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New tabletop game center in Fairfax promises an ambitious experiment in professional roleplaying

Game table for The Dragons Concord (via The Dragons Concord/Facebook)

Shrouded within the mists of Fairfax Centre, a new world is being born.

Tables with exciting new technology are being set into place. Permits are being sought within the labyrinth of Fairfax County’s bureaucracy. A games store unlike any other in the region is being forged.

There are already a couple of tabletop game stores around the area — though fewer of late — but The Dragon’s Concord at 11215 Lee Highway is something of a bold new experiment in gaming. The store is in the Fair Oaks area, just outside the Fairfax City boundaries.

Rather than focusing on merchandise, Michael Gruver and his wife Amanda aim to create a game store where the storytelling and play space are the central selling points. While the store will have books, miniatures, dice and more, the real draw is its various Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Warhammer or other tabletop campaigns.

Michael says the store came out of common complaints he heard while working at The Guild in Fair Oaks Mall.

“One of the common things we kept hearing was: it’s great they come in and can get the books, but there wasn’t really anywhere to play,” Michael said. “You end up with that forever GM problem.”

The “forever GM” — Game Master, or sometimes “DM” for dungeon master in D&D — is a player who’s always expected to run campaigns and never gets to play in them. The Dragon’s Concord is designed around fixing that issue.

“We took a look at that and realized: that’s been a problem for the entire history of gaming,” Michael said. “You have online resources and some stores have a little register to [look for a group] and maybe someone will call you six or seven months down the line, but nobody had put a business or a gaming center together — at least not in this area — to host games.”

Michael hopes construction will start by the end of the month — depending on how quickly Fairfax County can process the store’s permits. The initial permits have been paid already.

“We’re expecting three weeks to a month for building, with doors opening sometime mid-to-late March,” Michael said.

Many game shops host campaigns, but The Dragon’s Concord aims to be a place where anyone can visit and find a campaign.

“The hope is that we can have an on-staff GM during all normal business hours for multiple systems, things like D&D or Pathfinder,” Michael said.

Players will be able to pre-schedule sessions in private rooms at the store, either bringing their own GM or book one on staff. The GM system is designed to be friendly to new players, while also providing a new experience for veterans of the field.

“We’ve built a two-session new player startup orientation sort of game,” Michael said. “For D&D, we use Dragons of Storrmwreck Isle so players can get accustomed to mechanics. If they have a custom campaign, if they have Curse of Strahd or Princes of the Apocalypse or something, they go ahead and just put that in the schedule.”

The private rooms come with a vast array of sourcebooks and accessories for various tabletop games, but the rooms themselves also be distinguished by different themes and enhanced equipment, such as projectors linked with battle maps and full speaker systems with ambient noise that can be controlled by the GM.

“We have three themed rooms: a medieval forest theme, a sci-fi space theme, and an urban cityscape theme,” Michael said. “Each table has a topper that matches that theme. Let’s say you’re playing Vampire: the Masquerade. If you reserve the cityscape [room], you are going to feel like you’re in an urban cityscape.”

The scheduling system isn’t live as of writing, but Michael said it will be a $125 flat fee for the rooms, or around $20 to $25 per player in a group ranging from six to eight players. The addition of a professional GM on-staff will be$5 to $10 per person.

Beyond the private rooms, there will be a main area of the store with tables that are $10 per seat.

One of the more ambitious parts of The Dragon’s Concord is a plan to create an immense, inter-campaign shared world.

“This is the exciting part: for D&D and Pathfinder, we’re also working on a sort of ‘dynamic modular campaign,'” Michael said. “All GMs will be on the same page, and they can go to any table. For us, this is going to be more of a drop-in, drop-out, living world, where the overall world is going to be common across all of the [games].”

Players in individual games will be able to make moves that affect other campaigns. For example, one party could steal an artifact from a city and then another group might be tasked with recovering it. At the end of each month, the GMs will come together and determine how the party actions impact the world around them.

“Players will all have their part in that world,” Michael said. “The idea is we can make this a common thing across all the tables…Players are building the world as they go.”

Photo via The Dragons Concord/Facebook