Review: Rise of the Dungeon Master (w/ bonus cheesemaker NPC!)

How about that title, huh? I know nothing brings in the clicks like cheese. 

Obviously a band called Gygax is going to be pretty fucking cheesy, but check it out anyway. More cheese!

Rise of the Dungeon Master is a biography of Gygax and a history of how Dungeons & Dragons was created in graphic novel form. Historical/biographical graphic novels are fairly rare, and so I found this kind of interesting. Also, I think it might have the potential to bring more casual folks into the hobby, which is always a good thing. And it has a bit about the Satanic Panic in there, too, so relevant to my interests.

It's short, just under 140 pages, with good art. It's written in first person, in the style of an old text-based computer adventure or choose your own adventure novel, which is pretty awesome. The info is fairly basic, but it covers all the good stuff, from the basement days of TSR to it making millions and then going bankrupt. It quickly and clearly recounts the Lorraine Winters takeover, TSR's overly litigious phase, the aforementioned Panic and controversy, and Gygax's influence over fantasy and games in general. It manages to cover all of this without being overly wordy at all; if it were in text form, it would probably clock in at about 20-30 pages, if that, so it's very digestible and doesn't leave you bored.

Overall, I'd recommend it as a read or a gift, I enjoyed it a lot. It made me curious about more detailed accounts of the history of D&D, so if anybody has any recommendations, let me know.


Bonus Gameable Content:

NPC- Nevthwimple Shempweed, maker of fine cheeses

I'm a fan of the People of Pembrooktonshire, a collection of strange NPCs and a strange town where there is a dark secret lurking under nearly every stone, many of them pretty funny. This fellow is written in that style, although he's named in the style of Monkey Island. He may also fit into Vovoidja, who knows.

Nevthwimple lives in a prosperous village which hosts an annual fair known for its wonderful wares and prestigious competitions. He worked as a doctor and alchemist before retiring to pursue his true passion. In the years hence, Nevthwimple has gained a reputation as a master cheesemaker due to his perfection of a method of aging ingredients to make delicious, valuable artisanal cheese. The secret to its excellence is the poisonous mandrake root. Through his advanced (for the 17th century) scientific knowledge, Mr. Shempweed discovered a way to neutralize it, resulting in the most delicious cheese anyone has ever tasted. Over the course of a few years, his cheese became not only one of the town's most celebrated exports, but has caught on tremendously with the local nobility and is spreading to the courts of other countries as well. 

Nevthwimple produces most types of popular cheeses, along with a few special varieties of his own: 

Kernsworth White: a mild and creamy cheese reminiscent of brie, but of such a quality that it causes one to sigh audibly with physical relaxation and, more often than not, cancel all one's engagements for the day to treat oneself.

Spangwych Cheddar: a bold and full-bodied cheese so good that it will one day inspire the invention of the sandwich (originally called the Spangwych before nobility softened its name to a more "elegant" version).

Thrognoggle Deluxe: a cheese in the Swiss style, but so delicate in flavor and composition that it must be wrapped in a layer of gold leaf to prevent it from reacting with the air. The gas trapped within the cheese bubbles smells of fresh berries and has been rumored to cure those suffering of bad humours, increasing its popularity even further among the wealthy.

Chubbington Mild: by far objectively best and most flavorful of his cheeses, but priced the lowest so that all can afford it. This fact is not advertised, as it would immediately drive the price beyond the means of common folk, and Shempwood is a man of the people. Historians of the future posit this may be the earliest known instance of marketing changing preferences, particularly among the upper class.

His cheeses are indeed safe from poison, but the folkloric properties of the mandrake root produce many other strange effects, so far undiscovered and unexplained by anyone, including Nevthwimple, who would never do anything to hurt anyone. There is a 5% chance that a given piece of cheese will have an effect from the table below.

d4 effects of Nevthwimple's cheeses

The mandrake essence causes children raised on his wares from an early age to become a famine on the local crops. These children become obese due to addiction to his cheese, but are actually hollow bags of skin filled with locusts. If the children are unable to feed their hunger for regular foods and cheese, they erupt as a swarm of locusts which attack the local crops, further decreasing the food supply.
Those who eat the cheese regularly sweat mandrake nectar through their pores, which is sweet and attracts insects and hummingbirds, which will eat the nectar and die shortly thereafter.
The process of detoxifying the mandrake roots actually kills a living plant creature; its relatives, hearing its cries, dig themselves up to recover its body and bury it again out of respect. Roots found everywhere, sometimes visible walking at night, searching for the bodies of their brethren.
The mandrake additive has remarkable health benefits, making it doubly effective as rations and granting a bonus to saves versus Poison.


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