Dusty Tomes

So, I didn’t want to start in a depressing place – but this has been on my mind for a while.

When I was 14 or 15 years old and I started going to cons, one of my favorite things was finding gaming vendors with a box or two of obscure, out of print, or just plain weird stuff that was under the table. I’d sit in the floor and rummage through that stuff for hours. Once, it was pretty common to have that happen. I found original printings of the G-series of adventures, some truly weird universal RPGs, and other treasures.

Over time, that sort of thing became less common at the cons I attended. Gaming had sort of grown up. There was always plenty of new product – and people wanted it – so those older curios started disappearing. Well, that, or they became subject to hoarding – like original printings of old adventures or copies of Dieties & Demigods with the Cthulhu stuff – and so they were held onto by collectors. It was fine – I had new gaming interests too – so I didn’t spend as much time and energy on the older stuff. I never completely lost the joy of the hunt; it just wasn’t as important.

All that hunting and shopping and the million interests of a gamer though eventually led to a place where I had a massive collection. I’m sure many of you can sympathize, right? We’re talking hundreds of gaming books, thousands of minis, terrain, maps, and other paraphernalia. And this collection spanned everything from the Little Brown Books all the way to whatever the hot new game of the moment happened to be at… that moment.

When my wife and I bought our new house, I achieved my lifelong dream. A gaming room. Just a dedicated gaming room. Shelves lining the walls for my books, storage for my minis, a place to play, and a place to paint, and it seemed really great. And I promise this is going somewhere…

Fast forward to January 2018. I’m at a con and I discover a game vendor with a couple of boxes of old stuff tucked in the back of their booth. Like Bard Games and early 80’s Dragon magazine kind of old. And I dig in. And there in the back, I find a treasure I’ve been hunting for a long time. I find a copy of In the Phantom’s Wake, the only Thunder Rift adventure I didn’t own in hardcopy. And I got super excited, bought it on the spot, couldn’t wait to get it home.

Then I came home. And I looked at the hundreds of books on my gaming shelves. And I was sad. I was sad because I realized that… I don’t actually need any of them. I mean, I have multiple copies of most of the first edition AD&D hardcovers – some of them even oddities with weird spines and stuff. I have the aforementioned hundreds of books. And I’m not sure why.

I don’t get to play that much anymore so the number of gaming sessions I have to devote playing time to is… small. Basically, new games that come out, no matter how cool I think they are, I’m just not going to get to play. I’m also 42 years old. My wife and I are committed to the idea of not having kids. So I’m not keeping my collection to pass on to a future generation. Beyond that – basically everything I own in hardcopy, I also own in PDF. I’m very comfortable with using gaming books on my tablet or laptop rather than having the physical book in hand. So why am I keeping them.

I’m honest enough to admit that at one point, having that huge collection was all about geek cred. I wanted to be cool because I had the awesome stuff, the rare stuff, the old stuff. That really doesn’t matter to me these days.

It’s also true that for a long time I claimed that they had sentimental value. They were reminders of great games and good friends that I played them with. But I don’t even know where most of those players are anymore. So again, why am I keeping them?

In the end, I find that I don’t have a good answer. It’s just a bunch of dusty tomes filling up a great big room at the top of my house and never getting touched. And every day I think about getting rid of them but I don’t know how. Selling them seems crass (though I’ve sold some over the years). Giving them away – I’d have to know that they were going to a good home; and most of my gamer contacts these days are in the same boat in terms of getting old with their collections.

So what should I do? I… think I’m ready to part with them. Most of them. I just don’t know how.

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