Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground

Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground

A richly illustrated, encyclopedic deep dive into the history of roleplaying games.

When Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson released Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, they created the first roleplaying game of all time. Little did they know that their humble box set of three small digest-sized booklets would spawn an entire industry practically overnight. In Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground, Stu Horvath explores how the hobby of roleplaying games, commonly known as RPGs, blossomed out of an unlikely pop culture phenomenon and became a dominant gaming form by the 2010s. Going far beyond D&D, this heavily illustrated tome covers more than three hundred different RPGs that have been published in the last five decades.

Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground features (among other things) bunnies, ghostbusters, soap operas, criminal bears, space monsters, political intrigue, vampires, romance, and, of course, some dungeons and dragons. In a decade-by-decade breakdown, Horvath chronicles how RPGs have evolved in the time between their inception and the present day, offering a deep and gratifying glimpse into a hobby that has changed the way we think about games and play.

Two editions are available from the MIT Press—a $49.95 regular hardcover edition and a $125 deluxe edition with foil-stamped cloth binding and slipcase, a ribbon, gilded edges, and an 8.5x11-inch card stock poster.


Stu Horvath is a writer from New Jersey. He is the founder of Unwinnable, an outlet for independent cultural criticism. He also manages the VintageRPG Instagram account and cohosts the weekly Vintage RPG Podcast. You can learn more about the art and history of vintage RPGs at



“Horvath's love for the genre shines through every entry in this immaculately researched tome. It's exhaustive but not exhausting; you'll keep reading for pleasure long after you've found the info you came for.”
—Steve Jackson, perpetrator of Munchkin

“Stu Horvath has lovingly compiled this guide through tabletop RPG history with profound care, and I cannot wait to revisit this tome time and again!”
—Skinner, psychedelic nightmare artist

“This comprehensively researched, lovingly written book accurately reflects the world I saw around me: the hobby as I lived, worked, and participated in it for more than forty-five years.”
—Liz Danforth, artist, editor, game designer, and writer

“More than just a guide, Stu Horvath's compendium is a deep dungeon crawl and a personal journey through the history, evolution, and culture of tabletop RPGs. Absolutely wonderful, and an essential addition to any gaming library.”
—Evan Dorkin, writer and cartoonist, Milk & Cheese