Is TTRPGing an "Expensive Hobby"

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
When people don't, the theater starts reducing staff and/or closes.

And there are a surprisingly large number who do so.
I find myself drawing parallels between movie theaters and FLGSs. I find that the successful movie theaters in my area are those that offer reserved, premium seating, better food options that are delivered to you, improved sound systems and screens, more raised stadium seating, imax style theaters, etc. Increasingly, there is very little reason for me to see a movie in the theaters as the experience of watching a movie is generally better at home. So, I go out to the movies less often, but when I do, I go to big special effects films, where I know I'm going to get a good seat and treat it more like a special event.

Another thing that movie theaters are doing are special live events--like Fathom events. I went to an Acquisitions Incorporated Fathom even a few years ago and it was awesome. Not as cool as attending at PAX I'm sure, but many times better than watching alone from my laptop. Sharing a packed room with fans, swag (including a nicely printed adventure module) was a fun experience.

Similarly, I think that FLGS will increasingly struggle to attract customers by simply selling physical product in Kickstarter and Amazon era. The most vibrant FLGS in my area focus on events, classes, food and drink, lending libraries, and play spaces. They are also getting more sophisticated in how they layout store merchandise, including highlighting games with the product open so you can examine the board and pieces and see what it looks like "in action." I'm seeing more places that allow reservation of tables and rooms and, at least one, requires a fee for those who want to use the tables.

One downside to all of this is that it does make the hobby more expensive for those with low incomes who want to participate in in-person community play. I can't really blame the FLGS. They have to find ways to stay profitable and keep the lights on, which is hard to do on selling product alone if you also want to have large amounts of comfortable playing space.

This is one aspect that I haven't seen discussed in this thread. How "affordable" the TTRPG hobby is depends a lot on whether you or your friend group has home owners or apartments that can comfortable host a group of people (harder to do when you have a spouse and kids in a small apartment). While libraries and community centers are available in many locations, not every location is going to have much indoor community space, and it can be difficult to schedule and reserve those spaces. Somewhat paradoxically, I've found it easier in large urban areas. For example, in New York, it is common to play in basement seating areas of food markets that focus on lunch and in the evenings serve as convenience stores in the upper levels, but with the upper or lower seating areas being empty. As long as you are buying snacks and drinks from the store, they don't mind you taking up a couple of tables for hours.

When you are lower income, I think the issue is much less the cost of the rules and supplies (which can be very cheap with TTRPGs) but more having a PLACE to play.
 
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Thomas Shey

Legend
This is one aspect that I haven't seen discussed in this thread. How "affordable" the TTRPG hobby is depends a lot on whether you or your friend group has home owners or apartments that can comfortable host a group of people (harder to do when you have a spouse and kids in a small apartment). While libraries and community centers are available in many locations, not every location is going to have much indoor community space, and it can be difficult to schedule and reserve those spaces. Somewhat paradoxically, I've found it easier in large urban areas. For example, in New York, it is common to play in basement seating areas of food markets that focus on lunch and in the evenings serve as convenience stores in the upper levels, but with the upper or lower seating areas being empty. As long as you are buying snacks and drinks from the store, they don't mind you taking up a couple of tables for hours.

When you are lower income, I think the issue is much less the cost of the rules and supplies (which can be very cheap with TTRPGs) but more having a PLACE to play.

My suspicion is that this (along with the pandemic) has contributed to online play. I had shifted over to a VTT map even before COVID because I found it much more practical than a physical battleboard given the layout of the places we played.
 

MintRabbit

Explorer
I don't think I would have gotten into the hobby if there weren't options that were free. I've spent a considerable amount of money on ttrpgs by now but at the beginning the book I wanted was a big purchase and I wasn't entirely sure I'd be able to convince people to play with me. I'm glad I was able to find some free games online to try out first.

Same story with indie games too: with the big bundles that come out on Itch every once in a while, as well as the fact that there's often community copies available, I've had a chance to try a lot of different games despite the fact that I don't usually have a lot of spare spending money.
 

