Flashback! My first visit to a game store, local institution Quarterstaff Games, happened some time around the age of twelve. I had asked for a Spelljammer box set for Christmas, having greatly enjoyed the tie-in novels. The Waldenbooks clerk forewarned us I would need special dice, and could get them down the street — why someone that knowledgeable neglected to mention that Spelljammer stuff was an add-on to the basic Dungeons & Dragons game, I’ll never know; confused, I wound up returning the box set for store credit, spending that on — probably — TSR novels.
So down I went to Quarterstaff with my mother, along Church St. through the cold, slush and shopping crowds. It was, at the time, a relatively dim store, partly thanks to the sparse lighting left over from its previous existence as a bar and the dark wooden decor. The counter, once a bar, and trim all around the store, was stained dark. It was, to my mind, very atmospheric, especially with the torches in their sconces and crossed spear and quarterstaff behind the counter.
The store was also ridiculously over-crowded with merchandise. Every available surface space had something on it. I remember in particular the stacks of dragon miniatures piled on a railing enclosing a raised level. At the time, I didn’t get how such intricate, colorful miniatures of dragons, of all things, could be packed into a flat little rectangular box.
Most of the visit is a blur now. I do remember asking the clerk what dice I would need and walking away into December’s early twilight with two of each type of polyhedral die, plus a third d6, in the inner pocket of my winter jacket. Those dice never saw action, sadly. They gathered dust and eventually disappeared.
But that marks the beginning of my relationship with Quarterstaff Games. I remember going back to browse the RPG books, and was particularly fascinated by the Encyclopedia Magica series. Later, when I encountered Magic: The Gathering in middle school, I’d make many repeat visits to the store, racking up enough purchases, with my brother, to earn the 10% discount card. I still remember the afternoon I went there with school friends and watched one of them sift through a newly-purchased starter deck to find an Aladdin’s Lamp as the rare — not that I got the concept of card rarity or how packs were sorted then.
After I got out of Magic, just as the Homelands expansion released, I didn’t go back to Quarterstaff for years, except maybe the occasional visit to admire the bizarre mix of enticing products and clutter, like the fleet of Lego pirate ships that lived in the back room with the Gauntlet arcade machine and Han Solo cardboard cut-out figure.
More than fifteen years later, Quarterstaff Games is still my go-to shop for RPGs and board games, as well as playing board games there most Tuesday nights. Admittedly, part of that is there’s little in the way of choice in Vermont for hobby stores of any stripe, but it’s also because I have history with the place. That counts for something with me.