Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Skywalkering Yourself

In the past year I've gone from four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves full of gaming books to less than one bookshelf. I've seriously paired down. This latest round of reductions came from an unexpected place. With The Hero's Journey Fantasy Roleplaying now out in both digital and physical versions, I'd achieved the bucket list item of writing and publishing both a sci-fi and a fantasy RPG.

Yeah, it felt like this.
Still, cleaning out one's gaming book collection can be an exercise in masochism. The emotional investment we have in these books and the hope that "some day" we'll get to use that obscure adventure or esoteric RPG that no one's heard of seriously impact how we see these games. But I felt like hard choices had to be made. So there I was, staring at my bookshelf, deciding who lived and who died. And yes, sure I'm dramatizing a bit - but sometimes it really does feel that way. These books are like old friends and it can be very hard to let go.

So, as I sat there planning my clean out I looked at my still substantial collection of fantasy RPGs and I found myself asking "Well, would I rather run that, or The Hero's Journey?" Every time, I answered THJ. It's not that I think it's necessarily a better game, but its a game I personally designed to suit my style of play - and particularly my style of DMing. Basically, on the rare occasions that I have the opportunity to run a game at a table with physical people, I'm going to want to play THJ over Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry White Box, Beyond the Wall, D&D or any other fantasy game because I know it and its custom fit to me. That's not to say that I wouldn't play any of the games listed above, but only that there is no longer a question of what I would run.

This, combined with the fact that most of my gaming does take place over VVTs these days means my need for physical books has seriously diminished. Almost everything I own physically has a digital counterpart on my computer or in my OBS library. With the fact that nothing really goes out of print these days given the growing print-on-demand market and ability to find used products through eBay or communities like G+'s Goblin Emporium it means that if I need something some time down the road, I can easily reacquire it.

So, my clean out this time around involved me taking a hard look at my gaming collection and saying "What am I going to run at the table and what am I most likely to play on the rare occasion that I'm a player instead of a GM at the table?"

That means I got rid of a lot of books. I spent over $100 just in mailing cost - and that's with everything going out media mail. Over twenty padded envelopes, each containing between one and three books, and two office supply boxes (the kind used to store reams of paper), made their way out the door on Monday.

In deciding what to keep, I kept entire lines on games where it was a certain that I was the only GM in my area - things like Star Wars, The One Ring, and Shadowrun. I kept a fair share of my core books, because they might be useful in convention play - though doubles core books were put on the chopping block. Swords & Wizardry Complete, Labyrinth Lord, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, but got rid of most of the supplements I owned for those game lines - though there were a few minor exceptions (like Monstrosities for Swords & Wizardry Complete). I have most of these supplements in PDF form and they are usually short - like adventures and the like, so they can be easily printed if need be.

Finally came the hard part: The nostalgia pieces. Things like three copies of the '87 Star Wars RPG or two copies of the Rules Cyclopedia; the 1991 D&D Black Box (my intro to D&D). These I held on to just because of the affection I have for those games and those memories. But ya know what? The memories are still there, even though I shipped everything out two days ago.

This whole thought process came about because I recently saw the Kickstarter for The Dark Eye RPG, which looks freakin' awesome. But I found myself asking, "Yes, it looks fantastic - but will you ever actually play it?" I realized that, sadly, this wasn't likely. It's an uncommon RPG, with a tightly focused audience. So, maybe at some point down the line I'll grab the PDF - but if I backed it, I'd probably just be paying $50 for a beautiful gaming book to take up space on my shelf.

Sure, it was hard. I'm not 100% sure I made the right choices. But you know what? I feel a little freer, a little lighter, and seriously hope that when those books arrive at their new homes the enjoyment they gave me is also experienced by their new owners.