Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Folly of Youth

I think it's rare for someone to reach the age of 40, as I have, and not have regrets about past decisions. I've got more than my fair share, I think, but one of the ones -- a fairly inconsequential one, in the grand scheme, to be sure -- I've been thinking about lately is my periodic obsession with cleaning my gaming "house." This begins every so often when I look at my shelves, see a game, and say, "I'll never play that again." Then, I take the game (and its supplements) off my shelf and sell it, give it away, or, in some extreme cases, throw it into the garbage.

Of course, a few years later, I'll remember these games and wish I hadn't gotten rid of them. It's pretty much guaranteed to happen and yet, until recently, I don't think I really learned my lesson. Now, my garage is filled with plastic boxes of games I haven't played in years and likely won't ever play again, but I'm no longer willing to take that chance. I remember all too well, back in 1987, shortly before I graduated from high school, selling off my entire collection of Traveller books and games, because I'd fallen in love with GDW's Traveller: 2300 (as 2300 A.D.) was called at its release. I simply loved the game, which seemed so much better and more "up to date" than the stodgy old Traveller with its Golden Age SF conventions. I figured I'd never play Traveller again and, since I was going away from home to college soon, I'd need to pare down my RPG collection anyway.

Needless to say, I eventually had to re-acquire those Traveller books and games, often at great expense, and some of them I've still never managed to get a hold of. Traumatic (and embarrassing) though this was, it wasn't the last time I unloaded lots of RPGs I was sure I'd never use again, only to be proven wrong sometime later. Nowadays, I nearly weep for these lost treasures, particularly my old D&D and AD&D products. So, I no longer pitch almost any game I own, even the obviously bad ones. You never can tell when you might want to look at a copy of Greyhawk Adventures again and God help you if you have to pay a second time for stuff like this.


  1. I feel your pain, although much of my collection was burned up in a garage fire, rather than being sold or trashed. Fortunately, some of my collection travelled with me, from apartment to apartment, and some was gifted by old friends who had moved on to other pursuits.

    My favorite part of 2300: the near star map. Oh, the hours I spent staring at that map and dreaming of campaigns that were never to be.

  2. My dad remembers the comics he threw away in the fifties. So when he bought a big fire safe, he set aside two shelves for our comic books.

    Mine are still there.

    The things I wish I hadn't given away/thrown out are the things I wrote myself. I've managed to re-acquire the basic/expert D&D set that I'd cut up to put into a three-ring binder and then gave my younger brother when I thought I was going to use AD&D exclusively.

    But I'm going through my first "mega dungeon" to put it online, and realizing, there was a lot of custom stuff in that binder, too, which I will never be able to replace. What, exactly, did I mean by Jonah Whales and Vampire Sharks!? I can make guesses based on their stats in the adventure, but I'd love to know what my seventeen-year-old self had to say about the matter.

  3. I know the feeling, but I think for me it's limited to games prior to the mid 90s. For those released after that period, I don't think I'd ever feel much regret at weeding them out of the collection.

  4. I will never get rid of my Tekumel items. Everything else is expendable.

  5. I get the urge every so often to clear out my collection as well.

    Only rarely to I regret it. Sometimes I have even bought back a game I had sold only to be quickly reminded why I sold it in the first place.

    I keep all my D&D and all my Unisystem stuff (have to support the home team), but everything else can come or go as needed.

    Though of late I mostly buy PDFs.

    LOL, Word Verification: "goner"

  6. Never had such a purge, I have more games than I can ever play. In fact, I am not sure how many games I currently own, a consequence of having been a collector and being a reviewer. The downside is that the games collection takes up an awful lot of space.

  7. I keep thinking about selling off most of my rpg items that I haven't used in 10+ years, but I just can't bring myself to do it. It seems silly to keep items that I'm not using, especially when I could buy other books with the money, but part of me thinks it's best to save it for my son and let him decide to keep it or sell it after I'm dead.

  8. This is one of those areas where my packrat nature has served me well. The only RPG stuff I have ever gotten rid of was the splatbooks for Wizard’s “3rd edition”. (And those went to a friend, so if I ever do want to reference them, they’re still available to me.)

    It’s not only that I suddenly find myself in 2004 wanting to play nothing so much as classic D&D and classic Traveller. Nigh every book I have has some inspiration to offer regardless of whether I’m actually playing that game or directly using that module. Heck, I’ve known when I bought some games that I would probably never actually play them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to the games I do play.

  9. I have a similar tale with all of my Star Wars action figures. Put them up for sale at a church flea market, where they all went for $2.00. If there's anything I would go back in time and punch my younger self in the face for, that would be it...

