Saturday, June 14, 2008

Welcome to the Hall of Fire: My theoretical RPG/book store

I think it's every gamer's fantasy to own his or her own game store. For me, it's one of those idle "wouldn't that be cool" thoughts that creeps into my brain from time to time. Also, whenever I visit game stores, I can't help but think how much cooler I could make them, given enough time and money.

Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps), I've learned just enough about the reality of store ownership to keep that fantasy in the land of daydreams. A guy in my current gaming group used to own his own store and, from everything he's told me, there's absolutely no glamour involved and even less profit. Plus there's long hours, shoplifting, and that smelly dude who spends the whole day hanging around without ever buying anything.

But despite my better judgement, I still think that, were I to ever hit the lottery, I'd open up my own role-playing/book selling sanctuary (after I returned from that six-month trip to Europe, Asia, and Australia). Flush with cash, I'd open up a paradise on earth for like-minded individuals who share my passion for RPGs, books, movies, and other nonsense.

Since this is an exercise in sheer make-believe, my theoretical game store would offer much more than just a clean, friendly environment with a wide selection of merchandise. I'd make it a fantasy-lovers paradise, an over-the-top den of merriment and madness like a modern day Shadizar. I kind of like the name The Hall of Fire, which is taken from the elven hall in Rivendell where stories are told, verses recited, songs sung, ale and wine drank, and past glories relived.

Here's what you'd might see in the Hall of Fire:

Fantasy/medieval architecture. I'd pay a mason to make the front of the building look like a medieval castle. Or maybe I'd just hire an architect to build a room-for-room replica of The (pre) Ruined Moathouse. The entrance hall could look like the entrance to Acererak's Tomb of Horrors and another wing would be a classic Viking mead-hall with a long fire pit running down the middle.

Armor, weapons on the walls: I'd have suits of armor on display and shields and crossed swords and spears on the wall. Just for show of course, but in case of a possible break-in I'd keep at least one axe razor sharp.

A clean bathroom. A must of course, and the toilet paper would be printed with Jack Chick tracts.

Role-playing games, and lots of 'em. Duh. However, unlike most hobby stores that only stock the latest version of D&D and perhaps Exalted or GURPS, I'd keep a copy of every role-playing game in and out of print I could on the shelves, from Runequest and Lords of Creation to Toon, Top Secret, Boot Hill, Chivalry and Sorcery, Star Frontiers, and Marvel Super Heroes. The Hall of Fire could double as a research library for RPG scholars by the time I was done stocking it.

Board games/wargames. Axis and Allies? Wooden Ships and Iron Men? Squad Leader? Revolt on Antares? Car Wars? Star Fleet Battles? Check, we've got them.

Miniatures. I love minis and wish I had the time to paint my old and small collection of lead, so with money and time no object I'd have thousands of minis for sale. And I'd hire these guys to paint them and conduct classes.

Organized trips: I'd organize bus trips to places like Higgins Armory and King Richard's Faire.

Books: Small, independent bookstores are a dying breed these days, so I'd do my part to keep fantasy, horror, and sci-fi titles alive. I'd have floor to ceiling shelves stocked full of Howard, Leiber, Tolkien, Lewis, Cornwell, Anderson, G.R.R. Martin, Moorcock, Vance, King, Poe, Lovecraft, and more. And I'd pay to get authors in for book signings.

Movies: I'd have films like Excalibur, Conan the Barbarian, Wizards, Dragonslayer, The Lord of the Rings, The Terminator, and more running on constant loops. Oh yeah, and Thundarr the Barbarian too.

No Magic: The Gathering. Offenders will have their cards tossed into the yawning black mouth of the Great Green Devil on the wall (a cleverly disguised incinerator).

Music: I'd play a wide selection of heavy metal, and for a change of pace, different kinds of heavy metal. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, and Blind Guardian would get heavy rotation.

Artwork: In and around the weapons I'd hang artwork by Frazetta, Vallejo, Alan Lee, and John Howe, plus I'd obtain permission to reproduce or buy the originals of all the classic D&D artwork (A Paladin in Hell, the PHB idol, the Magic Mouth, etc.) and place them in frames under glass. And I'd commission a talented artist to paint a giant picture of Orcus, too.

