The Lich

The Lich

a small phylactery containing role-playing ideas and spirit

On Scarcity

Scarcity is likely a topic all bloggers from the Philippines, or South East Asia, premise early. Many of us grew up in a time when finding an RPG book, much less a local source of polyhedral dice and (worse) Fudge dice, was a rare and significant event. I remember my first find — a 2nd Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook on the lowest shelf of a first floor magazine store in Shopsville. Ask me why I was visiting the country, which store I was in, or who I was with and I won’t recall. All I remember is that book, and I didn’t even get to buy it.

Before PDFs hit, we really were simply at the mercy of such chance encounters. Move forward later to when Borders opened up its Singapore flagship at Wheelock Place. By this time, I had already been playing AD&D with classmates (and a math teacher from Connecticut who always wore cowboy boots), so when Borders brought in a complete range of AD&D products? My wallet was devastated. But that wasn’t the problem; the problem was in the other gaming line Borders imported to Asia: World of Darkness. Suddenly, I had all these books about modern supernatural creatures with great swaths of fiction to really dig into, but only two d10s. Just two, for percentiles. I didn’t get to play World of Darkness, except for on the internet, until I moved to Canada.

And wow, Canada. In Canada, the narrative changed. First of all, there was dice. And if there wasn’t dice, you could get dice mailed to you. d10 acquisition happened. I got into 3-and-3.5 in Canada, because I could buy it from the local Chapters. An anime retailer had the Fuzion Bubblegum Crisis books, so my housemates and I enjoyed a year-and-a-half-long campaign of that. Exalted and Eberron was only a next-day-shipping click away. And I got to do something South East Asia never let me do before — own a limited edition! Arthaus’ Ravenloft with the leather cover and the red strip bookmark? I own that. I splurged. My physical collection there still dwarfs mine here in the Philippines.

We have a long history of treasure hunting for our games here in the Philippines, which is why I’m certain it’s an oft-presented topic. What I feel should be highlighted, though, is that it is getting better.


Today, thanks to ebooks and a prolific online TRPG community, I can no longer say that every game I own has seen play. There are just too many, and my digital bookshelf, that bypass for physical scarcity, won’t even fit in my 5.9GB Dropbox storage. It’s not all digital acquisitions either – lately, more and more hobby retailers have been bringing in what books Customs doesn’t gouge them for. You want Fate and Dungeon World? You can buy those here (and dice! FUDGE DICE). 5th Ed D&D? At least three retailers carry it. Cubicle 7 and Monte Cook Games? We have a distributor. Paizo products with the included promos? That’s here too. Stocks and quantity are sometimes kind of funny, but we finally have books! (In Manila, I really should specify as that is the limit of my knowledge, but still closer to the rest of the Philippines than, say, the UK.) And for the books we don’t have, we gained a 2011 declaration, which I had once printed out and laminated for trips to the post office, denoting the taxation on importation of books enough for a tabletop session (i.e. personal quantities) to be illegal! (Check out Department of Finance Order 57-2011.)

Now, Monday’s USPS price hike may threaten it, but for now, we are well past scarcity. Not yet at next-day-on-my-doorstep level, but better than what many of us likely thought possible. And by that I mean we have fudge dice. FUDGE DICE.

Does it sound accurate to my Philippine readers to say, “Scarcity is over”? (We have fudge dice.) Anyone else want to share their stories about the treasure hunt that is TRPG materials? Even if you get here a year late, feel free to leave your tale below.

2 Responses to On Scarcity

  1. Ah, I remember when I wanted to get the WoD book for my first tabletop campaign I played in. We already had eBay back then, but shipping to the Philippines came in prices of 40usd for a 24usd book — not something a college kid could afford. Remember when we bought our battlemat? That nightmare of fees. There were the occassional requests to send from relatives abroad, the pooled shipping for dice — my first (and only) set of d10s cost over 1.5k after shipping, customs, and suffering — but now I can get some if I walk across the office and took a peek at Megamall. Probably the best thing that happened was Bookdepository for the needs that could not be met locally. But even Bookdep is something I haven’t had to resort to in over a year. Indeed: What a time to be alive!

    • Is this your way of telling me to bring the battlemat to the next game, haha?

      Now if only our postal service could deliver books to our door rather than hold them for wishful-thinking Customs (and a $3 storage charge), we’d truly be living in the future!


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