Collecting classic World of Darkness: The basics

As I mentioned in my intro post, I recently completed a set of classic World of Darkness (cWoD) books, and I only had to pay over cover price on two of them. (Revised Vampire Players Guide and Kithbook Pooka, for the record.) The last time I checked, there wasn’t a comprehensive guide to collecting cWoD online, and the checklist that White Wolf released around the time they originally shut the game line down has some issues.  So, here’s the first installment of my guide.

The basics

I’m assuming that anyone’s who interested enough to read this knows the basics of White Wolf and the World of Darkness; if you don’t, Wikipedia can fill you in.  To summarize briefly, the various game lines comprising the World of Darkness published by White Wolf Publishing from 1991 to 2003, when they shut it down and created the new World of Darkness (nWoD).  New cWoD books began with the 20th Anniversary Vampire the Masquerade (V20).

There are six types of content one can collect in cWoD:

  • Tabletop RPGs, which is where it all started.  There were ten main game lines, some much larger than others, plus four historical game lines.
  • Live action RPG (LARP) adaptations of the tabletop RPGs.
  • Collectible card games (CCGs) based on Vampire, Werewolf and Changeling.
  • Magazines published by White Wolf with cWoD content.
  • Fiction (novels and short stories) set in the worlds of the various game lines.
  • Assorted tie-in collectibles (pins, replica weapons, dice, etc.).

There are also books that replicate in-world books (such as the Book of Nod) that straddle the line between tabletop, LARP and fiction; I consider them part of the tabletop line, but they don’t contain any rules or game content.  I’m not going to go into fiction or CCGs in much detail, but I’ll cover all the rest.

The books and how to get them

With the exception of the Vampire CCG, none of these items are available through standard game distribution channels.  The older game materials are out of print, and the newer books were released by other means.  Therefore, original copies of the old games are only available through used channels.  In rough order from most to least useful, here’s what I’ve used:

  • Amazon Marketplace.  You’re probably familiar with; Marketplace is their option for selling used items.  Prices can range from excellent bargains to ridiculously overpriced, but if you know what you’re doing it’s one of your best resources.  I’ll be doing a separate article on getting the most out of Marketplace.
  • eBay.  The other go-to source for used material.  The drawback to eBay is that you’re competing against everyone else who might want these items; the upside is that you can purchase items in bulk, and sometimes you’ll get lucky. (Other auction sites are available but I haven’t used them.)
  • Your Friendly Local Game Store.  This is a mixed bag, because the age and the focus of the store make a big difference in whether it’ll have material you can use for your collection.  A store that’s been around a long time (more than a decade) or has acquired another store’s inventory may have cWoD material on the shelf.  If they deal in used games, there’s a good chance they’ll have something, and it’s possible to get some incredible bargains this way.  A store that’s new, focused on something other than tabletop RPGs, and doesn’t carry used games probably won’t have much to offer, though.
  • Online game stores.  Two good options are Troll and Toad and Noble Knight Games (I haven’t dealt with them but it looks like they have a good inventory).  You’re less likely to find bargains here, since online game stores are more likely to know the value of what they’re carrying, but it can be a good place to stock up on inexpensive, common books without the shipping costs of Amazon Marketplace.
  • Other gamers.  Local gamers may be getting rid of their collection; if you’re plugged into the local gamer community you may hear about a good opportunity.
  • Used bookstores, garage sales, etc.  Used bookstores sometimes carried used gamebooks, but you can’t count on it.  On the other hand, they’re less likely to know the secondary market value of a gamebook, so it may be possible to get a bargain.  Don’t count on finding used gamebooks at garage sales or thrift stores, but again, you may get lucky.
  • Online bookstore metasearches.  In principle, an online bookstore search site like Abebooks will let you search multiple online retailers to find the best price.  In practice, Amazon always seemed to have the best price, especially for rarer items.  One reason for this is that some retailers list items on multiple online locations, including Amazon.  Give it a try if there’s something specific you’re looking for, but I never found it worth the effort.

(Note that this is based on my personal experience, so I can only speak directly to the US market; if you live elsewhere your mileage may vary.)

There is one other source to consider: DriveThruRPG.  This online retailers sells pretty much every cWoD product in PDF form.  Many but not all of them are available as Print on Demand (PoD) books; the post-2011 books are only available at retail as PoD

The original release of V20 was as a limited edition book sold through White Wolf’s online game store.  Most of the new releases since then have been launched with a Kickstarter release, with a limited edition product only available through the Kickstarter. (Some Kickstarters have had options for retail stores, so it may be possible to find them at your FLGS.) These products are also available in PoD form.

Choosing your target

It’s worth deciding up front whether you want a complete set of every game product ever released, or whether you want to start concentrating on a smaller target.  You might not be interested in LARP products, for example, or you might want to focus on a single game line. (I completed my set of Kindred of the East well before any of the others, for example.) The game lines vary widely in size, from the dozens of books released for Vampire to the two books of Mummy the Resurrection. (As of this writing, you could get a complete MtR set on Amazon for $24 plus shipping.)

It’s also worth deciding what you consider your stopping point.  I was going for full completeness, but that might not be your goal.  For example, several Vampire, Werewolf and Mage books were reprinted in combined form, with two or more books reprinted unchanged under one cover.  You may decide you want the originals and don’t care about the reprints, or that you just want the content and don’t care what form they come in. (The collected reprints of Werewolf Tribebooks and Mage Tradition Books are easier and simpler to collect than the individual books, for example.) Likewise, several gamebooks were released in limited edition versions, with leatherette covers, metallic page edges, and slipcovers.  These are expensive and generally don’t have new content, so you may consider them optional.

That’s the basics.  Next time, dealing with the Checklist.  Until then, the Woggle-Bug says “Monsters we are, lest monsters we be-a-be-a-be-a-turn into.”

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