Monsters, Aliens and Holes in the Ground (2023)

Hey! HEY! This is my book, Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground, coming to a bookstore near you on October 10, 2023 thanks to MIT Press. Pre-orders are live now pretty much everywhere, though I recommend using, as I have been impressed at their packaging skillz. I have a real live copy of the book in my possession and I gotta say, it’s pretty neat.

What is the book? It’s a look at the history and development of tabletop RPGs, one product at a time, arranged in chronological order across five decades. It’s sort of like this Instagram feed, actually, but way more polished, and, you know, on paper. I covered the classics, but this is also very much an exercise in expanding horizons — I hope there is at least one game featured for every reader that they never heard of. To that end, there are lots of lesser known games, weird games, silly games, even a couple board games. All pulled from my collection, all illustrated with something like 350 photographs.

There’s original art, too. Kyle Patterson did the amazing cover, somehow transforming my deeply silly post-it sketch (last slide) into a canny encapsulation of the RPG experience. He did a two-page spread introducing each decade, and effortlessly capturing its essence. He also did a handful of gorgeous spot illustrations. All of Kyle’s art makes me low-key angry. How dare he be so talented? I’ll share more of it, and some sketches, later on. You’ll be annoyed by his talent, too, I guarantee.

We (that’s myself and Derek Kinsman, who did the layout) also filled some empty spots with rights-free art from Amanda Lee Franck, Evlyn Moreau and Nate Treme, which is pretty rad – Amanda did the wizard van in the next to last slide – and also some Giovanni Battista Piranesi, cuz that dude had aesthetic for days.

And there you go, a first taste of 450-something pages of full-color RPG goodness. Go snag a copy now, yea?

That’s the Standard edition. Now check out the Deluxe edition.

Same tasty words and pictures (with one exception, I’ll get to that in a minute), but totally different candy coating. This is the DELUXE edition of Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground, published by MIT Press and due on shelves October 10.

As you can see, we have a clothbound book and slipcase, stamped with both gold and black foil. There is a dramatic increase in the number of skulls on display. We also have an entirely different piece of Kyle Patterson’s art set in as a medallion on the cover there. There is a sewn-in ribbon bookmark (natch), the pages are gilt and the inside of the slipcase is a lustrous gold. As I said, the interior is essentially the same, but with one key difference: this one has custom end pages in the front and back — those shelfies. That was a last minute addition in the production and I legit forgot about them until I opened the book for the first time and they look so dang cool. It’s the little things.

Also, because there is nothing worse than having to forgo rad regular art for the special edition, they included an 8.5×11-inch card stock print (sans text) of Kyle’s painting for the standard edition inside the slipcase.

The deluxe is also up for pre-order everywhere. I can not stress how much I recommend pre-ordering this version via Bookshop if you want rest assured it will arrive in good shape. I also recommend pre-ordering the deluxe if you want to be sure to get it in October, as they were printed in a smaller quantity and I know at least my Patrons are snagging them fast.

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