January 30, 2013

The Elfish Gene by Mark Barrowcliffe

Barrowcliffe describes Dungeons and Dragons, at the height of its fame, as being played by millions of boys and two girls.  Well, I was one of those girls.  And that's ok, I'm comfortable in the fact that I was and still am, a total nerd.  And a memoir about Dungeons and Dragons in quite unique.

Barrowcliffe was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons at a young age.  And once immersed he stayed in the life for quite awhile.  In fact, he became obsessed with it.  All his pocket money went to D&D figurines, books, and other such fantasy role playing games.  His free time, playing games with large groups or one other person.  And his normal conversation?  Well, it couldn't get out of the Dungeon either, and not many people want to know the hitpoints of a dire wolf.  As he grows he stays immersed in the Dungeons and Dragons world, until finally hitting his twenties and leaving it for what he calls reality.

Barrowcliffe freely admits that he was obnoxious and annoying in this book.  And I have to agree with him.  There were so many times I wanted to roll my eyes or shake my head that I lost count.  And while it makes for a true seeming memoir, it can also irritate because you don't like hanging around those types of people let alone reading about that.  He did describe the other players fairly.  He was sure to list out their bad qualities, but also tell why he looked up to them.  And he gave a bit of an epilogue letting you know what happened to them and if they escaped their D&D addiction.

I was once a halfling cleric named Nyaevae.  If you're already lost at this point you're going to be hopelessly lost while reading this book.  There is a lot of technical language about D&D that someone who's never played before isn't going to recognize.  Sure Barrowcliffe explains some of the terms, but it still would be quite confusing for those who haven't even played one game.  Also, there is some cursing and a little bit of violence and sex in this book, for those that pay attention to that sort of thing.  The memoir itself has some interesting aspects, and it did bring up a lot of old memories.  However, at times I found it boring and tedious as I really didn't care about some of Barrowcliffe's exploits.  Especially since they were repetitive in the fact that he gamed and there was friction amongst the players in the game.  I was also a little sad at how he seemed to look down on the players of the game now, most significantly if they were adults playing the game.  I don't consider myself to be too pitiful and I would still play a game at this age if given the time and opportunity.  Or maybe that says something about me I just haven't realized yet.

An interesting book for all those fellow D&D nerds out there.  You may agree or disagree with Barrowcliffe, but he does stir up the memories.

The Elfish Gene
Copyright 2007
277 pages


  1. Ooooh, this one looks interesting. Thanks for this, I may have to read it.