Thursday, April 30, 2009

Where have all the good gaming shops gone?

I don't know if its just me, but there seem to be a lot of gaming systems out there all piled on top of one another in our little corner of world. I am a super huge fan of RPGNow and browse the contents regularly. I check out the different game systems and all the good stuff that goes with them. I even have a separate account for 'gaming money' so when I want to shop I all I need to do is click and get those PDFs downloaded.

With that said I really miss the old game shops. Even the ones that trains, planes and automobiles dominated while the gaming material was stashed on a shelf in the back or on a magazine rack. In my area there are a few gaming shops, but the card games dominate as they should since they are the money makers. Very few carry gaming items that goes beyond 4ed D&D. The sense of discovery and wonder are gone in those places. With the gaming industry policy of 'no returns' gaming stores that are trying to appeal to us book gamers is glutted with items that don't sell and force to practically give them away. Its too risky to try out new games. Most already have too many dusty versions on the shelf. So the stores stop ordering new games and stick with the biggies. Especially the Joe Gamer stores who are surviving by selling rare yuggio (yes I know I misspelled it) cards. He's not going to buy two copies of a new game unless he knows someone is going to buy it.

Gaming stores are great to find new players to get involved in your game, to discuss how much you hate of love a game, and to hear stories of someone's latest gaming session. We all know how difficult it is to get a gamer to share his stories. Even though the stores are being more careful these days, a lot of them are still reeling from the mass of products from a few years ago, I still like to offer my support to FNGS even if I have to pay a little higher price than on Amazon.

Last year, Rob and I did a couple of tours of gaming stores in different cities. I believe we went around Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Erie. When I went to this place in Cleveland called Warzone-Matrix I was blown away. This place was an archive of gaming history. Even the decorations were fantastic. It was one of those places where tons of stuff were on the shelves, but they also had mounds of boxes of stuff to dig through. This gaming store reignited that sense of wonder. So go goggle a some gaming stores in a nearby city and go for a day trip with your gaming friends. Go explore. If you come back with bags of new gaming books or empty handed it will be a journey worth traveling.

Different Age of Gaming

With my group of gamers the chance to sit around the table and sling dice is pretty much gone. While Rob and I only live on the opposites sides of town, the others in our group live in different states. A few years back we got Fantasy Grounds so we could play over the computer. Not quite as fun as sitting around a table discussing where we should order the pizza and what to get on it, but its good enough to do some gaming. Fantasy Grounds was a pain at first. It crashed or spewed out error messages. We spent more time patching and reconfiguring than playing. Now Fantasy Grounds works like a champ and with the addition of all the rulesets it is the best online tabletop on the market. All of us have fully licensed versions so if the GMing bug strikes us we can start uploading all the maps and pictures (although Dwayne should be banned from posting certain pictures). The current GM is Dwayne running a 4e GURPS campaign. Rob has some rules he is percolating and wants to test before he unleashes them. Waxing nostalgic for playing on the tabletop is fine, but because of Fantasy Grounds we can get together and sometimes more often than if we did live close by. Its easy to start drifting away from gaming as real world matters press in around you, but once you pick up the dice, create a character and meet with your friends it helps to take on those problems.

So on Sunday afternoon starting at 2pm til whenever Dwayne runs out of breath, I'll be sitting at my computer playing Torren of the Red Hand looking to find the guardian to the gates of hell. Much more interesting than an electric bill.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Meet Whimpy. The Magic d20.

Gamers are a super superstitious bunch especially with their dice. Whimpy is the elder statesmen of my dice. He was the first d20 I owned and he's still going strong 30 years later. I don't remember how he got his name. That memory is lost in the fog. But here is the thing, even if I had a hundred attacks in one round I would rather roll Whimpy a hundred times rather than roll a hundred d20s at once. He's my magic d20. Whimpy has the ability to roll a 20 when I am in desperate need of one. He loves mixing it up. If I need a critical hit all I need to do is ask. But there is a catch. Like most magical items, this one has a drawback. Whimpy can't make a saving throw to save my life. Completely useless. Whimpy has no interest in the defensive side of things.

Through the years I have gravitated toward GURPS and lost touch with Whimpy. Only six siders need apply at Steve Jackson Games. Whimpy waited patiently in the darkness of the drawer along with all the other four, eight and twelve siders. With the new excitement stirring around an Old School revival Whimpy has come into light once again. Even though his corners are a little rounder, his colors are chipped and fading he still manages to assist me in striking down foes with a thunderous roll. But please, oh please, keep that Finger of Death away from me.

Welcome to Gothridge Manor

Welcome to Gothridge Manor. My place on the Web to talk about gaming old and new, good and bad and a whole lot of in between. I've been plundering dungeons and razing cities since the winter of '80.

I am placing the blame on my friend Dwayne for causing my 30 year fascination with orcs, liches, experience points and gold pieces. Dwayne brought home this ugly purple little booklet called B2 The Keep on the Borderlands. He didn't know how to play, but seemed really excited to give it a try. We raided the Yatzee game for dice (that's what we called them back then before we knew they were 6ds) and made up rules as we went along. I can't remember how we made characters, but I remember we used the Charisma attribute, rolled a d6 and that was how many followers we got.

On to the gameplay. Since we had nothing but B2 and a handful of six siders we decided that if a 1 was rolled that was a death. If a 6 was rolled that was a wound. Two wounds in one battle and you were dead. This is why all those followers were important. So for the next weeks we were happy throwing six siders. Experience points, what were they? Hit points, didn't need them. Miniatures were tiny candy bars. We had a blast. One night Dwayne would DM, the next night I would DM. Then the guy who he borrowed B2 from wanted it back. Crap.

We found two places in town that sold D&D stuff. The first place I went the guy behind the counter kicked me out of the store because I brought my book bag into the store and didn't leave it by the door. I didn't know. So the next place I went, I crept in and asked the lady if it was okay to come in. She said absolutely and showed me where all the gaming stuff was, which was limited to one shelf on the bottom at the back of the store. It was a hobby store and had a ton of airplane and train stuff. I'd never seen miniatures before. Lead figures with swords and bows, clerics with their arms raised and magic-users with staves taller than them. Oh, and the monsters were very cool even though I had no clue what most of them were. This instantly became my place. I bought my first set of D&D dice here and still have most of them to this day (except for my 12d which vanished in study hall one day).

I had money to buy one thing so I picked out the coolest looking module they had. I ran home to show Dwayne. He was excited also. He'd gone to the other store and had better luck than I did getting in. We showed each other our spoils of the day. Both of us had bought the same module S1 Tomb of Horrors. So for the next few months we took turns DMing the Tomb of Horrors. After that we made a pact to tell the other what they were going to buy.

So began my journey in gaming. Thanks for taking a look around. You're welcome to anything in the fridge, snacks are in the cupboard and the only rule is the last Coke is always mine.