A small army of figurines greets gamers at the door and the counter is stocked with dice containing more than the typical six faces. Role playing games (RPGs) line the walls near a craft supply intended to satisfy the wildest of imaginations.
In an adjacent room, a man sits at a table working with books, a notebook, and printed character sheets. Behind him is a large dragon mural, still waiting to be completed. Two swords are mounted above the doorway with a few words.
“Let the games begin.”
Dungeon’s End is a new shop at 325 N. Central Ave. in Duluth, Minn., adjacent to four other storefronts waiting to be leased or bought, breathing fresh air into a strip that’s obviously seen better days.
The doors were opened a few days early to satisfy the demands of the local gaming community. Their Facebook page had nearly 40 likes before their grand opening.
“We had so many people coming by (asking) ‘are you guys open yet?’” said Alta Wickham, one of the owners of the new shop. “I think the community needs it.”
You wouldn’t know that she was one of the owners from her business card, where her title is listed as Gamer Chick. Warmaster Max Froberg and Dice Merchant Extraordinaire Mason Froberg are the other owners.
“It’s been something we wanted to do for a long time, but we didn’t start the wheels turning until a month ago,” said Wickham. “It’s been a month of crazy, 24/7 preparation.”
RPGs are games in which players assume the role of a character and guide them through a story. Characters accumulate skills and items, interact with non-playable characters, which are developed to help guide players through the game, and travel through dungeons on their quest.
RPG maps can be as simple as a two-dimensional grid, or gamers can build their own scenery, limited only by their imagination. Figurines can be bought to travel through the maps. Some gamers choose to hand-paint their characters.
Many of the role playing games sold at Dungeon’s End require odd shaped dice and a group of people to play.
“A lot of the times they’ll post on the posting board that they’re looking for a group or looking to start a group and they can play here for free,” said Wickham.
Sean Chard has been gaming for about a year and a half. Joshua Lafreniere has been gaming for about 12 years, or “since the dawn of time,” Chard commented.
Their games of choice are Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder, which they liken to playing through Lord of the Rings.
“We used to go over to Dragon Ports, but this one is just in a better location and has a lot more room for gaming,” said Lafreniere, who said he has about 30 friends he games with.
Chris Ash is the man working in the back room. He’s not an employee, but rather a Dungeon Master, preparing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons by creating a map, dungeons, non-playable characters, and monsters. He has a summary of the backstory for the campaign posted on the bulletin board, looking for players to begin a game.
Ash works as a mechanic, but uses gaming to relax.
“It gives me an outlet to blow out steam, a lot,” he said.
Ash would play at home before Dungeon’s End, but going there gives him the chance to meet other gamers.
“Otherwise it’s just the same five people all of the time,” said Ash.
The owners, Wickham, her husband, and her brother-in-law, all do a lot of gaming. So what does it take to be a gamer?
“Imagination,” said Wickham. “A lot of imagination.”