Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Road to WPN (Part 6)

[This is part 6 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5]

Meanwhile, I still had many things I needed to work on towards getting ready to run WPN events. I had my netbook now, but I would also need a printer that I could bring with me for printing pairings and the like at the event.

Freecycle, hopefully, to the rescue! It has been my experience that quite often people offer printers on Freecycle. They get a good deal on a new one, or just decide they need something better/newer/whatever, and they have an old one sitting around now that they don't need, but still has some life in it. So, I figured, I'd just keep an eagle-eye out for someone to offer one and request it for my purposes.

Lo and behold someone did offer a printer. An HP Color Laserjet to be precise. She couldn't get it to work, but it came complete with new imaging drum as well as new black and yellow toner cartridges. I figured I could probably get it working, and if not I could turn it in to the county's computer recycling center.

When I went to pick it up, however, I learned a very important lesson: check on the model before you accept a free printer. Especially if you need the printer to be easily transportable. This thing is a monster. The only muscles I'd be developing lugging this thing around are called hernias. So, it would definitely not work for my purposes. Feeling a little bad, however, I spent time getting it to work, including swapping out the imaging drum and black cartridge (the yellow one does not seem to be low yet). Now I will turn around and offer it to someone else on Freecycle. That's how Freecycle works.

A few days later another printer, this one a MUCH lighter color inkjet printer (Lexmark 3200 if you care) was offered, this one without any ink cartridges at all. I picked it up, and bought some cartridges at Cartridge World (by an amazing coincidence a coupon for a free cartridge came in the mail the day I was going to head over there). After a great deal of manipulation I finally got the printer to work with the netbook (it worked with my desktop PC no problem). It seems that I need to have the printer on and plugged in when the netbook is booted up. As long as I can remember to do the things in proper order, everything should work out.

While this was going on, a strange thing happened with the WER. I logged in to see how things were looking (and to order another pack of DCI membership cards, as Brian had said one could order two per month), and noticed that somehow I again had the option to order a Store Support Kit and a Gateway Support Kit. It seemed odd that I could order more of these, so I emailed Brian about the issue. It seems that sometimes these things get returned for ordering before they should. The system is set up to stop you if you try to order one that you've already done.

One important thing I learned from my initial email to Brian that I need to pass on to other potential organizers: When contacting your WPN rep, make sure to include the store name and/or your DCI number so they can recognize who you are! They deal with (I'm guessing) hundreds of organizers and, especially when you're pretty new to the whole thing like I am, chances are they won't remember you unless you've done something to distinguish yourself in their mind.

It turns out, I found out from the email back-and-forth, that there is no way to know exactly which Gateway Support Kit you are ordering from its name - only from the date (from now until June 15 the NPH Gateway Support kit is available; starting June 16 they switch to the M12 Support Kit; etc). I also found out that there is no way to track your order of these kits, so you put in your order and then just hope that it went through all right at that your materials will arrive. Brian told me that our Gateway and Store Support Kits had shipped, and should arrive soon.

The next day (May 24 if you're trying to put a timeline together), Patrick tweeted the following: "Some fool just dropped off a bunch of items and left without saying a word. Don Wiggins doesn't work for me! What's up?? *woot*" I quickly tweeted back, asking if he would mind a little company that afternoon. And so, my sons and I made the journey up to Clarksburg to see what the WPN had sent to us.

A great deal, it turns out! Inside the Store Support Kit were:
  • a large vinyl banner to hang outside the store advertising that it is a WPN site (it, along with most of the generic WPN materials, features images & logos for not just Magic, but also Dungeons & Dragons);
  • smaller paper posters to put up in-store and advertise event dates;
  • large and small window-clings to put up in the store; 
  • Number signs to put on tables for labeling seating;
  • a small stack of DCI membership cards.
Inside the Gateway Support Kit (New Phyrexia version) were:
  • 30 copies of the WPN Vault Skirge foil promo (featuring different art than the NPH version):
  • 30 copies of the WPN Maul Splicer foil promo (also with different art);
  • 20 copies of the WPN Archenemy promos scheme card "Drench the Soil in their Blood";
  • several copies (I haven't opened the pack to count) of a Tactic card for D&D called "Stay with Me!" [I have absolutely no idea whether this is intended for use in Dungeons & Dragons or D&D Miniatures]

We also got a third package containing several more DCI membership cards, so we should have plenty for our first event.

