40 Million People Play D&D
  • 40 Million People Have Played D&D [UPDATED!]


    According to WotC, talking to Bloomberg, 40 million people play D&D annually; 9 million watched D&D on Twitch in 2017; and sales increased by 41% in 2017 and 53% in 2018. UPDATE! WotC's PR agency has reached to note that Bloomberg's figure refers to the number of people who have played the game since 1974, not annually!




    You can find this information and more in this article over on bloomberg.com, which is mainly about professional DMs.
    Comments 117 Comments
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by darjr View Post
      Ha! A veiled edition jab!
      Note to self: find thicker veils.

      I’d say that 5e is MUCH easier to pick up and run, it’s certainly far more forgiving to a DM, imho.
      Experiences differ, of course. 5e is familiar to returning players, and if you have a mixed group of experienced, returning, and new players the new players get plenty of help learning the D&D Way.
      5e does Empower the DM, which means you /can/ just brazen it out, running off the cuff. Whether you find that 'easy' - I do...well, I find it fun & it comes naturally, but it requires a level of energy I don't have at the moment - but I've known a lot more GMs and players-who-won't GM who balk at the very idea.
    1. Zardnaar's Avatar
      Zardnaar -
      I don't think 5E is the easiest version of D&D to run. That would be B/X and various OSR clones that use ascending ACs such as C&C and Basic Fantasy.

      Condensed rules for 5E are 2 pages long, for C&C new players more or less have to remember 2 numbers, 12 and 18.
    1. Scrivener of Doom's Avatar
      Scrivener of Doom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Imaro View Post
      You're assuming the issue is that DM'ing 5e is hard when there may be a simpler answer... more people just want to play than DM. If that is the case no amount of making DM'ing easy is going to entice them. I have players in my group like this, it's not that DM'ing is too hard it's that they just want to play. (snip)
      People are fundamentally lazy so playing is the easy way out. By contrast, DMing requires effort and accepting responsibility: That clashes with the innate laziness of most of us.

      (snip) EDIT: IMO 5e is the easiest edition of D&D to DM, especially when using something like the Starter Set or Essentials Kit as a jumping off point. If anything it may be that 5e is just a victim of its overwhelming success and that player growth has just outpaced DM growth for now since I would assume most people get into rpg's by first playing.
      Honestly, I don't think 5E is as easy to DM as 4E. With 4E, everything is there on the stat block. With 5E you still have to look things up. And then there is...

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      I don't think 5E is the easiest version of D&D to run. That would be B/X and various OSR clones that use ascending ACs such as C&C and Basic Fantasy.

      Condensed rules for 5E are 2 pages long, for C&C new players more or less have to remember 2 numbers, 12 and 18.
      ... which are arguably even easier to run. B/X, in particular, is a dream to run or play and everything you need to know is so easy to find. If only the people behind B/X had been able to rewrite Gygax's impenetrable prose and poor design so that AD&D had been playable as written....
    1. Zardnaar's Avatar
      Zardnaar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scrivener of Doom View Post
      People are fundamentally lazy so playing is the easy way out. By contrast, DMing requires effort and accepting responsibility: That clashes with the innate laziness of most of us.Honestly, I don't think 5E is as easy to DM as 4E. With 4E, everything is there on the stat block. With 5E you still have to look things up. And then there is...... which are arguably even easier to run. B/X, in particular, is a dream to run or play and everything you need to know is so easy to find. If only the people behind B/X had been able to rewrite Gygax's impenetrable prose and poor design so that AD&D had been playable as written....
      That's kind of 2E. 2E is way easier to understand for modern players. They also seem to like the art last week I took the 2E phb 1989 and 1995 along with the Druids hand book in. Encounter design and pacing are way easier in the OSR games as well.

      It's because everything is daily whileicing short rest and long rest classes in 5E makes things a bit harder along with hit point inflation and damage inflation.
    1. Tony Vargas -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      Encounter design and pacing are way easier in the OSR games as well.
      The classic games they imitate didn't even /have/ encounter design, so that's... odd.

