A small thief carefully inserts a metal rod into a lock and wiggles it around until it clicks. As the locked door opens, the adventurer motions for the other members of her party to enter the newly revealed room. The largest member of the group, a half-orc barbarian, unwittingly trips a wire pulled across the floor – a trap. An alarm sounds and a swarm of small, dirty goblins spills into the room. The adventurers raise their weapons, their fates to be determined by the rolls of some dice.
Scenes such as this are among an infinite number capable of playing out in Dungeons & Dragons or a number of other role-playing games that have recently regained popularity in Durango.
A place to play
“The one thing that I noticed from the moment we opened the door was there was a large D&D community here, whether it was Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder – just a large RPG (role-playing game) community,” said Daniel Perez, owner of Guild House Games.
Guild House Games, which opened last spring in the Main Mall, is one of the only places in Durango to purchase the books, dice and miniature figurines used in the most popular role-playing games. It also doubles as a playing area, with a room full of tables for groups to gather around. On Sunday and Monday nights, those tables fill up.
Tabletop role-playing games like D&D are not unlike very complicated board games, but they have several key differences. For instance, one player, a dungeon master or game master, controls the world of the game while the rest create their own characters. Together, the DM and the other players create a story about their characters’ adventures, and the story can go on for years. Unlike typical tabletop games, Dungeons & Dragons adventures usually carry on from one play session to the next.
Perez suggests that the opening of the store has contributed to the resurgence of games like D&D.
“Part of it’s because they have a place to do it, to find groups, to buy the stuff,” he said.
Before the store’s opening, Perez said, it was difficult for players to find others to play with.
“Even though they were listed on Meetup.com and everything, they just really had a tough time getting groups going,” he said.
Past challengesGuild House Games is not the first store in Durango to provide players with a playing space. Game Space, once located in the basement of the building housing Durango Roasters in the 700 block of Main Avenue, had a similar setup. But that store closed several years ago, leaving players with no obvious paces to meet on a regular basis.
Alan Cristopher, a Fort Lewis College student and DM of one of the games at Guild House Games, recalls a tough period before the store’s opening.
“I would just post ads all over campus and then we’d go to the Steaming Bean – it’s nice and dungeon-y down there,” he said. “I had maybe four, maybe five players, and that’s out of everyone on campus.”
The presence of places to get role-playing game supplies seems to consistently draw players to the game.
Donna Livengood, owner of Rocky Mountain One Stop in Cortez, said D&D supplies have sold well consistently since her store began stocking them four years ago. Players don’t play the game there – Magic the Gathering, a card game, takes up that store’s tables – but they take it home to play it. The store holds games of Magic the Gathering five nights a week. Livengood said they average about 12 players per night, with as many as 30 attending for larger tournaments. Other role-playing games, such as Pathfinder, have also increased in sales recently, she said.
The same is true in Durango, Perez said. Some people get into role-playing games at the store and then drift off and start their own groups elsewhere. So, the crowds in the Main Mall are perhaps just a fraction of the groups in the city.
Other factorsThe presence of a game store in Durango may not be the only reason people are playing RPGs again. Cristopher and his group said its recent appearance on shows such as Netflix’s “Stranger Things” might have something to do with it. When people see them playing the game, they make the connection to that show, he said.
Alternatively, D&D’s surge in popularity might be linked to the fact that it requires face-to-face social interaction and a relatively analog style of playing it. Though some younger players play the game, Perez said the age of players is typically early to mid-30s.
“It’s the people who don’t Snapchat,” Cristopher said. In an impression of a person who uses Snapchat, he said, “Can I play it on my phone? No? Then I don’t care.”
Whatever the case, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and similar games are providing Durangoans with a means of sharing quests and adventures.