Behind The Screens – GM Encumbrance

When an adventurer’s tools are obsolete, generally they sell their old gear to lighten their load and increase their wealth. Otherwise, as the Core Rulebook tells us, that leads to encumbrance. There are workarounds but even bags of holding have weight limits. So if the heroes we play as understand the value of unloading outdated items, why do we as gamers cling to our dusty books of older editions?

Shortly before the recent Pathfinder Second Edition announcement, I sold my 3.5 D&D sourcebooks. I researched their current value and got what I felt was a fair price. It was less than 50% of their cost, but I guess the resale rules in the Core Rulebook are just another way that Pathfinder is fantasy. Now my shelf slot that was dedicated to books not used in at least five years is open for new items that are more in line with my current specs.

They served me well

If you are one of the many Pathfinder enthusiasts looking at their First Edition shelves and wondering if you should do the same, this was my thought process that lead me, once a flag-bearing 3.5 loyalist to see what the best price I could get for that flag. Selling my 3.5 books was the right decision for me that I put off for the wrong reasons, a combination of nostalgia and guilt.

It’s pretty obvious that I love a own property on Memory Lane. If you took away every piece of clothing I own that features pop culture references of the 80s and 90s, you would need to make several trips. However, even as a connoisseur of the finest nostalgia has to offer, I also know that not all nostalgia is created equal. My status as a GI Joe fan is well known and even my GI Joe collection gets the occasional purge when I realize a segment of it sees more time in storage than on display.

The guilt I felt about selling the books is more complicated. I will forever be grateful to the talented people behind D&D 3.5 for taking a game that awakened me in high school and refined it into what I thought was the last RPG I would ever need. I didn’t just think it, I declared it, and any Internet fame I have started with that declaration. Even though I’ve taken back that declaration through my words and actions since then, the last nail in a coffin is the hardest.

Now, just because I dropped some collection bulk, that doesn’t mean there can’t be a reason to keep a well curated collection. There’s just a fine line between collecting and hoarding, defined by two factors: intent and enjoyment.

A collection has a personality, parameters, a purpose. Taking my GI Joe collection as an example again, even if most of my figures are sitting on the same shelf in the same pose for years, that’s all it takes to make me happy. That happiness is worth the upkeep of dusting and making sure there’s room in whatever house I have for them. Picturing how my Joes will be displayed when I visit a house we’re considering buying is an exciting part of the process. It’s exciting. And that excitement is a personal experience. It’s not one I still felt about my D&D 3.5 books but do still feel about my Pathfinder First Edition books. Will that change for me? Maybe. Will it change for you? Maybe. As long as you remain honest with yourself about how much enjoyment your collection provides you you will know whether you have a collection or a horde.

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:

1 Comment

  1. Jim Barnes

    I am going through the same though process, my books have been sitting there forever, and not getting much use, been considering selling them even though I have an almost complete collection of the 3.5 hardcovers. Same with my GI Joes, I sold most of them years ago and just down to mostly the first 2 issue years of figures. hard to make that call though