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RPG physical Books or PDFs?

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08 Aug 2021 18:09 - 08 Aug 2021 20:53 #325342 by ChristopherMD
Physical books or PDFs? I'm trying to downsize and seriously considering ditching all but two systems of my physical RPG books. Most of them have little to no chance of ever actually being played or referenced anyway if I'm being honest with myself. I already have most of the pdfs and selling the books would make money to buy any pdf I don't have. I do like flipping through phsyical books at the table as much as the next gamer so there is the "flipping" factor. But I could rough it with a pdf short term and rebuy a player book if I end up actually playing something, for example Mouse Guard, regularly again. The issue remaining for me is pleasure reading. Even with a large tablet, I may not want to sit for long periods staring at a screen as I do that a lot already. It's a conundrum and I think I'm leaning pdf but want to hear what other folks are doing nowadays. We've come a long way from the early days of pdfs and laptop screens.
Last edit: 08 Aug 2021 20:53 by ChristopherMD.
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08 Aug 2021 18:40 #325345 by hotseatgames
I really prefer physical. I would probably read more on PDF but I have an older Kindle Fire that is so abysmally slow I want to smash it over my knee every time I use it.
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08 Aug 2021 19:04 #325346 by dysjunct
I generally keep a physical core book but supplements/adventures on PDF. I don’t like looking up rules in a PDF; even with searching it’s way slower than flipping through pages. For adventures, my preferred way to use them at the table is to print them from the PDF, so I can scribble over them to my heart’s content without worrying about ruining an original.
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08 Aug 2021 19:19 #325347 by Michael Barnes
I love physical. But yeah, I’m looking at reducing shelf space so I’m looking at some things I have both PDF and physical and thinking the physical has to go. Especially for things I don’t actively play.

I do have some physical books where there is no possible way a PDF will do. All the Mork Borg stuff, Silent Titans, Hot Springs Island, Super Blood Harvest, etc- the books are artfully produced and tactile.

The 5e stuff I have almost everything physical but some I’m thinking of shifting to PDF. Do I really need physical copies of Storm King’s Thunder and Princes of the Apocalypse?

I actually sold a huge lot of vintage TSR modules...they were beautiful but ragged and not functional at the table. Some had all of these wonderful notes and markings from past DMs. But...it was like A $500 sale...
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08 Aug 2021 19:28 #325348 by ChristopherMD
Mork Borg's in the pile I definitely want to read before deciding. How close is it to OSE-B/X?

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08 Aug 2021 20:38 #325349 by ChristopherMD

Michael Barnes wrote: I do have some physical books where there is no possible way a PDF will do. All the Mork Borg stuff, Silent Titans, Hot Springs Island, Super Blood Harvest, etc- the books are artfully produced and tactile.


A lot of the OSR books are so freaking nicely produced. Veins of the Earth I think I can't get rid of on fantastic-ness alone. But I think I'm finally ditching my Zak S books Maze and Pleasant Land. Both are great but they're tainted now because I can't read them and not think of the internet stuff.

The 5e stuff I have almost everything physical but some I’m thinking of shifting to PDF. Do I really need physical copies of Storm King’s Thunder and Princes of the Apocalypse?


Nope.

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08 Aug 2021 21:12 #325352 by Michael Barnes
Oh shit dude those books fetch a small fortune...they are exquisite...but, well, yeah.

Veins of the Earth is another where PDF won’t do. And all the Troika stuff. I need to get Fire on The Velvet Horizon still. Patrick Stuart’s new KS just launched yesterday. Demon Bone Sarcophagus.

Mork Borg vs. OSE. LOL, Mork Borg is quoted literally about five pages of rules, each about 75% art. The rest is lore, character classes, and monsters. It is my favorite RPG book I’ve ever bought. I actually have two copies of it. It is a masterclass in minimalism. It totally inspires a different way to play...one of my friends in my main group has the best quote ever for it- “once you play Mork Borg, you are kind of always playing Mork Borg”.

It’s cut to the bone style has really influenced how I run things, how I prep, how I set up encounters...it makes you realize how much in books and how much you prepare is just bullshit every time I run Mork Borg it is just full bore improv and we always come away laughing and shocked at what happened. I would absolutely state that our best games over the past year have been Mork Borg games.
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09 Aug 2021 09:22 #325362 by dysjunct

Michael Barnes wrote: Mork Borg vs. OSE. LOL, Mork Borg is quoted literally about five pages of rules, each about 75% art. The rest is lore, character classes, and monsters. It is my favorite RPG book I’ve ever bought. I actually have two copies of it. It is a masterclass in minimalism. It totally inspires a different way to play...one of my friends in my main group has the best quote ever for it- “once you play Mork Borg, you are kind of always playing Mork Borg”.

It’s cut to the bone style has really influenced how I run things, how I prep, how I set up encounters...it makes you realize how much in books and how much you prepare is just bullshit every time I run Mork Borg it is just full bore improv and we always come away laughing and shocked at what happened. I would absolutely state that our best games over the past year have been Mork Borg games.


I’d be interested in hearing how Mork Borg actually does this. I picked up a copy maybe six month ago due to the buzz around it. I thought it was almost unreadable due to the garish art, color scheme, and layout. Once I got down to the rules it seemed like just another competent rules-light OSR game. How is it so different than other things in that space, that’s it’s giving your group such high-flying times?
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09 Aug 2021 10:02 #325363 by Shellhead
I prefer PDFs when I am doing prep work for a game session or campaign. It makes easier to acquire relevant images for my wooden tokens, and some pdfs make it handy to search the document.