    Never did that with books, though. If it's printed matter on paper, it stays, no matter what...

  10. The things I regret losing the most are actually not RPG items because I still have all those, but actually my gamebook collection. If I still had them now, I would regularly raid them for ideas. Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone were really quite devious... ;-)

    Oh and was said earlier, I do miss some of my own creations. I once created a science fiction roleplaying game called Snapshot 3000, based on the idea that terrorists have won and a few 'missions' for it, which I ran with my school friends. They all enjoyed it. It was loosely based on games like Hired Guns and Syndicate. Would be nice to have that back, but alas, tis gone now...

  11. James, you're going to end up single-handedly forcing a run on ebay!

  12. Thank goodness for guys who clear out their gaming collections....that's why I have so much great stuff!

  13. If I never got rid of the tons of gaming items I owned over the years, folks would say I was hoarding...

    Still, I did know that there were a some select items I would never get rid of (1E AD&D - PHB, DMG, MM, D&D) as well as both folio/boxed set of Greyhawk.

    Especially proud of my DMG and how pristine it looks to this day...

  14. Amen, brother! Unfortunately, the few D&D items that survived my youthful folly succumbed recently to an insectoid invasion. I discovered the hard way that bugs like paper and especially the glue in the bindings.

    Luckily my WFRP stuff from the 1980's was not in the same location and survives to this day (knock on wood).

  15. I too divested myself of my copy of the Traveller deluxe edition boxed set when I was about eighteen, and then regretted it later. I thus recently acquired a hardbound copy of The Traveller Book, but I'd still like to have had my Boxed set with the giant map of the Spinward Marches. :(

  16. It's a tough call--I've gotten rid of stuff in the past like I would like to have back (G.I. Joes, gaming books, etc.), but it's probably a tiny percentage of ALL the stuff I've ever gotten rid of that I don't miss. In other words, this fear "what if I want this again someday?" is the fear that leads to people becoming packrats and showing up on the t.v. show HOARDERS :) Less stuff means less clutter and less packing come moving time . . .

  17. I've gone through this kind of cycle before. These days my philosophy is:

    If it's a game I've come back to and enjoyed, I will keep at least the core rules and any supplements I found valuable. If it's a bit oddball (like RuneQuest), I will keep all the supplements (though a lot of the post Chaosium stuff I have collected is on the chopping block - I realized I just was never going to use all that stuff).

    I have got rid of and then repurchased things in the past. I think I'm on my third copy of Judge's Guild's Wilderlands material. I will never get rid of it again. I repurchased a few AD&D books after bailing out many years ago. I'll probably keep them, but I didn't repurchase more than the core books. What I have generally found is that MOST stuff is actually pretty easy and pretty economical to replace. To be honest, if one really thought of the total cost of keeping tons of stuff, I probably would have come out ahead by selling my OD&D 20 years ago (along with all the rest of the stuff I almost never read) and purchasing it for $200 when I wanted to try out OD&D again a couple years ago.

    Electronic purchases can really help. They don't take up much space and don't have much cost of ownership these days (pennies of disk space, a few CDROMs as backup or purchase medium). Plus, they're easy to keep at hand. I'm always looking at them while online to answer questions.

    The most important stuff I have kept forever:

    OD&D boxed set and supplements, also BECM (I saw it as a compact way to keep a more up to date D%D than keeping AD&D)
    Traveller and many of the supplements
    RuneQuest and supplements

    I was starting to debate continuing to subscribe to Dungeon Magazine, but then they ended it. I will probably keep it forever. I could see getting rid of the D20 era stuff if they ever come out with a CDROM, but that seems unlikely, so I'll keep my complete run. It's not that bad. I'll probably also keep my complete run of Different Worlds, and my White Dwarf collection (mostly complete through issue 65 or so). DW & WD fit into one small book box.

    Sometimes I regret getting rid of all my WHFRP stuff a couple years ago. But I NEVER used it. It was pretty to look at, but I NEVER used it. I probably will NEVER use it.

    With my current Traveller kick, I do regret no longer owning some stuff I know I had back in the day, but I've already bought two CDROMS and now have more GDW stuff than I ever had before. A couple more CDROM purchases should cover everything I have ever owned and more.

    These days, I have a ton of stuff in the garage that needs to find new owners. I've also got a few things on the debate board like Tekumel and Talislanta that are just too out there for my tastes of what I will actually run.

    What drives my desire to keep stuff is the real value of it to me based on repeated revisiting (with fun play resulting), and a few things that are relatively compact that may have purely nostalgic value (Bunnies & Burrows, perhaps OD&D). There is also some stuff I may keep just because it probably is irreplaceable (but it still has to have some kind of nostalgic or play value).

