I'm learning more and more just how dangerous used bookstores can be for me.
Near my office is a Half-Price Books. It's a very very dangerous place - in no small part because I keep finding things which are on my list.
As I'm sure you know, I am a collector of game books. Not just for use, but because I love reading them. And because, when I decide to create my own game, I think a breadth of knowledge is a good thing. Even bad games usually contain at least one good idea.
The HPB near my office is quite different from most. The first time I was there, I was wearing my "Body By Gygax" T-shirt. "You know," the woman behind the counter told me, "His son is in every now and again." Now, I don't know if she was right or wrong - but it's a good feeling. And it'd explain some of my finds there. Because someone who knows their gaming keeps dropping rare books off there.
Moreso than at the other HPB locations in the area, although I keep finding gems there, too.
In the last two months, I have found Chaosium's Ringworld RPG (including the Ringworld Companion) in absolutely beautiful condition. Prior to reading the game, I'm re-reading the novel on which it is based. Also on the shelf at the time was a copy of SPI's Universe, which I have been curious about for years - but I couldn't afford both. There were a few other rare box sets there, too.
Earlier today, I went back to get Universe and found the Dangerous Journeys RPG in a slipcover box labelled the "Mythus Presentation Set." It has five books (some of which are rare on their own). and it's in - again - beautiful condition. I don't know if the shrink wrap is original or not, but the books are in great shape. Universe was gone, and so were the other rare boxes that had been there in an earlier visit.
Last weekend, I found a copy of Mechanoids at a different HPB. I'm not fond of Palladium Books' system, but Kevin Siembieda often has some fascinating ideas for his settings. And I'm more than willing to buy them second-hand (because I don't wish to support the company - but that's another rant for another time). I also managed to track down a copy of The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen (the Hogshead version), which replaces a copy I lost close to a decade ago.
A weekend or two from now, I'm going to Powell's in Portland OR. Those of you who, like me, are People of the Book probably already know about Powell's, even if you haven't actually been there. I'm of the opinion that it should be visited by book people (much as gamers should visit GenCon).
I have a separate savings account just for things like this. But that doesn't make it any less dangerous to my wallet. But the the danger of emptying my wallet is often worth it for me.
I wonder, then, if this bit of fishing out a single treasure from a dungeon full of dross is what drives adventurers forward in Old-School dungeon-crawling games. It's entirely possible that the ancient ruin has already been picked over by other adventurers and graverobbers. It's likely, even, given the age of the ruins. But sometimes - just once in a blue moon - you'll find that Ring of Regeneration in a pile of rags. Or you'll find a scroll for a spell you lack that is less-decayed than the rest of the library.
It's up to you to decide if it's worth the risk of gathering nothing.
And that, by the way, is one reason I'm looking forward to Luke Crane's Torchbearer project on Kickstarter (which is another modern-ish source of potential treasure fraught with disappointment), which should go live a few hours after this post does.