I have shelves full of gaming books, but there are a lot of them that I don’t use — even for the games I play regularly. That doesn’t bother me, because I enjoy reading them in their own right, and I like having a lot of ideas on hand.
How about you? Do you buy every book for the games you like, or do you buy the core rules and leave it at that? In short: more books, or fewer books?
I see the appeal of both approaches, though I tend to swing more towards having lots of books. Apart from just getting enjoyment out of reading them, more books = more ideas, as well as more options for my players.
Even though I can’t possibly act on every idea that comes up, sometimes they take root and grow into entire campaigns, and sometimes they bubble back to the surface just in time to get used in an ongoing game. I’ve also found that books I bought, read (or skimmed) and then shelved for a few years tend to become useful later on, often unexpectedly.
Particularly with D&D, players also like to have a lot of options for their characters (sometimes to the point of being intimidated by character creation) — and having a shelf full of books lets me provide those options.
On the “fewer books” side of things, it can be really refreshing to get into games with very low buy-in, like Amber (2 books) or Burning Wheel (3 books). Part of that comes from the fact that there aren’t many books available for those games — if there were more, I’d probably buy them!
Given your druthers, do you prefer to have a lot of books for the games you play, or just a couple? Have you always had the same preference, or has it changed over time?
Generally, I prefer less. Usually because “more books” almost always means “more metaplot” and setting details that become an entrenched part of the game setting.
That is, if I want to play a game, and the players all come having read 8 setting books, 23 novels of fiction, plus who knows what else, and I have this one book, though we can try to meet on the same page, odds are I won’t be able to give them the detail they’re looking for, while they won’t be able to “just forget” all the extra stuff they ingested.
I’m never short on ideas, and most of my ideas come from non-rpg sources anyway, such as artbooks, movies, cartoons, mythology, etc.
The collector in me likes lots of books. The realist in me says I could get by with core rules, a decent bestiary (though I have yet to see a bestiary that I feel really gives a good selection), and a setting book. Oh, and then since I like something to start from for adventures, I’ll use modules and such.
That’s one of the reasons I like Cold Iron (a friend’s homebrew). The rules all fit in a 1″ three ring notebook, the bestiary was primarily whatever I decided to write up. I ran a nice campaign using Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor setting (using the Judges Guild printing plus the TSR modules for bits and pieces of additional information – mostly just the color maps).
I used to really love Dungeon Magazine for it’s shorter adventures that were more suitable for utilizing in non-D&D games (I’ve used them in both Cold Iron and Rune Quest).
Additional books don’t always mean metaplot. The non-setting D&D books don’t introduce any metaplot. I definitely don’t do big plotted campaigns myself, so I definitely prefer supplements that come without lots of metaplot. I do appreciate having additional setting detail though if it’s heavy on stuff the characters can use, or that I can use to create my own plots. A lot of the Glorantha material was nice for this.
As far as rules, I do actually have a preference for rules which don’t try and create as many character options. It is fun to create characters in D20, but one wonders how much the differences really matter. Plus, the more complex the character creation, the more likely someone is to create an innefective character.
So there you go. If you print it, I’ll buy it, but I’d honestly be quite happy with a basic set of rules and a setting that provides lots of possibilities.
I guess I’m one of those customers the game companies love!
I want the minimum number of books, and that is it. Heck, I even prefer it when the “rules” are in a book by themselves–no bestiary, no DM advice, nothing else. Then put some of that missing stuff in another book or two.
However, I will buy a few more books past the minimum, at least in some cases. It is simply that my standards go way up. I suppose it is a Catch-22. One of the reason that I don’t much care for all of the optional books is that they are rarely as well done, IMO, as the basics.
Also, I’ve reached that point in my life where I cannot fit another bookshelf in my house. So for every book that comes in, another has to go out–or at least get packed in the attic. 😀
I love books, I like reading them, getting inspirations for my games and sometimes even guidelines and principles that I at some-point incorporate into my game.
