Saturday, March 11, 2017

Loving RPG Settings

I've loved role-playing games since I was a kid.  I've also always had a great imagination and constantly wanted to use it to mentally transport me to fictional places and times and explore them.  It didn't take long to see that one fed very easily into the other.

In essence, an RPG is like a novel where you see the world and its history, but the actual story is yours to create as a GM and as players.  The RPG will, of course, also have rules to aid said GM and players to adventure in that world.  On no few occasions, I've found myself either liking the setting but not the mechanics or enjoying the setting and the mechanics but could not find any players to play it.

So in my years of gaming, I've collected more than my share of RPG core rules books and sourcebooks.  If I had to put a number on it, I'd say that of the gaming books that I own, I've played/employed 30, maybe 40, percent of them.  And when I bought them I intended to try to play perhaps 70 percent with that last 30 purchased just for their settings.

We're doing some basement remodeling here at home, which has necessitated moving my RPG books out of their bookcases and onto the floor temporarily, so I took a few pictures that I'm putting in this post.  Over the years, I've lost more than a few games to damage, a loan that never returned, or that simply got lost in the shuffle, but I've done my very best to keep what I've bought.

Does that make me a kind of hoarder?  I'd say no (like I suppose most hoarders would).  There are some games that I haven't cracked open in years and years, but I keep them anyway because in my head I have this voice that tells me, "Maybe you'll want to revisit that world someday..."  Someday.  For all of the space that my RPG library takes up - about three bookcases worth - I don't see it as a problem in the same way as someone on the actual Hoarder's show in the sense that it doesn't rule my life in terms of destroying it or monopolizing it.  I enjoy these worlds and they inspire and entertain me, but I'm a responsible adult while maintaining my collection.

(Please forgive the one odd anthropology textbook in there)

You're going to notice a LOT of White Wolf's World of Darkness in there.  How could I not when they feed my weakness of giving me source material by the pound that I keep wanting to find out about?  Who could blame me on that one?  The system, setting, and point of view were revolutionary for their time - RPGers everywhere have a lot to thank White Wolf for.

You'd think that I'd have an inordinate amount of Rifts also, but I was never a fan of the Palladium system and that was just enough to drive me away.  But I still have a nice handful of Rifts as well, none-the-less, because I love the concept of the post-apocalyptic mixed with extradimensional in that world.  This is probably my best example of loving the setting, but not loving the mechanics.

A good portion of the games in my collection are so long out of print that it's not funny.  Some of those were made by game companies that turned out to be unsuccessful and folded after a few books or so.  Games like Reich Star (please excuse the swastika) was a game that played with the question, "What if the Axis had won World War II?"  What would the world be like and how would the players act in it and I found that fascinating.  Never played it, never intended to play it, but the setting that it presented was intriguing.  For the record, and to belay any negative comments here, it was not a game that portrayed the Axis as the good guys - the world was a darker, more hateful place in this setting because of their victory.  In my reading of it, the question that it presented to players was, "How do you fight against such a system when it is in power?" or at least that's how I took it.

The crown jewel of my collection, in terms of value, is Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium.  Last Unicorn Games only put out the core book here before they folded.  There was at least one other book slated to be put out, but when they got bought out by Wizards of the Coast, the line was basically shut down.  Only a few thousand books were printed and I got mine after waiting in a very long line at GenCon in 2000 (I think that was the year).  It has a tiny bit of wear on the upper, outside corners, but is otherwise in fine condition and worth around $250 or so, if you look around on EBay and such.

The game itself was a wholly unfinished game that was obviously rushed out the door and would have relied on follow-up sourcebooks and rules companions just to make it playable.  In my opinion, it also did nothing to add to the setting of the Dune universe.  And it just so happens that Dune is my most favorite novel of all time.  Here is a situation where I thought that I was finally going to get a system dedicated to a fiction that I loved and it failed on both fronts.  Outside its collectibleness, it is worthless to me.  An example of disliking both system and setting - a singular anomaly in my collection.

At this point, it's just sitting around waiting for me to find the right charity auction to donate to.  I will never play it or open it again.  But, unlike a hoarder, when a thing gets to that degree of uselessness to me, I do get rid of it.  No use in keeping around garbage that will only ever just fill up my shelves in lieu of better gaming materials.

So my questions to any readers are: what does your collection look like, what do you get out of them (mechanics, setting, both), and do you play them?  I'm very curious to hear.

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