Are We Spoiled?

Right now, there’s a shipping crisis happening in the tabletop gaming sphere as a massive backlog of products shipping from overseas (particularly China, in this case) suddenly costs 3x as much as last year. This has the possibility of crushing smaller companies and/or forcing a major price change in the coming months.

I bring this up because of the reasons why these products are coming from overseas. Production costs are lower there than here and publishers have been able to save a lot of money on printing there, even with shipping. And yet, these products still cost $50-$100 a pop with massive full colour paintings as page fillers, more plastic than you can shove up a turtle’s nose, and truly impressive production values.

But… why? These production values often don’t affect the playability of a game, simply the presentation. More specifically with RPGs, the art is a point of reference but not the focal point of the game. We buy hardcover tomes with hundreds of pages that takes more time to assemble than a calculus text book. All so that we have a very fancy looking product that still costs a lot after publishers cut costs in production. (While still going on about paying living wages to their contributors and yet running to companies that save them money by NOT paying a living wage… but that’s another discussion completely.)

So I gotta ask… are we spoiled with all these elaborately designed and crafted games that has more art than a museum? Are we dooming an industry to fail by expecting such impressive production values that may actually price newcomers out of the hobby?


Don’t sweat it, capitalism’s effect on the environment and society will kill most of us shortly after the game industry is destroyed. At least the survivors will have lots of options for their RPG needs.


It’s the question of how many RPGs would you bring to a deserted island but set in the Mad Max universe.


Don’t ask me. I prefer games that come in zine form. Mostly black and white. Easily printed at home or not at all.


While structuring my own consumerist choices, I read an article that suggested that the most ecologically ethical manner of purchasing new books is in digital format with an old reader or device. I expect this advice applies to gaming books, as well.


I really like the tactile feel of a book. We used to have bookshelves full of books (mostly fiction) many years back, but got rid of them all. I get everything in epub nowadays. My kobo can hold about 1000 books. It’s great to open the cover and pick whatever book you want without getting up. PDFs are a pain to read on the kobo though. It’s still possible, but very slow to turn pages and resize. I find I’m reading most of my RPG PDFs on the computer.


I agree. Reading PDFs is NO FUN. I find that, if I really want to read an rpg (not just look it over), I get it in hard copy. If I’m running a certain game (right now Conan 2d20 and Against the Darkmaster) I tend to get two core books and support the line by buying every supplemental release in hard copy. But I also want it all in PDF, because, since I’m gaming exclusively online now, it’s easier to use PDFs to cut-and-paste for in-system rules references.

Books specifically formatted for an ereader are a lot friendlier, but I recently purchased a Discworld novel in electronic format and realized that textual features such as written signs and sound effects and—most alarmingly—footnotes apparently cannot be reproduced in that format.


After a certain amount of time reading an lcd screen, I find that I cannot read ANYTHING. I think what we need are more quality POD services so that if you want the glossies, you can have them. Otherwise save the toner/ink.

Also, pdf’s will not survive the coming apocalypse. Books at least have a chance of survival.

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I don’t think I would consider ttrpg enthusiasts “spoiled” as a group. I think a good amount of us enjoy the “art” that is our hobby. I am definitely impressed when I leaf through a mighty tome full of great art, well organized chapter layout, and sufficient paper weight. But I may be more impressed when I come across a well thought out idea or game mechanic even if it is scribbled on a post-it. I don’t think shipping delays or increases in the costs of materials will stunt the creativity or resourcefulness of the creators of this hobby. It will all get sorted out in the wash and we will be there to support each other. Even if it means using chits because there are no dice. This mantra drills down to the core of this hobby and it is a major reason why I devote much of my free time to it. Thanks @Warden for stoking these mental flames and giving me a reason to wave my ttrpg flag.

Feelin Good about Using Chits…if I have to

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I completely agree about both statement that PDFs are a more eco-friendly option and print is more comfortable to read. Which is why I’ve typically viewed print sales as a better metric for who intendeds to run a game versus solely reading it. But that metric is by no means accurate.

When I want to read something to actually learn it, I prefer the dead trees edition. However, it’s also because I don’t have a tablet of any kind and therefore don’t currently have a viable device for comfortably reading PDFs or e-books.

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I posted this topic elsewhere and someone made the great comparison of some RPG print books and coffee table books - overly elaborate, fancy, and expensive.

From now on, I shall call all fancy RPG books “coffee table RPGs.”

I saw a post about Degenesis and it looks really interesting. All of the PDFs are free - I believe even the campaign books. The hope is that you’ll love the game and want the physical copy. If course they’re crazy expensive. The main two books are in a slipcase and cost €99 plus shipping. Free shipping over €199. This would definitely qualify as a coffee table RPG. It does look nice, though.

And a pdf library makes for a lousy “shelfie”!


Different strokes for different folks I guess. I really don’t mind reading rules from a PDF and I find them infinitely more useful than books if a question about a rule comes up. Instead of hoping that whatever I’m looking for is in the glossary and then backtracking to see the mention of it I can just Ctrl+F whatever I’m looking for and quickly flip through mentions until I find what I’m looking for.

If I were to buy a physical book, I would much prefer to also have it in PDF form just for the ease of searching it.

I use PDFs when I want to “study” a game the way I studied stuff in college - speed-reading, mining for facts, developing cheat sheets, refamiliarizing myself a system. I read physical books when I want to take my time and have a deeper understanding of a thing. BUT it depends on whether the book is fiction or not and whether I am taking notes or not. I have a physical copy of The Elusive Shift, but I’ve been reading it on my computer so I can type in notes for our bi-weekly book discussion group. – Point is, it’s complicated. I heavily use both. But I tend to use physical books more when I have more time and PDFs more when I’m “on a mission.”

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