Posted on 1 Comment

Death of a Gaming Shop


Yes, this time it’s personal.  My local gaming shop- “Cascade Comics & Games” is closing and imploding into a flurry of 50% off sales and depressed gamers and comic nerds.  When I stopped by the shop yesterday, the owners brother was manning the counter looking dreary reading a comic book.  After spotting the “50% off Store Closing Sale”, I asked “Is this for real?”  He nodded solemnly.  After talking for a bit I perused what was left on the shelves, lots of great deals here… but I would rather have the gaming shop than these deals, hell- I would rather have the gaming shop than all the free gaming merchandise in the world.

Jack, the owner of Cascade Comics & Games has had his shop now for about 5+ years in North Bend, WA.  He found ways to stay afloat when other businesses would have closed.  It looks like the economic downturn coupled with recent personal life issues have finally caught up with Jack.  Sadly at the end of the December, the local game shop will be no more.

I started thinking about the reasons that businesses all over the US are failing and a few different concepts came to me.  The poor economic times that our government has blessed us with have wiped out so many small businesses I fear there will be little left by the time the double dip recession (depression) hits rock bottom.  Hard financial times also put a huge strain on marriages.  The #1 reason for divorce in the US are spouses arguing over financial issues, and with these hard times almost 90% of Americans are dealing with financial issues one way or another.  With divorce comes not only the division of assets, but income- thus destroying the local business in the mess.  My last reason is the advent of internet businesses; There are so many online stores where you can get insanely low prices, why would you ever go to a local shop and pay twice the price for their goods?

Internet stores have VERY little overhead and thus are able to mark many products so low that they make only a couple bucks off each sale.  If local shops try and compete they will lose so much money they might as well not be selling anything at all.  I’m not saying the internet is bad, it’s just shifted the way things are bought and sold to a different format where real local people have less interaction with their community.  The problem is gaming and comic book shops not only sell goods, but create a gathering place for nerds and geeks to come together to work on model scenery, play strategy games like magic the gathering, and role-playing games like D&D.  Without this local gathering place, nerds have no real way to meet and interact on a local and personal level.  Some may argue that the internet is a great way to meet people, but I beg to differ.  Have you ever tried to find gamers to play with online and met in person only to regret ever offering to host a session or join their session?  You are already obligated to spend an entire day with these people who maybe the most annoying group of people you have ever met in your life.  Maybe they like to complain all session long, or just joke around and don’t actually play, or perhaps their DM never gives detailed descriptions and just runs battle after battle.  The point is, if you had met at the gaming shop you would have had the opportunity to see them in action firsthand and make a decision accordingly on if you wanted to spend an eight to ten hour day with them and their friends.

On many occasions I was able to meet other gamers by playing a game of Magic with them or just talking about old school RPGs.  I was given the chance to get to know some of the members of my community.  I even had the chance to bring Jack and some of his friends on an excursion with my friend Todd Gamble to tour a hugely popular company that makes miniature games (and they don’t even give tours!)   Todd had worked with the owner at Wizards of the Coast, thus was able to make this happen- something that never would have occurred were it not for the gathering place Cascade Comics and Games!

Since we are already in great danger of becoming an online society where we rarely communicate face to face and instead rely on technology, the closing of a local gathering place just pounds another nail into the coffin which gets tossed in the ground amidst hundreds of others.  The camera pans out to show thousands, and then millions more where contained within each was a neighborly community of individuals who once gathered and shared their lives, in person with each other and vested in common goals, ambitions, and entertainment together for the sake of the enjoyment and sense of community it brought.

Try and remember this next time you visit a local business that is original, artistic, or unique- this isn’t Starbucks and supported by millions of other shops the world over, this is a local business and the lady behind the counter might be eating Top Ramen tonight for dinner so that you can enjoy her business.  (Heck, to run NERD TREK I spend over 100 hours each month and on average make 25-50 cents a day!)  Just remember that if you appreciate your local businesses, make the extra effort to get out, meet people there, and purchase something for a little more $, knowing that the money will go in the pockets of a fellow American, a fellow American who is your neighbor.

I don’t want to see another gaming shop close.

Please stop by Cascade Comics and Games before it closes at the end of December 2010 and purchase something to support Jack.  If you really want to help, please drop some extra money into the cup on the counter once titled “baby fund” that now reads “college fund” to help his cute little baby girl.

