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My RPG Cookbooks, and when enough is enough

So Adam and Blacksteel have been talking a lot about why we buy new games.  I noticed about two years ago that my RPG purchases were diminishing in number fairly steeply.  To understand why, let me explain why I buy most RPG's.  I buy them like cookbooks, where I'm not going to cook every recipe out of them, or even any of them, but I get ideas about how to cook.  I take little snippets here and there and throw them into whatever game (or meal) I'm making.

Several factors have contributed to the decline of RPG purchasing.

1. The price.  The cost of a hardcover RPG has risen from around $30 to $50 for a hardcover.  Some run to $70 is they are particular large or have a color interior.  Somewhere in there the price went from "sure, I can buy this a look at it and never run it and that's okay" to "um, no."

2. The closure of the used book store in my town.  Beats me why Half Price Books couldn't make it here, but they couldn't, and discount RPG's were a way for me to continue to indulge while still justifying the expense.  When it closed, the only venue was the small used rack at my FLGS, which was anemic, really.

3. A steady game.  I bought a lot more RPG's when I wasn't running anything.  I bought more when I was running short games.  When I started running the same RPG for two years straight, month in and month out, rationalizing why a game that had nothing to do with what I was playing became more hard.  It made more sense to buy miniatures, or plaster molds, or just save the money.

4. Other diminishing returns.  Honestly, I'm just not getting as much out of those "cookbooks" as I used to.  I realized this when I was pondering buying Blood and Treasure, another Fantasy Heartbreaker.  I've got fantasy heartbreakers.  Also, there is so much material out there now on the internet: NPC's, monsters, gear, story ideas, GM advice.  All the things that I used to read about in books is now readily available on the internet.  Unless the game has something really interesting going on, really innovative, then I'm not that interested.

The last three RPG's I've purchased illustrate my points.  I bought Ninja Crusade, which I had previously bought as a pdf but later as a hardcover because it was a totally different kind of fantasy RPG with interesting dynamics when it comes to PC creation.  I bought Iron Falcon, a tight little OSR retro-clone by the same guy who created Basic Fantasy, because I found a softcover copy of the book cheap at a used book store.  I thought a long time about buying Heroes Against Darkness, another fantasy heartbreaker, because it closely resembled D&D Fourth Edition without all the bells and whistles.  What really put it over the edge was the monster-building rules (which you don't often see in fantasy RPG's, either because there's no real system or the creators aren't interested in sharing).  I had a lot of fun playing 4E with my gaming group, and I'm sure that part of my interest was in trying to reclaim some of that fun.

But in the meantime there are countless RPG's I've looked at, thought about, and passed.  Games like Oz Dark and Terrible, Mutant Zero, and Iron Kingdoms.  Not bad games, just so unlikely to be played and so expensive that they just were not worth getting (at this time).

And so I find myself thinking less and less about what to buy, and more and more about how to play.  Less money spent on books and more effort put into building up rich campaigns.  I stopped trying to buy my way into doing something fun and creative, and more time actually getting there.


  1. I see some overlap with my own reasons here but I am sad to hear about your Half-Price Books closing. I'd say a notable percentage of my own pile of games came from there, though not as much recently as before.

    Have we crossed over into some other type of gamer? Not hipsters, but more like cinemaphiles who dismiss a lot of stuff with a glance because they've seen it all before and become somewhat jaded? I don't think we have but I'm kind of on the inside of the situation here. I still like buying and reading new games, just not as many as before. If I am feeling this way now though, how will I feel about them in ten years?


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