I have just returned from my first actual vacation since the summer of 2006… and that one was more like trading my day job for doing one of my hobbies full time. Perhaps it has been even longer since I have really taken time away from everything and just focused on relaxation and seeing the world. For this vacation, I took my family to Canada for their first look at where I grew up, and my first real look at where I came from since 2003. That’s right, a decade has passed since I last had time to visit old haunts and travel the roads to all the places I once called home. As you would expect, it got me thinking.

Strange Adventures

One of my first goals for being back in my ‘last known address’ was to visit my former FLGSs and see what sort of gaming was raging these days. As some of you will know from personal experience, the gaming section in my favorite of these places had been reduced to one tiny shelf off in the corner of the shop with nothing on it but the basic sets for D&D and Pathfinder. I took that as something of a blow as the shop had once had a reputation for bringing in a broad spectrum of interesting games and for being in touch with the interests of local gamers. Not so, now. The visit wasn’t all bad as even though I had not laid eyes on the owner in the 16 years I have been living in Korea, I was recognized, welcomed back and given an interesting update on local comics and artists, as well as some nice loot. Still – no gamers, no games, and no gaming? It was a strange adventure indeed. 

When I left ‘home’ there were three major games/comic book stores in my end of the city. Now… the one above has dropped games, and the others have dropped off the face of the planet. Replacing them is one store dedicated to board gaming with a side order of selling… Pathfinder and D&D. I understand that times are tough and that shelf space is at a premium, but… I have to admit this still throws me. I guess I am just nostalgic for the 90s when my friendly local game stores didn’t bother using shelf space for D&D. Instead you saw spreads of Call of Cthulhu, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, the growing panoply of White Wolf games, and the odd supplement for Palladium and Twilight 2000. Now…? It’s like the shelves are being stocked with newcomers in mind, not hobbyists.

Are stores the home for newbs now, while experienced players must trawl the cold depths of the internet looking for sustenance? Once the newbs graduate from ignorance and simple curiosity, where do they go?

If I had stayed, and maintained the large and expanding groups I used to enjoy being a part of, how would all these changes have taken shape? Would we have preserved a strong and vibrant gaming community, or would we have been swept from gaming by the tides of competing interests and the pressures on the aging gamer? Such questions can drive you mad… unless you, like we, enjoy residing imaginatively in speculative worlds.

Real Adventures

With the goal of visiting the game stores of my youth behind me, I began to focus on sharing my homeland with my family and rediscovering the places which framed my upbringing. As I have been away so long, and as I have been working on building my RuneQuest campaign and setting, and I suppose primarily because of contributing my latest article to the new RPG magazine ‘Theater of the Mind,’ this experience was filtered by thoughts of long journeys, and the changes they make in a person. With a decade or more between me and the last time I was in any of these places it came as no surprise that there were changes. Things were gone, things were aged, new things had sprung up and old routes abandoned in favor of new ones…. Some things, though, were distinctly and indelibly the same and for the first time, perhaps ever, I could see their marks in me as well, however faint they might be.

Being a guide for people I know intimately, yet who have never laid eyes on the people and places I was to show them was an interesting and effective backdrop for my own experience being a stranger in my own land and a stranger to those who had once been neighbors and friends. Discussions with my family about where we were, where we were going, and what we had done helped put things in a different perspective than I might have managed on my own. As I took pictures of things important to me, especially those things which are no longer there, I found myself considering the weary explorer finding more in common with those he has shared his most recent hardships than among those who shaped his youth and sent him on his first expeditions into a world which may or may not be as hollow as he himself was – and perhaps no longer is.

Future Adventures

Connections to companions and ties to the living world I aspire to help a game group create around the table have been a key point of how I run my games for a long time. That said, this journey showed me how shallow those connections have often been and how mired in the present. It pointed out that too often these connections are allowed to merely serve as hooks to story rather than as fundamental building blocks of character, perhaps not recognizing the difference at all. Motivations after all, are merely the direction which we take once the life we have lived has shaped us into the person travelling in that direction. More importantly, it highlighted an idea I expressed here on the blog during a past RPG Carnival in 2011 about turning standard practice of character creation on its head and playing familiar games from a different point of view. While the idea shared in that post, Turning the Wheel, looked at the concept of running a group of adventurers close to retirement, it can take us in different directions than that. One that strikes me now that I would like to try is to start a campaign as a journey home rather than as a journey to adventure. Instead of the unknown as a foil for the group, the changes and developments in their homeland during their absence can draw the focus of the characters.

Can you go home again? 

I am not sure, but one thing I do realize now is that we take a small piece of each place we have visited with us when we move on, and despite the transience of ‘home’ we stand on a firm and expanding base of experiences that make us what we are and direct us to where and who we will be. As gamers, this is something which can perhaps enrich our games as much as our lives, should we take the time to let our minds range far enough~


3 Responses to “Home…”
  1. BF Wolfe says:

    Nice blog. I am reading it as a fellow adventurer, not going home, but forging ahead to yet another new adventure. Everything still rang true, though. I used to tell people (in particular of my home town, but perhaps more universal) that there are those who never leave and those who never return. Your blog made me think that those two are rarely as mutually exclusive as I portrayed. I am more amused these days, though, when I stumble upon are part of me that still clings to ‘home’.
    I also suspect we ourselves might be to blame for the state of gaming stores. I know your internet orders are more necessity than preference, but I think most old gaming hacks have moved on to pdfs and cheap book orders online. Those testing the waters may want to check out new material in a store, but I can’t remember the last time I set foot in one. The hidden price of inexpensive pdfs.

    • Runeslinger says:

      After a long time abroad it can be pretty surprising and amusing to find a piece of you is still firmly attached to some aspect of home. This trip showed me I am connected by more than just an unquenchable thirst for root beer, gravy, Cadbury’s chocolate, and the simple elegance of bacon.

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  1. […] away. With a little more than a year of feeling this odd isolation from actual tabletop gaming, my trip home and the disturbing revelation of the current state of game stores there was made all the more […]

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