Active from 2005 to 2007 and dedicated entirely to system-neutral GMing advice, Treasure Tables was one of the earliest RPG blogs. It was also the precursor to Gnome Stew, so we decided the best way to keep all of its content -- over 750 articles and more than 7,500 comments -- accessible to as many GMs as possible was to move it here, which we did in 2012. Comments are turned off, just they as were when Treasure Tables closed in 2007. The GMing material and discussion archived below was originally featured on Enjoy! --Martin Ralya

Over the weekend, TT reader tsuyoshikentsu emailed me about Pandemonium Books, a Massachusetts gaming store that’s close to going under. He asked me to mention their fund drive on TT — instead of just quietly fading away, they’re trying to sell 1,000 T-shirts to stay afloat (here’s the order page).

I’m sympathetic to their situation — from their website, it looks like a great store — but I needed to find a GMing angle before I felt comfortable posting about their fundraiser (I’m always wary of using TT as a soapbox). And having seen several gaming stores go out of business over the years, Pandemonium’s financial woes do raise a larger question for GMs.

Whether your LGS (local gaming store) is a great shop, a so-so one or even a bad one, what does your LGS mean to you as a GM? And what would you lose if it went out of business?

About  Martin Ralya (TT)

"Martin Ralya (TT)" is two people: Martin Ralya, the administrator of and a contributor to Gnome Stew, and a time traveler from the years 2005-2007, when he published the Treasure Tables GMing blog (TT). Treasure Tables got started in the early days of RPG blogging, and when Martin burned out trying to run it solo he shut it down, recruited a team of authors, and started Gnome Stew in its place. We moved all TT posts and comments to Gnome Stew in 2012.


33 Responses to What Does Your LGS Mean to You as a GM?

  1. Unfortunately I don’t have a FLGS anywhere within a 100 Mile Radius of me. Now if I lost the internet 😉

  2. I don’t think I ever would have been in gaming without a FLGS called Falcon Hobbies in the Canton area of Ohio. It was the store that I went to as a kid, bought my Gundam models, and said “ooh what is this thing called battletech. Dn-what?” They eventually went out of business, as is the way with all good things, and others semi-filled the gap, but the very presence of the store had a huge impact on me. I live within visual distance of a warhammer store (catering to all sorts of tabletop army gamers), and I’m always tempted to get into that thanks to the close presence of the store. Since the dominance of the internet though, I can generally get all my gaming supplies without leaving the front door. Is that a good thing or not though? FLGS form communities, and the internet isn’t as rewarding for that as hanging out and chatting with people in the store.

  3. I have an excellent relationship with our local game store, a fledgling operation trying to make a go of it.

    This weekend is the store owner’s very first convention. I’m gonna be running three games there. That’s a big commitment on my part — but I feel it’s well worth it for what the store provides.

    a) A place to play.
    b) A gaming community.

    Sure, the game store is where I purchase my metal figs and pick up my copy of Dungeon. But it’s the fact a store can be a gaming hub, a gathering point, makes it far more valuable than simply the product sold there. The loss of those things would be more keenly felt.

    That said, those elements alone don’t keep a store afloat. Selling stuff does. And the big question for a lot of retailers seems to be how to do that.

  4. I’ve watched at least a dozen stores close over the years, and it is always depressing. I make it a point to stop in a new one that has opened nearby every other week or so, and I do my best to buy something every time I walk in, even if it is not on my list. However, I have a hard time forking over the $40 for a new hardcover there that I can get at Amazon for $25, but I do pick up random games (My most recent is the Pirate’s game by Wizkids; players will be acquiring a ship soon, and the little ones you build in Pirates will work well, plus I get lots more for the bad guys), and accessories (For example, WoTC’s excellent new Dungeon Tiles series)

    I guess one of my big problems watching stores go under is that most of them have the audience, but not the business acumen, to make a go of it. Many FLGS’s are owned by game lovers first and businesspeople second. Many don’t understand cost per square foot, turn (Or lack thereof, this is one of the biggest killer’s of your average FLGS), marking down product that is not selling (recouping space and losing 10% margin on 10 items is not as bad as having $500 tied up on product you may hold onto until you go under), marketing (flyers at the supermarket would go a long way, as I only drove by the game store that opened less than a mile from my home by accident), etc.

    TBH, the only reason I know any of that is I’ve spent 8 years working at the corporate office of a large small-box discount retailer (The Largest, actually!), and I am still a novice when it comes to retail; however, mention any of these to your average LGS owner, and you’ll be met with blank stares or an excuse as to why ‘it doesn’t work that way’. It is true there are some slick operators who have it all down, but they are rare.

    I hate to sound cold, and I may go buy a t-shirt and give to the cause, however a few retail-oriented business courses might be even a better idea. My very poor 2 cents of advice for every struggling FLGS is:

    1: Develop a secondary revenue stream, or two (Sell games online or sell used DVD’s and games, both huge and still growing markets)
    2: If you don’t know if you are going to sell an item, don’t buy more than one copy. It is easier to get one more copy of something you sell than it is to liquidate 10, even if you got a 10% discount from the wholesaler.
    3: If it has been on the shelf more than 12 months, mark it down 25%; if that doesn’t work, take another 10% off every 30 days until it sells.
    4: The help should not spend all day reading gaming books. If you have workers, they should be busy doing 1, 2 or 3. (My current store has one full-time person who, if he is not ringing someone up, is playing Horrorclix or D&D).

    As usual, my verbosity gets the best of me. However, I do believe this is an important topics for GM’s and players both. I believe it is very important to support the LGS, but it is also important that the owner run it as a business first, and personal playground 2nd.

  5. While I was introduced to D&D via the cartoon in the early 80s, I learned of the RPG from classmates in the 7th Grade.

    That being said, I still needed a place to buy books from, and I was told that there was a hobby store in the Bergen Mall (Maywood, NJ) called Game Master that sold such things. It was run by a friendly couple, the husband of which I still game with to this day on occasion. Game Master soon moved to a rather inconvenient location on Rt. 4 in Fair Lawn, NJ, but it was still the only place in town (short of bookstores, but bookstores never sold the more obscure titles). When my friend Abdul and I were looking for more gamers (after having drifted away from the guys we gamed with in HS), we went through Game Master to find us a DM and a new player–two guys whom we play with to this day. When I decided, many years later, that I was ready to GM, I started a Forgotten Realms campaign there in 2002. It wasn’t very handicap-friendly, however, and while we played there for a while, one of our players was in a wheelchair, and so we ultimately took that game to his home. Regardless, I would not have been able to run the game if it weren’t for the network of players that was at Game Master’s disposal.

    Game Master eventually changed hands and became Clubhouse Games, but even Clubhouse Games could not survive for long — it’s in the process of closing its doors right now. Although it’s unfortunate, Game Master really had been gone ever since it changed hands, and that was the environment I was most familiar with. However, I have to thank whichever gods may be listening that a new FLGS found its way much closer to home for me, in North Arlington, NJ — Reality’s Edge, on Ridge Rd. It’s been in business for two years, and it’s allowed our gaming community and I to relocate to a more gamer-friendly setting. Our community, Heroes and Rogues NJ, has grown as a result, and we have been able to further playtest the original fantasy setting we are in the process of publishing. While we had a good playerbase before moving to RE, we have an even greater playerbase now.

    The last thing I want to laud is, while it’s not exactly a FLGS, it’s more like a FLGC — Friendly Local Gaming Convention. I don’t often get the opportunity to go to cons like GenCon, DragonCon, etc., but with the advent of Ubercon a few years ago (most often held in Secaucus, NJ), we’ve been able to reach a much greater network of local players–mostly in the tri-state area, but several more who come in from further away.

  6. I’ve got two and a half stores somewhat near me in Austin. One is large, and is mostly comics, but has weekly game days, and weekends are pretty busy there. Their RPG stuff is pretty weak, but it’s where the gamers are. I hope they make it, but it won’t be on their business acumen or gaming sales. I think the comics subsidize the gaming.

    The other one and a half (a very short chain) has both breadth and depth of product, and also carries comics and anime. Not so much gaming goes on at the stores, but there is room for it. They’re very aggressive with their discounts, annually having a “going, going, gone” sale where the discounts build until they’re sold. The stores are much more professionally run, but they aren’t as welcoming to the RPG crowd as their competition.

    As for me, I subsidize the LGSs because they are the future of gaming. Kids show up on Saturday for comics, and see these guys having fun in the corner, and want to see what it’s about. We need to keep this going, or we won’t have much of a hobby in ten years.

