Sunday, December 30, 2012

When Did We Stop "Playing Our RPG Books" and Start "Collecting" Them?

When I was a kid / teenager / young adult game books were meant to be used, meant to be marked up - heck, even torn apart sometimes. My copy of the DMG had perforated pages in the back for easy removal and reference.

How many today would rip hose pages out of their brand new, $40+ rulebook?

Back in the day I would actually write in the modules as I ran them, or even made notes prior to running right in the book itself.

Marking off hit points, scratching off spells as the NPC cast them, making adjustment to the adventure prior to running it... this was common practice.

Now, we have adventures that are presented as "over 250 pages, delivered in 100% full color, tightly bound with our infamous stitched-bound hardcovers -- or secured by genuine leather covers for our serious collector." Who is going to actually write in the above $110 hardback? (I'm not even considering the leather edition)

Is a book of the above quality even meant to be truly read, let alone used? Is that why we have PDF copies of such, so we can put out collectible on the shelf with the hope that it will appreciate in value and impress our friends and escape the touch of human hands?

I'm not knocking the high quality work that many companies produce, but when did we change as a hobby?

I find myself loath to write in the POD copy of paperback copy of Dyson's Delves, a book specifically made for one to write in.

I may just need to stat out a dungeon in that book, in ink, just as a form of therapy ;)


  1. To answer your question, 1987 when I had to explain to my one year old not to use crayons in the DMG.

  2. Those are great questions. To a large extent, I get around the problem by using post-it notes in modules to tag rooms with updated information. Not only can I remove them easily enough, I can update them as needed. That's particularly handy when it comes to restocking dungeons.

    Having said that, I'm in the exact same boat as you when it comes to my copy of Dyson's Delves!

  3. I hadn't really thought about it, but you're right. I copies of old rules and modules that are still marked up in the margins or have hit points lined through with new totals, etc. Some of them probably have notes about house rules in them in the margins also. The funny thing is that I haven't done that in years. On a related side note, I have always wanted one of the retroclones to release a version of the rulebook that has fill in the blank sections in the races, classes, magic items, spells, etc. so each campaign could have a unique custom rulebook if they desired. Of course, it would need to be POD product. It's probably a corny idea but I thought it was cool.

  4. I've always taken good care of my books. The ones that are dog eared are so because of... normal use? My 1st ed DMG for example. On the other hand, some have suffered from poor construction like my original Unearthed Arcana. I have fallen into 'collector' mode for the last several years thought as my time to actually play has dwindled thanks to work.

  5. Even back when I was digging past the train models to get to the $5 TSR dungeons I never wrote in them. I never tore out the hand outs or maps. I was lucky enough to have access to a copier back then and made copies of the handout. I did use the module, but always tried to take good care that it stayed in good condition. Barring the occasional pizza drip, exploding Coke, or Cheeto fingers I still have them and most of them are in pretty good shape for being 30 plus or minus a few years old.

    Today I like the hardcover books, but want the PDF for actual play. I just ordered the Advanced Adventures Compendium 1&2 in hardcover. I doubt I'll be able to use them as is. You've got 10 adventures crammed into a single book and I can see me at the table cussing up a storm every time I take my hand off the page and it flips to another page. I getting them because I like to read them. Even Barrowmaze is not great when trying to use the book. The two times I ran it I used PDF versions and it worked out much better.

  6. I still scribble in pencil all over my RPG books, so I appreciate it when publishers avoid high-gloss paper and dark backgrounds, both of which make that hard. I guess Paizo & co know their market, though.

  7. I never wrote in my books back in the 70s either, but I just had the books. None of the takers in my group owned or used modules. There would have been more reason to write in a module.

  8. As a society, we collect a lot of Stuff. Just look at the booming self-storage industry. I don't collect RPG books -- I wrote in my 4e hardbacks and gave them away when I was done with them.

    I do that with basically everything -- if I haven't touched something in a year, it goes to goodwill. This keeps me from collecting, and means I have a relatively small amount of space devoted to stuff.

    So, when did we stop playing and start collecting? Same time we started collecting everything else in our society.

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  10. The 1st Ed. AD&D DMG has perforated tables in the back that were designed to be pulled out of the book. I don't think many new rue books come with perforated pages.

    This may also have something to do with wider availability of photocopiers and pdf versions of the books. Now the DM can copy or print a copy of the module and write on it while keeping the original hard copy pristine.

  11. I never even wrote in my Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as a kid, just used paper notes (doubles as bookmark *and* stat sheet). I did use pencil upon occasion in some books, but kept the pencil strokes light enough to not gouge the paper and make it easily erasable.
    Having said that, all my old books show the signs of honest wear, my AD&D 2nd ed Player's HB has duct tape on the spine, and my old Shadowrun 1st ed is about the same, except I got some tape from a librarian for that one. There's pop stains as well.
    As to some hypothetical future value of the books, I'm under no illusion that they'll actually be worth much of anything. If I collect, I do it for myself, and I've done it since I was a kid.

  12. And as a footnote, my copy of ToEE has much more writing in it than yours. ;)

  13. I mostly use pdfs and text document these days. Which has made me learn to hate the normal layout used by most publishers - the double column, or whatever it's called. I normally cant edit the pdfs, so I have to either use several text documents carefully cross-referenced, or I have to copy paste the text, and then spend time editing so it becomes coherent. If only publishers would publish easily computer edited products, it would make my life a lot simpler.

  14. I know my dad wrote in the margins in pencil of our 3.0 DMG and PHB, and we appended some printed pages to Tome and Blood, but I think after MM2 or so we quit editing things. This continued for many years... I've recently started playing ACKS using a printed copy of the pdf split between two 3-ring binders, and this post made me realize that we could insert and remove stuff from it quite easily; I've been itching to upgrade the treasure tables, and that would be a great place to start.

  15. I do everything I can to not damage any of my books in any way. I'm even hesitant and feel bad about tearing out sections that are supposed to come out, and often won't unless absolutely required to do so. Back in grade school I felt bad about writing my name in the front of the book, because it feels like defiling it. So, yeah, you can be certain my roleplay books are still in pristine condition to the best of my ability.

    The bizarre thing is I like buying used books for their rugged good looks, but I can't bear to be the one to violate them myself.


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