Guest speakers: I'd fly out big names like Mike Mentzer, Greg Stafford, Monte Cook, the guy from Grognardia, etc., to provide informative lectures on the history of RPGs, DMing advice, etc.

Book discussion group: I'd hold discussion groups on great fantasy titles like The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Worm Ouroboros, The Broken Sword, The Once and Future King, and everything Robert E. Howard ever wrote.

Regular schedule of fun
In addition, I'd keep a regular schedule of games and other assorted nonsense. I'd run some games, play in others, and pay a stable of DMs a decent salary to keep the others going:

Monday: Wargame night. We'd wage World War II and then move on to history's other great conflicts at least once a week. Uniforms are encouraged, and I'd have films like Patton and The Longest Day playing in the background.

Tuesday: Dungeons and Dragons. Pick your poison--OD&D, basic, 1E, 2E, or the newer versions should you choose, I'd have them all. I myself would run that epic 1E campaign I've always wanted to try, culminating with Against the Giants/Drow/Demonweb series.

Pit-fighting Wednesday: I'd erect a shallow stone pit in the rear of the store, and, equipped with foam axes, swords, nets, tridents, shields, customers could go at it a-la the pit-fighting scene in Conan the Barbarian. This would be a great mid-week stress reliever for those sad souls still working the 9-5 shift :).

Thursday: Alternate game night. Those games of Pendragon, Call of Cthulhu, 007, or Runequest you've always wanted to play? This is your chance.

Friday night: Alefest, followed by a drunken session of D&D. Again, costumes encouraged (required?). Oh yeah, did I mention that I'd be acquiring a liquor license?

So what does your gamestore look like?


Badelaire said...

That is scary and awesome all at the same time. Sign me up for the Alefest, though. And do get out to Higgins ASAP. Totally worth the trip.

James Mishler said...

Oh man... don't get me started on the Game Store Dream.

I've assured my sweetie that we would indeed go on that World Tour before I'd start building my Game Mecca, but sometimes I don;t think she believes me...

Badelaire said...

Any time the merest flicker of an idea about owning some sort of game/hobby store has gone through my mind, it is immediately followed by the careening mental locomotive of real-world observations about what it takes to own & operate a game store these days - namely that it sucks and will destroy your life (not to mention your credit line). Proprietors ALWAYS make the fatal error or trying to create a "community" out of their customer base, and travel down the perilous road of sacrificing income for being the customer's "friend".

With regards to the dream of a used a used book store, it's far harder idea for me to shake, but the same rules apply...

Brian Murphy said...

I knew I wasn't the only one!

In all seriousness, although half of the ideas in my post are beyond rational, I do wonder why more game store owners don't try to insert more creativity into their stores. In this age of e-bay and Amazon, you can't survive on just product alone. You need to make your store a place people are drawn to and want to visit.

But you're right, Badelaire, you need to balance that with hard-nosed business sense.

Badelaire said...

It happened to a local gaming store here in Boston. The owner moved the store two years ago, in part, to have a space big enough so the store could be, as he put it, a "7 day a week convention of sorts", with book signings, workshops, gaming, etc. etc..

The only problem was, in doing this he really didn't have much of a plan for how to advertise and utilize the space, and he also had MAJOR troubles moving into the new location - a lot of business was lost, and big expenses were tallied up. Even now, the place hangs on by a thread, and he's had multiple financial crisis where loyal customers were literally bailing him out of debt to keep the store open.

So yeah, make the place a "fun place" to shop - have something that draws people to the store for more than buying the products you sell - but remember that you need $$$ coming in sufficient quantities to warrant your gimmicks, otherwise you're just wasting time and energy on a dream that'll never come true.

Sad but true, I think the golden age of gaming stores has been dead and gone for a while now.

Sham aka Dave said...

Heh-Yep, count me in as a dream game store owner.

I'm not sure about the faux castle facade, but I've actually had plans for a "viable" gaming store for a few years.

While not a "dream store", mine was an attempt to try and rationalize me retiring and opening such a gamnig haven.

Mine would include CCG's and MMO's. Hey, I gotta pay the lease somehow. D&D won't even pay for the water bill. Even though I'd be personally running a D&D game three nights a week.

And selling peanut M&M's and Diet Pepsi Max on the side.