Lancing Dragons

Let’s get this out of the way: I love Dragonlance. Love it! I read the novels in junior high and binged through as many of the series as I could. I must have read four or five dozen of them over three years. Good and bad. Memorable and forgettable and so awful they’re seared into my mind. It’s a big reason I play D&D at all, which is a massive part of my life and a primary Asperger’s obsession. 

I love Dragonlance so much that when the DM for my regular game moved away and I took over, the first campaign for Pathfinder I chose to run was the original Dragonlance adventures. The first published campaign I ever chose to run after a lifetime of homebrew. 

This is coming up because Dragonlance has been in the news again lately as Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis are suing Wizards of the Coast, because they cancelling a planned trilogy of new novels

The authors allege that WotC is doing this because of numerous controversies that have played the game over the beginning of this year paired with numerous re-writes they were asked to do. The claims of rewrites makes sense: it’s not 1984 anymore and fantasy can’t get away with women having secondary roles and romance-dependant character arcs, while minority characters are expected. I can easily imagine a pair of 64 and 72-year-old authors having trouble innately incorporating modern representation. Struggling to meet the standards and requests for rewrites, before blaming “social justice” over the cancellation of the novel. 

While we’ll never know for sure, personally, I blame a different culprit: Drizzt Do’Urden. The new Dragonlance books were cancelled in mid-August. The latest Drizzt book, Relentless, was released in late July, 2020. It’s quite possible the sales of the relaunched Forgotten Realms series were not up to Wizards of the Coast’s standards. That despite D&D being larger than ever before and having more new players and fans than any time in its history… people aren’t buying the novels. Which would mean a new Dragonlance trilogy, a book series dependent on having read six, seven, or even ten prior books might not be an easy sell and surefire hit. That if “R.A. Salvator” wasn’t moving enough books then “Weis & Hickman” (whose last collaboration was 2009’s Dragon’s of the Hourglass Mage for the Lost Chronicles trilogy, a book that was also almost not released) might sell even less.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Back in the late 1980s, when D&D novels became a hit, there wasn’t a lot of competition in the fantasy market, either for adults or youths. You had the perennial favourites like Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and David Eddings but not many other big names. Few people took fantasy seriously. Now we have George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, Terry Goodkind, Andrzej Sapkowski, and Robert Jordan for adults (plus numerous others). And for young adults, J.K Rowling kicked off a renaissance of authors, with Garth Nix, Eoin Colfer, Rick Riordan, Kathryn Lasky, John Flanagan, Tui T. Sutherland, Chris d’Lacey and so very many others penning books. D&D doesn’t offer much to young fantasy fans apart from a familiar name. As such, the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance novels are largely only going to appeal to their existing audiences, which have shrunk as the readers have grown up and moved on from that type of novel. 

While I’m sad there won’t be more Dragonlance novels, I also know I wouldn’t have read them anymore than I read the Lost Chronicles series (which, according to ‘Lance fans, was pretty darn good). And while it makes me sad that new kids won’t discover Dragonlance through the novels and fall in love with the world, I also know that it’s not hard to find the original trilogy: there are used copies of Dragons of Autumn Twilight on Amazon for $3. Not that they will. They’re too busy planning games set in the world of Avatar: the Last Airbender, Critical Role, or Harry Potter. 

Because Dragonlance isn’t the fantasy world of the average D&D player. It’s their parents and grandparents’ fantasy world.


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