TSR settings sales numbers from Ben Riggs, starting with Lankmar, Maztica, Al-Qadim and Planescape!

South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
Yeah, that and Spelljammer. I think those two outsold all the minor settings so far discussed by a good bit, with maybe the exception of DL. Some Dark Sun numbers would be interesting as well, though maybe they have been published somewhere else already, I dunno.
 

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Jer

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, that and Spelljammer. I think those two outsold all the minor settings so far discussed by a good bit, with maybe the exception of DL. Some Dark Sun numbers would be interesting as well, though maybe they have been published somewhere else already, I dunno.
If you're looking at total lifetime sales - not just initial release year sales - according to these numbers Spelljammer is actually one of the worse selling of the various settings. Dragonlance absolutely sold more - the 1e Dragonlance Adventures hardcover alone sold more than double in its lifetime what the Spelljammer boxed set sold. The original Ravenloft Black Box sold more - Spelljammer outsold it in the first year, but Ravenloft held onto sales over the following few years while Spelljammer tanked. The original Dark Sun boxed set sold about 10K more over its lifetime even before you add in the revised boxed set - another example of it having lower sales than Spelljammer in its first year but then holding onto sales better over the following years. Spelljammer outsold Al-Qadim and Maztica both by a good bit, and sold about 10K more copies than Lankhmar did, but that's about it.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I can't wait to see the Planescape numbers. I suspect they will be in line with Dark Sun and Ravenloft. I can see why WotC has been so setting shy with 5E. The numbers reported lend themselves more to a strategy of combining setting into a module to hit as many target groups as you can.
 


darjr

I crit!
Behold! Below are sales for the Planescape Boxed Set between 1994 and 1999. Despite being a work of genius, the setting did not sell like prior TSR settings did.

Next, I’ll post numbers for Karameikos, Red Steel, and Birthright. Then I’ll post a mammoth chart comparing total sales of all TSR settings from 79 to 98.

Have you preordered my book on D&D history, Slaying the Dragon, yet? THIS IS THE LAST DAY TO PREORDER! If you preorder now, you get a free Jeff Easley bookplate! This offer ends IN HOURS, so take advantage of it now!

Also, in comments below are snips of the actual data used to generate the charts.
7BABA102-7F1A-4663-8640-80EB5E13975C.jpeg
 
Last edited:

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Behold! Below are sales for the Planescape Boxed Set between 1994 and 1999. Despite being a work of genius, the setting did not sell like prior TSR settings did.

Next, I’ll post numbers for Karameikos, Red Steel, and Birthright. Then I’ll post a mammoth chart comparing total sales of all TSR settings from 79 to 98.

Have you preordered my book on D&D history, Slaying the Dragon, yet? THIS IS THE LAST DAY TO PREORDER! If you preorder now, you get a free Jeff Easley bookplate! This offer ends IN HOURS, so take advantage of it now!

Also, in comments below are snips of the actual data used to generate the charts.View attachment 254214
Yeah, goes to show that critical reception and memory are not tied to sales...
 


Jer

Legend
Supporter
I can't wait to see the Planescape numbers. I suspect they will be in line with Dark Sun and Ravenloft.
And as it turns out - they're less than Spelljammer. Both for year of initial release and total lifetime sales.

The 20-something in me who was really into Planescape is shocked, but the much older guy who has been watching these numbers get posted this last week thinks they're right in line what what he was expecting. The only thing that will shock me is if the remaining settings - Karameikos, Red Steel, and Birthright - post close to Planescape's numbers in sales.
 


I can't wait to see the Planescape numbers. I suspect they will be in line with Dark Sun and Ravenloft. I can see why WotC has been so setting shy with 5E. The numbers reported lend themselves more to a strategy of combining setting into a module to hit as many target groups as you can.
Eh, I don't know, I am not convinced Planescape did any better than Spelljammer. They were both more 'out there' in fantasy terms, but honestly a lot of people were perfectly happy with a Greyhawk/FR style fairly generic setting. I assume that's why those were the big sellers, and why they have continued to be supported over the years while many of the niche settings have languished. Still, it doesn't surprise me at all that Spelljammer outsold stuff like Maztica, that sort of just doesn't quite hit either itch. Its not 'out there', and its not quite 'generic fantasy' either.

I'm curious, have numbers come out on OA sales? I'd assume it probably had to outsell the K-T boxed set and such...

