Monday, June 20, 2011

Quasi-Legal Geekery

Earlier today Martin R. Thomas of Daddy Rolled A 1 posted about his sweaty brush with desperation-driven gaming larceny as a young teen. It's a great story of a would-be perfect crime--and almost pulling it off.

It reminded me of my own quasi-legal gaming purchasing experience, which came in the form of a used book store that was across the street from the game store I used to frequent in high school. The guys who ran the game store were total Comic Book Store Guys, perpetually giving me the stink-eye and heaving heavy sighs if I dared ask for a bag to put my purchases in. And they never had sales or markdowns, cheap bastids.

At any rate, my Dad used to browse the book store while I was in the game store and I'd meet him there after I was done. Sometimes he'd still be browsing, so I'd tour the aisles and see if anything jumped out at me. I noticed pretty early on that the used book store had a shelf of RPG-related material tucked away in a little side aisle, so I'd always give it a perfunctory glance whenever I was there. Usually there was nothing there to interest me. Old 1e hardbacks? BORRRING! (Fear not, good readers; I did eventually get wise and purchased my first-ever copy of the 1e DMG from the used book store.) But then, somewhere around my junior year of high school, something magical started happening.

I walked into the book store after doing my usual tour of the game store and checked the RPG shelf. Lo and behold, the shelf was half full of brand new 2e hardbacks, all slick and glossy, bindings not even cracked. They were on sale at about half the cover price.

Those in my group who didn't have their own copies of the PHB and DMG quickly acquired same from the used book store. It didn't take much to figure out what was going on: someone was lifting new books from the game store, walking across the street, and reselling their stolen goods to the used book store. Did this bother me or my friends? Not in the slightest. To our adolescent minds, the game store guys had it coming after years of truly abysmal customer service. Even today, over 15 years later, I still see some karmic justice in that whole scenario.

As for myself, I can't say for certain whether I actually bought any of the ill-gotten used AD&D books. I certainly didn't need the core books at the time. But I certainly never felt compelled to walk across the street and tip off the game store owners. They were really that bad. The racket continued operating for the better part of a year, but eventually the trickle of new "used" books dried up; either the thief got caught or the game store got wise. They didn't hear about it from me, that's all I know.
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