    I’m in total agreement with tlorin’s comments about “business before pleasure”; too many small shops are nothing more than vanity stores, open only to feed an ego or justify a hobby.

    Specifically, I’m going to order a shirt because the blog entry looks like a one-time deal, and everyone deserves a break now and then. If he was having trouble paying rent this month, then I’d just be helping them stave off the inevitable.

    Damn, I forgot to close the verbose tag again…

  7. I wouldn’t miss anything if my LGS went away. LGSs are losing the sense of community that would make me want to spend more money there than buying items for cheaper online. Staff members don’t bother to say “Hi!” anymore, nevermind even trying to help me out.

    An LGS can’t compete with the prices online. Without the sense of community, an LGS has nothing to offer me as a player or as a GM. I’ll pay more for an item at the store if the LGS is actively bringing in gamers with events and games. I just don’t see the LGSs in my area doing this anymore.

  8. Living in a mostly rural area, my local town has no LGS. The closest was nearly 40 miles away, and I tried to stop in and buy something a couple times a month, but it seemed others weren’t trying to support it. The LGS mostly appealed to the younger audience or at least thats how it seemed from the multitudes of young teens. The only problem with that sort of business is that most of this audience don’t have the capital to back the store or the desire to keep the “little man” rolling.

    The LGS recently closed, it kinda saddens me, but I’ve seen it coming for many months. As VV_GM mentioned, it seemed that this LGS lost the desire to greet and show courtesy to their customers too.

  9. when i lived in boulder, i used to buy a ton of RPG stuff at It’s Your Move. first, because if i bought enough stuff, i got 15% off. second, because i was a high school geek and the lady who ran the shop was cute. 😉

    these days, i split my purchases about 50/50 between amazon (for stuff i know i want) and The Source in falcon heights. there are some things i don’t know whether i want until i’ve looked through them, which an LGS allows me to do. they also win on the instant gratification score, and for carrying comics, anime, DVDs, wargames, minis, and a lot of other stuff as well. they provide a lot of gaming space, which i appreciate even if i don’t use it.

    i usually try to visit a LGS at least once, just for the xp. Village Games in anoka is really nice, with good stock, but unfortunately too far out of my way to visit reguarly. Misty Mountain Games just opened a store in burnsville, though i haven’t had a chance to drop by yet.

  10. I unfortunately have to echo the negative comments about unfriendly LGSes. A couple years back when I decided to get back into D&D I went to an LGS near my office, and basically got laughed at when I asked for a smaller mini case than the 100-slot box I saw on the shelf. The guy behind the counter and his two buddies gave me nothing more than pretentious glares. :(

    The other LGS that I’ve spent any time in at all was where I played my one and only RPGA session. A couple of the guys seemed nice, but the weirdo-to-normal ratio was pretty whacked.

    The group I’m in now met via, and I get all my gaming supplies from one of these gents who runs his business completely on-line. Dealing mostly in out-of-print materials, he’s said that eBay has taken a big chunk of his business, but it still garners enough to keep itself going.

    I would be more interested in LGSes if I knew the staff there was friendly, knowledgeable, and offered something that I couldn’t get on-line. Sad but true, times are tough and I can only extend so much “extra” just to “keep the hobby going.” Being a complete techie, I guess I’ve given up on brick-and-mortar and depend almost exclusively on message boards, e-mail and wikis.

    P.S. Along those lines, it’s probably fair to say that the commentary here is not representative, given the high-tech nature of a blog. As a case in point, we have a new guy in the group who’s quite old-school, and after the last session where two laptops got used extensively he quipped to a friend out-of-session: “Where did all the computers come from? Can’t we just look stuff up in books?!”

  11. My LGS, more or less, is Pandemonium. It’s the only place I go to specifically for games. That said, it’s also quite a bit of a hike; embedded squarely in the Cambridge/Boston area, meaning I either need to fight lots of traffic or take the train in to get there.

    Honestly, in my case, I like my FLGS, but it’s really not that important to me. The only thing I’d lose out on if it were gone was the warm, fuzzy feeling that I get and the random RPGA game I play there every few months. I do most of my gaming in the basement of a local comic book store or at home.

    Nonetheless, I still support Pandemonium… I donated some money to them through paypal (not really fond of their shirt designs).

