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D&D General How many DMs buy (official) adventures?


I bought all of them. Found good discount deals. Only one i ran is CoS and even that was modified. I generally don't run them as is. I pilfer things from them. I never bought adventures in older editions, only Campaign Setting books, but WotC is not doing those any more, at least not in the same way as it did for 3e ( or tsr for 2ed ad&d).

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So Teos @Alphastream posted some BookScan data in Sept 2023...

For example, the DMG has total to-date retail sales (RTD Sales) of 823,116. Compared to that, the top five adventures have much lower RTD Sales coming in at...
  • Curse of Strahd 147,244
  • Waterdeep: Dragon Heist 120,884
  • Hoard of the Dragon Queen 110,678
  • Yawning Portal 108,961
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh 93,905
Interestingly, those very closely match the ratios of Adventures-to-DMG sold at my FLGS. (Though not exactly directly to WHICH adventures - Dragonheist and Saltmarsh are not in my top 5 sales FTD, where Out of the Abyss and Tomb of Annihilation are).

Some of the store owners who spend time here might have some evidence.

Teos's data would put it at roughly 5 to 1 DMGs to CoSs.
Mine's 5.7-to-1. So pretty close.
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Even if we had the numbers of DMG sales - we don't know how many of those DMGs represent long-term, active GMs. Just like we don't know how many PHB sales end up gathering dust on the shelf, unused.
That goes for the Adventures too. For an anecdotal example, my personal F2F group has 4 "whales" (when it comes to D&D books) - four of us buy every book that comes out. But we're only going to play each adventure once, right? (Or not even that? We've never played Theros, Dungeon of the Mad Mage, or any of the anthologies, except for part of Saltmarsh).


Before the days of Paizo's adventure paths and the 5E megadventures I'd venture to say that most DMs I ran across had at least 3-5 modules they had bought. I can't say how many had run them start to end, but it did make for showing structure and giving prebuilt encounters you could drop into play.

Nowadays, I see them being bought exclusively to run and not for ideas or collecting. About 3/4 of the DMs I've run across who run 5E buy them (and usually just one before they start designing their own homebrew start to finish), less so for Pathfinder (the latter seem more apt to looking for free content online) - I'd say in the 50% range.

Seeing the numbers above, I'm not surprised though. The official adventures (beyond Yawning Portal) are a big ask - they're not cheap and you're basically slotting about 3-6 months of play to finish them. I've seen very few of the big adventures run to completion before petering out for one reason or another. Out of 7 such games that I know of for 5E, only one completed the entire adventure, for example. Doesn't exactly inspire folks to buy again if their first attempt falls through.
I’ll flip that and say most of the DMs I know run published adventures more than homebrew and most I see that do homebrew add these elements into published campaigns.


I buy most adventures that are available on DDB because I want access to the creatures, magic items, and on occasion adapt chunks of them for my campaigns. I'm hoping to run the entirety of the upcoming Vecna adventure, which would be the first time I have done so, aside from starter adventures.


Doing the best imitation of myself
For D&D I used to pick up everything in the 3X and 4E eras. I picked up Strahd but nothing else because, honestly I don't think they were very good. I played in Dragon Heist last year and the DM had it both in print and on Roll20.

And the big change for me was Foundry getting full support. I picked up Phandelver when it came out for Foundry VTT to support that effort going forward. I'll probably get other Foundry titles as they are released.


I’ll flip that and say most of the DMs I know run published adventures more than homebrew and most I see that do homebrew add these elements into published campaigns.
I myself am pressed for time and more often than not have run published adventures. The only 5E homebrew I've done and used has been for one-shots so far (and editionless campaign settings).

My son and my wife, however, do 100% homebrew - even though my wife has purchased a couple adventure paths (Witchlight, Candlekeep & Keys specifically - I believe she's using the content as inspiration and we may see some of it appear in our upcoming games from the insessant note-taking she's been doing :) ).

Another two in my gaming circle are split - one only runs homebrew adventures based on published settings (Theros & New Cappena from DM Binder), the other only does prepublished (Rime of the Frostmaiden). My brother is doing a mix (Tyranny of Dragons with homebrew side treks for the PC Eladrin brothers).

My sister-in-law ran Tomb interspersed with encounters plucked from other 3rd party adventures (which was a nightmare to endure due to her DM style), and is now running two games with entirely homebrewed content.

Three DMs at the FLGS are running Adventure League adventures, another one is running Saltmarsh and the last I think is doing their homebrew campaign world and a mix of short official adventures and homemade adventures.

So, there's quite a mix going on from what I've been seeing.


I only ever run pre-written adventures if it's for an RPGA-type event, and I don't purchase them. I think I own exactly one issue of Dungeon, but have a huge pile of Dragon. I'm much more into tools, systems, and patterns as a DM. Something like "Try pairing up environments and monsters for added challenge, like using ghouls on a steep cliff climb" is more helpful than an adventure scenario about wresting a McGuffin from the ghouls haunting a cliffside burial ground.

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