Ya Basic! Trying To Understand the Perception of AD&D and the Sales of Basic

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
$40.59! (comparing June 1986 to June 2022). Holy cow. I don't think I ever saw them for more than a dollar each, but yeah, even that was pricey.

Yiiiiikes. No wonder I'm compelled to buy dice every time I walk past a hobby store.

"Nine bucks?!" I'll say, incredulously. "What a bargain! I'll take two sets at that price!"
"Dude. We have literally hundreds of dice at home," my white shoulder angel says.
"But we need the clicky math rocks!" the little red shoulder devil replies.
"Yeah, you're right," I say to the angel. "I guess I don--"
My shoulder angel, interrupting:
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I didn't know anyone who just played B/X. I knew a few people who only had B/X. Almost everyone I knew who played AD&D had at least one copy of B/X, whether they bought it or more likely received it as a gift from a well-intentioned family member. On more than one occasion, I was asked for ideas for birthday or Christmas gifts, I'd provide a list of AD&D books or modules, and I'd get another Basic set. :LOL:

For me, form factor and style was decisive. Basic could never compete with those hardcover books and High Gygaxian. In practice, though, we essentially used it for everything except AD&D races, classes, spells, magic items and monsters -- which is a lot, to be fair, but we never really used the AD&D game rules, despite a few attempts over the years.
 

South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
I remember seeing sets of dice behind the counter at Arpegees, the local gaming store. (I say "local" but it was a 45-minute drive away in the next town.) Six opaque powder-blue dice in a tiny zip-seal bag, kept under lock and key, and they wanted $15 for them...in 1986. That's like [EDIT] $40 in today's money, and they weren't even nice-looking.
Because I'm DMing I found myself needing a lot more 6-sided and 20-sided dice, right? Sure. So about a month ago I went onto Amazon and bought myself 175 very nice gem dice with the fancy little felt bags that I never use. Price: $25. For 175 dice: 25 full sets.

Wow...
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
This was an interesting read.


According to Boardgames.com, the infamous D&D dice shortage started in 1979...well before 1986. So I don't know what the deal was with my FLGS and their prices back in the day.
 

darjr

I crit!
This was an interesting read.


According to Boardgames.com, the infamous D&D dice shortage started in 1979...well before 1986. So I don't know what the deal was with my FLGS and their prices back in the day.
Thanks for that!

So I give you this
I bought my wife a set of opal dice and I’m not going to say how much I paid.

Edit: oh! I didn’t realize that video was at the bottom of that article
 
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Jer

Legend
Supporter
This was an interesting read.
It is - thanks! The one thing missing is where the dice came from for the wargamers to pick up on and use. The possibly apocryphal story that I heard was that the polyhedral dice came into the hobby via teachers who were using them to teach probability in their classrooms. And that the first supplier of dice to TSR was an educational supply company.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It is - thanks! The one thing missing is where the dice came from for the wargamers to pick up on and use. The possibly apocryphal story that I heard was that the polyhedral dice came into the hobby via teachers who were using them to teach probability in their classrooms. And that the first supplier of dice to TSR was an educational supply company.
Yes, I believe that was Gygax's story. Arneson, OTOH, had a story that he found one in England on a trip, and Dave Wesely that he found them in a scientific supply store. I'm not sure if firm confirmation of exactly when they first arrived has been found yet, but here's a pretty comprehensive article from Peterson's blog:


As I recall TSR DID buy them regularly from Creative Publications, Inc. in Palo Alto for a while for resale.

 

Cruentus

Adventurer
Very. Does anyone here know when the gem dice with rounded edges started showing up? I remember getting my first set of those and thinking to myself, "Why weren't we already doing this?"
We played and rolled our hard clear plastic, crayoned numbered, hard edged dice so much that they became rounded. This manufactured roundedness was a sure sign of laziness :cool:, after our softer plastic boxed set dice (also crayoned) began to deteriorate.

Now, when the swirly colors show up, and the neat names, THAT was when I knew we had arrived (and I had a dice acquisition problem). LoL
 

GreyLord

Legend
Well yes, obviously. When a company is tiny and just starting out records tend to be more minimal, and they get more extensive as they get bigger, employ actual accountants, get more organized, etc. Before you hire an actual accountant, obviously the founders have all that documentation, because they're doing the accounting work.

But you're saying that AFTER a company has gotten bigger and started using professional accountants, you still expect the owners to personally retain all the earliest records, rather than giving them to the accounting and finance team once those are formed? I wouldn't be shocked if Gygax or the Blumes had retained copies, but the idea that TSR's actual legal and accounting departments wouldn't have the most complete records going back to the beginning seems highly implausible to me. Especially once they started overextending their credit and the banks got involved in oversight and putting people on the board in the early 80s.

