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

Stormonu

Legend
Ugh - Dragon Dice and Spellfire. I'll never forgive TSR for those two abominations.

I bought a fair amount of Dragon Dice; the game wasn't very good at all and pretty confusing actually. I kept the D12 dragon dice though.

Spellfire was a mess. My brother was big into MtG (Top 8) and I tried to get him interested in Spellfire, but after 3 games that ended in checkmates/draws we saw how terrible it was and I ditched the cards.

I collected a few packs & boosters of the Blood Wars cards for Planescape, but never could get anyone to play it and try it out after the Spellfire fiasco.
 

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Wow. At least Al-Qadim did a bit better. These numbers are all terrible though.
I absolutely loved Al-Qadim and bought everything from the line I could afford (which, in the 90s, wasn’t very much).

But what amazes me is how the line progressed after these sales numbers. The near-unique thing about Al-Qadim was that after the generic Arabian Adventures book it was almost entirely boxed sets. There was the odd supplemental book like the Complete Sha’ir’s Handbook (talk about niche! I wonder how many copies THAT sold?) but in general the standard Al-Qadim release was a boxed set detailing a region of Zakhara and containing a campaign set in that area. And once all of Zakhara was covered, the line was deemed complete and basically abandoned. Some of these products were great (Ruined Kingdoms, Secrets of the Lamp, City of Delights, etc etc) but it was an unusual way for TSR to run a setting. Normally there’d be a mass of paperback adventure books etc.

And while I’m not complaining because I loved this stuff, imagine being the TSR head honcho who approved the Corsairs of the Great Sea boxed set (or whatever) based on those sales numbers. The supplement boxes must have sold much less than the core setting book/box. At least with Maztica they cut their losses relatively early.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Lankhmar: City of Adventure ... was one of the best-written, best-loved, and least-known supplements released during the very end of the (first?) golden age of D&D.

Ugh. It took all of the cool of Lankhmar and mangled it horribly to shoehorn it into AD&D, IMO. The Newhon material in Deities & Demigod was (again, IMO) handled with much more care. To each their own, however.
 

As someone who studied and wrote about the Mesoamerican cultures extensively in my grad program, I think Maztica is altogether an untasteful attempt at bridging those peoples' mythology and the fantasy that is D&D. I think it could be done very well, but Maztica felt like it wholly missed the point of everything that mythos was talking about, and failed to depict an actual good cultural pastiche in Maztica itself. Much lower quality than Al-Qadim.
 

Ugh. It took all of the cool of Lankhmar and mangled it horribly to shoehorn it into AD&D, IMO. The Newhon material in Deities & Demigod was (again, IMO) handled with much more care. To each their own, however.
Well, this was, IMHO, the issue with handling any literary, mythological, historical, or folklore based kind of setting, or even a lot of other material. D&D is just this weird genre all of its own, and a lot of that is really embedded in the way the game is played and designed. It is very hard to do something like Lankhmar, or Elric, or for that matter LoTR using D&D, it just doesn't work out well. You can add some of the flavor of something though, and certainly things like geography can be be reproduced. D&D was always at its best when making up settings and material from whole cloth, IMHO, and at its worst with trying to emulate other fantasy literature.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Well, this was, IMHO, the issue with handling any literary, mythological, historical, or folklore based kind of setting, or even a lot of other material. D&D is just this weird genre all of its own, and a lot of that is really embedded in the way the game is played and designed. It is very hard to do something like Lankhmar, or Elric, or for that matter LoTR using D&D, it just doesn't work out well. You can add some of the flavor of something though, and certainly things like geography can be be reproduced. D&D was always at its best when making up settings and material from whole cloth, IMHO, and at its worst with trying to emulate other fantasy literature.

I think this is a good take. This was certainly the main issue with the AD&D Lankhmar material in my opinion. I would rather see licensed properties get their own games, built from the ground up to model the fiction, rather than see the settings adapted to existing systems that were designed to do something different. Some such adaptations will be better than others, naturally, (e.g. the various Elric/Stormbringer games by Chaosium) but I don't think any of them will ever be as good as a purpose-built system.
 

As someone who studied and wrote about the Mesoamerican cultures extensively in my grad program, I think Maztica is altogether an untasteful attempt at bridging those peoples' mythology and the fantasy that is D&D. I think it could be done very well, but Maztica felt like it wholly missed the point of everything that mythos was talking about, and failed to depict an actual good cultural pastiche in Maztica itself. Much lower quality than Al-Qadim.
As someone who had basically no knowledge of mesoamerican cultures at the time and just liked cool new settings inspired by interesting bits of the world, the Maztica line drove me up the wall because it blew the whole setting up in a distinctly mediocre novel trilogy before the boxed set even came out, and lost all the uniqueness and interest to the place straight off the bat. ‘Hey, here’s a d&d setting completely different to anything you’ve seen before, boom haha no now there’s orcs and stuff here and it’s the same as everything else, sucker’. I wanted to play as a Maztican in Maztica going through a maztican adventure fighting maztican monsters, but TSR only let me run around cleaning up after their NPCs.

I became more aware of the unpleasant colonialist smell of the whole business later on as I got older, but aside from that purely as a playable setting, Maztica really suffered from being released in TSRs ‘we are a game company but we only actually make money from novels’ era. And I was very far from the only one to make the observation at the time. I expect this botched start had a large impact on the failure of the line, though as long as the Maztica Trilogy novels sold enough to keep the lights on for a while, I suspect TSR didn’t care very much.
 


jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
Spellfire was a mess. My brother was big into MtG (Top 8) and I tried to get him interested in Spellfire, but after 3 games that ended in checkmates/draws we saw how terrible it was and I ditched the cards.

The local hobby shop where I lived at the time that Spellfire came out was giving away decks and boosters with the purchase of literally anything else, using them as a loss leader because people just wouldn't pay actual money for them.
 

MGibster

Legend
Dragon Dice! Oh, wow--I had completely forgotten about that. Yeah, I don't know anyone who actually bought that thing.
I have a friend that bought and still has a metric butt load of Dragon Dice. The funny thing is, Dragon Dice was a fairly successful game. At least until TSR produced to many dice and they ran out of people interested in purchasing more.
 

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