Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne shares his results on the crossover between Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, and looks at some publisher promotions that hit the mark.

This past weekend saw the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (see "Wizards of the Coast Reveals Product Line for 'Magic: The Gathering' 'D&D' Set").  I found it interesting to see far less crossover between the two genres among our customers than I (or probably Wizards of the Coast), had expected.  Your mileage may vary, as the old saying goes, but here, 90% of all Adventures in the Forgotten Realms sales went to regular longtime Magic: The Gathering players.  We had one Dungeons & Dragons player pick up a couple of boxes, and our customers that play both were quite happy to see the Magic treatment of a number of cards.  However, we did not see any significant increases in sales as a result of the crossover.

The promotional items were met with a "meh" as well.  People playing with physical cards in a physical tournament did not seem much interested in a free Arena code or the Icewind Dale module that comes in the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials Kit.  The combo card binder/grid paper notebook was pretty cool, but no one really knew about it or asked about it.  I've noticed that the problem with most promotional items produced by publishers is that the customer never knows about them until we tell them about them.  We have a sign up promoting the free promo figures for King of Tokyo, bookmarks for Munchkin, and promo cards for Fluxx, and our customers are always surprised to get one when we give them one with purchase.  Happy to get one but surprised, which indicates to me that most promotions by publishers to the customers fall on deaf ears.

We are seeing something similar with Friday Night Magic Arena, which has now morphed into Midweek Magic.  A nice idea, but we have to remind our customers each week to participate and even then, we don't get consistent play from the same customers.  We usually get requests for codes from two to three people a week, meaning that the whole sheet of codes we get from Wizards of the Coast gets unused.  Again, a nice idea, but woefully underused by the customers. Heck, even WotC’s Fabled Passage card, which stores were supposed to give away with the purchase of $50 worth of sealed Magic product, did not gin up much interest.

There have been a few promotions from companies that have created interest, and more importantly sales, during the past few months.  Those have come from WotC and Konami, and appeal to the collectability and uncertainty that drive sales of both Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh!:

Lost Art Cards.  This promotion from Konami has proven sporadically successful.  When the Lost Art Card offered is a highly desirable one, such as a Harpie or Dark Magician Girl card, we see boxes of booster packs move out the door.  When Konami sends a less desirable card, such as The Legendary Fisherman, sales driven by demand for the card drop to nothing.  This started as a very strong promotion, but Konami now sends out new cards in the series so often that their impact has diminished.  If Konami would release a new card to stores every 2 months and quiz stores on which cards to release, I think we would see more consistent response.

Promo Packs (WotC) and Tournament Packs (Konami).  Offering these as promotional items with minimum purchase of sealed product significantly drove sales of releases from both companies.  Knowing they were getting an extra sealed pack of cards to open will often push customers who were hesitant about spending more on sealed product.  Boardgames and RPGs?  I am still thinking on promotions that might drive them.  Any ideas?  Send them to

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of