On January 11, 2021, The Malted Meeple posted an announcement: as of that day, they were permanently shutting their doors. At the start of the pandemic they had to close their doors. When they were allowed to open up, they were never more full than 25% of their capacity. As with any business, with only 25% of expected business, they have no choice but to close down.
This is sad for many, many reasons. The Malted Meeple was a staple of the gaming community and brought something that NE Ohio really didn't have - a place for people to gather, drink, eat, and game. The Meeple holds a special spot for me for so many reasons.
I first heard about The Meeple at an Oddmall where Jim, the proprietor, was there at a booth for Ravenwood Castle (which they also own). He told me it was opening up in a few months and I was excited. I followed it closely and as soon as they were opened I scheduled my wife's birthday party there. This was at the original building in Hudson (the amazing former horse stable) and despite having to hold the party later than expected due to delays in construction, the party was amazing. Jim, Karington, and the rest of the Meeple staff were incredible and we had an amazing time.
After that, we would head up to The Meeple every so often to have a good time. My daughter had her 16th birthday party there as well. It was a great place to go, hang out, and relax. Then they started to run RPGs.
Being an avid gamer, I unfortunately didn't have a gaming group so I was excited to hear this. Dungeons and Dragons 5E had just been released and they were running some demo sessions, so I decided to sign up for a game to try it out. As always, I had a lot of fun. Due to time constraints, I wasn't able to show up for any more D&D games, but kept watching their announcements.
Some time later, one of the newsletters mentioned they were looking for other GMs to run games. I immediately emailed them and volunteered to run Call of Cthulhu. I honestly think I shocked them with the speed of my email, but it seemed like a great opportunity. We set up a date and I became the first non-Meeple employee to run an RPG there (to my knowledge). When the night arrived, I had a full table and ran my favorite scenario - Crack'd & Crook'd Manse. The game was superb, with many of the PCs having memorable deaths and everyone having a great time. I set up a monthly game and would run Call of Cthulhu over the next two years (at least).
The experiences I had running CoC at the Malted Meeple were some of the best gaming experiences I've had. I've documented many of them on this blog, but some of the highlights include:
- Running my first full campaign ever. It was Call of Cthulhu's A Time to Harvest. While had some players jump in and out, two players stayed through the whole thing and in the end I created custom print-on-demand copies of the campaign as gifts for them.
- Running a campaign I had written for Pulp Cthulhu. While not every session was a hit (I am personally disappointed with the way the climax was written), it was still a blast. The first session is still one of the most memorable games in my entire gaming career.
- Introducing I don't know how many players to Call of Cthulhu. Some of those players have gone on to run CoC games themselves and even publish a few scenarios online.
- GM'ing one of the most immersive and atmospheric CoC games I have ever done. You might think that it might be impossible to do that in the middle of a gaming cafe, but The Meeple worked with me and the result was indescribable.
I had many other amazing adventures directly due to The Malted Meeple. I played my first games of Numenera there and got to work in the Origins convention hall for them (which let me get in before everyone else, which really was the highlight).
The Malted Meeple also set the standard of gaming cafes for me too; not only as a customer but as a GM. You see, running a game at Malted Meeple wasn't just a thing you did. Sure, every time you ran a game you got a free non-alcoholic drink (I still don't forgive them for getting rid of the French Press coffee). But they also treated their GMs well. They set up a program where you got free stuff. I was able to get a GM T-Shirt from them (I still have it) and some books. They held back Free RPG Day stuff for their GMs and set up special meetings for them to talk about what was going to be coming. I have never seen any other place do this, and thats a little sad.
I feel horrible that I was not been able to go to The Malted Meeple for the last few years. A new job, moving, and many other responsibilities prevented me from doing so. We would still go up every so often, but when Covid hit that pretty much stopped us from doing anything there.
The loss of The Malted Meeple has surely been felt throughout the NE Ohio gaming community. I have yet to find any place like it and I doubt I ever will. I hope the closure is a temporary thing and some day in the future they reemerge. If and when they do, I guarantee I'll be there on opening day.