While I am actually running a session, I prefer physical books, and use a variety of colored bookmarks to bookmark pages that are relevant to the current session. For example, if today's session will involve action on a ship at sea, I will mark the drowning rules with a blue bookmark. There is a shortage of proper outlets near my gaming table, and I don't want to encourage players to bring distractions, er I mean laptops. Several years ago, my renter ran his D&D campaign a couple of times in the gaming room, and his players were unhappy because they couldn't all plug in their laptops.

When I am a player, I don't want any books unless I am playing a spellcaster and will need to look up my spells. I think it is highly inappropriate for players to look up monster stats in the middle of a fight, or for that matter, in the middle of a game session.
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09 Aug 2021 10:41 #325366 by hotseatgames

dysjunct wrote: I’d be interested in hearing how Mork Borg actually does this. I picked up a copy maybe six month ago due to the buzz around it. I thought it was almost unreadable due to the garish art, color scheme, and layout. Once I got down to the rules it seemed like just another competent rules-light OSR game. How is it so different than other things in that space, that’s it’s giving your group such high-flying times?


I have purchased several RPG source books over the last couple of years. The only one I actually used for a game is Mork Borg. It was a blast, and I want to do it again. For me, the answer to your question is that it simply ejects any rule one might consider "situational", and doesn't expect you to do any real prep work. It's just simple, and keeps the session moving.
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09 Aug 2021 11:02 #325367 by Michael Barnes
That’s a great way to put it. There are NO rules for falling, chases, mounts, class variations, blah blah blah. It’s really just a very basic dice system, 3 stats, and an extremely basic magic system. If it’s not in the book you just make it the fuck up. It really casts into relief how much wankery there is in RPG books. How essential is 99% of Pathfinder?

The book sets a tone with the art and style that does carry over to the gameplay- its Mork Borg without 300 pages of rules to make it Mork Borg. One of the brilliant things is the Calendar of Nechrubel...you roll D66 ok this bible-like page. It gives you a nonsense reading. But as the GM, you can use that little nugget to build on or create an improve opportunity.

I do not understand the readability issues some folks have with it. It’s modern graphic design, it’s intentionally structured to be EASY to read. I think people get tripped up looking for more rules than what are there.

Prep is soooooooo overrated. I do the bare minimum.
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09 Aug 2021 11:55 #325369 by Sagrilarus
When AD&D came out a huge portion of the rule books were dedicated to those odd sorts of modifiers and ability checks. I think this had as much to do with looking for a way to sell more stuff to existing players than anything else, and the designers of the game were wargame designers that had stumbled in to the idea of a story-telling adventure genre. The result -- charts aplenty. Made perfect sense to them.

2nd Edition followed suit and in some ways made things even worse, and it was apparent that much of it was to sell additional stuff. Experienced players learned to ignore all of it except in situations where it was critical to a particular moment in gameplay, often to settle an argument. Rule 0 can't fix everything, so when a player complains enough the DM can shut him up by saying "roll your profiency, it's in the rules."

So . . . my long-winded point is that the genre-defining game has a 50 year history of publishing charts, so it's too easy for other games to follow suit. If you're publishing a descendant of Chainmail, a wargame, all those rules make sense. If you're publishing a descendant of White Box, a story game, you need to ditch all that stuff and focus on narrative, keeping the rules out of the way.

I'll disagree on prep. My BEST stuff by far is the stuff I've both prepped and taken multiple groups through, which tends to iron out the wrinkles. All my modern prep is setting and scenario, not story. Story appears on game night. But having everyone (NPCs and critters) in-situ with their motives and personalities laid out in advance makes things go oh-so-smoothly, and the players really respond to that. I can bullshit with the best of them, but I can feel the difference at the table when we're playing off the map. Just having their stats summary on the page next to their name makes things roll much more nicely.
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09 Aug 2021 12:44 #325375 by Shellhead

Sagrilarus wrote: I'll disagree on prep. My BEST stuff by far is the stuff I've both prepped and taken multiple groups through, which tends to iron out the wrinkles. All my modern prep is setting and scenario, not story. Story appears on game night. But having everyone (NPCs and critters) in-situ with their motives and personalities laid out in advance makes things go oh-so-smoothly, and the players really respond to that. I can bullshit with the best of them, but I can feel the difference at the table when we're playing off the map. Just having their stats summary on the page next to their name makes things roll much more nicely.


This is where I stand. The players are always often going to surprise me and take things in an unexpected direction, and I will improvise when that comes up. But the improvisation goes more smoothly when I have a fair amount of general prep, like pre-statted NPCs, especially with some existing ties to the setting and some notes about personality. With zero prep, it's frankly easier to just flex my GM powers to force the players back on track, but they can smell that and dislike it. With a fair amount of prep, I have less of a vested interest in keeping the adventure on the rails, and going off the rails doesn't feel to the players like I am just making shit up. I mean, with or without prep, I will be making shit up, but the prepped shit will tend to be better.

A crunchy rule set practically begs for prep work. Without it, the game either slows down significantly at times, or else the GM just glosses over the rules to keep things moving smoothly. The risk with that second case is that the players may notice that the GM is effectively not playing by the rules anymore and just dictating outcomes via GM fiat. I bend over backwards to avoid that outcome, to the point where I usually roll the dice in front of the GM screen.
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09 Aug 2021 16:02 #325380 by ChristopherMD
Mork Borg is a beautiful physical book. However, if it is as simple a system as noted then I think it can definitely just be a pdf. Especially if I don't have to reference it for specific rulings.

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09 Aug 2021 16:31 #325381 by Michael Barnes
I mean I can just put the rules here in a forum post LOL
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