Thursday, March 31, 2011

That's a lot of money to spend on a paperweight

I was perusing the Acaeum, specifically the Original D&D Set page, looking at the differences between the older editions, etc. Now, I bought the PDFs a while back before that whole WotC/Hasbro fiasco, but I must say, they are rather awful scans. Terrible. Anyway, I printed them out and read them because I can read a PDF on a computer screen for literally five seconds before I become bored with it. Printed books converted to electronic format just don't work, and my old Digital Libraries professor can suck it. Different mediums should be approached...differently, both in layout and content. I suppose that's why the Kindle resembles an actual book.

Okay, so enough of that, the point remains that I really wanted to get a copy of the original boxed set. So, I looked on Noble Knight, a truly great resource if you want out-of-print material. The cheapest boxed set listed is $155, and it's a 5th printing or something; not really that collectible, but still about 20x the original price. Honestly, I thought it'd be a lot more. I started contemplating the purchase of the boxed set...$155 for something I'll probably open once, flip through, then place on a shelf. Literally. I have no lofty aspirations to play OD&D, even though I find the thought intriguing. I'm probably never going to play Mentzer Red Box again, but honestly, I sort of don't want to mess up the books, especially when I can just play Labyrinth Lord and get close enough that I don't notice the differences. Swords & Wizardry Core and White Box offer, from what I can tell, a pretty damn good version of OD&D, with a vastly better organization. There really wouldn't be a point in blowing $155 (much less over $2k) for a set of books I will NEVER use. Never. But, I'm still probably going to buy them at some point. Just because.

Same with the Traveller little black books. I have a boxed set of MegaTraveller, the production values are pretty good, the map is fantastic, but I sorta just don't care too much about it. I got the Mongoose version, and the rules are nice. But something is missing. I have Book 0 somewhere, and there are literally no rules. It was intended to be an introduction to playing Traveller, but I never got around to purchasing the rest of the rules for whatever reason. A few years ago I got the reprints and flipped through them. Much like reading a PDF, I really couldn't maintain interest due to the presentation. So, again, looking for the original books, probably going to drop $100 to get a nice set, and I'll never play it. I'll probably never even read them, to be perfectly honest.

Trying to explain why I want to buy stuff I'll never use is impossible because I really have no idea why it's so important to me. But, I'm sure others feel the same way. Is it a sense of nostalgia, revisiting a past childhood experience? Can't be that because I never had an OD&D set, nor did I even care about it until a few years ago. It certainly isn't because I just want to collect the stuff to make money off of it, either. I don't really have any more room to put crap, and getting more crap is just not a good idea. I still buy just about any newly released rpg. I have so many games I'll never play it's not even funny. For whatever reason, I just feel more comfortable having it than not. Perhaps I'm obsessed, or crazy, but certainly there can't be a problem with owning something you might want to play, right?

In the past ten years or so, I've only played D&D 3rd edition, Labyrinth Lord and AD&D. And some WEG Star Wars over a summer, a few sessions of a post-apocalyptic game. That's basically it. If I got rid of everything I didn't play, have no plans to play and will never ever play, I'd be able to fit all the relevant books into a decent sized box. Instead, I have around 45 boxes of crap, which is a ridiculous amount. Some of it is arguably stupid, too. 12 copies of the AD&D PHB. When the hell will that ever become relevant? When I was running AD&D, though, I'd bring 6 or 7 copies with me, and everyone had a reference. I suppose I was planning ahead for a grandiose campaign, and when it finally did occur, I was already set. The same with with the Star Wars game, to a lesser extent. I only had one copy of the 1st edition rules, so I bought a couple more and a bunch of modules and adventures, some resource books, a book on Star Wars art, another book on Star Wars technology that was simply a book of pictures with descriptions, and printed out reams of other crap. I even wrote a combat die roller utility for my laptop and loaded it up with all the soundtracks, played the songs during the game. What the HELL is wrong with me? There isn't any reason to have four rulebooks for five people, is there? And certainly no need to write up stats on obscure equipment seen for maybe two seconds in Empire...right?

I'm certainly not unusual. At all. Everyone I know who runs a good game does at least as much as I do, if not more. The preparation part is sometimes more fun than actually playing, to be honest. A prior post I made talked a lot about the free-form nature of the games I used to play. In retrospect, there was a lot of preparation for those games, too, I just didn't realize it at the time. I had read fantasy novels, played S&S games like Wizardry, seen Star Wars about a billion times and been to a Renfaire or two. I drew from those experiences to create the game. As I got older, I became more structured in my research. That's really the only difference. I remember reading a book on heraldry to come up with a coat of arms for a character I made in junior high. Even though it literally didn't matter, I wanted that coat of arms to be correct. It was important. When I was running a Castles & Crusades game based loosely on Lord of the Rings, I was worried, so worried. Would I get the time line correct? Had Sauron revealed himself yet? How many orcs would be reasonable in the Barrow Downs? Etc., etc. I read every MERP supplement I could get my hands on. That game lasted only a month or so. And I don't feel like I wasted my time. In fact, I spent around $150 on MERP stuff and I'm glad I did. It's well written and useful. Even if I'll never read it again. The covers are colorful, though. They look nice on the bookshelf. Another expensive paperweight that I'll never get rid of.

I keep wondering, what drives me to buy all this stuff, books I'll never read or use. Some of them I don't care about at all, like my copy of Vampire Dark Ages, but I'm not going to get rid of it. Hell no. It's inexplicable why someone would collect something that they really have no use for but which also has no real value in the absolute monetary sense. Unless, of course, the value isn't monetary and instead something much more precious and cherished. Like an old t-shirt you just can't seem to throw away, all my games have value to me. I'm going to get that D&D set and I'm going to play it. At least that's how I'm going to justify spending the money.


  1. There's something else, other than simple nostalgia. It's temporal connectiveness for lack of a better term. It's like actually seeing the stigmata, or being ringside when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The whole thing becomes more meaningful and real.

  2. "Temporal connectiveness"

    That's the perfect term! Thanks.