D&D 5E The popularity of horror adventures/settings for 5e

Libertad

Hero
An interesting thing I've noticed is that products with a strong horror emphasis do very well, both in official and 3rd party spaces. On the official side of things, Curse of Strahd is the most popular of the WotC adventures for this edition by far. And the semi-official DM's Guild has an awful lot of products with the Ravenloft/Curse of Strahd filters, with Ravenloft actually exceeding Eberron in content number. Forgotten Realms leaves both in the dust, albeit I've noticed that a lot of publishers put generic setting-less content under that tag as opposed to Realmslore-specific things, which likely inflates the numbers.

When it comes to OGL material, some of the most popular crowdfunding campaigns have distinctly horror elements. Crooked Moon raised an amazing 4 million dollars on KickStarter, while Dungeons of Drakkenheim breached a little over 1 million dollars themselves. While it's not their only product, Ghostfire Gaming's flagship setting is Grim Hollow, and they're one of the larger publishers currently on the market. Both Grim Hollow and Drakkenheim recently got their material sold on DnD Beyond, being the first among unofficial settings to get this treatment.

I'm aware that I may have some confirmation bias as there's quite a bit of popular products that aren't horror-themed, such as the Griffon's Saddlebag or Matt Colville's Stronghold/Kingdom building books. Not to mention the many smaller horror-themed products out there that don't get such coverage or publicity. I'm aware that there are other factors at play, but it does seem to be a recurring trend of interest in the 5e fandom. Especially given that the 5e ruleset isn't what I'd regard as the most appropriate for horror elements.

What are ENWorld's thoughts?
 

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How about some actual support? Is Strahd really the best selling WotC adventure? I don't know that it's not, but where's the evidence?
And speaking of the DMsGuild popularity, ok, let's see the numbers. How many Strahd adventures vs everything else? How about best sellers?
You named two million+ dollar Kickstarters? How many are not horror themed?
 


Libertad

Hero
Popularity also references people who played it and general fans, who may not necessarily have bought the adventure but their DM did. This is similarly reflected in the online fan communities I've seen. To use Reddit as one example, the Curse of Strahd subreddit has 82k members, Tomb of Annihilation has 16k, storm King's Thunder has 7.6k, and Out of the Abyss has 5.5k. These are DM-centric communities, so the amount of likely buyers/runners is more proportionately high in comparison to more generic DnD subreddits.

As for the numbers, if you go to the DM's Guild and sort by a specific Setting, Ravenloft has 1,348 products for sale as of this day. Eberron has 1,273 products.

Like I said in the original post, this isn't hard data so much as general trends I see in various 5e communities.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Grimdark/horror content is certainly popular on Kickstarter. I would have assumed the market would have long ago been saturated for it, but horror-inflected 5E material seems to always do well there. (Maybe there are people using a half-dozen of these books in a single campaign, who knows?)

I'm not sure why, myself, but it's definitely a thing.
 

J-H

Hero
Some of it may also be a question of definition. Castlevania games get listed as "Horror" even though, at least through the NES/SNES era, they were "Platform and kill monsters" where the monsters happened to be themed around "serves Dracula in a massive castle." Very little true horror, at least possibly until later titles.

From the review I read of Drakkenheim, it's not so much horror as "adventure in a post-apocalyptic city" with perhaps horror elements from mutations...but not much more horror-y than, say, Fallout 1-2 with Ghouls and Mutants and such.
 

An interesting thing I've noticed is that products with a strong horror emphasis do very well, both in official and 3rd party spaces.

What are ENWorld's thoughts?

I think horror is in some ways an underestimated genre.
Take film, for example. Horror films consistently do well at the box office (OK, this is partly due to low budgets).
It's also a diverse genre, covering everything from Goosebumps to Human Centipede.

I've always found D&D a good fit for horror, as so many monsters in D&D lend themselves to the genre.
The lasting popularity of Ravenloft across every edition of D&D is further evidence of this.

I understand horror in D&D doesn't work for everybody, but I laugh to myself anytime anybody tells me I can't or shouldn't be running horror in D&D.
 

Autumnal

Bruce Baugh, Writer of Fortune
The OG stock setting for D&D - this is something I’ve been thinking about just lately - is a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Vastly superior societies have been blown to smithereens and the space between settlements is dangerous pretty much never seen in terrestrial history, with vastly more dangerous creatures than have ever existed in the span of humanity’s existence. Then people generally act as this is just business as usual for medieval-ish society.

Acknowledging and turning to engage with various parts of the hellscape underpinnings is a pretty potential-rich kind of thing to do.
 

MGibster

Legend
Some of it may also be a question of definition. Castlevania games get listed as "Horror" even though, at least through the NES/SNES era, they were "Platform and kill monsters" where the monsters happened to be themed around "serves Dracula in a massive castle." Very little true horror, at least possibly until later titles.
I try not to get bogged down in genre definitions becuase that way lies madness. Dracula (1931), The Monster Squad (1987), and The Exorcist (1973) are all within the horror genre even though only one of them is scary. Seriously, I wouldn't have a problem letting my four year old niece watch Dracula with me.
 

Hussar

Legend
I laugh to myself anytime anybody tells me I can't or shouldn't be running horror in D&D.
I think it's mostly down to a breakdown in semantics.

Is "The Walking Dead" horror? Well, depends on how you frame it. Kinda sorta? But, something like that works well in D&D. And certain types of horror work really well in D&D - body horror for example.

But, some people view horror only through the lens of "Horrible things happen and then (almost) everyone dies". Which, if that's your definition of horror, then no, D&D doesn't do horror all that well.
 

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