Darksun TSR sales! From Benjamin Riggs.


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Jer

Legend
Supporter
I would not be at all surprised if the 1E MM didn't outsell the 1E PHB by a comfortable margin, since so many people used it with B/X as well.
Right - the various MMs were the easiest things to slot in and use in a B/X or BECMI game. You just had to ignore some bits - very little needed to be changed.

The 1e MM was also sold as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" without the context that "AD&D" meant a different game than the game that everyone was already playing. Since it came out first it was just a big hardcover monster book for D&D and the "Advanced" on the title might just mean "more complex than D&D" - and since there were a bunch of new stats in the monster stat block it certainly was a more complex monster writeup than the ones seen in the OD&D pamphlets or the D&D Basic set.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
With OD&D you’d have to figure in the shear tonnage of mimio graphed copies.
Same for BECM. I remember standing guard outside of the teacher's lounge while my buddy Dave made photocopies of my Basic Player's Handbook. Took us all week to get enough copies for everyone in our gaming group.

(Sorry, TSR. We tried to buy them legitimately, but nobody would sell them. 1986-87 Oklahoma wasn't exactly 'gamer friendly.')
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Right - the various MMs were the easiest things to slot in and use in a B/X or BECMI game. You just had to ignore some bits - very little needed to be changed.

The 1e MM was also sold as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" without the context that "AD&D" meant a different game than the game that everyone was already playing. Since it came out first it was just a big hardcover monster book for D&D and the "Advanced" on the title might just mean "more complex than D&D" - and since there were a bunch of new stats in the monster stat block it certainly was a more complex monster writeup than the ones seen in the OD&D pamphlets or the D&D Basic set.
Right. When you look at stuff like damage caused by monsters in there, too, it's clear that a lot of that first MM was written with OD&D in mind. And existing OD&D players were the immediate market.

Monster stats were really minimal in the 1974 set, then supplements I and II patched and expanded them a bit, and between those and articles in The Strategic Review, monsters were really kind of a mess until the MM came out in 1977. That book was pretty much a must-buy. The PH didn't come out until the following year, and the DMG (which had the AD&D combat tables and saving throws!) until '79, so you couldn't even actually play AD&D as a game without OD&D until two years after the MM arrived.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
The PH didn't come out until the following year, and the DMG (which had the AD&D combat tables and saving throws!) until '79, so you couldn't even actually play AD&D as a game without OD&D until two years after the MM arrived.
Not only did the PHB not have the combat tables or the saving throw tables, it didn't even contain the rules on how to roll for ability scores! You either had to wait a year until the DMG came out or just assume that the way you'd been doing it for OD&D/Basic would work for AD&D because the rules weren't in the book.

I remember that being one of the selling points for 2e - that all of the player facing rules would be in the player book. Weird to think about how that wasn't the norm for an entire edition of D&D but it wasn't.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
He did count the Basic boxed set, however. I was responding to @darjr 's comment about the Red Box Basic being the best-selling edition until 5E. The red box set had all of the core books at the time (two books; there wasn't a such thing as a Monster Manual in Basic D&D.)

Fair point about 1E sales not including the MM. I'm not sure how much it would skew the sales to add those values in, but my gut says it's somewhere between +30% and +50%. (Full disclosure: my gut is a liar.)
Given the near 1 to 1 sales for the DMG and PHB, the MM would probably add about 30% to 1E sales.
 

I missed the worst of it, stepping away from the hobby in the mid 90s. When I came back, Wizards was the new owner. But between looking at Usenet archives and listening to the Plot Points podcast, it's easy to piece together a grim picture. Yes, people on the internet will always complain, but TSR's name really seemed like it was absolute mud back then.

One wonders what would've happened if Wizards' hadn't been there to pick up the ball. While some people like to fantasize about D&D having reverted to Gary Gygax or some small (the unsaid part adds "less woke" in a lot of those fantasies) company purchasing the rights, it was only ever going to be a choice between another large company buying it or the game fading away, considering how much those rights were going to sell for. People would've likely just kept playing using those old books for a long while, but one wonders what the world would be like without both D&D and the OGL.

Wizards has kept the torch burning and now burning brighter than ever.

The D&D hobby as a whole was suffering as a whole in the 1990s. All sales for all products take a massive hit in the 1990s because the company itself was failing, and dragging everything down with it. If TS&R could have held the line and managed this loss better, maybe all of these graphs for all campaign settings would be higher, and some might look more successful than others. But that's not what happened.

I know that a lot of people want to hate Wizards of the Coast for various reasons, but for better or worse, WotC saved D&D. It was in very real danger of fading away into obscurity in the late 90s, and they brought it back to the fore. I understand that this research is focused primarily on TSR, but someday I'd love to see the sales graph stretched out to year 2020. I'd wager that 3E outsold all of these, combined.
 

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