    Like Jerry, I do regret not having some of my early self generated stuff. It would be cool to have my earliest dungeons and such. Whatever I do still have, I will keep (though I have thinned out character sheets and stuff from College games and newer).

    Another great advantage of taking a hard look at what gaming stuff I want to keep is that I also take a hard look at what I purchase. I have been able to dramatically cut down my spending, and now only buy stuff I have an immediate plan to use.


  18. I've kept my books, But what i want more is access to my old computer files.

    The Apple I had as a kid holds a tresure trove of adventures, homebrew systems, and charachters.

    I also have a ton of disks from college, but who has a disk drive?

  19. I've been through the cycle of purge-and-reacquire more times than I can count, enough times that some acquaintances are convinced I have a mental disorder of some sort. Sometimes the reacquire was triggered by a research need ... like when I was being a superhero RPG journalist, or when I was trying to acquaint myself with The Great Games. More often than not, the purges were "I'll really never play this, as much as I love it" (as with Feng Shui, or much of the Atomic Sock Monkey line). For Traveller ... I've picked the FFE reprint of The Books, and grabbed the MegaTraveller core books. That's enough.

    Another influence on the "purge" decision is what the group I play with will want to play. My Champions 3e stuff went bye-bye after I couldn't get them engaged with the game. Same again with the SAGA System games (Dragonlance Fifth Age and Marvel Superheroes Adventure Game) and with BESM/TriStat. I acquired GURPS 4e twice ... and gave/sold it away both times because, as admirable as it is, I can't invest in it (time or purchases) any more.

    Now my game collection is basically down to two 10-ream boxes, and they are either The Essential Bits of Games I've Loved or Core Games That Link To Other Booksets (Decipher LOTR, for instance, or GURPS Humanx). Plus the occasional "free and admirable," like Swords & Wizardry. I don't much feel a need to either acquire or dispense. Except for getting Fudge 10th Anniversary for cheap last month. That was a good deal.

    I know I'm likely not going to play any of these. But they can't leave; they're too much a part of my personal tapestry, the same way Star Trek or The Muppets are. To try to get rid of them (again, in some cases) would be inconsistent with my fundamental nature. (And, interestingly, the thought of getting rid of my TFT material has never even crossed my mind. First game privilege? Imprinting?)

  20. I wished I could have saved a few of my old toys. I did have a shoebox of stuff I wanted to keep, but they accidentally found their way to the giveaway pile. Among them, where some armymen-sized sic-fi/fantasy figures that would have made for some awesome painted miniatures! They include fantasy monsters, barbarian mutants, and B-Movie styled aliens & robots - damn, they could have made for one hell of a Encounter Critical game!

    Well, that was beyond what I could do or foreseen. But I also learn - like every one else - that at that age (12 or so), any deliberate choice of "how you should do things" should never, ever be held against you at a later age, and more over - defined the rest of your existence no matter how long or short it is!

  21. Oh yeah, this post cuts close to the bone for me. When I was younger I often felt the need to purge possessions that I felt were weighing me down. Comics, games, and music took the brunt of the hit. I basically always gave my stuff away to friends, so I don't feel that bad usually, but the occasional pang does creep up on me for certain stuff. Like a complete set of the James Bond RPG that I gave away when moving to Arizona for college... never to see again. That one I actually would be interested in trying out again!

  22. I'm quite happy when other people get rid of their collections. Makes it much easier to fill the gaps in my own collection. <grin>

    Then again, I am a compulsive collector.

    I do have to admit that I have slowed down on my purchasing of new games because I realise I'll never ever get around to play them. After all, I'll be well and truly dead before I finish playing the backlog of games that I already want to run. But it's still fun to look at the new stuff coming out in order to steal good ideas, or if the game is good enough, to add it to the list of games that must be played before I die.

    To this end PDFs are wonderful. In addition to not requiring excessive freight costs they allow me to read new stuff cheaply, and they definitely save on shelf space. I've even gone back and bought PDFs of physical games I frequently play because it's much more convenient when it comes to looking stuff up and modding the rules.

    But throw something away? <shudder>

  23. I'm a pretty consistent collector, I have most everything I ever acquired in gaming (and other stuff) that I cared about.

    However, I don't think there's any shame in being honest about the struggle to balance this kind of stuff in one's life. I have it a little easier because I was a bit of a TSR-zombie, owning mostly just D&D stuff, and not being a "try every game" kind of guy. So my entire collection might be, like, 5 filing boxes?

    The other thing is that I've moved just enough to see radical differences in one's storage space availability. When I moved to a NYC apartment, my storage space got cut by like 90%. Being able to keep "everything" is somewhat predicated on having a house for a long time, and others may not have that. I really had to change my thinking with my move. (Ex.: Sold "Birthright" boxed set & supplements, no regrets.)

    I think I might be 15 years now with no interest in reading anything in the copy of Greyhawk Adventures that I own. (Pretty sure it's not here, but at my parents').

    BigFella: My mother actually threw out all my Star Wars stuff not many years ago. It's one of those things I thought only happened to comics in the 1920's, and then it happened to me. So these things find a way of getting away from you; there's a reason they're pricey now.

  24. sevenbastard: "I also have a ton of disks from college, but who has a disk drive?"

    [Cough] Well, I am sitting here running Win2K on a tower desktop with both 3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives.

    Haven't used them in a while, admittedly.

  25. If I recall correctly, I'm on my fourth set of AD&D books/mods now.. Sold my first collection for $50 (worth more even then) when I went off to college, reacquired and added (2nd ed.) to it in grad school and then sold it to the FLGS for MJ money two years later, reacquired and added again when 3rd edition came out, then liquidated when I was working full time. Reacquired just the AD&D in the last couple years, and I think the next purge will be when I hand it over to one or both of my boys (if they ever have interest).

    Oddly, the single item I still have from 1980 is my Traveller LBB set, which I have yet to play even once.

  26. @ Delta
    Indeed, the comic speculation boom of the 90's was a direct result of decades of Moms throwing out comic book collections across the country.

    In my case, it was a case of my own childish greed. Can't blame my Mom at all. We were selling stuff at this flea market, and I wanted to buy G.I. Joe figures, so I loaded all my Star Wars guys into a plastic tub and took it along, hoping to sell 'em piecemeal for a lot of money. Someone came by and convinced one of the church ladies to sell the whole works for $2.00 while I wasn't lookin'. Petard + foist = AARRGH!

    Truth be told though, nostalgia aside toys are just tchotchkes. I got my RPG use out of those lamented Star Wars figs, as my play with them as made up superheroes (I never really played with my action figs as who they were supposed to be on the box.)ended up as the rootstock for the B.A.S.E. campaign years later.

    There, see, I can kinda stay on topic.

  27. I have *purged* a couple times over the years, but have almost never had a significant desire to re-acquire something, and in fact I have never actually tried to re-acquire anything once I got rid of it. To each their own. I still have a lot of stuff, though, so it isn't like I get rid of 80% of stuff at a time. And what I usually get rid of is stuff I didn't care for the first time around.

  28. "[Cough] Well, I am sitting here running Win2K on a tower desktop with both 3.5" and 5.25" floppy drives.

    Haven't used them in a while, admittedly."

    Ditto - everything old is new again. You'd never believe how being the neighborhood 'geek' has paid rewards.

    "Oh, thank you for helping fix my PC/getting some missing data - I got some old history books/wargames/etc I was getting rid of, and you can have first crack..."

    Getting SPI's Invasion America was like finding a dragon's trove, along with Log of the Liberators (B-24;s in WW2)...

  29. sevenbastard: someone has a disk drive. If those disks are worth enough to keep storing them, I'd recommend finding someone who can read them sooner rather than later. Those old disks, even the "high density" ones, weren't very high density, so they might still be readable. But someday they won't be.

    There are lots of hard drives still around; the hard part will be finding one that can read those particular disks. Ask around--your tech support might keep drives for legacy data, for example. (I have a working Mac SE on the bookshelf in my office.)

    I went through all my 3.5-inch floppies about a year ago, and read them all in on an old ioMega external floppy drive. Out of about 20 disks, I think only 2 were unreadable. (Unfortunately, those all postdated my college stuff by about a decade.)

  30. I've only ever deliberately gotten rid of two gaming items. One I regret (selling the LUG Dune at the last Gencon - er, the last one in Milwaukee - auction; someone got an incredible deal there), the other I don't (a gift of my copy of Metamorphosis Alpha to one of my closest friends, who has a deep fondness for Gamma World). What I am most sad about is the huge loss of some critical gaming items in a flood and the resulting water, mold, and mildew damage (Torg, including the box and the special d20, and Advanced MSH are the most notable, but Cyberpunk 2020 and all of the Cyberpunk supplements are seriously regrettable, as well).

  31. Interesting topic. I did recently liquidate a fair number of items to Noble Knight Games, to help relieve some of the clutter around here. Some were simply duplicates, anyway. Others had been given to me and were no longer wanted. There were quite a few items, though, that had been accumulated that I figured I could cut loose. There are only a couple I have missed, and then only a little bit.

