The Artefact (part 2)

*Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the organizations named in this review, nor have I received any form of compensation. I paid for my copy of the game through the original Kickstarter.

A couple of years ago, I reviewed a beta version of a solo RPG titled, The Artefact. (The link for that review is here.) This follow-up review is late. My apologies, especially to the game’s author if they were hoping for a more timely treatment of the final product. Unfortunately, this is something I’ve been putting off for a while. Fortunately, the game being discussed isn’t impacted by the tardiness of my updated examination of the final version of the game. For anyone that might be unfamiliar with The Artefact, the idea is that an individual player will write a story from the perspective of an inanimate object. The game is a short, zine-style RPG that is available in both digital and physical formats.

When I first played through the game in the beta version, my impression was that the game was more of a creative writing exercise than anything else. There was a wide variety of artifacts, as well as some interesting prompts to kickstart the writing process. When I ran through the game, I was left with a unique item that had a relatively complete story about its existence. I was happy with the result and wanted to find a game I plug my item into.

Where that original run-through of the game faltered was, I believe, at least partially, the result of its incomplete status. It was the beta version, but it had no end. I arrived at the “end” of the game, and there was no resolution. I had simply run out of game to play, as there were no more pages in the book.

The final iteration of the game, which can be purchased here, is a significant improvement over the beta version. The game does now have a resolution. Using the charts, the object that lies at the heart of the story will probably have a different life span for each play of the game. Once that lifespan has run its course, the game ends. While the object in question may linger on, the story terminates with the object being lost, damaged, forgotten, or what have you. Yet, the object created had a life, regardless of how that span plays out.

My main takeaway after playing through this game, both the final version and the beta, is that I had something that I could drop into a TTRPG with no issue. If nothing else, The Artefact is a worthwhile tool for creating compelling content for other games. So much so that it was included in the Bundle of Holding for Novel Writing Tools that corresponds to the annual “National November Writing Month”, aka NaNoWriMo. (At the time this article was written there were 14 days left to purchase the bundle.)

I enjoyed creating a timeline for my artifact, a shield to be specific, and got to build out a meaningful tale around it. In this story, the game ended with the shield having been locked away in a vault for safe keeping, and ultimately was forgotten, along with everything else it was stored with. A fitting ending for a revered item, but one that leaves room for the story to grow. Perhaps adventurers stumble onto this vault, discover the shield, and then are able to piece together its history. It would be a compelling game in and of itself to do that kind of sleuthing, and it’s easy to see how using something like The Artefact could significantly add depth to a regular game.

What’s more, it can be a way to circumvent writer’s block since all the player needs to do is respond to prompts, rather can concoct the story from their own imagination. After I played it, I was left with pages of a compelling story (2,118 words to be exact) that worked as much of an explanation of my shield, as it did to articulate the world the shield was a part of. If I wanted to explore all of this further I’d be able to develop a sort of archaeological approach to worldbuilding that could be very fruitful.

None of this is to say that everyone needs to play this game. It’s purely optional, and really only suggested for those that enjoy writing these kinds of backstories. There are lots of gamers that prefer things be kept as simple as possible. A few lines or a couple of short paragraphs are all that some people require for their own games, and that’s fine. If you’re one of these people, then The Artefact, and games like it probably aren’t for you. However, if you enjoy writing, then I would suggest you consider picking this game up. It’s a short, affordable, and infinitely re-playable solo game that can be an excellent complement to creative writing, as well as numerous TTRPGs.

What does “indie” mean for gaming?

Calling a game “indie” has certain connotations, but what does indie really mean? This thought came to me the other day when I was reading through a conversation on a message board about what people’s preferred games were. I kept on seeing people who said they liked “indie” games and started wondering, what is an indie game?

It’s probably useful to consider context. Video games, for example, have a different scale when it comes to the sizes of the organizations that produce them. Don’t believe me, then just look up the credits for the people that create games. Lots and lots of people create games, and in a capacity akin to filmmaking. Revenues are often tallied in 10s of millions of dollars. The world of tabletop gaming is much smaller, and by all measures.

