Dragons of Spring Dawning (1985)

Dragons of Spring Dawning wraps up the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy with all the twists and turns you’d expect from the climax of a lengthy D&D campaign. That doesn’t exactly make for great literature, maybe, but I think the enduring appeal of the central books owes a lot to that feeling of adaptation. On one hand, what DM hasn’t thought at the end of a campaign, “Maybe I should turn this into a novel”? That’s exactly what the novels feel like: a novelization of a game. On the other hand, the novels likely taught DMs and players alike that D&D could be more than just hack and slash dungeon crawls. The Dragonlance novels show us that roleplaying is a storytelling medium like any other.

Which is pretty good for a trilogy whose big reveal is that another, better trilogy is coming down the pipe.

TSR had a massive hit on its hands with the Chronicles trilogy. It is hard to understate how these three books changed the approach to making RPGs. There are millions of copies of them in print. TSR printed hundreds of other novels over the next fifteen years, in multiple settings, catapulting it into being one of the biggest publisher of science fiction and fantasy literature in the 90s. And the printed word wasn’t all. Dragonlance soon became comic books and videogames. All of the money and cultural influence hinted at by the cartoon and toy line in 1983 was just scratching the surface. Dragonlance cracked open the full potential of RPGs.

You can already see how that success was changing TSR. The books are slicker (though it kills me that over the covers of the three books they couldn’t decide if the “C” in chronicles should sit in front of or behind the Dragonlance logo). By Spring Dawning, there’s a lot more skin on the cover (why the hate for pants?). The revelation embodied by Dragonlance would make a fortune for TSR, but chasing ever-larger piles of treasure would also wind up destroying the company.

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