I knew a guy whose favourite adjective was “parlous“—as in “dire, terrible or appalling”. He’d prepend it to pretty much any noun he could; I guess he felt smarter using it, although it always seemed to me that he’d stumbled across a parlous hammer one day and was now using it to bang down every parlous nail in sight. From time to time, though, the word did add exactly the required weight to his statements.

I’ve mentioned previously that I find the need to pioneer the roleplaying scene out here daunting, but Mim and I are slowly hammering out ideas to get a group up and running. Almost all roleplayers these days have some sort of Internet access, so I’ve been searching out web resources to attract new players and to find some experienced ones that live within a reasonable distance.

The number of dead landing pages and fallow servers and obsolescent links is simply staggering. In many ways, it’s like the Australian gaming scene’s online presence contracted some sort of terminal cancer at the end of 2001 and finally coughed its last sometime in 2007.

I’ve been to the first two GenCon Ozzes (and hope to continue the tradition), and they managed to get over 10,000 through the door at each. Granted, they’re not all gamers, but it’s still an impressive figure. From time to time, though, you hear grognards in Sydney complain about how unfair it is that Ian Houlihan “stole” GenCon for Brisbane, and how it should be either held in Sydney, or rotated through a series of capital cities.

There are six largish gaming groups in Sydney that I know about. There’s the Blacktown Games Day Association, or BGDA, which pretty much runs all the RPGA events in town, in addition its own annual convention, Winterfest. The SRGA exists largely, it seems, to run EyeCon and SydCon. Then there’s two university-affiliated clubs, MURPS (which runs MacquarieCon) and Sutekh, and two independent groups, MIDDSOC and the North Sydney Dungeons & Dragons Society. There are at least three non-Games Workshop chains—Games Paradise, Tin Soldier and Good Games—that sell roleplaying games, each with two stores apiece.

But only one of these six stores—Tin Soldier’s Penrith outlet—actively engages with the convention scene. I suspect that most of MacquarieCon’s new blood comes from O-Week sign-ups to MURPS. And when you look at EyeCon or SydCon, they only seem to pull around 170 people each; generally, they’re the same people, and most of the few new faces are there thanks to the slowly expanding BGDA’s stewardship of their RPGA events.

That’s 170 people in a city of 4.4 million. Throw the net a little wider, and there’s the Guild at the University of Wollongong and a couple of very active groups and conventions in Canberra—with possibly one or two more groups on the Central or North Coasts—and a light sprinkling of games stores. But not a great deal more evidence of roleplaying infrastructure in NSW or the ACT—gaming truly is in a parlous state in NSW, with only a few dim points of light in a vast, dark sea.

There are many reasons for this, I’ve heard, ranging from the lingering aftereffects of the 1980s’ Satanic Panic, to convention organisers’ disdain for D&D, to the rise of MMORPGs, to Games Workshop’s aggressive expansion. But really, it comes down to apathy; it takes effort to organise a convention, or run a gaming group, or maintain a website, a lot of people just give up, because the payoff is pretty low if you’re out there on your own.

But the more people working to create gaming communities, the easier it becomes.

I don’t know if anyone’s ever been mad enough to do what Mim and I aim to here—set up a gaming club in a NSW country town of 9000, with neither a university nor a gaming store, and maybe, one day, even get a small annual convention going—but somebody has to do it to prove it can be done.

It’s just that much more difficult—and frustrating—that we have to do it all from scratch. We could sure use some gaming infrastructure right now.

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