Four blocks from the subway, in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze neighborhood, you find a novel take on cuisine and nightlife called American Sardine Bar. This hotspot features the staples of art crowd and hipster culture. Home to creative food, craft beer, cheap shots of rotgut whiskey, and an upstairs bar with a stage where one could expect to see local comics, acoustic acts, and open mic nights. Tonight however, was something a little different. Tonight ASB was hosting Drinks and Dragons.
The crowd is a mix of old and young, men and women, provocatively dressed and clean cut. Sitting and joking together, these strangers coalesce into parties as Game Masters choose friends and strangers to play in a multi-table collaborative campaign. As tables fill, each segment of the month’s adventure begins in earnest. Drama, violence, and humor unfold at each table and the sounds of other gamers experiencing similar highs and lows feeds the energy in the room. On the other side of the room someone shouts with excitement at their second consecutive critical hit while at the nearest table a player reaches for the ominous glass filled too high with cheap whiskey which at his Game Master’s table will afford him a re-roll of a fatal saving throw should he quaff it.
One by one the adventures conclude. Players collecting notes and dice, Game Masters folding up maps and packing up books, generous souls returning to their new companions with a fresh round of drinks in hand or a basket of French fries, everyone satisfied. They finish conversations and “you shoulda been there” stories. Outside on the patio people discuss their own worlds and characters, and reminisce about games past. Downstairs patrons who are unaware of the event are surprised by the waves of normal looking players, their preconceptions of lonely basement dwelling gamers disappearing in the face of thirty people’s enthusiasm for a wholesome hobby.
This is all the brain child of three friends working at a bar and pining for the days before adult responsibilities replaced their weekly gaming sessions. Don Caraco, Eric Rillstone, and Joe Shotkus wondered if they were the only ones who had seen their hobby derailed by responsibility. The idea was to take the bar, normally closed on Wednesdays, and open the upstairs for table top RPGs once a month. The owner, John Longacre, allowed them to go ahead with it and thanks to Don’s “It doesn’t matter who you are… if you like a good story and are interested in contributing to that story, come and do it” attitude the first game had twenty-five players and Wednesdays were suddenly profitable. As the events grow larger they hope to get the attention of sponsors for alcohol and gaming supplies, Limitless Adventure has already helped out by providing prepackaged modules for fast play. With PAX coming to Philadelphia in November they see an opportunity to become a new phenomenon if they can tap into that rich vein of nerd culture.