Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Consider

So, as I said the other day, I snagged copies of the original pastel-covered 1978 editions of Gary Gygax's G-series modules. Since I personally had only ever owned the later compilation, reading these has been educational. The most obvious thing I've taken away so far is a realization of just how expensive these modules were.

I bought the bulk of my D&D modules back in 1980-81. As I recall -- and my memory may be faulty -- I paid about $6.00 each for these things, which were generally between 26 and 32 pages in length. That price works out to be around around $15 in today's money, taking into account inflation. The G-series, on the other hand, sold for about $4.50 each in 1978 (actually $4.49 for the first two and $4.98 for the third one). That also works out to about $15 a pop in today's money, so the relative price of modules remained pretty constant from 1978 to 1981, at least.

But here's the thing: the first two G-series modules were only 8 pages long. $15 for 8 pages! That's a lot of money, isn't it? G3 is a little better, coming in at 16 pages, but, even so, it's not a lot of module for the price, especially when compared to the modules published after I entered the hobby. The other realization from this? Gaming stuff nowadays (generally) isn't overpriced; in fact, a lot of it is probably underpriced, at least when compared to how much gaming products cost back in the late '70s and early '80s.

Now, I'm sure someone will no doubt come along and present all sorts of arguments that you have to take into account this or that or the other thing before you can really compare prices between two different years. Sure, I accept that. Even so, how many of us would be willing to shell out $15 for an 8-page adventure these days? Not many, I'd be willing to bet. The truth is we get a lot more game material for our buck nowadays than we likely did in our youths.

20 comments:

  1. Does page count=quality=enjoyment?

    You said these were the best modules. Were they worth the $6 of fun?

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  2. I never paid those prices for the G-series. I paid $6 for all three of them, so it's not a question I can answer in this specific case. As to the larger question, no, I don't think page count necessarily says anything about quality or enjoyment, but that wasn't my point. My point was that, nowadays, is very common to hear gamers moan about how expensive game products are compared to days of yore. That's largely not the case, though, as many game products were much more expensive in relative terms in the past than they are today.

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  3. I make this argument all of the time and it gets little traction.  People are willing to accept the facts (that inflation means that $15 in 1980 is roughly $40 in 2012) but  it doesn't stop them from thinking that they're not getting enough value for their money.

    Personally, I think it's because money that you spent during your Personal Golden Age Of Gaming has a greater emotional return on investment than money that you spend in later years.  The $10 Marvel Superheroes RPG box back in 1984 is never going to be matched by any $20 purchase I make today, not because what I buy today isn't good or possibly better than MSH was as a game, but because I can't approach games that way anymore - I'm too old, I know too much, and things can never be that fresh again.

    (Admittedly, this is colored by my own background with comic books and hanging out with comic readers in general - your Personal Golden Age of Comics always has the best comics, and the eras just before and just after your Personal Golden Age are inferior because they just are.  Don't get involved in conversations between someone who started reading comics in 1975, someone who started reading in  1985 and someone who started in 1995 about the most fun to read superhero comics - it just gets ugly.  Uglier than the equivalent gaming conversations that we like to call "Edition Wars"...)

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  4. I was looking at old issues of The Space Gamer, issue 28 to be exact.  In that issue, it was reported that the average annual salary of a Space Gamer reader was $13,000.  According to the BLS inflation calculator - combined with CBO information on tax rates -- this put Space Gamer readers "on average" in the second quintile and at "total effective federal tax rate" (income tax, social security, and medicare taxes added together) of 14.3%.  

    After taxes, this left your average TSG reader with $11,141.00.  According to CBS (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500178_162-5492900.html), the average rent in 1979 was $280, or $3,300 a year.

    Needless to say, one would have to buy food, gas, and car insurance on top of these things. 

    $6 for 8 pages, that's pretty hefty, the average movie ticket (according to box office mojo) was $2.51.

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  5. I think they were closer to $10 each in Canada. Rose colored glasses aside I was not too impressed the G series. The D series were better bang for the buck but our never characters reached a level where they would have been useful.

    As an aside James, the new commenting software is not as friendly the old indigenous blogspot version.  About 75% of the time I don't even see a comment like attached to your posts.

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  6. What's missing in your question, I believe, is the issue of scarcity: back then there wasn't as much available as there is today so that 8 pages seemed like a hell of a lot more when it was the only gaming item your were going to see for a couple months. And while there were a lot of systems in those heady days, there weren't alot of adventures/supplements for D&D - Judges Guild was about the only non-TSR product after they tightened up the liscencing. We might remember lots of games from then (D&D, T&T, Gurps, Traveller, etc....) but for a lot of people, the only source for games wasn't a games store or hobby shop, it was a toy store that had a little stack of TSR stuff.
    I think people would be loath to pay $15 today for 6 pages because they can easily find lots of other materials - usually just as good or better - for a better price. 

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  7. I'm not completely happy with Disqus either, so  I continue to be open to alternatives, if anyone has any to offer. The thing is that, whatever its manifest faults, Disqus has already proven its weight in gold to me in being able to ban trolls who contribute nothing to the conversation, something that's just not possible under Blogger's default comment system.

