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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The RPG as a Collectible : A Misspent Youth

These days it's not uncommon, certainly if you hang out on Twitter, Facebook, or G+, to see folks posting proudly their shelves crammed full of RPG's new and old.  It's nice to share, or in some cases show off a long curated and well maintained collection of gaming books, supplements, maps, dice, miniatures and such.  Back in the 1980's I would buy anything and everything related to the hobby.  Most of the TSR library was at my disposal.  I really enjoy looking at these shelf shots, especially when I recognize a rare book (or edition of a book) I once had.

Yup.  I said had.

I can't share a shelfie, the fun nickname given to a glamour shot of one's own shelf(ves) full of gaming goodness, because back in the early 1990's I decided to relocate from my then home in Houston, TX. to my now (and original) home town of Philadelphia PA.  I was taking myself, my dad, my clothes, and a few carefully selected items in a small Ford LTD the approx 1700 miles to live once again in the land of my birth.  My rather extensive RPG collection, I had decided, would not be making the trip with me.

I needed cash to finance my trip and help me get a start once I arrived, and so I boxed up my collection of D&D, AD&D, Palladium, WFRP, and a multitude of other books and I sold the lot.  I added a few dollars (what now would seem like a crime given ebay pricing for these same items) to my bank and took off to my new life.  When it was over, I didn't feel unburdened, I felt sad and a little bit ashamed that I had sold my collection both cheaply and without too much forethought.  There were loads of books, gaming as well as fiction and non-fiction, that got packed into boxes and sold off.  Other things got the chop as well, but nothing stung so quickly or deeply as the sale of those books, specifically my RPG's.  The early 90's was a bit of a dead-zone for tabletop role-playing.  Those of you experiencing and enjoying its renaissance now may not have any connection to that time, but folks who have slogged through, guys (and maybe some gals) of a certain age will most assuredly remember them.  With my move imminent, and my future in the hobby uncertain, I made the rash and in retrospect incorrect decision to take the quick cash.  So much for hindsight.

Now here I am, some 20-odd years later, staring at the shelf that could have just as easily been my own.

It makes feelings happen.  Initially I get excited to see a familiar face, the 1e PHB or a well creased Unearthed Arcana.  Rather quickly, however, those emotions turn quickly to loss, sadness, an absence deep in the pit of my stomach (soul) that I am missing a piece of my life that I should be able to turn to, an old friend not dead, but long ago having moved on to some other life of which I am no longer a part.

Can I fix the situation?  Of course.  Just like most folks I have access to ebay, and if I wanted my spare income to to go rebuilding my old gaming library I could certainly allocate those funds.  Many people have done, or are currently doing this.  Like many folks currently in a state of 'adulting', I have other priorities, and many new interests as well, so my money does not go to rebuilding that bookshelf.  I must content myself by living vicariously through others, and the ever-growing image archives 

Do I have access to these magical tomes of my youth?  Sure.  The internet also facilitates that.  Grabbing the occasional pdf from the darker side of the interweb is simple enough.  Is it the same, owning a pdf of the 1e PHB?  Nope, not by a long shot.  Sure the information is there, but it is soulless.  Empty.  Devoid of any feeling.  Like most things we (humans) collect, simply having what amounts to a 'picture' of a thing is not the same as owning/holding that very same thing, even if what that image conveys is in large part the same as the thing itself.

These days much of my free, non-gaming time is spent with my camera(s).  I love shooting candids of folks in the streets, and of particular interest to me is outdoor markets, garage sales, and flea markets.  That's not, I suspect, a coincidence.  I'm always on the lookout for two things...Old cameras/lenses, and RPG material.  Ebay has made locating old gaming materials and old camera gear a real challenge, but it's part of what makes spending my time perusing and capturing moments at these places so enjoyable.

Thanks to all of those collectors, new and old, who are sharing their pride & joy images with the rest of us.  No matter my own feelings about it, it's nice to see so many others having and enjoying their collections with all of us in the RPG community.

I haven't moved on from gaming.  Not hardly.

Much of my RPG time is spent on using Fantasy Grounds 2, so the need for books in my hand during online play isn't all that important.  For those rare times when I get to play F2F, I rely on the kindness of my companions, which has never failed and I'm sure never will.  (I got dice, no worries there.  A man should have his own dice...I guess you could share, but that's kinda weird)

In the meantime, if you happen to have a second set of any of those 1e, first or second printing tomes...I'd be happy to make a space on my shelf for them.  You can rest assured they would be both cared for and cherished, and hopefully used at the table.

Game On Guys!

1 comment:

  1. I have also unloaded my collection at various transition points in my life. It was always sad. Thankfully once my kids got old enough to play my wife convinced to buy back most of my old books. Using the logic it will be cheaper in the long run compared to movies or video games. She was right of course.

    I would also check your local Goodwill. Sometime gems will pop up there.