Collecting classic World of Darkness, part 3: What to expect when you’re collecting

Now that we’ve covered the general outline of cWoD collecting and the improved checklist, it’s time to cover the sort of items you’ll be buying.  We’ll also cover a couple of terms you’ll want to know.

First, though, a quick review of supply and demand.  High supply and/or low demand means lower prices; low supply and/or high demand means higher prices.  In the case of cWoD, this translates to one key principle: In general, the less time a book spent in print, the more it will cost. For example, the Revised edition Werewolf tribebooks were released alphabetically, and the last ones were released shortly before the game went on hiatus.  Therefore, the Black Fury and Bone Gnawer tribebooks are easier to find and cost less than the Uktena or Wendigo books.

Corebooks. These are the main rulebooks for each game. Unlike nWoD, there was no central rulebook for the entire system.  A couple of games required you to have another Storyteller book for the rules, but generally they reprinted and adapted the same couple of chapters from book to book.

For the core five games (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, and Changeling), the pattern was to release a paperback 1st edition followed by a hardcover 2nd edition.  For the first three games, they also released a Revised edition. (The Revised editions can be controversial, especially Mage, which saw the biggest changes to rules and metaplot.  I personally think they did a good job of cutting away some of the silliness that had built up during the 2nd editions and that the Revised-era books are generally the most useful, but not everyone will agree.) The remaining games had a single hardcover rulebook (Mummy is kind of a weird exception, but I’ll get into that later).

The other exception is the Dark Ages line.  It was originally a historical setting for Vampire, under the title Vampire: the Dark Ages.  The Revised edition was titled Dark Ages Vampire and was followed by Dark Ages books for some of the other games (Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, and Hunter, specifically).  This was the only non-core game to have two editions.

Following the first principle above, the Revised edition rulebooks are generally the most expensive, but it’s not that hard to find reasonably-priced copies.  The other corebooks that can potentially run into money are Demon and Orpheus, which were the last two games released.

Core guides. Generally, Storyteller and Player guides, or guides to key aspects of the setting (such as the Camarilla/Sabbat, Changing Breeds, or the Technocracy).  If it has “guide” or “companion” in the title, it falls into this category.

These are often the second most important rulebooks for any given game.  As with many other categories, Revised versions tend to be more expensive and earlier ones less so. (Some of the 1st edition Vampire guides practically can’t be given away.)

Two books of note: The Revised Player’s Guide for Vampire and Guide to the High Clans for Dark Ages Vampire are particularly expensive.  They were both released near the end of cWoD, so quantities are low.  The High Clans book is a key book, so demand is high; the Player’s Guide was an expensive hardcover that had practically no rules content (it’s mostly essays on running the game) so it wasn’t particularly popular when it was released, making supplies relatively low.

Splatbooks. This term comes from the use of an asterisk as a wildcard, referred to by programmers as a “splat”.  Each game had its own set of subgroups (clans, tribes, Traditions, etc.), each of which had its own book under the banner of “* Book X” (Clanbook Tremere, Tribebook Glass Walkers, etc.).  All the core games had splatbooks for their various splats (although Kithbook: Boggan for Changeling was never released, and Wraith had to squeeze the later ones in).  The only later games that had individual splatbooks were Kindred of the East and Hunter, although some other games had books that covered the same territory (e.g. the Libellus Sanguinis books for Dark Ages, Houses of the Fallen for Demon).

Splatbooks are fairly key supplements, since they go into much more detail about the history, culture, and powers of the splats than the core book can hope to. (They’re also known for having weird and potentially broken powers, but that’s up to the individual Storyteller to deal with.) Vampire, Werewolf and Mage had two sets of splatbooks, one set during 1st/2nd editions and one for Revised.  The Revised books are the most sought after, since they’re rarer, are better written, and have more pages (and fewer pages devoted to character templates).  The later Werewolf tribebooks in particular are hard to find (Tribebook Uktena was one of the last books I found).

Note that Convention books for the Technocracy in Mage were released, but only one (Iteration X) was released for Revised edition.  The remaining four were released as PDF and POD through DriveThruRPG. (As of this writing, the POD of the Void Engineers book isn’t available, but it’s just a matter of time.)

If all you care about is content and not owning every single book, the first editions of the Werewolf Tribebooks and Mage Tradition and Convention books were reprinted in collected editions.  The books they collect aren’t expensive or rare, but the collections are more efficient if you just want to read them.

