Wednesday, February 12, 2014

D&D@40 Blog Hop: Day 12

Day 12: First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

To be honest, for many years I didn't buy any roleplaying books or other gaming supplies. Why? Because my group already had a ton of stuff that my friends had bought (not sure where they got it all because I never asked), and we had everything we needed!
After that, when I finally moved on to other RPGs, I bought books mostly via mail. Yes, before the advent of the Internet, there was mail order, kids. In particular, I distinctly remember seeing the ads in Dragon magazine for Amber Diceless RPG, and ordering the rule book using those ads. Ah, those were the days!
Speaking of Dragon, I used to pick up copies of the magazine in Waldenbooks. Remember those? I'm pretty sure I also picked up a good number of roleplaying books from Waldenbooks, especially White Wolf games like Vampire: The Masquerade and the rest...
Then, there were the Wizards of the Coast retail stores! Remember THOSE? One of those sprang up in a mall near me, and after that I forgot about Waldenbooks for my gaming needs. Yeah, I know I bought a lot of *get ready to cringe* RIFTS RPG BOOKS at that Wizards of the Coast store. Ironically enough, I barely bought what I think that store was supposed to be selling: Magic the Gathering cards. The store of course had the requisite case of rare Magic cards on display for ridiculous prices ("HOW MUCH for a Wrath of God card?!").
Well, thinking back, I know I bought my share of Magic cards, but I got them from Waldenbooks just as much as I got them from the WotC store. I think there was one hobby shop that also had Magic cards...memory fails me again.

Then of course Borders and Barnes & Noble rose to power. And I definitely bought roleplaying books from those behemoths.
NOW, all of this probably sounds like sacrilege to you, eh? "Anthony, why weren't you going to your FLGS when you wanted to buy gaming stuff?!?"
Well, I'll tell you: Southern New Jersey appears to be a perennial brick-and-mortar RPG wasteland. In other words, it seems to be where the FLGS goes to DIE! At least, it used to be that way.
Look, there was hobby store in a local mall that also existed for a while when I was a kid. It wasn't a chain, and in addition to RPGs it carried stuff for other hobbies like model cars and all that crap. But it didn't have the best selection, you know?
In addition, there were a couple gaming stores that sprang up here and there, but they were also gone very quickly back in the old days. There was also one store that I hoped would sell roleplaying stuff but it was just packed with grumpy old wargamers playing with hordes of miniatures. I went in there like once, and when I did I got a look like I was the guy who got bathed in nuclear waste in the original Robocop movie. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe they were still playing Chainmail, even in the late 80's/early to mid-90's...their miniatures didn't look like Warhammer 40K, if I recall properly. But I'm sure that stuff was mixed in there as well...
Maybe these stores from my youth failed because they became the haunts of just the hard-core owners and their insular hard-core gamer friends. That's no way to run a business, guys. Guess you figured that out years ago...
Suffice to say that everything mentioned above-from Dragon magazine to Waldenbooks to the mom-and-pop hobby shops to the WotC stores-are long gone. Wow, that really sucks to think about that. more recent years, South Jersey seems to have given rise to at least a couple gaming stores that have thrived. Perhaps the most successful (that I know of) is All Things Fun in West Berlin, NJ. As regular readers should know, I've done most of my gaming there for the last few years. It's a wonderful place run by wonderful people, and they recently opened a second store!
The problem with All Things Fun, at least for me, is that it is pretty far from my home. It's a bit over a half-hour away. Now, some of you might be like "that's no big deal!" But, uh, yeah, for a guy with a family it can be tough to justify the drive in addition to the time spent gaming.
Now, there's a newer store really close to my house that opened in the last couple years. It's apparently doing well and has a lot of RPG action going on at any time. HOWEVER, I've never felt very welcome there. The people who frequent it seem rather young, and I worry that I seem like a relic to them (at the ancient age of 38, no less). It's relatively small and dark, where All Things Fun is spacious and bright.
But these two establishments are pretty much it in my area of the world. Unless I get my ass in gear finally and become a wild success in my dream job. Then, when I make my millions, I'll open up my own game store and plop my butt behind the counter (you know, because I won't have to work anymore). And people will be able to come and game anytime, all day long!
A man needs his dreams...

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