Sunday, August 8, 2021

Spotting Some D&D "Out in the Wild", and I Don't Think it's a Good Thing


Spotting Some D&D "Out in the Wild", and I Don't Think it's a Good Thing
Now I know that Tenkar's Tavern is very much an OSR-centric blog, even if there is a good peppering of other games, systems, and general RPG news. Going off on a bit of modern/current edition D&D is largely going to be either "Who gives a rat's ass" or "Eff those guys." with our patrons here.

Still, something I saw today "out in the wild" really, really rubbed me the wrong way. Since I'm officially an old fart (turned 50 in June), AND I happened to have a soap-box, Imma going to bitch about it here....

.......and Erik will wonder why his stats show readers fleeing the page in the first 30 seconds.....

Target D&D Book
Anyway, I came across a couple of current edition D&D hardcovers at Target today. Now the last time I remember seeing D&D on the shelf at a big box retailer is...well never. Bookstores, sure, but a "regular" retailer, maybe I passed by some Magenta boxes on the shelves back in the day, but hell if I remember it. Waldenbooks was my go-to back then, and then it was usually just to rat-f**k the boxes for dice.

So while I think it is really great that there was not just one, but two D&D hardcover books for sale at Target (I didn't get a picture of the other one), the whole thing kind of pissed me off a bit. First off, where's the core books...where's the dice?

Don't get me wrong, I'd really rather see folks going to your FLGS to purchase gaming supplies, but if a retailer is going to sell a couple gaming books, then they should at least sell the bare, basic minimum of gaming supplies that you need to actually utilize these books. GMG, PHB, and basic dice....nothing fancy.

Again, while it seems like a good thing on the surface that these books are available at Target, what I'm thinking is going to happen is that these books aren't going to sell...especially at $35?! Really? Now I used to work retail management and while I'm not full-up on all the intricacies of purchasing at the corporate level, I do know that Target had to pick up a metric butt-load of these titles to get them on the shelves. I just checked and there are 1,909 Targets in the US, not to mention the distribution centers so even at a minimum...a bare minimum stocking level of 2 (one to show and one to go), then Target would need to purchase at least 3,818 copies, but more likely they got an average of six per store (some more, some less, and some still in stock at the distribution centers), so we'll round up to 11,500 copies.

Now I don't know about you, but I just don't see a great sell-through rate on those books, especially considering that you can't actually get anything else to run your game with at Target. For the sake of argument we'll pretend that they have a great sell-through of 50%, which means there are 5,250 books NOT being sold at your FLGS. 5,250 books not generating add-on sales of dice and other books.....

.....and what about the other 5,250 books? Those will probably get dumped onto the secondary market and also pull sales away from the FLGS.

Yeah, so all these reasons to bitch and moan a bit about Target selling D&D books.......that really isn't the reason I bothered to take the picture in the first place. Pretty much everything I've posted up until this point was literally off-the-top-of-my-head thinking as I started typing this out. Didn't even think about in general until I opened up Blogger.

Target Shelf Tag

No, what rubbed me the wrong way was the shelf tag. I know, who gives a fuck about the shelf tag? Well, I do a bit....remember I did work retail management for a few years and was a general retail peon for more than that. I actually look at those shelf tags, and this one bothered me. I'll give you a second to check it out.

Yep, the thing that gets me is that this $35 book is not a one-off, but the "May Title", which tells me that there is a distinct possibility that there were a couple more books I didn't see and this is the beginning of essentially another D&D "Book of the month" type-thing.

I did play a bit of D&D 3.5 back in the day and I strongly disliked the frequency of the hardbacks that WotC/Hasbro released and it felt like a book-of-the-month club. It really just got to be too much and honestly I thought that was part of the reason that 3.5 "died". The constant release of titles not only felt like a crash grab, but made it seem obvious that there was a preference for quantity over quality.

Now I could be wrong on the finer details so I'll be a bit vague here, but I recall a specific KenzerCo book that had a lot of potential, but fell short due to Hasbro's money grab.....I'm calling it as I see it. KenzerCo was planning on two versions of their book, one for D&D and one for HackMaster. The D&D version kept getting denied and kicked back by Ha$bro for "reasons" and then months later pretty much cancelled because Ha$bro put out their own version as the book-of-the-month. Now the KenzerCo version, now having had way too many revisions, was hastily finalized/mashed together because it had cost so much to produce (I'm assuming man-hours/resources) and it did end up having some issues. In any case, I've seen the D&D and the KenzerCo book, and even with my own inherent biases, I can comfortably say that the D&D book was quite inferior.

What I feel this hobby definitely doesn't need is a glut of product taking sales away from FLGS and a return to expensive products that emphasize quantity over quality. New people coming into the hobby most likely get the newer/newest version of the game and possibly...hopefully spread out into the hobby. Flooding the market with cheap (but NOT inexpensive) product will harm not just these newer players, but the hobby overall.

Of course maybe I'm wrong and I'm just an old man screaming into the wind......kind of hope I am wrong. 