Hussar

Legend
The point of all this though isn’t the question of whether gaming is expensive. It’s whether it’s an expensive —hobby—. As a hobby it’s always going to be discretionary. Of course. So it’s pretty reasonable to compare it to other hobbies rather than just trying to claim that it’s expensive out of context.
 

MintRabbit

Explorer
Hmm, well it's definitely less expensive than biking, scuba-diving skiing, or any outdoor sport that requires a car to get from one place to another on top of the cost of equipment. Photography is similarly expensive: camera, developing tools, editing software, film...

I can pay less than $30 for a ttrpg and a deck of cards, but I don't know if I could buy a video game + console for that amount of money - although there are a lot of cheap indie games on Itch. But do I factor in the cost of a computer? Or does that cost not count, since I use my computer for more than gaming? I certainly use it for my ttrpgs, but I suppose I could still play ttrpgs without my computer.

I think I've spent more money on boardgames than I've spent on ttrpgs, although I think they're the closest in cost when it comes to comparisons. Buy the game once and as long as you have friends to play it with, you're set.

Watching films is getting more expensive nowadays with the cost of different streaming services / price of movie theatre tickets, especially because you're either paying for a monthly subscription or for a new ticket every time. Only way it's cheaper is if you're getting the movies through your local library (or less legal methods).

Crafting can be more or less expensive depending on the craft. Fabric from fabric stores is getting pretty expensive, especially if you're not restricting yourself to the bargain bin. Needles & thread are cheap; tools for leatherworking, chainmail, jewelrymaking.... they're niche so sometimes online shipping costs are added to the base cost for the materials.

I dunno, those are just a few comparisons off the top of my head. Overall, it still feels like TTRPGs are on the more affordable side of the spectrum.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Hmm, well it's definitely less expensive than biking, scuba-diving skiing, or any outdoor sport that requires a car to get from one place to another on top of the cost of equipment. Photography is similarly expensive: camera, developing tools, editing software, film...

I can pay less than $30 for a ttrpg and a deck of cards, but I don't know if I could buy a video game + console for that amount of money - although there are a lot of cheap indie games on Itch. But do I factor in the cost of a computer? Or does that cost not count, since I use my computer for more than gaming? I certainly use it for my ttrpgs, but I suppose I could still play ttrpgs without my computer.
Yeah, that actually one of the benefits of TTRPGs and video games for that matter. Much of the more expensive things you need to play are multi-use. I wouldn't count my laptop as a TTRPG expense any more than I would my dining table and room. The equipment I've had to buy for my kids hockey and skiing don't have any use outside of ice skating and skiing and are a lot of money for season activity. I was about to say one shouldn't be factoring in the cost of transportation. But that's a rather privileged way of seeing it. As my other post mentioned, TTRPGs are a lifestyle hobby that assumes you have space to play and/or a way to get to a place to play.

It isn't just whether one is poor. A lot of it depends on the where you are living.

When I was living in Taiwan it was not cheap to have my kids take badminton, tenis, and swimming lessons, but much cheaper than affording a place where they would have been able to regularly have 4-6 kids coming over to play TTRPGs.

I think I've spent more money on boardgames than I've spent on ttrpgs, although I think they're the closest in cost when it comes to comparisons. Buy the game once and as long as you have friends to play it with, you're set.
Not even a close comparison for me. I blow through a lot more money on board games than TTRPGs and there is not a board game I've owned that has seen as many hours of play as one campaign of D&D. I admit that I'm not the norm, in that I cycle through games and very few stay on my shelves for more than a few years. To get anywhere close with TTRPGs I would either have to be collector buying a lot more TTRPGs than I will ever play, or spend a lot on miniatures and terrain. That's the challenge with these discussions. To compare apples to apples, you kinda have to look at "entry costs" (what you need to play, which can be close to zero, assuming you have a place to play), typical enthusiast spend, and you kinda need to ignore the outliers. ANY hobby will have certain uber fans with a lot of disposable income spending huge sums on their hobbies. Some people build ice rinks in their back yard, some travel all over the world to hike, some build out TTRPG-focus game rooms with $10,000 plus game tables and expensive electronics to play. But I don't think these outliers reflect the typical fan who like to play hockey, hike, or play TTRPGs.