  12. The short answer is: nothing.

    It’s the same answer I give for game companies and everything else in this industry.

    I don’t game to support you.

    I don’t care about the ‘industry’.

  13. These days? Absolutely nothing. They only stock WotC products, and since I don’t play any of their games I don’t buy any RPG products there.

    Although to be fair to the LGS many years ago (wow – over 10 now) they did have a few interesting games there. I managed to find a copy of CORPS (a generic RPG published by BTRC) that I’d heard about on a forum just that week, and grabbed it up. My group ended up using it for almost 3 years before I got the itch to change to a different system :) And it was also where I found a copy of Traveller: The New Era (much hated by many people, but I quite enjoyed it).

    But while I have bought a few things from the LGS, ultimately I’ve mail ordered most of the RPG products I’ve ever bought.

    – Jason

  14. Back in the day, I worked at a LGS in Georgia. I was there when it opened; my resume was a WWII vignette of a Tamiya 37mm anti-tank gun and a Ral-Partha giant mummy mini. The store had everything: Avalon Hill wargames, Citadel blisters, Gundam and mecha plastic models, HO and N trains, comics (new and collectibles), RC, D&D, WFRP, GURPS and more. We hosted Steve Jackson for a Car Wars tourney. We had floor space at AFF. And I watched in horror, as a comp.sci. and business admin student, the owner-management descend into madness.

    My long ago employer had an active gaming community that met in a four room gaming floor above the store. Great times (and some bad memories) are recalled. When the LARP phenom started to take hold and games of Assassin booby trapped the soda machine, catching unsuspecting newcomers with poppers (and sometimes worse) the descent took on new meaning. Then came the owner’s separation from reality, with the full immersion into the world of SCA, where the local communities are referred to by arcane names, patrons are “mundane,” and battle axes become accessories behind the counter, there is a recognizable problem that needs to be dealt with by management, else failure becomes a charging pink elephant. Things became unhinged and, as brcarl describes a weirdo-to-normal meter, my employer’s meter pegged on weirdo in short order. It was the friend of management that like too much to touch boys that signaled my departure.

    I still have friends from those days in the late 80s (talked to one today). I still play the games I was enamored with then (WFRP) and hold a soft spot for minis, though I don’t have the time for so many hobbies.

    But success can come to the LGS with the right management. I cite Days of Knights in Newark, DE, my LGS. 25 years and going. Good management (never stocking more than one book of a given game unless they know one copy is spoken for and understand that they are gaming shop, i.e., they don’t do model railroading). Great staff. Gaming rooms. And more. There is an online component (showing a savvy that in this day and age brick and mortar may not cut it by itself). In a college town I’m sure helps a ton.

    Yet, just as tlorin states, most LGS management has no concept of inventory management, and just as I described the store I worked at, that management was no exception. They stocked everything. Some stuff moved, but a lot did not. Pandemonium Books seems to have some of this problem. I don’t know anything about PB. But 3 months to move? Moving is not a close-doors-here, open-doors-there concept. Plan. Liquidate inventory. Market, i.e., don’t let customers think you closed! Overlap locations. Don’t reinvent the wheel on moving, find the best practice, or pattern (to borrow from comp.sci.). And how do you let taxes get the best of you after 17+ years in operation? Ouch. There are continuing education classes in business operations.

    Bottom line, I love my LGS, DoK. But I know first hand why LGSs fail, brcarl and tlorin speak the truth.

  15. Lots of feedback on this one. I am one of the few who has no real LGS in his area other than some in Massachusetts and one 25 or so miles from me. I do have a comic shop that I go to that has a small game component and plenty of room for “mini” games but other than that it is an LGS wasteland.

    I believe that one large failure of the LGS (like tlorin said) is the ability to adapt to the times. Back in the day you could have a table top game store. Today one has to diversify. Give me a place to get my comics, video-games, rpgs, mini-s, and music in one place and I am a sold customer. If you were to add coffee…done!

    The LGS is an important part of growing a hobby that has become slightly stale and arthritic with a marketing plan that is impotent next to the might of the young bucks (video games). But is it really our responsibility as consumers to support an out dated method of acquisition? Shouldn’t it be the store owners who adapt to provide the service we need rather than just provide that random room where we rolled our first dice?

