Monday, July 05, 2010

you gotta be kiddin' me

Everbody here familiar with Noble Knight Games?  They're a great online vendor with a huge selection of out-of-print gaming crap.  They also carry some new stuff produced by the old school scene, like Jim Raggi's cool stuff.  One of the cool features of Noble Knight's website is a Finder service, where if they don't have what you want in stock they will automatically email you when they get a copy in.  Their database of out-of-print junk is quite extensive.

So since 2007 I've had a search in place over at Noble Knight, for a crazy old book called Exotic Characters & Worlds.  That link is to an old Gameblog post describing the exact place on the awesome/terrible axis you can locate this obscure old game manual.  Just today, almost three years later, I get an email from Noble Knight letting me know they have a copy.  The problem is, they want ninety-five freakin' bucks for this thing.

Now obviously rarity will have an effect on the price of any item, but a rare dog turd is still a pile of poop.  And I've never seen anyone claim Exotic Character & Worlds is any good.  Quite the opposite in fact.  So I'm left wondering exactly how Noble Knight arrived at this $95 price.  More specifically, I am now curious of the effect on the pricing of the fact that at least one person had a search out for this book.

I guess I can think of a couple of gaming items I would spend a hundred bucks on.  This is not one of them.  Maybe that makes me a cheapskate, but I think the real issue here is that despite the big pile of gaming crap I own I've never considered myself a 'collector'.  I don't buy anything unless I am entertaining the notion that I might actually use the item at the table.  My OD&D books are probably the most beat up copies you're ever likely to see, because I bought the cheapest, crappiest copies I could find.  In my mind 'Mint condition' equals 'too good to play with' which equals 'no thanks, I'll wait for a more used copy'. 

I suppose I'd spend a hundred bucks on a mint condition OD&D boxed set, but that's only because it'd be a bargain by an order of magnitude or so.  The Wilderlands of High Fantasy boxed set is worth that kind of money, despite being a 3.x product.  The Great Pendragon Campaign is probably another item I could see myself dropping that kind of dough on.  Both of the latter are whole dang campaigns in a box, so I guess nigh-inexhaustible material is one criteria I'd use for top dollar prices. 

Then there are the never-published rarities, like the pre-pub manuiscript for OD&D that briefly made the rounds in Lake Geneva while Gary and crew were working the kinks out of the rules.  Or the pre-publication edition of the D&D Companion Rules meant to supplement the original '81 Basic/Expert duo.  I've seen a grainy photo of a circa 1980 TSR convention display that looked like it had a D&D Companion book on a shelf, but that may be wishful thinking on my part and/or a cover mock-up with no content.


  1. FWIW, I believe David Cook (or was it Steve Marsh?) indicated that the Companion volume to B/X is a myth. There never was such a beast, even in outline form, never mind as a draft.

  2. Anonymous9:44 AM

    I have sent Noble Knight a list of items for trade/sale and was shocked at how little they were willing to pay for them.

    I saw some rare items on their site that they are trying to sell for $50, offered my own to them for sale, and they offered me $5 for them.

    Needless to say, I kept my stuff. That level of mark-up just struck me as bad business.

  3. Keep your eye on it... if someone else pays the $95 dollars, you will know that it was priced either exactly right, or too low.

    Buy low, sell high, right?

    It's just a market.

  4. I know how you feel Jeff. I am not a collector in the sense of many in Acaeum. I would be just as happy to have a PDF that I can print out as opposed to owning the actual book.

    If I find something at the right price I will get it but otherwise bleh.

    Keeping searching ebay and such. And have you tried the Acaeum? Perhaps you could get want you want from those guys.

  5. I must be a commie at heart. I am of the opinion that "rare" items like this - where it seems that the only people who still profit are the eBay vendors - should be photocopied and shared among friends, if not scanned.

  6. Anonymous3:16 PM

    "In my mind 'Mint condition' equals 'too good to play with' which equals 'no thanks, I'll wait for a more used copy'."

    I agree 100%, which is why I sold my two boxed sets of the 1974 D&D rules (one of which had halflings, and the other had hobbits). If I ever need to hold copies of those books in my hand, I will simply print-out in booklet form my PDFs, which I won't have to treat gingerly.

