roll for initiative cover

Review of Roll for Initiative, a middle grade book about friendship, self-confidence, and D&D!

Roll for Initiative by Jaime Formato is a middle grade book all about making friends and finding oneself with some help from D&D!  It follows the story of Riley as she rolls with life’s changes when her big brother (and D&D DM) moves away for college.  She grows, makes friends, and starts running her own campaign… and, especially when her brother comes back home and tries to run things his way, learns that she maybe likes taking the initiative.

*Note that this contains some minor spoilers for Roll for Initiative*

Jump to: 

What is Roll for Initiative about?

Roll for Initiative is about a kid named Riley who is trying to figure out herself and find balance in her life now that her big brother, Devin, has moved away to college.  With her mom working long hours and Devin having managed most of the household and Riley’s homework help and his and Riley’s D&D games, Riley is spiraling a bit… until she meets Lucy!  They bond over their collective nerdiness and roll Lucy up a D&D character with Riley running an adventure!  Soon, others join, until there’s a group of four, supporting each other in game and in real life.

Everything is going great until…. Devin starts to come back into the picture.  Although Devin means well, Riley starts to question her capabilities as a DM at first and then just starts to feel a bit smothered and also concerned for her brother.  Riley and her friends need to find a way to keep the D&D group together, get through classes and families, and help Devin find his way too!

Who would Roll for Initiative be good for?

Roll for Initiative is a middle grade book, so perfect for ages 8-13.  The main character and her D&D friends are all middle graders, and they are all each dealing with different sets of middle grader parts of life.  From having to bring up grades while also babysitting siblings to managing parents pushing for excellence to dealing with family matters to handling questions about perfectionism… There is a character that every middle school kid can relate to.

It’s a great way to see how different people find D&D in different ways, and, if someone hasn’t played before, this book could be their way of finding D&D.

It’s also good for parents to read as well.  Reading this helped me remember a lot of the things I dealt with when I was that age… and how much homework there was too.  I have a 4 year old, so it will be a few years still before he’s in the middle grade range, but I think it still helps me to keep in mind everything he’s going to go through.

With regards to the D&D elements, Roll for Initiative is great for anyone who is interested in D&D (whether they have actually played before or not).  Of the main D&D party, only Riley had played before the events of the book.  Lucy had heard of D&D via streams but had never played, and Hannah and Jen are learning for the first time.  It’s a great way to see how different people find D&D in different ways, and, if someone hasn’t played before, this book could be their way of finding D&D.

How Roll for Initiative highlights the most wonderful impacts of D&D

Roll for Initiative shows how D&D can be a catalyst for so much good change in life.  

Through D&D, Riley formed a friends group when previously, she was pretty much just best friends with her big brother.  

Through D&D, all four girls formed a sort of support group and started helping each other deal with life problems so they could keep playing together (and because they formed a bond and cared for each other). 

Through D&D, Riley was able to experiment with being in charge and forging her own way… and she learned that she was capable of helping herself and others.

Roll for Initiative shows how tabletop RPGs help people find both friends and confidence, and it does so in a very natural way.  Being open to new social situations or taking the leap into a leadership role is scary, and the story highlights that, but then shows how it gets a little bit easier with each event.  It shows gradual change (so it isn’t just BAM… D&D solved everything) over the course of the book, and gives a realistic view of how D&D can have a wonderful positive impact on someone’s life.

My favorite parts about Roll for Initiative

Being able to connect with every character in some way, is a testament to how well they are written.

My #1 favorite part about Roll for Initiative was probably how relatable a lot of the characters were.  There’s the middle schoolers, who all go through real middle school issues, but then there’s also Riley’s brother and mom.  While Riley’s brother, Devin, is a little bit of an antagonist, he means well and is working through his own troubles as he’s getting used to college.  Riley’s mom is also dealing with issues at work and comparing herself to other parents as she tries to find balance.  ALL of these characters took me back a bit to middle school and starting college or related to some of my current situations with parenting.  Being able to connect with every character in some way, is a testament to how well they are written.

I also REALLY enjoyed all the D&D and pop culture references!  From little things like the superhero pins on Lucy’s backpack to Riley and her mom having a tradition to watch Elf on Thanksgiving, it was fun to see all the little mentions, and I think this would help kids who are reading it feel in on the joke and be seen for their interests too.

Overall thoughts on Roll for Initiative

Roll for Initiative is well written with wonderful and diverse characters and great character development throughout the story.  With D&D being a focal point of much of the adventure, it’s a wonderful book for anyone interested in tabletop RPGs, regardless of how much D&D xp they have.  It also highlights how D&D or similar games can help to create a foundation for friendships, personal growth, and learning to take the initiative in your life in a realistic way.  I really enjoyed this book, and I would wholeheartedly recommend!

Find a copy of Roll for Initiative

roll for initiative cover

You can find a copy of Roll for Initiative at Hachette Book Group, Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, and other booksellers!

And you can find out more about Jaime Formato on her website!
If you liked this post, make sure to subscribe to the TTRPGkids monthly newsletter to stay up to date on the latest reviews, tips and tricks, game and podcast list updates, and more! Thank you for playing tabletop RPGs with your kids and sharing this awesome hobby with the next generation!

Leave a Reply