The first three ads are from ’79 and ’80 issues of Model Retailer, a trade magazine for toy/hobby shop owners. The profit formula rings true enough. D&D displays and ads were mercilessly ubiquitous, the “full product line” would fill up the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and let’s not forget that the products themselves were pricey. I could get, what, 20 comics for the price of one module?
The last ad is from Toy & Hobby World, 1980. I’m not sure what’s going on at the top of the mountain. Is the dragon planting a sickle, and rocks are shooting off? Shouldn’t he/she be planting the flag? I feel sorry for “The Old Standby Game” and “Games For One Person Only,” but it’s kind of true that D&D rendered them unplayable.
I’m still intrigued by this ad (mentioned in a previous post), also from ’80.
My take is that the kids in the background are chatting about the Bee Gees or something equally awful (i.e. school), and aloof suspender guy is like, this is lame, I’m outta here, and I’m taking my totally awesome Basic Set with me. The problem is that he needs those other kids. You couldn’t play the game by yourself, as TSR proudly advertised.
The socially awkward, introspective loners were TSR’s bread and butter, but awkward loners, by definition, tend not to “hang around” with other people. So the company had to promote the social interactivity requirement (the cool kids had tons of friends) while also playing to the geeks.
My friends and I played the game as geography and rulebook availability allowed, but only two or three of us were really into it. Most of my time with D&D—and it was a good time—was spent rolling up characters, drawing dungeons, memorizing the rules, and crafting adventures that would never be played.