I'm not sure how, exactly, I will be using these promo cards yet. Partially it depends on what attendance is like at the event. If the event is small enough, I could probably use one of the two foil NPH promos as attendance rewards (you get a copy just for coming). Then I could allow the top X players to choose either the other NPH promo or the Archenemy promo (in addition to the booster pack prizes). On the other hand if things go very well on June 18, maybe we'll want to schedule another event between that one and the M12 Launch party, and I can use the second NPH promo as an attendance incentive for that one. I just haven't decided yet. All I know is that they will get used for the intended purpose - rewarding those players who show up to our events.

And that pretty much brings us to today. What remains at this time?
  • Patrick will need to order Magic products from a distributor and let me know how much the stuff costs him so I can make sure we charge enough for the events (the price tag I have listed now is based on what it's cost me to attend events in the past; I presume these prices will work for us as well, but I need to make sure)
  • I'm concerned about attendance. I'm fairly certain from the # of responses I've gotten so far via Twitter, email, and conversations that we will have at least 8 players, so the event will be able to run. However, if many more than expected show up we could have problems. At this point Patrick has space (and tables & chairs) for probably 12-18 players. If more than that come out, we may have to be creative in finding places for them to sit and duel! I have created a preregistration form that I am hoping people will use if they're seriously planning to attend, but thus far no-one has used it.
  • I am sorting my "scratch & dent" cards by rarity & color to make them more user-friendly to browse through, and will bring at least a subset of them with me to the event for people to look through. I'm currently thinking of charging $0.05 per common, $0.10 per uncommon and $0.25 per rare or foil for these cards. The vast majority are probably in Fine or Very Fine condition, but I wouldn't feel right selling them as singles in my store. However they're perfectly usable in tournament conditions (especially if they're sleeved), so I'm sure that someone will want some of them!
  • I'm trying to find an optical mouse and cash-box on Freecycle to use at the events. Not sure if I'll have any luck with either.
  • My sons are helping out by cracking open plastic packs of basic lands and sorting them out. I have literally hundreds of plastic-wrapped sets of 20 basic lands (half 10th Edition, half Lorwyn) that I found on eBay a long time ago (these were originally packed inside 10th Edition Starters - how the seller ended up with hundreds of then I do not know). They will be perfect for making basic lands available for players to complete their decks in sealed-deck events.
  • I need to do some further advertising of the event to make sure word gets out to the local gaming community. Folks (like you) who read my blog and/or follow my Twitter feed know all about it. But the majority of those people don't live anywhere nearby and therefore, of course, will not be in attendance.
This may be the last installment for a while, then. Unless something monumental occurs, I may not even have an update until after the first event on June 18. In the meantime, I thank everyone who has stuck with me long enough to read to this point, and especially thank all those who have sent well-wishes and encouragement to me throughout the process.


    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 5)

    [This is part 5 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4]

    Either the Saturday or Sunday after I met with Patrick and we applied to the WPN (which was Friday, May 6 as a reminder), I tweeted wondering how long it would take to hear back. Someone (and my apologies for not remembering who, exactly) suggested that it may be 1 to 2 weeks. This made me a little nervous, because the deadline for registering to run a M12 Launch Party was (depending on which website at the WPN was correct) either May 22 or May 29. I wanted to make sure that we were able to get that event registered.

