Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vacation Gaming, part II

A followup to the previous post:

I returned to the store (Tower Games in Minneapolis) later, during business hours, and was pleasantly surprised. Although the tabletop RPG selection was a bit limited, it did include plenty of Pathfinder and Mongoose Traveller materials, so my gamer aesthetic sense was satisfied. I had a brief, but pleasant, conversation with the owner, who was preparing to sell some of his old stuff on ebay; it included the Mentzer Basic D&D and other mid-80s-era TSR products.

I ended up buying no RPG merchandise except for a single d6, but instead bought the Lovecraftian boardgame Elder Sign. Put out by Fantasy Flight, it's a different (and much quicker) take on Arkham Horrror, re-using a lot of the artwork but using a task resolution system that reminds me of nothing so much as the 4th edition D&D Skill Challenge system. The number of dice rolled represent the number of failures you have left, and the type of result rolled on the specialized dice represent the kind of successes. It works for a boardgame, and very well.

The proprietor mentioned their open game nights, and said that Wednesday was D&D/Pathfinder night. So on Wednesday, I returned to check out the miniatures and bulk out my d6 collection--I'm a little retentive about the kinds of dice I lug around--and while I was shopping, I eavesdropped on the games.

One of the DMs seemed to have pitch-perfect narration: succinct but clear description and a fast-paced narrative style. I almost felt pangs of jealousy until I saw that he was reading directly from some pre-printed text, when all the sadness went away. I'm not a fan of pre-packaged narration, because it presupposes when and how players will meet NPCs or encounter other game elements--at best. At worst, it's a sign of out-and-out railroading. The guy did seem to have a good flair for the dramatic when the interaction went off-page, but nothing that a mere mortal like me couldn't pull off.

It turns out I spent the most time looking at Crusader Miniatures.They produce a line of historical figures for old-school wargames: Saxons, Vikings, Medieval Spaniards, Irish warriors, and the like. While not as detailed as the fantasy miniatures for D&D and Pathfinder, they appealed to me more because of their relative historical accuracy (as far as I could tell) and their price. A typical set of 8 figures was priced at $18.00, or $2.25 a figure. I'm told the Old Guard thinks that's outrageously high, but for RPG figures, where the typical price starts at $5.99 for a single piece, it's a steal.

I'm probably going to go there one more time during my trip and purchase some of those minis. I try not to buy on impulse, Elder Sign not withstanding, and I want to have a good look at what kind of historically-accurate warriors I want to collect (even if they're going to be used in a historically-impossible fantasy setting).


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