    However... when I was in high school for some oddball reason I got the belief that I would never play AD&D (and later, TFT) again, and sold off my PH, MM, DMG, aome modules, and many of my Microquests as well. Now, the AD&D books I got back when a friend left his with me and never picked them back up (I've since gotten rid of them and gotten collectible early prints of each). TFT was more interesting. I had retained the main books (ITL, AM, and AW) and some other miscellaneous items. But it wasn't until the mid to late 90s that I started to get interested in the game again - indeed, it hit with a vengeance! I went through A LOT of time and effort just to get all the Microquests back... and then a lot more to get things like Interplay and back issues of Space Gamer and other magazines that had TFT related material.

    The kicker? Not long before the TFT obsession struck, say circa 1994 or so, at least some TFT materials had become available again. I remember seeing Orb Quest in shrink wrap at a couple of local game stores, and stupidly passing on it. Went through much more trouble and money to get it on eBay a few years later...

  32. By nature I'm a compulsive collector, and a neat freak. I had everything (and I mean everything) for every game I really loved. There was nothing else I wanted, nothing I needed.

    Then, a catastrophic house fire. Lost everything. (Not just games.) I was stunned for years. It made me re-evaluate materialism.

    Moving, and storage, were suddenly a lot easier. All those belongings were a weight to haul around (literally).

    Finally I made some half-hearted attempts at repurchasing, used copies in much worse condition than my own, trying to figure out what I wanted the most, and not trying to get every system and every product. But these days, if for no other reason that storage issues, it has to stay under control.

    What I wouldn't give to have all that stuff again, and the space to keep it.

  33. faoladh: I also have lost gaming items in a flood, specifically all of my old Battletech stuff (all of the original house books, the Star League book, a number of really rare, collectible items). I feel your pain.

  34. Been there done that, but I don't mind syaing I have zero regrets letting go of all my Palladium/Rifts/Robotech stuff back in 1995 - and that was my first RPG.

  35. I have tried very hard to not look on the book collection as a horde of treasured items, but instead as resources and tools, to be used when needed, taken care of always - and disposed of when no longer necessary. Paul Meyer (Crazy Egor), Ebay, and the "for sale" board can certainly attest to that! This year I cleaned off 6 shelves of gaming stuff - and miss almost none of it (a few bits I wish I'd kept).

    There are certainly books I miss, or wish I hadn't gotten rid of, over the years - some of which I shrug and say "C'est La Guerre" and others I have scoured many Shires for - but always with one firm rule in mind, which is that I will not pay more to re-acquire a book than I originally paid for it.

    I allow myself a little wiggle room (since I've been very lucky in the acquisition of some of them - I picked up my copies of the Encyclopedia Magica and the Wizard's Spell Compendium for prices that were positively criminal), but I've been able to pretty much re-load my TSR Goodies shelf with everything (and then some) that a DM would need for a pretty low sum of money. (hooray yard sales, used book stores that don't research online, and ebay auctions!)

  36. Yup, I feel your pain. Only it was a flood that took out the bottom chest conatining games. Luckily it was only early WW items, but still, you occassionally like to go back and thumb through them...

  37. I know that your pain. I sold all my 1e AD&D modules (which were all of them ever produced by TSR and Mayfair) in a auction for $0.50 each...and because they were late coming on the block they only sold for that amount.

    I have relied upon buying PDFs but then Wizards went South & my Hard Drive suffered a catastrophic failure...

    So, I can only feel "glad" that I retained my Traveller stuff from that time.

    I think the 1990s were a major slump for RPGs for those who got into the hobby in the 1980s. We had matured and did not want to play games any more, as we had careers, girls/guys, politics/activism, etc. to concern ourselves with. Also, the companies that produced the games had changed them and effectively pulled rug from underneath us. Finally, pre-Internet, the ability to find like-minded gamers was becoming increasing scarce and there was still a stigma surrounding gaming. Lastly, we were seeing Card Games displace us and we weary gognards did not want to go with the flow but the stores (if they existed at all) who carried our games without the infusion of new product...we sold our old like Aladdin's lamp but the new just was not as good.

  38. I'm a pack rat, so I'm pretty good at only getting rid of the dreck that never gave me any pleasure (much d20-boom third party stuff) or is clearly inferior to an alternative (2e AD&D stuff) - even the latter is marginal as while I've not regretted not having my 2e PHB, I've occasionally regretted the lack of the 2e Monstrous Manual with its detailed monster entries.

    Of course, being a pack rat means I have piles of RPG books filling our small house...