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Slaying the Dragon: The Secret Historical past of Dungeons & Dragons Overview | EN World | Dungeons & Dragons

Slaying the Dragon: The Secret Historical past of Dungeons & Dragons by Ben Riggs focuses on the creation, rise, and downfall of TSR. It is a compelling, page-turner as an alternative of the boring enterprise e-book it may have been. It is also going to make some individuals offended.


Players are drawn to clear good-versus-evil tales. The e-book begins with Jim Ward’s model of TSR’s success and eventual sale to Wizards of the Coast suits that narrative, but it surely’s unsuitable. Ward wasn’t mendacity. As a substitute, TSR’s administration, regardless of the president, hid each the corporate’s errors and precious info the inventive group may have was profitable.

For instance, the event group had no concept what the gross sales numbers had been in order that they usually continued making merchandise for strains that weren’t promoting. Worse, some merchandise, just like the Encyclopedia Magica, had such excessive manufacturing prices that TSR made no cash on them and the Darkish Solar spiral certain flipbooks misplaced cash.

Riggs’ meticulous analysis, which incorporates gross sales materials and enterprise contracts unavailable to prior chroniclers of D&D’s historical past, locations the generally identified story in better context , including nuance. It reveals the horrible selections made by beloved figures that would have destroyed the corporate earlier, and the same old villain of TSR’s story, whereas nonetheless vindictive, prolonged the corporate’s lifespan and is revealed as having achieved the precise factor just a few instances. It makes for an interesting story crammed with human foibles and avoidable errors that doomed TSR regardless of expertise and exhausting work.

Different books have chronicled the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, the lifetime of Gary Gygax, and the evolution of struggle video games into role-playing video games. Slaying the Dragon focuses on TSR itself, which is why Riggs’ entry to every part from gross sales figures to intensive interviews, makes such a distinction. He even acquired a duplicate of the Random Home contract that was TSR’s golden goose for a time after which turned an anchor pulling it towards chapter.

However Riggs additionally has an effective way of setting a scene and turning a phrase that makes the info and interviews as compelling as any novel. Early on he tries to clarify why winters in Wisconsin had been a fertile floor for the creation of D&D. He writes:

“The winters are so frigid that Lake Michigan steams, sending nice gouts of silver billowing skyward, girding the horizon from north to south….In winter, the world recedes to the circle of heat round a hearth, a heater, or the aspect of a liked one. Or the basement. It is all the time heat. The furnace is down there, in any case. There is perhaps video games, too. May as properly play. What else are you going to do through the infinite white-gloom nightmare that reigns between the autumn of the final yellow leaf and the spring thaw?”

Riggs talked to everybody concerned who continues to be alive, besides Lorraine Williams, who declined. For these he could not interview, Riggs used a mixture of current interviews mixed with feedback from those that knew them finest. Because of this individuals equivalent to Brian Thomsen, who may have been a cartoonish villain in one other telling, is depicted as a posh one that made unhealthy selections for the corporate.

It is also wonderful what number of questions and challenges TSR wrestled with which are nonetheless plaguing the sport trade right now. The RPG consumption downside is a giant one which troubles most sport firms. When to create a brand new version, when to announce it, and tips on how to keep gross sales within the meantime. What number of settings are too many? Is the fish bait technique worthwhile and if that’s the case, for a way lengthy?

However the greatest downside was that TSR, based on these concerned and people who studied its funds, repeatedly made silly errors time and again. Whether or not it was shopping for a needlepoint firm (sure, that occurred underneath the Blumes), Gygax partying in a Hollywood mansion, or driving away expertise, TSR’s administration was the architect of its eventual demise.

It did not need to be that approach. TSR may have been a multimedia fantasy juggernaut lengthy earlier than there was an MCU. A doubtlessly viable plan was even created for TSR West (which is completely different than Gygax’s Hollywood escapades) earlier than it turned one other costly, failed enterprise. Mary Kirchoff and James Lowder constructed the e-book division right into a better business success than the video games division. TSR found Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, R.A. Salvatore, Elaine Cunningham, Mary Herbert, and so on.—after which Brian Thomsen’s methods threw all of it away.

As a result of at TSR, why make a mistake as soon as when you’ll be able to repeat it time and again? That is TSR’s final tragedy, and Riggs has the proof to doc TSR’s successes and failures in a scope and element beforehand not seen. If you wish to see the precise gross sales numbers, Riggs has been posting them on his Twitter account, however Slaying the Dragon makes the story of TSR as dramatic as any Drizzt novel. It is price studying for enjoyable, to be taught the true historical past of D&D, and to be taught what to not do when working a sport firm.



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