Various real-life issues have left me little time for my column this week, but I had something on my mind that will not wait. I have never had an FLGS (a “friendly local gaming store”) close enough for me to truly support one, or for me to get the sense of community that one can bring to a gamer.
A great FLGS not only has the products you want to buy, but it also offers a place to meet new gamers, try new games, and even make new gaming friends. I’ve had some FGSes and some LGSes, but I’ve never found that combination of gaming store that was close enough to be convenient and friendly enough to be a place to try new games and meet new folks.
When the D&D Encounters program from Wizards of the Coast started a little over a year ago, I never felt that lack of a good FLGS more profoundly. Here was a program that was practically built for me. I have trouble finding the time to game for several hours a week (mostly because my free time for gaming is spent writing for games rather than playing them). I have a kid who wants to play, but doesn’t always have the time or focus for longer games. I was having trouble finding local gamers to play with. Encounters, with its (roughly) 90-minute play experience once each week, seemed to be the answer to my gaming prayers. But since the program can only be run at gaming stores on Wednesday nights, I was looking at least a 120-minute round-trip drive to play a 90-minute session—usually on a school night.
I actually made the trip a few times with my daughter to play, and we had a lot of fun. But it quickly became apparent that the logistics just were not going to work. The fourth season of D&D Encounters was set to start February 9th, and I knew that it too would have to pass me by. In an act of self-torture, I typed in my zip code on the Wizards game locator web page just to remind myself how far away I was from the fun. I did a double-take as a stared at the screen, and lo and behold, there was a store I had never heard of 10 minutes from my house running this new season.
Being the eternal realist with a heavily dose of pessimism taken twice a day with a full glass of water, I didn’t get too excited. Maybe the store wasn’t really running it. Maybe there wouldn’t be enough players. Maybe the players would be so vile that I couldn’t even stand to be there, much less take my daughter. I emailed the store contact and asked about the specifics, even offering to DM if needed to make a game happen.
I am happy to report that I am starting to get the feeling I have found my very first FLGS. The place is called Water Street Games, and it is not the largest store. It isn’t the fanciest store. But after three weeks of running March of the Phantom Brigade for six players, I couldn’t be more pleased. The players range from experienced 4e players/DMs to people new to 4e to people brand new to D&D. All of them are good players who are eager to get into the game, willing to give and take with the table banter, and are extremely courteous with a youngster at the table. I attended the store’s monthly board game day and am looking forward to learning new games and bringing some of my own knowledge and experience to the community.
Equally helpful and community-building are the forums at the Wizards site where DMs and players can get together and talk about their experiences. DMs share everything from suggestions on modifying the adventure to great props and methods of tracking initiative. This sharing of knowledge and excitement about the game is a breath of fresh air in a cyber-landscape that sometimes gets a little hard to endure—with flame wars and edition wars and people seeking attention in unproductive ways.
I have talked in previous columns about the joys and rewards of gaming with strangers, and it is an awesome experience to be reminded of your own beliefs in such a real way. Between running and playing several games at DDXP, and getting into the D&D Encounters program at my new FLGS, I haven’t been this excited about actually playing the game of D&D in a long time.
If you are a player without a game, I suggest looking for a game again if you haven’t played in a while, even if it is stepping outside your comfort zone. Teos Abadia (known in gaming forums as Alphastream) has a great post on ENworld about Organized Play, giving a ton of information in a very succinct manner that might help people find a game they’ll enjoy.
You might just be surprised at how much fun there is to be had.