    To my great surprise, then, it was only 4 days later (two of which were the weekend!) that I received this message from WPN:


    Thank you for your interest in the Wizards Play Network! I called and spoke to Pat earlier and everything looks good. The only issue is that as the store is not yet officially open for business we are unable to add you into the system at this time. Please reply to this email in a couple weeks, when the store is open, and we'll be happy to get you all set up.

    Thank you for your cooperation and patience in this matter.

    Wizards of the Coast"

    Ack! I didn't foresee this problem. I figured since we wouldn't be running events until mid-June at the earliest, the fact that Novel Places wouldn't be open for business until late May wouldn't be an issue.

     I quickly followed the link provided in the email to respond to this message:

    "My only concern is that I would like to be in before the deadline for registering for the M12 Launch Parties.

    There seems to be some confusion as to when the deadline is for that. On this site:

    it seems to suggest that May 29 is the deadline for registering for M12 launch parties, but on this page:

    it says that May 22 is the deadline.

    Pat is shooting for May 16th to open his doors officially, but may not be able to do so before May 24. We certainly would not be scheduling any events to run before mid to late June. I just want to make sure we can get that M12 Launch party scheduled. Is there anything we can do?

    Thanks for your quick response on our application - I was very pleasantly surprised at the turn-around time!

    It was May 13 (3 days after I sent in this note, and 7 days total after applying to the WPN) that I received a phone call from Brian at WPN. He had called and spoken to Patrick, and had gotten us into the system. We were ready to begin signing up for events! Amazing! He was all set to walk me through using the Wizards Event Reporter (WER). The only problem with that is that I hadn't yet downloaded it.

    I had realized for a while now that if I was going to be running these events I would need to have a computer and printer setup that I could easily grab and bring with me to the events. I didn't want to have to junk up Patrick's computer at the store with the require software (or be locked into being where he had his computer set up) so I knew I would have to get a laptop or netbook. After doing some research, I had settled on a nice (relatively) inexpensive netbook from Best Buy, but I hadn't picked it up yet. Suddenly I had a new project for the day. Brian asked me to give him a call back the next week once I had the computer procured and the software installed.

    So, out to the store I went (after conveniently ordering online for store pickup). After charging it up and taking care of initial setup issues, I downloaded and installed the WER. I opened the program up to take a look...and realized that a walk-through from Brian seemed like a very good idea, indeed!

    [SIDE NOTE #1: That night I got to use the netbook to make my very first Skype call, in a meeting with a couple of folks involved in my upcoming MTG Alters project, so it was good timing for that. Keep an eye on this space (and follow me on Twitter, and sign up for my newsletter) if you'd like to be one of the first to know when cards like these will be available!]

    [SIDE NOTE #2: I knew that I would be needing a printer as well, and I could have gotten a pretty good deal with a $40-off special the store was running, but I decided to hit up my local Freecycle group instead, as I know that printers are offered there all the time. Be even more frugal and also help keep another piece of electronics being sent to the landfill? Yes, please!]

    So, on Monday (May 16) I called Brian in the early afternoon (my time - I'm on the East Coast, WotC headquarters is on the West Coast), and got his voice mail. I left a message letting him know I had gotten set up as was ready for my tutorial. I did not receive a call back from him that day. So, on Tuesday (May 17) I called again. Again, I got his voice mail and left a message. I must have sounded slightly flustered in that message because later that day I got a call from one of Brian's co-workers (I failed to write down his name, and I'm awful at remembering names, so I can't give him credit here unfortunately). Brian had had to leave work early, but since my message sounded like it needed immediate attention, could the co-worker help me?

    I opted to wait for a call from Brian the next day (truthfully I felt a little embarrassed that I must have sounded so desperate in my message!). But at this stage I felt (and tweeted appropriately) that WotC (and especially WPN) must have just one of the nicest group of customer service folk around. I was quite amazed. The co-worker asked when would be a good time for Brian to call, and I suggested 12-4 my time (9-1 Brian's time).

