Ok so John over at QuantumXen asked in a comment on my last post about where I go to pick up product and why. I can really understand as there are a lot of options out there, and in some cases requirements. In the end where I go when I am looking to get something, is going to depend on what I am after.
Let me break down why for you.
In chasing down RPG materials these days you need to think about a few things.
- Is it a licensed product? If the answer is yes then you need to know if the license is still held by the publisher you are looking for. As I said with the Tolkien v Tolkien post, currently for RPGs the license is held by Crucible 7. So materials by ICE and Decipher can no longer be printed and sold in any fashion (unless they purchase a secondary license and the current publisher does not have a ‘no competition’ clause in their license). Even if you find a PDF online of the material the previous publisher has printed its distribution is illegal unless there is a license in place for it. And if it was copied and is being distributed with out permission (pirated) this is also illegal. This will usually leave you with getting a used book.
- Does the publisher still support the game? When we ask this question it usually means is there new product being produced for the game? If you take a look at Wizards of the Coast and the Dungeons and Dragons line currently the only new product being created is for Fifth Edition. But they are offering materials from the First edition of the game in PDF form online. So in a very real way while they are not creating new material for previous versions they are still supporting the older product by continuing the sale of it. So if you want the old books you can get some of them in PDF but you can only get all of them if you go hunt used books.
- Is the publisher a proprietary distributor? So the best way to explain that mouthful of a question is to talk about Dream Pod 9. At one point in time the only way to get DP9 products was to be a store that was purchasing directly from them. They did not use the regular distribution channels for any of their products. You could also order directly from them if you were a player, but that was not going to save you any money and in addition to the cover price you had to pay shipping. They did not stay with this model for long, but they had enough success with it that others followed. If you do not have a store near by that works with a proprietary distributor, then you will need to go to a used book store.
- Do you want PDF or hard copy book format? Now some companies like Catalyst put their games into PDF form in many places on the net, and some like Steve Jackson Games act more like proprietary distributors and the only place you can get a PDF of their products is on their own web site.
- Is the publisher domestic or international? If the publisher is in your country of origin then you have a better chance of finding the printed version of the game locally. Other wise you will have to buy it online and get it shipped to you, or find a PDF version.
So you can see there are a lot of things to consider, that most wont consider when hunting for a game. I take it all in stride and hunt like this…
When window shopping for a new game or when looking for a recently published game I like to go to one of my local game stores if at all possible. Sure I could in all likelihood get it delivered to my door by Amazon, but to my mind it is the brick and mortar stores that really kicked the industry off and I want to keep them around. In the Seattle Area my top choices for RPG materials that are new are Card Kingdom/Mox Boarding House, and then Uncles Games. CK/MBH usually has a better selection of small press and specialty RPGs and a slight discount from cover, but the Uncles team will keep things around longer on shelf and when ordering something I have had better luck with Uncles than CK/MBH.
If I want a widely distributed PDF then I go to Drive Through RPG/RPG Now or Piazo. DTRPG has a much better selection, but Piazo has better online security and in my opinion better online billing processes. In either case though I don’t always trust the internet so I will buy gift cards offline and use them for online shopping. The fact that you can get a book that would be costing you 60 USD in print for 10-20USD as a PDF means you can get more bang for your buck that way. However that cost savings is only with some publishers, notice that I said CAN not WILL. Some publishers charge the same for a PDF that they do for in print.
If I want a PDF that is for something like Steve Jackson or Piazo I go straight to their site. I use the same rule about gift cards for the direct purchase of PDF that I do for the bulk sites.
When I get the need for books that are no longer published or I just don’t want to pay cover price to get that book feeling in my hand or the publisher is not printing their older materials online, I hit used book stores. Hitting the mom and pop stores is always a blast. You never know what someone may have dropped off. There is a chain of used book stores locally though called Half Price Books (and no they do not live up to that name when it comes to game items) that has their inventory on a database for all of their stores. You go in with a title in mind and they can see if anyone has in their network has it. They also sell online. Oh and speaking of used games online, there is the court of last resort… eBay. Now then I have a great friend who has helped me out with eBay many times over the years, and his skill at auction action is something that should be of legend, but I warn you unless you have skills like he does and are willing to wait for something to show up on the market place, well… good luck getting what you want and still having a home to live in. eBay auctions can get over priced so fast its nuts.
And if anyone wants to comment about me and the internet purchasing thing… 🙂 go for it… I really don’t care.
Ok so that really covers what I think about when going out to get games, and where I go to do what I do. Hope that more than answers your question John.
Ok ok gimme the dice… I know there is a dragon disguised as a bunny around here some place…