      Not that encounter design guidelines in 5e are simple, intuitive, or, well, work, but they /exist/.
      5E makes things a bit harder along with hit point inflation and damage inflation.
      New players don't notice 'inflation' /relative to past eds/.
    1. Zardnaar's Avatar
      Zardnaar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      The classic games they imitate didn't even /have/ encounter design, so that's... odd.

      Not that encounter design guidelines in 5e are simple, intuitive, or, well, work, but they /exist/.
      New players don't notice 'inflation' /relative to past eds/.
      They don't, but it's easier to wing encounters, damage tends to be low. A lot of 5E monsters can be very swingy, Orcs, Gnolls, Ogres,Bugbears, Hobgoblins for example.

      In OSR games it's 1HD-1 hp for a goblin, orcs are a whole hit dice, Hobgoblins get an extra hi t point, Gnolls have 2, Bugbears have 3, Ogres have 4.

      1d10 is a lot of damage, now a Hobgoblin can connect for 1d8+1 or an extra +2d6.

      Level 3 is the new level 1 but extra dice plus crits can make things very swingy.

      OSR might be ass backwards mechanically but had some pros.
    1. Jer's Avatar
      Jer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scrivener of Doom View Post
      People are fundamentally lazy so playing is the easy way out. By contrast, DMing requires effort and accepting responsibility: That clashes with the innate laziness of most of us.
      .
      This attitude is pernicious and wrong. The main reason that players don't want to DM is because they don't find DMing to be fun. Us weirdos who like to run the game, coming up with dozens of characters and plots, losing hundreds of battles, and generally having to play second fiddle to the "stars" of the game are the strange ones. It's like the difference between being an actor and a director - neither one is lazier than the other, they each get fulfillment from different parts of the creative process.

      (And there are those who enjoy both. I rarely get to play the game anymore - once a year or so when I'm at a con - because I DM all the time. It's a different experience playing vs. DMing, and frankly even though I like playing, I prefer DMing. That doesn't make me better than my players, it just makes me someone who gets more enjoyment from running the game than they do.)
    1. Azzy's Avatar
      Azzy -
      Quote Originally Posted by dave2008 View Post
      Possibly:


      • No interest in video games (like me)
      • No knowledge of the game (of the people I play D&D with I am the only one who even knows the game is coming)
      • Dislike of the Baldur's gate series of games
      • Dislike of CRPGs
      Or...
      • Don't have a computer or console that is capable of playing it
      • Don't have enough disposable income to justify getting the game
      • Don't have enough time to allot to playing a CRPG (and still do the other stuff they want to do)
    1. Monayuris's Avatar
      Monayuris -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      The classic games they imitate didn't even /have/ encounter design, so that's... odd.

      Not that encounter design guidelines in 5e are simple, intuitive, or, well, work, but they /exist/.
      New players don't notice 'inflation' /relative to past eds/.
      The one things older editions had was morale rules and reaction rules. They kind of act as an equalizer. So you don't have encounter design rules, but you kind of have a series of safety valves that keep things in check.

      My guess is people didn't use these rules back in the day, and as a result, you have the stories of constant death and slaughter that seem to be so prevalent when discussing old school games. To be honest, I don't think we used them when we played as kids... when I started playing these games again, now as an adult, and I actually read these rules, it was kind of a sea-change for me.

      When used, you have a lot of built in survivability, or at least most of the time a total party kill is at least the result of a player choice.
    1. Monayuris's Avatar
      Monayuris -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jer View Post
      This attitude is pernicious and wrong. The main reason that players don't want to DM is because they don't find DMing to be fun. Us weirdos who like to run the game, coming up with dozens of characters and plots, losing hundreds of battles, and generally having to play second fiddle to the "stars" of the game are the strange ones. It's like the difference between being an actor and a director - neither one is lazier than the other, they each get fulfillment from different parts of the creative process.

      (And there are those who enjoy both. I rarely get to play the game anymore - once a year or so when I'm at a con - because I DM all the time. It's a different experience playing vs. DMing, and frankly even though I like playing, I prefer DMing. That doesn't make me better than my players, it just makes me someone who gets more enjoyment from running the game than they do.)
      This is kind of what I've been alluding to in wanting something that makes DM'ing easier to pick up.

