D&D General AD&D core book vs. Monster books comparison by Ben Riggs


I crit!
I love how Ben is paying attention to the debate about the numbers he’s releasing and responding with great insight.
How do sales of AD&D Player’s Handbooks (PHBs) and Dungeon Master’s Guides (DMGs) translate to monster products?

Seems like that answer is of more than historical interest, since it could help current RPG companies plan product launches.

Let’s look at what the AD&D data from the 80s and 90s says.

For 13 of the 20 charted years, PHBs outsold DMGs which outsold monster products. That pattern suggests to me the following: the vast majority of DMs bought all three releases. However, if we assume four to six players per DM, that means MOST AD&D PLAYERS DID NOT BUY THE PHB.

There are two years DMG sales beat PHB sales, but not by much. There are four years monster product sales beat DMG sales. Several of these spikes are caused by new releases. For example, the DMG was released in 1979 so it makes sense it outsold the PHB that year.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to translate this data into “likely dungeon masters” for various editions of AD&D.

Find this interesting? Pick up my book on D&D history, Slaying the Dragon, available now everywhere books are sold! See the link below.

Alright stats nerds, I need to speak for a moment about the inclusion of 2nd edition Monstrous Compendium 1 (MC1) and not Monstrous Compendium 2 (MC2) in this data.

One of the goals of this chart is to get an idea of how many people went out and bought the “core” of the AD&D game. Since you can play AD&D 2nd without MC2, I have not included it on this chart.

By the way, except for one year, MC2 sales NEVER exceeded sales of MC1. Neat as the idea of a binder of monsters was, this data reinforces that from a sales point of view, it was a bad idea. If TSR had simply put out a hardcover book of monsters with a higher price point, I’m willing to bet the sales of the book would have equaled MC1 and it would have been more profitable for the company.

Also, given the amount of data in this graph, I’m providing a link to the data below instead of a snip.


Link to data:

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