D&D General TSR D&D sales numbers compiled by Benjamin Riggs

D&D historian Ben Riggs--author of the upcoming Slaying the Dragon, which is a history of TSR-era (not that TSR, the real one) D&D--compiled some sales figures of AD&D 1st Edition's Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide from 1979-1990.

Behold! Some actual D&D sales numbers!

While working on my book #SlayingtheDragon I got a ton of primary source documents containing sales data for D&D. With the book coming out, I've been looking for a way to get that data out into the wide world. I'm going to start making charts, and simply posting them. If people want the raw data, I can post that too, but obviously, charts are prettier.

I'm starting with AD&D 1st ed Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. You'll notice a crash in the mid-80s, and then the sales peter out with the release of 2nd edition.

The sales point to a fact that I believe hasn't been given enough play in our hobby. Namely, TSR was in a tight spot when Lorraine Williams took over the company from Gary Gygax. If it weren't for Lorraine, D&D may have died in the mid-80s.

Just an idea for your consideration...

Oh, and if you haven't preordered my book on D&D history yet, I'll put a link in the comments.

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Go get his book! It’s going to be interesting!

 
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Zardnaar

Legend
I'm also not a fan of the "black" reprints. I much prefer the art in the original versions and I quite dislike the layout. I was very disappointed that the black version was used for the premium reprints and I cherish the PDF of the 2e PHB that I bought back then from Paizo.

I liked the black ones back i1995.

But the 89 ones are better. The DMG is pretty.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The art in the revised 2e black books was awful. It was a completely new direction from previous art, and not in a good way. In hindsight, it's clear they were not hiring the same quality of artists due to costs. IMO, it was the worst interior art in the core books from any other edition. For example, from the PHB:
I was going to argue with you and went through my black border books to find example and I realized EVERY piece of 2E art I loved was either from the Blue Books, a supplement, or Dragon magazine. Oof.
I do have Cyclopedia numbers! These are 91-95

View attachment 253062

Disappointingly low for what may be the single best volume of D&D rules ever released, but one of the themes of TSR in the 90s is the quality of the product often did not result in good sales.

Holy cow, that's actually pretty shocking. Do you have any knowledge about 5E numbers and how they compare, or is your info strictly TSR era?

Relatedly, I think the RC shares the same issue as the revised 2nd Ed books, of absolutely terrible art.

Pretty sure that's the main reason I never bought either. And the main factor still holding me back from buying the RC.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Relatedly, I think the RC shares the same issue as the revised 2nd Ed books, of absolutely terrible art.

Pretty sure that's the main reason I never bought either. And the main factor still holding me back from buying the RC.

I'm sure that's part of it. For me, and why as a fan of B/X who never bought the RC, it was because, "I like the simplicity of Basic, and when I want to play a version with added complexity, I'll play 1e." RC seemed to have a lot more rules than b/x, certainly was much larger of a volume, and then in my mind was no longer "basic" D&D. Thus, what's the point?
 

I love the 2E black cover art.

The 2E monster manual are is still the best
At times, I still think of the 2e Monstrous Compendium art when imagining monsters.

It's weird how I think of the Monstrous Compendium nowadays. In theory, it was a great idea, having stat sheets in a three-ring binder that could be removed if you were using that particular monster that night. And with each monster getting a front and back of a page of small print, descriptions and lore were amazing and detailed. But then they started printing different monsters on the front and back of the page, so you couldn't merge different compendiums without losing strict alphabetical order. And of course, the fragility of the format, with pages being easily ripped if you weren't careful, was a big let down.
 

Stormonu

Legend
The 2E revised books had terrible art, but it did have a few nice nods back to 1E art pieces.

That said, I'll take the 2E revised PHB cover over the original 2E cover any day. The generic knight on the horse in a canyon has to be the most generic, not-D&D picture I've seen across the editions.
 

Reynard

Legend
I'm sure that's part of it. For me, and why as a fan of B/X who never bought the RC, it was because, "I like the simplicity of Basic, and when I want to play a version with added complexity, I'll play 1e." RC seemed to have a lot more rules than b/x, certainly was much larger of a volume, and then in my mind was no longer "basic" D&D. Thus, what's the point?
I'm not a huge fan of the Masters additions such as Weapon Mastery, but Companion absolutely completed the game with Domains and War Machine.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I’m not a fan of the all the 2E black books’ art, but I loved some of those pieces. And the expanded text. And the chapter-head wood-carving border piece is great. And the Monstrous Compendium with actually bound pages…yeah, that’s nice.
 




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