Therefore, indie in video games will probably fit what I suspect is the definition of the term in the popular imagination. Connotations for indie are generally assumed to be a small organization, and team, of people operating their own little entity that produces games. There are no shareholders to appease, and it is likely the that games produced, as well as the company itself are relatively small organizations. This is where indie lives up to the term it is an abbreviation of, independent. In this case, independent of corporate influence.

When it comes to the world of tabletop games, the concept of indie is less obvious. For all intents and purposes, I’d estimate that 99% of the tabletop industry qualifies as being “indie”. (I have no official stats to back this up.)This makes the term almost meaningless for tabletop games because it can be applied to pretty much everyone. What would be the exception were publishers that didn’t qualify as indie. Yet, the term persists, and I’m not always clear on what it is supposed to mean.

Some ideas that could be applied would have to be assumptions that the number of people involved in the production of a product (game or supplement) would probably be fairly small. Additionally, the associated revenues of the products are probably small as well. It would also be presumable that the audience for those products is proportionally small as well. The repeated term “small” is relative, but tabletop gaming, especially role-playing games, is a niche hobby. If we apply the admittedly vague criteria above, then indie games are essentially a niche within a niche. So, very small.

Ultimately, the sticking point for me is that games shouldn’t be described as an indie. There needs to be a different term because indie is largely meaningless. While it is possible to infer meaning when the term indie is used, it isn’t a clearly defined concept.

There’s one other dimension to this, marketing. Calling a game “indie” brings with it connotations of its own, often about attitude. Indie games can buck corporate directives, which is positive, but it’s the concept of “cool” that also is associated with “indie”. Those small companies and products are given different considerations and have different expectations of them. These can be dubious associations, but they are just as prevalent as any other idea lumped into the definition of “indie”.

Nothing really needs to change in the industries I touched on here, at least as far as operations are concerned. What would be nice is perhaps a different approach to discussing organizations of different sizes. Indie is a catch all term that people assume has more meaning than it actually in fact does. We need some new semantics in gaming. While I’m all for supporting smaller creators, I think it’s time to think up a new vernacular for having those conversations.

Wizards of the Coast in court against TSR

With Halloween just around the corner, I’d hoped that a dispute between TSR and Wizards of the Coast (WotC) would just be a joke. Zombie Gary Gygax rises from the grave to duke it out with an army of D&D 5e playtesters. All of whom are led by a canny band of actual play YouTubers. It could be big!

Sadly, it is in fact a very real lawsuit where WotC is suing to protect its image and claim to older TSR intellectual properties such as Star Frontiers. I first read about this lawsuit via Polygon. People have been very critical of D&D, and WotC as an organization, but this lawsuit is a thing to behold because the person they are suing deserves to be dragged into court.

In the article, there are samples from the new TSR’s version of older sci-fi RPG. The racism couldn’t be more blatant, and I’m shocked that anyone could be so hateful and think that in this day and age there’s actually a market for that kind of product. That’s one part of the lawsuit. It speaks for itself, and if it wasn’t WotC taking the creator (Justin LaNasa) of this game to court, someone else would. The stuff that is the working draft of Star Frontiers New Genesis is unconscionably racist.

However, the bigotry component of the lawsuit isn’t everything. This is also a battle for IP ownership. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out because according to the Polygon article, WotC has admitted to being negligent with regard to renewing copyright on older IPs. It is conceivable that the gaming giant loses control of products previously associated with TSR, the business taken over by WotC a couple decades ago. (Has it been so long?) If WotC somehow loses this part of the lawsuit that means that they accidentally ceded the rights to products they legally obtained. That is some poor management, and someone should be fired for that.

In my opinion, the real story here is not WotC or the loss of IPs, rather it is racism. Someone took it upon themselves to codify explicit racism into a game for profit. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if WotC hadn’t filed this lawsuit. Would this iteration have actually gone ahead and published such a steaming pile, and think no one would notice? Really, it’s shocking, and I’m genuinely happy that WotC is suing to make sure this claptrap never sees the light of day.

