.

But I’m not bitter.

Geekery abounds in the pages of The Bones. The contributors’ tales about the games and gamers in their lives make you feel like you’re sitting around at a gathering of roleplayers, swapping stories about those unforgettable moments of badass.  But these men and women have worked behind-the-scenes, too, developing some of the games we’ve loved, and working in several aspects of the game industry.  

The Bones is about more than just the clatter of dice on the table and that time you really needed a 20 and the polyhedral gods smiled down upon you (or turned their angled, carved-ivory faces away).  The essayists explore deeper questions, too — how dice reflect the randomness of life, how we might know, rationally, that there’s a statistical element to the rolls, but we go through our luck-drawing rituals anyway, and why we do those things.

Orders for the limited hardcover edition are open through the end of this week.  After that, orders for The Bones will be for the paperback edition.  Hie thee to Gameplaywright and order it. It’ll have you digging into your own Crown Royal bag and tossing out some rolls.

**I just did the math and realized that soon, I’ll have been gaming for more years than I haven’t.  I know, I know, some of you are well past that point.  What can I say?  I came to it later than a lot of other fellow geeks.

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One Response to Review: THE BONES: Us and Our Dice

  1. Thanks for reviewing the book, Lauren! I’m glad to hear you liked it.

    We’re just wrapping up the covers for the special edition and the unlimited edition now, so the book should be with us in the physical world soon.

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