    And thus, Brian and I finally got back together telephonically on Wednesday (May 18). I sat down with my netbook and fired up the WER, and Brian walked me through ordering the WPN materials that are designed to help a smaller venue attract more players (promos, advertising posters, etc) and also DCI-membership cards for players that are new to the system (remember that we need to get 6 of these new players signed up within a 12-month period to move up to Core Level and be able to run prereleases and FNMs). There was a slight hiccup in the program when I tried to order the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 promo pack. Brian had me take a screen shot of the error message that came up and send it to him, as well as a copy of a file from the WER folder on my computer. He would forward that on to the tech group to see if it was a bug that needed to be fixed.

    Next, Brian walked me through scheduling my first event. I wasn't sure when out first event would be held (I hadn't discussed specific dates with Patrick yet) but I knew that we wanted to run an M12 Launch Party, and there's only a four-day window for running those (they have to be run on the Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon of the release weekend for the set). I figured Saturday afternoon would work best (many people may have obligations on a Sunday, and I know Patrick would prefer that we start later in the day so that we can shut down the store at the end of the event). So I picked Saturday July 16 as the date of the event. Oddly enough, I thought, you don't need to tell the WER system the time of your event, only the day.

    For those who have never used the WER to schedule an event, here's the information I had to provide: Organization (I only organize for Novel Places so that was easy); Game (MTG, D&D or D&D Miniatures); Sanction Rule (this is where I chose the M12 Launch Party); Play Location (if we were holding it off-site I would have options here); Dates; Format (Sealed Deck in our case); Pairing Method (I chose Swiss as that's the only one I know about - I really need to research what the other options are!); Email (I gave mine); Phone number (I gave the store's); and URL (I used Novel Place's web page).

    After helping me get that one scheduled, we ended our conversation with me saying I would contact Patrick and confirm the date & time, as well as determine the date for our first event to be held in mid-to-late June. I would then get into WER and schedule the June event. If the date of the M12 Launch Party needed to be changed, I could cancel the scheduled event and put in a new one (if a change like that needs to be made after the scheduling window has closed you need to have your WPN handler make the change for you). It turns out that Patrick had no trouble with July 16 for the Launch Party, and we chose June 18 for our first event (a Scars of Mirrodin Block Sealed-Deck tournament).

    Later that afternoon Brian called me back and asked me to get WER started back up again. One of the tech guys had gotten back to him, and it was theorized that the error I had been getting earlier was because the tutorial for WER was running. I shut off the tutorial and tried again to order the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 promos, and lo and behold I was able to do so! This means that when customers purchased Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012 and get their code to get a free promo card, Patrick's store will be one of the places they can go to get them. This should bring in a fair bit of foot traffic for him, and possibly turn video-game-MTG-only players into paper MTG players at our events (hey, a man can dream!).

    Part 5 has turned out to be quite long, so I'll break here. We're almost caught up in continuity. In Part 6 I'll reveal the contents of the various promo packs that were ordered (they arrived May 24 - just under a week after I ordered them!).


    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 4)

    [This is part 4 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3]

    First things first: Someone (who shall remain nameless) snarkily tweeted to me that I seemed to be keeping the location of the store a secret. So let me boldly state that the store is HERE:

    There. That should take care of THAT.

    [EDIT: Since this post was originally written, Patrick has moved and slightly changed the store name. It is now Novel Books, and is located at 23330 Frederick Road in Clarksburg]

    Next, I realized after posting Part 3 that I had left out some details that had come before my face-to-face meeting with Patrick, so I need to back up a few weeks...

    One issue that I realized we would need to work out was who would be the actual dealer in the MTG items. Did he want to sell MTG in his store, and charge the fee for events, etc (in which case I would act only as the organizer)? Or would he rather just essentially play host to the events, and rent me some space in the store so that I could claim an actual brick & mortar presence for myself, in which case I would suddenly find myself being a much bigger sealed MTG product dealer than I have been in the past.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patrick opted for the first possibility. He would carry the MTG, and I would organize.

