We went out yesterday for lunch at this Burmese place (which was thankfully not renamed a Myanmarian place which would completely screw up the GPS, which would probably tell us to drive 5,427 miles on I-90, take three left turns, then drive 5,426 miles in the other direction) and I can’t tell you much about the Burmese place except the food was decent, and they brought me this salad that had 16 ingredients checkerboarded on a huge plate that was then mixed together at the table, which is a great concept unless you’re the poor bastard that has to lay those 16 ingredients on the plate for minimum wage.
After lunch, we wandered around this neighborhood on Telegraph, looking at thrift shops, including this craft reuse place that had loads of trippy stuff, like giant boxes of photos you can buy by the pound. The pictures were not like getty stock photos; they were just boxes of random family photos, vacation photos, and snapshots. I seriously wanted to load up on these, scan them in, and use them as stock photos on this web site, so you’d come here to read my blog, and the featured photo to the left would be two dudes playing hackeysack on a beach in Yo La Tengo t-shirts. And maybe I will do that, except that I absolutely hate scanning photos, and wouldn’t mind having a lot less stuff in the house, not more.
We wandered up Telegraph a bit more, and I saw this game store. For some reason, board games and RPGs have had a huge resurgence lately, which I find fascinating and annoying. The annoying part is that I was playing D&D back when it was a rung below pedophilia on the social acceptability scale. And I blame the two-pronged attack of role-playing games and computers as the reason I never got my shit straight from a social standpoint back as a teen. And I got out of the whole dragon-slaying thing well before college, but then a decade or so later, every damn hipster doofus in the world is reading Tolkein and talking about how cool their pewter half-orc figurine collection is. And part of me wanted to get back into it, but I don’t have endless expanses of time like I did when I was 14. But it’s always been something I was curious about, like how I’m vaguely interested in the world of model railroading, but I honestly have no deep affection for trains themselves, and do not have the time, space, or close-up vision to build a giant railroad setup in my house. (But I still re-read Sam Posey’s Playing with Trains every other year.)
So we went in this game store, and it was wall-t0-wall stuff that would have made me have an aneurism when I was fourteen. I mean, back then, in bumfuck Indiana where I grew up, you had essentially two choices for all of your TSR gear: the Kay-Bee toy store stocked some small amount of books, modules and dice, and Walden’s Books carried some of the hardcover books and Dragon magazines. There weren’t any other places to get any of the non-TSR games, although I’m sure if I had a car to go to Chicago or Indianapolis, I could have found some of the more rare Avalon Hill crap and delved even deeper into the life of geekdom. But this place – the Oakland place in 2011, I mean – they had tons of board games, books, modules, game systems, models, miniatures, and collectibles. If I was still a gung-ho Dungeonmaster and borderline hoarder, this was the place to show up with a rented u-haul and a cashed out 401K.
And then just as I was thinking “maybe I should get on Facebook and find some people in my ZIP code who would be interested in playing some Axis and Allies”, I saw the store had a little game area in the back, with a bunch of tables where you could come in and battle it out, tournament style. And there were a couple of people playing. Do you remember this kid in the documentary Trekkies? Okay, imagine three of him in a shouting match with each other that goes something like this:
1: YOU CAN’T USE SILVER AGAINST A CHANGELING IN A HUMAN FORM
2: NO THEY ARE ALWAYS AFFECTED BY SILVER SO YOU NEED TO THROW A D20 SAVE YOU MORON
1: NO THEY CAN BE AROUND TRACE AMOUNTS OF SILVER IN THEIR HUMAN FORM YOURE JUST TRYING TO RUIN THIS CAMPAIGN
3: HE CAN BE AROUND SMALL AMOUNTS BUT IF HE ISNT SHAPESHIFTED AND YOU POURED FIVE GALLONS OF LIQUID SILVER DOWN HIS THROAT IT WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE AN EFFECT ON HIM YOU CRETIN
2: I’M THE DUNGEON MASTER AND THIS IS MY CAMPAIGN SO YOURE GOING TO ROLL A D20 SAVE BECAUSE EVERY IDIOT KNOWS SILVER AFFECTS CHANGELINGS.
And so on. I wish I would have pulled out my phone and recorded it, because it was the funniest damn thing ever. And it also reminded me why I’m probably not going to rush out and get the Red Box set and start re-learning how to play D&D again.
(Side note: the kid was named Gabriel Koerner, and he’s going on 30 and has done a ton of pro work as a CGI artist in stuff from Lost to Enterprise to Shutter Island, so it looks like things worked out fine for him.)
Okay, so here’s the other thing. There were a ton of cool board games there, and I wouldn’t mind having people over to play board games every now and again. But it also made me think it would be cool to design some whacked-out board games. And I spent the whole day thinking “is there some lulu.com-like print-on-demand thing where I can upload my own rules and text and artwork, and have it spit out really cool board games?”
Well, there is: http://www.thegamecrafter.com. I don’t know how well it works, and the web site is not exactly web 2.0, and a lot of the games on there look cobbled together by 14-year-olds with very little photoshop experience. But, if I had infinite time, I would sit around and churn out some kick-ass games, like “Abortion Clinic Tycoon”, “Zombieopoly” and “Crips versus Bloods: the Board Game”. And I’m almost certain this is how I will waste at least a few days of my time until I realize I can barely draw a stick figure.