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Dragonlance authors sue Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of The Coast

A new trilogy was in the works and now it’s caught in court

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Three books on a bed of fallen leaves. Titled Dragons of Autumn Twilight, of Winter Night, and of Spring Dawning.
Reprinted editions of the Dragonlance Chronicles, with cover art by Matt Stawicki.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Authors Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis are suing Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast for breach of contract. According to court documents, the pair were working on a new trilogy of novels set in the Dragonlance universe, and at least one manuscript had received approval when the publisher pulled the plug on the project.

Hickman and Weis are seeking damages in excess of $10 million.

The Dragonlance Chronicles began at D&D’s original publisher TSR in the 1980s. The novelization kicked off in 1984 with the publication of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and the original trilogy was rounded out with Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning. The action takes place in the high-fantasy world of Krynn, and stars characters such as Tanis Half-Elven, Raistlin, Flint Fireforge, and Goldmoon. The franchise also included numerous tabletop role-playing adventures that were designed and published contemporaneously.

According to documents filed in a United States District Court on Oct. 16, Hickman and Weis allege that in 2017 they were approached by Wizards to write a new series of novels. A licensing agreement was negotiated by both parties. There was also an additional publishing agreement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group. One complete manuscript, titled Dragons of Deceit, was completed and approved while the draft for a second book — provisionally titled Dragons of Fate — was also completed.

The complaint alleges that the project was going well until early 2020, when Wizards was embroiled in a series of serious public relations issues with its two marquee franchises — Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering — as well as a high-profile claim of workplace hostility. From the lawsuit:

As Plaintiff-Creators subsequently learned, Defendant’s arbitrary decision to terminate the License Agreement — and thereby the book publishing contract — was based on events that had nothing to do with either the Work or Plaintiff-Creators. In fact, at nearly the exact point in time of the termination, Defendant was embroiled in a series of embarrassing public disputes whereby its non-Dragonlance publications were excoriated for racism and sexism. Moreover, the company itself was vilified by well-publicized allegations of misogyny and racist hiring and employment practices by and with respect to artists and employees unrelated to Dragonlance. Plaintiff-Creators are informed and believe, and based thereon allege, that a decision was made jointly by Defendant and its parent company, Hasbro, Inc., to deflect any possible criticism or further public outcry regarding Defendant’s other properties by effectively killing the Dragonlance deal with Plaintiff-Creators. The upshot of that was to inflict knowing, malicious and oppressive harm to Plaintiff-Creators and to interfere with their third party contractual obligations, all to Plaintiff-Creator’s severe detriment and distress.

After multiple alterations and rewrites of the first book in the series were ordered and completed, on Aug. 13 Wizards informed the authors that it would not be approving any more drafts. That decision, Hickman and Weis say, effectively terminated the project.

“When challenged about the grounds for such termination,” the lawsuit states that Wizards’ legal representative, “responded with the nonsensical statement, ‘We are not moving toward breach, but we will not approve any further drafts.’”

Wizards’ refusal to continue approving content related to the Dragonlance license has effectively prevented Hickman and Weis from publishing their work, short circuited any effort to “mitigate or modify their storylines,” and prevented them from collecting on their “guaranteed advance [...] royalties, [and] incentive payments” with Random House.

As a result, Hickman and Weis claim, years of hard work — including story concepts and outlines previously approved — are now locked away from public view. Reached for comment, Wizards of the Coast said through a representative that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Update (Oct. 20): Polygon reached out to legal representatives of Hickman and Weis, who declined to comment further. “The matter is currently being handled through the judicial process,” wrote Josiah Prendergast of the law firm Weintraub Tobin.

Update (Jan. 11, 2021): Hickman and Weis have voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit. Polygon has reached out to all parties for more information.

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