A Different Take On Your Friendly Local Gaming Store
A friend of mine, Anthony Nigito, wanted to build a membership-fee based D&D social club years , but after building the space for it, he was unable to open it. When the Gambit closed, he asked me to come to the space and run D&D for the Gambit’s RPG community so it would have a new home.
Given the chance to start fresh, we decided to do things a little differently. The traditional FLGS model, which I’d done for 7 years, let people play for free, hoping they’d buy products to make up costs, wouldn’t work. Due to other restrictions, we only wanted to open two days a week: Wednesday nights (for Encounters) and Sunday from 11AM-11PM (to run two slots of for D&D Adventurers League Expeditions).
Instead, we decided to provide and sell the one thing that couldn’t be bought online cheaper—community.
To grow a community, we provided the following:
- Five large, custom gaming tables that seat 8 in comfy chairs, four on one side of the store with a sound baffle breaking them into two groups of two and the last table in a lounge/VTT setup on the other side. Our maximum capacity is roughly 48 simultaneous gamers if we deploy our additional fold-out tables.
- A collection of 5,000+ D&D miniatures for customer use, as well as Dwarven Forge and other terrain sets, battlemaps, markers, DM screens, free printing for character sheets & certs, and loaner dice for those who forget to bring theirs with them!
- Online scheduling to ensure we have enough DMs to run for players each week.
- An adult-friendly atmosphere. While we have (very few) teenagers playing here, the predominant crowd are folks between the ages of 21-50.
- A full refrigerator, soda cooler, and microwave for customer-brought food and drink.
- For regulars, we custom-order any gaming product they want, priced as close to online discounted prices as possible. We’re also a Fantasy Grounds registered retailer.
- Mid-2015, we introduced something new: Fantasy Grounds VTT integrated with Skype, conference webcam, big-screen TV & microphone for remote players to join a table or to enhance tabletop play
What do we charge for all this?
- $5 per player per *day*, not per session (we run two slots on Sundays). The first two times are free for new customers, and DMs play for free. There’s no real pressure (nor desire) for folks who don’t want to DM to have to do so.
- Chips, candy, soda, water, and coffee priced at a dollar each—tax included.
When we opened, a week after the Gambit closed in November 2014, we had 10 Expeditions players on Sundays with 5 DMs and ~18 Encounters players on Wednesdays. In December, we had an issue: players wanted to play the newly-released 5E, but new Expeditions mods were delayed until March. At that time, we decided to create our own OP program: Dark Earth (http://darkearth.obsidianportal.com). It’s been growing strong ever since, with ~50 players in the community, including 12 DMs.
Also, we’re open to other RPG and board game events. There’s a board game library, as well as other events: a regular FFG Star Wars group, as well as some Star Wars events revolving around the Force Awakens. Pathfinder organized play has also made appearances at the store.
On a small scale—N&N is only open two days a week—the model works. Several of our customers have told us we should charge more. In larger retail FLGS models, it would easily work–in fact, at the Gambit, we’d been charging for Encounters, with fewer amenities. During the height of the RPGA/LFR/4E era, we hosted $5 sessions on Sundays with a large turnout, even hosting two mini-conventions. LFR/4E eventually shrunk…but many of those players have returned with 5E, enjoying D&D Encounters on Wednesdays. With the advent of the Dungeon Masters Guild and the D&D Adventurers League mods no longer being free going forward, the taboo against charging for table space because “it’s always been free” is ripe for change Stores can pay for the mods, provide amenities, and charge what the local traffic will bear.
In a world where every other entertainment option out there from restaurants to nightclubs to museums and more are paid for without complaint, it is time for RPG players to realize that community is something worth paying for. If, like many gamers, you miss places where you can meet new players and DMs, places that built the D&D experience to what it is today, support your FLGS. Help them build a community like ours on a larger scale. Share the model we have–improve upon it!–and see the community grow rather than be an inconvenient, profitless nuisance to FLGS owners. The amazement and pleasure my customers display at the uniqueness of our community makes every hour worth it, and I’d be quite happy if we weren’t so unique.
N&N Adventuring Company is located at 600B (Rear) Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ, 07661. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or found on Facebook. You can find details of their homebrew Dark Earth campaign on Obsidian Portal.
He has not yet attended Origins.