    In that same email conversation, he indicated that his landlady was not all that thrilled with the idea of using the space for MTG events. This made me VERY nervous, and I was worried that our fledgling idea would die before it could ever take flight. He assured me that he would work on it on his end, and not to be worried just yet.

    So, fast forward now to our face-to-face meeting. I drove up to the store around 11 am and let myself in by the side entrance. After walking through a small area that seemed to be used for storage at the time, I found myself in the main room that was to become the store. Boxes upon boxes (filled presumably with books) sat on nearly every available space, and I found Patrick sitting on a stool behind the main counter.

    [Side note on the location. If you'd like to see photos of the place, Patrick has many up on the official store Facebook page. The building is truly historic, being the first building in Clarksburg, MD. It was built by John Clark by around 1780 on the site of an Indian trading post (which was first established ~1730). It has been added to over the centuries, but inside the building you can see into one of the original walls. It's like a bookstore with a built in museum. You can just feel the history when you step foot in the building. It's awesome. But I digress, and I am gushing embarrassingly, so let me move on...]

    I had come armed with printouts of various WPN web pages, as I wasn't sure whether Patrick would have a computer up and running in the store as yet (in retrospect, the fact that he will often Tweet from work should have given me some clue, but that could have been from a smart phone, so maybe not). I explained to him how the WPN level system works, and what we would have to accomplish to get up to Core level where we could run prereleases and FNMs.

    He let me know that the building is divided into three sections. He's in the main first floor area. The storage area I had passed through from the side entrance is a separate area (that he hopes to expand into some day), and there is an entire top floor as well.  The landlady he had mentioned earlier (who, it turns out, should not have a problem with our events, since, as he put it "if I can say yes to a book club, how can I really say no to you?") hopes to rent out those spaces as well. The "green" grocery store that used to be in the building used all three sections, if I remember correctly. There is the possibility that we could use the first floor side area if an event proves to be too large for his main store, assuming it is not yet rented to someone else. Right now he plans to have everything in the main area on wheels, so that it can be moved out, clearing the space for meetings of many varieties (book clubs and book signings mainly, but our MTG events as well).

    I won't bore with detail after detail of the conversation. Instead, let me tell you that by the end of the meeting we had filled out the form online to join WPN (it turned out he did indeed have a computer up and running), with me as organizer and he as store owner. We had also hashed out the essentials of what our business relationship would be, to whit:
    • I will organize the events, including scheduling them with the WPN, taking care of posting results, and everything else that goes into actually getting the space set up, etc.
    • He will order MTG products and keep them in stock, including enough to run the events with. Therefore, when a person pays to enter an event, s/he will be paying Novel Places, not me.
    • Patrick will not deal in singles. That will be left up to me. I currently plan to put into effect a free shipping offer once we start running FNMs such that a customer could order from my store and come to FNM to pick up their cards instead of having them shipped if they desire.
    • I will advise Patrick on what MTG products to order, including quantities thereof (at least initially).
    • His big benefits: increased foot traffic into the store; additional revenue stream in the form of sealed MTG product.
    • My big benefits: a nice built-in client base for my singles store; a (hopefully) cheaper source for my cases when a new set comes out; a place that's near my home where I can play regular MTG; the fun and excitement that comes from being a WPN organizer (in case you haven't guessed yet - I am insanely excited about all of this!)
    I had also come 99% to the conclusion that I really need to make Don's Magic and Sundry an official legal entity, and become an LLC. I also need to get a trader's license and start to do all the crazy official things one is supposed to do, such as charge sales tax and the like. It kinda sucks, but the store's getting big enough now that this has become necessary. Many are probably shocked to find out it hasn't happened before this, I would imagine!

    I left my first meeting with Patrick extremely excited. I could hardly wait until we heard back from WPN as to whether or not we'd be accepted into the organization. That wait, it would turn out, would be shorter than I was afraid it would be...


