D&D History & Growth (2009 Edition)

How much has the 4th Edition grown over the past year?

Following last year’s investigation into the size and growth of each edition of D&D, the big question for this year’s updated graph is how fast is 4e’s rule base expanding? Is it likely to remain at a manageable size or will it become as bloated and unwieldy as the 3.0/3.5 edition?


Click for Larger Image

2009: A Bumper Year

In 2009, Wizards published almost 2000 pages of rules and supplements for 4th Edition in over 10 different books (see below for details). This is the third most prolific year for D&D publications though someway short of the record breaking year of 2004 with its 2432 pages.

The trend seems to be continuing into 2010 as well. We only have accurate information up until April/May 2010, but already nearly 1000 pages of supplements have been scheduled. This suggests that 2009 and 2010 will be very close in their published page counts which will make this edition, at least at the current rate, about the same size or maybe slightly smaller smaller than its predecessor.

4e: How Big and How Long?

The current level of output continues to suggest that 4th Edition will only last five or six years. According to the poll we took, this is also the general consensus amongst gamers. It is certainly hard to see how Wizards can keep churning out the same level of content without a serious drop off in sales. After all, how many different PHB’s does the average gamer need?

The signal for a new edition would be a larger than normal number of publications one year followed by a sharp drop off as projects are finished off and staff reassigned to 4.5 or 5th edition books. There is no sign of this in 2010 but next year’s graph could give us an early warning via the 2011 publishing schedule.

How the Graph was Made

The graph is a guide to the size of each edition, not a definitive document. It does not take into account the different sizes of each page (4e has at least twice as much surface area per page than the original edition). The selection of which books to include and which to exclude is also arbitrary. Where a supplement expands on a core part of the game, I have included it (e.g. Martial Power or PHB II) but where it above and beyond the default game (e.g. a campaign setting like Eberron), I’ve ignored it. This distinction is not always clear cut so I have made a judgement call where necessary. Whilst this is not an exact science, I believe the result reflect the general size and scale of each edition fairly well. Comments and suggestion on improvements are welcome.

Included Titles

Original D&D

Original Boxed Set (1974), Greyhawk (1975), Blackmoor (1975), Eldritch Wizardry (1976), Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes (1976), Swords & Spells (1976)


Monster Manual (1977), Players Handbook (1978), Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979), Deities & Demigods (Legends & Lore) (1980), Fiend Folio (1981), Monster Manual II (1983), Unearthed Arcarna (1985), Oriental Adventures (1985), Wilderness Survival Guide (1986), Dungeoneer’s survival guide (1986), Manual of the Planes (1987)

2nd Edition

Dungeon Master’s Guide (1989), Players Handbook (1989), Monstrous Compendium Volume 1(1989), Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989), PHBR1: The Complete Fighter’s Handbook (1989), Legends & Lore (1990), DMGR1: Campaign Source Book & Catacomb Guide (1990), DMGR2: Castle Guide (1990), PHBR3: The Complete Priest’s Handbook (1990), PHBR4: The Complete Wizard’s Handbook (1990), Tome of Magic (1990), DMGR3: Arms and Equipment Guide (1990), PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991), PHBR6: The Complete Book of Dwarves (1991), DMGR4: Monster Mythology (1992), PHBR7: The Complete Bard’s Handbook, Monstrous Manual (1993), DMGR5: Creative Campaigning (1993), Book of Artifacts (1993), PHBR8: The Complete Book of Elves (1993),
PHBR9: The Complete Book of Gnomes & Halflings (1993), PHBR10: The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993), PHBR11: The Complete Ranger’s Handbook (1993), Monstrous Compendium, 1994 Annual, volume 1 (1994), DMGR6: Complete Book of Villains (1994), The Complete Paladin’s Handbook (1994), The Complete Druid’s Handbook (1994), Encyclopedia Magica, Volume I (1994), Encyclopedia Magica, Volume II (1994), DM’s Option: High-Level Campaigns (1995), Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics (1995), The Complete Barbarian’s Handbook (1995), The Complete Barbarian’s Handbook (1995), Encyclopedia Magica, Volume III (1995), Encyclopedia Magica, Volume IV (1995), Monstrous Compendium, 1995 Annual, volume 2 (1995), The Complete Book of Necromancers (1995),
Sages and Specialists (1995), Wizard’s Spell Compendium, Volume 1 (1996), Monstrous Compendium, 1996 Annual, volume 3 (1996), Of Ships and the Sea (1997), Player’s Option: Skills & Powers (1997), Player’s Option: Spells & Magic (1997), Wizard’s Spell Compendium, Volume 2 (1997), Wizard’s Spell Compendium, Volume 3 (1998), Wizard’s Spell Compendium, Volume 4 (1998), Monstrous Compendium, 1997 Annual, volume 4 (1998), Priest’s Spell Compendium, Volume 1 (1999), Priest’s Spell Compendium, Volume 2 (1999), Priest’s Spell Compendium, Volume 3(1999)

