Pens, Paper and Pretzels

Pens, Paper and Pretzels
Tabletop Gaming and the Hypnic Jerk

Russ Pitts | 10 Jul 2007 15:54
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There was a small group of men playing a game, but their hunched shoulders and hushed voices made it clear they weren't holding any seats for newcomers. I wasn't even sure what game they were playing, nor if I knew the rules. I found some familiar books on the shelves, but most were a mystery to me.

I bought a pair of snow white dice with green numbers, pre-painted at the factory, but they didn't feel right, didn't impart a feeling of joy just by holding them. I shopped for about half an hour, the shopkeeper's eyes on me the whole time. I thought about asking him a question, but his look made me think better of it. I paid my money and walked back out into the cold. I put the dice in my pocket. They felt like lead weights, and I suddenly realized going home again wouldn't be as easy as I'd hoped.

It would be several years before I found what I had lost, the one thing for which I was really looking. I found it in one of the new stores that had risen from the ashes of the paper gaming wasteland.


Half-hidden on a back road between two universities, Forbidden Planet peddles all the usual assortment of table gaming paraphernalia, but what it really sells is a dream. Not the same dream kept alive all these many years in dusty closets like Perfidium, but a new, more potent one. One that even today risks being snuffed out by a new wind of commerce. The dream that games are games, and if you play, you belong; there are no outsiders - we're all outsiders - and there's a chair for everyone.

I walked inside Forbidden Planet just a few days ago, looking to fill my bottomless boardgame cabinet. It was a sunny day, not too hot - perfect, or so they say. I don't get out much, so I couldn't tell you. Inside there was a group of men huddled around a table. I didn't recognize the game they were playing, but they were having fun. There was laughter and joking, and during the time I was there, I don't recall hearing anything strictly game related. They were also holding open a few seats, just in case.

I smiled politely but declined the unspoken invitation. I bought a pair of dice - like I always do - and half a hundred dollars in boardgames. The wizened wizard behind the counter looked neither wizened, nor particularly wizardy, but he did offer to help me if I needed it and asked if I was looking for anything in particular. I told him I wasn't, and it was true. I was looking for anything at all, and I found it well enough on my own.

Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at

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