*I have deliberately avoided linking to the original content in question, as well as “new” TSR.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles #1), a review

What books do fans of fantasy fiction think of when they reflect on the works that define the genre? After The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, or A Game of Thrones and its subsequent sequels, it’s fair to challenge people to name works of fantasy fiction. “name your top five fantasy novels…” I imagine people would name Harry Potter or Conan as well, so we’re up to three or four now.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? People might struggle to name more than a few. Despite its apparent popularity, fantasy is not well-explored by most people. Interestingly, one of the books-series of books, actually-that I often see on shortlists of “Best Fantasy Novels” is Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. In fact, I picked it up and read it because someone else suggested it as a favourite work of fiction.

This novel is the first in a trilogy that details the adventures of a group of heroes in a fantasy world (Krynn) created for the tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. Tanis, Sturm, Caramon, Raistlin, Flint, and Tasslehoff find themselves pitted against the forces beyond their comprehension, and seemingly well beyond their capabilities. They read like archetypal fantasy. Dragons, medieval wizards and warriors, elves, dwarves and so on. So much about this book perfectly encompasses what I suspect most people imagine when they think of fantasy fiction, for better or worse.

This book scratches a particular itch. On one hand, and let’s just get this out of the way, detractors of fantasy will point to books like this as an example of why the genre is garbage. Overall, the sophistication of the story probably fits with YA novels. The characters feel somewhat contrived and based on well-worn cliches. On the other hand, who cares what they say!

So much of what has become a staple of geeky culture is evident in this book. The humour, the character archetypes, and of course, the fact that the story is one giant D&D reference. Back when this novel was published, in 1984, people thought about stuff like TTRPGs much differently. There was the infamous Satanic Panic, which would have been at its peak when this novel was published. Tabletop gaming, in general, was much more niche 38 years ago when this book hit the stands. Yet, this book has endured and has cultivated fans for decades. From start to finish, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is like a precursor to every geeky joke and anecdote you might expect to hear people swap at a gaming table.

This last point is probably the most important for the novel’s legacy. It’s easy to tear this book down because it isn’t highly refined literature. However, it is fun, and it is fun in a unique way for its fans. Sometimes a book can be greatly enhanced when the audience gets the “in-jokes” that are peppered throughout the story. Weis and Hickman wrote their tale to include all of that, but the thing that stands out for me is that they get the in-jokes as well. They could be swapping them with the readers because they’re also the audience. Both author and reader played TTRPGs, principally D&D.

It was a level playing field between the creators and the consumers, and even if the stories don’t break the mould, they bring to life what a lot of gamers were engaging with during TTRPG sessions. These novels were created to breathe a different sort of life into D&D (see Shannon Applecline’s Designers & Dragons), and they ultimately succeeded. The original Dragonlance modules served as inspiration, and have become something of a cult classic in fantasy fiction.

No, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is not for everyone. People who like fantasy and D&D might not even like Weis and Hickman’s treatment of the source material, but there are those that do. These novels are for the people that play games, first and foremost. That was always the intended audience, and it always will be. If you’ve ever played D&D and enjoyed traipsing about the wilderness, clashing with evil spellcasters, and slaying monsters, then these books are for you. They were always meant for you.

Conan: Waves Stained Crimson Campaign

*Originally published at British Fantasy Society

There have been a slew of releases for Modiphius’ Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of since the initial Kickstarter brought the game to life. However, the multi-part campaign, Waves Stained Crimson Campaign stands apart from the others. It’s a dark adventure on the high seas where the PCs are tasked with rescuing a kidnapped member of an elite family. On the surface, it feels fairly straightforward, but it’s absolutely not.

This really felt like a story-a tale by Robert E. Howard told in five acts. If someone were to readapt this into a novella of about the same length, it would read like a sort of harsh Lovecraftian fantasy. Elder gods, depraved sorcerers, deadly duels, intense battles, and more. It works very well at capturing the elements of Conan and puts players in what they’d expect to see in the classic fiction. Run it as a series of one-shots, or in its entirety. It’s flexible and accommodating.  

The art complements this very well, and there are great full-colour illustrations of the story all throughout the book. It’s a very reasonable length, despite being much more than a single quest. Players are given a lot of latitude for resolving the different sections of the campaign, but it’s all smoothly crafted.

However, this is not for people that really like their characters. It is difficult. As expected, every chapter ends with a short section on rewards for successfully completing that particular part of the story. Yet, that same rewards section for every chapter begins with a phrase such as, “Characters that survive…” and then the rewards are listed. It’s fairly clear that PC death is to be expected while running this from start to finish.

Ironically, despite the difficulty, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this campaign should have had some kind of timer. Players should need to finish in a certain amount of time in the game world, or they lose. This might seem unfair considering how hard this already felt, but the primary antagonist has a plan that they want to see through to its conclusion. Although, the fact that PCs aren’t really on a clock makes Waves Stained Crimson more forgiving.  If this had been a race against time, it would ratchet up the tension even further, but it also may have been a different kind of story. 

This tale is worthy of Conan, but it might be a rough way to introduce new players to the game. Someone might be all excited about creating their first character only to have it die by the time the group has completed the first leg of the adventure, and then have another character die in the next section, and so on. If you want a swashbuckling challenge that is filled with freakish occult horrors, this will scratch that itch. Pirates, demons, treasure, and more! This is a great, albeit very difficult, addition to Modiphius’ Conan line.

Raiders of the Serpent’s Sea: Player’s Guide

*Originally published at British Fantasy Society

After Greek Mythology, the Norse gods are probably one of the most well-known pantheons in human history. Of course, that includes the real-world history of northern European countries such as Sweden or Norway, and by extension, the Vikings All of this makes compelling material available to people seeking inspiration for their own games. With that in mind, Raiders of the Serpent Sea by Arcanum Press is a Nose-inspired 5e compatible mission that has a free player’s guide available now. What does that free player’s guide offer to the Norse-lore curious gamer?

To begin with, a decent amount of content is available. There’s a history of the setting called Grimnir, including world maps. Additionally, there are character options such as class archetypes for Rangers, Wizards, and Bards (oh my!),  new playable races (Wicker and Tallfolk), and even more beyond that. It would be entirely conceivable to think that this could become a resource in and of itself for people that wanted to make use of the world but didn’t want to commit to a larger campaign.

One observation though, Arcanum probably could have strayed a bit further from the source material to craft this world. It can be tough when borrowing from actual mythology and folklore, and it can be a fine line between determining too much and not enough of the actual lore. Players need something they can immediately relate to avoid reinventing the wheel. That being said, Arcanum could have at least tried changing the names such as of the gods they were referencing, such as Yoten and Hel. The cool, almost post-apocalyptic approach to the story is fun, but it’s too obvious where the original ideas came from. The setting and world are solid, but feel a bit less innovative than they could have been. 

For a free product, the Raiders of the Serpent Sea is fairly substantial. It’s something a DM for the 5e game could pick up and use for a campaign. There’s a lot of new stuff, but also some stuff that won’t look new at all. If you want to add a little Norse flavour to your campaign without drinking grog out of an animal’s horn, this could be a way to do it.

Bastard King of Thraxford Castle

*Originally published at the British Fantasy Society

As the sun sets over Thraxford Castle, the population carries on with their lives like nothing is amiss. The only catch is that everyone within a thousand feet of the castle is trapped within the confines of a powerful curse. Not for the faint of heart,  Bastard King of Thraxford Castle by Leyline Press, publisher of Shadows of Mogg,  is an adventure for mature  OSR fans. Players will send their characters into a gruesome castle populated by citizens that appear doomed to die and rise again over and over. 

Everything about this quest is saturated with the “old-school” spirit of role playing games. According to the website, the module takes inspiration from real life history, specific modules from D&D, i.e. The Lichway by Albie Fiore, and cult horror films. All of these things permeate the adults only quest from start to finish. Fans of throwback gaming will really appreciate this one and they really nailed the aesthetic and tone.

Unfortunately, the Bastard King appears to still be building the castle, so to speak. It’s missing a bunch of key elements such as a clear objective, rewards, NPC/foe stat block for more than a couple of random encounters, what level is it for, and so on. During the first read-through I’d thought it was a setting to be dropped into a campaign, but the website lists the product as an ‘adventure’ available through the publisher’s Patreon account. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and in its current state  Bastard King of Thraxford looks incomplete. The potential for this adventure is high, but it isn’t yet realized because there are many holes in it. From its inspiration to the material that has already been elaborated upon, this quest has a fantastic grim and gritty atmosphere. When it’s complete, this could be a great module, but until then Bastard King of Thraxford Castle is just a pretty cool work-in-progress.

Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Operation Falling Crystal

*Originally posted on The British Fantasy

In strategy, there’s a saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend…”, but is that true? Operation Falling Crystal for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 by Modiphius pushes player characters into a difficult position, forcing them to make tough choices. If that wasn’t tricky enough, this mission features the mysterious Mi-Go, as well the threat posed by the Nazi occult division Nachtwölfe. Alsom, this time, the Second World War comes to the shores of the United Kingdom. Are the players prepared to stave off the threat?

On its surface, this is a very simple mission. The PCs simply need to go to excavation to ensure that a supply of blauer crystal is secured and made available for study, all within Britain. You’d even save money on petrol getting to the action! Almost seems like a vacation compared to the horrors taking place on the continent, right? The reality is much more complicated, and the PCs are going to find themselves facing challenging foes and tougher choices. 

Those choices are what make this an interesting adventure. Rather than force the characters into a combat-intensive scenario, the mission veers off in another direction. What’s more, PCs will reap what they sow, so to speak, and the PCs must choose wisely. 

What might not sit well is that the decisions players make about how their characters proceed in this mission can have a profound effect on it. This isn’t even about the rewards at the end of the mission, although those may be impacted as well. How events play out can become exceptionally difficult based on the choices players make, maybe even killing off PCs. This feels a bit like railroading, although it won’t be obvious until the mission is over. There’s one clear objective, but there are a couple of different paths towards that goal.

All in all, this mission offers a very clearly presented one-shot. It’s definitely playable in a single session and offers a respectable mix of action and ethics. This would be quality material for a variety of players, regardless of their experience. Adding the oft-forgotten Mi-Go to the action gives this mission a slightly different feel from other Lovecraftian stories, even among other content available for A!C. Players will need to carefully weigh the outcomes of their actions, and be prepared to suffer potentially nasty consequences in order to win the day.

Is it really possible to take a break from what you love?

Every so often I come across an article, podcast, or something to that effect discussing the importance of “taking a break” from gaming. In reading circles, there is often the advice that people should switch up their reading habits in order to circumvent the need to shelve (at least temporarily) their favourites. Whether it’s authors, genres, themes, whatever. Diversity is the spice of literary life, and the same holds for gaming. The reality is that this is easier said than done.

When it comes to a hobby, if they become stagnant, then take up other ones. This is generally the prescribed cure for the problem. It’s hard to imagine what this actually entails. However, because this very subject has been on my mind a lot, I’ll explain why further below, I’ve been doing research into how other people manage taking breaks.

One example has been referring to the Gnome Stew podcast, which has an episode called, Take a Break. It’s worth a listen, and the group chat used by Gnome Stew is almost like group therapy. I found myself relating to a lot of what was discussed, but when it came time to implement the suggestions I felt myself pause. A simple search on Google using the phrase ‘taking a break from ttrpg’ offered an impressive array of results with like-minded people asking similar questions about stepping away from what they loved.

Gaming is a huge part of my life, and if I remove that from my natural rhythm, then it leaves an absence I won’t have immediately accounted for. Filling this empty space would mean planning around the idea that I’ve stepped away from something beloved, to replace it with…? This is the part where I’ve always become a bit confused. I have a hard time putting my gaming down entirely.

When things get a bit rough, and for some reason gaming entails periods that make most people question their involvement in the hobby at some point or another, it’s worth asking if setting aside one’s polyhedral dice isn’t a good idea. I know I’ve been there before, and it’s those times I try and foreground other activities. Some examples:

  • Movies
  • Video games
  • Books that aren’t gaming related
  • Other hobbies

This is, obviously, not an exhaustive list. However, all of these things still leave room for tabletop gaming. Try reading a book and not reflecting on mining it for material that could be good for a one-shot or campaign. Same for movies and video games. That lingering sense of having room for the hobby, even when it’s maybe best to not engage it too strongly is why it can be difficult to step away, at least entirely.

One of the ideas from the Gnomecast was to try and identify which aspect of the hobby is actually causing problems. For my part, I know the source of my frustration often comes from running games on a play-by-post site. The site itself isn’t the issue, but the games that quickly lose momentum are themselves the problem. I have yet to find a recipe for keeping play-by-post adventures going, and it’s been a source of angst for a while. Enough that I’ve stopped running games for other people. Taking this action has been freeing though.

As soon as I stopped trying to lead games from behind the GM’s screen, I felt better, sort of. Now that I’ve started only running solo games, or participating as a player things have improved for me mentally. What lingers on though is the sense that I could do better as a GM, and I still really want to run a game. Questions persist as well about how to make it work, but I, unfortunately, have no answers.

Even though I’ve stepped away, and altered my gaming, I haven’t really stopped. Additionally, the problems kind of followed me as I reflected on what I might be able to do that could enhance the game’s longevity. Every time I log into the site and the games, I start wondering how I get one going again. It’s a trap! With that in mind, I return back to my original question, is it really possible to step away entirely?

Obviously, the answer is yes, but it would mean giving up the hobby altogether. This is definitely something that is possible, but more difficult than it may appear on the surface. How individuals approach this is going to yield any number of results. For me, the most important thing was modifying my gaming regimen, rather than giving it up altogether. Giving up what you love is possible, even for a short time, but it might be more difficult than it seems. Don’t forget, it’s not a permanent hiatus!

Completionist, Collector or consumer?

Ever heard of a “shelfie”? It’s a picture gamers take to show off their collection of games. Well, to be fair, it could anything on any shelf, but as far as this site is concerned, it’s games. Any type of game works. Boardgame, tabletop role-playing game, video game, and you get the idea. For my part, I just like games. Board games, video games, tabletop role-playing games…it doesn’t matter. I like them all, and that affection has led to me accumulating a decent stable of games, although I’ve never taken a shelfie. I’m not the only one though, and proof can be found all over the Internet, as people post pictures of their own gaming collections. Considering people can only play one game at a time, what motivates a people to accumulate a gaming collection, enough to be able to take a shelfie?

These images are everywhere, but when I was considering how to approach this post I referred to content created by the Tabletop Bellhop, specifically a podcast episode called Hashtag Shelfie. I’ve seen Moe T. post images of games he’s played that I’m frankly a bit envious of. The guy has a wealth of gaming options, and over time has offered advice on how to manage a collection. There are, in fact, many people who have weighed in on this topic. Yet, when I think about caring for a collection of games, I have to ask, “Is this collecting a sort of phenomenon?” To answer that, I came up with several ideas to address this conundrum.

It seems like an odd question, but when I see images people share of their ttrpg As far as I can tell, gamers potentially fall into categories, completionists, collectors, consumers, and the I’m-fine-with-what-I-have group. I’m probably skewing the fandoms a bit, but these completely invented demographics comprise a lot of the gaming community. (I have no official statistics, but I have all the conjecture anyone could ever need.)

Completionists do not make up the entirety of the gaming community, not at all. All of these categories could overlap, but just about everyone I’ve ever known has at least one system that they really like, above and beyond anything else they’ve ever played. It could be something really well known like Dungeons & Dragons (any and/or all editions), or it could be something more obscure, such as Adventures in the East Mark. It doesn’t really matter, but that one game stands above the rest. The people that like them sometimes make it a point to obtain the entire product line for those beloved games. These people are the completionists because of the drive to simply acquire every product they can find that was published for their beloved game.

If you’re a fan, you’re a fan, and some people just want to own the whole run of their favourite game(s). This is completely understandable. Great art, a unique creative vision for a game that just resonates with the gamer, quality sessions that have come out of running that particular game (how long can we keep it going?!), are all examples of reasons why people might want to go out and buy up every single product release for a game. Shelf space is dedicated to a particular game, and once the publisher moves on to a new system, the completionist will be set to keep the gaming sessions going for as long as their interest holds up, or they just have stuff they think is really cool.