    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    The Official Don's Magic and Sundry Sticker Contest

    This contest is one I've been promising on Twitter to work the detail out on and finally announce for a while now, so it's about time I got on it.

    So, here it is: The Official Don's Magic and Sundry Sticker Contest!
    • Four times a year, right before the prerelease of a new set, I will draw one winner from the eligible pool of contestants who will win $20 in store credit to my store. [NOTE: accepting store credit requires that you establish an account at my store, but doing so is free.]
    • To become eligible, you must submit to me (via Twitter to @TheSundry or email to TheSundry at gmail dot com) a photo of you in some way sporting one of my stickers at an official MTG event (could be a regular sanctioned event, an FNM, a launch party, a prerelease, a SCG Open event, etc).
    • The sticker can be on your person (e.g. stuck to your shirt) or on something you are carrying prominently with you (your deck box, trade binder, box of tokens & dice, etc).
    • The photo should include your face for ease of identification. There should also be some way of verifying the date & event (e.g. if you're at the prerelease for something, you could hold up your prerelease promo).
    • The contest resets at every prerelease, so you must re-enter each time a new set rolls out if you want to stay in the drawing. [For reference, the next prerelease would be for Avacyn Restored and will be held Sat/Sun April 28/29 2012, so the drawing for the current cycle will be made on Friday, April 27]
    • Photos become my property, and may be used in advertising campaigns or just for the fun of it on my blog (I probably won't do much with them, but I'm stating that now just in case).
    • I reserve the right to reject photos for any reason (most likely because I  felt they were in some way inappropriate). If yours is rejected, however, I will let you know and give you a chance to submit another.
    I reserve the right to modify/add/remove rules to this contest at any time should I see the need arise. [Example: I could easily see a secondary prize for most creative photo coming out of this if people decide to go that route with their pictures!]

    If you are not sure what stickers I am talking about, you need to read this blog entry next.

    As always, if there are any questions, Tweet to me, email me, or leave a comment here on the blog!

    ADDENDUM: Now that I am running my own WPN events, I need to add the following rule:
    • The official MTG event cannot be one of the ones I host myself. Kinda defeats the purpose of advertising my site for me when I'm doing that myself :-)

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 3)

    [This is part 3 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1 and Part 2]

    In my research, I discovered that WPN is set up in a tier system. In case you (like me) have never investigated this, you might want to check out the official WPN site that covers this stuff.  In essence, when you join WPN you start off at what they call the Gateway level. At this level you can run sanctioned events (D&D one as well as MTG, but I am only interested in the MTG ones), but the only "special" events you can run are the Launch Parties (sometimes called Release Events by folks like me who don't know all the official terms).

    In order to run Prereleases and FNMs (the kinds of events I'd really like to hold), you need to work your way up from the Gateway level to what they call the Core level. To do this, an organizer needs to meet certain criteria within a 12-month period (this is copied straight from their site; I hope they don't mind!):
    • Report a minimum of 4 events
    • Have a minimum of 30 unique people playing in your reported events
    • Run and report a single event with 12 players or more
    • Maintain a delinquency rate of less than 20%
    • Introduce 6 new players to WPN events
    The first requirement I figure is not likely to be too difficult. I'd like to run some sanctioned event (right now I'm thinking a SOM/MBS/NPH sealed tournament) in mid to late June, and also run a Launch Party for Magic 2012 in July. If I can pull off even 1 per month for the next four months, I will have that covered (and if things go well, we may hold more than that).

    The second requirement will depend on how well I/we get the word out about our events. We already have some plans in place for advertising:
    • Pat will be having an advertisement subscription with a a local weekly newspaper, and has offered that he can tailor it to include word of the MTG event for a week or two beforehand
    • I have my Twitter following (although few of them are local, I'm hoping those will show, and hopefully bring friends)
    • I have contacts with a local gaming group (Games Club of Maryland) and hope to be able to spread word through their organization
    • a Magic celebrity who happens to live locally has offered to show up for the first event at least and have his name used in conjunction [thanks, Adam!]
    It may take more than 4 events to get the 30 unique people, but we'll see.