The sadder truth is, that books cost money and the more money you have, the more books you can afford. I unfortunately, do not have the luxury of having extra cash, especially when all of the books have to be imported.
I use the core rules for my D&D game, and I got a few other books that I got as presents for birthdays and such. I bought a few of Monte Cook’s PDFs related to his Eldrich might series which were VERY USEFUL (Thanks Monte !) — If you have the time to read so many books, yet, you luck the funds, I think PDF is the way to go.
So, I like books and modules and I would use as much as time allows me, and if I can’t afford books, I’ll check out RPGNow.com or DriveThroughRPG.com for PDF Versions, which I can also (hope no-one I know reads this post…) read on-screen at work 🙂
Being a hard-core “book junkie”, I can subscribe to both schools of thought, but it truly depends on what kind of game I am running. For example, for running an Iron Kingdoms game, I use a total of six books – the three 3.5 core books and the three books that are out by PP – the Character Guide, the World Guide and the Liber Mechanika.
For other D&D games, it depends on the flavor. I was planning on running a truly epic good vs. evil game where I would let my players use just about any book in print for PC options as long as they or I owned the book. I also was planning on drawing heavily from Cry Havoc! by Monte Cook, the Books of Exalted Deeds and Vile Darkness and a plethora of other source books out there.
But I buy too many books – that’s my biggest problem, no matter how many books I may end up using in a game.
Fewer, for me. I do like reading lots of material, but in actual practice, I use but a few books. Part of it is money, but I have a fear of the game being bogged down by rules supplements. Long ago (like 20 years now), I used to love Battletech, but it became bloated with endless rule add-ons in a fashion like Warhammer. I see that even now with D20/D&D with countless player options. I don’t have anything against variations, but I’ve seen players sift through books for over an hour trying to settle on a class choice. Since D20 is “open source” it is very easy for the gaming table to become some chaotic library of game books.
Luckily, between friends, we often buy different books over time, and loan each other books. I am currently reading Lords of Madness, but it’s not mine. I don’t know of any rules I need LoM for, but theres some interesting ideas which is the point of the book. Sometimes, I will get an irrational urge to buy a new book and use an excuse to justify it. I wanted Manual of the Planes, and when one of the party members got banished to Acheron, I was running to the bookstore to plop down my money for it. Still though, my library is only like 6 3.X books, and some paperback materials (PHB, DMG, MM, Vile Darkness, Manual of the Planes, Fiend Folio). I also have reused some 2nd Ed source book like the Forgotten Realms setting book for “pre fab Cities”.
I will admit that my friend has a Huge library of gaming books, and I love slipping in there when I arrive early on our game days.
One tip I’ll offer: To save time when I do use some tidbit from a supplement, I’ll mark the book and page in the campaign data so I can flip right to it. I also use good ole fashioned bookmarkers.
Some really excellent points. I’ve got a ton of books, but what actually gets used is a surprisingly small set. I also agree, option bloat is a problem. I don’t mind it too much if a player chooses one or two supplemental books (on top of the “core” books for me, which are PH, DMG, MM, Arcana Evolved, and Transcendance) for their character. I will occaisionally use monsters from other sources (Legacy of Dragons, Fiend Folio, MM II, Tome of Horrors, etc), though lately I’ve got a lot of incentive to stick with SRD monsters since they are easiest to pull into my monster stat blocks.
It would be handy if I could really constrain myself though. I keep humping a stack of books up and down the stairs (I prep on my computer upstairs and we play downstairs).
Another thought if I may…
One really cool way to limit the books (for a book heavy game like D20) would be to start with the core rules only (PH, DMG, MM, possibly an alternate PH/DMG). Each player including the GM then gets to introduce one book. The player is responsible for reading the book, and then presenting how that book will enhance the game (players should consult the others first before reading the book to make sure it’s acceptible to all if there’s a question). I’m tempted to include even setting books in this (with the thought that many setting books may hardly get used). Perhaps if one really needs it, each player may introduce two books. Another thought would be that each player can also introduce up to 10 pages of material from other sources. Ideally he would type those pages up so they can be entered into a house rules notebook, but that might be too much work and run into copyright issues.
