Twenty-Sided Die is a short story collection that centers around one year in the lives of five friends of varying ages who play a Dungeons and Dragons style role playing game. The five young men know each other from summer camp but lead very different lives during the school year. Each chapter is told from a different character’s viewpoint and the passing of time is experienced as the characters mention outcomes from the previous chapter’s actions. During the school year the gentlemen deal with bullies, domestic abuse, girlfriends, frustrations within the group, and the role playing game they share.
I was initially bored with the characters as they seemed too cookie cutter geek. The main characters include a misogynist and overweight game master, a trailer park tough kid, and a closeted geek that seemingly walks between the nerd and normal world. The dialogue began as overly scripted banter among young men but leveled out into fairly realistic conversation after a few chapters. Throughout the book the verbal lashings doled out were overly crafted with quotes and swear words, and at times distracting. However, as I am a sucker for the plight of the nerd, I eventually overlooked the stereotypes and lightened up. Upon finishing the book I learned that, overall, the author showed he understands the range of the male nerd. The characters were likeable, though if at times unbelievable.
In several chapters, the reader gets a first-hand look at the role playing world as the chapter begins within the game world. We are no longer reading about five young men in Quakertown, but rather four men on a quest who battle evil creatures and search for adventure. In the vein of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, the author distinguishes between the gaming world story and the current story seamlessly. The action moves from a mountaintop during a fight with a warlock to five people at a gaming table surrounded by their stats sheets and dice after one of the guys does something out of touch with the game. Arguments ensue, compromises are made, and back into the gaming world the reader goes. These moments were some of my favorite to read as they brought back wonderful gaming memories of my own.
Since the book is a collection of short stories as opposed to a continuous story, Prisco did miss out on a chance for more character and plot development. As a result, the conclusions to his bully subplots seem a bit over the top, even for a good revenge story, and unwarranted. The short story format also lent to instances when the pace of the story was difficult to determine. The time elapsed from chapter to chapter was not always equal and could only be recognized through the dialogue. Many times this proved to be disorienting. Once I realized where we were in the school year, I felt cheated that we jumped forward in time. The glossing over of consequences and subsequent events does give the story a “status quo” kind of feel, meaning not all moments in life are interesting or important. Though a true to life philosophy, it does confuse the reader on what we are supposed to consider important to the plot and how an action plays into character development.
With all that said, this book was very fun to read. Anyone of any age who enjoys gaming, seeing the bully get theirs, geek girls and geek girl rants will enjoy this. Though I recommend parents concerned with swearing give it a read first as some of the dialogue is rather eyebrow raising. I give this book a strong 3 stars.