Non-Fiction Spotlight: D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids, edited by Jim Beard

The finalists for the 2023 Hugo Awards still haven’t been announced, though the announcement is expected later this month.

However, after the Hugos is before the next Hugos, so I’m continuing my Non-Fiction Spotlight project, where I interview the authors/editors of SFF-related non-fiction books that come out in 2023 and are eligible for the 2024 Hugo Awards. For more about the Non-Fiction Spotlight project, go here. To check out the spotlights I already posted, go here.

For more recommendations for SFF-related non-fiction, also check out this Facebook group set up by the always excellent Farah Mendlesohn, who is a champion (and author) of SFF-related non-fiction.

I’ve already featured quite a few RPG and gaming related books in the course of the Non-Fiction Spotlight project. Today’s non-fiction spotlight is another RPG related book. However, this time around the focus is less on the development and history of RPGS, but on the experiences and memories of people who played those games as children and teenagers.

So I’m thrilled to welcome Jim Beard, editor of D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids, to my blog today.

D20 or Die!, edited by Jim Beard

Tell us about your book.

D20 OR DIE! is a collection of essays by writers who grew up with all the classic table-top role-playing games like D&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, etc.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, editor, and self-publisher. I have two publishing “houses,” Flinch Books with John C. Bruening, and Becky Books by myself. Becky Books is in honor of my late wife, Becky.

What prompted you to write/edit this book?

It’s the fourth volume in my ongoing “Memories from Today’s Grown-Up Kids” series of childhood recollections and observations. I like to pick tpocs that I know will resonate with pop culture fans, as well as ones that aren’t covered in this way in publishing.

Why should SFF fans in general and Hugo voters in particular read this book?

Because no matter what the theme is, they will see themselves in the personal essays. That’s the beauty of these books, I think, that we all have these shared experiences and we like to see echoes of our own lives in what we read. Beyond that, if you love RPGs and began playing as a kid, you’re going to love this book.

Do you have any cool facts or tidbits that you unearthed during your research, but that did not make it into the final book?

That some of the essayists actually connected with important figures in early gaming, and that the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 80s impacted people more deeply than I realized.

SFF-related non-fiction is somewhat sidelined by the big genre awards, since the Nebulas have no non-fiction category and the Best Related Work Hugo category has become something of a grab bag of anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere. So why do you think SFF-related non-fiction is important?

Maybe because it gives us that look behind the curtain that many of us love, as well as providing inspiration for burgeoning creators to see what it was like for others at young and impressionable points in their development. I personally really dig knowing how things came together and the sometimes-struggles we never really hear about once things get big and popular.

Are there any other great SFF-related non-fiction works or indeed anything else (books, stories, essays, writers, magazines, films, TV shows, etc…) you’d like to recommend?

Wow! Too many! That said, I’m currently reading the Prequels edition of the STAR WARS ARCHIVES books and enjoying the vintage interviews with George Lucas and his staff while they’re making the films.

Where can people buy your book?

Amazon, Amazon, and Amazon!

Where can people find you?

I’m on Facebook at, Amazon at, and on Twitter @writerjimbeard.

Thank you, Jim, for stopping by and answering my questions. Do check out D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids, because it’s a great essay collection.

About D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids:


A secret society once existed across the land, a roving band of thrill-seekers who defied the conventional pursuits of their elders to take on new personas in strange adventures that would shock the world! In basements, on back porches, and under barn roofs, they rolled the dice to decide their fates, hungry to play the ultimate games of chance!

This titanic tome will transport you back in time to the 1970s and 80s, an era when role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Champions, and Traveller were new and exciting, attracting kids of all ages to draw fire from dragons, battle baneful bad guys, and surf the spaceways—all from the safety of a common card table.

In D20 or Die! writer-editor Jim Beard acts as a game-playing guru as he expands his “Memories from Today’s Grown-Up Kids” series of pop-culture reminisces to crack the covers of all the classic, old-school, tabletop role-playing games of legend and lore! Just watch those hit points, adventurers!

Cover illustration by M. Mrakota Orsman
Interior design and formatting by Maggie Ryel

About Jim Beard:

Jim Beard pounds out adventure fiction with classic pulp style and flair.

A native Toledoan, he was introduced to comic books at an early age by his father, who passed on to him a love for the medium and the pulp characters who preceded it. After decades of reading, collecting and dissecting comics, Jim became a published writer when he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. Since that time he’s written official Spider-Man, X-Files, and Planet of the Apes prose fiction, Star Wars and Ghostbusters comic stories, and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history.

His prose work also includes GOTHAM CITY 14 MILES, a book of essays on the 1966 Batman TV series; SGT. JANUS, SPIRIT-BREAKER, a collection of pulp ghost stories featuring an Edwardian occult detective; MONSTER EARTH, a shared-world giant monster anthology; and CAPTAIN ACTION: RIDDLE OF THE GLOWING MEN, the first pulp prose novel based on the classic 1960s action figure.

Jim is also the co-publisher at Flinch Books, a small-press pulp house.


Are you publishing a work of SFF-related longform non-fiction in 2023 and want it featured? Contact me or leave a comment.

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One Response to Non-Fiction Spotlight: D20 or Die!: Memories of Old School Role-Playing Games from Today’s Grown-Up Kids, edited by Jim Beard

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