Here’s to Jack and all his years of hard work and dedication, you will be sorely missed by many and never forgotten for what you did here.  Viva Cascade Comics & Games!  You shall live on in Elysium.

Posted on 2 Comments

Retro Role-Playing: The Keep on the Borderlands

The first time I held this module in my hands I was 8 years old. My friend Khidr had been gifted some red basic Dungeons and Dragons books by his Aunt and Uncle. There was the coveted Red Set with the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. They seemed intimidating at the time, but now I think back and laugh at how short they were compared to most RPG rulebooks. We also received what I truly believe got us involved in role-playing games to begin with- a set of polyhedron dice. Completely alien to us, these dice were like little treasures that required diligent safeguarding.  Strange shapes and of all different colors, this was what caused us to pull up chairs to what would become our gaming table and dig through these newfound books.  As soon as I found that there was a “Dungeon Master” who controlled the monsters and wrote the storyline I knew that’s what I wanted to be. I have always loved creation, being a creative creature at heart I get excited about writing songs, building model scenery, creating websites- these things give my life purpose and get my gears turning. I grabbed for the purple book which contained information FOR THE DUNGEON MASTER ONLY!

The Keep on the Borderlands was filled with plain black and white pages with a few poorly drawn pictures and descriptions of the interior of a keep and some nearby caverns. The cardboard exterior of the book came completely off from the bound pages and on the inside had a blue and white map of the keep.

It would provide the players with many adventures whether they realized it or not.  I could reuse different sections of this adventure to spawn ideas for future quests that would throw the Player Characters into dangerous situations and exciting sub-plots.  It would be many years later before I realized how influential those first books were to myself and my gaming group.  Now that I am an adult I decided that I would do a little more research on that old module since I find myself a bit more interested in the history of D&D.

The Keep on the Borderlands (B2) was a Dungeons and Dragons module created by the Father of D&D- Gary Gygax.  The module was first printed in 1979- a strangely reoccurring year in gaming products for me.  In the module, players are based at a keep and investigate a series of caves that are filled with a variety of monsters.  Designed to be used with the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set, it was included in the 1979-1982 editions.  It was designed in mind for those new to the game.

This module went out of print in the early 80’s, but has since been reprinted two time, and a sequel was also made.  The Keep on the Borderlands was ranked as the 7th greatest D&D Adventure of all time by Dungeon Magazine in 2004.

In the adventure, the PC’s arrive at the Keep and can make it their base of operations.  Then they may investigate a group of caves in the nearby hills which are teeming with monsters.  The Caves of Chaos are home to multiple species of hostile humanoids.  Plot twists include a treacherous priest at the Keep, hungry lizardmen in a nearby swamp, and an angry hermit in the surrounding wilderness.  This is a typical “dungeon crawl” D&D adventure with a few outdoor treks.

In September of 2010, the module was re-released for D&D 4th Edition by Wizards of the Coast for use in the weekly D&D Encounters sessions. Like the original, this revised module is designed for use with a boxed set oriented towards the beginning player: “Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game”, the starter set for D&D Essentials, also released in September of 2010, which sports the red cover of the 1983 “Basic Rules” revision of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.

Things have finally come full circle.  The Red Classic D&D Basic set is back, as is our beloved Keep on the Borderlands.  Ironically enough, my good friend Khidr who started this D&D journey with me has returned to our gaming group.  So now, Khidr and I continue to explore our medieval  fantasy worlds together, and yes- I am still the Dungeon Master as I once was over two decades ago.


Check out this shirt Wil Wheaton created! Click the link below to visit J!nx Gamer Apparel!

Posted on 2 Comments

HTML, Salt & Vinegar, and Punk Rock

Another day spent editing text and html on the website. I can’t wait until the arduous work is through! Our true passion is creating fantasy worlds, drawing maps and illustrations, and crafting fine adventures to share with YOU and our own personal gaming group!

Soon I’ll be play testing these adventures with my friends gathered around the gaming table, eating way too many Tim’s Cascade Salt and Vinegar chips and drinking soda while laughing, talking, and rolling dice. I hope you enjoy the adventures as much as we do crafting and testing them!

You probably won’t be reading this for a few months, but I wanted my first entry to be some ramblings during the construction phase of this site so we can look back at the days when I was all by my lonesome listening to bluegrass and punk rock plugging in code all day and night.