Hello and welcome to the new RPG Evolution website.
RPG Evolution is a blog devoted to talking about the retail business side of the Roleplaying Game industry. I’ve been doing this for about a year and a half over at the Games And Stuff website, but this is a fresh start.
So I’m probably getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s start with some introductions.
My name is Paul Alexander Butler.
For over five years I’ve been managing Games and Stuff, a large game store just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Although these days, given our shift in business model and my accompanying change in duties, my official title is Director of Retail Operations. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Prior to working at Games and Stuff, I spent a little over 18 years managing stores for regional and national specialty retail chains. I’ve done my time in shopping malls and in the Corporate Retail Mines. And along the way I also succeeded in putting in some time in restaurant management and even a stint at the U.S. Census Bureau. (You should hear my stories about getting homeless “transients” to fill out census forms. Good times.)
But never mind all that. Sure, I’ve got a lot of experience in managing people and stores, but you know what I’ve got even more experience doing? Being a Game Master. I’m a gaming nerd, down to my DNA. Hell, I was even born in 1974, the same year Dungeons & Dragons was first released.
I started roleplaying somewhere around the age of 7 or 8, playing AD&D in the early 80s with my older brother Scott. But I can go back even further than that, remembering sitting on Scott’s lap sometime in the 70s reading through the Monster Manual with him. From a very early age I knew my Displacer Beasts from my Blink Dogs, and my Owl Bears from my Bugbears. (The Blink Dog by the way, I threw up on. I don’t even remember if I was sick or what, but to this day my ancient copy of the Monster Manual still has a pale brown stain on page 10.)
What else do you want to know? I currently serve on the GAMA Retail Division board, and I’m also a member of the Roleplaying Game jury for the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design, the organization that manages the Origins Awards. My favorite RPG of all time is The One Ring, although both Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and Shadowrun I hold in high regard.
(Shadowrun in particular is in my blood. I ran a 19 year campaign that had an ending and everything. It was amazing. That’s 19 years real time. That Brom picture that’s at the top of the article? I bought the original painting a few years back. I may have a problem.)
The under-appreciated Everway RPG changed the way I GM forever, and I owe much of my campaign design abilities to a seminar I took at Gen Con 1992 in Milwaukee called “Long Term Campaign Design” taught by the late Erick Wujcik.
At any rate, here we are now. Games and Stuff has a Roleplaying Game department that I’d put up against most any other store in the country, and RPGs account for about 8-9% of our sales, which is not insignificant in a store of our size.
When I took over managing the store in 2010, it wasn’t long before I made a concerted effort to improve our RPG sales, and then we moved the store to a new location in 2013, which gave us another opportunity to focus in on the department and really make it sing. Sometime a few years ago, I started teaching seminars at various trade shows, helping other retailers succeed with their own RPG sales, and after many requests, I finally decided to start a quarterly blog talking about RPG sales trends at my store. But if you read the “What is RPG Evolution?” section you know all that.
What’s the point of all this?
I’ve got a lot of ideas about the business of roleplaying games, a lot of programming ideas I’d like to share with my fellow retailers, and a lot of thoughts in general about the buying habits of roleplayers.
I’ve got a lot I want to talk about. I hope you stick around.