I recently got a big order from Lulu. Taking advantage of their 30% off coupon, I got the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion, White Box and Core Swords and Wizardry, a collection of Backswords & Bucklers books, four books by Richard LeBlanc (including his D30 books), and that dizzying expression of what a D&D campaign can be - Yoon-Suin.
All of these combined I got for less than the price of some of the big, commercial RPG books. I have to keep reminding myself of that when I am suffering a bout of buyer's remorse. Which isn't that often, as these are exactly the kind of books that will get used at the table.
(I did feel a bit guilty showing them off as 'rpg porn' on Google+. I half felt a bit like I'd just pasted a picture of my wang and invited everyone to admire, and half like I was one of the spoilt Super Sweet Sixteen 'princesses' presenting conspicuous consumption as some kind of virtue.)
BUT my Lulu haul wasn't the real bargain. No. The real bargain was James Raggi making the Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) 'Grindhouse Edition' Referee Book available as a free pdf. The full art version, no less, so be careful where you read this on your tablet, or where you print this out. No-one reading this needs telling that LotFP is a very elegant B/X derivative, which by a couple of small changes produces a very different feeling game. Niche protection for Fighters, Turn Undead as a spell for Clerics, no flashy 'boom' spells of the Magic-Users, and a Thief (erm, Specialist) that really works. Good race-as-class Elves, Dwarfs, and Halflings, a lovely encumbrance system and a nice clean set of rules for exploration and adventure. None of it radically different to B/X, just different enough that a game run using LotFP will have a different flavour. As well as Raggi's Early Modern 'Real' Earth 'setting' (which would, of course, also make LotFP a good match for a Warhammerish game), I've long thought that this particular set of rules would make for a good OSR Swords & Sorcery game, a fine competitor for Crypts & Things and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyberborea. Lower magic than 'traditional' OSR games, a Fighter who really fights, Clerics that can't simply blast their way through the undead, etc. If only the books weren't full of fantastic, if not-safe-for-work, art that reinforces the idea that this is a game for the Early Modern period. Sounds good, eh? Well, you get none of that in the Referee's Book.
[Insert body-horror image that stretches the bounds of decency here!]
Whatever image you have imagined, it is probably also a graphic representation of your deepest sexual nightmare.
No, what you get in the Referee's Book is James Raggi's advice on how to run LotFP. Well, no, it is James Raggi's advice on running any OSR game (applicable, most likely, to any traditional RPG) with a 'weird', indeed horrific, tone. It has advice on designing adventures, running campaigns, and on designing NPCs, Monsters and Magic Items. You really can't lose, because James is a good writer with keen insights on RPGs, and so even if you disagree with him, reading the Referee's Book will help crystalise your own ideas on what is important in an RPG.