From Forgotten Realms to Red Steel: Here's That Full D&D Setting Sales Chart

Whether this will end a thousand internet arguments or fuel another thousand, Ben Riggs, author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons, has finally published the combined chart of cumulative sales for every AD&D setting from 1979 to 1999.

Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Oriental Adventures, and Dragonlance lead the pack. The least selling setting was Red Steel in 1994. There was a clear decline in sales of all settings from 1989 onwards, so that's not necessary a comment on quality. Planescape, certainly a cult favourite, sold surprisingly few copies.

In order, the best-selling settings were:
  1. Forgotten Realms
  2. Greyhawk
  3. Oriental Adventures
  4. Dragonlance
  5. Ravenloft
  6. Dark Sun
  7. Spelljammer
  8. Lankhmar
  9. Al-Qadim
  10. Planescape
  11. Birthright
  12. Maztica
  13. Karameikos
  14. Red Steel


These stats were compiled as part of his research into his book, Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons and Dragons, which you should totally buy.

Let's dive into some individual sales charts! Note, these are for the primary setting product, not for additional adventures, supplements, etc.

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

In those waning conditions, Birthright seemed to sell as well as it could. I had Red Steel. It was an odd ball setting that I liked but I can also see why it didn't take off.

It didn't help that it was really a mini-setting inside FR and thus had to also waste time on rules for why Red Steel infected characters lost their powers when going back to FR proper.

If it had been set in it's own universe, it might have been fun to see how the infection impacted things beyond the region.

[EDIT: Doh! It was in Mystara, which was one of the reasons I picked it up! ]
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Would love to see the Gazetteer sales separate from overall Basic sales to be able to compare Mystara and the other settings. But then, that's not quite measuring the same thing, as the charts only measure core boxes.

I would think the Oriental Adventures chart refers to the Kara-Tur boxed set, unless a mistake was made in sending the charts.

RE: negative sales, that might represent returns from the book and Mass market trade. Overall sales of other lines were likely broad enough that returns were less than sales for the year, but Red Steel... Probably not...

Ah, OA from 85 indeed means they are including the related books, as the Kara-Tur boxed set was not released until later and associated with FR.

That's why the OA numbers are so high. The AD&D OA rule book was sold before 1E started to seriously decline in sales.

A more accurate measure on all of these would be simply the one, single core box set (and folio, in the case of Greyhawk) through it's various editions. After all, which books and boxes were considered "core" for these purposes?


I would be interested to see sales on DMsGuild on these books now they are being resold in PDF and POD. I would think that sales are only in the 1000s rather than these charts show for the time period.

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