Slaying The Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons

Forthcoming July 2022

Ben Riggs’s Slaying the Dragon tells the secret and untold story of how TSR, the company that created Dungeons & Dragons, was driven into ruin by disastrous management decisions, then purchased and saved by their bitterest rival.

For twenty years, a story has been told about the first company that made Dungeons & Dragons, TSR, and the story goes something like this: Dungeons & Dragons created the genre of role-playing games in 1974, and that made TSR successful. In the 1990’s, Wizards of the Coast created a new kind of game, the collectible card game. People started playing Wizards’ flagship product, Magic: The Gathering, and that competition killed TSR. In a twist-worthy Greek tragedy, Wizards ended up buying TSR. It is a story of competition and creative destruction, as capitalism teaches us is right and good.

That story is entirely wrong.

Through hundreds of hours of interviews, endless research, and the help of anonymous sources providing secret documents, the true story of what happened to TSR and Dungeons & Dragons can finally be told. TSR did not so much die in capitalist combat as it bled to death of self-inflicted wounds. The true history is that of disastrous mistakes, and decisions founded on arrogance rather than good sense. Debts were racked up, geniuses driven from the company, and countless of thousands of products were shipped and sold at a loss, with no one noticing until after the fact. The story of TSR provides a negative blueprint, an example of what a company should not do in the geek business space.

And it is a story entirely untold until now.


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

Boswell Book Company

"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

Awards & Accolades