    Times change and these outlets have to work harder to accommodate us. Places like Borders Books have the plan… Have a place you can buy all of your entertainment addictions and provide a small place for you to sit down and talk about it with your friends over coffee. This business model obviously works… Time some one jumps on the wagon and takes it for a spin…

    Great topic.

  16. I have two LGSs, which serve me in different ways.

    I don’t have enough time or energy to attend conventions these days, and most of my players have only taken up the hobby in the last few years, so I don’t have much face-to-face contact with long-term roleplayers.

    The staff at my main LGS are experienced gamers, so I can hang out, share stories and mine them for GMing advice.

    I’ve known one of the staff, in particular, for about ten years, so he’s generally quite on-the-ball with recommendations for new products, and he knows the stock well enough that he can rattle off detailed pros and cons of most products for major lines.

    The second store is usually a week or two quicker to stock new products, so if I absolutely have to have the latest sourcebook, then it’s the place to go.

    Conversely, they also have a lot of old stock, so it’s a great place to look for stuff that’s a few years old. Much of this is sold off at substantial discount, and it’s not unusual to find sourcebooks which have been out-of-print for years.

    The problem with the second shop, however, is that the owner knows almost nothing about RPGs (their main stock-in-trade is boardgames), and the guy behind the counter can be arrogant and seems to confuse eccentricity with just being plain creepy.

    There is a third store in the area, but its current owner (of about two years or so) does little to advertise, doesn’t strike me as particularly friendly and only stocks a very narrow range—so I don’t go there.

    I don’t own a credit card—so I don’t buy off the Internet—and the mail order company I used to use no longer sends free catalogues, so I rely on my LGSs for new purchases.

    If my LGSs closed down, I’d still roleplay, but I wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy new product—at least not without having to travel an hour to an hour-and-a-half out of my way.

    To be frank, I’d rather spend the three hours lost in the round-trip with my players.

  17. 10 years ago, I’d have said it would have crippled my campaign, as 90% of my players joined based on signs posted in gaming stores. As the years went on, we launched a campaign web site, and people started finding us. The last few years all of the new people who’ve joined the campaign have done so via word of mouth or a message posted to the campaign web site.

    None of the gaming stores I’ve frequented over the last few years have had stellar RPG collections, even when the stores themselves were top-notch. I’ve ordered books through my local stores, particularly when I felt they were good enough that I wanted to go that extra mile to support them, but the process was consistently disappointing. At one store — which was great about everything else — it took six weeks for a book to come in.

    At another, they forgot to order the book for three weeks (despite reminders from me) … and then once they remembered, it still took another four weeks for it to show up. Now granted, the book in question — Mutants & Masterminds 2nd edition — had a six week ship time on Amazon as well … but it cost $15 less there.

    Combined with an unofficial “open door” policy that let patrons sort through people’s comic book pulls looking for variant covers or titles they missed, well … at some point, you just have to shake your head and say “why am I putting all this effort into getting substandard service?”

    It’s one thing to support your local LGS; it’s another to be masochistic about it.

    At this point though, I don’t know if even the world’s greatest LGS could give me what I want. The Long Tail has wrapped itself around the cottage industry, giving us a huge variety of products to buy, from books to counters to spell templates to map packs, but that diversity is only really possible on the internet. A store would go broke trying to carry all the cool extras you see at GenCon or on Pazio’s web site.

  18. We’ve discussed this before, and I’ll echo my usual sentiments:

    LGSes are nice, and if they offer something the internet doesn’t (friendly service, attractive atmosphere, knowledgable staff, etc…) then great. If they fail due to not offering anything I can’t get onine, or just being stupid business-wise, I have no sympathy.

    “Support the industry” does not mean “support any yahoo who happens to be in the industry” it means “help the industry get better by endorsing (via your purchasing power) those businesses who do things the best way possible” Otherwise all you’re doing is shoring up weak competitors and that helps no one.

  19. There are two gaming stores in my vicinity. The more useful one (ie. they carry RPG’s, TCG’s, Comics, etc) means nothing to me. The nearer one specializes in card games and is useful but I’m more into RPG’s and it is simpler to order elsewhere.

    Some may find my comments about he more useful store a bit odd, to say the least. I used to shop at that store quite regularly (every week for 2 years) but they made several bad choices that negatively impacted my interest.