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  8. Before the inflation of the late '70s, gaming stuff was seriously expensive.  One 1974 dollar was four 2010 dollars.  So in modern terms, Chainmail ($5) was $20, OD&D ($10) was $40, and Empire of the Petal Throne ($25) was a princely sum - the equivalent of $100.  Not much less than the cost of a used copy today, actually.

    By contrast, the Pathfinder Beginner Box is $34.95 now - with a 64 page book, a 96 page book, 80 tokens, a mat, and various printouts - and it would have been $8.12 in 1975, LESS than OD&D for more content.  Sp it's a massive understatement to say we get more for the money now.

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  9. I remember avoiding the pastel G series because they were so short.  Then again, most of the '70s stuff seemed like complete crap in the early '80s.  I've paid a lot of money for stuff that I turned my nose up at back in the day (and usually the stuff was on some ridiculously cheap clearance sale).

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  10.  The one thing I really wish (and I think this has been switched back-and-forth) is for the comments to progress in increasing order of appearance (first-to-last). On a political-type site last-to-first is good (so first posters don't dominate), but since we have legitimate give-and-take I currently have to read bottom-up to see the progression of discussion.

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  11.  You can sort by "oldest first" via the drop-down list, above. Might do what you want.

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  12. 'Wizards of the Co$t' is just too much fun to type.

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  13. Matthew James StanhamApril 12, 2012 at 6:19 AM

    I dunno, is that so different from what we pay now? The OSRIC
    Advanced Adventures series published by
    Expeditious Retreat Press comes in at something like ₤6-9 per module in Britain, and looking at Noble Knight Games $12-14. Seems about right.

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  14. Matthew James StanhamApril 12, 2012 at 6:20 AM

     I dunno, is that so different from what we pay now? The OSRIC
    Advanced Adventures series published by
    Expeditious Retreat Press comes in at something like ₤6-9 per module in Britain, and looking at Noble Knight Games $12-14. Seems about right.

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  15. I remember thinking that gaming books were expensive when I was a kid. I didn't have that much money and had to ask my parents for money each time I wanted a new game. They usually gave me the money, I think they thought it was a good hobby. This was the end of the Eighties and the beginning of the Nineties.

    After that I realized that roleplaying is quite a cheap hobby: one doesn't *need* to buy new games that often - much of the fun is making up one's own stuff. I don't see RPG books as expensive now, though I have to admit that 60 Euros is somewhat of a large price for a gaming book.

    I still buy gaming books though nowadays I game less. I have never used that many adventure modules, so I tend not to buy those, and I like item books less than I used to, but I like new rules and new campaign areas.

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  16. It is ironic that, in the early Eighties I had limited money but bought as much D&D stuff that I could. Now, money is not an issue yet I see little reason to buy much at all (just a few things here and there strictly for inspiration.

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  17. I agree that gaming materials were expensive way back when; they certainly seemed that way to me. Before I went to work at TSR, I didn't own that many TSR products because I simply couldn't afford them, or couldn't justify the expenditure. When I spent coin on gaming, it usually went to Avalon Hill or SPI, where the perception of value received was higher; those games weighed more, after all. That's a fatuous way to gauge value, but I was young and foolish then.

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  18. This is so true.  I bought several of these pastel modules back in the day, including those from the D and G series.  I remember my dad coming into my bedroom one night and seeing them on my desk.  he asked me what I paid and when I told him, he was stupefied and incredulous.

    There are probably many reasons why the RPG products of today are much better "value for money." I assume one huge reason is the advent of printing in China, which I suspect has massively reduced the costs of hard copy books vs. printing them in America in 1978. ("Printed in U.S.A." mine all say on p.1.)

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  19. I think the complaints about expensive books might be coming more from people who entered the hobby in the 90s or early 2000s during the golden age of the paperback splatbook. All those books I was buying when I discovered p&p roleplaying around 2000-ish... Cyberpunk 2020, Shadowrun 3rd edition, GURPs, all these books for roughly £7-£15 and often just full of content. Actually, I think when compared to Pathfinder the equation still works, price-wise: Paizo books are about £10 more expensive but they also have much better production values and are generally "fatter". It's just that it's much psychologically easier to impulse buy 2 £15 sourcebooks than 1 £25 book!
    That said, I think the main difference between now and 15 years ago is in corebooks - the jump from £20 to £40 as pretty much the standard for anything put out by Fantasy Flight or Paizo and lots of other smaller companies seem to be following them. I don't know if that's necessarily a bad thing but......well, I was a male British teenager in a suburb during the 1990s which means that i'm roughly as obsessed/nostalgic about Warhammer 40k as an American teenager of a similar demographic might have been with Star Wars or DnD in the 1970s and it is a continuing matter of mild surprise that I haven't impulse brought every single Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader book. I suppose they're above the £20 impulse buy psychological limit...I think that's problematic for the hobby - if Dark Heresy had been around in 2002 it would probably have been my entry point into the hobby and I think it would have been prohibitively expensive for me as a teenager to afforded. On the other hand it looks like the current set of starter sets for the various "front-line" games that draw people into the hobby are both affordable and well put together, so it isn't all bad!

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  20.  The more TSR sold, the more volume discount they got.

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