3rd Edition

Monster Manual (2000), Players Handbook (2000), Dungeon Master’s Guide (2000), Hero Builder’s Guidebook (2000), Psionics Handbook (2000), Defenders of the Faith: A Guidebook to Clerics and Paladins (2001), Manual of the Planes (2001), Oriental Adventures (2001), Sword and Fist: A Guidebook to Fighters and Monks (2001), Tome and Blood: A Guidebook to Wizards and Sorcerers (2001), Enemies and Allies (2001), Song and Silence: A Guidebook to Bards and Rogues (2001), Book of Vile Darkness (2002), Monster Manual 2 (2002), Masters of the Wild: A Guidebook to Barbarians, Druids, and Rangers (2002), Deities & Demigods (2002), Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook (2002), Epic Level Handbook (2002), Fiend Folio (2003), Arms & Equipment Guide (2003), Savage Species (2003)

3.5 Edition

Monster Manual (2003), Players Handbook (2003), Dungeon Master’s Guide (2003), The Complete Warrior (2003), Book of Exalted Deeds (2003), Planar Handbook (2004), Monster Manual III (2004), Libris Mortis: Book of the Undead (2004), Complete Arcane (2004), Races of Stone (2004), Expanded Psionics Handbook (2004), Races of Destiny (2004), Frostburn (2004), Heroes of Battle (2004), The Complete Divine (2004), Unearthed Arcana (2004), Players Handbook II (2004), Dungeon Master’s Guide II (2005), The Complete Adventurer (2005), Heroes of Horror (2005), Magic of Incarnum (2005), D&D Spell Compendium (2005), Sandstorm (2005), Races of the Wild (2005), Weapons of Legacy (2005), Stormwrack (2005), Monster Manual IV (2006), Cityscape (2006), Tome of Battle (2006), Tome of Magic (2006), Complete Mage (2006), Complete Psonics (2006), Complete Scoundrel (2007), Dungeonscape (2007), Elder Evils (2007), Examplars of Evil (2007), Magic Item Compendium (2007), Monster Manual V (2007), Complete Champion (2007), Rules Compendium (2007)

4th Edition

Monster Manual (2008), Players Handbook (2008), Dungeon Master’s Guide (2008), Adventurer’s Vault (2008), Martial Power (2008), Manual of the Planes (2008), Open Grave (2009), Players Handbook 2 (2009), Arcane Power (2009), Monster Manual 2 (2009), Divine Power (2009), Adventurer’s Vault 2 (2009), Dungeon Masters Guide 2 (2009), Primal Power (2009), Draconomicon 2: Metallic Dragons (2009), The Plane Below (2009), Underdark (2010), Dragonborn (2010), Martial Power 2 (2010), Player’s Handbook 3 (2010), Planes Above (2010), Players Strategy Guide (2010), Tiefling (2010), Monster Manual 3 (2010).


  1. It’s cool to actually see some numbers.

    I’m not sure whether the “signal for a new edition” will be as obvious as you make it sound. The graph doesn’t show the pattern you mentioned. A new team could be hired to work on the next edition while the existing team keeps working on the current edition. Personally I think the later 3.5 books experimenting with new mechanics was a hint of things to come.

    There’s also a typo that made me laugh out loud: The book of “Marital Power”. 🙂
    .-= Alex Schroeder´s last blog ..Laser Bears =-.

  2. @Alex – What typo? Have you never seen the short-lived D&D marital aids line of products? “D&D – For all your tabletop and bedroom fantasies”.

    I think you are right about seeing experimentation in later rule books in the run up to a new edition. It is a good signal that the writers are getting bored with the current game.

  3. @Tetsubo

    Funny, I see the chart and I think “3.5 was the shortest running and most bloated of any d&d edition and still fell short of previous editions running time even when combined with 3.0”

    But, then again I am not a 3.5 loyalist and see 4e as another option that many people find enjoyable and a different, though still good direction for the game to go. Also, if we really want to get down to it, All of D&D could be considered completely pointless.

