Tabletop gaming can be a pretty expensive hobby. Fat RPG rulebooks, endless supplements, miniatures, battle maps, lavishly-produced board games, and oh-so-collectable card games, for those of us on a budget it can be tough to keep up. But there are a few things gamers can do to keep gaming even when gold pieces are scarce.
1) Libraries. Some libraries actually have RPGs on the shelves to lend. It’s not as good as owning your own books of course, but for a session or two or to try out a game before buying, it’s just the thing. Similarly, some gaming stores have a board games that you can play in the store.
2) Miniatures. Minis are expensive, but there are alternatives to metal figures. Lego minis make great miniatures: they’re customizable, cheap, and cute. There are also a wide variety of paper cut-out minis available at gaming stores and online at places like DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.
3) Battlemaps. Maps to place those miniatures on can be expensive as well. Here again DriveThruRPG can help with custom downloadable maps. Graph paper also works well. Or you could take a page from games like Pirates of the Spanish Main miniature game and have your minis move inches across your table instead of hexes across a battlemap.
4) Non-collectable Card Games. CCGs can be great fun but they can also be a tremendous drain on the pocketbook, particularly Magic: the Addiction. But there are some great non-collectable card games, that include all the cards needed to play in one package, games like Blue Moon and Call of Cthulhu LCG: Core Set
5) PDFs. If you’re comfortable reading lots of texts on your computer or tablet or printing game components on your printer then PDFs may offer the best way to save money on tabletop gaming. Not just RPGs, but board games, card games, and miniature games are available as PDFs, often at 50% or less of the cost of hard copies. DriveThruRPG and RPGNow are, of course, the primary source for PDFs.
6) Used Games. There is quite a healthy market for used RPGs, not only at your local game store, but also on sites like Noble Knight Games where you can buy, sell, or trade used games. While some gaming books become “collector items” and fetch hundreds of dollars, most linger on in “bargain bins” and “used boxes” just waiting to be rediscovered. Big fan of OSR games? Looking for a game that will recapture those early days? Why not dig your old D&D books or buy an old Player’s Handbook? They’re cheap and you can’t get older school than TSR.
7) Food. Game Night typically has one other expense beyond the games involved: food. To offset this some – and eliminate the pizza-ordering hassle – someone in your group could make food. It needn’t be some fancy game-themed feast (though if you’re lucky enough to game with a chef, why not?); homemade pizza is easy and fast. And if everybody chips in for the ingredients it’s still much more frugal than ordering out. GMs could even offer a few experience points to reluctant cooks.
While looking for bargains and trying to save money, there is however one thing that should not be overlooked: your friendly local gaming store. FLGS are not just places for gamers to gather, seek recommendations, meet authors, make discovers, and discuss the hobby, they’re also businesses, and if we don’t support them they’ll disappear. If you’re lucky enough to have a local gaming store, please give them at least some of your gaming money – buy some dice or a module or a magazine or something. We need the FLGS and the FLGS need us. If life’s an adventure, we’re all in the same party. Don’t split the party!