      Being a DM requires none of the things you listed. All one needs to be a DM is to be able to provide an interesting environment for players to explore. It doesn't have to be grand plot lines and stories. All one needs is a dungeon and some monsters and some traps and some treasure. If one can do this, they can DM.

      I think there is an odd expectation placed on what DM'ing actually means that discourages people from trying it. There is also a mystique attached to it that makes it seem opaque and unreachable. These things are problems.
    1. ad_hoc's Avatar
      ad_hoc -
      According to icv2 RPG sales in US & Canada rose another $10 million last year to $65 million/year.

      Compare this to $15 million/year in 2013.

      https://icv2.com/articles/news/view/...5-billion-2018
    1. GreyLord's Avatar
      GreyLord -
      Thinking out loud (or more like, typing as I think rather than writing and reviewing) with the comments a few pages back on playerbase and how many would buy the Videogame.

      In relation to D&D and video games, it COULD be a good indicator of ACTIVE players.

      When the original BG was released, 2e was on a very strong downward trend, with estimates of the playerbase at the end of the 90s spiraling downwards of even less than a million players. Other RPGs and of course other factors which are too lengthy to be discussed here had attributed to an atrophy of playerships, or at least perceived with AD&D at that time.

      So, with less than a million base...BG sold 800K (though current estimates put it's total at around a 1 million) after a year [not total lifetime sales]. Either way, it was actually rather close to the numbers of estimated number of D&D players at the time in some estimates.

      Obviously many who played D&D did not get the game, many who did not play D&D but liked videogames GOT the game, but the estimated numbers seemed to even out.

      The takeaway for this is probably...if the number sold is anywhere close to estimated number of ACTIVE players, so probably at least a pretty high number in the millions, it could be a good advertising item. If it doesn't match...probably should keep quiet on the number of BG3 copies sold...as it can actually be an indicator of active players to a certain degree.

      Even if it sells 4 million, that's not actually a good reflection of sales in relation to what is being advertised as a 40 million playerbase (though for a videogame I imagine that could be quite good, not quite up to spec on the numbers that videogames sell today, but I imagine anything in that range is pretty decent). It might be GREAT for the video game studio, but in regards to playerbase vs. merchandising, that's saying only 10% will even spend money on anything OTHER than just D&D stuff like dice (though RPG audiences are known to be a little stingy at times with their money).

      BG as a popular D&D game though, seemed to reflect popularity of the D&D at the time in the approximate numbers (which surprised the videogame makers if I recall, because they didn't expect to break 200K at first, or even 50K in some markets) of players to buyers.

      On the otherhand, one could view the original BG period as only the hardcore AD&D players having stuck it out, and those who are the hardcores of a fanbase many times will buy almost anything that is put out with the brand. On the otherhand, more casual players don't. At the end of the 90s it could have been only the hardcores having stuck it out at that period...so that's where the number comparisons come.

      In that light, I'd say 4 million might be a decent guestimate (complete guess off the top of my head) for number of sales. If we take the idea that a majority of the players are FANS, but not the hardcores that spend money on all things...than most probably won't buy the game unless something spectacular pushes them too. Some of that will be made up by those who play videogames just because they love videogames, but I imagine unless they prefer RPGs (did you know that recently, I read about a study that stated that LGBT gamers prefer RPGs vs. other types of video games....just a random thought that popped up in my thought process here), those who play videogames but not D&D won't have it as a top or first choice.

      So, 4 million sold would be a decent number...with possibilities being as low as 2 million or perhaps even as high as 10 million. If it cracks 10 million I'd probably use it as a promotion as a reflection of the power of D&D as a brand to sell things successfully and probably would say they should have D&D enter far MORE products that are different than just Tabletop. Under 4 million, I'm sure the videogame studios probably will see that as a vaunted and great thing to promote, but unsure if that would be the best for WotC. It shows a brand strength for sales...but compared to an advertised 40 million player/customer base...that actually doesn't strike me as all that successful of an outreach.

