Have Dice Will Travel

Have Dice Will Travel
Have Dice, Will Travel: Zagreb

Keith Baker | 14 Mar 2011 14:00
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If there's a Gaming Mafia in Croatia, it should come as little surprise that it's split into different families. The World of Darkness games of White Wolf have a strong following, but I'm told that there's little overlap between them and the fantasy gamers. As for Dungeons & Dragons, according to my hosts the edition wars are over and Fourth Edition lost. The D&D community here has rallied around Third Edition and Paizo's Pathfinder evolution in spite of the fact that Fourth Edition books are some of the few that can be found in stores. Magic: The Gathering, Warhammer, live gaming... All of these things have their own communities, and there are a few people like Daniel who manage to reach out and touch many of them. He tells me stories of organizing tournaments for Magic and D&D, and of writing a paper for the local live roleplaying group - a society that flourished for a time before splintering into a half a dozen competing factions championing different systems. The edition wars may have come to an end as far as D&D is concerned, but it seems that gamers will always find something to argue about. One thing that seems to be missing is any uniquely Croatian RPG system, a parallel to Bulgaria's Endyval or Slovakia's Dračí doupě; if such a thing exists, it never crossed my path.

While this paints a picture of a bleak past, at least some elements are improving. The growth of online communities provides a new way for players to connect with one another. There are annual conventions, and a group in Zagreb has started a series of weekly lectures. While Daniel fears that old players are growing out of the hobby and the new generation isn't strong enough to carry on, Zrinka says that she's seeing an increase in younger players. At the same time she laments at the difficulty of acquiring supplies. Even today, dice aren't as easy to come by as she'd like, and game books are rare and sold at inflated prices. Stores that used to stock roleplaying supplies have abandoned these in favor of more reliable merchandise - Magic and Pokemon cards, Warhammer miniatures. Still, the internet makes it possible to acquire books from foreign lands, though at painful prices.

I ran my game on the second day in Zagreb. One of the players said that they have a DM who runs wonderful stories, but who doesn't let them tell their stories. I soon found out what she meant, because they have stories they want to tell. While I'm running an adventure using pregenerated characters, the Croatians quickly make these characters their own. They put a lot of thought into their motivations and to the relationships. They created feuds that made the scenario considerably more challenging, as they spent nearly as much time sniping at one another as fighting their mutual enemies. They came up with elaborate details about the clothing their characters were wearing, and one player went so far as to seek out gifts she could take back to her siblings after the adventure (siblings were not mentioned anywhere in the character sheet).

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