Other books and adventures. This is too broad a category to cover in much detail.  There are four general categories:

  1. Setting books. (“X By Night” for Vampire and “Rage Across X” for Werewolf are the blanket titles.) A combination guide to a geographical area and the supernatural beings in it, focusing on the gameline the book is from but generally mentioning others as well.  These range the gamut of quality from good to really awful.
  2. Adventures.  Just what it sounds like.  Some adventures were folded into other products, such as Nights of Prophecy for Vampire, which combines advancement of the metaplot with (sometimes very railroad-y) adventures.
  3. Sourcebooks.  These explore an aspect of the game setting but don’t fall into any other category and are generally more focused than the guides/companions.
  4. General World of Darkness supplements.  These either covered the WoD setting as a whole or some aspect thereof that spanned all the games (such as Blood-Dimmed Tides, which examined underwater settings).  These were released under the general WoD banner, although there are some outliers. (A World of Darkness was originally a setting book for Vampire, for example.)

Storyteller screens. I’m mentioning these because they can be a bane to the completist.  ST screens are useful for hiding your notes and holding handy charts, but not everyone uses them, and they’re less likely to be kept than books.  They’re not exactly rare, but they are more of a challenge to collect than the books, particularly if you want all the elements.

The 1st and some of the 2nd edition screens were released with inserted booklets containing adventures, characters, or other reference materials.  These items did not have their own product numbers or ISBNs, so they’re harder to find through the secondary market and weren’t on White Wolf’s checklist. (I will be adding them to my checklist at some point.) If you can find a copy that has its original shrinkwrap, you can be reasonably sure you have all the elements but may not want to affect its collectibility by opening it. (This is the reason I own three copies of the 1st edition Werewolf screen.)

Later screens were released with Companion books, generally compilations of rules material that weren’t put in the main book and crossover rules for other games.  These do have their own product codes and ISBNs, so the difficulty here is not finding the books but finding the screens.  Most of these were opened, and there isn’t always a guarantee that a lot will have both the book and the screen. (This is particularly true on Amazon; an eBay seller is more likely to make it clear.) Again, the only way to be sure is if you find a shrinkwrapped copy.  The Sorcerer’s Crusade screen is particularly hard to find by itself, since it wasn’t a terribly popular game line.

In-setting books. These are books that replicate books released in the world of the game, the most famous being the Book of Nod.  They don’t contain game content but are considered part of their parent game’s line.

Mind’s Eye Theatre. The LARP books are their own animal, and I’m treating them as a separate line for the purpose of this guide; what I’ve said above doesn’t necessarily apply to them, and they’ll have their own article.

Limited editions. For Revised edition, White Wolf released high-end, limited hardcover versions of some of the games and sourcebooks. Each of these had a leatherette cover, metallic edging, bookmarks, and in some cases slipcases.

Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, and Dark Ages Vampire had slipcased core books with a limited softcover art or fiction book. (The art books were released separately, while the Dark Ages fiction book is only available in the limited edition set.) Vampire’s Guide to the Camarilla and Sabbat and the Storyteller’s Guide also had slipcased editions.  There were non-slipcovered editions of the Vampire, Werewolf and Mage LARP books and The Book of Nod as well.  Encyclopaedia Vampirica was only released in a deluxe edition.

These can be a challenge, especially if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.  The Vampire rulebook is the hardest to find, while Dark Ages and Mage are less sought after and easier to find.  The Vampire guidebooks are less sought after than the core books (I won a copy of the ST Guide on eBay for under $10 once).

Other issues: Some of these editions had binding problems, especially Encyclopaedia Vampirica.  Since there are multiple components, there’s a risk of not getting a complete set.  There’s also the occasional problem of getting a limited version when you wanted a regular one (it took me a while to get a regular Art of Werewolf because the inexpensive copy I found on Amazon turned out to be the limited edition).

The only limited editions that have new content are the Mind’s Eye Theatre books, which contain a few pages of exclusive in-setting content (such as pages from the Book of Nod).  Therefore, you may choose to skip these in your collection, or at least make them a low priority until you can find a bargain.

Kickstarter and other limited editions. Starting with V20, many of the books were released as limited editions, including all those released through Kickstarter.  This will also be its own article, but a quick summary: If you want these, support the Kickstarter.  I’ve never seen one of these sell online for less than the original price.

Magazines and weird outliers. This will be its own article as well.  “Weird outliers” include licensed books released by other publishers.

That’s a pretty long overview, and it still doesn’t cover everything!  I’ll be getting into more detail in subsequent articles.  Until next time, the Woggle-Bug says “Oh, dear me, how will it be if I die an old maid in the garret?”

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