D&D General As of 1998, 4,007,685 people played AD&D in the US, as estimated by Ben Riggs.

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
This one is a kind of useless conjecture. The walls between BECMI, AD&D, and 2e were more of a curb than a wall. I imagine many more played D&D of some kind, if only for a time or two. Ryan Dancey's estimate range of 8-11 million seems too high but 4 million seems to be missing some data points to be clearer, namely Basic players.
 

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darjr

I crit!
Shannon reposted his response


Ben starts a great discussion on D&D players then & now.

Here was my own response, which of course is highly speculative too:

==
I think it's possible the classic D&D players could be an order of magnitude higher.

To start with, 4 wasn't the standard group size then. It maybe averaged 6-8 based on the player numbers on modules, but anecdotally people often talked about 10-20 member groups.
And then you have to start looking at not just parallel players, but sequential players (e.g., how many players did a single GM lead over time).

That's of course lessened by the number of players who also bought DMGs, but that was also lower, particularly in the '80s. But I think 4 million could easily become 10 million or 20 million or even 40 million.

(But a lovely discussion point whatever the answer is; thank you!)
==


 


John Lloyd1

Explorer
Ryan Dancy also replied to me clarifying he thinks it could be 8 to 5 million.
I was thinking about the way the numbers of Players Manuals being only slightly higher than the number of DMGs impacts this (re: Dancy's and Shannon's numbers). Would this pull down the ratio of players to DMGs? I can't imagine 6-8 players sharing one Players Manual as being very common. (Let alone 10-20).
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I was thinking about the way the numbers of Players Manuals being only slightly higher than the number of DMGs impacts this (re: Dancy's and Shannon's numbers). Would this pull down the ratio of players to DMGs? I can't imagine 6-8 players sharing one Players Manual as being very common. (Let alone 10-20).
You only needed the PHB for character creation, leveling up, and spells. Unless the party is all casters, you don't all need PHBs. Creating characters also only took 10 minutes. Leveling up...depending on your class, maybe 5 at most. Find your class, write stuff down, close the book. Picking spells was the roughest. But most DMs, in my experience at least, would make you roll for it so there was no analysis paralysis. Lending books between sessions was also quite common. "Bill needs the week to pick spells, so if anyone needs the book between now and next weekend, talk to Bill." Photocopying your class out of the book was also quite common. As was photocopying the equipment section. And the spell lists. And the attack matrix. Xerox machines, man. People were poor and wanted to play.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
You only needed the PHB for character creation, leveling up, and spells. Unless the party is all casters, you don't all need PHBs. Creating characters also only took 10 minutes. Leveling up...depending on your class, maybe 5 at most. Find your class, write stuff down, close the book. Picking spells was the roughest. But most DMs, in my experience at least, would make you roll for it so there was no analysis paralysis. Lending books between sessions was also quite common. "Bill needs the week to pick spells, so if anyone needs the book between now and next weekend, talk to Bill." Photocopying your class out of the book was also quite common. As was photocopying the equipment section. And the spell lists. And the attack matrix. Xerox machines, man. People were poor and wanted to play.

I had a player who xeroxed an entire Darksun book and the RC.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I was thinking about the way the numbers of Players Manuals being only slightly higher than the number of DMGs impacts this (re: Dancy's and Shannon's numbers). Would this pull down the ratio of players to DMGs? I can't imagine 6-8 players sharing one Players Manual as being very common. (Let alone 10-20).

Not all at the same time but I played with at least 10 player 93-94 when I started.

93-2000 I played with at least 20 individuals. 2 core groups I was a floater in a third group plus at least 5 or 6 floaters in those core groups.

Group sizes were generally 6 or 7 including the DM largest was 9+DM.

1st experience small group 4

1st Campaign 6 inc DM

1st Campaign as DM. 6

Playing With 1E players (overlap) 3 unique (5 total)

1996 playing in out of town group 5 unique players. I was the floater

That's approx 20 players right there and that's excluding the floaters I can't remember how many of them I played with. It's also the groups I remember playing with.

My core group had a stable core of 4 players 1996-98 last one left 2012. Some of their friends went from floaters to new core group so I had a new core 2000-2010 so 4 players +1 DM.
 
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I was thinking about the way the numbers of Players Manuals being only slightly higher than the number of DMGs impacts this (re: Dancy's and Shannon's numbers). Would this pull down the ratio of players to DMGs? I can't imagine 6-8 players sharing one Players Manual as being very common. (Let alone 10-20).
Really? I've heard of plenty situations (and been in a few myself) where the only person who had books was the DM (or, in my case, the DM and me, because I had books long before I started running games.)

IME, and as others have told me, many, MANY players simply use someone else's books while they play. They don't "buy into" D&D at all. They just play it because someone else offers.
 

John Lloyd1

Explorer
Really? I've heard of plenty situations (and been in a few myself) where the only person who had books was the DM (or, in my case, the DM and me, because I had books long before I started running games.)

IME, and as others have told me, many, MANY players simply use someone else's books while they play. They don't "buy into" D&D at all. They just play it because someone else offers.
But when the groups get large (8+ or 10+), do you start getting a second set of books? (Either as a enthusiastic player or as a player who also DMs).
 


John Lloyd1

Explorer
I had a player who xeroxed an entire Darksun book and the RC.
As a high school student in the 80s, I didn't have ready access to a photocopier. Mind you, I did manage to get my Dad to photocopy an entire 1st edition book at work (Players, I think). The books were pretty expensive in Australia at the time.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Shannon reposted his response


Ben starts a great discussion on D&D players then & now.

Here was my own response, which of course is highly speculative too:

==
I think it's possible the classic D&D players could be an order of magnitude higher.

To start with, 4 wasn't the standard group size then. It maybe averaged 6-8 based on the player numbers on modules, but anecdotally people often talked about 10-20 member groups.
And then you have to start looking at not just parallel players, but sequential players (e.g., how many players did a single GM lead over time).

That's of course lessened by the number of players who also bought DMGs, but that was also lower, particularly in the '80s. But I think 4 million could easily become 10 million or 20 million or even 40 million.

(But a lovely discussion point whatever the answer is; thank you!)
==


And that’s exactly how Fermi Estimates work. Even with no data, you can make broad assumptions based on comparisons to values you do know, and the over-estimates will tend to “cancel out” the under-estimates to result in a guess that, while not precise, is within quite a reasonable margin of error given the large numbers involved.
 







Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So then there's a distinct possibility that the 'assumptions' Ben Riggs made weren't actually that sketchy or terrible.
Hmm, still less useful than the actual market research data that WotC published from the same period of time.
Well, the beauty of the Fermi Estimation is that your assumptions don’t necessarily need to be accurate, as long as you’re “in the right ballpark.” And as long as you understand that what you’re getting is not an accurate answer, but a reasonable range. Some of your estimations will be too high, and some will be too low, but as you multiply these factors, the over-estimates and the under-estimates tend to cancel out and you end up with a result that’s “close enough” (that is to say, within about an order of magnitude), which makes it a useful tool for checking your calculations that are meant to produce an accurate results against. If the calculations you use to try and find an accurate answer produce one that’s off from your Fermi Estimate by more than about an order of magnitude, there’s a good chance that there’s a flaw in your methodology.
 

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