The idea is to get past the problems of having a huge library of books as part of the game that mostly get ignored. In my current Arcana Evolved game for example, Transcendance is the only Monte Cook supplement that’s actually getting used (all the “might” books are available along with Mystic Secrets and Legacy of Dragons). We’re not even referencing the Players Guide to the Wilderlands (setting is Wilderlands of High Fantasy). I have an NPC who is using Scout and Highland Stalker from Complete Adventurer, and I occaisionally use monsters from other monster books (which ties in with the stock/non-stock monsters question also…).
My thought with this is that when a player introduces some book, say with a bunch of Prestige Classes, that they not only have one in mind for themself, but that they are also pointing out how a bunch of the others will fit in also. Given the themes that run through most of the better supplements, this should be easy and set a flavor. A player introducing Frostburn is asking for a campaign with lots of ice and snow.
One way to cheat if, like me, you have some players who aren’t into reading much is you let them bring in the “oh yea, we always play with that book” books (Transcendance would be an easy pick for an Arcana Evolved campaign for example). I’d only allow this cheat however if the book really is something everyone is pretty familiar with. Or maybe the GM does the introducing.
This would be an interesting way to bring in more player control over the campaign (which also falls in with the players being involved in picking the starting point on the map).
With such a setup, it might be nice to make sure there are two copies of each book in the gaming group so they can be passed around to all the players in short order so everyone can read them (and maybe you even give everyone a homework assignment – pick one element out of each book that you will either use in your character or that you want to be the focus of several sessions of play [assuming the typical “long” campaign style, but such a multi-book setup really wouldn’t be suitable for a short campaign], preferably more than a single feat or spell [a feat chain might be acceptible though]).
There are two competing instincts for me. Usually I’ll invest only minimally; the core book is plenty. This is particularly true for games that are interesting, but I’m not sure if they’ll ever actually get played.
However, I was a completeist for one game (Mage: The Ascension), which I GMed for. It was due to many factors: the core rules and setting were very broad, I enjoyed reading the books, and supplements concentrated on examples rather than new rules. The system was a bit intimidating, which helped push me into seeking more examples. Fortunately, I was the only person interested in most of the books– there was a lot of detail in the splat books that might have been bothersome to introduce.
As a source of ideas, they worked very well. I didn’t have to open a book on Iteration X (one of the bad guy groups) to know how to run them in the middle of the game… but I did have a solidified idea about their style and attitude from reading their splat. Of course, the way the game sprawled over various editions and changed their answers to the same question made keeping up to date important. (Or so it seemed at the time.)
I’m less fond of poorly implemented new splats & rules (like the Complete X books for D&D). As a player, I do like the extra feats– but I don’t like the extra effort of hunting through 5 books when it’s time to chose one. Or look through 5 books when it’s time to cast a spell, etc. The new core classes are OK, but 23 core classes seems excessive to me; some kind of pruning (for a specific campaign) seems likely. With good organization I wouldn’t mind so much.
(I’m back from my trip now. :))
(Judas) Sometimes, I will get an irrational urge to buy a new book and use an excuse to justify it.
As a player, I often do something similar: I look for things I can do with my character that will justify buying new books. Like Frank said, gaming companies love people like me. 😉
(Frank) One really cool way to limit the books (for a book heavy game like D20) would be to start with the core rules only (PH, DMG, MM, possibly an alternate PH/DMG). Each player including the GM then gets to introduce one book.
This might make a good post for your blog, Frank — I know I’d be interested in seeing some expansion on this idea (even though your comment covers a lot of ground!).
Great comments, all! 🙂
I think I will expand on this idea in my blog. Would you mind if I posted a link here when I’m done?
(Frank) I think I will expand on this idea in my blog. Would you mind if I posted a link here when Iâ€™m done?
Of course not, Frank — go right ahead. 🙂