Decluttering for Geeks: Roleplaying Games

Welcome to Decluttering for Geeks. This is Part II of a four-part series:

  1. Part I: Computer Components
  2. Part II: RPGs
  3. Part III: Books
  4. Part IV: Media

A couple months ago, I was eating Korean BBQ with a bunch of software engineer friends from work. Someone asked, “So what are you guys up to this weekend”, and everyone chimed in with whatever geeky (or non-geeky) thing they had on their calendar. I said, “Oh, I’ve got you all beat. This Saturday night, I’m going to be kicking the tires of the new 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons rules with my buddies.” Lots of chuckles around the table, a few calls of “Nerd!”, etc. Mind you, being called “Nerd” by a bunch of software guys can sting a little, but nothing unexpected.

Except for one fellow who sat bolt upright. “Oh, oh! Can I play?!” The Geek Hierarchy works in mysterious ways.

Anyway, on to Roleplaying Games and Decluttering! Anyone think I can get through this post without making a lame “Bag of Holding” joke? Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

The Psychological

As with all decluttering problems, the core question is, “How much of this stuff do I really need?” Most RPG stuff falls into the following categories:

  • Core rulebooks. Keep, but only if you are currently playing. Be ruthless about this. If you don’t have a current gaming group, but you “want” to play, put your core rulebooks in a box. If after six months you haven’t played at least one game, declutter it all.
  • Core rulebooks from editions you are not playing. Declutter. Yes, I know these books can tug at the at heartstrings. Wow, a 1st edition Deities and Demigods — remember reading that in the third grade? Unfortunately, it’s worthless (unless it’s one of the rare, semi-illegal editions that include the Cthulhu/Melnibonean mythos). Unless you really like reading through Deities and Demigods on a daily basis so that you can memorize the hit points of the gods (SPOILER: Zeus has 400 HP), it’s best to let these books go. There’s someone else out there who can make use of them.
  • Supplementary and third-party rulebooks of all sorts. Declutter. If there’s a particular rule, campaign setting, or adventure seed that you’d like to use, Xerox it and get it out of the house.
  • Magazines. See “Supplementary rulebooks” above. Magazines often have wonderful tidbits and adventure seeds — clip & save the best, discard the rest.
  • Modules. Keep, if A) they match the game and edition you’re currently playing and B) your group hasn’t played it yet. Otherwise, declutter. Note that like rulebooks, the resale value for modules is often depressingly low. You might think that your classic S3-Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is worth a mint… come on, this one had vegepygmies! But nope, you can easily score one on eBay for just a few bucks.
  • Handmade adventures. Declutter.
  • Old character sheets. Seriously? Declutter. Both character sheets and adventures should be on the computer at this point.
  • Campaign material. If the material is still useful, transfer it to the computer and declutter. Otherwise, just declutter.
  • Dice. Keep, as long as 100% of your dice fit in a conveniently portable box.
  • Miniatures. A tricky one, because miniatures are useful and reusable, but they take up a lot of space. Try keeping miniatures only for the PCs; print out images for NPCs and bad guys on 1″ squares of cardstock, or use coins or other tokens. Lego men work great too. Note that I’m coming at this from the perspective of an RPGer — if you’re a wargamer, you probably need an entirely different decluttering article.

Note that as Michael Harrison suggests below, you can always declutter your physical products and then rebuy your favorites in electronic form at

The Practical

Like computer components, most RPG material depreciates quickly, and perhaps for much the same reason. Unless the game is A) out of print and B) still very popular, used game material doesn’t hold its value very well.

  • Well, most used game material doesn’t hold its value very well, but it can’t hurt to look for the odd gem that’s worth separating out. The original Temple of Elemental Evil? It’s a classic, but pretty easy to get, not particularly valuable. Apparently there are a lot of copies still floating around, or not that many people playing 1st Edition, or both. But Monte Cook‘s excellent Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil? Worth at least thirty bucks, maybe fifty or sixty. So you never know. Sell these separately on Craigslist, eBay, etc.
  • For the bulk of your game material, the best option is to go to your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). Many FLGSes sell used games, and they might be willing to take your stuff off your hands for store credit or possibly even cash. In the Bay Area, I like Gator Games for this. Note that they’re not going to give you very much store credit or cash. Old gaming material takes up a lot of space on the shelf and might not sell. You’re not there to make a pile of cash, but to get your old game material into the hands of a fellow geek, someone who’s actually going to use and enjoy that material again.
  • If you can’t find a good FLGS, try a second hand bookstore.
  • Do not make the mistake of trying to sell the bulk of your stuff individually. You’ll get bogged down in trying to maximize your profit, your decluttering efforts will fall by the wayside, and at the end of the day, the extra dollars won’t add up to much.
  • Donate your material to a charity, library, or a local gaming club attached to a school. When it comes to helping create the next generation of gamer geeks, there’s no better authority than Tom Lehrer in The Old Dope Peddler:

He gives the kids free samples
because he knows full well
that today’s young innocent faces
will be tomorrow’s… clientele

RPG Decluttering. Because somewhere out there, there’s a 10×10′ room, waiting for someone new to kick down the door, kill the orc inside, and take his treasure.

Next time: Books, Comic and Otherwise!