In three years, my collection of gaming related print material has grown some 400%. That this coincides with the birth of my son is no accident. Money I would have spent going to see bands, going to bars, etc. was instead funneled into this hobby. But, if I am honest, much of the material is unread or, at best, barely skimmed, and offers little to no value to me as a result. It seems obvious, but simply having something does not improve my gaming experience.
This isn't an unheard of situation in tabletop gaming related circles - indeed, it seems excess is the most common state of affairs. Never the less, what should bring enjoyment was becoming, or had already become, something I dreaded. When would I find time to read all of it, let alone use it? Making checklists and timelines of such things was impossible without feeling stress, the antithesis of what a hobby should bring.
Perhaps, with the clarity only a week at the beach can give, I drew a line in the sand (no pun intended!).
With a detached ruthlessness reserved for mothers tossing boxes of old baseball cards and comic books into the trash, I reviewed each and every item on my shelves. "I could mine this for ideas", "I paid a lot for this", "I might need it someday" or "someday I might play it" were not acceptable reasons for holding onto something.
For each item I asked one or more of the following:
- Do I use this?
- Have I had this item for more than 12 months without using it?
- Do I enjoy the game system?
- Do I really like it or am I just "meh" about i?
- Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?
- Do I own this in another form, i.e. ebook or PDF?
- Is this or similar information available online for free?
- If I don't use it, and think it's worthwhile to keep, how can I work it into my current gaming?
When all was said and done, about half of my collection was weeded away.
Of those, a good 20 or so books are in the "hold for another 6 months" box, at which point they will be reevaluated, but the rest ended up in the donation pile (popular history stuff and some fiction that I think the library can easily sell at its book sales - why do i think that? Mostly because that's where I bought it) or the "for sale" pile.
The sale pile is a little larger than I expected and the thought of tens of ebay ads or tumblr posts brings me no joy, so I'm considering alternative ways of getting them into the hands of gamers who might enjoy them. Stay tuned to this blog for any announcements about that.
In any case, already, the results are palpable; I look at the gaming shelves and smile.
I see the games I enjoy and the games I want to explore further. I see cherished books, like the TMNT RPG, next to often consulted reference sources, such as Condray's Swedish and Russian Armies of the Great Northern War. I see depth if not breadth, more signal, less noise. I see inspiration and exciting possibility, rather than the gluttony that produced the previous situation and the accompanying dread and guilt.
Other than outstanding Kickstarters which have yet to ship, going forward, with rare exception, I intend to stick to a "1 in, 1 out policy" with respect to gaming materials (at least the physical kind. I haven't yet gone about tackling the morass of PDF rules and such). I did this previously, but had let that rule slip during the last few years.
Meanwhile, my load has been lightened and I feel at ease.
Next stop, the lead and plastic mountain.