No, I didn't say that. What part of graphs from the 70s and when TSR was first beginning do you NOT understand in my comments. How much more plain do I have to be about that?

On the otherhand, you have NO idea how much of a mess the departments actually were to some degree.

And again, we've seen actual copies of some of these documents (like the original TSR publishing and royalties contract with Gygax and Arneson for D&D) in books like Game Wizards and places like Jon's blog.


Yes, Peterson in particular is famous for his devotion to primary source documentation. He's been criticized more than I think is reasonable for not relying more on oral accounts in writing his books.

A lot of older fans have opined that he should do more just asking surviving TSR staffers and early creatives like Rob Kuntz. And it's clear that he has interviewed and spoken with most of those people, but that he strongly prefers to reference contemporaneous documentation in his books wherever possible, rather than relying on someone's memory forty or fifty years after the event.

It's not asking them questions, it's asking for the documents they may or may not have. Direct paperwork. Look, I worked with this type of paperwork...and I WORKED on several things regarding what we are discussing.

As I stated above, there is SOME paperwork that existed at one time, I know who had it, where it was. I still know some of them, and they have NOT been asked about that paperwork. Why not? NOW...I don't know if they even STILL HAVE the paperwork...to be honest. It was years (actually decades) ago, and I've barely know what they are up to these days except for maybe an annual contact or two. But, I haven't heard them being interviewed or asked for paperwork (not that I'd ask them either...TBH).

I have nothing against Jon, and this isn't EVEN ABOUT him, it's about the more recent graphs that were posted on this site and asking...Where did that information come from. It goes back to the 70s, and some of it covers time periods which we have very little paperwork on...even your favorite guy to bring up (Which really has NOTHING to do with this...AT ALL, so don't know why you keep bringing him up as it isn't his graphs we are even talking about), Jon, mentions this in the article you posted.

Riggs I've only learned of recently, and I don't know if his standards are as rigorous, but the folks I know who've seen him speak at GaryCon and followed his podcast and material so far seem to think he's credible. I don't know for sure yet.

But I do know, based on reading Peterson's work and seeing the materials that he's shared, that original paper documentation for quite a lot of stuff clearly does still exist. And in places other than Gary Gygax's personal effects and records. In the hands of private collectors and, most especially, in WotC's collection of TSR documents.

One thing that burned me was that WotC (or more specifically Dancey) made claims that I KNOW they didn't have a lot to back up, but no one really asked to see what they based those comments on. For example, the core books of D&D ALWAYS made a profit. It wasn't D&D that was doing so badly that caused TSR to go bankrupt. It wasn't even necessarily the different campaign worlds that caused the problem. Yet, that is what people always try to point it to being. What caused it were some basic, inept, financial decisions (like investing a ton of money into something that had no chance of making that money back, and ignoring financial paperwork which would mysteriously disappear so that they COULD ignore such concerns, and making ridiculous decisions in regards to finances and such). It was some very basic financial decisions that would have caused problems at any business...not just an RPG business.

However, the main (individual) proponent of WotC's story of TSR splitting the lines and that being the cause of it's problems has shown themselves to exaggerate in other areas and financially sink their own item (without even splitting the lines in that online engagement, I might add)...which brings a tiny bit of justice in the world...

It is obvious he went through some of the paperwork, or whatever was left from TSR, but not all of it. It COULD have been interpreted how he said it, but it was more that they spent money on various products that if they had spent less, could have turned a profit on them anyways.

Yes, the files of TSR's legal and accounting departments. Which were overseen by Williams during the period when she was RUNNING the business, so I'm baffled by the idea that she wouldn't have access to the records of the company for which she was CEO. The period during which she could have just walked into those file archives and perused those records at will was more than ten years.

Anyway, leaving that aside, the copies of those records would, in the normal course of business and acquisition, have been handed over to WotC in 1997. And retained ever since. What makes you think they weren't?

Because, if I understand right, they only needed to keep them onsite for 7 years. Because some of it wasn't directly kept with the company. Because some of it...well...some of it...no one knows what happened to it (Actually, I'm pretty certain someone knows...but I don't know who. I have some guesses, but personally, I don't know).

I mean WotC could have gotten the paperwork, but from what they said (or more specifically Dancey) it sure sounds like they Didn't, or they wouldn't have said what they stated. "Splitting" the lines is NOT what caused them to go bankrupt...such a statement would have been seen as really foolish (though, if you look at what WotC did...they also split the line almost immediately between FR, GH and Eberron, and later with DL, GW, and Modern and SW...so maybe they were saying one thing while faking it and doing the same thing at the same time and did have access...but their statements sure made it seem like they didn't).