    First, they hired a gentleman that was openly hostile toward RPG players (he preferred card games like Magic). We used to routinely meet at the LGS to play (always asking in advance about good days to do so) but there was an increasing number of TCG’s that filled every time slot.

    Then I asked them to hold some Transformer comics for me. Since they regularly do this for others, I had no qualms about their ability to do so for me. It suffices to say that I was completely wrong on their competence. They, for some reason, decided to fill the “pulls” in reverse order for several weeks and I had nothing pulled for me. By the time I figured this out, the comic series was done and there were no other copies to be had.

    More recently, I inquired as to the release date for “Exalted: War for the Throne”. The proprietor stated that they were going to order today and that I would be called back with the information. It never happened.

    Considering the lack of any kind of “service” and a “no return” policy, I figured that it would be best to save some money and go through Wal-Mart or Amazon.

  20. Our club (CARP in East Lansing MI, is deeply entwined with one of our FLGS’s. They almost always have room for us to play (we do check ahead) and are willing to order whatever we need. On our advice (at least, we gave them the advice, and they did start) they stock pop and snacks and we make sure to add to their cash flow. There is a second FLGS in East Lansing that most of us don’t use as often because the tables are smaller, they have no restrooms and the staff is…er… standoffish. I would be very sad if either shop was to go under, and try to share my business equally.

    I buy a lot of stuff online too – usually things I can’t easily get locally. But online, while convenient, doesn’t let you hold the book(s) and flip the pages. There’s no one there to demonstrate for you (or for you to demonstrate your favorite game to). Our club is all about spreading the role playing experience, and our FLGS is invaluable.

  21. The closure of my LGS had a fairly significant impact on me both as a DM and a gamer.

    It was where I met my current gaming group and also the location where I ran my weekly game. Mostly though, I lost a place to hang out, meet new people, and talk about and play games.

    Aside from letting me run my weekly D&D game there, the owner did his best to stay competitive. He would take preorders and offer a 25% discount (sometimes 30%) if you paid in full before he placed his order. He ran CCG tournaments, other people ran RPG games there regularly, and even had Battletech Pods that were fairly popular. This was a store that definitely had a sense of community.

    The owner was very friendly and created a nice atmosphere to game in. Of the regulars, there were more who leaned towards the normal side than weirdo. Mothers were often stopping in with their kids to buy CCG boosters.

    The store went under mainly due to a change in location. It moved from a clearly visible store front in an area with tons of foot traffic, to an a spot where it was practically invisible from the street and had absolutely no foot traffic. The store stayed open for about two years after the move. As others have posted, the common theme when old customers found the store was, “I thought you had closed.” Even with those of us who gamed there making purchases, there just wasn’t enough business to justify keeping the store open and the owner switched sales to an on-line sales only.

  22. There are a few LGSes close to me, each of which has a different meaning. First though: without their existence, I never would have gotten into the hobby. Sure, now that I’m in and savvy enough to track down what I want, they’re less essential to me– but without them, I doubt I’d ever have gotten deep enough into the hobby. (Particularly as a teen w/o a credit card…)

    Game Preserve is the standby– it’s been around for 20+ years and has a solid supply of RPG books and an excellent board game supply. If you’re looking for older games and supplements from older editions, this is the store. Unfortunately, their RPG labeling and grouping is weak– it’s mostly there, it just takes a while to find it.

    Titan just opened up late last year. It’s very good at community support– the owner is active in local boards, much of his shop is given over to large tables (with terrain) for pickup play, and he has local minis tournaments. He hosted the Fresno RPG meetup group there on Saturday, and is showing a commitment to be a hub for local gaming support. His supply is strong on Minis, WotC, and White Wolf, without a large backlog yet.

    HobbyTown did a good job for a couple of years, hosting an open game night on Fridays. Unfortunately, their commitment to RPGs was weak, and even minis were a bit erratic. I don’t know how well it’s holding up on the hobby end.

    Other stores have come and gone– often in 2-3 years. After shrinking for months, Epic Worlds gave up and moved to Clovis. Tower Joe’s never established much of a foothold– it was in the shadow of Game Preserve and never took off.

  23. These stories about game store employees being indifferent, hostile (and even creepy) completely mystifies me. (Well, maybe not the creepy part, but the first two categories, anyway … )

    I’m mean, we’re not talking about the local big box, whose employees may not have a vested interest in the products and services being offered. They’re there to pick up a pay check and push things out of the big box.