    It is my hope that with enough touting and trumpeting we can reach objective 3 on our first event. The spectacle of having a sanctioned event in the area where there hasn't been one in years if ever should bring out a good group. Also, the above mentioned advertising will hopefully get word out and bring people out just to see what it's all about. If not the first, then hopefully the second (the M12 Launch Party) will bring in 12+ players.

    Goal #4 should not be a problem at all. From what I understand as long as you get your results posted up within what seems like a very reasonable amount of time, there's no delinquency issue. The store will have WiFi, which means I ought to be able to post results right after the event is over (or even have them updating as the event progresses - I have not yet had my Wizards Event Reporter tutorial - that will be a tale for another day!).

    Of all the goals, it's only really the last one that has me a bit nervous. I would need to find (or have show up) 6 people who have never attended a WPN event before. I believe this means no DCI card - not registered with the DCI at all. Most of the people who would come to these things, I think, will be folks who are old hats at these sorts of things. I'm pretty sure I can get my brother (who played MTG years ago) to come out to one and sign up. But what about the other 5? Maybe Pat (the store owner) can be taught MTG and sign up :-) I know that Laurel (the owner of Dream Wizards) routinely has new people show up at the regional prereleases, but those are gone now. Will those people instead start showing up at the smaller local prereleases and the like? But, of course, I can't run prereleases yet....Catch 22?

    So, as you can see,  there's a bit more to it than simply signing up with the WPN and starting to run FNMs as I had initially thought.

    The next step was to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Pat. When we briefly spoke on the phone, we tentatively agreed that I could come up to the store and meet with him in person. Through email and Twitter we arranged that the following Friday (this would now be May 6 for you chronic calendar-watchers) I would come up. Our meeting will be the beginning of Part 4...


    Monday, May 16, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 2)

    [This is part 2 in a series, and assumes that you've already read Part 1]

    So, I wrote to Pat, owner of Novel Places:

    "Hello, Pat:

    My name is Don Wiggins. My wife has been following you on Twitter for a while, and has also recently signed up for your newsletter. When I was talking with her about how I would love to be able to do more with my own store, she mentioned you as being a local small business owner that may be interested.

    I run a relatively small online business dealing in selling cards for the collectible card game called Magic: The Gathering (I don't know if you are at all familiar with it). Mostly what I sell is individual cards ("singles") from my website - I run the business out of our basement (we live in Germantown).

    What I would love to do is start running a weekly Friday Night Magic series. This is an event that is officially sanctioned by the folks who created the game, and is a great way for folks who play to get together on a regular basis, have fun playing, and possible win prizes as well. Right now there are not many places in Montgomery County where FNMs are held. The closest I'm aware of is Dream Wizards, in Rockville - a good half-hour's drive from us if traffic isn't bad. I'd love to have another option for those of us in the northern end of the county (or even southern Frederick County).

    The problem I face is, since I do not have a "brick and mortar" store, there's no way for me to get official sanctioning from the folks who do such thing. Without that, there's no access to the infrastructure that is set up to support these events.

    So, my question to you is this: would you, possibly, have any interest in collaborating with me on this? I would be willing to do the leg-work involved in registering with the DCI, organizing and advertising the events, etc. What would be required on your end would be use of your store's name, and space for the group to gather on a Friday night (I imagine, at least at first, we'd be lucky to get 12-18 attendees - a well attended FNM at Dream Wizards is ~32, I believe).

    "What's in it for me" would be, I imagine, a likely question at this point! :-) At the very least, there'd be increased traffic to your store (at least on Friday nights!). If you'd rather be more materially involved, you can purchase (& sell for profit) the booster packs of product that are used in certain types of FNM events (there are different types one can run - I can give you the gory details if you like!).