      Just some flowing thoughts on the matter after reading other's commentary on the subject.
    1. Maxperson's Avatar
      Maxperson -
      I wonder how much shows like Stranger Things are affecting this. My wife was at work talking with a female coworker and she mentioned that I play D&D. The coworker then asked how my campaign was going. My wife was very surprised and asked her if she played. Her coworker said no, but she saw D&D on Stranger Things and picked up some things. Word is spreading by other avenues.
    1. Scrivener of Doom's Avatar
      Scrivener of Doom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jer View Post
      This attitude is pernicious and wrong. The main reason that players don't want to DM is because they don't find DMing to be fun. Us weirdos who like to run the game, coming up with dozens of characters and plots, losing hundreds of battles, and generally having to play second fiddle to the "stars" of the game are the strange ones. It's like the difference between being an actor and a director - neither one is lazier than the other, they each get fulfillment from different parts of the creative process. (snip)
      Pernicious, eh?

      Players are fundamentally lazier than DMs. There is far less work to do as a player. There are fewer responsibilities, especially between sessions. Nevertheless, they're still a necessary component of the game and thus have value. (And as a DM-for-life, I'm glad they're lazy. )

      As for the director and actor analogy, being a director means being responsible for the performance of *everybody* involved in the film; being an actor means being responsible for your own performance. Of course, the good actors - like the good players - take a broader responsibility during the production of a film.

      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      That's kind of 2E. 2E is way easier to understand for modern players. They also seem to like the art last week I took the 2E phb 1989 and 1995 along with the Druids hand book in. Encounter design and pacing are way easier in the OSR games as well.

      It's because everything is daily whileicing short rest and long rest classes in 5E makes things a bit harder along with hit point inflation and damage inflation.
      2E was a great start to the de-Gygaxing of D&D (for me, that's a good thing). I spent 1981-1989 trying to get 1E to work; I spent 1989 onwards enjoying a game that, for the most part, made sense. Sure, it had some weird Gygaxian non-sequitur leftovers (why are thieves the worst at jumping out of the way of an attack?), but there was a good faith attempt to make the game playable as written.

      I often wonder what AD&D 1E would have been like if someone had been able to hold Gygax's feet to the flame and force him to rewrite the text until it made sense and was properly organised. Sadly, nobody at TSR had that sort of clout and Gygax lacked the self-awareness to demand that he be properly edited.
    1. Morfiedev's Avatar
      Morfiedev -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      It's not red box figures but it's not to far off.
      Not even close, sorry.

      Tim Kask asked Jim Ward in 2011:
      Frank's Red Box set was selling 100K copies per quarter, just in the US. Both the German and the Japanese editions of the Red Box matched those numbers for several years, plus the other 8 or 9 language editions were also being sold at that time. There are significant numbers of Europeans that see Frank as the father of role-playing because it was his name on the game they learned to play. (He clarified that at this year's RopeCon in Finland.)

      So, if we assume those numbers for just three years, that means 1.2 million US, 1.2 million Japan and Germany, and then all of the rest will probably account for another 500 or 600K. That makes roughly 3 million just for those three years.
    1. Zardnaar's Avatar
      Zardnaar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Morfiedev View Post
      Not even close, sorry.

      Tim Kask asked Jim Ward in 2011:
      Frank's Red Box set was selling 100K copies per quarter, just in the US. Both the German and the Japanese editions of the Red Box matched those numbers for several years, plus the other 8 or 9 language editions were also being sold at that time. There are significant numbers of Europeans that see Frank as the father of role-playing because it was his name on the game they learned to play. (He clarified that at this year's RopeCon in Finland.)

      So, if we assume those numbers for just three years, that means 1.2 million US, 1.2 million Japan and Germany, and then all of the rest will probably account for another 500 or 600K. That makes roughly 3 million just for those three years.
      They didn't sustain sales for three years, 1983 was the peak with big increases 81 to 83 and a 30%drop 1984.

      Most estimate put it in the 1million to 1.5 million range. No one really knows 100%.
    1. Jer's Avatar
      Jer -
      Quote Originally Posted by Monayuris View Post

      Being a DM requires none of the things you listed.
      Wait - it doesn't?