    But we’re talking about HOBBY shops, for goodness sakes. If the people at the Hobby shop aren’t enthusiastic/understanding of their (comparatively small) customer base — then what the heck are they doing in the business anyway?

    I mean, there are a lot of easier ways to make money in retail than to sell game books, cards and comics to a group of people whom you hold in contempt.

  24. Our LGS gave us a scare by having to move suddenly at the end of the year (landlord did massive, last minute rent increase and wouldn’t let them put up a forwarding note). There is nothing they do that I couldn’t do for myself online, but they are very friendly and interested. Strangely enough, my relatives use them more than me. My relatives can’t always buy stuff online when they want to get a gift for me. :) I make it a point to make my limited gaming purchases there when it is feasible, and also buy books from them.


    I knew of a combo used books/game store (in another town) where the owner was somewhat indifferent to games. That was just his personality. Old books were his thing. OTOH, he made it a point to hire at least some employees that were enthusiastic and knowledgeable about games. Sometimes, you couldn’t get a good answer, depending on whom was working (and this was pre-internet), but I guess the same thing happened on occasion when a bookaphile found the young gamer clerking alone.

    The store did very well until the owner decided to retire. Then it closed within a year or two.

  25. The LGS in my neighborhood is also called Pandemonium. (In Garden City Michigan).

    They provide a large area for people to game, as well as keeping everything that I want stocked. Whenever I end up interested in some unusual new system, the owner will order some and keep it on the shelf.

    The store went through a few changes of managers, but I’m so happy with the new owner. He’s always got a suggestion, he remembers my preferences (despite my infrequent visits), and in general is a stand-up-guy.

    … So, I make it a POINT to buy from him. I can’t afford a ton lately, so every now and then I buy online, but whenever I game there I at least think real hard about buying something. (And I end up buying about $30+ worth of stuff a month.) I also tend to suggest people go pick stuff up.

    My Sunday game moved out of the store and into one of the player’s house, so I make it there less often. But, I know that the store drives new players… and I like the fact that if I were to start a new game, I could pop on over to the store and meet a few new players. (They also keep a bulletin board for meeting new players.)

  26. I have a very friendly local gaming store that does a lot to earn my money and support, and I live in an areas with a lot of reasonbly close FLGS’s that all have very good reputations. My friendly local store is The Gamer’s Den in Cambridge MN, but there are at least half a dozen other gameing stores within an hour of my house.

    The Gamers Den has a decent selection of RPGs, trading card games and board games, store copies of a number of board games and a bunch of tables for events and open gaming. They also have a small semi-private area that can be reserved for role-playing, but it only has room for 4-6 people total. They have been wonderful about reserving table space for me to run RPGA events and also offer participation prizes for everyone at the RPGA events. They also draw a well mixed crowd ranging from preteen to retired adults. Currently their biggest things are card games tournaments and click games (mechwarrior, heroclicks) but they are very friendly and very supportive of the local gaming community.

  27. As a GM, my FLGS is essentially a place to browse and purchase new gaming products. I do occaisionally talk to the staff about my campaigns (most often with the owner, but occaisionally with other staff). They have gaming tables but I’ve never been inclined to try and use them, other than once when I was meeting a prospective player (but they were closing soon so we had to go to the pizza place next door). I think they do have a bulletin board for announcing games, but it’s in an out of the way place, so probably not very effective (I find local gaming Yahoo groups far more effective for player recruiting, I’ve found just two players through store bulletin boards – though one of those did bring a gaggle of players with him).


  28. My local store is the Comic Warehouse. It is in Brampton Ontario, just outside of Toronto. It has been around for over 20 years. It was “Your Friendly Nieghborhood Comic Shop” but was renamed when they moved about 12 years ago.

    Now I do presently work there part time, every Saturday, unless my full time Job at a university Library needs me in on a weekend. The store has been a fantastic resource for me and others. The store owner “Mark” goes out of his way to get stuff not just for me but other GMs and customers stuff they want or he thinks they’ll like. Now true it is profit for him but he could just stick with the standard rules books and dice. He goes so much further then that. He does play in a D20 game I run on Tuesdays at the store as well.

