It’s finally dawned on me that I can’t trust my bookshelves anymore to tell me when my RPG collection has gotten out of hand. With the growing ability to get quality inexpensive, or even free, pdf content, it’s easier than ever to end up with a collection that no human being could read in a lifetime. I’d have no problem with that if I were just a collector. But I made a commitment to myself a long time ago that if I was going to add something to my collection, it was going to have do a little work for me at some point.
What do I mean by work?
The ultimate, of course, is getting the game to the table. It’s always a challenge and a thrill to get to GM something new… particularly something that requires a different perspective than most other games. Let’s say something like Fiasco or Microscope that just sits in a different part of your brain than most traditional games. So, yes, running a game, or even getting to play it meets my definition of a game that’s earning its keep.
Then there are those things kept around for “research” purposes. These are things that I’m probably not going to play (like any of the titles from my vast Traveller library), but that are full of useful concepts, plot lines, or other bits to steal or hack. This is a hazy category, for sure, and ripe with potential for abuse.
Lastly, we find the things kept around for purely sentiment reasons. Things like my big block of early Hero Games books, or the gorgeous and obscure Hidden Kingdom, that I picked up for a song at an old game store. So pretty, so unlikely to ever get played.
Okay, but when you are going to get around to this New Brutality business?
Ah, yes. Thank you for asking. I’ve thought for some time that I’ve been acquiring RPGs too quickly. This was really driven home to me a few weekends ago when I visited my friend Brian. He has a significant number of game books, maybe a couple of hundred, and I asked how much of his library he’d actually read. He said, to my amazement, that he’d basically read all of it… give or take some skimmed spell lists. I shuddered a little at the thought of committing to reading all of my 500 or so different RPG books.
I have no real way of knowing without putting a lot of time into figuring it out, but I’d be surprised if I’ve read a quarter of my collection. (And I may even be further behind than that.) Here’s my stuff over on RPGGeek.com. I do my best to keep things up to date, but I’ve even fallen behind on that.
So for the rest of the year I’m employing the 5-to-1 Rule. I’ve got to read 5 books from my collection for every 1 new book I acquire. (I think I can hear my wife fainting in the background.) Just to be clear, this isn’t a cost saving measure, although I won’t mind that aspect of it. I just want to know what my collection actually is. I think I’m going to have to amnesty my existing Kickstarter* commitments, though. Otherwise I’m never going to feel like I’m making any progress.
I’ve come up with a system to weight the value for different RPG products since they can be of wildly different lengths.
Core Books – 2 credits. Unh-huh. The tomes of the door stop, roach-killing variety are worth 2 reads. Unless you have an atypical brain chemistry, getting through a core book, and absorbing what you’ve read, takes a long time.
Indie Game/Splat Book/Typical Supplement – 1 credit. These typically weigh in at 100 or 200 pages and without all the tremendous rules overhead go relatively quickly.
Magazine/Indie Supplement – .5 credit. It doesn’t take that long to read a Fiasco playset or a Hillfolk series pitch
So that’s it. Pretty simple. Read what I’ve got, or give up getting new books.
I thought about calling this post The New Austerity, but somehow that doesn’t capture the essence of how hard it’s going to be to put the breaks on myself. I keep telling myself it’ll be good for me.
*Current Outstanding Game Kickstarters
Blades in the Dark
Wrath of the Autarch
Dungeon Crawl Classics 4th Ed
Apocalypse World 2nd Ed