Welcome to the most speculative and controversial post in my series thus far!

I hypothesize that as of 1998, 4,007,685 people played AD&D.

Here’s how I interpreted sales data to reach that figure.

I would posit it was impossible to run AD&D without the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Therefore sales of the DMG can show us the maximum number of POTENTIAL DUNGEON MASTERS.

The chart below shows us how many DMGs were sold for the three different versions of AD&D released between 1979 and 1998. In addition to showing the sales collapse between editions, it tells us that a total of 2,023,194 DMGs were sold.

Now, how many of those DMGs were people rebuying the book? 148,412 copies of the revised DMG were sold. Let’s assume all of those were rebuys. The second edition DMG sold 543,414. Let’s say half of those were rebuys.

2,023,194 Total DMGs - 271,707 2nd Ed Rebuys - 128,412 Revised Rebuys = 1,603,075 DMG owners

Now how many of those buyers actually ran the game? Feel free to make your own guess, but I’m going to be conservative and say only 50% of buyers actually ran the game. Rounding down, that leaves us with 801,537 theoretical DMs.

Let’s also conservatively assume that each of those DMs ran game for four players at least once. That would mean that between ‘79 and ‘98 4,007,685 played AD&D.

And since we’re having fun, let’s point out that last year Wizards of the Coast said that 50 million people had “experienced” Dungeons & Dragons. Just for fun, I charted my hypothetical number against WoTC’s experienced number to show growth in the industry. It’s kinda crazy.

Note, this does not include Basic D&D players. Tomorrow, I’m going to go deep on Basic D&D in an effort to make some guesses on their player base.

So that’s how I’d run the numbers, but of course feel free to point out any flaws in my logic and play with the data yourself to get a different figure.

If you find me interesting, my book on D&D history, Slaying the Dragon, is out now. Pick it up anywhere books are sold, or use the link below!

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