I don’t like it when tabletop roleplaying books become rare. There’s little excuse for it, this far into the 21st century. Yes, companies go out of business and sometimes there’s a dispute over who owns what. That can get complicated. There are weird formats and gimmicky, difficult-to-print products, sure. A lot of that applies to older books, though. If people are planning things properly going forward, everything should remain available as PDF downloads and print-on-demand hard copies.
On some level, I think it’s because we equate rare with scarce, and scarce with valuable. A think has worth because there aren’t a lot of them in the world. A book could be objectively awful, a system could be nigh-unplayable, but if they only printed 50 of them it’s a collector’s item and somebody’s got to have it in their collection.
Games are Experiences. Books are Stuff.
A lot of this stems from feelings about collecting things in general. It should come as no surprise that, in addition to being a voice in the Black Box Movement and an advocate for Lo-Fi Publishing, I am a simple living minimalist. Get rid of stuff you don’t need or use to make more space for the stuff that’s helpful and necessary. That doesn’t mean burn everything that doesn’t have sentimental value. It doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a finely bound, beautifully illustrated rulebook. What is means is, if you don’t play anything other than, say, 5th Edition D&D, why do you have a shelves full of books you’ve never read, never played, and only thumbed through a few times?
I’d much rather books be judged by their quality and utility. Yes, I used to have a large collection of books. Now I have a small library of things that are aggressively useful to me. Most of my library is ebooks and PDFs, because they occupy no physical space. If things become rare, it should be because they aren’t particularly good or don’t serve a purpose. When it comes to roleplaying, after all, the game isn’t the material in the book. It’s the magical experience that happens around the table.
When Tabletop Roleplaying Books Become Rare
RPGaDay is an annual event held each August. It asks tabletop gamers to use provided daily prompts to express something fun, interesting, and positive about the hobby. David F. Chapman (Autocratik), the award-winning game designer, created it.
About Dancing Lights Press
Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.