D&D General All Basic, B/X and BECMI and Rules Cyclopedia set sales, from Ben Riggs.

Parmandur

Book-Friend
One of my biggest takeaways is that WotC hasn't been whistling Dixie whenever they have said they legitimately aren't 100% sure how well TSR era products sold: it seems TSR's bookkeeping was a real amateur hour, from start to finish (either amateurish or sinister, I'd say).
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
One of my biggest takeaways is that WotC has-been whistling Dixie whenever they have said they legitimately aren't 100% sure how well TSR era products sold: it seems TSR's bookkeeping was a real amateur hour, from start to finish (eother amateurish or sinister, I'd say).
"Hasn't been" whistling Dixie, do you mean?
 


Wow, looks like what, less than 100k people have the Rules Cyclopedia? That's totally wild given how legendary it has always seemed to be. I feel kind of lucky to have a copy!
 

darjr

I crit!
One of my biggest takeaways is that WotC has-been whistling Dixie whenever they have said they legitimately aren't 100% sure how well TSR era products sold: it seems TSR's bookkeeping was a real amateur hour, from start to finish (eother amateurish or sinister, I'd say).
Whistling Dixie? Not sure what you mean?

But a couple new conclusions have occurred to me.

First is the the nostalgia play by WotC isn’t what I thought nor do I think many others thought.

5es nostalgia play is for Basic, not AD&D. Subconsciously I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve liked it so much.

Second example, Spelljammers nostalgia play isn’t based in the game materials, but in an zeitgeist of sorts from comics and novels and video games, hence the lean on Miniature Giant Hansters froM Baldurs Gate and not on something actually in Spelljammer (besides the Nautilus and Giff, of coarse)

Third the only full voiced nostalgia play from game materials, initially anyway, was Curse of Strahd.

I think there are more examples of this as well.
 

darjr

I crit!
IF planescape is next it’ll be interesting if it leans more on the media and video games etc than anything actually in the games box sets.
 

Yeah, I think there was a substantial amount of AD&D being perceived as the "real" game, for "serious, grown-up" players, and that led to kids who got Basic and were really hooked almost inevitably transitioning to AD&D. I'm sure some players also lost interest.

I feel like my experience was somewhat rare: we played BECMI exclusively -- getting up to the mid-20s -- for 4 years before moving to 2E.

That was definitely the narrative going around when I played BITD. We started with a B/BX/BECMI/AD&D hybrid in '83 (DM had first-printing Mentzer Basic and Expert, everyone else got what they could find) and kept that ongoing campaign going for a decade or so, but outside that core group, we always had to switch to AD&D or later 2e as all the other groups treated basic-classic as the thing you moved on from once you got serious. We kept that main campaign going for continuity, and for when we did want to play domain style play (which the Companion set did pretty well, although looking back on it it isn't what I'd do now), and for plane-hopping high-level play (we considered the planar cosmology of BECMI to be superior to the AD&D wheel-o'-alignment-themed-planes), but kinda-sorta felt like the kids who keep playing checkers when the other smartish kids had moved on to chess, or whatever analogy works for you.
I suspect that 5E growth is benefitting hugely from streaming and online play. Streaming largely solves the issue of "How do I actually do this?" that you used to need a mentor for. Online/Discord/VTT play largely solves the issue of player availability.

D&D's sheer popularity also increases the ease of finding a local physical group. A virtuous circle of network effects.
I think it also benefits that it is the first edition where it is easy to make and play characters the first time and such (3e and 4e, IMO, being very good 'person's second TTRPG') after a bunch of fantasy things like LotR and WoW and anime became widespread mainstream. Also after the TSR-WotC switch that jettisoned stuff like racial restrictions, hyper-lethal-low-levels, 'this class sucks at low levels, but at high levels you'll shine, so it is balanced' and and other stuff that was a reason why I had a lot of friends growing up who tried D&D or AD&D, but didn't make it past the learning curve to get to the fun part.
I might have assumed so. But the Basic continues to sell more than Advanced, even from 1984 to 1988.

I suspect most Basic players were casual and content with low level play.
I've always assumed that BX and BE (and it is notable how much CMI drops off) was most often a low of casual dungeon crawling. My main group very much looked at AD&D as 'everyone else prefers this, but I see a lot of complexity searching for a point' in it until the supplementary 2e red-brown books started making crafting a specific character became a bigger focus.
Weird how this all works, if the numbers are accurate. Most old-school Basic players swear by the RC. But its sales are not great. B/X is usually regarded as the lesser of B/X and BECMI...yet B/X stomped BECMI.

