Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thinning the Herd

Lately, more than usual, I had been contemplating the shelves of gaming related printed matter that I have gathered over the past few years, and, in particular, whether or not having these items in hand had, in fact, brought anything worthwhile to my gaming and whether any given item would continue to do so.

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:
  1. Do I use this?
  2. Have I had this item for more than 12 months without using it?
  3. Do I enjoy the game system?
  4. Do I really like it or am I just "meh" about i?
  5. Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?
  6. Do I own this in another form, i.e. ebook or PDF?
  7. Is this or similar information available online for free?
  8. If I don't use it, and think it's worthwhile to keep, how can I work it into my current gaming?
The only items that got free passes were items that were recently acquired: Adventure Maximus, Tremulus, Dungeon World and 5e on the RPG side, and various WWI rules on the wargaming side.

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.


  1. Are you a member of the wargamers marketplace on FB? It seems to work well.

    1. I didn't even know there was such a thing! Going to check it out now!

  2. For the last couple years I've been lightening my load with both wargaming miniatures and RPG books. My whole collection of RPG books (including a bunch of old Dragon and Dungeon magazines) now fits on one bookshelf.

    It's a great feeling.

    1. Hi Stelios,

      Thanks for the comment. I've probably spent more time excitedly looking at my gaming shelf in the last few days than in the year prior - it's a huge burden that has been lifted.


  3. The stress caused by the mass of gaming material is palpable. For me, I need to get back to trying to play the games as is rather than try to fiddle with it before I've even read it. I also want to say that I loved the lat session of the ever expanding dungeon and the questionnaire for the characters. I also need to paint up my army men. Every time i see yours it makes me smile.

    1. Hi Sean,
      I'm finding the 10 games, 10 times challenge a good motivator for playing more. I might not get all 10 games in before the end of the year (I didn't start until June after all), but I am finding that I get a much better feel for each game I do play compared to my 1-and-Done attempts previously. Other than the issue with distances in BKC (due to the scale of my figures), I avoid making any changes to the RAW during the 10 games, so there is more playing and less fiddling.

      I encourage you to get at those army men! They paint up very quickly and are a lot of fun to look at when done. The details, when there are any, are easy to see without a magnifier, so if you're into painting buttons and buckles, they'll reward the effort. Give them a quick wash in soapy water, let dry, and then prime with white glue (glop it on, no dilution, then just blot up/redistribute any pools) and you'll be ready to go. I seal mine with white glue these days, but I've used acrylic floor polish and matte spray before as well.

  4. A couple years ago I started weeding out my boardgames, as I rarely play them anymore. To my astonishment (and delight) what I sold brought in thousands of dollars--a lot of old, rare stuff did the trick, I guess. Now I need to tackle my lead mountain. My parameters will be similar to yours, except that at 63 I have to add whether I'm likely to live long enough to actually do anything with it. My computation thus far is that I will, providing I don't die until I'm 132.

    Best regards,


    1. If your computation is accurate, you're not even middle-aged yet. I think I'll start doing my computations the same way!

      While I doubt selling will bring me more than a a few hundred dollars, it's still nothing to sneeze at and might actually make the effort involved palatable.

      The mountain of miniatures is problematic, I'm finding, as ongoing projects have a backlog that was intentionally created (as opposed to leftovers from completed projects or excess from unplanned and incomplete projects or purchases made on a whim) and that I'm on the fence as to their value to me.

  5. This is why I buy almost nothing in print, any more. I get products though DriveThru, mostly. I can print most stuff cheap at home, with a laser printer. I have very little in print, unless I printed it, from the last 5 or so years.