    There are likely LOTS of questions that would need to be answered, so I certainly wouldn't expect a definitive answer from you at this point. Mostly what I'm wondering is whether or not this is something you would have even a slight interest in pursuing.

    Thanks in advance for your reply. If you'd rather discuss the idea telephonically, feel free to call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX


    [You will forgive me, I hope, for blotting out my phone number there!]

    After several days, I had still not heard from Pat. I wasn't too terribly shocked by this, because I knew that he was busy getting the new store renovations done, and moving boxes of books and the hardware that comes with a bookstore (shelving & displays and the like). So, on a day that my MIL was watching my sons so I had a "day off", I decided to go up and see him in person at the store location.

    I want to say that, in retrospect, I think this was a bad idea. Showing up cold in person, especially when you're expecting the person to be busy, is rather rude. I didn't think it through completely - but I was rescued from my own short-sightedness. Pat was not in that day! One of the folks working on the renovations was present, and the store building was open, so I took a peek in (I had been in several years earlier when the building had housed an Organic Grocery Store).

    I decided the next day that it would be safer to give Pat a call on the phone number provided on his website. I got to speak with him in person briefly (as I said, he was busy!), but long enough to find out that he was, in fact, interested in a possible collaboration. I had positive contact!

    So the next step was for me to throw myself full into research in what exactly is involved in signing up with the WPN. It was here that my dream of running FNMs (as described in my email to Pat) hit a little snag...


    Friday, May 13, 2011

    The Road to WPN (Part 1)

    So I have been encouraged to chronicle my adventures in going from being simply an MTG online storekeep to becoming an organizer for Sanctioned MTG events. It is my hope that the stories will not just entertain, but also inform. Perhaps there are others out there contemplating becoming organizers, and maybe I can help on that journey, even if only in a small way.

    My path to joining the Wizards Play Network (WPN) actually started a couple of years ago when I was approached by the owners of Beyond Comics, the local comic book shop that I frequent (it will be no surprise I am a geek, right?). They were interested in starting to run MTG events at their store, and were wondering if I would be interested in helping them run the events. My incentive, of course, would be having a good potential client base in the attendees (the comic shop sells recent MTG sealed product, but not singles, so we would not be competing).

    I did some preliminary research on the subject, but before we could get anything in to place, disaster (in the form of faltering economy) took hold. They were unable to keep up with the rent in their large mall store space, and had to move across the street to a smaller strip-mall location. This smaller location did not allow any extra room for tournament-style events, so the plan was scrapped.

    However, this planted the seed of the idea in my head that it would be a blast to run my own Launch Parties, Prereleases and FNMs. And I never really gave up on the idea in my head. While I have enjoyed attending events hosted by a (relatively) local gaming store (Dream Wizards - a lovely group of people!), it's a bit of a hike for me to get to them on any kind of regular basis.

    Fast forward to earlier this year. I decided to broach the subject with the folks at Beyond Comics again. While I knew they couldn't hold events at their store, I also knew that many people organize events off-site. They wouldn't even have to be all that involved, as much as give me use of their name as contacts for purposes of WPN. For those unaware, WPN requires a brick-and-mortar store to be at least cursorily involved in these events. Since my store is an online-only one, I couldn't do this on my own. I needed to be attached to a b&m somehow.

    Unfortunately they weren't really interested. If the event weren't at their store, what really would be the incentive for them? It wouldn't lead to increased foot traffic at their store, after all.

    Then, a breakthrough occurred. My wife has been following the adventures of a local bookstore owner, Patrick, who had been renting space in a coffee shop, and was going to be setting up shop in his own space. This store, Novel Places, would be located all of 10 minutes away from our house! I couldn't resist the opportunity this presented, and I shot off an email to Patrick, introducing myself and giving him my proposal of a joint venture with his store to join the WPN.