    For me I have been able to get great stuff at reasonable prices. He has been a good sounding board for ideas and has provided several of the players in my Tuesday game.

    I know I would still be gaming even if the store had not lasted or been there, but I know it would not have been as good an experience with out his store.


  29. I live in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area is snowy Ontario, Canada. I’ve lived in south-central Ontario my whole life and have experienced a wide variety of game stores, many of which did indeed close for most of the same reasons as previously mentioned. I wanted to share a glimmer of hope with everyone though! At the beginning of Dec ’06, a new store opened in my area and it is doing great. It is called Hobby Kingdom and they have set out with the goal of not just being a game store, but a gaming destination. They have avoided comics and collectibles, concentrating instead on RPGs, minis, CCGs and intelligent board games. They have 4 demo tables in the beautifully renovated main store area complete with an assortment of themed terrain. The tables are exactly the right height to stand around and learn a new game. They also have 4 gaming rooms, fully appointed with board room tables, comfortable executive-style chairs, murals, and theme music piped separately into each one. Add to that a $.25 soft drink machine, organized nightly events, tournaments hosted by distributors and manufacturers, prices typically below MSRP, and staff that are eager to get to know you and truly help you out, and you have a recipe for success. They are located in a somewhat remote area of a local business park, yet their sales have been steadily increasing each of the 3 months they have been open. And as many can tell you, January and February in retail isn’t fun for anyone involved….

    If this question had been asked 2.5 months ago, I would have replied that the loss of my LGS would have made very little difference to me. Most have been sad little hole-in-the-wall joints with strange staff and clientele who wouldn’t know customer service if it scored a crit on them. Now however, the loss of my FLGS would be a very painful blow indeed.

  30. I rather think it’s time to share my story.

    My first real FLGS was Ironbeard Games, in Massachusetts. It was a Magic store. I played my second real tourney there and got my butt handed to me. Good times. The guys there were nice, although they got a bit impatient with you if you came into their specialty shop and knew nothing about the specialty. (This is a trait shared by many specialty shop owners.)

    Ironbeard Games is out of business. I don’t know why; I moved out to California before it happened.

    My next one was The Game Zone. Cheap furniture, dingy computers that ran MMOs, an entire wall of D&D, and a staff that was friendly enough to let you game late if you got a ride home. GZ brought me back into playing D&D.

    It was bought out, went under under the new manager, and was bought out again. I wasn’t sorry the second time. (This is the only time I’ve ever been happy that a game store failed. The new manager did not deserve to be called human.)

    After that came AB Toys and Games. It was really a Warmachine store. That didn’t stop Jimmy, the owner, from running a Shadowrun game in the middle of it. My best days as a gamer in a long while were there. Jimmy was the kinda guy who ran a game constantly and only stopped when customers wanted to buy something.

    Jimmy also had really bad luck. A lot of the people he hired (including the boyfriend of the mother of the woman who told me about the place) were really just useless, and he got screwed out of a lot of money. He couldn’t make rent and had to close.

    Now, I currently game at Game Empire, which is who The Game Zone was bought by. I had heard it was minis-only, but that didn’t turn out to be true. It’s very chainlike (and it technically is one; there’s another branch in San Diego) and doesn’t allow food at the gaming tables, but it’s big and has lots of stuff. It goes by the one-book rule mentioned above, and looks like it’s gonna be open for a good long while.

    So why do I care about Pandemonium? Because it has THE coolest gaming space ever: it’s in their basement, which has stone arches, and is furnished with sofas. The store itself has a wide variety of products, and the staff is extremely friendly. Also, Rich Burlew of Order of the Stick has been known to appear there, and they sell in their store a shirt designed for them by him.

    It’s also the FLGS closest to where I was born, so I feel a sort of “I’d be there if I hadn’t moved” loyalty to it.


  31. I had a hunch that this would be a good discussion topic, but I didn’t expect this many responses! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone’s take on the question at hand, as well as what makes your favorite stores special.

    I’m passionate about my favorite stores, and I’ve never known whether that was a common gamer trait. Given the level of intensity in your comments, it appears to be very common — and that’s really neat to see.

    Thanks for emailing about Pandemonium, tsuyoshikentsu!

  32. Crazy,

    Pandemonium IS my FLGS. Looks like it may be saved by the efforts of it’s many customers and other folks.

    Thanks for posting this.

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