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

Stormonu

Legend
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.
Same boat.

TSR made the same mistakes with Horde - a campaign "setting" so bad most people seem to totally forget it even existed.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
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.
We RPGers are suckers for dice - I bought into the game as well, the dice were "cool". I only got to play a game or two because I found the rules so confusing. To me it was "interesting idea, horrible follow-through".
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
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.
For what it's worth, Dragon Dice was one of the few properties that WotC was willing to sell off, and today there are enough people who enjoy it that SFR still produces the game (and related media, such as reprinting the old novels as well as some new ones).

 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Same boat.

TSR made the same mistakes with Horde - a campaign "setting" so bad most people seem to totally forget it even existed.
I’m going to argue that the Horde setting boxed set is actually pretty interesting. It made for a nice companion to Kara Tur. Not so keen on either the modules or the trilogy of books, though.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
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.

By the time I read Viperhand (age 17/18) I had already read about the Aztecs (age 11/12 or so). Had a basic level f knowledge about Mesoamerican culture.

I thought it was just a lame knock off of real world events.
 

I’m going to argue that the Horde setting boxed set is actually pretty interesting. It made for a nice companion to Kara Tur. Not so keen on either the modules or the trilogy of books, though.
The problem with the Horde, Maztica, and almost all the post 2nd edition campaign settings that were released was TSR's obsession with recreating what they did with Dragonlance - a big ol' event with RPG material, adventures, novels etc. But they didn't stop to pay attention to what the "multimedia" event of Dragonlance did to Dragonlance.

It killed the setting as an RPG. The release of the Dragonlance novels began Dragonlance's transformation from a series of railroading 1st edition modules to a best-selling novel line that happened to have a vestigial RPG appendage dangling off it for the next twenty odd years. Dragonlance as a role playing setting died and was resurrected over and over again, but never recaptured its success. Dragonlance as a novel line sold well throughout TSR.

Trying to shoehorn that model for Maztica and the Horde (and the Avatar Trilogy in FR) gave rise to the dreaded metaplot, where module writers started effectively writing fiction, changing settings underneath the feet of players and DMs. It left D&D players feeling they had to keep up with a mountain of lore to play in any of these settings, and, worst of all, that their characters were overshadowed by NPCs developed in novels. WoTC's decision to blow up FR in 4th edition was a belated and wrongheaded attempt to kill the metaplot related problems.
 

I really liked the al quadim computer game. I also liked that setting but never played there. I hope it gets rebooted (with cultural sensitivity of course).
 

The problem with the Horde, Maztica, and almost all the post 2nd edition campaign settings that were released was TSR's obsession with recreating what they did with Dragonlance - a big ol' event with RPG material, adventures, novels etc. But they didn't stop to pay attention to what the "multimedia" event of Dragonlance did to Dragonlance.

It killed the setting as an RPG. The release of the Dragonlance novels began Dragonlance's transformation from a series of railroading 1st edition modules to a best-selling novel line that happened to have a vestigial RPG appendage dangling off it for the next twenty odd years. Dragonlance as a role playing setting died and was resurrected over and over again, but never recaptured its success. Dragonlance as a novel line sold well throughout TSR.

Trying to shoehorn that model for Maztica and the Horde (and the Avatar Trilogy in FR) gave rise to the dreaded metaplot, where module writers started effectively writing fiction, changing settings underneath the feet of players and DMs. It left D&D players feeling they had to keep up with a mountain of lore to play in any of these settings, and, worst of all, that their characters were overshadowed by NPCs developed in novels. WoTC's decision to blow up FR in 4th edition was a belated and wrongheaded attempt to kill the metaplot related problems.
Actually the poster child for all of this was Dark Sun more than Dragonlance. The meta-plot derived from the books pretty much cratered the setting. As I understand it the 4e version is basically a reset to the original state, although I didn't honestly pay a ton of attention to the setting itself (some of the rules material was widely used elsewhere). It was fairly popular in any case.

I think you're right though in terms of TSR trying to 'capture lightning in a bottle'. DS books did pretty well from what I remember, and the setting itself was quite popular, maybe even more so than DL.
 


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