EDIT: Ninjaed, lol. Guess my hunch was right...
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Eh, I don't know, I am not convinced Planescape did any better than Spelljammer. They were both more 'out there' in fantasy terms, but honestly a lot of people were perfectly happy with a Greyhawk/FR style fairly generic setting. I assume that's why those were the big sellers, and why they have continued to be supported over the years while many of the niche settings have languished. Still, it doesn't surprise me at all that Spelljammer outsold stuff like Maztica, that sort of just doesn't quite hit either itch. Its not 'out there', and its not quite 'generic fantasy' either.

I'm curious, have numbers come out on OA sales? I'd assume it probably had to outsell the K-T boxed set and such...
The OA hardcover was covered in one of the first posts. It sold bery well compared to the 90's stuff, but less than GH, FR or DL.
 


Reynard

Legend
Usually I’m fine being wrong. But dang this one kinda stings. Just a tiny bit.
I avoided Spelljammer, Dark Sun and Planescape for similar reasons -- they looked too far removed from baseline D&D for me to feel comfortable making them my own. I didn't use FR as a setting, either, but I could steal lots of it for my own games. I played in the Known World, but becasue I was a BECMI player all the way up to Immortals. The only AD&D setting that I full embraced was Dragonlance.
 

The OA hardcover was covered in one of the first posts. It sold bery well compared to the 90's stuff, but less than GH, FR or DL.
Yeah, that makes sense. It was a pretty solid offering in a lot of ways, despite some serious flaws in how it presented non-Japanese stuff (in particular, I know people have other beefs with it for various reasons which I'm definitely not claiming are OK).
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Usually I’m fine being wrong. But dang this one kinda stings. Just a tiny bit.
Keep in mind that these numbers represent TSR failing to find an audience for what they were publishing. Most of that is on TSR spiraling into bankruptcy rather than any fault in the material itself. There's a trend through the 90s that can be explained by TSR just shedding customers willing to buy their stuff with each year that passes.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
Keep in mind that these numbers represent TSR failing to find an audience for what they were publishing. Most of that is on TSR spiraling into bankruptcy rather than any fault in the material itself. There's a trend through the 90s that can be explained by TSR just shedding customers willing to buy their stuff with each year that passes.
Well, it's a weird situation where TSR's financial practices demanded a constant firehouse of product, which means needing to constantly push the boundaries. The creative side dealt with this very well, constantly finding new and more out there stuff to explore...but the audience shrinks the farther out you get, and the firehouse release strategy actually discourages sales. The 5E slow and steady approach has really worked to grow the audience over time, organically.
 


South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
That’s really funny to me. Despite all the nose-in-the-air nonsense a lot of Planescape fans did and looking down at Spelljammer...Spelljammer actually outsold Planescape.
Planescape fans looked down their noses at Spelljammer?? Huh. I'm a big fan of Planescape if only because I'm a big fan of the planes and of finding some way to allow players to travel across them, but smirking at other people's fun has never made sense to me.

A: "My kind of weird is the only respectable weird; yours is just Hamsters in Space." >chuckles snottily<
Me: "And Hamsters in Space is bad because...???" (Actually, the more I look at that description, the more I like it.)
 

Planescape and Spelljammer, and I know this will sound more pretentious than it is but this is still a pretentious statement, were in no way mainstream ideas in the past, and were much more likely to resound with people who would write in one of their top 3 traits "creative." Or, in other words, a lot of people who were happy with the "box" of standard D&D were very unlikely to care about hyper-niche D&D, even if it still had elves and dwarves and what not in it. In fact, this seems to also prove that having elves and dwarves in Dark Sun really didn't help it all that much, if at all.

Meanwhile, people who prefer to approach D&D as a canvas for a lot of weird ideas they have or similar concepts likely resonated very strongly with the non-trad settings of Planescape, Spelljammer, and Dark Sun. These "outside the box" fantasy ideas showed them more ways to do things they had never imagined, whereas most consumers (and I'm pulling this all straight out of my ass) likely are just happy making stories/experiences with just the tools given, no more and no less.

I am not saying either crowd is better than the other, but this is what the data + so many people's unique perspectives seems to be telling me.

That said, still surprised that Spelljammer outsold Planescape. Kind of makes sense though. Fantasy -> Space -> Weird Mysticism probably tracks to how mainstream tastes are in movies, shows, books, comics, etc too.
 

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