Places like Dungeons and Flagons, Side Quest, Round the Table, Emerald Tavern Games and Cafe, and The Cloak and Blaster have slowly started cropping up all around the country. It’s a bit like having our own versions of The Leaky Cauldron popping up on one corner after another. Considering the fact that there probably isn’t a single dungeon master living whose never had a party of adventurers meet up in a tavern it’s nice to see that players can finally do it in real life. They’re a fairly recent phenomenon and one that I only discovered recently while reading an article about the Kickstarter campaign for Dungeons and Flagons. It seems like several of them have been successfully funded on Kickstarter, which is actually really brilliant when you think about it. Many restaurants close within their first year of business and when you open an establishment that specializes as much as game pubs do your limiting your potential pool of customers even further. However Kickstarter gives you a venue to get funding directly from your target market, and it also generates a buzz to get your name out there.
The themes and level of complexity seem to vary from one to the next. Round the Table and Emerald Tavern Games and Cafe are relatively ordinary looking on the inside, while others try to decorate in a sort of medieval theme making them feel like the sort of place that Bilbo Baggins frequent after supper. They do have several common factors. All of them maintain gaming libraries from which patrons can check out games to play during their visit. As far as I’m aware they’re all charging minimal fees for the games so that they can afford to expand their libraries, and to help pay for replacements when their copies suffer from too much wear and tear. Many of theme have themes nights ranging from beginner’s D&D to gaming tournaments and trivia nights. Craft beers also seem to be a common trend as are custom cocktails themed around everything from Dungeons and Dragons to Dr. Who. The food varies pretty wildly in terms of menu complexity, but they also seem to lean more towards pub food: sandwiches, burgers, and that sort of thing.
LARPing seems to be another thing which separates these businesses pretty clearly. Some allow costumes but now big props for safety reasons, and required anyone in costume to remove anything covering their face if their planning to order alcohol for the purposes of verifying people’s ages. Others have regular costume contests. Some make no mention of LARPing or costumes, but at a glance I think you’d run the risk of making other visitors uncomfortable if you turned up on their doorstep dressed like an elf.
It’s nice to see this trend and it’s also interesting to see how different people are taking unique approaches to the same business. They seem to most common in Washington state, which makes sense when you consider that’s also where Wizards of the Coast is headquartered. After all if they can’t sustain a steady stream of business there than where can they? However I’ve also heard of others located as far away as Florida, Ohio, and Texas. There are almost certainly more of them out there and I hope there will be more of them as time goes on.
Have you ever been to a gaming pub? If so what did you think? Do you have a favorite one?