ARC Review: Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons by Ben Riggs


Title: Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons

Author: Ben Riggs

Narrator: Sean Patrick Hopkins

Publisher: Macmillian Audio

Release Date: July 19, 2022

Length: 304 pages, 10hrs 28min

Genre: non-fiction, business, D&D

Source: NetGalley


Rating: 4.5/5


Book Summary:

Role-playing game historian Ben Riggs unveils the secret history of TSRthe company that unleashed imaginations with Dungeons & Dragons, was driven into ruin by disastrous management decisions, and then saved by their bitterest rival.


Co-created by wargame enthusiasts Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, the original Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game released by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) in 1974 created a radical new medium: the role-playing game. For the next two decades, TSR rocketed to success, producing multiple editions of D&D, numerous settings for the game, magazines, video games, New York Times bestselling novels by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, and R. A. Salvatore, and even a TV show! But by 1997, a series of ruinous choices and failed projects brought TSR to the edge of doom—only to be saved by their fiercest competitor, Wizards of the Coast, the company behind the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering.


Unearthed from Ben Riggs’s own adventurous campaign of in-depth research, interviews with major players, and acquisitions of secret documents, Slaying the Dragon reveals the true story of the rise and fall of TSR. Go behind the scenes of their Lake Geneva headquarters where innovative artists and writers redefined the sword and sorcery genre, managers and executives sabotaged their own success by alienating their top talent, ignoring their customer fanbase, accruing a mountain of debt, and agreeing to deals which, by the end, made them into a publishing company unable to publish so much as a postcard.


As epic and fantastic as the adventures TSR published, Slaying the Dragon is the legendary tale of the rise and fall of the company that created the role-playing game world.



My Thoughts:


I received this book in exchange for an honest review which has not altered my opinion of this book.


As someone born and raised in the state of Wisconsin, I was quite surprised to learn that the immersive game I play once a week friends was developed here in my home state. The fact that this is a game that has a very dramatic history (which fits) matches the fact that the company who developed it has just as crazy of a history, if not more. I appreciated everything that this book taught me about what happens when we get a little too ambitious and forget what is really important to the consumer. That and the fact that a game such as D&D really isn't the best business since you only have to buy it once. Huh, never really thought about that from a business sense.


While this book is obviously a history of D&D, it more looks at the history of the company that developed it, TSR. Without getting into too many details, TSR was a company that has tried to fit into so many niche markets that it seems to have lost its identity along the way, at least that's what it seems like. They have done everything from game creation to publishing and according to Riggs and his research they have done it in the really the best way possible. The book was well organized and the information in it was interesting and researched using actually quotes from people who were there.


As far as the narration went, I think it was very well done and easy to follow. His voice, while portraying emotion did so without bias as is expected for a non-fiction book. It was a little slow to listen to, so I had it playing at 1.75 speed for most of the duration.


Overall, highly recommend this book as it was fun to listen to and very interesting as well. I learned a lot about the history of D&D as well as found a few authors that I have pinaly picked up to read. 4.5 out of 5.