Have Dice Will Travel

Have Dice Will Travel
Have Dice, Will Travel: Sofia

Keith Baker | 21 Feb 2011 09:00
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A few of my other hosts were involved in the creation of Axiom 16, and there is little love for Endyval. Some consider it an inferior system, but for others it's about the players themselves; there's a definite stereotype of the Endyval player as being both annoying and somewhat pretentious. At the same time, there is a friendly undertone to this banter, and my hosts even give me a copy of Endyval at the end of my journey. It may not be their system of choice, but the Bulgarian edition wars aren't quite as vicious as what I'm used to from the states.

Today the Endyval gazebo is empty, and there are no evangelists or die-traders at the Patriarch. Roleplaying remains a niche activity, and I'm told that most Bulgarians would rather deal with UFOs than with RPGs; they haven't seen either of them, but at least they've heard of UFOs before. Nonetheless, there are a handful of gaming stores, anchored by Magic: The Gathering and Warhammer but carrying all manner of roleplaying games. Damyann tells me things are quite different in the smaller towns, where it's still very difficult for new gamers to find people to play with. But in Sofia, roleplaying has a home... however small that home may be.

As the day draws to a close, I spy a strange sculpture in the distance. Possibilities race through my mind... A giant d20 that can be used by all groups playing in the park! A memorial to those gamers who suffered without dice for so many years! The sad truth is that it is just a piece of corporate art, the symbol of a local bank. But in my mind it remains the Largest d20 in Eastern Europe.

My lesson in the history of Bulgarian roleplaying is just one day of my journey, and my hosts have other things planned. Traveling to a smaller village, I learn about Bulgaria's bitter struggle with Turkey and see a style of building I've never seen before. I learn that there was once a custom of laying the cornerstone of important buildings across the shadow of a virgin girl, symbolically linking the two together. As someone who creates worlds for a living, these details of folklore and history are fascinating - by the end of the day, a dozen story ideas are spinning through my head.

All good things come to an end, and my three days pass all too quickly. My hosts shower me with gifts, ranging from a copy of Endyval to a journal a local artist decorated with Eberron's Dragonmark of Scribing. Seeing me off, Stefan provides me with one more gift: a worn d20. It's transparent grey, not much to look at... but it is one of the first two dice Stefan owned, obtained when Damyann had to sell his dice to raise rent money. I've carried it with me ever since. I have bags of dice at home, most more exotic or attractive than this one. But there was a time when this humble d20 was one of the only dice in the country. More than any magic ring or enchanted sword, it's an artifact that shaped the fate of heroes.

Keith Baker is best known for creating the Eberron Campaign Setting for Dungeons & Dragons and the card game Gloom, but he's also worked on at least five games that you've never heard of. If you want to know more, check out http://www.bossythecow.com/hdwt/.

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