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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...

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

dndsales.jpg


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.

birthright.jpg
redsteel.jpg
planecape.jpg
maztica.jpg
al-qadim.jpg
lankhmar.jpg
darksun.jpg
ravenloft.jpg
realms.jpg
dragonlance.jpg
motp.jpg
greyhawk.jpg
oa.jpg
1ephb-dmg.jpg
basic.jpg
 

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TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
Earlier I guess. What are the big changes for 5e Ravenloft? I've heard itbwasn't considered a great conversion?
Personally, I think 5e Ravenloft is much better, but I was never a big fan of the 2e original, so I'm biased.

5e leans into the fact that the domains are meant to be staged dioramas that turn on when the PCs arrive; there's no real reason for Ravenloft as a whole to be a coherent, holistic world.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
I'm not clear on what you mean. It was their wheelhouse -- Gary played Braunstein and other domain-centered play.

Playing a game doesn't mean designing it is in your wheelhouse.

That's what he expected people to do with their characters* once they hit high level.

I see a bunch of folks asserting this, but no quotes from the man stating that he expected folks to actually go to another game.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Personally, I think 5e Ravenloft is much better, but I was never a big fan of the 2e original, so I'm biased.

5e leans into the fact that the domains are meant to be staged dioramas that turn on when the PCs arrive; there's no real reason for Ravenloft as a whole to be a coherent, holistic world.
There's no reason "for you" for Ravenloft ri be coherent. To me, however, the story of the setting was deeply damaged.

My feelings on this issue are on record, though, and I'm not going to clutter this thread with them.
 


Von Ether

Legend
Yeah there’s a danger here in giving too much credence to criticism. Raven loft is an unparalleled success in 5e. Massively popular. So popular that they actually went back to the well for a second book. Nothing in 5e has gotten two books.

So I’d say that despite some grumbling, 5e rave loft is a smashing success.

But again sure there are some setting specific mechanics in Dark Sun. Although, again stuff like weapon breakage and whatnot is part of the overall post apocalyptic theme.

Like was said, it’s the story of a setting that really sets a setting apart.
It seems that the true heart of the discussion is that different people are using the word, "tone," to mean different things.

Like GH, FR, and DL all share similar themes but have different atmospheres or moods. While the other D&D settings have wildly different themes AND different moods. (and if someone wants to come up with even more accurate terms, I'll take them.)

LOL! In that respect, Greyhawk and Eberron are closer cousins where things are more morally gray and the shadow of past wars darken today, along with the threat of forces trying to start a new war on the horizon that will offer more misery than honor.

Intelligent construct soldiers with no country or Intelligent swords fighting a forgotten war makes me think that the only thing stopping more GH players from checking out Eberron is the magi-punk ascetic and nostalgia. And gaming is high subjective and ascetic so #nobadwrongfun for both GH fans and Eberron fans. I'm just saying a GH GM could play up a lot of the great Eberron pieces that get lost in the also wonderful pulpy shuffle.
 
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TwoSix

Dirty, realism-hating munchkin powergamer
There's no reason "for you" for Ravenloft ri be coherent. To me, however, the story of the setting was deeply damaged.

My feelings on this issue are on record, though, and I'm not going to clutter this thread with them.
Any statement I make (or really, anyone makes), should be assumed to be my opinion only. The fact that I don't think Ravenloft needs to be coherent doesn't impact your beliefs otherwise.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I'm not clear on what you mean. It was their wheelhouse -- Gary played Braunstein and other domain-centered play. That's what he expected people to do with their characters* once they hit high level. Once he realized that it wasn't wargamers, but instead mostly high school and college kids new to the scene who were picking up D&D, he could have made similar rules (or even bought/licensed Braunstein).
*if anything, I think this notion that you were supposed to play them as leaders and rulers gets overblown, and oftentimes that was just the explanation of what they did when you retired them.
A couple of points of historical clarification.

I don't know whether Gary ever played any of the Braunstein derivatives, but as far as I'm aware he's definitely not recorded as playing the original. That was Dave Arneson and a bunch of the Twin Cities gamers.

The original Braunstein wasn't a domain management game. It was a scenario set in a Napoleonic-era Prussian town (named Braunstein) where each of the players was given an individual person as a role- like the mayor, the head of the local cavalry unit, a student agitator, etc. Very similar to a modern Live Action Roleplaying Game of the sort the Society for Interactive Literature started running at sci-fi cons in 1983. Each character Dave Wesely assigned had goals to achieve. I believe he initially anticipated that the individual characters scenario would inform the setup of an army-scale wargame scenario to follow, based on what the players did, but in practice everyone enjoyed the individual character play so much they didn't even get to the wargame.

Subsequent "Braunsteins" followed, with different settings, the name being kind of generified. One of the most famous examples being the banana republic game set in a South or Central American country on the brink of revolution, where Dave Arneson (assigned a "peaceful revolutionary" role with a goal of distributing leaflets to other revolutionaries, and more for getting them to other civilians) famously tricked other players into thinking his character was a CIA agent, ended the game flying out of the country on a helicopter with most of the country's treasury, and, reminded that he got points for distributing the leaflets, said something like "Oh yeah, I dump those out the side door, so they rain over the town."


