For a variety of reasons, I’ve cut way back on the number of gaming books I’ve bought over the past year — and as a bookworm who never has enough space for all of my books, and whose wife drops regular hints that her Kindle really cuts down on the impending need for additional shelves, that feels pretty weird.

As a GM, I’m used to buying a lot of books for games I run. That’s always made sense to me: I need more of them than my players, and I need them in between sessions, not just at the table, so I want my own copies. I also love reading and owning books, so I rarely need much of an excuse to pick up a new one.

So why the hiatus? It’s not really intentional: I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to stop buying gaming books for a while.” It just happened.

Looking at my personal whys raises some interesting GMing questions, which we’ll get to in a moment. Here are the three main whys, first:

  1. Lack of need. I own almost every book for the Star Trek RPG that I’m running right now, and all of the pertinent books for my group’s on-deck Birthright Campaign. If I buy a gaming book these days, it’s a) out of pure personal interest (“Diaspora looks amazing!”), b) for intended future use (“I want to run this someday”), or c) because it fills a new niche (a system-neutral supplement, for example). “Ooh, shiny!” is not a consideration right now.
  2. Dead product lines. Birthright and Star Trek are dead, so there’s no new product clamoring for my wallet’s attention. I’m used to playing mainly in-print games, so this is a new one for me — and, in some ways, the weirdest aspect of this situation. I like buying books for the games I play, and not being able to feels wrong somehow.
  3. Lack of time. This is the biggie: I have a stack of unread gaming books, unread non-gaming books, unplayed video games, and unplayed board games — and let’s not talk about all of the RPGs I’ve owned for years, or decades, and never gotten around to playing. Time is precious and scarce right now, and if I can’t handle what’s already on my plate, why add to the problem? Or, at least, why add to it at a breakneck pace — I mean, I’m a geek, so of course I’m going to keep collecting geek stuff…

I expect #1 and #2 to change as time marches on: we’ll start playing an in-print game, or I’ll run into a GMing situation I want printed help handling, and books will begin finding their way onto my shelves with greater frequency again.

But #3? That doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, as I march into my mid-thirties, my daughter gets older, and my life as a whole gets busier. So does that mean I’m looking at a bleak future in which I buy gaming books only rarely?

That…well, that sounds…awful. Awful!


So, the GMing questions:

  1. Are you in a similar boat, usually an avid book-buyer and no longer buying as many gaming books as you used to?
  2. How come?
  3. How many books do you need to run a good game? (Boy is THAT a loaded question!)
  4. As a GM, can you ever have enough gaming books?

#1 and #2 are more personal, but #3 and #4 are much more general — and, I think, pretty weighty questions.

My answers to the last two questions are “3. Enough to give me lots of ideas, and lots of places to go for new ideas, as well as enough resources to cover my bases nicely. ‘Enough’ varies from game to game: I used snippets of a dozen Mage books for my last campaign, but need fewer books to run Star Trek.” and “4. Nope!

How about you?