After the completionists, there are the collectors. Yes, there is almost certainly overlap between these two groups. What separates collectors from completionists is that collectors are looking for specific things to add to a collection, whereas completionists are trying to pick up everything for a particular game. Collectors could be motivated by value, an affinity for a particular iteration of a game, or whatever. There are lots of reasons. For example, I’ve really enjoyed the Final Fantasy video games over the years, but I have a special affection for the 6th entry into the series. So, I wouldn’t make it a point to buy every game in the series to have them, but that one game means a lot to me. Obviously, this is a personal example, and to be completely honest, my interest in that game is driven largely by nostalgia, as opposed to perceived monetary value. See, there are multiple reasons someone might seek out something to collect.

Regardless, there is a reason why a collector would be after something, and the collection will reflect that. It could be a complete set of something. Obtaining completed sets without holes has a certain appeal, and that’s something that can increase resale value. (Again, there are parallels to completionists.) Monetary value is also important for collectors, but not necessarily completionists. An obscure game that had a limited print run, but has maintained its popularity can be extremely valuable. To go back to the video game analogue, consider resale values for hard-to-find retro games. The prices will probably make your eyes water. Collecting has its place, and it’s always nice to be able to appraise something as having some kind of exchange value. It’s just another strand of games and an example of why a person might have built up a collection of games.

While the first two groups are completely rational, the third group, the consumers are, in my opinion, sort of the result of the gaming industry’s growth. Since it’s inception 40 years ago for ttrpgs, and ever earlier for board games, gaming has slowly but slowly grown as an industry. Even to call it an “industry” feels odd, but it’s hard to see it in any other light. Over the last several decades, the expansion of gaming has been nothing short of incredible. Along with that growth has been an increasing number of people backing projects and games, but never playing them. Gaming has become another avenue for conspicuous consumption. While understandable, it’s also a bit sad.

It almost feels as if people in this category are driven by good intentions, but don’t adapt their spending habits to real-world circumstances. Once upon a time, we all had the opportunity to organize sessions with friends fairly easily. As everyone ages, it becomes more and more difficult. However, spending on the hobby doesn’t necessarily diminish in a way that correlates to an increasingly small amount of free time. This essentially leads to full shelf space with untouched and unplayed games. It’s a completely understandable situation, but a lamentable one.

Then again, there are other people that are good with what they’ve got. Not everyone looks to acquire more stuff, nor do they purchase items expecting them to appreciate in value. “Collection? What’s a collection?,” they might be heard saying. Some people just buy what they need, and run with it. How else do you explain a D&D campaign that has been running for something like four decades? Maybe they bought books, but what would really make something like this work is participation. Sometimes, less is more, and there’s a strong chance that if a group like this were to take a shelfie, it would be of boxes filled with handwritten gaming notes.

It would be interesting to look at something like this in-depth. To that end, there is serious research done on the psychological motivations of collecting, as well as more casual articles discussing the topic. As an avid gamer, the idea that people collect their preferred form of entertainment is legitimately interesting, at least to me.

As a topic of discussion, this feels like it would be just a passing rumination, a reason to justify why I have so many games. “See, other people do it also! It’s completely normal behaviour to have 100 different games!” I could very easily have this conversation with family members that might wonder what the point of purchasing new gaming resources is, but I love them and have no plans to stop. Fortunately, I’m not alone and a great many people collect things. On some level, it is fully rational behaviour, even if the motivations behind it aren’t always clear.

We can talk all we like about different aspects of building a gaming collection, or how someone might even be able to arrive at the point where a shelfie is possible. As a side-effect of collecting, the existence of shelfies is an odd phenomenon, and it’s one that many gamers could participate in. What’s more, the ability to accumulate games and gaming supplements doesn’t automatically mean that people will even build up a collection. I’ve certainly left out other perspectives that could have been represented here, but ultimately, a collection will have a variety of reasons motivating its existence.

What about you, dear reader? Do you have a collection? Should we create a Game Collectors Anonymous for people that are intent on burdening their bookshelves with gaming goodness? It’s a complicated topic, but one that is very interesting and worth re-visiting .