I collect RPG books but I would not, in the way I understand the word, call myself a ‘collector’. I say that because when I use that word, I picture someone searching for those last couple of titles to finish off their full set of 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons or grabbing those last couple of sourcebooks for classic Traveller.
I think modern RPGs are great, and usually better than the ‘old school’ titles, at least in regard to what I want from a game. I also have no interest in paying huge amounts of money for specific out-of-print books just to fill out a collection.
No, I’m quite happy with a contemporary collection, picking up books for systems I currently enjoy. Will I pick up books that, hand on heart, I’ll never use? Yes. I know I’ve already done this. Do I turn my nose up completely at older books? No? And we’ll come back to that later.
The biggest draw for me when it comes to these books is just in the reading. I love reading these books. My favourite thing in a lot of fantasy and sci-fi is the worldbuilding. That’s what these books are all about.
Let’s take a look at my collection. I’m not looking to break down every title I own, but rather take a look at different games and how I approach them.
Paranoia and Traveller
I have a copy of second edition Paranoia, printed by Games Workshop for West end Games in the year I was born. I got it at an absolute steal online and I have used it a lot. I love Paranoia and this book is largely the reason why. I have not picked up anything else for this edition, but if I saw a classic sourcebook or adventure at a good price, or if I wanted to run something really specific, I’d pick up more books in a heartbeat.
The latest edition of Paranoia is different. Well, it’s different in a lot of ways, truth be told. In terms of my collecting, the difference is that this is the current, contemporary edition of a game I love. As such, I’ve been keeping up with releases. I’ve picked up everything that’s out for it so far and I have got it to the table quite a bit. Not every release hit it out of the park, of course. Truth or Dare was a disappointing mission book, but every boxed set has been fantastic. I like keeping up with releases and watching the latest incarnation of Alpha Complex fill out with detail and character.
Traveller, like Paranoia, has seen a recent edition from Mongoose Publishing. Previously I only really knew Mongoose for Starship Troopers: The Miniatures Game. This game was not for me and I took no interest in Mongoose for years until they piqued my interest with Paranoia and Traveller. Traveller was a game I had long wanted to get into and which I had only played briefly, several years ago. The release of the latest edition was a great opportunity to jump on board and I did, picking up all of the core, non-adventure books plus the beautiful Pirates of Drinax boxed set. At some point, I may look to branch out into the adventures, but I am happy with the rulebooks at the moment.
Chronicles of Darkness and Exalted
I picked up the core Chronicles of Darkness (then New World of Darkness) book back when it was released in 2004. I was 18 and had been playing Vampire: The Masquerade for a few years. I also picked up the core books for Vampire: the requiem, Mage: The Awakening and Werewolf: The Forsaken. The only supplement I picked up around this time was Shadows of the UK as I remember seeing it going cheap at a branch of Ottakers that was closing down. I also picked up the first edition of Exalted and I remember really loving the art in that book.
At the time, I picked up no further books or supplements. When I got much more into RPGs a decade later, I started backfilling my collection of these out-of-print books (perhaps an exception to my earlier rule) by looking out for bargains on eBay. In this way I acquired most of the core CoD books and most of the WtF books. I picked up a few VtR books, most notably the two Roman books, Requiem for Rome and Fall of the Camarilla. I also got, through a mix of eBay and DTRPG’s print on demand service, most of the other core books for each game in the line, as well as the massive core book for the third edition of Exalted. I still look at eBay from time to time for any sourcebooks I particularly want, and I do intend at some point to pick up Mummy: The Curse, Demon: The Descent and The God Machine Chronicle via print on demand. Similarly, any sourcebooks that I might need for a game, I know can generally find as POD.
Classic World of Darkness
I was introduced to Vampire: The Masquerade early on secondary school and it immediately captured my imagination, and even more so once I picked up the book and feasted my eyes on the text and artwork therein. It remains the RPG I have had the most fun with over the longest time. It was my first RPG.
I’ve had my core book (revised edition) for a couple of decades, and I’ve had Mage: The Ascension for almost as long. As with Vampire, Mage inspired me with amazing fiction and beautiful artwork. Unlike Vampire, I still have not played Mage as some of the rules look ridiculously and needlessly complex. I have cannibalised the book for ideas, though.
