In 2012 a group of friends from different parts of Split began a guild, mostly an excuse to play classic RPGs on classic gaming consoles between their basketball games. The winters in Split can be harsh and an indoor hobby could be fun to escape the elements. There was no specific game nor did it really qualify as a guild and was more of a gang of grown up Goonies looking for something to do. As time passed and the weather got colder, the winds stronger they found themselves playing less basketball outside and more time indoors. Finding a place to hang out was a challenge and several nights were spent, just them huddled somewhere sheltered from the rain sharing a few words or a drink in a whole in the wall bar.
It was not until Vedran, the ‘master narrator’ returned from his studies in Dubrovnik that Dungeons and Dragons was formally introduced to the guild. Up until that point all the majority knew about the game was from an episode of Dexter’s Lab and Community but knew it sounded like fun, despite the nerdy connotations. The guild mostly consisting of comic book men, fan boys, former PC gamers, has been athletes and the sort welcomed it with open arms. Everyone had heard of Dungeons & Dragons but nobody had really knew much of how it was played other than dice and some basics of fantasy. One must consider that in the city of Split there was but one establishment for fantasy fans and it was the Land of Magic for the longest time.
A hobby shop franchise with a small store in the Center of town with a gaming room in the back. It was finally a vestige of hope but sadly social media was not really a thing back then and the city did not yet have the demand for such a store. So unfortunately they would close their doors and leave the citizens of Split without any substitute leading to the biggest problem facing potential gamers and fans. Where could they learn and meet people who can bring them into that world, introduce them to other players. Apart from what they can access online it is difficult for people to get into something like D&D in a city like Split.
The biggest challenges are as followed:
- No places where such games, manuals and materials can be purchased through traditional retail channels. Meaning those interested in playing cannot familiarize themselves or ask questions to someone in person and blog posts will never replace the store experience and assistance.
- Apart from two Croatian portals (and now the Nerd Dimension); games, reviews and the bulk of the material available are in English so a language barrier does exist as there was no Croatian print version. Good thing most of us were proficient in English!
- The price. The average modern fantasy board game will run you about 300 to 400 Kunas excluding shipping and even more for miniature based games.
- The limited amount of games and waiting period for getting them delivered. Croatia still does not have the option of delivery through some of the bigger sites and customs for most games produced in the USA make them too expensive for your average consumer who are lucky if they earn 500$ a month.
- Lastly it is hard to get a game going when most of the gaming demographic live with their parents in close quarters (not by choice in most cases) so places to play and getting a steady game becomes a feat in itself for many. This also seems to be a problem in other European cities as well as many young adults are forced into tight living arrangements.
- Lack of knowledge and the public stigma towards board games is that of classic European Style games such as Monopoly and Risk which are staggeringly basic and I dare say boring when compared to the newer modern games that are now in print. Due to the fact that few people are being introduced to these games and the limited understanding and comprehension of the fantasy genre they believe it to be childish, boring or simply a waste of time. Do not get me started on tabletop RPGS !
It was tough staying motivated and getting new people to play so the few members would pool their resources and come together in dimly lit dungeon settings and share in adventuring and begin filling the passages of their quest. All of the group were excited to finally play something they had heard about for so long.
After playing the simplified board game version Vedran had in his stash, with him Dungeon Mastering the group grew to understand the basic concepts and would pursue playing the original RPG. For most of the players it was their first time experiencing something similar and thought the game Vedran was running was grossly simplified compared to the original source material. The evening proved to be fun and did spark the party’s interest in the hobby further. In the first campaign the role-play would immerse them and they would start researching the subject, reading up on classes, races and characters. Vedran would become the hub of their party for all things fantasy and board game related and a go to person for questions concerning said subjects.
Not long afterwards, the unthinkable happened. The first and only DM of the guild had to journey westwards to continue his studies, effectively leaving the party masterless and without his knowledge. After months of meetings and failed attempts at finding a suitable replacement the group had almost but given up hope. Until…
The noble gamer and fellow comic book man Stipe arrived and once again reunited the fellowship around the table once more. It took time before they could get a regular party going but not too long. Soon the guild were testing their mettle and spell casting their way through his obstacles and familiarizing themselves once again with the fantastic world that could be created with their imaginations. New members would arrive with each party or guild meeting. Even women would show up interested in the RPG, which was a pleasant and welcome surprise that helped shatter the stereotype some members still held of it being a ‘guy thing’.
The group would soon order individual dice sets, character sheets printed and minis hunted down as other games would enter their arsenal. As time passes the members create a lasting bond and friendship with one another becoming more than just guys and girls who game together. Birthdays were celebrated and highs and lows shared as they grew closer as friends while forgetting the prior boredom and loneliness.
What started as a group of out of shape guys meeting up to play Champions of Norrath or Marvel Ultimate Alliance soon became a community of friends playing a deeper role in one another’s lives. Now the guild members meet more frequent than before and are on their way to mastering their crafts. The guild now are seeking to find a place for all people like them, fans of fantasy, comic book men and gamers to meet and congregate but above all quest and play together.
Who would ever believe that so many people from such distant walks of life could connect over their shared common passion for fiction, last of all in such times of negativity and isolation? In a time and city where the only thing for young adults to do on any given weekend is indulge in alcohol and lousy loud music. It is now finally that people from Split and the surrounding cities can meet up, game, talk or just exchange ideas with one another in person. With time this sub culture and form of entertainment and art will grow and embrace more fans and followers. What a day it will be when Split hosts its first Con, what splendid times will be had as ale is raised and cheer is shared by all present.
Until then, may your games be thrilling, reading inspiring and your questing EPIC.
Special thanks to:
Apic, Vedran, Stipe, Boris, Milos, Medeni, Kruno, Darko & Dom. I am glad we still speak for the most part and are still friends and adventurers til this day.
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