by Brian Dalrymple
Brian Dalrymple owns The Adventure Game Store & Dragon’s Lair in South Florida. He’s also worked in games distribution and publishing, and is a graphic designer. He sells a lot of role-playing games. Find his store online at facebook.com/AdventureGameStore or follow him on twitter @AdvGameStore
Chances are, as a recipient of the Pelgrane Press newsletter, you are already selling role-playing games in your shop, or you’ve been thinking about doing so. In recent years we’ve observed a new wave of interest in tabletop RPGs, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades. This surge has been fueled partly by generational trends and the rise of geek culture, and it’s been pushed into the collective consciousness through both traditional and new media.
For some time now, many game players have viewed role-playing games as a sort of mysterious, foundational part of the gaming hobby. They were the games CEOs, authors, actors, and screenwriters, (and within the hobby, designers and game company owners) played when they were young – but to many people, they seemed arcane and indecipherable, or the groups playing them too exclusive or fringey, for them to learn to play.
All of that is changing.
In my shop, and possibly in yours, this change been due, in part, to the boom in board and card games. What began as selection of simple Euro games next to our venerable counter and hex wargames titles has exploded into a dozens of shelves holding a wide variety of games that dominate the store: resource management; risk management; cooperative; abstract strategy; adventure – you know them as well as I do – and as our selection grew, so did the sophistication of the game rules, and the rules-absorbing-abilities of my customers. Our board and card gamers, to borrow from the RPG vernacular, have “leveled.”
If the question is: “Where are my new RPG players going to come from?” I’d say, “You’ve probably already got them, among your board and card game players.”
So, you’ve made the decision to carry and push RPGs? Here is, ideally, what you need, other than the rulebooks:
- A semi-private space, separated from other store noise, if possible.
- A table that seats about 6+. In my store, our 5’ round table is popular, because it gives everyone equal access to the table center, and allows people to hear each other well (again, if noise is an issue).
- An electrical outlet, as some RPGers use laptops or other devices at the table. (This can also be a detriment, which we’ll discuss in a later article.)
- Refreshments, if you can sell them. RPG players will spend more time than most gamers in the same seat, playing one game, and they’re going to get hungry.
- Access to a printer, for downloads and character sheets.
- Accessories – dice, of course. Dice are our top selling item for RPG players. Almost as individual to a player as their character, one can never have too many cool dice, and then there’s the add-ons: dice bags, rolling trays and towers, etc… Also stock character miniatures, if your games use them. Reaper has a huge assortment of affordable figures in their Bones line, and WizKids will soon be offering unpainted character minis in packs of 2 (low and high level versions of the same character).
- Game Masters are the linchpin of any RPG group (Yes, there are some games that don’t use them, but there is usually an Alpha or organizer). If you don’t already have any in your shop, social media can be a place to find them. Look at MeetUp, Facebook and Google groups, and Reddit for groups that might be in your area, and reach out to them. Local conventions are a great place to look, too. Some schools have gaming clubs. Put the word out through your customers and your social media. Chances are there are already RPG groups playing in your area. Finding a good Game Master can be critical to RPG growth in your shop, as GMs create new GMs.
Need to make your own Game Masters? Running an RPG is a learned skill that’s usually best taught by those with experience. In our shop we’ve hosted Game Master Roundtables, where we’ve asked veteran GMs to sit for an hour or two to talk with new, or aspiring GMs about the art and challenges of managing games, and how to better provide an engaging and entertaining experience at their tables.
We’ve also created an event we’re calling “RPGs Decoded”, where we invite curious board, card or miniatures players to sit for a discussion of what Role-Playing Games are, and how they’re easy and fun to play. We end the program with some examples of game play. We’re fortunate enough to have some local RPG designers and publishers join our Game Masters in presenting for this event, but we’d manage well enough with the GMs alone.
- Make Your Own Luck is a free RPG Day adventure for 13th Age from 2014. It’s by award-winning writer and designer Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and can be played without the 13th Age rulebook. This is available free for retailers, as part of the 13th Age Monthly subscription on Bits and Mortar.
- The 2015 Free RPG Day release includes an adventure for 13th Age (At Land’s Edge) and one for Night’s Black Agents (The Harker Inclusion). This is also available free for retailers on Bits and Mortar.
- This year’s Free RPG Day release features double offerings for 13th Age (Swords Against the Dead) and Night’s Black Agents (The Van Helsing Letter). If you’re not signed up yet, visit www.FreeRPGDay.com
- The Strangling Sea is a great starter adventure for 4-6 players. It’s written by award-winning writer and designer Robin D. Laws, and should take a few 3-4 hour sessions to complete.
- For a quicker scenario, check out 13th Age Battle Scenes: High Magic & Low Cunning, for encounters linked to the various 13th Age Icons.
Now is a great time to try RPGs! Good luck!