Right...but the better selling B/X doesn't seem to have that same kind of vocal fanbase. It's odd. People talk up BECMI and the RC all the time, but until Old-School Essentials came along it seemed like people barely remembered B/X at all.
I don't feel like this is representative of my experience. Mind you, I've seen every kind of gate-keeping, line-drawing, my-nest-is-best-ing, and other forms of tribalism amongst TTRPG players online (and of course no one fights as bitterly as siblings). That said, my take would have been that everyone that stuck with/fondly remembered basic-classic considered each other more alike each other than those that aligned with either of the AD&Ds, and they all are more alike than WotC-era D&D. And when the OSR started, the biggest split I noticed was the OSRIC crowd trying to make AD&D-alikes the standard and the others like Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy RPG (and Swords and Wizardry, Beyond the Wall, etc. etc.) taking a kinda split-the-difference BX or BE part of BECMI approach -- with few of them really focusing on the places where BX and BECMI greatly differ -- not looking at level 15+ and often having alternate thief implementation (making it hard to say if it was the BX or BE progression).

 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Whistling Dixie? Not sure what you mean?
"Whistling Dixie" means to engage in idle talk or meaningless signaling without substance. "Dixie" was the Confederate anthem. It was said that the South couldn't "just whistle "Dixie" and expect to get what they wanted. They had to take action.

The most common expression using it is in the negative, as in "You ain't just whistling "Dixie" to affirm that you recognize that someone means business, and isn't just speaking idly with nothing to back it up.

Parmander sounds like he's saying that the somewhat mushy/incomplete numbers from TSR support prior WotC statements that they're not exactly sure how well TSR stuff sold.
 
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Parmandur

Book-Friend
Wow, looks like what, less than 100k people have the Rules Cyclopedia? That's totally wild given how legendary it has always seemed to be. I feel kind of lucky to have a copy!
I mean, that's still a lot of people, and you can probably multiply each sale by 5 or.more.in terms of.how many people experienced it (based on the nearly identical sales of the PHB and DMG).
 


5es nostalgia play is for Basic, not AD&D. Subconsciously I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve liked it so much.
What do you mean? I think Mearls was (infamously) influenced by the OSR which had revived OD&D and Basic in distilling their gameplay assumptions. So in that sense, aspects of 5e, like its relative simplicity and core game loop, probably owe something to basic. At the same time, they didn't include very explicit exploration procedures, and other elements of the class design are very cumbersome compared to basic. But the initial marketing struck me as very 1e and 2e nostalgic, both in the idea that a dnd campaign is this long epic story (2e) but also in the specific adventures they were reimagining (elemental evil-->princes of the apocalypse, against the giants-->storm kings thunder, etc).
 

Reynard

Legend
What do you mean? I think Mearls was (infamously) influenced by the OSR which had revived OD&D and Basic in distilling their gameplay assumptions. So in that sense, aspects of 5e, like its relative simplicity and core game loop, probably owe something to basic. At the same time, they didn't include very explicit exploration procedures, and other elements of the class design are very cumbersome compared to basic. But the initial marketing struck me as very 1e and 2e nostalgic, both in the idea that a dnd campaign is this long epic story (2e) but also in the specific adventures they were reimagining (elemental evil-->princes of the apocalypse, against the giants-->storm kings thunder, etc).
All the WotC edition have been follow ons of the AD&D tradition (you can tell by the numbering) but 5E definitely embraced the core simplicity of Basic. it is too bad that it didn't also embrace the procedural nature of either B/X or BECMI, though. Clear procedures for exploration -- dungeon or wilderness -- would have been welcome.
 

darjr

I crit!
Combined graph of all sales of basic.

Behold! Total sales of D&D boxed sets 1979-1997! Data includes Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal & Rules Cyclopedia!

Next up, a final tally of D&D vs. AD&D sales, including all D&D boxed sets and the Cyclopedia, and all monster products for AD&D.

93E1B461-1D29-4632-BCA3-2EC238F4F7BE.jpeg



 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Combined graph of all sales of basic.

Behold! Total sales of D&D boxed sets 1979-1997! Data includes Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal & Rules Cyclopedia!

Next up, a final tally of D&D vs. AD&D sales, including all D&D boxed sets and the Cyclopedia, and all monster products for AD&D.

View attachment 256086


(sigh) Ah, my favorite edition. It was truly the King of the 1980s, wasn't it?
 



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