8 Hilarious Uses for Explosive Runes

Explosive runes is one of those spells that players love to use to humorous effect. It doesn’t do enough damage to kill most targets appropriate to the characters’ level once they learn the spell, but it is enough to get the attention of the reader (ask Yosemite Sam if he notices a stick of dynamite to the face).

1. A passport. When that surly guard asks you to hand over your papers, give it to him.
2. A cereal box. Those kids should be eating better.
3. A billboard. Is there a mass explosive runes?
4. The internet. Www.guesswhatspellIpreparedthismorning.com.
5. Business cards. The kind that people remember to give to their friends.
6. Magic 8-ball. Should I ask out that elf with the green and the pointy ears? Magic 8-ball says “Boom!”
7. License plate. YUNOBOOM
8. T-shirt. Ladies, make sure the guys are making eye contact.

The “High Price” of RPG books

RPG Books Have Gotten Too Expensive

I often hear arguments about how people can’t afford to keep buying into new editions of D&D, or they use “rising costs” as a reason for not playing. “RPGs have gotten too expensive” I used to hear at my game store.

No, they haven’t.

I have an aphorism I like to use: “Don’t guess when you can count.” So instead of simply claiming that books have or have not gone up in price, I checked. I counted for inflation only up to 2010 dollars, the latest figure I have. Since it’s now the beginning of 2012, the final price of these older books is actually a tad higher. However, I think these figures make my point.

Book Year of Release Original Price 2010 Dollars
D&D Box Set 1974 $10.50 $45.89
Monster Manual 1977 $10.95 $38.93
Players Handbook 1978 $10.95 $36.18
DMG 1979 $12.95 $38.38
2nd Edition PH 1989 $19.95 $34.63
3rd Edition PH (launch price) 2000 $19.95 $25.00
3rd Ed. PH (regular price) 2002 $29.95 $36.08
4th Edition PH 2008 $34.95 $35.37



In real value, the price of the books has stayed the same—within about 5% of $36 modern dollars per book. The standout exception is the special release price of the core books for 3e. WotC deliberately underpriced their books to achieve maximum conversion to the new edition. As a retailer at the time, I can tell you the conversion was overwhelming.


Meanwhile, production values have gone up. I’m not talking about the value of the game rules. This isn’t an edition war. I’m talking about the printing and design values of the books themselves.


Successive books used more words per page, which gives you more content in a similarly-sized book. In general, the page count has gotten greater. The box set came to a total of only 112 pages, and they were digest-sized. The total page count for the 3 core books in 1st edition was 475 pages. In second edition, it became 582 pages. A revision of the core books for 2nd edition added more page count without much more content; the difference was largely one of design. It made the books easier to reference, and it cleaned up some text and errata, but we really can’t count that as extra content. However, the 3rd edition books weigh in at 752 pages for the same three titles. The tally for 4e is 832 pages.


That’s effectively 14.9 times the page count of the box set released in 1974 (counting each digest-sized page as half a page. Which it is.).


Art has improved in quality over 1st edition and in quantity. D&D 2e used spot color for some outstanding graphics. The books included a border. Third edition books went full color. Pages went glossy starting with 2nd revised (I think—I didn’t check that one).


Editing has improved greatly. Few readers appreciate this element, but it’s there. References and terminology are more consistent. Cross-references are replete in 3rd and make the books very easy to navigate. Organization overall is better: combat rules should be in the player’s book, not the DM’s book. It’s not a secret.


It is true that a full set of all 3 books has gone up in price from OD&D to the current game. However, that’s hardly a fair comparison. For one thing, most people making the comparison aren’t talking about that version. They’re talking about 1st or 2nd edition. More importantly, those books are soft-cover and digest-sized. All 3 4e books cost $105, or a little bit more than twice the box set in today’s dollars. But for 15 times the content and far better production values, it’s a steal.


The Game Retailer’s Guide update

We’ve had some movement on my long-awaited book.  Skirmisher Publishing is putting together some pre-release ads in the magazine d-Infinity. I’ve sent in the supporting spreadsheets that we’re going to make available on the website. Over the last couple of years I’ve developed an integrated series of spreadsheets that cross-reference extensively so that you can see how changes affect the overall finances. Change your starting cash and watch what it does to your loan payment and cash flow. Change your starting inventory and see what it does to your costs and cash flow. Etc. I’ll let everyone know when they go live.

The Game Retailer’s Guide


We’re approaching a release date. Skirmisher Publishing is releasing my book on how to start and run a retail game store. I do not have a projected release date yet, but Skirmisher hopes to have hard copies by GenCon, so if you go, check out their booth. The Game Retailer’s Guide will be available in all of the usual places. If you feel that my column or services have helped you at all, I’d appreciate it if you’d run out and buy a copy as soon as it hits the shelves. Even if you read the monthly column, the book has a lot more in-depth discussion on things we discuss very broadly on rpg.net. I’ll get you more details as they arise, like a stock number and a link to an Amazon pre-order. And a price. A price would be good.

Brian’s Fate

In A Cautionary Tale on RPG.net, I described the business of a person not named Brian. Here’s an update


Brian managed to hold on for a while, partially by making a Shaitan’s bargain with a company that makes high-interest loans to be repaid by automatic debit from credit card sales. By “high-interest”, I mean 50%, repaid within a year. Ouch.

Cash flow problems continue.  His loan gave him a reprieve, and then the exorbitant repayment terms worsened his situation. His personal finances are falling behind. His bills are months behind. His home of 13 years is in foreclosure. Services like deliveries and utilities at the stores are being cut off regularly, to be turned back on only when the service providers receive a payment.

Brian managed to not close any stores–yet. To his credit, he’s trying to find an exit that doesn’t leave any business partners or employees unpaid. He wants to sell.

Of course his cash flow has left his bargaining position in the basement. He’ll have to take virtually any offer he gets. He could end up selling his stores for 50% of the market price simply because he has no other option. He certainly isn’t seeing any substantial gain considering he’s invested 25 years and a million dollars or more into his company.

Beating on the dead isn’t why we’re here. The point is to identify potential trouble points and make sure you don’t find yourself in the same situation.


1. Personal risk. Brian had times when cash was good. He could have made sure his mortgage was paid before growing his company. As it is now, the only home his daughter remembers might be going to the bank. After 15 years, a moderately aggressive payment plan could have paid off a house.

2. Personal work. Brian resisted managing any of his stores. By removing a labor cost (and its attendant costs), improving performance metrics and drastically reducing loss in this high-risk store, Brian is now saving himself about $5,000 per month. Doing that 6 months earlier could have put $30,000 in his pocket. Running that store a year earlier could almost have fixed his current cash problems. Who can’t use an extra $60,000?

3. Paying attention. The high-risk store I mentioned in the previous point is one example. Brian was unaware of an employee stealing thousands of dollars because he’s not in the stores regularly, paying attention to daily paperwork and checking reports that his computer system automatically generates. Likewise, another employee who was well-known to have been stealing finally became so brazen that it couldn’t be ignored anymore. That employee cost him at least $50 per shift, 5 or 6 days a week. It would have only taken one visit while orders weren’t being rung up to identify–and solve–that problem.  Between improved performance and reduced loss, a few brief store visits could save tens of thousands of dollars. If you operate multiple stores, I recommend frequent, if brief, visits with a checklist of things to monitor. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes.