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

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
A lot of folks talking about how parents and older family members might have "accidentally" bought the Basic Sets instead of AD&D, but I think that might be overstated. Mine was anything but an accident.

I remember for my 12th birthday, mom asked me what I wanted as a gift. I told her I wanted the Dungeons & Dragons game, but that there were two versions and I wanted "the one in the red box." I remember telling her to avoid anything with the word "Advanced" on the cover, because my friends at school were playing Basic D&D, and Basic was the version that came with everything I needed to play (especially dice).

I was so worried that she got me the wrong version that I sneaked out to the car after everyone had gone to bed, popped the trunk of the car (where she always hid our gifts), and checked the bag to make sure. It was a huge relief when I saw the red box.
 

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darjr

I crit!
I looked back at some of my game notes and I sometimes would note who was new to D&D and how if they’d tell me. And I didn’t take great notes, but I do recall a large number of those folks coming back to D&D after playing as a kid, many only a time or two. I wonder how many were Basic D&D kids?
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
An audit is A financial record, but it is not ALL the financial records. For a company starting out, there aren't as many financial records at the beginning (such as when TSR first started out) as later.

In the early periods, most of the time you find that the owners or those who started the business are the ones who actually have the financial documents. These go over the actual NUMBERS that are coming in. This will depict sales, expenditures, income, gross, etc.
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.

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.

When you write up something, you want it based on the primary documents. You need the source document. If we are talking about historians, they talk about things called primary and secondary sources. You want the primary sources, not the secondary to have a stronger argument. The MORE primary sources you have, the stronger the argument.

We have charts that depict these numbers from what we have seen. The question is WHERE is this information coming from...WHAT are the PRIMARY sources...aka...where are the primary documents that were sourced and can we see ALL of them.

An accounting WITHOUT the primary documents to source them is like an accountant coming up and saying..."You just have to trust me on this."
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.

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.

The books claim to have numbers going back to the early 70s. The financial documentation when TSR started WAS NOT something Williams has ever presented as having, nor has anyone else...really The people who would have them were those who were actually RUNNING the business at the time and perhaps those that were their friends that they may have entrusted later. Those documents would be kept in some sort of filing system.
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?

There are other ways to get documentation as well. I know some who HAVE some of these papers...personally. You know how many of these authors have approached them (at least that I am aware of). ZERO. NONE. NADA. NILCH.

Not that they would RELEASE the information, as there are certain ethical values there that would probably mean they would not...BUT...the very fact that no one has even requested them...

This is why I bring it up in question. If you knew who had some of these papers and KNEW no one was actually asking to see them...you might question where some of the information is coming from as well.
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?

Anyways, I've been over this already. I am no being asked to repeat things I've already stated in the thread. I'm not a fan of talking in circles because what I already wrote and was being responded to is not being read and taken into account is leading to going in circles. I suppose I'll be done with this. I'll boil it down to this...

People say they want the information, but they don't want to know the sources it seems. That's okay, but this is where my questioning lies. Probably because, as I said before, a LOT of it is available, but to hunt it all down may take more time and money than it is actually worth to hunt down for any one person at this point.
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.
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Now that I think about it, the included dice in the Basic D&D boxed sets probably did more to boost the sales of the game than anything else, even product placement or shelf restocking rates. Where I lived, polyhedric dice were very hard to find in the mid-1980s, and those of us lucky enough to own a set guarded them with our lives. We used them until the corners had worn completely down...not because we wanted to, but because we didn't have a choice.

If you had a set of the really fancy mail-order "Ice Dice" you were the envy of everyone else at your table (and their older siblings, and their neighbors).
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I got my Basic, Expert (Moldvay for both), and about a year later Companion sets at a toy store that did not sell any hardcover books or modules, etc. . . They mostly sold LEGO and later G.I. Joes and baby dolls, etc. . . So I didn't even know about the Advanced stuff until later when I bought a copy of the AD&D Monster Manual at Toys R. Us for $8.95.

This would have all been in 1983/84.
 

G

Guest 7034872

Guest
Now that I think about it, the included sets of dice in the Basic D&D boxed sets probably did more to boost the sales of the game than anything else, even product placement or shelf restocking rates. Where I lived, polyhedric dice were very hard to find in the mid-1980s [...]
That's a very good point. I had forgotten about that, but what you say is true: the dice were awfully hard to find when first starting out in the game. Only after I was into it and getting copies of Dragon Magazine did I find a source for more gem dice where we could order them by mail. The local toy & hobby store had hardly anything and grievously overcharged for what they had.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
That's a very good point. I had forgotten about that, but what you say is true: the dice were awfully hard to find when first starting out in the game. Only after I was into it and getting copies of Dragon Magazine did I find a source for more gem dice where we could order them by mail. The local toy & hobby store had hardly anything and grievously overcharged for what they had.
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 $25 in today's money, and they weren't even nice-looking.

So we hoarded dice. We guarded them jealously, and we hissed with displeasure if anyone (anyone!) else even touched them. We learned fast that dice were rare and valuable, hard to replace, and absolutely necessary to play...which meant that we learned to buy more of them whenever we could, as often as we could. If you played D&D, you could never have too many dice.

Even to this day, I own dozens of sets of dice, and yet I still feel anxious letting someone borrow just one.

We are the OG Dice Goblins.
 

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
A lot of folks talking about how parents and older family members might have "accidentally" bought the Basic Sets instead of AD&D, but I think that might be overstated. Mine was anything but an accident.

I remember for my 12th birthday, mom asked me what I wanted as a gift. I told her I wanted the Dungeons & Dragons game, but that there were two versions and I wanted "the one in the red box." I remember telling her to avoid anything with the word "Advanced" on the cover, because my friends at school were playing Basic D&D, and Basic was the version that came with everything I needed to play (especially dice).

I was so worried that she got me the wrong version that I sneaked out to the car after everyone had gone to bed, popped the trunk of the car (where she always hid our gifts), and checked the bag to make sure. It was a huge relief when I saw the red box.
Yes, when I got my copy of the Basic Set, I had very clearly informed my parents of what I wanted... no chace of a mistake there! :D
 


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