  7. Anonymous3:18 PM

    I forgot to add:

    RPG books that aren't actually used in gaming make me kind of sad. They remind me of the sad little toys on the Island of Misfit Toys.

  8. Anonymous5:41 PM

    I've always found Noble Knight to be pretty seriously overpriced. I would only buy from them as a last resort if it were something I really NEEDED to have. I have never had a problem with their service, it's just that everything is almost comically overpriced considering, as you said Jeff, most of it is just fun old "junk".

  9. Amen to the "too good to play with" sentiment, Jeff.

    It really bothered me when some Internet sales-folk were hawking my (only ten years old!) Andorians book for nearly $200 in some cases ... because, yikes, that's a used book that should be on the $5 cheapie rack now, thank you, and if someone pays that much for it, what are the odds anyone's gonna PLAY with it?

    Fortunately, this trend seems to have faded for the most part and people can get it for semi-reasonable old-book rates now, but for a while there: ew. Just ... ew.

    If RPG manuals don't get played with, they turn evil and get Kelsey Grammer's voice.

  10. Christian: yes.

    I shouldn't admit this, but my first response to seeing the ridiculous price-tags they were putting on ATC was to grab a mint-condition copy off my shelf of extras, march right down to the print shop, and tell them to "chop the spine off this f*cker" so I could go home and scan it. Had the prices stayed high, I was pondering ways to anonymously leak a high-quality scan onto the 'net to combat the prices.

    [WotC, don't sue me, I didn't ACTUALLY release the scan ...]

    But it felt good hearing the "KACHUNK" of that book being chopped. Hell yes.

  11. (and for those confused about the "WotC" line; WotC purchased all rights to the LUG library when LUG went down ... as far as I know, they still own it)

  12. One factor might be that their stock doesn't lose value that quickly, if at all. So they can afford to ask high prices and have most customers refuse.

  13. NKG's overpricing reflects a fairly common reseller philosophy--that eventually someone will pay your exorbitant price if you can afford to wait long enough. Troll and Toad is the same way, as are many eBay resellers. Evidently it works out, as they're still in business.

    I pay their prices occasionally, and really don't mind it so much except when they are buying, and are only willing to pay 10 cents on the dollar; then it's insulting. Go with eBay, 'cause what you want will come up for auction someday and go for the "real" market price.

  14. If I had the money to burn, I'd spend it, but I'm a collector of very rare, very strange, material. (Hey, GPC is rare? I've got a copy, but it's from Arthaus Press, so I assume it's a later/easier to find edition).

    Me, I want Woof Meow. That thing's damn near impossible to find, if it wasn't for several reviews and eyewitness reports, I'd swear it was a myth.

    And "Spawn of Faashaan"

  15. Christian -- yes, you're a commie. Even more, you don't understand the collector's urge. :) For a good two decades, I had a cheap Xerox copy of the "Invasion USA" supplement for "Fringeworthy". The instant I could buy a "real" copy, I did. It's like saying, "Well, who'd want to steal the Mona Lisa when you can buy a print of it for 10 bucks?"

    It's not about the content. It's about the THING.

  16. I got, literally, the last copy of the 3.5 Wilderlands boxed set, City State and Players' book that Amazon themselves had available. I have the PDFs, so I don't open them. They are all retaining their minty goodness in case I ever want to part with them for a windfall someday.

    When Troll Lord was closing up the Castle Zagyg line I thought about dropping a couple thousand for fifty copies. I could see releasing one a quarter or so to turn a tidy profit, but decided against it in case Gygax Games decided to re-release it and scuttle my profits. I guess that didn't pan out, so in retrospect I should have done it.

    @Christian: I'm with you. I have a couple items I want to scan and release right now, but the original publisher is putting some things out very (VERY) slowly; I might wait until September or October to see if it shows up on RPGNow.

    vw: "pronards" - professional grognards?

  17. Some Dinky Dungeons stuff came up on eBay again recently and once more went for an unbelievably huge chunk of change. At least an order of magnitude higher than my highest bid. It seems a real shame because, while that stuff doesn’t look to really be worth even what I’d be willing to pay for it, it seems like it deserves to be widely enjoyed for what it is.