Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast recently touted some figures compiled over the last year that showed the seemingly monolithic tabletop RPG enjoyed its best year ever in 2020.
During a year where many industries felt either squeezed or outright hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on populations but also production and shipping infrastructure, Wizards of the Coast managed to top its previously record-setting year in 2019. The push of play-at-home initiatives and online options, along with a continually strong supplement release schedule kept Dungeons & Dragons on people’s minds and at the top of sales charts.
As the pandemic forced countries around the world to enforce quarantine measures, closing offices, schools and businesses, Wizards of the Coast offered its 5E Starter Set adventure Lost Mines of Phandelver for free online, which the publisher said was downloaded by “millions” of players likely deciding to try the mega-popular game during an interminable lockdown.
“We’re proud that Dungeons & Dragons continued to bring people together during the challenges of the pandemic, providing valuable social connection even when we couldn’t meet in person,” said senior brand manager Dan Barrett.
According to the press release, more people are purchasing books normally meant for those running games, such as the core Dungeon Master’s Guide or Monster Manual, as opposed to the Player’s Handbook or other supplements. The two crossover books with Wizards of the Coast’s other biggest game Magic: The Gathering also “continue to be very popular and are growing”. Currently, players can visit the city planet of Ravnica with its politically dense guid system or the Greek legend-inspired Theros.
The publisher has hinted at the possibility of more settings from the trading card game in the future, but the two titles will cross streams in the other direction later this year when Adventures in the Forgotten Realms brings trading card game players an entire set themed after sword and sorcery tales from the tabletop game’s current canonical universe.
Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything proved to be the most successful book Wizards of the Coast published in 2020, topping charts in November and becoming the tabletop game’s most pre-ordered book ever. Meehan previewed the sourcebook and reported that among the tables of dangerously magical items and otherplanar threats was the publisher’s first earnest attempt to grapple with its outdated and offensive mechanization of race - something the community continues to criticize and points to as overdue for change.
The report fails to mentions the several cases in which Dungeons & Dragons, for all its sales figures and burgeoning playerbase, dropped the ball in 2020. Beyond race issues in the text - which Wizards of the Coast says will take several years to fully address - the company faced criticism when contracted designer Orion Black released a public statement about their broadly negative time working for Wizards of the Coast.
The publisher publicly apologized in June of 2020, but since then more people have reported further dismissive or patronizing experiences, such as Graeme Barber’s work on Candlekeep Mysteries. He wrote at the time that Wizards of the Coast pushed him out of the process, over-edited his work beyond the spirit of their agreement and misrepresented his creative endeavors.Edit: Dan Barrett's quote has been corrected to properly attribute him.