  1. Target in San Diego had the Starters Set and Essentials.
    Hopefully one or both of those were boxes with dice.
    I think there were some hardcovers as well.

    1. Mixed feelings about that, but good if it brings fresh blood into the hobby

  2. Target has had 5e starter boxes for awhile, in fact they had the second box as an exclusive for at least a month iirr. I'm not sure if they carry dice or not as I don't go there much. In a related bit of info, I have two Walmarts near me that I go to. Both have dice in the games section, and the larger store carries the 5e starter boxs. As far as I know, bother are selling at or close to the sticker price.

  3. I have seen 5.0 titles at Target since late last year. They offered the core titles in stores through the end of January (or when they sold out). Since that time, I have only seen new titles (Tasha’s and Ravenloft specifically) and then they only had two of each. They do sell the starter and essential sets, so there’s your dice and printed copies of the basic rules. The basic rules can be downloaded free. One thing that WOTC learned from 3.x and 4.0 is to limit the number of new releases. They have slowed down the pace and the quality of content in these books have improved. Still, it is a big complex mess for those who prefer their games streamlined and rules light. Thank goodness for indie rpg makers who are interested in good game play and not concerned with playing super heroes.

    1. I actually think 5e has done a great job managing complexity, after the debacle of 4e's "everything is core" philosophy. You explicitly only need the PH, DMG, and MM to play the game.

  4. Good thing you didn't start flipping through it... the horror!

  5. Last time I was back in the USA (January 2020), there were D&D dice in Walmart. I was pretty surprised by that. Ran by the book section, but no books. Still, it was pretty odd to me to see the dice for sale there. I don't remember how much they cost, but I didn't get them, despite being a "dice goblin" and always wanting more of the little guys despite having more than enough.

    I can remember my reaction pretty well, surprise that they were available, impressed that D&D has gotten mainstream enough for Walmart to stock dice, but also a bit of that geek defensiveness that "our hobby" is being marketed this way. So I totally get how you feel seeing those books at Target.

  6. Target regularly stocks the two D&D starter sets. The second one, with the white drago, was a exclusive release for them for like 30 days before the wide release.

    WOTC has been slow in the release of books. 4 to 5 a year it feels like. I think they get the quality over quantity idea (opinions on the actual quality if the books aside).

    I would wager that over the life of 5e it has put out less pages of products than almost any other period out side the start of the hobby.

  7. I bought my 2E Monster Manual 2 and Fiend Folio at Sears so...

  8. The biggest issue here is that Target (like Amazon) is undercutting the FLGS, who has to sell the book at the MSRP of $50 while Target can afford to sell it for $35.

    BTW, it is the May book because it was released this May. WoTC has not published very many 5e books, using printing between three and five a year. This year they have published two hardcovers (a collection of adventures and this campaign setting), and have a further three on the schedule for this fall.

  9. In 1984, 13-yo me withdrew ALL THE SAVINGS to carry it to what I imagine was the 80s German version of your Targets and Walmarts to purchase the brand-new German Red Box. And judging from my shelves of gaming stuff, the FLGS still made a very healthy profit from me doing so. You gotta put your bait where the fish is, I guess.

  10. I got my first Moldvey D&D set from Sears

  11. I think it's up to the FLGS to do what they need to stay alive (or to give up and die out). We shouldn't get mad at big box retailers for carrying books, or companies selling their books online as PDFs just because it hurts the FLGS. Generally not a fan of anything that makes things worse for me as a consumer just so one particular version of retailer can stay in business.

  12. I bought most of my TSR stuff in the early 80's from long extinct department stores in the strip mall in town. And I got my AD&D hardcovers from some big box toy store at the mall about a hour away from us. Fun crystal dice and some modules came from a local bookstore that mostly sold romance novels and required reading paperbacks for high school. But, the owner recognized that kids were into this stuff and had a small row of items. So I don't see it strange that D&D is in Target.

    WotC release schedule is more like 3-4 books a year. They tend to hold back the book titles up to their own announcement. The May in the tag reference must have been a placeholder in the ordering to mask the title that stayed around in Target's system.

  13. I am pretty sure I got my original three core AD&D books at an Ardan's Department Store in Dubuque Iowa in the mid 80's. And I remember buying D&D modules at a Ben Franklins Dime Store soon after. I had the Moldvey D&D boxed set before these but I don't remember where I got it.

  14. As an aside, Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition, the card game version, is available at Target. A few, if not more, of the KS backers haven't even received their copies yet, as they had to "wait for a second shipment."
    More and more, KS'd products are being shipping out to retailers first, then the to the supporters second. Yes, they are two different products, but it's still a sign of companies buckling to the pressure of sales from the big box retail side for an immediate cash infusion, to help along the KS process. This is sadly, not the first time it's happened. Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Exploding Kittens, Throw Throw Burrito, and many others have slid into the need to gain those immediate sales to bolster their cash reserves.

  15. If FLGS were not generally crapola run by guys who seem annoyed when you want them to rung up a purchase I might care


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