The rise of Dungeons & Dragons

Any time a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing manual makes it onto the bestseller list, we feel the need to grab our Scarab of Protection and celebrate. With D&D Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (9780786966240) making it into the top 10 print books in the country last week, we turned our attention to the Games & Activities / Role Playing & Fantasy BISAC category and found that there have been huge increases in sales for these books over the past four years.

Within this category, many of the top titles have been Wizards of the Coast D&D manuals, and overall, the category has seen a 77% growth in print unit sales between 2016 and 2017, according to BNC SalesData.

Year-over-year performance of the Games & Activities / Role Playing & Fantasy BISAC category

Sales for the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (9780786965595) have been slowly increasing over the past few years, but of particular interest is the growth in sales over the Christmas period. We compared the five-week period over the Christmas season for 2015 and 2016 and found that sales for this single title increased by 38%. But that's not all. Between 2016 and 2017, there's an even more incredible increase of 95%.

Sales of the Player’s Handbook (9780786965601) have also experienced notable growth. Comparing the first 22 weeks of sales in 2018 against sales from the same period in 2016, we found an increase of 49%.

So what's happening with D&D in Canada?

Dungeons & Dragons was initially released in 1974, so what we are seeing is multi-generational playing of the game. Some feel that today's generation of players have been conditioned to find the game even more appealing than players in the past, as outlined in an article from The New Yorker published in October 2017, which states,

Dungeons & Dragons seems to have been waiting for us somewhere under the particular psyche of this generation, a psyche that may have been coaxed into fantasy mania by the media that surrounded it. Many were seeded with “Harry Potter” books as children, raised with the “Lord of the Rings” movies (and more “Harry Potter” in cinematic splendor), and brought to blossom in adulthood by “Game of Thrones” on television. Let us not forget the imminent return of “Stranger Things,” a show in which something akin to Dungeons & Dragons not only literally lurks in the wings but is also played by the central characters.

According to Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro subsidiary and publisher of D&D manuals, D&D had its most profitable year ever in 2017.

 "What if it's the Demogorgon?" – Dustin,  Stranger Things

So what's bringing so many new elves, dwarves, wizards, rogues, and tieflings into the D&D fold? Not only was D&D prominently featured in the Netflix super-hit Stranger Things, but streamers on sites like Twitch and YouTube are bringing hours-long RPG broadcasts to viewers all over the world. The first episode of Geek & Sundry's Critical Role RPG Show has 7.7 million views on YouTube. The three-hour episode features a group of voice actors kicking off their D&D campaign, and there have been more than 100 episodes uploaded over the last three years. And podcast fans aren't left out -– long-running D&D actual-play podcasts like The Adventure Zone are using D&D as a storytelling medium, taking players and listeners through stories that some consider the best fantasy of the last 10 years. It's no surprise that so many fans are looking to get in on the action themselves!

Top 10 Role Playing & Fantasy titles in 2017

Looking at the 2017 Games & Activities category as a whole, which encompasses a vast swath of titles including everything from handbooks to colouring books, we discovered that six of the top 10 hardcover titles belong to Wizards of the Coast, while the top paperback titles are dominated by colouring books. Looking specifically at the Role Playing & Fantasy sub-category, all 10 of the top 10 are by Wizards RPG Team and are published by Wizards of the Coast:

Xanathar's Guide to Everything
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786966110
Dungeon Master's Guide
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786965625
Monster Manual
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786965618
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786965595
Volo's Guide to Monsters
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786966011
Tales from the Yawning Portal
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786966097
Dungeon Master's Screen
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786965632
Tomb of Annihilation
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786966103
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786965809
Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheets
Wizards RPG Team
Wizards of the Coast
9780786966189

According to the data, Dungeons & Dragons isn't going anywhere any time soon, so if you don't already know how to play, maybe it's time to buy yourself a handbook and find out what all the hype is about.