Slaying The Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons

Role-playing game historian Ben Riggs unveils the secret history of TSR― the 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.


"The writing is crisp and humorous, often highlighting the absurdities of the situation without making much in the way of direct judgement. It is an unflattering but not condemnatory depiction of TSR and would make a great basis for a Mad Men or The Pirates of Silicon Valley-esque drama. I strongly recommend this as a easy-to-read introduction into the history of Dungeons and Dragons."


"With a trove of research and candid interviews, Riggs investigates the many missteps that would ultimately sour “years of stunning success” for the tabletop gaming giant...A compelling corporate saga mired in mythmaking."

Kirkus Reviews

"Riggs’s book, a compelling adventure in itself, features interviews with many of the key players, narrated by a superfan."

The Washington Post

"I strongly recommend this as a easy-to-read introduction into the history of Dungeons and Dragons."

Before We Go Blog

"I'm a sucker for nonfiction histories of nerd things, and Ben Rigg's latest caught my eye: a new history of the roleplaying game Dungeons & was a pretty engaging and interesting read."

Transfer Orbit

"In addition to a broad, detailed, and entertaining, history of the latter days of TSR, Slaying the Dragon is then a much needed revision of Williams’ place in the story of role-playing games."

Wyrd Science

"A riveting look at the rise, fall, and reincarnation of TSR, the most honest one I’ve seen to date. I recommend this to anyone who remembers going into Walden books and seeing a treasure trove of creativity, and to D&D fans of all ages."

Witty and Sarcastic Book Club

"It’s very rare that I pick up a new book on release day. It’s even rarer for me to read through it in less than forty-eight hours. But that’s exactly what happened with Slaying the Dragon by Ben Riggs."

Old Game Hermit

"We strongly recommend buying it, especially if you are interested in TSR and D&D history"

Dungeon Master Magazine

"Riggs does an amazing job of highlighting both the success and failure of one of the great iconic gaming companies."

Daniel Holden, Boswell Book Company

"Slaying the Dragon makes the story of TSR as dramatic as any Drizzt novel. It's worth reading for fun, to learn the true history of D&D, and to learn what not to do when running a game company."

Beth Rimmels, ENWorld

" engaging and engrossing case study of an entertainment company's rise and fall."

Jim Higgins, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"Riggs weaves a tale of corporate intrigue, personal ego, and failed saving throws that will fascinate any fan of D&D. Whether you're a grognard, still clutching your red box rules and grumbling about THAC0, or a recent convert to the greatest game the world has ever played, you're going to love SLAYING THE DRAGON!"

Tim Akers, author of KNIGHT WATCH

"That was actual journalism made fun... The reporting and required research was just stunningly good.”

Gene Ha, Eisner Award-winning comic book artist

"When I was thirteen and sitting on the other side of the DM screen, using all my latent psionic talent to roll a 20 on that bugbear, I never thought I would ever want to read a book about the economic history of D&D . . . yet here we are. Riggs has written a fascinating and dishy account of the business hits and whistling misses of a band of dreamers, writers, artists, and geeks and the real-life, sometimes terrifying adventures that eventually destroyed the company behind arguably the most imaginative American game ever created, though it was never just that. A must-read for fighters, magic-users, and even bards -- and everyone else, too."

Brad Ricca, Edgar-nominated author of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes and True Raiders

"Far from a fluff piece on a beloved hobby, this book goes behind the GM's screen to take a hard-nosed look at the people and circumstances that first gave rise to D&D, then nearly killed it -- twice. Riggs takes you on a roller-coaster from boom to near bankruptcy, but never loses sight of the individuals involved, the good, the bad, and the geeky."

Marie Brennan, Hugo-Award nominated author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series

"A fascinating and colorful page-turner that explores the rich history of Dungeons & Dragons, and it's role in the development of role-playing games. Ben Riggs's engrossing Slaying the Dragon takes us into the basements of Wisconsin and boardrooms of Los Angeles where the popular role-playing genre evolved -- against impossible odds -- from board games to virtual reality. And he does so by speaking with the geeks who inherited this Earth, putting their wild stories to paper for the first time. 900 XP to Riggs for his achievement!"

Sean O'Connell (managing director of CinemaBlend, author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT and WITH GREAT POWER

"Essential reading for anyone intrigued by the absurdities of the gaming industry, Ben Riggs’ book Slaying the Dragon provides an entertaining step-by-step guide for how NOT to run a corporation."

Satyros Phil Brucato, designer and core author of Mage, Werewolf, Powerchords, Deliria, and more

"Herein are the secrets and myths, the highs and lows, and hidden world of the magical realm of TSR and its creation: Dungeons & Dragons. An indispensable account about the legends and truth from the people that worked there. Highly recommended!"

Mike Mason, co-designer of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition

"Through in-depth interviews with the creators themselves, Ben has put together a deeply personal account of so many of the behind-the-scenes going-ons, the good and the bad, at TSR."

Former TSR artist Brom