Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Game Library

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to Complete Strategist in order to search for some old, out-of-print roleplaying games. (Gee, I wonder what those are; I wish someone would write a paragraph or two defining it for me...) I wasn't looking for anything specific, just browsing for stuff I knew was out-of-print. For example, I wish I had picked up the original Arduin RPG when it first came out, rather than being obsessed with AD&D as a teenager. Now, 20 years later, I want to read them and I can't find them. (And, before someone suggests pdfs of older games, I really detest the format.) 

I wasn't shopping for current stuff, mostly because I prefer to patronize Zombie Planet for stuff that's currently available. That's what makes Complete Strategist so great. It's actually a horrible place when it comes to floor layout and organization; customer service is spotty. And I swear someone there actually took a dump in his pants yesterday, because the place stank. CS, however, almost never throws anything away. Ever. And they still charge cover price. So that $10 Talislanta book I bought actually still cost me $10. 

Why was I shopping to fill my game library, you may ask. When I moved from Los Angeles to NYC, I sold most of my game library to cut down on shipping costs. What I kept ended up going into storage, and was lost due to circumstances beyond my control. I still have some games, but not a very deep collection. This is a problem because I don't read games the same way you do. For me, it's a reference library. It's this aspect I want to talk to you about today.

Every gamer I know already has an extensive game library. I know because many of my friends on Facebook post pictures of their game libraries. If you're going to be in the business, you'll need an extensive library, if only because you'll need to look up something for the game on which you're working. You kind of need a bunch of Pathfinder books if you're going to write for Pathfinder. Duh. 

When I'm working on something, however, I also look to other game lines to see what they did and how they did it. I was working on "alternate forms of damage" recently, and I had books from four different game lines on my desk. Maybe you're designing a new mechanic, and you realize that it should work like Sanity from Call of Cthulhu. So it's good to have that book on your shelf. 

But here's the thing. I recently saw a message from someone in the business, and they said something to the effect of "I don't have Call of Cthulhu. It's not my type of game. My character got killed by a vampire in the first 15 minutes, so I don't like it." 

Uh, what?!

You're not playing Call of Cthulhu. Who gives a damn if you like it? But you should know about it. It's not about what you like or dislike; it's about knowing what's on the market, and how it works. I'm not a fan of the Palladium system, for example, but I still own Palladium games. If you don't know how Palladium or Call of Cthulhu work, and why, then you're not a professional. You're a dilettante. 

So, you should have an extensive game library. This should consist of the classics -- Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, Vampire.... The games that have achieved iconic status. I'm not going to provide a full list here, because those tend to be subjective. I, for one, think Deadlands should be on that list; you may not. However, you should still own Deadlands (for the reason alluded to above). 

Your library, however, shouldn't just consist of the gems, those games that are really great when it comes to their rules or settings. You should also collect the dreck. And I don't mean the stuff that's really great that you just don't like (like my friend and Call of Cthulhu). I mean the crap. The games that are painful to read, because the writing is so turgid, the art is horrible, and the concept so fatally flawed. Because the only way you're going to learn is by also reading the garbage out there. 

This is, in fact, why I was searching for out-of-print games. Not only was I looking for the greats that had the misfortune to fall out-of-print (and I'm going back to Complete Strategist to replace the original Deadlands books that I lost), but I was also on the hunt for games that deserve their out-of-print status. Again, I'm not making a list. (But, I'm looking at you, Rolemaster). Do I even need to explain why bad games are as valuable as good games? 


And lastly, a piece of administrative business. Eighty people to date have read my interview with Sara Bakay. Ninety-six of you read my ode to miniatures, and Torn Armor. In the 12-hours since I posted my hate for "what is roleplaying," twenty-three of you have read it. But you're NOT clicking the link and making a donation to the Sara Bakay New York Dreams campaign. 

Seriously. Click the picture of the smoking hot girl in the white man's shirt on the top right of this page and make a donation. Help out a friend of mine. Even a dollar will help. You're reading the blog. You're liking the blog. In return, I'm asking you to donate a dollar to my friend's efforts to realize her acting dream. If each of you who read about Torn Armor had made a $1 donation, she'd be almost $100 closer to her goal. Think of it like a tip jar. 


  1. i have several PDFs that friends have given me, but I like books. I like the way books feel in my hand. I like to feel the pages when I turn them. I like to see the artwork. I don't have any kind of library, but I am going to work on building one.

  2. And I'm sure the book likes it when you fondle it, too.

    You've stumbled on another pet peeve of mine, and that's the PDF format. Whenever I've downloaded a PDF of a game, I've been annoyed and frustrated. I have a Nook. So when I try to navigate the PDF, it uses none of the Nook's functionality. Bookmarks? No. Notes? No. It's basically a formatted text dump. It's nothing like reading a book book.

    Then, I tried to use several PDFs while I was writing, so I tried to view them on my mac. If you look at the top of the page, you can't see the bottom. So you're constantly scrolling up and down the page while you're reading. Irritating. Again, you're not flipping the pages, by clicking or swiping; you're scrolling up and down between pages. Annoying.

    PDFs have none of the ease and functionality of an actual book. They don't even have the ease and functionality of a file formatted to a e-reader. They're just inexpensive text dumps. I prefer a book.

    This is especially true if you're just looking for ideas. I'll flip through a book and stop on a picture on page 12, then flip to page 97 and see a location, and BAM! I put the two together in my head and get an idea. PDFs aren't good for this.

    Technology is great. It's given us Angry Birds and free porn. But it sucks when it comes to reading game PDFs. Give me a book any day.