Since picking up these first books, I have acquired the core books for every game in the OWoD line. Some I adore. Others – and I’m looking at you Wraith and Mummy – I don’t really like. I also picked up some of the stranger ones, like Victorian Age Vampire, The Sorcerer’s Crusade, Kindred of the East and Inquisitor. I also have a smattering of supplements. Most notable – and most extensively used – are the Camarilla, Anarch and Sabbat guides and the three volumes of the Chicago Chronicles. Also notably loved are my Orpheus supplements. I need two more of these to complete the small set but I just cannot find them. I’d be happy with POD, but these two specific books are not available via this service, even though the rest of the line is.
As with the Chronicles of Darkness, I’m not actively looking to collect these books, but do check from time to time for bargains. I also pick up specific titles I might need when running a game. It was for a specific game that I picked up Berlin by Night, for example.
In recent months, I’ve also picked up the core book for the 5th edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, along with the guides to the Camarilla and the Anarchs. I have some reading up to before the game I’m taking part in for Tabletop Scotland in August!
Dungeons & Dragons
D&D is the entry point to RPGs for many people. It was not for me, and it’s far from my favourite game, but I still love it. I did play some D&D early on with my copy of Dragon Quest, which was very much a game aimed squarely at introducing new players and board game players to the full Dungeons & Dragons system. It was a blast, but I really had no idea how to play it properly for the longest time. We kind of just muddled through. This was actually a lot of fun.
It was later that I picked up D&D 3.5. I have four books for this edition including the three core books – Players Handbook, Monster Manual, DM’s Guide – and the Eberron Campaign Setting. I love the Eberron book and the setting it details. I also picked up the players Handbook for 4th edition, as I took part in a brief campaign a few years back.
My real jumping on point was 5th Edition. It came out at the right time for me and I quickly picked up the three core books, the starter set and the initial adventure book. It was not until I started playing it semi-regularly two years ago that I started picking up the other books like Xanathar’s and Volo’s. In the past year I have played at least once a week, and usually more. As such, I’ve stepped up grabbing these books and there are now quite a few on the shelves. They’re all a lot of fun to read and I’m finding that I’m keeping up with new releases. Volo’s Guide to Monsters is actually my favourite book of this edition so far, and my favourite book for artwork is the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. I’ve a few older books to go back and fill out the collection with, but I’ve also recently branched out into third-party books.
I really like the 5E books from Kobold Press. I started with their monster manuals, the Tome of Beasts and Creature Codex, before branching out into their Midgard campaign setting. I particularly like the Old Margreve book and all of the cool options in the Heroes Handbook. I’m keen to pick up the Courts of the Shadow Fey book as well, but it’s proving quite difficult to find in the UK. I’m hoping to get a Midgard game going in the next few months.
FATE, Evil Hat and Dresden Files
Evil Hat has rapidly become one of my favourite publishers and I’ve yet to read one of their books that I did not enjoy. I really like the small form factor of their hardback books. That said, my first purchase from Evil Hat was their full-size hardbacks for the Dresden Files RPG.
Dresden is one of my absolute favourite RPGs, jockeying for position with VtM and Paranoia. There are only three books in the main line, which are all really good, and then a smaller book for the Accelerated edition.
I loved Dresden so much that I decided to branch out and collect the books for the underlying system, FATE. I picked up the core book on a work trip to Birmingham and have since picked up all of the system toolkits, several campaign settings and spin-offs and the Accelerated Edition. Other than the core books, my favourites in this category are Kaiju Incorporated, Shadow of the Century and the Horror Toolkit.
I also picked up a few non-FATE books, namely Monster of the Week and Bubble Gumshoe. Going forward, I’m keen to also pick up Blades in the Dark, Scum and Villainy and Improv for Gamers.
Odd and Ends
All of the above are the big categories where I have multiple books. I also have a number of individual books for games I was either interested in, or in which I have played at some point. Without going into every book in this catch-all category, some of the highlights of my odds and ends shelf are:
- GURPS Discworld
- Mind’s Eye Theatre
- Apocalypse World
- Dungeon World
- Dungeon Crawl Classics
- Star Wars: Edge of the Empire
- Star Wars (D20)
- Mutant: Year Zero
- Tales from the Loop
- Trail of Cthulhu
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd ed.)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader
- Ars Magica
You can view my whole collection on my collection page. I love RPGs. They are my favourite genre of game and I’ll happily play them with all sorts of different groups. I also love the books themselves. I adore reading about lots of different settings and gazing at the inspiring artwork that these books are often full of.
So what about you? Do you collect RPGs? Maybe you collect board games or miniatures? I’d love to hear about your own thoughts on RPG books and collecting.