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

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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Glad for this research. Yet calling these simply “settings” feels a bit misleading. Maybe “selected campaign setting products” would be more accurate.

If 2e Karameikos boxed set counts as a “setting”, then why not also include the sales of GAZ1 Karameikos? And the 2e Glantri boxed set and the BECMI Glantri Gazetteer? And all the Gazetteers?

What about the Hollow World boxed set?
 

Hussar

Legend
What is the point of nit-picking the information here? It is what it is. A comparison of the core setting material for each setting. Full stop. There is no "misleading". People keep trying to make this far more than it is. It's just a comparison of the main setting set. Maybe a setting did better in later splats? I don't know. That information is probably in the book. If you want more information, wouldn't the best thing be to go actually buy the book and look it up?

There's no real conclusions to be drawn here other than the main one that about a very short time after release, virtually every print product cratered in sales. It does explain the constant book churn out business model and also explains why we had (depending on how you count) several editions and different game lines. So long as each book starts with that fairly high sales number, that's good enough to keep the boat afloat, but, you're constantly trying to patch the holes in your boat and it will eventually sink, giving rise to a new edition.
 


What is the point of nit-picking the information here? It is what it is. A comparison of the core setting material for each setting. Full stop.
I appreciate the research. But research is open to comments, suggestions, and enquiry. That's not just "nit-picking."

Okay, then what is the "core setting material" for Mystara? The AD&D Karameikos boxed set? (!) A product which arrived at the very, very end of a 15-year product run, spanning hundreds of campaign setting books? It's cool to see the Karameikos boxed set numbers. But still.

Other "core setting material" not on the chart (yet): Hollow World, Champions of Mystara (Voyage of the Princess Ark), Time of the Dragon (Taladas), Hordelands. All boxed sets. Also the original Ravenloft module and the GAZetteer series were "core setting material".

That information is probably in the book. If you want more information, wouldn't the best thing be to go actually buy the book and look it up?

What are you, the book agent? How do you know what's in the book?

Anyway, Ben's doing great work.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
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.
Yes I think that's correct.
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?
If you view these all as separate products rather than aggregating them into a single number across settings, what you see is after about 1989 an almost linear relationship between the year the product was released and the number of lifetime sales it achieved. There are outliers of course (Maztica is very low for its year, and 1992 overall was a bad year according to these numbers), but you can track the reduction in sales over time along that line.

What is the point of nit-picking the information here? It is what it is. A comparison of the core setting material for each setting. Full stop. There is no "misleading". People keep trying to make this far more than it is.
People seem to want this to be some kind of indication of setting popularity or quality or something. Or potential monetary value of these properties to Wizards. But all it actually seems to be is a visible metric of late era TSR's floundering to do anything to stop the decline of their company.
 

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