Conspicuous RPG Consumption

I recently moved. While there are many tales I could tell about these experiences, such as the death-defying stunts perpetrated by the movers working with no safety gear on a small elevator platform 12 storeys up and outside my kitchen window, I will keep this focused on RPG stuff. Having movers come over to my house here in Korea guarantees one thing, someone will comment about all the books. With the small apartments here, and the lack of storage areas like closets, using a great deal of space to house something like books – especially large and cared-for hardcovers – stands out. Throw in all the other weirdness which comes from entering the lair of a ‘foreigner’ and obviously someone will have to ask about something. Strangely, it is always about the books. A mover with his arms literally full of my swords to the point of collapse will inquire about my books and never consider the number of weapons he is crawling out my window with.

It’s a funny old world.

Casual Gamers and One True Gamers

Most of the conversations I have about my RPG collection tend to be with people I do not know very well, such as through comments on this blog or my YouTube Channel. For those who have many hobbies of which RPGs only play a minor role, and for those who are quite serious about roleplaying, but only play one game or one system, a large collection of RPG books from different companies, systems, genres, eras, and approaches can seem excessive. Common questions can be, “When are you ever going to have time to play all of those games?” or “Have you played all those games?” In my print collection, I can be quite pleased with the fact that I have run and/or played most of the games on my shelves. Of course, these days, the number of ‘read but not yet played’ titles is growing bit by bit. Adding in PDF titles, however, the gulf between run/played and not widens considerably in favor of games not yet being played… many, many games.

Is this a problem?

Hidden in plain sight

Being married, whenever a move is undertaken there are negotiations about whether it is time to bid farewell to certain pieces of furniture, change how we arrange ‘stuff,’ and (the part I dislike) the potential to decrease the amount of stuff we own. I do not share a home with a woman who has a plan to dispose of all my crap and replace it with doilies, but I am not married to a woman who shares my love of RPGs or my love of movies. She has her collections, and I have mine and we are both good with that. These two collections of mine, however, take up valuable space in our home and I do need to be cognizant of how much of our space is being consumed by items only one of us derives any real joy or benefit from. There are practical limits to everything, and collecting for the sake of collecting is not what either of us is interested in.

Amusingly, at least to me, we discovered last week that she had never realized I actually read and use any of the books on my shelves. Our work schedules do not completely align, so we both have several hours at home alone to do our own thing. She thought I had been simply collecting them. She took them as just a collection for two reasons. The first was because – until last week – she had never seen me actually read or reference one. The second was simply that I take such great pains to care for my books they look unread even when I have read them numerous times. We had a good laugh when she told me what she had thought, and when I told her how and how often I actually use them. She is much happier about having them in the house now, and understands more about why I am protective of them. It’s not that they are unused and being preserved in some pristine state, but that they are used and loved and still look new…until someone messes with them. 

Communication is important in everything.

Everything is full of stars, not just strange obelisks on the moon

And so, these then are the elements of what I am getting at in this post. We can find unexpected things anywhere, the things we do not at first understand have a way of seeming useless when in fact they are the opposite, and communication beyond our assumptions and basic frame of reference can open up whole new worlds of understanding and cooperation.

I do have a large number of games, and I expect that collection will continue to grow over time even though it long-since passed the point where I had ‘enough’ games to support play through the rest of my life. Playing all of them is not my purpose, however. Some games I thought I would play for just a session or two have turned out to run for years, others have never gotten out of planning, and still others turned me off just to read. Each of the games I have read has become a part of my awareness, though. Each has aided me to better understand the games which came later and the games which came before. Exploring them has made me more able to articulate what I do and do not want to be a part of my gaming experiences. While not every game that I own, or will come to own, will find a place at my gaming table, each of them shows up in one way or another in every session of every game that we play.

It is said that if you want to design games you need to play a lot of games. I think this is true, but I don’t think it should be limited to just hopeful designers. Playing just one or just a few games, or playing games one way, as if they were the same – if you are at all passionate about gaming – should not be how you let yourself end up. Using a variety of games to investigate, read, explore, try new approaches – and then returning to the old ones offers too much to be sensibly ignored. Expanding the horizons of the old games with the new vistas you have beheld with your more experienced eyes is not the only benefit, you will also uncover depths and treasures which have always been waiting there for you to find.

4 Responses to “Conspicuous RPG Consumption”
  1. juce734 says:

    Very well said. My wife enjoys RPG’s and doesn’t understand why I own so many books. Her siblings and her played D&D2e growing up but only used the core books and a hand full of modules to play. This up bringing has made it hard for her to understand why I own more than 50 books for Palladium Books, Pathfinder, and D&D.

    We play together in a solo game with me running it and we also play with her brother, his wife, her brother, his wife, and my wife and I now too. We usually use all of my gaming stuff too. In recent months she has began to understand why I want all of these books and has even fed more into my passion for the hobby a little bit.

    Glad to hear you and your wife are more on the same page recently. Very nice blog post.


    • Runeslinger says:

      I wasn’t so much writing about my wife’s newfound understanding of the regular utility all these books have for me, but that from the outside, games unplayed can make little or no sense to observers. The idea of ‘why do we have these if we never use them?’ is a strong one. I feel that exposing yourself to reading, thinking about, and understanding the way different games approach the same concepts and problems has a lot of value. Even if I don’t run each and every game I own, they all have an impact on my gaming, and I do reference them regularly as I consider what and how I will make my contributions as a GM or as a player.

  2. Harrier says:

    I’ve been collecting RPGs since before the original red box, and eventually the collection got so big it was… well, let’s just call it ‘silly’. Only in the last couple years have I finally started thinning my collection. I didn’t play a lot of them, percentage-wise, but I learned a lot and got many ideas from many of those unplayed games. I held on to many of them for that mythical time when I would need to reference them for whatever lost bits of mechanical goodness they held. Then it dawned on me that even if a book did have some ‘thing’ that other games didn’t, I really just needed the idea of that ‘thing’ since I would inevitably have to do a conversion for use with another system anyway. Now my RPG footprint is much smaller, and I’m being more judicious in what I buy. Of course, with a strong internet RPG community, it’s now easier to find out about a system without having to shell out the shekels for it. Thank goodness.

    • Runeslinger says:

      There are days when I would like to go that route, and lighten overall weight of the things which tie me in place, and then there are days when I pine for the books I have stored. Until I can unite the sundered parts of my collection, I suspect I will cling to all of it. 😉

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