Journalist and former Dungeons & Dragons obsessive Gilsdorf explores the imaginative alternate realities populated by fantasy gamers worldwide.
The author offers readers a look into the genesis of his love of escapism by describing life at home in New Hampshire at age 12. He sorrowfully writes of his divorced, formerly “beautiful, vivacious, and fun” mother, who morphed into the “Momster” after an aneurysm caused major brain damage and forever robbed her of any semblance of physical or psychological normalcy. Desperate for any escape from home, Gilsdorf took up the role-playing game D&D, and soon others joined him in a “collaborative refuge” from the angst of being high-school outcasts, where “girls were scarce commodities.” While females—and adulthood—eventually lured him away from the hobby for a time, his mother’s death caused him to immerse himself into more contemporary versions of fantasy escapism. Nearing 40, Gilsdorf fully embraced his “geekdom” and initiated an international “dungeon-crawling search for fellow fantasy companions.” His adventures included a trip to England for the Tolkien Society’s annual meeting; chats with serious D&D gamers across the country; LARPing (Live Action Role-Play) in rural Georgia and Milwaukee; majestic medieval castle-building in southeast Paris; jamming with rock band Harry and the Potters; a fan convention called Dragon*Con; and a tour of New Zealand set locations for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. As his journey expanded, it took a toll on the already imbalanced relationship with his nongaming girlfriend and the two split. Maps, photographs and a glossary illustrate the popularity and seriousness of this interactive form of entertainment. Gilsdorf is an informative, personable guide, but the larger story, established early on, compassionately details his mother’s tragedy and how it stunted his emotional growth, bringing forth an “unformed, perpetually fetal me.”
A vicarious peek into an escapist pastime.