  4. @Drizzt380

    Role-playing games as a hobby are no more or less pointless than any other hobby. But some games are simply pointless within the category known as role-playing games. FATAL for example. Or 4E, which isn’t even a role-playing game.
    .-= Tetsubo´s last blog ..tetsubo102209 =-.

  5. Tetsubo: So if people roleplay within a game of 4e, as I believe they do, then … it’s not really happening? You do appreciate you sound pretty sily at this stage, don’t you?

  6. You can role-play while playing poker. But it doesn’t mean the rules are written to support that style of play. My comment was intentionally extreme. But I honestly see 4E as a tactical miniatures game with a collectible card aspect and a few fantasy tropes tacked onto the end. It’s driving the biggest name in the hobby of role-playing games towards a glorified board game. It’s designed to increase per unit sales at the sacrifice of a role-playing experience. 5E will be completely free of a GM and be not much more than an advanced version of Risk.

    If you’re playing 4E and having fun, cool. If you’re role-playing with 4E, even cooler. But the game isn’t designed to aid you in that endeavor.
    .-= Tetsubo´s last blog ..tetsubo102309 =-.

  7. Read the first chapter of the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.. Lots of good ideas to support and encourage roleplaying. It might be easy to forget about roleplaying if a new group is having fun with the battle part of the game, but roleplaying is definitely encouraged by the rules and supported (there’s even a section about giving experience incentives for good roleplay to make up for the fact that roleplayers will spend less time getting experience through fighting battles because they spend more time at the table exploring their character personalities and motivations).

    The problem with 4e (if this is a problem at all) is that its the first edition of the game that could be played as a board game with no roleplaying at all and still be a really fun game. A good group will enjoy both aspects and not neglect one for the other. To me that’s like saying an oreo is delicious even without the cream in the middle. That’s not a problem with the oreo…
    .-= Gavilan´s last blog ..Trip to Bordeaux and External Happiness =-.

  8. @Gavilan – You’ve just hit my main issue with 4E. It’s really the first edition of a new game, not the 4th edition of D&D. And I would have been far happier if WotC had just ended D&D and announced the creation of a new game. Completely severed any connection to D&D at all. I understand why they didn’t actually do this of course, marketing. But I consider the reality that they did in fact end D&D and start something new. They just lied about it. I hate to be lied too. I do not suffer liars well.

    I see 4E as a product created and driven by marketers and suits. When a marketer starts to drive product creation, it’s time to close down your company and walk away.
    .-= Tetsubo´s last blog ..Happy Halloween! =-.

  9. Tetsubo, I don’t really think you’re reading anything but what you want to read. Your second paragraph in particular is a textbook example of begging the question.

  10. What I’m reading is a ‘solution’ to a problem that didn’t exist. 4E is a brand new product masquerading as D&D. We had a perfectly functional D&D system. It was then replaced by something… different. Something created out of whole marketing cloth.
    .-= Tetsubo´s last blog ..A loss for equality… =-.

  11. Again, begging the question. You’re assuming your conclusion (that 4e is a soulless creation of marketroids) in your argument (which is that 4e is a soulless creation of marketroids).

    Look, I’m fond of 3e – it brought me back to D&D. But it certainly wasn’t flawless. Properly creating a 10th level adversary, that might live 1 round if it failed a save, could take an hour and require detailed knowledge of a dozen books. That might be fun for some, but I personally think the 4e approach is superior. Put the complexity only where it’s needed, and save the DMs time and effort for elaborate plots and fiendish schemes.

    Horses are perfectly functional for getting around too, it doesn’t mean that chariots are evil.

  12. I’ve never claimed that 3e was perfect. But it’s the closest thing to the perfect version of D&D that I’ve ever encountered. It needed a tune-up, not a replacement. Change the oil, swap a head gasket, maybe some new belts. But don’t throw the whole thing away and tell me I need to buy a new car.

    As for NPC build times in 3E. I found a generator that handled all of that for me. I could build an NPC in under a minute. But even without that software, I never spent an hour building one. Though I freely admit I tended to stick with the core books.

    Look, if WotC had presented 4E to the world as, say Adventure Engine! and just ended the D&D line I would have been happy. Thrilled even. But they co-opted the name D&D and stuck it onto something else. That offends me. That the ‘something else’ is a product I have no use for nor need of is just crap icing on a turd cake.
    .-= Tetsubo´s last blog ..Boys in skirts. =-.

  13. Well, I can’t argue with ‘I don’t like it’ – so fair enough. But I hope you could at least consider that 4e isn’t a ‘marketing creation’ – it’s a valid and carefully designed system, but based on assumptions that you loathe. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the position you started from.

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