Watching films is getting more expensive nowadays with the cost of different streaming services / price of movie theatre tickets, especially because you're either paying for a monthly subscription or for a new ticket every time. Only way it's cheaper is if you're getting the movies through your local library (or less legal methods).
Streaming services are less expensive that what I spend on TTRPGs per year, but that is because I get Prime along with the shipping service I would already be using, and my extended family share accounts on Netflix, Hulu, etc. Plus I'll subscribe just long enough to some services to watch a single show. But I've went to lower tier subs on VTT hosting and D&D beyond, and if I would stop buying the same books in multiple media, I could easily play online for less than what I pay for TV/movie streaming.
Crafting can be more or less expensive depending on the craft. Fabric from fabric stores is getting pretty expensive, especially if you're not restricting yourself to the bargain bin. Needles & thread are cheap; tools for leatherworking, chainmail, jewelrymaking.... they're niche so sometimes online shipping costs are added to the base cost for the materials.
Hard for me to call "crafting" a hobby. Way too broad. Doesn't help that the only crafting I've done in the last 10 years was TTRPG related.
I dunno, those are just a few comparisons off the top of my head. Overall, it still feels like TTRPGs are on the more affordable side of the spectrum.
Yep, for most people (I expect, I don't have numbers) it will be on the lower end. And for people struggling to make ends meet, it can be one of the few affordable hobbies they can engage in, especially if they are a player, and have a place to play for free.
 

MintRabbit

Explorer
I mean if I was to break down the various crafts that I've done in the past...

Sewing - variable costs. Fabric can be cheap or expensive, it depends if I want cotton, silk or polyester. Thread is cheap. Sewing machines are much more expensive than hand-sewing but if I want straight lines or complicated stitches, I need one. I mostly hand-sew now and I rarely buy fabric brand-new off the rack.

Leather-working: Damn expensive. Before you even get to the tools, leather itself is pricey, especially good leather. Then there's cutting implements, sinew, a self-healing cutting board, awls, etc. Entertained the possibility, but abandoned it.

Chain-Mail: Expensive. Cost me well over $200 in order to make a hauberk. Not doing that again.

Jewelry-making: Wire, beads, clasps, earring-hooks, earring-backs, string, pliers, and storage. The costs are small but they add up over time, because you have to keep buying new materials.
 

delericho

Legend
Provided you only ever buy the core rulebooks of the game you're actually playing, it's incredibly good value for money. Every book beyond that shifts the dial in the opposite direction though, since so many of them end up on the shelf unused... or get used and make your game actively worse.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Carrying over from another thread:

What is the minimum cost to play an RPG that has published rules?
Zero, if the game has an SRD.

You're going to need maybe pencils and papers, or a phone/PC, but it's not like you don't have them already.

You normally need a bunch of dice but they are inexpensive. Many RPGs have a single rulebook in the 50 bucks range. D&D is already three times more expensive but only for the DM.

All in all it can be a VERY inexpensive hobby. I can't easily think of many cheaper hobbies, except chess and (non-collectible) card games. Even a pair of jogging shoes cost nowadays more than 50. Maybe the good old "collecting stamps from letters coming to your mail" is cheaper, if you still get any letters at all.

The fact that many people choose to spend a lot of money even if they don't need to is another matter.
 

To add on to this, it also depends on where you live. 5e products will no longer be translated into Portuguese because of lack of sales. The main reason sales are lacking is that the cost of a book that is 70 USD is much more expensive given taxes, monetary conversion, and incomes in Brazil
 

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