Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Fall of TSR

So, yesterday my copy arrived of Ben Riggs' new book, SLAYING THE DRAGON: A SECRET HISTORY OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (St. Martin's Press, 2022). I'm one of the former TSR people who was interviewed for this, particularly for Chapter Fourteen: TSR AND TOLKIEN, OR THE GAME THAT WAS NOT, about the time when TSR turned down the Tolkien license. Here's a link to a posting of that chapter; thanks to friend Matt F. for the link. 

It's rare that I get to wear both my gamer and Tolkien scholar hats at the same time, so this was a fun one for me. Plus while I know a lot of the stories Riggs collected, many more are new to me, or cast a different perspective on events.  

More on this one as I work my way through the book.

--John R.


Phil Dutré said...

IS there any information in this book that is not already covered by "Game Wizards" by Jon Peterson? It's an honest question - I'm genuinely interested in the history of our hobby, but sometimes I feel all these books are rehashing the same old stories ;-)

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Phil D.

Yes, I think GAME WIZARDS and SLAYING THE DRAGON are both well worth reading. They differ not just in their approach but in era covered. For example, Peterson's book devotes its final chapter to Gygax and the Blumes losing control of TSR ("Ambush at Sheridan Springs"). By contrast, Riggs devotes the first five chapters (out of twenty-six) to the Gygax era, the final three to the advent of Peter Adkison, and everything inbetween to Lorraine Williams' reign. So Gygax's departure, the natural breaking off point for Peterson, comes only some sixty pages into Riggs, leaving it more than two hundred pages to go.

Also, while there are exceptions, on the whole Peterson's method is to rely on contemporary documents for evidence, while Riggs' approach is anecdotal: he interviewed a lot of people who were there at the time (myself included) and built up his account from what people saw and remember, though documents (sales figures) play a large role in his analysis of what went wrong at TSR (twice!)

In short, I recommend both, and hope both Riggs and Pederson will write more.

--John R.