To my recollection, Dave Arneson first described his idea for the game that became Blackmoor as "a medieval-style Braunstein game" in his Corner of the Tabletop newsletter, when advertising that he'd be running it and looking for players.

While OD&D is definitely written to support the idea of high-level Fighting Men claiming domains, building castles and clearing the area around them of monsters, and receiving tax income, I'm not sure how much of that Gary actually did that way. I do believe that such play was characteristic of Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor, where players often controlled factions and larger forces, and a certain amount of oppositional play was common, and probably was adjudicated using Chainmail or other wargame rules for the battles, though I don't have much documentation on that. I expect there's more detail on that in the doc film Secrets of Blackmoor, but I still haven't watched it.

I agree with you, though, that it's a little strange that TSR didn't come up with and publish some more rules for running a domain some time after the 1974 set gave us (pretty bare bones) parameters, given that AD&D continued to imply that this would be common of high level play, and added in all those charts of what kind of followers would be attracted to PCs once they hit name level, and basic details in the PH about what kind of strongholds the different classes could build. The D&D Companion set more or less covered that base in 1984, but only for the subsidiary product line. I don't think there was ever anything similar for AD&D.

Right, but it is still one property. I mean, I don't want to dismiss the power of one IP (after all, 300 made hoplites and spear-soldiers cool again for TTRPGs almost solo), but in general it takes a lot more than that to make a fad or trend.

Manga and Anime are completely different things whose relevance to the discussion I don't understand. They happen to be Japanese initiated art forms/movements, but that's not the same thing as the (centered on the) 80s western martial artist/ninja fad. There are sometimes martial artists or ninjas in Manga and Anime, but not consistently or I'd say even most of the time.


I'm not clear on what you mean. It was their wheelhouse -- Gary played Braunstein and other domain-centered play. That's what he expected people to do with their characters* once they hit high level. Once he realized that it wasn't wargamers, but instead mostly high school and college kids new to the scene who were picking up D&D, he could have made similar rules (or even bought/licensed Braunstein).
*if anything, I think this notion that you were supposed to play them as leaders and rulers gets overblown, and oftentimes that was just the explanation of what they did when you retired them.

Exactly what the old school sensibilities 5e has are really up to interpretation. IMO, 5e could be hammered into place to do this, but to really make it the same beast as bitd Greyhawk era dungeon crawling, a lot would have to be modified. Stuff like eliminate light cantrips, make treasure obtained the XP metric, makes sessions end when you left the dungeon to rest, and so forth.

Exactly what the old school sensibilities 5e has are really up to interpretation. IMO, 5e could be hammered into place to do this, but to really make it the same beast as bitd Greyhawk era dungeon crawling, a lot would have to be modified. Stuff like eliminate light cantrips, make treasure obtained the XP metric, makes sessions end when you left the dungeon to rest, and so forth.
Right. I don't think we'd want WotC to try to make it "the same beast". But with a few tweaks (like maybe removing light cantrips, and definitely adding a dungeon exploring play procedure) we could fairly easily have a new version which pays homage to the old while leaving behind elements which players quickly abandoned as frustrating and tiresome (like the combination of player mapping based on DM description along with teleporters and similar shenanigans to frustrate mappers).
 
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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Thanks for that link. It was a fun read.
 

Playing a game doesn't mean designing it is in your wheelhouse.
True, and maybe it was just put off since no one (Gygax, Arneson, Perren, etc.) wanted to build the thing. Still, they were learning all of this as they went along. If they saw this need, they certainly had a road map to making an attempt (they certainly didn't hit it out of the park with all the things they attempted).
I see a bunch of folks asserting this, but no quotes from the man stating that he expected folks to actually go to another game.
You're right. This is conjecture people are making based on what he himself was doing*. If he did not intend people to switch games, then the sparseness of rule structure within D&D for that part of the level range all the more of an issue (I guess pointing towards my other speculation above: that this is overblown and you really were just 'supposed' to retire the character and say they were being a ruler and general).
*playing Chainmail battles, Braunstein city game, and proto-D&D dungeon crawls in the same world/scenario.

I guess my primary point/thin I am wondering is -- assuming they realized that the buyer base for D&D wasn't all people just like them (something I think all think they realized, as they have talked about the high-schoolers and non-wargaming college kids buying the game), and realized that people were playing into the post-name-level range (certainly the forward to GD&H suggests they realized this), why did it take 10-11 years (whenever C in BECMI came out) for there to be any Followers & Fortifications rules past who you get and the costs of building castles? It just seems like a disconnect (mind you, the whole thread here is highlighting the disconnect TSR had with its' base).
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
why did it take 10-11 years (whenever C in BECMI came out) for there to be any Followers & Fortifications rules past who you get and the costs of building castles? It just seems like a disconnect (mind you, the whole thread here is highlighting the disconnect TSR had with its' base).
Followers are in the 1978 AD&D PHB at least and I think in the OD&D rules as well. It did not take until Companion. Companion just formalized the domain managements and mass battle rules that has been bouncing around half written.
 

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