Battling Dragons in Newport: Gamers Gather to Play, Slay ... And Stay All Day
The action of a Dungeon and Dragons game is interspersed with jokes and playful ribbing at Dragon Maze Gaming Center in Newport, N.H., on April 8, 2014. "We kind of make it our own within the confines of the game," said Dragon Maze co-owner Reggie DuBois, who serves as Dungeon Master to help guide the unique story that develops within each campaign. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Isaac Airey, 11, of Norwich, Vt., plays Magic: The Gathering with his father Jason Airey, left, during the 14th annual anniversary party at Dragon Maze Adventure Gaming Center on April 13, 2014. The two have been visiting Dragon Maze for two or three years, though the elder Airey has been playing Magic: The Gathering since the game's Revised Edition came out in 1994. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Jacob Stone of Newport, N.H., reaches for his mini during his turn while playing Dungeons and Dragons at Dragon Maze Adventure Gaming Center in Newport on April 8, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Jacob Stone of Newport, N.H., and Kimberly Kennett of Newport react while playing the board game Hex Hex Next during the 14th annual anniversary party at Dragon Maze Adventure Gaming Center in Newport on April 13, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Reggie DuBois, left, serves as Dungeon Master during a Dungeons and Dragons campaign at Dragon Maze Gaming Center in Newport, N.H., on April 8, 2014. DuBois and his brother Paul DuBois opened Dragon Maze 14 years ago and have built a loyal community of gamers around the center. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Nathan White of Springfield, Vt., jokes with the other gamers while playing Dungeons and Dragons at Dragon Maze Adventure Gaming Center in Newport, N.H., on April 8, 2014. "We're still trying to find focus and a party dynamic," said White, about the most recent Tuesday night campaign, which had been played for a month and a half. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Reggie DuBois, left, hands his brother Paul DuBois a plate of chips while hosting Dragon Maze Gaming Center's 14th annual anniversary party on April 8, 2014. The brothers live above Dragon Maze and have been playing Dungeons and Dragons since 1978. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Longtime gamer Jonathan Parmenter of Springfield, Vt., builds a Magic: The Gathering deck by going through the commons boxes at Dragon Maze Gaming Center in Newport, N.H., on April 8, 2014. "We do not believe in selling them for money," said the center's co-owner Paul DuBois, instead allowing patrons to earn points towards obtaining singles cards that might otherwise be relatively expensive. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport, N.H. — Business owners usually have a pretty good idea of what time they’ll lock up shop on a given night. But not Paul DuBois and Reggie DuBois, brothers who own a gaming center on North Main Street.
“A role-playing game has no beginning and end,” Reggie DuBois said.
People don’t go home because they slew the dragon. “They go home because everyone has to go home.”
And sometimes that’s later than sooner. Depending on the day, The Dragon Maze is open from 11 a.m. or noon until “unconsciousness,” according to the store’s website. A recent burst of gaming enthusiasm meant a stretch of 3 a.m. closings.
Luckily, the DuBoises have a short commute — they live above the shop.
Longtime gamers, the brothers started the business in 2000. Since then, it’s become a social hub for both them and their customers.
Evenings without games are “very stressful for us because we are just sitting around bored,” Paul DuBois said.
Players travel as far as 90 minutes for regular Dungeons & Dragons games, and friends and customers often stop in to watch TV or play other games, such as Legend of the Five Rings.
Jacob Stone was a student at Newport High School when a friend introduced him to the store.
“D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) is one of the highlights of what I do in the week,” said Stone, who studies networking and computers at River Valley Community College.
It’s a good break from school, and he learns a lot from the other players, who have also become friends, he said. “I didn’t have many friends before I came to the Maze.”
Nathan White, of Springfield, Vt., has been playing at the store for six or seven years.
“I just come and have a good time and socialize with like-minded people,” said White, one of five players who took part in a long-running D&D game on a recent Thursday evening.
They gathered, coffees and sodas in hand, at a long table in the back of the store, where Dungeon Master Reggie DuBois narrated the story, or “campaign.” The dungeon master also plays the various characters the group encounters and coaches players through the nitty-gritty, such as which dice to roll and how many times.
The players work as a team, pooling their resources to meet various challenges, in this case a clash with irritable dragons. To bring the scene to life, they set miniatures, figures representing their characters, on a battle map among a handful of colorful plastic dragons.
After making themselves invisible, the players teleported to Farway Island. There, they had a brush with prehistoric reptilian birds — playfully dubbed “dino-chickens” by one customer, and battled a gaggle of dragons planning a land grab in the kingdom of Perailia, which the campaign is protecting from various enemies, and, in a sense, from itself. Recently, after acquiring guns and gunpowder, Perailia began attacking its hostile neighbors.
“Some of the campaign is trying to stop more conflict,” said Trevor Boomhower, a Newport resident who has been gaming at the store for more than a decade.
By the end of Thursday’s battle, several dragons had been killed after particularly devastating rolls of the dice, but the players were unscathed.
“You number crunch out the fight,” Reggie DuBois said. The game may look “free form,” but “there is math to keep it fair.”
As games go on, sometimes for years, the characters develop and change. And so do the players.
During their 14 years in business, the brothers have watched customers go from little kids to adults with careers and families of their own, Paul DuBois said.
He and his brother both like seeing people grow with the game.
He’s seen new players start out shy and then gain confidence as they become invested in their characters, Reggie DuBois said.
“Eventually, they start to be more outgoing in the story.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.