AD&D Settings Sales Comparison 79-98

I know there have been a lot of these threads, and I'm holding off on any kind of overarching summary/compilation article until they're all in, but this one in particular jumped out at me. Again, this is from Ben Riggs, author of Slaying the Dragon, a history of TSR-era D&D, going out next month.


This graph shows a number of legacy settings and the total sales of their core setting product. Forgotten Realms is, of course, the top one. Interestingly, the other two settings that WotC has revisited in 5E -- Ravenloft and Spelljammer -- are near the bottom of the chart.

Ben says he will be providing the remaining settings tomorrow, and I'll update this post with those when he does.
  1. Forgotten Realms
  2. Greyhawk
  3. Dragonlance
  4. Ravenloft
  5. Dark Sun
  6. Spelljammer

settings.jpg
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
But the chart doesn’t show sales of the original Ravenloft module. Which was a huge seller, AFAIK.

A comparison of just the key boxed sets does tell us something, but it doesn’t really encompass the totality of consumer impressions for each setting.
Yeah, I think it's a tricky distinction.

Obviously Ravenloft, like Dragonlance, is a setting originally presented to consumers in module form. A smaller, more digestible package, and, at least in Ravenloft's case, one specifically designed to be compatible with your existing game. Playable as an isolated episode/adventure in the buyer's homebrew campaign, or game set in Greyhawk, the Realms, or wherever.

Folks buying a whole campaign setting book or boxed set are making more of an investment. Not just of cash, but of planned time and work to read and internalize the setting details, then to build their campaign in that setting and work to use the provided details, and make their own creative design and writing compatible with it.

Are we trying to measure "How many people found this setting cool enough to run an adventure set there"? Or "How many people found this setting appealing enough to want to run a whole campaign there, possibly committing years of real time to it"?
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
But the chart doesn’t show sales of the original Ravenloft module. Which was a huge seller, AFAIK.

A comparison of just the key boxed sets does tell us something, but it doesn’t really encompass the totality of consumer impressions for each setting.
I think it's important to note I6 Ravenloft came out in 1983. The boxed set didn't come out until 1990. So it makes sense the module had high sales #s but the setting did not, considering those above factors.
 

Reynard

Legend
But the chart doesn’t show sales of the original Ravenloft module. Which was a huge seller, AFAIK.

A comparison of just the key boxed sets does tell us something, but it doesn’t really encompass the totality of consumer impressions for each setting.
I don't think it is an achievable goal for any setting. Not only does each have tons of supplements, but how do you count Dungeon and Dragon articles focused on the settings?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't think it is an achievable goal for any setting. Not only does each have tons of supplements, but how do you count Dungeon and Dragon articles focused on the settings?

Agreed. The idea of "consumer impressions" is a bizarre one in this context. It also (IMO) would not correlate well with sales back then.

We've had previous discussions as to why sales of Basic (for example) did not correlate highly to playing Basic, especially given the difference in play that we can see at Conventions and in coverage in periodicals at the time.

I know that I had multiple copies of Basic (Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer) as well as Expert (Cook, Mentzer) and the B and X modules, yet never really though of "The Known World" or "Mystara" as settings until much later (and never ran a campaign in them). While my anecdote is not dispositive, I don't think it's that unusual for the 80s.
 

I wasn't expressing an opinion. there is huge amounts of data that shows that the CCG boom killed large numbers of TTRPGs as stores stopped ordering TTRPGs in order to sell CCGS, and the bust killed large numbers of stores. CCGs did far more damage than Vampire did.
Vampire's sales were not really impacted by the CCG boom. In fact, it almost entirely replaced the TTRPG market back then. Not only D&D sales were down, but other TTRPG as well. Heck, Role Master, Palladium books, Warhammer and many other almost disapear and other promising TTRPG simply vanished! That people bought more CCG than TTRPG was not a surprise. A market shift is always to be expected. But TSR's sales would have survived if Vampire had not come around. Yes the pond was smaller, but D&D's quasi monopoly was literally gutted by Vampire.
 

Agreed. The idea of "consumer impressions" is a bizarre one in this context. It also (IMO) would not correlate well with sales back then.

We've had previous discussions as to why sales of Basic (for example) did not correlate highly to playing Basic, especially given the difference in play that we can see at Conventions and in coverage in periodicals at the time.

I know that I had multiple copies of Basic (Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer) as well as Expert (Cook, Mentzer) and the B and X modules, yet never really though of "The Known World" or "Mystara" as settings until much later (and never ran a campaign in them). While my anecdote is not dispositive, I don't think it's that unusual for the 80s.
I have the same impression. Modules would be used with either game. No one thought of B2 as basic exclusively (or any other module for that matter). It is only around the Companion and Master box set that adventures started to appear to be only for one system or the other (and even then, many would simply adapt the adventure to AD&D).
The reverse, however, was not always true. Most AD&D module would not be used with "Basic" in mind.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Vampire's sales were not really impacted by the CCG boom. In fact, it almost entirely replaced the TTRPG market back then. Not only D&D sales were down, but other TTRPG as well. Heck, Role Master, Palladium books, Warhammer and many other almost disapear and other promising TTRPG simply vanished! That people bought more CCG than TTRPG was not a surprise. A market shift is always to be expected. But TSR's sales would have survived if Vampire had not come around. Yes the pond was smaller, but D&D's quasi monopoly was literally gutted by Vampire.
Helldritch, is this your impression specific to your country? In the US Vampire and other "more adult" games definitely ate TSR's lunch to some extent, as D&D got derided as old fashioned compared to the Storyteller system, Shadowrun, and even more universal systems like GURPS. But CCGs were a tidal wave totally reshaping the hobby gaming market.
 

darjr

I crit!
In the US vampire sales beat D&D sales, but from what I understand, not by a lot.

So if TSR sales were depressed I don’t think those Vampire sales were basic level or maybe not even core book AD&D 1e levels.
 


Helldritch, is this your impression specific to your country? In the US Vampire and other "more adult" games definitely ate TSR's lunch to some extent, as D&D got derided as old fashioned compared to the Storyteller system, Shadowrun, and even more universal systems like GURPS, but CCGs were a tidal wave totally reshaping the hobby gaming market.
Probably due to my province (Quebec, Canada). Here, GURPS, Shadowrun became non existent. All that was left was Vampire and D&D and to some lesser extent, Warhammer, Palladium and a wee bit of other. Yes, the CCG took a large part. But CCG is not TTRPG. These are two distinct market. I know a lot of CCG players that never touched a RPG in their entire life. The reverse is quite rarer. Even I played MTG any my collection is quite fine. The two systems are not targeting the same audience but a person can have many interests. Those who were not in the Vampire fad went somewhere else. That is CCG. But the goal here is to compare TTRPG with TTRPG not with an other market.
 

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