Ok, so you're saying you know people who used to work at TSR (or friends thereof) who have retained copies of some of the financial records, but who are telling you that none of the folks writing books about TSR in the last few years have approached them.

Even if that is true, doesn't that make it MORE plausible that Ben Riggs could have met OTHER such people who ALSO retained records?

He could have. But then there would not be the discrepancies I see in some areas. There are others he could have talked to which you've actually gotten very close to in figuring out (but it's not my place to talk about it either...really. Drives me nutty at times...if you couldn't tell), almost to a step or two away from who may have the later paperwork, but as I said, ethically, they can't give out that information. They didn't have to give it to WotC either because of their position between them and the original clients. At least, UNLESS they get an okay to give out the information or a court order directed to them specifically to do so. Considering court cases that have already gone on, it is probably doubtful that they would be currently asked to do so. Sometimes it is better to keep things confidential than to let out a LOT of dirty laundry...

BUT...IN MY OPINION, I feel there are other ways to get that information, it just takes a LOT of work to do so.

Apologies if this feels like going in circles, but some of the assertions you've made honestly confuse and baffle me. Others seem to indicate that you didn't read or understand parts of what I shared with you, so obviously there's a disconnect happening.

Who ever said we don't want to know the sources? There's a difference between not CARING about the sources, and reading the author's words and acknowledging the reality that he claims he's protecting the confidentiality of his sources (like you're doing with yours). Whether or not we believe him, if he's stated that, badgering him for those sources is obviously not going to be a productive exercise.

That's true. You mentioned he didn't have complete information already, which I said made sense looking at the numbers. He had the general ideas with the graphs, I just am not sure posting something with incomplete information is the best idea. It's a difficult position.

If all you want to do is sell books, then hey, you do what he did. If you want something that is historically accurate...that's a harder call.

It's like the Battle of Gettysburg, if you were missing half a day's events and missing some of the of the movements and main motivations of the armies prior to the battle and had to guess what happened, would you publish a book doing an indepth analysis of the Battle or not? You are missing a LOT of information. On the otherhand, if there wasn't anything out on it, it could be a ground breaking book! There are books published on that type of information that set the standard of how history viewed that event for decades afterwards.

If someone else got more complete information later, it may be discovered that many guesses were wrong though. It's like a lot of the History that was written in the 1800s (and were closer to the events even) on Thomas Jefferson have had theories in them completely overturned in the past several decades with modern history and science.

For someone wanting money, it's a no brainer on whether to publish the book or not. For others, I think it's not such a clear picture on whether it's a good idea to go to print on it or not. Hard call.
 

GreyLord

Legend
It is - thanks! The one thing missing is where the dice came from for the wargamers to pick up on and use. The possibly apocryphal story that I heard was that the polyhedral dice came into the hobby via teachers who were using them to teach probability in their classrooms. And that the first supplier of dice to TSR was an educational supply company.

That's what I've heard as well.

From a wargamer perspective, I didn't use polyhedral dice in wargames back then. I used six sided dice. There didn't seem to be a shortage of those.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Yes, I believe that was Gygax's story. Arneson, OTOH, had a story that he found one in England on a trip, and Dave Wesely that he found them in a scientific supply store. I'm not sure if firm confirmation of exactly when they first arrived has been found yet, but here's a pretty comprehensive article from Peterson's blog:


As I recall TSR DID buy them regularly from Creative Publications, Inc. in Palo Alto for a while for resale.


Good to say that. I tend to be more Gygax's side on things, and have a distinct bias (which shows), but I probably should give Arneson's more due.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
My first DM first played D&D in a gifted and talented program in Illinois. He introduced me to D&D when he moved to our road in a small town in New York.

I created my first character with his PHB on August 2, 1982 - I was 13 - and I and his 7 year old brother started our gaming careers being asked who we were at the gates of the Keep on the Borderlands.

AD&D character, Basic module from the Red Box.

Only later did I learn Basic existed. The toy store in town had the PHB but nothing else. My DM let me read his Red Box later on, and my first thought was arbitrage on spear prices to double our gold if we could jump between worlds. :)

We never played Basic because we thought it was for kids, and we’d just finished 7th and 8th grades … his brother was going into 3rd grade, but smart enough to understand the Advanced rules too - 99th percentile, we figured out by getting into standardized testing results we were supposed to be too young to understand.

”Advanced” was good marketing to us! I never did meet anyone who was playing Basic, but I suppose some people were. D&D was underground until I got to college. Openly playing at school like the Stranger Things club is something we never would have thought of. But boy, lots of kids talked about the game a whole lot at school, and get togethers with other schools - I was in chorus and when I met singers from other schools at events, it was always a topic.
 

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