      Are you saying that the DM doesn't have to run more characters than the players do? The DM has to run all of the NPCs the players encounter including all of the monsters - the players only need to worry about one character. If you get your fun out of immersing yourself in a single character - either because you like to immerse yourself in a role and play it to the hilt, or tactically because you like to figure out how all of your different abilities can be used on a battlefield, or for any other reason players have for enjoying playing a single character, then you aren't going to get that fun out of being a DM.

      Are you saying that the DM doesn't have to lose more battles than the players do? If you're DMing right you will lose and lose and lose again because if you don't your players aren't going to come back. If you get your fun out of the thrill of winning a battle, you aren't going to get that fun from being a DM.

      Are you saying that the DM doesn't have to get out of the players way and let them be the stars of the show? I guess that's true that you don't have to be, but in generally they don't make for great DMs - DMs whose NPC characters have to be the best at everything or who won't shut up and let the players play are the worst. When I end up at games run by guys like that at cons it's always a disappointment because I don't get to actually play.

      Quote Originally Posted by Monayuris View Post
      All one needs to be a DM is to be able to provide an interesting environment for players to explore. It doesn't have to be grand plot lines and stories. All one needs is a dungeon and some monsters and some traps and some treasure.
      So - characters and plots. A dungeon to explore is the plot. The monsters are the characters. Sure it's not a mystery to navigate, but the exploration of the dungeon is the story and you have to be the person keeping track of it.

      Quote Originally Posted by Monayuris View Post
      If one can do this, they can DM.
      Sure, anyone can DM, but can everyone HAVE FUN WHILE DOING IT? That's the actual question that matters - if you don't have fun as a DM you're not going to keep wanting to do it.




      Quote Originally Posted by Scrivener of Doom View Post
      Pernicious, eh?

      Players are fundamentally lazier than DMs. There is far less work to do as a player. There are fewer responsibilities, especially between sessions. Nevertheless, they're still a necessary component of the game and thus have value. (And as a DM-for-life, I'm glad they're lazy. )
      This "DMs are special snowflakes that are better than players" attitude aggravates me to no end. It isn't true. I'm a DM for life and I'm lazy as hell as ANYONE who knows me can attest. But I derive enjoyment out of running games at the table - more than I do from playing. My fun comes from setting challenges and running combats and presenting players with puzzles and playing random NPCs that they encounter and so on and so forth. That doesn't make me better than them, it just means that my fun is different than theirs.

      (I also derive enjoyment from designing adventures - which is a different kind of enjoyment than DMing at the table. I know folks who like DMing but don't like writing adventures and I'm glad that Wizards has recognized that if you want to bring in more DMs you need to provide adventures for the folks who don't have fun designing adventures but do enjoy running the game at the table to run.)

      And this should be expected because players all get their fun in different ways. At my table I have one who loves playing a character - putting on voices, coming up with backstory, working subplots that I dangle in front of him, etc. I have another who mostly just likes figuring out how the special abilities of their character work and coming up with weird ways to use them to solve problems. I have a third who just likes to beat up monsters and spends most of the game just enjoying the show everyone else is putting on around them. They all get their fun in different ways - none of them enjoy DMing not because they're lazy but because that isn't how they have fun.

      (Also I'm disturbed by the idea that "laziness" should come up at all, tbh. It's a game - we're at the table for fun. If it's work for anyone involved then what's the point? I do enough work at my job and maintaining my house - if my hobby is work too then as far as I'm concerned I'd be doing it wrong. But perhaps that's just me.)
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
      There's more people wanting to play than there has been in a very long time, and DMing is not exactly easy nor quick to pick up - especially to a level that you might expect from viewing streaming examples of play.
      Certainly the expectations given by streaming are a pretty big issue.
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Zardnaar View Post
      They didn't sustain sales for three years, 1983 was the peak with big increases 81 to 83 and a 30%drop 1984.

      Most estimate put it in the 1million to 1.5 million range. No one really knows 100%.
      Record keeping was not a TSR strong suit...
    1. jasper's Avatar
      jasper -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parmandur View Post
      Record keeping was not a TSR strong suit...
      Hey it was 78. No one was as old as 45 and some were younger than 33.
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